Category Archives: Trips

Fotoz birthday

Doing something special for your 50th birthday seems a good idea (can’t immediately recall what I may have done; too long ago?) & sometimes people go to a lot of trouble!

“Mr Fotoz” is a family member, pro photographer, video producer & seemingly a “life-long train nutter”? An invitation for the family to join him on a steam train trip to the Blue Mountains, near Sydney, wasn’t entirely a surprise & was sure to be memorable. What was unexpected however, was that it turned out to be “his train” & he was arranging the lot! ie booking the engine, heritage carriages, crew, approvals to run the steam train on the main lines, planning & marketing the event & selling tickets to fill the train! (apologies to any mates or enthusiasts if that’s over-simplified things but every time I hear or think any more about it, my head hurts)

So, early one recent Saturday morning we set out for Westmead station, one of the intermediate stops along the route from Picton to Lithgow. There we waited with our picnic baskets, wine, cameras, etc & “almost on time” the Fotoz Flyer came steaming into the station – with Mr Fotoz in the driver’s seat!?
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Settling back for our adventure, along with 100+ enthusiastic passengers, the 5917 engine hauled us up into the mountains putting on a sight & sound display that was amazing to experience. All along the way spectators were out beside the route or even following in cars. Inside the train we wined & dined on our goodies & plenty of supplied nibblies. The experienced hands donned safety goggles for observing our journey via the open windows (the amount of coal grit on the tables was enough to dissuade me from sticking my head outside) & we all marveled at the sounds of a steam train working very hard (both up the hills & on the flat).

Steam being steam, our trip had a number of stops while the water was replenished (& for once the crowds around the action were parted by a decent shower of rain?).
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The whole experience was a step back in time – such as these “mod cons” in our first-class compartment & some of the travellers in period costume?
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There was an extra section of the journey after Lithgow, off the main line, when we travelled on to Wallerawang so that the engine could be turned around for our journey home (where we sat & waited in our carriages while the engine chuffed off & later appeared via a cunning “triangular loop”, ready to take its place at the other end of the train – such are the difficulties of arranging steam travel on modernised infrastructure?)
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Our journey back to Westmead to depart the train was pretty well on time, perhaps with not quite the same excitement as when traveling up into the mountains? Overall, we had about 12 hours of fun – & really appreciate the efforts of the organisers who would have spent 15+ hours for Saturday, as well as the involvement of getting the train to the Thirlmere start point on Friday, as well as returning to Eveleigh on Sunday (& everything it took to even get the approvals?!)
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Finally, the downside of the adventure for the participants was the inability to get the full spectator experience. We’ll have to be content with the excellent video work from Bevan Wall on YouTube –

BTW, regular viewers may be detecting the likelihood of a backlog of posts? I now admit defeat to the notion of keeping my blog posts in chronological order (hey, a new interpretation for doing things “sooner than later”?

Juicy outing

We discovered a lovely bit of cycling road recently (well, particularly lovely for me as it seemed to have no major hills?). It covers about 10-12km along a river valley on a non-through road. It is well sealed, narrow, winding & undulating & as a round-trip of about 20km through nice scenery, it would seem to be ideal for my Brompton escapades?

Unfortunately, I have yet to ride along it, for our discovery was while on an outing with the Tardis to give it a Sunday run on a cool day that was expected to wind up becoming very wet. As part of the day out, we were going to attempt to locate an orchard near Wiseman’s Ferry that was offering “pick your own” Mandarins. So we headed out & had a pleasant time relaxing around the Hawkesbury River locality, & after some lunch we turned back to the task of locating the farm & orchard.

Immediately we turned onto the road we started encountering vehicle traffic coming in the opposite direction. There were a number of properties along the road & with the afternoon getting on, we continued along thinking the traffic was purely coincidental? However, the traffic became more of a flood; convoys of cars all heading in our direction? With the narrow & winding road, we were continually moving over or stopping to await a gap in the traffic before we could continue along. At some point along the road we came to the conclusion that the traffic must have been coming from the farm, as there was little else along the dead-end road. Getting toward the property we were seeing “count down” signs to the farm & concluded that we should arrive prior to the closing time, so should keep going & would likely have the place to ourselves?

