Day 7..Hawks Nest to Newcastle 

An earlyish start to allow time for breakfast in Tea Gardens, before catching the 9am ferry over to Nelson Bay.    We’ve done the ferry trip before on a family outing, but catching it as part of a cycling route has kind of been on our bucket list for some years, after seeing  the ferry arrive here once, with a bicycle on board.

We weren’t sure how they’d feel about a tandem, but they took it in their stride.

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My feelings as I blogged while on the ferry:
After six days straight riding the bod is feeling it. Spent much of yesterday fantasising about a rest day. Might have to compromise on a half day rest by stopping in Newie rather than capitalising on being ahead of schedule and pushing through a bit further.  Will see how the legs and bums feel once we set off from Nelson Bay…

Hmmm, not the ideal frame of mind  in which to be tackling the nearly 50k to Stockton. Mostly west into a headwind and a road that was not going to offer much in scenery as compensation!

Despite seemingly only just having had breakfast, a coffee and snack was in order before heading out of Nelson Bay. Just as soon as we got away from the ‘breeze’ down near the water. We found a sunny spot outside a little cafe up in town.

The road from Nelson Bay was as ‘blah’ as anticipated  –  probably one of the worst of the whole ride, really.  Lots of traffic compounded by that headwind. The only respite was a detour along Marsh Road through ‘Bob’s Farm’ (And then we had ‘words’ – our first real barney on the tandem – over calling when there was a gap in the traffic behind us so as to cross.  I know I have a rear vision mirror, and it’s my job to call, but I can’t see through bushes!!   Maybe today should have been a rest day!)

There were a few weird sights along that road!  We spotted one front yard adorned with stuffed dummies wearing various kinds of overalls and various kinds of masks (gas,welding, etc)  Like something out of Doctor Who. And on the ‘mangrove’ side, a few trees all decorated with crazy stuff.  At the end of that detour, we stopped at the junction for a break… not too salubrious amongst the litter, but sometimes it’s just like that.   And then after starting off, there was a large servo just around the corner about 100m up the road. Doh.

You know the route doesn’t have much to offer when the (next) service station only 10k down the road at Williamtown looks to you like an oasis, and an icecream sitting on the gutter between the servo forecourt and an expanse of bindis, feels like heaven.

The ONLY memorable, and GOOD part of this ride was as we passed some road workers and traffic controllers.  On a tandem, the usual thing you hear called out tends to be ‘the one on the back isn’t pedalling’ – although to be fair, we didn’t actually get that on this trip – instead the comedic comment du jour was ‘So who does all the work haha?’. Which we don’t quite understand, but anyway.   So, how cool was it when one of the female road crew called out as we went past – “Go team!”   It put a smile on my face for the next few kilometres.

The main drag (before the Stockton turnoff) was still so unpleasant we made a kind of desperate but failed (too early!) shortcut attempt to the east through a new estate (thus adding a couple of unnecessary ks)  but we finally got to the Stockton turnoff. A shared path through parkland, and then along the beachfront made things a bit better.
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Ferry or lunch first?  Hard to decide, but the choice was made when we rolled through the shopping strip in Stockton without spotting anything that piqued our interest – and then seeing the ferry steaming into the wharf.  Cue a frantic trawl through the panniers (trying to remember where I’d stashed the Opal cards!) and we rolled straight aboard, following the example set by another passenger with a bike.

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Even room for a tandem in the bike parking bay!

It’s only a few minutes and 700m across the river to Newcastle city centre.

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By then it was 3.00  and both of us were, by then, a bit ‘hangry’ and getting snippy with each other over where to have a late lunch.   There was, fortunately, somewhere still open for food near the wharf.  Much better, and much more civil after that.

By then we’d decided to stay in Newcastle and also to just pay a bit more for a hotel close to the water (Noahs on the Beach) once establishing they had somewhere they were happy to stash the tandem overnight.  By the time we’d ridden round to the hotel, the bike computer showed we’d done 58k for the day.  Not that much, but there was time chewed up with the ferry ride. And after the previous day? Enough.

We’d missed our ‘dip’ the previous night (and fancied that our legs were feeling it more than other days), so we wandered down to the Ocean Baths. (A bit of ‘nostalgia’ for us here, as this was the finishing point for our Sydney-Newcastle overnight ride late last year!)

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yeah, i’m a wuss…it was cold, so the thermal top stayed on.. that’s me studiously ignoring the crazy people down the other end, fully immersed and doing laps 😀

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Back to the hotel for a shower! We found a Thai restaurant around the corner from the hotel for dinner,  a supermarket to buy some stuff for breakfast…. And the bed was the best we’d had all week.

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