Sunday, May 12, 2013

Bike trip days 10-15

Well, I suppose it is time I filled in the rest of the trip! Here are days 10 to 15. More to come.

The last post left off with me arriving Orbost, just as the rain was coming in...

Day 10: Orbost (no riding!)

I took a rest day in Orbost due to the weather - it was raining on and off all throughout the day and it was very cold. I fixed up my broken mudguard using the staple of all good engineers, duct tape. I gave the bike a clean, and bought an 8mm spanner from the hardware store so that I could retighten all of the rack and mudguard bolts that had nuts on the other side.

All in all it was a pretty uneventful day and I was looking forward to getting back on the road the day after.

Day 11: Orbost to Cann River (75 km)

For me, this was the first day where I had to spend the entire day riding on the Princes Highway. This started out okay as there was a pretty substantial shoulder a lot of the time, but it soon got worse. Often the shoulder would completely disappear, forcing me to ride in the car lane with 100 km/h traffic going past. Not cool, but most drivers were pretty good and the traffic wasn't too heavy.

On the plus side, the scenery really started to change and instead of riding through endless farmland I was now riding in endless forest. The weather had cleared up and, traffic issues aside, it was a pretty nice day. I arrived in Cann River and had a look at the caravan park on the outskirts of town. It was a nice location, but completely deserted apart from some (German?) backpackers who had a car parked next to a power point and were charging their phones. They were also having some sort of loud argument. Many of the campsites were still flooded from the previous day's rain. Hmmm.

In the end I decided to stay at the local pub again! This was a really nice pub with friendly staff and it was good to have a solid roof again. (Although after the fourth night indoors in a row, I was also starting to miss my tent!)

Day 12: Cann River to Mallacoota (70 km)

In the morning it was time for the Princes Highway again. Well, for the first 50 km anyway. Over breakfast I had a nice chat with some folks from the Shepparton Adventure Club who were about to head down to the coastline and do a multiday hike to Mallacoota. Given that Mallacoota was my destination for the day, it was nice to feel like I was the one with the faster form of transport!

The first 50 km of riding was more of the same: lovely rainforest, intermittently appearing road shoulder, and lots of caravans, utes, and the occasional truck going past. I then reach the town of Genoa and the turnoff to Mallacoota. (Tip: Genoa has a free campsite that is very well set up - if I wasn't headed to Mallacoota I would have stayed there.)

From there it was a 20 km diversion from the main road to get down to Mallacoota, on a very hilly road. I had heard nothing but good things about this place so I figured it was worth the extra riding. As I arrived in the town, I understood why. It really is a beautiful place! The town is situated next to a system of lakes, but also on the ocean. There is a gigantic caravan park/campsite right on the water and its $20 a night with free WiFi. Nice!

After getting myself sorted out I found myself having a predinner snack and drink with some older folks who'd travelled down with their caravan from North-West Victoria. They had a really interesting life story whose details escape me now... but I recall there was some talk of living in a mud-brick house with no electricity which was pretty cool.

Day 13: Mallacoota (no riding!)

I decided to have another day off to enjoy Mallacoota. I had a pretty lazy start and then rode my bike along the edge of the lake to the start of a walking trail into the 'Narrows', where one lake transitions into another. The scenery along this walk was really stunning. Absolutely clear water, and what looked like islands covered in green bushland rising up on the opposite side.

After the walk I had a lazy evening - met another pair of Germans travelling around Australia in a car (a theme on this trip), a Czech couple as well, and some more older folks from all over Australia.

Day 14: Mallacoota to Eden (85 km)

It was time to get back to my old friend, the good old Princes Highway. I backtracked my steps to Genoa and pulled up at the campground to use the loo. For the first time on the trip I spotted other cycle tourists!

They were two German guys, Malte and Philip, who had left from Sydney and were heading to Adelaide (of all places!). They were on two second hand bikes they'd bought in Sydney and were towing a trailer each, both of which were absolutely packed with camping gear. My bike and panniers felt spritely in comparison. The differences extended to our attire: Malte and Philip were in board shorts and t-shirts and no helmets, I had full fluro lycra and a helmet - total opposites! We talked for at least an hour, comparing notes and then headed off. I am hoping to catch up with them again when they reach Adelaide.

The rest of the day was more Princes Highway... and it started to get hilly! Really hilly. I would zip down one hill at full speed then come to an almost halt as the next hill went straight upward. Fun times. I stayed at the caravan park in Eden and had a pretty uneventful night.

Day 15: Eden to Tathra (50 km)

On this day I finally got to leave the Princes Highway. After Merimbula I got onto a back road which went through to the small town of Tathra. This meant more up-and-down hills but with slightly less traffic. Tathra was a nice little town and everyone was telling me about the mountain bike enduro race that was going to happen a few days later. There really seemed to be a lot of excitement about the mountain bike race - it was great!

Again I had a pretty uneventful night, but I did have several good phone chats, including most of my siblings!

That's it for the time being. There are another 5 days to write about, which I will get to eventually! (and eventually I'll put up some photos to go with all the text.)

