Thursday, 15 December 2011

Evans Head

December 13th-16th Evans Head

We liked Evans Head so much that we have stayed here a week.  It feels like your back on one of those beach holidays from your childhood.  We have spent the days either trying to surf or body board, you will see from the pictures we still need practice!

The weather has been warm but not always dry with showers most days but nothing to spoil the fun.  We have eaten out a few times and sampled quite a few pies!

It is now time to move on, the school holidays start tomorrow and the campsite is preparing for an invasion.  We are off to Byron Bay but meeting Ade and Grace there for lunch and then they are taking us to their house.  Can't wait to seem them again.
We won't have cycled as far as we were expecting but should have still managed about 1000km.

Maria on main beach

Big black parrot thingy

Chinaman Beach

Chinaman Beach path

Ready to pop

I look much better than this, it's just a bad photo honest ;-)

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Evans Head

December 11th Evans Head

It is nice here for sure so we hired body boards and got beat up in the surf.  Tomorrow we are going to get surfboards.  We caught lots of good waves but I had forgotten how tiring it is!  There is no camp kitchen here just an undercover BBQ area so we are using the gas stoves which are proving to be a great buy!

We had a downpour for about 30 minutes, it absolutely bucketed it down!  Thunder, lightening and then suddenly blue skies again.

Got a dvd out to watch in the tent, we are certainly comfortable campers!

December 12th Evans Head

Body boarding in the morning and longboards in the afternoon.  I am a bit rusty but managed to stand up on the first wave!  Maria did just as well but it was hard work.  I think we can manage at least a couple more days here!

Now where do we put the surfboards?

Cycling Iluka - Evans Head

December 10th 67km

John took me to the bike shop in Ballina at 8.00am they parted me from $150 and we were back before lunch.  The manager had let Maria stay in the cabin until we were ready to leave, not the usual 10.00am check out.  By early afternoon I had fitted the wheel loaded up and we were on our way.

This time we made it with no dramas.  The ride wasn't as nice as the recent days as we spent quite awhile on the highway but the shoulder was good and the trip fast.  Once in Evans Head we found a site right next to the beach at a bargain $21.50 a night.  There is a super market here, a board hire shop and several takeaways and resturants.  I think we will stay here a few days instead of Byron Bay.

Thai for dinner tonight and a bottle of wine!

I hate spiders! Good job it was on the otherside of the window

Big Mean Looking Spder

Cycling Iluka

December 9th Iluka - Iluka!

Well things did not go according to plan today!  We headed out in good time and after about 17km came to a little village and stopped to take photos of kangaroos grazing.  I held Maria's bike against mine as I always do and after a couple of minutes we moved on.  The it all went a bit wrong, my front pannier must have been dislodged and dropped off the rack into the front wheel.  I was travelling at about 20kph and the wheel locked up and sent me flying over the bars.  I managed to unclip mid air and did my best roll when I landed.  Surprisingly I had hardly a mark on me but the front wheel was a write off!

The next chain of events restores your faith in human nature!  First off John Murray a local handyman stopped to help and he took us and our bikes back to Iluka.  I was cutting it close to get to the ferry so he rang the skipper and made sure he didn't leave without me.  On thee ferry crossing I spoke to another John who had done alot of bike touring himself, we chatted and he wished me luck as I headed off to the bike shop.

Now the bike shop is small but the guy there couldn't be more helpful.  He didn't have a wheel but made loads of enquiries for me and eventually it got down to giving me some numbers of more bike shops to see if they could help, he even let me use his phone.  He could get me a wheel in about 5 days but I needed one sooner and one of the shops had one in stock, trouble was it is 90km away.

My options were to buy a temporary wheel of him for $60 (he said if I was going the other way he would lend it me and I could leave it at his mates bike shop!) then ride to the shop which is sort of en route and pick up the new one.  Ride to the shop on Maria's bike and bring it back 180km round trip or get the bus or hire a car.  I did try a courier but as it is the weekend I still wouldn't get it for 5 days. 

I rang the car hire, too much.  Bus only went one way each day so would involve an over night stay.  I was thinking it would be the long ride.  I had time to burn until the return ferry so I had a couple of beers followed by fish and chips for lunch.  As I sat waiting for the ferry I chatted to a local cyclist who had a new wheel he said I could have for $40.  Another local this time a woman turned up and saw the wheel then gave a Vodka breezer!  On the ferry I had another beer to help me decide the best options and just as I got off the other side John the guy I had chatted to on the way over came up and offered to take me to the shop in the morning!  180km round trip for a guy he had chatted to for 30 minutes, he had even popped in to the bike shop early to see if I was sorted.

