It’s Sunday morning and we’re meant to be on the road heading towards Nelson Bay, but the weather has other ideas. We were woken up at about 6.15am by an impressive amount of bird song, which was then drowned out by the sound of rain hammering onto the tent. It’s now gone 10am and it’s still raining, but hopefully it’ll clear out and we’ll be able to get on the road. We’re only planning to ride 50km along the coast so we’re not in a rush this morning. We know that our skin is waterproof, as are our panniers, and it isn’t that cold, but it’s still very unpleasant thinking about cycling in the rain. There’s some strange psychology in play when it involves getting wet.
Since the last update two days ago we’ve ridden from Budgewoi alongside the coastal lakes, used a great cycleway to get through the Newcastle suburbs, taken a ferry across the Hunter River and arrived in Stockton. The ride from Budgewoi was meant to be along a dual carriageway but we managed to avoid some of this, although it was a bit more adventurous than we’d anticipated. We rode through the Munmorah State Conservation Area, which is an area of beautiful coastal vegetation, and the signposts in the park suggested we could follow some sealed roads to rejoin the highway. This was true, apart from the final 700m section that was a sandy track. Apparently Philippa didn’t enjoy this section and walked along cursing the track and fearing she’d encounter a snake, although as I’d been able to ride the track I missed out on hearing this drama. That was probably for the best.
The next highway dodge was meant to involve a gravel track for about ½km, but someone suggested it’d be easier to ride through a private holiday complex. This was fine, until we came upon a beach front with more private signs. We could see a concrete cycleway on the other side of the beach 200m away, so we lugged the bikes onto the beach, pushed them through the sand, lifted them over a jetty and joined a lovely cycleway before anyone noticed. The final section of our ride was through Valentine along a lakeside shared cycleway with lots of little steep climbs. It was very scenic, but hard work with the fully loaded bikes. We arrived in Eleebana tired despite having ridden less than 50km. However, we didn’t need to put up the tent because we were staying with more WarmShowers hosts, Bruce and Sue. He’s only started cycling six years ago, but has done a number of impressive tours. He’s off to eastern Canada in a few weeks for a two month tour.
There’s a ParkRun (Lakeview) (link) that’s about 5km from Eleebana, which is why we’d opted to stay somewhere that most cycle tourists would bypass. Saturday morning dawned and while Philippa stayed in bed I cycled back to the area we’d ridden through the previous morning. The ParkRun course was along the hilly cycleway we’d used to get to Eleebana, so I knew what was in store; hills!. It meant taking it a bit slower up the ascents and making up time on the descents. Due to the hills I was slower than the Paramatta ParkRun, but this time I came first. Whoop.
We left Bruce & Sue’s place in Eleebana after breakfast and rode along the fantastic Fearnleigh track into Newcastle, via into Adamstown (yay!), and thentook the ferry over to Stockton and set up camp. We’d arrived around 1pm, so after making camp we took the ferry back into Newcastle. It’s similar to Newcastle-Upon-Tyne because it’s a port for exporting coal that once had a thriving ship building industry. We’d heard great things about Newcastle, but were a bit disappointed because it felt a bit empty and dead, despite being a Saturday afternoon. We went into the Newcastle museum, which was a mixture of different exhibitions (Australian architecture, local history and hands on science experiments) in no particular order. We treated ourselves to dinner in Newcastle and then got the ferry back over to Stockton just as Newcastle seemed to be waking up. There were a lot of glammed up people heading out for Saturday night who wouldn’t have been out of place in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne.
So now we’re sat in Stockton deciding whether to ride to Nelson Bay or not. Philippa’s bags are all packed up ready to go, but we still need to take the tent down if we’re going to depart. The rain has at least stopped and it seems to be clearing up, but for how long time will tell.