Cycling Australia Part 6: Into Sydney

Accompanying Adventure Runner Kay from Japan on his final run into Sydney

Cycling the last 14 Kilometers

Mit dem Rad durch Australien Teil 6: Ab nach Sydney

Land: Australien

Cycling Australia Part 6: Into Sydney

Country: Australia

From Gerringong to Sydney

Lesson learned: Even with a 2m2tent it can be hard to find a spot to pitch

Laughed about: wave pool versus rock pool that keeps waves out

Most wonderful miracle: A great invitation by an awesome family

Food we ate: Corona, Chicken and Camping food

Greatest challenge: Pumping the tire with no pump

Days on the bike: 3

Kilometers cycled: 115.81

Average Kilometers per day: 38.60

Total Kilometers cycled till Sydney: 16692.26

Total days travelled till Sydney: 889

 

Charlie and Robert from Gerringong

With Charlie and Robert

Charlie and Robert have taken great care for us. Equipped with a new spare tube for each of us, we got back on those bikes. The Princess Highway, that had been little more than a calm countryside road a few days ago, now looks like a busy motorway. But parallel to the car’s shoulder, there was a bike lane, so we could ride safely. Even the exits were easy to cross.

Bike path with hairpin bends

Avoiding the stairs and the motorway

We left the highway at the second exit and cycled through houses, industry and parks towards the third biggest town we’d visit in Australia: Wollongong.

We let the lighthouse for some other day and pedaled faster. It would be dark soon and chances for finding a spot to camp in town were rather low. Several signs showed us what not to do.

Everything is forbidden

Don’t!

Bringing dogs, flying kites, using glass bottles and of course camping, were just some of the prohibitions. We were hoping for a quiet spot on the big public field, but it was the day of a big Touch Football tournament and the field was as busy as could be.

Not much further we entered a Holiday Park. Usually we tried to avoid these camping spots, because their facilities often include dumping stations, pools, trampolines, fully equipped kitchens, playgrounds, TV rooms and laundry places.

Bike path sign Australia

Easy cycling

And each pitch easily fits a bus, caravan, six-person-tent, shower-tent, BBQ and several camping chairs. Sounds nice, yes, but all we needed was a place for a tiny tent, parking for two bicycles, and a hot shower. You can imagine the difference in price between a simple camping spot and a Holiday Park. So we usually rather stay at simple places equipped with a bathroom and maybe a little shelter and pay a third of that price.

Nevertheless we entered just before sunset. The Holiday Park was so big, that it took several minutes before we even found the office and asked for the price for a tent.

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Roberto in the sea

“Nah, we’re full today”

“Oh, but it’s just a small tent and we don’t bring any vehicle”

“I said were full!”

“Isn’t there any piece of land somewhere? We don’t need an entire pitch for ourselves. Look, we’ve come here on bicycles and we really don’t know where else to go”

The ladies had no mercy and showed us the way to the exit door. The grass in front of the office was large enough for easily four of our tents.

Roberto in Wollongong

Roberto in Wollongong

Angry as we were, we cycled even faster than before. We seemed to be in luck, there was another equally big and busy campground, but it had a tents-only area with plenty of space. The office had closed already, so I started pitching the tent while Roberto went to tell the security guards that we’d pay by the next morning, even though that would mean we would have to spend the night without a key for the bathrooms.

The security man was a young and arrogant fellow, whose fancy uniform made him believe that he could treat people like dirt, because he was more powerful and important. He kicked us out immediately. “We can’t do that for insurance reasons. And now off with you!”.

Wollongong Bike Path

On the Wollongong shared bike path

Now we were seriously angry. The stars were out when I finished packing the tent again. We cycled and cycled and saw nothing but houses, until to our right, a big dark spot appeared. Was it a lake or a field? We couldn’t tell. But our tent would fit next to it. A lady who lived in a neighboring house didn’t think anybody would mind if we spent the night on the field, so we pitched the tent again.

Free camping in Australia

A peaceful, quiet and free night!

