The Australian Bike Trip of Igor Nalimov and Valery Barvashov

Melbourne - Sydney - Brisbane (March-April, 2005)


start bike trip in Melbourne

In Melbourne(March 8, 2005)

March 12. We started the trip. Valery lost his helmet at a railway station of March. At the very beginning of the ride we met a married couple cycling from Brisbane to Adelaide on their tandem. We made our first kilometers on the Filip island, saw koalas in the Koala Park. We managed just 50 km during the first day. Spent overnight in St. Remo Camping Site.

On March 13 we cycled 50 km in 30 C heat to Inverloch. Valery swam in the Pacific Ocean. We could hardly find a spare place in a camping, because the town was overcrowded by visitor - a big Jazz Festival was held in the town.

On March 14 Valery bought a helmet from a teenage free-rider Rich. The helmet looks very military. Then we had flat tires twice. Then we made a wrong turn and came Cape Liptrap - almost southernmost point of Australian coastline. We had to drag our stuff along a narrow path in the bush -over the mountain then all the way down a stream creek and over the mountain again. Then we were lucky to settle down at a free camping site on the ocean shore in a very picturesque environment at he piedmont of forest-covered mountains.

March15. A steep climb 2 km long and exciting ride over undulating hillside up and down and up and down again all the way to a tiny village Fish Creek. Relaxed in cafeteria, called "Flying Cow". Cycled along a 15 km abandoned rail track remade for cycling. Camped in Toora. It is restricted to camp on the beach. Rangers scan the coastline and fine illegal campers.

March 16. 60 km to Woodsite. Raining all night It was cold in the morning.

March 17. Saw a kangaroo for the first time in Australia. There are many kangaroo warning road signs, but it is a lucky chance to see a wild kangaroo near a highway. Russians are everywhere. See the photo. Now we are camping in Sale in a caravan cabin. Roads are paved excellently everywhere. We are feeling fine.

no campingIvanovich Russian

March 18. We are riding deep in Australian countryside: small towns Sale, Bairnsdale. Here there were no Russian tourists. We are the first ones. Some guys on the street are not quite sure where Russia is located. Took a picture of a group of teenagers on the main square of Sale town. One of them said that his father is Russian. He also said that he does not speak Russian. But he knew just one phrase in Russian: “Kissen mir in tohos”, which is actually Jiddish and means: “Kiss my ass”. This guy knew a Russian very obscene, which we do not dare send by email, being decent gentlemen.

March 19. Found a very good 60 km long rail trail (an abandoned rail track redeveloped into a cycling lane), extending from Bairnsdale to Nowa-Nowa, which means “Mingling Water” in the aboriginal language. It very hot in the daytime (over 30 C) and it is cold in the night (less than 10 C). This day is remarkable day in that we have covered more than 500 km. We were lucky to find a heap of nobody’s superb apples. We are Russians and we like khalyava.

March 20. We boarded a bus, having loaded our bikes and stuff in the bus trunk, and moved over from the state of Victoria to the state New South Wales. Camped at Merimbula. This is a spa along the beach

March 21.On our way to Tathra, where we agreed to meet with Robert (thanks to Volodya for finding his telephone number that helped us to meet him). We turned into National Bournda Park, got stuck in the bush and finally emerged on the beach. We met three guys on the lagoon beach, who told us that we could find a trail to the highway 1 km down the beach. So we dragged our vehicles and stuff in loose beach sand, until we found the trail and then hit the highway. Another 25 km and a soon we saw a cyclist in yellow shirt who appeared to be Robert. Robert is a Secretary of the local Bicycle Users Group (BUG). He invited us stay with him and his wife Jane in a beautiful villa high up on the hill top. Robert and Jane took us to a ride on their off-road truck (Toyota Land Cruiser) to the place, where we saw about twenty kangaroos. Some of them had kids (cubs) in their pockets (patches). In the evening we showed video films, shot by Anatoly Gael, and they were great success.


March 22.We had a day off with no cycling. We learnt so much about Australia from Robert. He is a retired schoolteacher of psychology, same as his wife (teacher of English), and now is a volunteer social worker. We downloaded about 200 photos on two CD-ROMs in a photo shop. Visited a big cheese-making factory and tasted 20 kinds of cheese again free of charge. Jane treated us Australian traditional dish - meat pies, for lunch. It was raining cats and dogs almost all day. After lunch Robert took us to the beach in his truck. Robert and Valery swam in the surf.

March 23. We are saying good-bye to Rob. He promises to describe our stay to Volodya. We are pedaling on overcoming steep slopes. We have come to the Tasmanian sea coast (Bermagui). Sat for a long time and watched the rough seas and high surf breaking on rocks. In 15 km visit an road side Museum - Umbarra Aborigenal Cultural Center. Watched aboriginal dances on TV. Saw a great number of boomerang exhibits - small and big and a kayak. There remain just 250,000 full-blood aborigines, we met just several.

March 24. No adventures during this day. Camped near bush in the National Park with water, toilet (with pepifax rolls) but no electric power. Rode to saline Mummugi lake in the forest.

