Saturday, December 29, 2012


We're in a touristic region here, they call it the Highlands. There are rolling hills, fortunately not as steep as the undulating roads in New South Wales. In the short history as a modern country of this continent many things have been built up and also abandoned again. I find it amazing that in remote areas as these once there were railways being built. Used for the transportation of agricultural produce and timber. Now these railway tracks are not being used any more and some of them have been or are in the proces of being transformed to cycle routes, so-called railtrails. From Tallangatta there is one to Wodonga. We rode on that one for some time until we took a left for Yackandandah, where we camped in a lovely little caravanpark on the edge of the town along the creek. The name of the town is an English version of the original Aboriginal name of the place. We see many of those, as you may have concluded yourself.
The town is one 300 meter long shopping street and some side streets, some shops, 2 pubs (many!), a park and a museum. We would call it a small village, it was cosy and there were tourists around.
The next stop was Beechworth. A touristic place, several times bigger than the latter. A beautiful old post office building, a museum, a nationally known bakery and a small roundabout in the middle.
There's also prison here, big, old and still in use, and also famous in the whole of Australia. It was here that Ned Kelly was hanged. He has become a legend. He was an Irish immigrant son in the nineteenth century who became a bushranger. Other words for that would be highwayman or bandit. He was from a poor family, and he and his brothers had been involved in petty crimes before. The police was harrassing the family more than would be proper. The police being mainly English, the poor families mostly Irish, this was not unusual in those days they say. When a policeman would have raped a sister of his Ned truned into a bushranger. Living in the bush with a gang of four, holding up stage coaches, robbing banks, killing a policeman and that kind of thing. He would wear a iron mask and iron cladding over his body. When the police set out a complete force to arrest him there was a shoot out not far from here and all of them except Ned were killed. He was severely wounded and taken to hospital, first in Melbourne, later in Beechworth. Then he was tried and sentenced to death for several murders and hanged in this prison at the age of 25. You can buy plastic copies of his armour and other gadgets here now.
This little history is being romanticised by many people here. But besides that, generally speaking there is a great interest in the history of the country. Every little town has its historic museum, showing artefacts, documents and photographs of the past, their first settlers and development. Older buildings are being preserved and marked as historic, though not many have the age of one hundred years. There are war monuments everywhere. It might be that the Australians, all of them being immigrants or descendants of immigrants, need a more than average historic awareness in order to be able to feel one nation.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

In Victoria

We left Canberra the day before Christmas. After careful planning we agreed on being taken over the Snowy Mountains by car. Jeff and Gerda were so kind as to offer this to us and we gladly accepted it. The alternative was a riding highways for a couple of days, either north – northwest or south and west. It was a long drive, well over 200 ks. The highest pass we crossed was 1500 altitude. In wintertime these mountains are covered with snow and there is a lot of cross-country-skiing going on. Now it was striking to see the results of the fierce bushfire that had struck the mountainrange in 2003, almost ten years ago. As far as the eye could see there were slopes completely covered with the white-grey trunks of dead eucalyptus trees. An eerie sight.
They dropped us off one good hour's ride from Corryong in Victoria. There we stayed on a bit shabby caravanpark, where we were the only guests. We had just put up the tent and were finishing our shower, when an enormous thunderstorm raged over the site. Very strong winds broke thick branches from the poplar trees, dustbins rolled over the site and the rain swept in curtains. From the door of the amenities building we could not but watch our tent bending and shaking in this ordeal. It held! After maybe 10 or 15 minutres it was over. Streams of muddy water over the site, rubbish everywhere. The manager with a group of helpers, a chain saw and a UT (utility vehicle, a pick up truck) got to work at once. We just cleaned away some small branches from our tent, got dressed and hurried to the shop. It was Christmas eve and shops were closing early, we had to buy for two days. On Christmasday itself we had planned to stay at a forest camp in a place where there are no shops at all. Everything would be closed anyway. We were in time.
The next day we rode up a new mountain range and found ourselves again the only campers in this deserted place. A very special Christmas day. There was no phone coverage, so no contact possible with the home front. Sorry for that.
Now we're in Tallangatta. A sleepy little town along an artificial lake, for which it was replaced in the fifties. Many new campers arriving, all with speedboats on a trailer. On the lake there are already a number of these boats active, pulling water skiers. We will be gone tomorrow morning early, before they all start enjoying their noisy hobby again.

