Tag Archives: Scotts Head

Riding in Pounding Rain is Better Than Sitting at a Desk: Scotts Head to Crescent Head (Day 11 – Thursday 30 April)

Stephen rode with me the first 20 undulating kilometres from Jacky’s mum’s house to their house on Stewarts Point Road. Along the way a friend of theirs caught up with us on his road bicycle. In his mid-70s and absolutely fit as a fiddle he was out on a cool-down ride and talking of his plans for riding in Suluwesi later in the year. People often say of older people doing stuff … oh, such an inspiration … but in the case of this fella he was trim, strong and looked relaxed and happy. However you get there that’s a good place to be anytime of life but certainly in your mid 70s.

It would be my longest day’s riding so far – about 73 kilometres – some on the highway but a lot on country roads. As Stephen promised once I’d passed the servo at Clybucca the topography flattened out. The land was marshy and wet with recent rains but, as ever, filled with cows now joined with crane-like water birds, standing on their long legs in the wet. With the flat came headwinds shifting to side-winds on the road to Smithtown.

The people of Smithtown are missing an obvious tourist opportunity. They make the Milo but you wouldn’t know it as it looks like any small country town but for a wee sign pointing toward “Nestle”. No Big Milo Tin. No kiosk selling hot and cold Milo and various Milo treats. I so would have stopped.

Seriously, this is where they make the Milo. Macleay River at Smithtown (the town is behind me, but still).

Sum-Sushi in nearby Gladstone got my business instead – serving a surprisingly good wood-smoked salmon roll, which I topped off with an apple slice from the nearby bakery.

Sitting there the sky to the northeast had gone leaden and the rumble of thunder sounded distantly. The south, the direction I was headed and from where the wind was blowing, was clearer with some patches of blue even. It was still 25 kilometres to Crescent Head and I thought of stopping at the hotel in Gladstone but … didn’t.

The rain began falling within 10 minutes of my leaving the bakery – but it was warm enough, not falling too heavily and the road well populated so if I got into serious strife help was near at hand.

I was riding along the Belmore River and it was all really very pretty. I was getting more and more wet but, well, all you can do is pedal really. It was flat and as the rain picked up the wind had lessened; I was moving at a good clip and should be in Crescent Head soon enough.

Well, not soon enough to arrive before the rain really began bucketing down. Ten kilometres out the road forks – one way to Kempsey the other to Crescent Head – and just past that it began hammering down. I was soaked through and through. My shoes – surprisingly dry-ish until then – filled with rain and I squelched through each pedal stroke.

I began singing. Loudly. Midnight Oil’s Sometimes and Power & the Passion – I tried I am Woman but couldn’t remember the words.

This is a weird sort of mash-up video for this song – but includes some good stuff, so, why not?

Many reading this might think this sounds miserable. You might think this was on par with the tough day on the Crawney Pass or the challenges of getting over the Moonbis … but, no. I was happy – well happier to be riding in the rain than sitting at a desk. I felt alive and as in control of my life as any of us ever are.

When I’d found a motel, dealt with my sodden gear (all hail Ortlieb panniers – nearly everything in them was dry) and showered – I lay on the bed, watching well-earned TV, and felt strong – physically, mentally and emotionally. These days of riding have been testing but in the best sort of way … I’ve been tested and met the tests (so far).

Sometimes you’re beaten to the call sometimes; Sometimes you’re taken to the wall But you don’t give in

The next few days will test my patience. Another storm system has settled in; the local bus will take me to Port Macquarie where I will have to wait it out. I had already planned to spend two nights there so here’s hoping come Sunday the worst of this will have passed and I can press on.

Only 7 km to a Vanilla Slice: Urunga to Scotts Head (Day 10: Wednesday 29 April)

It rained overnight but the sun shone warmly again in the morning as I packed the tent away and loaded up my bicycle. I’d been an object of some interest around the campground the night before and this continued in the morning until I finished packing and rode away around 10 am. (I’m still struggling to master this early start thing.)

Back up the hill I’d climbed yesterday afternoon to Hungry Head but, this time, stopping to take in the view – the first of the Pacific I’d enjoyed on this ride. The north looked sunny and beautiful; the south – where I was heading – overcast.

The trouble with these blog posts is there’s actually not a lot of ways to talk of roads, views, and riding that doesn’t vary that much: undulating country roads and highway verges – there’s just not much to say about them.

There’s also not a huge amount to say about what I was thinking about – what was I thinking about? Well, the thing with riding – for me anyway – is I tend to do it from a fairly deeply mindful and present place. I’m looking at the road ahead, listening for the traffic coming from behind, noticing the smells and feeling the direction of the wind.

My mind wanders to contemplate various things … I’ve been thinking about Trust – and may write something separate about that – and on this day I was thinking rather a bit about Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan, Australians who had been executed by the State of Indonesia while I slept in my tent in Urunga.

The two issues relate, of course, trust and the executions – the betrayal of the trust that the system will recognize reform and reward it with life. A betrayal of trust not dissimilar to that suffered by young black Americans who – while I slept and Indonesia was executing – were rebelling in Baltimore.

Life should simply be fairer and more just for more people – we should recognise that we are all in this together and that we all benefit when more of our fellow human beings are thriving than are suffering.

Anyway … when I’m not watching for twigs or cringing in the turbulence of a Double-B, this is the stuff I’m thinking about. That and what I’ll eat next.

I left the highway at Nambucca Heads and took the backroads to Macksville. Seven kilometres out of town it was clear I’d just missed a rain shower: there were wet patches on the road and that fantastic rain-on-hot-bitumen smell. As I passed the showgrounds the heavens opened, seemingly from nowhere, and hammered me for just long enough for me to get wet, get my jacket out, put it on and ride on. Then it stopped.

Nambucca River at Macksville

I had set my mind on a vanilla slice from just before the rain and I was on the hunt for a bakery as soon as I hit town. Quickly found one, and my vanilla slice, then a café for a matching pot of tea. Such civilised bicycle touring!

The highway from Macksville to the Scotts Head turn-off is shit – busy and with a narrow verge – but it was only a few kilometres. Then I was back onto rolling country blacktop again for the final hour or so into Scotts Head. A bit of a brutal climb greeted my arrival into the town but the top rewarded me with a stunning view of the ocean, headlands rolling north, and orangey cloud diffused sunlight illuminating the whole of it.

My Warm Showers hosts for the night, Jacky and Stephen, are recently retired and tour locally mostly but have made a couple of jaunts to Europe and other, non-bicycle, travel in Asia and South America. They were hosting me in Jacky’s mum’s house – she has passed away and now it’s shared as a holiday/beach house amongst Jacky, her siblings and all their kids.

It was another enjoyable Warm Showers evening: eating, drinking and socialising. I slept in a single bed in a room decorated with an old wall map of Australia showing a circuit journey around the continent. One of many such road-trips Jacky’s parents had enjoyed making.

Again … Google won’t let me embed a map with my changes (if anyone knows how to do that, let me know) I rode from Urunga to Hungry Head, Nambucca Heads then the backroads to Macksville before rejoining the highway to the Scotts Head turnoff.