Australia - Cycling (Mostly The South Coast Of) New South Wales
9 Nov Sun Engadine (Sydney) to Wollongong
Ah - another batch of chai. That'd be the last of the stuff for awhile - I'd been making it from scratch while staying in both friends' house. The time had come to get the cycling going... from Wollongong. Deb offered to shuttle me there, via Royal National Park's winding (and dangerous to cyclists) roads.
We went over Sea Cliff Road with its spectacular, curling cliff bridge, at times seemingly followed by hang gliders coasting on the cliffs' updrafts. This was the scenic route to Wollongong, much the preferred route always in my book. Once it town, though, it'd be more like being at a wine festival. This came courtesy of Geoff and Pat (Deb's parents), outdone however by a snapper fish grilled on the barbie. Her father had taken to a useful hobby (fishing) as far as I was concerned!
Once again I had an introduction to a local bowling club. These membership pubs were apparently ubiquitous, local watering hole. They were perhaps best known for having the best prices on beer, being of industrial size and... meat plates. Yes, meat plates - raffled off to be carted home. Surely they was odd bit of history involved there, but the half-assed vegetarian that I apparently was wasn't ready to delve into it.
10 Nov Mon Wollongong - Werri Beach 40km?
For the morning I reveled in a last few moments of civilization before hitting the road. Mostly this was a continuing conversation with Deb on language and travel ideas, then I turned to more practical things - like poring over maps while getting photocopies and ideas from Geoff. Well, time to go, I guessed.... although another evening of snapper and wine sounded a lot better than whatever I'd be grubbing out of a can on later.
Soon the time came to get dropped off in downtown Wollongong's coast/harbor; all was set to begin the cycle tour. I tearfully said goodbye to Deb and Pat - mainly because they were headed to a cafe for coffee and pastries. That sounded pretty good compared to sweating under a hot sun and eating some kind of carbo-bar manufactured in some industrial complex.
Right off the cycling began on the right note, when a helpful local cyclist escorted me practically all the way to Wollongong's nearby Nan Tien temple. Then I got my first sour note, too - it was closed. Oh well. Not wanting to wasting the opportunity to stop and relax for a moment, I pulled out the trumpet and played to the urn/rose garden cemetery instead. I'd be dedicated to that program at least.
From my thwarted temple tour I moved on south, both following and sometimes losing the cycle path to Kiama (Kye-amma). I went by Lake Illawarra, then passed numerous coastal views of cliffs and beaches fronting turquoise waters one after another. This was a hopeful, pretty beginning to the affair.
I soon experienced my share of sun blasts and a perfect sea breeze, too, plus many helpful locals (ending all conversations with "..., mate!") when I had questions. I paused at Kiama's famed blowhole, where tidal action forces through rock to create a shooting spray, then worked the local campgrounds. They didn't seem too promising or cheap at first, so I kept moving on for shelter before finally ambling on to Werri Beach's campground. There I passed the night, rather inauspiciously in a glorified RV park.
11 Nov Tues Werri Beach - Kangaroo Valley 40km? (NSW cum. 80km)
The sound of morning was more like it, however, as I woke to a cacophony of birds. Such sounds! Moreover, such brilliant shades of blue, yellow, red, and green! I met some new friends, a shore party of parrots, lorikeets, cockatoos, and others.
Now more in the swing of the adventure, I next went for a small beach walk before breaking my camp for the first time. This day would start with a relatively easy cycle of 15-20km to oldtown Berry, highlighted by a stretch along the semi-tropical-feeling Seven Mile Beach. I had momentary shades of Hawai'i come to mind. Leaving the coast now only briefly, from there I headed inland through some horse country until reaching Berry at the Princes Highway crossing. Pretty hard to argue with such flat sailing - I mean riding.
In Berry I found a cute tourist town, a fairly self-proclaimed "Main Street Old Australia" with preserved buildings, good cafes (coffee!) and the famous Berry Pie. Sure, I was up for pie any ol' time! Wait a sec - aren't pies s'posed to have fruit, like berries? Hmmm... this mystery wouldn't be revealed to my American-imprinted mind quite yet.
In any event I happily relaxed in Berry town before continuing on to Kangaroo Valley Road and the 19km more necessary to reach Kangaroo Valley. On KV Road I found a good-sized hill, with a sustained climb of 6km. These were some pretty appreciable steeps, eventually putting me into a seated granny gear for a good ways. Well, I had to earn my stripes after all, apparently.
A similarly steep descent followed, though seemingly less lengthy (both misleading and the advantage of downhill). The few views toward the ocean behind or valley ahead were expansive - that was the point of the detour in the first place, highly recommended by Rob & Deb as well as my new friends made at the Black Tulip.
Nothing was doing when I arrived sans posse in dead KV town. What, no marching band? Well, there WAS the cool, old-school Hampden Suspension Bridge (1898). I'd spend most of my time in its shadow, starting with an ad hoc shower from a garden hose behind a closed cafe across the river. Furtive I am. Then I turned to my other, more respectable habits - trumpet playing and reading
Before dark I set up camp on the Kangaroo River almost under the bridge, nice and freelike. This I could deal with quite nicely - a stunning view, a natural redoubt, a churgling creek near a gushing section of river. A cacophony of birds well completed this complement of ambiance.
As the full moon came up, the sun went down... and nature came alive. Frogs croaked especially, numerous ones hopping onto and then slowly over my tent. Impressed and awed with the interaction, I tried my hand at pictures of the shadows they created on the tent fabric. These didn't come out well, but the experience more than made up for any failing in recording it. An hour later, though, even the frogs would be done.
All was quiet, finally... spare the thunk of wood on metal. Huh?!? Wow, those loose planks on the bridge really made a racket when a car or truck(!) crossed it. Sleep would be fitful as a result, mostly because just enough time lapsed between vehicles to pass out before the next one would rouse me.
12 Nov Weds Kangaroo Valley - Woollamia 40km? (NSW cum. 120km)
Singing birds at dawn woke me, sometime after the last vehicle shot me up like a bolt upright perhaps only fifteen minutes before. I seemed to be listening to one new, unfamiliar chirp after another - and that was only in addition to the new, brilliant patterns of colors on the boids. I never knew myself to be a birder, but maybe I'd soon need to become one.
Misty morning next slowly gave way to sun, and I had decided to indulge on the large traditional Aussie breakfast. This heaping of morning carbing included fried mushrooms, fried tomato halves and baked beans in addition to the typical eggs, toast, bacon, taters, and coffee. I was already (by now) resigned to the absence of free-pour drip coffee in Oz, but the expensive espressos had generally been good (A$3.5). Always more coffee... research to do.
KV being mostly shut-up shopwise, I figured it was best to just go ahead and return over the "mountain" (were there really any such things in Australia?, I wondered) toward the coast. This went much like the previous day's climb, another hour of (very) honest climbing mixed the resultant monster downhill and flat stretches before and after.
This time the road more traveled was to be by Mt. Cambewarra, off Moss Vale road toward Nowra. For this effort I saw the largest (dead) fox ever, a (dead) porcupine-like thing (an echidna?), and two dead kangaroos. A bit ominous, no, these inauspicious first greetings of wildlife outside of birds in Oz?
Achieving a second sweaty summit in two days, I decided to add a little punishment gluttony while at the top. I'd go even higher, leaving the main road to sidetrack the extra bit of uphill cycling to the Cambewarra lookout. This was a great place to again view the east toward the ocean. Like on the previous day, the haze made for bad photos, but the long view was still worth it. Plus there was a small place to get a coffee. Always thinkin'!
Yes, so far it had already been a steady, sweady, sweaty day of climbing, but now it was time for the reward: a VERY fast descent. I flew toward the heatball of the lowlands again - and how, and how soon at such a speed. View after view unfolded in the distance as the nearer areas turned to blurred noise. The air cleared a bit, too, unlike what I had experienced toward Kangaroo Valley.
Finally back on the flats near the coast, I headed into Nowra. THIS was quite hot, compounded when my sidetrack to a winery failed for a refreshment, too. The object of my affection was closed (Thurs-Sun/Mon was a typical wine-tasting schedule), even if I was really only thinking of a soft drink by this point. No dice, so I resumed the hot & busy ride to the Jervis Bay turnoff. At least there was usually a shoulder on the main road (Princes Hwy), excepting otherwise notable sections of too-close-for-comfort fun.