Eventually we arrived at the farm, to be confronted with fields of cars (hundreds?) parked near acres of citrus trees. Boy, was picking your own fruit popular?! After being directed toward a field to park, we made our way to the sheds on the property & learned the ropes of obtaining our fruit: a deposit paid for some shears, a map display of where the various Mandarin varieties were located, some rules for picking (snip the stems & don’t pull at the mandarins, no throwing of fruit – presumed to be aimed at the kids? – etc, etc), a bucket for the fruit (we couldn’t see ourselves being able to consume multiple bucket-fulls?) & away we went. Out into the orchard, easily filling our bucket from countless trees heavily laden with fruit; all while carefully stepping between discarded peel & damaged fruit. With the plan of paying for weighed buckets of Mandarins, I suppose there was something in the rules about “no eating of fruit” but it hadn’t been heeded, judging by the amount of peel discarded? As for “no throwing of fruit”, kids will be kids?

Our picking went off admirably, with “just a little” tasting (essentially to verify the tree quality?) & then back to the sheds to have our booty accounted for. A trudge back to the Tardis & then wending our way back along a still busy narrow, winding road & then returning along the main road to home; a lovely day out!
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As for the discovery of an ideal cycling outing for me, time will tell. We shall have to carefully investigate the various picking seasons if we hope to get the road to ourselves.

New challenges

A lot has happened in the last few years. Bromptons, retirement, the Tardis & now Lawn Bowling. Lots of other things too but the last year of bowling has been a rather surprising activity.

My only practical experience had been a workplace Christmas function many years ago, when a large group hit the greens for a “barefoot bowls” session. That had been fun but the post-retirement intrigue of seeing bowlers at my local club lead to inquiring about “proper coaching”. Some weeks of coaching & I was joining up as a registered bowler; all very whirlwind I suppose but it’s been an ongoing learning experience.

The early surprise was the workout on leg muscles that I’d forgotten about. Once I started playing social games I realised it wasn’t just a walk in the park: more like a 4 hour walk, with bending & stretching & regular weight-lifting of 1.5kg lawn bowls. This physical involvement has an accompanying mental effort as well, with continuing concentration on the bowling action, the game aspects & changing conditions throughout the time. In addition, I’ve gained an appreciation of the social structures of the game (team selections & socialising, play etiquette & player support) & how the game is an ideal exercise for the “senior body”, as well as participants of all ages (& gender). All very surprising & unexpected?

I suppose I was expecting a challenge when I started, of the game requirement to deliver the bowl along a curving trajectory to a target point on the bowling rink. The challenge is even more immense than I expected, with variability in weather & rink conditions endeavouring to counter any personal effort for consistency? In truth, “it’s bloody hard” – but addictive?!

I’d often seen bowling green maintenance being undertaken but now I’ve got a much better appreciation of what goes on. Here’s our club Greenkeeper/magician, Fred, whizzing about on his mower.
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The last few months has even seen a ramped up involvement, with participation in the Zone Pennants championship play & in various club championship events. Throughout this time I’ve been getting a better feel for how I’ve been delivering the bowl (as compared to the early self-questioning such as “how did it end up there?”) & progressing successfully through various championship rounds. This busy time has seen some periods of 7 days play per week! As you can imagine other activities have suffered & my cycling has often been limited to riding Ralph to the bowling club to practice. Unfortunately our club Pennants side hasn’t won our section so that’s our season over for this year & unfortunately again, my Minor Pairs final was unsuccessful (although my partner & I have been rather pleased to even make the final against some very experienced players) & so now it’s time to escape for a bit in the Tardis?

