Today is the day we dreaded, but don’t worry. True, the A1 is the only road down the coast at this time (March 2014) but the shoulders are wide (2 meters) and mostly the traffic is double-laned. Mostly they’ll move over for you. Don’t try to go through the national park – the road doesn’t connect and there was a landslide on the beach, so one can’t simply cycle down the sand. Bummer. Anyway, stop for coffee at the rest stop and visit Little Italy, the ride’s not horrible (just a wee bit hilly). We took Iluka Road, jumped on the ferry, and slept in Yamba. The ferry was $15 for two people, two bikes, and two beers – not sure if that’s the actual price or the friendly man gave us a discount. but we’re not complaining.
Shaun and I tried to find a way out of the highway, calling national parks and drilling every local we found, but to no avail. The highway is simply the only road south. Since Shaun wanted to write job applications (we do have outside responsibilities) we decided to make it a short day and planned to arrive at the Iluka library before the last Yamba/Iluka ferry. The highway wasn’t as bad as we thought. After a nice coffee break with amazing hot, fresh muffins and a delicious beachside lunch break, we exited the highway for Iluka.
Roadside Coffee. Yum. He made his own savoy muffins and pulled a mean espresso.
Happy little Shaun riding along, looking for Koalas on the road to Iluka.
Lunch break – in SHARK BAY! AH! And then we went swimming…
Iluka is a sleepy little town. We passed the “fuel for the future” gas station. The empty windows stared at us as we struggled to find the library from the out-of-date tourist map. Eventually we did, Shaun submitted his applications with moments to catch the ferry (don’t worry mate, the ferry guy said when I rolled up before Shaun to ask him to wait, we’ll hang out for him). We looked a bit bedraggled and out of breath, and I think the ferry guys liked us when we ordered beers and went up to the top for the breeze. They invited us into their little steering cabin, took out some maps, and kept us entertained by jibing each other about their towns. One lived in Woomba (a town we rolled through because the advertised pie shop seemed closed – there’s nothing else in the town) and the other in Yamba. The one guy kept teasing the other for moving to Woomba, apparently for his lady. He took it in stride. They both got quite excited about helping us in Yamba once they got bored of teasing each other, and through them we found the hotel, the lighthouse, a youth hostel, and a campsite.
We settled into the site, ate some dinner, and as I towelled off after a nice shower I heard Shaun voice just outside the bathroom. He was speaking with, or rather, listening to, a big campsite neighbour. The neighbour was saying, “I just don’t get it. You don’t see the town. You don’t see anything”. Shaun opened his mouth to discuss but the man continued, “I mean, there was this english couple, right, on bikes, just like you, right, and they rocked up in the evening, ate, slept, and left by 6 am. Did they see the town? No. Is it fun?” Shaun starts to speak and they guy continues, “It can’t be fun. You’re too tired at the end of the day. Why do you do it? I mean, me, I spend two weeks here, really get to know the town, right. I see a place, I stay for as long as I want to. You don’t get to know the town when you travel by bikes.” This time I jump in: actually, I would never stop in this town if I were travelling by car – I get to experience way more of Australia by bicycle. His eyes flick over in my direction, and then back to their vacant stare just above our heads. He continues, “ya but you don’t get to know the town. That’s not a way to travel. I could never do it.” We give him all the reasons we like to travel via bicycle, but his manner is so aggressive he doesn’t really hear us. We give up, bid him good luck in his travels, and hit the town.
And by town I mean the youth hostel, which housed the seniors’ poker tourney that night, and up the hill to the hotel where the Canadian bar tender told us last call as we walked in at 10 pm. What a town.