Difficulty- Shanna 9, Sam 8
After the 100km to get to Buladelah we decided to give ourselves an easy day – 75km to Taree. We planned to set off early but it takes time to cook breakfast, pack the tent and our gear, watch the ducks and load the bikes again, so it was nearly nine when we set off.
Straight away we hit some big hills. We rode up and up and up – for around 20 minutes at a time – and each time the downhill only lasted for a couple of minutes. Our already sunburnt arms felt roasted and as we rode the sun burned hotter and hotter.
By midday we were only halfway, our legs felt drained and it was too hot to ride. We were down to the last of our water so we pulled off at a rest stop (Wang Wauk?) to replenish our water supply and sit in the shade.
We searched the rest area but every tap had a sign clearly indicating that the water was not for drinking. We were stuck with what little we had left. We couldn’t believe that a rest area would have no drinking water?! Shanna is planning to write a letter to the NSW government about it. We decided to sit for an hour and see if the temperature dropped.
Our energy also needed topping up so we looked to see what food we had that didn’t need cooking and came up with a can of tuna, protein powder in some of what little water we had left, an LCM bar each and the last of our roasted cashew crunch. After our small snack Sam fell asleep on the park bench… since the trip has begun he seems to have a developed a knack for falling asleep in the most uncomfortable places, something he was unable to do before we left.
Meanwhile we were lying on the seats of a picnic table trying to muster some energy to get riding again when someone came up and asked us how we were doing, particularly if we had enough water. The seriousness of the situation led us to honestly answer that we were low on water. The guy said he noticed that all the water was not drinkable and, having cycle toured himself, he thought we might need some help. He pulled his van up to where we were and started pulling things out of the back. He had the whole set up – BBQ, fridge, chairs a bed. We guess he would have been in his early 30s and said he was on his way back to Melbourne for work after an 18 month surfing trip along the east coast. He filled our water bottles and topped up our spirits before taking off for Sydney.
With water bottles full, we rested out of the heat for another hour before deciding we had to get moving again. Our legs had been glad to stop and were reluctant to start again. It was now after 2pm, we were only halfway there, it was still too hot, there was a strong headwind and the hills would force us to keep on climbing and struggling for the rest of the day.
Sam’s rear end was killing him and the sun was searing his already sunburnt flesh whilst Shanna thought her legs would stop moving and give up on her... And at the top of each hill she decided that was the last one she could possibly mount that day. To help her motivation she imagined a pool waiting at the end of the day. Caked in sweat and dirt, she thought that the colder the pool, the better.
At one point we were struggling up a particularly tough hill and the sign said 27km to Taree. Shanna nearly lost it. There was no way there were still 27km to go?! Deliriously dreaming of a crystal clear frigid cold pool again she somehow kept her legs moving.
After the toughest day of cycling yet, we eventually saw a sign saying the Taree Service Centre was only 12km away. A couple of kms down the road the next sign also said 12km… mmmm… looked like Taree was playing a few more tricks on us yet!
When we took the exit and made it to the service centre, McDonalds fries never tasted so good, a big drink and some food seemed to make everything better. The free WiFi was slow but at least it was something. We’d made it!
A trip to the information stand revealed that just around the corner was a caravan park that boasted free internet, a camp kitchen, BBQ, showers, toilets and… a pool!! It wasn’t hard to convince Sam and we left straight away for the luxury awaiting us.
We paid the $20 for our site and somehow mustered the energy to put up the tent and blow up the beds before heading for the pool. Shanny was like a delirious child and loved the cool refreshment she’d dreamt of all day.
Shanna tried in vain to get the internet to work while Sam rode the 3kms into the main street of Taree to load up on supplies. Finally as the sun was setting we managed to get an internet connection to work for half an hour, just long enough to make an entry for the day before! We made some late dinner and exhausted, walked to our tent and prepared to pass out. We’d heard it was going to be even hotter the following day – about 40 degrees, and our bodies were exhausted after going uphill all day so that night, we lay in bed debating what to do the next day. We fell into a fitful sleep with the decision to get up at six and ride 52km to Kew before it got too hot.
Sam and Shanna Evans are from Melbourne, Australia