Thursday, 17 January 2013

20 July 2003, Blacksmiths - Hawk's Nest, 91km

A cold, dark drizzle kept me from going anywhere until later than usual.  When I did start riding, I got lost a couple of times in the first few miles, so stuck to the Pacific Highway in order to get some decent distance done in a reasonable time.  Newcastle appeared old and somewhat derelict, but at least I found a decent pie shop for lunch, before getting the ferry across to Stockton on the other side of the river.  I rode out on "Shipwreck Walk" to have a look, but found it a waste of time, especially as I wanted to get to Port MacQuarie tomorrow.  Now away from the Pacific Highway, there was still a lot of traffic on the road to Nelson Bay, so eventually I turned off the main road onto a smaller lane flanked by swamps on either side.  At Nelson Bay I had a 40 minute wait for the ferry, which then took another hour and fifteen minutes to reach Tea Gardens on the other side of the bay.  The trip was worth it though, for the free dolphin spotting to be had from the boat on the way over.  It was dusk by the time the ferry arrived, and with over 200km still to go to Port MacQuarie, there was very little chance of me arriving there tomorrow.  I declined an offer of camping space in the garden of the local police station, and headed over the bridge to Hawk's Nest, where there was a decent campsite only a hundred yards from the beach, so I slept to the sound of waves crashing, only to be woken by a helicopter that landed right next to the campsite.

I met quite a few people today, and all of them were quite friendly and helpful.  On the beach at Newcastle, a couple who recognised me because they'd passed me on the road yesterday offered to take my photo, and and the ferry to Tea Gardens people were curious about my trip.  Cycling anywhere seems to be a strange thing to do nowadays, but when people hear that I'm going round Australia, it just makes it even stranger to them - the country is so large they can't even think about driving around it, let alone riding a bicycle.

Monday, 14 January 2013

19 July 2003. Hornsby - Blacksmiths, 123km

Finally out of the city, I found extra motivation to be on the road, and was on the go at 08.00h.  Following the Old Pacific Highway north, a nice road that curved, rose and fell along the coast, occasionally crossing the new freeway that cut a more direct path toward Brisbane.  Some of the hills were tough, and I was down in a 24 x 24 gear more than once.  Several cyclists passed me, most in small groups that were too fast for me to take advantage of, especially with the hills.  As the road twisted its way between the hills, occasional views of the water came and went, until I arrived at Gosford.  From there, I took the road that followed the shoreline very closely, along a narrow strip of land between the ocean and a few lakes just inland.  I passed through The Entrance and Swansea, where a lady in the tourist info centre was very helpful, and provided me with lots of free maps!  From Swansea I crossed the bridge over the entrance to Lake Macquarie and arrived in Blacksmiths in mid afternoon.  Tired from the ride, more from the traffic and stress of wanting to get away from large urban areas without knowing which way to go than actually riding, I decided that I'd had enough for today.  When I was given free cakes by a friendly shop owner while stocking up on food, my mind was made up.  There was no way I could cycle and carry the cakes, and if I ate them all now I wouldn't be able to cycle anywhere anyway!
I saw my first kangaroo today, dead on the side of the road.  It would be the first of many.