AustraliaMelbourne to Sydney


Denis Kertz, ©2002



Day 82: Sun, Nov 24, 2002 - Devonport, TAS to Cowes - Phillips Island, VIC [78.7, 04:26:02, 17.7, 6959]

I slept so-so and got up at 5:30, assuming we were going to arrive around 6:30, so I could get breakfast.  My 4-bunk room only had one other occupant and I barely met him.  He was sleeping when I first saw him in the room and still sleeping when I got up.  I only saw him when he stopped by as I was leaving the room for the last time.

For whatever reason the ferry was late and we didn’t arrive until about 7:40, an hour later than expected.  Normally, the ferry leaves at 9 pm and arrives at 7 am, leaving 14 hours to get it ready for the next sailing.  But when demand warrants, the ferry turns around and leaves again at 9 am on a day sailing.  In this case they try to cut an hour off the sailing time for more time to get ready for the quick turnaround.  Today it was about 8:15 before I got off and collected my bicycle.  Obviously, they were not going to make the 9 am sailing.

After I collected my bicycle I repacked it with my carry on baggage.  Then I retraced my route out of Melbourne along the way I came in 3 weeks ago.  There was a bike path along with a separate walking path along the beach and I followed that.  On this overcast day there were a number of cyclists out for Sunday morning rides.  Then there was a whole bunch of cyclists strung out down the road.  Their skimpy shorts and tank tops along with the barricaded road tipped this as a triathlon event.  Later, the bike path was roped off for the run portion of the race.  I wasn’t aware of this until a race official asked me to stop to let a runner pass me.  I followed and clocked him at close to 20 kph or 5 minutes miles.  No one else was around so I assume he was the race leader.  I briefly thought about passing him and finishing first myself…

Eventually I left the triathlon race behind and stayed on the bike path although the road was fine too.  After 25K the bike path turned to dirt so I took to the road.  At 29K the Beach Road terminated and I had to join the Nepean Highway, 4 lanes of medium fast traffic, not a lot of fun.  I continued on to Frankston along the bay.  From Frankston I wanted to cut over to the other side of the Mornington Peninsula to Stony Point and catch the ferry to Phillip Island.  Problem was I wanted to verify the ferry still existed and learn the sailing times.  I asked a couple of cyclists and they weren’t sure.  There was a Visitor Centre but it wasn’t open on a Sunday.  Nearby was a bicycle shop where I inquired.  The guy didn’t know about the ferry but he told me how to get to Stony Point.

At that point I took a lunch break.  Afterwards a passerby asked about my trip so I asked about Phillip Island.  He didn’t know but suggested I ask at the nearby train station.  The train went to Stony Point and the station had a ferry brochure that confirmed the ferry existence and that it sailed at 8:30 am and 5:00 pm daily.  So I had plenty of time to make the 5:00 time.  The only potential complication was rain.  Several times it started drizzling and stopped but I feared one of the times it might not stop.

I left town for Stony Point on the Frankston Flinders Road, C777.  For the first 4-5K it joined with the Mornington Peninsula Freeway.  This was pretty congested, high-speed traffic exacerbated by the only real climb of the day.  When the two roads split, C777 became much less busy and not too bad, although it often had no shoulder.

After about 20K I pulled into Hastings around 2:00.  It had started drizzling again so I took that as a signal that I should stop at a bakery.  Then I waited another 15-20 minutes to see what would happen with the rain.  I took off again in light drizzle with only about 10K to go.  By 3:00 I pulled into Stony Point and bought my ferry ticket - $8.50 plus $2 for the bike.

While waiting for the ferry, I spied another touring cyclist under a protective shelter in the intermittent drizzle.  He was a German cyclist, 5 weeks on the road from Adelaide.  Interestingly, he had a dynamo on his wheel for powering his lights, which he said was required by German law, since a battery operated light was legally considered not sufficient.

When 5:00 rolled around we rode our bikes down to the jetty for the 20-minute ride to Phillip Island with 4 other kids – not a big money making ride.  When we got to Cowes on the other side, it was drizzling pretty hard.  I had called a couple of caravan parks from Stony Point but they had no on site vans.  With the rain I was in no mood to do a lot of searching.  So I found the Seahorse Motel that sounded like it had some budget rooms.  I got a fairly small room for $65 that was okay.  I ended up talking with the owners, Chris and Joan, a while.  In typical Aussie fashion they were extremely gracious and helpful.  Chris spent some time discussing Phillip Island sights and then potential routes to Sydney from here.  These Aussies are just genuinely interested in being helpful and it continues to amaze me how willingly they go out of their way.

Later, I found a pizza place with a $10 special for a large pizza with garlic bread and drink – more food than I really needed and almost more than I could eat.

Day 83: Mon, Nov 25, 2002 - Cowes - Phillips Island, VIC to Newhaven, VIC [55.2, 03:18:55, 16.6, 7014]

I left the motel at 8:00 and headed out of town to the Nobbies, a rock formation off the southwest corner.  It was not a good-looking weather day with overcast skies and it looked like it was just a question of when it would rain.  I found the answer soon enough as it started raining after 5K.  I pulled over under a tree and waited 15-20 minutes.  Then I decided that was silly and made my way back to town.

Naturally, I made my way to a bakery.  The first one didn’t have any protective overhang for my bike so I went to the another one across the street.  Back in Devonport, I met two couples, one from Iowa and another from Arizona, on vacation while we were waiting to board the ferry.  I didn’t know their travel plans and never expected to see them again but there they were in the bakery and just as surprised to see me.  We hadn’t talked about where we were going next so it was incredible that we just happened to pick the same place.  We had coffee together and then they left for Healsville, so I was pretty sure we wouldn’t cross paths again, at least in Australia.

