Difficulty - Shanna 9, Sam 9
Distance - 60km
Weather - Hot! Sunny, windy! 36C
We never made it to the $5 movies in Nambucca Heads. We visited four caravan parks and their prices were all too expensive, and without a place to leave our bikes and possessions we couldn’t go to a movie. We still had an enjoyable afternoon in Nambucca though.
We went down to the waterfront and it was spectacular – so beautiful! We pulled up to a table and Sam cooked the rest of the spaghetti bolognaise we had left from Kempsey while Shanna swam in the river. After eating we talked about what to do for the night – did we keep riding to the next town? Or find somewhere to camp. We both decided in favour of free camping somewhere around Nambucca. So we had the whole afternoon to enjoy the spot we were in.
Sam joined a game of cricket with some boys visiting from Brisbane, and it was Shanna’s turn to try and sleep on a picnic bench (didn’t work though). We discovered a shop across the road where you got two massive scoops of Peters ice-cream for $3.50. And the flavours were delicious!! (At least the four flavours we tried were!)
We talked to some curious locals who asked us questions and then about an hour before the sun set we found the perfect, secluded spot to set up camp. We were all set up and enjoying the sunset when we became aware that a group of teenage boys had also decided it was the perfect place to camp. They were in the process of lighting a fire and getting ready for a big night of fun. Sam explained to them that we needed to sleep and get up early to ride and took their photo to put up on this site (also as insurance... )
We both had a restless night sleep – the air, like every other night since we started, was muggy and there was no breeze. As we’d experienced at other spots near the beach, hoons brought their cars down during the night to do burnouts. And the boys’ laughter woke us from time to time. Sam was up well before the alarm at 5:30 and we were packed up and ready to leave at 6am. The plan was to reach Woolgoolga, about 75km away.
The first 35km of the day took us over many hills and our legs quickly felt the strain. We also encountered the worst headwind we’ve faced yet. On one flat, straight stretch of road we were struggling to go 14km/h as we battled into the wind. By the time we were entering Coffs Harbour (about 50km) the heat and lack of sleep were making it difficult to be motivated to keep going.
When we reached McDonalds on the outskirts of Coffs Harbour we both knew we were stopping without even needing to say the words. Shanna quickly realised that not only was her shirt filthy to look at, but she smelt like a homeless person (which Sam reminded her she was). Too embarrassed to sit within 100m of other people, she grabbed a ‘clean’ (aka, cleanER) shirt from her bike and changed, and then gave herself a basin wash. Now she felt human again and worthy of the fine family restaurant.
Sitting in the cool air-con we couldn’t imagine riding another 25km. But we couldn’t bring ourselves to stop in Coffs Harbour when our goal for the day was to pass Coffs. An internet search revealed a caravan park 6km north of the Big Banana with a pool, washing machine (Shanna decided it really was time to wash all our clothes!), not too far off the highway and within our budget. The 10km ride to the park was not easy though – the wind was worse, the sun was hotter, and the final few hills steeper than any we had encountered so far that day. We even stopped at another caravan park along the road, just 5km before the one we were headed for, just in case they could do a similar deal. Their office was closed though so we pushed on. After summiting the worst hill of the day we paused briefly at the big banana when Shanna convinced Sam it would be un-Australian to pass it by without getting photos.
There have been some disappointments since arriving at the park – the reception lady wouldn’t give us a key to the fridge without a $10 deposit but we’d have to wait until 8am tomorrow to leave if we want our $10 back… The place she put us to camp was right next to a mosquito infested lagoon so we had to ask to be moved, and the hamburger shop up the road she sent us to was closed for the public holiday… so we went hungry until we managed to track down some baked beans, eggs and toast, which we barely had a chance to taste before it hit our empty stomachs.
We’ve met some really nice people though – including a retired couple who said we can keep our milk in their fridge – and the pool was SO nice. And, of course, our clothes are now washed.
We remember thinking throughout the day that the steep hills were very un-Australian – how could anyone expect people to cycle over them?! But as we reflect on the meaning of Australia Day, we realise that the hills are very Australian, because when they were building the road they couldn’t be bothered leveling the land or finding a better alignment, so the hills stayed.
Happy Australia Day everyone and Happy Birthday Dad Evans!