As the train chugged away from the Lithgow station I was fairly relieved that the dick measuring exercise didn’t eventuate. Mainly because I would of come up short. But before I got to dream of Tom Cruise in a Hawaiian shirt mixing us fancy drinks, I managed to have one more sook before leaving the Blue Mountains. As we headed down the hill in the direction of the coast, Annie wanted me to look out the window at all the breathtaking scenery. Me, being the child that I am, couldn’t bring myself to do it. It pissed me off looking out at all that nature and thinking of all the adventure we left behind.
The sooking stopped as I got closer to the city. I had a new distraction now, my dislike of Sydney had returned. The poor Gypsy was having some train ride sitting next to me. It felt strange being in a big city again. Everything is busy, the cars look busy weaving in and out of traffic, the rubbish looks busy as its blown along the train platform looking for a cyclone fence to be stuck against, and the people are busy ignoring each other. Even the middle aged white fat man was busy on the train. Busy being a prick to the old Asian men who were sitting opposite him and not wearing a mask. Problem was Jabba The Hutt wasn’t wearing one himself. It was dangling down around his third chin. Maybe he was using it as a crumb catcher? We shouldn’t whinge though, for the shit show 2020 turned out to be and the direction this year is heading as well, its the first time on our trip we have had to bother with a mask or been in an environment where people are worried about the virus. It hasn’t affected us at all. In fact it’s been a positive. That’s not a bad run.
Part one of our train ride was done as we came to a halt at Sydney Central. I was dreading pushing my bike around the station in the days leading up to this, but in reality it wasn’t that bad. It’s always nice walking on the grand concourse, it’s a beautiful station. Part two of our train ride that took us south from central is where Annie’s head really started to wobble with excitement. She had been dreaming of the beach for a long time now. She finally got a glimpse of it as we left Cronulla and headed through the Royal National Park. I hadn’t seen her smile like that for a while. The beach is Annie’s happy place and she wasn’t far away now.
The weather had been stinking hot for a while now, but as the doors opened at Nowra, one look up at the sky and you could tell we weren’t far away from being pissed on. It was going to be cold and wet for at least a week. Not the start Annie was hoping for, her tan would have to wait. For me, however, it was perfect, no chance of melting on the beach. Train stations aren’t generally the best representation of a suburb and this one did Nowra no favours. It had a bit of Moe about it, only difference was the locals bought their clothes from a surf shop instead of Rivers. Our first night on the coast saw us put up our tent under the canteen roof of the Nowra Showgrounds. It wasn’t glamorous but at least we were dry. On discovery of an unlocked electrical switchboard allowing us to charge all our things, it was borderline perfect.
We had about 50km of riding to reach Jervis Bay and then begin our slow meander down this stunning coastline. We timed our arrival to the coast perfectly. A day after Australia Day meant most of the poor souls had buggered off back to work and the annoying kids had vacated our camping spots in the playgrounds. This was the beginning of our holiday within a holiday. Everything is easier on the coast. Services are closer together, water fountains galore and free showers to save each other from our smell. Our only problem was finding enough tracks and side roads to keep us off the Princess Hwy and there is always a way around that. With the weather being slightly disappointing it was time for another game of finding structures to pitch our tent under. Greenfield beach came through with the goods for us, and with the weather being terrible it kept the swimmers away. We even got a free history lesson in the hut from the information board. All the 200 + years that Jervis Bay has existed for, right there in a few paragraphs and pictures. I don’t think it would hurt to mention the 40,000 plus years before that and give a nod to the Yuin nation who live in these parts.
It’s a beautiful area Jervis bay, one we had visited before in our campervan when we were living in Sydney. It’s a completely different feeling visiting it again by bicycle. We were free to do what we wanted and didn’t have to worry about getting back to Sydney and attend to that minor thing of our day jobs.
If you ever get the chance to pop into Erowal Bay, go around to the side of the general store and pop into the once cafe turned pizza shop for the world’s best coffee and hot chocolate. You always get a good feeling ordering something of a little jolly Italian man and this fella didn’t disappoint. His business, like many others have been through a shocking year; First fires, then flood, now a pandemic. He made the switch from cafe to pizza shop to sell more takeaway. It’s worked a treat, he gets to work less hours and still make a profit while keeping six locals employed.
