Sunday, 26 April 2015

COASTAL ESCAPE CYCLE TOUR - Day 4 - Gerringong to Nowra, NSW

Before I take you along for the next part of the tour, I have to tell you about our culinary exercise last night. Four of our party fancied having steak for dinner and after some vigorous inquiries, we found ourselves at Cronin's Hotel. We were very pleasantly surprised as the quality of the steak was superb, cooked to our individual liking, the vegetables tasted as though they were freshly cooked and the bottle of red that accompanied the steak was very nice as well. When in a strange town, it always pays to make inquiries with the locals.

A nice  panorama of Gerringong taken from the south head, uploaded by "Not Tarts" in 2011. (Wiki Media Commons)

There's nothing quite like a heart starter first thing in the morning to get the blood flowing and that is exactly how the morning started, a 7% gradient climb up a  hill. Everybody must have had a good night's sleep because I don't remember passing any cyclists walking.

Gerringong cemetery

What drew my attention in the above shot, was the trees on the top of the hill. They reminded me of a line of nuns marching off to morning prayers. It's unusual to find a cemetery high on a hill, playing sentinel over a bay with a high escarpment. Another thing that caught my eye was the juxtaposition of the cemetery with all of it's starkness and severity in marked contrast to the smooth line of the beautiful emerald green hill which lay opposite.

The first leg of the ride, taking us to Berry, didn't cause us any grief even though we were warned that some of the roads were narrow with very little shoulder and had a fairly constant stream of traffic.

It seemed to take no time at all to ride to Berry, a quaint rural town nestled in the hinterland behind Seven Mile Beach. Incidentally, it was here that Charles Kingsford-Smith in 1933, used this strip of beach to take off on the first commercial flight to New Zealand. On reaching Berry, the group split in order to search out a suitable cafe to relax in prior to riding the next leg to Nowra and as there are quite a few cafes and bakeries in town this didn't prove to be a difficult task.

Berry district

The above photograph is typical of the lay of the land in these parts with it's undulating terrain. great for grazing cattle and the operation of dairies. I believe the area was known for it's red cedar but that era has long gone.

Due to it's location, only 145 odd kilometers south of Sydney, it makes the ideal place to set up a hobby farm, quiet, not far inland of the coast and as the town is of a reasonable size with it's hotel, restaurants, antique shops and galleries it amply caters for the city person wanting somewhere to retreat to on weekends and holidays

View of the Shoalhaven River from the Two Figs Winery.
The entrance toTwo Figs Winery.

From Berry to the Two Figs Winery is a quiet, relaxing rural ride with little traffic to contend with and as such, it was quite easy to slip into a rhythm, increase the speed a notch or two and just sit back and enjoy the ride. This cost me a stint in the sin bin from our leader for breaking ranks and doing my own thing......rightly so too because riders doing their own thing can cause chaos when riding in a group of 18.

Nowra bridge- Photo courtesy of Wiki Media Commons -grahamec
Marriott Park, Nowra. Photo courtesy of Wiki Media Commons--grahamec
On the last leg, the road became a lot busier as we made our way through Bomaderry on the outskirts of Nowra,  to our accommodation, the Park Haven Motor Lodge, 

It was good planning on our tour operator's part to make a diversion and head into the hinterland because when riding along a painted seascape day in and day out as we were doing, everything tends to merge and it loses it's impact, where as, by throwing in a day of rural riding everything is brought back into perspective.

Gerringong to Nowra, NSW (Map courtesy of Ride with GPS,


Cheers and safe riding,

  Jimmy Bee   

Saturday, 25 April 2015

COASTAL ESCAPE CYCLE TOUR - Day 3 - Kiama to Gerringong, NSW

Kiama is famous for it's Blowhole but seasons and weather play a large part and under the right conditions, the spray can reach heights of 25 meters. To gain a better understanding of what causes this phenomenon please open the following link, .

Today is a rest day from cycling and we were given two options on how we were to spend the day of which the first option was to potter around Kiama for the day and then take the train to Gerringong. The second option was to walk the 11 km kiama Coastal Path with our bikes being transported along with our suitcases to our next accommodation.

The start
Goats were put on earth to do this sort of thing, not cyclists.

9 hardy souls including myself decided on taking the walk. It was a lovely walk with perfect weather and on a personal basis I found it to be the biggest highlight of the tour. Being coastal, it followed the contours of the land and afforded some of the most spectacular views which helped enormously in distracting the mind from the task of walking up and down hills.

Another distraction.... the yellows and oranges of the lichen on the rocks and the vibrant purple of wildflowers in the field.

A pod of dolphins chasing a shoal of bait fish. In the right season, this could just as easily have been Southern Right Whales

The athletic - this lady was literally running up this hill.

and then there was the one rose amongst the thorns.

We're nearing the end, I can see Gerringong in the distance.

