After needing a few days to digest the pizza we had in Armidale it was time to set off once again. We thought highly of Armidale, it was a great little town. All the old buildings in the Main Street and around the Showgrounds gave the place plenty of character. The farmers had a spring in their step too as they walked down the Main Street. All the fat cows and sheep in their paddocks have made the smiles return to their faces. What a difference a year makes.
We had a bit of a spring in our pedal stroke too, we always do after being a sloth for a few days. It was a good day this one, the sun was out, we found Nirvana and then my favourite campsite for this trip.
We debated whether to go into Dangar gorge. Our legs were becoming tired of side trips and extra kms. After taking the turn off to the gorge you could almost hear our legs say “ ffs sake guys not again!” The pricks got a smile on their kneecaps again after realising we were done after 23km for the day.
Seeing the gorge immediately brought a smile to our faces. Another spectacular sight was staring back at us and it was ours for the rest of the day. Things got even better when we found a hut near one of the lookouts to the falls. With the only access being by walking track, we were going to have no problems camping here tonight. The hut was first class for us; Undercover picnic table, drinking water, gas bbq and stove top. The Rotary Club of Armidale, we salute you!
We got to share it with splendid company at lunchtime, an old couple from Armidale and their grandkids joined us for lunch. The Gypsy liked the old man before he even said a word, by result of him simply wearing a Furphy t-shirt. I liked grandma because she gave us fruit and hot crossed buns. We’ve met some diamonds on this trip.
We stuck our heads out of the hut for one more look of the falls as the sun was calling it for the day, it’s last rays stretched out to the hills and the trees behind the gorge turning them a ridiculously good orange colour. It wasn’t hard falling asleep that night listening to the sound of the falls roaring.
The sheep gave us a guard of honour leaving the gorge the next day. It was quite the gesture they bestowed upon us. We waved to them gratefully as we cycled past, while our wheels made a mess of all the shit they deposited on the road.
The Gostwyck chapel was our next destination. If I was ever going to get married in a house built by kiddie fiddlers it would be this one. The pedophiles have sure shown some remarkable craftsmanship in building this church. It was a picture postcard, god bless them.
Speaking of blessings, the amount of wildflowers on display for us now by the roadside was a sight to see. It was an explosion of colour, it sure made for a nice days ride through the back country roads to that nights destination, and what a disappointment it was rolling into Kentucky that evening. The reason being that there was a distinct lack of fried chicken and old men with white hair and goatees. What wasn’t disappointing was the Kentucky public school. It was pissing down and after a suggestion from the owner of the general store, we set up camp at the school. It was the perfect undercover spot in the school assembly area. They even had a outdoor power socket and the toilets were open. Gracias Kentucky.
Now it’s amazing how I can’t smell flowers from a few feet away, but a bbq from 200 metres while cycling? That’s no problem. Heading into Walcha road village a place with a population of roughly 5, thats including a goat, I got a whiff of some yummy goodness in the distance. Then we came across Dennis walking along the road. Now, this man could’ve just stopped for a chat, or even just waved, said hello and bid us fair well. He didn’t though, after stopping for a chat and asking us about our trip, he invited us into his family’s holiday home for breakfast, the building being an old church. Dennis is one of 11 kids, he has ten himself but he reckons he is only at halftime, mad rooter! Dennis and his big family grew up next door and went to school at the church. When the church went on the market years ago the family snaffled it up and now it’s their holiday home. At Christmas with the kids and grandkids they have over 100 people at the table. As we pushed our bikes around the back we were greeted by a few of Dennis’s siblings, coffee and bacon and eggs. What a beautiful family, and when invited inside the church for a look you could feel the warmth and good times radiating out of the walls. It was quite an unexpected surprise after an hour of riding and set us up for one of the nicest days of the trip. If you ever read this Dennis and family, thank you so much, little acts of kindness from strangers have made our trip.
