Steep hills, Deli belly and a lost light, tested us for our touring. But with a good laugh, great ride and guiding from a beginner.
Day one – 08/10/10 :
We met my old flatmate from London in Darling Harbour after his work day was over. Anthony guided us over the Harbour Bridge to his home in north Sydney. The evening was spent laughing at (with) him, mainly because he is funny and his take on things.
When did you get the tent ? Yesterday.
When did you get the panniers ? Yesterday.
When did you get this cycling book (with various routes in) ? Yesterday.
When did you plan the route ? Erm, yesterday. And so it went on and on. Though his partner did say that he had been like a little boy the last few months and been planning for months.
The shock came over dinner … we were due to catch a train to Katoomba at 6:24am which meant that we had to get up at 5am! We were repacked (some stuff removed – see, we can do ‘lightweight’!) and ready for bed after a brilliant dinner by just after midnight, yawn.
We managed to get out the door and arrive at the station for the 6.39am train, just a wee bit late, but the train would arrive pretty much at the same time. This was thanks to the brilliant help of Anthony’s partner who ran to the ticket office for us as we got the bicycles out of the car.
We arrived two hours later to meet on the platform two chatty Americans who quizzed us about our journey. They’d just undertaken a cycle ride themselves and were keen to know where we were headed. We then headed into the town centre for a nice big breakfast to prepare us for the ride. It was quite chilly compared to Sydney. We then spotted the Americans again at the Three Sisters viewpoint and wished us well on our journey.
Anthony had asked for help at City Bike Depot who gave us a fantastic route out of Katoomba, but it was a bit hard to find the service track they talked about. We found the track that runs next to the train line after a little off-roading, only to find that it was closed! So, we headed back to the highway to get out of town and put some miles under our wings. We did spot and find the service track again to only enjoy it for less than a mile before we came to a locked gate, which told us that it would cost a fair bit to jump it (no trespassing allowed! Spoilsports). So, we decided to take the narrow and initially steep walking track-come-drainage-channel which was at some points challenging and ran across the top of a rock climbing crag.
A quick stop for water and ice cream. I hit the jackpot and won a free Magnum! :) We headed north off the highway towards Mt. Victoria with a stunning downhill on a dirt track which wound down to Hartley Vale.
The next bit was uphill on rolling hills with wonderful views of the Blue Mountains and the countryside, it is easy to see why it is called New South Wales. We had been “blessed” with a wet winter and the most rain for many years because we saw only lush greenness everywhere. Anthony told us that this area “normally” looks sandy coloured, dry and dusty – totally different.
From one of the guide books (that our guide got only a few hours before ;) ) we should see that we would be gently climbing up to around 1250 metres before we would enjoy a long downhill. The downhill which never seemed to arrive!
The area we cycled through had been used create plantations, which had enjoyed some great tax breaks over the last few years. I felt right at home since the “forest” looked and smelled just like the fern trees in Denmark. The problem with these plantations is that local animals do not live in them and because the way they are planted nothing will grow between them.
As we came downhill Anthony spotted some kangaroos jumping away us, me and Peli just managed to see the tail end of two of them.
We kept climbing up and up and that downhill never arrived, even our guide had to resign to his 24″ gear (two feet) since he didn’t have a granny gear. Just as we all were well and truly knackered the downhill finally arrived, and boy was it a downhill. The problem was where to look? At the beautiful view, trees, or the road that just snaked its way down the hill? We were spoiled for choice. This downhill could easily hold its own to any alpine climb in the Tour de France.
Anthony had booked us into the backpackers’ hostel at Jenolan Caves, one of which we cycled through before we got to the hostel. There are over 300 caves scattered around the area. We had dinner at the hotel to which the hostel belonged before we dived into bed utterly knackered after a brilliant day’s riding.
Day two – 09/10/10 :
We got up to find our guide walking sheepishly back into the hostel from the hotel: he couldn’t sleep because he was right next to the communal room. Yes, we heard the noisy ones for a bit but I think that he had enough and bailed out before they either quietened down or we passed out from exhaustion. :)
While cooking breakfast my stomach started to show signs that it didn’t like the previous night’s meal. That continued while we packed up and got ready to hit the road. So the very steep hill out of the caves was extra hard on me and drained me well. The hill was at points so steep that no sooner than pushing off for a hill start, you’d be rolling back down before you had time to engage the second pedal! For Anthony and Peli it was hard too but only Peli (thank you, granny gear) managed to climb the hill without walking.
My GPS told us that we climbed around 600 metres over five miles where the steepest part was the first three miles. As we climbed up into the clouds we had to put our lights as the fog/mist/cloud was just too thick to see anything. We were hailed by three roadies who were cheering us on “You’re gluttons for punishment, aren’t you?!” as they descended into the valley.
While cycling in the clouds I really bonked and was not really there, very weak and tired from the ride the day before. I then demanded calories fast and lots as I did feel very weak, so we pulled into a layby. As we pulled away it dawned on me that I somehow had managed not to notice that my expensive Supernova E3 front light had jumped off. So a quick spin back to the “picnic” area to check if it had fallen off there, where we found nothing. Since we all were tired and had no idea where the light had committed suicide and jumped off my handle bar mount, we decided that we would continue to the campsite in Oberon, the day’s final stop.
In Oberon we pulled into the information centre and the lady behind the counter could not stop filling us with information. She checked whether the campsite had room for us, and was keen to suggest other cycle routes around the area. We politely declined as we were, for want of a better word, bolloxed. :)
We had a provisions stop in town, of four different cakes (chocolate mud cake, toffee mud cake, white chocolate mud cake, caramel strawberry slice), jelly babies, beer, milk, pies and so on. We arrived at the campsite fully loaded and for me well and truly knackered.
Peli helped Anthony put up his tent for the first time, while I set about installing my hammock for the first time in seven years. The little trees did good work supporting me while just lazying around in the hammock and the others worked hard to get the camp set up.
After showers and a cup of tea it was dinner time, while cooking up my stomach bug played up again, ice cold hands and burning body and shivers. So I just ate and got ready for bed, where I was shivering for a few hours before I got warmed up again.
Day three – 10/10/10 :
The morning I was still “green” and took some time getting going again. I managed to get some food into me before we headed out to our last 30 odd kilometres. My GPS told me that this would take around two and a bit hours, though we managed to do it in five and a half hours. Simply because I had to push up quite a few of the hills.
Again Anthony told us the area we cycled through was very green compared to what it used to be. The weather took its time to clear up, which was good and I struggled on the hills and didn’t like the idea of extra heat. Even in my hour of pain I still managed to enjoy the scenery.
Arriving at the family farm of Anthony we had a tour of the sheep shearing shed, the dunny (out house) along the sheep shearers’ housing. As we waited for our ride back into Sydney I wrapped up warm in the garage under a sleeping bag.
We bailed out of the queueing from the Bathurst 1000 motor race and headed to the stake house while we waited for the traffic to die down. The good news was that I had my appetite again and that my back suddenly behaved after a week and a bit pain.
Three hours later we arrived back in Sydney very tired after three wonderful a days in the Blue Mountains, thank you Anthony, the bike shop and Nic for the routing, hosting and great fun.
Here is all the pictures : Blue Mountains