Australia trip, Katoomba to Yamba.
Anyone here with any advice? I'm planning a trip from the Blue Mountains up north to Yamba. I have never been to Australia and really know nothing about what kind of roads I will encounter along the way. I let google maps plan directions on how to walk it and I assume that if it can be walked it can be done by bike. Anyone got any experience cycling up or down NSW? I think it'll be pretty easy but I would like any advice anyone has. I'll be setting off November 12 or so. I would like to do the trip in under a week. Sounds doable?
Long Distance Cyclist
On my first trip to Australia (2004), right toward the end of the trip, I took the bus from Brisbane to Sydney, and then spent a day in the Blue Mountains by train and walking. So I have not cycled any/much of it.
The direct route (750 km), along the coast, is a main road and would likely be very busy. There may even be sections of freeway in the Syndey area that you would not be allowed to cycle on. I don't know what the shoulders or road conditions are like, but it would likely be the flattest route, although probably not all that flat. Once you go inland, to quieter roads, you're into the Great Dividing Range and it is hilly. Australia is surprisingly hilly.
If you travel fairly light and are a very good hill climber, 100+ km a day might be doable.
I do recommend going to the Blue Mountains. They are beautiful, and I really liked how easy it was to get a train up there from the middle of Sydney, and I liked their bus system around the Blue Mountain area.
This is my collection of Australian photos:
And here's a shot of the Blue Mountains ... sorry, not the best photo. It was taken with a very cheap camera and film I'd been carting around with me for about 6 weeks.
When Chris L gets back from his trip out west, he might be able to give you a more detailed idea of the roads etc.
There are two main routes: Pacific Highway and New England Highway. I took the Pacific Highway in 2001 and here was my journal describing travels along the route: http://www.mvermeulen.com/oneyear/Journal/may01.htm
The Blue Mountains can definitely have some hills, but the route along the coast isn't particularly hilly. There can be a fair amount of traffic in the 150km around Sydney and more sparse after that. If you are going through Sydney itself that will take some care (though I found it easier than say Phoenix, Detroit, Orange County/San Diego or similar sized metro areas in the US). Roads were all in reasonable conditions.
Personally, I would opt for the New England route. We were driving through there in Feb (up via the coast, back inland) and I enjoyed the inland much more. I used to much prefer the coast but not any more. I find the Pacific Hwy to be a bit crazy at times, and there were huge stretches of construction that are probably still ongoing (I beleive they want to make it two lanes all the way to Brisbane. There's probably lots of backroads along the coast to get off the highway, but there will be other areas, particularly crossing the rivers that you will need to get back on the main roads.
Find the lonely planet book: Cycling Australia
It has the route you are planning to do (and which I cycled (mostly) back in 2002). Can't remember all the details but it wasn't too hard I believe. Keep in mind though that the lonely planet book won't guide you the shortest way and generally keeps you off the highways.
Check out David in Oz, a blog by a British guy who did Aus in 07/08. The blog has a page that covers the leg from the Sydney area up the NSW coast to Yamba -- he even talks about a day tour to Katoomba. It's a while since I read it but I seem to recall he described lots of alternative routes to avoid the highway.
Also, check the blog by Kris and Erik from San Francisco (they stayed with us for a couple of days during the Sydney to Brisbane leg of their worldwide tour, lovely people). They took an alternative route between Coffs Harbour and Grafton, to avoid the Pacific Highway but found it more difficult than the highway had been because the hills were steeper and more frequent and the roads were narrower (not to mention the timber trucks!). Their Sydney to Yamba leg is covered at http://www.vent5.com/Vent5/Blog/Entr...0_Entry_1.html They said the route we suggested along the Clarence River from our place to Yamba was one of the most pleasant days of their trip.
You might find more info in the touring section of Australian Cycling Forums. Just noticed there's a new thread there by someone doing Newcastle to Brisbane soon.
Generally speaking, the highway up the coast (aka Highway 1 or the Pacific Highway) has reasonable shoulders and doesn't have too many hills steeper than maybe 7 or 8%. However the NSW RTA (Roads and Traffic Authority) does have the really annoying habit of stealing the hard shoulder space when it adds an extra lane (but at least at these points there is an extra lane for traffic to pass). Last week I drove most of the route you're planning and kept watching the shoulder and gradients and it wasn't too bad. There's a fair bit of road work happening about 200km north of Sydney though, and while the detour roads are always speed-restricted, some of them are pretty narrow.
There used to be restriction on bicycles using freeways, including the F2 Freeway north of Sydney, but I think the bicycle lobby has been successful in getting them removed. I just did a search on the RTA site and the only comment I could find was that only experienced riders should ride on freeways/motorways, which implies it's not illegal. I'll get my brother, who works at RTA, to check it out and let you know if I'm wrong about that. The Old Pacific Highway is still in place alongside much of the F2 but it would be much harder going.
By the way robertv, your tour has one extra point of interest for me -- my mum grew up just up the road from Katoomba and I live just down the road from Yamba.
With the advice I'm getting I'm already feeling confident this should be pretty easy. I really don't know how to decide which route will be best as they both sound pretty good. I kinda like hills though so maybe the inland route will be more fun. I'll definitely pick up the lonely planet book.
The choice of start and endpoint wasn't really a choice. I'm moving to Australia with my girlfriend and for the first 2 months we're going to be living at her mother's house in Leura. A friend of mine who lives in Yamba told me I should come visit and so a cycling trip was decided on.
Long Distance Cyclist
I'm guessing ... you're under 30?
Originally Posted by robertv
What gave it away? Confidence that something would be easy? The desire to take a hilly route? Or that we're moving into my girlfriend's mum's house for two months? hah. 23. so good guess.
Long Distance Cyclist
The fact that you said you're moving to Australia.
Originally Posted by robertv
I'm over 30, and am in the middle of the whole, complicated, long and drawn out process of "moving" to Australia ... and the only chance I have of staying here is because I'm actually married to an Australian. And there's no guarantee in that. But people who are under 30 can just move here without all the red tape.
Incidentally, this is why I encourage the people here who are under 30 to travel and actually live in other countries. Once you hit 31, the ease of doing that sort of thing is over.
Ah yes, the wonderful working travel visa!
Every lane is a bike lane
Seconded. There is an excellent route at the end of that book along the East coast, which (I think) actually passes through Yamba. You can actually avoid the Pacific Highway for long stretches if you're prepared to use ferries across some of the rivers. If you PM me I might be able to loan you my copy. There's some lovely riding around Port Maquarie/Laurieton, and a great campsite in Crowdy Bay National Park at Diamond Head if you're prepared for dirt roads. The detour into the hills toward Dorrigo is also a must-do in that area.
Originally Posted by glrfndl
If you want some hills, you could head inland just north of Newcastle toward Gloucester and the Barrington Tops National Park, then from Wingham (near Taree) head north through Comboyne. It might be worth setting aside a couple of days just to explore that area (that won't be on the Lonely Planet route). Also, if you wanted to continue north for a few days, there's some great riding around Byron Bay and the area just inland from it.
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