The luck kept rolling along with us on this day. We got into Woolbrook around midday and decided to have a look around town. There was a free camp spot at the bridge but we thought we would see if there is any other hidden beauties around to pitch our tent. The school was out, wide open and a few houses around, we didn’t think the good folk of Woolbrook would appreciate two vagrants sleeping rough in their school. Next was the church, it offered nothing from a camping prospective but gave us 1 bar of phone reception and some false hope of contact with the outside world. After hanging around the church for a while we were greeted by Elly who lives next door. She wandered down to the fence line to see what we were up to and release a bat which had made its way inside her place. After a while her husband, big Mick, waddled down to join us. His bear size paws matched his character. Before you knew it, we were invited over for a cuppa and rhubarb pie and ice cream. This was turning into some sort of day. They were a great couple Elly & Mick, it was nice to share their porch for an hour with their dogs and chickens and swap travel stories. They have a big bus parked out the front of their place and as soon as the temperature drops the dogs jump in and they are off. We told Mick where we were headed tomorrow, gaining by his reaction we were in for a rough one. Mick picked up the phone and tried to ring a mate that lived out that way. He was out of range, so we left it at that and bid each other farewell. When we were leaving Elly gave us the excellent tip of “ if you need some shelter set up camp behind the hall, it’s undercover and the locals should leave you alone.”
Later that afternoon, just as we were beginning to think about setting up camp and cooking dinner, we were pleasantly surprised to be greeted by Elly & Mick around the back of the hall. They had drove down with their 2 dogs to show us the road we were taking the next day. They had noticed a truck and trailer go past their place and there hadn’t been much traffic during the day, so they were worried there might have been a landslide with all the rain we have had. How nice is that! Leaving Annie to mind the fort, I jumped in with them and went for a drive. I was sitting in the car with the biggest smile on my face. Not only was the road fine, but we were in for some spectacular scenery the following day. We had been gone a while and Annie was just about to send out the search party before our return. In a perfect piece of timing, the lady who runs the hall had come “to pick up a table” just as we got back. We think neighbourhood watch was in full swing and she had received a tip off about some undesirables loitering around the hall. Mick stepped in, vouched for us and before we knew it, we had been given the keys to the hall. What a day! We got to have a shower, cook dead potatoes and gravy in their kitchen and sleep with Lizzie and family looking over us. Good fortune came in threes this day. Thank you Woolbrook for your generosity!
I woke in the morning with a smile on my face, knowing what was in store for us today. The Gypsy had a smile for a different reason, she got to eat breakfast on a couch. Today, I was on the lookout for a disheveled tomato while I was riding. Mick told us the day before this was Barnaby Joyce country, and fair enough an hour into the ride the honourable Mr Joyce drove past in his 4×4 with family in tow. What a nice gesture, Barnaby took time out from screwing his staff members and went for a drive just to wave at us. He really is a man of the people. What I can’t understand though, is why does he appear so angry all the time and want to go around slaughtering celebrities dogs? He lives in a beautiful part of the world.
This was turning out to be a spectacular piece of gravel. So good in fact talk turned to is it in our top 3? Maybe, but definitely top five. Zero traffic and glorious countryside were our companions for the ride. These last 2 days had turned into something pretty special. We headed into Kootingal for lunch, there wasn’t much free camping around and the caravan park was a bit of a hole but we decided to stay anyway. We thought we would quit while we were ahead and not ruin a top day.
