May 1st-10th, 2001
Australia at last! Bicycle and luggage arrived safely. Customs was carefully checking for "hoof and mouth" disease and asked everyone which countries they had been in and whether they had left cities for countryside or farms.
Two challenges with today's short 45km ride. Cities always take a little more concentration and Sydney has four million residents (over 20% of the population of Australia). Riding on the left took a little getting used to, though not too hard. Doing both of these in a new country after a long flight was fun.
Airport is 10km south of town. A busy route with not much shoulders, though traffic was at least as polite as USA. Once I reached downtown, I became a pedestrian and walked through downtown and obligatory stop at the Opera House (my designated start/finish line). Hope to explore further on the next lap. Already seen some nice botanical gardens.
Following the Pacific Highway outbound via Chatswood and Hornsby. This route was about two and a half lanes, meaning the left bicycle lane sometimes disappeared and sometimes had parked cars. Rolling terrain, with a few slightly steep hills. Route followed the commuter train to the northern suburbs of Sydney. Wooded terrain as slowly left the city behind.
Decided on a short day to adjust to the time and also get communications
working again. firstname.lastname@example.org
will be the best address for a while.
Beautiful day cycling northwards, around 17 Celsius (63 F) and dry despite a forecast of 75% showers. First part of the route was on 83 running parallel to the main freeway #1 and hence light traffic and most of it going towards Sydney. Some rolling hills and an overall climb out of the Sydney drainage before a nice descent to the Hawkesbury river. Here began 26km of "Scenic Route", starting with a climb back up to the tops of the hills. Saw several local cyclists, and also road markings from cycle events. Bike route signage contributed to overall sense of this being a popular cycle route. Most of the surrounding hills were part of Brisbane Water National Park and hence undeveloped.
83 crossed the freeway for the last time, and headed off towards Gosford. Several of these towns have a "Shopping Centre" consisting of many small shops and Gosford was no different. Found a pastry shop next to a fruit shop...definite place for cyclists. Gosford also had a small harbor with mostly pleasure craft.
From Gosford, the road became busier and headed over a small ridge and back towards Terrigal, Bateau Bay and finally a town known as The Entrance. A good lunch stop here. The entrance itself appears to be a narrow opening from the sea to Tuggerah Lake. On the north side of the opening, the terrain flattened out considerably as it went between lake and sea. Signage showed distance to Newcastle. This region is known as the Central Coast. Also crossed Wyrrabalong National Park and stopped briefly at display showing flora and fauna.
Two power plants here. Next kms went across a ridge before descending to Swansea. From here, last 27kms were considerably busier. Made my way through center of Newcastle and found a place to stay.
I'm getting more used to riding on the left and have even done enough
roundabouts to feel comfortable there.
Another beautiful day riding with a variety of different road conditions and terrain. Newcastle claims title to be the sixth largest city in Australia (Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth and Adelaide all have over a million people, Canberra might also be larger). Rode along the Hunter River and also past the industrial parts of the city.
Pacific Highway joined Route #1, crossed the Hunter River and headed northbound. For the first 33km on this route, the road was a divided highway with two lanes each way, a wide shoulder and flat. Some eucalyptus trees, some ranches with cattle and also signs pointing to an airbase in the area. The kms quickly passed in the flats and was in Karuah around nine.
Several "roadhouses" and a good place to stop for a break. From Karuah, the route became a single lane each way with an occasional overtaking lane. These were mixed blessings as they usually coincided with hills. About 16km from town was a tourist stop made to look like Ayers Rock. Too intriguing to pass, a quick stop and picture.
The road continued to bounce around and landscape became more open as I reached Bulahdelah. Nice main street with multiple motels and nice visitor center. This region is known as the Great Lakes region for several oceanside lakes.
Three kms past Bulahdelah, left the highway on a small bumpy two lane road that curved out to the coast. The route started with a long steep climb. As I slowly climbed the hill, was amused to see a sign tacked on a tree, "loose 5-10 kilos". These signs are international!
