I wake long before the dawn. An early night to bed and a broken night sleep will do that. It was only broken because the camping ground kept bright lights on all night for security. Almost everyone in Australia who stays in camping grounds is a grey nomad who camps in a caravan so the camping grounds don’t seem to care too much about the effects of spotlights on campers in tents or bivy bags (a good reason not to camp in a camping ground). The good thing about the early start is that I am on the road before the sun rises over the hills.
A few kilometers down the road I cross the state border into NSW and my ride actually becomes a NSW loop. Borders in Australia are interesting. There’s no fanfare but there is a subtle change in culture once you cross these arbitrarily placed lines. Not to mention that the lines also mark the transitions between which code of footy you follow and the word you use to describe togs (swimming costume).
The morning passes pleasantly. The road seems to climb endlessly and a look at the elevation data on the map I created shows that this is almost exactly what it does. But I pedal forward quite comfortably. I startle kangaroos and emus. Lots of each animal. They hop and run along the road, crashing into the ever improving quality of farm fencing and desperately try to find a way across the road in front of me. I slow down to let them pass but the panic is making them insane. I wonder whether the improved “marsupial fencing” is causing an increase in road kills, given that the roos and emus have nowhere to go.
I stop in Yetman for a drink. There’s not much to choose from in the fridge at the tiny combined general store / post office / bottle shop / takeaway shop. I buy a chocolate milk; I’m craving dairy at the moment and the only plain milk comes in 2L bottles. It’s tasty and gets me going again.
After Yetman the riding continue to be pleasant. I cross a low area of dry wetlands where there are plenty of trees. To my east I can see the range I crossed this morning and to the south-west I can see more hills looming. I push on until the 65km mark, just over halfway through today’s ride. I stop for lunch and cook up some vegetarian sweet and sour noodles. This will prove to be insufficient later today when I bonk at the 100km mark. But for now I eat it and take in some of the roadside scenery, like this old man’s beard. I make good time to the 90km mark. Stopping here I rest a little longer than I should but it’s only 1:30pm and I’m feeling good.
It doesn’t last long. At the 100km mark the heavens open and an icy cold rain chills me to the bone. It’s so heavy that my raincoat fails to keep me dry. For the next 25km I struggle to keep from slipping into that horrible state of depression that so easily comes with getting cold and wet. I bonk shortly after the rains start. I guess I’ve failed to eat enough to fuel my body. I cannot even ride up the hills anymore. At 2-3% average gradient the hills are not steep but they go on for kilometers at a time and I’m worried about visibility for the trucks and cars flying along at over 100kph (the speed limit is 100kph but I don’t think anyone is sticking to it). A flat tyre at the 105km mark almost causes me a melt down but I stay calm and change it in the mud that has developed on the side of the road. Even in these conditions I’d rather be out here than sitting at a desk in an office so I can’t really complain.
It’s 4:50pm by the time I arrive in Warialda. The last 35km since I stopped in the sunshine at 90km has taken me over three hours. That’s nuts. I find shelter from the rain and use my phone to find a dry place to sleep for the night. The Royal Hotel seems to be the only place with rooms. Forty dollars buys me a clean and comfortable single room with shared bathroom. Given that the caravan park charges about $20-25 for a powered site and all I have is a bivy bag, $40 to be warm and dry is great value. I head to the shop to top up my snack and lunch supplies. Clearly I’m not eating enough so I grab some crackers and dip for the next few days and also some tinned tuna to add to my vegetarian lunches. I end the night with a hearty pub meal. Hopefully the weather forecast is correct and I will have sunshine tomorrow.