The Finish.....Clockwise: "As beers go this ain't too bad", "Is he joking?", "One more and I'll slide right off this chair"

On reaching Gerringong, I knew I had just walked 11 km but didn't feel in any way stretched but  I have to say that I really appreciated that first cold beer of the day, made even better by knowing that it was being paid for by Australian Cycling Holidays No! I didn't get that wrong, our touring company paid for the first drink at the end of each day's ride.....nice touch huh?

For more detailed information on this walk, please open the following link,


Cheers and safe riding,

  Jimmy Bee   

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

COASTAL ESCAPE CYCLE TOUR - Day 2 - Wollongong to Kiama, NSW

On leaving our hotel en-route to Flagstaff Hill, this was the first view that captured my attention. As you can see, it was slightly overcast and the light was just right to capture this seascape. Nice contrast of colours, surf rolling in with the two lighthouses in the background and a hill of beautiful, vibrant green grass.

Who would have thought that a city like Wollongong could be so picturesque. It would have been nice to have had more time to spend exploring the outer areas surrounding this great city but alas this has to take place at another time as Kiama beckons.

Before we actually left Wollongong, our tour operator had recommended that we visit the largest Buddist Temple in the Southern Hemisphere Nan Tien which translates to Paradise of the South.

Disappointingly, on the way  to the temple, I once again struck problems with my gears and I was not a happy chappy, however, I am not going to dwell on this matter as Emma, our tour operator organised for the bike to be replaced at the temple and from that time on, I experienced no problems at all and I was very happy with the performance of the new bike.

I have spent a reasonable amount of time in various parts of Asia over the years and I would have to say this is one of the most impressive  temples of it's kind that I have seen. Absolutely magnificent gardens and it is well worth climbing the many steps to view the interior of the temple.

Shellharbour, NSW
As with the previous day, we passed through a myriad of coastal villages and beaches all displaying a uniqueness in their own right but we had to make a decision on a lunch stop and this was Shellharbour, a pretty, tidy town with an old fashioned feel about it. This was an ideal lunch stop as there were many premises that catered to the hungry tourist. Some of our group bought take away and consumed their lunch on the foreshore whilst others availed themselves of one of the many cafes.

Minnamurra, NSW
This whole coastline is just full of photo opportunities but every now and then, one outstanding opportunity pops up and you automatically stop and snap it. it is rare to be able to ride following the contours of a coastline  so closely for so long but that is exactly what this Illawarra region offers you. One minute you are riding along a very ordinary cycle path and the next you are looking at a panoramic view straight off one of the better calendars you see for sale in bookshops, etc.

Kiama, NSW
We hadn't ridden more than a few kilometers when the above panorama came into view and I made this the last snap of the day as I knew we were nearing the outskirts of Kiama and we had a few hills to take our attention prior to arriving at our destination.

The hills didn't faze us too much, our accommodation at the Sebel Harbourside Hotel was easy enough to locate and now it was just a matter of having showers, finding the bar and settling in for a night of conviviality and relaxation.

A lovely surprise was waiting for me when I booked in, a $50 voucher from Australian Cycling Holidays to compensate for the inconvenience experienced with the bike. Thanks Emma, it was appreciated and as it affected the whole group, it was used in buying some wine for all to enjoy.

Map of the ride from Wollongong to Kiama, NSW


Cheers and safe riding,

  Jimmy Bee   

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

COASTAL ESCAPE CYCLE TOUR - Day 1, Waterfall to Wollongong, NSW

This is the official start of our Coastal Escape Cycling Tour provided by Australian Cycling Holidays. The tour itself was 7 days but not every day was taken up with pedaling and in fact it presented a nice break to do something totally different during the tour and this will be explained in due course as I take you along for the ride day by day.

The sky was overcast and the temperature was slightly on the chilly side as we left our hotel and walked the short distance to Central Station to board an electric train to Waterfall. The journey took no time at all as we passed through suburbia to the southern outskirts of Sydney. Although I found the train relaxing as I travelled through areas I hadn't seen for many years, there was a certain amount of nervous energy building inside of me, almost like a child on Christmas morning, awaiting the fulfilment of riding a new route, something I hadn't done before, something different to see and photograph.

Waterfall, NSW
On arrival at Waterfall, it took us no time at all to locate our cycling hosts and we went about the business of collecting our bikes. Everyone took their bikes for a short trial run, necessary adjustments were made, paperwork completed, a group photograph taken and we were on our way to Wollongong, the first leg of our trip.

Before we left we were handed maps and when I looked at Day 1, I immediately thought this has the makings of an excellent ride, unfortunately I had only ridden about 4 km when I struck trouble with my bike. The long glide down the first hill was good, although the bike wasn't rolling as freely as I would have liked and then as I started to climb and  applying a little pressure on the pedals, the gears wouldn't hold. This was not good as I still had quite a climb in front of me. In hindsight, I should have rang for help then and there but I didn't, electing to carry on. Others in the group were having various problems as well but they appeared to be manageable.