Sussex Inlet was our destination for today. I decided to give Annie a little treat and take her on a tour past some of New South Wales finest burnt out cars. She is a lucky lady Ana. To get to the finest sights on the South Coast, occasionally you have to work for it and these statues of crime proved no exception.
The tracks were a bit rough in parts but it beat being on the highway. We would rather push in the woods than dodge cars on the tarmac. That nights picnic hut was brought to us by the lovely patrons of Sussex Inlet Lions Club. It did the job of keeping us warm while we ate what felt like our 734th dish of pesto pasta. Summer was doing its best job of avoiding the south coast. The only positive was Ana was getting acclimatised to Victoria early. We got to camp on the waters edge that night. Not that we enjoyed it. Wet and windy we set up in the dark so no one could see us in the park.
Some of the best riding we have had to date on the South Coast awaited us the next day. But first we found a cafe in Cudmirrah that let us loiter around in and charge our stuff. It’s always an understatement when we ask if we can charge our phone in the socket over there. Next minute, out come a hundred devices and the lights start to flicker because we are draining too much power out of the grid.
It was incredible to see the forest fight back from last years bushfires. Everything was a bright green as we picked our way through the tracks to get to Bendalong. We had a spot in mind at Washerwomens Beach to sleep that night. It was next to “the wife is in the kitchen bay”. I couldn’t find the sign that actually informed me it was called that, I just assumed that’s what it was named. On arrival at Washerwoman’s, the conditions were filthy so we raised the white flag and headed to the caravan park. This thing was a behemoth! I had to punch our site number into Google Maps to navigate there properly.
When we awoke from our slumber at the caravan park we decided to take a punt today. Instead of heading back up to the highway and around to Lake Conjola we decided to head down to the beach at Manyana and see if we could get our bikes across the entrance to the ocean. The high tide didn’t do us any favours but the man in the rubber dinghy did! After a brief chat he kindly offered to take us across. We were rapt, it saved us 20 odd kms, added a little fun to the day and meant we got to spend the whole day on the other side hanging out by the lake. Despite what the news likes to tell us, there is some really good people out there.
Come evening time when the lake started to dry up of people, Annie went on a fact finding mission to see if she could find a spot for the tent. Yet again the Gypsy came through with the goods! A perfect spot on a viewing platform overlooking the ocean. You don’t get that at a caravan park.
In the morning it was time for a shower, courtesy of a lovely lady who gave us the code to the ammenities block at the caravan park.We got chatting to her in the picnic area the day before and she kindly offered us her site she had booked but wasn’t using and gave us the code to the toilets. Maybe she thought we stunk? In any case, it’s just another act of kindness we have been shown by complete strangers who have helped us on the way.
Riding out through the caravan park the resident kangaroos gathered to see us off. We were beginning to like the Kangaroos on the South Coast a lot more than their Queensland counterparts. They are more lively in New South Wales and tend to be less splattered on the roadside than their northern cousins.
Every time I hear the name Lake Conjola it reminds me of last years bushfires. It was a town that came perilously close to being wiped out. We got to see those scars firsthand as we left town. It must of been a nightmare for the poor residents last year. Another town that reminds me of the bushfires is Cobargo, sadly we weren’t going to meet the fireman that pulled up in his truck and told our prime minister to go and get stuffed.
The bakery at Milton lured us in as we attempted to cycle by. A grand building like that and with the word “bakery” plastered across the front, it would have been a crime not to stick our head in. It’s Australia’s first cashless bakery apparently. Who gives a shit! We came for the pies and they were outstanding. Continuing on we cycled to Dolphin Point. We renamed it “Zero Dolphins here” and left. Sunburnt beach campground was our destination that evening, normally my complexion would quiver hearing a place named that. Thankfully the clouds were on my side and my milky skin could breath easy.
