Day 81: Saving the best till last 

Penultimate day, and what a day. Furthest I’ve done on my whole trip, longest time of the whole trip, most difficult road in both up and down AND traffic. Today was my limit.

 

I felt this one!

 
BUT I did see sydney for the first time from the mountain side. Made me a bit emotional – now it is starting to feel real. Made me smile! Plus finishing at the oldest pub in Australia in Windsor was a very nice touch (again a total accident!).

 

In the distance!

  

An excellent end to the day!

 Final day today! Gotta dash so will write when I’m done!

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Day 80: One to remember!

Day 80What a day! Up and down adventure, exactly what this trip is supposed to be about!

It started badly when I work up to the rain hammering the tent. Having run out of food my breakfast was dry bread and rehydrated milk, plus a few squares of chocolate from my snack bag, so adding that to laying in a wet sleeping bag and then putting on cold wet clothes was not my idea of fun. Anyway, eventually I set off up the steep hill in the cloud. Exactly 0.7 miles / 1km later I reached the summit, turned a corner and found a 24hr cafe / petrol station and motel! Curse you Google Maps! Well, at least I could get coffee and a bacon sandwich, so I was happy once more.

The running was tough all day; incessant steep hills up and down, sometimes with a shoulder and sometimes not, and the cloud I was in made it scary with the traffic. A few hours in and I saw blue flashing lights behind me; the cops pulled me over! Apparently there had been ‘complaints’. The guy was super chilled and we had a good chat, so I put my head torch on backwards and continued on. Result! Although if a driver has nothing better to do than complain about a guy running in a gutter in the rain while he doesn’t move his car/truck over a foot then I think I’m probably the winner between us when it comes to the ‘life’ game.

I reached Lithgow – which was surprisingly scenic – as the rain stopped and had a meal in what seemed to be the world’s busiest McDonald’s. Who WERE all these people! Anyway I was soon out and on the road as the sun came out. There were roadworks and the smell of fresh earth and trees was fantastic – I was in the mountains now! Unfortunately the roadworks meant there wasn’t any shoulder for sections, and with the Friday night traffic the EPIC climb up to the plateau was horrific. In the end I stopped worrying; they were either going to hit me or not. Worst, most stressful moment of the trip.

 

Never a good sign – ha get it?!!

 
FINALY I got to the top and I was done. With the sun already set and it was 6km to the town with all the motels so I stopped at the main hotel in the town (Mt Victoria). Turns out it was the oldest tourist hotel in Australia, and it is fabulous! Super old and nothing works, but it is AUTHENTIC. It even has a roaring COAL fire in the bar. Haven’t seen one of those for a long long time. What a great end to the adventure of today, James is a happy man.

A roaring coal fire… just the ticket!

Days 78, 79: Up, down, up, down…

I’m super tired so will keep it short(ish)! Making progress into the foothills of the blue mountains. Almost every stretch of road appears to be built going either vertically up or vertically down (Australian road builders appear to have forgotten the lost concept of ‘around’) which is making it very difficult going. Last night was the highlight of the last 2 days; I had misjudged the time needed to reach the next town so I ran for an hour in the dark. There was a wide shoulder and only a little traffic so it was actually nice. I think it was because it reminded me of winter climbing in the mountains, the icy air and the silence as you make your way through the darkness by head torch and moonlight. Smashing. I arrived in town and found a nice place to stay which was also the pub and had a fire – a wonderful reward! I also slept with an electric blanket for first time, another lovely surprise!

Today has been very very hard. An unusually good nights sleep made the first 40km doable despite the hills, cold, fog and rain, and in the afternoon I arrived in Bathurst. Not super impressed, I must say, maybe I was just grumpy or maybe I’m just not used to bigger towns any more. Or both!

