FEB 17- Newcastle to Myall Shores 100km (62 miles)
FEB 18- Myall Shores to Forster 90km (56 miles)
FEB 19- Forster to Port Macquarie 115km (72 miles)
FEB 20- Port Macquarie to South West rocks 100km (62 miles)
FEB 21- South West Rocks to Coffs Harbour 90km (56 miles)
FEB 22- Coffs Harbour to Grafton 105km (65 miles)
FEB 23- Grafton to Yamba 75km (47 miles)
FEB 24-Yamba to Evans Head 80km (50 miles)
FEB 25- Evans Head to Byron Bay 70km (43 miles)
FEB 26- Byron Bay
FEB 27- Byron to Coolangatta 90km (56 miles)
FEB 28- Coolangatta to Surfers Paradise and back 80km (50miles)
FEB 29- Coolangatta to Brisbane 90km (56 miles)
After cycling 2632km (1635 miles) I finally made it to Brisbane, the final destination for my bike adventure. I made it a week ahead of schedule too! After leaving Sydney, I picked up my pace and powered my way up the coast. After getting distracted by all the small towns and great camping areas in the south coast of New South Wales I was afraid that the same would happen on the north coast and I would never make it to Brisbane! I was getting a bit tired of the constant traveling as well. When traveling in the past, I have tended to stay stationary for months at a time and only take about a month or so to be on the go, moving from place to place every couple of days. So after 6 weeks of moving around, I began to look forward to reaching Brisbane and being able to settle. I was being chased by the rain. It seemed to start raining every time I made it my destination, which made me want to keep moving. At least it didn’t rain too much as I was biking… So for all those reasons, I sped up and made it to Brisbane on February 29th, two weeks after leaving Sydney.
After Newcastle, where I wrote my last blog post, I made my way to Myall Lakes National Park. After spending most of the day on the highway I cycled along a side rode that took me through the National Park. It was a slow ride as the northerly winds were blowing against me the whole time. I passed a ton of little camping areas that were right on the different lakes and reminded me of the camping areas I loved so much on the south coast of New South Wales. I was planning on going to the farthest camping area in the park in order to make the ride the next day a bit shorter. I took a little ferry across one of the lakes and made it to my camping area for the night. I was under the impression it was going to be small like all the others I had passed, but no, it was a resort complete with a restaurant, bar, wifi, hot showers, laundry, and arcade. The ferry that would take me back to the smaller camping areas had stopped running and I was left to camp in luxury.
The next day I headed to Rachel and Rory’s flat in Forster, a sleepy coastal town that had a higher population of dolphins than people. Rachel and Rory, my couchsurfing hosts, took me on a tour of Forster which involved seeing tons of dolphins everywhere we went. The next day Rachel and Rory were driving north and offered me a ride, but instead I decided that I would race them on my bike. Even with a couple hour long head start, they still beat me… I made it to Port Macquarie after a very hot day of cycling and went straight to the pool at my couchsurfing host Chris’s house. Chris is one of those dedicated couchsurfers who seems to always have his three spare bedrooms filled with travelers who’ve come to visit the coastal city. I can see why so many people would want to stay at his house right next to a rain forest, minutes away from the beach, with avocado and macadamia trees shading the pool. Chris has done quite a bit of traveling himself and had endless stories to share about his adventures.
From Port Macquarie I ventured off the highway and to South West Rocks. It was a beautiful day for riding, however as I was getting closer and closer to my camping area, I felt the sun disappear and watched as the blue sky turned grey. I stopped in at the supermarket just a few kilometers from my camping area and in the five minutes it took me to pick up some peanut butter, bananas, avocado and mountain bread (my staple food items) it had started to pour! I decided to get a cup of hot chocolate and wait off the rain. As it lessened to a sprinkle, I headed back out thinking I had missed the worst of it. But I was wrong. The rain was here to stay. I found shelter at one of the barbeque areas at the campground thinking that I might have to set up my tent on top of the picnic table, but luckily there was a 20 minute lull in the storm and I was able to set up at a campsite. I huddled up in my cozy little tent, watched the sky brighten with lightening, and hoped that me and my tent would not blow away. South West Rocks was added onto my list of places I will have to visit another time, when the sun is shining.
As I was leaving the campground, I started biking with a local on his morning ride. Barry gave me a quick tour of the town and I was off to Coffs Harbour. I decided to take a detour to visit Nambucca Heads and as I was making my way up a hill I heard a car beep its horn and was surprised to see someone I met at a rest stop the day before coming up the hill. Ian and I stopped for lunch and watched rain clouds begin to hide the sun once again. Ian was heading to the same town I was and offered me a ride which I gratefully accepted. We took a side trip to visit the towns of Bellingen and Dorrigo, two places I really wanted to visit, but would not have been able to on my bike. Dorrigo is a rural town on top of the mountain. You can reach it via Waterfall Way, a narrow and winding road through the mountain that passes a couple of beautiful waterfalls and look outs. We made it to Coffs Harbour early evening I was very thankful to have missed cycling in the rain along the highway and once again happy to have made friends with someone at a rest stop.
In Coffs Habour I met up with couchsurfers Maik and Liz so that Maik could take a look at my bike to make sure everything was still in good condition. Even though there was a bit of miscommunication about what type of bikes Maik works on, which are motorcycles/bikes, he still knew quite a bit about bicycles (or push bikes as they call them over here), and was able to check out Finley. He was quite impressed with how well my bike was holding up and told me that there was nothing major to be concerned about. Always good news to hear.
The next day I made some more rest stop friends, Jennifer and Sandria, who were also on a cycling adventure. After taking a detour that passed fields of banana and avocado trees, two of my favorite foods, I was just about to get back on the highway as I saw a bike loaded down with gear pass in front of me. I sped up and caught up with the cyclists though we struggled to talk as we were on the side of the highway cycling right through a construction zone. Several kilometers down the road I ran into Sandria and Jennifer again at a rest area. They were on a bike trip from Melbourne to Cairns (way up north on the coast), although they had supplemented their peddling with some bus rides to get them through parts of Victoria and New South Wales. They were the first people I ran into who were riding north and it was great to be able to share stories and tips. After a nice lunch break with Jennifer and Sandria, I continued on to Grafton.
