The tables turn sharper than a dirt track descent
AUSTRALIA | Sunday, 1 January 2012 | Views  | Comments 
Can't ask for a much better view than that!
It was Christmas morning and Santa had wisely given my tent a wide berth. I remembered how exciting it was as a kid to wake up at 330am and poke through the presents before the parents allowed you to scream them awake. I also remembered how much pain I woke up in as an early adult when I found out how much of a party night Christmas Eve was. This Christmas I woke up feeling a bit of both. In enough pain to be needing a rest day but positive Tomago wasn't the place to have it, and excited thinking that a different state of mind might just help turn my luck around.
A friend rightly pointed out the Eyeore style pessimism I was taking with the previous blog and I have determined to take a different approach from now on. Whether that was the catalyst for improvement or Lady Luck had found someone else to terrorise, I am not sure. Either way, things improved so much that I spent Boxing Day in one of the most amazing places I have ever stayed. Things still broke like they were made of balsa wood and the weather was still redefining what Summer meant but all I had to think about was the amazing adventure I had chosen to undertake,and the fact that I wasn't at work.
Before setting off, I ate a rare serving of fruit that had been kindly donated by a fellow laundry user the day previous who shared my concern that I wasn't going to be able to buy food on a public holiday. Travelling 10kms was like walking 10 metres in Bangkok and I came across the forever open 7-11. Shimmering like an oasis in the desert, I was so eager to get in that I took its higher than normal driveway at top speed and heard something break as I did so. By the time my momentum had run out, because unlike a normal person I did not see it necessary to apply the brakes and avoid further damage, the broken mudguard had managed to wear away most of the tread on the trailer wheel.
Popping the bike up on the stand, the metal leg poked straight through its rubber foot and I immediately assumed a heightened state of readiness for a bolt of lightning to strike me. Remembering that my new Zen approach was all about calm abiding and not throwing a tanty at the merest inconvenience, I relaxed, let it all flow by me like clouds and rewarded myself with some chocolate. While savouring it with haste, my bike grew tired of standing and decided to lay down rather inelegantly. I saw this as an embarrassing turn of events but it came to happen so frequently that every time I leave my bike standing, I expect to return to it prone.
A pleasant morning of low level rises through largely surburban areas gave me enough time to review my Christmas list I had sent to Santa. My memory seems to be heading in the same direction as my hairline but I'm pretty sure a new ass was higher on the list than a day of increasingly bigger hills. Lions Road freed me from ever thinking a hill was unconquerable and the more I tackle, the easier they get. The majority of the day had as many flat spots as Broome has hills.
Being close to friends and family in spirit, but a long, long way in person, I thought I should spoil myself with some festive over-indulgence. I wasn't about to chomp on a turkey, or drink any Wild Turkey either so I thought a night in a more stable shelter would give me a break from worrying that my tent could fall down on me at any point. When $35 was asked of me for a campsite again I knew that if a patch of turf cost that much in Kanwal, hoping for a dwelling as well would only be justifiable after winning the lottery.
The best I could do was watch the awesome UFC140 event complete with a seven second knock-out, an arm being pulled from its socket and Lyoto 'The Dragon' Machida being choked unconscious by rampant Light-Heavyweight champ Jon Jones. How I console my overt pacifism with such a brutal sport still remains a mystery I am in no rush to solve. We all have guilty pleasures and I give thanks mine isn't expensive or likely to land me in prison where being choked unconscious is the best you could hope for.
Day six straight started on a high when the first 2kms brought 1000kms for the trip up on the cyclometer. The scope of the undertaking started to hit home then as I thought about how I had never been so physically challenged before in my life. Before I could rock back and rest my battered butt on my laurels, along came a 9km incline. My new found optimism refused to crack, helped along by the fact I had no idea I would be ascending for so long. It was predominantly slight in angle but the only rest my legs got was when I stopped to wave at cars that sped passed with comparative ease.
The Sydney to Newcastle freeway has reduced the Pacific Highway to irrelevance meaning I had the road to myself. It wound its way along the ridge of hills for the remainder of the day rarely levelling out for any easy riding. The views offered atop every ascent made all the profuse sweating worthwhile. Were it not Boxing Day, I could have continued on and made Sydney that day, but I was inconveniencing Jess enough and didn't want to put her out another day.
So I hunted for the only caravan park to be found in a 50km radius. It's actual location in Mt. White was a long way off from where Google maps told me it was but I had no other options. When I was confronted with a Lions Road type descent down a track with severe acne, I found the inspiration to start inventing options. My on-going desire to 'give the world a hug' almost transformed to stabbing it in the back and some creative cursing announced my intentions to the wildlife within earshot.
I pulled into a little clearing thinking that I had a sweet little adventure getting to the camp today, but tomorrow would start off taking my bike for a walk up a vertical wall of dirt. Looking around I chanced upon a look-out so impressive, the scope of its beauty was matched only by the nondescript nature of its entrance. Not only was it not sign posted, the 50 metre track leading to a vertical drop was carelessly decorated with so much litter that it was too much like a tip to be a tourist hot spot.
I spotted the camp ground directly underneath the ledge and completed my total transformation of mood with an emphatic shout of “Fuck YEAH!” The boat access only village of Marlow laid to the left of the winding Hawkesbury River and rocky escarpments protruded out from various breaks in the unending greenery of the forest. It was Eden and I had ridden through the Valley of Shit (Isiah 4:9 I'm pretty sure) to find it. It was the sort of spot that made any ordeal worth it, and every deep breath released all the miles I had ridden from my aching legs.
As I set up camp, four groups of people came along to inspect the view. The first were a group of teenagers envious I had claimed the spot before them and forcing them to find somewhere else to litter and defile. The second was a local I was unable to stereotype so easily, even after going on an extended soliloquy about the area and its history. His friendliness was so genuine I found it hard not to see him as a passing angel sent to give me a better appreciation of the pristine and privileged position I found myself in. The third seemed unwilling to have anything to do with a tattooed freak whistling casually to disguise the fact he was almost caught out having a quick bush shower. The fourth came along at a time I was so well established that they left soon after feeling like the were wandering around my living room.
I spent the entire afternoon shaking my head in disbelief as I struggled to come to terms with how lucky I was to have found such a spot. I had brought excess food at Coles that morning only because the supermarket was open and I wanted to make the most of an opportunity that was absent the day before when I really needed it. I was confused as to my intentions as I continued to pile food in my basket knowing I was just going to have to lug it along with me. Intuition overrode reason and I heaped praise on myself for that as I gave thanks for anything and everything that had contributed to bringing me to that point in my life.
Clouds rolled in as the day drew to a blissful end and even that came as a good thing without me having to squeeze out a 'positive' like a kidney stone. No sunset meant no locals would seek the spot out for a romantic interlude freeing me from having to explain my temporary acquisition of the land, or my willingness to watch them make out. Rain held out until light had almost faded completely and the continual pitter-patter on my tent deafened out any forest noises that my mind would have turned into the approach of an axe wielding maniac or Jehovahs witnesses. I had whittled a twig down to a make shift spear but the absence of company ensured my 'Castaway' starring role didn't get a rewrite to 'Lord of the Flies'. Before long, I fell into a long and peaceful sleep, thankful for the redemptive power of a friends playful jibes. Cheers Patrick!
Tags: cycling, friends, on the road