I couldn't thank him enough and Maria had booked us into a cabin tonight and the manager had done us a good rate out of sympathy I guess.

Lots of help from total strangers, would you get this in the UK, I would like to think so but I am not so sure!
Another ssign for the collection, it turns out emus haven't been seen here for 4 years though.

Hop It!

I blame the kangaroos for the wheel!

Can you spot the $150 problem!

Cycling Grafton - Iluka

December 8th Grafton - Iluka 68km

Later start today, mainly because of the comfy bed not the beers!  The ride was nice today with most of it being on really quiet roads and about as flat as you can wish for.  We passed farmers harvesting sugar cane and then took a short ferry ride before stopping for coffee in Maclean.  The road got a bit busy here with less of a shoulder but we were soon riding into Yamba.

Yamba is a relaxed tourist town with all the cafes and and restaurants to go with it.  We decided to take the ferry to Iluka as we are riding from here tomorrow and want an early start.  The ferry crossing was very pleasant and the campsite right on the riverside as you get off the boat.

We set up, had a look around the little village and chilled out watching a dvd.

Yet another Ferry

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Cycling Coffs Harbour to Grafton

December 7th Coffs Harbour to Grafton 87km

Nice ride today on quiet roads and we even managed to dodge most of the rain.  Got the tent away mostly dry and once out of town the directions were a piece of cake.  One big hill right at the start then just undulating all the way.  Made good time though and averaged just under 20kph for the day.  Not the most scenic but nice and quiet with no truck drivers trying to squish you.

As the rain is forecast we went for a room in a pub.  What a result, having a couple of beers whilst blogging sweet!!
Double Decker Bridge at Grafton

Christmas Decorations Ho Ho Ho

Monday, 5 December 2011

December 6th Coffs Harbour

Today has been a rest day but to be honest has just been running around.  We have sorted visas for Thailand, more money!  For that we needed photos and money orders as well as going back and forth to the travel agents.  We could have done it in Sydney I suppose or Brisbane if we go there but at least it is done now.

Because of that we haven't really looked around Coffs Harbour, we haven't even been to the harbour infact!  The trip in Oz is not about the bike ride unlike NZ.  In NZ the ride was enough ass the views were awsome and the roads quiet.  Here the rides are ok but the beaches are great.  Because of this we have been taking shorter day rides to visit the small beaches on route.

We only have about 4 or 5 days riding to get to Byron Bay where we intend to stop for awhile before we visit our friends.  Lets hope the weather picks up as it is the coldest start to summer they have had for a generation, just our luck!!!

Cycling Port Macquarie, Crescent Head, South West Rocks, Macksville, Coffs Harbor

December 1st Port Macquarie

Raining hard so we are going to stay here and catch up with stuff, washing blogging etc.  We have even moved into a cabin for the night, first time in OZ!  We took a walk along the sea wall and there are loads of body boarders out and the skate park is also full of kids.  It must be a good place to grow up.  Got some tinsel for the flag pole on the trailer, it is Christmas after all!

December 2nd Port Macquarie – Crescent Head 40km

A little drizzle but we left anyway.  No big rush as we haven’t got far to go but most of it is on dirt roads.  We made our way out of town and got a ferry across the river which only took a couple of minutes.  Once on the other side there was next to no traffic and we were soon on the dirt road.  It was actually in pretty good condition and we managed to do the 30km of dirt in about 2 hours leaving just a short run into Crescent Head for lunch.

Nice beach and loads of guys surfing, we set up camp and went to see if we could hire a board.  We found that randomly the post office hires boards but are closed on the weekend so we would have to take it today and return it on Monday and they charge $50 a day.  We thought that was a bit pricey but the reason we didn’t hire them was that we couldn’t hire a wetsuit anywhere and the water is pretty cold!

We were going to stay here for another day but as we can’t surf we are going to move on.  The campsite doesn’t have a kitchen so it was a great excuse to go out for dinner, Thai again!
Crescent Head

December 3rd Crescent Head – South West Rocks 52km

Not the original plan but it sounded like a nice place in the guide book and the girls in a cafĂ© along the way said it was beautiful so we change our plan from Macksville to South West Rocks.  The road is very quiet and flat passing through farmland for most of the way.  The beach is awesome so we walked from end to end.  At the far end is a prison used to house convicts who were building a break water in the 1800s.  Whilst we walked around it we got a good picture of a kangaroo and its baby.

