Cycling in Sydney Australia
This Tuesday afternoon, I arrived in Jugiong, nestled on the banks of the Murrumbidgee River. The first sign of the river is at the top of the hill on the Hume Highway, just before you turn off and down into Riverside Drive, on the Old Hume Highway. You can’t see the river itself but it flows inside thickly leaved, tree lined banks. You can hear it though. I haven’t heard the chirruping of cicadas (with their contrasting fortissimo and pianissimo) since I left Wollongong 8 days ago. It is a welcome sound so close to the highway. It is also a sign that, despite the cool and overcast conditions that have made for pleasant cycling conditions down the hill from Yass (a good 200m difference in elevation from Jugiong), summer continues. Tops of 30. As I wrote from my bed in the Motor Inn the sun had come out and was making up for lost time. The hottest part of the day is late afternoon. Baking heat.
Just outside my room, as if to underscore the rural environs, there is a paddock, with sheep in it, surrounded by rolling hills (of the fixed and sedentary variety). In the hotel bar the cockies discuss prices, tops and bottoms (paddocks) and the best way to prepare lamb while the sheep safely (for now) graze in plain view out front. A customer discusses her favourite type of rum and coke (which comes in a red can - they don’t have it here). I think about that Bach cantata. Do do do do do do doooo do do dit etc. An ocker accent belies one farmer’s very Italian looking face.
The Hume is not a bad run in with its wide verge, dodging animal carcasses in various states of decay engaging my olfactory nerve but I fairly sigh when I turn off. It’s as though my bike tire understands that this is what it is designed for and it seems to roll faster and truer here. It’s amazing how the type of road surface can affect your ride.
Tuesday morning I was not sure if I would be on the Hume at all. The plan is to track down to Tumut through Tumbarumba and Towong into Victoria. I had thought to go via Wee Jasper but decided not to because of a (apprehended) relative dearth of food and accomodation options. Going via Gundagai would be more prosaic but offer more food and sleeping options and I still get to visit Adelong, another of those delightful country towns off the Hume. And get a dog on the tucker box selfie. The publican at the venerable (but youthfully tricked out) The Sir George Hotel (est. 1845) tells me, that afternoon, that there is a back road (Crowes Road via Gobarralong and Darbalara) that tracks the Murrumbidgee with some hills and gravel all the way to Tumut. Something of what I had hoped for from the Wee Jasper route. And I have a very dry Gundagai Sav Blanc (with a little fruit at the end) in the name of supporting local businesses even more. Next morning Long Track Pantry Cafe, right next door, sends me on my way with breakfast, not before a ‘where’s my wallet’ scare. In the other pannier bag. Phew.
Some good news that Tuesday morning too, which I’ll come to. Just building up to it! I was staying at the Royal Hotel in Yass. Nice pub accomodation down close to the Yass River (I go for a post dinner stroll past the Court House and park). The room has a double bed and a ceiling fan to ameliorate a warm evening. It will be teens that night anyway. Separate shower and toilet but it’s an easy few strides down the hall and you’re there. A kettle and tea bags in the room would be nice though. Ear plugs are a must for eliminating noise from the street and air con fan noise (when your room has one). The hotel is under new management and has some interesting non-standard choices on the pub menu. I opt for sticky pork belly bao buns and a side of chips. In the name of sampling local(ish) produce they have ales on tap from Canberra’s Capital Brewing Co, a fresh mid strength Coast Ale (2) and a hoppier Trail Pale Ale (1). They also make an Evil Eye Red IPA but I resist the latter in the name of some sort of temperance.
The highlight of the trip down from Goulburn (apart from the turnoff to Yass Valley Road - because ‘valley’) was turning off the Hume onto the Breadalbane Road and Hume Street which follows the railway line past Cullerin to Gunning. The road is a winding country delight, including a straight avenue of cypress trees all to myself. At one point, rewarding my sharp eye, there is a centenary monument (17 October 1924) to the point at which Hamilton Hume (born near Parramatta in 1797) and William Hovell started their expedition to Port Phillip (they ended up at Corio Bay where present day Geelong is situated). Lunch is at the Telegraph Hotel in Gunning complete with free wifi and a mobile charging station. The Eagles Patriots game is on. After a second half surge to the lead which the Eagles then eclipse, Tom Brady turns the ball over and that, as they say, is the ball game. I leave, although 2 minutes can be an eternity in the NFL. Patriots still lose.
Oh, my news. Tuesday morning I managed to lie on my right side and, for good measure, my left side, without significant discomfort. Sneezing is still a bastard. I had been sleeping on my back for 6 days, a position that I am most unaccustomed to. Because passing down the Moss Vale Road from Bowral last Wednesday morning a lazy eyed driver turned across me into a side street. I pummelled the back left hand side of her vehicle with my steel framed chariot before I could brake in time and fell to the road landing on my right upper back. It all happened in an instant, as these things do. I got up, seemingly ‘fine’. The chain came off the bike (it later actually snapped off but that’s a story for another day) but was easily replaced. The driver attended to ‘make sure I was ok’. I thanked her for her concern, expressing some uncertainty about ‘what just happened there’ and, a little dazed, managed to continue to Marulan via the Southern Highlands Road (culminating in the Highland Way). To quote the immortal words, ‘it could have been [much much] worse’. It seems to be our lot to be grateful for small mercies rather than angry at the liberties drivers continue to take with our safety. By the time I got to the post office/bookshop/cafe in bucolic little Exeter, my right upper back had started to hurt. Raising my left leg over the bar seemed to hurt a little less than the (now impossible) right leg raise. Badly bruised not broken.
My bed for that Wednesday night was at the friendly Terminus Hotel in Marulan. It was also quiz night and urgent Homer Simpson style ‘sotto voce’ answers to land surveyors Matt and colleague, and furtive looks from them across to me, saw me admitted to their team, and we finished a respectable second. Because you want/need to know, a ‘nephron’ is a structural unit of the kidney and between us we managed to locate Kazakhstan and a number of other countries on a map. It might come up again. Matt is a Sharks supporter and there was some banter about the 1973 and 1978 Grand Finals and some face saving and (respectful - from me) discussion about the ‘Porch Light’ finally getting turned off recently. There really needs to be another Manly Sharks Grand Final soon. We sat in the main bar (with me self medicating with cheap house red wine) until last drinks (Matt’s young colleague sensibly went to bed earlier) with a bit of excitement occasioned by a smoking fuse requiring an electrician from Goulburn to attend. It all reminded me of ‘staffies’ so so many years ago. Next morning, ‘pain’ and serious difficulty manoeuvring out of bed. Push up with the left arm and rotate legs over the side. Put my socks on? Are you kidding? Forget it. Think picking up stuff off the floor with my toes and favouring my left arm. I relocated myself to the Marulan Motor Inn (the room had an ensuite) and got some ibuprofen and paracetamol which ‘really’ helped manage pain and improved mobility. I stayed 2 nights. The Motor Inn has a Chinese Restaurant that does great combinations. And it wouldn’t be Marulan without some Truckshop fare (a 3 piece KFC meal - more satisfying in the anticipation it must be said).
Closing observations. One. Goulburn is an interesting and engaging town given a little time (I gave it 2 nights before going ‘over the top’ to Yass). Two. There is a statue of PL Travers (creator of Mary Poppins) in the environs of the Bradman Oval in Bowral. She lived there for 10 years as a child. Born in Maryborough.