Melbourne to Merimbula
A couple of weeks on and very wet
We have left Victoria and crossed the border into NSW. Celebrating with our first rest day in Merimbula. We have covered over 1000k both on and off road with various detours.
We are very happy with the performance of our BOB trailers so far – certainly the bags are waterproof as claimed (we have weathered over the national rainfall for touring cyclists already). Towing a trailer up the hills on the coast in southern NSW does feel a bit like someone has tied a dead cow to the back of your bike though.
We are not going to be able to make Sydney by March 18th as anticipated. This is due to spending far too much time hopelessly lost on back tracks in several obscure State Forests, grinding uphill in endless circles at 5kph (while in desperate search of a way back out to civilsation).
We plan to head inland now (from Moruya) and avoid much of Sydney by following the edge of the Blue Mountains.
Merrimbula to Newcastle
wet, wet, wet
Does the sun ever shine in NSW? Well, yes it did today, but we suspect it’s only because we are safe at the oasis of Jo’s place in Newcastle. So far we associate cycling in NSW with: rust blossoming out all over our bikes; trying to squeeze as much water out of our cycling gear as possible before putting it back on in the morning; deciding if cold wet sox are better than no sox at all; and evenings spent huddled up in a soggy tent waging war against humungous leeches and checking each other for ticks. Certainly it has been paradise arriving at Jo’s. Now we’re dry and smelling less like week old sox, we are keen to get back out on the road again.
Amazing what a few days of sunshine and relaxation can do. We enjoyed the coast road from Merimbula to Bermagui, more so now that the memory of some monumental climbing has faded. We have seen several other cyclists along the way, including one very wet and miserable Brit riding from Sydney to Melbourne.
From Moruya we turned inland, following the very pretty dirt route along the Deua River. Our nicest bush camp to date, it was doubly appreciated after spending the previous night camped by a gravel pit. It was great to emerge from the tent in the morning to dunk in the crystal clear water with the valley shrouded in mist.
We arrived at a tiny village “Araluen” for morning tea, thinking it was a mere 25k through to Braidwood for lunch. Barely 2k out we saw one of those road signs that strike fear into the heart of cyclists towing BOB trailers – a steep incline ahead. It went on for a relentless, heart breaking, soul destroying 5 km. At speeds approaching 4.5kph we whimpered on upwards. That day will live on as “the mother of all climbs” for quite some time.
Our last leg to Newcastle featured technical rock riding along the Old Great North Road from Wiseman’s Ferry in NSW. Following a gradual climb up Devines Hill on a meticulously graded road you innocently continue on to a rough track which turns into 10km of rock. Possibly not an ideal place to take a BOB trailer. It took us 3hours 20 minutes to cover 14km, dragging our dead cows, sorry, I mean BOB trailers over and in between the rocks.
Newcastle to Mooloolabah
wet, mossies, but not all bad
We blasted into Mooloolabah yesterday afternoon with a good south easterley wind right up the clacker. Long may it last we say. We are staying with Ed’s family here over the Easter holiday, having a break after seven weeks on the road.
Lots of kilometres have rolled under the wheels since leaving Jo’s place in Newcastle. The weather gods smiled on us as we wandered along the coast, managing to avoid the highway and finding several 4wd tracks to link the back roads together.
We stopped off at Myall Lakes National Park, before following Lakes Way through Forster. This was the night we discovered some “jumbo” mosquitos. Ed came up with a solution to the swarms of mossies attacking his face (every other cm of flesh was covered by this time) – wear a teatowel on your head. Yes it may look extremely stupid but then most people we’ve met to date already think we’re mad.
We headed off to Crowdy Bay National Park and found a deserted beach for lunch and a swim. We really enjoyed this stretch of coastline around Port Macquarie, lots of lovely beaches, hardly any people and day after day of magnificent sunshine.
Next day we left from Port Macquarie following a 4WD track along the coast. Arrived at a magic spot called Point Plomer and spent ages wallowing in the sea then lingering over first lunch before managing to drag ourselves away. Next stop was Crescent Head where we cooled off in the river, then we made it another 15 km up the road before finding a sensational swimming spot in Hat Head National Park where a giant sand dune drops into the river.