Actually, this escape trick isn’t quite what it seems, for the Tardis is carrying a spare set of bowls along with Ralph & Peregrine. With almost every town possessing a bowling club then it’s likely there’ll be a little research along the way? Here is a very recent escapade at Lennox Head: note Ralph & Brompton C bag waiting patiently to carry about 7kg of bowling equipment back to the Tardis.
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New England trek

Well, after the delay in posting about Easter at Mudgee I had all good intentions of wrapping up the next post on the continuation of the trip to the New England area! Needless to say, I’m once again apologising for tardiness? I usually try to keep the posts in chronological order & so I was trapped: not wanting to post about later Sydney events but unable to find the time to sort out old material for the blog! Now what has happened is that we’re away again, heading for the far north coast of NSW & here I am sitting in the Tardis trying to remember what happened around Anzac weekend?! (Be warned! Frequent blog posts are going to be needed, in order to get up to date & hopefully blog about this trip while it’s still in progress!)

Having given all the above excuses, I’ve decided this post is coming together via my journal & associated pics. Sorry for any brevity of comment.

Departed Mudgee on Easter Monday & headed for Murrurundi. Lunch stop in Merriwa & liked this country scene (oxen with wool bales on wagon, sheep & dogs, galahs, etc) done in corrugated iron & assorted scrap metal.
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Couple of days based at Murrurundi CP for some local genealogy research & then heading further north with visit to Rail Journeys Museum at Werris Creek station. Lots of good info about early rail life (& death) & the efforts in building the early railways.
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Overnight stop at Tamworth & then driving on to Manila. Visited Manila Heritage Museum for genealogy research & then continuing to Bingara for 2 days stay at caravan park. Noticed these couple of classics in the park.
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Entertaining & eventful time in Bingara. Watched the Anzac Day March while out on a ride, punctured rear tyre on Ralph (forgot to take pics during country roadside repair – after surviving the Mudgee Cathead thorns, seemed to have a big thorn in the tyre but the tube hole was somewhere else?), lots of rides & walks around town on really, really wide roads!?, good historic collections of early settler artifacts & some “new history” at the Greek Theatre Museum (info on how Greek migrants settled & developed businesses in country towns).

Our rides around town included this riverfront track & coffee under the verandah of an old pub.
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Leaving Bingara, we followed the Gwydir River for some time & were surprised at the numbers of caravans & motorhomes free-camping along the riverfront. Such traffic that there were appropriate road warning signs?
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Later the road passed through Keera Station (a cattle country look-in for more genealogy research?) & it was a relief to see this sign (for the uninitiated, a B-double is a double- length semi-trailer)
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Eventually this back-road meander saw us at Inverell & we continued on to Glen Innes for the night. Travelled on the next day (& escaped some rain that seemed to hover over only Glen Innes?) to Armidale, which like Inverell had seemed uninspiring over a long weekend (too much traffic & too few places open?). Our lunch stop at Uralla was such a contrast: much smaller town but so lively & lots of choice? Our next overnight stop on this straight(ish) journey back to Sydney was Walcha. Here we encountered a really nicely setup & maintained caravan park. For example, the camp kitchen was spotless & so well-equipped that we almost felt guilty in using it?
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So much of the site showed evidence of an accomplished handyman/owner. Such as this ingenious dump point (for that “black waste” that we don’t have facilities to accumulate in the Tardis)
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Not only the caravan park but the whole town showed some remarkable efforts in landscaping & sculptures (& only one pic doesn’t do it justice). A lot of walking was needed to take it all in – but the Walcha Royal provided suitable refreshments within its almost museum-like motorcycle-themed rooms?
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Last leg of the trip was driving on to Gloucester, our final ride around the quiet country roads, overnight stay at the caravan park & then back into Sydney. Almost 2 weeks away & a whole host of places & sights – with lovely cuppa stops such as this along the way!
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Bike Mustering

Wow! Five weeks since my last blog post!? Where has the time gone? Now that I think about it, we took the Tardis away for a couple of weeks (& didn’t have too much blogging chance while on the road?) & the last 2 weeks have been pretty full-on with lawn bowling (Pennants games, club championship games, social games & practice sessions?) & of course, various household maintenance activities. Now with a slight lull in proceedings, time for some blog catch-up!? Let’s start with Easter…

Visiting Mudgee in NSW is nice. We would normally take the Tardis to an ideal caravan park that’s easy walking distance to shops, cafés & restaurants. Mudgee is also ideal for lots of wineries close by, with good cycling along flattish & quiet roads. Easter this year was a bit of a different time for us, as we participated in the annual Mudgee Bike Muster.

