There don’t seem to be shades of responses to touring by bicycle. At one end people will tell me I must be mad, or they’ll ask why, as in “why don’t you go by car?”, and at the other end is the wistful wish that he or she could do the same. At times, I admit, I ask myself why, and I like to assure the wistful wishers that with a bit of training they, too, can ride from one place to another.
Last week three mates and I rode from one place to another in northern NSW, and once again I had the sense that travelling by bike is an elemental experience, one that somehow immerses the rider in the environment. As the occupant of a car, for example, hills are meaningless, but as a cyclist hills have a special meaning! We crossed some particularly meaningful hills between Lismore and Murwillumbah and between Byron Bay and Alstonville, and the climb on dirt roads over the range of Mount Jerusalem National Park from Uki to Mullumbimby is etched in our memory banks.
We started in Grafton, a city given character by the architecture of many of its houses, pubs and public buildings, and by the fact that I was born there. The first night was spent at Maclean, the Scottish town on the banks of the Clarence River, and day two to Lismore took us through a network of bush tracks and forest roads and Coraki, which has few reminders that it was once a bustling river port. Lismore has a remarkable strip retail district, hundreds of shops stretching along a network of inner streets, and most of the shops appear to be individually owned rather than franchised or part of a chain.
Day three was to Murwillumbah via the colourful Nimbin and many hills, and thankfully we skirted around Mount Warning. Day four we retraced our steps to Uki then turned left to cross Mount Jerusalem National Park, an especially meaningful climb on rough dirt roads, and the country around Main Arm as we left the park is the lushest I’ve seen anywhere in Australia.
Mullumbimby, or Mullum to the locals, is slightly alternative and interesting, and in an old sandstone bank building occupied by Santos Wholefoods we had a quinoa salad we voted the best salad any of us had had. A raw-food lime pie at the same place was extraordinarily good. That night and the next we spent at Byron Bay, which has its attractions despite the hype. The lingering schoolies were friendly, happy and sober, although we didn’t see them at midnight!
On Wednesday we set off following whereis南京夜网 instructions to Coraki, and soon we found we were riding along farmland tractor tracks that, we assumed, had once been public paths. Coraki, once a busy river port with seven big wharves and seven pubs, now has one pub, no wharf, and a former pub, the Club Hotel, in which we stayed. The owner of the former pub has been working for six years to restore it to its former glory and reopen it as a pub, and it seems to be an especially ambitious undertaking.
Heavy rain overnight and into the Thursday made the bush tracks we’d planned to ride for much of the 110 kilometres to Grafton unrideable, and so we hired a van to take us and our bikes to Grafton, loaded up my wife’s LandCruiser and headed home. The trip home reminded us that passengers in a car miss so much!
What adventure would you plan if you could, and why don’t you?