We even had a little water faucet and by the following morning we realized that we spent the night only a few hundred meters from the sea. Sunrise was beautiful. The hills that surrounded us, were misty and the shy sunlight made them glitter.

Foggy hills

Fog in the hills

A flat tire awaited me in the morning. Our pump was broken, so I used the one-time-use foam pump, that we had carried for an emergency ever since we left back in 2011. The foam was too little to fill my entire tire, but a nice cyclist named Cecile, borrowed me her gas pump for the rest.

Roberto loves the rockpools

Roberto in the Rockpool

I hoped that the foam would protect the tube from whatever tiniest bit of cable or glass had been hidden in my tire. I believe that it was so small that it only appeared when the tire was under pressure.

Swimming in an Australian rockpool

Swimming in the Rockpool

Only three kilometers later we reached the town of Bully and one of the famous rock pools. We were under a bit of time pressure, but nevertheless went for a refreshing morning dip and a free (cold) shower. Now we were quite happy that we had saved our dollars for camping.

Rock pools were built right in the rocky mud flats. The high tide brings fresh sea water into it, but the waves stay out, so people could swim their lines.

There's several beaches along the way

One of the many many beaches along the way

Back home I loved to go to the wave pool, an artificial pool with a big wave machine, which, in my opinion, made the swimming much more fun. Here, people try to keep the natural waves out, so they could swim comfortably. The neighbor’s grass is just always greener.

Australia, a Surfer's Country

Australia truly is a surfer’s paradise

Weather was sunny and warm and we could have spent the entire morning at the rock pool. But our friend Kay, the Japanese Peace Runner, would be running his final run to the Sydney Opera house on the following morning and he had invited us to join him for the last 10 kilometers on our bikes. It was more than 5000 kilometers he had run in Australia and we were keen to support and congratulate him.

I packed our things when Roberto asked a nice couple for directions to the next bike shop or gas station with pump. Craig and Gayanne explained the way to us and asked where we were planning to spend the night. ichsten Vorort Sydneys, der sowohl an die Stadt als auch an die Natur grenzt.

Fixing Roberto's bike - again!

Fixing Roberto’s bike AGAIN

Well, we weren’t quite sure. As close to the city as possible, but some place where there still were calm places for our tent. Maybe at where the national park met the suburbs. Well, turns out that Gayanne, Craig and their three children lived exactly there, in Sutherland. They invited us to spend the night at their place and we were absolutely excited.

It wasn’t too far to their place, so we took our time. The bike trail that we had been following since Wollongong, passed village after village and connected bays, beaches and roads.

Beautiful bike paths south of Sydney

It was like a Holiday on this great bike path

It was a warm and sunny day and we stopped several more times for a swim in the sea. And why shouldn’t we? Finally we had the time to stop whenever it pleased us. We were right to do so. It would be more than a year before our next happy swim in the sea.

We rode up and down short and gentle hills and just enjoyed the day. Just before we reached the sea cliff bridge, I stopped for a picture and when Roberto looked down on the floor, he found a perfectly fine bicycle pump for all kinds of valves! There were no people or bikes around. Just a few days ago ours had stopped working. What were the odds?

Roberto on the Sea Cliff Bridge

Roberto cycling the Seacliff Bridge

The famous sea cliff bridge was built onto a steep cliff and with great views down on the other side. We decided to take the pedestrian’s part of the bridge, that offered much better views that the left lane.

Lange geht es steil bergauf, aber der Blick war die Anstrengung wert.

It was a hard climb, but the views were totally worth it. 

The bridge was the last bit of flat land for a while. Now we faced a big and very steep hill. Traffic was busy and the windy and narrow road had no shoulder at all. I even had to walk the last meters. When we reached the platform where the paragliders jump off the cliff, we knew we had made it to the top. Shortly after we entered the Royal National Park, one of the world’s oldest National Parks. It bordered the city of Sydney and many walking paths let right through it. The road was calm, gentle and we heard many birds sing.

