(June 12, 2020 – written by Dave)
What do you call it when you miss a major turn, ride a big unplanned extra loop after heaps of map checks, add 10k extra to the day but eventually get back on the route you planned on riding? Well, in my book, that’s called getting lost. But then I’m not so sure.
When we arrived in Newcastle, I commented to Nancy about our navigational challenges. Nancy, ever the optimist, said “we didn’t really get lost, we just took a longer route to get here”. Ok by me. First rule of a happy marriage has to be “if you blow a turn, screw up the route for the day, add extra Ks AND your wife says that we weren’t really lost – well just shut-up and go with it”. Officially, we didn’t get lost today. Happy wife, happy life.
We didn’t get lost and we didn’t get wet either – a double win for the day really. And we were particularly lucky on the no-rain part. It was teeming down when we walked to brekkie and it didn’t really look like it was going to be stopping soon as we huddled back in our hostel room to kill an hour. We had to check out by 10AM and by some miracle, around 9:30 the skies started to lift. By the time we rolled out the door around 10AM, we wore booties and rain coats but we didn’t really need them. In fact we stopped only 1k from the hostel to remove the coats. We had a couple of very minor rain spells during the day but on the whole it was a very pleasant ride.
While we were off track but not lost, we rode on the Pacific Highway for a spell. It’s a four lane highway but has a massive shoulder. As luck would have it, being out on the highway also let us meet some other cycle tourists. A car pulled over on the verge just ahead of us and out popped Joan and Paul – keen tourist who happened to be driving today. We had one of those nice, unplanned roadside meeting of minds. They were even nice enough to offer us a place to stay, though it wasn’t quite far enough for us today but we did appreciate the offer. Thanks for stopping guys, it was nice chatting.
Our routing delay put us on the edge of Swansea just on lunch time. We’d found a bike path off the highway by now but were disappointed when we saw a bakery on the far side of the highway that we couldn’t reach. Not to worry, just up the road, there was a sign for Barry’s Pies. What touring cyclist out there could possibly ride past Barry’s Pies – or Bazza’s Pies for the Aussies out there. We pulled over straight away.
Bazza had no tables and no chairs but we managed to scrounge up some seats in front of a now closed music store. Bazza only sells pies, no coffee but we also managed to scrounge up some coffees at a fancy looking vegan yoga cafe across the road. The main street had back in diagonal parking – which for us was all the entertainment that we needed to make lunch time fly by. One old timer put on a show right in front of us – almost causing us at one point to vacate our seats for fear of being run over.
We were worried about rain after lunch as the closed music shop owner (a local) warned us that it was starting to sprinkle in Newcastle. Funny, heading out, all the clouds were behind us and we rode in sunshine. It wasn’t long until we reached the start of the Fernleigh Rail Trail and ditched the highway for the rest of the day. I have to say, the rail trail was a real treat. It was sealed with a painted centre-line, had lots of nice little rest areas and it was 100% car free. What a great resource for the area and for us a great way to enter Newcastle. We eventually ended up on the Newcastle foreshore, riding another nice shared pathway all the way into the city. It’s great that these small towns are putting in cycle friendly transportation options.
In town we made our way to the Newcastle Beach YHA where we’ve booked in for two nights. This is another of those great old buildings that’s been repurposed into a city centre hostel. The building was first opened as a gentleman’s club in 1885 before handing over the keys to the neighbouring hospital during World War One as part of the war effort. Nurses lived here during the war. YHA took over the property in 1998, but the nurses haven’t disappeared entirely. True or not, there are reports of both patient and nurse ghosts making regular appearances in the hallways at night. Scary.
We had a couple ideas for dinner but found them, and a couple others recommended by reception, to be completely booked out. While we are no longer in lockdown here in Oz, restaurants are still limited in how many people they can seat and still keep the required 1.5 meter personal clearance. So capacities are limited and everyone wants to get out after months in lockdown. We ended up eating ramen at a modern Japanese place just round the corner from the hostel. They had limited seating as well but it was early and we got there before the rush. And they also served beers from the Fog Horn micro brewery (our first choice for dinner had it not been fully booked). Further Fog Horn samples will probably need to be sourced for tomorrow night.
So far both nights at the hostels and at every restaurant we’ve eaten in, we have to fill out a form giving our details and where we’ve been the last week, sometimes two weeks. It feels sort of weird but that’s the reality living with Covid. We’re not overly fussed and if it helps someone track us down as part of a contact tracing process, we’ll be more than happy. The hostel is taking Covid very serious as well. They have a lot of signs, some of which are perhaps a bit OTT, but it’s part of making us safe, I guess.
We are taking a rest day here tomorrow. We don’t have big plans but from our past trips to Newcastle know that a walk to the oceanside baths and tide pools is high on the list. The forecast is not too bad but there are plenty of cafes in which to scamper if rain becomes an issue.