1/1/2015 – written by Nancy
100k – Denman to Wollombi
Well, our campsite was quiet last night, at least until about 1:30 when the neighbours came home and decided to sit outside their cabin and have a loud chinwag with the folks next door. This went on until about 3am, when Dave couldn’t stand it any longer and got up to ask them to please be quiet. They went to bed shortly thereafter we think – at least they were quiet so we could get back to sleep. I think they all must have had a bit too much to drink and didn’t realise quite how loud they were talking.
We were up and at ’em early, knowing we had a relatively long day. We had the remaining eggs and bread – I think the ‘Toad in the Hole’ will be a staple on future tours, as Dave loves them and I am happy to eat them if he makes them!
We rolled out of camp before 7:30 and made our way through the farmland. We hadn’t gone far before we hit the first hill, a short but steep one that took us over Denman Gap. We were riding on the Golden Highway, which goes into Newcastle, but traffic was very light given it was New Year’s Day. We rode through the valley on the other side, and then had another climb out the other side. From there we rolled along some ups and downs, and found a little mini-mart open in the township of Jerry’s Plain where we bought cold drinks. We were hoping for a bit more to eat, but there didn’t seem to be much in the way of any food that had any nutritional quality so we just shared the one rock cake that we had left over from the other day.
We were in the heart of the horse-breeding area of the upper Hunter Valley and it’s pretty clear from the landholdings that we saw that there is some money in horse-breeding. There were some massive farms, with big groups of horses all sauntering about on very green manicured lawns. All very impressive, but when I suggested to Dave that perhaps we needed to buy a horse he wouldn’t go for it, and suggested it was punters like us who bought a horse that made all of the guys who owned all this land the rich guys they were. Okay, that’s probably fair, and I am not really a big horse person so we quickly moved on. Interesting though that there seemed to be a fairly well-organised campaign against coal seam gas – not good for the horses, I suspect.
We turned off the Golden Highway to head south on the aptly named Wallaby Scrub Road. It took us along the area that is, and has been, heavily mined for coal. Pretty shocking results, with essentially man-made mountains of excess rock and dirt mounded high. We could hear the machinery working on the other side, even on New Year’s Day. The area was all fenced off but Dave managed to take a few pictures from the road – not sure if they do justice to the huge mounds of debris.
We saw a few kangaroos along the road today and finally got some to stay long enough for a picture. There were also lots and lots of goannas – we’d see them ahead sitting in the middle of the road or poking their heads out from the side of the road, but they move way too fast to capture with a camera.
We made our way into Broke, which is on the edge of the Hunter Valley wine region. It’s obvious from some of the sad-looking vineyards that there are a few people who dived into wine-growing but were not very successful at it. We saw one vineyard with cattle wandering among the sorry looking vines, chomping away on whatever might be left. The local general store/pub/gas station was open at Broke so we shared an egg and bacon roll and ate the PB&J sandwiches I made this morning. By this time it was over 35C – very, very hot – so we shared a big bottle of cold sparkling water to try to cool down.
From Broke it was only 30k to Wollombi, no big climbs, just rolling hills, but boy oh boy was it hot! There didn’t seem to be a lot of shade along the way, so we just tried to keep going knowing there was at least a cold beer at the end. We finally made it to Wollombi about 2pm and Dave did the honourable thing and went in to get some ice cold lemon lime and bitters and check on the camping. He came out with a big grin on his face and said that the lady behind the counter had said that we could use the house they had for rent to take a shower!
We thought that we would be stuck with a sponge bath today as the camping area does not have any showers and you can imagine after a long very hot day with multiple applications of sunscreen we were not looking forward to a sponge bath. The house had apparently been rented last night and they had not cleaned it yet so we could use the shower. I know, sounds a bit sketchy, rental house for New Year’s Eve, what shape would it be in? Dave went in first and it was all fine – and the shower was excellent – what a relief to get all of that gunk off. (Junior editor’s note: there are 40 people camped here and best we can tell, we are the only ones to get a shower – that’s serious husband bonus points if you ask me!)
We got the tent set up in a shady spot and as we were organising things another cyclist rolled in. Adrian is riding with a light set-up – amazingly light compared to us. His tent is something else – I feel a bit shameful for complaining about how small our tent is! Anyway, we had a nice chat, Dave and he did the usual male ‘street-cred’ thing checking out the bikes and gear, and we headed up to the pub for a well-earned burger and beer. The only downside was no great beer, so we had to settle for a Cooper’s Pale Ale – we’ll get a good beer tomorrow when we get home.
The heat was still blasting all afternoon, so that any movement created lots of sweating. It is now almost 8pm and it is finally cooling down a bit – a light wind has finally picked up which helps a lot. We may be bold and go without the rainfly tonight as no rain is forecast and anything we can do to get some air moving will help.
Tomorrow we make our way for home. These are on roads we have ridden before, so nothing new but it is a relatively hilly ride so we’ll see how it feels with the loaded bikes. We may stop at Brooklyn and take the train from there – if we feel energetic we’ll tackle the 3k Brooklyn hill and make our way to Hornsby station to take the train from there. Some of it may depend on how hot it is – we will probably hit the hill about mid-day and right now that does not sound very attractive if it was like today! But, we’ll worry about that tomorrow….