During coffee the sky lightened up some and it looked better.  Nevertheless, I stopped at an Internet place and checked my email.  Then I decided to try my luck again, not really interested in spending the day in Cowes.  It was 13K to the Nobbies and I got about halfway when it started to rain again so I pulled over under a couple of large “umbrella” trees to wait it out.  After about 20 minutes I took off again with just a few sprinkles.  I stopped at the Penguin Parade Visitor Centre.  This place was near a colony of Little Penguins where you could pay to watch the penguins come ashore each night after dark, much like I did on Kangaroo Island except this place had a lot more penguins.

I paid a day fee to enter the center and get out of the drizzle that started again and would continue for over an hour.  The highlight of the center was they had created about 6 penguin burrows along one side of the building that some penguins had chosen to occupy.  Inside the center they had little viewing portholes to see the occupants.  This included some youngsters and an adult penguin who was on hatching duty.  Penguins lay 2 eggs and the couple takes turns sitting on the eggs.  The first egg had hatched yesterday and the other normally follows in a day or two.

Finally, the drizzle stopped and I continued another 3K to the Nobbies, the site of a seabird colony.  There were sea gulls everywhere on the hillside by the shore.  Many birds were nesting, waiting to hatch chicks, and there were a number of young chicks walking around.  It was a great sight combined with the rocks along the shore.

The rain was still holding off so I left the Nobbies at 2:00, headed for the island entrance 15-20K away.  The road passed through some scenic farmland and by a Grand Prix racetrack with some motorcycles whizzing around the wet track.  Another attraction on the island was a Koala Conservation Centre where koalas could be viewed from a treetop boardwalk.  I was going to stop there but I never saw the turnoff sign.  When it was obvious I had passed the turnoff I decided to skip it.  Instead I took the Cape Woolami turnoff and road about 3K to the parking area.  Unfortunately you couldn’t see much without taking one of the walking tracks that were estimated to require 2+ hours to complete.  I didn’t have the time for a walk so I retreated back to the main road and it started raining again, seeming to confirm I was making the right decision.

Back on the main road it was 2K to the Visitor Centre where I stopped.  I picked up some information on the east coast route to Sydney.  One of the receptionists was able to find me an on site van for $44 just down the road at the caravan park.  After settling in, I walked across the bridge for some food and a little grocery shopping.

Day 84: Tue, Nov 26, 2002 - Newhaven, VIC to Fish Creek, VIC [88.2, 05:16:12, 16.7, 7103]

I didn’t leave until 8:15.  It was not a good-looking day and as soon as I rolled my bike out of the van it started to drizzle so I waited a bit.  The bike caught the eye of my next-door neighbor who was a marathoner and we chatted a bit.  Finally I bit the bullet and left.

I crossed the bridge to the island on the walk path and then took B420, the only road out of town.  It had a good shoulder and needed it with a lot of high-speed traffic.  That lasted for about 8K when the road split and I took B460 southeast, leaving most of the traffic headed in the Melbourne direction.  In a few kilometers I came to Kilcunda on the coast and had some good coastal views and then headed inland.

In another 18K I rode into Wonthaggi and stopped at a bakery for a break.  When I left I took the scenic coastal route to Cape Paterson on C435, about 8K longer than the direct route to Inverloch.  Almost immediately a light drizzle started.  I wasn’t too concerned because shelter was only a short ways away in Cape Paterson but the rain didn’t last long.

When I got to Cape Paterson I turned left to follow the road along the coast to Inverloch.  On this 10K stretch I was rewarded with about a half dozen very scenic turnouts of sandy beaches and low sea rocks by steep cliffs.  I also saw groups of young folks on several beaches, appearing to be participating in some form of group exercises.

It was noon when I rolled into Inverloch after 50K.  Given the uncertainty of the weather, I was undecided about continuing on to Foster, which looked to be another 50K.  But there were a couple of small towns in between that provided bail out points if needed so I headed out around 1:00 after a stop at the Visitor Centre.  The rest of the way was on quiet country roads through mostly flat farmlands.  The weather held out and the clouds improved, changing to more definitive, whiter clouds.

At 3:30 I pulled into Fish Creek, a small town of 200.  It was probably only another 15K to Foster but I decided to stay in Fish Creek.  It had everything I needed and the Fishy Pub had a room for $20 and Foster was likely to be more expensive.

I did some grocery shopping, ate at a takeaway across the street, and had a beer in the Fishy Pub.

What started out as an iffy day turned out to be a good day.  So my makeshift route to Sydney has been an unqualified success.  Phillip Island was an interesting surprise and the coastal views between Cape Paterson and Inverloch were outstanding.

Day 85: Wed, Nov 27, 2002 - Fish Creek, VIC to Yarram, VIC [68.1, 03:42:25, 18.4, 7171]

Once again I struggled rolling my loaded bike down a pub’s stairs and was off before 8:00.  The 15K ride to Foster was a nice ride through rolling farmland with some nice views of hills/mountains across the Corner Inlet on Wilson Promontory National Park.  At Foster I stopped at a bakery for a short break and then I picked up A440, the South Gippsland Highway.  Although a major highway, the traffic was light with a shoulder varying from good to none.  The road followed alongside rolling, green hillsides that eventually receded from the road.

Outside Welshpool I met a German cyclist on his way from Sydney to Melbourne, struggling some against my nice tail wind.  I gave him some suggestions on a route to Phillip Island and on to Queenscliff and the Great Ocean Road.  Later, he was planning to fly from Melbourne to NZ so I shared some of my experience of touring NZ.

