The day before – giving my companion a name.
I have no idea how I forgot to mention this in my last post, but a huge motivation for me to cross the outback is because it follows in the footsteps of one of my favourite films, ok my all time (sorry Shawshank) favourite film, The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. I have seen the film so many times that I could probably recite the whole script and I’ve seen the stage musical – Jason Donovan at his finest.
In a nutshell, three drag queens – Mitzi Del Bra, Bernadette Bassinger and Felicia Jollygoodfellow – travel from Sydney to Alice Springs / Kings Canyon in a bus called Priscilla.
So in homage to the best film ever made I have named my bike Priscilla. We aren’t quite queens of the desert yet, but we are already queens of the dessert.
And when the going gets tough I’ll just think of Guy Pearce…
I signed up to a bicycle maintenance course which is run by Sydney council. It was brilliant. For only AU$20 I got a 3 hour lesson.
Along with 6 other people I learnt how to maintain my bike, take the wheels on and off, remove the tyres, disconnect the breaks and repair a puncture. I learnt that the hand pump (Topeak Mini Morph) I bought is amazing and I can hand pump my tyres to the correct pressure with very little effort.
I feel a lot more confident with my new knowledge and now I just hope that I don’t actually have to use any of it!! Sydney to Salisbury without a puncture sounds nice.
I guess all that’s left to do is cycle…
June 2017. Day 1 – Sydney to Bulli – 86.1km / 53.5mi
I was a bit nervous to start off with. Everyone I had asked for advice on getting out of Sydney had told me the same thing – get a train. Well, that didn’t really sit with the whole human power plan so I was determined to cycle. I turned on google maps and followed the route it gave me not knowing any better. Well Google did good. It took me mostly down roads with dedicated cycle lanes, or streets with shared pathways and it was surprisingly easy. Going through town was simple, then I found myself in a big industrial estate thing (not for the first time and I’m sure it won’t be the last), then I went around past the airport. This was noisy and smelly and busy and I was glad when I got past it, but I had my own cycle lane so it was pretty straightforward.
I get this feeling that 99% of people hate cyclists. Pedestrians hate cyclist and drivers hate cyclists. A great price of advice I got from Alex at Omafeits was to ‘own the lane’. If you’re in a cycle path or the road is shared, don’t try and keep to the side. Own it. Be in the middle. I did do that, and I think it helps that my bike appears quite wide from the back with its panniers.
I did get quite annoyed several times along the way out of Sydney. Pedestrians are so annoying. 9 out of 10 people don’t look where they are going. They have their faces buried in their phones and their earphones in and are totally oblivious to a person, only just in control of their bike, hurtling towards them. When you use your bell it just pisses people off! Car drivers are supposed to give a meter distance, or a meter and a half if. You’re lucky of most of them give a few centimetres! And construction workers are the worst, they will happily cut you up and block your path!
I made it to the coast and followed a great cycle lane the whole way to the bridge. I stopped to take a break on the beach and found I was so hungry after only an hour of riding! Also much thirstier than I ever was hiking. After I had crossed the Captain Cook bridge I felt that I had finally left Sydney behind and I was on my way.
I had to join the A1 / Princess Highway, which is the main road going from Sydney to Melbourne following the coast(ish). It was a very busy fast road, but there was a giant cycle lane which was great. The only problem with a cycle lane on a major road is that there can be quite a lot of debris and stones and glass. I was to nervous of losing control and coming off my bike to let myself go too quickly.
These are my top 5 worries:
- Running out of jelly snakes.
- Getting my things stolen.
- Getting hit by a vehicle
- Hitting a hole / lump in the road
- Being bitten by a spider
I turned off on what I thought was a road but it turned out to be a dirt track. Not the type of track a heavy basic touring bike can handle, so I turned around and went back to the main road. A bit further on was the main road through Royal National Park. A wonderful long downhill cruise. Now I was out of Sydney I thought it would be easy going from here. I had been so concerned with the planning of how I was going to get out of Sydney safely I hadn’t really put much thought into the next bit. I came to a toll booth with a $12 entrance fee to the park, but luckily for me it only applied to cars (luckily because I only had $10 on me!). I continued to roll down the hill, riding my breaks because I was scared of going too fast. Downhill is wonderful.
As I sped my way down and looked around me I began to think this wasn’t such a good idea. What goes down has to go back up. Especially when all you can see around you is hill. Oh this is bad. I crossed the bridge and began to pedal up the other side, without a clue how long the hill was going to be. If it’s as long as the one I just came down I am in real trouble.
I was in the lowest gear possible and I was inching my way up the hill until it became too steep for me to continue. That’s ok. I’ll just get off and push it to the top. Well, pushing it is even harder than pedalling it. It’s so arse heavy and the pedals get in the way and everything about pushing it uphill is awkward. There was no shoulder and the road was really windy. I positioned myself with the bike next to the traffic and tried to ignore the cars behind me.
Then I had the same thought I had on my first day on the PCT. What. The fuck. Am I doing. I can’t do this. I’m never going to make it. What have I done?
I was struggling. I was overheating. I was so thirsty because I was breathing so heavily. There was nowhere for me to stop. I was about to cry.
Now this is where I have to make a confession. A man called Gavin pulled over and jumped out of his car. ‘You can’t be pushing that up there, I’ll chuck your bike in the back of the ute and take you to the top of the hill. It’s a big hill’ I was about to protest and say no, I have to get there by human power, but on the verge of tears I let my sensible head take over and swallowed my pride and got in the car.
He was right. It was a massive hill and if he hadn’t rescued me I would probably still be there trying to push Priscilla, or I would have just abandoned her and walked instead, I would have got there quicker. In the end he drove me about 8km, he wanted to drive me all the way out of the park because he had half an hour before he stared work but I said I wanted to cycle now we had passed the steep part. He gave me his number and said to call him if I needed anything between here and Melbourne, he has people with trucks going up and down the coast and he could send someone to get me if I got into trouble. How nice is that!
I got back in the Saddle and made my way through the rest of the park. The park wasn’t that inspiring, it was just a tunnel of trees which I was become desperate to get out off. The road continued to undulate but with shorter and more gradual hills which were more manageable. At the top of one of them I saw a glimpse of a view and I could finally see an end to the park. I hadn’t planned my food well at all today and with nowhere nice to stop I pulled over onto the side of the road and devoured some Doritos.
After a lot more up and down and winding around I got to the coast and the sea was such a welcome sight. I came to Bald hill and spotted an ice cream van. Priscilla, Queen of the Dessert, steered herself towards it and suddenly I was holding a Mr Whippy with a choc top and a flake. It was a well deserved treat.
The road down into Bulli was great, but it was starting to get really cold. It’s impossible to regulate your temperature on a bike. Going uphill makes you hot and sweaty, then as soon as you reach the top you go cold within a second, then when you do down the other side the wind goes right through you and it’s freezing.
I layered up and continued on. My favourite part of cycling is when you don’t have to pedal and you can just roll along. This gives you the opportunity to lift yourself off the Saddle for a while, providing some welcome relief for the bum bones and the fanjita. And on that subject, the bum is a little sore, no more than expected, but the fanjita is very sore and I’m not keen on putting any pressure on it.
I crossed the Sea Cliff Bridge which is a rather impressive canter lever bridge and rode into the sunset. It was getting dark and I didn’t really want to ride in the dark, but this day had been a lot longer than expected. I stopped to take a picture and saw a message from my host for the night, Trish. She was worried about me and offered to come and pick me up. I was only 3 miles away. I could make it. Luckily for me Google took me off the road and onto a great cycle path along the coast so I didn’t have to worry about the cars in the dark.
I found the house and Trish came out and gave me a huge hug. I have never been so grateful to reach my destination. It was a tough day but I made it. She welcomed me in and knew exactly what I would want to do. I showered first, noticing I had some very sore bits on the back of my legs, and then ate a delicious massive bowl of pasta.
I used Warm Showers (like couch surfing for cycle tourist) to find Trish and Dave and they were absolutely wonderful hosts. A warm shower, a hot meal, a comfy bed and some great advice.
I’m not sure how I got the distance so wrong today. I had thought I was going about 50km but it ended up being 86km (of course I only really cycled 78km, but 78km for my first day in the saddle was a bit extreme!)
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