My plan for today was to ride up the coast, through the national part and emerge on the edge of Sydney's Southern suburbs at Grays point. I'd then try and negotiate my way to the town centre. If that failed: plan b was to take a more easterly route across the national park to Bundeena, get a ferry to Cronulla and then the train into the city centre. Either way its not far, but navigating to the centre of Sydney was not going to be all that easy.
The bike path north of Wollongong is whole lot better than the southern part. Its clearly marked, in great condition, and winds its way alongside the northern beaches through some stunning scenery.
|North of Wollongong|
Near Austinmer its back on the road, which becomes windy and hilly as you start to climb towards the hills in the photo above. Then there is the superb sea bridge section. The road has been raised on huge concrete pillars next to the massive coastal cliffs, and winds its way alongside the dramatic coastline...complete with a big swell rolling in below and alongside you while you ride. I put my helmet cam on here and took some film footage I'll post later. Just a still for now.
|Sea Cliff Bridge|
I stopped briefly before and after this section to put the helmet cam on/off. Riding round the next corner...was another shock.
Road workers had set up a temporary block. Sirens wailing behind as the police arrived...to what turned out to be a nasty van vs bicycle accident. It sounded bad...I believe the rider was coming the other way...there is the monstrous descent in that case, so he probably was travelling quickly. A passer by told me the van was pulling out of a side street and didn't see the cyclist. I hope he is OK, the airlift helicopter got there very fast so he was at least getting excellent care...but it sounded bad.
The road got closed here as a crime scene...and this was a bit for a problem for the trip, for what its worth. I waited around for a while to see if the road was going to be re-opened but the police were saying it would be about 5 hours and all the traffic was getting turned back. The only alternative route for me would mean about 30 km cycling back towards Wollongong, and then head north along the busy Princess Highway again. I didn't really have the range or inclination for that! Instead, settled on riding back to a train station about 2 km back, waiting an hour for a train, then going forward 1 stop to Coal cliff which would get me just past the accident site, and start riding again from there. This all worked fine but I wasn't riding again till well after lunch, so had a long way to go still.
The climb up to Bald hill from here was awesome...but my mind was more on the poor guy who'd got hit. The remaining traffic on the road had got the picture and were all driving with great care at least.
|Top of Bald Hill|
At this point the road heads into the national park for another beautiful section of road to ride. But 'Bianca' (my bike) had been playing up. Whenever I was coasting, the chain would catch and try to detach itself...and off and on when pedalling, the forward motion of the pedals was not driving the rear wheel. Bearings I think...and not a problem I can fix. The next town was still 30km away which felt like a very long way...I limped along here pedalling, coasting, and occasionally walking...too busy to take many photos of the beautiful park unfortunately!
Finally at Audley, feeling very hungry and tired, I connected with the Bundeena track and emerged in the southern suburbs of Sydney at Grays Point. A relief to be here, but riding down town was now not an option. I got the bike as far as the Gymea train station...and jumped on board to end the trip somewhat unceremoniously as dusk fell.
This last day felt the toughest on the trip...despite a meer 79 km!! The last 30km was a major slog. It felt a bit of a shame not to ride into the centre of the city...I'd built up a mental picture or riding right to the harbour bridge. But in the end took some satisfaction from at least reaching the suburbs.
What a great trip. Such diversity in scenery, such a massive and beautiful country to explore, and on a bike you see it at what I think is the 'right' pace.
I'll sum up the trip soon and add route maps, helmet cam footage etc when I get back to Melbourne. But for now, its time to enjoy Sydney with my wife!