In Grafton I couchsurfed with someone named Chester. Chester lived in a cute cottage type house with his dog Molly. Over noodles I learned all about Chesters work as a support worker and artist. As I listened to the rain pour down that night I was grateful again to be in a nice warm bed instead of camping in a tent. From Grafton I managed to avoid the highway all the way to Yamba where I was able to sunbathe by a pool as I couchsurfed again.
After Yamba I headed to Evans Head and met two more bike tourers at another rest stop. The rain prevented me from getting the full Evans Head experience. Kira, my couchsurf host, took me on a tour and kept saying, “this is normally beautiful”. Another place to come back to when its sunny. I had a wonderful time with Kira though as we shared stories and talked like old friends. From Evans Head I made my way to popular tourist destination of Byron Bay.
As I was just entering the town, a car pulled over and waved me down. I was greeted by someone I had messaged to couchsurf with but couldn’t because his house was already full of travelers. We made plans to meet up later and I continued into town. As I was walking around town I ran into Jennifer and Sandria, the bike tourers from a couple days before, and then I ran into a friend, Jenna, I met at a hostel at the beginning of my trip. That wasn’t all! I also ran into the two cyclists I met the day before at the rest stop. I know Byron Bay was popular but did not expect to see so many people I knew. I quickly became comfortable wandering around the streets of Byron Bay and decided to take my first rest day after 11 days of biking. The sun came out and I relaxed on the beach, went to see my couchsurf host play music with Jennifer and Sandria, hung out with Keith, the couchsurf host who waved me down, and his housemate, and visited some cafes and restaurants.
I decided to take a look at a map to plan my route north of Byron Bay and realized that I was about two days south of Brisbane! I couldn’t believe it! Realizing that I still had a bout a week and a half before my flight I could not help but think about all the places that I could have stayed longer, the people that I could have spent more time getting to know, the beaches I could have visited, the towns I could have stopped at. But I have had a very relaxing week in Brisbane and am happy that I went the pace I did.
From Byron Bay I crossed another border as I left New South Wales and headed into Coolangatta, Queensland where I stayed with warmshowers hosts Linda and Ari. Linda and Ari are bike touring legends. They have gone on what seems like countless bike trips in the states, Australia, Asia, Europe. They were quite inspiring and further solidified my thoughts of bike touring being the best way to travel. I stayed at their house for two nights and took a day to go on a day trip to Surfers Paradise on the Gold Coast. It was a lot of high rise buildings and beach. It reminded me a bit of Los Angeles… I didn’t spend much time exploring, instead I took a nap on the beach.
The next day Linda, Ari, and I all set off on our bikes headed for Brisbane. Instead of just telling me the best way to go to Brisbane they rode with me the entire way! Which was extremely helpful because otherwise I think I would still be winding my way through the service and side roads. It was a hard, hot day and mentally challenging as well. Even though Brisbane was less than a 100km away it still felt so far away because I didn’t think I would ever actually get there. But soon enough I found myself in downtown Brisbane waiting to meet up with my old traveling friend Darryl. Darryl and I met up just briefly so he could give me directions to his house and I was off on the very last few kilometers from reaching, what I considered, the final destination of my trip.
When I pulled up to the house, I didn’t know what to do with myself. I had made it? I felt that since I still had over a week here, I couldn’t already be in Brisbane? It’s always a strange feeling to finish something after working so hard to get there. This trip was more about the places I visited along the way than the actual destination, so it was hard to know how to feel getting to Brisbane. I felt relieved, but at the same time wasn’t ready to get off my bike. Now that it is a week after I finished biking, I am able to see my trip as something complete, but still the start of more biking adventures to come. I wonder if I will be as lucky on the next trip as I was on this one? Zero flat tires, no problems with my bike, no hassles or dramas, never got majorly lost (hard to believe I know), no snake attacks, spider bites or kangaroo punches.
This week has been a perfect end to my trip. As I mentioned earlier, I have been staying with Jess and Darryl and their daughter Lily in Brisbane. I worked and traveled with Jess and Darryl three years ago in South America and it has been great getting to catch up with them and get to know Lily. I’ve been able to get back in the kitchen to do some cooking and baking which I missed doing. I’ve explored Brisbane, the city center, the museum, South Bank, Kangaroo Point. Yesterday Jess, Lily and I went to the Steve Irwin’s Australia Zoo to see crocodiles, kangaroos, koalas, wombats, snakes, dingos, and many more animals. And today I’m going to experiment making a pavlova, a traditional Australian dessert. I’ll let you know how it goes…
Two more days until my flight home to California. I’ll be there for the weekend and then am off to Massachusetts. I am going home feeling more capable and independent than ever before. I feel ready for another challenge. This trip has been so different than anything else I have ever done. Even though I have traveled on my own, this feels like the first time I traveled independently. I have a new appreciation for “strangers” and know that there is something to learn from anyone I encounter. I look forward to being able to help out all the travelers that I may encounter after receiving so much hospitality on this trip. A big thank you to everyone who helped me out on this trip. I don’t know what I would have done with you all… from the random encounters at rest stops and camping areas to all those wonderful couchsurfing and warmshowers hosts, thank you!
Although this trip is finished, I am done cycling! I will continue to use this blog as I prepare for and ride the cross country (USA) Co-cycle tour this summer. So stay tuned! If ANYONE wants to go on a bike tour, DO IT and let me know because I might come along.