Finally the sun showed it’s head as we headed for Bawley Point the following day. Upon arrival one look at the colour of the water and the bush and hills in the background I declared loudly “What a spot!” I have since said that at every beach and lookout thereafter. Much to Ana’s amusement, I was unaware I was doing this until I dropped it for the 17th time and Ana pissed her pants with laughter.
The stars aligned at Bawley Point. Sun out, the bluest of blue water, dolphins swimming out the back and a coffee van conveniently parked in the corner. That’s the holy trinity plus one right there. Sitting on the bench overlooking the water with our coffee and hot chocolates in hand. That’s when a member of the public walked past with the look of “I too am a cycle tourist and seeing a bike and panniers has reminded me of all my rad times. So now, I’m going to ask you about all yours you are currently having.”
They turned out to be a lovely family from Canberra with a holiday house in Bawley Point. Enjoying one last swim before they headed home they offered us a bed in their Caravan parked at the holiday house. We politely declined the offer but gestures like that leave you with a happy feeling.
Our destination that afternoon was a place formerly known as “ordinary looking beach.” New South Wales parks got wind that Ana was coming and renamed it Pretty Beach. They decided not to name it after me because I’ve given myself enough nicknames on this trip. Like these for example: “El Capitan, Mateo Sanchez el Rey del Ciclismo III” ( that’s The Captain Matthew Smith the King of Cycling the 3rd, for all our readers who aren’t bilingual.) and my latest concoction “Stephen the Dolphin” Why? I hear you ask. Well, when I’m walking around on dry land, I’m one of the smartest men on the planet, like Stephen Hawkin and when I go swimming I’m the smartest thing in the water, hence Stephen the Dolphin! I really have abused Annie’s ears on this trip with a lot of shit. Enough about me, Pretty Beach was another location where I dropped “what a spot!” We took over the day use area and made it ours for the day. With a few kangaroos laying around and views of the beach, it sure was pretty!
With a storm rolling in the evening we snuck into the National Parks campground to put up our tent. We timed it pretty well to beat the thunder, lightning and rain. Well, the rain nearly beat us, we woke during the night with it still raining and the floor of the tent resembling a water bed. In the morning we came out of it not too bad considering how much water was running around our tent during the night.
We were a bit naughty today, leaving Pretty Beach we had a route we were hoping to take through Murramarang National Park. As we rode deeper into the park we came across a road closed sign. A team meeting between the two executives of The Stylish Pedlars was in order. We could turn around and head back and around, go straight up to the highway or pretend there wasn’t a sign there at all. When a parks officer drove past mid discussion and smiled and waved at us, we interpreted that as “I don’t care that you are in here, go your hardest.”
So once he was out of sight off we went on another magic ride amongst the trees. However, it wouldn’t take long to see why the road was closed. Last years fires had burnt out the bridge on a creek crossing. No problem, panniers off and we carried our bikes and gear across.
Besides the snake that Ana nearly rode over, every time we cycle through these forests we always notice a distinct lack of wildlife. They are in full recovery mode with bright green colours bursting out everywhere but it might be a bit longer until the residents move back in.
After a few more obstacles and another burnt out bridge we got through the road closures and were back in view of the coast and off to Depot Beach. It’s a pretty special area this South Coast. With most of the beaches surrounded by National Parks, hopefully that will save them from future development and will be enjoyed by generations to come. Depot Beach was another beauty, if you are ever in the area it’s well worth a stay. The National Parks campground has enough facilities for you if you don’t like completely roughing it. We stuck our heads in the parks office while we were there to see if they could shed some light on our plans for tomorrow. We were hoping to cross the entrance at Durras Lake on low tide. All the Ranger could offer us was “you might be able to do it” and that was good enough for us.
We got down to North Durras bang on low tide. Ana looked after the bikes while I bounded down the sand and out to the lakes entrance. The water was flowing out pretty quickly, but at just over knee height I ran back to Annie with excitement to inform her: “We’re on.” We stripped my bike down a little too close to the shore line and nearly lost a few panniers when a wave attempted to sweep them away. After rounding up the stray bags, it was back and forth with all the panniers and then bikes until we were across.
