We have now been in Australia for a week and a half and got back on the road again on the Tuesday after Easter. After a great time being well looked after in Hamilton we had another few fabulous days in Melbourne with some old family friends and I really struggled to get back into the cycling routine as I was feeling very low after saying goodbye to them; they had reminded me of home and family and friends and all the people I am missing. It also didn’t help that having not been on the bikes for about the last 20 or so days we have lost a bit of cycling fitness so it seemed like a rude awakening to be back on the road again, and without all the enthusiasm that normally spurs you on at the start of any trip. This just felt tough, with a long road ahead to Brisbane and I wasn’t happy. I still haven’t completely cheered up and I’m not sure what to do about that – plod on I guess and hope for the best?
Tuesday to Healesville
Prompted by a comment from Dianne, Adam’s mum, regarding a gin distillery in Healesville it was an easy decision to make that our first stop on the way to Brisbane, being about 70km from where we were in Melbourne. We followed decent cycle tracks for about 30km out of Melbourne that paralleled a main highway – OK not the most pleasant scenery on the bike, but practical and easy to navigate. We then got a shock as we followed a dirt road that went steeply uphill, steep enough that I got off the bike and had to push and Adam had to come and help (he cycled of course but I was already out of puff, and still crying after saying goodbye so I wouldn’t have made it up the hill). If I’m honest, I can’t remember much more of the day. Adam assures me it was nice cycling but I wasn’t paying any attention. I was feeling sick, with grief I guess is the only way to describe it, after saying goodbye in the morning. I didn’t feel much like eating at any point and so instead we cycled nearly 80km on hardly any food and went straight for the gin. Then I sat there weeping into my gin as well. I wasn’t the best company…sorry Adam. We then cycled to our first camp spot in Australia – a Big4, essentially equivalent to a Top10 in New Zealand – expensive and not altogether all that brilliant. But it was fine; at least it was peaceful. It was definitely a lot cooler (temperature) than in New Zealand though!
Wednesday to Berwick
It was Adam’s birthday today and I got him precisely nothing (hard to carry any presents in a pannier is my excuse). He asked me instead to try not to cry for the day. OK – I could probably manage that. It was quite a short day ahead at only 60km and we had already phoned ahead to check there was space for us to camp at the showgrounds (which is effectively almost like a village green/common). As we cycled along a tree lined forest road that was nice and quiet with only a few cars and the occasional truck that all gave us plenty of space we agreed that so far the standard of behaviour towards cyclists in Australia was a lot better than in New Zealand. We were still not that far from Melbourne, essentially winding our way through nice commuter towns, into “The Hills” and a town called Emerald where we could see for miles from what seemed to be the highest point. Granted, it wasn’t scenery like in New Zealand, but it was very pretty all the same.
We arrived into Berwick and got the tent up on the campground and noticed a number of food trucks pulling into the field next door. It seems there was a food carnival on that evening, with a bar and so it seemed rude not to go and check it out. We found some prosecco and celebrated Adam’s birthday with some fizz. I hadn’t cried all day, the cycling had been easier, and we had also picked up some carrot cake on special offer, so it turned out a lot better than we first thought. Not only that but there was a fire pit at our campsite so once the sun disappeared we went and built a roaring hot fire and got chatting to some locals. So I hope Adam had a birthday that wasn’t so bad after all.
Thursday to Loch
I slept badly as was bloody freezing and I was shivering all night in my summer weight sleeping bag. We are now in autumn in Australia and it is effectively the equivalent of October, but still, I wasn’t expecting it to be so cold! I’m hoping it will warm up as we start heading north!
Once I had thawed out we had some very long very straight roads to follow once we had cleared commutersville, passing through flat farming country. We made decent progress and the roads were nice and quiet and the kms rolled by. We still haven’t quite yet figured out which roads marked on our bike Garmins are sealed and which are unsealed, so despite the possibility of making the day a bit shorter we opted to stick to our pre-planned and google checked route to ensure we avoided any gravel tracks. This took us up and over a hill and on the descent when Adam shouted “truck” I adopted the NZ default of slamming on the brakes and heading for the verge at the side of the road. I skidded out of control and very nearly veered back into the path of the truck and my life flashed before me. Thankfully I managed to avoid any sort of collision but did feel somewhat shaken afterwards. Damn you NZ drivers for making me so scared of any overtaking vehicles!
Once again at Loch we camped at the local showgrounds, which was a cricket pitch. When we got into our sleeping bags I put on all the warm clothes I had with me, I wrapped my down jacket around my feed, I wore a buff, a hat and had gloves on standby and I was nice and toasty. At about 4 am I got woken up by Adam blowing up his thermarest – the repair job he’d made in Albania 18 months ago had failed. Then I was cold again and stayed cold for the last few hours of sleep. Meh.
Friday to Inverloch
Of course, the reason for the cold nights has been the clear skies and on Friday we were rewarded with blue skies and sun rather than greyness. Everyone we had spoken to had warned us of hills on the way to Inverloch, and it wasn’t flat but it really wasn’t that hilly. In fact I would go so far as to say it was nice rolling hills. We followed these all the way to Wonthaggi and then rather than heading straight down the main road to Inverloch we instead opted to go via Cape Paterson and hug the coast line. I t was definitely worth it; we got blown the 7km to Cape Paterson and the coast line was stunning.
We now have our tent pitched in Inverloch. We are however having issues with the zip on the main door in that the main zipper doesn’t close the door any more. There are other zippers we can use but then we have to do a Dukes of Hazzard (I expect Adam won’t know what this is!) type entry and exit to the tent through a gap in the tent door. We are going to have to get this sorted somehow…
Adam is planning to do the local ParkRun tomorrow morning (how fortunate and what a coincidence that we happen to be somewhere that has a ParkRun on a Friday night!). I am probably going to stay in bed. I think the clocks change this weekend so it will start getting dark by 6pm soon. Boo.
I’m not really sure what the rest of this trip has in store for us – more tears? More freezing cold nights? Snakes and spiders (no snakes spotted yet; only one spider in our hotel on the first night so far)? It does feel different to New Zealand as instead of “just cycling around” we have the target of Brisbane to get to in time for our next flight. So every day we are chipping away at that target, and I’m hoping that psychologically that will make it an easier challenge, as each day now we will get physically closer. Something needs to be easier as I am struggling with the concept of another 6 months on the road – I’m not sure I’m cut out for these long trips…