We all sleep in at the campsite. Bill had promised me he would wake me up, but he decided to stay in bed with Sue and not fight the cold too early. It’s minus 3°C and there is frost on my tent.
Bill offers to prepare breakfast and Sue complains he hasn’t prepared enough porridge for me so she doubles the recipe. I get about the right amount, I eat a lot, and I know I’ll be hungry again as soon as I start pedalling.
We discuss a bit more about the trail and it seems one of the farmers is not keen on the Bicentennial National Trail. He wants to stop people coming to his property and bringing weeds. I will have to call him in advance and be very nice on the phone. I dislike calling people and I’m not looking forward to this call. Having decided to reach the highway and get to Armidale or as close as I can to it, I get started. Armidale is 130km away. Seems too far away but who knows, it might be a very easy road. It’s hard to leave the campsite though with such nice company.
On the way out of the bush, a herd of cattle decides to run in the yard and to follow me. I don’t know if they are playful or are worried I might cause harm to their little ones in the next fenced yard. Who knows what they have in mind. Sometimes cows stare at me, often they run away, sometimes they run with me – they are full of surprises.
After 2pm I reach Walcha, a small and uninteresting town. I still have 41km to go to Armidale. I won’t make it before it’s dark but a warm bed, shower and dinner are expected. The kebab shop owner starts to talk to me in French, out of the blue. Trying to make conversation, he goes on talking about how many French people and backpackers live in a town nearby. At this time of the day, I could not care less and I just want my fries to come quicker. It’s hard to stay polite but I have no interest talking to this person. What a contrast with the lovely morning breakfast in the bush with interesting company.
I make my way to Armidale and get in touch with my contact Scott. It’s confirmed, I can stay at his place. I finish the ride in the complete darkness, with trucks passing me, way too close as usual. When I enter Armidale, I can’t see where I’m going. My headtorch is out of battery. But I’m rewarded. Scott and his family are very nice and I get to sleep next to the fire place. The three kids, all boys, are into sport. Scott is fond of mountain biking. They are very curious about my trip and ask many interesting questions. The evening is very pleasant, I’m clean and we have an excellent family dinner all together.
The next day, I’m wondering whether I should leave or stay for another night. Staying is very tempting. Scott managed to get me an appointment at the physio first thing in the morning. I figure it’s a good idea to get checked. Also my foot is not getting better, always a little bit sore after a big day. The cortisone shots haven’t made a big difference. The physio is very focused and determined to help me. He thinks he knows how to treat me. He makes me some custom insoles and recommend I try clip in cycling shoes. I’ve always been against that, considering that it’s impractical for touring and bush bashing. His arguments are convincing though. On top of this it’s the last thing I haven’t tried yet. Through trial and error I will end up finding a solution to issue that has been bothering me for 5 months.
Decision is made, I’m buying some cycling shoes. Scott drives me around town and we get to a cycling shop. Another of his mates works there. Scott knows everyone in Armidale. He loves this city it has everything but is only 5 blocks by 4.
I spend the rest of the day doing errands, groceries, bike gear running and so forth. The dinner is excellent once again and eventually we all go to bed.
The next morning, the couple wakes up early and make me some pancakes. More carbs for the ride. I thank them and head off to Glen Innes, 100km North by the highway. It’s overcast and I feel like I’m traveling in a cloud. It’s not quite raining but I get wet a little. This ride is boring and depressing. Just the highway and cars and trucks, up and down the hills. By the end of the day I’m completely depressed and lose motivation. Fortunately my new shoes are working well and I arrive way before I had expected. But that is not enough to make me happy. I can’t decide whether I want to get back into the bush the next day or ride another day on the highway. Yesterday I started to call the land owners. I just could not believe how many I was suppose to call. It is taking a lot of time and energy. I got hung up on once and that totally put me off. Either I go through without calling and giving notice or I skip that section all together. It seems this is where one farmer is not keen on the BNT.
Skipping a section of the BNT is a big deal for me. It means giving up with the idea of doing the whole trail. Although it is common sense and accepted that cyclists will have to go around some places, I just thought I would toughen up and suck it up. But this cold is really not doing me good. If I had more daylight and it was warmer, I could consider taking some risks and going through challenging sections and river crossing. But I’m not feeling it. Since I left sydney I have just wanted to make it to Queensland, and it’s taking a long time and it’s not getting warmer. Packing in the cold in the dark, rushing through the day, setting up camp in the dark at night. There is little fun in this. I hate winters for the short days.
I need to make a decision about tomorrow. Second guessing for an entire day is draining and depressing. I decide, as often, to follow my instinct and do what I wanted to do this morning. I will skip the next leg and get back on the trail at the next road crossing. I fast track and get closer to Brisbane and avoid having to deal with the reluctant farmer. First, I can meet my girlfriend near Brisbane. Second it will be warmer. Third, if the phone calls are causing me troubles, where is the fun.
In the evening, I pick up a decent caravan park. Another occasion to see my bank account balance going low as my card gets declined. Just need a top up, but a sign that the initial travel budget has almost run out. Fancy equipment, medical bills, and expensive cost of staying in town and cities is using a lot for my budget.
In all that, I forget to relax and have fun. Something has to change.