The last few days…
After saying goodbye to the inspirational Artist As Family, we began the 100km battle from Cann River to Eden.
Not before a very quick face time with the mums to say hello for the first time since landing.
The tree is up and it was all go for Christmas at home. Here, apart from the odd bit of tinsel dotted around, I struggled to find anything that I identify with as Christmassy. This is not the Christmas season as I know it. Sun, heat and dehydration.
By shaking my empty water bottle at the passing traffic on the ride today, three kind Australian drivers showed their Christmas spirit and stopped to fill me up. Pleasantries were exchanged, I was extremely thankful, and encouragement was sent my way. Each interaction ended in “Merry Christmas”.
I guess that’s what Christmas means to me this year – the kindness of strangers. This Christmas ideal becomes more predominant as the Just Giving goal for The Albert Kennedy Trust is getting closer every day.
Crossing the state border of Victoria to New South Wales felt like a significant marker, more than half way to Sydney. There’s still plenty to go and the hills are becoming relentless.
The campsite at Eden wass full of pink bellied parrots and cockatoos. There were even two magnificent eagles. Flapping beautiful, but very loud…
The next was a well earned rest day which, amongst many things, deserved a lie in, two coffees and walks along the beach.
The aptly named town of Eden, is seven kilometres away from the campsite where I was staying. Set on minimalising the use of my legs, I managed to hitch a lift to and from the town. More kindness from strangers.
Taking advice from Artist As Family, I headed to the recommended Sprout Cafe, where I found free WIFI and some real tasty local produce.
The nearby beach, although riddled with debris from a recent storm, provided the perfect setting for an evening walk.
And even some terrifyingly recognisable wild life.
The locals, whilst proud of their little town, can’t help but enjoy the puns provided by it’s name. My favourite sign was “welcome to Eden, please refrain from eating the apples”
Of the 60km I had planned for the day of departing Eden, we managed a mere 20 before Doris’ rear tyre tired. As its tread wore thin, so did my resilience. As the inner tube deflated, so did my spirits…. a flat.
The nearest bike shop was 15 mins walk (and push) away. A passing group of sympathetic cyclists on my way, they assured me that they would meet me up ahead with a coffee. And so they did.
These lovely people helped me to fit what was the only tyre of its size left in the shop, all whilst I enjoyed a free coffee. Cyclists are a fantastic breed of people, I’m glad to be welcomed into their family.
Low in spirits, low in energy and covered in bike grease, I decided to break my itinerary and book into a hostel. This would mean however I would have to make up for the extra 40 kilometres the day after.
With a depletion of intrinsic motivation, I had to call on the friends and family of Facebook for support. The response was overwhelming. Pictures, videos, and messages of support all encouraging me to keep going.
None more than this video however.
If I am ever laking in motivation again, this will be my ‘go-to’ pick me up.
With a little push from my loved ones and two 6am coffees, we began the 110km day from Merimbula to Dalmaney. Blessed with what John Agard would refer to as ‘half- caste weather’, it was as though we were cycling in the comfort of the home country. A comfort that could only be topped off by fish and chips for dinner, which attracted this seagull who was also channeling John Agard.
If you don’t get the reference, you can read the poem here. http://blogs.warwick.ac.uk/lucasbento/entry/halfe-caste_by_john
Christmas Eve was spent drinking Tasmanian red wine around the campfire with the lovely French travellers Max and Matt.
They have been in each other’s company since before birth and the quality of their companionship shines through in their taste of wine. They are travelling around Australia with their van Jean Paul, but slept in a tent that night to avoid the giant spider that had taken up residence inside of Jean Paul.
Christmas morning was celebrated with my favourite breakfast ever – eggs and coffee. Courtesy of Max, Matt and the heaven sent, Australian coffee providers who were campaign by next to us. Topped off by an excellent view of the Tasman Sea.
My Christmas present to myself was an invigorating yoga session, preparing my body and mind for the day.
Undoubtedly one of my favourite things about this trip so far has been yoga outside, on the grass, in the sun with a sea breeze filling my lungs. It’s just devine.
The Christmas Day cycle however was not so devine. All was going smoothly until we took what looked like a shortcut… turned out to be hell. The road was treacherous, with fist sized rocks littering the way. To avoid any more misfortune with Doris’ we reduced our speed to a 3km/h trotting rate. Then, like an over anxious horse, Doris fainted at the sight of water.
After coaxing her through the river, which resulted in me getting one very wet foot, we were greeted by this monstrosity.
Doris is not a mountain bike, she is a road bike. One with 30kgs of baggage on her rear. There wasn’t a chance in hell of us riding up this together. For the first time I was going to have to take a blow to my pride and push.
Doris was my crucifix and this ascent was my Golgotha. Merry Christmas indeed.
But there were no nails, no punctures, no crown of thorns and no dying for anyone’s sins. Only a slightly broken pannier and a very dirty Doris.
All is well on Christmas Day in Oz.