Today started out overcast with patches of blue sky, but I decided to wear my rain gear anyway. That was a good decision as it bucketed down as I reached The Entrance. My legs were a bit sore and I was feeling a bit sorry for myself as I rode through the wet to the Munmorah state recreation area but my body soon felt better and I enjoyed the ride through the bushland before hitting the highway at the top of the hill.
It was a reasonably quick ride along rolling roads to Swansea, where I stopped for a coffee and muffin. The cafe staff were suitably impressed when I said what I was doing, and the boss told me he was driving north for the Byron Blues Festival and suggested that he might see me on the road; I explained that I would be traveling slowly and off the highway as much as possible so that wasn’t likely. Mind you, I ended up being on the highway more than I’d wanted by the finish and got beeped by a lot of drivers – maybe one of them was him…
At Belmont, I turned off the highway and onto the Fernleigh Track. This was something I’d been looking forward to, as I’d ridden part of it in 2004 (before it was finished, I think) and was really impressed with it then. Its now about 12km of track along the old rail line route with station platforms like Redhead still there. They’ve left a bit of the old track at one point as well. There were a mixture of walkers, joggers and cyclists along the track, which went through gullies filled with whip birds and bell birds and I could almost be convinced to move to Newcastle just for the joy of cycling this route on a regular basis.
I reached Adamstown by about midday and 50km, which was too early to stop. My original route planning had been based around overnighting in Avoca, rather than further north and the distance to Newcastle would therefore have been greater on day 2. There were two options north from Newcastle, one westerly to Gloucester if it was wet and the other being via the ferry and up to the Myall Lakes for camping and riding through the national park if dry. Based on the day’s weather so far, I chose the former option.
I rode along major roads and suburban streets until I hit the highway at Mayfield. My goal was Raymond Terrace but I wasn’t aware of the road conditions and not being able to cross the river at Hexham. It probably would have been better to take the Stockton ferry and loop north around the wetlands, but at this point I was trapped along the New England Hwy until halfway to Maitland where I managed to cross over the highway and ride through rain and farmland to Raymond Terrace.
I found a decent motel on the top of the hill just to the north of the town. By this stage I was feeling pretty stuffed as I’d done 91km in largely cold, wet and windy conditions. I stumbled the kilometer or so into town and found a cafe with a decent burger; I would have loved some pub food with a beer, but their restaurant didn’t open for ages and I just needed to get back to the motel and lie down for a while.
I guess each town has its own character – RT is revhead central! There were several blocks between the motel and town just filled with chop-shops and it appeared there was very little else in terms of industry in the town.
Total distance: 91.3km
Total time 5:33:48
Avg speed: 16.4km/h
My ride data is here