The campsite has a kitchen and a TV room so food and then chill out and watch the TV for a while.
South West Rocks

December 4th South West Rocks – Macksville

It was really hot when we left at 8.30am so we knew we were in for a scorcher.  The mozzies here are

some kind of mutant breed with huge stabbers to bite you with.  I covered all of my exposed skin with repellent and then they started getting me through my shirt!  This was the only downside to this campsite and it only affected us at the tent as all of the common areas had electric mozzie zappers.

We headed for Macksville today and stopped at Grassy Head.  The beach here is lovely as they all are so we stopped for lunch and a break from the midday sun.  For the next few km we had to work as the road had the steepest climbs we have come across in Oz so far but thankfully they were only short.  Soon the road flattened out again and we made good speed along the quite roads until we hit the highway once again.  It wasn’t long before we hit Macksville but we passed right through looking for a campsite which was 3km out of town.

The campsite had a great pool and facilities and it also seemed like we were the only ones there!  I guess it was more park homes style with people living on site and just camping and caravans in peak season.  It suited us perfectly.
Grassy Head

December 5th Macksville – Coffs Harbour

Not a brilliant ride today as a lot of the time was spent on the highway.  The shoulder was ok most of the time but had a habit of disappearing leaving you at the mercy of the trucks.  We took a short detour to get of the highway for a while.  It lead us to Urunga where we stopped for lunch and took pictures of these birds with very long beaks.

Back on the highway for a few km then we took the old road and then a short dirt road, the change was good although slowed us down a lot.  When we popped out we expected to be on the highway but instead we were on the old highway which is now hardly used because of a new dual carriage way.  It was weird as this huge road in great condition had no cars on it, just us!  Best bit of the ride today!  The odd car passed before we turned off and headed into Coffs harbor.

We found a campsite close to the center and pitched the tent near the river.  After returning from the shops we found the tent surrounded by ducks and ducklings.  We must have moved into their spot.

We are going to take a day off tomorrow if it rains which is looking very likely.

Check out those beaks!

Friday, 25 November 2011

Sydney to Brisbane Gold Coast Cycling

Well here we go again!  We flew from Christchurch to Sydney 21st November and found a place to stay in Manly.  The shuttle from the airport cost $61 for the 2 of us and 2 bikes, not too bad and can be arranged at the airport.  The hostel “Manly Bunkhouse” is rough to be honest.  The upside is it has a big back garden so building the bikes was easy and the rooms have toilet, shower, microwave, kettle and sink.  The downside is peeling wallpaper, the odd bug wandering around and worn out everything else but the beds are clean.  It is best to book well in advance if you want the better of the budget accommodation.

We have 3 nights here, 1 day to build the bikes and unpack, 1 day to sight see around Sydney and then hit the road again.

22nd November Manly

The forecast for today is rain so we started the day with a 30min run along the beach front.  I haven’t been running since the US but managed to survive the experience!  When we got back I started on the bikes.  It was a lot quicker putting them together than last time as they had already been serviced, I didn’t need to strip them as much to pack them and I guess I am just getting more practiced at it.  It still took a couple of hours and a few cups of coffee but I was serenaded by the kinder garden next to the hostel practicing for their Christmas concert.

Once done we headed into Manly for a wander, even this suburb seems hectic after NZ and full of surfer dudes and chicks!  It soon started to rain so we headed back to get sorted.

23rd November Sydney

Jumped on the ferry and headed out into the wind and rain!  I am regretting sending most of my cold weather kit home now as it is colder here than NZ!  Opera House, Bridge, Rocks and a ride around on the bus, I guess that’s my sight seeing done!  I am not one for cities too scary for me but Sydney looks nice if that’s your thing.  We grabbed some gas for the stove and another plastic box for the food then headed back.
From the Manly Ferry

Sydney Opera House through the Rain

Sydney Harbour Bridge

Sydney Harbour Bridge from the Ferry

We will make a start tomorrow although the forecast is wet, I thought it was supposed to be sunny down here!

