Saturday, February 09, 2008

DAY 126: Maclean to Evan’s Head

Fri 8th February 2008
64 km @ 16.5 km/hr
Distance to date 7613 km (4758 miles)
Hot and sunny

Despite a lot of lightning there was no thunderstorm and just a scattering of rain occasionally overnight. Whatever, all the washing was dry on the line this morning. It’s been pretty warm for the last few nights but I managed to sleep well enough. I have enjoyed Maclean but as ever am excited about what lies ahead, whatever that might be. I phoned Nationwide Bank last evening and hopefully sorted out why I have been refused cash from ATM’s - apparently mail from the bank has been returned to them and so they had to suspend the account. I’m sure I have informed them of my circumstances so I don’t know what went wrong. Since I was able to confirm my ID they will restore the account asap.
It’s 4 or 5km to the Pacific Highway and then back amongst heavy traffic and lots of lorries, however the shoulder is wide enough for me to be comfortable, except where it almost disappears briefly at some creek crossings. I had something of a tailwind for a change, so was cruising at 20 km/hr or so at first. The road has few hills so it was pretty easy riding all the way today. The long bridge over the Clarence River has a separate passage for bikes / pedestrians, but strangely you have to cross some long grass to get on it - it clearly isn’t used very often, but with some 600m of bridge I was very glad of it rather than having to joust with 100 km/hr lorries. Some of the lorry drivers are extremely aggressive; one was tailgating a ‘P’ plate learner driver just a few feet from his rear bumper - must have been scary for him / her. I took trouble to wave at those lorry drivers that gave me a wide berth.
After 40km I arrived at New Italy rest area, where a coffee and cake were called for. This place is well worth stopping for - not only a great coffee and lots of cakes / pastries to choose from (latte and chocolate cherry slice to die for for me) but there are 2 museums, free of charge, explaining how an Italian community came to be here. A Italian ‘agent’ in 1890 or so sold tickets to ‘a wonderful new land’ where the people could settle and prosper, however they were dropped on a hostile island in the Pacific where many of them perished through exposure, starvation and attacks from natives, before they were finally rescued and taken to Australia. It’s like a little corner of Italy, and one of the museums has information on every region of Italy. It’s well worth a stop to stretch the legs - and do try one of their cakes lol.
Another 9km north I turned right off the Highway onto the Evan’s Head road - 10km to the town, which is a small place of 3500 population, set at the mouth of the Evans River. The caravan park ($15) is in a nice position by the river and 200m from the Pacific ‘surf’ beach. The recent heavy rains have dislodged lots of organic matter and debris, not to mention eroded land and caused sewage overflows, such that the river is dark brown in contrast to the blue sea. There are signs up along the river warning that all water-based activities are forbidden, probably due to risks from sewage. A (former) Scotsman I chatted to who was a keen surfer said that they try not to surf in such conditions, where the sea too was blackened by the river for some distance away. Nevertheless there were inevitably some youngsters in there looking for the Big One who obviously needed their daily ‘fix’.
I explored a little then did some time on the free library internet, but unfortunately the computer settings prevented ‘seeing’ the card reader or camera, so I wasn’t able to upload. I had lots of e-mail again though, and yet another donation to WaterAid from an anonymous donor - many thanks if you’re reading this.
When I was checking in at the Caravan Park the couple in front of me were the same ones that I had been next to at Maclean; and we were placed next to each other again too. They too are taking a year to travel around Oz, with 4x4 and tent, and we had a good blather over dinner. After 3 days of rather lazily eating in cafes of getting a carry-out it was time to cook for myself again.

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