Of course Canberra is an important city being the nation’s capital but for us what was more important was getting to meet, for the first time, some of Steve’s long distance relatives. I must admit that I lost the thread of the family tree pretty early on but we were quite clearly family as we immediately felt at home with Jenette, Phil, Alice and Ross. We had a lovely couple of days enjoying normal family life with fantastic home cooked meals, wine, laughs and plenty of Olympics watching (Well done Team GB and glad to see London is doing me proud with such an amazing event). Jenette and Ross were terrific tour guides showing us around the sights of Canberra, including Parliament House which was dug into Capital Hill, its roof covered in grass and topped with a flag the size of a double decker bus.
Once again leaving the comforts of a warm family home was tough. As soon as we were out of Canberra and on the open road, we cycled uphill further into the Great Dividing Mountain Range into bitterly cold and tiresome headwinds which made our progress slow. So slow in fact that we decided to end the day early by pitching our tent in a park in a place called Bredbo. It was simply because I was exhausted from the headwinds, hungry and cold but that evening I did have a bit of a wobble about the trip as I was finding it so tough. However after a bit of grub and Steve pulling out all his cheering-up techniques, I found a bit more perspective on the challenges we were facing and decided not to be so hard on myself. I was finding it tough because parts of it are tough.
That night temperatures plummeted to -6 degrees which forced us to finally admit that we should maybe have spent a bit more than £15 on our flimsy sleeping bags. We are certainly still getting good use from those hot water bottles AND a present we received in Sydney has been added to our ‘beat-the-freeze’ armoury. Our very good friend, Nienke, knitted us these beautiful custom-made tent slippers so whilst the rest of us maybe chilly, our tootsies are toasty. Thank you Nienke!
The next day it was still cold and uphill but we could see beauty in our desolate surroundings.
We then finally reached a summit of the Great Dividing Range and that night we camped in Nimmitabel with an altitude of still over a 1,000 metres.
There wasn’t much to this basic campsite apart from toilets and a laundry room but with the temperatures taking a nosedive again, we made our home in the laundry room as we cooked our dinner. We managed to make the concrete block feel quite homely in the end and we chuckled at the thought of what our dear fire-fighter friend, Debs, would think of this fire hose.
The following day we cycled along the ridge of the mountains and ended our day at Bombala, a place known as platypus country. Despite reading up on my facts about platypuses? platypi? platypodes? including that scientists first thought it a hoax of a duck’s beak sewn onto the body of a beaver-like animal, sadly it was to remain elusive. The only campsite that Bombala had to offer had great showers but only an outside kitchen so we had a cold night cooking our dinner. Maybe it thought it was making up for my lack of platypus spotting but as we were using the outside kitchen I freaked out as I spotted a rat climbing around its rafters. Steve said he was a busy little thing as we saw him a number of times in different spot which made me think that I bet it wasn’t the same one we kept seeing. For those who know me, you will know how much I HATE rats and so needless to say I left Steve to do the washing up as I dived into the safety of our sealed tent.
Steve always says that what goes up must come down and he sure was right when the next day we flew down the mountains all the way to Cann River, managing to do 88 kilometres before we had even had lunch. We also left New South Wales behind and entered Victoria.
Steve cycled around Australia when he was 19 years old and he had cycled many of the roads we have been cycling. He recognised Cann River from all those years ago which reminded me that Steve had conveniently forgotten to mention a memory from those days in his last blog which I think it only fair I share with you. We spent a night camping in a campsite in Batemans Bay but we were also allowed to use the facilities of the youth hostel. Steve looked a bit sheepish so I asked him what was up. He said he had stayed here before and that he had got told off by the owner and nearly chucked out of the youth hostel when he broke into the camp swimming pool to go skinny dipping with a girl. He said that he was gutted as the girl kept on her bikini as is usual whenever girls say they’ll go skinny dipping, despite him going the whole hog. Well, maybe one day I’ll make his dream come true but only when it gets a bit warmer, that’s for sure!
We spent the night in Cann River in yet another basic campsite with only toilets and a laundry room and yet another cold night to cook our dinner outside. It was pitch black as we cooked on a picnic table. Our head torches only light up what is directly in front of us so I jumped out of my skin, particularly due to the events of the previous night, when in my peripheral vision I saw some sort of animal walking right by my feet. It turned out to be a very pesky possum who soon jumped up on the table to stick his head into our bags for a good rummage. Steve had to pop him on the nose three times with our saucepan before he left.
We headed for Orbost the next morning and as we approached the coast the weather got much warmer. Cycling is soooo much more enjoyable when it is sunny and warm which so far has been too far and in between.
We were beginning to feel like we were getting into our groove having camped every night since Canberra and staying under budget. So, yes, you’ve got it, we needed a spanner in the works to put us back in our place. The spanner was our third split rim on the back wheel six kilometres outside of the nearest town. Following a very small tirade of foul language from me about life being unfair, I soon got my act together and was compiling a list of reasons to be positive – it wasn’t raining, it was a beautiful road to push the bike along, we could do with exercising new muscles, we may find that the nearest town, Marlo, was a wonderful spot etc etc. We did spot an echidna which also cheered us up.
When we finally arrived at Marlo, I held the bike whilst Steve went into a campsite office. As I did so, I got talking to Esther who just happened to be walking by. It turned out that her and her husband had driven past us the day before and her husband was into building bikes. After we had set up camp, her and her husband, Finn, came over and invited us to their house for dinner. We had a really fun evening with them and their friends, all of whom had experience in cycle touring.
The next day was our first wedding anniversary and whilst the bike breakdown altered where we had planned to spend it, Marlo turned out to be a lovely spot to celebrate it. Finn and Esther told us we could let ourselves into their house whilst they were at work to use the internet so we could find out whether the bike shop two towns away could rebuild our wheel. When we did so, they had left us a gift of a block of Green and Blacks chocolate! We were so touched at their kindness. Plus their friend James helped us out by dropping off the wheel at the shop so we didn’t have to try to catch one of the three buses a day or hitchhike. My mum also gave us a gift so that we could treat ourselves to a meal out so we had a slap up meal at the pub in town (there was only a general store and hairdressers in addition to this). I had garlic prawns with a vodka and coke and Steve had lamb shank with a beer. Never has a meal tasted so good or enjoyed more. Thanks Mum!
We had to stay another night in Marlo whilst we waited for the wheel rebuild and although Finn and Esther invited us to stay in their spare room so we could save on campsite fees, we have got so used to the tent being our home that we camped in their garden. Never in a million years did I think I would actually love camping! Steve and I felt very lucky that we had broken down as we really enjoyed the company of Esther and Finn. Things must happen for a reason sometimes.
We have arrived in Eagles Point where we have decided to have a day off as we were warned of severe weather as getting here there were really strong winds and rain. In actual fact today has turned out to be really rather pleasant, in fact, great cycling weather but we still had the day off because the campsite we are staying in has an indoor kitchen, a TV room to watch the Olympics, the managers have given us a heater to warm us, charged us only $10 to stay, it has free wi-fi and is close to Raymond Island where there is a colony of koalas to which you can get a free ferry. Seems silly to move on when there is all this on offer!
We cycled to the ferry, enjoying being unladen from all our gear, and spent the day koala spotting. We competed to see who could spot them first. I spotted seven to Steve’s five. He seems to think that I spotted more than him because I am one of them due to their tendency to sleep up to 18 hours a day. Well, he is right, I do like my sleep. They were incredible. I couldn’t believe they were real!
Tomorrow we are going to head off again round the coast and here is to getting into our groove again!