March 2008

Mar 17 Sydney to Patonga via Palm Beach 39 kms; Avg speed 13.5 kph; Cycling time 2.54 hrs (this is total cycling time, not including breaks)

We crawled out of bed at 4.00am to begin our adventure!  After a quick brekkie and coffee (I’ll miss Greg’s coffee), we said goodbye to our unit, wondering when we’d see it again, and  rode in the darkness to Circular Quay to catch the 6am Manly ferry, a vessel we could easily push our loaded bikes onto. After a slight drama at the Quay—the ticket machine didn’t work,   the ferry was cancelled, the replacement Jet Cat vessel had steep steps, the access lift didn’t work, the ferry master was cranky as he wanted to leave-Greg pushed the bikes up the steps with the help of the ferry hand.  We couldn’t wait to leave the city! After that we had a beautiful morning ride to Palm Beach by chance being passed by Greg’s brother, Robert on his way to drop his son, Jack, to school. Rob stopped, we took some photos and bade them farewell again.  We got to Palm Beach just after 9.00am, had another coffee & called Greg’s Mum, Robin, to tell her we’d made it.  The 11.00am ferry ride over to Patonga was so relaxing, chatting to Phantom, ferry master, and Chris, ferry hand, during the 30 mins journey with Phantom announcing to all this was our first day of cycling around Australia!  Thanks guys for being so friendly and helpful.  We set up camp at Patonga Caravan Park (great spot and facilities) had lunch at the newly opened Patonga Hotel, retiring early trying not to think of the hilly ride out of Patonga.

Mar 18 Patonga to Bouddhi National Park via East Gosford 45.94 kms; Avg speed 12.6 kph; Cycling time 3.38 hrs; Total kms 85.9

We managed to cycle up Patonga Hill albeit slowly with the help of our Rohloff gears. We were booked into the camp site at Little Beach, Bouddhi National Park (no water, only BBQs & loos) however made a detour to East Gosford to visit a friend’s brother, Anthony, who’d recently moved there.  As luck would have it his sister, Adrienne, was also visiting that day so we caught up with both of them. We left Anthony’s mid afternoon and after a hot and hilly ride, had to unload and reload our panniers to get access to Little Beach which was 750 metres down from the road.  How inviting the ocean was, even for me, so after a refreshing dip we set up camp, Greg cooked a great BBQ listening to his wind up radio and we ate by the moonlight.  We were the only ones camping that night, Greg slept well, I found it quite spooky and was glad when the sun finally rose!

Mar 19 Bouddhi National Park to The Entrance 41.69 kms; Avg speed 13.1 kph; Cycling time 3.10 hrs; Total kms 127.6

As the path out of Little Beach was steep & quite rough, we pushed our bikes up the 750 metres.  How fit we’re going to be after this adventure! We stopped at Terrigal for coffee and toasted fruit Turkish bread—yum-before heading to The Entrance. Bought supplies and ate lunch in the park before making our way to the Two Shores Caravan Park where we camped the night. After a beer, G&T & nibbles we watched the sun set over the lake then used the BBQ facilities & had a steak & salad dinner.  It was another hot and hilly day.

Mar 20 The Entrance to Redhead via Belmont 56.62 kms, Avg speed 14.6 kph, Cycling time 3.5 hrs; Total kms 184.2

Tomorrow is the Easter long weekend and we definitely don’t want to be cycling on the roads during this time so have booked a cabin for the next 5 nights at Redhead where we can work on our website and do some maintenance on the bikes.  We had a great ride to Redhead nearly all the way along cycle paths or wide road shoulders & the traffic wasn’t too heavy either.  We’ve found the majority of drivers considerate + we’re considerate of them too where we can be although we always think of our safety first.  We’ve both ridden scooters for the past 5 years in Sydney and we think this has helped with our confidence on the road.  Summary of past 4 days—bikes very comfortable, riding with panniers easier than we thought, haven’t suffered too many sore muscles or joints, camp set up extremely comfortable, glad we made the decision to carry a folding Walkstool each (added extra 650 gms to our load), clothes, equipment & supplies working well.  Credit to Greg for all his research and planning over the past year—he’s thought of everything!

Mar 21—24 Redhead Beach Holiday Park—Easter Long Weekend

The first 3 days of this long weekend were overcast which gave us a chance to stay indoors and launch the website. Our accommodation can be described as budget/cosy. It’s supposedly capable of sleep five, but I think that must be in shifts. It suited our purposes, and kept us dry and off the Easter roads. We sometimes spoiled ourselves and went to the Redhead Bowling Club for a drink. There’s not much in Redhead, and certainly this is the main non-beach entertainment, sadly our, what seemed like 4 million numbers, did not produce a result in the Friday night meat raffle. Which is just as well because we couldn’t have used it all anyway. Monday, the skies are blue and the sun is out—yeah!  Walked into Redhead along Nine Mile Beach, a beautiful surf beach in the Lake Macquarie & Newcastle region, could have stayed there for ages watching all the activity on the beach and patting all the lovely doggies, great to see a beach where dogs can run around and have fun. After spending 5 nights here we’re looking forward to getting on the road again tomorrow, we’re missing it already!