Paragliding in Australia

Paragliders jumped down the cliff, but we rather stuck to biking down the hill

We yet had the steepest climb in front of us, when we realized the time. Gay, Craig, and their kids were invited for dinner and decided to pick us up, so they wouldn’t be late. All we had to do was just sit on our saddles, roll down the hills and look out for their car.

Roberto macht erstmal Fotopause

Picture break

It was Craig and his son Jackson who picked us up. They showed us around the house, invited us to have another swim in their pool and just make ourselves at home. Gay even bought some Corona beers for us. The family went out for their dinner and we had yet another swim, some beer and some food. When everybody came back, we told them more about our travels and the great people we have encountered and how people in general have been helpful, caring and very empathic with us. Just like them! Craig and Gay liked their grown-up kids to know that the world is good and that while you should not believe everything you hear, it is still okay to trust in people if you have a good feeling with them.

Annika, Jordan, Jackson, Gayanne, Carly, Craig and Roberto

Annika, Jordan, Jackson, Gayanne, Carly, Craig and Roberto

We slept like babies and decided to follow gay’s advice to take the train for the last 30 kilometers to Kay’s meeting point in Sydney. We were just in time – and the last ones to arrive. As I would learn soon in my job as a Sushi roller: If you are in time you are too late. If you are some 15 Minutes early, you are in time. If you are a minute late, better make up a very good excuse.

Accompanying Adventure Runner Kay from Japan on his final run into Sydney

The last few kilometers to the Opera House

Kay was very happy to see us again. Together with five of his friends from Sydney and Japan, we wanted to accompany Kay for his final 14 Kilometers. I felt rather lazy on my bike while everybody else ran, but I guess I would have collapsed after only 2 kilometers. I am a terrible runner.

We reached the waterside and finally we could glimpse the Opera House. Kay was full of excitement. He had nearly made it. Running 5000 Kilometers through Australia – what a truly amazing accomplishment!

The closer we get, the wider Kay’s smile. For the last few hundreds of meters we were accompanied by even more people and there at the Opera House they were waiting, holding up a finish line, cameras, signs and microphones.

Es ist geschafft! 5000 Kilometer hat Kay nun hinter sich.

Done that. Kay just ran 5000 kilometers through Australia

Kay ran straight through the finish line into the arms of his beloved fiancé Piapi. Now we were surrounded by the Japanese press. Around us people hugged each other or bowed politely, there were speeches, photos, more photos, and congratulations. We stayed for an hour until there was a moment to reach Kay so we could congratulate him again and say goodbye.

Adventure Rummer Kay in Sydney

Kay’s running friends

It had been more than a year since we met our Sydney friends Mark and Chrissie. We had met them in Kyrgyzstan and crossed the border into China together. An adventure that was short in kilometers, but yet took two nights and three days. The second one of those nights we spent in bunk beds in between China and Kyrgyzstan, sharing snickers and hot chocolate. It was their first wedding anniversary.

Empathy somewhere in Sydney

Empathy in Sydney

Mark picked us up by bike from the center and we all went to have a BBQ in a park. We spent some days in Sydney, cooked nearly every day, visited some really good museums, met Roberto’s Mexican friend Peque and cleaned our bikes again.

And our bags and shoes and tent. Chrissie and Mark took us out for our first Aussie pub quiz (we scored second!) and a half day trip into the western suburbs.

With Kara, Peque, Jose and Mark

With Cara, Peque, Jose and Mark

Mark works for the city council and invited us to hold a presentation for his colleagues. One of them created the amazing Sydney bike path map that led us safely everywhere in town.

Presentation with Sydneys Bike Route Planners

Präsentation in the city council. On the bottom right: Mark and Chrissie

The weather was not too good. Sydney is famous for warm to hot and sunny days, but we mostly faced rain and clouds. We couldn’t care less. We had great company and a long to-do list.

And eventually the big day had come and we made our way to the airport, hoping that some day we would be back.

By bike to Sydney

We just cycled to Sydney

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