Cycling Australia Part 3: Sand dunes and bush fires

Sand dunes in Thurra River

Dunes, River and Sea

Country: Australia

From Cann River to Genoa

Lesson learned: Take it slowly and enjoy the company

Laughed about: Other adults won’t laugh about you digging canals in the sand, if yu do it with your children friends

Most wonderful miracle: The international conference of cyclists, runners and hikers

Food we ate: Lots of bread and muesli and an international camping buffet

Greatest challenge: heat and fire

Days on the bike: 1

Kilometers cycled: 50.09

Average Kilometers per day: 50.09

Total Kilometers cycled till Cann River: 16215.51

Total days travelled till Cann River: 866


It has its good sides that wifi is hard to get in Australia: rest days are actually relaxing. Even if we wanted to upload pictures, we couldn’t. So instead we enjoyed a calm day in Cann River with our host Thomas and his flatmate Brenton. They both worked for the fire department and Brenton absolutely loved his job. Racing through closed roads in a big four wheel drive, that’s what he loves. Thomas however was only looking forward to the end of season, when we would go out biking again.

Hitchhiking to Thurra River

Roberto lost his believe in our hitching idea after only 10 minutes.

We always remembered the nice family that we met at the campground in Bruthen. They spent their summer holidays camping in Thurra River, some 40 kilometers south of Cann River right inside the Croajingolong National Park on the coast and we had considered visiting them. In order to not cycle the same 40 kilometers of hilly gravel twice, we decided to try and hitch a ride down to the seaside. And guess in whose car we ended up? His name was Terry and 25 years ago he had cycled all the way home from England. It took him less than half of the time that it took us, but we have often seen that many solo-cyclists (no matter which gender) ride faster than pairs or groups.

Junior Ranger excursion at Thurra River

Roberto and I were the only childless adults at the Junior Ranger excursion

Terry went back with his family and we wandered the campground. There were 46 spaces and an extra place for hikers without vehicle, caravan and portable shower cabin. We walked along fire places and strolled through narrow paths that led from the camping area through the rain forest right into the beach. When the tide was high, the Thurra River led right into the sea, and at low tide, a 30 meter wide stripe of sand divided them. The river’s waters were clean, but due to leaves and soil its color was more red brown that blue. We recognized our friends’ caravan and tents and left them a note before we headed to the main beach.



Everybody had told us about the “life-in-the-rocky-mudflats”-tour that the rangers organized, but apparently everybody forget to mention that these kind of tours were designed for a bit of education for the little children’s school holidays. We ended up as the group’s only adults without toddlers around our legs. Nevertheless the tour was quite interesting and it was just were we ran into Seneka and Jay with their boys Mali (12), Aram (10) and the little girl Xantie who was still practicing walking through the sand. They had thought about us a lot as well and had been wondering whether we would really show up.

Seneka and little Xantie  paddling up and down the river

Seneka and little Xantie paddling up and down the river

We spent the following day with the family, paddled the kayak up the river and dug a canal with the boys that connected the sea with the river. Seneka and Jay were happy to see us taking good care for the boys and moving through the sand on our knees trying to construct architectonic master pieces, but to be honest: we enjoyed it so much. We could play like kids without having other adults looking at us as if we were crazy. The boys were a great alibi for us, because people thought we only played for the boys’ amusement, while really it was probably us who enjoyed it most.

Roberto playing card games with the kids

Good times with new friends and neighbors

The heatwave that controlled Victoria did not bother us at all in the sea. Even the evening wind was nice and refreshing and did not force us into scarfs and woolen socks.

But the heatwave did bother other parts of the state. Especially dry forests were in danger because bush fires stroke a spark easily. The total fire ban would have left us hungry, because we mostly brought pasta and other cooking food, but our friends brought a gas stove and the rangers told us that gas was safe to use as long as the kitchen is always occupied and there is a big water canister next to it. Still we were nervous every time we cooked and first finished all bread, cereals and fruit we had brought.

big lizard

I rather have this one visiting at night, than a snake or spider

We spent half a day with the kids and their friends, playing bocce and card games. Our sleeping rhythms had adjusted to the sun and just before sunrise we headed off towards the sand dunes. It was a one-hour walk through forest and bush before we reached the dunes. I felt as if I had landed in the middle of a desert.

Sand dunes in Thurra River

A tiny little desert just next to the sea

We hiked up the highest dune and enjoyed fantastic views to the sea and the river delta. On the way back we met some other campers who kayaked all the way upstream and walked up the dune. Others walked the path and swam back through the river.

Sand dunes in Thurra River

Sand dunes

Back at the camp a ranger came to visit all campsites with news about the fire situation. “There’s fires west of Cann River now”, he warned us. I asked him if there were any fires east of Cann River too.

“Do I look as if I carried a crystal ball? How am I to know that?!”

