I set off from Coogee in POURING rain on December 1st! This was a biblical rain storm. It was so ugly that I decided to ride to Mascot station in suburban Sydney. I thought I may be cheating myself within the first hour of my huge ride all over the East coast of Australia, but in hindsight, it was a rational decision. I didn't feel like starting my trip off fighting dense (of tense drivers) traffic (in my experience Sydney is by far the craziest city to cycle in) in the pouring rain. Instead I would begin pedalling properly, and in a more civilized manner, in Bundeena. The train ride from Mascot station was much more pleasant. The air was probably fresher since I wasn't sucking on exhaust from thousands of vehicles. I wasn't focusing on not getting killed by and absent-minded or aggressive driver and therefore I got to see more of the sights than I would of riding. My train arrived in Cronulla, its terminus station. I rolled downhill a few hundred meters to the dock where the ferry to Bundeena arrived. I spent most of my time waiting for the ferry hunkered in a type of bus, or ferry, shelter wringing out my soaking wet shirt while the rain was still bucketing down. Here are some photos I took of Cronulla and Bundeena:
The ferry ride to Bundeena was quick and sea-sick free. An accomplishment since it was a bit of a sporty ride. I was eager to get going on my great adventure... still in the pouring rain. However, I didn't care about the rain. Bundeena was the sight of the first few pedal strokes of the rest of my life. I know that sounds cheesy, but if you quit your job to go to the other end of the world to go ride your bike for six months, I would let you say or write anything you wanted about it. Immediately after leaving the dock there was an upward grade to the road. It was quite mild until I passed the convenience store. Once I entered Royal National Park, I also entered the first uphill slog of the rest of my life. For those of you that know me, I sweat by just thinking about it. It wasn't very soon until I was soaked inside and out. My rain gear only served to keep me warm when the wind picked up. Despite the inclement weather the ride was very nice. I was on a winding road, with light traffic, surrounded by pure wilderness. I imagined that the ride would be pretty fantastic on a sunny day. I didn't let a little rain, or even a torrential downpour make me think it wasn't fantastic.
The winding, and often climbing, wilderness roads continued on until I reached the suburbs of Wollongong. On the way, I did come across a very impressive feat of engineering and construction: The Sea Cliff Bridge
Once I was within 10 km's of Wollongong the rain slowed, but didn't quite stop. That was good enough for me to take off my rain gear and ride in shorts and a t-shirt for once! Although the ride wasn't exactly long (about 70 km's) it sure felt like it was an epic day of riding. I checked into the Wollongong youth hostel, locked up my bike, ditched my bags in my room and bolted for a much needed hot shower. Actually I walked slowly which is a good thing because, had I bolted, I would have surely had a vicious wipe-out on the soaking wet floor in the bathroom. Yes, the entire bathroom floor was soaked. Let's just say the amenities at the Wollongong YHA left much to be desired. The wet floor in the bathroom and the humidity that day was probably doing wonders for the spots of mould on the shower walls.
Wollongong is a larger town (over 50,000), but it was a ghost town the evening I wondered around the streets. Until I am proven wrong, I will assume that Australians and sun-seeking tourists cour away in their homes or hotels and watch TV until the rain passes. On a side note: thank you Australian news television, I know Oprah is coming to town. Can we get on to other news for the love of God?!
I woke up early in the morning feeling fresh, but not quite dry. At least my some of my clothes and my bike shoes were still pretty... humid. Nevertheless, I set off in good time seeking Nowra. I rolled out of the hostel, the sky was grey, but there were no rain drops hitting my face. Great! Twenty minutes later, my hopes that weather forecast was wrong were dashed. It began to rain heavily once again. The shallower and shorter climbs on the way to Norwa were nice, but there was a trade off: the traffic of the Princess Highway. The shoulders were generally wide but there were a few narrow bridges crossing creeks that made the transport trucks passing by at 120 km/h a little more nerve wracking. I had the best burrito of my life for lunch, saw some very impressive coast views and arrived in Nowra in very good time. I checked into the George Bass Motor Inn, spread out my stuff to dry, had a very long and very hot shower and sprawled out on my bed. I stayed on my bed for a few hours until my stomach started grumbling enough to get me up and into town for some dinner. 'Downtown' Nowra was bustling a little more than Wollongong. However, the extra bodies downtown were filling up take-away food establishments like me. Still not much culture to be found. I picked up my thai take-away grub and headed straight back to my hotel to eat, catch up on hockey highlights and pass out.
