Today's ride was short and un-challenging. I left Timbertown at 7:15 and arrived in camp at Port Macquarie at 10:08. We're camped right next to the beach in Oxley Park. There was a rumour that dinner was setting up miles away, where we saw a marquee being erected on the other side of the town centre. However, that turns out to be only a rumour by people worried that there's not enough space on the oval. Admittedly, it's a tight fit, but not as tight as I've seen it in the past.
This morning I found that I'd lost an occie-strap somewhere yesterday - probably in the back of the pegasus truck - and it's probably gone forever. I packed everything on the bike using just the one strap, and the load shifted a bit during the day, with me having to stop and adjust it every so often. Also, the roll-up water bottle I got for Christmas worked its way from under the strap and fell onto the roadway, splitting. When I stopped to go and pick it up, I stepped off the bike on the downhill side, and it toppled over on top of me. No damage done, however.
The Hastings River
Camp at Port Macquarie
I found a two-dollar shop and bought a new occie-strap, and then had a coffee at a beach-side cafe/bar. Then I found an internet cafe and checked my mail and posted an update on my travels. This place is much more uptight than the one in Wingham. The computer is locked down to allow little more than a browser, which is IE, strangely. Luckily I don't need to upload any track logs.
I then had hours to sightsee. My start was to wander along the waterfront, where there was a path on the breakwater. The stones are decorated with all sorts of memorials to visits, loved ones (dead and alive) and statements of peace and love. That goes on for a couple of hundred metres.
Port Macquarie waterfront
In loving memory
After that I wandered back to camp and decided that, no shower trucks in sight, I should go for a swim. The water was lovely, and I stayed in for about half an hour. Then I went back to camp - still no shower trucks, but I found that the oval toilet block was open, with a couple of shower nozzles in the mens. It was a cold shower, but quite acceptable. By that stage it was 2:40 and I decided that a beer was in order. On the way over to the marquee, I changed my mind and decided that I should do some more exploring, so I went over to Signal Hill. Apparently the river mouth can be quite treacherous, so this was the place from which ships were signalled to tell them to hang back. Also, since Port Macquarie was a penal settlement, they had to ensure that no convicts were sneaking over to the ships to try and escape.
Port Macquarie beaches
Heading down to the rocks below the hill, I found that there's a strong current back and forth. There's also some very sharp rocks and some nice seaweed colonies. After wandering, taking photos and sitting watching the view for a while, I wandered back to camp. Not long after that an oyster bar, apparently the same one as in camp last night, set up. I purchased a collection of 8 oysters and 5 king prawns, apparently fresh from North Haven, for $15. Good eating, with just lemon juice, and a beer! The rumour is that dinner tonight is goulash. That means I'm heading back down the hill to the Chinese I saw on the way up to camp from town.
Surf in miniature
Apparently, I'm in the heart of lantana country. Someone was telling me that the guy (Major James?) who owned thousands of acres of land here, when it was a penal settlement was the person responsible for importing lantana. I certainly don't recall seeing any on the first few days' ride, but there was a lot along the road this morning since riding out of Wauchope.
Unfortunately dinner turned out to be country Chinese. Still better than goulash, I think, but nothing to write home about. Walking down to the restaurant, I saw that the whole of the area along the road from town to the coast is full of expensive apartments and hotels, with a handful of holdouts, or rundown weather-board cottages waiting for a buyer. There was an apartment listed as available for $1.2 million. Obviously a beach view here is worth paying a fortune for a few rooms in a tall building to some people.
Things I've learned today about the Ride: firstly, the oldest rider is 84 (in a week). Actually Tom came up in the bus from Sydney with me. He's from Tasmania and rides this sturdy old bike that appears to be about 20 years old. No frills, here. Apparently, he doesn't care for the new-fangled gear. Seondly, the youngest rider is 4 (if I recall correctly, a week or so after the ride). He is in a bike seat on the back of his grandmother's bike. Actually the oddest age statistic, possibly, is that we have a family comprising of 3 children and a 5-month pregnant mother. I belive that the youngest child has just reached bike-riding age, and they decided that that her condition shouldn't prevent them from getting back into family touring.