Bellingen to Brisbane
Many years ago when purchasing a bike from Markus at Walker’s Wheels in Montmorency, he said to me “Astrid, learn to love the hills”. At that point in time I did, just the downhill part though. But in the last few weeks something has changed. I can’t put my finger on exactly why, but there is something really satisfying about a big hill climb. Yes, I’m dripping with sweat looking like I have spent the last two hours in a Finnish sauna, my legs and arse are screaming for a reprieve from climbing 1000 vertical metres, but I’m ecstatic when we reach the top of the escarpment and the gateway to the Dorrigo Plateau. Sitting up there, gazing over where we have ridden for the last week, I know Markus would be proud, because I am.
Dorrigo National Park is part of the World Heritage listed Gondwana Rainforest, a forest that (despite intense logging in the surrounding areas) has maintained it’s connection to the time when Australia was part of the ancient Gondwana supercontinent. My eyes have never experienced so many shades of green and I could feel the timelessness of the forest as we sat and meditated under trees that are hundreds of years old.
This feeling of elation came to a crashing end for me in Dorrigo. It’s the way with cycle touring sometimes – one minute you’re up, the next you’re down, with no explanation. Luckily I have the best girlfriend in the world who buys me a beer when I’m not coping and then cooks me dinner. That night the first frost of the season occurred.
With the name Dorrigo Plateau, I had assumed that it would be rather flat riding. Well, you know what they say about assumptions. We spent the chilly morning riding over large rolling green hills, and while we were eating peanut butter sandwiches in Tyringham we were approached by a local celebrity, Buffalo. Buffalo has two main loves in life – brumbies and beer. That afternoon he drank generous amounts of beer and introduced us to many of the brumbies he has saved from the cullings performed by the national parks service. Jude even had the opportunity to ride a World Heritage listed celebrity brumby bareback. Lucky girl!
As we were enjoying some fabulous up and downhill stretches in the late afternoon, an unlikely bike drama occurred – one of the mounting poles on my saddle snapped. I have a sneaking suspicion that my bum has been planning this revenge on the bike seat for weeks. After a bush mechanics fix, we continued down the mountain and arrived in the lovely town of Nymboida as the sky was turning from pink to mauve. After such a long day, we were feeling a little out of sorts and walking into the Nymboida Coaching Station Inn was like walking into paradise. A very big thank you to the fantastic staff and locals who took us in and treated us like family! We were able to put up our tent on Russel Crowe’s heli pad, they had hot showers for free, a $10 Friday night meal deal, delicious cold beer, a roaring fire, a private tour of the museum and great conversation. The next morning we didn’t want to leave, so we spent a few hours sitting and talking with Jules and Pete in the beer garden overlooking the river.
With joy and love in our hearts we pedalled out in the early afternoon and headed for Coutt’s Crossing and Richard’s house. Here we spent a pleasurable afternoon and evening chatting, drinking tea and wine, listening to music and eating home-made macaroons and pizza. From here the riding was easy, with a couple of days spent riding along flat country roads going through the towns of Grafton, Casino and Kyogle. And then the hill climbing began again. Six and a half weeks after leaving Melbourne we climbed the Lion’s Road and crossed into Queensland. The contrast was stark – in NSW we had been climbing through another section of the stunning Gondwana Rainforest to reach the border, then on the Queensland side – nothing. The whole forest on that side has been logged and kept as farmland. The next five kilometres consisted of many 16-18 degree angle inclines that we had to ride up and down until we reached our campsite for the night. Tired but elated, we had a nudie swim in the river and fell into bed excited that we had reached Queensland and looking forward to exploring it.
The next morning we looked at the map and I must admit I had no idea how big Queensland actually is. It’s huge! As the drizzle set in, we were determined not to be daunted by its size, and headed off in the direction of Brisbane. As Jude has mentioned before, when you’re constantly out in the elements, the weather can have an effect on your moods. So can the daily need to find a safe and comfortable place to shelter at nights. After riding for several hours through the rain, we luckily found a park with a shelter where we could put up our tent for the night. Our luck continued when the lovely lady in the caravan near us made us hot chocolate and brought us biscuits when it got dark. Small kindnesses can make all the difference.
The next day we rode into Brisbane. I like the excitement of making it to a capital city, but I hate riding into them. Especially when you don’t know the roads, or the back roads. I also had my first experience of having rubbish thrown at me by a car driver. Despite these annoyances we made it into town and popped out in Southbank right at the fake beach on the river. I couldn’t help myself and had to go for a swim.
We have spent the last few days in the lovely home and company of Tim and Bec. I was recently asked what comfort I miss being on the road. My answer is a kettle and the ability to make a cup of tea whenever I want one. Much to my delight, we have drank copious amounts of tea, relaxed, bought avocado’s for 50 cents each, indulged on tropical fruit, rode our bikes around town, drank microbrewery beers, been to the markets and explored the brilliant artworks in GOMA. Tomorrow we set off on the road again – cue Willie Nelson song…
Until next time, all my love, Astrid.