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 : )
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.
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.
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.
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.
After moulding back into our saddles and escaping the raging traffic madness of Sydney, we were on the road again.
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.
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!
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.
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:
At one lunch spot we saw a group of dolphins playing in the surf. Never did a cheese and pickle sandwich taste so good.
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!
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!
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.