These Hills Seem Downright Reasonable or My First Riding Day Without Tears: Bendemeer to Uralla (Day 5 – Friday 24 April)

I first woke around 6 am, rolled over and woke again at 8. I dawdled through the morning – fearing more hills I huddled under the covers and got some writing done. But there was distance to cover and nothing to do but load up and cover it.

As I was packing up the Kiwi cleaner nodded at my bicycle and said “You could get an engine for that.”

To which I replied “I’ve all the engine I need right here (patting my thigh) and here (pointing at my heart).” That I could feel that way the day after Moonbi is something. I’ve since looked Moonbi up on the Internets and learned it’s a notoriously difficult pass – appearing in a Banjo Patterson poem and some country song about a dead truckie.

The day was cool and a little overcast as I pushed my somewhat-reduced load away from the Bendemeer Hotel at 11 am. The hill coming out of town and in the initial few kilometres on the highway might have been the worst of the day – especially with cold legs.

The day warmed, the road undulated and I pressed on. The countryside remained lovely as ever, the motorists fine and the road-builders had provided fairly regular places to pull out for a rest.

Idyllic it was not – I was on the New England Highway and the shoulder disappeared now and then – but it was doable, I only pushed for a short stretch topping the final real climb of the day, and best of all, there were no tears shed.

In Uralla I was set to stay with my first Warm Showers hosts of the trip. I messaged Paul when I turned off the highway into Stace Road. Minutes later he was pedalling over the crest – he’d been out for a ride when he got my text and came to ride in with me.

Paul and his wife Judy are a retired couple who tour Europe, it seems, most northern summers. They will leave for Sweden in a few weeks’ time for a tour through the Baltic States, into Poland and Germany.

They have been most welcoming hosts. The guestroom is comfy, there’s a heat lamp in bath, they have fed me and shown me around town – really the best sort of hosts.

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