Sunday, 18 September 2011

Crossing the Finish Line

Skenes Creek – Point Lonsdale

The Great Ocean Road really is a cycling mecca. The smooth road winds its way over gentle hills alongside the dramatic Southern Ocean. Every few kilometres a viewing area promises photo opportunities looking back over the stunning coastline, and on a weekday in early spring, the traffic is almost non-existent. It’s no wonder that Australia’s cycling elite favours this area and even the current Tour de France champion Cadel Evans lives down here, just 15 minutes down the road from Guy’s parents house. ||

Great Ocean Road beach

Guy’s dad had alerted some family friends living along the coast about our arrival, and so it was that we met Peter along the way near Skenes Creek. He had come out to meet us and ride together for a few hours. Peter had been introduced to cycling a couple of years ago by his mate, Tour de France stage winner Phil Anderson, who lent Peter his bike to give cycling a try. Peter hasn’t looked back since, and we are not surprised as he lives bang smack in the middle of one of the most beautiful section of the Great Ocean Road.

We had planned to camp at Wye River for the night, but as this is where Peter lives, he kindly invited us to stay with him and his wife, Corinne. Peter and Corinne have an incredible house and a small but luxurious B&B on a steep slope perched above the ocean below. The lounge room felt like the upper deck of a ship with its 180° seaview, and just as we arrived we watched a pod of dolphins playing in the waves of the bay below. In winter, migrating whales can often be seen from the house as they head towards Warrnambool to breed.

Peter   Freddie and Corinne

The hamlet of Wye River, like many others, was only accessible by boat or by rough bush track before the Great Ocean Road was built by returned servicemen after the First World War. The purpose of building the Great Ocean Road was to provide work for these soldiers, as well as making the area more accessible for logging and tourism.

It was our lucky day as Peter and Corinne were so lovely and really spoiled us on our second-last night of the trip. We fell asleep to the sound of the waves and awoke to a beautiful view over the bay. We only had a short day’s cycling planned and enjoyed a leisurely breakfast with Corinne before we headed off towards Lorne.

In Lorne, we met up with Tony, another friend of Guy’s dad and an early cycling inspiration for Guy. Guy remembers the moment when Tony showed up at his parents house (Guy was about 13), having just cycled around Australia. 15,000km in 72 days! Guy distinctly remembers thinking he was nuts!

Great Ocean Road   Tony

Tony had invited us to stay with him and his wife Pam in Fairhaven. They have a lovely place overlooking the lighthouse and the sea, with a beautiful little cottage they used to rent out as a B&B, which was to be our home for the night.

Tony and Pam are so energetic, we really hope we can be a little like them later on in life. Despite being 70 years of age, Tony still runs half marathons and would whoop guys half his own age when on the bike. He is a great sportsman and even had the honour of carrying the olympic torch before the Sydney Olympics.

With Tony and Pam   Beach

We couldn’t sleep as we were so excited. What a great way to spend our last night on the road! We felt very lucky indeed.

On our last morning we were extra careful to take our time and not mess up. We didn’t want anything to go wrong now, so close to our goal.

Therefore Tony was surprised to see us again an hour later, barely 10km on, enjoying our last guilt-free binge at a bakery and soaking up the beautiful sunshine. The weather was just perfect, a real spring day with 20°C and a cloudless sky (just as we were also blessed with beautiful spring weather on the day we left London in May 2010).

We were now cycling along the Surf Coast with its world class surfing beaches. Bells Beach featured in several surfing movies and hosts the world’s longest running annual surf competition which started in 1961. Guy couldn’t help ogling the surf boards for sale everywhere and was clearly looking forward to dusting down his own surfboard which was hanging up in his parents garage.

Surf boards for sale   Bells Beach

When we reached Barwon Heads, we were really on our home turf. Coffee At The Heads was a mandatory stop and a bit emotional too as we had enjoyed many coffees here in the past and were only 15km from home now.