After the turnoff from the main road, it was an easy and far quieter ride to a rustic and spotless campground in Woollamia. After talking $A25 down to $A15 (such bargaining soon to become habit at campgrounds - I was riding a friggin' bike, why pay the RV price?), I had a nice chat with the owner...
...until we ended on an unending sidetrack of his views about the general direction of things. Summing it up, we were on a one way road toward the end of the world, what with the trashing of nature prevalent these days. Well, I didn't completely disagree, exactly, but he didn't leave much room for hope. Uh... time to set my tent!
Which I did. After those dozen or so minutes, though, I figured it'd be a good thing to spin into nearby Husskison. Town! Perhaps the world hadn't ended there... yet. It might've been well on the way, though, as I checked out the very windy but nice coastline. For some reason it was hard to appreciate nature when nature was simultaneously trying to pick me and my bicycle up to throw us into the treetops. Not fun.
Frustrated with that tack my adventure had taken, I tracked back to camp at dusk. For such a defeat, though, something positive would next come: I finally observed four (LIVE) Eastern Gray Kangaroos in the bush. Yeah! That was more like it, erasing memories of the heaps of rotting, fly-infested flesh I had seen by the roadside over the course of the day. NOW I was in for a deep sleep.
13 Nov Thurs Woollamia - Green Patch (Jervis Bay Park) 20km? (NSW cum. 140km)
Birds, birds, birds. What a beautiful cacophony to wake to. They helped make a leisurely morning at camp, too, since I planned to do laundry and stick around long enough to let them mostly dry before I left. Given a full sun, such things didn't take long in Australia.
When I did roll out, it was on to Vincentia, then Hyams Beach, then Booderee National Park. There I'd call the motion to end at Green Patch campground. A well-known patch of strand in NSW, there I found "the most" white beaches, an enormous bay, some mild cliffs and no shortage of sandstone curl-carved by the sea. Beautiful, unquestionably.
Once again I had the tent set up in a flash; not too many others were even about to compete with for a good spot. This was a refreshing campground to join, actually, a rare one housing mostly tents. With that taken care of, though, I managed to complete a nice beach walk, mostly under a stiff if brisk-at-times breeze. Ospreys flew overhead checking out the surf. I believe this is called... nature.
14 Nov Fri Green Patch - Burrill Lake (Ulladulla) 30km? (NSW cum. 170km)
An early rise started the day, not uncommon at all when camping. Then it was on to bush walks on the shore, then in the bush (naturally). The latter was under a tall canopy with a heapmore of birds plus the odd kangy. More living wildlife - I liked this! With the ever-present sun, meanwhile, I was finding myself thinking often of the famous Aussie skincare campaign: Slip (on a shirt), Slap (on a hat), Slop (on some sunscreen). That sun was a-beating!
Having had my share of morning walkabouts, I decided that I had a place to go, people to see and... I hadn't seen any rangers. Fortuitously that made for a free night of camping when I left middayish, with no one to collect the coins. I didn't hunt them down (having arrived in the afternoon after hours, and being on a bike; they didn't look for me, either. It's hard to feel terribly guilty when traveling on a bike, using a 1x2 meter patch of ground, and not finding practically any facilities.
From Green Patch I briefly had to head north before resuming a westward tack toward the main road. I went to the "shops" (which should instead say "shop/general store") at Jervis Bay Village, then immediately moved on from there in disappointment back to Hyams Beach. If anything I was up for a great coffee to properly celebrate a freebie night.
At the cafe I spoke with several groups of people, notably a group of four Nowra riders and, separately, one grizzled "bush rider". From them I received many good stories and heads-ups for different areas ahead, a refreshing change from others who learned what I was doing. Most people heard about my projected route and thought I was mad.
As if they had any idea what I originally had intended - THAT was mad. Since my initial concept I had shortened the continental part to Sydney-Melbourne-Great Ocean Road-Melbourne. That HAD been Cairns-Adelaide, a vastly longer trip. From Melbourne a ferry would get me over to Tasmania, where I hoped to see EVERYTHING on that island at a more leisurely pace. Time would tell if I'd change the plan yet again.
After chatting for a while, I returned to the beach for more beach horn playing to the bluffs. There was always something more to learn, another technique to (partially) master... Contemplating how things were progressing only several days into the riding, I noted that my rib was still slightly sore from my Hanakoa Falls (Kaua'i) mishap. At least that was starting to ease up.
More importantly I forever needed to try to remember to keep my shoulders loose. That was something I shoulda learned well by this point, especially after all the neckaches from the recent Quebec-Maine bike trip. Over those two months my neck was a model in stiffness. Such a simple thing, yet so easy to forget when the rolling gets going.
Hyams Beach needed to be left behind eventually, though - the plan was to meet up with Deb and Rob on the main road by nightfall. They'd pick me and my bike up for the last small hitch to their cabin on Burrill Lake. Thus it was onward for me and my rig, under graying skies. Would it rain? Sure looked ominous.
It'd hold off for a bit first, at least. I continued on to Sanctuary Point, then St. George's Basin, then Basin View. St. George's Basin, ocean-connected and a windsurfer secret spot, made for a nice pause in the motion - I spoke with a few windsurfers there. Happy for them and their idyllic solitude, I'd still not trade their 'surfers for my bike. My windsurfing days mostly were ones of boredom in zigzagging over open water. Not my thing, I had decided.
Next four heavy downpours of ten minutes each found me in four different shelters, trying to escape. I stayed mostly dry for these efforts, more worried about the wet roads afterward striping my back with grit and dirt when in motion again. Ironically, the last one situated me unwittingly across the street from my destination to meet Deb and Rob: the Bewong Roadhouse Cafe.
I couldn't quite make out its name with the fading sunlight and misty, gray, wet stuff. Indeed, I only found out my good fortune when I went inside to warm up a little and get a bite to eat. It was comforting to know that I could remain on my butt for a bit while I hung some things to dry on nearby chairs.
Soon enough Deb and Rob rolled in to meet up; they took me on to Caravan Park in Burrill Lake. Pat and Geoff were already there, as was an open open bottle of wine or five. We all stayed up for a while, talking and drinking, plus meeting other caravan neighbors as they strolled by. The ambiance of the park was that of a family of longtime acquaintances, which indeed they were.
15 Nov Sat Burrill Lake
Such a calm evening belied the storm of waking up brutally early at dawn, for water skiing of all things. I was game; these were gamers eager to maximize conditions. Criminy, I think we got up at 5a.m. or so, ostensibly to catch the most glassy waters. Certainly the drink was extremely flat - I didn't doubt their experience, only my sanity.
After Geoff, Deb, and Rob all put in impressive runs, the time came for me to show my stuff, too. What stuff? Exactly. I did a good butt-bumping ride a couple of times, slapping my rear each time in the efforts for some 100+ meters. Not impressive, sure, but not entirely pathetic. At least I held on to the bitter end, even if I never got my ass steadily off the water. Apparently I needed to do some research - called practice - in the mechanic of popping into an upright position.
Then it was time for another big traditional Aussie breakfast for the Hunters Of Dawn, family-style this time. I still didn't get the grilled tomato wedges, but I would have been hard-pressed to care, either. Now hash browns - that woulda been the thing...
The day continued mostly cool and drizzly, allowing for finishing yet another tome from my book pile. I passed on Theroux's Sunrise With Sea Monsters, another great and recommended read comprised of essays from his earlier years. Beyond such literary affairs, however, mostly we passed a great deal of time at the patio table, snacking and drinking. This seemed to be as much tradition as waterskiing under remnant moonlight, but in this I could excel, anyway. Conversation tended toward caravan politics, or the doings of the caravan neighbors - my host family had a long history with Burrill Lake.
Water skiing figured largely in this history. Indeed, both Geoff and Deb barefooted the skiing, a quite impressive feat. Rob would give that a go the next day, even as he had carved nice sprays on a slalom in the morning. The speedboat which accomplished all this tugging, a sleek and low blurbling beast, was obviously Geoff's pride and joy, too - Speed Racer on water, I likened it.