“Well it’s just that we want to know if we can ride safely because we can’t leave dangerous areas quickly on our bicycles and we …”

“Pushbikes?? Seriously? You want to ride pushbike east?” he looked over to our friends and continued “they must have a few kangaroos loose up here” and tipped against his forehead. The touristy summer season will be over soon and we can clearly notice that this ranger will be more than happy when there’s no more stupid tourists wasting his time by asking stupid questions.

Sand dunes in Thurra River

Walking up the dunes

Jay decided to drive up to Cann River to get more water supplies. Who knows how the fire situation will change? We did not hesitate, hugged our friends goodbye and got into the car. We hope to see them again someday. Mali and Aram learned German at school and maybe they will come and visit one day.

Sunset at the beach

Sunset at the beach

Back in Cann River Thomas’ house is locked. He should be back by 5pm unless there’s a fire. In that case they Brenton and he might stay away from home for a week.

Well, we had tent, stove and a water hose to have a shower with. In the worst case we decided to camp in the garden until one of them comes back so we could pick up our belongings.

Little Xanthie loves camping

Little Xanthie loves camping

It was the hottest day so far and we prepared ourselves well for the short ride to the shop’s store. With wet towels over shoulders and head we faced the dry and hot wind. Outside the store we met Brenton. He told us that Thomas would be away all week, but that he stayed in Cann River in case of any new fires. He gave us the house keys and we packed our things to cycle some 14 kilometers to the next free campground. But Brenton invited us to spend another night in the house so we can be sure to be safe with the fire situation.

Hoping to see them again some day!

Hoping to see them again some day!

The highway west was still closed next day, but the big grey-brown ashy cloud that floated above the western woods, had shrunken a bit. The highway east was open and Brenton said it was rather safe to go. For the first time ever we here happy to cycle against headwinds. They would keep the fires away from us.

We started in a fresh and cool day but it did not take long until the cool wind turned into hot and dry air that felt like a huge hair drier. 50 kilometers later we reached Genoa. The road was as hilly as usual and we were tired. The promised shop did not exist (anymore?) but there was a hotel with bar and we pampered ourselves with a big bottle of lemonade, before we took off for the free campground for a nice and long lunch break. That was where we met Frank, Colin and Jamie.


Frank (65) was an Aussie bike traveler with broken lady’s glasses that he had found on the streets. His shirt had more holes than fabric (he changed it for a better one soon), but his bike was a perfectly clean beauty in excellent touring shape. Fitness has a high importance in Frank’s life. He manages to live on $5 per day and knows everything about stock exchange and stock prices. He talks nonstop and even Roberto was not successful when he tried to interrupt.

Genoa's bar/pub/hotel

The local bar/pub/hotel/meeting point.

Jamie (34) was on a “holiday”. On New Year’s he had decided to “walk a bit” and left his hometown Ulladulla with no finish place set. He pushes a little cart full of gear like a tablet, laptop, phones, solar chargers, but also bigger gear as a spade, a saw and an entire travel hotplate! He was about to spend his second night at the campground, because he was rather exhausted from the hard pushing in the hills.

Lunch break at Genoa Free Campground

Lunchtime with good company

Colin (51) recognized us right away. We had met him a week or so ago on the way to Bruthen, but he was in a hurry because he wanted to reach the seaside before sunset. Colin is an English cyclist who cycles with a backpack. His body is full of tattoos and came to Australia to cycle and learn more about growing vegetables (he is a vegetarian) and the life in a community. He usually works as carpenter and roofer but also learned social skills and can perfectly analyze conversations and discussions between people.

Frank, Annika, Roberto, Colin, Kay and Jamie

Frank, Annika, Roberto, Colin, Kay and Jamie

When we just had unrolled our foam mats and sat down with our new friends, we saw another familiar face. Kay from Japan (50) ran for peace. His mission is to run 5000 km through every continent. Australia was his second continent and his goal was Sydney. We had heard of him on the way to Cann River and had seen him earlier that day on the road. He runs completely self-contained and also pushed a cart that reminded me of a kid’s trolley. He posts daily entries in Japanese and English on his website. He ran through New Zealand in late 2014 and early 2015 and will go next to Europe, Africa, Asia and South America.

International camping buffet

International camping buffet

We all could not believe our luck to have met and were all acting quite over-excited and talked too loud with high-pitched voices. I could not manage to stand still and Frank could not manage to stop talking. We were all quite sad, when Colin left us at 3pm. The others planned to spend the night and Roberto and I decided to stay until 4pm so we could cycle in the cooler hours of the day. At 3.55 we saw Colin returning to our campground. What had happened? Did he run out of water? Was the road blocked? Were there any fires? No, Colin had just realized that there was no reason to hurry, he had been having a great time with the rest of us and did not quite see the point in leaving us so he could camp alone somewhere 30 km further, so he had just stopped, turned around and now here he was.

Tent city

Tent city

We all got some beers from the hotel and everybody cooked something. We had a big buffet of five international camping dishes together and enjoyed a relatively cool night with a windy drizzle.


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  1. wow a Perentie !!!!! Great spot !!!
    Australia – I love it !

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