March 25. The first day of Easter. Crowds rushed to beaches. The traffic is hectic. All caravan parks are occupied by those who had booked accommodation in advance. We managed to find a place to put up a tent for A$23. Igor found that his rear tyre swelled and deformed and should be repaired or replaced. The night wind was high and temperature fell down to +8 C. We could hardly sleep because of kookaburra (local bird) screams. Those screams can hardly be described or imitated as they remind of operating high-voltage line noise mixed with that of running unlubricated bike chain amplified one hundred times.

March 26. Came across a garage sale right after we left the camping site. Valery bought an Australian national flag (Southern Cross) and used as a kerchief to protect his neck against the sun. Then we found McKenzie's Beach where many surfers tried their luck. Valery tried to overcome the surf and swim in the open ocean. But it was impossible - he was thrown back by the breakers each time he tried to do it. In spite of Easter holiday we managed to find an open bike shop, where a slightly drunken specialist fixed Valery's bike brakes, and Igor bought a brand new tyre. In order to keep up with the time-line we decided to go 120 km by bus to Nowra, but we were told to pay $45 per person and $55 per bicycle. $200 altogether!!! Too much!!! It was at Batemans Bay and we had to pedal on our own. Soon we found a camping site Benandarah that was equipped with a toilet and tables, but there was no water there. But there was a truck parked there with a family of Uruguay immigrants. The man spoke very good English. He gave us a lot of water, and we cooked dinner on our camping gas stove. A car parked near us in the night.

March 27. In the morning a woman approached us and asked whether we're Russian. She said she was Russian and had immigrated to Australia a year ago. Her husband Alan spoke very good British English (unlike many Australians). Both were very nice and interesting people and we talked for quite a while, and then they invited us to stay with them in Sydney. The highway pavement was very good, but Igor managed to prick his tyre again (the second one of his and the third one for both of us during the whole trip). In the I-center in Ulladulla we enquired about vacancies in caravan parks in the vicinity. A very polite and cooperative lady did her best to find the last remaining vacancy in a caravan park in Milton 8 km away up the highway. In order to do it she called all caravan parks in the vicinity.

March 28. This day was special in that all the vacationers rushed back to Sydney, so the highway was in some places a continuous traffic jam. We often overtook the traffic that was moving at the walking speed. A spoke failed in the rear wheel on the side of sprocket in the Igor's bike's rear wheel. So now he has to align it every day.

March 29. We are close to cycling distance of 900 km. At last we felt that we had acquired good shape. Pedaling pretty fast and not afraid of steep uphill slopes. Still on a super steep uphill slope we had to dismount from our bikes and to push them up, and an old lady driving a car joked: "Is it a heart trial kill for nothing!". On the mountain top we were delighted by a beautiful sight - ocean, rocks and surf (white strip of waves, crushing against the beach). There we met a Chilean, who was visiting his Australian friend. Asked him about cycling in Chile. He said that Chile is very good for cycling - very scenic and friendly. We figured out that it would be good to go there some time in the future. Lost our way, went to a grass land, lost each other, found each other with the help of cell phones and compass.

March 30. Approaching Sydney. Reached Woollongong - Sydney suburb. Found a bike lane - tourist drive. It meandered within an industrial zone (steel works). Came to a giant shopping center - Mall bigger than GUM. Topped our cell phone accounts in order to communicate in the case we would lose each other. Came to the Town Hall to visit a public toilet, which is officially open to public in daytime. (Imagine such an arrangement in Moscow City Hall). All toilets anywhere, even in the countryside, look like palaces - clean, smelling flowers, well lit, unending full pepifax rolls in every cabin. Found a bike lane follow-up and pedaled over 20 km along sand dunes, beaches and rocks. Igor called this bike trail "cyclist's dream". In order to celebrate the cycling part end for Valery we bought 1.5 kg of ice cream for A$4.5 in a grocery store. Camped in a caravan park near the beach. It was cold and windy, but Valery did the final swim against the surf while Igor just soaked his feet in water. By the end of the trip Valery made an important discovery: it is very comfortable to sleep with the helmet on his head instead of pillow.

March 31. Boarded a double-decker car of a train, heading to Sydney. 1.5 hour trip on cozy and comfortable seats in air-conditioned car. Cycling distance by the bike computer is over 1000 km. Hospitable Valentina (we met her and her husband in Benandarah) met us at the railway station.

April 6. Ride to Brisbane started!

Take ferry to Manly - another side of Sydney Harbor, enjoying nice view of the beautiful city. Road is table-plane, tailwind, easy riding. Call Don Owers to Newcastle and arrange my next meeting with local cyclists. Stay in Caravan Park Avoca Beach. They charged A$22 for tent site, for one or two people the same price, too much for me. I used the shower only. Other services could be found in any place for free.