As was now becoming usual, there were loads of birds at the park, too - kookaburras rumored their presence, but I only heard Deb's enthusiastic version for the time being. Apparently that was verifiably authentic - something she insisted, and I took as spot on. Sure sounded the thing, whatever it was.
Also present were bright-colored lorikeets, or plovers screeching to protect their eggs. They'd (foolishly) place them in the random patch of open grass, all too easily trompable and locatable by all, so they feigned wounds for predators to focus on them, the parents, instead. An interesting con game, it must've worked reasonably well as they were still around in good number. Beyond those were some sizable parrots of bright red and green, wattlebirds with their roosterlike flap of skin near their chin(if they had one), and whipbirds with their percussive call. All of these I'd only become more familiar with in the days to come.
16 Nov Sun Burrill Lake ride to Ulladulla
Yet again the others went to waterski at daybreak; I opted for a little more sleep. My butt wasn't exactly eager for another spanking so soon, anyway. Another big Aussie breaky found its way to my stomach, then we had similar conversation to the day before - the weather was only marginally better.
In the afternoon goodbyes were said as Deb and Rob took me back north a hair into Ulladulla. They'd be making their way back to Engadine; I had a bike that needed to start rolling again. It hadn't been a bad respite after only a week of riding at all: I had received great hospitality on the part of the Drylands in Engadine, Wollongong and Burrill Lake. Hopefully I'd be able to return the favor in the U.S. one day.
Back in town, before dropping me off, we went to Dryden's. This was a family favorite to get proper pies. Ah, yes - PIES. Not blueberry or apple, either, as I now came to understand. These pastry meat (or vege) pies were an Australian tradition, with everyone seeming to vet particular stores that sell them as the best. Perhaps they were eaten weekly by people by this day and age, being tasty more than healthy by a good margin. They still figured largely into traditional events and holidays, though.
I finally got dropped off at a rather vacant hostel in Ulladulla, leaving for a walk with my horn shortly after checking in. I saw what there was to the small town, then headed over to Rennies Beach to see the sea again. I followed that by a walk around the South Head cliffs and rocks, all relatively near the harbor. I didn't see practically anyone else around, but had a long conversation with a local kindred spirit who I had found walking the beach and picking up trash as he went. Now there was quite a phenomenally strong accent, long on Aussie flavor (in sayings) to our exchange.
I surprised some other hikers with my horn a bit later. That was when I found a little tuck (i.e. cave) from which to play out of the beach and sun - they weren't shaken for the worse, apparently. Meanwhile, and quite oddly, on the shore I had been seeing thousands of dead locust/cricket insects. They were all washed into waving lines in the surf. What was the story?, I wondered.
I enjoyed taking more photos of the textures along the beach, a continuing interest. Between the sandstone and more volcanic rocks the patterns were intriguing and frankly beautiful. Later I spotted some nice bush trails by the lighthouse, before finding some abandoned track to get to a "secret" beach before heading back to town. To complete this ascent, I had to manage to hoist myself up to an old platform via a knotted rope. Someone had left it there in place, obviously still used to access the worn and broken boards of the lookout.
Back at the hostel, a couple of other travelers had finally shown up (it was empty when I arrived). We soon had a chat over tea among us two Americans and a Swede (Peter, who soon thought of joining me to bike in Tassie). When talk began to drag, we settled on watching the movie Semi-Pro on DVD. Will Ferrell, say what one will, could always provide a pleasant remedy for turning a brain off with a smile.
17 Nov Mon Ulladulla - Milton - Mollymook - Ulladulla
Still hanging in town, I thought it time for a haircut. By chance - as it only could be - this led to a long, amusing conversation with the town barber... or so I assumed him to be, since I hadn't seen the profession elsewhere about the town's few commercial streets. He was also an amateur violinist on music, jazz mostly. This we could yap about for a good bit. Besides music, though, we chatted for a good while about religion - my new friend made an emphatic point about most definitely not being "religo" or "churchy". This I had come to understand to be fairly typical in Oz. Finally, however, shorn of my Samson-hood, I decided on a long walk for a good chunk of the day - where to, if not to another beach...?
Why, up to artsy Milton several kilometers down the road, just as Pat and Deb had recommended. On the way walking up the main highway, I stopped in a gallery tucked among some woods. This certainly was a fair showing of artsyness, I figured.
Walking into the deathly quiet, yet sunny and airy gallery, a nice long conversation soon ensued when I found the resident artist. This led to an invitation to play my horn in the gallery for awhile, testing its (great) accoustics. Outside next, I enjoyed the nice art and sculpture garden with trails. Artsy, indeed. I ended up spending a lot more time there than I had considered before walking in the door. Which is what good tourism - and serendipity - were all about.
But I was hungry. Milton town was good for this, though, with a monster veggie burger at the great Pilgrim's Cafe. Lordy, that was good. Then I had the "must" coffee at Brills as recommended by Pat. In such things I could meticulously follow orders. Outside, meanwhile, views behind Milton showed rolling hills - mostly under the shadow of the peak of Pigeon House Mountain. Not bad, pretty good even.
From Milton I crossed the road to amble over to the massive beach Narrawalee, which I followed (and then the coastline) all the way back to Ulladulla. That was quite a number of sunny kilometers with black flies being a constant pest. Sometimes I just couldn't shoo them away enough - I took to wrapping a shirt around my head for sanity.
Meanwhile I mused on this stellar beach. Indeed, in working my way south in New South Wales, I had only seen stunning beach after stunning beach from Sydney to here. Crystal waters, cliffs, sand - the Aussies didn't really have any idea how spoiled they were in this regard. I started drawing up invasion plans - this was what Americans did, right? I'd take that lil ol' beach house right... there.
Supposedly whales were offshore on these days, but I had yet to see them. Maybe they'd come by after the invasion? Or did they see an enormous display of carved wood planks, found on the North Head. This artistic collection tried to tell the Aboriginal story, and that of their ruinous meeting with the white man. The carvings must have been a huge amount of work to produce; all were free to view, exposed to the elements on the cliffs. No telling how long they'd last, but I enjoyed them in the meantime.
Back at the hostel again, there was a changing of the small palace guard. The Swede and the American had moved on, so now I hung out with their replacements: two Dutch men and two German women. I spoke a good deal in German with the two women, surprising myself that we were able to ably communicate, but my mind wanted to go all French-like in the effort. Was I still in Quebec mode? Seemed so. Same old story - the languages liked to overlap.
18 Nov Tues Ulladulla
I decided to stay in town this extra day, waiting for the weather to go bad. But it wasn't happening. By noon it was still nice, actually, so I headed for a coffee and a walk around the remaining southern cliffs I hadn't seen previously. Then I returned to Rennies Beach again, wondering how long I should stay put. I DID have rain gear, I knew...
The Dutch and the Germans, in the meantime, had left in the morning. It was just me alone. So I continued with my walking project, poking about easily among the Heathcliff Headlands. There I spotted birds, surprised a wallaby a few times. I checked out fire markings, plus some pinelike cones that heat-released their seeds. For all this I scratched myself up a bit, making some new bush trails in the sharp brush.
What more was there? Nothing but scattered lizards... then birds, Birds, BIRDS. The whipbird call was by now becoming a regular thing with me in the bush: it consisted of a slow, building whistle that exploded into a POWwwwwwwwww. That didn't get old... yet. Ever?
I also took refuge again to play the horn in a Rennies Beach cave. At least there the flies entered but a little, finally(!) leaving my head alone. With a different tide, I wandered the coast along a different track than previously, continually rewarded. Surfers were also out this time, too, found in the most random of coves. This seemed the norm - wherever the action was. All were clad in steamers.
19 Nov Weds Ulladulla - Bateman's Bay 55km (NSW cum. 225km)
Finally I left Ulladulla, riding the 55km necessary to the hostel in Bateman's Bay. Watching the sky, ominously dark all day, an overnight stop at Pebbly Beach (with its famously tame kangaroos) mentally became a day stop. Eventually it further became a nonexistent stop - rain kicked in near the entrance road, at the turnoff to head toward its beach. I decided that I'd see other kangys - somewhere in under SUN.
This was a consistently nice-smelling ride, otherwise - my nose happily took in the scents of flowers and eucalyptus. Riding along, I saw an echidna at the side of the road, or at least its butt. Serendipity, as far as I was concerned. I hoped to a little more of the critter than its moon of a dark side, however. The ride itself, although portending ill omens weatherwise, stayed generally easy. That is, outside of rain-marred visibility at times and some traffic. Otherwise hills never got to the point of granny gear, and I enjoyed decent shoulders more often than not.