At The Heads, Barwon Heads   Point Lonsdale

Passing through Ocean Grove, we soon rolled down the hill towards the village of Point Lonsdale and the end of our journey. We had butterflies in our stomachs and, feeling excited and nervous, resisted the temptation to cycle straight to Guy’s parents house. First, we needed to visit the front beach and the light house.

Point Lonsdale’s headland, together with Point Nepean on the other side, frames The Rip, the narrow entrance to Port Philip Bay. All ships travelling to and from Melbourne have to pass through The Rip, one of the most treacherous waterways in the world. Even nowadays, despite the existence of GPS, most ships are escorted into and out of the bay with pilot boats who know the exact location of the dangerous reefs.

Racing up to the light house at the headland, we felt stunned. How many times had we replayed this moment in our minds, it was always such a long way away, but now we were really here. WE HADE MADE IT!

ARRIVAL IN POINT LONSDALE   Point Lonsdale lighthouse

With disbelief in our voices, we laughed and yelled and whooped.

When we left London, with Freddie’s back issues we didn’t even know if we would make it to France, and here we were, having cycled ALL THE WAY (the back pain never came back). The whole 18,168 km. Always thinking of this little lighthouse as our end goal, but at times it seemed just too far away. There was so much to get right, so much that could potentially go wrong. Though not under huge time pressure we had to keep moving, we knew we couldn’t afford to be ill for too long, we new we couldn’t afford to wait weeks for a spare bike part to arrive.

One thing we knew was that giving up was not an option. The decision might be made for us, out of our control, but we certainly weren’t going to give up easily.

Point Lonsdale map

We were especially proud to achieve our ultimate goal and not take a single lift. (Ok, apart from the time a police chief in Iran forced us into a pickup truck for 25km). Cycling all the way and not taking lifts was important to us for a few reasons: Kind people donated to our charity, and the challenge we set was to cycle to Australia. Hitching lifts would have also diminished the feeling of satisfaction and achievement for us.

Before we knew it we were climbing our last hill, on the other side was home and the end of an era. We stood at the top and looked down towards the finish line. Some part was pulling us back, not wanting to relinquish the vagabond life we have grown to love. Another part of us knew that it can’t go on for ever, and we wouldn’t want it to, the time was right to end the ride.

We shifted down for the final time and cruised down the hill towards Guy’s parents house, we could already spot them in the distance, looking out for us. Richard, Di and their little Jack Russell Maddie had waited for this moment for so long, patiently putting up with all our detours and explorations. They looked pretty happy that we were finally there for real!

Di, Richard and Maddie   HOME

There was nothing more to do than flick the kettle on and put our feet up!

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Well done to you a wonderful story and adventure that has been your experience,it was a pleasure to host you and learn a little of the trip.
Richard and Di will be happy you got back without getting kidnapped!
Now looking to find life back to normal?

Gran Fondo yesterday at Lorne over 2600 bikes good weather well organised-took me 3hours 50.19 just qualified for world age group titles in Belgium 2012!

Anyway welcome home hope to catch up sometime Tony/Pam

BB said...

Congratulations! Thanks so much for recording your ride, it's been a lot of fun to follow. Best wishes for your next plans. Caro.

David Holmes said...

Glad to see you made it. I've been following your adventures through the Red Centre and the coast since we met in Kakadu National Park back in May. I was on a bike, you were renting a car (you didn't miss much ride-wise).

After being on the road for so long I hope you somehow manage to settle back into real life now you're in Victoria. I can't.

Good luck. Until your next adventure.......

Dave

Freddie and Guy said...

Thanks everyone for your lovely comments. We are slowly settling back into life at home and getting used to sleeping in beds, wearing jeans and having to watch what we eat. Sometimes we miss the simple life of bike touring though!

Tony - Congratulations on your qualification. Will you go to Belgium then?

Caro - glad you enjoyed our posts :-)

David - well done on making it back home, and hopefully you will get used to it soon. Otherwise, Africa?

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