Welcome to Australia!

View over Royal National Park

I had reassured Kat that although Australia was a little larger than New Zealand, a simple life on the open road was calling, the map a formality, the occasional traffic a welcome novelty from the sounds of exotic wildlife spilling out of the native bush.  It was perhaps no surprise then that as the heavens opened and darkness began to fall on the first cycle day of our Australian adventure, finding ourselves still in Sydney on a three-lane motorway and subsequently an angry approach into Terminal 1, Sydney International Airport, the mood was a little tense.

We sat taking stock, looking out at our soul-less surroundings from the relative safety of MacDonalds, Kat debating whether we could get a flight home right now, me considering whether we could get away with pitching our tent under the golden arches.  Ultimately our first night on the road was spent in a budget hotel. We would live to fight another day but once again we were left wondering what the hell we were doing.

Now we have got that one crappy event off my chest – I can now dedicate the rest of the blog to celebrating what a hoot our first few weeks down under have been : )

Luke and Vanessa making us at home in their hipster city pad.

After chilling out in Auckland and then touching down in Sydney to spend a week hanging out with our sorely missed friends, Luke and Vanessa, we began to forget we were on a gruelling cycle tour.  We were on holiday and loving it!  Sydney – the parks, the bright lights, the sunsets and beaches.  What a place.

Bondi Baby!

Luke and V's guided tours


A night on the town - outside Luke and V's flat.

A week spent wandering wided-eyed around Sydney by day, waiting for Luke and Vanessa to return from work and for them to turn their kitchen into a Michelin Star resturant by night.  Good times.

It was no surprise that these were not the only friends of ours that Sydney has attracted.  One evening we had a lovely catch-up and drink with Kat’s old work colleague, Hannah.

Kat and Hannah - like old times

As we apprehensively packed up and prepared to leave city life for a life back on the saddle and in the tent, there was one more person left to see.

My Old Boss - Mr Rae!

While I wondered whether it may be appropriate to at least tuck my shirt in before meeting up with my old headteacher, Douglas Rae, a friendly hug and a new laid-back Aussie accent greeted me.  It was great to meet up again eating lunch under the Opera House, catching up on news – the big changes and the things that had stayed the same.  Douglas, who had helped keep me afloat at the start of my teaching career, was now putting food in our bellies and cheering us on as we set off past the tourists and the iconic harbour bridge.

Leaving Sydney

After moulding back into our saddles and escaping the raging traffic madness of Sydney, we were on the road again.

The Coast of New South Wales

The coastal road and cycle ways south were great.  We didn’t cycle great distances, we were just enjoying the ride, soaking it all up.  Our first night after our budget blowing airport hotel was given free in support of our charity Practical Action by Norm and his little campsite in Coledale.  Thanks Norm and what a perfect spot – right on the beach.

Waking up to the surf.

That morning also began our Australian nature spotting quest.  I have to say, this bowel-loosening arachnid encounter packing up the tent after our first camp in Oz was not top of my list!

A morning visitor

After looking around to see if anyone had heard me squeal like a girl, I drew the courage to photograph Incy Wincy and show an Australian, who would surely be able to tell me if it was a danger to me.  A trusty looking bloke told me it was a Huntsman and ‘pretty’ harmless.  I waited on spider duty for Kat to return from the bathroom so I could show off my find.  As I did so, the friendly camper casually walked past again saying ‘of course, it could be a funnel web, they are deadly, so probably best not to handle it’.  How does the Australian mind work?  I mean:

a) How could the possibility that those cute little fangs may have lethal venom inside be just an after thought not worth mentioning the first time?

b) The fact that because he had told me that hairy legs was not going to kill me meant that I was probably going to handle it!

Handle it!  Even if I thought my 8-legged friend had a reputation for giving cuddles and reading bedtime stories I was still going to poke the scary looking bugger with a long stick!  Which I did -and he scuttled off like a little crab.

Wildlife spotter

While I keep my eye on the road, Kat keeps an eye out for skippy and all his funny looking friends.  Here is our animal catalogue so far:

The Friendly Cockatoo

My personal favourite the smiley Pelican

The Ibis

Lots of Kanagroos - normally hopping away from our strange looking Tandem

At one lunch spot we saw a group of dolphins playing in the surf. Never did a cheese and pickle sandwich taste so good.

