This year, for the first time, we Queenslanders had an October public holiday. And boy did many of us make the most of it. The highways to the southern beaches were packed with a steady stream of cars and 4WDs towing camper trailers and kids’ pushbikes. Campgrounds were full to capacity and fisherman lined beaches and rivers. At the invitation of my sister, I swung a leg over my motorbike and joined the mass southern pilgrimage.
The 250km ride south was long and hot. I always struggle on the first day of a bike tour. My body takes a day to get used to being in a riding position. Especially when I have a heavy load on the back. To break up the ride, I stopped at the Byron Bay lookout to collect a geocache. The view was stunning. While I’d seen the view while riding down the highway, I’d never stopped before. I could see all the way to the lighthouse.
After finding the geocache I continued down the highway to Broadwater National Park, just north of Evans Head. Here I took a short but hot walk up to the lookout where another geocache was hidden. Again, I’m glad I made my way to the cache because the views over the flatlands towards Evans Head, where I was heading for camp.
When I arrived at the Silver Sands Caravan Park in Evans Head I was pleasantly surprised to find that I had a huge family-sized campsite all to myself. I usually get squished into a tiny space when campground managers realise I just have a single-person tent and motorbike. So I made the most of the space. I spent the rest of Saturday hanging out with my sister and her husband, their kids, and their friends. We didn’t do much; just hung out, ate and drank.
On Sunday morning I woke early to hit the roads on my bicycle. My sister had carried it to Evans Head for me. I downloaded a route map from Bikely.com so had a plan for the day. I started by riding into Woodburn where I crossed the Evans River and rode into sugarcane country. The roads were flat, narrow and quiet. It was typical of sugarcane roads, which often turn at right angles around the farms. I find these sugarcane farm roads comforting because I grew up training in the Jacobs Well cane fields with their strange right-angled turns.
The road north of Woodburn followed the Evans River. So I had expansive cane fields to my left and the big wide river to my right as I rode. The Pacific Highway runs along the other bank of the river and I’ve driven it countless times. Many of those times, the river has conjured daydreams in my mind. So to ride along it was lovely.
The road left the Evans River and crossed a small range before dropping down to the Richmond River Valley at Wardell. The small climbs were a nice change from the flat country. At Wardell I had to cross the Pacific Highway again and follow it for a short distance. Fortunately, there is a cycle / pedestrian path across the bridge, which is too narrow to cycle across safely. I then turned left along River Road, which I followed all the way to South Ballina.
The ride out to South Balina was fast because I had a strong tailwind. I enjoyed the sight of fisherman out in their boats and teenage boys fishing from jetties, hoping for a bite. I always wonder whether these men realise they are engaged in meditation and whether they would roll their eyes with disgust if you suggested it to them. Their quiet vigil looks as peaceful as that of meditating monks. At South Balina I stopped on the river for a snack and rest. I’d ridden 55km in just over 2 hours, including photo stops.
The ride back south to Evans Head was tougher than the ride out because I had a headwind for much of the trip and the sun had started to come out. That’s not to say it wasn’t enjoyable. I cruised back along the Richmond River to Wardell at a slow average speed of 21kph. I practiced patience and not getting frustrated with the headwind. I just kept spinning into the wind; something I never used to do. I used to try to stand and push into the wind but now I am trying to learn to go with the flow.
I rode the first half of the return ride the way I had come but then turned back towards the coast at Broadwater to ride down Broadwater Road through the National Park instead of riding back through the cane fields. The sun came out and reflected off the white beach sand along the road, creating hot conditions. I just kept cruising along enjoying the experience, stopping occasionally to take photos.
I completed the 107km ride in 5 hours including breaks and photo stops. That means I’m right on track for the Audax Australia time limits, which are 6:30 for 100km and 13:30 for 200km.
I spent Sunday afternoon relaxing at camp with my sister and her family. We pumped some yabbies and threw a few fishing lines into the river in a vain attempt to catch some fish. The kids enjoyed their time at the beach and then we hung out at camp. On Monday morning we packed up our campsites, played a bit of football and went our own ways home. I took the scenic routes through the northern NSW hinterland, stopping to find some geocaches along the way. What would have been a 2 hour ride up the highway turned into a 6 hour scenic ride through the hinterland.
Total: 107km bicycle ride on Sunday