Later, as I was rolling along I suddenly had great difficulty controlling my front wheel.  My first reaction was that my front wheel had suddenly gone flat but after I safely came to a stop I saw that my left front pannier had dislodged and was dragging along the ground.  Unfortunately my front panniers didn’t quite securely attach to the front racks and I knew they could dislodge although this seemed to happen without cause.  The problem was my front rack was effectively a Z shape.  My pannier hooks hung from the top of the Z and my pannier straps “held” it to the bottom of the Z.  The flaw though was nothing other than gravity prevented the panniers from lifting up and off the top railing of the Z.  I knew this was a potential flaw and had made a mental note to find something better for my next trip.

Now I needed something better for this trip and the solution was right in front of my nose.  My panniers had a couple of O-rings on the straps that I slipped on the bottom Z rail, keeping the pannier from lifting vertically.  I had thought about this solution before but for some reason thought the O-rings wouldn’t fit.  Obviously they did and provided a more secure attachment.

Relieved that nothing bad had happened in the mishap and something good came out of it – a more secure attachment – I pressed on with my friend the tail wind.  By 1:00 I was in Yarram where I stopped for a break.  Unfortunately, the next real town was Sale, another 74K.  There was another small place, Woodside, that could have been a stopping point but the Visitor Centre folks in town really didn’t know much about it.  So in the end I decided to make it a short day and stayed in a motel room ($35) at the Commercial Hotel.

I used the rest of the time to take care of email, clean my bike chain, and write my notes.  While I was on the Internet I also searched for an explanation of cricket.  Dave, one of the cyclists I met on the Nullarbor, had explained the basics but I found I still didn’t understand enough.  I found a description by an American who used baseball occasionally to help explain the game and that helped a lot.

Day 86: Thu, Nov 28, 2002 - Yarram, VIC to Bairnsdale, VIC [153.8, 08:24:54, 18.2, 7324]

It was not a great sleeping night.  The previous night I had broken out with some rash and last night it happened again only worse.  I ended up taking a second shower that helped somewhat.  I tried to think what could be causing this.  The only common food I had was some rice crackers but I had had them before without any problem.  The shower soap I used was the typical hotel/motel soap that I had been using the entire trip.

I was on the road by 7:30 on an overcast morning with potentially a long day ahead of me.  It was 74K to Sale and then another 69K to Bairnsdale.  Leaving Yarram, the first 40K or so was flat with big trees lining the road and occasional yellow grassy fields with grazing cattle.  After that the road started undulating a bit and the roadside trees gave way to wide-open fields.

After some 70K I approached Sale around 11:30 but I was going so well I sailed through on to Stratford, another 15K.  The road to Sale was a great road with little traffic but I had to take the A1 highway to Stratford.  While it had a good shoulder it had a fair amount of high speed traffic and wasn’t great for cycling.

I stopped in the small town of Stratford for a lunch break at 12:30 after 90K.  Essentially I had to either stay in Stratford or make Bairnsdale, another 50K or so.  I chose the latter so I ate a bigger lunch than normal.  While eating I met a couple of locals.  They suggested I take the back road to Bairnsdale via Bengworden rather than the busy A1 that was also undergoing some repairs.

Shortly after 1:00 I headed out and picked up the road signed to Bengworden, C495.  This route was something like 5-10K longer than A1 but I knew I had made the right choice as soon as I took it.  It was a quiet road through fields occasionally lined with trees, mostly flat with some undulations.  The only complainers were the white cockatoos that announced their displeasure at my intrusion with raucous flight.  The only other problem was I picked up a head wind heading east.  I particularly wanted to make Bairnsdale before 5:00 so I could get accommodation information at the Visitor Centre.

Despite the modest head wind I made pretty good time.  I passed through the “towns” of Meerlier and Bengworden that announced their presence with signs.  Otherwise they would have been all but invisible, with just a small school for one and a hall for the other.  Around 4:00 I saw I had a good chance to make Bairnsdale just before 5:00 so I kept up the pace.  I rolled into town around 4:50 and stopped at the Visitor Centre where I got directed to a pub with $20 rooms.  I also got a good look at a relief map of the east coast that gave me a good idea what the climbing was like along the coast for the next 5-6 days.

Then I checked in at the pub, hunted up dinner, and stopped at the pub for a beer.  This was the longest day I’d had in quite a while.  Not a particularly scenic day but much improved by going the back way to Bairnsdale.

Day 87: Fri, Nov 29, 2002 - Bairnsdale, VIC to Orbost, VIC [103.4, 06:20:19, 16.3, 7427.4]

I tried to leave around 7:30 but the hotel apparently liked me so much they locked me in.  When I got my bike down the stairs I found the door at the bottom of the stairs locked.  I banged on the door for a while but that got no response.  So I had to exit through a back door and unlock the gate to the courtyard to get out.

I took the A1 36K to Lakes Entrance.  There was a lot of traffic but most of it came from the other direction.  Nothing exciting scenery-wise until a lookout on a hill descending to Lakes Entrance gave a nice view of the lakes.  I saw a couple signs for lake cruises and I considered taking one but didn’t find anything I liked.

So a little after 11:00 I set out for Orbost, 60K away.  As soon as I got out of town I started climbing.  This was not surprising since the story was that the east coast route to Sydney was a lot of up and down climbing starting near Orbost.  Much of the rest of the way was up and down but nothing particularly steep.  Initially I passed through forests and later some cattle fields.  Along the way I met a Dutch cyclist coming from the other direction.  He was cycling to Melbourne with plans to tour Tasmania and NZ.  I passed on some suggestions for touring both of those places.