Watching Dolphins

As with wildlife we have enjoyed the wide open space. This has made finding camping easier.  Here we are at a not-so glamorous roadside rest area for the night – not flash, but free!

Camping at a roadside rest area.

Australian hospitality from strangers has been great in New South Wales and everywhere has given us at least a small discount when we have stayed.  But you can imagine my surprise when we turned up at a motel in the historical town of Braidwood asking if we could put our tent up in the grounds and we were met with a broad Janner accent.  Andy, not only a west country boy but a fellow Plymouth lad.  As well as insisting on giving us a cosy motel room in-line with our meagre budget, we cooked dinner in his house and sat around the open fire with a glass of wine.  Thanks Andy!

A warm night at Torpys guest house with Andy.

We have just arrived in Canberra, the bush city capital of Australia.  It has been a hilly couple of days – it seems I misjudged where the Great Dividing Range started and finished – oops!  Still, the New Zealand training has paid off.

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8 Responses to Welcome to Australia!

  1. Douglas says:

    Another great blog entry! Twas FAB to catch up with you both as you prepared to start the Aussie leg of your trip! Keep cycling, keep smiling… and keep these blog posts coming!

    • Steve says:

      You too Douglas, the Aussie lifestyle seems to be treating you really well. Thanks for acting as film crew as we set off. Please catch up with us if you make it back to London. All the Best.

  2. veronica nickels says:

    truly wonderful – at last i can see some sunshine and you both look so pleased with yourselves and so you should. The wildlife is stunning except perhaps Incy Wincy but i am sure he was just a curious fellow wondering who was pitching on his site. It was good to see you with Luke and Vanessa and thanks to them for taking care of you. Also to the other people you have met along the way, how exciting to knock on a door and find a fellow Plymouth man and how kind he was. The olympics are in full swing as you know and when i watch the cycling events i just think HUH you dont know the meaning of the word. I went up to Canary Wharf last night with Anne and Lesley to see and drool over all the yachts that are moored up for the games, my oh my such luxury, but all the money in the world couldnt give what we have together. take care of each other and carry on being happy with your life on the tandem, all my fondest love Mum xxx

  3. L&V says:

    When you said it was hard getting out of Sydney we didn’t realise how hard! Miss you guys and it was so good to see you. xx

    • Steve says:

      All part of the fun Vanessa – wouldn’t recommend a cheap hotel in Sydney Airport as a holiday destination though! Missing the homemade pasta :(

  4. Janet Mahmud says:

    Great to see you both landed safely in Oz. Good to see Douglas safe and well and glad others are making you so welcome … keep going, Team GB are getting golds in cycling in the UK and in Australia! Inge was dancing in the opening ceremony – and looking as hard as I could, I still couldn’t see her. Take care Janet

    • Steve says:

      We are getting snippets of the Olympics – enjoy the excitement. We are flying the flag on the back of our bike in support (as well as the Australian flag so no on is tempted to bump us off the road!). Douglas was on great form, was nice to talk about the ‘old days’. And go Inge!

  5. Debbie Stott says:

    Glad you made it to Oz. Shame you didn’t make it out to my sister, that would have been great but I can see that from reading your blogs you were able to stay with your mates. I love Australia and it looks fantastic from your photos and I have just been looking up flight prices to Oz as it is a dream of mine to take Jas and the kids there one summer. A little expensive I’m afraid but if I save carefully maybe one day …
    I can see from your map that you are about to enter the middle desert bit of your journey. Me and Jas visited Uluru when we were there in 2000 and it was just amazing. ( although the insects seemed to be ultra ultra massive ).I remember asking the tourist person in Cairns what was there to do in Uluru and she looked at us as if we were complete idiots and replied ‘It’s the desert , there is nothing to do !’
    Summer has been fun here. We’ve been camping in Suffolk a couple of times and visiting various people in around the UK but most of all just enjoying not getting up early and enjoying the Olympics ,
    Anway have fun doing nothing in the desert, although I reckon you have a lot of cycling to do !!!
    Lots of love Deb xxx

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