Finally achieving Bateman's Bay and, more importantly by this time, the hostel, I napped immediately. I needed to reset my muscles a bit. Certainly it was hard to predict which days would tire me out; this certainly hadn't been a day of great distance, but I was beat. Perhaps it was the riding with raingear and wet conditions.
Back to life later, I walked into town to stickybeak. It wasn't long before I played the horn at the waterfront. Eventually that WAS supposed to be the program, I reminded myself. A little schoolgirl came up and offered 50c and suggested I play during shopping night the next evening - she liked the selection, anyway. Not bad, I thought, not having set my case out. Rich!
Not knowing what to do with my new fortune, I overspent my tip by a good amount - of course! I watched Quantum of Solace in the nearby theater, fun 007 Bond stuff. Sure seemed like a long way to bike for a movie, sure, but there I was. At the end of the movie, a million celphones kicked on in glow simultaneously as the first credits rolled. Hey, if anyone actually knew I had my first celphone for all of two weeks by this point, maybe I would have had a similar thought.
20 Nov Thurs Bateman's Bay
Called the IRS and resolved my 2006 audit - now there was something I didn't expect to deal with, but an email gave me a head's up. Certain powers that be weren't happy with a cycling trumpet circus act, of all things. They'd chase you around the world, they would. Fortunately they hadn't read the note I gave them with the previous year's return to look more of the same. More fortunately, they actually let it go at that.
Such stress resolved successfully, I spent most of the rest of the day in a much better, touristy way. I hung out with two Israelis and a girl from St. Pete(rsburg), Florida. The latter was supposedly now an actress in L.A. - which I took about as seriously as saying I was an actor. The other two were recently done with military duty, doing the traditional thing of getting as far away from Israel as possible afterward. Made sense to me, anyway one looked at the different sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict - THAT was real stress, IRS be damned.
Taking advantage of the Israelis' car, we motored a little south of Bateman's Bay along the coast. There we bushwalked a couple of points, Broulee and Bumbewarra, two peninsulas that were practically islands. On the more immediate side of things, the Israelis made us some berber coffee and I did a trumpet thing on the beach. That worked fabulously well in my greater scheme of things. Otherwise, ho hum, the shore was sharp lava rock between loads of tidepools (with little life) and a crashing surf. Okay, it WAS beautiful, but that was becoming a given on the Aussie shore. The breezes were magnificent, too, especially for a very hot day of predicted - yet unrealized - rain.
Back in town we ate lunch together, then the Israelis motored on north. I next kept the American company over coffee while her bus arrived. Friendless again (sniff) thereafter, I went back to the hostel to arrange my things and nap - before again returning to town from the hostel's outskirt location. I felt emboldened from my massive 50c encouragement the other day - time to give the horn a shot. Maybe it'd fund a coffee or, heaven forfend, a meal.
Stormy conditions were now finally picking up, though. Very windy twas. This would throw a wee wrinkle in my busking plan. No, unfortunately, instead of playing to cheering masses on a sunlit spot, I felt obligated to pick one that wasn't optimal buskerwise at all. It WAS wind-sheltered, however - and with the wind there probably couldn't have been a good place with foot traffic, anyway.
One-and-a-half hours later, after chiefly playing only to a corridor of walls, the lips were tired. There had not been that many passersby, true, making for slim pickings in the case. Still, it safely took care of a coffee and then some. That made it enough of a financial success, indeed, but it was a good experience far moreso in just the fact that I had put myself out there. That wasn't my mien; it was gratifying to successfully challenge it.
I returned to the hostel none worse for the wear, spare my lips bruised condition and an interesting hairdo. Now I finally bumped into the Australian kid who had been crashing in my dorm room, never seen until this auspicious moment. A short order cook, he seemed downright excited to engage in conversation - apparently he wasn't thrilled with his hours that, as a consequence, left him wondering who his roommates were as well.
He soon left ME wondering about his skill, as he prepared his meals of pork chops drowned in a deep sea of ketchup. He next took to bragging about his secret noodle recipe, consisting of several ramen packets of a certain brand (Goreng) - with a hunk of butter thrown in. Genius! He insisted I try and marvel in his creation - it tasted like plain ol' ramen to me, though. He called it "Aussie-style, mate!" - well, I'd give him that. Even if his countrymen might not want to also.
Also in our room this evening I met quite a specimen, one positively daft-seeming Brit. A most difficult and awkward conversation ensued, mostly clunked through as I tried to establish any rhythm whatsoever to his questions and halting, non sequitur mode of dialogue transitions. Next I considered trying to put up a finger in both of my hands to make a cross - didn't that work ANYWHERE? [It'd get worse, too: who but who would I bump into several more times in random places on my trip over the several months ? This guy was inescapable!]
Oh yes, I also met an Israeli whose alarm clock would go off at 5 a.m. I met him around about... 5:01a.m. Pleased to not meet you, my friend! He was gone by 5:10a.m., in any event. Would that the Brit took his lead, however, I would have happily suffered another alarm clock.
21 Nov Fri Bateman's Bay - Potato Point 80 km (NSW cum. 305km)
In the morning I decided to roll on south - that was one way to escape the Brit - also heading south, but hopefully far faster. The plan now was to hug the coast; I knew there to be a campground north of Narooma. Meanwhile, thoughout the entire day's ride, the sky threatened. Not a drop would fall, though. Lots of wind and coolness made for pleasant riding, actually, as fortunately the wind never was head on.
I stopped to take in more views of cliff and surf at times, then lunched on the Moruya River. Moruya, Moruya... the name kinda rang a bell... Oh well. I soon provisioned in Moruya town just ahead, a cute tourist place. Indeed, I was tempted to have a superfluous coffee with so many cafes in town, but the sky was still mightily threatening. No, I'd decide on a highway shot down to Tuross Heads to beat the rain. It wasn't until 20km beyond town that I remembered why the town rang that lightly tinkling bell, in any case. Geoff and Pat had a family friend in the area that I was welcome to stay with for a night. Not for a 20km retreat I wasn't! Onward.
After 60 km for the day I made it as far as Tuross Heads. There a helpful duo, at a caravan park I momentarily considered, steered me on further south. They told me that Tuross Heads was just a little resort town - I'd more enjoy what lay ahead 20km more to Potato Point. There I'd find a site surely at an ecologically-based camp on the beach. Sounded perfect.
At 10km from Tuross Heads, about at the Potato Point turnoff at Bodalla, I found a great bakery waiting for me. So I thought, after I tasted their fantastic offerings. Wow - I made a "note to self" when exiting; I'd pass it by again soon enough. Meanwhile 10km more got me to camp, only after some hills and biking alongside some massive bounding kangys. Those were some seriously large, lunging bounds! Meanwhile I heard kookaburras uncontrovertibly (and finally) cackling away - Deb's imitation was good after all. Good on her, mate!
The eco camp was right on the beach, just as advertised. That wasn't the important thing, it would turn out. Wow - where'd this kangaroo-wallaby city come from?, I wondered instead. I hadn't expected quite this display of fauna. Actually, this looked a lot like what I had expected at Pebbly Beach. Now here they were, and right on the beach as well!
Their shit was everywhere, too, it need be said. I practically couldn't take a step without stepping on some. Aim for the dry ones, Young Skywalker!, I told myself. Indeed, I next rummaged through both hundreds of kangys and rednecked wallabies AND their poop to find a campspot.
After aligning my tent for the coming storm, I next watched kangys eating and (more fascinatingly) mating. The script for the latter went like this: big guy follows girl, big guy gingerly grabs her tail, then big guy massages his way up... as he adjusts himself closer. I thought I could figure out where this was headed... Eventually the big guy would get his hand/paw to the base of her tail, pausing for a bit before completely shadowing her. Next one could write the ensuing romantic scene, mostly minus the romance part.