Mar 25 Redhead to Cessnock via Kurri Kurri 76.14 kms, Avg speed 15.8 kph, Cycling time 4.47 hrs; Total kms 260.4

Made a detour to Newcastle West to visit Two Wheel Industries cycle shop to get additional bottle holders fixed behind our seats and pick up some spare cables.  People who work in cycle shops must like what they do, always so friendly and helpful and Marek from Two Wheel Industries fitted into this slot.  Thought it would take us 2 days to ride to Cessnock however riding conditions were good so we kept going. Lunch was a couple of oranges bought from a fruit stall on the road in Kurri, and they were a welcome treat. Riding along roads busy with trucks screaming past you at 100 km/h is not pleasant and we were pleased when the road quietened outside of Newcastle. We rode into Valley Vineyard Tourist Park late that afternoon, just as it was beginning to sprinkle & booked in for 2 nights .  Dinner was a couple of chicken drumsticks, corn on the cob and some salad, all washed down with a G & T, beer and white wine. Since when was a gas heated hot plate defined as a BBQ? Theses are frying pans, but they’re called BBQ’s. It rained heavily that night however our tent kept us dry, all that time painstakingly painting the seams with sealant before we left Sydney was worth it.

Mar 26Cessnock to Pokolbin Return 25.66 kms, Avg speed 14.3 kph, Cycling time 1.47 hrs; Total kms 286.0

Rode into Pokolbin free of the panniers, a nice change!  Had to shelter from heavy rain in the Pokolbin Rest Area which forms part of The Great North Walk, the end being 4 kms north of the rest area.  Visited Brian Skinner’s photography exhibition—The Australian Landscape Collection—at one of the wineries, great collection of lightening shots around the Maitland area.  Unlike at the weekends, Pokolbin is really quite pleasant during the week, it’s quite, there’s bugger all traffic, and the people actually seemed more relaxed, without the throngs of weekend tourist from Newcastle and Sydney. Our friends may find this hard to believe, however, we didn’t sample any wine whilst in this Hunter Valley wine growing region.

Mar 27 Cessnock to Singleton via Broke 64.44 kms, Avg speed 16.2 kph, Cycling time 3.4 hrs; Total kms 350.0

After a bone shaking ride out of Pokolbin (in a car, probably wouldn’t notice) had a peaceful ride through the countryside listening to the birds singing away, something we’ve missed living in the city.  Stopped at Broke, pop 400, 80 metres above sea level, for lunch then rode to Singleton camping at Country Acres Camp site, so well maintained and for only $20 per night!  Rode into town and treated ourselves to a $7.50 steak at The Caledonian Hotel.  There we are, metres from the busy NSW wine growing districts, and the pub said they have two types of wine, (yes, you’ve guessed it) both red and white wine. They’re cultured sods in Singleton. We slept well that night and didn’t even hear the trucks rambling along The New England Highway.  Singleton   is one of the oldest towns in Australia & the discovery of vast resources of coal has seen the town change from a quiet country town to a progressive commercial centre in the State.  The mining we rode past was a huge scar on the landscape, it’s frightening how much of the earth has been dug up and moved. Singleton itself is quite pretty in some parts and we feel that we’ve never been there before as our only view previously was from a car window driving along the highway.

Mar 28 to 30 Singleton to East Gresford 58.63 kms, Avg speed 13.7 kph, Cycling time 4.15 hrs; Total kms 409.1

Leaving Singleton we visited the largest sundial in the Southern Hemisphere, then rode through rolling green countryside, however we found this ride quite hard going....could we be feeling the effects from the previous night? Why East Gresford?  Well it just happens to be home to one of the best accommodation places we’ve stayed at.  It belongs to our great friends, Chris and Julia, and we’re staying here for the next 3 nights to rest and recuperate, what an idyllic getaway destination! We’ve gate crashed their weekend, and will leave them with no food, substantially less booze, dirty washing, and we’ve conned our way to a seat at their table with friends at a local restaurant. Who needs friends like us? A few of you may have been here before, but for those that haven’t.

Features include;

· Botanic garden like surroundings

· Heated pool and outdoor spa with mountain views

· Gourmet cuisine

· On this occasion four silly dogs (they’re looking after the neighbours dog for the weekend)

· Extensive cellar

· Designer furnishings and linen

· FREE accommodation

I can only commend this place on their hospitality, and we hope to be back in the future. If they’ll have us. Mmmmm....

Mar 31 East Gresford to Nelson Bay 105.9 kms, Avg speed 16.6 kph, Cycling time 6.20 hrs; Total kms 514.8

Our longest ride! We didn’t plan on riding straight to Nelson Bay but when you see a sign saying “Nelson Bay 25klms” we ploughed on, needless to say we crawled into Shoal Bay Caravan Park at 5.30pm wondering who’d made that decision & booked in for 2 nights—we weren’t going anywhere the next day!  Showered and clean, we went to the local pub for a beer to catch the end of a beautiful sunset before strolling down the road for dinner. Amazing how a great local Italian meal washed down with a glass of wine or 2 can raise the spirits. We slept easily that night.