Here’s a break down of the past 10 days:
FEB 6- Vincentia to Kiama 90km (56 miles)
FEB 7- Kiama to Wollongong 40km (25miles)
FEB 8- Wollongong
FEB 9- Wollongong to Sydney (via train from Waterfall to Central) 50km (31miles)
FEB 10- Sydney
FEB 11- Sydney, 30km around city (19 miles)
FEB 12- Sydney, 30km around city
FEB 13- Sydney, 30km around city, to Springwood (Blue Mountains) via train
FEB 14- Blue Mountains exploring, train to Sydney
FEB 15- (train to Gosford) Gosford- Budgewoi 40km (25 miles)
FEB 16- Budgewoi to Newcastle 50km (31 miles)
On Holiday, from a Holiday
Ok, so I may be slacking on my weekly blogging, but for the past week I have been on holiday from.. holidaying and took a break from blogging as well. After a week+ break from continuous cycling, I got back on the road today and have three more weeks to travel around 900km (560miles) to Brisbane, which is plenty of time… if I don’t get distracted. Which, I admit, is what has happened in the past 9 days.
I have stayed at some amazing places since writing last including a cottage on top of a hill, a flat that had views of the Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge, my own spa room (yes, a room with a spa in it) in the Blue Mountains, another flat with ocean views, and now another place up on a hill with such a good view that I think I can see back to the caravan park I stayed at last night.
Since last writing, I had a couple of days cycling and then a good long break in Wollongong, Sydney and the Blue Mountains. After Jervis Bay I road with Joe, my host, for the first part of my ride. My gear traveled in a car to where Joe was going to stop riding, so I was riding an unloaded bike and felt like I was flying! After parting from Joe I continued along to Kiama to meet Ken and Jill at their cottage on top of the hill. I instantly felt at home with Ken and Jill as we chatted away and swapped travel stories. Another place I would have liked to stay longer but I had my eyes on Sydney and knew that I had to keep going.
The next day I had just a short ride to Wollongong, where I stayed relatively dry in all of the wet weather. As I got closer to Wollongong the traffic increased, the buildings got bigger and I realized I was leaving the quiet and calm south coast and headed towards the first big cities of my trip. I made it to Ryan’s apartment, my couchsurfing host, in Wollongong and chatted and relaxed; it felt like I was back at an old friend’s house. Ryan grew up in Ohio, but has been living in Australia for the past four years. Naturally, we started talking about some things from the states, that you just can’t find in Australia. Chipotle burritos became the focus of conversation. We decided that we would try to recreate the Chipotle burrito so went to the store, got all the supplies, and started cooking. It was so nice to be in the kitchen again. Making sandwiches with limited ingredients had been the extent of my cooking for the past month and I was itching to chop up some veggies and throw something together. Although, the they weren’t exactly the same as Chipotle, we made some delicious burritos.
As I was waiting to confirm my, last minute, couchsurfing location for Sydney, I stayed an extra day in Wollongong, relaxing, catching up on emails, figuring out plans for Sydney and hanging out with Ryan. It was fun to spend time with someone around my age, something that I have not done much of in the past month! It made me a bit nostalgic for being back in Massachusetts. I do have to admit, that after spending so much time on my own, I get a bit overwhelmed by the idea of going back to constantly being surrounded by friends. This past month I have discovered how refreshing it is to have time to myself. Not only has it made me appreciate more the time I spend with others, but it has helped me learn more about myself and how I interact with others in ways that I have not gotten the time or chance to realize before. That’s what I get for spending hours and hours sitting on a bike…
After Wollongong I headed to Sydney! Ever since I was younger and saw “Our Lips are Sealed”, a Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen classic where they become part of the witness protection program and travel to Australia, I’ve wanted to walk across the Harbour Bridge and see the Opera House. I know that’s probably not the most typical reason for why people want to visit Sydney, but for some unknown reason, watching Mary-Kate and Ashley ride kangaroos around Sydney made me really excited to go see there. So I hopped on my bike, road along the coast, across the Sea Cliff Bridge, an off-shore bridge with incredible views of the ocean, and up a long climb that led me to the busy highway just south of Sydney. To avoid biking along with the city traffic, I hopped on a train for the last 40km (25 miles) into the city center. The bike ride from the train station to the house I was staying at was probably one of my most difficult rides yet between the traffic, the fact it was getting dark, and being overwhelmed by cars, noise, people, etc. And to top it off, I ended up having to climb up a couple of stories of stairs with my bike and 20kg (45lbs) of gear, only to later find out that I was meters away from a bike ramp. But I was quickly rewarded by the view of the Opera House as I made my way across the Harbour Bridge. I eventually made it to Rich and Dave’s, my couchsurfing hosts, flat- the one with amazing views of the harbour.
The four days I spent in Sydney were so much fun! I had an amazing time walking around and exploring anonymously in crowds of people. I spent my days walking, sightseeing, eating, and biking (surprise!). My first day, I got up bright and early and spent the entire day walking around the city. I started with a free walking tour to help get oriented to the city and to learn a bit of its history. After that I walked around, the outside, of the Opera House and got an up-close view of the massive shell like structures of the historic building. I wandered around the Botanical Gardens to escape from all the buildings and cars for a little while. I ventured to Darling Harbor which reminded me a lot of Pier 39 in San Francisco. And then I just kept on walking and exploring other parts of the city till I could barely stand and decided it was time to go back across the bridge home.
I think I walked more that day than some days of biking. It sure felt like it the next morning. My legs are just not used to walking at the moment, so the next day I hopped back on Finley and rode around the city instead. I was constantly shocked at my ability to get from point A to point B. While in Sydney, I realized that this trip has made my semi-bad sense of direction improve to semi-adequate. Maps have become a good companion and are so much easier to understand and read. I think my opinion of getting lost has changed as well. Since most of the time I have no idea where I am going, I just follow a map, ask for directions, and eventually make it to where I need to go. Sometimes I probably take the most roundabout route, but at least I am still able to get there! I had a lot of fun putting my skills to the test while biking around Sydney. I wandered to the “funky” student-filled area of the city, Newtorn, to check out shops and get some of their delicious Thai food. I took the ferry to Manly, a suburb of Sydney, and swan in more crystal clear, calm water. I biked more, ate more, and then headed back to get some sleep.
