Orbost, Victoria to Tuross Head, NSW.
We are sitting in Jen and Lei’s kitchen cooking curry and home made naan bread and drinking wine. It feels like we have been friends forever. This is a beauty about life on the road. We have been on the receiving end of such amazing kindness and hospitality everyday in both big and small ways. From local knowledge about the best place to stop and have lunch, to random offers of a bed for the night to avoid sleeping in a tent during the biggest storm to hit the east coast in years. These two experiences bookended the second week of our journey.
Sardine Creek Track is the best place to have lunch and an afternoon nudie swim on the road to Goongurrah. Yes a nudie swim. It is the way to go when cycle touring (and lazy) as you don’t have to get into/out of your bathers or dry them. I may one day write an ode to the nudie swim (which I will post) but I will continue now with the story of the road out of Orbost.
The day before we had made the choice to cycle the Bonang Highway to NSW, avoiding the crazy drivers on the Princes Highway. It was the best choice. That first afternoon we covered 70km along the river and valley north of Orbost. It was easy riding and a good way to distract ourselves from the sadness of leaving dad and Misch that morning. Goongurrah is described on the map as a “town of greenie types” (read activists for anti-logging of native/old growth forests) and the free campground is one of the best we have stayed at. If you’re ever in the area stay there and make dinner from the organic produce that the locals sell from the old fridges and ovens they use as letterboxes.
The next day was a bum and leg breaker – literally. 20 kilometres of uphill riding through some of the most beautiful old growth forests in Victoria. We had the Snowy River National Park to our left and the Errinundra National Park on our right and I was in rainforest heaven. We had been advised that the town of Bonang no longer had any facilities, but that Bendoc had a pub. So being the beer lovers we are, we took a right off the Bonang Highway, cycled for another 20km up a dirt road and arrived at the Commercial Hotel. Margaret and Graham plied us with beer and stories of the local area and then sent us on our way to cross the NSW border. We couldn’t believe that we had cycled across our state and into the next. We would have posted a ‘Welcome to NSW’ sign, except there wasn’t one!
We have read many lamentations from cycle tourists about the undulating roads in NSW. So we were ready for the constant ups and downs that we have experienced since crossing the border. We cycled through the high plains of the South Coast Range, admired the quirkiness of the town of Cathcart that still has the original houses built in the late 1800’s, were gifted bunches of flowers by a random stranger and had a campfire in the beautiful surrounds of the Six Mile Creek campground.
The next morning we were expecting more uphill as the road out of the campground was straight up. Our legs and bums were afraid. But within a few kilometres the road started going down. And down, and down and down! It was fast, crazy fun and we were enjoying the first bit of serious downhill for days. Near the base came the first close call for the trip. Luckily for us the car was going slowly as the road was steep and made of dirt. We all swerved and thanked our lucky stars that the journey did not end less than two weeks in.
This was soon forgotten as we rode along the creek edge listening to the bell birds singing and watching the dairy cows chew cudd. As we climbed into the town of Candelo I looked up to the right and saw the oddest sight of camels on the hilltop. We are not in Melbourne anymore Toto. While drinking coffee we met John the caretaker and tour guide of the old township of Kameruka. He regaled us with stories of the Tooth family and when we cycled passed we took a detour to see the property. Another beauty of cycle touring, speaking with many local people who are the custodians of a rarely known history of their own areas.
From here we passed into the cheese capital of the area – Bega. Stocking up on food is a daily necessity of cycle touring and our aim is to buy as much nutritious food for the lowest price. The reduced price section of the supermarket is our favourite. From here we cycled over the Doctor George mountain range, playing tag with a couple of backpackers in a hippy van, until we reached our destination – Mimosa Rocks National Park. The last few undulations along the dirt road to Middle Beach almost had me in tears as it had been a physically and emotionally tiring day. We washed the days stresses away with a nudie swim in the ocean, a dinner of hand picked pine mushrooms and a fire. We were joined during the night by a bandicoot that loved to eat chocolate.
The next day we had one goal – to find some drinking water. We have been filling up our drink bottles and water bladders at every town and stream when needed. We did not think that a national park would a/ not provide water and b/ not sign post this information before you drove into the site. When touring, you can’t just pop down to the next town 35km away as this will take 4 hours. Enter Vincent, another lovely local with loads of information and most importantly water! He suggested a move from Middle Beach to Blithey Inlet for more spectacular views. There we spent the day swimming, reading, eating, walking and meditating. Our campsite was at an old windmill site on the cliff edge protected by bushes and long grass.
We needed it that night as a storm started brewing, and the next day a strong southerly blew us and the occasional rain storm towards Bermagui. There on the headland we looked out over the ocean and had a toast for Rose. Feeling sad and with the weather being so bad, we had dragged out our time in Bermagui. Things happen for a reason. As we were about to leave Steve drove up and informed us about the huge storm heading our way and offered us a warm bed and a hot shower that night. We needed no further convincing. In their lovely home with the open fire burning, Steve regaled us with stories of cycle touring the world back in the 1980’s, Monita chatted with us like an old friend over numerous cups of tea and coffee, Jason entertained us after a few beers at the pub and the menagerie of animals gave us affection. As we lay in bed that night with 100km/hr winds and violent rain pounding the house, we were thankful we had again been on the receiving end of such kindness.
The bad weather continued on into the next day, and so that we didn’t lose the kilometres that we needed to cover to get to Sydney in time, that afternoon Steve and Monita drove us up the coast to Narooma. On the way we made a tour of the coast line and watched the seas pounding and white foam covering everything.
We wished our new friends a fond farewell and headed along the new cycle path from Narooma to Dalmeny. Views of the ocean were occasionally obscured by the heavy rain that fell, yet by the time we had cycled to Bodalla the sun was shining and the hill riding had dried our clothes. It was a cute town and we stopped at the local cheese factory and sampled their amazing wares. I was also excited to discover “the big cheese” as we cycled out of town.
We made it punctually to Tuross Head that evening and entered the lovely home of Lei and Jen. Great conversation, travel stories and laughter filled the evening. Homemade pizza and wine were on the menu. Their dogs and cat plied us with/for affection. Before bed that night we were offered the opportunity to stay the next day, explore the beautiful town of Tuross Head, and Lei would the following day drive us further up the coast so that we would again not loose the kilometres. It’s a hard decision to make at the beginning of a cycle tour, and after some extensive consideration we accepted their kind offer.
We spent today exploring the beautiful beaches, lakes and gardens of Tuross Head by foot and bike. Lei has a great love for his town and provided us with a wealth of information about the area. And now the story ends where it began – curry, naan bread, wine and great people.
With love, Astrid