As I neared Orbost I saw that I had missed a shower, based on the wet road.  The day was warm with a prediction of a cool front moving in, possibly preceded by a shower and apparently that’s what happened.  It was fairly flat the last 10K and I rolled into town just before 4:00.  Just before entering town I crossed the Snowy River on a bridge.  Of course, Snowy River is famous at least in part due to the “Man from Snowy River” but the river wasn’t much more than a creek as it neared the coast. 

At the turnoff into town I got to witness another police sobriety test where the police stop all motorists in both directions but they left me alone.  After a stop at the Visitor Centre I got a room at the pub for $30 that included breakfast.  I also found a computer shop with Internet access that I used for 15 minutes until it closed at 5:00.  Then a beer at the pub as I read a newspaper and wrote my notes.

Day 88: Sat, Nov 30, 2002 - Orbost, VIC, layover

When I got up it was raining and not looking good.  It didn’t take too long before I decided this was a layover day.  My legs had been feeling tired so I was not disappointed.  On the other hand it was a Saturday when most businesses only stay open until noon if they are open at all.  It was also Victoria Voting Day, a day when everybody was legally required to vote and was fined if they didn’t.  Orbost had a library but it was open only during the week.  Its telecentre was closed.  The computer store with Internet access was closed this Saturday, probably because of election day.  So I found a way to make the Weekend Australian newspaper from Melbourne last most of the morning and read my latest paperback, “Tell em I died Game,” a book about Australia’s bushrangers, their Billy the Kids, Jesse James, etc.

It rained off and on, sometimes quite heavily, most of the day.  So laying over was a good decision.

Day 89: Sun, Dec 01, 2002 - Orbost, VIC to Cann River, VIC [77.9, 04:43:35, 16.5, 7505]

It was overcast when I got up and I could tell it had rained at least some overnight since a few previously dry spots were now wet.  But there were occasional peeks of blue sky so I figured the weather would be OK and I took off around 8:00.

Once I left the Snowy River Valley I was traveling through rainforest all the way to Cann River, 75K away.  The story was that the road was up and down climbing to Sydney after Orbost but the up and downs were pretty modest with only a couple of fairly long but not steep climbs.  Where the climbs were a problem were flies.  When climbing I was going slow enough that flies were a real nuisance.  Otherwise I was going too fast for the flies.  I had started noticing flies being a problem riding to Orbost.  Before that they were only a bit of a problem on the Nullarbor.

Along the way I met two cyclists, the first a German on his way to Melbourne.  He had two wire baskets for rear panniers with everything wrapped in waterproof covers.  The second cyclist was from Austria towing a kiddie trailer that was pretty loaded.  This was his 3rd trip to Australia but his first cycling trip.  He was on his way to Broome with a Nullarbor crossing.  I wasn’t sure he knew what he was getting in to since he would be crossing the Nullarbor in January, the middle of summer, but he was very enthusiastic about Australia and cycling.

I pulled into Cann River around 1:00 and immediately stopped for something to eat in the small town.  Then I got a room at the pub for $22 that included breakfast, a good deal.  What wasn’t a good deal was the flies.  Just walking outside was a continual hand waving exercise to keep them off.  I had to go inside to keep them at bay.

Day 90: Mon, Dec 02, 2002 - Cann River, VIC to Eden, NSW [113.8, 06:56:28, 16.4, 7619]

I went to bed a little earlier than normal so I got up a bit sooner and was off by 7:00.  The skies were clear and it was a bit cool but projected to be a warm day.  As yesterday, the road passed through forests most of the way through undulating hills.  There was one long, moderately steep climb 15K out of Cann River up Mt. Drummer.  But there weren’t any great views because the trees blocked the views with just occasional hints of the views through the trees.

After almost 50K I stopped at Genoa, just a café and a hotel/motel, at around 10:30.  I didn’t stay long and soon continued my up and down ride.  About 15K outside of Genoa I expected to see signs as I left Victoria and entered New South Wales (NSW).  The only real clue I was in another state was a sign announcing truck weight limits and a little later a sign warning that NSW used speed cameras.

I made good time to Eden, an old whaling and now lumber and fishing town of 3,000, pulling into town at 2:30.  But the last 5K or so were trying as I was tired and there was a lot of up and down.  In town I stopped at the Visitor Centre and got directions around town.  I paid a visit to the museum ($5.50) that was not that great other than for Old Tom, a killer whale that used to direct the town whalers to where Tom’s pack of killer whales had rounded up a batch of humpback whales.  Then I stopped at the Internet center to take care of email.  Finally, I checked into Hotel Australasia for $20.

Later when I went out to eat, there was smoke not too far outside of town.  Apparently a bush fire that was attended to by fire trucks with screaming sirens.

Day 91: Tue, Dec 03, 2002 - Eden, NSW to Tathra, NSW [54.6, 03:52:16, 14.1, 7674]

I slept terrible, not actually sleeping until about 2 am.  Nevertheless I got up at the normal time and was on the road at 7:30.  First I headed south to the Lookout Point for a view of Twofold Bay.  Unfortunately, I had to descend a big hill and try to climb a short but even steeper hill.  I immediately discovered I had no legs, or very tired legs, although I’m not sure I would have made it up the hill with good legs.  Rather than attempt a superhuman effort and waste my legs first thing in the morning I pushed my bike up the last third of the hill.  From there I had a good view of the bay.

