Wine Country, the natural habitat of wankers. It was an eye opener to see these creatures venture out of their urban settings and watch them indulge themselves in their wilderness habitat.
On the second night in our luxurious caravan park, sitting poolside, I entered into a bit of chit chat with a young glass sniffer. “Been to any good wineries mate?” Was the opening line of interrogation from myself. “Yeah” came the response from the young chap in an Akubra hat who couldn’t tell the ass end of a horse from the other. He then proceeded to rattle off every winery in the Hunter Valley and which variety they are good at. When his next sentence started with “If you like your sweet wines…” I immediately zoned out and regretted starting this conversation with my yuppie cowboy friend.
The following day the Gypsy and I were keen on a day session. Being in the Hunter Valley what do you do? Well, we went to a brewery. There was one across the road from the caravan park so it would have been rude not to tip a few jars in. Problem was it had about as much atmosphere as a library. After a team meeting amongst ourselves, in front of the S.W.A.T team bar staff who were walking around with ear pieces and walkie talkies, it was decided we would head back to the Caravan park, I’d put my stack-hat on and go for a ride into Cessnock to buy a box. If you haven’t been to Cessnock before, don’t!
Our time in the Hunter mostly consisted of getting up, moving to the lounge area of the Caravan park and eating. That was more than ok by us! We did manage to go to a vineyard and sniff a glass ourselves. It was a pretty nice setting, the highlight was the resident Labrador, but we are still stumped on why this area is so popular.
In conclusion, the Hunter has too many wankers, dressed like wankers. I blame Sydney, it’s evil tentacles have squeezed the goodness out of its surroundings.
One good thing did happen in the Hunter, though. I rode down to the supermarket the day before we left. Rolling into the carpark, I heard a “hey Matt”. I looked at this bloke and I was completely stumped. We hadn’t meet anyone lately and the last few weeks we had talked to more trees and cows than people. When he got a bit closer I recognised the face. It was Glen, a guy I played footy against in Canada in 2004 and hadn’t seen since. A lot has changed since then. He had a car full of kids and my ass is glued to a bike seat. He said he had been following the trip and recognised the toilet seat strapped to my bike helmet. It’s a small world sometimes. I rode home from the shops that afternoon smiling, knowing we have touched our tens of followers out there. This could be the beginning of our brand going global!
Seriously it was good to bump into you Glen. For me it was the highlight of the Hunter.
After 8 days and zero couch sores it was time to leave the Hunter Valley. Thank god! We cycled back to the train station in Branxton and caught the locomotive that would return us to the scene of the crime in Muswellbrook. Speaking of crimes, the town and its people are one big scene. It’s quite possibly the only town in Australia where it’s residents are uglier than it’s surroundings. The sun hasn’t been kind to these fair skinned convicts out here. Not that they would mind, there is still plenty of black stuff to dig up to help them buy a few more bogan toys.
Riding out of Muswellbrook, it felt like the world had ended and we were the last ones riding to the departure lounge. The surrounding hills have been raped of all their life and been turned into giant holes that keep getting deeper as we try to quench our thirst for coal.
For every Muswellbrook there is a Denman though, that helps remind you the worlds not done yet! Even though it was as hot as hell! What a town! The Main Street and the two pubs on the corner had so much character. We love how the pubs in these little country towns let you camp in their backyard for free.
8 days out of the cockpit and the WD-40 had done nothing for Annie’s knees. As we ventured deeper into the Bylong Valley we realised this section was going to be tough mentally and physically on us. In saying that, it took nothing away from the landscape, it was stunning! All around, we were surrounded by cliff faces and rock formations. The people living out here are lucky getting to look at this each day.
Bylong itself was a top spot to put up the tent. The sporting field was the town’s campground across the road from the general store. It had everything us 2 simpletons needed. Water, picnic table, toilets and power. I found a power outlet behind the hot water service of the toilets. Cycle tourists develop a keen eye for the important things. We were treated to a first class sunset that night. With the cockies squawking as the sun went down behind the hills, the colour made everything feel magic. What a shame tomorrow was going to be another day in the mid thirties and we would have to melt all over again.
Heading through the valley the locals have been debating the benefits of coal. For and against they have put their arguments forward in the form of spray painting it on the road. “No coal, no jobs” read the pro coal mob. In retort came “no food, no life” both valid points I’d say, but I’m giving the debate to the pro life team. There has to be a better way to keep the lights on.