I didn't regret spending the extra money in Nowra for a hotel. I had my own room and lots of room to spread my clothes to dry off. I started my morning with a big egg and bacon breakfast, eating every last morsel knowing that I had a long day ahead. I would be riding 120 km's to my next stop, Batemans Bay. My third day of riding was my first day of sunshine. I did keep my rain jacket near because the sky was threatening to rain. The distance was long and my left achilles became quite swollen and caused a decent amount of pain for the last 20 km's. Despite those negatives, I had an enjoyable day of pedalling through winding highway and seeing more beautiful coast lines. My third day was down and big props to Frank the Tank, no mechanical problems yet. Two thumbs up to FTT!
I arrived to a very unique youth hostel in Batemans Bay. I passed by it twice not realizing it that it was indeed the hostel because it was a caravan park and not a building. I finally noticed that it was the place I was looking for because there was a small 'YHA' logo on the park sign. Within the park, there was a main building where the office, kitchen and a few dorm rooms were located, but I was placed in one of the hostel-owned caravans... all to myself. Sweet deal!
This evening I met a group of people that I continued to see for the next few evenings at the hostels. It can be nice to see familiar faces, even if you met those people the day before. I did manage to avoid one man on the hostel grounds in Batemans' Bay who apparently, the night before, rudely interrupted a group's conversation to go on for four or five hours about his opinions. For example: he hates people who wear sunglasses, and he has impressive resourcefulness. He claimed he knew all the good doctors AND the bad ones in the area. I had a massive steak and egg dinner and polished off an entire bottle of pinot noir to myself and managed to get to bed without going on to anyone about my opinions or my attempting to impress people with my cycling feats.
The following morning I woke up knowing that I had slept well. My alarm was buzzing, the sheets were still covering me, and I was still in the same position I passed out in. Ready to attack another day! I blasted out of Batemans Bay and.... pssshhhhhhh.... Shit! Flat! I have some pretty sturdy tires that had already gotten me through some glass sprinkled tarmac, but this time a little piece of brown glass got though.
Over the next couple of days I stopped in Narooma and Merimbula. I kept running into a few of the same people each evening. Namely one French fellow named Guillaume, or William for the Aussies and German tourists who can't pronounce 'Guillaume'. He was about my age, also riding his bicycle from Sydney. We never really rode together because our paces were very different. It was a "tortoise and hare" kind of thing we had happening. We met up in the same place for three nights in Bateman's Bay, Narooma and Merimbula, but I would usually arrive an hour earlier. It's not to say that he was a slow rider. I think that we could have kept up with each other just fine. However, his mechanical woes made my flat tire seem like a good excuse to take a break. Guillaume decided to do this trip on a whim. He purchased a department store bike, put racks and panniers on it and hit the road. Unfortunately his bike wasn't built for the task. Over the few days I saw him, he broke most of the spokes on his rear wheel and his rear rack. I finally lost him the day we decided to make it to Cann River. He waved at me as he drove by in the passenger seat of a ute and that was the last I saw of him. I found out later from one of our mutual acquaintances that he had more mechanical problems that day. He decided to abandon his ride and continue his trip to Melbourne by fossil-fuel powered means.
The day from Merimbula to Cann River was not very exciting, but it was still pretty epic. The day's distance was 130km! Luckily I had a massive tail wind pushing me there for a good part of the day. Tail wind aside, it was still a long day and I was glad to have a shower and sprawl out.
See what I mean?
In Cann River I decided to camp because it was FREE! At least it was until I saw a sign that said I had to go register at the hotel in town. Pfft. Honour system be damned. Free camping was exciting, but I also met some fellow bicycle-tour-ers... We were heading in opposite directions, so unfortunately, we could not ride together the next day. We did exchange some beta and stories about our travels. One gentleman, who was on day 80 of riding his recumbent bike, told me about his trip through Tasmania and showed me some pretty amazing photos. I'm pretty excited to get to Tassie's west side! The other guy, Michael, was in his 20's, and quit his very-well-paying job to actually do what he used to always day-dream about. Sounds familiar...
The next morning I had another big day planned. Lake's Entrance: another 120km's away! I was up early and it was looking like a beautiful day ahead. Unfortunately, us three cyclists jibber jabbered some more that morning and I didn't hit the road until 9:30AM. I didn't think much of it since it is light out until almost 9PM. I still had plenty of time to reach L.E. What I didn't take into account was the weather forecast for the day... especially the temperature. By the time I reached Orbost, I drank four or five bottles of water and two or three bottles of Powerade. Ok, it's a little warm out, I'm sweating a lot. It's Australia, it's supposed to get hot. Whatever... However, when I was riding through Orbost I also noticed that when I would change my grip and put my hands back on my hoods they were hotter then before. The human body temperature is 37 degrees celsius, so it must have been hotter than that... right? That was my reasoning anyways. So, hot hoods made me break down and end the day in Orbost. I later found out that the temperature was hovering around 39 with a high humidex.
