Beach Bum

Day 69 – 71: Jun. 26 – Jun. 28 – Ballina to Byron Bay

Daily Distance = 35.79km, Trip Total = 2,173.93km, Today’s Climb = 269m

I did not have much ground to cover today at all, so I enjoyed a very lazy morning and didn’t leave my accommodations until close to checkout time (10am).  I followed the river east through Ballina where it met the ocean and then headed north along The Coast Road.

Where the river starts to meet the ocean in Ballina

Where the river starts to meet the ocean in Ballina

View from the Coast Road just north of Ballina

View from the Coast Road just north of Ballina

 

After going up and down a few hills I saw one of the most dreaded signs a cyclist can see:

Detour?!?! Boooooo!

Detour?!?! Boooooo!

 

The detour took me a couple km’s back west before looping back to the Coast Road further north.  In those couple of km’s it managed to double my climbing for the day – I’m happy this occurred on a light day both in terms of mileage and climbing!  After getting through the detour it was a pretty quick and easy ride the rest of the way into Byron Bay.

Rolling green hills on the detour route

Rolling green hills on the detour route

Post detour, back to the originally planned route

Post detour, back to the originally planned route

 

I arrived at my hostel pretty early, but was able to check in after receiving a very enthusiastic greeting from reception and going through the normal chit chat about the trip.

Simon and Rachel

Most enthusiastic reception on the trip so far!  I was just taking a picture of the wifi password so I wouldn’t forget it, but they insisted on jumping in :)

 

The afternoon and next two days are spent lapping up the beach.  I had full intentions of walking the 4km’s to the Byron Lighthouse and the ‘most easterly point of Australia’, but after walking down to the beach I decided I’d just take a picture of it from 4km’s away and setup shop at the beach instead :)

Relaxing in the hammock at the hostel

Relaxing in the hammock at the hostel

View from the room of the hostel

View from the room of the hostel

Byron Bay

Beach at Byron Bay

That land is the most easterly point in Australia!

That land is the most easterly point in Australia!

There are a lot of surf lessons in Byron Bay

Enjoying the water view

Sunset in Byron Bay draws a crowd

Sunset in Byron Bay draws a crowd

Sunset

Sunset

Swooping Magpie

Day 68: Jun. 25 – MacLean to Ballina

Daily Distance = 86.37km, Trip Total = 2,138.14km, Today’s Climb = 160m

I made another early start today as I had some ground to cover – fortunately relatively flat today!  I headed East briefly to meet up with the Pacific Highway going North and cross a bridge over the Clarence river.  At first I was a bit skeptical as to whether the bridge had a pedestrian path as there was nothing but overgrown grass leading up to the path, but after a few metres of pushing my bike through the grass I was happy to see a sidewalk appear.

The 'path' leading to the pedestrian path across the Clarence River on the Pacific Highway

The ‘path’ leading to the pedestrian path across the Clarence River on the Pacific Highway

Clarence River from the Pacific Highway

Clarence River from the Pacific Highway

 

As promised, today was a relatively flat ride with some small rolling hills.  The first stretch of the ride crossed Harwood and Chatsworth Islands and then the highway made its way through Bundjalung National Park.  It looks like this entire stretch of the highway up to Ballina is also under construction to be expanded.  The shoulder was limited in some stretches, but for the most part was relatively good.

Going through Bundjalub National Park

Going through Bundjalung National Park

A nice rest stop in Woodburn

A nice rest stop in Woodburn

Sugar mill in Broadwater

Sugar is king here – sugar mill in a small town called Broadwater

 

After about 70km, just before the town of Wardell I made a right hand turn off the highway on to River street.  And this is when I had my first Australian wildlife encounter.  I was passing by a couple little houses when I heard a constant whoosh whoosh behind me followed by a quick clack, almost like the sound of an electric lighter starting.  At first I didn’t think much of it as I assumed it was something from one of the nearby houses.  And then it happened again and it sounded like it was the exact same distance from me as before.  This would rule out any activity from a local house as I was now further down the road – not a lot further, but enough that the sound wouldn’t be at the same distance.  After it happened a third time I slowed down and took a look behind me.  There on a telephone wire was a magpie starring at me with his wings ruffled out.  It is too early for magpie swooping season, but I am positive this magpie was doing just that – swooping me!  I turned around and booted it out of there as quick as I could, fortunately with no further interaction.

