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Sunburnt and saturated in the same day.

AUSTRALIA | Wednesday, 14 December 2011 | Views [1179]

A pretty creek of lotus flowers almost distracts from the trouble brewing above

A pretty creek of lotus flowers almost distracts from the trouble brewing above

I am pretty sure I was woken at 1:45am by the sound of rain hitting my roof; hard. Hence, $38 had not transformed my tent into the Millennium Falcon. I had to rise early for once to get the first ferry across to Yamba, but there was no sign of old mate as I packed. Perhaps he gets to sleep in on all the bank notes he plunders from unsuspecting travellers. I was in the mood for being confrontational as I had woken up with my head stuck on a 30 degree angle to my body. It was not his fault, but I reckon he owed me a remedial massage at least.

So eager was I to put some miles between me and this modern day bush-ranger that I arrived at the pier an hour earlier than the ferry. Four people in a row then came up and told me how envious they were of my endeavours. It made a pleasant change from everyone questioning my sanity and I did all within my limited scope to appear worthy of their praise. I don't know if they fully grasped my Napoleon impersonation, but doing so must have surely added an air of mystique to my persona.

The 30 minute ferry ride over to Yamba was serene as it cut through nothing more than small ripples. Most disturbing was the black sky it was taking me in the direction of. That meant the day would require some pampering at the end so I stopped of at K-mart and invested in a bed set and a pillow, rationalising that minimal weight against maximum comfort was a good trade off. Apparently the U-shaped travelling pillows do not make good sleeping pillows even when you try to compensate with various articles of clothing. The rain held off as I passed through Maclean and travelled alongside the beautiful Clarence River. My destination for the day was Grafton but I thought I would just keep riding if the weather held out.

50Kms done for the day and it was time for lunch and some decision making. I stopped in at a delightful little café in Ulmarra to refuel and review. The lady had only spring rolls to offer a vegetarian even though a sign behind her boasted numerous veggie and lentil based options. I gave her plenty of chances to reconsider but spring rolls she insisted it must be. Perhaps she made them herself, in which case she would have been pretty disappointed with what she did to them in the deep fryer. Fortunately, she brought the cremated spring rolls out with enough salad to almost balance out the artery corks she expected me to eat.

Google maps showed some back roads that aren't on my Information Centre map, largely because the Rathdowney pessimist ruled out 90% of the state to a subversive like me. To hide the mortified look on my face when I saw what had become of my lunch, I asked the lady to tell me which back roads would be best to avoid Grafton. Looking dismissively at my chosen mode of transport, she remained convinced that the Pacific Highway was still my best option. Imagine for a moment I implore, that you don't want the quickest, flattest route but perhaps something a little more risqué, and blog worthy. The best option she could come up with involved 3 ferry trips and took me right into the centre of Grafton. Hardly surprising advice coming from someone who uses a deep-fryer like the Grim Reaper uses his scythe.

“The sun is shining, the weather is sweet. Makes you want to move your pedalling feet”. Bob Marley convinced me that I should just keep going even though it will guarantee a century in the saddle. There were scattered clouds around but they seemed to lack the intention of ganging up and making something significant. As well meaning as the café lady was, I decided to take the back road, and not to take the advice of a local over the age of 50 ever again.

Why you would not recommend this road to a bicyclist is utterly beyond me. It was the most enjoyable stretch of road I had ridden on. A single lane paved road with nothing but fields filled with all manner of life just doing what they do. I couldn't have loved it any more if I tried, and that was my downfall.

Whenever you get too cocky, Mother Nature feels compelled to remind you who is in charge. Ever so subtly, a dense black cloud the size of a passing planet loomed over the horizon. Before I had a chance to lament bringing this on myself, it hit. Within 5 minutes, I was drenched through. What was the best ride ever minutes ago, was now the worst place in the world to be stuck in the rain. I was 20 kilometres from the nearest town in any direction and thunder was rolling around like God was playing drum 'n' bass. All I could do was put my head down and keep on pedalling.

Slowly but surely the kilometres clicked over and the skin on my groin got less and less. My ears felt fine but. The only thing driving me on, beside the need to find something other than a wombat hole to spend the night, was reaching my first 100 for the trip. When I passed that magical mark, two inspiring things happened. First was a sign symbolising a steep descent ahead. News good enough to manually chafe a bit more skin off. Second was an inspiring sms from a mate in Broome.

Richie, or Big Daddy, had quickly become one of my best blow-out buddies and thoughts of him regularly inspire me in different ways. Firstly was his enquiries as to how much hill training I was doing in Broome. The look of concern on his face when an affirmative response was not forthcoming almost motivated me to do some. I thought about that a lot as I was pushing my bike up 2 metre inclines at the end of Day 3.

Secondly, he gifted me an improved version of the bracelet I had spent 5 years looking for, and found on my last trip to Asia. Lacking the words of wisdom that Lance's yellow band does to help you get over nut cancer, I derive strength from remembering all the people who want to see me succeed, if only so I can go back to Broome and blow it out with them again.

And while I am name dropping, I should mention Ash, as his generosity made this whole trip possible; at least in having enough savings not to brain someone who charges me $38 for a 3 metre square strip of soil. Being run over by the golf cart was paradoxically the best thing to happen this year, except of course for the brownie I had in Ripples Cafe. I annexed Ash's room, as well as Poland, and happily cleared my calendar whenever he was in town looking to party.

These boys, amongst others, had gotten me over the line and it was all down hill to Corindi Beach. It was pissing rain still so it was more like a water slide, but who cares when it is forward momentum that doesn't require effort. I pulled in to the camp ground 3kms short of my personal best, but my balls easily convinced me that further riding was not advisable.

I stood around shivering for 20 minutes waiting for a break in the rain. When it eased slightly, I erected the tent so quickly it was like I had shelved viagra. As soon as I had gotten my bedding in, the clouds scattered as though the thunder really was God farting. I threw all my wet stuff in a bag, including the bed sheets and went off for a shower. Why is that after being wet for half the day, all I wanted to do was get wetter? Other than sounding like a quote from a porno, I think I had reached maximum prunage and more water was not going to make any difference.

I then chatted to friends about my exploits long enough for the one shop in town to close. Realising that noodles were my only option didn't seem so daunting now I knew I could actually cook them. As that minor oversight didn't ruin my night, I tried to find something else that would. It came as soon as it dawned on me that I was no longer able to get change for the laundry. The bed set was now soaked through after being bundled in the bag with clothes wet enough to fill a swimming pool. Why does dumb stuff always happen in bunches? Possibly because as Mark said in Broome, I am the dumbest smart person he has met. That was a comment made after he found I had left the hot plate on when I was trying to cook a pizza in the oven.

Tags: cycling, friends, on the road, people, weather

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