The next morning I made my way to Bondi to meet with a woman who is trying to start a food co-op. We had a delicious lunch and discussed both of our experiences with food co-ops, sharing resources and stories. Back home I spend most of my waking time with something to do about co-ops and it was nice to chat with someone after not being exposed to it for a while. We then went down to the beach for a swim moments before a storm rolled in. The weather in Sydney was quite sporadic while I was there. One moment it would be sunny and blue skies and the next moment the sky would turn grey and it would pour down rain for an hour or so before going back to blue skies. After swimming, I went to a coffee shop to wait for the storm to pass and then explored the famous Bondi Beach. I had been expecting a Venice Beach type atmosphere, but I think it was a bit more calm because of the rain.
The next day, I went to visit another food co-op before leaving the city. Alfalfa House Community Co-op has been around for over 30 years and is a model for many food co-ops around Australia. Adam, one of the worker-members, took the time to tell me all about the history and structure of the co-op. Hearing his stories made me so excited for the Co-cycle bike tour this summer!
After visiting Alfalfa House, I hopped on a train to the Blue Mountains to visit Narelle and John who I met a couple weeks previous while camping. It was so nice to be able to catch up with people I had met earlier on my trip! Again, it felt like I was going back to visit old friends. Narelle and John have a beautiful house with their own jungle-like garden outside. I stayed in a spa room just connected to the house. I decompressed from the busy city experience, went in the spa, and had some great conversations over dinner. They are just another example of the extremely kind, fun, and generous people I have been meeting! Narelle took me on a tour of as much of the Blue Mountains you can see in a day- each place was so incredibly beautiful. The Blue Mountains have these massive sandstone plateaus, valleys, and gorges. We went to several viewpoints where it looked like the mountains just continued forever. Narelle and John are part of a bush-walking group and know of all the best places in the mountains to explore. We went hiking (or bush-walking as they call it over here) on a few of the trails and I was convinced that one day I need to come back and give myself much more than a day to explore all the different places in the mountains.
I had to say more of those dreaded “goodbyes” to John and Narelle. I think one of the main reasons that it’s hard to be leaving all of the people I have been meeting on this trip is because I am stepping away from what could evolve into great friendships if we were to have the chance to spend more time together. In the couple of days, at most, I get to spend with people I get a taste of what they are like but then have to leave right as we begin to get to know each other. I guess I just get to look forward to the possibility of some of these relationships getting to grow more in the future…
After the tour of the Blue Mountains, I headed back to Sydney and caught up with Ryan, my couchsurfing host from Wollongong, for dinner at a delicious vegetarian restaurant to conclude my week of “holiday”. The next morning I got everything in order for heading back out on the bike, shipped some more of my things that I didn’t want to carry to Brisbane and headed off!
Again, to avoid city traffic, I took the train to Gosford, about 80km (50miles) north of Sydney and then hit the road! It felt so good to be back on my bike. Last night I stayed at a caravan park in Budgewoi and then biked to Newcastle today for more couchsurfing.
Jan 13-Feb 5
JAN 13- Geelong to Rosebud 50km (31 miles)
JAN 14- Rosebud to Phillip Island 40km (25 miles)
JAN 15- Phillip Island to Shallow Inlet 110km (68 miles)
JAN 16- Explored Wilson Promitory
JAN 17- Shallow Inlet- Port Albert 70km (44 miles)
JAN 18- Port Albert to Sale 80km (50 miles)
JAN 19- Sale
JAN 20- Sale to Raymond Island 90km (56 miles)
JAN 21- Raymond Island to Lakes Entrance 60km (37 miles)
JAN 22- Lakes Entrance to Marlo 75km (47 miles)
JAN 23- Marlo
JAN 24- Marlo to Cann River 80km (50 miles)
JAN 25- Cann River to Mallacoota 75km (47 miles)
JAN 26- Mallacoota to Eden 90km (56 miles)
JAN 27- Eden to Merimbula 30km (19 miles)
JAN 28- Merimbula to Hobart Beach 20km (12 miles)
JAN 29- Hobart Beach to Mystery Bay 75km (47 miles)
JAN 30- Mystery Bay to North Head 70km (44 miles)
JAN 31- North Head to Batemans Bay 40km (25 miles) (bus to Canberra)
FEB 1- Canberra
FEB 2- (bus to Batemans Bay) Batemans Bay to Pretty Beach 45km (28 miles)
FEB 3- Pretty Beach to Ulladulla 40km (25 miles)
FEB 4- Ulladulla to Vincentia (part in car…) 30km (19 miles)
I have been called “crazy” or “mad” more times than I have fingers and toes. When riding into a camping area or walking around town with Finley, my bike, trying to keep him upright with the heavy load on the back, I tend to stick out a bit more than the average person. My bike is an easy conversation starter. Someone approaches me, asks what I’m doing, I tell them, trying not to sound rehearsed, and wait to hear their response. Quite often, the response is, “You’re mad.” We finish up the conversation and I ride away thinking that if they had the chance to hop on a bike and join me for a day, they might change their mind. My adventure has continued to be pretty incredible. This past week I have seen more beautiful beaches and landscapes, met more fascinating people, and gotten more comfortable traveling with Finley.