Returning I went a roundabout way and then climbed the steep hill I had previously descended to get back to town.  I rolled through town and managed some ups and down similar to the undulations I encountered entering the bay area yesterday.  Then a few kilometers outside town I struggled again on a fairly long and steep climb.  I could see the possibility of a short day looming.

I struggled on through undulations, passing forests and the Pambula Lake.  After 18K I left the Princes Highway for a coastal road the rest of the day.  Another 7K brought me to Merimbula Lake and Merimbula, a sizeable town.  I crossed a bridge to the town center and a lineup of shops and cafes.  I stopped at a bakery for a boost and then found a used bookstore where I picked up “While the Billy Boils,” by Henry Lawson, a bunch of Australian short stories by a noted Australian author.  Finally I stopped at an Internet place.  I needed to find a place that used 128-bit encryption to pay one of my monthly bills and the last several Internet places I visited didn’t have this.  This time I got lucky and paid my bill.

After about an hour stop I felt better, until I immediately had another steep climb out of town.  It was about another 30K to Tathra, a logical stopping point given my struggles, if I could make it.  At least traffic eased off some.

When I pulled into Tathra I arrived “on top of the hill.”  I descended to the Old Wharf and stopped for refreshments around 1:00.  I had a nice view of the bay looking north but the view also clearly showed there was nothing flat on the horizon.  When I stopped I expected this to be the stopping point for the day.  However, over the course of about an hour my mind was planting its subtle hints that Bernagui really wasn’t that far away, just another 40K.  Before long I was planning to continue on until my legs finally put their feet down and overrode my mind.

I climbed back to the top of the hill and stopped at the hotel/motel.  Unfortunately, there were no pub rooms and the associated motel was $50.  My mind seized on this as an excuse to continue on to Bernagui but my legs did the walking – to the motel.  Finally my struggles were over for the day.  This actually was a nice place with some easy walking amongst the rocky shore.

In the end stopping had to be the wise thing to do.  Obviously yesterday’s ride to Eden was more stressful than I thought.  In fact, I wondered if it wasn’t effectively the equivalent of over training and perhaps the cause of last night’s poor sleep.

Later in typical fashion I stopped at the pub for a beer.  An old guy who was there earlier when I got my room was there again.  I suspected he had been drinking there for the entire 4 hours.

Day 92: Wed, Dec 04, 2002 - Tathra, NSW to Narooma, NSW [82.7, 05:31:08, 15, 7757]

On a clear morning I stopped at the lookout again on top of the hill with a clear view of the bay and coast looking north.  Then I descended the hill to ride a flat 4K along the beach, savoring every flat inch.  My legs felt 100% better than yesterday after yesterday’s short ride and a good night’s sleep.  When I hit the first climb past the beach it was very manageable rather than agony.

The rest of the day was fine with good legs and a less hilly route.  There was a mixture of views, with forests, lakes, coast, and hilly cattle grazing land.  There was a section of unsealed road that I was concerned about.  From my map I estimated it was an 8-10K stretch but it turned out to be less than 3K so obviously some recent sealing had taken place.  That was good because the unsealed section was very dusty and I had to east some dust from 4-5 vehicles that passed by and stirred up the dust.

Just outside Bermagui I passed Baragoot Lake and was passed by a touring cyclist headed from Melbourne to Sydney.  He was packed much lighter than I was and took off after chatting a few minutes.  I would see him again when I pulled into Bermagui after 45K.

Bermagui had a nice beach with Mt. Dromedary in the background, looking very close but actually about 20K away.  After a short lunch break I hit the road at 11:30.  After 14K I rejoined the Princes Highway for the rest of the 19K to Narooma.  There was some scenic lake and hillside views along the way including Wagonga Inlet when I arrived in Narooma.

I passed all the way through town, descending to the flat section where the Visitor Centre was located.  The woman at the Visitor Centre cleared up a mystery for me.  For several days I had been hearing what I assumed were some birds with short “chimes” that just seemed to reverberate from one side of the road to the other as I rode through the forests.  These turned out to be, appropriately, bell birds.  I got a hostel room for $24.  That was after I asked for a single room that was $35 but the host suggested the cheaper dorm room, saying I would have it all to myself anyway.  Wanting to be agreeable I agreed when I was told I could put my bike in the room.

Later after eating and the day cooled off a bit I took a walk along the foreshore.  From there I had some great views of the rugged coastline.

Day 93: Thu, Dec 05, 2002 - Narooma, NSW to Batemans Bay, NSW [86.8, 05:32:53, 15.6, 7843]

It was 7:30 when I left town by crossing the bridge across the Wagonga Inlet on the walkway.  I took an immediate right for a loop along the coast at a cost of a few extra kilometers.  Along the way some guy came zooming between some trees and across the lawn at a house, paused briefly and then came within inches of hitting me as he pulled onto the road.  I couldn’t tell whether he just didn’t see me, in bright yellow right in front of him, or was just trying to minimize his wait time and cut it as close as he could.  In any event it was unnerving.

A little later I learned the answer to one of my bike mysteries.  I had been hearing regular clicking sounds for the last couple of days when I pedaled.  I finally guessed it was my left pedal, the same side that failed on the Nullarbor.  I guessed that because the pedal occasionally made a grating sound that I could also feel when it got wet.  I guessed it had a poor seal and the grating happened when water got in.  Today, I lubricated the pedal when it started clicking and the noise went away.

After less than 10K I rejoined the Princes Highway.  I also could see and smell smoke and guessed a bushfire was raging some place.  The smoke pervaded the area.

