Last night I woke up at 4am almost suffocating. I had tightened my sleeping bag so much, that I could not breathe properly. I happened to roll inside the bag and my mouth was facing the hood. It was like trying to breathe with my head in a plastic bag.
I wake up to this morning quite tired. I’m pushing myself a lot, I rode 94 kms yesterday and I spent most of the evening on the internet trying to select the right tent to buy next.
This campsite is very humid because its located at the bottom of a valley. Not the most strategic choice for a caravan park, but the brand new kitchen and hot shower work wonders. This morning I’m not rushing, it gets to 9am before I’m ready.
When I’m about to leave, an older gentleman approaches me. He offers me coffee and toast. That is very nice and very sweet of him but I refuse. Often in the past I’ve accepted food and coffee and ended up over eating, I’m not having a second or third breakfast today. Ten minutes later, I regret not accepting some toast. Whilst pedalling on the hill out of the village, I hear a loud noise. On my left some beautiful apples are falling off a tree, so I nickname the tree magic tree. I eat an apple right away and keep another one. Who wouldn’t like delicious fresh free food? Especially an always hungry cyclist like me. All this fresh food is so great, I’m feeling much better than the previous week.
Riding on these sealed roads is not that exciting. I pass a village, and then another where I stop for a hot chocolate. I spend an hour there checking my route notes and chatting on my phone. This is the second designated campsite that I pass today on the BNT. I’m progressing much faster than horses now that it’s mostly flat. Some people wouldn’t consider this to be flat, but compared to where I’ve come from in Victoria it is.
I soon realise that it’s Sunday and that explains the traffic on the road. I’m also approaching a rather touristic area with some caves not far and also the Blue Mountains National Park.
The noise of 4wds and cars passing me is keeping me alert and slightly nervous. Most cars give me plenty of space, but I must remain attentive.
One car honks at me loudly, I think the driver saw me last minute on a curve in the road. There is not much more I can do to increase my visibility. My panniers are covered with high visibility yellow and reflective material, and I always have them on when I’m on the road, even in dry weather. Another trick is to be in the middle of the lane which help drivers see you try far away and can slow down when approaching until I get back to the left side of the lane. Many drivers do not seem to understand this concept and get angry, because in many people’s minds, they believe that a bike does not have the right to use the car lane, even not to be on the road.
I think the driver who honks is not a good one. He finds himself in an unexpected and rapidly changing situation. He can’t consider slowing down, as if some mysterious superior forces would punish him if he did, so in a panic he uses the horn. It makes me think of a little boy crying when scared, waiting for his mum to come pick him up and handle the situation and using the horn as a way to exhibit his frustration and fear. Its a shame drivers are not taught they can and should slow down when approaching a bike, and then decide to pass it, when safe to do so. Simple but unthinkable for many.
That makes me think that if I was a employer, I would go for a test drive before hiring someone. Their reaction behind a wheel, could tell a lot about who they really are. Can they empathise? Do they feel superior when driving in the car? Can they remain polite? Can they handle a complex and rapidly changing situation? In my opinion, many people become horrible monsters once they are behind a steering wheel and they don’t see a cyclist is a person, but merely a thing, an obstacle to scare away. At least that how it is in Sydney and I can feel I’m getting closer to it.
Later, I can finally get of the main road and onto an unsealed road, the landscape changes rapidly. It’s getting greener and more rural. I soon reach another BNT campsite, it does not have any facilities and it’s not much better than camping on the side of the road. It’s 4pm and I only have 90 minutes before its dark. I will have to cover 22 kms in order to get to the next campsite – it is supposed to be really nice, so I push on.
The road gets narrower and I recognise the typical Blue Mountains landscape. I’m glad to escape from all the road and city stuff and also start to feel at home. This national park is very familiar to me.
On the fire and trail, I cross a couple of 4wd, which look to be in a hurry to get back home for the end of the weekend. The driver in the second one does not really slow down, despite me taking one third of the road. It’s quite narrow.He seems to panic and yell something at me through the window. Once again I can’t hear and understand what he says. For some reason, many drivers think it’s ok to just shout something quickly at a cyclist. It’s actually very rude, cyclists can’t hear what is being said because the cars are going fast and the engine is loud. Only someone who has self confidence issues needs to yell while driving away, and not take the time to face the cyclist and say loud and clear what he has to say.
I feel sad for horses and pedestrians too.
As the night goes on, I’ve got other demons to fight. At the turn off to the campsite, I realize that it is in fact a 5km detour from the main trail, and that goes downhill. Meaning the next day I would have to ride back up. I refuse to go down a hill unless there is no other option. The campsite might be a nice one, but is too much effort. I check the route notes to find the next one is 12 kms away. It will be dark within the next half hour, but I do it anyway. Now that I’m so close to Sydney, I’m not letting anything slow me down. I get punished for that and spend the last hour riding in the dark. Fortunately, lesson learnt from another late ride, I’ve got decent batteries in my head torch, which makes a huge difference. Although it’s not an easy ride with a lot of uphill, I can see more than enough. It’s safer and actually not that bad. I keep eating candies and chocolate bars to keep my energy up.
Just to add to my uphill rush in the dark, it starts raining. I start to make plans of how I will efficiently set the camp up and not get too wet. Once I arrive at the campsite, in the dark, I am pleasantly surprised. There is a massive stone Hut with many rooms and vestibule. I park my bike under the roof and decide to set up my tent right next to it. I won’t even get wet, a roof is a good thing to have. Looking around with my headtorch, I find a fire pit. Once I take a closer look, I notice it’s still hot. I knew I smelt some fire on the way. It’s Sunday evening and visitors have just left to get back to their busy life in the city. There is even firewood left. I move everything inside the hut and use the fireplace. Soon I have nice fire running, I’m making dinner and I’m warm and feeling good. I love the Blue Mountains and to my surprise it’s not even cold. How different from the snowy mountains!
Today I’ve covered 90 kms, another record for me. That is five days of horse riding on the trail. Now riding a bike makes sense. I swear if I kept riding all night I could be in the Sydney CBD by the next morning. Only 100 kms to go to Lithgow, then I’ll be on the train. I could ride it, but that hilly road is not too exciting on a mountainbike.
I plan to stay at least one week in Manly, North of Sydney on the other side of the Sydney Harbour Bay. I’m staying in my old flat where my friend lives and I can’t wait to go for a swim in the ocean and see my friends. I wish they could greet me here in the mountains, but it’s Monday tomorrow and I know most people are working.
Before going to bed, I realise I’m very low on water. I look at the map and notes to see where is the closest Creek, it takes me a while to remember that there is water right here in the water tank. I saw it, it’s next to me, I’ve forgotten a few things after a few days in the city. The water just needs boiling as there might be a few dead possums in there. Maybe if I’m brave, I’ll even wash my face before sleeping. I’m over the moon and will celebrate by watching a movie or something fun on my phone. No mobile coverage means a quiet night relaxing.