I have cycled another 500km (300+miles) since last writing in Merimbula. From Merimbula the hills kept on growing. I spent almost half my time on the bike saying little mantras to myself like “I can do it. I can do it. Pedal. Pedal. Pedal. Pedal”. I’ve gotten to the point where being on my bike is almost like meditation. At times I find myself not really thinking about anything in particular but just noticing how my body feels as it continues to pedal. I’ve also noticed that I am spending less time in my head thinking about what I need to do next or worrying about one thing or another. I’ve also started reading which has been so refreshing. My first two weeks biking, I did not touch a book, but this past week I have finished one, read another, and am almost finished reading a third. (Side note: I highly recommend A Fault in our Stars by John Green. Thank you book shop in Ulladulla for that recommendation. I’m glad I didn’t choose the skinnier book because it would be less to lug around). I think my sudden ability to spend time reading shows that I am becoming more comfortable with this bike touringlifestyle.
At the start of this trip I was curious to see how I would go at making decisions totally on my own. Back in Massachusetts, most aspects of my life are.. communal. My academic work is highly collaborative, I live in a communal household, and I work at a cooperative. This doesn’t mean that there is a lack of independence in life, it is just that I have to share my opinion, discuss with others and attempt to come to some sort of consensus for pretty much everything I do. It is quite the rewarding experience to make decisions and get work done in this manner, but I have to say, I have been enjoying having the opportunity to do make decisions totally on my own. I feel like this totally independent experience is only helping to strengthen my abilities of working collaboratively with others by allowing myself to be more in-tune with the process I go through to come to a decision which will be useful when making group decisions again.
It has been refreshing to do what I want, bike where I want to go, take as many breaks as necessary without having to worry about slowing anyone down, or bike a few extra kilometers without consulting anyone else. As always, I left last week with an itinerary in mind, yet changed it every day as I went along.
From Merimbula, the town I was in when I last wrote, I ventured up the coast a short way to Hobart Beach Primitive camping area. Hobart Beach was the first of a series of “primitive” camping areas that I stayed at. All meters away from the beach, very affordable (if not free for cyclists…), toilets, cold showers (or timed hot showers), and heaps of wildlife to share your site with. At Hobart Beach I chose a camping spot right in the middle of 4 families and with about 15 young kids running around. After spending so much time on my own, I like to find camping spots with a lot of hustle and bustle. I almost instantly had several new friends to help put up my tent, set up camp, and make dinner. I told them all about my adventure and they told me all about their camping trip. I was warned of the spiders, snakes, kangaroos and goannas that might pay me a visit at my site. The families around me were all so lovely and I fell asleep listening to a crackling fire and little kids roasting marshmallows.
The next day I headed to Mystery Bay, another primitive camping area right on the beach. There I met another solo traveler who was backpacking and hitchhiking his way around Australia. We shared a gourmet feast of processed cheese, canned beans, carrots, banana chips and peanut butter in celebration of me hitting the 1000km mark that day. After our feast I was walking back to my site and met my neighbors Narelle and John. I kept their fire warm as they were down at the beach eating (a much more) gourmet meal. The next morning I didn’t need to say the usual goodbye to Narelle and John as I was invited to stay at their house in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney. If you are both reading this- I will be in Sydney soon and will be giving you a call!
From Mystery Bay I biked to a camping area called North Heads just east of Moruya. I was warned that the ocean was a bit dangerous for swimming so instead I waded in a little rock pool that was crystal clear. That night I was visited by a large spider on the outside bit of my tent. Luckily it disappeared before morning, otherwise I might still be stuck in the tent waiting for the spider to leave.
From Mystery Bay I went on a shorter ride to Batemans Bay where I dropped Finley off at a local bike shop and hopped on a bus to go to inland to Canberra, Australia’s capital. It was a strange feeling to be without my bike for a couple of days. It was even weirder to be moving at such a fast speed on the bus with the comfort of air conditioning, music, and a cushioned seat. I never get car sick but as I was watching as we passed trees at 100km per hour I got a bit nausea after only traveling at such a slow speed for the past couple of weeks. I felt a bit guilty as well. But then my ears started to get plugged and the sound of the engine got deeper and I was quite relieved to not be powering myself up the mountain range we were traversing.
One of my reasons for going to Canberra was to visit my friend Jane that I met while working on a farm in Ecuador three years ago. It was so nice to reconnect with an old friend and to be reminded that the relationships I form while traveling can last beyond just the time you spend together traveling. My first night there, Jane and her sister Prue gave me detailed directions for how to get to all the places in Canberra that I should visit. The next day I ventured off, walking for a change, to explore the city. I visited the National Library and saw an exposition on Handwriting and saw documents from hundreds of years ago such as a letter from Darwin, notes written by Galileo, handwritten bibles, and the original copy of Beethoven’s 5th Symphony. I explored the National Portrait Gallery, walked around the Old Parliament House and then ventured into Canberra’s city center. Canberra is a beautiful city. I think my favorite part about it was that there were cyclists everywhere! Canberra has incredible infrastructure by cycling which allows every type of biker to travel around the city on their bike. I was definitely having cycling withdrawal.
After going to a look out point over the city with Jane and Prue and then a delicious dinner, I headed to bed in order to get up early the next morning to head back to Batemans Bay to reconnect with Finley. After another speedy bus ride, I picked up my bike and was ready to start riding again. I headed to Pretty Beach, which would’ve been a whole lot prettier if it wasn’t raining. After setting up my tent in the rain, I decided I was not ready to get dry yet and went for an adventure down on the beach. The rain had scared everyone away except for person who was fishing. I basically had the beach to myself. I made the most of it… I sang, I cartwheeled, I danced until the rain soaked through my waterproof jacket and I decided it was time to get dry.
The next morning the rain was still pouring down, but I packed up my stuff and headed to Ulladulla to stay with a couchsurfing host. What a relief it was to know that I didn’t have to sleep in my, what would be, soaking wet tent. Riding in the rain wasn’t too bad until I was about 500 meters from my destination and decided to go on a slippery part of the road and crashed right into the pavement. In one day I had successfully used three things that I knew were important to carry but hadn’t yet used and was tempted to get rid of them to lighten my load- my rain pants, my booties, and my first aid kit.
