Monday, January 28, 2008

DAY 114: Dungog to Bulahdelah

Sun 27th January 2008
67 km @ 13.0 km/hr
Distance to date 7009 km (4381 miles)
Sunny, upper 20’s, perfect

Slept well despite e or 4 long freight trains passing during the night only 50m away - but felt a little isolated with only myself in the caravan park. The sun was quickly heating up the tent by 0730 so I scurried out and got a sunshine breakfast. I’m having muesli every day now, having discovered little 125cc cartons of milk that are the ideal size; obviously I can’t carry opened milk cartons around on the bike.
Next stop Stroud then (next town up the road is Gloucester lol), but I shouldn’t have been surprised to find more big hills since I’m still in the Great Dividing Range. It was Toblerone territory allright - straight up 9% / straight down 9% - and a rapid shift from gear 1 to gear 14; no need for any gears in between. I was finding it hard to get into a rhythm so soon in the day, and I was relieved when I reached the end of a 3km climb, to mostly coast down into Stroud.
Stroud is a nice quiet rural centre; very peaceful and pleasant. Main attraction for me initially was a bottle of Dare Double Espresso Iced Coffee, which comes VERY close to FUIC for hitting the perfect spot.
There had been modest traffic between Dungog and Stroud, and a little bit more between Stroud and Bowral, but after turning left at Bowral onto the Bulahdelah road the traffic was very light indeed. Maybe it was the coffee, but more likely the enjoyment of this road improved my mood a great deal. The Bowral to Bulahdelah road was absolutely delightful - hardly any traffic, trees right up to the edge of the road offering plenty of shade on this warm sunny day, nice twisty bends, and mostly small hills. It was such a pleasure I actually slowed down to help it last longer. All that was missing was a nice spot to stop and put the billy on, so I made do with cold water thanks to Grace’s sock cooler system. There was one longish hill at around 7%, and as I was nearing the top a motorcyclist slowed down, said hello, and stopped, presumably expecting me to do the same; however I was at a steepish bit and would have had trouble getting started again had I stopped, so I hope he didn’t think I was being antisocial!
After the long uphill there was a long downhill, but the bumpy / potholed road prevented me getting any speed up and I had to ride the brakes instead, but that was a small thing compared to the enjoyment of this section. About halfway between Booral and Bulahdelah there is a YHA Youth Hostel which I hadn’t been aware of - it’s really in the back of beyond as there are very few settlements around there. I did stop to have a look but the place was deserted. It’s a very small building so wouldn’t house many guests but the location is beautiful. I used the facilities (outdoor drop dunny of course he he) and moved on.
A few km before Bulahdelah I met good old Highway 1 again for the first time in weeks (this road goes all the way around Australia) and although quite bust there was a good shoulder to ride in. Bulahdelah is a pleasant enough place that cashes in on the fairly heavy Highway 1 traffic and is dominated by Bulahdelah Mountain, half of which seems to be about to disappear to be replaced by a superhighway according to some protest posters I read. I parked at a riverside table and made tea and sandwiches since it was 1430 and I hadn’t had lunch. I got talking to a guy who is the main Australian importer of Ortlieb gear (panniers and such) whom I believe I e-mailed before coming to Oz about possibly buying panniers here. He was asking how I have got on with them, and I reported absolutely OK. They are indeed completely waterproof, no doubt about it after all the rain here lately.
I was in 2 minds whether to check into the CP here or carry on further, but as it was around 4 plumped for the former option. The CP is OK, nice and clean, campers kitchen etc. There’s also a nice little swimming pool, and after a hot afternoon I was soon in there splashing round and then lying in the sun to dry off. It was a beautiful evening - sunny, warm, and the birds were very active, with the most numerous and vociferous Kookaburra’s I’ve yet heard - they were laughing their socks off at something - probably the state of the old git in the pool.
I got chatting to a couple, Scottie and Kathleen, who were in a small caravan nearby, and it turned out they emigrated here from Perth, Scotland 40 years ago - they both still had strong Scottish accents. They are returning home to Coff’s Harbour, which is 150km north of here and where I will be passing through in a few days time - and they kindly invited me to give them a call when I’m there. I think they saw the Scottish flag I have stuck out at the back, so that’s another opening that’s helped bring about.
Tomorrow I have a few km on H1 then turn off left onto The Lakes Way which winds around the Great Lakes to Forster, and I am looking forward to seeing the sea again after a couple of weeks break. There are lots of places to camp and as this weekend is the last of the summer holiday season (the kids go back to school next week after their long summer holidays) it should be somewhat quieter. Only w or 3 weeks to go until Lyn flies out to Brisbane so I’m quite excited about that too!

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