- Coonabarabran (A) to Warren (B)
I awoke several times during the night to the sound of rain. Not the most welcome sound for a cyclist to hear. In fact only the sound of a strong wind is worse. Normally the sound of rain drumming on the roof is a soothing sound that soon sends one off into a comfortable sleep, but when one is facing the prospect of cycling in the rain it has the effect of keeping one awake, hoping that it will stop.
When I set out at about half past seven it was in cool and overcast conditions, with the threat of rain in the form of thick, dark clouds hanging low in the sky. The road was very wet and a fine spray was sent up from my wheels as I made my way down the Oxley Highway. I escaped the rain for just eighteen kilometres, then it came down. Hard. I rode for the rest of the day in a yellow waterproof jacket, both to make myself more visible to my fellow road-users and also as protection from the rain.
The first seventy kilometres was a roller coaster of ups and downs, but thereafter the road levelled off, with nothing but the most gradual of slopes. We went through Gilgandra, a little village with a population of less than 3000, at ninety-five kilometres and stopped shortly thereafter for lunch.
On the road between Gilgandra and Warren Jane saw a group of wild kangaroos, which had taken cover by the time I arrived on the scene. But a short while later, as I cycled along the highway, a kangaroo appeared alongside the road on my left, just ten or fifteen metres away, and bounded along quite merrily, parallel with the road. It kept pace with me quite easily. I checked my speedometer to find that I was doing twenty-eight kilometres an hour. The ‘roo accelerated slightly, got a few metres ahead and bounded across the road in front of me. It continued to follow the road on the right side for another hundred metres or so before peeling off into the bush and disappearing from view. What a thrilling experience for someone who had never even seen an uncaged kangaroo until a few days before.
A few kilometres further on I crested a rise to see a fair length of straight road in stretching out toward the horizon. Not an uncommon sight, but I noticed a campervan stopped in the middle of the road. It was OXO862. Jane had pulled off the tar to wait for me and got stuck in the thick mud. Two young Australian men had towed her back onto the tar just before I appeared. No doubt they had a quiet chuckle at Jane’s expense as they went on their way.
Just seven kilometres later we reached the first serious roadworks since we had set out, with several kilometres of untarred surface. The centre lane, just a little more than the width of a car, was firm, while the outer lanes had become a quagmire in the rain. Jane drove cautiously down the centre lane until she saw a truck bearing down on her from the opposing direction. Nervously she pulled over to the left to allow it through, and found herself stuck for the second time in twenty minutes. Okay, so some folk learn more slowly than others! Luck was still with us, if in a somewhat perverted sort of way, and rescuers arrived within a few minutes in the form of a young couple and several children in a van packed with musical instruments. They very kindly pushed us out, unselfishly wading through the deep mud in order to do so. With their help we were quickly on our way again, but not without becoming thoroughly coated with very sticky red mud. Spinning wheels throw an incredible amount of mud with incredible accuracy as they hunt for traction.
With Jane back on the centre island and moving away with all the speed of a lazy snail with no firm destination, I boarded my bike and followed along gingerly. In spite of my caution the bike became thoroughly caked with the viscous mud, which managed to attach itself quite firmly and in great abundance to every moving part.
We reached Warren after what seemed a very long day in the rain and booked into a caravan park. I hosed the bike down to remove the mud before having a very welcome hot shower that brought back a semblance of civilisation.
In general we have found the roads to be very good over the first five days, in spite of Jane becoming stuck on two occasions. The road signs are informative and well placed and there is certainly a strong emphasis on safety. I crossed over two bridges today that carried warnings specifically for cyclists – “Cycle Caution : Gaps Between the Boards”. These bridges were constructed of wooden boards, with just the smallest of gaps between them. No threat to a car, of course, but the wheels on a racing cycle are very narrow and the warning was therefore quite welcome.