Staying at a house in Ulladulla was a great reward after a rainy day ride. My couchsurfing hosts were great! I relaxed, went to the golf club which has huge windows over looking the beach, and ate delicious food. Their backyard garden and chickens provided the bulk of my dinner and for breakfast I had two of my favorite foods, avocados and bananas, in a smoothie with homemade fruit loaf. Yum. Between the company and the great food, I could have stayed there for quite a bit longer.
The next day, they were headed north on the same route as me, so I,. cheated and, got a ride past some of the big hills. I biked for a bit on my own and then was joined up by my next host Joe who cycled with me to his house in Vincentia near Jervis Bay, where I am now.
Jervis Bay is absolutely beautiful. This morning I went for a snorkel where I saw a shark…. head (still exciting.. for me at least…). I wasn’t quite as lucky to see the sting ray that Judi saw or the shark the Joe saw the day before, but I was quite happy to see some fish swimming around. I then went for a kayak ride with Judi in some of the clearest water I have ever seen! Back at the beach we went for a swim and saw dolphins playing and swimming out in the distance. If you can tell, I’m getting better with the water! The waves aren’t scaring me quite as much and as long as I don’t make myself believe that every dark thing I see is a shark, I think I will continue actually enjoying going in the water.
I think I’ve spent enough time behind a computer screen for the day. The sun is calling me! I have just another few stops and then I will be in Sydney! Another update coming soon….
Some photos for browsing..
Another blog post will be coming shortly but in the time being here are some photos of the trip so far! If you have trouble with the link, send me an email and let me know…
From Flat Countryside to Hilly Coast
It’s day 15 of my biking adventure and I have cycled a bit over 800km (500miles) from Geelong, Victoria to Merimbula, New South Wales. Merimbula feels like a city after all of the small country towns that I have passed through even though it is still just a small coastal town. Yesterday I passed my first state border from Victoria to New South Wales and made it to the first town on the east coast of Australia, Eden. I am now moving out of constant countryside to a bit more civilization. Instead of cycling for 100km and passing maybe one small town, the coast will offer many more places to rest, visit, and explore.
Throughout the past week I have seen a fair share of countryside, forests, cow pastures and farms. I spent several days riding along small country roads with more wildlife than cars. For the past few days, I have been following the Princes Highway, which, as an ex-truck driver told me, travels the perimeter of Australia and is longer than any highways we have in the States. So far, I have not had many problems on any of the roads I’ve been on. For the most part, drivers are quite respectful and will slow down or leave plenty of space as they pass me.
The big logging trucks on the other hand, like to go past at full speed leaving me clutching my handlebars and trying to not go off the road. Luckily there aren’t too many of those around. The drivers I love the best are the ones that pass me waving and smiling or giving me a thumbs-up or friendly beep of the horn. It’s those drivers that give me an extra boost of energy to make it up all of the hills. At the same time as listening for big logging trucks coming up behind me, I am scanning the roads in front of me to avoid running over any wildlife. In the past two weeks I have had the opportunity to see a fair share of Australian wildlife. I have seen a total of three snakes all within about a foots distance, a wombat, countless koalas and kangaroos, a number of goannas (very large lizard type reptiles), owls, a ton of different birds including kookaburra’s, cockatoos, and magpies (I think…), echidna (porcupine type animals), and have heard opossums lurking outside of my tent at night. What’s next?!
As I mentioned before, a highlight of my trip has been all of the people I have gotten the opportunity to meet. I have now started to call these people “guardian angels” of my trip. Whenever I am on an empty road, struggling up a hill, holding my breath as a big truck goes by, or feeling anxious about one thing or another, I think about all of the amazing people I have encountered and get a feeling of security and comfort knowing that I have these people’s support and guidance to continue on my trip. When I last wrote I was staying at the Bodey’s in Sale, VIC. I had a lovely time at their house, relaxing, talking about bikes and biking, preparing for the next portion of my trip and getting tours of the local area. Nicolas, their son, took me on an epic tandem ride through the wetlands around Sale. Because it was a wet winter, a lot of the path was under water, but that didn’t stop us. We persevered through the wetlands and turned what could’ve been a casual tandem ride to much more of an adventure. We then all had a picnic up at a beautiful swimming hole in the hills around Sale.
After Sale I headed to Raymond Island, a small island with a couple hundred residents and double that in population of kangaroos and koalas. It was here that I kicked off my couchsurfing experience by staying with Pete. Pete has hosted countless travellers at his home on Raymond Island and is a well-seasoned tour guide. He knew exactly where to go to see where all the koalas and kangaroos lived and told me all about the history of the island and the surrounding areas. I was lucky to meet Martin, a traveller from Germany, who connected me with some couchsurfing hosts he stayed with along the coast.
Couchsurfing is this amazing online forum that connects travellers who are looking for couches to crash on to people who are willing to host travellers. Couchsurfing and Warmshowers (couchsurfing for cyclists) has transformed my bike trip and has made traveling on my own, a thousand times more enjoyable. I have gotten the chance to connect more deeply with the places that I visit by meeting locals and getting to learn about the area from them. Instead of pulling up to a caravan park with a ton of other tourists, or setting up camp at a quiet camping area, I get to cycle up to a home and be welcomed by new friends.
From Raymond Island I travelled to Lake’s Entrance. On the way, I encountered a few more “guardian angels” on a rail trail. I met fellow cyclists Faye and Graham at the parking lot at the end of a bike trail. They lived in Lake’s Entrance, my next destination, and offered to drive my heavy load to the hostel I was staying at. I got to coast the last 20km (13miles) into town feeling light as a bird without my bags and tent.
After exploring and walking all around Lake’s Entrance I headed to the small town of Marlo. That was one of the hardest days yet. Not only was it my first day with many hills, I was also struggling against a nasty headwind all day long. In the middle of the day, I got a call from Andrew, my to-be couchsurfing host in Marlo, who offered to come and pick me up anywhere along my route if I started blowing backwards from the wind. Even though there were times when I stopped moving forward because of the wind, stubborn me decided to keep on biking, with the comfort of knowing that I had an escape if I needed it. It was such a relief when I finally made it to their house. Andrew and Debra were amazing couchsurfing hosts.