The Muster is based at the Australian Rural Education Centre, a few kms from town. A huge complex, offering powered sites & with good facilities. The organisers were able to provide all meals & the only thing we left the site for, was to ride to wineries! Well, a bit more to it than that but you probably get the idea?

The Centre had plenty of grassed campsites & with many well-compacted dirt & gravel roads. A very family-friendly event, it provided a safe environment for the youngest of riders to burn off energy & develop bike skills. Over the four days we saw examples of tantrums turn into happy faces, balance bikes discarded for pedal bikes & riders continually exploring & lapping the site. Not just an event for the very young, the few hundred participants were all ages & on an assortment of bikes. Yes, 5 Bromptons were there & really catching the eyes.

Leaving Sydney on Thursday, we found another Pie in the Sky cafe for a snack along the way.

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We’d intended an overnight stop at a quiet little caravan park at Rylstone. Little did we know that the Orienteering National Champs were being held in the area & many hundreds of attendees made the local facilities “rather cosy”, with tents & vans wall-to-wall? Fortunately, the park manager was understanding & slotted us in too.

Next day we resumed our trip to Mudgee & headed straight to the AREC site for check-in & to setup the Tardis for our 4 day stay. Registration completed & we then needed to park & get comfy. Whoops! The site was a lot bigger than expected & we drove some slow laps trying to decide where to drop anchor. How close did we want to be to the main building (used for meals, entertainment, showers, etc), other amenities, other campsites & activity areas (shelters, BMX track, etc)? Finally we decided & settled in (hooked up to power, popped the roof up, put the kettle on, etc). Probably the biggest open area park we’ll ever encounter, equipped with both 15amp & 10amp power connections & easily capable of coping with the 300+ entrants expected.

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The Mudgee Muster event program included morning or afternoon rides over a variety of surfaces & distances, catered meals (breakfast, lunch & dinner) & evening entertainment (trivia, bush dancing & movies). Our preference was going to be the on-road medium distance rides but other options included off-road rides & a longer ride to the next town. All local morning rides ended at one of the close-by wineries, where our lunch pack was supplied. All very civilised, relaxing & enjoyable (cue pics from brekkie & the lunch venues).

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A number of Mudgee wineries have dining opportunities (along with the usual wine tasting capability) & when the initial Friday afternoon ride took us past one of our favourites on the return home, how could we resist stopping in for pizza & wine – & even some Boules play?

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The rides were mapped & pretty clearly marked. Participants included all ages & experience (& bikes) & were mostly on quiet roads at relaxed paces. Probably the only down-side to the weekend was the introduction to the notorious “Cathead thorns” for many riders. The organisers had warned us to stay away from the grassed edges of certain roads but punctures on the first ride on Friday was quite a “learning experience” for many! (our Brompton tyres with their puncture resistance belts got us through unscathed)

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Late Monday morning & the site was due to close & most participants were probably heading home? We weren’t due home for another week, so time for us to head north to the New England area…

Vintage workhorses

My previous blog post mentioned a detour to Dungog on our return from the North Coast break. We’d heard about a National Rally for vintage tractors being held over the weekend & so we headed for the Showgrounds. Lots of trucks, trailers & caravans but a bit light on for tractors? Yes, a few machines around but it seemed the action hadn’t got started? Oh well, back into town for our lunch stop.

