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