A nice quiet road once you get past the swooping Magpie

A nice quiet road once you get past the swooping Magpie

The houses are definitely starting to take on a more tropical feel as I head north

The houses are taking on a more tropical feel as I head north

 

Giant shrimp in Ballina

Giant shrimp in Ballina

A Delayed 2K

Day 67: Jun. 24 – Grafton to MacLean

Daily Distance = 48.14km, Trip Total = 2,051.77km, Today’s Climb = 91m

So I missed it yesterday, but I’ve officially broken the 2,000km mark on this trip! :)

After a quick chat with one of the employees at the campground, I headed out knowing that I would have a pretty flat and short ride ahead of me today.

I headed across the bridge in Grafton, following the signs for pedestrians and cyclists which actually is a path that runs underneath the road and beside the train tracks.

The bridge in Grafton.  Road above and train tracks to the right

The bridge in Grafton. Road above and train tracks to the right

Grafitti art on the bottom of the bridge in Grafton

Grafitti art on the bottom of the bridge in Grafton

Roundabout in Grafton

Roundabout in Grafton

 

On the other side of Grafton I headed along Lawrence Road through quiet flat farmlands and sugarcane fields.

Sugarcane fields

Sugarcane fields

A closer look at the sugarcane

A closer look at the sugarcane

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In the town of Lawrence I stopped for a sandwich at a park on the side of the road.

The infamous Magpie bird

The infamous Magpie

These birds can also be found everywhere in Australia.  They are called an Australian White Ibis

These birds can also be found everywhere in Australia. They are called an Australian White Ibis

 

When I finished my break and was just heading back on to the road I saw two other tour cyclists roll along in my direction!  The first tour cyclists I’ve seen in Australia that are going my way!  Although I have heard from locals about others who are only a day or so away from me, these are the first folks I’ve actually met while on the road in Australia.  We chatted on the side of the road for a while and then road the 15km’s into MacLean where we chatted as we rode.  And then chatted some more when we got to MacLean and parted ways.  Ina and Mirko are from Germany and are over 2 years into a 4 year ’round the world’ bike tour.  It’s always great to bump into fellow tourers and hear about their travels and adventures.  I was super impressed about the amount of ground that Ina and Mirko have covered (specifically central and South America), that they are still camping the majority of the time, that they are still choosing the hillier route (they came up from Sydney through the mountains instead of the flatter coastal area) and they are travelling without data on their phones!  I would be lost without google maps – especially in cities or larger towns.

Fellow tourers Ina and Mirko :)

Fellow tourers Ina and Mirko :)

On the ferry just past Lawrence, crossing the Clarence river

On the ferry just past Lawrence, crossing the Clarence river

 

MacLean is Australia’s ‘Scottish town’, many of the telephone poles in MacLean are painted with tartan patterns and they hold the Highland games here.

Tartan's painted on the telephone polls

Tartan’s painted on the telephone polls

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Over the Hills

Day 66: Jun. 23 – Coffs Harbour to Grafton

Daily Distance = 84.72km, Trip Total = 2,003.63km, Today’s Climb = 826m

I had an early start today because I had some ground and hills to cover.

Downtown Coffs Harbour with the hills in the background that I would be climbing today

Downtown Coffs Harbour with the hills in the background that I would be climbing today

 

The biggest climb was tackled in the first 10km.  After that it was constantly going up and down rolling hills on an increasingly quite country road for about 75km.

Farmland through the hills

Farmland through the hills

Near the top of the biggest climb in the first 10km

Near the top of the biggest climb in the first 10km

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This part of the road would have a healthy shoulder if not for the amount of branches, twigs and leaves!

This part of the road would have a healthy shoulder if not for the amount of branches, twigs and leaves!

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A decent climb today

A decent climb today

Scenic and hilly

Scenic and rolling hills

At first this sign alarmed me

At first this sign alarmed me – was I going to fall through the bridge?

But it wasn't a concern at all - the bridge was better than some of the gravel roads I've been on!

But it wasn’t a concern at all.  The bridge was better than some of the gravel roads I’ve been on!  That’s the bridge where the rails are on the side of the road

A 10 metre flood indicator?!?!?!    And I thought 2 metre's was high!