While parking in the main street we heard the sound of a steam whistle & there, chugging up the road was a traction engine! Shortly after we saw another – but decided that lunch came first! Afterwards, the cafe staff mentioned that lots of tractors had actually headed out earlier on a run into the countryside (now that would have been “interesting” to be stuck behind?) but were due back soon. No sooner had we got back to the Tardis, we started to see tractors coming back into town. Out with the iPhone for some video perhaps? Maybe 20 minutes later I was able to put the camera away, after more than 50 tractors had chugged their way back to the Showgrounds. Unfortunately there was no time for us to make a return visit (for sure the Showgrounds was now going to be buzzing!) & we resumed the trip back home.

A YouTube link to my hasty, handheld, hamfisted video awaits – Dungog Vintage Tractors 2014

North Coast break

A window opened for a mid-week break recently & so the Tardis was packed for a “beach trip” to somewhere north of Sydney. Ralph & Peregrine came along too, for some days of caravan park stops & local rides & beach visits. With Bromptons loaded into our VW T5 Campervan we didn’t last long before needing to stop for lunch.
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Hawks Nest turned out to be the first nights caravan park, just beside the ocean beach.
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Next day saw us out on the Bromptons for some cruising around the coastal area (no pics I’m sorry, but there just might be a video soon?). The afternoon activity just had to be the beach & Mrs Aussie managed to fit in an ocean dip & a beach walk – as well as chatting to a local resident.
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Another night & it was decision time: stay put for some more nights or move on? One of our caravan park criteria had been overlooked here; decent 3G & so it was an easy choice – Forster here we come! We like the elevated section of the park, with views over the town, park, river & inner beach.
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The sunset kept us occupied with our wine, while waiting for the restaurant meals.
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This park neighbour had done a commendable job on a VW T2 restoration/conversion.
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Our ride for the day on Ralph & Peregrine took us around & out of town.
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We couldn’t complain about the weather as we’d just missed a wind storm the day before arriving at Hawks Nest but for us it had been sunshine all the way – until late on our final afternoon & some rain came down. We relaxed under the awning of the Tardis & were joined by this damp Noisy Miner.
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Pulling out from the caravan park, we stopped for a coffee at the local surf club & nestled our little/big Tardis amongst some fellow travellers.
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Our journey home included a detour inland via Dungog – & we came across a vintage tractor exhibition getting started for the weekend! Over 50 tractors went past my hastily pointed iPhone lens, although my processing of the videos is rather tractor-paced? – but I did manage to get a pic of one of the traction engines chuffing along.
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Until the next trip… (over Easter?)

Meander videos

Just when I thought I was on top of the GoPro-to-YouTube thing, now that I’ve got a better idea on whipping up a video via iMovie on the iPad, & while I was still wondering how I’d cope with quite some number of ride video clips – came the offer from Mrs Aussie to turn Producer & process the video from our weekend away on the “Leisure Coast Brompton Meander” (as blogged previously).

Wow! With barely a moments hesitation I agreed. Who am I to pass up an offer from an accomplished movie-maker? (Perhaps my bias here but I have seen Mrs Aussie knock out some lovely videos during her Graphic Design course studies?)

Before you launch into watching the videos I should caution that our “Team Aussie” undertaking is still a learning experience, but that I (hopefully) expect to do better next time (ie my portion of the project will undoubtedly set you wondering, how one person can get so much wobbly video, have so much slippage of the GoPro mounts, forget so often to start/stop videoing & lose so many opportunities for decent filming – along with miscalculating how long a couple of GoPro batteries will last).

Without further ado/excuses, here’s our 2 videos from the “Brompton Meander from Kiama to Thirroul”
Brompton Meander Day 1
Brompton Meander Day 2

Some hills

It was a lovely few days away, for our trip to the “Leisure Coast Brompton Meander” put on by Cheeky Transport (one of Sydney’s Brompton dealers). Our invite was for cycling the coast between Kiama & Thirroul (the direction to be decided prior, to ensure a tailwind?) over two days.