The last bit was a never ending climb for miles, sometimes without a shoulder, as I headed for the tiny town of Yelthorne where a motel and warm bed awaited according to Google maps. I arrived there to find absolutely nothing, so now I am camped at the roadside in the drizzle with re-hydrated milk, old bread and a can of sardines for dinner. But I’m warm in my sleeping bag and happy. Rain is forecast for tomorrow but I’m just going to ignore that for now đŸ˜‰

3 days to go (hopefully!). I will leave you with a photo of some good magazines I saw a few days ago.

  

Days 76 and 77: When dark, disengage brain

The run to Young yesterday was long but not too bad until the last 2 hours. Then I t appeared that despite being on a road with double reflectors on it the locals had temporarily removed most of the brain cells required for driving as soon as the sun went down. Like they had solar powered brains. Blind overtaking in the dark, driving WAY too close despite seeing me in quadruple spotlights, you name it. In short, a little bit nervy. I was relieved to reach town, only to find that pretty much every hotel and motel was shut or shut down. Not what you need when it is already approaching freezing and you are wet and it’s dark. I eventually found a good place and rewarded myself with a KFC, the first I’ve seen since Perth. I was thus reminded why I don’t have KFC very often….

This morning I was a broken man, just zero motivation to get going. Eventually I did though, writing a message in the ice on the windscreen of the truck parked outside. Cold. The run was one of those which would have been lovely if it was short and I was in the right frame of mind, neither of which were true. The main good bit was meeting a lovely lady working in the only cafe in the only village on the way. She made a wicked burger with ‘the lot’ – it was a beast and much needed after I had very nearly thrown up at the roadside after a few too many biscuits eaten to ward off the cold.

More night running – this time with less traffic and less stress – and I reached the town of Cowra – voted New South Wales’ friendliest town in 2006 – according to the sign. It is OK! Making progress to a Sunday finish. đŸ™‚

  

Day 75: Tough tough tough

Day 75Tough tough tough day. Slept really badly and just didn’t have the energy after I woke up with it at 2C. Every hilly mile was a fight but in the end I arrived in the dark at the little town of Bethungo and camped in the little rest area. I woke up this morning to find it was about 50m before the hotel in town which hadn’t shown up on google. Grrr. 

On the plus side, last week was a new max, 271 miles / 440km in 54 hours of running. That’s a long way – to state the obviou – and I am definitely feeling it in my energy levels. But just one more week like that and I’m done!

  

Days 73 and 74: Meat, anyone?

It’s been a lovely 2 days for running and I have actually enjoyed them for the most part. I know that sounds strange, in that I either should enjoy most days or that I should enjoy running, but mostly I don’t. I’m mostly ambivalent; similar scenery, similar everything. But now for the last 2 days there have been pine trees and new birds and light winds, like a summer’s day run. And that has lifted my spirits.

 

Ah, trees

 

There have even been a few memorable moments, such as the ‘there is a fine for using leaded petrol’ sign at the caltex petrol station (it was banned here 13 years ago, by the way), but my favorite was being in the pub last night and watching the meat raffle. Yep, in the town’s main pub on a Friday night there was a raffle for some meat cuts. Awesome.

 

This unrefridgerated meat could be yours!!

 
So now I’m camped at the roadside once again listening to the wombats (I think) digging around my tent. I hope they are wombats at least. It’s a hard push to make the end by next Sunday but I am trying; daylight is my biggest barrier, as in not enough of it. I start at dawn and finish at dusk before I am tired. Hopefully I can speed up and make it!

ooo artsy

Day 72: Don’t sleep in front of a truck

Dragged myself out of my tent, shook the spiders off it and was on my way. Another day of reasonable conditions, cold but with only a light breeze and some brief drizzle spells. Combined with the smell of fresh wet earth from the fields I passed it pleasantly reminded me of England on a wet Aprils day. The only things which did anything to dispel that image were there parrots and the fact the fields were growing cotton. I’ve never seen that before. The roadside here for miles in every direction is strewn with what I thought was wool coming off these huge compacted bales which the trucks drive round, but it is cotton – You learn something every day.