A 10 metre flood indicator?!?!?! And I thought 2 metre’s was high!

Hill after hill after hill

Hill after hill after hill

 

Apparently today I passed by an estate of Russell Crowe’s near the town of Nana Glen, but I can’t say I was able to point it out from the road.

Today has been the most climbing that I’ve done in Australia and my legs were feeling it by the time I rolled into Grafton.  So I decided to make it a quiet night in and did some laundry.

Tropical Breeze

Day 64 and 65: Jun. 21 and Jun. 22 – Nambucca Heads to Coffs Harbour

Daily Distance = 54.04km, Trip Total = 1,918.91km, Today’s Climb = 385m

The first half of today’s ride was along the old pacific highway which for the most part ran beside the new highway.

The new highway is to the left and the old highway is on the right

The new highway is to the left and the old highway is on the right

 

The old highway varied from multiple lanes with a wide shoulder, divided highway and in some cases minimal shoulder.  But there was so little traffic on it, it was a peaceful ride the entire way.

I wasn't sure what kind of plants/trees these were...

I wasn’t sure what kind of plants/trees these were…

Varying degrees of shoulder on the old highway, but one constant: minimal traffic :)

Varying degrees of shoulder on the old highway, but one constant: minimal traffic :)

Overlooking Urunga (the old highway passes through this town, the new highway bypasses it)

Overlooking Urunga (the old highway passes through this town, the new highway bypasses it)

Another view from the outskirts of Urunga

Another view from the outskirts of Urunga

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About halfway into the ride the old highway reconnected with the new highway where I had a nice wide shoulder and heavily signed bike lane for about 10km.  At Lyons Road there were signs indicating that all bicycles had to exit the highway.  I’m not sure how long bicycles aren’t permitted on the highway at this point, but from Lyons Road I could take an alternative route into Coffs Harbour.

A bike path heading into Coffs Harbour

A bike path heading into Coffs Harbour

 

The last few km’s while riding on the path into Coffs Harbour I felt my very first warm breeze of the trip and just a small hint of humidity!  I think I’m getting to the edges of the tropic area!! :)

The following day was a rest, catch up and sightseeing day in Coffs Harbour where I checked out the Muttonbird Island and spent some time on the beach chatting with a Moroccan who has been in Australia for a couple of years.

So much sandy beach!

So much sandy beach!

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Heading up Muttonbird Island

Heading up Muttonbird Island

Looking at the Yacht club from Muttonbird Island

Looking at the Yacht club, Coffs Harbour and surrounding mountains from Muttonbird Island

A panoramic view of Coffs Harbour

A panoramic view of Coffs Harbour

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No whale sightings today

No whale sightings today

Rain Free

Day 63: Jun. 20 – South West Rocks to Nambucca Heads

Daily Distance = 62.90km, Trip Total = 1,864.87km, Today’s Climb = 265m

Guess what?  The forecast indicates there is only a light chance of rain today!  Yaaaay!

The first 10km’s of today’s ride ran along the opposite side of the Macleay River that I followed into South West Rocks yesterday.

Macleay River from the West side

Macleay River from the West side – opposite side of yesterday’s view

 

There was a healthy headwind for this stretch, but I knew it would be short-lived as my direction would be changing throughout the day.  After 15km’s I made the turn that would take me NW and then eventually NE back to the ocean.  Today’s wind was coming out of the SW and I noticed an immediate ease as soon as I made the turn at the 15km mark.  I could peddle with less intensity and my speed immediately went up as soon as I made the turn.  I luv tailwinds! :)

You can't tell in the picture, but I now have a tailwind :)

You can’t tell in the picture, but I now have a tailwind :)

 

After about 25km’s I found myself back on the A1 highway.  All of my scouting reports indicated that this stretch of the highway did not have a great shoulder for cyclists.  Unfortunately it seems to be the only real route through this area.  So I was pleasantly surprised when I got on the highway and saw this:

A massive shoulder for cyclists and another Brisbane km countdown!

A massive shoulder for cyclists and another Brisbane km countdown!

 

Unfortunately it didn’t last.  I was able to enjoy about 10km with a great shoulder on the road.  But then I started seeing signs for construction, the road turned into a single lane of traffic in each direction and the shoulder became non-existent in some places.  They are currently in the process of expanding this highway with construction expected to be completed in 2017.

