For previous blog entries of our ride through NZ, Australia, South East Asia, China and Central Asia, click on the little arrows beside the dates in the Blog Archive below and use the scroll down menu.

Monday, 18 January 2010

Australia - Sydney to Newcastle(via the Blue Mountains)

Distance cycled: 3686kms

Route: Sydney airport - Sydney centre - North Sydney - Parramatta - Seven Hills - Penrith - Katoomba - Mount Vic - Bell - Bilpin - Kurrajong - Maroota - Wisemans Ferry - Mangrove Mountain - Wyong - Mandalong - Toronto - Hamilton(Newcastle)

Jane Gilberd

Leaving NZ

Sydney Opera House

An Ibis

Sydney Harbour Bridge

North Sydney

Kasia, Me, Mark

Sydney by night


Mark - hamster boy

Yes, it is too hot

The 3 sisters - Blue Mountains National Park

Echo point

Blue Mountains

Mount Wilson

Wiseman's ferry

Karen and Stuart

Bad driving

Rosie(dog), Larissa, Kingsley
The storm at Mandalong
Frank, Margaret, Andreas, Kingsley, Katia, Larissa, Siena
The house at Mandalong

Ian Wilcox

Hey folks. Well, our 2 and a half months in NZ were amazing but the place seems like a distant memory since arriving inOz. Our last couple of days there were spent in Wellington where Mary put us up again as well as Carol and Stew in Lower Hutt. We also got to meet up with our good pal, Jane Gilberd who dropped us at Wellington airport at silly o'clock in the morning. Jane, thanks a million, twas great to see you albeit briefly. Thanks for letting me ride in the boot of your car like a kidnap victim due to the huge bike boxes. We got on the flight no problem, which was surprising as Ben had a kilo of crack cocaine shoved up his bum(Do I need to say "joke" after this for legal purposes? Probably, so JOKE. Anyway, on the flight, being easily pleased as we are, we were delighted to find out we got a meal and drinks free of charge. We had an amazing view of the North of the South Island as we flew out from Wellington, including the Farewell Spit and all the little islands around it and thought fondly of the amazing time we had spent there.

Arriving in Sydney, we found the weather overcast and surprisingly mild. Passing through duty free, we found ourselves with a litre of brandy, a small bottle of vodka, some Baileys and some $1 cans of wine, all for $35(17.50).We got our luggage and went outside to assemble the bikes. A couple of hours later we were cycling through Sydney on our way to the suburb of Seven Hills where an old friend of mine, Mark from Motherwell lives. Cycling through Sydney was hellish and we were glad to get out of the city. We arrived at Mark's, 50 kms away a few hours later after Scott, another friendly cyclist took us on a good route out of the city. We finished the journey on the motorway, as cycling on the motorway here is completely legal. I hadn't seen Mark in about 8 years but we just took off where we had left off as though I'd seen him only yesterday. We had only intended staying a couple of days in Sydney but Mark and his girlfriend Kasia talked us into staying for the opening night of the Sydney festival. During the week, these guys were at work so we stayed in the house relaxing, swimming and watching films. We felt so relaxed in thanks to the lovely warm welcome we received. The Sydney festival night was fun, we saw Al Green in concert and a few other acts as giant fruit bats swooped over our heads. It was a great night. We left Seven Hills on Monday with one of the nicest sendoffs we've had so far: a batch of homemade muesli bars and tablet for the trip. Mark, you are a star. The bars lasted us for the next 4 days and we thought of you and Kasia every time we tucked into one. Thanks both of you for everything.