Meanwhile, AFTER my tent was set up and I had ridden the 20km in, I found out that I could have walked from Tuross Heads over to Potato Point. All I had to do was walk the two kilometeres of beach between the two! There (currently) was a connecting sandbar, which had also created a saltwater lake (with three dolphins trapped inside) - the first time in 75 years. A couple kilometers of walking sand versus 20 to go around... hmmm. Still, with a full load on my bike, that sandy beach walk woulda been tough sledding. Literally. I probably made the right choice, even if didn't feel it as the crow flew mockingly above.
22 Nov Sat Potato Point
Overnight I endured a heavy rain at 5a.m., including some tent water intrusion (the endurance part - the sound of the heavy rain was actually soothing until it felt I had wet myself). Still... all okay. With more crappy weather on the way, I decided to lay low for a bit. I took care of some phone calls, then some email, then I followed up on my Hawaii credit card fraud case (finally done!). All this was done thanks to the friendly camp manager Laurie, especially since my local phone card had not been worth a damn at phone booths. I needed land lines to avoid extra charges, and THOSE were a diminishing resource in Oz as much as in the U.S.
Over the course of the day, blazing sun and dark storms w/ high winds exchanged blows repeatedly. Pretty rough, yet interesting stuff. For the uncertainty of it, though, I mostly spent time in my tent with the trumpet and Dostoyevsky's The Idiot (highly recommended!). Finally, at some point in the afternoon - during a sunny interlude - I decided to chance it.
I next walked the kilometer or two back to Tuross Head, revelling in the windblown, sunny sands. In Tuross Heads town I further rejoiced with an evening breaky, chosen as a snap decision in "town". Sometimes one just had to leave camp behind - it had been a long day in the tent!
The way back proved a different affair, though, only lacking hail in what Ma Nature decided to next throw my way. My pants got soaked, my face almost blew off, my ears screamed (from the whistling pressure of the wind), and my toes got literally sandblasted from the shifting beach sands. Youch! Damned cold, too.
Some rains and sun later, calm returned at dusk. The kangys and wallys resumed feeding, joeys poked out from pouches, or suckled or followed their moms. The randy big guys went back at it again, too, shushing off each other while they checked for girl kangys in heat. Life could be simple, it appeared.
Seemingly more complex was a howling return to storms on and off through the night. It took me a bit to get warm enough, trying to sleep with the tent being so whipped about. No water intrusions with my adjustments, however. Somehow my tent stayed on land, too.
23 Nov Sun Potato Point - Mystery Bay 40km? (NSW cum. 345km)
Up early and rolling, I scattered some kangys for some kilometers in riding back to Bodalla - only to have my plan foiled when I found the cafe closed! Natzit fratzit schnatzit!
Oh well - it was down the highway on with me, until the Dalmeny turnoff. There I decided to hug the coast and enter Narooma via cycle paths. Steady drizzle, a little hail, some headwind - fun stuff. The scenic route took me around Kianga, then onto some boardwalk trails into Narooma's harbor area. What should I next see but an information center. Excellent, that - I was in dire need of the very thing.
At the info center in Narooma I learned that the Montague Island trip was a four hours affair, rather spendy ($130) for animals (mostly birds) I'd seen elsewhere. This was the town's greatest claim to fame. Welllllll... no. Skipping!
As for Narooma town itself, I wasn't particularly grabbed by the locale. Maybe it was the bad weather; maybe it was because it was just a seaside (tourist) village. Sometimes such things grab ya, sometimes they... don't. The fact that the supposed hostel in town was indeed no longer didn't help the burg's case, either. Meanwhile, however, a campground ahead sounded good - Mystery Bay... or maybe it was the fact that I was told so by a chipper, beautiful girl at the info counter. Yeah! Mystery Bay! Sounded... m-m-m-mys-mys-mys-misty?
Figuring the primitive campground at Mystery Bay would be nicer, and probably just as wet as a caravan park in Narooma, I got a move on. The skies were as nasty as ever, to, so I bit the bullet by provisioning and putting in another 10km or so. This eventually was done under steady rain, making 40km+ for the day.
Not too far from the mysterious, MISTY bay, an elderly farm couple spotted me slushing by. They looked at me in no small amount of awe, themselves more wisely clad in full (and functioning) rain gear. They paused in picking up their mail by the road in front of their distant farmhouse. As I slow passed them by, they shouted "Good on ya, mate!" and "Way to go, laddie" over to me... so I pulled off. Always address the fan base! We had a nice chat in the rain about the area; they confirmed Mystery Bay as a worthy destination.
Finally achieving Mystery Bay, I set up a very wet camp. At least I trenched it well, carefully keeping my wet gear (of which there was much) quarantined from my dry stuff. That done, I fully took in my surroundings. What a spot, and what a view, from a low beach cliff - and almost no one here! A "drop toilet" (outhouse) and a cold shower, sure, but... beautiful! I slowly dried out myself and my accoutrements; the rain petered out toward dusk. Time to be wary of possums, I thought, as night fell.
24 Nov Mon Mystery Bay
Waking at dawn, I immediately set everything out to dry. Right below my campspot was a roiling cauldron of surf, constrained by a rocky cove at beach's end. Attracted to such frothy fury, I climbed some rock to one side of it and set to a nice session of playing latin classics. It felt good to feel the lip control coming back, the result of practicing so much lately. The only mystery to the place was why no one else was here.
Walking the beach a bit later, I bumped into an expat Californian (Mike) on his bike. Surveying the water for his daily swim, Mike had gone Aussie after serving in Viet Nam. I sympathized with what made him decide to not go back to culture that pursued such an end. He gave me some good bushwalk ideas, including some formations he had discovered off-trail near nearby Dromedary Mountain. That would wait until I left "town", however.
With this new info in mind I walked Mystery (named after an unsolved multiple killing in 1880) Bay's Beach. One could stare at surf only so long, however, when the bush beckoned on a bluff above the shore as I moved south. I soon decided to make my own trail, through several types of brush, for a kilometer or so. That served to connect some gravel roads.
Below me, high tide made the coast a marginally passable mess. Still, perhaps my bush-whacking was not the brightest idea w/ unknown snakes and bugs. I was in open sandals, after all. All I rustled up, though, were wallabies which bounded away. I spotted a massive anthill (actually termites),then the beginnings (or endings) of a secret squatter shack. All this lay in between dead brush, glades, and glens.
Eventually I bumped into the dirt road near the offshoot to Poole's Beach, so I went down to the shore and followed it over sand, rock, and many blue bottles (jellies) in various states of decomposition over to 1080 Beach. Now there was an odd name for a spot, but from there I could see Bermagui some 20 km away. Ten... eighty. Hmmm.
Whatever - a name's a name's a name. The sun mixed with the cool surf breeze - marvelous; the waves, multiple rollers with 10-15 ft crest-troughs in some areas - gorgeous. Indeed, it was getting pointless to photograph so much stunning coastline - it hadn't ended since Sydney. All the while the only person I saw was myself, a funny-looking muck walking with a trumpet case.
Later I walked the dirt road back to camp, getting a much better look at the furtive and genetically-interesting echidna. Now there was not one to show his head much! Through with being scared of me, or of being curled up in a ball for some minutes after belatedly sensing me, he padded off within a short while. What an odd egg, this porcupine-like critter. Adding to the strangeness, the echidna and the (vastly different) platypus are the only members of the odd monotreme family. Huh.
Next I scattered ever more kangys & wallys, all the while admiring the smooth, yet spotted, gum trees. Quite the horde of orange butterflies parted about me continually, one spell of nature's serendipity after another. I finally saw the hyena/howler monkey-sounding kookaburras up close, too. Kinda looked like a fat kingfisher.
Can-lunching it back at camp, I next napped deliciously before walking the shore. This I now did in the north direction along the cliffs. A far more violent cauldron of stone and surf awaited me, a gushing rage of water with heightened, wind-driven waves. Very farking cool! The sharp basalt rocks that framed it (and the area) formed arches, caves, cut throughs and ledges for the sea to froth over. Quite a sight in a (now) howling wind.
Indeed, I knew that the weather was to change yet again. With that, I headed to California Mike's. He had offered me a shower/tent respite; such was what I was in need of. The time had come - I stank. I arrived, though, just as he and his wife/girlfriend were off to a pilates class in Narooma. No worries, mate! They generously gave me the run of their house to shower while they were gone, which I did. What oz-picious generosity!
