Well the attempt to get a tandem worked for 2 days and then the paint fell off. No replacement available and could we wait whilst it was sent to the US to get a paint job. We ended up with two separate touring bikes and headed off on the train to start our trip outside of Sydney in a place called Emu Plains. We arrived fine and started to put up the tent just before the rain set in. John then turned to me with the brand new tent pole in two pieces. I went back to the bike to get some tape to tie it together, on returning it was now in four separate pieces. OK off to get it fixed. No such luck. Our super duper tent was not the sort of thing they stock in Emu Plains and so we came back with a new tent and donated our other one to a nice man who thought his son might make use of it. Huddled inside the tent sheltering from the downpour we contemplated our first night on the road; what else could go wrong?
We awoke in a sodden field still raining and so we caught
the train to our next destination of Katoomba (this cycling malarky is darn easy) where we had a nice tea. We set off on the bikes to try to reach our goal of Lithgow. In between us and Lithgow was the Blue Mountains so called because they are MOUNTAINS. We climbed at a rate of 4 kph and John fell off. The last 50k he struggled along in the only two gears that now worked. Good luck though as Lithgow had a bike shop and we were all mended and gorged ourselves on Pizza (they got the order wrong so we ended up with 3 in stead of 2). That night we snuggled into our sleeping bags to awake only to find the temperature had dropped to a rather chilly 4 degrees. Our tropic weather sleeping bags were not going to cope. More mountains and we hit Bathurst where we borrowed a blanket and went shopping for winter gear. That night the heavens opened and we watched a tropical storm pour down on us. The train station looked nice and inviting. “Have you booked the bikes?” said the friendly guard. “You'll need to pack them and I don't think there'll
be room. So we cycled out and on to Orange. The rain held off (but not the mountains). Orange was lovely with beautiful autumn colours and the promise of local wines at the town festival. At last our luck was improving. In the morning we sped down a side road via a little place called Stuart Town. We stopped here for a burger from the cafe come grocer come petrol station come (well you get the picture). It was the only place in town. The woman made us 2 steak sandwiches with the works (steak, bacon, cheese, egg, beetroot, lettuce, tomato, onions and pineapple!). Our attempts to be friendly with the locals fell on deaf ears as this was surely the most miserable place in Oz (not so as we found out later). We were headed to camp by the nearby Buradong Dam but decided to keep going the extra 21 k to Wellington. A hard choice as the last 21 k after having done 70 k was mostly up hill. A quick overnight camp and a beer in the local RSL club (like our British legion clubs) brought our spirits up. On to Dubbo, the big town in the
area (they call it a city here but frankly a population of fifty isn't my idea of a city). The RSL club here however was absolutely huge and we proceeded to have a game of snooker on the full sized tables. It didn't take long before we were challenged to a match with the self proclaimed club champion, Dianne. John proceeded to put every ball down in sight as she could only watch, but graciously gave the game away by potting the white on the last shot (a true gentleman). Our next stop - Trangie (pronounced trannie whilst holding your nose). A real friendly place. By the campfire we were assured to see roos. John was led to the fence to gaze out as dusk fell and they would come to the water hole to drink. Nothing, in fact we had only seen dead ones by the road. Oh well more beer at the RSL club where we were befriended by Digger and his mates. By now our cycling was being done in a drunken haze probably the only way to take my mind off the specially imported leather seats we had bought which would according to the advertising “mould
to your body”. Mine was moulding quite nicely but unfortunately to somebody elses body. At Coolibah we set up tent on the roadside next to the pub. All well and good but in the morning John's bike had a puncture. No problem - two spare inner tubes and a whole puncture repair kit later we set off and arrived in Byrock. A town which declared itself the start of the real outback. Well town is a bit of an exageration as there was a pub and that was about it. We made camp. John's bike now had a slow puncture. No means to repair and much jolity amongst the locals about fancy foreign bikes and a lot of what you really need advice. Fortunately a couple (Hilary and Bill) took pity and put our bikes and us onto their trailer and we headed off to the next town of Bourke (pronounced burk). At the paper shop come grocer come bike shop we were unable to find tubes or tyres to fit. The owner helped us order from Dubbo new extra thick tubes. We were then thrown into the back of a Ute and taken to the campsite. A couple took us back into town so that we could go to the library to look up our e-mails. How nice, we should get a bottle of wine to take to the BBQ tonight. The Liquer store looked more like a prison camp as everything was behind bars but we negotiated a nice little red to take with us. “Have you got a car? Asked the storekeeper. What a place ............... you can only buy alcohol if you are going to drive directly afterwards. We went away empty handed, but were gifted a bottle by our taxi drivers. The BBQ went ahead and we were treated to Bush Poetry (which is mostly Ozzies whingeing on about whingeing Poms) and steak and Pikelets whilst we waited for our billy to boil. Yes they really do try to boil their Billy's here.
By now we had reached the Great Artesian Basin where all water comes out of the ground hot and smelling of rotten eggs, but, we were assured, perfectly drinkable. Nardoo promised bathing in these waters. We arrived and spent time between the campfire and two tin tubs of the stuff. Just what our aching muscles needed. The town of Charleville gave us the opportunity to gaze at the stars at the Cosmos Centre accompanied by 4 young girls (well one was 80). By now we were becoming famous amongst the grey nomads of Oz. Many people had seen us as they drove past and were keen to find out if we had escaped from an asylum. Special mention goes to the breakfast club, who were travelling in their caravans and arriving at the same destination several hours before us and provided us with vegemite toast and coffee for breakfast. One of the reason s for travelling this route was to visit the Carnavon Gorge but we soon found out that our bikes would not make it across the 26 or 15 or 44 km of dirt road (it all depends who you talk to). Our saviours arrived in the form of Robyn Hood and little John who arranged with their friends to get us and our bikes into the gorge. One thing we didn't realise was that 3 days in the gorge there was no food and so we spent the time scavenging what we could. The real lesson learned was that it is possible to make a gourmet meal on a camp fire and inspired our later attempts at campfire spaghetti carbonara. Our final outback destination was Emerald where we boarded a train and side stepped onto the coast as Ray's birthday approached.
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