Friday, January 25, 2008

DAY 110: Emu Plains to bush camp 5km N of Colo Heights

Weds 23rd January 2008
86 km @14.1 km/hr
Distance to date 6741 km (4213 miles)
Cloudy, warm

Up just after 7 to large bowl of muesli then slowly packed up ready to leave. I had to again run the gauntlet with the heavy traffic as best I could. Penrith and Emu Plains (they are only 2km apart) are very cycle-unfriendly with no bike lanes to speak of, fast aggressive drivers etc. There’s a narrow bridge over the Nepean River that is just not safe to ride on the main carriageway. There is a narrow footpath on the ‘wrong’ side compared to the way I was travelling and to get on this I had to stop just before the start of the bridge, wait for a gap in the traffic, and rush across pushing the bike up a high kerb on the other side - it’s a disgrace Penrith Council. Mind you they didn’t skimp on the council offices which are huge and grand in stark contrast to the mediocrity of the city itself! OK, rant over.
Traffic was heavy for some 10km north of Penrith then it dropped back to more acceptable levels up to Richmond. Here I popped in Coles Supermarket for a few items - last chance before bush camping tonight maybe - and headed to Windsor. En route I stopped at the Visitor Info Centre to see if I could find out about the best route north. The aim is to skirt around Newcastle (busy city) and onto the quieter coastal roads thereafter. I’ve been told there are nice beaches on this stretch of coast. As usual the ladies were very helpful, and I gathered that route 69 to Singleton was a good option - not too busy, scenic, some shouldered sections, and plenty of opportunity for bush camping as it is very remote. There’s only one roadhouse in about 110km (lovely - I need some peace and quiet after the Sydney area). Having said this the last 3 days have been the most unsociable so far - no-one seemed to want to be friendly somehow. Maybe related to city / tourist issues?! Anyway I decided to take route 69 even though it would be hilly.
And hilly it was - a few km N of Windsor (nice looking town) the climbing began, and height gained was unfortunately mostly lost again in descent; nevertheless I enjoyed the quieter road and endless trees. Like the Blue Mountain area, these hills are also covered top to bottom with forest. I also enjoyed not being bothered by flies - where have they all gone? Maybe all the rain has reduced their numbers? This part of the ride reminded me of the day in the Otway's - pleasant despite the grinding hills. Some of the hills were 8 or 9%, which is pretty significant when pulling a heavy load, but the gearing saved me again - ultra low gears are essential in these circumstances.
There’s a caravan park at Colo River, and I thought about stopping, but as it was only 1500, and also the place smelt overpoweringly of sewage, I decided to press on. From there to Colo Heights filling station (last chance for 50km or so) it was all uphill, but as previously there was usually something of a shoulder to ride in. As seems normal in NSW there are infuriating red cat’s eyes set in the edge of the road a few inches inside or outside the white edge, and I kept running over these. They seem to be in just the wrong place for cyclists, and the more I tried to avoid them the more I ran over them - somehow drawn into them! I found a Farmer’s Union Iced Coffee at the filling station and had this with a Snickers bar out of the fridge too. I needed to phone the campervan hire company to pay for the week’s hire when Lyn comes out next month, but the Telstra payphone was out of order - according to the station owners this is because the coin box is full and it has been for ages. However I was told to use their phone, which was nice, and I got this sorted out.
It was 1700 when I set off again, so I started looking in earnest for a place to camp, and it didn’t take too long to find somewhere - a disused track leading away from the road, and there was a convenient clearing in the trees which could not be seen from the road.
As I was erecting the tent the noise from the cicadas was deafening - my ears were ringing - and the sound kept going louder, then quieter for a while. As usual on arrival I sprayed myself well with insect repellent to avoid getting bitten by mozzies and the super-nasty horse flies in particular. The latter can be vicious - they seem to just go for you straight away, no messing, but the upside is they are slow to move and can be squashed easily. Mozzies too are easy to catch if you can actually see them, but being much smaller you often don’t see them before they’ve had their wicked way. By spraying you can relax a bit and stop worrying about them. I prefer to eat sat in the Thermarest chair outside rather than in the tent where insects can’t get in once the inner is zipped up.
After dinner (pasta, salami etc.) I went for a short walk down the disused track as it was going dark (2000) - very peaceful apart from the occasional crescendo of cicadas.
Later on I heard dogs barking so there must be a settlement somewhere around here, though it is some way away. As ever in the bush all kind of strange noises of animal or insect origin arise from time to time, but I don’t expect to be troubled.

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