Exiting the bathroom's confines, a finely clean human being once more, I ran into a slight caveat. Their little pooch, a white fluffy thing, went into a 10 minute barkfest - uh oh. Fortunately his size kept him beyond being any threat, just annoying as hell, as I nosed through their library of books in the living room. My nemisis eyed me warily throughout, holding his (her?) ground toward the kitchen. Many of the tomes were familiar to me - to hell with the pesky mutt! Sitting down, the dog chose a central position to growl, standing guard over me. I spent the next 90 minutes thumbing through their LP Northern Territories (Aus) book before leaving. Enough was enough - and where was Mike?
Mike and his partner had offered dinner, to be followed by a picture-viewing when they came back. After so much time, though, I was afraid of pushing my welcome beyond a reasonable amount for class time. By chance I bumped into them returning on the road five minutes later, anyway. We returned for a nice din of stew, accompanied by wine, cheese, and chocolate. We shared a nice conversation on politics primarily, then a bit about nearby nature. I was quite thankful for the change of pace and company for the night.
25 Nov Tue Mystery Bay - Bermagui 40km? (NSW cum. 385km)
Got up on the early side and packed out to head south. The previous day, a kind ranger gave me the pensioner's rate of A$8.30 (instead of A$13) - this time I didn't wait around for him to show. Places to go... and rain to avoid: threatening skies would make up the morning.
Getting back to, and crossing, the Princes Highway, I took the inland dirt road to Central Tilba after. This was the much longer way, true, and it got even slight longer as got lost once briefly at an unmarked turnoff. Something almost immediately didn't feel right; I only lost a few minutes there. Fortunately, I quickly ask questions when in doubt - I found a farmer to set me straight.
The backroads route added a dozen kilometers to the journey, but it was well worth the winding up and down through woods and farmers' fields. For this I was rewarded with numerous smoothed, attractive rock formations. By the time I got to Central Tilba, though, I was ready for the snug tourist town I found there: it was well-appointed with cafes(!) and galleries. Coffee, a place to read and write? Duh. I stopped, parking my rig against a beige picket fence. A goodly chunk of time passed before I saddled up and moved on to Tilba Tilba only slighty further, two kilometers down the road.
On the way I saw Dromedary Mountain (the highest point on Australia's East Coast) and Little Dromedary, too. I remembered Mike recommending a hike there - I was game, soon stopping at Pam's Cafe in Tilba Tilba (the only thing going there) to store my bike and hike away.
The stroll turned out to be a bit more than I figured, three to four hours to the summit and back. This had not been my intent at the start, but neither had been the pesky flies over the first half hour, either. MY concept of "saddle" (the word used on the signs) was a windy ridge between two humps (hopefully with a view). The local interpretation of saddle, however, seemed more to pertain to what one might place on top of the hump on a camel's back. This being Dromedary Mountain, that meant the tippy-top!
Furthermore, hiking those several hours never a full-on view, either, even as I managed to forge a new path near the top. This way proceeded from near the junction below the top to the summit - I made a new (and steeply direct!) trail. I probably was just getting a bit anxious to see SOMEthing.
At the top I would meet my only co-hikers, a couple from the UK. I supposed they could count for fauna, but they'd honestly be a bit lacking... and pasty, of course. On the trail I had seen some random birds, including some making more calls new to me. Those came from a peacock-like bird I saw, aurally detectable by its trill followed by squeaky-closing-door sounds. Some red parrots flew about, too, plus I saw my third echidna of the trip. I was past beginning to taking a liking to the little fellahs, spiky Mr. McGoos as I thought them. Flora-wise there were ferns of great size; boulders littered the steadily inclined (yet not sharply so) trail as well.
Making my way back to "town", I late-lunched at Pam's with all the indulgences her menu could offer. Nothing like a carbo-load after something energetic - if only cumulatively so. Next came another 15km of mostly coast riding to cover the remainder to Bermagui.
Bermagui, a town I had heard a bit about, wasn't any great shakes up close and personal. Nothing negative in that whatsoever, but it was merely a calm coastal town. Historically it was notable for having supposedly the safest harbor in all the seas on the East Coast. I supposed that would still be true, if not as important as previously.
Better for me, however (not being a ship and all), was its reasonably central-located campground (A$15). It fronted the coast across the street, perhaps its nicest feature, allowing for a coastal walk at a moment's notice. That alone gave me sufficient reason to overnight it in B-town. Plus I'd get to do fun things like laundry, electrical appliance charging, shaving, etc.
26 Nov Wed Bermagui - Mimosa Rocks km? (NSW cum. 405km)
Waking up, I realized that I'd been one month in Oz come this day. Huh. Anyway. In celebration, if nothing else, I went for a nice morning walk around the headlands of Bermagui. I serenaded a well-coved cave, provisioned for the day's ride ahead, coffee'd, then did an internet catchup. That about covered Bermagui, apparently - onward and southward to Mimosa Rocks!
Windwise I was quite lucky this day, with the beast often at my back. Couldn't ask for more than that, ever. Well, sunny went a long way, too. The sun was at my back, too - check!
Stopping at Lerner Lookout, high on some cliffs, I soon found myself conversing with two French couples. They had stopped by in their car, traveling together. I noted to myself how nice it always was that the French were happy to stay in French (for me). Sure, it might just have been laziness, or arrogance, but I appreciated the opportunity and not having to fight to stay out of English. Like I cared that we spoke French - this was free practice! In any event, they had been seeing whales like everyone else on the coast... spare me. Harumph.
From there I continued rolling over hills for over 20km more to Mimosa Rocks, finding the hills growing in size as I went. Nevertheless, I well knew that up means down, too, so... onward. Around halfway to the Rocks, I bumped into my first other cycle tourer of the trip. How about that - FINALLY!
Also an American, George (from upstate New York) was headed in the other direction. Fair enough, such are the riders one almost always meets. It's actually rare to catch up with or be passed by another at the slow speeds cycle tourists move at. We pulled off to the side of the road, then conversed for 20 minutes as the random car whizzed by. More oddly, a 3-ft long jet black snake crossed the road as we gabbed away, probably deadly or something. Who knew - I only thought it too bad we didn't have coffee or beer.
By coincidence, his daughter lived in teeny Yahats, Oregon, recent home of one of my younger sister's best friends. He was on a 2-month Adelaide-Sydney run, fully loaded front and back, with a trip computer and specialized touring bike. All professional-like! (Very typically American, actually, with the latest, greatest and most expensive stuff.) This made for a funny comparison with a hack like myself, of course, but I liked seeing that I was managing the trip with half the stuff he had. I'd come to notice that all of us cycle tourists gave the others' rigs the once - or twice - over in such a manner. In any event, George was a friendly guy - we exchanged some what's-coming-ahead info.
Moving on, I saw two lizards almost three feet long each, the second lying in the road probably hit by a car. Wow. And... how awful! Its tongue was hanging out in agony, but it was otherwise not visibly injured. This didn't look good regardless - obviously he had been hit by a vehicle - I assumed rather safely it wasn't George.
With two sticks, I tried the tricky maneouvre of (at least) getting him off of the road. This proved far more difficult than anticipated. His paws/claws/feet could really tack onto that asphalt! No easy thing, that, but I got the job done eventually. In thanks, my new friend grimaced and hissed at me. Observing him closely now, I noted no signs of cuts or blood. Hmmm. Still, he did not look well - and the flies were beginning to gather. Hopefully he made it after I moved on, but the likelihood of that was doubtful.
Ahead shortly thereafter I turned off to Mimosa Rocks' Arranganu Beach area. This began with a steep 1km drop on rough road that I probably would - on exiting - have to push myself up. That'd be fun to think about - later. Meanwhile that was followed by an easier 2km more to camp.
No water was to be found anywhere in Mimosa Rocks - that was my surprise of an introduction. Could be quick stay then... hmmm. Quickly I took to begging some off a couple of guys on the road, then a ranger I met shortly later. I took to accumulating any spare liquids in anticipation of being forced to a decision later. Weird - I expected THAT situation more in the outback!
Next I sussed out the campspots, eventually settling on the one nearest the Rocks themselves. I quickly made friends with two of the three couples in this section (from Jervis Bay and Tassie), gratefully receiving promises of water when either left. I could indeed stay two nights - yay! Seriously, yay: this was an attractive place.