Construction to expand the highway

Construction to expand the highway

 

Because of the ongoing construction, the speed along this stretch was dropped anywhere from 60 to 80 km/hr and traffic seemed to be adhering to it, so that was working in my favour I think.  Everybody was slowing down and most vehicles were moving over as much as they could.  I was still pretty happy when a few km’s north of Macksville I found a path on the side of the road and could ride on it instead of the highway.

Crossing the bridge in Macksville

Crossing the bridge in Macksville

 

The path north of Macksville carried through all the way to Nambucca Heads where I road along a boardwalk to my destination at a trailer park on a lagoon.

Boardwalk in Nambucca Heads

Boardwalk in Nambucca Heads

 

Shortly before sunset I headed out for a walk around the park and along the breakwall between the lagoon and ocean.

View of the ocean from Nambucca Heads

View of the ocean from Nambucca Heads

Watching the fishermen.  The speckles are the spray from the waves crashing against the break wall

Watching the fishermen. The speckles are the spray from the waves crashing against the break wall

Sunset in Nambucca Heads

Sunset in Nambucca Heads

Lagoon to the left, ocean to the right

Lagoon to the left, ocean to the right

This area has tidal influence and protected by much of the break wall

This area has tidal influence and protected by much of the break wall – I also liked the rays of sun coming out from behind the clouds

Palm tree with the setting sun in the background

Palm tree with the setting sun in the background

 

And guess what?  It didn’t rain today!!! :)

Hidden Gems

Day 62: Jun. 19 – Port Macquarie to South West Rocks

Daily Distance = 83.65km, Trip Total = 1,801.97km, Today’s Climb = 108m

With a day off I was feeling rested and refreshed.  I was on the road shortly after sunrise and made my way over to the ferry across the Hastings River.

A short ferry ride across the Hastings River

A short ferry ride across the Hastings River – the ferry was attached to a pully system

On the ferry

On the ferry

 

The other side of the ferry was really quiet.  The first town I would come to would be about 35km’s away, called Crescent Head.  But before that, I had about 30km’s of gravel road to conquer.

Farm land with mountains in the horizon

Farm land with mountains in the horizon

Starring contest with a cow :)

Starring contest with a cow :)

At first the gravel road just started out with pot holes, given there was no traffic these were easy to dodge

At first the gravel road just started out with pot holes, given there was no traffic these were easy to dodge

But about 15km's in it turned into a more sluggish mud

But about 15km’s in it turned into a more sluggish mud

Have I mentioned there has been a lot of rain lately?

Have I mentioned there has been a lot of rain lately?

But I made it through the other side and gave a fist pump and cheer when I saw pavement again!

But I made it through the other side and gave a fist pump and cheer when I saw pavement again!

Signs of a town again!

Signs of a town again

 

I actually ended up bypassing Crescent Head and continuing my way north.  Several km’s later I met up with the Belmore River which feeds into Macleay River which then feeds into the ocean.  The rest of my ride today would be following quiet, flat roads on the east side of the rivers until I got to the ocean (it is an easy navigation day!).

Following Belmore River

Following Belmore River

And now Macleay River

And now Macleay River

The Macleay river is getting wider - indication I'm getting close to the ocean?

The Macleay river is getting wider – indication I’m getting close to the ocean?

 

I went through some light on and off rain for the last half of today’s ride.  As luck would have it, I reached my destination and within 5min it started pouring rain.  It rained the whole time I got settled in to my accommodations and cleared up just when I was ready to go check out the town – super lucky timing! :)

The main street of South West Rocks

The main street of South West Rocks

 

South West Rocks is actually a little out of the way (I’ll have to backtrack about 10km’s tomorrow), but it came highly recommended from a previous Airbnb host, so I decided to make it a stop along the way.  I’m happy I did.  I’m even more happy the rain cleared for me so I could enjoy it!  This is a tucked away little town that is off the beaten path.  I spent a couple hours hanging out by the waters edge watching the waves come in, the surfers play and the sun go down.

