Tuross Head to Sydney
Week three started with mixed emotions about getting a lift part way up the coast so that we could still make it to Sydney on time for Misch’s birthday. This adventure has never been about cycling every single kilometre. In fact, in the grand scheme of things the actual cycling part has never been the main focus. You won’t find us swaddled in lycra, sipping lattes and comparing how many kilometres we can ride per day or how fast. The cycling is more about a mode of transport that reflects our shared philosophy about travel, rather than the actual act of pushing down on the pedals. That said, I was rather uncomfortable about getting a ride. There is something very satisfying about looking back on where you have come from and realising my legs did that. But being on the road is about adapting and ridding yourself about preconceived ideas about how things should be. We could have turned down Lei’s offer of a second night in Turross Head, but for what? So we could pedal an extra part of the highway to prove something? To who? Ourselves? Our family? So we could look back and say, yeah we pedalled all of it. Or we could say yes to an opportunity and spend time with some wonderful people and leave feeling inspired and revitalised, which is exactly what we did.
Once back on the bikes we were confined mainly to the Princes highway, riding through forests in the typical undulating fashion of NSW. I spent quite a lot of time composing letters in my head about the inadequacies of NSW roads and how they have really failed cyclists, providing no hard shoulder/no shoulder at all. Cycle touring the east coast of Australia is quite popular (there is at least 2 cyclists ahead of us and 2 behind) and getting more so. Yet the way the roads are built in a lot of parts really discourages cycling and that in my opinion is backwards and a major missed opportunity.
Anyway, was lovely to be back on the bikes. We camped wild again, although one night we were woken by “security” advising us we were camped illegally (we were in a beachside reserve, and yes there may have been several no camping signs) but he didn’t fine us or move us on. Note to self, perhaps more stealth is required next time. After the rough weather of the weekend the sun shone brilliantly, infusing everything in that soft, golden light that is unique to autumn. Our spirits were high, we took a detour to Jervis Bay, just to have lunch on the beach and swim. It’s amazing how the weather really influences your mood when you are out in it all the time.
In Nowra we tried to go to Hopdog microbrewery (the only one since Bruthen) but it was closed. Instead we received a spontaneous hug from Gwen, a lovely lady who started chatting to us on the street and was really excited about what we were doing. This out pouring of kindness and of hospitality we have received over the last few week is not something I expected from my fellow country women and men. I am not sure why, I guess I always thought it was something that happened in other cultures. It’s quite heartening to discover this generosity of spirit in my own country.
In Kiama we finally rid ourselves of the Princes highway to follow bike paths into Bulli. Well, kind of. I had heard about this bike path and envisioned kilometres of car free riding with stunning views of the coastline. To be fair, we got some really beautiful views. We also got arse breaking climbs through suburbia, questionable “scenic” detours through industrial ports and long sections on the road/footpath. At least there was a brewery almost right on the path in the Gong. And the last 10km into Bulli was on a fantastic bike path with stunning views.
Arriving in Bulli we were pretty exhausted, having done 2 big days by our standards. So it was wonderful having the chance to stay with Kaija, in her beautiful little house that instantly felt like home. We had 2 really amazing days in Bulli, which is such a cute little town, nestled between the sea and the escarpment. There was cooking, walks and listening to beautiful music while Kaija and Ann practiced and we ate freshly baked scones. One night we watched the full moon over the beach, drank champagne and sang all the songs about the moon we could remember.
On a whim, Astrid and I decided to stay a third night to see Mia Dyson at the Heritage Hotel, which was around the corner from where we were staying. Kaija was away for the weekend so we had a night of playing ‘house’ by ourselves which I guess is going to become pretty rare. We had a fabulous night. Our time in Bulli was very special.
As a result of indulging and staying another night we had come to an agreement that we would pack the night before and leave early. At the moment it still takes us a while to pack up! So we were out of the house and on our bikes by 7am, the sky was the clearest blue and the sun was bright in our faces. A truly stunning morning to be pedalling towards Sydney. There was basically no traffic (another reason we wanted to be away early, as the road ahead was narrow and likely to be heavily trafficked with tourists by 9am) except for groups of road cyclists. They passed us on the hefty inclines, greeting us with encouragement as we inched our way up. Although the going was tough, the views were well worth the effort and I enjoyed every moment of the climb up to bald hill. What made it even sweeter was the resounding cheer we both got from all the road cyclists when we finally did reach the top.
The next section of the road took us through the Royal National Park. And what an amazing road that was. Smooth, mostly downward trending, through lush jungle like forest and only other cyclists for company. The road of my dreams! Astrid had started chatting to one of the road cyclists (amazingly keeping up with him) and he offered to meet us at the end of the national park and that he and his wife would guide us all the way into North Sydney where we would be staying. Before this we had planned to take the train, which I was kind of not entirely happy with. So it was agreed, Jim left us to go and meet up with his wife and we turned onto an off road track. This was another highlight, winding it’s way along a river, trees reflected in the still, glassy waters and only the birds for company.
In Sutherland we met up with Jim and his wife Janelle, wolfed down some lunch and coffee and were off again. We followed Jim and Janelle through suburbia and along picturesque bike paths until we were staring at the remarkable view that is the Sydney Opera house and the Harbour Bridge. We had made it! The first milestone of the trip achieved. And again due to the generosity of people who had been strangers only a few hours before, who had taken their whole Saturday to show us how to ride into their city. Thank you.
The few days we had in Sydney were very special. There was relaxing, spedning quality time with Misch and Key as well as a very awesome party. We were even gifted 2 bottles of wine by Wendy Whitely (wife of the late artist Brett Whitely). This came about because some idiot school children had trashed the beautiful public “Secrete Garden” she has created on derelict land in Lavender Bay. She was cleaning it up on her own and looking rather flustered and upset. So we offered to help and she was so grateful she insisted we take some wine. This was consumed the next afternoon as we enjoyed a picnic in the Secret Garden, along with a phenomenal amount of cheese.
It was hard to leave Sydney. The weather was splendid, the harbour and the views spectacular but most of all it had been so wonderful to spend time with Misch and Key. (Thanks Erin and Matt for letting us stay in your wonderful apartment.) When we left Melbourne, we knew we had Sydney to look forward to and spend time with them. It made the goodbye in Melbourne less final. But now the real goodbye was upon us and it made leaving very sad.
The first milestone is behind us, it feels quite incredible. The road ahead was uncertain until we met Glen, a keen cycle tourer who immediately gave us fantastic advice about the route we should take out of Sydney which was completely different to our tentative plans. So that’s the way we are going to go, heading inland towards the Hawkesbury and the Hunter Valley and then on to Newcastle.
And just a quick aside about this nomadic life. I feel like I have taken to it more than I expected. It feels so good to cycle almost everyday. In fact, it feels a little like going to work (without incidental overtime, management hassles and the stress of trying to finish on time) that you really love. And the ‘days off’ are sweet because they are exactly that, days off. Without the cycling, the lack of structure and purpose would probably render me a little unsettled. A bit like I felt when I was unemployed. It’s liberating at first but then you get a bit lost because all you have is spare time and that begins to lose it’s meaning and value . That might sound odd but I think that’s why I am feeling so settled in this new life.