Satisfied with such a positive initial turn of events, I soon took to serenading some rocks near sundown. This I followed (quite successfully!) with coffee/chocolate with the Tassie couple. We chatted a good way into the night, mostly talking about Tassie travel, terrain, weather, people, events in the recent news - quite the gamut.
27 Nov Thu Mimosa Rocks
I awoke at dawn, only after clapping away a few possums overnight who toyed with my empty can of of Malaysian Laksa soup. Cheeky bastards - but I had no one else to blame for leaving the empty can out. And metal really clanks around when smacked against rocks, I unsurprisingly found... repeatedly through the night.
For the morning I went to the nearby overlook of the Mimosa Rocks. That seemed the first order of business - should I have had a choice? I soon found that the rocks were so named after the ship Mimosa foundered here, with two lives lost. Quite an interesting story, that, with great expectations that the two survivors would marry as the right happy ending to the tale. (They didn't.)
I proceeded to do my wacky camp itinerary, a combination of lip trills and yoga in the pleasant early sun. Some people wreck ships, others are walking shipwrecks. So it goes.
Next, walking about the rocks for a bit, I watched various types of blowholes spout surf from the numerous hollows of the rocks. This was something that the NSW coast didn't lack at all, a constant mild form of amusement. There were tidepools aplenty, too, but still no visible life in them spare tiny black shells. Some creatures stuck to many of the, unfortunately not the most interesting stuff to me particularly.
Ambling further down, I found a small viewing platform (not legit, and rather hidden), discretely placed near the top of the heads. I tried unsuccessfully to whalewatch - still no luck! Now far enough from camp, I felt free to blast away at a few tunes (Veinte Anos, El Manisero), too, to all of the creatures.
That could only last so long, though - I soon needed to returned as the sun increased in intensity. For my hurried retreat, I scared away a fast and meaty brown snake (4-ft length?) with black markings. It quickly moved from only a few feet away as i stepped about, startling me in the bargain. I asked myself: I'm wearing sandals... why?
Getting back to camp, I relieved the Tassie (actually formerly from the UK) couple of their water. I allowed (okay, begged) the woman to use the dregs of the jerry can to dump them over my outstretched head. Clean! Hah - no water, my ass! Well, one layer gone anyway.
I bid my benefactors adieu shortly thereafter - perhaps we'd meet in Launceston down the road. With their parting I fell into not one but two deep naps in succession. Was it the parting of new fast friends... or sun stroke on the way? I'd never know - I musta needed them.
Reasonably alert again, I hiked the small nature walk connecting the campsites (1/2 km) before continuing down to Arraganu Beach. Some nudies at the end of it were doing a surf frolic of sorts as I approached them, catching me by surprise only in the distance. The women soon oddly took to cartwheeling, perhaps for my benefit, in leaving the sea. Hmmm.
This switch to impromptu gymnastics struck me as rather odd in its suddenness, only shortly after they spotted me coming their way. Next one took to rolling in the sand, too, necessitating another surfwash. She then remarked to me with a huge smile how cold the sea was as I passed by. Really? In my light jacket, with hoodie up against the wind and sun, I could only smile.
As the nude crew moved on, making their way behind me to the shelter of some rocks, I continued down the beach. I soon clambered over the sharply crenellated rocks at beach end, allowing access to a frothy point. This seemed a suitable point for some trumpet intervals to the horizon, no? (Yes!)
Standing, the wind had me doing pirouettes from its powerful force. Perhaps I wouldn't be hanging - let only playing - at any cliff edges. Nonetheless I decided to walk all of the rocks, beach, and rocks back to Mimosa Rocks. This was worthwhile - I found a few tucked away blow trenches and arches, probably rarely noticed with their lack of accessability. For once, too, there was a bit of visible tidepool life not necessitating a microscope.
Fauna-wise I noted cormorrants, in addition to an unmistakable snake track in sand... but no whale, still. Damnation! Where were they? And why didn't they like li'l 'ol me? Then, one minute after jotting down that last sentence onto paper: spouts, flukes, fin slaps, full breaches! Holy humpback, batman! Yes, it was humpback city for the next half hour as I took in the show. Wow.
With the displaced Brits-cum-Tassies gone this evening, I took to hanging out with the other couple near my tent - Jimmy and Jenny from Jervis Bay. We talked politics (Obama's election was still big news), greed, family arguments.
Jenny was most surprising in the latter's regard, unassuming while giving an aura of simplicity, but time after time she distilled nuance into well-reasoned thought. She reminded me of how I'd meet US Southerners with the strongest drawls, back during my eight years in Florida and Virginia. Sometimes this were awfully cagey folks, laying the accent and reactions on thick while only lulling their prey in for sharp rebukes. There was nothing predatory about Jenny, however. Regardless of such dialogue, too, I came to substantially reek of smoke after those two-odd fireside hours.
28 Nov Fri Mimosa Rocks - Merimbula 50km? (NSW cum. 455km)
In the morning I briefly met my new, overnight Aussie camp neighbors. Everyone had possum stories of intrusion, humorous stuff all, except me and my zippered-tight tent. I was happy with that balance of things, however. Then I was off and out at 8a.m., rolling on to Merimbula. I had enjoyed free camping for two days - good on me; my budget on the bike was working out with such little boosts.
Heading out, I surprised myself in easily biking up that last "dreaded" kilometer to the coastal road again. A nice surprise no doubt helped by my anticipation of upcoming struggle, the biggest problem turned out to be keeping that front wheel on the dirt.
All the while, plenty of massive anthills stood sentinel as I grunted; the bellbirds chimed my motion, too. With whipbirds making their explosive chatter, snakes and lizards slithering quickly to brush, and the odd kangy or cow being startled, I wasn't lacking for a nature soundtrack. Perfect. I soon nosed my way over the hill and dale of pasture and forest to Tathra, about 25km away.
A Swiss bakery called me for coffee there, a roadside siren I couldn't avoid. Apparently an almond biscuit by the sea was a must. I was now in the Bega shire, as they termed these areas. However, nary a hobbit - not to mention a wombat - had greeted me to date. Although the road signs gave warning for the latter, I was still waiting on my first wombat sighting. Unlike the whales, they'd make no appearance from a mere paper summons.
Meanwhile I met some of the other clientelle, me always a bit of standout figure between the bike, the trumpet, and silly-looking biking gear. A few other bakery customers had seen me on the road on their way to town, so we chatted a bit before they lavished me with the requisite few "good on ya's!" They were all likely thinking "Better him than me!" Indeed, the sun was now out in full scorch - a week of storm warnings, with today being the supposed capper, had come to naught.
Moving through town toward the south again, I did a quick stickybeak of Tathra. I found not much to it, though, outside of a nice beach and a tiny, hilltop commercial area. I quickly made my way along the old part of town on the ridge, dropping back into the sunny flats.
For some 5km I turned inland, now completely down from the height of Tathra's hill. I resumed a southerly heading again, following the Sapphire Coast Drive mentioned in the New South Wales (every section of major road seemed to have such an appellation). The 7-8km of flat exposed road that came next gave me plenty of sun. A huge, very dead kangaroo roadkill awaited me to cursorily inspect, awesome in its size; a huge lizard dashed across the road to startle me not much later. One dead, one alive was better than all dead, I figured.
The rest of the 25 kilometers on Tathra-Merimbula were quite hilly, cutting across Borunda National Park, all the way until the large drop into Merimbula. Near the end of this final drop, however, an eerie thing occurred that I'd remember for a while. I guess one shouldn't have high expectations when a carload of yahoos passes by...
Actually, I didn't notice specifically when they passed per se. It was only thereafter, when looking up from the my usual inspection of the ground, that I noticed something odd: a kid in the back seat was holding a stick out of his window, stretched to his maximum. He held it out the window level-like, suggesting to me that perhaps he had just missed my head. Wh-a?
Immediately the punks in the back seat turned to look at me through the rear window, laughing assuredly more AT than WITH me. Huh. Dunno the story, but creepy. This was actually something I had initially feared about riding in Oz, but hadn't come to even closely pass as of yet. I had been warned of punks in utes (pickups), known for making game of close brushes. There was no ute in this case, but the ramifications were no fun to think about. That had been dangerous as hell.