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Not a demanding ride, sure to be pleasurable with an unknown number of fellow Bromptoneers, & so we headed for Shellharbour, the scheduled overnight stop. Our plan was to arrive early in the Tardis (our VW T5 Campervan), settle into a caravan/tourist park & catch a train Saturday morning to whichever start-point was decided. The Tardis would remain on-site as our base for the mid-ride evening stop & for our return on Sunday evening from the ride completion point (via train).

Southerly winds were expected & so Saturday morning saw us ride Ralph & Peregrine to Dunmore station & catch a train to Kiama. Adam & Nick from Cheeky shepherded us to the official start-point, where pleasantries were exchanged between the 10 participants (9 Brompton riders & 1 Bike Friday pilot) & pics were obtained. Here I’ve managed to snap Peter (BF), Dennis, Mrs Aussie, Nari, Nick, Patrick, Clive, Clare & Adam.

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Adam handed out maps & “emergency food packs” (thanks Jennifer) & then we were off. Having cycled parts of the Sunday portion, Adam’s course description of “cyclepaths, tracks, quiet roads & some hills” seemed innocuous. With hindsight, I now know that the “some hills” could have been expressed differently. With my heart condition (reduced capacity & limited blood oxygen supply) making me “slow up hills” & really needing Ralph’s Alfine 11-speed super-low first gear to get me there, I even succumbed to walking on a couple of the climbs out of Kiama. (Pic showing the group patiently waiting again!?)

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“Keeping the ocean on our right” we proceeded to Shellharbour for our lunch-stop. Along the way we enjoyed the cycling (mostly), views (always) & any “pic stops” (every time). The ride distance had been only half of what Sunday would bring but with those “some hills” included, it was time for Mrs Aussie & I to relax with a well-earned pizza & excellent red wine.

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A few hardy riders undertook the Saturday afternoon ride to Bass Point Reserve, along some “unsealed road” that seemed more like “under construction”? Others (such as us) were happy to relax & recover.

Sunday was to be twice the distance from Saturday but expected to be more coastal cyclepath & less of those “some hills”? There were regular stops, such as this pause for a pic where Lake Illawarra meets the sea.

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Our next stop was to be lunch at a cafe near Port Kembla but the size of the crowd pushed us to lightening our “emergency supplies” load instead, while relaxing about the Pyramids (ie WWII-era anti-tank devices?)

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Yes, we still had a lunch stop! A boutique brewery in Wollongong served some great food, such as these sandwiches.

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Resuming our ride after lunch was a bit tough but Adam arranged to steady our pace & picked up a passenger & included some off-road sections (ta Adam for the trail pic).

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We continued along seemingly endless coastal cyclepath (forgoing many very enticing coffee stops?) until reaching the Thirroul surf-club, whereupon some hit the beach while others devoured ice creams.

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Finally, the last leg awaited: a train to Sydney or, for us, a train back to Dunmore. All we had to do now was to tackle the last hill & ride down into Shellharbour Village & into our Tourist Park. Here is depicted a scene of bliss – a base camp cuppa after 76km of riding over 2 days!?

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Are there any lessons from our jaunt? Definitely!
Adam’s local knowledge of the area is immense!
Mrs Aussie on Peregrine with standard 6-speed gearing is unstoppable!
GoPro batteries need to be conserved & charged overnight!
“Dunmore (SP1)” as a station description means you must get into the last carriage!
Don’t pass up the chance to do it all again!

Park touring

Blogging is a funny activity. Different or unusual sights will usually generate some immediate thought on what I may post but I need to keep reminding myself that regular happenings can still be worth considering. Take the latest outing: a few days away in the Tardis for an extended bike ride & I decided to Tweet a pic of the Tardis with Bromptons at the ready.

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Lo & behold, some considerate readers responded with comments on the Tourist Park setup. Hmmm… another “taken for granted” event that deserves more? Hence my little video attempt on touring the park on a Brompton. (Apologies for wobbles, etc – this GoPro lark is another one of those, “How hard can it be?” ponderings that will/may take some time to overcome.)

YouTube video link to my Tourist Park tour