24th November Manly – The Entrance 68km

The forecast was correct and it wasn’t long before we had rain jackets on.  It is not the chill you to the bone rain like NZ so we carried on with shorts and were surprisingly comfortable.  We followed the Pittwater road as the when we showed the Lonely Planet route to the guy in the hostel he couldn’t follow it so with our track record of leaving cities we went for the easy option.

For the whole of the day we cycled on busy roads with limited views, for the first hour or so we didn’t leave the burbs and it was very urban cycling through shops and industrial units.  Once out of the city properly we still had fairly heavy traffic until we got to Palm Beach.

Palm Beach is where they film some of the scenes for Home & Away it has nice views with a sandy beach and is where we catch the ferry to Ettalong.  A few steps on and off the ferry made it interesting with the bikes all loaded up but we managed to stay out of the drink!  The crossing was quite a rollercoaster, Maria went inside to concentrate on not being sick but I sat out the back with the bikes and chatted to a local couple who were out for a lazy lunch day.  The views from the rocking ferry were the highlight of the day.  The houses along the shore at the first ferry stop had boat houses and jetties like most houses would have garages, very nice.
Palm Beach

Palm Beach / SSummer Bay

Bikes on the Ferry

Nice Drives

Once we got back on the road the traffic was heavy again and we didn’t get any nice views until Terrigal which has a beautiful beach so we stopped for a drink.  When we got to The Entrance we set up camp at one of the sites $39 to pitch a tent is pricey and no real camp kitchen or TV room, we were spoilt in NZ.  The lake which the town is based around is lovely though the grey skies didn’t show it at it’s best and it has a flock of pelicans which they feed everyday at 3.30pm if you want to watch!

All in all the day has been more about getting out of Sydney than enjoying the views and tomorrow takes us into another city, Newcastle.  I expect more heavy traffic, the drivers are not as courteous as NZ and we have had quite a few drive real close it seems almost on purpose, one driver shouted out the window “get off the ******* road” and he was even going in the same direction as us!  It seems a long way from the relaxed South Island but I am sure it will chill out once we get away from the cities.

25th November The Entrance – Newcastle 78km

Rain all day today but it wasn’t cold until about 5pm.  The road from the Entrance is quite busy but has a good shoulder or cycle lane most of the way.  There is an alternative cycle path part of the way which runs close to the road.  It isn’t signposted at the start so we missed it and it was quite difficult to rejoin it so we stuck to the road.  It is named after a local pro road racer who was killed by a truck whilst out training which doesn’t really instill confidence!

After awhile you join highway 111 which is a dual carriage way but again has a shoulder as wide as a normal lane so even though the traffic is reasonably heavy you stay a safe distance away from it.  It’s amusing that today we have passed through Brentwood, Gateshead, Newcastle and Swansea.  You wouldn’t do that at home in 1 day on a bicycle!  It’s at Swansea that the route gets crappy and just feels like an urban commute but for 35km!  The cycle lane is a token effort of a bike sign painted on the left hand lane of the dual carriage way every so often.  Drivers are not bike sympathetic and yet another idiot shouting stuff out of the window, this time just a teenager being smart, shame there is never a traffic light when you need one!

Eventually you leave the 111 and turn onto the scenic drive which is scenic for about 300m when you can see the bay at Merewther and the rest is through houses.  At Newcastle we grabbed groceries and caught the ferry to Stockton where we are camping.  We tried to get a cabin but they are all booked and so are the hostels except for a bed in a 10 bed dorm.  So camping in the rain it is.  It is a real shame as the beach is right on the edge of the campsite, if the weather was better it would be lovely.

November 26th Newcastle

Well it is peeing it down so we have decided to spend the day here and hope the forecast is right and the weather improves tomorrow.  We have caught the ferry back into Newcastle to have a wander around and lunch.  The city centre is not a shoppers paradise but just a few small shops and lots of cafes.  There is a red lantern market on tonight with stall and street performers, hopefully we will make it back for that later as we have a few jobs like laundry to do.  The sun has now come out and Newcastle looks far more welcoming than yesterday.  It has a uni so quite a young population at least during term time.

From what I read this was once a boom town but in the late 90s the steelworks which was the main employer closed losing 2500 jobs and 8000 related jobs.  It doesn’t look like a hive of industry now but still quite vibrant.

November 27th Stockton – Nelson Bay

Well we didn’t make it back for the market instead we went for a walk along the coast line.  This is a lovely area and today with the sun beating down on the sandy beaches you can see why the Ozzies think they live in the best country in the world.

