Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Bemm River Scenic Reserve to Tathra

Thursday 11th - Saturday 13th November

On the Wednesday night I free-camped at Bemm River Scenic Reserve and in the morning after breakfast and packing up camp I did the short rainforest walk, which is very special. It has a couple of swing bridges over the McKenzie and Bemm Rivers, and a few boardwalks.

Riding out of the reserve I noticed my tyre was a little flat and when pumping the tyre I managed to snap the valve. This hasn't happened to me before. I wasn't being rough to my knowledge, but maybe I don't know my own strength. It was already getting hot and humid and it was only about 10am. The ride to Cann River is about 30 km, but I really struggled this day. There are hills but not so bad as to have to get off and push. It was probably the first reasonably hot day I had seen in a while - a thunderstorm building and dripping humidity - and I guess I've adapted to all the cold so wasn't ready for it. I ended up having four flats that day, really trying my patience. One puncture occurred just before another bridge over the Bemm River. I decided to cool off by going for a wander before fixing the flat. I found a trail and then a set of steps leading down to the water. Wow! This spot was magic. The water was clear, there was a tiny waterfall, schools of fish, submerged logs, green water plants under the surface. I saw a red frog swimming to get away from my shadow. And all under the highway. How many people must just drive past this secret place?

A special spot on the Bemm River

After stopping to rest several times, and not just for the flat tyres, I got to Cann River about 5pm. Why is it so sub-tropical? I thought I was supposed to be riding to Brisbane, not riding in Brisbane.

I stayed at the caravan park at Cann River for $10 a night. The next day was to be rest day as it was only going to be hotter (33 in the shade) and more humid. I used the internet in an airconditioned room for two hours during the warmest part - which was well planned. The rain finally came to ease the heat.

After the rest day I wanted to ride down to Point Hicks lighthouse but unfortunately it is 45km of dry weather only dirt road, so that was out. Instead I stayed at Cann River another night to eat their delicious pizzas.

More photos from Bemm River

Sunday 14th November

I left Cann River at 730 in the morning, determined to get a head start on the heat. This was a good idea as it was building up to another storm. After some not so fun climbing and awesome fun winding downhills where you take the lane and speed through lush green rainforest, I made it to the Genoa free-camp about 1130. It was stinking hot so I just set up a lean-to to lay under and read. Then it started pouring. And didn't stop. After a few hours I decided to start collecting rain water off the tarp. I collected 6 litres before running out of containers. A couple of people came up to me to ask if I was ok, or needed any money for food. Clearly I looked a little homeless. I did eventually put my tent up.

Monday 15th -Wednesday 17th November 2010

A 23km ride of winding hills that isn't too challenging got me to Mallacoota. I got there about 11am and checked in to the foreshore caravan park for $18 a night. After setting up my shanty town campsite, I proceeded to not do a hell of a lot. The weather turned pretty bleak. The place was full of grey nomads.

The next day I went for a walk to Bastion Point where you can just see the Gabo Island lighthouse in the distance, and a wind turbine nearby it. That night the weather finally turned around, with the clouds clearing up after sunset, making for some pretty pictures.

Mallacoota sunset

The next day the weather was great.  I went for a ride along the Shady Creek trail, and then the Lakeside bike path which is excellent. After a BBQ for lunch I rode to Betka Beach.

More photos from Mallacoota
Thursday 18th November

Woke up at 5:30 to catch the sunrise. Rode back to Genoa with a short bushwalk to Cape Horn Bay and Gipsy Point as sidetrips.

Cape Horn Bay

Collected my postal vote forms from the Genoa Hotel. At the freecamp I was reading in the shade when two Belgian touring cyclists arrived. They were riding Sydney to Adelaide. Another cycle tourist, a retired bloke arrived a little later.

About 4pm a guy roadtripping around Australia from the US to ask me to help get him unlost. He ended up chattting to me for ages. He gathered from me my dislike for gas-guzzling RVs and I threw in a conspiracy theory about the pending bovine uprising for good measure (basically the cows get us hooked on their milk and cheese products and then threaten to take these away unless certain provisons are made). He retorted that although the US is full of citizens driving tanks, Australia is worse because we burn coal. Can't hardly argue with the man. I sure felt ashamed.