It was a fun start to the day and it’s always good to shave off a few kms. Rolling into South Durras the inviting blue water was not going to take no for an answer. This was another spot along with pretty much the rest of the South Coast we would be happy to live in. Post swim, while barbecuing some peanut butter wraps, we got chatting to a couple of old surfers wandering down for a paddle. They were impressed with our ride, we were impressed with where they get to call home. They finished with “welcome to Durras.” The good vibes were everywhere today.
On the N.S.W parks website North Head campground was fully booked and on the road in they had their campground full sign out. Our suspicions were justified on arrival however, there was only one other camper there in a huge campground. We think they are doing it because of Corona and trying to keep people out. We weren’t cycling anymore today and they would just have to put up with us. At North Head, the beach was a bit wild for swimming but the scenery was something else! We even got to eat dinner in a chair that night and not have to sit in the dirt. A camper had left a couple of plastic chairs behind. They are more valuable than gold for a cycle tourist at the end of the day. One person who wasn’t happy we were in the campground was the fattest possum we have ever seen. This thing looked like it had lived on a diet of burgers and chips. We woke in the night to a noise from our bikes. Shining a light in its direction the spotlight stopped on a big hairy stomach and some beady eyes. This fat bastard was trying to do a break and enter on our food pannier. At first I thought it was Halloween and Rebel Wilson decided to dress up as possum and sit on the end of our bikes. We tried hissing at it and throwing rocks from our tent but it just sat there with its fat guts staring at us. It wasn’t moving this thing until it got some cookies. Finally, cracking it, I got out of the tent and it shooed it away.
The residents in Batemans Bay were a curious mob. Most people up North in N.S.W couldn’t give a stuff that two flogs on bikes were sitting in their town with panniers open and gear everywhere. In Batemans Bay we got curious questions from everyone as I was attempting to do some maintenance. They really are a friendly bunch these southerners.
Annie did the nation and particularly me a favour in Batemans Bay. She donated blood. Sitting in the park having our lunch we saw a mobile donor truck in the car park. The Gypsy being a better human than I put her hand up to donate. I just sat there minding the bikes on a park bench waiting for her to return with snacks she’d been given for being a sound citizen.
While we were looking for outdoor electrical sockets and having breakfast the following day at Malau Bay, we got talking to a local. We gently asked her how she was going after the fires. Batemans Bay was on the news regularly with its red sky’s and residents seeking shelter on the beach. Malau Bay was one of the beaches that the residents gathered on. Hearing her tell stories of hundreds of people in the water with their animals and hearing explosions in the distance must have been horrific. She spoke of the sky being pitch black during the day with red embers flying around the sky like fireflies. She still feels a chill now when the wind blows in same direction as it did last summer when the fire came roaring through. Trees grow back, but for some the scars will take longer to heal.
The Bingie Dreaming Track is a 13.5km hiking trail that follows the ancient song lines of the Yuin Aboriginal people from Congo to Tuross Head. It gathered our attention as a means to avoid the highway. It was another punt that turned out to be well worth taking. For us it was a case of half rideable, half pushing, but the scenery kept you entertained even in the soft sandy sections. When we popped out at a beach and it was blowing a gale we had a long push in the soft sand to get to the other end. We must have looked like a couple of lost fools in the eyes of the old couple sitting in the warmth of their car from the car park. As we made it to harder ground the old man jumped out to see if we were lost and if we needed help. Smiling we gave him the thumbs up and sought some sand dunes to camp behind just out of Tuross Head to protect us from the wind.
The weather in the morning did us a favour. It started raining once the tent was away and safely inside a pannier. We were up early to avoid being spotted camping where we probably shouldn’t be and that tactic has served us well throughout the slowest ride down the East Coast that humans have ever undertaken. There wasn’t a lot of cycling happening for the last few kms into Tuross Head, the soft sand saw to that. Pushing or riding doesn’t really matter we are just happy to get there.
