Day 15 – St Marys to the Bay of Fires (68 km/42 miles cycling)
Wahey! I completed the ‘Great Eastern Drive’, finishing at The Gardens – the end of the road on the Bay of Fires.
My day commenced with an exhilarating ride down St Marys Pass. Loved it. Then I tackled – in my opinion – the worst stretch of road of my tour. There was no other reason for the leg between the junction to St Marys Pass and the town of St Helens being so bad other than the amount of traffic I encountered – including lorries (oh, sorry, trucks. They call them trucks in Oz) – and there being nowhere to pull over to. At one point I was forced into the gravel by a lorry, which made me very unsteady.
A celebration was called for in St Helens, as I had pretty much finished my east coast journey, so I bought a burger, chips and a local beer. I’d earned it I reckon.
A French cyclist whom I’d met at Freycinet happened to be in St Helens, and he recommended I camp for free at Swimcart Beach along the Bay of Fires.
I had three fairly steep hills to get over first before I arrived at the beach to pitch up. I was the only one in the ‘pedestrian/cyclist only’ camp area which made me a little concerned after last nights “warnings” (which were now unfortunately in my mind), so I took it upon myself to speak to the couple in the nearest motorhome. They turned out to be a friendly Aussie couple who, after I cycled up to The Gardens (the northernmost point of the Bay of Fires) and back, welcomed me to join them and a Californian couple around a campfire with wine, snacks and a glorious sunset to enjoy. I slept soundly after a few glasses of red wine, good food and cracking company.
Day 16 – Bay of Fires to Pyengana (40 km/25 miles cycling)
My great Aussie camping neighbours filled my water bottles for me in the morning and also took my rubbish away with them. The kindness.
Continuing my cycle tour I visited Binalong Bay at the southernmost point of the Bay of Fires, then went back to St Helens and the main road, where I deliberated what to do next. I weighed up my options. I could either spend money on a pitch at a tourist park in St Helens or push on west/inland to Pyengana where I knew there was a good free camp at the recreation ground (thanks to Wikicamps – an App consisting of all the facilities and campsites in Australia as well as reviews), and a cheese factory.
Well, as soon as I mentioned a cheese factory in a message to my boyfriend he knew I’d opt for continuing on and staying in Pyengana. He was dead right. I rode the undulating scenic road west, making a short detour to Halls Falls where I did the ‘weir, rockpools and falls’ circuit walk. Obviously not many people complete the full circuit as I was disturbing all the cobwebs on the way round.
A free tasting was offered in the cheese factory cafe. It didn’t take me long to latch on to this. The wattleseed flavoured “real” ice-cream was my dessert. Mmmmm.
Pyengana recreation ground lived up to the hype on the internet. It was amazing. Spotless toilets with soap, plugs and toilet rolls (all luxuries at free camps!), hot showers for $2 (4 minutes), drinking water, plug points, ample space and friendly people. All this for no cost. Plus it is located next to the cheese factory, over the road from a pub (more about the pub at a later date), and near beautiful waterfalls and rainforests. The only slight downfall, or perhaps a blessing – depending on your stance and how much you need to use it – is there is no phone or internet signal in the valley.
I became friends with one of the locals who volunteers at the recreation ground in Pyengana and we did some exploring around the local area together. More on that in part 6.