Terra Australis - Steve Halligan Pt 2
I really enjoyed the next section , lots of river crossings through tree lined hills on gravel roads .
Soon I was moving into New South Wales, this felt great to go into the next state after the huge adventure that was Queensland.
Some fast sealed road sections brought me to the brilliantly named Woodenbong, this is where I met the most aggressive magpie of my journey , This guy did not like outsiders like me on a bicycle!!
I dived into a really cool Cafe that had being converted from a Service station, with old petrol pumps still there for decor and , filled my belly and stocked up to go.
After getting off the highway and onto the quiet gravel roads there is a very long climb. My idea to get to Nimbin that night went out the window, I did however get over the top and ended up sleeping on the floor of a Long drop toilet block building at a lookout point. Lights twinkled in the distance, must be Nimbin, about 30 kms away I guessed !!
A long fast and chilly early morning descent brought me to Nimbin. Multiple Flat Whites and breakfast were so welcome and delicious and required. I had been to Nimbin with my wife Mary Jo 13 or 14 years previous. It really looks like it has not changed that much!!!
At Cape York I was clean and clean livin...
I was feeling excited to get to Byron Bay. This section was pretty lumpy overall, mostly sealed back roads that were busier with traffic than I would have expected. Of course I was now coming into a more populated area. Entering into Byron Bay was another level of traffic and Humans, this took a bit of adjusting too after all my time, by myself on the dusty quiet roads and Trails of Queensland.
It was early afternoon, normally way to early for me to stop riding, but I decided to rest, get a massage, a bed, shower and great food that Byron has to offer. About 100kms today, my shortest day of Terra Australis .
A beautiful day riding out of Byron Bay, refreshed and rejuvenated, my first stop would be The Bicycle Emporium in Ballina. My Salsa Fargo required a new rear Tyre and a full service.
About 35kms got me to Ballina, straight to the Bike shop. Overall probably took longer than I would have expected. The friendly owner/mechanic was also dealing with customers as well as working on my bike. Extra coffee and food was consumed. Before leaving the Bicycle Emporium I treated myself to a shiny new pair of socks, these felt so good..
Bike felt great, I was off on the flat roads towards Iluka. Unfortunately I was too late to catch the last ferry of the day for the short trip across to Yamba. A little bit annoying as I was keen to keep riding, especially after my good rest up in Byron Bay, 149km for the day. Ah well, more rest, early night.
Caught the 8.45am ferry, and sped off from Yamba towards The Yuraygir National Park. A few hours in after some sandy sections, then a couple of nice climbs, my day was about to change. I was speeding down one of the rough gravel road descents, I came into the dip and about to ride up the other side. Putting force down on my pedals, an audible crunch sound came from the rear. Not good! its a sound I had heard before in the 2017 Tour Divide on Day One.
Looking down, my Rear derailleur was smashed, sucked up into the cassette and wheel, this was not good, looked more of a mess than last time. Time to BREATH !!
I remained Calm and Focused and and took my time to remove the rear derailleur and put it away . Now it was time to make this a single speed to ride out of here. A scorpion passed very close as I sat on the ground tinkering with the chain . A few unsuccessful attempts, with the chain becoming super tense after a few pedal strokes , I continued to look for the correct chain length and gear .
A couple of Four wheel drivers passed, one stopping and offering me a lift after seeing my predicament. I refused , thinking it was better to get to the sealed road and re assess from there . After maybe 2 hours I had a gear that was working , it was not a gear to climb the hills , but I could pedal the flats and cruise the downhills . On getting to the sealed road , I decided to leave my GPS purple line and take a right , to go to Grafton to get this sorted . I was not confident in this gear holding up on the race route to Coffs Harbour, I needed a new Derailleur . It must have being about 50 kms to Grafton , I was not fast , but I was moving . A big storm was clearly brewing , and 10km out of town I got slammed with Torrential rain , thunder and Lighting . I went straight to a campground and got a cabin , got food and dried out .. What a Day !!
The experience of my Tour Divide episode , where i had gone into angry , why me mode , as heaps of racers passed me as I struggled by the side of the track , had benefited me here . I remained composed and clear headed and got moving again . Although i must say it was easier to do this in the warm afternoon sun in NSW , Australia than it was in 2017 , in the freezing rain , muddy tracks about 110 kms from the race start in Banff .
After checking out a couple of Bike shops in Grafton , with nobody really keen to do the job i decided to go to Coffs Harbour further south . My Rear Derailleur is a DI2 set up , it was pretty smashed up and twisted , also the cable before the plug was damaged. Realistically i did not expect it to be fixable , i just needed to get back moving by whatever means .
I got a lunch time bus from Grafton to Coffs Harbour and went straight to Rainbow Cycles . Fantastic Bike shop , Dan the owner and Glen the workshop manager got straight to work . The fastest option was to put on a mechanical Derailleur. For a Di2 , I would have to wait a few days , and this was a friday evening .
Glen pointed me to The Happy Frog Cafe down the street , an Amazing vegetarian cafe with so many options, here I contemplated my next move .
