Sydney to Woolongong
We did our best to stick to the cycle tracks to get us out of the city safely. The slightly disjointed nature of the cycle paths meant we were led to the back of industrial estates where the path, well, ended, and under bridges where the cycle route was diverted due to roadworks. Eventually, after cycling around the back of the airport and around the airfield, we said farewell to Sydney: we made it to the Royal National Park (but not before Will showed off some mad skills on the Surly).
We flew down long descents and snailed back up big climbs through the forest. Cruising along the plateau with views over the hills, Will’s tyre blew. Not exactly surprising as it was a budget tyre worth about 10 quid (though it lasted around 2000kms!). We reluctantly came to a stop, away from the road, and stood on a bed of decaying leaves and branches to assess the damage to the tyre. The tyre wall had shredded due to the weight it had to sustain. After unloading the rucksack, 4 panniers and the handlebar bag, the bike was whipped upside down and Will managed a speedy tyre change his old Formula 1 team would be proud of. I even used my Casio watch to time it.
Back on the road, and the only things on my mind were scenarios of my back tyre exploding. It was the same type of tyre, bought from the same budget shop, and of the same calibre (poor!). From cycling high above the hills, we plummeted back down into the dark shade of the forest. We gradually climbed back up, where each bend showed promise of being the top of the hill…only for false summits. Eventually, we reached Otford Lookout, a high point on the coast with a view of the Seacliff Bridge.
Being used to the darkness within the walls of trees, our eyes took time to adjust in the beaming sunshine. We dumped our weary selves in the grass and looked out along the coast to see the road that was going to take us to our WarmShowers host for the night. Not far now!
As dusk settled, we found ourselves lingering outside the house we had pinpointed. As soon as we started to feel the chill of the night air, a car pulled into the driveway and we were welcomed by our friendly hosts with warm soup and spinach quiche.
Woolongong to Nowra
We were waved goodbye in the morning with a parting gift: an ice-cream tub of sandwiches, fruit and cake – the traditional Australian lamington. Although Will hadn’t slept well that night due to the wind using the trees like drumsticks on the roof of the house, he was instantly happy and alert when he knew the first break would include cake. First on our agenda, however, was to find the nearest bike shop to replace our spare tyre, especially since we weren’t sure how much longer my budget tyre would last…It could pop at any moment…especially now we were loaded up with tubs of lunch!
In the bike shop, I was busy upstairs trying on different cycle shorts, but could hear lots of instructions being barked out by the lady working there, presumably to her colleague. I assumed Will was keeping them busy. Though I couldn’t find anything suitable, the same lady who had been assisting Will insisted that I buy some padded shorts…offering me a pair for men…Though I did walk into the changing rooms with the men’s shorts out of politeness, I had already decided that I would only be happy with cycle pants designed for ladies: I’m going to be wearing these things daily, and for a huge proportion of the day, and if I’m going to continue saddling up on the Brookes every day, I want them to be women-specific, comfortable and simply fabulous.
When we left the shop, Will explained that Mrs Pushy was also Mrs Know It All, and tried to convince him that a thin tyre would be “fine” for cycle touring (no, it really wouldn’t cope), that he needed not the cheaper tyre, but the incredibly expensive one, and that actually he shouldn’t buy just 1 of them but 2. In an emotionally driven plea, she said she really wanted Will to buy 2, so much so she would offer them at 40 dollars each. Irritated, Will pointed to the price tag that showed the tyre actually cost only 30 dollars anyway! We cycled 200m down the road and without any interference, all of the cycling paraphernalia we had set out to buy had been acquired.
We navigated along the cycle paths, which was great at the beginning, but got tiresome when they ended without further guidance. Getting more lost, we had to wiggle this way and that, disrupting the flow cycling is best for. In a moment of despair, all we could do was laugh when the bike path directed us up some steep steps with a small gutter at the side next to a wall. With panniers sticking out, we had to angle the bikes in such a way so the tyres would be able to move up the trench. We were literally pushing our shit up a hill.
Our lunch stop was a little later than usual what with our shopping trip in the morning; however, we couldn’t have been more grateful for having done it when, only a few minutes cycling again, my bike began to slow…and the back of my bike seemed to become more and more bouncy: my tyre had gone. On a narrow road, we did the best we could to get as far from the road as possible. My budget tyre had suffered the same fate as Will’s and had holes where it had been bulging under the weight.
The final part of the cycle turned into a bit of a slog when a headwind decided to strike into life, but we made it to our hosts at Nowra, where a warm fire put Will into a coma on the sofa, and a great evening made it all worthwhile.