Climb followed by a quick descent, mostly limited by the bumpiness of the road surface. At bottom a turnoff to the tallest tree in NSW. Level for a while and then another long climb. This one interrupted by road construction, flagman and single lane of traffic. I tried to cycle uphill on the dirt as quickly as I could, but still got a few cars behind. Fortunately, construction quickly ended and drivers were polite.
More forest as I neared Bungwahl, eucalyptus, pine trees with long needles and a few other plants. Multiple sharp hills made a contrast with start of the day. Ready for a stop at Bluey's Beach.
Australia isn't completely metric. Quite a few vacation homes for sale,
typically listed as acres not hectares. Late lunch at takeaway.
Portions of chips are very generous here. Also noticed pickled beet
instead of pickles on burgers here.
Saw my first live kangaroo today. Hopping alongside the road as I left Bluey's Beach. Peaceful early morning ride along Lake Wallis. Came through Booti Booti National Park and into towns of Forster and Tuncurry. Got breakfast and learned from the paper who won 'survivor II'. Papers here have fun poking fun as things that aren't quite realistic for the outback.
A narrow opening from Wallis Lake to the sea separates the two towns and is crossed by a bridge. On the other side, route was considerably flatter and unfortunately also busier. After 9kms, most other traffic took the more direct route to the Pacific Highway. I rejoined about 11km further.
Back on the divided highway. This section had Koala Crossing caution signs. After 13km, a turnoff to Taree that I rode through town. Saturday morning with a bustling downtown centre. Outside town, sports fields with plenty of soccer moms/dads to watch.
From Taree, back to narrow double lane highway. Flat, open countryside with ranches. Crossed a narrow bridge to Coopernook. Town consisted of not much more than hotel, service station and antique barn. Road continued narrow and rolling hills into Kew. Stopped at the Kew visitor info center. Got info about road conditions, Australian history and shires/districts and other administrative governmental units. Apparently, the 100th anniversary of the 1st Australian Parliament is coming soon.
Met three other touring cyclists on the next stretch. A couple who had ridden from Adelaide and a young man heading from Sydney to Brisbane. The first couple had a front tire with a bad bobble. Divided highway with broad shoulders brought me to the Port Macquarie turnoff.
Took a brief detour to a koala park tourist attraction. Held a koala
bear (support them firmly from below or else they climb higher). Saw emus,
kangaroos and other native wildlife. After playing tourist, cycled the
last 11kms into center of town.
Rain showers overnight, but fortunately almost ended when I started out. Evening before, had stopped at an internet cafe and gotten a description of IT industry in Australia (no DSL/cable modems yet, center is Sydney with some stuff in Melbourne and Brisbane).
Followed the Hastings River back to the Pacific Highway to continue northwards. Forests and rolling hills. Frequently as one crosses into a new cachement (drainage basin), a sign gives the name as well as area in square kms. A few houses at Telegraph Point and Kundabung, but not much until Kempsey.
Kempsey was a little busier, though most shops were closed on Sunday morning. I had been told this town had a concentration of aboriginal people but didn't particularly notice. Crossed the river and stopped briefly at far side of town.
Next 25kms or so were flat open pastures with cows and horses. It is fall, though the land is still nice and green and some flowers are blooming. Expect that it rarely freezes here.
At the Clybucca roadhouse, met a cyclist coming from Brisbane and going to Sydney. Traded info about the road, though he'd mostly been avoiding the Pacific Highway for quieter routes. Cycle touring is definitely popular here.
From here, crossed into the Nambucca cachement with a few more hills. This part of the route seems to have occasional roadside rest areas. A campaign with big signs saying, "Every Two Hours; Stop/Revive/Survive". Good excuse to stop on bicycle as well. Talked with couple going around Australia in 4.5 months, but driving with a trailer. Trailers seem to be more popular and haven't seen the really large American style RV.
Last kms into and through Mackville, the road shoulders became narrower. Several roadside fruit stands selling bananas (AUS $ 0.95/kilo or around 25 US cents/pound), macadamia nuts (AUS $3.00/kilo) and others. Rugby match going on at Mackville. Nambucca Heads looked like a nice place to stop for the day, so stopped.