Royal National Park, NSW
This photograph was taken from Otford Lookout
Stanwell Park, NSW. Photograph courtesy of Wiki Commons - Author Klaus Dieter Liss.
It was very pleasant riding through the Royal National Park and following the meandering Hacking River all of the way to Stanwell Park, approximately 20 km .

Sea-Cliff Bridge
We had set our sights on making Scarborough for lunch as we had been told that there was a very popular hotel overlooking the sea that had an excellent reputation of serving great lunches. But before we got there, we had to ride along the Sea-Cliff bridge, a couple of kilometers north of Scarborough. The structure is an engineering feat in itself , however, riding a bike in this situation is just so much better than travelling in a car as it affords you the time to actually enjoy the never ending panorama of cliffs disappearing into the azure colored ocean. I should imagine that in the right season the whale watching right along this coast would be absolutely awesome.

Scarborough Hotel, NSW
If you happen to be a tourist driving or like ourselves, cycling along the Lawrence Hargreaves Drive, you would do yourself a favor by stopping and having a fish meal in this hotel. The fish fillets that I had were fresh and so delicious that my mouth still waters just thinking about it and the view didn't hurt either.

It's no wonder that this stretch of coastline has the reputation of being one of the most spectacular drives in the world. It's certainly no exaggeration, the coastal views are simply breathtaking.

Austinmer, NSW - Courtesy of Wiki Media Commons - Author: Klaus-Dieter Liss
After lunch, we continued on Lawrence Hargrave Drive until we reached the junction of Mountain Road, on the southern side of Austinmer. After making our way down to the beach, we rode south until we reached the Illawarra Coastal Cycle Path, which we stayed on until we reached our accommodation at North Wollongong.

Novotel Wollongong, North Beach, NSW
After booking into the Novotel, I rang Emma from Australian Cycling and informed her of the problems I had with the bike. She arranged for their mechanic to take a look at the bike that night at the hotel. I was later told that the bike was now OK to ride.

At this point, I have to commend Australian Cycling Holidays on the quality of their maps and Trip Notes. They are without doubt, the best I have had, easy to follow and full of useful information e.g. recommended restaurants, cafes, toilets etc.


Cheers and safe riding,

Jimmy Bee


Monday, 6 April 2015


I was travelling with two of our group, and our plan was to fly into Sydney and walk the picturesque coastal walk from Bondi to Coogee. We booked into the Y Hotel mid morning, which is situated in a central part of Sydney, close to transport. By chance we met up with another two of our group who had already had a day in Sydney and just returned from a harbour cruise. Our ranks swelled to 5.

Lunch at Watsons Bay, NSW

Percy Pelican and friends

A view from Watsons Bay with Sydney Harbour Bridge in background

Having purchased senior day passes from a local convenience store which enabled us to travel on all modes of public transport for a very moderate price, we headed for Watsons Bay, which affords spectacular ocean and harbour views. This was to be a relaxing, tourist day out, walking, taking in what the busy metropolis of Eastern Sydney suburbanites had to offer. We started by having fish and chips, sitting on the seawall and feeding the pelicans and seagulls the leftovers . Unfortunately, for the poor  marine birds, our lunch was so fresh and nice that there were few scraps to offer. Wildlife lovers would probably say that was a good thing, personally, I think it would be far more palatable than discarded plastic bags and fishing line, however.......

Photograph taken from The Gap looking south

Lunch over, we ascended the many steps to the top of the cliffs on South Head, historically referred to as The Gap. Unfortunately, this beautiful location has a dark and tragic history and for some, in a moment of madness, was the last view that they ever took in as they ended their own life on the rocks below, or as occurred on a number of occasions, their life was taken from them either by accident or foul play.

Bondi Beach

This was a great start to our day in Sydney. We then boarded a bus to North Bondi, where we proceeded to walk the length of Bondi Beach to the famous Icebergs Swimming Club , on the southern side of Bondi Beach. The water looked so enticing and as a result many photographs were taken.

It's not all surf and seascapes at Bondi Beach - there is a wonderful display of street art along the promenade. if nothing else, it certainly is a conversation maker with both tourist and locals alike.

Icebergs Club on the southern end of Bondi Beach
We left one of our group at Icebergs as she was starting to have problems with her knee and decided to use the time swimming  and we continued the coastal cliff walk to Coogee Beach, electing to meet up with us for a drink on our return.

Inside a small sandstone cave
The small but beautiful Tamarama Beach
The walk from Bondi Beach to Coogee Beach is probably in the realm of the great walks to be had in Sydney, of which there are many. Although the weather was threatening at the time, the rain held off and we really enjoyed the walk. Unfortunately, we were running out of time and decided to turn around at Bronte Beach and returned to The Icebergs.

Ben Buckler as seen from The Icebergs Club
Having met up with our fifth member, we ensconced ourselves on the deck at Icebergs and indulged in some amber, liquid refreshment whilst watching the waves crash onto the shoreline. What a way to relax before starting on a week long bike adventure the following day.