One positive from getting up long before the sun has decided to raise its head is, you finish before the countryside turns into a microwave with you spinning your bike around on the plate inside. Rolling into Rylstone at lunchtime was a good feeling knowing we were done for the day. Straight to the shop for an ice-cream, then to find some shade to hide in. The showgrounds in town provided everything we needed. Another good spot for camping with an unlocked electrical cabinet. One thing that was locked though was the toilets the following morning. Opening at six and me being regular as clockwork for a 5:30am kick off, it was a nervous start to the morning.
The Capertee Valley was our destination for the next couple of days. Apparently, according to the guy that goes around measuring canyons, The Capertee Valley is the second biggest canyon in the world. That’s something to hang our hats on I would’ve thought. Seriously, though, I’m not sure why we hadn’t heard of this area before. As we rode down the hill from Rylstone, the sandstone cliff faces soared up around us, making for spectacular viewing. This was Annie’s favourite section of this area, it was all down hill.
The Capertee Valley is surrounded by world heritage listed wilderness. The traditional owners the Wijaduri would have to be shitty getting the boot from this place. Imagine having this all to yourself then some pasty fella with a handful of teeth informs you “I’ll be having this”. The poor buggers really got shafted in that deal.
Located at the end of this spectacular escarpment is the former shale oil mining town of Glen Davis. In its heyday it was home to over 2500 people, producing oil for the war effort. Now it’s home to about 5. We had the feeling we were in a western movie, with all the residents inside peaking through the curtains, as these 2 outlaws rolled into town on their steel horses looking for a gun fight. The locals needn’t have worried, we were just looking for our own version of liquid gold, water!
It was getting uncomfortably hot now, the “river” in the campground 5km out of town couldn’t come around quick enough. Upon arrival it was slightly disappointing to see the river at ankle height in most places. In a tea bagging motion we dipped our nuts in the river to cool off and let them soak for the rest of the afternoon.
Heading back from the river in the evening to find a spot to pitch the tent, an English couple stopped to have a chat. By the end of the conversation we had smiles on our faces. One because we had just met some really nice people and two because we had been given some apples and packets of risotto. We were really going to spoil ourselves for dinner tonight. Being the Australia Day weekend it was pretty busy here, but places like this make you realise how lucky some of us are, some of the time.
The next day we were up at stupid o’clock to beat the heat. No doubt pissing a few campers off as we tried to be as quiet as possible cooking our breakfast on a picnic table near their caravans. It’s funny how the quieter you try to be the more noise you make.
I created some really A grade content as we were riding out of the valley. Filming the star of the show, Annie, as she rode through the valley at sunrise, I tried to best capture the moment by flying the drone into a tree. Looking at my phone in horror seeing branches and trees on my screen I knew I was in trouble. I tried flying it out but that just resulted in it coming loose and crashing to the ground. Fuck! Luckily the Gypsy heard the first crash and saw the branches moving. As I rode up to Annie she stood there pointing at the tree like a hunting dog. Leaping the fence and all the bushes in the paddock to avoid the lizards I found the drone and to my surprise not a scratch on it.
It was a decent hill to get out of the valley, but nowhere near the knee ending ordeal we built it up to be. We beat the heat and were pretty thankful it was cooler up top in the village of Capertee. We spent the remainder of the day under shade in the rest area debating who was the better provider. Then taking turns to walk accross to the shops to buy ice creams. Ana proved to be the better of the providers on this day, she returned with an arm full of plums, smiling like a Cheshire Cat. She had found a tree in town full of plums!
Later that evening a few kids rolled up to the car park looking like they had come straight off the set of the Cronulla riots with the Australian flag worn as capes. It’s a shame what this day has turned into. Change the date, or a stupid display of chest pumping nationalism. It would be nice to find something in the middle.
Today it was decided we would be leaving the mountains behind. As we rode into Lithgow we got a scary reminder of how close the fires came to this place last year. It was an eerie feeling looking up at all the scorched hills around the town. By now, Annie’s knees didn’t have it in them for what lay ahead in the Blue Mountains and boy did the Gypsy smile knowing she was going to be on the beach in a days time. I was relieved too knowing we didn’t have to split up because I wanted to go on some dick measuring exercise on how far I rode. It’s the fun that counts and riding next to Annie there is plenty to be had.