One thing I had been doing lately, and one thing I’m good at, is ignoring the elephant in the room. The elephant being Annie’s sore knees. I’d just ignored it since she said she wanted to quit and was hoping they would magically get better on their own. They hadn’t and the Gypsy had just about had enough of battling along in pain. Annie was tired and needed a break. Me thinking this could be the end of the trip, or have to catch a train somewhere really made me sulk. Sulk that much that I pretty much didn’t talk for two days. I was being selfish, I had it in my head if I have catch a train somewhere, I might as well catch it home. No matter how much fun we have had, in my head catching a train would have cancelled all that out. Annie needed a break and she wasn’t even asking me to come with her. All she wanted to do is rest on a beach for two weeks. She couldn’t care less if she rode or swam there, she just wanted to stop. I had permission to ride around the back of the Blue Mountains on my own and meet Ana on the coast. To be honest, Ana didn’t even want me coming with her because she knew three days into a two week stint I would get bored and drive her nuts. I didn’t want to go on my own because I’m a bit soft and I was scared of getting ass raped in the bush. Plus we make a pretty good team and happiness is better shared. After a big blue we finally agreed I’d ride around and meet her on the coast. I didn’t want to but I knew I’d regret it forever if I didn’t. After finally finishing sulking we got back to somewhat normality and focused on enjoying the ride once more. Our faces must have told a different story when we rolled into Gundy campground. Looking like cats asses screwed up in a sandstorm will do that to you. There were a group of retired mountain bikers camping in Gundy too, Jack being one of the members and sensing we were battling came over with a couple of cold beers. Simple acts of kindness can make the world of difference! After cooling off in the river we joined their circle to eat our dinner. The group of 3 couples were great company. Sitting by the campfire sharing a laugh and listening to each other’s stories is what trips like these are about. It shouldn’t be a pissing contest about how far you have ridden. A few of the guys where on E-bikes. When Marg started talking about when you ride one you instantly get an E-smile, I thought she was full of shit and just trying to justify having an engine on her bike. Well Marg, if you read this I offer my sincerest apologies, when Jack offered us a ride on his e-bike, first Ana, then me, went up the hill with a smile and returned with an even bigger one. Then Jack put it on boost, bugger me these things fly. I don’t think I’ve smiled more on a bike. Ana though, was thinking about killing me for not getting one at the beginning of our trip! I have changed my tune on e-bikes now, they are so much fun and it’s a positive thing getting more people off the couch and into nature. To Jack, Julie, Steve, Mary, Col & Marg thanks for putting a smile back on our faces.
It was quite obvious we were entering the land of race horses now around Gundy. I’ve never seen such impressive farms. The horses have it good around here. Guess who else has it good? The residents of Aberdeen do! So good in fact they feel they no longer need the use of their dildos! That’s right, the town is so satisfying when you leave you toss your dildo out the window. We found an example of this on the New England Hwy just outside town. I would have taken a picture but this thing was an absolute monster, the size of it scared us.
We were on our way to Muswellbrook now. We took the New England because it was just down the road. If you don’t need to visit this place…. then don’t! It didn’t seem to have too much good going for it. Once in town Ana headed for the station to see if she could put her bike on the train without boxing it. Coming out with a smile on her face my lip dropped realising I’d be riding solo for a bit. Ana said before she was an 80% chance to get the train. I took that like Lloyd Christmas would and thought she would still come with me. It looked like that wasn’t going to be the case.
We stayed at the Showgrounds in Muswellbrook that night. We have had some awesome camp spots in this trip. Sadly this wasn’t one of them. We were in luck though, there was a witch doctor staying there in the form of a grey nomad called Ron. He and his wife Shirley were beautiful people. After joining them for a cuppa we soon found out Ron had a remedy for everything. The one he had to fix Ana’s knees was a beauty! A bit of Wd-40 he said would do the trick. At first I thought he was taking the piss, but he swore by it. Ana willing to try anything by now, gave it a go. The verdict is still out on this one. I’ve been a bit cheeky towards Nomads on this trip, but it’s generally normally them who we have the special moments with. They have time for everyone and really are a treasure to spend time with.
After seeing my lip drop, Ana must have been concocting a plan inside her pineapple because later that evening all of a sudden she dropped “why don’t we go to the coast near Newcastle? Stay for a week, then get the train back to Muswellbrook.” It was a great compromise and something that kept us both together. Problem with that is, it’s school holidays and every park on the coast wants to charge $60 + for putting up a tent! I’d want my anus bleached for that price! That’s how we now find ourselves in the Hunter Valley. It’s a bit cheaper, not packed full of people and a place we wanted to visit when we first started riding on this trip. It’s not perfect but nothing is. Thanks Annie for once again keeping the show on the road. I love you x