Nowra to Endrick River Crossing
At Nowra, we directed our bikes away from the coast and towards the capital city, Canberra. This would mean cycling up the Great Dividing Range. What we didn’t expect was the fierce headwind, which held us back both mentally as well as physically. We decided to shelter away from the wind and re-evaluate our next move. Sat in our camping chairs, we held onto our mugs to avoid them flying away, and while sipping our coffee actually contemplated turning back. It was a decision either to turn around in line with a tailwind and enjoy a super quick 50km back the way we came to a warm bed and log fire, or to endure the agony of 17km forward in the headwind to our camp spot. Both were going to take a couple of hours, and we mused that going back would probably be quicker…
Neither of us wanted to give in, and neither of us wanted to say what we really wanted to do. So a few hours later, we found ourselves in our down jackets, huddling around our own camp fire created with help from some recently acquired reading material: no going back, no going to heaven.
SIGN: Welcome to Nerriga.
We don’t bring our cows to the city.
Don’t bring your sh”t to the country.
Endrick River Crossing to Tarago
Peeking out from under my hood under my helmet, I cycled off into the chilly air wearing what felt like everything I own. With so much cloth around my neck it was hard to look up at the lorry driver coming from the opposite direction who stopped us, “Hey, you seen a red terrier round here?” he asked. Unfortunately, we couldn’t help him, though later on I thought I saw something black and fluffy chasing sheep over a hill. By this time, though, we had cycled off, and the lorry had trundled away.
The wind was gusty, so I guess we should be thankful it wasn’t too consistent: it meant we could cover some ground in the moments the wind swept around us and not at us. Will and I knew we had now gone too far to turn back to the coast. We had set out to see the capital of Australia, so that was that. Voicing this aloud was apparently not a good idea: the elements turned against us, the wind was brutal and we had to battle to stay balanced on our bikes. The feeling of downhill no longer existed and we jolted forward against the gale.
We reached Tarago, which pretty much consisted of a pub on a dusty intersection, and literally hid behind a bus shelter. We weren’t convinced the shelter was going to stay rooted to the ground, and the Australia flag was pinned so taut against the wind, no creases remained. Stopping early, however, was great: we enjoyed card games and learned how to play pocket Cluedo – thank you Geoff. After peering out from behind our wind break, we could see the tall Poplar trees that lined the road still bent double. They looked in great discomfort. We, however, felt very comfortable behind the shelter and the decision was quickly made to stay where we were, with wind-free coffee and Cluedo to pass the time.
Before settling in the tent, Will searched around the field in the darkness after we re-read the sign warning that there was an ‘Underground Water System in Operation in this Area’. Though we didn’t really think much of it at first, it dawned on us that a sprinkler puncturing the tent floor might not be the best wake up call. Thankfully that night, however, the temperature dropped to –3°C, and the water system froze.
Tarago to Queanbeyan
Frosty fingers and frosty toes! But we turned on the bbq heating and steamed ourselves silly!
We were cycling in Australian Capital Territory where the scenery was quite unique, or at least different to what we had seen before. We cycled on undulating roads and black bark were all that remained of the trees abandoned in the dust. A few vehicles and lonely letter boxes were the only signs of civilisation. We couldn’t believe we were heading towards Canberra…if this was the road to London, all the signs would have graffiti, and we’d be stuck in a traffic jam.
We arrived at our host in Queanbeyan (who was extremely kind, even offering to pick us up the night before from our camp spot), which is just outside of Canberra CBD. It was the perfect place in which to pop into and out of the city to see the sights. A run around Mount Jerrabomberra let our legs recover from all the cycling, and a leisurely cycle around West Lake let our legs recover from the run.
Queanbeyan to Cooma
After a little taste of relaxation, we left early in the morning, where the thermometer read –4.5˚C. The wind chill was bitter, and down in a valley, we were wrapped in the cold wintery grasp of a low-lying cloud.
One way to get warm is to cycle up and above the cloud: after a big climb, we were feeling the sun’s glow and reached our camp spot earlier than anticipated. A successful last-minute request for a place to stay in Cooma meant we were able to continue cycling, knowing that a warm bed would be awaiting us.
Not only did we get this, but our host was full of smiles and positivity.
Cooma to Jindabyne
We woke up to a very fresh and very wintery scene: it was like Christmas! We delayed our departure by having a couple more cups of coffee as the icy fog didn’t look incredibly appealing.
As we climbed up the hills, hot blood slowly reached the extremities, and as we looked our across the valley…saw, in the distance, on top of the mountains, a small dusting of white…it was snow in Australia!
Snow in the distance
We whizzed our way to Jindabyne…We’re going to find out whether you really can ski in Australia…
Posted by Lindsay