It was 45K to Moruya and I made pretty good time despite the usual up and downs.  When I rode into town it was about 10:00 and I stopped for a fairly long break, not leaving until about 11:30.  When I left, I took the George Bass Dr along the coast right after crossing the Moruya River.  Immediately, I noticed something strange – this road was flat.  At least it was for 14K until Mossy Point.  I was in heaven, torn between wanting to pedal as fast as I could and taking as much time as possible to savor it.  But all good things must end and shortly after Mossy Point the familiar up and downs returned.  What didn’t return, however, was the smoke.  I realized after I left Moruya the smoke had disappeared and never returned – a good thing.

As I got near Malua Bay I started seeing nice bays and rugged coastline.  The price for this was frequent short up and downs for about 10K.  Finally as I got close to Bateman Bay the road leveled off and I rode into town around 2:00.  I gathered information at the Visitor Centre and got a van at a tourist park that contained a hostel for $31.50.

After cleaning up I walked downtown to eat and then found an Internet Café with access for $3/hour so I took advantage.  I also found a place with pancakes that I put on my list for breakfast.  Then with the sky showing some interesting and ominous clouds I walked back, stopping at a grocery store along the way.  Later it rained.

Day 94: Fri, Dec 06, 2002 - Batemans Bay, NSW to Nowra, NSW [121.7, 06:57:25, 17.5, 7965]

I had to wait until 7:30 to get my key deposit back and then I headed downtown to the pancake place.  I had two pancakes and coffee.  The pancakes were the best I’d had in almost 3 weeks because it had been that long since I had some in St. Helens.  I also got to read the Sydney newspaper where the headline was bushfires.  With the drought and winds there was a prediction that the Sydney area was facing the worst threat in 20 years.  That was something I would have to keep an eye on the rest of the way to Sydney.

I didn’t leave town until 8:30 but wasn’t in any hurry.  It was just over 50K to Ulladullah and then almost another 70K to Nowra.  I didn’t figure on doing 120K in this hilly area and there really wasn’t anything between Ulladullah and Nowra near the road.

It was a surprisingly easy ride to Ulladullah but maybe that was because of the pancakes.  There was a fair amount of traffic but a good shoulder.  Only problem was the shoulder was strewn with brush debris, probably due to the wind, with an occasional sizeable limb that needed to be avoided.  There weren’t any difficult hills through the mostly forest land.

I pulled into Ulladullah at noon and stopped at the Visitor Centre.  I felt really good and ideally wanted to continue about halfway to Nowra.  I learned there was a place called St. Georges Basin that fulfilled my criteria and wasn’t too far off the road.  So after about an hour break I left town at a little after 1:00.

In the morning I had some tail wind but now the wind had shifted and I was getting a cross wind that gusted a few times and concerned me.  The good shoulder also disappeared and was often rough and sometimes non-existent.  There was one modest, winding 2K climb followed by some undulations but nothing particularly difficult.  About this time my mind, which has a mind of its own, started whispering that it wasn’t all that much further to go all the way to Nowra.

I stopped for a break at a service station in small Wandandian, not too far from the turnoff to St. Georges Basin.  When I asked the proprietor about the route to Nowra he appeared to mentally drive the route and counted 8 hills which concerned me.  On the other hand the Visitor Centre in Ulladullah told me the remainder to Nowra was no special problem.  When I continued on and the moment of decision arrived I skipped the turnoff and decided to continue the 33K to Nowra, hills be damned.

In the end there were only a couple of modest hills.  It seemed I half coasted the last 20K to Nowra – my kind of riding.  But there was a lot of traffic, probably a combination of rush hour and the start of the weekend.  The shoulder continued to be highly variable so careful riding was required.

I arrived in Nowra, town of 25,000, riding with considerable traffic.  The Visitor Centre was closed but I had a map showing the hotel locations.  I picked one and got a room with breakfast for $30.  While walking through town looking for something to eat, I saw a bookstore closed with a note that its stock had been destroyed by smoke [from the bushfires].

Day 95: Sat, Dec 07, 2002 - Nowra, NSW to Wollongong, NSW [90.4, 05:41:16, 15.9, 8056]

I slept poorly, waking up at midnight and not getting back to sleep until about 3 am and then only intermittently.  So I tried sleeping a little later, till 7:00.  I couldn’t leave quickly because I needed to stop at the Visitor Centre when it opened at 9:00.  So after eating I had coffee and read the newspaper.  The paper was grim with bushfire news around Sydney, the worst in 30 years.  The weekend figured to help with good weather but Monday was forecast with big winds – not good news for fire fighting.

When I got to the Visitor Centre I checked to make sure the coastal road was open and it was after having been closed yesterday.  So I crossed the Shoalhaven River and immediately took the coastal road that followed the river to the coast before heading north.  It was a good road but quite busy on a Saturday morning.  And it was flat.

Shortly after the road turned north it passed along the boundary of the Seven Mile Beach National Park.  This is where the bushfire had been and was still smoking and smoldering in some places.  The fire passed through so fast that only the bottom third or half of the trees were burnt.  In an interesting way the burnt forest was actually scenic.

After 27K of luxurious flat road the road climbed steeply away from Gerroa.  On top there was a nice view of the valley below but somewhat obscured by the smoke haze.  When I got to Gerringong I picked up the Princes Highway again with lots of traffic.  As I passed through the valley I could see I would soon have to climb out.  It was a long and pretty steep climb and not a lot of fun in the midst of a lot of traffic.

After another 10K I stopped at Kiama around noon.  The Visitor Centre gave me some information on traveling to Wollongong with what looked like a lot of bike paths.  I also checked out Kiama’s claim to fame – its blowhole that sends the surf water as high as 60 metres in the air.  However, while leaving town I never saw a bike path so I took the main road north.  After a little less than 10K I got off the main road and took the Shellharbor Road along the coast.

