July 27, 2018 – Day 116

Grafton to MacLean – 45 km (by bike)

We are on the traditional territory of the Bundjalung People

The Bundajalung are a large Aboriginal nation, a federation of a number of groups of clans which occupy the land from Grafton on the Clarence River of northern New South Wales north to southern Queensland, and down around the other side of the Great Dividing Range and back to Grafton.

Six Aboriginal communities are represented within the local government area of Clarence Valley at Baryulgil, Malabugilmah, Grafton, South Grafton, Maclean and Yamba. The 2011 Census reported 2,846 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the Clarence Valley. Of these, 1,406 (or 49.4%) were male and 1,440 (50.6%) were female; the median age was 20 years.

Like many Australian towns we have cycled through, Grafton has a number of well preserved buildings, which give it an old town vibe, together with wide streets lined with palm trees and diagonal parking. (The diagonal parking is tricky for passing cyclists!) Grafton is famous for the annual Jacaranda festival, held in late October/early November, when the town is ablaze in purple blossoms. We had thought that Purple Haze cafe, which served us good Vivo espresso this morning, was a reference to Jimi Hendrix, but on reflection, it is probably related to Jacarandas! (or both).

We did not follow the CycleWayz route today, which would have taken us on a 100km ride to Casino, with an unpaved section –  a risky distance when the hours of daylight are still limited. We had assumed that the alternative was the Pacific Highway, but discovered another paved road, Tourist Drive #22 to Lawrence and MacLean, which follows the Clarence River floodplain. It was an easy and pleasant ride on a quiet country road through cattle and dairy farmland, the road alongside the river at times.
Before Lawrence, we began to be surrounded by sugar cane plantations. We find that sugar is big business in Australia and most raw cane sugar is exported. The Lawrence cable ferry took us across the Clarence River a few kilometres from the town of MacLean. It was a warm 22oC this afternoon, but increasingly cloudy for the first time since Sydney. We have become so accustomed to blue sky cycling in Australia that our rain gear has been pushed to the bottom of our panniers.

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