Sunday, December 23, 2012


A strange city. Actually an urban area. In 1913 the place was chosen to be the capital of the newly formed federal state called Australia (1901). It was just a sheep station at the time. Designers were put to work and they shaped the new capital. They built a damm in the river, so that there was a lake dividing the place in two parts. They picked three hills and made them the corners of the parlementary triangle. In short, the result is a city of a good 350.000 inhabitants, grouped around this triangle in, again, an enormous area of suburbs with one- and two-storey houses. What you see is vast open spaces, wide motorways, hardly any people. The suburbs are hidden between the parks and the trees. If you want to go somewhere you need a car. Some people use their bikes. This is made a good way of transport here by the efforts of a group of enthousiastic bike-riders, called PedalPower, of which our hosts are prominent members. They have been very succesful in their lobbies for seperate bikepaths and more of the kind. There is no tangible city-centre. There is something what they call city: it's just an enormous shopping mall where one gets lost, at least we did. We couldn't find our bikes back!!
Parliament house (old and new) is impressive and makes you think of the need and valueof democracy. We were so lucky as to see one of the few copies of the Magna Carta, the document considered to be the base of British democracy and of great significance for the development of the devision of power and human rights for all the western world, as well as the UN. The war memorial is another highlight. The Australians, in their 100 year history as a state, appear to have been involved in many global conflicts. This involvement is often explained by the eagerness of the new nation to be seen as an active member of the world community.
Then there is the National Gallery of Australia. There was a special exhibition of Toulouse Lautrec going on. Great. Also the rest of the collection, Aboriginal, Australian, Asian and European art is worth a visit. It took us 3 visits indeed to see everything. All in all we had to pedal away about 75 k in this “city” to see the things mentioned.  

To Canberra

It was another 3 days before we made the call. We climbed out of Kangaroo Valley towards Moss Vale in the rain, it was cold. Again some 20˚C difference within 24 hours. We stayed in a motel in Moss Vale and rode on to Goulburn the next day. We had coffee after 15 k in Ye Old Bike Shoppe, an old café/bikeshop in Bundanoon. Beautiful and easy riding, but for the last 30 k, which we rode on the Hume Highway under very hot temperatures again. That day we rode 87 k, including the shopping ride to the centre and back. Enough. The next day was extremely hot again, and we finished the 75 k to Bungendore in the early afternoon. There was one service station, Tarago, in the middle, for the rest there was nothing than dry-brown paddocks and in the end a range to be crossed, over 800 altitude.
Bungendore is an old little town with an old little railway station, some crafts shops and two pubs, in one of which we stayed, The Royal Hotel. Really vintage. Old and a bit shabby, but very nice. Not everything worked as it should, the carpets had holes here and there, but the beer was cold and the restaurant, The Royal Chinese, was run by a Chinese couple and served the food that you would expect from such a couple, Chinese, taste- and plentiful.
We rested well in this place and the next morning at 07.30 Jeff and Gerda arrived by train with their BikeFridays and picked us up for a 56 k ride to their home in Canberra.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Kangaroo Valley

It'll be after the climb over the mountain range that we'll meet up again with Jeff and Gerda.
Crossing through Sydney from north to south was easy. We rode from the house where we stayed for over a week to Manly, the south side of the peninsula. From there we took the ferry that took us straight to Circular Quay again, right in the middle of Sydney's highlights. Maybe the most beautiful way to reach Sydney. We hang out for a while and then boarded a train on the railway station there. We changed at Central station and travelled straight on to Sutherland, a suburb in the south. We had booked a room there. A trip of app. 70 k in half a day.
From Sutherland we cycled back to the coast through a national park. We took a 10 k dirt road (track is a better word) with the poetic name of Lady Carrington's Drive and after having reached a sealed road (Lady wakehurst Drive) we got to a fantastic ocean-lookout that is famous as a hanggliding spot, but only when a southerly wind blows. Fortunately for us this was not the case this day, we had it in our backs. The route along the coast was scenic, with a ocean bridge as a remarkable part of it. We stopped in Bulli in a beachfront caravan park. The next day we continued to Kiama. Scenic by all means, but always undulating. In the end this made us very tired again. Then the next day was supposed to be a quiet one. But a serious accident had happened on the highway and all the traffic was rerouted along the small road where we were riding. Close to a nightmare, but we reached Bomaderry safely and whole.
From there there are two climbs to be done to reach the altitude of Canberra. From Bomaderry we did the first one today, app. 500 altimeters. But, for us no surprise, we dealt with this steep slope much more easily than with the endless undulating roads elsewhere in New South Wales. It was hard work, but the distance was limited and known by us. And once on the pass it was down towards the pleasant little town of Kangaroo Valley. We have made camp at a quiet caravan park just past the town, along the river and next to the medieval, for the looks, famous Hampden Bridge, built in 1898. On the other side of the river is the Pioneer Settlers' museum, an open air museum where some settlers' houses, a bush school, tools, carriages and the like are exhibited. Very interesting. In town there are some small shops, restaurants and cafés, in one of which Jack roasts his own coffee and makes the nicest mochas. And there is a pub, annex bottle shop. It was a hot afternoon, but we spent it pleasantly.
Tomorrow there is another climb, a bit higher and longer, but we are confident that we'll conquer it. So it'll be some days before we will make the call to Jeff and Gerda.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012


