The journey continues – week 6 by: JK | Sat 11 Sep

Saturday was a day of leisure, domestics and discovery in Bellangry (about 17km from Wauchope) – I had a leisurely breakfast with Stuart & Heather and, once my clothes washing was out of the way, I set to repairing punctured tubes and giving my bike a minor service. Stuart then took me up to his shed – he has been converting a Daihatsu Charade to an electric car. I must say the quality of the workmanship was great – very, very neat work. The car itself runs very well and….so quiet – it’s odd to have a vehicle other than a bike move so silently! This thing has oomph as well – Stuart drove me around his property and it is more than capable of climbing quite steep hills – impressive. We managed to while away the day quite easily. I was leaving the next day and Stuart offered to ride with me to the highway.

The next morning (Father’s Day) dawned fine and, after saying goodbye to Heather, we set off at about 8am, up and out of Bellangry and towards Telegraph Point and the Pacific Highway leading north. Before long we hit sealed road – the BoB seems to tow equally well on dirt as bitumen; I am becoming more & more impressed with this fine piece of cycle engineering. After a stop for a bite to eat and a quick drink at Telegraph Point, I bid Stuart farewell and continued my trek towards Nambucca Heads.

On Stuart’s recommendation, I headed off the highway at Kempsey, through Austral Eden to Smithtown for lunch. I then headed back to the highway before reaching Nambucca at about 2:30pm – this is again a part of Australia that I stayed there for 2 days with Faye & Evan (and their kids, Zoe & Tess – both exceptionally bright) and felt quite at home. Faye is a uni friend of a friend of mine and I can see why they get on so well – the expression: “two peas in a pod” comes to mind.

Being here on a Monday gave me the opportunity to make some follow-up calls to councils to try to organise presentations. This is a big job and anything I can do to take the load off my volunteers is a good thing.

I hadn’t managed to get a ‘gig’ at Nambucca so I had to console myself by playing a game or two on the final evening with the family – it was a tough job, but someone had to do it. 😉

I left my kind hosts the following morning bound for Sawtell just south of Coffs Harbour. My hosts in Sawtell, Cameron & Jacquie, had managed to organise a presentation for me at the university that Cameron works at as we had had no luck with the local council. The first part of the ride included a fairly steep uphill and, unfortunately, I wasn’t in ‘granny’ gear before hitting it and so I managed to bind the chain up when trying to change down into the low chainring. This caused me grief in that I found myself with only my middle chainring useable – I tried a roadside repair a number of times unsuccessfully. A proper fix would have to wait until I reached Sawtell as Jacquie was leaving for work at about 11:30am and I needed to get in before then.

When I arrived in, I found that Jacquie had gone to the trouble of preparing a couple of sandwiches for me for lunch and I was ushered into “Pappa’s Room” – a self-contained bungalow. I had an appointment with the local weekly paper at 4pm in Coffs Harbour but I needed to fix my front derailleur so I set to doing this. I also discovered that I had managed to get a half page promoting my talk in the local paper the day before.

I now had time to go into Sawtell proper; for a stroll along the wonderful beach and a dip in the ocean before heading into Coffs for my media appointment. My talk went well that evening and we then headed back ‘home’ for a late dinner with a number of the locals.

The next morning I set off again at 8am as I had a good distance to travel that day – I decided to avoid the Pacific Hwy again and took the lesser travelled Orara Way out through Coramba, where I did a telephone interview on ABC local radio. The climb out of Coffs was a real ‘knee-breaker’ but, once I had climbed this, there were just rolling hills all the way to Grafton. The day was quite warm and I arrived early afternoon. I decided to go into Grafton to get the lie of the land for my talk that evening – I was staying that night with another ‘warmshowers’ host in Clarenza; 6km out of town.

Unfortunately, for some reason, the presentation was poorly attended that night but those that were there were enthusiastic. I headed back to Clarenza where Rob had kindly mapped out an ‘off-the-highway’ route for most of my next day’s travel. Another good night’s sleep set me up for an early start again and I headed back into Grafton to take the Lawrence Road to a ferry crossing of the Clarence River. Just outside of Grafton, I fell foul again of the bits wire thrown off by truck tyres at the side of the road and had to change my front tube before proceeding on to MacLean – a delightful bit of Scotland in Australia – and lunch. I rejoined the highway soon after MacLean just short of Harwood.

My original host, Tony, an Alternative Technology Association member who lives near Woodburn, had to go out of town unexpectedly and so he set me up with some friends of his in Broadwater. I rejoined the highway soon after lunch and got to Broadwater by about 3:30pm, where I was greeted by Rod and Donella – Rod is also an ATA member and I have been hosted by many such members along my travels. They live on a lovely property on a bend in the Richmond River about 3km out of town, in cane sugar growing country. I was treated that night to a ferocious cane fire across the river – these are set intentionally and burn bright and fast and die down equally quickly; quite spectacular.

I had been unable to secure a talk in the area so I had a relaxed evening chatting with Rod and Donella and I found that Rod and I had an awful lot in common – even to the extent of having worked at the same organisation at around the same time in Melbourne! Donella is a local councillor and works tirelessly trying to create a more sustainable community – truly they were kindred spirits.

After breakfast the next morning, I again hit the road bound, this time for Byron Bay via Ballina and the coast road through Lennox Head. My network had not managed to get either a presentation or a billet there so I called Rob from the Bombah Point Eco-Cottages who had told me to contact him if I needed a place to stay and he would try to arrange something. He’s very well connected and, true to his word, he managed to get me a spot in the hills to the west of Byron Bay staying with Scott & Wendy (Wendy is a distant cousin) who have a delightful studio apartment that they rent out called “Chateau Poss” between Ewingsdale & Bangalow at Possum Creek.

I arrived in Byron Bay in time for a wonderful lunch at the Byron Beach Café before heading up to Cape Byron lighthouse and the easternmost point on mainland Australia. The climb up there was tough but worth every moment as the views are just astounding. As fit as I have become over the past few weeks, I found the walk back up the steps quite challenging – there are some muscles that cycling obviously doesn’t exercise! It was then back onto the bike for the ride to my destination for the next two days.

Scott turned out to be Scott McGregor of “Better Homes & Gardens” fame and is a really down-to-earth kind of guy with a hearty sense of humour. Again I have been blessed with good fortune on my travels in the form of both Scott & Wendy – their daughter Sophie (who is about the same age as my daughter) moves like a dancer and sings so wonderfully well. Their other daughter, Hayley, is as cute as a button and has inherited her father’s wicked sense of humour. We went out to dinner in Bangalow that evening and Scott introduced me to umpteen friends there and we had a carousing good time. As I was ‘re-hydrating’, I offered to be the ‘designated driver’ and we returned home at about 11pm where I fell into a deep and comfortable sleep in their studio apartment.

I will attempt to upload some more ‘happy snaps’ of my journey when I reach Tweed Heads tomorrow. Cheers for now.

PS. For those who may be interested, here are my stats for the week:
Dist.    Time    Average    Maximum    Comment
136.7    6:14    21.9    65.1    My longest day so far – both distance & time in saddle
78.4    3:23    23.1    55.7    into Coffs & back as well for a media appt
108.2    5:07    21.1    60.4    into Grafton, out to Clarenza
120.5    5:23    22.3    50.6    via Lawrence & MacLean – extra distance but worth it
87    4:21    19.9    55.1    Cape Byron lighthouse & up(!) to Possum Creek

Wauchope(Bellangry)-Byron Bay(Possum Creek)

Wauchope(Bellangry)-Byron Bay(Possum Creek)

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