Friday 19th November

I kept hearing reports from cyclists travelling from Sydney that the hills heading into Eden are horrible. I decided to cut this ride in two. Left about 730 to head into the not so bad first stage, to a free-camp at Scrubby Creek. Crossing the border was uneventful. NSW doesn't even bother putting up a welcome sign. There was a convoy of CFA blokes in their red trucks however. Just to greet me! Shuddup, it totally was.

I got to the free-camp around lunch time, but beforehand I had a wonderful surprise. Chris and Kerry from Brunswick spotted me on the road from their motorcycle and we had a roadside chat and they took some happy snaps. They were on their way to a five day hike from Mallacoota. Anyway, they're really nice people and the chance meet left me grinning all day.

At the freecamp I collected a weeks worth of firewood, read in my hammock, and then a couple of vans showed up to destroy the peace with a genset.

Saturday 20th November

Nullica River
Left about 8am. Stopped briefly at Nullica River which is very pretty. Rode into Eden. The hills into Eden weren't actually as horrible as I had imagined, or the stories foretold. I didn't have to get off and push. Was I just super awesome?

 After lunch at Eden, I decided the place was full of tools. Maybe it was just Saturday and everyone must drive their commodores around yelling caveman grunts out the windows on Saturdays? How can a place named after a biblical paradise be also proof of Darwinian humans descended from apes?

Leaving Eden I ride past a clan of neanderthal men sinking tinnies at a BBQ plate around the front of a house with their lowered sedans parked on the lawn - they all at the same time yelled out something different each which collectively came to my ears as 'aghfchaderfth' etc.  I have found the missing link! I imitated the noise they were making by wagging my tongue around while making the noise someone makes while choking on their own vomit while thoroughly inebriated.

Anyway, I find the prophecised Eden hills while leaving the place. There is one doozy which leaves the combi-vans screaming and the trucks slowing down to ant speed but with the sound of a jet. For this, I assure you, you cannot do anything but get off and slowly push the bike up. At one point I hear a truck coming so I move about a metre off the shoulder onto some dirt. The truck driver sees this, and as he must have wide traffic passing him he goes past me driving on the shoulder. I'm staring at the ground and I see a series of rather large truck wheels go past about 10km/hr about 10cm from my legs with a whole lot of noise.

The hill coming out of Eden

The hills settle down a little and I pull into the Pambula Lake boat ramp area to free-camp the night under a full moon. The place is an oyster farm so the water has lots of white sticks, uh, sticking out of it, which I suppose sticks are supposed to do.

View from the free camp at Pambula Lake

More photos of Eden and Pambula Lake

Sunday 21st November

Pambula Wetlands

I wake up early, eat breakfast at 530 and head to Pambula and find a bike path through the Pambula wetlands which has a variety of birds and the old racetrack which has kangaroos. This connects up with a bike path, that is beside Ben Boyd National Park, to Pambula Beach.

Pambula Beach

It's really nice to come across places with separated areas for bikes after days of highway. After having a second breakfast at 8am on the beach, I ride back into Pambula and find another bike path along the scenic road to Merrimbula. At Merimbula the market is on and its 930am so I wander around it and manage to eat eggs in a roll $3 for a third breakfast and dutch pancakes as a forth breakfast. 

Leaving Merrimbula I find a bloody big long hill to push the bike up with no shoulder. And its a Sunday so everyones out for a drive aren't they. After the long hill climb there is a moderately flat bit with one lane each way and no shoulder. I'm busy looking in my mirror for cars trying to run me off the road from behind when a loser in a white ute coming the other way decides to overtake a string of cars, doing 120km/h...

As I mentioned, NO SHOULDER, which means I'm occupying the space he requires to overtake in. In a split second I see a white blur heading my way, I slip off into grass as the blur misses my panniers by millimetres. All I can do is shake my head.

I swear I HATE SUNDAYS so much. I didn't catch the number plate of course. Anyway, lesson learned. Sunday arvos are a 'no ride on tourist route' zone from now on. Dickhead with not enough brain cells to put on the tip of a toothpick. Must come from Eden.

There were plenty more hills to come as I got closer to Tathra. And no real shoulder. But I made it in one piece in the end, just so that I could be stung by a $33 campsite fee for my tiny tent. Tathra Beach is nice though. Not $33 of nice, but...