After such a difficult day of biking, it felt like I pulled up to a beautiful retreat center where I could just relax and be rejuvenated for the rest of my cycling trip. I immediately felt right at home and decided that I had to stay longer than just a night. Andrew gave me a full tour of his large “backyard” and took me to beautiful beaches and viewpoints all along the coast near their house. Andrew’s a photographer and Debra’s a teacher, and I got the opportunity to learn a bit about both of their professions. I got to be the first subject for a new photo series Andrew is doing with an old grey chair. Finley, my bike, got to be in the photo as well. I was very hesitant to leave their home after the great company, conversations and delicious food, but I knew I had to keep going.
From Marlo I made another hilly and hot trek to Cann River. I camped at Cann River and explored the tiny little town. Hot and exhausted I went to bed before the sunset and woke up early to avoid the midday sun as I cycled off to Mallacoota. As I reached the top of a slow and long climb on the trip from Cann River to Mallacoota, I stopped to take a breath and get a sip of water. Seconds later I saw two other bike tourers coming over the top of the hill from the other side. As they reached the top they stopped, I crossed the road, and had my first conversation with other bike tourers on my trip! It was so refreshing to meet Lisa and Stine and to feel like I wasn’t the only crazy person on a bike trip in Australia during the summer. We shared a few quick recommendations of places to see, people to meet, etc. and went coasting down the hills away from each other. I felt refreshed and rejuvenated after meeting them. Lisa and Stine told me about one of their “guardian angels” just up the road who saved them as they were without water or food and on the brink of heat exhaustion.
Mariom, the ex-truck driver I mentioned earlier, owned a small café in a town called Genoa. Genoa was the only town on a 100km stretch of the highway from Cann River to Eden. After hearing a couple of her stories, I quickly realized that she had been a guardian angel for a number of people be it exhausted cyclists or drivers running out of gas. I had a good rest accompanied by some entertaining conversation and then continued on the rest of the way to Mallacoota. I couchsurfed again in Mallacoota with a lovely women named Rowena.
Right when I got there I went down to the beach for what I thought would be a refreshing swim in the ocean. Instead, I solidified the suspicion that I have a slight fear of the ocean. I can bike up the coast of Australia on my own but I can’t dive under a two foot high wave when I am surrounded by a ton of other people and the lifeguard is less than a meter away. That’s what I get for having a semi traumatic experience at ocean beach in San Francisco during my developmental years. A new goal of my trip is to become more comfortable in the ocean so after a long days ride I can jump in the ocean and feel refreshed instead of scared for my life. When I got back to Rowena’s, there were two more couchsurfers, Julia and Jakob, who were hitch hiking their way down the coast.
There are so many different types of travelers I have encountered on this trip… The cyclists, the hitch hikers, “grey nomads” traveling around in caravans for months at a time, hostel hoppers, couchsurfers, people on family holidays. Through meeting all these different people i feel like I’ve gotten a taste of these different types of travel. For now I think the bike touring is my favorite.
After another good sleep in a bed I headed off to the east coast! Finally! I made another stop at Marioms in genoa and then headed up the hills to Eden. About halfway there I pulled over at a rest stop and was immediately taken under the wings of Jim and Judi, an older couple headed to mallacoota for a camping trip. They fed me delicious sandwiches and cookies and made sure I was well hydrated. They talked about all the other friends they have made at rest stops along the road in the past years. Rest stops became a new favorite place to visit. With a full belly I continued onto Eden.
I think I would’ve liked Eden better if it had some flat roads, at least one flat road. But no. Hills, hills, and more hills. It’s a city on hills. They should have had a warning. I was 15 km away thinking I was just going to coast into the beaches I saw below me. Instead I spent those 15km in pain climbing and climbing and climbing. Next time I go to Eden I think I will drive. Yesterday was Australia day and being an American on my own I was a bit confused of how to celebrate. I decided to go to the pub connected to my hostel to use their free wifi and be entertained by celebratory Australians. After sitting alone for a while typing away, someone came up started talking to me and then introduced me to almost everyone in the pub. After chatting awhile and learning all about horse racing I looked at the clock and realized it was 10pm and way past my bedtime. I got a very confused response from the person I was with and had to explain that i normally go to bed before sunset.
Another good week full of fun and adventure. Of course there are the ups and downs, the lonely moments, the times when I wish Finley had a motor or the sun wasn’t so hot or that Australia was flatter. But for now I am enjoying the exhaustion, soreness, and discomfort of sitting alone at a pub on Australia day knowing that I will once again be pleasantly surprised by a friendly encounter or the beautiful landscape.
I hate to say it, but there will be no photos on his blog post. McDonald’s seems to be the only place with free wireless Internet and they don’t have any computers to use to upload my. Oh ya, I wrote half of this on my iPhone so please ignore the many mistakes I probably have made.
The Cycling Begins
Since I last wrote, I had a few more days in Geelong before starting the bike tour. On my last full day there, I got the chance to visit my host-mom Rose, her daughter Fiona, and grandchildren Jade and Dylan. I instantly felt as if I went back in time 5 years and I was again an exchange student hanging out in their living room and chatting. I was flooded with all the wonderful memories I had of living with Rose and was reminded of how bitter-sweet it is to build relationships with people who you rarely get to see. My time in Geelong has allowed me to re-connect with so many close friends but has forced me, once more, to say that very sad, “see you soon” having no idea when I will get to see everyone again. Despite how hard it was to leave Geelong for a second time, I am so thankful for getting the opportunity to catch up with those long-distance friends. I did my best to try and convince everyone to come visit me in the states, so hopefully I will be seeing some people sooner than I think!