As I had hoped the roads were much quieter even though we were still on quite a major road.  The directions we are using as a guide has 2 detours off the main road, we did the first and some how managed to miss the second which meant we did a bit of dual carriage way but again it wasn’t busy.

We arrived at Nelson Bay about 12pm and the ferry to Tea Gardens doesn’t leave till 3.30pm so we decided to stay here and get the morning ferry at 8.30am.  We chatted to a South African couple who recommended at campsite so we headed there and set up.

Today has been an awesome day for wildlife! Firstly we saw a tortoise walking along the road so Maria picked him up and put him on the verge out of harms way, cockatiels flew in flocks at Nelson Bay, a koala sat in a tree just outside the campsite and little parrot looking birds fly all over the site.  That’s not all though a kookaburras sat in the trees near our tent making there monkey noises and as we ate dinner a possum walked past, this is the first live one I have seen as in NZ I only saw flat ones on the side of the road.

We have got to get up early tomorrow so we don’t miss the ferry, hopefully more of the same to come!

November 28th Nelson Bay – Pacific Palms 90km

A great ferry ride to Tea Gardens it takes about an hour although we didn’t see the dolphins that live in the area.  We had a decision to make now as some of the guys we talked to last night said there is a dirt road which would shorten the journey by about 30km.  We tried to find out the condition of the road from the tourist information but it was shut so we went for the safe option.

The roads were even quieter than yesterday and the weather just as hot.  It wasn’t long before we got to the 2nd ferry of the day, this time to cover only about 100m but we just missed one so had to wait 30 minutes for the next.

As it turns out we had to ride about 10km on dirt roads anyway and although the bikes have road tyres on they managed ok but I wouldn’t want to go on anything too rough with all the weight and the trailer.  The day wore on and although we were originally heading to Forster which would have been 112km we cut the trip short and stopped at Pacific palms.  No great views here as we were 2 km from the beach and too tired to ride there, 2 big climbs and the heat had finished us off!  It turned out that one of the locals we spoke to said the dirt road has just been revamped by the forestry service and is in great shape, bugger!

November 29th Pacific Palms – Harrington 90km

Got a super early start for us 7.40am, trying to get some miles in before the heat starts.  We got to Forster and checked the route at the information centre, it seems there is an alternative where we don’t have to do such a long stint on gravel roads and we can shorten the day from 105 to 90km.  I am not sure if it is the heat or the stop and start riding through the towns but our average speed has dropped off from NZ, it took nearly 5 ½ hours to do 90km today.  We did have a mega strong headwind riding along the highway which slowed us down a lot and made us choose the shorter option. It was our first time on the Pacific Highway and although busy with fast moving traffic you have a huge shoulder to ride on so not bad at all.

We stopped at Coopernook which is a town that has been bypassed by the highway.  It is nice and quiet but everything apart from a general store that didn’t sell much has closed because of it.  From here only 12km to Harrington which seems to be a top spot for new luxury homes to be built with a new shopping area to match, this seems to be outside the original village so we had another 2.5km to ride after we did our grocery shopping.

I hope to go for a short walk after dinner to have a look around if my legs are still working.
A visitor for dinner

November 30th Harrington - Port Macquarie
Another nice early start to beat the heat, at least for a while anyway.  The first 8 or 9km were on a really quiet road to Crowdy Head which is a popular surf spot and has a large surf life saving club but not alot else.  After a quick look at the beach we had to back track a km to pick up a dirt road.  Now this was a little interesting in places with big pot holes and puddles but we managed without any problems.  After awhile the road joins another dirt road which is in much better shape but had a few more cars and caravans, some speeding down the road causing clouds of dust and one even had us jumping for cover!  All in all the dirt lasted for about 20km before getting back on the tarmac where we stopped for a quick bite to eat by a lagoon and then again in Laurieton.
There is a bike shop at Laurieton and I picked up a few bits we needed, he had met Mark Renshaw the weekend before and he had a signed tour jersey, very cool! 
From here we had a slog into the wind into Port Macquarie which is a large tourist town with lots of hills!  We did stop on the way though for another bite to eat, it's hungry work this cycling!  After cussing the final hills to the campsite which is in the town centre we pitched the tent and went out for dinner, Thai again!
Tomorrow is forecast rain so if it rains we will stay here if not we will head onto Cresent Head.
Crowdy Head

Picninc Spot

Picnic spot 2