Saturday, February 09, 2008

DAY 127: Evan’s Head to Broken Head CP

Sat 9th February 2008
76 km @ 15.5 km/hr
Distance to date 7689 km (4806 miles)
Hot and sunny

Up early and as I couldn’t buy any muesli in town yesterday it was Weetbix (not Weetabix but same shape and similar) for breakfast; it made a change though and I must have enjoyed it as I had 8 pieces with 2 x 200ml cartons of milk. Away late through chatting with my neighbours and the (former) Scots guy I met yesterday who came to see me off. Then I took a wrong turn and went up a steep hill, finishing back where I was 3km later. My excuse is that there are no road direction signs in Evans Head!
Finally found the right road to Ballina (pronounced not as BalEEna as I thought but as BALLina with the emphasis on the AL as in ballet), which was fairly quiet and tree lined so the NW headwind was somewhat muted. This 12km stretch rejoins the Pacific Highway for 7km before I took the right turn at Wardell for Ballina South. All these roads were extensively lined with sugar cane fields, and the sound of the breeze in the crop is quite pleasing (when there’s no traffic). The Highway was busy but there was again a good shoulder.
The road from Wardell to Ballina South was perfect for cycling - hardly any traffic at all; warm sunshine; pleasant scenery with the wide waters of the Richmond River to the left - so of course it’s flat terrain - as it has mostly been all the way so far today. This latter road is lined with many small farms and as I say lots of sugar cane. All the houses are on the right hand side and they nearly all have a little jetty in the river on the right hand side with a little boat moored there.
11km from Wardell you come to the ferry which takes you back across to the Highway just SW of Ballina itself, but there is a junction just before the ferry leading to Ballina South, so I decided to have a look even though it was 6km away - however it was wasted effort really in that there is no town / village just 2 caravan parks, so I had an iced coffee at one of them and headed back to the ferry.
As with the ferry from Port Macquarie there was no charge for pedestrians or cyclists. The trip only takes 5 minutes (the ferry runs to and from all day every day) and on disembarking it’s back on the Pacific Highway for a few km and you’re in Ballina. (Past the giant prawn!). This is a medium-sized town with quite a few shops, one of which had the internet and a large selection of ice creams, and I took advantage of the latter, however the 7 or 8 PC’s had no USB available so you can’t upload, so I didn’t bother. I can’t understand why the odd place like this doesn’t allow uploading - why? All the libraries and most internet cafes allow this and presumably have decent virus checking, but some just don’t get it. The 7 or 8 empty seats were telling.
After raiding the Visitor Info Centre I carried on the coast road to Lennox Head and Byron Bay. The road was immediately hilly, and undulated quite severely at times, which was a surprise after all the flatness lately. It was very hot now too and I was drinking lots of water. I spotted a juice bar at ‘smart’ Lennox Head but plumped for a fresh fruit salad smothered in yoghurt and muesli - delicious, and a very generous helping too.
The hills continued after LH and I was glad to finally see the sign for my intended destination, Broken Head, but not pleased to see a 15% climb up off the coast road, and even less pleased to note that there was a long descent down to the sea and caravan park, which I will have to climb up again in the morning. The CP was the most expensive ever at $27 but I wasn’t going back up that hill again at 1730 so had to cough up. The whole thing was a drag - the receptionist gave me the wrong toilet key code, and although there was 2 hours free wireless internet included she had given me the wrong password to get in and the office was closed then. Then I was told not to ride my bike in the park area, which seems stupid when people can drive their big 4x4’s around whenever they like. It was starting to feel personal!? This is a 'Top Tourist' branded CP by the way.
Anyway sod ‘em, and I was off for a wonderful dip in the sea - lovely warm clean water and nice large but smooth waves to lol about in - it felt lovely. I then went a walk along a cliff path and watched all the surfers for a while. You don't feel at all cold when coming out in this weather.
I won’t be staying here another night at these prices, so will have a look at Byron Bay tomorrow and find an internet place to see if there’s any response to a couple of people I’ve asked to host me in a few days.

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.