On Wednesday night we stayed in a hotel in Dorrigo because we assumed it’d be too cold to camp as it’s over 700m above sea level, although once we’d arrived in Dorrigo we both thought it probably would have been OK in the tent. However, the hotel was paid for and as we couldn’t cook our own dinner we also had to eat in the hotel as well. Oh boo hoo us. We were clearly hungry after the climb as we over ordered and yet still managed to eat everything. We didn’t need the garlic bread starter, and the small pizza would probably have been sufficient, but we managed. Come Thursday morning we maximised the breakfast on offer and left with our pockets full of marmite and ketchup sachets. We’d both really enjoyed the treat of staying in a hotel.
We left Dorrigo and the road immediately descended to cross a river. That short descent was freezing cold, despite it already being 8.30am. Yeah, staying in a hotel was certainly the right decision. Thanks grandparents for the Christmas money! However, our reward for the chilly start was the most magnificent autumnal morning one could imagine. Crystal clear blue skies, trees covered in red, brown and orange leaves, soft sunlight streaming onto our faces and as there wasn’t a breath of wind we could see smoke from fires climbing vertically upwards. I’ve always loved autumn and I’m really enjoying the autumnal moments we get in Australia.
We knew today would involve a decent amount of climbing, especially in the first 40km, but with the light traffic and fantastic scenery we felt we’d made the right decision to cut away from the coastline. Since leaving Melbourne we’ve seen a huge swathe of the coastline and to be honest we’ve become a bit jaded of seeing stunning golden beaches that are pretty much empty. “Oh, look another beautiful beach.” We’re now wondering if riding down the Pacific coast in the USA is the right decision or whether we should consider a more inland approach.
We spent Thursday night in Nymboida. The pub in Nymbodia has closed, probably because with modern cars people no longer need to stop in small towns like Nymbodia. It’s quite sad to think that these smaller communities are suffering because people now just drive to a larger town to spend their money, and we’d also noticed lots of shops in Dorrigo were for sale. The hydroelectric plant in Nymboida also no longer operates, which means that people don’t canoe the river because there’s no outflow from the power station. However, the local community have taken over the canoe centre on a voluntary basis. They’re now running rafting trips to other rivers, as well as providing accommodation, which is where we camped for the night. There were a lot of mosquitoes at dusk, but once we got a camp fire going they vanished. We’d dropped down from the heights of Dorrigo and were only at about 100m above sea level, but it was still pretty chilly at night. It just reinforced the fact that we’d made the right decision to stay in the hotel in Dorrigo.
Friday morning dawned bright, clear and sunny. It would be another great day and we had less than 45km to Grafton. An easy day after three tougher days. Whoop. However, being Friday 13th things weren’t going to be that easy. I got news that a family friend had died. Suddenly it felt like a long way back to Europe and all my childhood memories of camping in The Lakes, BBQs at the sailing club and sleep overs. At least with Wifi being available in lots of places I could send some messages to people before we set off for Grafton. After 15km there was a noise from Philippa’s front wheel and we discovered a spoke had snapped. We’d noticed her spokes have become discoloured, but thought nothing of it. Google maps told us the location of the Grafton bike shop, just under 30km away. We slowly rode into town and got her wheel fixed. We’re actually carrying spare spokes, although neither of us are any good at fixing wheels! Anyway, her wheel is sorted but it may need all 36 spokes replaced when we get to Brisbane. (She had problems with the rear wheel when she first got the bike, but had been reassured by the shop the front wheel was fine. Hmm….)
As it’s Saturday morning I got up early to do the Grafton ParkRun, which marked my 50th ParkRun. It’s not as many runs as some people, but it’s still a milestone. As I cycled to the start of the run I got to see another magnificent sunrise and I had to stop a few times to take photos. The ParkRun was really well organised, sociable and for once I managed not to get lost. Again I was the first finisher, but I was disappointed to just miss out on the course record. Oh well. The remainder of today is a rest day. Hopefully Philippa’s saddle sore will recover a bit and the rash on her arm to go down. The campsite we’re staying at, The Grafton Gateway, is a great site set in peaceful grounds, there’s loads of facilities, a fountain behind me and yet it’s only $10 pppn. We’re convinced we’ve been uncharged!