Palm trees, noisy parrots, banana trees, quiet Sunday traffic. Tonight
an important rugby match between Queensland and New South Wales. Will have
to find a pub and watch a little of the game (and a little of the crowd) before
Maroons win! Queensland decisively defeated New South Wales in rugby 34-16. After being up 34-4 at one point. Patrons in the pub were subdued. I left before the end of the game.
Today weather and mechanical problems made for a shorter day. On verge of rain starting out with even more menacing crowds on the horizon. Big hill to climb in Nmbucca before reaching the Pacific Highway. Wooded terrain, apparently some of the largest eucalyptus logging areas nearby, though surprisingly few truck. Rolling hills this first stretch.
Cresting a hill about 18kms into the ride, I rode over a twig and suddenly noticed something wrong with the drive train on the bike. Got off and figured out the rear cassette was locking up and not rotating backwards easily. When applying power to the pedals, this isn't a problem. However, the cassette normally spins freely when coasting, e.g. going downhill. As I coasted, extra chain would accumulate on top and hang in way of the wheels, etc. It was obnoxious, though fortunately rideable.
I assessed the situation. Coffs Harbour was 32km away and had 60,000 residents. As long as I didn't coast much, I could cycle there. Definitely made for an interesting ride. For example, going downhill I applied my brakes so that I could cycle downhill and still apply power to the pedals. Slowly headed off to the city.
Surprisingly many hills, and I noticed them all!, as I came through forest and parts of Urunga, Bonville and Sawtell. Busier traffic. Stopped at the info centre and found addresses for three bike stores. Cycled to the first. The owner/mechanic had another bicycle to finish first and said I could come back after noon (>2 hours later).
Went for a walk through downtown Coffs Harbour. Bought a new pair of shoes (old ones almost falling apart), had lunch and stopped at an internet cafe.
After lunch, the bike shop had diagnosed the problem as the rear cluster falling apart. Three pins hold the gears together and one had slipped inwards where it jammed against the wheel. Haven't seen that failure before...most likely a defect in the original cluster. Don't think the twig I rode over had much to do with it, though not certain why things broke where they did.
Gathered my gear back on the bicycle and started down the road. Felt nice to be able to coast again! Coffs Harbour claims to be the largest banana harbour in the world and I saw many banana plants. Some had bags covering the bundles. Also, some nice tourist resorts along the way. Still busy traffic with some rolling hills.
After 23kms, came to Woolgoolga. This town has a large Sikh temple,
some Indian restaurants and a few motels. Not long after I stopped, it
started to pour. Lucky I hadn't tried for my original destination of
Grafton which I probably wouldn't have made before dark.
Today a little flatter and also a longer day. It had rained heavily the previous evening and night. I never saw a report, but wouldn't be surprised at 3-5 cm of rain. Fortunately, it was mostly stopped as I started out. I frequently buy some breakfast items the afternoon before. The little refrigerator had solidly frozen my yogurt (tastes just like you buy!), an orange and a slice of cake.
First 12 km or so were still following the coast, though never saw ocean with all the trees. From here it turned inland and over the Dirty Water range. Wooded and not much signs of people other than the road. Halfway Creek had a roadhouse where I stopped briefly. From here through the woods on to Grafton at km 56 for the day.
Grafton had a nice info center and a McDonalds to get breakfast. I bypassed the main center of town. Road shoulders continued mostly reasonable. From Grafton, the route was mostly flat as it followed the Clarence River for ~50km through Ulmarra, Cowper, Tyndale and Maclean. Saw cows, horses and a few sheep. For the first time on this route also saw sugar cane. Also hay, corn and signs for bananas. Flat terrain and tailwind helped kilometers pass quickly.
After 100km for the day, crossed over the Clarence River shipping channel to Harwood. Signs indicated a sugar mill and surrounding areas were mostly cane. From here another 8 km of flat and then crossed another branch of the Clarence River.
The next 40 km went through wooded terrain with no side roads. Occasional overtaking lanes and ok shoulders. I was starting to slow as I tired. Took a turnoff for "Little Italy". Little Italy had a museum and craft area of Aboriginal art. Also two museums celebrating Italian immigrants in the region as well as their horrible journey in 1880 to what had been sold as paradise. About a third of these immigrants died on the way or after arriving in the jungle. Fortunately, found their way to Sydney and then back to settle in northern NSW.
