Wednesday, February 06, 2008

DAY 123: Darlington Bay Resort to Maclean

Tues 5th February 2008
84 km @ 14.6 km/hr
Distance to date 7510 km (4694 miles)
showers, warm

I enjoyed a nice comfy bed for a change, and I was in no rush to get up. We 3 had breakfast together then Scottie made me my ‘piece’ for lunch, bless him - a substantial piece too! It wasn’t raining early on, but a few minutes before I was due to leave it started again, quite heavy too. It was expected though as per last night’s forecast. Not to worry, you can only get so wet, so I said my goodbyes to a lovely couple that I won’t forget in a hurry, and off I went at around 9.
It was only 1km back onto the Pacific Highway (this place is near Arrawarra in case you’re wondering) and then 46 km or so to Grafton, however I’d decided to get off the Highway asap even though this (the Pillar Valley road) was 34km from today's starting point. It chucked it down the whole 34km but stopped just as I turned off - a good sign! The smaller road was very quiet with hardly any traffic, and it was utter joy to get away from the noisy spray-splashing and aggressive lorries and what in parts was hardly any shoulder. I now know why I wanted to avoid the Highway, but I will continue to take every detour I can within reason now I'm committed.
This whole 40km detour has no serious hills and is mostly gently undulating farmland - mostly beef and dairy. After all the heavy rain there has been a lot of flooding in this area and huge areas were under water. I stopped at Tucabia general store for an iced coffee (this is the only shop on the detour I think) but then when departing on the road signposted to Maclean there was a ‘Road Closed’ sign - drat! To detour back through Ulmarra would have added 15km or so, but a van driver coming from the direction of Maclean saw me scratching my head and stopped to tell me the road was flooded for about 200m, but that I should be OK as it was only up to the middle of his wheels, so I decided to give it a go. Even though front panniers (Ortlieb’s) might be too low to clear the water I wasn’t worried about them taking in water - they have been completely waterproof through all the long hours in torrential rain. The flood was just 3km on, and indeed the water was about 250mm deep, so on I went and everything was fine. No drama really as expected.
On I went past little farms, scaring the animals to death as it seemed they don’t see many people in this remote area, let alone bicycles, and eventually onto my favourite highway again, which was busy as ever and the shoulder was regularly down to 300mm or less. Again several lorry drivers refused to move over to give me room even though there was nothing in the outside lane. There were no signs pointing to Maclean, but I knew it was ahead - they just referred to Ballina. The road parallels the Clarence River, the biggest river on the east coast of Oz. A few km ahead I could see a small settlement which must have been Maclean, with a huge black cloud and misty rain around it. After this mornings soaking I had completely dried out in the afternoon, and now it started to rain with onlt 10 minutes riding left! Anyway as I was entering the caravan park it eased and I was able to get set up without getting any wetter. The park is very small but seems quiet enough and is $12. I may stay another night and explore Maclean tomorrow. It’s supposed to be a ‘Scottish’ town, and certainly I’ve already noted that all the lamposts are painted in a different tartan with the name of the clan. There is an annual Scottish "gathering' every Easter, with Highland Games etc.
I couldn’t be bothered cooking tonight so went down the road to the pub and had a great meal of whiting and chips and salad; quite a plateful. Nevertheless I couldn’t resist the baked caramel cheesecake which also came with ice cream and cream - delicious.

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