10 – 19 January and 23 January - 1 February 2015
This section covers Moruya to Melbourne including couchsurfing with Mark and Nadia in Sandy Point but excluding my trip to Wilsons Prom which is depicted separately in the following section. After a long break in Moruya I was once again out of shape so I was conservative on my estimated arrival time in Sandy Point - 9 days to do 700k felt like ample time. The ride to Sandy Point turned out to be poorly timed – on the east coast with the ocean views it was raining and overcast, over the big rolling hills it was often melting hot and across the open farmland I had a fierce headwind. From Sandy Point to Melbourne it was somewhat the same – overcast and raining on the coast and sunny/warm as I headed inland. Including the 120k to Wilsons Prom the trip to Melbourne was close to 1,100k making the current Australian total around 2,000k.
Instead of commenting everything in timely order I have written some relevant topics however the pictures shown are mostly in line with the trip timeline.
Description of itinerary
Prince’s Highway is the main road along the coast from Sydney to Melbourne. It’s big and busy and because it’s mostly inland it has few views which makes it less interesting. However, unlike the stretch from Sydney to Moruya there were few possibilities for detours on backroads – the first one was after 50k at Tilba Tilba where I rode about 100k on backroads to Pambula. It could have been beautiful in good weather but a monsoon entailed overcast skies and lots of rain preventing what could have been great coastal views. From Pambula I rode hundreds of kilometres on the big highway over constant rolling hills through forest with only one backroad 50k from Nowa Nowa to Bairnsdale. It was hot and even though there was a wind, it did little to cool me down as the hills and trees were in the way. The last third from Bairnsdale to Sandy Point was farmland which meant flat and open landscape – it was sunny but the fierce headwind was a struggle; more often permanent winds of over 50 k/h with even higher gusts. I had a great stay with Mark and Nadia in Sandy Point some days before and after my trip to Wilsons Prom National Park. They were a lovely people and we shared many life reflections and travelling stories as they have also done their share of long-distance biking.
Once again I was lucky to have couchsurfing in place before leaving – this time in Melbourne. And again I had ample time with 4 days to do around 300k. From Sandy Point I mostly went on smaller roads up the coast to Wonthaggi from where I took a 16k bike trail to Anderson – not spectacular but nice to get off the highway. Getting close to Melbourne options were few and I rode different big highways to Upper Ferntree Gully east of Melbourne where I was lucky to meet Carol. I was running a day early and she was very kind to let me stay in her guestroom. I considered biking around the area but since it was overcast and people told me there were limited views I spent the afternoon writing on my blog and other practicalities. In the morning I joined Carol and some of her friends’ for a 32k ride around the Nandenong Ranges before packing up and heading for Melbourne. I started out on bike trails but they were poorly signposted so instead I went on bigger roads into Melbourne. I was running early so I visited a couple of parks waiting for my hosts Pete and Vicky to come home from work. I had 4 days in Melbourne but since I’ve been there before and will return after Tasmania, it wasn’t urgent to go sightseeing. Instead I spent most of the time updating my website, stocking up and hanging out with my great hosts e.g. walking cute dog Mo, going out to meet friends, visiting the Queen Victoria Market and watching a movie Pete had participated in.
Road quality and drivers
My reflections in the last section have not changed though riding bigger roads I more often had decent size shoulder – not to be confused with good quality. Most of the highways were two lanes and without a shoulder (or a shoulder too bad to ride) I experienced a number of dangerous situations as the trucks never slowed down - just honking for me to get out of the way and when I couldn't go anywhere they just squeezed by anyway despite oncoming traffic. Other dangerous situations occurred riding uphill on the narrow, winding roads – many times a car came fast from behind, noticing me too late to stop and having to squeeze by. On the positive side people began greetings me especially after I left the big highway after Bairnsdale – still not a lot but so much the better when it happened….
