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Holidaying like a 'normal' person

AUSTRALIA | Tuesday, 3 January 2012 | Views [1012]

The real thing was so much more impressive than what my phone captures.

The real thing was so much more impressive than what my phone captures.

5am is a unholy time to have to wake up, and the words I shared with the alarm clock would get a layman kicked out of any God-fearing Christian congregation. Such a spot could offer a sunrise beyond compare, but omnipresent thunder clouds were not as transparent as I hoped. Plus, I had been too gob-smacked the previous day to consider the westerly facing aspect of my position. It wasn't given any consideration at 5am either as a quick one half-opened eye peek out the door revealed enough grey to return to sleep without asking any more of my sluggishly rebooting brain.

When I finally rose two hours later, the sky was ripe to rumble so I packed up with the sort of haste usually seen only in bushfire evacuation. I didn't need to dawdle as I had spent enough time gazing at the vista yesterday when natures palate had more scope than the climate was affording it today. Bemoaning the fact that my bushmans shower still left me smelling like I was decomposing, I cut short any other gripes by focusing on day seven of riding being the last for awhile.

Before riding the kinks out of the my legs, I got to descend back down to the valley floor with the sort of speed that induces small yelps of joy. What goes up, must come down and this was my funfair style reward for yesterdays hard slog. I not-so-secretly hoped that the road would stay at that level, but any more good luck would scare me into thinking I was going through good karma quicker than my cash supply.

What goes down, must go back up even higher it seems and a ridiculously long incline had me sweating with the sort of intensity that could make me a national champ at it. Before long, the water in my hydrapak ran out, and the small serving of shower water I had used the previous day no longer seemed small enough. The road continued along a ridge well above anything that may have been able to rehydrate me, unless it rained, but I had long given up hoping the weather would yield to my wishes.

Soon after it had become uncomfortable, but long before I was prepared to flag down passing planes, I came across a general store. It's hard to describe the sense of relief one feels when an impending ordeal is cut short before becoming a disaster. I couldn't capture it accurately after finding my camp site in the clouds the day before and procuring water from this particular shop didn't warrant the same effort in literary terms.

It turned out I was saved from having to when relief quickly changed to disappointment as I realised the shop was closed till next year. I was recycling sweat as it dripped off my moustache and I knew I was good for a couple more kilometers before muscles cramped in protest, thoughts got hazy and I started speaking Ukranian. Fortune favours the bold some Greek dude figured out years ago and it still holds true for everyone but me most of the time.

Thankfully, this was not one of those times as a roadside reserve with a tap carved by the Roman goddess Felicitas herself appeared to slaked my thirst in a way that no VB commercial could convince me was not the best possible way. After filling every water bottle I owned, I thought of showering, but public nudity is still not as widely accepted as I would like.

As I entered the outer suburbs of Sydney, the roads narrowed and the bike lanes disappeared quicker than the patience of the drivers. Never keen on the idea of being a statistic, I made for the nearest train station and let the rail system do what I thought was too dangerous for my wobbly rig to undertake. I was technically in Sydney anyway so I don't see it as a form of cheating.

Navigating all the lifts getting between stations turned out to be more challenging than dodging dodgy drivers anyway. The bike kept falling over like it had done all the work getting us this far, but Sydney-siders failed to show any of the concern that their Tea Gardens counterparts had done when my bike tried to become amphibious. Replacing the foot stand became just another thing I was likely to forget to do while in Sydney.

A quick trundle down Bondi Road and I arrived at the famous beach. The sky was giving me cause to be under-whelmed, but that didn't stop hundreds of people flocking to the beach like it was the best day of the year for it. Jess' apartment was on the north side so I was required to put in a Herculean effort keeping my eyes on the road and its oblivious drivers instead of the Bondi beach babes who were being beautiful just because they could.

The apartment was about the size of my trailer, and hoping to store that in there meant I was sleeping in the hallway. How her brother Paul was going to stay there as well was a Tetris like conundrum made easier by the fact the siblings weren't getting along and his visiting rights were being re-evaluated. A squeeze was still being planned for NYE, but anything is possible on a night like that.

Bondi time was spent doing Bondi things like drinking coffee, being pretentious and forsaking all other considerations for looking cool and glamorous. My wardrobe didn't afford much glamour, but catching up with close friends from Broome in Hamish and Jess brought a touch of reality to a city that seemed devoid of any of it. Or at least the version of it that I am now used to.

To avoid overstaying my welcome in Jess' baked bean tin, I caught a train to Nowra to catch up with Niamh, an Irish girl I had befriended in Hobart. She was always keen for a craic and her offer to join her camping was greeted with the sort of enthusiasm normally reserved for the condemned. I was not in a hurry to jump straight back into a tent but having a car at her disposal meant she was able to bring the sort of supplies unjustifiable when your own energy is required to transport it.

We first went to Hymas beach as some unsummer-like sun was making a swim finally seem feasible. The water was like liquid glass but the waves were so big, I coped a pounding. Normally a huge advocate of such surf based thrashings, having my head bounced off the sandy floor more than a few times convinced me that the conditions were better for spectating than experiencing.

The spectator experience took on epic proportions when a pod of 15 dolphins came close to shore to do a bit of surfing themselves. Driving along the crest of the wave, they would turn as the peak went to break and speed along the wave face like the wave was the wall of an aquarium. Being shore breaks meant their games seemed close enough to join in. I couldn't imagine how much pleasure a dolphin would derive from seeing a human coming into their environment and floundering around in concussive waves like Hunter S. Thompson huffing diethyl ether.

By the time they had grown tired of their fun, the entire beach of a few hundred people were standing in awe and staring. It was a natural phenomena that finding a way to market would make any man a millionaire. I rate it up there with my recent sighting of phosphorescence on Gantheaume Beach as an unforgettable natural phenomena. And just as impossible to photograph.

Camping places were proving harder to find than jokes, but my winning streak was gathering too much momentum. The appropriately named Hidden Caravan Park had one vacancy left and it didn't go to the person queuing in front of us cause they just wanted an ice-cream. There was a minimum stay of four nights and I didn't even have to bust out the lingerie to get the old dear to accept us for two nights. I strutted all the way to our site backwards, just because I could.

Before long we had the camp set up affording us a degree of luxury that no bicycle tourist would ever dream of lugging around. Camp fires were allowed so we arced up a rip-roarer and set to catching up and drinking lots in no particular order. Once enough drinking had been done to cancel out any catching up, I poked sticks at a dwindling fire and gave thanks for being somewhere beautiful without having strained to get there.


Tags: beaches, camping, friends, wildlife

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