Sunday, 25 March 2012

Tea Gardens to Forster

Breakfasted outside, overlooking a freshwater pond and dodging the automated sprinkler system. Dreamy 20 mile cycle along a flat, quiet, jungley road, 20 miles of jungley dirt track and a further 20 on an only slightly busier road. I was slightly confused as to which track to take through the Mayall Lakes National Park, and then who should pop up, but Bronwyn, unrecogniseable in her uniform. What were the chances? To begin with I was moving at 6 mph on gravel, then sand cropped up and I had to walk for a bit. Luckily it improved to solid earth. The only vehicle that passed me was driven by a university lecturer conducting a biodiversity survey (regular traffic was verboten : hurrah!) Later I passed him and as he told me of the sugar glider he'd encountered, I spied the wine bottle next to him. Nice work if you can get it. Well, I encountered my first big beetle, stumbling across the track. Later I discovered it was a jewel beetle; a black and gold beauty. I also approached an ants' nest and all these fearsome red ants, at least an inch long, poured out to repel the invader!

I arrived in Forster half an hour early and found that my hosts lived next to the sea. Discovering a lookout, affording fabulous views of the late afternoon sun slanting on the pristine beaches and turquoise water, I took photos and drank in the scenery. "Are you Adrian?" I turned to see a couple behind me, who had spotted my bike and come out to greet me. Helen and Eugene told me I was the first Warm Showers person to turn up on time, as usually cycle tourers don't stick to a tight schedule like me. First we walked the dog, Micky, a 14-year-old Dalmatian and then it was back to their heavenly fifties home for mojitos. We had a barbecued thick, juicy steak with fresh salad and herbs from the garden (including 'chocolate mint' which really did smell chocolately) followed by freshly-cooked brownies and ice cream. Helen, a chiropracter, and Eugene, a technical writer, were soon to be wed and their honeymoon will be on Lord Howe Island, all on its own, a few hundred miles directly east of here. It looked like paradice in the photos - a mix of mountain and beach - with a tiny, precarious-looking landing strip. Interested in financial matters, Eugene told me how Australia was only enjoying a temporary boom, during Chinese growth. He described his homeland as 'China's mine' and 'China's paddy field' - apparently rice is grown up north.

To cap the perfect day... we played Scrabble! My first game in the country. It started out as a three-hander, but as Eugene was driving four hours to Sydney (and back again) the next day, he soon retired, leaving Helen and I to battle on. I played the sublime QIBLA (the point towards which Moslems pray) for 72 points (triple Q/double word) to seal my adversary's fate.

What a great day!

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