Thursday, January 13, 2011

Newcastle to Coffs Harbour

Monday 3rd January

Left the Newcastle YHA and caught the ferry from Queens Wharf across to Stockton to avoid going over the Stockton Bridge fully loaded (which would be scary). Rode along the beach while I was able and onto Nelson Bay Road which is left of the Stockton sand dunes. 

While I was riding along Nelson Bay road, a car pulled over in front of me. Susanna was the occupant and she has cycle toured around Kalgoolie - I believe she rode for a couple of weeks along this pipeline. She told me she was staying at a caravan park in Anna Bay as her husband is in hospital. They sailed to Nelson Bay from Sydney during some terrible weather and her husband ended up getting cellulitis in his leg, ending up in hospital on antibiodics.

She offered to let me stay with her. This was very convenient as I had not a place to stay. My only plans were to free camp somewhere in the Tomaree National Park or failing that, a golf course. 

After riding to Nelson Bay which was busy busy with tourists so I didn't explore it much or even take any photos(!), I rode back to Anna Bay and visited the beach and some coastal parks before heading to the caravan park to meet up with Susanna. We had a long chat about biking and touring as well as a lot of other topics I tend to rant about, and we were on the same page about it seemed everything, which makes for enjoyable chatting.

You can get to the Stockton sand dunes from Anna Bay and it looks like another world, like you're in the middle of a desert. They have camel rides there also, between the dunes and along the beach.

We had some Thai for tea and the next morning we chatted some more over breakfast. 

Sand dunes at Anna Bay
Tuesday 4th January

From Anna Bay I rode up Meadowie Road (which goes through the lovely Meadowie forest) and back onto the Pacific Highway past Karuah to the Ayers Rock Roadhouse to free camp. 

This place is a hilariously poor example of "big things on the side of the road" in Australia. Built by the Leyland brothers of "Ask the Leyland Brothers" which I remember watching as a kid, it is apparently a 1/40 scale replica of Ularu and legend has it that it cost about $2 million to build. You can read about how successful this venture was at

It currently looks like ....

Ayers Rock roadhouse, Newcastle West, Australia
This travel blog photo's source is TravelPod page: NSW rain and boogie - boarding

... it is a fibre-glass monstrosity which is crumbling in spots. It has a roadhouse one end, a "restaurant" the other - subway, pizza, cafe...

As I said, I freecamped there. The roadhouse is open 24/7 so you can access the toilets at any time and there is a gravel road 100 metres up for caravans and some grass for tents (still a lot of road noise however). At the back, the school camp bit still exists and apparently is a base for "kids from the bush" to see the coast. The funniest thing was that at night they light the thing up. 

The Leyland Brothers. Mal and Mike. I WANT one of these t-shirts!!!!

On the way to Ayers Rock roadhouse... Someone went a little crazy with no stopping signs on the Pacific Highway. And I still didn't listen!
Wednesday 5th January

Early morning Tea Gardens
Rode to Tea Gardens and Hawks Nest and rode along Mungo Brush Road to the Mungo Bush camping area. Then I caught the short ferry over to the other side (Bombah Point ferry) - I was charged as a pedestrian $3 :) - up Bombah Point road (about 12 km of washboard gravel road) back to the Pacific Highway at Bulahdelah, and 13 k further north I got to the Newmans Road rest area where it poured, but I had a covered picnic table for shelter.

Mungo Brush Road and Bombah Point Road both through the Myall Lakes National Park and this is a very special ride through lots of different types of interesting and pleasing to the eye vegetation. This includes native olives, rosewood, tulipwood, brittlewood, bloodwood, strangler fig, swamp mahogany, mock olive, cheese tree, cabbage tree palm, tuckeroo (deep breath) tallowwood, flooded gum, termpentine, banksia, melaluca, smooth-barked apple, blackbutt, grey gum, tallowwood, peppermint, scribbly gum, grey box, and forest she-oak. 

The trees I noticed the most were "red gums" who have lost their bark, leaving the deep orange trunks.

A very interesting red gum - I'm sure it has a complex personality

Thursday 6th January

A boring day just along the Pacific Highway. Free camped at the Talawahl Rest Area.

Friday 7th January

A trip to Tuncurry and Forster. There is a nice coastal bike path once you get close to Tuncurry.

Once I got to the beach I found some pigface in fruit, and a ate a handful. This was the first time I had tried pigface fruit. It is delicious! How do you eat them? Make sure you are picking in a clean area away from contaminants or dogs droppings. Twist off the pink fleshy fruit. Suck out its guts. Throw away the skin. 

Had a cold shower at Tuncurry beach and then headed over the bridge to Forster. The water here and lovely. Very clear blue and the sandbank in the middle makes for crystal water. 

At Forster I walked some of the way up a lookout and then I went to the library to use the internet. After heading far too much for lunch I headed back to Tuncurry and back to the Pacific Highway to the Four Mile Creek rest area to free camp. 

Saturday 8th January

Another boring day. Rode along the Pacific Highway to Burrawan rest area 10 k north of Kew to free camp.

Sunday 9th January

Rode to Port Macquarie - lots of hills - and then onto Bloodwood rest area to free camp.

Monday 10th January

Rode to Crescent Head where it was very very windy and the rain was coming down in sheets. Rode on Gladstone where I thought I could stay in the hotel, but no. There is a B&B there but that was booked out. Luckily someone overhead this and offered to let me stay at her house on her verandah. Which I did. I also met some of her friends across the river - a stockman and his wife and I helped them get their internet working. 

Tuesday 11th January

Rode to Hat Head. 

There was a possibility of the Macleay River flooding so I battled a headwind while I was riding first one way along the river to Jerseyville and then back on the other side to get to the Pacific highway (there aren't enough bridges over this river!) While I was riding around the river it had surf it was so windy. Back on the Pacific Highway I rode another 4 k to the Clybucca roadhouse. This is the best roadhouse I've seen so far. It has a restaurant with decent food and seating, a tv, 24/7 toilets, showers, a shelter with tables and even powerpoints in the shelter good for charging your phone! It has a bit of grass for camping and a car park for the caravans. The trucks park a bit further along so you don't get woken up by trucks looking like they're about to run you over. 

Once I'm in the Clybucca roadhouse buying a maxibon I overhear the truckies saying they're about to close the Pacific Highway at Clybucca because there's a chance the Macleay will flood. Lucky I got north of it. (It turned out that this part of the Pacific Highway wasn't closed/ hasn't been closed that I'm aware of).

Wednesday 12th January

Again with the risk of flooding around Nambucca River (it's a big deal if you're on a bicycle as it might take you a full day to get away from the area, which can be dangerous if there is flash flooding)... I decide to get the heck out of the area and ride 92 km in headwinds, dumping rain, disappearing shoulders, and long but moderate hill climbs to get to Coffs Harbour. I stop after each 30 km stint- first at Macksville where I buy a vegie sub from subway. Lets just say don't order the multi-grain bread there as they count metal fragments as a grain. So I didn't each much of that, but I did eat the cookies. It is fairly overwhelming when you are having a tiring day battling wind and hills and traffic, when its lunch time and you still have 60 km to go. But on I go and after another 30 k I stop at the Nambucca information centre (I think that's where it was) and felt exhausted. The next bit was along the Nambucca river which, if it was to come up to the road (not that difficult by the looks) would be a stumbling block for me, so with that to motivate I keep pushing on. I get into the outskirts of Coffs (you know the part of every city where there are the usual "petbarns" and "autobarns" and industrial areas) around 6pm and it takes me another hour to find my way to my accommodation via a bunch of hills.

1 comment:

Mal said...

The red gum is intriguing.