(June 11, 2020 – written by Dave)
Wow, what a difference a day makes. We had some fog in the morning but it burnt off pretty early and from then on, it was mostly bright blue skies. We definitely made the right call delaying our start by a day.
Today’s ride had a ferry in the middle that left Palm Beach at noon. We gave ourselves about 3 hours to ride the 50ish Ks to the ferry. For most of the route to the ferry we rode our normal “rat-run” out from St Leonards to the national park – basically all the back roads that let us avoid the highway and normal commuter traffic.
The bikes were certainly heavier than normal but the bikepacking set-up helped a lot with the big difference being the downhill to uphill transitions. On the heavy bikes any little uphill kills your speed instantly. With less weight in the bikepacker style, you carry a lot more momentum up the hill and don’t have to work as hard. Or maybe we are just super fit- yeah, that’s it I’m sure.
We opted to go with high-vis flags on the bikes, rather than lights. Flags don’t require charging and in fact under most conditions they show up better. Not at night for sure but we don’t plan on being out after dark on this trip. The photo below is of Nancy with her new high-vis vest, and new flag. I think she looks rather smart.
It was fun riding the normal roads with a different mindset today. As we weren’t riding a loop, we didn’t have any thoughts of returning home. We stopped for more photos and looked around a bit more. Perhaps almost too much looking around was done as we only made it to the ferry with 25 minutes to spare. 25 minutes is better than 0 minutes but it was a little stressful near the end not being sure how far we still had to ride.
The ferry picks up at Palm Beach wharf. Palm Beach is the last town before Barrenjoey Head at the end of Sydney’s Northern Beaches peninsula. By all means, this should be a quiet road. We’ve ridden it a few times and yet again today, it was not remotely quiet. We don’t get it honestly. To live out there you have to drive everywhere and the road is really narrow. Cars seemed to be either high-end European sports cars, lawn service mowing trucks or older Toyota Corollas. Obviously, the European cars were the rich home owners. And the lawn service rigs, well rich owners don’t do their own lawns out on the peninsula. It took a while but we finally worked out that the old Corollas must have been the rich folks hired help.
We weren’t quite sure about the procedures for the ferry. We had not booked and thought we might have to strip our bags off and put our bikes on the outside of the ferry. We needn’t have worried as they didn’t require booking, allowed us to pay with credit card and allowed us to roll the bikes straight on. The ride was a little bumpy but Nancy survived and it was over almost before we could think about getting seasick.
We got off the ferry in Ettalong and quickly settled into a cafe for lunch. We have shorter days on this trip so we are supposed to be stopping more for coffees – almost any cafe in Australia can make a proper flat white – so stopping is not a chore. Today was our longest day – more stopping will start tomorrow in earnest.
The ride after lunch was shorter than the morning but on somewhat busy coastal highways. We had to check the route a few times but navigation was not too difficult. Back in 2010 when we rode this section on our way to Darwin, I was hit by a coke bottle thrown from a passing motorist. Today we had generally polite traffic and no roadside projectiles – happy days.
We nipped off highway for the last 5k into The Entrance. They’ve built a lovely lake side park and linear cycle route. As is the often norm, the path is a little loopy and not direct but it was nice to get out of the traffic for the last park of the ride. We like to support the local councils when they make the effort to make cycling safer, even if the bike lane is not straight.
We are staying in the middle of The Entrance, at a funky hostel called, wait for it, “The Entrance Backpakers”. The new owner Chris is working hard to revamp the place and happy to have us stop in. The normal travelling cliental has not started to travel post Covid yet so we have a nice big family room all to ourselves. (Chris said that he wants to change the name – I”m not sure why – haha)
It is a bit weird being in a hostel with Covid about but honestly, as of today, 1 in 60,000 in Australia have the virus. The olds of one of them being here is very slim. We aren’t wearing masks (very few people do here) but we do wash our hands more often. If we wanted to be 100% risk free, we would have stayed home!
Before dinner we walked out to get a look at sunset over the lakes. The Entrance sits on a peninsula with Lake Tuggerah on the west, the Tasman Sea on the east. You can get nice, overwater sunrise and sunset photos living here. We ended up a pizza restaurant for dinner. The views over The Entrance inlet made up for a somewhat average pizza.
Overall, it was a pretty good day. We’ve broken free of the Sydney vortex, didn’t get any rain and had some really nice blue skies. The forecast going forward is not perfect but tomorrow looks ok. We are heading for Newcastle and another hostel. About ½ of tomorrow’s route is on the Fernleigh Trail – an old rail trail that gets us off the highway. We have a day off booked in Newcastle so we’ll have plenty of time to sample the local cafes for proper a proper flat white – yeah I know, a day off already, we only just got started. I don’t think there are official rules yet for how to structure Covid escape bike tours – so we’re making up our own!