Our first cycle tour: Sydney to Cairns
Posted by Megan Owen on
Let me tell you about day one and how I should have known there and then that it was going to go to plan.
We had told our Airbnb landlady that we were leaving at 9. At 9.15am we had the last of our photos and left and this is were the lessons begin. 100 metres down the road I adjusted my seat post (tip 1. haven flown your bike in pieces in a cardboard box be sure to test ride after putting it together). Stop two was 100 metres further to check the squeaking now on Grace's bike, stop three was to move the panniers so my feet didn't clip them... Finally picking our way through the Sydney streets we were on our way.
It had been debated whether we cycle across the Sydney Harbour Bridge or if we got the passenger ferry to Manly, for me it was a no brainer, we had to cycle across the bridge.
That decision might have not been the most practical but it probably satisfied the romantic in me. It turned out to be a decision I would stand by but secretly loathe as we climbed the many hills out of Sydney fully loaded up for the first cycle tour we had ever done.
Stopping started to be the theme of day one. Stop four was pictures in front of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, stop five was to adjust Grace panniers, stop six a stop at Cruise Espresso in Manly to say goodbye to Grace's friends. We made the most of the stop and ate our home made wraps and flapjack, both are very welcomed. The downside is we find the balsamic vinegar had leaked in my pannier.
Stop seven wasn't planned and was completely unnecessary as Grace ploughed straight into a 70 year old woman cycling towards her. Thankfully no one was hurt and we continued on our way. Some time passed before I let Grace know that it was completely her fault, stupid or brave I'm not sure but she did admit it was her fault!! Grace does have a habit of crashing on our first rides out. We worked in the Dolomites together and on our first cycle Grace crashed in a tunnel as she hadn't taken her sunglasses off.
We arrive in Palm Beach at 3.10pm with no more serious events but had missed a 3pm ferry to Wagstaffe. It turned out however that the ferry wouldn't be running the next day because of a change in the weather, something that it turns out will affect us a lot more than we had anticipated.
We get to the off the ferry and sun is low and the setting is beautiful. A local lady taking her kids for a walk asks us where we are heading and we tell her Little Beach Campground and she proceeds to tell us a nice route along the lake (one of the highlights of the trip, as I'm writing this 6 weeks in, is that people love to talk to cycle tourers). It's about 4.45pm and the light is fading fast, our next stop isn't the campground but to fix Grace's pannier rack as the bottom bolt had vibrated loose and disappeared, all the panniers of the rack and we realise we have no spares, nothing, we "borrow" a bolt from a fixing strut on the pannier rack and fix the rack, load up and head off again.
As the light is fading it's a race against time to make it to the camp site and we hit another hurdle ... I have planned the whole route on an app called Komoot, to date we have used it for over 650 miles of the trip and this is the only time it has lead us astray!! ... We get to the bottom of this hill and can't cycle up it, it's to steep and a little damp with some moss, Grace and I struggle to push one bike between us up the hill, feet constantly slipping, fingers covering the brakes. 15/20 minutes later both the bikes are at the top and we ride on to what turns out to be a dead end, well not a dead end but a wood trail, far too difficult for two heavily laden road bikes and now it's pitch black. (Tip 2. Take lights) I didn't have lights but Grace did so we put head torches on and make our way back down the "vertical drop" hill and head a different route to our camp.
20 minutes in the pitch black and we are sceptical about making our campsite in one piece as we pass a sign to Putty Beach Campground, a quick chat and we decide that it makes a lot of sense even though we have paid for the other one. Turns out to be a good decision especially as we were forced to spend two nights there, but that's another story.
The biggest lesson from day one was 3 hours 54 minutes in motion 33.59 miles covered and 8 hours "on the road", maybe those 100 mile days were a little ambitious but who knew it would be pitch black by 5.30pm.
We can highly recommend touring in Australia, the distances maybe be large but the facilities along the way are excellent, campgrounds, toilets, and free bbq (gas stoves) everywhere, it's definitely a safe and easy place to start your first tour, forget about deadly snakes and spiders we haven't seen any.
The overall lesson is that if we can do it anyone can, just make the time and get out and turn that crank, just one turn at a time. The following weeks provided many highs and lows, the learning curve was as steep as the hill we experienced at the dead end but we wouldn't change anything apart from the amount of time we allowed for the whole journey.