Friday, 2 March 2012

Sydney, Australia - Dances with dingoes

“You wanna get yourself a big stick, luv” was the advice from the grey-haired, old man who appeared mysteriously out of the bush in the gathering dusk of Myall Lakes National Park. Mine was the only tent pitched at a lonely national park campground and I’d just cooked and eaten supper inside my mosquito net that I’d hung from a tree – the little biters were out in their millions again. I took the old man’s advice and before it was dark I found a big stick. This was not to beat off the men, as you might imagine … or as I might hope … but to beat off the dingoes. I was slightly alarmed when the man said there were five or six hanging around and that he had been attacked by one but thought he was probably just trying to impress the tourist. But sure enough, as darkness descended, a dingo wandered into the camp on the left and another appeared on the right, both much bigger than I had guessed dingoes to be. I’ve dealt with domestic and farm dogs chasing the bike throughout my trip but a pack of wild dogs stalking my tent was an altogether more frightening prospect. I waved my stick and shouted in a loud, gruff voice “get away” and they disappeared into the shadows. But I still felt a bit nervous so there was only one thing for it – I moved myself and my belongings into the long-drop toilet, which was quite roomy and not at all smelly, and slept there. Unfortunately I did have to share it with a rat that ran over my head during the night and a rather scary looking spider whose huge web took up more than its fair share of the bed!

I’d stopped at Myall Lakes on my cycle tour along the coast of New South Wales, a trip where I’ve mingled with the surf crowd on golden beaches, cycled through eucalyptus forests resounding with the maniacal laughter of the kookaburras and hopped on and off little ferries that potter back and forth across the bays or through channels in the mangroves where pelicans hang out in large flocks. I arrived in Sydney from the appealingly-named suburb of Manly on another ferry that gave me a spectacular view of the famous Opera House and Harbour Bridge as it chugged into the city. Sydney is a swanky, modern place and seems to be populated entirely by people who look like they just stepped out of a fashion magazine and by beautiful, tanned women who saunter serenely along the waterfront promenades in floaty summer dresses. I, meantime, stomp around in my rotten trainers that smell like a possum died in them, feeling not at all beautiful, just hot and sweaty.

Extreme heat is the name of the game here so I’m always happy when the day’s cycling is over and I can slip into my thongs. Before you start picturing me in a type of skimpy underwear, let me explain. In Britain we call them “flip-flops” but in New Zealand they are “jandals” and in Australia they are “thongs”. They are that ubiquitous and classic piece of cheap, airy footwear much loved the world over except in Scotland where you’d likely loose toes to frostbite if you ventured outside in your thongs!

Australia is hot but it’s not always dry, as I discovered when the continuation of my cycle trip south of the city was brought to a premature end by monsoonal rains that brought unprecedented levels of precipitation and flash flooding, clearing the famous beaches of their beautiful people. So, on a rather damp note, my brief tour in Australia is over, as is my time pedalling down under. And as the days and months on the road accumulate while the trip budget diminishes, it’s time for me to fly back to the northern hemisphere for the final leg of my bicycle journey and the return ride to Scotland. Keep watching as I cycle home across Europe from the exotic, eastern city of Istanbul.

Portobello here I come!

Photos on Flickr - click on the link to the right and click on the pics.


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