The “Visit Gunnedah” website promised cycle routes around the town and out to two hills for views over the same. I am pleased to report that all expectations were met.
The drive to Armidale was made more interesting by a side trip to Captain Thunderbolt’s Cave. Little did I know when I pulled off the highway that the way to the cave was by an ever narrowing and ever rougher dirt road. Mrs GPS reckoned the track would eventually rejoin the New England Highway but at times that looked like wishful thinking!
I escaped the sugar cane burning smoke of Yamba and went to Glen Innes and into rain. How unusual. The countryside around here is extremely brown as the last decent rain was some years ago. Oh well, the caravan needed another leak.
Glen Innes. Altitude 1,135 metres = cool to cold in winter. District settled mainly by Scottish (newspeak for pinched from the Narabal people) in 1838. The original name was Gindaaydjin which means “plenty of big round stones on clear plains” and there still are.
Leaving Port Stephens we headed north to Forster/Tuncurry. According to an information board, Tuncurry means “Plenty Fish”. Certainly this was proven by the fishers cleaning their catch using special tables – while surrounded by pelicans.
Newcastle – a day trip. When we got going on the main road to Newcastle we had a recurrence of a flappy, bashy noise that initially made itself known as we were finishing the drive to Shoal Bay. We thought it was something loose on the caravan but no – it’s the car. We diagnosed the noise as we drove along. It didn’t get better or worse in time with anything the car was doing, accelerating, braking, turning, gear changing and all that – but seemed to respond to air currents. Eventually we traced it to the left rear mudflap/wing assembly and something has definitely come adrift there. So, no major issue as yet but something that needs fixing before we go much further.
Newcastle is a port, a coal loading facility and used to be a steel works town. It suffered a serious earthquake in 19.. which seems to have left some old buildings standing knocked others over. Very modern buildings have filled the gaps created by the quake making an interesting streetscape. The end result is an industrial town sort of tuned up for tourism but which is only partly accepting of that role. We had great difficulty in finding a car park and, having found one, had to drive around several streets following the directions to the entrance. The car park lets you walk out OK through a self closing gate but you couldn’t just walk back in – we had to follow the roundabout way in! It didn’t use tickets. The rego plate was photographed on the way in and at the Pay Station you enter your rego number. A transaction occurs and you go and collect the car, drive to the boom gate and (fingers crossed) your plate is recognised and you are let out. There was minimal explanation of all this and nobody to ask.
The rest of the town works the same way. It assumes you are local and that you know how everything works. Add to this a major disruption to the streets due to a light rail system being installed, busy, busy roads and a hidden Information office (well, we couldn’t find it) it all makes for a difficult place to navigate. Shops didn’t have tourist maps or tourist information. There are many cycleways and shared paths but they stop and start and for the bits in between I used the footpath. As cycling on footpaths is illegal in NSW I was not sure how this would go down. Seemed to be OK.
There was a shared path out of town so I took it and had a cycle ride to Nobby’s Beach and beyond. We parked up by an old fort – probably built during the Napoleonic wars when the UK was worried the French might pinch Australia. Sue set off for a walk and I a ride.
After a while I came upon Sue just starting into an ice cream. I cycled on and found Bogey Hole – a salt water swimming pool refreshed by the sea. It seemed to be an ‘out of the way’ spot inhabited by yoof. I turned here and cycled up an interesting, steep rise to get out.
As always the picture doesn’t show steepness very well. I was able to try out the new bottom gear supplied by the Mountain Drive – but only after I had pushed back and found enough space to actually get going before the climb. This one was followed by another equally as steep. So some bottom gear work and still no squeaking from the gears!!
This plant is a Gymea Lily. The green bit stands as high as me and the spear holding the flower (which isn’t quite out yet) is way over our head. These grow around the Newcastle area and we have always known them as Triffids (John Wyndham – The Day of the Triffids).
I came upon Sue eating again – this time a bag of hot chips so I just had to stop and help her finish them. We decided we had had enough so, with a feeling of relief, we return to the car and headed back to Shoal Bay.
The rest of the week we spent exploring Port Stephens. There are a number of short shared bike/people tracks and I cycled them. Nelson Bay and Shoal Bay are backed by a National Park which has limited the spread of development. So the building are starting to go UP. A local cyclist I spoke to said they were trying to fight this trend as more people in the limited space equals a very busy environment. The roads are already crowded with cars (even now in winter) so I can see his point and I don’t think I would enjoy it here with the summer crowds. One day we drove over to Tea Gardens on the other side of the harbour. It was an 85 kilometre drive there as it’s quite a big harbour (2 x Sydney Harbour the signs keep telling us). Tea Gardens is much quieter, has a population of retirees and felt rather like Shoal Bay used to be.
A Shoal Bay shared pathway
Down to the beach
Tea Gardens has a large Pelican population
The Pelican theme hits the Police Station. The bird there has handcuffs in it’s beak
The Tea Gardens Post Office ?
Coming back from Tea Gardens we noticed the silence of the ride – whatever was flapping and banging has fallen off! I thought a drive would fix it.
A thing I have noticed as we travel about in NSW. The Hume, Hunter and Pacific Highways are all Freeways with a wide cycle track on the hard shoulder. As we drove along they looked in good nick, clear of rubbish and very wide. At each exit road there are clear signs telling cyclists where to cross. Didn’t see a cyclist until heading to Newcastle then we saw a lone racer. I wondered how the constant traffic noise would go. Another thought is that in summer it would be unpleasant due to the fact that they are concrete-based tracks and would absorb the heat thus making a rider very hot after noon. I think a Freeway ride is something I can do without.
More walking done this week so the bicycle total is way down at 25k. That won’t help me get over 3,000 !!
Total for week : 25 k Total for year : 2,858 k
Vivente : 0 k Brompton : 25 k Anura : 0 k