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The waves in this area were quite wild to watch

The waves in this area were quite wild to watch

Because of how the rocks jutted out, there was an area the waves would actually reach each other at a 90 degree angle

Because of how the rocks jutted out, there was an area the waves would actually reach each other at a 90 degree angle

A signal outpost

A pilot station

Some info on how a signal outpost was used - this is one of just a couple that remain so intact

Some info on how a pilot station was used – this is one of just a couple that remain so intact

This would be a pretty cool campground - right on the coast!

This would be a pretty cool campground to stay at – right on the coast!

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Watching the sunset in South West Rocks

Watching the sunset (and surfers) in South West Rocks

A Dirty Bike

Day 60 and 61: Jun. 17 and Jun. 18 – Moorland to Port Macquarie

Daily Distance = 62.52km, Trip Total = 1,718.32km, Today’s Climb = 327m

 

I had another choice on my route today: 1) take the highway which would be 10km’s shorter and my host last night indicated had a good shoulder all the way to Port Macquarie  2) take smaller roads but about 25km would be on gravel which my host said could be quite rough if it hasn’t been graded for a while.  My host actually offered to take me for a drive last night to show me the road options I had so I could make a more informed decision, however I declined her kind offer and decided to keep it a surprise!

When I got on the bike I decided I would opt for the quieter roads.  And indeed they were bumpy!  There were a couple times going down small hills that I had to brake the whole way down so I wouldn’t go over my handlebars on a pothole.  However I’m pretty sure this was the more scenic option, so I’m standing behind the decision. :)

A canal on Coralville Road

A canal on Coralville Road

 

Bumpy roads

Bumpy roads – this was still Coralville Road.  The road actually got a bit better in the Crowdy Bay National Park

Crowdy Bay National Park

Crowdy Bay National Park

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About 20km’s in it started raining.  Even though I only cycled about 5km’s on the gravel in the rain it still created one heck of a mess of my bike and gear.  I was particularly concerned about my chain which for a bit started sounding far too much like a wooden roller coaster.

I was pretty happy to get to the entrance of the park and find myself back on a sealed road

I was pretty happy to get to the entrance of the park and find myself back on a sealed road

Gravel + Rain = the above

Gravel + Rain = the above

 

Shortly after getting back onto a paved road I found myself in a town called Laurieton where I pulled over in a park for a bit to let some of the rain pass.  I used this opportunity to oil and clean my chain a bit which is sounding much healthier again.

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North Brother of the Three Mountains is located by Laurieton

North Brother of the Three Mountains is located by Laurieton

 

After the rain eased up a bit, I continued my journey north on Ocean Dr to Port Macquarie.  Although ocean drive does run close to the ocean you only catch glimpses of the ocean as it’s usually blocked by trees or a slide grade in the terrain.

A rare glimpse of the ocean heading up to Port Macquarie

A rare glimpse of the ocean heading up to Port Macquarie

An example of the small towns you pass along the way.  There was one area in development that looks like it is going to be a fairly large resort community

An example of the small towns I passed along the way. There was one area in development that looks like it is going to be a fairly large resort community

No Koala sightings from the road yet....

No Koala sightings from the road yet….

 

Due to the weather I headed straight to my destination when I got to Port Macquarie which was on the western edges of town.  After getting cleaned up I headed to the grocery store to re-stock and then quickly fell asleep.

The following day was on and off rain all day.  So I made it a lazy one and stayed inside making it a rest, relax, catch up and research day :)

Canal in Port Macquarie

Canal in Port Macquarie

Back to the Highway

Day 59: Jun. 16 – Forster to Moorland

Daily Distance = 57.34km, Trip Total = 1,655.80km, Today’s Climb = 333m

I headed out of Forster and Tuncurry today, continuing north along the Lakes Way for just over 20km.  This stretch of the road was faaaaaaar busier than yesterday when I had entered Forster from the south.  Traffic thinned out a bit after the first 12km when there was a turnoff for traffic heading to south to Newcastle and Sydney.  But I was still pretty happy to get to the A1 highway as I had heard it has a pretty good shoulder on it.

The bridge connecting Forster and Tuncurry

The bridge connecting Forster and Tuncurry

Some of the road names are funny

Some of the road names are funny

The most colour in the trees I have seen for a while

The most colour in the trees I have seen for a while

Along The Lakes Way road (not as many lakes along the way today)

Along The Lakes Way road (not as many lakes along the way today)

After the last 20km, I was actually happy to see the highway!

After the last 20km, I was actually happy to see the highway!