Before leaving, Mark and Kasia had told us the Blue Mountains were a "must see" so we changed our route to incorporate them into the trip. After 60kms of climbing in 40 degree sunshine on a busy motorway we began to think we might die of heat exhaustion and wondered what the hell was going on. However, as we've come to realise over the last week, we were just out at the wrong time. 12 - 3 is no time to be out on the bike on a really hot day however early mornings and late afternoons are much cooler and a lot easier to ride in. It was a tough first day and we camped after 60kms in a nice rest area by the side of the road. The first night in the tent was pretty insufferable heatwise. Neither of us got a great nights sleep as we tossed and turned. It was about 25 degrees. We set off the next day, still climbing and reached Katoomba in the Blue Mountains. We visited the Three Sisters and saw one of the best views of the whole trip so far. We also went to visit a huge waterfall, hundreds of feet tall called Govetts Leap and got some idea of the immensity of Australia as a country. The views seem so much grander and more panoramic than anything we've seen before. We camped in the Blue Mountains National Park that night. The next day, to our surprise and relief, it was overcast and raining. It was a nice change until that night in the tent when an almighty thunder storm kicked off. We both love thunder and lightning but this wasn't like the storms you get back home. The sky roared above us and it felt like the lightning was right on top of us. It went on for hours. At first it was just lightning with no sound and I thought someone was shining a torch in at us. We were actually quite scared at being so vulnerable in a tent with no shelter but relaxed after half an hour or so accepting that if it was our destiny to die in a tent with our bodies fused together then so be it. That day we had asked a woman in the tourist information about a track which was marked on the map and asked her if it was cyclable. She said enthusiastically that taking that road instead of the busy main road was a great idea so off we went. We cycled through the amazing mountain-top village of Mount Wilson, a very isolated place made quite eerie by the rain and mist we were cycling through. It felt like we were cycling through the rain forest at times on a thin, misty road with nothing but dense forest on either side of us. It was all going great until we came to the off-road part we'd been told about. Instead of a gravel path, we were plunged 1000 metres into the bowels of the earth on a track which would be suitable for Australia's next downhill mountain bike championships. Poor bikes, they're really not designed for that kind of punishment, add to that the wet sand which was being thrown up into the gears. We finished the decent in a basin at the bottom of a steep valley with nothing around us for miles and started climbing. It was getting dark and getting out of the place wasn't easy. It was only our mountain bike skills and Ben's good workmanship on the bikes which helped us get out of there just as night was falling. The next day we cycled in the rain again and at the end of the day, knocked on a door to ask to put the tent up in the garden. We were lucky enough to knock on Karen and Stuarts door, who not only gave us a place to stay for the night but cooked us a delicious dinner and let us have a much-needed bath. We truly had a great evening, with great company and great conversation. As we entered the living room I heard the dulcet tones of DCI Jim Taggart on the telly and felt right at home. Apparently, "Taggart" is really popular in Australia even though no-one has a bloody clue what anyone is saying. Anyway, Stuart can now say "polis" and "there's been a murdur" in a Scottish accent, a useful skill some might say. The next day, we said our goodbyes to Karen and Louise her daughter and made our way to the village of Wiseman's Ferry where we crossed the Hawkesbury River on what can only be described as a bit of floating road which is pulled backwards and forwards by ropes on a winch to allow cars and pedestrians to cross. It's a bizarre contraption and we've no idea why they don't just build a bridge but it was a bit of a novelty for us. We had a nice day's cycling and the weather started to heat up again. We ended up in the village of Mangrove Mountain that night where we slept in the park. We finally arrived in the town of Wyong where I checked my emails to see if anyone from "warm showers" had got back to us. is an amazing site where people sign up to offer hospitality to cycle tourers. We joined up to offer hospitality just before we left but only had time to have people over once before our trip. People on the site can offer various things like a bed for the night, a tent space in a garden, a shower, laundry, food, internet etc. It's all based on trust and is great for people on a trip like ours. The beauty of it is that if you offer people hospitality when you are at home, you can expect to receive it when you are touring. The last two nights we stayed at Kingsley and Larissa's in Mandalong where we had the house to ourselves. The house was pretty much empty as they are doing it up and staying at Kingsleys mother's. It's an amazing, isolated house set in 150 acres of land. We saw kangaroos for the first time. The ones we saw were about 6 foot tall with biceps and leg muscles to put Arnold Schwarzenneger to shame. They are amazing creatures. There is so much wildlife here. Australia is constantly alive with the buzz of insects and birdsong(well it's more of a screech than a song to be honest), a sound which I am growing to love. We also saw a Redback spider. On Sunday, Kingsley, Larissa, the kids and Kingsleys parents, Frank and Margaret came over to do some work. We had a barbeque just before another massive thunder storm came in. Lightning struck the house, blew the mains fuse of the house and sent shocks up our legs as we sat indoors. It was the loudest bang I've ever heard and we all s**t ourselves! These guys were great and made our first warm showers stay a very happy one. Thankyou. After a days rest, we got back on the bikes and cycled 60 kms up the road to Newcastle(way aye man) where we are now in the house of Ian, another warm showers host. Ian has just made us a lovely meal and we'll return the favour when we cook for him tomorrow night. Thanks to John for the directions to get us here.

So, all in all, our first fortnight in Oz couldn't have gone better. We are so excited about seeing the rest of this amazing country and relishing the more difficult challenge of cycling in the Northern Territory. We are getting used to the heat and slowly ticking off the kilometres. People here find it hard to believe we're cycling to Darwin let alone Scotland but I feel that most take our intentions a bit more seriously now we have the 3,500kms of NZ under our belts. More to follow when we reach Brisbane in a few weeks. Ciao.


  1. yay - i made the blog! :o) awesome to hear you kids are loving aussie, and have had the experience of the storms over there! can't wait for the next instalment.... janus

  2. hey guys, awesome to follow your mission, H and I where reading about the lightening storm in the tent, we had similar experinece and its bloody scarey, (in a wee tent)..... we are heading of on a cycle trip next week.... 2 weeks south island....
    have fun... very jealous of your epic adventure...
    love meg & H