Once off the beach the bikes needed a shower to get rid of the salt & sand. We needed one because we stunk! Each local walking past gave it the “nice day for a ride” as it was pissing down and blowing a gale. It’s almost as good as the “at least it’s all down hill” when we tell someone we are riding Cooktown to Melbourne.
We decided to treat ourselves today, it had been awhile since we had something different from the cycle touring diet of shit, or wet our whistles with a beer. A craft brewery magically appeared out of nowhere on the way to Dalmeny. We treated it as an omen that would be foolish to ignore. Chicken wings and a few schooners were a good way to kick off this Saturday afternoon. It was hard to throw the leg over the bike after a few beers but the stunning cycle path into Narooma cushioned the blow.
Narooma is another classic South Coast town. The locals must hate summer when their paradise gets overrun with tourists. Thankfully most had moved on when we rode through these towns and we have them more to ourselves. Continuing on with our form from the brewery we decided to settle into the pub with the million dollar view and blow our budget to smithereens. The beers were going down just as good as my drone did the next day. That’s right, flight MA 221 now sleeps with the fishes.
We had a cracking camp site right on Narooma inlet. In the morning watching the boats motor out through the breakwater I thought that would make some good footage. I was correct with that assumption, I just wished my drone made it back to its runway. Following a boat out, flight MA221 suffered engine failure and banked sharply to the left. My heart sank as a warning to land immediately flashed up on the screen. The drone was about 500 metres away so I tried to land it on a sandbar in the middle of the inlet. I overshot the landing and splash, the drone is now history. I had to cycle about 3 km around to get to where it met it’s fate. I was hoping the GPS was wrong on the map and maybe it was in the bushes somewhere. Eventually I stripped to my jocks and walked around in the cold water for an hour but to no avail. I had to concede and ride back to Ana and break the bad news that the drone is missing at sea. Not the best start to a Sunday. We decided to have breakfast and return when the tide is lower to see if we have more luck.
It’s a somber feeling walking around in your jocks in the cold water trying to locate a wreckage on the ocean floor. After a little while I found the drone in waist deep water belly up sleeping with the fishes. The drone along with its passengers didn’t survive the incident, but the memory card did. With every cloud there is a silver lining.
Central Tilba was a pleasant surprise. The day before chatting to a couple at Mystery Bay he mentioned it was worth a visit. We decided to take him up on that and called in the next day. What a nice little town. Obviously it exists for us tourists, but the main street was like a movie set. The town was really looked after.
Arriving in Bermagui, not before listening to the song that Ana had come with about cycling to Bermagui, we got to watch a lot of nuffys talk to their dogs like they were human. There was a dog show on in town and the caravan park sounded like a pound with mongrels barking. We would rather stab ourselves in the eyes than stay there, so we headed to the foreshore for dinner. At the picnic table we got front row seats to the poodle show as owners walked past dog in hand each sporting magnificent hairdos. It’s got me buggered why humans talk to their dogs like they are little people. “Who’s a handsome boy?” “Is it time for dinner?” “Mate the dog isn’t going to answer you, it’s a dog.” Is what I felt like saying.
We called into Merimbula on the way through for a couple of nights. The bikes needed some maintenance and we needed a rest. We had chewed through our chains and break pads and we needed some sealant for tyres. It’s been over 6000km now and we haven’t had a flat. Touch wood the good luck continues. The NRMA caravan park in Merimbula could have its own postcode, its massive. In summer it must be heaving! Our general chit chat game was on fire there, talking to all the campers who were curious where we were riding to.
We are in Eden now and we have commandeered the camp kitchen at the caravan park. Anyone that attempts to take our seat on the couch gets snarled at. Everyone except our new mate and fellow cycle tourist who we trade biscuits and tea with in the evenings on the couch. He is the height of a baby giraffe and resembles a brontosaurus as he cycles towards you.
Now our trip has come to a grinding halt because someone sneezed in Victoria. At the start of these journey Victoria felt light years away, we have moved down the coast at a sloth like pace and now sits just 48km away from the border. Now, Premier Dan Andrews if you read this, and I see no reason why you wouldn’t, do yourself a favour and please lift the lockdown. You don’t want to piss this Basque lady off!