After another 10K I finally picked up a bike path but it wasn’t much more than a sidewalk.  I followed it out to Port Kembla with a nice view of the coast looking south.  But the rest of the area was industrialized and not very interesting.  I lost the path for a while and then picked it up again to take me into Wollongong.

As usual I stopped at the Visitor Centre and was disappointed to see it had closed at 4:00 on a Saturday.  I checked out a backpacker and a couple of hotels with no luck.  I finally stopped at another hotel on a listing I had.  I got a room there, a “budget” room for $85.  On the bright side, Wollongong had a number of Asian restaurants and I had a very good and reasonable meal at a Thai restaurant.  Then I picked up a few things for breakfast and retired to my hotel’s bar for a beer.

Day 96: Sun, Dec 08, 2002 - Wollongong, NSW to Sydney, NSW [90.3, 05:39:59, 15.9, 8147]

I slept well.  When I was ready to leave I read the newspaper first to find out about bushfires.  There was one area considered threatened and it was not too far west of my route so I would have to keep an eye on it.  Just when I was ready to leave I noticed my front tire was soft.  Since it hadn’t gone completely flat overnight I assumed it was a slow leak and pumped it up, hoping it would last the day.  When I left at 8:00 I took the Princes Highway out of town.  After 11K I passed through the small town of Bulli that had a pub with accommodation.  Had I known about this yesterday I would have bypassed Wollongong and stayed here.

Just outside of town the main road turned west to climb Bulli Pass.  There was a huge hill, more like a cliff, that the road had to cross, an imposing looking climb.  The hill/cliff was a ridge that extended northeast and eventually reached the coast.  So it had to be climbed sooner or later.

I chose later and continued on the Lawrence Hargrave Drive as it turned to hug the coast.  There were some nice beach views along the coast.  Then the ridge butted up right against the coast and the views were dramatic with the climbing road cut into the cliff.  At Stanwell Park I stopped for a break and queried about bushfire danger.  A local told me there was no problem now and he suggested riding through the Royal National Park, which I had wondered about.

So I continued and immediately started a steep climb of about 2K until I had to decide whether to turn west or east to go through the park.  In any event there was a dramatic view of Stanwell Park, its beach, and the hills encroached on the shore.  Another case of a hard climb rewarded with a great view.  I also discovered this was an area for launching hang gliders but none were in sight on a late Sunday morning.

I continued through the park with a little more climbing.  I stopped again shortly at Otford for a quick lunch.  The little café had a nice map of the park area.  This showed that the complete drive through the park was a pretty long and winding affair.  But there was an option to do a nice section and then head back to the main road, which is what I decided to do after questioning a young lady worker.

The ride through the park was really nice, through a hilly, forested area.  There was light traffic and the trees blocked much of the sun, making it cooler.  It didn’t hurt either that much of the road was an easy descent.  Unfortunately, when I took the left turn to bring me out to Waterfall on the main road, I had to climb my way out.  The first 3K was a modest climb but the last 2K was pretty steep.

When I rejoined the Princes Highway there was a good shoulder and the fast, fairly heavy traffic was not a problem, just noisy.  But the shoulder was variable the rest of the way.  Sometimes there was no shoulder.  Other times there was a parking lane with or without parked cars.  It was just a case of busy suburban/urban riding where you ride as fast as you can and trust that drivers can cope, which they did.

Around mid-day I didn’t expect to make Sydney but once I got back on the main road I made really good time despite some head wind.  I rode past the airport at Botany Bay and on into the city.  I stopped at a Visitor Centre kiosk but they had no backpacker information.  I got directed to the Visitor Centre at Darling Harbor and got a long list of backpackers.  I started calling the list for a single room that many did not have.  After 5-6 tries I found the Alfred Park backpacker with a single for $55, about the best I expected to do.

My next challenge was finding the place on Cleveland Street.  I had trouble orienting myself but once I did I found the place without a problem.  It turned out to be a fairly nice place, not too far from Chinatown.  I got directed to a Chinese place a short walk away and had a pretty good meal.  Then I walked back to the backpacker for the night.  My bike’s front tire was very soft after the day’s ride so I found the slow leak and patched it.

Day 97: Mon, Dec 09, 2002 - Sydney, NSW, layover

It was nice to be able to get up at my leisure with nothing pressing to do.  Around 7:30 I started walking to Circular Quay for a ferry cruise.  But first I stopped at the train station to scope out traveling to Warrimo tomorrow on my Blue Mountain trip.  Then it took about 30 minutes to reach Circular Quay.  Circular Quay has 6 wharfs and a steady stream of ferries that go everywhere.  I bought a $39 ticket for the 2.5 hour coffee cruise at 10:00.

Circular Quay is right between the Sydney Harbor Bridge and the Opera House, two of Sydney’s most famous icons.  The ferry took us along the south shore of Sydney Harbour with the multi-million dollar homes along the shore.  It traveled to the harbour entrance then turned up through Middle Harbour with more expensive homes.  These homes are all built on hillsides in the bush.  After passing under the Spit Bridge and continuing a bit, the ferry turned around and returned to Circular Quay after passing under the Harbour Bridge.

In the afternoon I finalized some touring plans.  Most importantly I decided to fly back on Friday rather than next Tuesday as originally scheduled.  I couldn’t see spending a whole week in Sydney.  Since nothing was available on Saturday or Sunday I chose to return on Friday.  The rest of the afternoon I wandered around Circular Quay and Darling Harbour before returning to my backpacker where I made arrangements to stay Wednesday and Thursday nights.