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Bike trip days 0-9

I have been on the road for nine days now, so it is probably time I wrote an entry for the blog! Let's start with a summary of each day.

Photos for now can be found on my Instagram account.

Day 0: Adelaide to Geelong

The trip started out on Tuesday 10th April. I filled up the back of my car with my bike and panniers, and Alex and I drove to Geelong. Talked shit the entire way. Stayed the night at a pub. Fun times!

Day 1: Queenscliff to Cowes (50ish km)

In the morning we drove down the road to Queenscliff and I got all my stuff ready to go. I caught the noon ferry across to Sorrento, and I was off! From there I rode up the West side of the Mornington peninsula, and then cut inland when I reached Arthur's Seat Rd. Alex had challenged me to do this since the climb is part of the Herald Suntour and a bit of a Melbourne icon.

Arthur's Seat definitely had a cycling feel to it, with writing on the road, including the ever present "FYXO" in numerous places. Needless to say, the climb was absolutely brutal on a loaded touring bike and I used every bit of my lowest gear (a 24x25). From the top of the climb I zipped down the other side and eventually made my way to Stony Point (or is it Crib Point, the road signs and maps couldn't seem to agree). At Stony/Crib Point I caught my second ferry for the day, the 5pm ferry to Cowes on Philip Island.

At Cowes I checked into the caravan park, popped up the tent, did some shopping, and day one was over.

Day 2: Cowes to Inverloch (60 km)

The day dawned with the pitter patter of rain on my tent. What a way to start out! I packed up in a very soggy campsite and got going... straight to the coffee shop. At about 11am I headed off, with the rain still coming and going. After leaving Philip Island over the bridge to the mainland, I stopped for a lunch (falafel roll!) and the rain started to let up.

I then rolled to Wonthaggi (prompting an impromptu song about "I want haggi", and no I do not know what "haggi" is in this context), and then took the tourist drive via Cape Peterson to Inverloch. Inverloch was a nice beachside town - the caravan park was absolutely huge with about 200 sites. Only about 10% of those sites would have been taken - this has been the norm so far outside of tourist peak season. The night was nice and dry and I felt very snug in my little tent.

Day 3: Inverloch to Foster (75 km)

I took the long route between these towns, hugging the coast and going past the town of Walkerville. The highlight of this day was stopping just outside of Walkerville and doing a short walk through the bushland to a lookout over the ocean.

At Foster there was a YHA hostel which is a converted three bedroom cottage. The only other guests for the night were an English couple who had been travelling around Australia and we had some good chats.

Day 4: Wilson's Promontory (no riding!)

In the morning I got a lift down to Wilson's Promontory (a.k.a. "the prom") with the afore-mentioned English couple (they only wanted to take a quick look, but were happy to drop me off). The road from Foster to Tidal River, the main town on the prom, is about 65 km and very hilly - I was quite happy to get a lift down there for a day of bushwalking.

The prom is absolutely stunning. I did a walk from Tidal River around "Lilly Pilly Gully" and then up Mt Brian. This was a relatively short walk but with fantastic views. I was definitely inspired to come back at a later date for more walking.

At the end of the day the owners of the hostel picked me up. This is something that they will normally do for a fee of $20 each way, but usually only if there is more than one person. They were kind enough to pick me up anyway. 

I was joined that night at the hostel by two German girls who had been driving around Australia in a little hatchback (and sleeping most nights in the front seats!). Had a great night eating pizza and chatting.

Day 5: Foster to Woodside Beach (80 km)

The day after a really great day is normally a let down... and this day was a bit of a let down. The roads were okay, very flat, but also very boring (I took back roads instead of the main highway). I toyed with the idea of staying in Woodside, which I had to pass through anyway, but decided on taking the 10km detour down to the beach instead.

Woodside Beach was a nice little spot but almost completely deserted. I setup my tent in the caravan park and made dinner in the park under a really impressive BBQ shelter (complete with power points for charging your iPhone). It started to rain as I was making dinner and afterwards I had to dash back to my tent as it bucketed down.

Just as I was getting settled in to sleep I started to notice that the water was somehow splashing onto my face... I shone my headlamp out through the tent's inside netting and noticed that the water was starting to pool under my tent and the rain was landing hard enough to make this splash up into my face! The ground of the camp area was made up of sand that was not absorbing the water and just allowing it to pool.

Things did not look good... I have to admit to wussing out here. I jumped out of bed and phoned the reception (it was 9:30pm). I transferred to a cabin. In the morning the caravan park owner was an absolute legend and did not charge me any extra! Apparently they had not had rain like that since last year and he felt a bit bad for me I think.

Day 6: Woodside Beach to Sale (85 km)

This day was more of the same. Flat and boring roads! Once again I was on back roads instead of on the main Gippsland highway. The upside was that in the morning the rain had subsided. 

I decided to stop by the beachside town of Seaspray, hoping for a nice spot for lunch. Alas, it was not to be. Seaspray was a bit of a depressing place: the caravan park was in the middle of being torn up and the place was quite deserted. It didn't help that as I arrived the rain started again in earnest.