Obrost is where I stayed in my first hotel/pub. What a great deal! Same price as a hostel, but you get your own room and there is a pub in the building! As long as there are no burly locals in the pub that don't take kindly to strangers and the mattress has no stains, then it is a good deal. Black eyes and bed bugs are a deal breaker.
Very cool old building!
I'm glad I ended the day soon in Orbost because about an hour after I checked in, a violent thunderstorm began.
I left Orbost early wanting to avoid the hot afternoon sun like the day before. I boogied on through Lakes Entrance and made my way to Bairnsdale.
Frank the Tank posing...
The following day I had an uneventful ride into Sale. Other than stopping to take a few photos, I motored on along the highway.
Sale is a slightly larger town than the others I have been to in the days prior. There was a little bit of history throughout this town mixed with more contemporary buildings... if you want to call the golden arches contemporary...
In Sale, I was beginning to become a little weary. The small, rural... or suburban towns were all looking pretty similar and I wasn't really seeing anything very fascinating. I was just pedalling, eating, sleeping, and repeating. Luckily my next stop was Port Albert, a historic coastal community. A quote from travelvictoria.com:
Port Albert is one of Victoria's oldest sea ports, established in 1841 by explorer Angus McMillan, who is commemorated with a monument at the roundabout at the northern end of town. The town's collection of historical buildings includes the Port Albert Hotel (licensed in 1842) which fronts the town's jetties and wharf, and the general store which dates back to 1856. The Gippsland Regional Museum, located on the corner of Wharf Street and Bay Street, features exhibitions and memorabilia of the town's maritime history.
... and some of my pictures:
I spent the night in Port Albert in the town's most affordable accommodation. You guessed it; the hotel/pub. I was pretty excited that they were advertising live music for that evening. However, the band was lame. It reminded me of the Culps as you may remember from SNL:
In addition to the less then exciting band, I had to kill 8 spiders in my room. Eight very large spiders. Coincidently I was woken up during the night by what sounded like a hurricane. It was quite the storm. Thankfully it passed before day break and I had another pleasant day of riding ahead of me. Next stop: Wilson's Promontory National Park!
I was pretty excited to make it to Wilson's Prom. As displayed in this picture:
I actually said "Wow!" when I came to this lookout! This is only a few km's away from where I was going to camp in Tidal River:
I was ready to enjoy some beautiful sights and a few days off to rest my sore body. There was lots of interesting wildlife around:
and Oberton Beach was an amazing place to hang out. It was only a two minute walk away from where I set up my tent!
It felt really good to take some time to just do nothing and relax on the beach and take naps during the day. In fact, I think it was necessary since I was generally quite achy. I still have some very sore tendonitis in one of my ankles. No worries though! I am coping with it just find by following the following treatments: Regular stretching, Advil, beer. A combination that has always worked for me!
I left Wilson's Prom feeling refreshed but a little disappointed that I didn't take in any of the scenic hikes in the area. I think it was best to rest my body, and the park will always be there, so I may go back.
My next stop was Wonthaggi. This is where I realized that the Christmas holidays are quickly approaching. I called the local caravan park to enquire about their availability and much to my surprise I was told that they were out of unpowered sites! D'oh! My next option was the only local motel. Another night of spending too much money but it was nice to have a bed any my own room and shower for a night.
I am writing now from Philip Island at the YHA in Cowes. This is another really scenic, but also very tourist-y location. Thankfully the hostel is affordable, but everything else costs money. I'm paying to write and publish my own blog! In fact, the biggest disappointment of this entire trip came this morning when I found out that there are no photos allowed at the Penguin Parade. If you want a photo you can pay to have yourself photographed in front of a stupid green screen and have your stupid face super-imposed in front of the stupid little penguins. Here is the BS from the Philip Island Nature Park Website. I will pedal over there today to check things out anyways. Even if it is just to give the management there a piece of my mind. However, as a true Canadian, I will then apologize for my rude outburst and offer the management a round of beer.
I will be hanging out on Philip Island for a couple of days before heading to Melbourne. It is pretty exciting that I have already nearly finished the first leg of my trip in Australia! According to Google Maps I have ridden 1,143 km. I must say, it hasn't felt like it. I'm still feeling fresh and and excited to ride every morning I head out.
I will post another update from Melbourne within the next few days.
Until then, keep the shiny side up.