 

This was my first time on the A1 highway (which runs along the perimeter of Australia) on my bike since Bairnsdale.  And I am happy to report that it does in fact have a very healthy shoulder, so I was able to ease the grip on my handlebars and enjoy the remainder of the ride.

Should we start the km countdown to Brisbane? :)

Should we start the km countdown to Brisbane? :)

At the top of today's climb

At the top of today’s climb

Manning River - which is a bit unique in that it has two entrances to the ocean. One near the town Old Bar and another near the town Harrington

Manning River – which is a bit unique in that it has two entrances to the ocean. One near the town Old Bar and another near the town Harrington

Part of the 'three brothers' mountains. These are the middle brother and south brother

Part of the ‘three brothers’ mountains. These are the middle brother and south brother

My b&b destination just off the highway

My b&b destination just off the highway

 

And a Dash pic courtesy of her sitters – it looks like she has a new guardian! :)

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Into the Brush

Day 58: Jun. 15 – Tea Gardens to Forster

Daily Distance = 86.14km, Trip Total = 1,598.46km, Today’s Climb = 362m

So today was the ride that I was a bit nervous about and had been asking all the cyclists about along my way.  I would be going through an offroad track for about 20km along a dirt/gravel road through Myall Lakes National Park.  The national park website has a reference saying that flooding can occur in the park and some online reviews that I read indicated that this would not be a good route to take after a heavy rain.  It has been raining quite a bit lately.  However all the cyclists I’ve met and spoken to have assured me that the trail would be passable, that it is a pleasant ride and far, far better than the alternative (which adds a lot of km’s to an already high km day and is very hilly).

So into the brush I would go!

Heading into Myall Lakes National Park

Heading into Myall Lakes National Park

 

It was about a 30km ride on a very quiet sealed road to get to the offroad track.  Sometimes covered in trees, sometimes going through brush and for one stretch riding alongside some sand dunes.

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Sand dunes to the right

Sand dunes in the distance

White Tree Bay

White Tree Bay

 

I must also give credit to the couple that I had chatted with several days ago for telling me that the turnoff to the offroad track was at a campground.  Had I not been told this, I would have never known that this was my turn:

Turn off for the Old Gibber Road - offroad track through Myall Lakes National Park

Turn off for the Old Gibber Trail – offroad track through Myall Lakes National Park

Hmmmm - maybe I needed to be more concerned about the aerial spraying than potential flooding?

Hmmmm – maybe I needed to be more concerned about the aerial spraying than potential flooding?

I could just squeeze my bike through these posts, which proved as a good stand for my bike while I had a bite to eat :)

I could just squeeze my bike through these posts, which proved as a good stand for my bike while I had a bite to eat :)

The start of the offroad track

The start of the offroad track

 

I have to say, I absolutely loved today’s ride and this track was a highlight.  I went through a few puddles and the last 10km’s had a bit more drag because the ground was still pretty saturated from all the recent rain, but otherwise it was a fun ride.  Although I am happy it wasn’t raining today….it would probably be a pretty slow ride in spots with touring gear if it was actively raining.

Old Gibber Road

Old Gibber Road

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The first 10km had several exposed areas (which probably helped with drying out the road)

The first 10km had several exposed areas (which probably helped with drying out the road)

Around the 10km mark the Old Gibber Road meets the Mining Road

Around the 10km mark the Old Gibber Trail meets the Mining Road

The Mining Road was a bit more tree covered

The Mining Road was a bit more tree covered and I found the road to be more saturated from recent rain

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I made it through to the other side!

I made it through to the other side!

 

The rest of the ride was on a relatively quiet paved road aptly named ‘The Lakes Way’.  As the name indicates, there was usually a lake within site.  Although sometimes it was blocked by trees.

A rest spot along The Lakes Way

View along The Lakes Way

 

Arriving in Forster, I got cleaned up and headed for a walk along the beach and jetty and watched the sunset over the river.

View of Forster from the jetty

View of Forster from the jetty

Kayaker out for a sunset paddle

Kayaker out for a sunset paddle

Jetty between Forster and Tuncurry

Jetty between Forster and Tuncurry

Actually got a picture of a pelican in flight

Pelican in flight

Sunsetting over Coolongolook River in Forster

Night setting in over Coolongolook River in Forster