Day 98: Tue, Dec 10, 2002 - Sydney, NSW, layover

It was raining in the morning so I called John, a friend of my brother and my Blue Mountain host, and we quickly decided to cancel the Blue Mountain trip and try for Wednesday.  So I decided it was a good day to take care of my bike packing.  Unfortunately the backpacker didn’t know anything about bike shops so I scanned through the yellow pages to find candidates and picked out 3 possibilities.  The closest shop didn’t have a bike box but said they might have one later.  Another had boxes and another didn’t answer.

I decided to go walking and walked by the bike shop that didn’t answer and found out why – they no longer existed.  So I walked to the shop on King Street but couldn’t find the address.  I ended up walking to the Aquarium where I stopped for a break.  Then I called the King St bike shop and discovered they were in a different area on a different King St.  So I started walking up King St again and while waiting for a light saw “cyclery” out of the corner of my eye.  It was the Clarence St Cyclery, a very nice, complete bike shop.

They had a good bike box so I grabbed it.  I also found a Crank Brothers Speed Lever that I had left behind on my last tire change in Tasmania so I bought it.  Now the only problem was getting the bike box home.  It was a good 30 minute walk back, which I would have done except it was raining steadily and a wet box would have done me no good.  So I asked the bike shop to order a taxi that could handle a bike box.  However, after almost 2 hours no one showed up so the shop called again.  An hour later nothing had showed up so I finally started waving at every station wagon taxi that came along.  After a half dozen tries I got a bite and 10 minutes later and $10 I was home.

I disassembled my bike and got it in the box, the major chore of getting packed up.  Then I did my final laundry of the trip.

Day 99: Wed, Dec 11, 2002 - Sydney, NSW, layover

It was still overcast in the morning but looking better until it rained again.  At 9:00 I started walking to Circular Quay with the idea of taking the ferry to Parramatta and then the train to Warrimoo.  It took almost an hour to walk to the wharf.  With the next ferry at 11:00, I had coffee and a breakfast snack.  Then I bought my ferry ticket.  Unfortunately, that did me no good because just before 11:00 I learned the Parramatta ferry was cancelled due to the rain and overflowing of the river.

So I had to walk almost all the way back to my backpacker to get to the train station.  I took the 11:57 train that got me to Warrimoo a little after 1:00.  John’s place was just a few hundred metres from the train station but John was still tied up at work in Newcastle.  So I got to meet John’s wife Claire and their eldest daughter, Maryellen, and husband, Doug, and their little boy and baby girl.

A few hours later John made it home and we headed up into the Blue Mountains for a tour.  We stopped at Wentworth Falls, Leura, and the famous Three Sisters in Katoomba.  All three sights gave different views of the majestic Katoomba Valley with deep forest and limestone cliffs.  Then we headed a little further west to see the path of the recent bushfire that had crossed the road.  That was near the Mt. Evan Lookout that was spectacular limestone cliffs in a forest bowl.

In addition to showing me the Blue Mountains, John also gave me insight into the Sydney bushfires, which he was particularly qualified to do since he was a volunteer firefighter and his home had been threatened by a bushfire just a year ago.  I had assumed that if bushfires were this bad in December they must really be bad in January/February, the heart of summer.  However, John explained that the humidity increases in January/February just enough that it actually decreases the likelihood of bushfires.  So Sydney bushfires are the biggest problem in November/December, while the humidity is still low.

With time running out we headed back to John’s house where I was properly wined and dined.  Since John had to get up very early for a flight to Canberra, I took the 9:08 train back to Sydney.  Walking back home, I found a 24 hour Internet Café where I stopped and checked my email.

Day 100: Thu, Dec 12, 2002 - Sydney, NSW, layover

When I got up I walked down to the wharf for breakfast.  Along the way I found a McDonald’s with complimentary newspapers so I ate there and read the paper.  The paper had some bushfire fighting photos and one photo showed the Hydro Majestic Hotel, which I saw yesterday, in the Blue Mountains that required some heroic firefighting to save.

After breakfast I continued to Circular Quay, which has quickly become my favorite Sydney spot.  From there I walked up Macquerie St. until I found the Sydney Tower.  I paid $20 to ride up to the observation deck.  It was really a great view of the city and especially the Sydney Harbour looking out to North/South Head.  The only bad thing was some skyscrapers blocked the view of Circular Quay and the Opera House.

I also stopped at the Australia Museum that was a steal at $4 with a discount I had.  The best part was a geological relief map of Sydney and the Blue Mountains that gave me a better idea of what I saw yesterday.

After that I just wandered around Circular Quay and Darling Harbour most of the afternoon.  In the evening I completed my packing, which consisted mostly of taping my bike box shut.

Day 101: Fri, Dec 13, 2002 – Naperville, Illinois, USA

When I got up I arranged for a shuttle to the airport and stored my luggage at the backpacker as I checked out.  At 9:00 I met Dave, the cyclist I met on the Nullarbor, at the train station.  We began walking down Elizabeth looking for a place to eat breakfast and ended up walking all the way to Circular Quay.  After breakfast we walked back to the train station, stopping off at the Clarence St. Cyclery so Dave could check out bicycle trainers.  We got to the train station around noon, having had a nice time to catch up on each other since we parted ways after the Nullarbor.

I walked back to the backpacker and had a short wait until the shuttle whisked me off to the airport, a 20-minute ride.  An uneventful flight on a 747-400 from Sydney to LA where I passed right through customs.  In Chicago, Mike met me at the airport and got me home safe and sound.





Copyright Denis Kertz, 2002. All rights reserved.