It was on this final drop to Merimbula that the sky quickly turned black. Hell was shortly ready to break loose on my head, even if not laying it on with a stick precisely. Ergo, I was happy to blunder my way toward the hostel by 3p.m. or so, just beating out the mayhem. C-rack! A wall of white noise followed.
The place was almost deserted, so I cleaned up and napped. These were unsurprisingly always the first orders of business after finding shelter. WIthin several hours, though, and my coming out of my slumberous daze, the joint was stuffed. Whoa - welcome to Friday night as tourist season approacheth. Meanwhile, I couldn't get over the fact that the owner looked like a slightly older ringer of my Aussie friend Mick (met in Viet Nam the previous year). No, this wasn't Mick but a nice guy named Wayne. He was selling the hostel, too. Hmmm.
I soon met two Canadian cycle tourists on the same evening, separately, but both heading north into the heat. With three cycle tourers now met, all going into the heat and headwinds, I was a little confused. So be it - they had their reasons... the fools!
In any event these two confirmed that the section ahead was a hilly slog without great reward. From the map I had already guessed as much, that segment possibly eyed for a couple weeks as a "skip" section. That'd allow me to get myself more on track with ending the Great Ocean Road by Christmas, a high-season-avoiding goal. Taking the bus to Lakes Entrance would thus be my birthday present to myself: 240-280km waved bye-bye from the comfort of a bus window.
Meanwhile I also befriended a Swiss guy, Markus; we decided to check out the film Australia. This was something to do on a rainy day, and here was a town actually with a theater. Australia (the film) had been heavily in the news every day since my arrival, too, so... I had to check it out. I was in the very country, wasn't I? Did I have a choice?
Yes, but I didn't properly execute it. Oh well, "Australia" proved enjoyable enough in its cinematic scope/epic way, trying to touch on every Australian topic up to WWII while weighing in at three hours. It unabashedly used every cliché found in the old U.S. western (and melodramatic) epics, though.
Its forward conceit in using this style allowed it to work well enough, in a sense, but there was no additional twist of plot, or anything beyond the most stereotypical character response, that could not be predicted. No new ground on the spaghetti western, not even an errant meatball.
"Australia" had come to be seen as a mass market attempt to get the Aboriginal Stolen Generations story out. This was seen as a form of redress to the issue, especially after the (relatively) recent box office failure of the excellent film Rabbit Proof Fence. In that regard, I thought it might succeed on some level. It'd never be taught in film school, though, like ever.
Before the movie Markus and I had had a beer at the massive Bowling Club. Now THERE was a charmless institution across Oz, one I'd never help but find oddly soulless. Such knowledge would stay beyond my purview, though. After the movie, Markus and I went for beers instead at a nearby cantina. SOMEone had to dissect that cliché fest for all that it was(n't) worth.
29 Nov Sat Merimbula
In a nice, large hostel, I particularly enjoyed this one's "amenity" of having a suitable kitchen to cool. For example, I had a nice breaky with most of the trimmings... before walking the long beach to Pambula. Some lookouts were to be had there, if not really at all before while moving along the beach.
Many a paddle surfer (a growing sport) could be watched, for example. Beyond mesmerizing myself with that show, though, I whiled away some hours in a picnic shelter closer to the shore on the flats again. There I had the horn blaring, eventually chatting with a pair of Aussie families about Aussie expressions, Victoria vs New South Wales, and Aussie Rules Football. All the important stuff, in other words. For the kids I played some TV tunes; for this, I was offered a ride back to Merimbula. Not exactly play for pay, however - we enjoyed each other's company.
In town I walked the beach around the YHA hostel's area, checking out a kite-surfing competition going on. Talk about idly walking in on high quality entertainment! There were many aerial turns, fast action almost nonstop. So much so, actually, that I imagined any windsurfer that went to kitesurfing couldn't go back. It was so much freer, more fluid. Not that I could watch it forever under the strong sun, however: I passed out on the beach while watching the surfers' hijinx, rolled up and hooded against the now-blazing sun and its counterpart pushy breeze. Bliss.
Back at the hostel, I decided to put together a chili for four of us hostellers who had come to chatting together on and off: Markus, Jessica (a 20-year-old, shy Frankfurter, hoping to fruit pick her way through Oz and willing to speak - or only capable of speaking - German with me), and Jill (a 52-year-old, jilted wife traveling the world from England's East Anglia region, a plucky spirit). Wasn't that what hostels were all about? Different folks from all over, meeting each other and exchanging ideas? Good food and booze never hurt, either.
30 Nov Sun Merimbula
For this day I walked the bridge over into Merimbula's downtown area, then onward to do some exploring of the coastline of greater Merimbula. Passing over the bridge, looking at the tidal undertow swirls below, I again found myself surprised at the crystalline clarity of water in such flux. Grasses, rocks, spotted blowfish, whitefish - all these were eminently visible in the great petri dish. What a coast! I ambled down the nature boardwalk amidst some mangroves and greatly enjoyed gazing into the drink as the walkway meandered over open waters.
Fishpens and oysterbed markers were everywhere, too, things to take in as I paused repeatedly to just listen, mostly to the familiar sounds of the bell- and whipbirds. Later I stopped and played my horn quietly, at the end of a small pier. A few people stopped over to say "do play on" and "you should charge for that!" Hmmm. What an idea! Oh yeah, I had already been thinking in that direction. Soon enough I would do the very thing, of course.
Ambling back into town for a coffee, I leisurely perused Sydney's Sun-Herald Saturday edition, a nice treat relatively on the order of the Sunday New York Times if not so comprehensive. Certainly it was far better than the Seattle rags, soon to be singular in number. Satiated with news of the world for the moment, I looked about afterward for a tuckaway in which to play beyond the reach of the every-present sun. An alley, with some steps up to a second story office (closed), did the trick. This searching was already becoming a common refrain.
An hour or two of that had me walking again, so I crossed over the downtown area to Back Lake (an inlet to the sea, really). From there I managed to follow the coastline for a good while. Eventually sandy beaches gave way to a large lava plateau, something of a ledge with thundering surf crashing to its one side. More stunning coastline in New South Wales - imagine that!
Happily entranced, I lay back on the grass to gaze on the turbulence. I took in the furious passage of waters from deep blue to turquoise to white in repeated succession; my favorite Ochoa tunes strummed away on my headphones. More... bliss. After gazing and relaxing for a long spell, I walked the length of this large ledge, next making my down to the huge Middle Beach beyond. A broad and long expanse of sand, this succeeding paradise from the one before it was populated by exactly one small family under their beach umbrella. Amazing - in such a spot, almost no one!
From Middle Beach I up-and-overed the trail to get back toward the fishpens, again walking a shore to "downtown." So close yet so far away from my destination, it was awfully tempting to walk the sandbar crossing the inlet over to my hostel's part of Merimbula. It would have cut half an hour of walking to perhaps a mere three minutes, but the current and the wading up beyond my chest - holding a trumpet in the air - made me forego it.
Meanwhile back at the hostel another group had formed, so I hung out over beers with Markus, a German couple, a French guy waiting for the daily midnight bus to Melbourne, and a Californian. The latter was cycling on a singlespeed in my direction with a backpack strapped onto his back. Quite an amiable guy, a fully-bearded (and young) literature major, we mused that we might ride on together south a bit.
1 Dec Mon Merimbula
Happy birthday to me. In honor of the aging process, I took it easy in town, busking away right in the center of things as a personal challenge while rain and sun mixed. The crowds, meanwhile, did their shopping. I met a Sydney trumpeter (Brian) for this effort, anyway.
Nothing like trumpet talk for trumpeters: we comiserated over the difficulty of jumping in on heads (the written part of a tune, non-improvised) for latin clave tunes; we gabbed about high-note-hitting troubles. The horn was/is a harsh mistress indeed. He invited me to jam with him when I returned to Sydney. Absolutely!
In the evening, a large group of us gathered over dinner and wine and such for many hours. Yet another new crowd. Standing out among them, Emma and Victoria were two ridiculously cute girls both just done with uni in occupational therapy, equally charming and fun. They stood (sat) in sharp contrast to one of the others, a Brit (and an oilman). He had a commanding presence, plus some stories, but he simultaneously was beyond the pale in land of what could be considered politically correct - or even good taste. A fun night was had in any event. A bus awaited me come the morn...
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