Day 11 – Grafton to Casino

Today was another good day. My average speed was over 18km/h which is something I haven’t done since I first started riding this route in 2007, and certainly not with such a load.

I woke up slightly early and was on the road by 6:40, and could soon tell I was setting a decent pace, settling into a slow but consistent rhythm up hills, accelerating over the crests and putting the head down on the descents. I reached Whiporie by 9:40, about 20 minutes ahead of my usual time and definitely feeling that 6 hours ride time was achievable.

After a sausage roll and a milkshake and refilling my water bottles, I continued on. The temperature was again about 5 degrees less than I was used to riding this route in, which was nice. My bum started to get more and more sore over the next 50km and I stopped frequently to rest as well as trying to shift position on the bike as much as possible.

Going through Ellengowan, I started to feel like I was slowing down. However, I ended up making it to Casino by about 12:30 and I later checked to find I had a ride time of 5:29:34 and an average of 18.4 km/h (my target had been 17). As I propped the bike against the motel wall and was about to go inside to check in, a guy came running up to me from the riverside park, crying out that he was a cyclist too. We had a brief chat, where I found that he was a French tourist riding from Brisbane to Sydney, having ridden from France to Dubai.

I went inside to check in, and then came over to the park where Brice was eating lunch (having come from Lismore in the morning) for a longer conversation. He’d ridden via Turkey and Iran on what was an old clunker that everyone told him wouldn’t make the journey. The frame and Brooks saddle were the only original components, but it was still going strong.

He was relying mainly on contacts made via the Warm Showers website, which I hadn’t known about previously. It’s a site specifically created by and for cycle tourists around reciprocal hospitality, and Brice was heading towards someone’s place in Grafton in a day’s time.

He was very enthusiastic about Iran. Apparently it’s viewed as a cyclist’s mecca, with friendly and engaging people who’ll accommodate and feed you willingly; you can camp almost anywhere you need without trouble (he pointed to the nearby traffic roundabout as an example) and the police would come and check you’re OK but not move you on and local residents would come and bring you food.

In Dubai, he stayed with a person who had to leave on business for a week but entrusted Brice and half a dozen other cyclists to come and go as they pleased. No one took advantage, and everyone pitched in with cooking and cleaning. It sounds like a very warm and friendly community and, if I were planning a cycling tour in the future and also knew I’d be able to host tourists later on, I’d definitely be using Warm Showers.

Brice was insistent that I share lunch with him but, as I was depending on local stores for for such meals and has nothing to share in return, I politely refused and said that he would have more need of it later than I did now. He’s been using cheap local supermarkets like Aldi to buy a roll and sandwich ingredients that he can eat and carry with him on a daily basis and that seems a much better idea than mine of buying those more expensive dehydrated camp meals.

I told him that Sydney was less than two weeks away – we ride at about the same pace, although he prefers to only travel about 50km and starts later than I do – and warned him about the roadworks on the highway from Urunga south to Clybucca where he’d probably be trapped on the highway. He didn’t sound impressed at that and was hoping that maybe he’d be able to bypass them somehow. I guess that means big loops through state forests around Bellingen, Bowraville and Tamban state forest, which will add days on onto the trip.

Brice was also unimpressed with camping in Australia, so far. $17 to pitch a tent in some caravan park seemed excessive to him and he certainly wouldn’t be staying in motels like I’ve been doing. I told him that there was free camping area near Ellengowan, about 25km away, which he was pleased to hear. The restrictions on camping etc. that he’s seen here reminded him of the situation in France and Germany; there, the fact that there is dedicated cycling infrastructure means that cyclists are expected to use it exclusively. Ride here and only here, camp here and only here;  there are special trains for bicycles in Germany, and you’re in trouble if you try to catch a normal train as he found. I mentioned a story I’d seen last year about an American cyclist in Holland in trouble for cycling on a freeway and Brice nodded.

He’s in Australia to visit a school exchange family. About 10 years ago he was here to learn English staying around the NSW/Victoria border and wanted to visit them again (which beats me cycling nearly 900km to visit my family šŸ™‚ ). He had planned on cycling the whole way but found that the heat and humidity in southeast Asia would have been too much for him. As it was, he was suffering a bit in the humidity around the southeast Queensland and northeast NSW (that’s something the Victorian family in Glenreagh had also noted).

From Sydney, Brice was planning to travel across the Blue Mountains and then south. I warned him that the roads through the mountains weren’t cyclist-friendly – just the Great Western Hwy and Bells Line of Road, and also that there’d been reports of snow on the western slopes of the mountains – he said he’d sent his winter gear back to France after Turkey, where it had hit -30 degrees and he’d had to catch a train over the mountains there.

I hope Brice makes it with no trouble. He is an interesting character with inspiring stories. If I didn’t recall how bad cycling resources and infrastructure were 20 years ago, I’d almost feel jealous or sad about not setting off in my mid-20s to ride around the world šŸ™‚ At any rate, I now have some direct first-hand stories and a look at what gear you can get away with for long distance, long duration cycling. I’ll be able to plan any future trips better now, I think.

We parted ways, he to ride to a cold cheap campsite in the bush and me to my expensive hot shower and soft bed. After a nap, I went down the road  to the Cecil for a beer and a pub meal. Back at the motel, I put some Savlon on the chafed areas around my buttocks and decided that I needed to invest in chamois cream as soon as possible.

Total distance: 100.8km
Total time: 5:29:34
Avg speed: 18.4 km/h

My ride data is here

No photo today – the camera battery was out of charge when I went to use it. It lasted 10 days in regular use with about 10 photos per day. I put on on charge when I got to the motel and it’ll be back in action tomorrow.

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