Arrived at dusk at the first piece of civilization for 120km / 75 miles, a BP petrol station. No motel though, so much to the bemusement of the woman behind the counter I asked if I could put up a tent outside. “Don’t get run over by the trucks, though.” was her advice. Um, OK. So with the money saved I will donate that to Nepal earthquake relief. Nice to be able to do something good, even from the middle of nowhere.
 

Now that is a room with a view!

  

Hello!

 Only 400 miles to go now!

Day 71: Australindia

Had to do a little shopping run in town after my obligatory bacon, egg and cheese roll in the petrol station by the motel, and then I was on my way. The main point of interest today was the farmer who had decided that the grass really was greener on the other side, so had his large herd of cows eating the grass along the road rather than in the fields on both sides. It was like being back in India where all the trucks stop for the cows! Combine that with the flock of Pelicans I saw in a field miles from water (?!) and it’s been a strange animal day!

  
Watching the last remnants of a red sunset as I sat by my tent, hot cup of coffee in hand, I felt sad that this journey is slowly coming to an end. Most of me wants to finish, but that part of me which loves the solitude and the adventure knows it will miss it, stinky clothes and all. I guess I should spend the remaining days planning the next one! Answers on a postcard… đŸ™‚

Days 69 and 70: Darth Vader Appears…

Yesterday I was up early and out on the road, and what a lovely day it was; warm, sunny and no wind. Very nice indeed to be out running, at least for the first 20 miles or so before things started hurting. I ended up camping at a roadside stop which are now infinitely more frequent than they were in Western or South Australia. This was fortunate when my camping stove sprayed gasoline everywhere. I didn’t get it on my tent but eating surrounded by the fumes wasn’t super appetizing. I guess I won’t be eating hot meals for the last 2 weeks of camping.

The run of liquid mishaps continued when I woke up and realized that one of my bottles had leaked over the floor of my tent. It was the bottle you really don’t want to leak; the mountaineers and hardcore campers among you will know what I’m talking about. Ah, the challenges of camping. No harm done though and after a mop up I was eventually on my way. The wind was strong and it was partially cloudy, but otherwise OK until I turned around after 2 hours and looked behind me. Armageddon had arrived. A black roll cloud, the first I’ve ever seen, was coming from behind, and when it passed overhead it was like that scene at the beginning of Star Wars where the battle cruiser spaceship goes across the top of the screen. It reminded me of surfing in big Northern California swells when you get caught and look up at the dark mass about to land on you. It’s pretty scary, in this case for the epic drenching I was about to get.

 

Amazing cloud coming!

 
 

Overtaken by a Star Destroyer

 
Fortunately this cloud didn’t rain, but the clouds behind it did. I was soaked to the bone but oddly still in good spirits, which were further lifted when the storm front passed and the sun emerged. After a tiring 2 days and 84 miles / 133km I ran at sunset into the town of Hay for a well deserved bed and shower. Success!

Days 65 to 68: Calm before the Storm

It has been an improving few days weather-wise, and I’ve had a relaxing day off today. It’s my last one until the finish i think, so making the most of it. The motel people at the excellent Club Motel in balranald have been incredibly nice, and best of all one of the people I’ve got to know from Strava drove to the small town I’m in to say hello, along with his wonderful wife. What great people, it was such a kind gesture – especially as they drove 3 1/2 hours EACH WAY! One of the best things to happen on my trip without a doubt.

So not much to report from the last few days otherwise. A couple of nice sunsets and being woken up by kookaburra calls are about it. I was getting very drained both physically and emotionally, and suffering from bruising on my Achilles/hell; another pair of shoes are almost done (these now have approx 1,100km on them). But the day off to refocus on the final leg was helpful. I’m in New South Wales and the sign says 853km to Sydney. Can I do it in 13 days? We shall find out.
Onwards!