Cycling in Sydney Australia
Wednesday morning saw my departure from Jugiong, and from the Hume Highway, to the safety and peace, but also relative isolation and exposure of a country back road. What I conceived in my mind as a meandering idyll beside the meandering Murrumbidgee began with a short sharp climb of about 100 metres in elevation up Bundarbo Road along a ridge with wonderful views of the twisting river on both sides. There is nothing I like more as a hiker than attaining a ridge line after a climb. Sure, there will still be dips and rises, but their intensity is contained, and the sky opens up above you. It is the same on the bike. You are joyfully ‘above it all’ and you feel that much more ‘expansive’, happy and ‘liberated’.
My destination is Tumut, 78 kilometres away. There aren’t really any mid-points to stop and refresh along the way so it is essential to carry enough water.
About an hour in (my Suunto Movescount app confirms) there is a right hand turn into Hopewood Road which dips down steeply to join the river and becomes firm gravel which I fairly skid across. It is reassuring to be close to the river which is a new feature, for me, and breaks up the monotony of the landscape. I know that the road follows it for a good way and that I am heading in the right direction. I get the country nod and hand raised up from the steering wheel from the few vehicles that come past me.
About mid-afternoon I gratefully roll into Tumut and secure a room at the Royal Hotel. The locals are friendly and talkative. One pair are discussing (what might be a disturbing unethical reality) a solicitor who has apparently advised a family law client to raise ‘child safety’ related ‘concerns’ to gain a forensic advantage in a dispute with a former partner. Incredulous and a bit outraged I make the rookie mistake of revealing my profession. I can’t help myself sometimes and immediately regret it, because it can invite confessions and confidences, as if you are a member of the clergy. I do say that I am not a family lawyer. I can think of nothing worse than taking sides or mediating a ‘he said/she said’ dispute. I will also throw in neighbourhood disputes. Really nasty. I am a really nice person (like, really smart and a ‘stable genius’), but also a professional litigator. I don’t quite know how that happened. Next time round maybe try something different. Maybe science and technology, future parent, if you are reading this (unbeknownst like - to either of us).
One fellow opens up to me (in confessional mode - people talk to me, maybe I have a trustworthy face) about his weight loss surgery a couple of years ago and a planned up coming trip to Italy to visit a woman he corresponds with online. He shows me a photo and says he has had a video call with her and she looks ‘exactly’ like she does in the photo. He is ‘hoping for sex’, but in case it goes ‘pear shaped’ (she might be ‘crazy’ he offers), solicits my views on places to go. A first time trip, he is looking at the ‘big three’, Venice, Florence and Rome. I throw in my Tuscan favourites, Lucca and Siena. A bit of a red flag moment follows. He is betting on the dishlickers and the horses and cadges $50 from me to avoid going to the ATM. He has a job and assures me that I will have the money back in a few minutes. I do, but not before an uncomfortable moment where I think he might offer me a betting slip as repayment. He sends the glass pickerupperer across the road to buy him a bottle of gin and some tonic which he is going to consume in his room, preparatory to an important occupation related meeting in the morning. He’s a Union Rep. The boy (who is a nice lad) returns with a brand that I have never heard of, and it does not look particularly ‘safe’, like, say a Gordons or a Beefeater. I helpfully suggest that he gets some ‘fruit’ from the bar to leaven it. As he is leaving, and it has transpired he has the room next to mine, he says that he ‘hopes I will not be too noisy’ if I ‘pull a root’.
Locker room talk.
But there seems to be an apocryphal idea that some single men have (who have been married), that other single men are having loads and loads of casual sex. From the open ‘sex tap’. A bit reminiscent of adolescent brags at schooI when, very likely, nothing of the sort was happening.
I explain that it is unlikely he will be inconvenienced in that way. I explain that I have ear plugs and express my hope that he will extend the same courtesy to me. I don’t see him in the morning. I do have some amazing pork belly and mash when finally left alone with my thoughts and smartphone.
The next day’s events I don’t really see coming.
I am headed for Batlow, about 500m higher than Tumut, and about 30 kilometres away. About 15 kilometres in and 100m up in a ‘no service’ phone area adjacent to a couple of farms, the gears start ‘skipping’. Then I am pedalling air. Then I am pedalling air again. To make sure. I look down and can’t see a chain. Fuck. Snapped clean apart. I have a tool, I later discover, which is competent to deal with the situation, but I haven’t watched the right YouTube videos. I need to remove a pin thingy and a link and replace the pin thingy. Fuck. Black greasy hands. Fuck. No service on the phone. To ring for a Tumut taxi to come and ‘extract’ me. Fuck.
The first and closest farm has a vehicle out front and some barking (but contained) dogs. Nobody home. It is hot. Mid thirties. Can I just say, a little gratuitously, how much fun smart watches are? It’s nice being able to check your stats at the end of a day on a trip like this.
I wander off to a farm further up the road. And, despondently, down the driveway. Fuck. I have one bar on my phone and try to text my brother to text me a taxi number that I won’t be able to call anyway. Then Farmer John arrives. I explain the situation. He explains to me that I won’t get a signal out here and offers to let me use his landline. He is under the misapprehension (that I disabuse him of later) that my ‘bike’ is a ‘motorbike’. He tries to ring a mate who has a truck but can’t get hold of him. He doesn’t think my bike will fit in a taxi. Bicycle. Ahhh. The taxi driver, when I get him and explain the situation, sounds just as dubious. I tell him I can take the front wheel off and it will fit in the back (which it does). He tells me he is leaving straight away and to be ready. No time to have the cuppa John offers to make me. The taxi driver and I have a good yarn in the few minutes back to town and he knows of a bike mechanic who has a workshop in the back of the toy store. I get to the toy store and meet the mechanic. He looks at my chain and throws it in the bin. He gets me a new one and only charges me $20 to fit it. Pumps up my tires.
Another night organised at the pub. I have the pork belly again. I don’t run into my ‘Italian’ friend.