Wednesday, 15 April 2015

COASTAL ESCAPE CYCLE TOUR - Day 1, Waterfall to Wollongong, NSW

This is the official start of our Coastal Escape Cycling Tour provided by Australian Cycling Holidays. The tour itself was 7 days but not every day was taken up with pedaling and in fact it presented a nice break to do something totally different during the tour and this will be explained in due course as I take you along for the ride day by day.

The sky was overcast and the temperature was slightly on the chilly side as we left our hotel and walked the short distance to Central Station to board an electric train to Waterfall. The journey took no time at all as we passed through suburbia to the southern outskirts of Sydney. Although I found the train relaxing as I travelled through areas I hadn't seen for many years, there was a certain amount of nervous energy building inside of me, almost like a child on Christmas morning, awaiting the fulfilment of riding a new route, something I hadn't done before, something different to see and photograph.

Waterfall, NSW
On arrival at Waterfall, it took us no time at all to locate our cycling hosts and we went about the business of collecting our bikes. Everyone took their bikes for a short trial run, necessary adjustments were made, paperwork completed, a group photograph taken and we were on our way to Wollongong, the first leg of our trip.

Before we left we were handed maps and when I looked at Day 1, I immediately thought this has the makings of an excellent ride, unfortunately I had only ridden about 4 km when I struck trouble with my bike. The long glide down the first hill was good, although the bike wasn't rolling as freely as I would have liked and then as I started to climb and  applying a little pressure on the pedals, the gears wouldn't hold. This was not good as I still had quite a climb in front of me. In hindsight, I should have rang for help then and there but I didn't, electing to carry on. Others in the group were having various problems as well but they appeared to be manageable.

Royal National Park, NSW
This photograph was taken from Otford Lookout
Stanwell Park, NSW. Photograph courtesy of Wiki Commons - Author Klaus Dieter Liss.
It was very pleasant riding through the Royal National Park and following the meandering Hacking River all of the way to Stanwell Park, approximately 20 km .

Sea-Cliff Bridge
We had set our sights on making Scarborough for lunch as we had been told that there was a very popular hotel overlooking the sea that had an excellent reputation of serving great lunches. But before we got there, we had to ride along the Sea-Cliff bridge, a couple of kilometers north of Scarborough. The structure is an engineering feat in itself , however, riding a bike in this situation is just so much better than travelling in a car as it affords you the time to actually enjoy the never ending panorama of cliffs disappearing into the azure colored ocean. I should imagine that in the right season the whale watching right along this coast would be absolutely awesome.

Scarborough Hotel, NSW
If you happen to be a tourist driving or like ourselves, cycling along the Lawrence Hargreaves Drive, you would do yourself a favor by stopping and having a fish meal in this hotel. The fish fillets that I had were fresh and so delicious that my mouth still waters just thinking about it and the view didn't hurt either.

It's no wonder that this stretch of coastline has the reputation of being one of the most spectacular drives in the world. It's certainly no exaggeration, the coastal views are simply breathtaking.

Austinmer, NSW - Courtesy of Wiki Media Commons - Author: Klaus-Dieter Liss
After lunch, we continued on Lawrence Hargrave Drive until we reached the junction of Mountain Road, on the southern side of Austinmer. After making our way down to the beach, we rode south until we reached the Illawarra Coastal Cycle Path, which we stayed on until we reached our accommodation at North Wollongong.

Novotel Wollongong, North Beach, NSW
After booking into the Novotel, I rang Emma from Australian Cycling and informed her of the problems I had with the bike. She arranged for their mechanic to take a look at the bike that night at the hotel. I was later told that the bike was now OK to ride.

At this point, I have to commend Australian Cycling Holidays on the quality of their maps and Trip Notes. They are without doubt, the best I have had, easy to follow and full of useful information e.g. recommended restaurants, cafes, toilets etc.


Cheers and safe riding,

Jimmy Bee


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