Yes we have left Oz and are presently touring New Zealand. Our trusty tandem is resting in storage back in Sydney whilst we avail ourselves of the luxury of some horsepower.
True to form, our journey to New Zealand has not been without a little drama as we arrived in Christchurch the day after the major earthquake hit. If you’re in the slightest concerned for us then please rest assured that all is well as the ‘quake has not affected my beer supply.
We have now moved south from the shaky bit and enjoying a few days around the mountains.
Anyway, this blog post is not about New Zealand but a reflection of our cycle across Australia. A brief summary of the good bits and the not quite so good bits.
Overall, we loved Australia and found the people to be friendly and helpful without exception. The roads were fine although like Canada 🇨🇦 single carriageway interstate roads are not ideally suited for the large trucks that cross the country. That said, of all the drivers, the road train drivers tended to be the most professional and considerate, giving us lots of space when passing whenever possible. In general, it’s fair to say we found drivers more considerate to cyclists than Canada.
Cycling in cities is always problematic and Australia is no exception. If the infrastructure is not properly designed or joined up then it’s a nightmare and, in this respect, Melbourne and Perth were okay whilst Adelaide and Sydney were dreadful.
We loved the rural roads lined with gum trees and the absolute multitude of birds of every type, colour and sound. Amazing to hear and see them all day and every day. They were the stars of our road. The kangaroos are incredible and it was wonderful to see them outwith the zoo. The emus are okay but they’re just like big chickens. We never did see a live wombat or or dead or alive koala. We encountered one live snake sunning itself by the roadside and spiders were kind of absent everywhere. We did find a spider in a motel room but it was only a few centimetres across. I don’t know if it was poisonous although probably not. Mind you, it was the Usain Bolt of spiders as it ran across the walls with lightening speed. I’m not joking it was unbelievably fast. Susan was very helpful in this regard as she screamed in my ear and pointed to where it had run.
We absolutely loved the Nullarbor and even the bush camping was an experience that we will never forget and would never wish to have missed. It’s just a pity when we got to a roadhouse they were some of the worst places we have ever stayed or ate anywhere in the world. Really Australia with such a wonderful natural wonder like the Nullarbor the roadhouses are a disgrace. No wonder so many people bring caravans and camp in the Nullarbor.
Special mention must go to the bush flies. I have never experienced a fly that is so persistent to get moisture from your face. In the U.K. if you shoo away a fly it gets the message. The bush fly just looks for an alternative route to your eyes, ears, nose and mouth. They don’t come in ones or twos but attack in squadrons and you just know that they’ve left a dead kangaroo at the side of the road to go for you!
A liberal dousing of DEET applied every two hours was a reasonable remedy though it melted my cycle helmet so I had to eventually throw it away. Don’t think it just affects us tourists and the locals aren’t bothered – we cycled past countless farmers with branches swatting away these pests. Australia you really need to get these flies sorted!
Cycling west to east at this time of the year was the right call. Although I always moan about the headwinds and crosswinds I would say that, overall, the wind was either in our favour or inconsequential about 80% of the time. The temperatures were fine and our hottest days were in September as we crossed the Nullarbor.
So whilst this appears to be the right time to cycle across Australia it was a surprise that we met nobody else doing the same. Overall, we met 4 cyclists and one walker whilst in Canada there were multitudes. Maybe it’s the thought of cycling the Nullarbor that puts people off but if I can do it with only one beer in two weeks then anyone can!
In terms of food life on the road is hard especially if you like fresh vegetables. Outwith the cities the good meals are easy to remember because there were so few of them. I must also mention the burgers. Now burger and chips should be the ideal cyclists meal – protein and carbs on one plate. Unfortunately Australia appears to think beetroot on a burger is a good thing. Where does that come from? Is it a gerkin substitute because if it is it doesn’t work. I like beetroot and I like gerkin but the big difference about putting beetroot on your burger is it turns the whole damn thing purple! Worse still if you go for the ‘lot’ – you then have salad, bacon and a fried egg on the burger. Now who thinks beetroot and a purple fried egg is a good thing? Australia please keep the beetroot for the salads and keep the burgers simple.
As to our injuries, well we were fine really. I had sore knees for the first time and Susan was pleased with that because I threw every ‘quack’ remedy at the problem and sorted it for the both of us. As a result, Susan got through Australia without the same pain she had to endure in Canada and that’s genuinely great. As for my sore knees? – well I’m a bit of a drama queen and they were fine really. But you never know they could have got really bad!
The only slight thing we still have is our numb toes. Susan had it in Canada and says its nerve damage that eventually disappears. In the meantime I’m experiencing what’s it’s like to feel as if you are constantly waking in the snow in your bare feet.
Finally, just how hard was it? Well it was fine really. We have been through it all before in Canada and you cannot underestimate the value of that experience. We know what is like to cope with the cold, wind and rain. We know how to deal with long days on the bike, the tiredness and the hardships. We are now pretty resilient and confident in ourselves when cycle touring.
So just how hard was it? Well, we both agree it was relatively easy compared to Canada.
Yes, we had hard days in Australia but we can do hard days because we’re used to them. Australia had about 10 days climbing and this matters when pulling a trailer. On the other hand, Canada was relentless with climbs day after day and, at times, we were utterly exhausted. Also Canada was 8000km and Australia 5000km – we kind of felt Australia was over before it had begun to properly test us.
So where next? Well, we are not sure but we have agreed on one more long tandem journey. We’re enjoying this car touring thing in New Zealand but, in all truth, as we zoom through the countryside we both feel our experiences are fleeting – we just don’t connect with the countryside the same way. Oh I know that sounds pants but if you really don’t believe me then you’re welcome to join us on our next journey. 👍 All you need is a bike and some nice tight lycra. Ah, I can see I’ve got you interested already! 😀