September 24, 2002 - Thirroul 171k/107m**

The Royal Harbor Hotel in Ulladulla gets the first hotel of the trip award. They gave me their best room for a great rate (nowhere near the $A25 from the Genoa Hotel a couple days ago but I don’t want to get anyone in trouble here by publicly disclosing it), almost washed my clothes, gave great advice on restaurants and the area, etc.

I left around 6:30A. Here’s the shot from my balcony, and a shot looking back at the harbor as I was leaving town.

pic

pic

Disappointingly (for me), there was no mileage sign coming out of Ulladulla or the next town, Milton, and the following two didn’t have Sydney on them. After maybe 10km of rolling pastureland I began the big climbs of the day, maybe 20km worth. My mantra for the moment was “get to Nowra and everything will be OK”.

Into it a bit, I noticed that I smelled burned-ness. I started looking around and realized that everything in the woods I was riding through was burned up. Still lots of greenness. There was grass under the trees, and two other types of vegetation – the leaves on the tops of (eucalyptus?) trees, and other trees that seemed to be growing leaves from their trunks. It was hard to photograph, but here are my efforts.

pic

pic

All the small trees and bushes were gone – for a long time, maybe 30km. There were some homes and buildings standing in what appeared to be burnt up forest. The value of the tin and tile roofs started making sense. Traffic was more intense than it had ever been on the trip. I came upon the first good mileage sign outside Nowra.

pic

Then something even more amazing happened. Maybe 60km into the day, I rode through Nowra around 10:30A and didn’t stop for breakfast. I was going to. I had eaten all my M&M’s with peanuts, mixed nuts, gummi-bear doppelgangers, powdered drink mix… the usual breakfast stuff when you leave early and don’t get bananas and milk and orange juice the night before, and I was hungry for real food and some bulk. But the Princes Highway through Nowra was very busy. Starting with sprawl businesses, then a mall with an overpass leading to it (an overpass!, a mall!), lots of traffic, and a couple of blocks later I crossed a river and everything disappeared. What happened to the restaurants? Go back? Kill me first.

I turned right on the long awaited coastal road past Nowra, came to a gas station, bought milk, orange juice, more M&M’s with peanuts and more gummi-candy, and consumed it all at the counter while I talked to the guy/owner about the fire stuff. He said that on Christmas day last year (9 months ago) there were huge fires that shut down the road for days, etc. etc. Deliberately set!? He said the whole flora system was based on fire for millennia and those only plants that could withstand an occasional bush fire survived. And that pretty much all-southeast Australia burned. The only problem was the homes and towns they built in the middle of bush-fire-land. Newly more aware, I pressed on along the river through, you guessed it, more pasture-land.

The night before I ate at the Harbor View Restaurant in Ulladulla. Like everywhere else they had and specialized in local wines. I had a tasting of 3 chardonnays (if you do these bike trips right, they are not as rough as you might think) – a Fern Valley that I had passed earlier yesterday (earlier in the day at the time of the dinner), and wines from two vineyards that I would pass through later today. The wines were bit light, not a lot of fruit, but with good character for “Australia’s Newest Wine Region”. Somewhere along the coastal road I came to another of the vineyards, Coolengatta Estates, well-marketed.

pic

If I had planned my trip better, I might have stayed there. In any case, after a couple short, steep climbs it was into 7-Mile Beach National Park. On the road through it, the trees canopied the road and it was quite pleasant. But you could see signs of older fires

pic

At the end of the National Park, I came to a trailer-park resort community and met another cross-country biker, Andrew from Canberra now living in Sydney – very interested in sustainability and some sort of investment-oriented career. He was on a few day loop-tour from Sydney. I took his picture, and he took mine.

pic

pic

He warned me about upcoming hills, I warned him about upcoming flat roads with a great tail wind. Sure enough, moment later, after a semi-monumental climb, I had vistas. Some retiree guy was walking to the top for his daily exercise, so you get two pictures of Bob in a row!!

pic

There was a concrete airplane shape embedded into the ground at the top, the 2/3rds scale noon shadow of the “world famous” Southern Cross which embarked from 7 mile beach in 1933 for the first air crossing from Australia (and that means anywhere) to New Zealand, piloted by “world famous” Kingston Smith. (I hope I have this right). There was also a metal plaque reproduction from the local paper indicating that the made it. Wonders in the middle of nowhere.

Then I came to (insert town name south of Kiama) and had an early (noon) lunch instead of a late breakfast, at the café that was formerly the general store. See the bike?

pic

(My web team is making me put these pictures up at lower resolution. Have you noticed?) Pressing on, I rejoined then ubiquitous Princes Highway and headed toward Sydney, now within spitting distance.

pic

Good headwinds challenged but with a couple of very notable exceptions the road ran along railroad tracks and was relatively flat. I wanted to make Wollongong.

(Side note: if you eliminate two vowels (A and O) and maybe 5 consonants (C, W, G, R, N) you eliminate 80% of the communities in Australia).

While my life for the past two weeks has been almost always only one choice, but a couple of times two, all of a sudden I had three. At the same time I had map-deficiency syndrome. Everything was on a huge (state) scale or a small (town) scale. The regional maps I have been collecting were no longer available.

I picked the Princes Highway (rr trax along the side are always preferred) and kept going. As I approached Wollongong, I got to an industrial wasteland (no offense intended). Think Gary, Indiana (no offense intended). It was 5PM and I was concerned, but they didn’t seem to have bail-bondsmen, strip-joints, and other harbingers of destitution. In the course of 30km I went from pastureland to wasteland to nice suburbs (Figtree) to Wollongong. Wollongong is a city, with maybe more people than everywhere I’ve been for the past 10 days combined. And 400 meters off to the side was the (italics) I office,

pic

This “I” sign indicates knowledgeable, friendly people. I asked them if they were friendly, or if they were paid to be friendly. The guy said “We’re paid.” They explained my options in town and up the coast. Sydney was still 80km away. (The mileage signs and this info I’ve been feeding both you and I are somewhat misleading. I have deviated from the Princes Highway a number of times.) They printed out sheets on 3 accommodations about 12 km up the “northern distribution” and I continued. Residential coastal communities (suburbs) all along the way

pic

…above a bar/casino/roadhouse thing called “The Beach”, in the “apartment” (2br, 2 bath, kitchen, living room – an apartment), but the only room with ensuite. (figure that out). I wrote most of this at Fritti’s, the Italian restaurant in town with a great Rocket Salad, and conclude it now in the dining area. There is no phone, much less internet. (I disagree with Microsoft – internet should not be Internet..)

I am probably 70 or 80 km from Sydney. I want to ride through the “Royal National Park” south of town, and hit the city. At that point I’ll get to Clarence Street Cycles, where I will drop the bike, find a hotel, clean up, and hopefully see a couple sites before I leave the following morning for the states.

Closing comment: immediately across the street, also on the second floor, is a dance school (yes, I think that’s what it is). They repeat the same music over and over. Lots of it a hyper-disco jumpy tune. They yell. Sometimes they – – tap dance. Something horrible could happen tonight.

(24Sept2002, 8:36P, Thirroul)

Touring Bikes – they’re different from road bikes, cruisers and mountain bikes. They are designed to move as quickly and durably as possible over long distances while carrying many pounds of excess accessories. There are maybe 10 companies that specialize in making these bikes in the US, and a lot of the big manufacturers (Trek, Cannondale) have special models. But they don’t have them in Australia, which is why I imported mine. Note Andrew today and Stephen yesterday, on mountain bikes. A huge waste of comfort and time. Someone needs to clue these folks in.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *