We left Sale on Thursday morning under blue skies. We needed to get to Bairnsdale for Friday night as we’d arranged to stay with some more Warm Shower hosts, but that was less than 80km away and so John (our Sale host) suggested going via Raymond Island to see koala bears in the wild, which sounded like a good plan. As per normal we didn’t have any accommodation booked for Thursday and changing plans to go via Raymond Island was very easy. In fact the only accommodation we normally have arranged in advance are when people have offered to host us for some nights. The longest European tour we’ve done together was just over a week in length, which isn’t really enough time to have a huge amount of flexibility, whereas now we can easily change plans on a whim and it’s great.
The ride from Sale to Paynesville was typical of the riding we’ve been doing over the past few days, with massive blue skies, a tailwind, no notable hills, hardly any traffic and big smiles. We tried to stay at the Resthaven Caravan Park, but the surly lady on reception muttered to us that we couldn’t camp as we’d damage the grass(!) and she then enquired whether we had a caravan. This was despite the fact Philippa was still wearing her cycle helmet. We left and camped at the Allawah Park. That was right on the waterfront, so we spent an enjoyable evening sheltering in the BBQ area and enjoying the views of the lights on the waterfront before another cool night in the tent.
On Friday we took the free ferry Raymond Island to look for koala bears. The bears got introduced to Raymond Island in the 1950s and seem to be enjoying sleeping in the trees on the island. It was great to actually be see able to the bears in the wild, rather than in a sanctuary and we were really thankful that John had made this suggestion. Our next host was a short hop away in Bairnsdale and we arrived fairly early, but by the time we’d bought more brake blocks for our bikes and then spent a frustrating 90 minutes in the mobile phone shop trying to sort out our Aussie SIM card it was already getting late.
Friday night was spent talking about cycling and walking with Jacinta and Mick, especially as Mick had just finished the Te Araroa walk in New Zealand. He’s proper hard. I’d carefully arranged to stay in Bairnsdale on Friday night so I could do another ParkRun on Saturday morning, so that’s now three runs in three weeks. The Bairnsdale course is new, but hopefully will be a success because it’s good out and back course along the river. There were 65 finishes and clearly some of the fast people didn’t turn up this week because I came first with a not particularly fast time, but it’s still nice to finish first for once. The next target is my 50th ParkRun and I may do Merimbula ParkRun next Saturday.
From Bairnsdale we had two days to get to our next Warm Showers hosts in Marlo and we decided to follow the 100km East Gippsland Rail Trail over two days. Jacinta and Mick had told us the Mingling Waters camping ground in Nowa Nowa was good, so that was the target for Saturday night. The trail surface was rideable, although it wasn’t as good as the Great Southern Rail Trail and we couldn’t make the 20kph average we’d become accustomed to over the past few days.
Disaster almost struck on the rail trail when I crashed. Something like a bee or wasp flew into my helmet and I could feel it buzzing around. I panicked, started riding no handed to try to remove my helmet and the front wheel washed out in some sand. Once I’d picked myself up I realised the damage to me and the bike was minimal. The main injury was my pride and we set off again, fortunately staying upright until Nowa Nowa. The campsite there was fantastic because they had a massive kitchen and living room. Plus, we got more free food, this time from a Welsh couple (Aaron & Becky) who’d over-catered. Then to top it off they lent us a spare blanket they had in their campervan, which meant we had a toasty warm night. People are great.
Form Nowa Nowa the rail trail surface got worse and worse. I realised I could run quicker than we were cycling, so we bailed onto the highway. We’d heard bad things about the Princes Highway, but it was pretty quiet (perhaps because it was a Sunday morning?) and there was a decent shoulder for a lot of the section we rode. As an added bonus we got to see a goanna up close.
We’re now in Marlo with Dave and Lucia and they’re hosting us for two nights. Last night we got dinner and Dave and I stayed up until gone midnight to watch Paris Roubaix race live, whilst Philippa discovered a massive huntsman spider in the bathroom! We’ve been feeling a bit guilty about using Warm Showers as a way to escape the cold nights, but Dave and Lucia have told us not to be so silly as people are only offering because they want to host cyclists. We’ve already got our next host lined up, who lives in Pambula where we should reach on Thursday, all being well.
PS: And we’ve just found another massive evil red spider, but Dave has told us it’s just a baby huntsman. It’s a big baby!