Back at the Bike shop Glen had put a mechanical Rear Derailleur on my bike , i was back in the race. Thank you Dan and Glen for dropping everything and working late on a friday evening to get me going .
It was about 6 in the evening , I decided to ride up the highway towards Grafton, before cutting in to rejoin the course where i d left it the previous day. I think i got back on course about midnight, was back on gravel and in the bush.
There was a fair bit of water and mud after the recent downpours. I felt good so pushed on through the night to arrive back in Coffs Harbour once again for breakfast. A visit again to the Happy Frog and a nice chat with some local roadies.
Checking out the tracking page on Trackleaders.com I seen Brendan Corbin and Ben Cadby were making their way towards the east coast , having their own adventures im sure. Unfortunately Steve Watson and Matt Hart had to pull the pin way out west . Now there was only 3 Riders on course.
An enjoyable day on the Bike, some sand at Valla Beach and some good climbs in the Way Way Forest, plus a little navigation confusion coming out of Macksville got me to Hat Head. This was perfect timing as I was able to get a meal at the Bowling club just before they shut, set up camp under a tree and slept very well.
I left the coast and rode inland today. I Knew some hills were on the Horizon. Some Dot watchers popped out to see me, a lovely couple at the service station in Taree and Anthony, well after dark on the quiet roads towards Gloucester. Thank you guys , always nice to know people are watching my progress, as I do myself when I'm not the Dot …….
Got in to Gloucester late and camped in the park in town which had water and power at the Barbecues. Early rise and coffee and resupply at the friendly Bakery and off i rode in the crisp morning air .
Numerous river crossings meant dry feet was not an option.
This was a tough day, with some serious climbs and bike pushing in the Gloucester and Barrington Tops, as well as an awesome speedy descent on the Corker Track. Was happy with about 200kms today before head down at Jerry Plains.
Boot Hill, after the descent down 'The Corker'
Today the 9th October was definitely one of the toughest of the race for me. I detoured a few kms into Denman for breakfast and necessary supplies, then rode out into the dusty roads and rising temperatures. A couple of hours later I was riding into the Widden Valley. This is a beautiful place. This is the valley of the Horse, where thousands of horses have been bred and raised over the last 150 years.
Some tough climbs after this and I was glad of the Water tank at Sandy Camp, a rest and refuel. More hills, unmaintained bush tracks and very interesting scenery, this is proper adventure stuff.
I arrived at Glen Alice settlement just on dark, found water and continued. On paper it was it was 70 odd kms to Lithgow, i knew an obstacle stood between us and the name Baal Bone Gap, sounded ominous.
It was about 8 in the evening and was was getting close to the base of the climb , I had to open some farm gates to follow the course. From a house on the hill, Dogs started barking furiously, so much for stealth movement by the Farm houses. I rode around and went through another gate, then headlights from behind created a shadow in front. It was the Farmer. I told the farmer what I was doing, he seemed totally perplexed that I was heading into the abyss at this time. He explained it was steep and rough, then wished me well.
He was right this night got very difficult, some of the sections were so rough and steep that pushing my bike was a huge effort. I was determined to get over Baal Bone gap and camp or ride down to Lithgow. Eventually I summited, I was really exhausted now, I decided to push on thinking it must be all downhill to Lithgow, no, this was not the case, more hills to finish the legs off.
I arrived in Lithgow about 3am cold and damp , Mc Donalds 24 hour was my only option. Not an establishment I frequent at all, desperate times call for desperate measures! I asked the guy behind the counter, does he have anything vegetarian. His classic response was ” No, its McDonalds, Mate”. Frie , Banana bread and a Large soya Flat white done the jo . I hung out here for a couple of hours, Called Mary Jo back in New Zealand, warmed up and recovered from the Epic day/night I'd just had.
The rain had started as I left Lithgow towards Jenolan Caves, for the next 65km is got heavier and heavier. On reaching the busy Tourist spot, I was very wet and cold, Decided to get a room, dry out and chill. A short day, but all good, considering my massive day yesterday.
I left the warmth of my room very early and headed out , it was really chilly, with with a heavy drizzle and fog. The super steep hill out Jenolan Caves would definitely awaken my Legs and Lungs. This was a tough morning, I was not feeling it at all, it was still wet and cold. After 50km I pulled into the Mount Werong Campground and old Hut. I rolled out my Mat and jumped into my sleeping bag, i had to get warm, it was about 9am.
Not sure how long i spent here, but i did get warmer, as the day slowly brightened so did my spirits, onwards to Taralga for a feed at the friendly Tangled Vine cafe.
I rolled into Gundaroo between 9 and 10 pm, planned to camp at the showgrounds but noticed they were all fenced off. I went to the pub, ordered a fizzy drink from the grumpy barman who seemed like he would prefer to be anywhere else but there. The locals were friendly though, I asked about the Showgrounds and was told there was a Music Festival in a couple of days. One lady said she would get a key and let me in. Perfect!! Set up camp for a good nights rest.