June 16-19: Wheelin' and Dealin'

Sorry for the blog neglect! Not being on my bike every day has thrown me out of the rhythm, I guess.
The 16th was the kind of day that just made me want to come home. I had a lot of unexpected crap to deal with and it's so much harder to do so being on the move in a foreign country.

I woke up at 3am to share a cab to the airport with Will for our flights, his at 6 and mine 7:45. Ironically, the cab cost half of what my plane ticket did. I got there, dismantled and packed my bike into the provided bike box, which was probably too small for most bikes. After packing, sealing, weighing (over the limit), opening, repacking, and resealing my bike in its box, I was finally allowed on board.
The flight was hardly long enough for anyone to finish a newspaper. I slept though most of it, but saw a scenic Sydney from above while coming in. Not as adventurous, but it is funny to think that a 90 minute, $150 plane ride covered the entire distance into which I'd just put two weeks and endless effort. When I landed, I took 45 minutes making a scene and reassembling my bike outside the baggage claim area. I noticed that the wires had been ripped out of my bike computer's mount. Perhaps fixable, but not without a precise soldering job. I got everything put together and took one pedal outside... And my chain broke. I think one of the links had been crushed in transit.

Now it's raining, of course, and I'm walking my bike two miles to the nearest bike shop through the lovely airport neighborhood. They were 2/3 nice people and allowed me to use their stand while I made a temporary repair (removing the broken link and reconnecting the chain). Pretty fed up with Sydney at this point, I decided I'd take a train up to Newcastle. However, the trains from the airport were closed for no apparent reason, so I biked across town to Central Station and got the train at 4:45 (just missed 4:15), getting in to Newcastle around 6.

I found a hostel there and went out to dinner with three awesome guys from Melbourne, then just took it easy in the room and went to sleep early. Newcastle was very busy with young folks sweating and yelling their ways through different clubs, which I didn't feel much like dealing with.

I woke up and went to the beach to wander around for a few hours before heading off. I took a ferry across to a suburban town called Stockton and rode up into a peninsula known as the Salamander Bay / Stephens Point area. My usual afternoon campsite search wasn't as fruitful as usual - unpowered campsites were going for $30 in the area, near the top end of what I normally would pay for a hostel - so I looked for hostels instead. I found one in Anna Bay on the South end of the peninsula and discovered that they even had campsites for $20.

I arrived at 6 pm and was instantly impressed. The Melaleuca Hostel, as it was called, turned out to double as a wildlife sanctuary. The complex looks like a fort in a rainforest, with separate cabins, dorm room, common area, and facilities all interconnected with paths and wooden bridges. A kangaroo named Josephine lives on site, having been rescued as a baby, and is friendly. I was warned not to use flash photography if I encountered any koalas, opossums, owls, sugar gliders, or other nocturnal critters. I didn't see any but I was upgraded to a dorm bed so that I wouldn't have to set up my tent - a really kind gesture.

The next morning (the 18th) I woke up and realized just how awesome the place was, having arrived in the dark. After taking a walk and run on the peninsula's famous One Mile Beach, I decided I was finally (mentally and emotionally) overcoming my stressful day in Sydney and had no reason to hurry out if I was feeling really happy there. I also noticed a whole fleet of semi-neglected cruiser bikes under a tent and formed a crafty proposition. I offered the owners a few hours of my bike handiwork in exchange for another night's stay for free. They accepted immediately - the bikes had been on their to-do list for awhile but I'm sure it's a giant pain to get them all to a shop, in addition to costing more than it should. I fixed 10 bikes in about two hours, then spent the next three hanging out with the owners while they tossed me beers nearly faster than I could put them down. NEARLY. I rode my bike to another beach on the peninsula about 3 miles away to try to catch the sunset, at which point my chain broke again. Having already removed several links, it was time to give in and get a new one.

Hostel grounds

Hostel grounds

One Mile Beach

Bike Fleet - Fixed! The fruits of my labor.

The next day (19th) started off with a wild goose chase for a bike chain. One of the owners, Pete, was kind enough to drive me around in the hostel's giant van. We tried the island's only dedicated bike shop (closed for family reasons), a bike-surf-skate shop (only single speed chains), a K-mart that used to have chains (vastly reduced bike stock since then), and even a bike rental (closed mon-weds). I decided I was destined to stay at the melaleuca another day, so I laughed it all off and returned. I did learn one thing - the Aussies say "Murphy's law" for this kind of thing, e.g. everything bad that could happen will happen to you.

I made the most out of the rest of my day, taking a bus to the northeast corner and hiking a big hill for some of the most amazing views I've seen in the country. Two different bays, backed up against each other on opposing sides of a spit, were clearly visible with bright blue water and white sand beaches. Little islands dotted the water further out. Most definitely a day trip well worth it (and even worth the unsuccessful chain hunt). Night was good, too - I finished fixing up one more bike to secure another night's stay and then hung out with a travel group of some sort. There were around 15 of them from all over the world and most near my age. It was great to finally be "that guy who's been in the hostel for three days already" and I had fun scaring the newcomers with stories of huntsmen spiders and other nasties native to Australia.

I'll update you on a couple more days' worth of adventures as soon as I get a chance! If I find reliable internet, I'll try to add more photos for this one, too - there are lots.

1 comment:

  1. I'm so impressed that you are paying your way by fixing bikes! True Illini engineer.
    The kangaroo hostel sounds awesome - could you pet the kangaroo?
    Fingers crossed for your bike chain holding out!