Traveling the Australian Coast by Bike
In November, Pierre invited me to join him for a week-long cycling trip in Australia. Last February, with the Eiffel Tower in his rearview mirror, he crossed the globe with his faithful companion, Sylvain. Ten months later, they landed on the other side of the world in Australia, with matching hippie beards, a guitar, and 14, 000 kilometers under their belts. We decided to meet up in Sydney, where I would cycle with Pierre en route to their final destination, Melbourne. For a week, we followed the coast down south and camped on peaceful, deserted beaches, with only the crashing waves and a few lone seagulls to keep us company. Each day brought plenty of sunshine, breathtaking ocean views, golden sandy beaches, and new friends who warmly welcomed us weary travelers into their homes.
Suffice to say, this was one of those incredible, once-in-a-lifetime experiences that I'll never forget. I fell head over heels in love with this simple, beautiful life of traveling by bike, where you can escape from the real world and just follow the road. Thanks to Pierre for giving me the chance to share your grand adventure, even for just a short while.
Can you guess whose bike is whose?
Here's my journal from the trip and some of my favorite moments from our week.
Like many great adventures, ours began with food. After 24 hours of travel, cooped up in a tiny airplane seat (thank God I have short legs), there was no better meal to be had than a soul satisfying, greasy plate of Pad Thai.
(Photo by Pierre)
We picked up a second hand bike for me and crossed our fingers that it would be good enough for the trip. Thankfully, it was perfect! Of course, being a midget, we had to lower the seat to the shortest setting possible :)
On the first night, we stayed at a backpackers in Coogee Beach. Anticipating our week of camping, I made sure to take full advantage of the beds and showers. The next morning, I had a ball playing with these crazy birds. They absolutely DIE for sugar and bread -- I couldn't stop laughing.
Then it was time to hit the road!
Then it was time to hit the road!
Our journey began in the suburbs of Sydney, which was noisy, chaotic, and congested with traffic. The rain drizzled all day long, and the drivers weren't very welcoming to cyclists (think New York cab drivers). I realized cycling for hours every day would be much harder than I'd imagined, both physically and mentally. But finally, after making it through an intense 40 km long forest of never-ending hills, the canopy of trees separated, and we joyfully found the ocean. Pierre had promised me breezy rides along the coast, surrounded by the ocean, and here it was in all its glory.
For the rest of the trip, we took this dreamy (albeit, very hilly) scenic road. By car or bike, you feel like you're at the edge of the world. There's nothing between you and that endless, expansive deep blue sea, and your heart just stops a little at the magnificent sight. After this road ended, we happily discovered a quiet cycling path along the beach, sheltered by trees and grass, which was perfect for
At Hyams Beach, the water was absolutely freezing, but I forced myself to shut my eyes and dive in to get a sweet taste of those tropical blue waves. A refreshing, icy dip in the ocean was just what we needed to relax after a long day on the road.
Most nights, we pitched our tent on secluded beaches, nestled under a cozy blanket of trees to protect us from the sun and wind. Here Pierre is building a fire to cook our dinner. Our meals were simple, usually pasta or soup, with Anzac biscuits or fruit for dessert. Anzac biscuits are like crack by the way. I quickly discovered that after cycling all day and roasting under the fierce Australian sun, everything tastes amazing.
(Photo by Pierre) But on some lucky nights, we were happily invited into the homes of new friends, who were so generous and quick to offer a place to stay to two complete strangers. The hospitality we encountered on this trip was astonishing, and makes me thankful to know that people all over the world are kindhearted and happy to help. Thanks so much to all of our wonderful hosts and their beautiful families - Jackie and family, Adrien, and Barbara, Megan, Gram, Lucy, and Ella! xx
Pierre charmed all the girls with his guitar and his Frenchiness, of course. Lucy and Ella already have a French admirer waiting for them in Paris; those girls work fast!
One afternoon, we came across Adrien, a spunky elderly gentleman who grew up in the Netherlands, spent years in Bali as a soldier, and then settled in Australia. He was riding his bike to the grocery store, saw our bikes, and invited us to come home with him for the night. And I'll be the first to admit, he bikes faster than I do :) At the ripe old age of 88, he's buzzing with energy and wit, writes stories, and faithfully rides his bike every morning, "to keep his mind and body moving," he told us. Adrien was full of fascinating stories and wisdom to share with us, and we were sad to say goodbye the next day, but we had to keep moving.
Later that evening, we were caught in this incredible sandstorm. One minute, we were watching the menacing clouds grow angrier and angrier in the distance. Then all of a sudden, they swiftly flew right above our heads, but without a single drop of rain. I felt like they were going to pop like a balloon any second and unleash hoards of rain, but they never did. The wind brought along fierce gusts of sand, so we quickly scurried into the tent for shelter (and cookies!).
We spotted cute little Australian surfer boys on the beach,
And these babies! Surprisingly, they weren't afraid of humans at all... In fact, I think he was wondering why I was interrupting their dinner.
We spent our last night camping in a spooky cave on this gorgeous beach, aptly named Cave's Beach, and then parted ways the next afternoon. Somehow, I either missed my bus back to Sydney, or it mysteriously never came. Doesn't that seem to always happen when you travel? Anyhow, crisis averted, I ended up hitching a ride with a jovial grandpa named Anton, who entertained me with hilarious stories about his many students in his 30 year career as a Biology teacher. The next day I was back on a plane to New York, happy, exhausted, and about twenty shades darker, with the tan lines of a farmer (which I unfortunately still have, by the way).
I hope this post inspires you to embark on a cycling trip of your own someday. Trust me, I'm so completely non-athletic and let's face it, fairly lazy, so if I can do it, so can you! Now I'm dreaming of cycling in New Zealand or South America... Where would you go?