I woke up to sunlight hitting my face through a crack in the curtains. I slept in a sofa-bed that felt more comfortable than many of the motel and trailerpark beds I experienced over the last month. It was a nice, peaceful feeling knowing a friend is sharing the room with you. Fears of large insects and mould are no longer a thing these days. I laid in bed for a bit longer, relishing the fact that the next ride will be the second-last, and that I get to ride with my dear friend Kate again.
As we were getting geared up, I realized that my Scala Rider Q3 was no longer functioning. It didn't hold a charge anymore and couldn't communiate to any devices. No, not now! I must have my music! I decided to pull a Macgyver and tape some headphones into the helmet so that I can keep listening until we find an electronics store. It was uncomfortable and ineffective, so I decided to go music-less until the next stop.
After packing our bags and dressing our battle horses, we took off down the main road and stopped at a petrol station about a kilometre away. I guess in the excitement I forgot to close up my bags properly - the first time this whole trip - and the tailbag was wide open. I must have left it open looking for duct tape for my headphones. My beloved Flying Solo Gear Co. snapback cap was gone! It was the last one in grey and I couldn't bear leaving it behind. We reluctantly turned around and went back to the hotel, which was a task in itself given the positioning of the place. We searched the room over and over, only to decide that it was probably somewhere on the road. This would be the first and only time I ever turned back for something I lost on the road.
After we pulled out onto the main road again, Kate pointed to this soggy mass laying on the road between the two lanes. Ah shit. We both pulled over, I waited for a decent gap in traffic, and I ran full speed to grab the cap. It looked like the smushed mask from Mrs Doubtfire but nevertheless I threw it back in my bags and off we went.
The first quarter of the ride was filled with traffic, mostly locals trying to get up and down the highway through numerous construction zones. It tested our patience, but at least the locals weren't as hasty and road raging as the ones up near Brisbane. The weather was on and off for the most part, and by the time we reached Port Macquarie, the sun was just bright enough to dry up our clothes. We stopped in for a coffee and I made a mad dash into JB HI FI (an electronics store) to grab an auxillary extension cord. This was so I could play tunes in my helmet headphones directly from my iPod, without needing to use my Scala Rider. It was bliss.
The ramp back onto the highway from Port Macquarie had a turnoff for "Wauchope". I laughed to myself because I've personally stayed in Wauchope NT for 2 nights, almost a week apart, only a few weeks ago. Wauchope NT is a much different experience though, with literally 4 petrol pumps, a restaurant, and motel combined into one.
I found it easier to withstand the distances in the Outback because of the uninterrupted landscape. The colours are pleasing to the eye when you're out in nature. Construction signs and obnoxious fluro yellow everywhere can make the head spin. But it was also telling me that I was closer and closer to the most well known city in the Southern Hemisphere. People from around the world fly here to see Darling Harbour and of course the famous Sydney Opera House, and I'm sure tourism has increased ever since Finding Nemo was released. Did you know that 42 Wallaby Way actually exists, but in Queensland?
Kate and I stopped at the outskirts of Sydney, with traffic on all sides of us in every direction. This was pre-peak hour suburbian Sydney - a culture shock to the system after traversing the deserts of one of the most isolated countries on earth. We said our sad goodbyes and she started her journey south. My journey was 17km away to stay at my friend Seong's place. The plan was to take off all my gear and scoot down to the landmarks for a photoshoot. I threw on the GPS to her place and off I went.
Holy hell. I was then reminded of how ridiculous Sydney traffic can be. Melbourne and Sydney are opposite shapes - Sydney is shaped more like Vancouver in that it is very much a coastal city, on somewhat of a peninsula, on hilly and uneven terrain. It has multiple bridges and highways that connect in a network (often above ground) and has a very concentrated city centre at the tip. But Vancouver has 1/3 of the population of Sydney and though traffic can be bad, it's not a super-metropolitan. Melbourne is shaped the complete opposite - it spreads around a bay, and is not fighting for space as you would if you were on a peninsula. The CBD can get cluttered but free trams transport people to where they need to be. Suburbian traffic can be very slow, but they all spread outward and becomes quicker the further you go out.
In short, it took me over an hour to travel those 17 kilometres, each kilometre fearing that I'd get rear ended or sideswiped by a mom who is late to pick up her kids. Sydney isn't exactly mean, it's just chaotic.
Seong and I met last year when she offered to house me when I was visiting Sydney the first time. We met through Instagram and have become friends ever since, including her helping me get through some transitional phases in life and cheering me up through a couple of personal obstacles. Her husband is part of the police and they happily share a massive home with 3 kooky, fun dogs. They're both talented riders through and through.
I finally reached Seong's place and stood in front of her garage. Worn, wilted, and wet, I tried for another 45min to get her garage door open so I could get into the house. She was still at work but trying her best to explain it. At the end of it all, the garage handle needed to be turned a certain way before getting in. I was pulling against a locked garage for 45min.
Sheba finally indoors, I greeted all her little pets (Alabama Rose, Jedi, and Dexter, all ridiculous and lovable in their own way) and took a shower. It was the quickest shower I ever had because the furry kids wanted some attention. Once I stumbled into the bed, I was a goner. No force on earth could get me out of this bed. Except for one thing.
Dinner with my other favourite Sydneysider, Anna. Anna is a current Australian National Team paddler whom I met in another lifetime, back when I paddled competitively for the Canadian team. She also competes in powerlifting and is one of my personal inspirations.
Seong came home and we hurriedly cleaned the house (well she cleaned, I watched) until we had to leave for dinner. Our drive was about 15 minutes down the road, to meet Anna who went on an hour-long excursion from the other side of town to meet us. This was no longer peak hour but it still took a portion of a fruitfly's life to get there. Korean BBQ was on my mind since Broome because I was craving authentic Asian food by that point. Seong had us in stitches and Anna impressed us with her classiness and charm. I love them both and wouldn't wish for a different evening in Sydney.
Tomorrow - the final leg of this incredible journey. And it all begins with a damn early start and a coldness that reaches deep into my soul.