Besides the glass, screws/nails and other scrap, I still find a lot of stuff on shoulder – useless stuff like roller skates and plyers a lot of it even useful e.g. duct tape, rope, bungee cords, a pillow case to make a sweatband and a hat.
During the first days it was overcast and raining but since the air was warm it was just pleasant – I decided against wearing my rain jacket as sweating would make me equally soaking wet from condensation. Later on the bigger constant rolling hills it was extremely hot – as in the US I used my t-shirt as a bandana only to experience being burned on the part of my back that was no longer covered. Instead I made a bandana from a pillow case I found on the shoulder but as the material was too dense I almost suffered a heatstroke – changing it to a sweatband worked well.
The wind in the open landscape was ridiculous. More often over 50 k/h with even stronger gusts I had to push hard to do around 10 k/h where I would normally do 30-40 k/h without wind. Quite demoralising and a good reminder to look into the wind forecast before leaving Adelaide for the desert – or if the forecast predicts too crazy headwinds maybe taking the train to Perth and riding back to Adelaide. As my statistics teacher always said – “only idiots and high jumpers navigate the fence where it is highest”.
I experienced very little wildlife on this stretch – mostly kangaroos and different birds. Though they must be out there since I encountered lots of different road kill – mostly kangaroos but also possums, wombats, hares, lizards, snakes, birds, etc. On the first day out of Moruya I encountered two snakes on the shoulder – a big green snake (2-3 meters and fairly fat) with white zigzag back and a meter brown snake with a blackish back. They didn’t look run-over so I assumed they were just enjoying the warm asphalt but as I passed them going downhill with around 60-70 k/h there was no time for a photo and little desire to go back up to get one.
The fly behaviour surprised me a bit - very few on the overcast days and countless on the hot days – why are they out in 35-40 degrees burning sun; maybe because people are sweating more but still…. And I’m impressed how they can attack me in the strong winds hovering around my face waiting for an opening to attack - especially annoying uphill when I had little chance of defending myself. The march flies are the worst biting until blood flows – and difficult to kill relentlessly returning even when I managed to hit them….
Camping and people
I try to stay open-minded but it is getting increasingly difficult with the number self-centred and narrow-minded people I meet. I kept initiating conversations but they mostly turned into short exchanges of superficial pleasantries and therefore I stayed most nights in forests. A couple of times when I asked for camping advice I was offered woofing but that doesn’t really work for me – firstly I don’t stay with people to save money but to get to know them and secondly I can’t bike every second day (I would never get in shape and never get anywhere). Two times I have been invited to pitch my tent in a farmer’s field – one time was a good experience with Ewan and Jan being interested in my trip while the other was just getting a place to stay even though the guy offering it had no interest in me. Had the latter happened in the USA I would have left to find another place as it was so easy to find interesting people to stay with but here I take what I can get. A couple of times I have stayed in free campgrounds – not too many noisy people which is my usual challenge but mostly it’s foreigners which is less interesting than meeting locals.
My best on-the-road experience yet was in Upper Ferntree Gully where I met Carol while asking for directions. It was late morning and I had to pass time being a day early for arriving in Melbourne and before I knew it, she invited me to have the guestroom – I also got a shower, dinner a bike ride with some of her friends and of course many interesting conversations. In the USA it was a frequent event so I can only hope it’s not a one-off here in Australia.
Equipment and health
No problems with the bike after the repair in Moruya – the rear pannier still needs replacement but hopefully it can wait until Adelaide. My ongoing challenge is the tent zippers – they still work but often it takes many attempts and some day soon it will be a problem. I hope it lasts until Adelaide where I have a new tent waiting at my friend Allan’s.
Despite having biked fairly few kilometres a day (less than one hundred on average which is very low compared to what I do when I’m in shape) surprisingly I have already lost most the weight I gained in Moruya. The constant rolling hills probably had their effect and then I don’t eat as excessively when I bike. I’m sure the strenuous 3 day trip to Wilsons Prom also had its effect (see next section).