When I first came to Australia, almost exactly five years ago, I started a new chapter of my life as I began a more independent and adventurous lifestyle. My experiences of studying abroad, graduating high school, spending a gap year traveling and farming in Ecuador and Columbia, going an cycling adventures, and studying at Hampshire, have helped shape who I am today. These experiences have helped me gather courage to continue growing and learning by exploring and challenging myself in new ways. I feel as though this trip to Australia is also the start of another new chapter as I begin preparing for my final year and thesis project at Hampshire, another big cycling adventure this summer, and then life post-school.
I’m taking about 6 weeks to travel from Geelong, Victoria to Brisbane, Queensland up the coast of Australia, about 2000km (1200 miles). This trip is preparation for a 2012 cross country bicycle-powered tour of cooperatives in the USA, Co-cycle, that I am helping to organize. I’m traveling on my bicycle, Finley, which is a Jamis Quest Femme- a steel frame bike with a carbon fork. Finley’s doing an amazing job of carrying all of my gear using panniers on a rear rack and a bag connected to my handlebars. Between my tent, stove, rain gear, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, clothes, maps, camera, phone, toiletries, bike tools, etc. it feels like I went from driving a sports car to a big rig hauling an over-sized load. Once I get going, the weight is not much of a bother, but stopping, starting, and turning is quite the sight to see.
I’ve only traveled about 400km (250miles), but I feel like I’ve been on the road forever! Everyday I’m learning something new about bike touring, making the trip more and more enjoyable. One major thing that I am realizing, is that you can only be so prepared when it comes to figuring out your route, accommodation, etc. I really enjoy organzing and planning all types of things, so for a trip like this, I was originally trying to figure out my itinerary and stops for each day in advance. I think I am on my tenth rendition of my overall route and have finally realized that I can’t plan more than a few days ahead. Every conversation I have with someone makes me want to change my route and visit a new place. Two days ago I met a couple who has spent 7 months traveling in their caravan along almost the exact route that I am traveling in about 6 weeks on my bike. It’s a good thing I have a return ticket to the states, or I might find myself traveling around Australia forever!
I am becoming more comfortable with facing the unknown. Everyday when I take off on my bike, I have little idea of what the route will be like, who I will meet, what my accommodation will be like. I sometimes find myself feeling uncomfortable and anxious by not knowing what to expect, but I am learning that this is something that I need to embrace in order to fully enjoy this trip.
A highlight of the trip so far has been all of the incredible people I have met and the generosity that has come my way. Traveling on my own has made me much more open to making conversation with people. Back home, there are always so many familiar faces around to chat with that I don’t make that big of an effort to start a conversation with those who I don’t know. Here I have found myself talking with just about anyone I encounter. I haven’t yet figured out if it’s a friendly Australian thing to do or if I’m just making more of an effort as I am traveling alone. It’s incredible to hear what other have to share and oftentimes, conversations will lead to extremely generous hospitality.
My second day, was quite the adventure. I started a bit later than I thought (not a surprise…), and had to go at a faster pace than normal so I could make a 12pm ferry to Phillip Island. I got to the pier at about 12:05pm and watched everyone watch me as I raced down to catch the boat. Thankfully, they waited for me to board and I avoided having to wait 5 hours until the next ferry. In the shuffle of getting on or off the ferry, I lost one of my cycling gloves. I didn’t realize this until after I was on the island for a while and decided to go down to the pier to look for it. I had no luck with finding the glove, but I met a very lovely couple, Katarina and Peter, who are fellow cycling enthusiasts and ended up inviting me to stay at their family’s holiday home on the island. After swimming, visiting a farmer’s market, and exploring the island, I went to the penguin parade with Katarina, Peter, and their nephew Patrick. The penguin parade happens every evening on Phillips Island when hundreds of little penguins travel from the water, across the beach, and into their mini land-based city behind the beach to feed their babies. It was quite the site to see.
The next day I came across even more generosity. I was biking on a rail trail along the coast and ended up riding with a man named Bruce for several kilometers who told me all about the town we were cycling into. Later that day, I had about a 3km trek on a dirt road to my campground. I decided to walk it as my bike is not the best on rough tracks. About half the people who passed me stopped to make sure I was alright. I talked a bit with one woman who owned the farm that was on either side of the farm who warned me that I still had quite a ways to go. A few minutes later she was coming down the road in a truck and gave me a ride to the campground, Shallow Inlet.
Shallow Inlet was beautiful, quiet and right on the water. As I was stretching on the beach I ended up talking with a couple, Michael and Lucille, who had checked on me as I was walking down the gravel road to the campground, who were on holiday with their almost 2-years-old daughter Stella. The next day they took me down to Wilson’s Promitory, a national park in the southernmost part of Australia. The prom was absolutely beautiful with turquoise water beaches, incredible rock formations, and great views. We swam in the clearest ocean that I think I’ve ever seen! Instead of staying down at the crowded campground in the prom, I headed back to Shallow Inlet with Michael, Lucy, and Stella for another relaxing night.
And now I am in Sale with John, Trish, and Nicolas resting, catching up on computer work, and figuring out my next couple of days. I can’t wait to see who else I end up meeting on this adventure.
Although I’ve had so many positive interactions with people, it is still sometimes difficult to be traveling solo. Sometimes I just want to be sitting back at my house in Massachusetts having a big family dinner or be back in California sitting outside by the fire with my family. It’s hard to not have the comfort of being around close friends and family all of the time, but this is making me appreciate those relationships so much more.
Well, it’s time for a tour around Sale! Another update to come next week!
BREAKDOWN OF DAYS:
1-Geelong-Rosebud via Sorrento Ferry- 50km (31miles)
2-Rosebud- Phillip Island via Stony Point/ Cowes Ferry- 40km (25miles)
3-Phillip Island- Shallow Inlet- 110km (70miles)
5-Shallow Inlet-Sale- 80km (50miles)