After Little Italy, followed the Pacific Highway the last 20 km, past town of
Woodburn and into Broadwater. Ready for a stop.
Happy Birthday Australia! Today marks the 100th anniversary of the opening of the first parliament in Australia, one of the important events in federation of Australia. Prior to that, all the separate Australian colonies reported separately to Britain. Overall, this year is the 100th anniversary of the federation as a separate nation as part of the British commonwealth. It is a little unclear to me what events are most important, but May 9th was an important step.
Mixed terrain with a surprising amount of hills today. Flat starting out from Broadwater as the route followed the Richmond River through Wardell to Ballina. Still sugar cane area. Surprising number of trucks and small shoulders meant I kept vigilant.
Ballina a fairly large town with multiple motels. For the next stretch, I decided to go off the Pacific Highway and follow the coast road to Byron Bay. After a flat stretch, I was rewarded with several hills to climb over. Town of Lenox Head nestled in an inlet. Byron Bay was definitely an upscale tourist town. Nice vacation places for families but also lots of young adults with backpacks wandering around. Apparently, the hitchhiking symbol is an extended finger, not thumb.
After Byron Bay, was happy to make my way back to the Pacific Highway. Next stretch had significant road construction, apparently a bypass. Some rolling hills that were steep enough to get me in low gears. A little descent and to the hamlet of Mooball.
The Moo Moo cafe was overflowing with black and white spotted cow motif/theme. For example, they served brekky (breakfast) all day and included Moo-Moo pads as their name for pancakes. A nice place to stop before climbing over the Burringbar Range of hills. More low gears.
Eventually made it to Murwillumbahm where it became flatter again along the Tweed River. A lot of the houses are built up off the ground, even when little damage of flooding. Not certain why, perhaps to lessen pests?
Followed the river downstream. Road became busier and also wider as I
came to Tweed Heads. Seemed like a good place to stay and found a place in
town. From here, walked to the Queensland border and got an obligatory
photo of the border and also one with a foot in NSW and a foot in Queensland.
Today busy riding on congested roads as I got close to Brisbane. Across from the motel in Tweed Heads is a "bowling club". Far as I can tell, these clubs have limited forms of gambling and not much bowling.
I was within 600m of the Queensland border and quickly crossed to Coolangatta, another beach and resort town. I followed the road back to the Pacific Highway but then exited a few kms later on the main road through the Gold Coast region.
The Gold Coast is a busy commercial strip. Reminds me a little of Miami Beach in Florida with beaches, high-rises and tourist attractions. This Gold Coast even has towns named Miami and Palm Beach. The main road was busy, though frequently had a bus lane that was reserved for buses, taxis, bicycles and turning/merging traffic. Unfortunately, quite a few lights to stop along the way. I didn't see much of the beach since it was hidden behind the high-rises.
After 30kms or so, followed the highway back from the coast and to the Pacific Highway. Signs indicated Brisbane at approximately 60km. By now, the highway was a busy motorway with four lanes of high speed traffic and busy exits. Pedestrians, animals and tractors were prohibited. The space where bicycles would have been listed was conspicuously pasted over. For the next 20+ km I rode on the side of this high speed highway towards Brisbane. It took some care at the exits to cross with merging/exiting traffic. Each of these exits would list major businesses. The combinations were sometimes a bit strange, e.g. Pie Company & Crematorium & Drive-in Theatre.
I reached Beenleigh, I was in range of my metropolitan Brisbane map and also had
enough of the motorway. From here, I picked up smaller highways for
another 40km to Middle Park. It was fun taking one road for a few km and
then another. Traffic was moderately heavy and shoulders variable.
However, good cycling compared with other cities over a million population I had
cycled through. Rolling hills meant I had to occasionally shift down and
grind up a hill. For the final bit, it took some urban navigation and a
few questions, but I eventually found my way to Rob and Becky's, friends of a
friend who I had been in contact with and who were gracious about having me stay
a night in Brisbane.
Unless otherwise specified, this page © Copyright 2001-2002, Mike Vermeulen