From here I beelined it to Sale, with the rain quite settled in at this point. I arrived in Sale after an hour or two and couldn't face the idea of putting up a tent! Straight to a motel!

Spirits were quite low at this point, but I went for a stroll down the street and it felt like I was a in a huge city again. It was quite a good feeling! I visited both bike shops in town and got some good advice on roads, picked up a rearview mirror for my bike and found a t-shirt in an op shop for $3 that was just what I wanted. (The one thing I forgot to pack was a t-shirt that could be rolled up really small.) I had dinner at the local Chinese restaurant and retired in good spirits again.

Day 7: Sale to Bairnsdale (75 km)

The day dawned with beautiful sunshine. I took a quick ride around the wetlands on my way out of town which were really nice (thanks for the tip Blakey). I rode out of town past the air force base and along more back roads to Bairnsdale. At this stage I had barely had to touch the main highways.

At Bairnsdale I checked into the nice riverside caravan park and had a good night chatting with a couple of other guys staying at the park. One of them had done all sorts of hiking trips around Victoria and Tasmania and I got pretty inspired hearing about them. I think he has also inspired me to try cross country skiing/backpacking one day.

Day 8: Bairnsdale to Lakes Entrance (45 km)

This was a fairly easy day. I had a lazy start to the day, and had coffee with a couple staying in a caravan - the husband was into cycling and was originally from Adelaide so we had plenty to talk about. 

I started out taking the East Gippsland Rail Trail for about 10km. The rail trail extends from Bairnsdale to Orbost and is 100 km total in length. Amazing stuff, beautiful scenery and great riding. From there I went along the Princes Highway for a short time then took the back road towards Metang. For the first time I road with another cyclist! We had a good chat - he had done a very similar tour to what I had done so far, but in reverse (starting at his house in Metang and riding back to Melbourne).

There was a charity ride of some description going the other direction on these roads so I was able to wave and say hello to about 50 other cyclists in the space of 15 minutes. I arrived in Lakes Entrance mid afternoon and checked into the YHA. My roommate was asleep at this time (about 3pm) and I didn't see him get up until the following morning! The hostel itself was really quiet and almost a little depressing.

I ate Indian Food for dinner and made the mistake (?) of checking the weather forecast. There was rain coming the following day at about midday and lasting for a couple of days. Hmmm. Now I was feeling a bit despondent but had a chat on the phone to Sarah (superstar!) who had wise words to say and made me feel a lot more motivated.

When I arrived back at the hostel after dinner there was a Taiwanese group of five checking in - they certainly made the place seem a bit less deserted and I went to bed in better spirits.

Day 9: Lakes Entrance to Orbost (60 km)

Whew. At the time of writing, this is today!

Since I knew the rain would be coming in at about lunch time I was up at 6:30am, and breakfasted and packed up and on the road by 8am. I spoke briefly to my roommate - he was from Switzerland and had apparently been working on a fishing boat for the last week. He was so tired when he got back that he slept for fifteen hours straight.

The first 20km were on the Princes Highway to Nowa Nowa, which was not nearly as bad as I thought it would be. At Nowa Nowa I got onto the rail trail again and off I went... it was shaky at times, and at one point I rode over a stick and heard a surprisingly loud cracking noise. At times my rear panniers seemed to be swaying a bit more than usual. Weird. But again, the rail trail was really beautiful.

I got to Orbost at around lunch time and was immediately impressed. Beautiful green parks, the Snowy River and just a nice town in general. I saw the Taiwanese group from the previous night and they insisted on getting multiple photos with me!

The prospect of spending a wet night in the tent was not appealing (although the caravan park looked great) so I headed up to the pub and booked into a room there. I felt this was a good choice straightaway, as no sooner had I got the panniers off my bike than the rain started pouring down.

When I went back to my bike to take of the lights and other doodads I made a series of discoveries: (1) my swaying rear panniers were because the bottom left rack mounting bolt was completely missing, (2) my other rear rack bolts had all shaken loose to some extent, and (3) the stick that I hit had snapped my rear mudguard in half!!

Which brings us to.... right now! I'm at the lovely library here in Orbost belting away at one of the computers. My plan is to have a rest day tomorrow. I'll give the bike some TLC (I have packed spare rack mounting bolts!) and check out some of the local attractions. There is meant to be more rain on the way so I will be happy not to be riding. 

More blog entries to come!

(This was all typed in a stream of consciousness so apologies for any grammar mistakes, continuity errors, miscalculations or misattributions.)

Monday, March 18, 2013

What, this blog still exists?

To sum up my cycling since the last post on this blog: did a bit of road racing here and there then gave it up, fell in love with cyclocross, injured my knee a couple of times, tried running and injured my foot, cycle toured in Tasmania, still in love with cyclocross... and now I am resurrecting this blog to post updates from my upcoming bicycle tour.

On April 10th I'll leave Queenscliffe in Victoria (on a ferry) and then begin a tour that will, if all goes according to plan, take me around the coast and up to Brisbane, stopping off at Canberra along the way. It should be quite an adventure.