Thursday, January 31, 2008

DAY 119: Diamond Head to Point Plomer Campsite

Fri 1st February 2008
66 km @ 12.4 km/hr
Distance to date 7220 km (4512 miles)
Cloudy, humid, upper 20’s

Up fairly early and no Skippy to greet me today - the wallabies are all down on the beach beachcombing. One of them is gazing out across the Pacific, thoughtfully - what is he thinking? “I wonder what’s out there?” The grass is always greener on the other side son....
After muesli I quickly packed up and Steve came to see me off with a lump of fruit cake his wife had made for him (he was here on his own for a few days), which was a nice gesture. I gave him my card so he may keep in touch; I’ve met so many friendly Australians so far, and it’s made this trip all the more enjoyable. Steve reckons I’ll enjoy Plomer Head and that’s where I’ve decided to go today all being well.

I said goodbye to the wallabies and hit the (gravel) road again. Only for 5km though and it changed back to tarmac. 10km from the start I was entering the small town of Laurieton where I stopped for an iced coffee. It was 0830 and hot and humid. Traffic was heavy at this time, probably due to the school run - can’t let the little darlings walk you know! That reminds me of a very large lady I saw at Diamond Head - she was taking what looked like her grandaughter to the loo with the latter (also porky already at 2 years old) driving herself on a little battery-powered car, saying “good girl, you are clever”. Hmmmmm! ....Habits set for a lifetime maybe? God, I sound like a Grumpy Old Man (guess I am too!).

Traffic eased a little as I left Laurieton but there was no shoulder for at least 10km, however there were no lorries and the car drivers were behaving well. In Lake Cathie I spotted an internet place so got the blog up to date, and also caught Lyn online so we had a nice googlechat. The road was pretty flat for the first 30km but the nearer I got to Port Macquarie the more Tobleroning there was. Steep and short mostly. PM itself is a nice-looking place but VERY hilly - from passing the “Welcome to PM” sign it was fully 8km of steep hills and descents before arriving in the town proper.

I had a very good salad for lunch, not spoilt by the assistant giving me change from $10 when I’d given her a $50 note, and I ate Steve’s fruitcake, which was delicious - cheers Mrs.Steve, you're a cracker! I had a struggle finding the VIC as the office had recently moved, and finished up going to the police station to ask. I also asked about the state of the Plomer track as it is marked on my map as “4WD only”, and the policeman confirmed itr was indeed rough. At the VIC the guy there said the same, but siad that it was ‘doable’ as his son recently rode it as a challenge with the scouts or something. He said to go for it, which I already thought I would do.
There’s a ‘punt’ cable-driven ferry across the esturial Maria River from Settlement Point to North Shore (only takes 4 minutes and pedestrians / cyclists are free, and I only had to wait a few minutes as it runs to and fro all day).

On the north side there’s a tar road for 2km then it turns to decent gravel, then it changes to badly corrugated gravel, then after 7km it turns to loose sand. The latter was extremely testing, and for fully 1km I had to get off and push with the heavy load on board making it very difficult to keep the bike upright. It was very hot and humid in this late afternoon and I was pouring with sweat and effort; I drank a litre and a half in less than 1 hour.
It was very difficult to ride even after the sand, once it had firmed up a bit, and it called for good bike handling skills to stay upright. The silly riding in deep snow a couple of winters ago maybe had value after all. You have to constantly scan the track in front of you - much as you do when mountain biking in difficult terrain - and seek out firmer ground. Usually where there are stones it’s firmer - you worry when all you can see is bare sand, firm or not. Anyhow I managed to keep the bike upright, and counted off the kms one by one. The 59th km of the day was the worst, and seemed to take ages to complete.
Joy oh joy - there was the sign for the campsite and the gravel road immediately improved. The 12km bad section is apparently privately owned and is not maintained at all - normal gravel roads at least get graded every so often depending on level of use.
The campsite (it’s in Limeburner’s Creek Nature Reserve) was nice but busier than Diamond Head these last 2 days. I found a decent pitch and set up, took a dip in the briny to cool off, had a (cold) shower, had a chat to another camper, cooked dinner, and was just finishing eating when 8 very noisy youngsters arrived just before dark and started to set up 2 tents right next to me - why? Just to annoy me? I went for a walk along the shore, which was much more pleasant than listening to their racket, and after this I made tea and took it, biscuits, PDA and keyboard over to a table on the ocean edge where all I can hear is the sea crashing onto the rocks beside me. It is pitch dark, so I have my trusty Petzyl head torch on (what a great thing that is).

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