Looking towards Tathra historic wharf from Tathra Beach


More photos of Pambula Wetlands and Pambula Beach

Friday, November 12, 2010

More photos

I've finally had a chance to upload some more photo sets:

Nowa Nowa to Bemm River

Friday 5th November

Rode 20 k from Nowa Nowa to Lakes Entrance on the Pacific Hwy that cuts through the Colquhuin Forest. Stayed at the Rec Reserve caravan park for $14. Set up camp about midday, right on the beach at North Arm. A seal swam past as i was setting up camp. I couldn't believe my eyes.

Had some fish and chips and delicious(ly bad for you) calamari rings, then used the internet in the library. Rode up to the lookout. Rode back down to town and bought a couple of decent sand pegs as I've snapped a couple of small ones (not in anger, just in rocky soil).

Back at camp I saw a sea eagle try to snatch a duckling. Listened to the boring leaders debate for the vic election on news radio. I'd forgotten all about the state election. It was so windy and cold that night i had on my long johns and down jacket.

Saturday 6th November 

View from the free camp 4 km North of Marlo
   Rode 75 km to a free camp 4 km North of Marlo, right on the Snowy River. From Nowa Nowa I had the choice of a 40 km ride on the rail trail to Orbost or 35 km on the Pacific Hwy. I remember that that section of rail trail has a few trestle bridges over some deep gullies, that you cannot ride on, leaving the cyclist to trip down and up the gully. Which would mean me having to get off and push the loaded bike up a gravelly hill.

I opted for the highway. On the highway there is still big hill, but it was managable staying on the bike. You can still see a couple of the trestle bridges from the highway, and it travels through the same forests.

Just before Orbost there is this long flat bridge over the floodplain, next to some long trestle bridges from the old railway line. Here I experienced some of the most dangerous crosswinds so far, threatening to knock me off the bridge. It was pretty scary so I rode as close to the middle of the road as traffic would let me.

Just as I was about to get off this bridge I met Pierre from France who has ridden about 7000 km from Darwin, and was heading for Melbourne and them Tassie, followed by NZ. He commented on the big hills.

At Orbost I grabbed some food and continued South on Marlo road for about 10 km in a ridiculous wind. It was really knocking me about.

At the free camp i spoke to Rick and Yvonne from Melbourne who own one of those hideous coach-sized RVs with a car towing behind. They're the type who drive across the country just to go to motorhome rallies and chat to other people who own bus RVs or B-doubles or whatever keeping up with the Joneses mentality has reached the "simple travelling" world now. As if there aren't enough big rigs on the road as it is. At one point he said there was no point living like a bum. Not sure if he was refering to me.

Rick asked me had I seen the goanna yet and pointed out a water dragon to me. I let him know it wasn't a goanna, that goannas are much larger. He then said he saw a goanna on the road the other day with its frilled neck. I bit my tongue.

Rick also told me about the sticker they have on their windscreen that says "Leave no trace". I didn't ask if it meant "leave no trace of fossil fuels for the next generation".

Anyway, despite being a bum and not travelling with two motorvehicles, a lounge suite, and bathroom with vanity, I do just fine sitting on the grass instead of upholstery, toileting with a view and being a part of the natural world, minus glass and metal cage, enough that I know a little bit about reptiles.

Sunday 7th November

Cape Conran

Rode 45 km today to Cape Conran and back to the freecamp outside of Marlo. I took my gear with me incase I decided to stay at Cape Conran afterall. This ride is a nice trip through the coastal park. There is a great view from East Cape. Here I met a retired couple who are on a bike tour and are heading to Adelaide. The lucky woman gets to carry only two pannier bags while hubby tows a Bob trailer.

I headed back to Marlo to grab an Icypole (I am back on that drug, have one almost daily now that days are warm).

While at Marlo I saw a man getting help to heave a huge backpack with things hanging off it onto his back, and then he walked slowly off North up Marlo road. He had with him a dog which he was swearing profusely at and being quite hostile.

An hour later I passed this same bloke on the road where he was hurling things into the swamp. Oooo-kay. Strike two.

When I was about 1 k past him I took a phone call and about 2 minutes into that call I could hear the guy screaming out in anger. Ok, that's strike three. This guy is likely a freak. This guy is to be avoided.