A MTB rider we had met at a caravan park was heading for a round of the NSW State MTB series just out of Coffs Harbour the next day so we decided to take a run up the highway to see some of the races. We enjoyed an afternoon watching MTB races and met a few people there. We ended up invited back to stay with Chris and Fiona Tyrell who were involved in the race organisation. Chris, a keen cyclist was excited by our trip and the idea of cycling around Australia himself someday. We suspect Fiona was relieved to see the back of us so she could calm him down.
From Coffs we spent a couple of days on the dirt in Yuraygir National Park. At one point we emerged from the bush beside an unusual hexagonal house. Three evil looking dogs and a wild looking bearded, tattooed, one armed man came out. For a moment there I wondered which of the dogs had ripped his arm off but they were all very friendly. The guy gave us water and showed us his home while telling us all about his bee keeping and his designs for hexagonal buildings.
Eventually we made our way to Brooms Head back on the coast and found fantastic camping in the National Park just past Red Cliff. It was a magic evening lying on the beach – sipping port, watching the stars and listening to the waves. Rain, leeches and wet sox just a vague memory now.
Two days later we arrived at Janet Terry’s place in Byron Bay. We did a side trip up to a bike shop in Mullumbimby to pick up Ed’s replacement rear rim and had a new rear wheel built for my bike as mine had died a natural death. We got talking to the bike shop guy and it was late afternoon when we left to ride the 25km back to Byron, then Ed got a puncture. It was dark and piddling with rain when we finally found Janet’s place. We didn’t care though because we had a roof over our heads and a bed to sleep in for the next few nights. We spent the next couple of days eating and …um, eating some more. Thanks Janet!
Not sure how we have managed to lose 16kg between us, but the post Xmas blubber seems to have disappeared. From Byron we went inland, heading for Mt Warning National Park. You’d think by now we would have learnt not to plan a big hill ride for the day following a $70 grocery restock.
We are so dumb that we even decided to ride (with the trailers) the 4km to the start of the Mt Warning hike the next day. It didn’t occur to me that this stretch of road could possibly involve some uphill stuff – I assumed the uphill bit would start from the carpark where the walk begins. Wrong…. 45 minutes to ride and um… walk a miserable 4km. We were cactus before we even started the walk up Mt Warning. A good walk though and worth the effort.
We now crossed the border into Queensland and headed for Lamington Nat Park. We spent several days at Lamington and if you haven’t been there you should put it at the top of your “list”. It was just fantastic – the Tooloona Creek walk had some of the most amazing rainforest I’ve ever seen and the views back across NSW were spectacular.
The effort getting up to Green Mountain was rewarded when we left – a 30km freewheel back down the valley in the sunshine.
The Bicentennial Trail runs from Melbourne to Cairns. We followed some sections of it. Some easy, some hard with lots of gates and unclear tracks. Some good campsites too. We camped with a couple Ed & Maria and their five horses at Thornton. They had been on the trail for about a year and had started as complete horse novices.
Next plan was to pick up the National Trail near Boonah. This meant heading inland towards Toowoomba. The first section was great riding on quiet dirt roads, very pleasant travelling. At camp that night we met a couple trekking with horses who had been travelling the Trail for over a year. In camp was where the work started for them as they unload five horses, collect roughly 200 litres of water if the horses can’t access a creek and set up a mountain of equipment. We just park the bikes, throw the tent up and start eating.
We have noticed that climbs with monumental gradients aren’t all that unusual in Queensland. In fact, they seem to be carefully planned to crop up right at the very end of an especially long and arduous day on the bike. Just when you are quietly congratulating yourself on having almost made it, you’ll come round a corner face to face with a climb that makes your eyeballs bleed just looking at it.
My technique for hauling bike and cow up one of these monsters is ten steps up, hang on the brakes to avoid the anguish of rolling back down again, then rest and repeat until you get there. And so it was on the day to Ravensbourne. Even Ed was too stuffed to bother having a wash that night.
A couple of days later we rolled up to visit Wes Field at his new home(and job) amongst the palms and cycads at a nursery in Burpengary, just north of Brisbane. For Wes, an avid cycad collector, it’s a job made in heaven. Anyway that’s all the news to date. After Easter we’ll hit the road again heading to Cooloolah National Park, just past Noosa.