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Barrington Tops Cycle Tour
Day Three

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Saturday 23 October 1999

We wake at 6am, first light. It's still raining, so I run over and start with tea and dinner. Well, Ken has tea and muesli, I have pasta. Real food! A decent breakfast makes me feel quite good despite the rain. We have 40km downhill, 20 of that in forest. Then some distance of sealed road to camp near a town somewhere unless we catch the train out. Ken says it's unlikely because state rail here ignore cyclists, and the trains will only take three large parcels (bike, surfboard, pram, whatever), and you can rarely get one on the day of travel. Ken is pessimistic about trains, and keen to cycle the distance. I'm not so sure. My scrotum is now bright red, and sensitive to the slightest rubbing. In retrospect I should probably have shown Ken, so he had some idea of why I was bitching about it.

Anyway, I decide to cycle in polypro and raincoat. My great big goretex mountain jacket that's half the volume of my sleeping bag when folded up. Turns out that that jacket is brilliant on a recumbent, the back is flat so there's no lumps on the seat side, there are good pockets on the front and a variety of sealing things to keep most of the water out. I get a puddle on the front but no leakage to speak of. My top half stays dry-ish, and my legs get to work so I'm warm but wet. I can survive that.

We hooned off down the hill at a great rate of knots. It's raining and there is mud everywhere. This means our rims get covered in grit and the brakes either stop working (Ken's front brakes, my rear ones) or make a grinding noise. That means they work but the pads wear out really quickly. I discover that the grinding noise from my front brakes is not actually grit, but the brake shoe mount. My rim is looking pretty sick with a big groove cut a millimetre into one side. Bad. So I stopped and played with the brake shoes to get rubber on the rim instead. Nothing seems to make the rear brakes work, so I have to rely on the front ones. To minimise braking and get as much help as possible from air resistance I go really fast. Seriously. We're talking a max speed of about 55kph on a windy gravel road. At 7am. If there had been someone coming up I would have had to bail over the side or hit them, there's no way I could have stopped. But I survived, which is more than my rim did. I think I should replace it even though it still works, because it looks pretty bad.

At the bottom-ish of the hill we got to the park entrance guff, and a camping area. With a couple of caravans in it. Whee, civilisation. Bah. Still gravel road though. This is where the day started to bite for me, my groin was not happy with pedalling, think really bad sunburn sensations. But we covered another 20kms of up and down farmland stuff, with numerous fords. They were fun, low concrete culvert style things with maybe 10cm of water on. The recumbent handles that really well, I just go through at whatever speed and water sprays out everywhere while I stay dry. I like it :)

At the "main road" we could turn right to Newcastle, or left to go 10km into Gloucester and see if we can get a train. Ken started biking, I stuck my thumb out. The first car (small truck, actually) stopped and gave me a lift, then offered to pick up Ken, which he accepted. So that was an easy 10kms.

The trains. Indulge me for a second while I rant about the uselessness of the state rail service in this country. fuck mumble. Basically there were two trains due on Saturday, neither of which would take bikes. To find that out we had to use a pay phone on the platform to call the booking office, as the free "info line" didn't even know when the trains were due. "Public service" ho ho ho.

So we biked back into town and tried the info center for buses. No buses. Answer: bike to Newcastle, about 120kms. Not really a problem. But I was in "bail out" mode, and not very happy on the bike. Ken was in "go go go" mode. So we parted ways, he took the fuel bottle and biked 30-odd km to a town, camped then went to Newcastle on Sunday. I hitched to Newcastle and train to Sydney, home by 10pm.

Ken was really dubious about hitching with bikes. And two of us did make for a big load to carry, so few people could take us even if they wanted to. I suggested splitting up, and since Ken wanted to ride... no problem. Well, grumpy parting, but we were heading opposite directions emotionally. And it was still raining petty hard.

It turned out to be easier than I expected to get rides, first I got a young guy in a ute with big rally lights. He went past at over 100kph, locked up wheels to stop, spun wheels to U turn and come back. I was a bit dubious, but what the heck. He took me past Ken :), then another 10km or so into a tiny locality where he lived. I biked off to the first hill and started walking up it, thumbing cars as they went past. A nice lady in a battered Cortina took me 20km up the road to a town, which was good. I got $2 worth of hot chips, which turned out to be more than I could eat. Like, a box that could hold a 2l ice-cream container, and full of chips. I ate on the verandah watching the rain.

Then back on the bike, maybe 70km left to Newcastle. About an hour later I finally got another lift. Must have thumbed at about 40 cars by this time, and I was getting discouraged. Still, two very nice ladies in a double cab ute with a box on the back stopped and we packed the bike in. Quite funny really, the first words were "I don't ever pick up hitch-hikers but you have the bike so you seem safe". She'd biked a lot, and supported long races, so she empathised with me standing in the rain. Very nice. She'd also just come back from 12 weeks touring with a car and caravan (and husband) round Australia, been up to Darwin and down to Adelaide. They saw hundreds of people riding the Darwin-Adelaide highway through the desert, and she advised quite strongly against it. Very hot, very dry, no scenery changes for 1000's of kms.

Got dropped at some minor railway station north of Newcastle, but it was CityRail which means bikes are free, and no hassles with carrying them. Turns out that there was track work on the line somewhere, so it was a bus not a train, but when it turned up it was a big tour coach with luggage space. So the bike just went straight in, no worries. And an hour or so later I was at Newcastle central train station, buying a ticket for Sydney. It was, of course, still raining.

Went to Strathfield, change trains to get to Newtown. Hey, if you're using the train why not go straight to the door? And Strathfield uses long ramps to go up and down between platforms, while the other options meant carrying my bike up and down stairs. At Strathfield it turned out that by some weird stroke I had to go half way then change trains again. On stairs. Bah. And a half hour wait. So I biked from there because it's only 10 minutes.

When I got home I carried all the stuff off the bike inside, into the bathroom. It was all wet, and so unpacking into the bath seemed sensible. And it let the bike drip off in the front door, before I got that inside too. got the worst of it all cleaned up, then went to bed. At last.

Oh, and rang Kelly to say I'm back. Bizarre experience. She wants to talk, but not right now. And I should read her emails. But IHug is poxy for email right now, it's taking days to get mail through the Sydney server. I got one email from her, out of about 5 she's sent. Looks like tomorrow might be an interesting day with her, she's doing lunch with her mother (stressful), then me (more stress). We're kind of vacant from our usual relationship space, both of us have changed how we see each other. Tomorrow will be trying to reconnect I suspect.