It took me a long time to pack my gear. Not because I didn’t want to leave but because I have no idea what one packs for a long-term cycling trip. I mean, how many t-shirts of pairs of trousers will I actually need? And will I regret not taking my hydro pack? And how does one make the panniers evenly balanced so the bike doesn’t handle like a drunken tractor? All these questions and still I have very few answers. No doubt this is the normal state of affairs for people who do the “sold the house and off to explore the world by bicycle” thing.
And so it was that I wobbled off down the road on a heavy, unevenly loaded touring bike with brand new panniers, a packraft and only one drink bottle (totally insufficient even for a day ride). My first stop: the Stradbroke Island barge some 30km (19 miles) from my parents’ place. Once there I met some lovely Dutch ladies who are visiting family in Australia. They too were waiting to walk onto the barge and I enjoyed a yarn with them. They complimented me on my Dutch as we parted ways: them to sit in the upstairs passenger lounge and me to stand with my bike.
The 45 minute barge trip to the island was relaxing. I stood on the deck enjoying the water views while reading a book, Maalika by Valarie Browning, that my friends gave me last weekend. Between the captivating book and the gentle bobbing of the barge, I arrived at the island relaxed and ready.
It being 1pm I treated myself to a vegetable curry from the Island Fruit Barn (I definitely recommend it), which I ate down at One Mile Jetty. It was rather pleasant sitting next to the calm water in the middle of the day with a threatening sky. This is exactly the kind of experience I am out here to enjoy.
From lunch it was still 18km (11 miles) to Amity Point. The road rolled over and around a few low hills passing stubby gums and banksias. I wonder whether my body will ever get used to cycling a loaded bike. Cognitively I know it will but a small part of me is still a tiny bit scared about whether I have what it takes to be a cycle tourist. Not scared enough to give up or become anxious; just a mild sense of “wow, this is really something different”.
The camp at Amity Point is lovely. I have a shaded site with a soft sandy ground. It seems to be a quiet place to call home for most of the next five weeks and I found the ranger to be friendly. I watched dolphins swim along the coast as I ate ice cream in a nearby park. I still always get excited when I see these majestic mammals of the sea.
Back at camp a Swiss couple stopped to say hello. They have been cycling the world for 2 years and are heading back home next week. They asked about where I had ridden and I told them it is my first day. It seems auspicious to meet cycle tourists who are coming to the end of their journey on the same day I start mine. I can’t explain it but it just feels that way. And then they showed me the local koalas. If seeing dolphins is exciting then seeing koalas can only be described as awesome! It’s an auspicious start to my travels.