My plan was to freecamp just another km up the road. I decided to hide nearby, just so he wouldn't see me wanting to camp there or generally want to talk to me. No one else was around. He had stopped at the freecamp and had taken his pack off, I could see from a where I was crouched behind some bushes to guage the situation. Crap. It looked like he planned to stay. Luckily, after dumping about a kg of dry dog food in a pile there, he kept on walking, heading for Orbost. I waited until I couldn't see him 1 km up the road anymore and made camp.

One dodgy character in 4 months of travelling is probably not bad odds, especially if I could avoid the situation.

Associated photography: Snowy River to Cape Conran
Monday 8th November
From the freecamp in Marlo, I headed back into Orbost and charged my phone at the BBQ area, had some breakfast and waited for the post office to open. I had to figure out how to vote in the election. I was pretty sure I couldn't vote in NSW. I rang up the AEC and they said the only early voting centre I could use was in Bairnsdale. That was out. So I had to organise a postal vote and figure out where to send the forms via post restrante. I also had to find someone willing to witness my signature on the form, difficult when you are travelling on your own and don't know anyone in town.

Anyway, I figured out a hotel postal outlet that I'll likely be near when they send out the forms and rang them up to make sure they weren't just going to throw post restrante mail in the bin. I then went to the information centre and asked if they wouldn't mind too much witnessing a signature saying they believed I was who I was.
After this run around I went to the Foodworks and stocked up. I finally left Orbost at 11 am.
My plan was to head to Bemm River but it was about 5pm when I got to the turn off for it and it was another 25km (hills likely) so I opted instead to go three kilometres up to road to Bellbird Creek Hotel where they let you freecamp in the back paddock. Here I met Walter and Hans who are riding from Sydney to Melbourne. Walter is fundraising for cystic fibrosis and his website is http://www.coughing4cf.com/.
Had a counter meal at the Bellbird Hotel, shared a bottle of wine with Hans, and Monday nights are Euchre night so we watched two groups of Euchre players until sleepiness dragged me back to the tent. The freecamping area is lovely shady grassed areas. You can use their shower for $5 and they give you a real towel to use.
Tuesday 9th November
Rode the three kilometres to the Bemm River turn-off with Walter and Hans. Once we said our goodbyes and goodlucks, I rode the enjoyable 25 km through the forest to Bemm River, stopping at the rapids lookout.
I checked into the caravan park ($15) and after lunch spent an hour sorting out my panniers, putting the cold weather gear into a satchel to send on to Brisbane. I won't be needing it anymore. This ended up being 3.6 kg of weight. 
Once the day had cooled down a bit I rode to Pearl Point along the 4WD track, which is a big rough and slippery in places, and about 10 km in length. There are places to camp along this road. I finally got to Pearl Point after having to push my bike in places and reaching the wooden stairs I said out loud "YES! It was worth it". There is a stunning view. I rode back to the township just as the sun was setting.

Pearl Point

Bemm River and its surrounding forest and beaches is a very pretty spot, nice and quiet, and well worth the meander.

Associated photography: Bemm River

Friday, November 5, 2010

Three thousand

Well it's been a while since I used this internet thing. I have to try to remember what I've been up to... 

I had a bit of a stay-in-the-one-spot for a while because the "Melbourne long weekend" that is the Melbourne Cup time of the year, because I hate it when camping spots turn into mini-suburbs.  It wasn't just because THIS IS THE LAZIEST BICYCLE TOUR EVER.

Monday 25th October - Tuesday 26th October

Reeves Beach  -2 nights freecamping on Ninety Mile Beach. Lots of reading on the beach and in the hammock. 

Wednesday 27th October

Woodside Beach  - 1 night freecamping in the game reserve. I read on the sign at Woodside Beach that the history of the area is one Aborigine stuck a spear in one European and then the Europeans massacred up to 150 Aborigines. And now the area is a declared game reserve.  Bad taste? Anyway, it was off-season and the only people around was one farmer chick on her four-wheeler. The Woodside Beach barbeque area had a powerpoint so I charged my phone.

Thursday 28th October - Sunday 31st October

Paradise Beach - 4 nights freecamping about 10 kay from Seaspray. Lots and lots and lots of reading on this section of Ninety Mile Beach and in the hammock.

