We are on the traditional territory of the Bundjalung People
Today, for the first time, we are feeling discouraged. Perhaps, it’s just time to wrap up this long-term adventure. We are definitely still loving the cycling, seeing the countries, meeting people, eating great food, learning. But, we are becoming increasingly less tolerant of cycling beside fast moving vehicles, especially on highways or busy narrow roads with no hard shoulder. The CycleWayz app we have been using in Australia has been good in directing us off the highway, where possible. But, the route also takes us away from built up areas, where accommodation is more available, which for “posh” cyclists (as we were referred to the other day!), who aren’t carrying camping gear, is a challenge. The only alternative is cycling on busy roads. Where cycle paths exist, they do not usually extend beyond the outskirts of a town. An added difficulty in Australia, or at least in New South Wales, is the relative absence of pedestrian crossings and traffic lights across main roads.
When we left Johnny’s (Nats Coffee – Byron Bay 8.5/ 10) – a not for profit operated by the Mid Richmond Neighbourhood Centre, it was still misty, unusual according to our barrista. We thought we could smell smoke in the air and were told that burning of sugar cane happens at this time of year. We had a quick look at the beach on the way out of town and then rode through Broadwater National Park, with coastal banksia and grass trees, the lingering mist prompting us to put on our headlights. Signs warned of kangaroos on the road, but none were around. There were lots of birds.
At Broadwater, after passing a large sugar refinery belting out smoke that smelled vaguely sweet and vegetal, we hit the Pacific Highway. Fortified with a second coffee at Our Daily Bread Cafe (in the old church !), we tackled a few kilometres of two lanes, lots of traffic and not much of a shoulder, then turned off on River Drive along the Richmond River. Cycling under the highway bridge, we noticed a sign indicating that during bridge renovations, an osprey nest had been moved from one of the bridge towers to a huge pole erected for the purpose. The nest appeared to be empty, although an osprey was perched nearby on another power pole. Just afterwards, we were both dive-bombed a number of times by a magpie. Lois noticed it attacking Paul and then it came after her! We could hear the sound of its wings as it swooped down from above and behind. A couple of times we each heard a “clack” on our helmets from its claws or beak! Later, we read that such attacks are not uncommon, especially against cyclists! Quite an unnerving experience. Thank goodness for our helmets!
The rest of our ride along the Richmond river to the Burns Point Ferry was uneventful! While waiting for the ferry, we chatted with a pleasant couple in their early seventies, who had been out for a short Sunday bike ride from East Ballina. Just in town, we stopped to photograph a giant prawn made of concrete and fibreglass. In March 2018, Google Maps’ facial recognition software apparently blurred out the facial area of the Prawn! As we were having lunch (Thai king prawn salad ?), a young couple with their eight year-old twin daughters approached us, curious to know about our trip. They are mountain bikers themselves and their girls are also getting involved.
The 2-lane Coastal Road to Lennox Head was extremely busy, with no shoulder. We had thought we would be safe on a tourist road on a Sunday in low season, but another cyclist told us that on Sundays everyone is out on the roads racing from one surfing beach to another! Taking a break from the traffic at Pat Moreton lookout, we caught sight of the spray of humpbacks in the bay. This, plus FaceTime with our grandchildren in Paris helped to restore our mood.