There's a lot to say about Sydney. Big, over 3.5 million inhabitants spread out over an immense area. Exactly on the place where captain Cook moored his ship in 1770, Sydney Cove, sits now Circular Quay, right in between the two icons of this city: the Opera House to the east and the Harbour Bridge to the west. An impressive site.
It's the point where streams of moving people meet. Ferries from all parts of the city, that is separated in many parts by large fjord-like bays that go deep inland, come and go here, city busses stop, a railway station is over the quay and on top of that there is a highway.
A pity that gigantic cruiseships moore here (one at a time) as well and by their unbelieveable size they block the view of the western part of this cove and the historic quarter there, The Rocks, can't be seen.
We spent a couple of days in this central area of the city. Strolling along the quays, the botanic garden, sitting on a terrace and drink or eat something, we were not the only ones enjoying this place. We went into the historic national library and visited a couple of musea, of which the most impressive one was the Art Gallery of New South Wales. It is situated on the edge of the botanic gardens, on walking distance from Opera House and the other highlights of the city. It is a large museum. There was an exhibition on Francis Bacon going on, nice. But the own collection and exhibitions of Asian art we found even more interesting and beautiful. We spent half a day in it, until we were completely saturated.
Certainly there are many more things to be seen, visited and done in this vibrant place. We decided to have another day of relaxing in our comfortable lodgings in Palm Beach and prepare ourselves for the next stage in our tour: south through the city by ferry and train, then riding along the coast for a couple of days and after that heading west, inland towards Canberra. Somewhere after or before the climb over the mountain range we will meet up with Gerda and Jeff again.

Broken spokes

Have been very disappointed! For the third time during this tour a spoke broke in my rear wheel. The first one I had repaired in northern Queensland, where I bought some spares to be prepared just in case. So the second one I repaired myself in Newcastle, just a week ago and on our way to Palm Beach another one snapped. How can this happen to a bike like ours.
With the help of our warmshowers host I found a bike shop where they re-spoked the wheel completely. Most of the spokes were rusted. It seems that some years ago a batch of bad spokes has been sold all over the world. According to the bike shop owner it has happened to all bike manufactures and brands, so the manufacturer of our bikes is not to blame. But still.......

Palm Beach

The ride from Newcastle was not a nice one. We had to be on the Pacific Highway, no alternative. Very busy, sometimes 6 lanes, very hilly and there was a head wind as an extra. We stopped at Budgewoi on a beautiful caravan park. From there we continued on a smaller but still quite busy coastal highway towards our next stop. As it was raining we decided to continue to Ettalong, take the ferry to Palm Beach there and join up with Jeff and Gerda. They were our Warmshowers' guests in August, now we are theirs. They have a lovely cottage on this peninsula, which is a northern suburb of Sydney. Mind, Sydney is so widely spread out that the centre is still 45 k to go. There is the ocean on the east side, with beautiful beaches and a nice surf, on the west side there is the bay, Pittwater, on which we have a view from the veranda. Hundreds of yaughts lie anchored here.
We have been in this house for some days now, taking a break in our tour. We have been riding over 2 months now, done over 2800 k and need some time without for a while.
Our hosts were so kind as to take us to the Blue Mountains for a couple of days. It's a good 100 k inland, 1000 meters altitude and a landscape with canyons, marvoullous views and some old nice little towns. We stayed the night in a cabin in the gum forest and made some amazing walks along the cliffs and into the 'Grand Canyon'. Now we are on our own in the house, have paid a first visit to the centre of this big city and will go there once more. After that we'll cross through the city by ferry and train, for the roads and the traffic here are so busy that not many people want to ride a bike here.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Three ferries to Newcastle

When we approached Bulahdelah we had to go on the Pacific Highway again. They were constructing a bypass, it was raining and there was very much traffic. Not nice to be on that road at all. The weather was so gloomy and wet and the caravan park was not any better, so we stayed in a motel. Nice and comfortable.
In the Visitors Information Centre we were given an advice for an alternative route. So the next day we rode in the direction of the coast again over the Boombah road. Some 10 k dirt (gravel) road. Eveline is, to say it mildly, not fond of such roads. But it appeared to be not bad at all and at the end of it there was a restaurant where we had a coffee and cake. We had to wait for the ferry anyway, it went every 30 minutes for a 5 minute crossing. Then a long and absolutely quiet road followed for 25 k to Tea Gardens, a nice little place on a big bay. There we boarded a ferry boat that was built in 1940 and still was in its original state. The crossing of the bay took nearly an hour and was a comfortable and nostalgic cruise across beautiful water, for some time accompanied by dolphins that were playing in the wave made by the boat. Nelson Bay, on the other side of the water, is a beautiful seaside resort with all the amenities coming with it. A nice conclusion of a beautiful and sunny day.
The day after that we rode to Stockton. Again a place on a river- and sea front. Quite different from Nelson Bay though. The road to get there was busy again and the thermometer read 38˚C. Fortunately we had a rear wind, so it took us not too long to do the good 50 k. Stockton lies on the north bank of a big river, that is the big coal port of Newcastle. There is a passenger ferry from Stockton to his “old” harbour city. In the river's mouth you see big see ships manouvering in and out, always assisted by 3 pushing and pulling tugboats. Newcastle has changed its waterfront from an industrial area into a area where it is nice to walk around, sit on a terrace of one of the many cafés, bars and restaurants and watch the traffic on the river. The industrial past is nicely altered in a modern and pleasant environment. We spent a nice day here in this second oldest city of Australia.