(September 28, 2020 – written by Dave)
Last night was the first night of the trip in the tent and it was a bit rough. Nancy says the tent is too small, the sleeping pads are too noisy and that I snore. I slept the better of the two of us but also noticed that rather loud neighbours across the train tracks that were going strong on “something” until at least 3AM. But really, we’re on a bike trip, the skies are blue, we have no Covid worries (here at least) and we’ve made it all the way to the Hunter Valley today. On balance, we know better sleep will come as we get used to the tent and the “yabos” in Gosford are well and truly in the rear-view mirror of the trip. Life is good.
The kookaburras were up this morning at 5:30AM. They are always the first birds in the Australian bush to start calling, today starting before the sun came up. I really enjoyed them this morning, perhaps in part because I got a wee bit more sleep last night. Nancy heard them as well but lay silently in the sleeping bag with hopes I would sleep a little longer. I made it until 6:15 before giving in to nature’s call.
Brekkie and packing up went pretty well for the first day out. We have less stuff, which helps, but we also appreciated the nice patio at the showgrounds. We rearranged one of their benches so that we could sit in the full morning sun – very civilized for camping.
The first 45k of the ride was pretty busy and not overly scenic. Sure, the nice blue skies were great but that part of the Central Coast has a lot of morning traffic. Plus, we had a lot of turns to make. Nancy did a good job navigating. She carries the phone in her bag and we use Komoot for maps. Overall it works pretty well so long as you stop and check whenever there are questions. I guess having a GPS or something mounted to the handlebars would help but speed is not really our goal and stopping to check is fine.
At 45k we found a bakery in the small town of Wyee. There are heaps of new housing developments in that part of the coast. We had to fight off tradies at the bakery but were glad to have passed through the area before all the houses are built and full of new residents. Some of the roads will need wider shoulders if people start moving in – we can only hope that the local council has that in the plan.
We had more of the same roads and traffic for the 30k after leaving Wyee. This section also included the fairly steep climb up through Freemans Waterhole where we crossed from the Central Coast into the Hunter Valley. I’ve not made a typo in the name Freemans – it should not include an apostrophe. The area was settled in the 1860s by a family with the name Freemans. They were “freeman”, as in not convicts but never actually held title to the land. They ran cattle through the area – no title, no permit, no worries – ah the good old days when continents were “open”. Before longing for simple times however, note that they lived in a “hut” without water or lighting much less a way to keep the milk cool – and forget about toilet seats, what toilet!
We stopped at the top of the climb – near the Watagan Forest Hotel – for a snack and cool drink. We debated taking a “long-cut” onwards from there but opted for the direct route to Cessnock. It turned out to be a pretty hard day with all the short up and downs. We rolled into Cessnock at 2PM ready to call it a day.
We are staying 2.5k out of Cessnock at the Hunter Valley YHA. The 2.5k is notable because that’s how far we have to walk back if we want dinner in town. Luckily we bought enough food before heading out to the hostel. And being away from town has its advantages. The hostel is nestled in amongst grape wines just coming out into leaves, there are heaps of birds and we’ve already spotted the local kangaroo mob in the field in front of our room.
We are having a rest day tomorrow – I know, after only two days! But really, we are right in the heart of the Hunter Valley – the oldest wine region in all of Australia. And we are only 5k away from Peterson’s Cellar door – Nancy is keen. We don’t have a master plan tomorrow, other than to work our way out to one of the cellar doors, getting something to eat and trying a few small sips of a Hunter red. It’s rough duty but I think we’re up for it.
No updates from Roman on his part yet but we are still on track to meet him in the next stop up the road. If he is delayed, then maybe we have to stay here for a second rest day and try out one of the other vineyards.