Monday, 19 March 2012

Wollongong to Sydney

What a day! Part wow/part grrr. Breakfast with the parents, grandparents and less animated children. There was everything on offer from toast (for me) to last night's dinner and scones with jam and cream. I thought the little compartment for milk in the fridge was a neat idea; this door opened vertically, creating a little table to rest your coffee and pour in milk - without warming the rest of the fridge. I was given an Ugg Boot keyring and Indonesian paper money as parting gifts. Today's ride started off very well; quiet and flat. Road signs in the country are good, but in urban areas less so. I had been following signs to Bulli, then reached a junction... and nothing. A man directed me and said there might be a sign at the next junction by way of an apology on behalf of his country. People's eyebrows rise in an expression of disbelief wherever I tell them I'm going, even if it's only a few miles. Their lack of faith in my abilities is annoying, although it's probably more to do with the fact that they don't walk or cycle and have no appreciation of distance. At first the way was straight and boring, past endless fast food outlets, strip malls and light industry, reminiscent of the boring parts of California. Then, along the coast, it was like The Big Sur, where the road twisted and undulated in a mad fashion, in front of cliffs and mansions, overlooking a choppy ocean. Steep ascents are more manageable in cool, cloudy conditions. So glad I'm heading north, with the wind at my back; so far my research has paid off. I crossed the levitating section of road (a photo of which appears in an early posting) before entering the Royal National Park. There were hangliders circling above the bay, far, far below and I watched one take off; he had a mobile phone attached to one of the struts, but it might be difficult to make a call just before crashing. It cost $220 for a tandem ride, but I wouldn't do it if they paid me ten times this amount. Blissful through the leafy park, with hardly any traffic. How that would change...

Appoaching Sydney I had to rejoin the highway, which was scary even with a shoulder, but so much more so when it disappeared. Here, two or three lanes of cars whizzed by wihout any consideration for my safety. They don't slow down or give any room AT ALL. My road rage had been beaten into submission as soon as someone shouted at me and, tail between my legs, I scurried onto a footpath. This was for pedestrians, not bikes, and although there weren't many of the former, the few who stepped aside, wore faces of thunder, eventhough I thanked them. Where was I supposed to go?! Stupid, fucking cars. All hail the automobile. The pedestrian and cyclist must make way for the magnificent, metal machines. We must wait for ages at every crossing (with their bloody blip, blip, blipping sound) until we are given the right of way and then we must rush as fast as our little legs carry us. Unlike at home, it's impossible to jaywalk on busy roads because the traffic moves so fast and constantly. All hail the gas-guzzling, angry, huge, shiny SUVs with their darkened windows, and their fat, vile drivers. There had been nowhere to stop for lunch and now it was too late, I was hot and bothered and insane with the selfish, indulgent madness of the human race such as it is at this period in history. Surely future generations will look back and laugh at our greedy, non-environmental ways. How much better the world could be... Sigh... Cars should be utilaritan Trabants with an inbuilt top speed of 20 mph. Hundreds of thousands of deaths would be avoided across the globe every year. Cars shouldn't be desirable status symbols. Look at my killing machine - aren't you envious? There should be a total ban on car advertising. cyclists and pedestrians should come first goddamnit.

No-one I know reading this will give me a lift now and I'll end up having to buy a car...

Then, as in heavy rain, I went into a kind of trance of acceptance and rose above it. I'm better than you bastards and I'll bloody well have a good time whatever obstacles are thrown in my path. With twilight, the street lights came on, the traffic thinned and beautiful women came out to play, as I approached the CBD with it's shining temples of mammon. The main road twoards the Sydney Harbour Bridge was without a doubt the nastiest I have ever ridden. Not only was there no shoulder and the cars were hurtling by at 60 mph, but sliproads were entering and suddenly I was inbetween two rivers of metal. If I had found myself between two trucks it could have been strawberry jam time (I heard of that happening to a cyclist once). There was no going back and I had be bold.

When I reached the Harbour Bridge there was a cycle path. Phew! The urban cyclists (a separate breed from me) whizzed past, ignoring me, bedecked in lycra and lights. I was on the wrong side and didn't see the opera house at all and obviously couldn't see the bridge because I was on it! There were security guards stationed here, watching out for terrorists apparently. Across the bridge, one of these cycle commuters took pity on me looking puzzled at a city centre map and deigned to help me get to the northern suburb of Manly. Scott was very nice and it was fun riding in his wake (apart from the stench of sweat). He said the traffic was worse in London. Was he mad? He turned off, but not before supplying simple directions that even I could follow. I didn't give a damn about the rain that had turned from drizzle to downpour and only cared about reaching my destination as soon as possible.

It was 9 pm by the time I arrived at Warm Showers host Patricia's stylish unit, and I was starving, soaked and exhausted. Only 74 miles, but the hardest day thus far - give me Tom Groggin's Pass in the Snowy's any day. Patricia, who was born in Fiji, with a beautifully clipped accent, and works as a teacher of English as a foreign language, fixed a roast chicken and vegtable, which really, really hit the spot. Changed out of wet clothes, I was home and dry and had licorice allsorts and my beetle book to look forward to, spread-eagled across a silky, maroon, double bed.


  1. Sounds horrible. I did this when I was in Sydney and the scariest bit was the transition from below the bridge to above where you pass through the central reservation separating both sides of car (and train) traffic. Manly was nice though (except for the flies). Sorry to hear about the car drivers, let's hope the world does change, eh?

  2. It sounds awful and I hope you don't end up as jam! I do remember riding my bike a lot on the pavements as the traffic is bad. I just hope further up the coast it is not so busy and the traffic is less condensed, with more hard shoulders. xxx

  3. Thanks for your comments :-)