Friday 13 January 2012

Aussie Aussie Aussie

It is fair to say the last week and a half have been as dramatic a change in the environment as any in the previous eight months. I went from the sweltering heat of the Nullarbor plains to the incredibly challenging southerly winds heading towards Adelaide, to torrential rain, hail and freezing winds in South Australia and Victoria. The major difference was the turning of the wind. For the first time in as long as I can remember the wind was at my back and really pumping me along. I kept this heading for the best part of a week and have now arrived via the Great Ocean Road to Melbourne ready to board a flight to Nz in the morning and get the final leg of the trip underway.
 My decision to take the southern most route was based on the continuing praise I encountered for the Great Ocean Road, essentially a make work scheme from after the first world war, and for the most part I was not disappointed. From the point where I first entered it took a little over 20kms to actually see the ocean by which point I was getting frustrated and feeling ripped off. But then, in fairly spectacular fashion the Southern Ocean stretched out in front of me, dramatically churned over by the strong onshore breeze. The pounding of the surf on the steep cliffs roared throughout the day and the riding became a mixture of undulating hills and running for cover as another clearly visible squall rolled off the ocean and spat icy rain at me. The coast itself was truly a sight to view as the road came close to the edge. A steep drop off eroded by years of weather systems battering the limestone walls gave way to the beautiful aqua green of a shallow ocean before the darker blue suggested another shelf beneath the waves. I am sure it would seem a completely tranquil place in calmer weather.
 Because it is a national park I had to make my camping arrangements as hidden as possible to avoid incurring a fine but circumstances led me once again to camp in plain sight at the 12 Apostles viewing area. Just off the trail leading to the cliffs edge my tent sprang up and looked like it could have been part of the scenery if you thought at all to look that direction. Either way I had a peaceful night listening to the waves crashing and the cracking of my tent poles as the wind tried its best to splinter and break my accommodation. The following morning was much of the same with the exception of the cliffs giving way to a more graduated and less dramatic coastline but the sandy beaches were a beautiful distraction from the continuous riding.

I met an English couple in Apollo bay or thereabouts where we sat over peanut butter sammies taking in the nice afternoon sun talking about our respective trips. Two of the most inspiring people I have met on the road they have made the trek from London to Australia and will complete their journey in New Zealand in the coming months. We rode together to the small city of Geelong where they had a place to stay through a cycling website called warm showers. Long story short I ended up staying with them at Maxine’s house and even had the opportunity to ride with her the following morning as I headed towards Melbourne. Maxine is retired and an avid bike rider sporting a lovely trek bike and a shock of grey hair she pushed me as hard as I could manage for the best part of an hour before she decided to turn back. It must have been a sight, a 60 something lady cruising effortlessly with a 20 something chap with a overloaded bike sweating profusely trying, often in vein to keep up to her speed. Never the less we made a trip through the back roads and said goodbye as she turned for home and I made my way to the skyscrapers and towers of one of Australias biggest cities.

Along the coast I past another wildlife sign for Koalas. Not having seen many of these signed creatures I did not have high hopes for seeing this unique animal but as luck would have it I managed to spy one high up in a gum tree swaying with the gusty wind. I thought I should at least have a look around for one and low and behold at that very moment I spied what looked like a furry bum in the trees. After spending some time watching this furry bum eventually it moved and I was rewarded with a great look at its adorable fluffy ears and big black nose and beady eyes. I wandered through the trees for a closer and better look all the while under the curious gaze of the Koala.

On the outskirts of Melbourne I managed to meet with a friend whom I first me in Canada and worked with at an outdoor camp. We learned to canoe together and it has been great to catch up with roo (actual name, I don’t think his parents liked him).

For the final time on this journey Doris has been put in a bike box and had her wheels and peddles removed for another plane ride. Tomorrow afternoon some time we will arrive In Queenstown and begin the relatively short trip home to Nelson to where it all began almost nine moth ago.

It took 29 days with two days off to cross from Perth to Melbourne covering 3600 kms in the process. Most of it was tough riding but all of it was great fun and a beautiful wilderness environment. I take my hat off to the farmers and workers of the land on the arid hot and dusty plains. I am very much looking forward to biking the west coast road and I hope I can convince some people to come and ride with me for a few days. Its been nice to be around people again, something I hadn’t given a lot of thought for a number of weeks.

8 months of my life right there 
Aotearoa here we come, we’ve been missing you.

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