Monday 1st November

Rode to Golden Beach, then Longford (rotten egg smell from the gas plant), and then onto Sale. Stayed at the showgrounds for $5. The show had been to town that weekend and the carni's were still there with all the packed up rides and the generally-being-stereotypical show people. You know what I mean.

Tuesday 2nd November

Bairnsdale 1 night in the Mitchell Gardens caravan park $21
Clicked over 3000 km just as I arrived in Bairnsdale (well, my odometer wasn't working for a few days in October as I somehow lost the magnet, but nevermind) 

Wednesday 3rd November

On Leaving Bairnsdale, I headed out on the East Gipplsland rail trail (which I have ridden once before, in February 2010 when it was 43 degrees or something crazy). Shortly after passing over the Nicholson bridge I met Michael Oxer, who is the chairman of the management committee for this rail trail. We had a bit of a chat about the rail trail, cycling and public transport. He wanted to take my photo for rail trail advertising purposes, because I was a touring cyclist and they have plenty of pics of typical no-luggage trail users... but I'm not very photogenic. I think he said they had 1700 users counted on the trail last year and the number is climbing. This is excellent.
I had lunch at Bruthen where there are a few food shops.  Michael happened to mention that there is a micro-brewery opening at Bruthen sometime this year, and it's right next to the rail trail. I can see people getting off the train at Bairnsdale, riding the 30 km to Bruthen, having a reasonably well-earned drink or five, and then wobbling back on the trail to the train. Might have to try it myself when I get back around the Melbourne neck-of-the-woods in what will feel like several years from now.

The first 30 or so kilometres of the trail, for those who haven't yet ridden it (if not, why the hell not?) is a lovely jaunt through the rural countryside of Lucknow, Nicholson, Mossiface and Bruthen.

Another few kilometres and you're into the Colquhoun eucalypt forest. About 10 km from Bruthen, give or take, there is the turn off to the Gippsland Lakes Discovery Trail, which is the direction I took. (Otherwise you keep riding on the trail to Nowa Nowa, 60 kays from Bairnsdale, and if you're keen, another 40ish to Orbost.)

The Gippsland Lakes Discovery Trail is 25 km to Lakes Entrance. It starts off with a few uphills which I didn't appreciate much, but then there are about 7 kilometres of amazingly fun downhill meandering track through the forest and cuttings until you get to Logs Crossing Picnic Ground. I got up to about 20 km/h down this bit and there was lots of grinning. Then there was six kay of pushing my load up slippery hills and generally cursing Newton for inventing gravity.

Now, I'm pretty good at getting lost and being easily disoriented... and after three and a bit months of not getting lost, this day I kind of made up for all the map-reading and checking with a compass I usually do. I ended up heading in completely the wrong direction, by making a lot of assumptions, and ended up heading north instead of south. So, instead of having 10 kays left to go for the day, I ended up riding 15 kay on unsealed road. Early into this blunder I came around a corner too quickly, hit some soft gravel and ended up eating gravel. I got some skin off my knee and some more off my elbow. A day of firsts for the trip. I finally stacked it. Anyway I picked my bloody self up and kept riding (in the wrong direction still) up to Nowa Nowa Road. So anyway, I figure out by now I'm an idiot and I ride onto Nowa Nowa. That was a 90 kilometre day and I got to the Nowa Nowa 'Mingling Waters' caravan park at 8pm. Mike the proprietor let me stayed there for $10.

Thursday 4th November

Met Jeff and Fiona, two of the teachers from Nagle College who were staying at the Nowa Nowa caravan park with some of their year 9 'Duke of Ed' students. They had all ridden 75 k on the rail trail yesterday. Jeff asked if I wanted to join them all on a 10 km canoe trip in the Lake Tyers water system. Which I did. I got a lovely pink kayak. I clearly suck at kayaking as I went about 2 km at most  before being horribly behind the group who were paired up in canoes, so ended up getting towed by the boat for a while :) After morning tea I ended up in the boat for the rest of the day. Had lunch on the bank just near the start of the Lake Tyer Aboriginal Trust starts and helped start the fire for cooking some damper. 

Mike was at the tiller of the boat and I'd suggest if you're going to do the rail trail, stay at Nowa Nowa one night and slip Mike some coin for a bit of a chat about the local area - its history and its wildlife. He's a very knowledgable man and a top bloke.

I've uploaded one set of photos so far: BunurongMarinePark