Today was the beginning of my great cycling adventure, and what a day it turned out to be. I set off from the sleepy little town of Lorne, situated on the Great Ocean Road.
I was freaking out! Not a slight freak out. A full-on freakout. I was containing the freakout internally I could feel it was on the verge of seeping out into the outside world for public viewing.
‘What was I doing!?’ I kept thinking to myself. I had zero bike maintenance knowledge, felt very underprepared both in terms of fitness and what equipment I would actually need. I had never camped overnight, especially on my own. The list went on and on.
Luckily my friends Warren and Michelle could sense my apprehension. I think they too were nervous for me but were not letting it show. They belted out ukulele tunes in the car as we drove towards Lorne. After that, I was on my own. To cycle to Adelaide, a journey of 850km.
I packed up my bike with all my earthly belongings. The nerves were making me shake. I started to peddle off from the car park and waved goodbye to my friends. I was a bit shaky, to begin with, but once I got on the main road everything seemed to click into place. I was amazed at how balanced the bike was despite being laden down with 15kg of supplies.
Everything simply melted away. I let go of all the stress, worries and concerns I had been clinging to. I was filled with this amazing sense of freedom. A freedom I always imagined birds feel when they set flight into the air. Weightless. Carefree.
I had no idea where the day would take me. I did not know where I would be sleeping tonight. It did not worry me. It was just me and my trusty steed. I wound my way along the windy and breathtaking Great Ocean Road.
I felt pretty good. The cycle started out pretty easy. The first strenuous climb came into sight. I gritted my teeth and steeled myself. Elite lycra clad cyclists on racers whizzed by offering kind words of encouragement. I a non-elite slowly pootled long, weighed down by my baggage. Literally.
I vowed to stay in the moment as much as possible. On trips like this, it is easy to get caught up with trying to make as much mileage as possible. Although I was pushing a little, I was also making a conscious effort to savor this special journey.
Soon I reached Apollo Bay. It had been a while since I had spent this much time in the saddle. I thought I had better fill my water bottles as I was not too sure when I would get the chance again. I began scanning the town for water fountains. Cycling past a park – success I spotted one.
Much to my surprise as I veered towards the water fountain I saw a fellow cyclist panned out asleep on the grass nearby. The panniers gave him away as a fellow touring cyclist. I tried to carefully unhook my elastic chords and but they snapped open violently with a loud ‘WHACK‘ and jolted fellow cyclist awake. Oppps!
A conversation unfolded and it turned out that he too was heading to Adelaide. What a freaky coincidence! We decided to team up and cycle together. We set off from Apollo Bay cycling slowly as we engaged in chatter. The chat dwindled when a steep incline loomed ahead. Chatting resumed when the flattened out once more.
I was amazed by how much the scenery along the Great Ocean Road could change in one day. Breathtaking coastal ocean views gave way to lush green valleys and long grassy meadows that were dotted with sheep and cows. Throughout the day I felt as though I had experienced many different lands all congealed together in a continuous scene. An adventure movie in real time.
The most impressive scene was perhaps cycling through the series of tall trees that made up the Ottoways Forest. It was deeply enchanting. With some steep climbs and steep downhills. We let out shrieks of delights as we whizzed down the hills we had huffed and puffed our way up. Alas, these steep downhills would be my downfall. Literally.
During one particularly steep descent, I did not see a big pothole in time. I hit it head on at speed. The bike began to swerve uncontrollably. With the weight of my supplies, it hit the ground hard and sent me skeeting across the road in my back. My hydration vest filled with water acted as a slight cushion. However, it also caused the back of my head to be bashed against the tarmac repeatedly.
I called out weakly to my new friend Rafa but he could not hear me and quickly became a faint dot in the distance.
There was no time to think. I had to act. I sprang up and with all the herculean effort I could muster I hauled my battered carcass, bike, and supplies off the road before a car came.
Shaking, I slowly began to unpack and repack my bike. It took another feat of herculean strength to get my bike back up into a vertically upright position again.
The bike was intact. The chain had come off but no serious damage. I myself was also intact. It was miraculous that I escaped unscathed despite bloody knees, cuts and bruises and a cracked helmet.
My thoughts turned to my new friend. Was he waiting somewhere down the road? I had no way to contact him. We had known each other for about two hours at this stage.
I slowly got back on my bike. There was little option but to keep moving forward. I took the descends very slowly indeed from then on.
On the last descend I saw Rafa nervously pacing by the side of the road. When I reached him I regaled him with my tales of woe and began to slowly process what had happened. He was looking at my injuries saying we should bandage me up. I thought it was best to keep moving as darkness would fall soon. I felt ok, just a little shaken. We pushed on.
We cycled through expansive farmland that seemed to stretch on forever. The lush greenery and grazing animals reminded me very much of the green isle of Ireland. I felt that there must be some connection between the two distant lands.
We began to scan the landscape and discuss where would be a suitable place to camp. I had been cycling for about seven hours at this stage and was quite tired and hungry.
Finally, we arrived at Cape Cove which had been a destination on the map that looked like it would be a good place to set up camp. We dropped our bikes at the entrance to the trail which was near the beach and went scouting locations.
I was a little anxious when Rafa proposed a spot along an overgrown trail. Especially when a baby snake slithered by our feet. My gut feeling said no.
We checked out another part of the trail. It was less overgrown and had a wide clearing. Perfect for two tents. My gut said yes.
Then it was time to wait for darkness to descend.
We headed to the beach to wash our tired and smelly human bodies. The sea was a ranging scene of white foam and waves. With a particularly strong current, I decided just to dip my feet in. One near-fatal experience was enough for one day.
We perched ourselves on the rocky shoreline and chatted as the sun went down. I was cold, hungry and tired. We trudged up the steep sandy incline. My legs felt like lead. Energy stores were deeply depleted. Food was needed. Sleep was needed. But camp still needed to be set up for the night!
I had never set up camp in the dark before. It was a bit more difficult by the limited light of a torch. Rafa shared his knowledge and helped me push my tent poles into the rock-hard ground using a found flat stone.
Once the tents were up we were both exhausted and decided to forego any cooking. We opted for peanut butter and jam sandwiches. These were eaten mostly in silence, illuminated by torchlight.
Then it was time for bed.
Day 01. One new cycle friend. One non-fatal, non-serious bike crash. A successful camp.
What will tomorrow bring as we pedal towards Port Campbell!