After a restorative night in Terrigal with Ann and Pete, Cédric and I hopped on the bike to head towards Newcastle. We followed the busy coastal road towards The Entrance (yes, that’s a town name) where we spotted enormous pelicans – all competing for some fisherman’s rejects – on the shore. Our morning was mostly spent biking along busy roads and the Pacific Highway – much of it was very loud and had us longing for the back roads in Victoria again. We rewarded ourselves with burgers and fries in Swansea before biking the last stretch to Newcastle. Instead of taking busy roads into the city, we hopped on the Fernleigh path and navigated the streets to the McLeod’s place – parents of our friend Andrew in Germany. Since we had enough remaining daylight, they took us on a whirlwind tour of Newcastle’s sights before having a wonderful homemade dinner.
The next day, Cédric and I were waved off by Pippin as we boarded our next ferry, the Stockton in downtown Newcastle, to cross the Hunter River. Although the coastal region between Newcastle and Nelson Bay looks quite sparse, Cédric and I were again surprised to find the roads busy and multiple ‘over 50’s lifestyle communities’ scattered along the side of Nelson Bay road. As we made our way up to the next ferry, we were again wondering how there could be so much traffic for a road that essentially goes nowhere. When we boarded the ferry in Nelson Bay, the captain told us that the bike and trailer needed to be stored on the roof of the ferry (it was a small vessel), so we had a few entertaining moments of hoisting and lowering at the beginning and end of the trip. As we had feared, the bike did topple over on the journey to Tea Gardens, but luckily nothing was damaged, and the bike didn’t get a swim in the ocean. Our night was spent at a campsite on the shore.
Cedric and I awoke the next day and continued cycling up the coast in the Myall Lakes National Park, stopping every now and then to take pictures of the beaches and lakes. As our host Scott had suggested, we turned off the main road onto a 4×4 trail that continued hugging the coast. Lucky for us (and not the people who had 4×4 vehicles), the road was gated, so we had 20 kms of trails just for ourselves. After our roadside lunch, we continued up the road to a campsite in Tiona.
For our second stop of Tour-de-McLeod, Cédric and I planned to stay with Andrew’s brother Hugh in Taree, so we continued cycling up the coast through Forster and Tuncurry until, unfortunately, there was no other option besides the joining the highway -this time for 9 kms. We had wide enough shoulders, but still didn’t enjoy the traffic and noise. Once we get off at the Taree exit, Cédric and I stopped at McDonald’s to reward ourselves with a “survival coffee” (name written on signs on the roads in Australia to suggest getting a coffee before falling asleep on never ending highways – for us the survival coffee was more about sharing the highway with intense high-speed traffic…) before heading into the city. The rest of the day was spent chatting and walking around Taree with Hugh.
Since Cédric and I were on a time constraint, we work up early the next morning and headed out in the direction of Port Macquarie. To avoid the highway as much as possible, we first headed into the farmland (and passed the Big Oyster – Australia has a thing for large novelty architecture), before rejoining the highway for another few kilometers. As soon as we could, we joined a road that took us to Crowdy Bay National Park. Along the road that goes through the park, we were met with swarms of bloodthirsty mosquitoes every time we took a break to eat and drink. We also stopped to check out a beautiful beach near Diamond Head and were surprised to see multiple kangaroos eating grass right next to the beach. The kangaroos were so preoccupied with eating that they didn’t mind if we approached them to take pictures. We spent the rest of the afternoon cycling the undulating road up the coast to Port Macquarie, where we stayed for the night.