April 7. Rode through Munmorah State Recreation Area, stayed in camping Fraser Beach. Such a wonderful place! View to the Ocean, waves crushing the rocks. It has 6 tent sites, tables and BBQ (barbeque - is an Australian "must", you can found it everywhere). Price of camping - A$10, but nobody appeared to collect it. Two boys came by car. I approached to them. Melford and Val are Dutch, 22 years old, got Australian visas for one year. They hope to work from time to time and travel all over the country. Melford said he dreamed to visit Australia since he was 6 years old. He considers Australia as the number one charming country. His next plans are South Africa and Canada, numbers two and three. I agreed and said, may be we meet there.

April 8. Rode through the unsealed (no asphalt) tops trail, unforgettable views from the tops of hills, but road was very bumpy. Result - 6 spokes are broken. Luckily. I met Don Owers soon. This is his story.

After hearing about Igor’s travels I arranged to meet him at Swansea bridge which is where lake Macquarie empties into the ocean. It was fairly warm day and I had to fight to stay awake while sitting in the sun waiting but eventually the mobile rang and Igor informed me he was already in Swansea having passed me without my noticing. When I found him his bike was in the wheels up position indicating maintenance was under way. The bike was beginning to show the strain, with 6 broken spokes on the back wheel, perhaps not surprising since he carried a one piece pannier that weighed 35kg.
I jumped in to help but by unscrewing the broken spokes I exacerbated the problem of finding the correct positioning of the replacements. Since Igor only had 4 spare spokes I dug out two of mine, unfortunately they were a tad too long so when they were fitted they punctured the tube. Igor fitted a new tube while I repaired the punctured tubes and in the process trod on his tube of glue which spread the problem. Eventually we had to settle for only four replacements and a highly buckled wheel. Since I had been so much hindrance with the repairs I took the panniers and we adjourned for lunch at “Seeds” a gourmet deli with fine eating and excellent coffee. The proprietor, Glen, had been to Russia where he became fluent in the language so he was keen to demonstrate his prowess and used both words. After an excellent lunch we headed north in search of a bike shop for some spokes. This turned out to be Hadleys at Belmont where the owner interrupted existing work to give the bike a complete overhaul and only charged for the 13 spokes used in the wheel.
By now we were getting into peak traffic times on a dangerous piece of road. I was worried that Igor would underestimate the stupidity of our local motorists so I kept to footpaths where possible. Arriving home we showered, doubly welcome for Igor since his last bath had been in the Ocean at Frazer Park. Igor seemed a bit disconcerted by our pet Doberman that has a habit of getting up close and personal but after a few beers he relaxed. We had dinner at a friends place dinning on a sword fish casserole and lots of other delights which kept us up till 10.30, probably too long for the travels completed and those to come.
Saturday started at 7am when I talked Igor into going stoker on my tandem. This meant that he didn’t have to carry all that luggage which travelled with his bike in our car to the city. There we swapped bikes, Sue replacing Igor as stocker and we joined the Newcastle Cycleways mob for an hours ride around the city. Newcastle was hosting a surf festival that day but to everyone’s disappointment the surf was almost non existent so we had to be content with the scenery. After a morning coffee we met a couple from the US who were also cycling to Brisbane so with one of our members as escort they all set off across the harbour for the next leg of their journey north. We hope he has an enjoyable time for the remained of his trip.

Don Owers
the president of Newcastle Cycleways Movement

April 9. The longest ride, 96 km, including 15 km on tandem and 20 km - "social" ride with the local club. Ferry from Nelson Bay to Tea Gardens, A$14, took one hour. Caravan Park in Hawk's Nest cost A$22, but I did not have any choice. But decided to look for free camping in future!

April 10. Forest road goes through Nat. Park Mungo Brush along the Ocean. I stop to have a dip, but don't risk to swim - high surf can throw me back to the open see. Then I compensate it with a long swimming in Myall Lake nearby. After ferry road became gravel, and as a result - some spokes were broke. Had sandwich for dinner in Bulahdelah and followed hard climbing along a tourist road. At the top of the road started repairing the wheel. When I finished, it was late to continue, and I put my tent near Tops Trail. In midnight I awakened hearing somebody was tearing off my tent into pieces. A predator appeared and tried to catch my bag of food. I cried and struck him into his face. In the morning I repaired the tent with scotch tape. Prepared some food (from dry Moscow soup and coffee) on gas stove. Longest downhill - 4 km were marvelous! Next staying I have found at Green Point on the shore of Myall Lake. There was a swamp near my tent, and was afraid of snake - there are plenty of them in the region - to crawl into the tent.

April 11. This time nothing happened, and I slept well. In Forster I recharged my mobile phone and called to Bicycle NSW in Sydney, Jannine Ord told me that Geoff Kinchin, the leader of local cyclists, invited me to stay. I called him, and soon we met. He took me to his big (70 ha) farm amidst beautiful green hills.

April 19. Local cyclist Craig invited me to stay with him, but.... I could not understand his directions, made in Australian language, very different from English, and had to stay in a Camping.

April 20. Visited the eastern point of the Australian continent Cape Byron. Just imagine - White Lighthouse on the high mountain, surrounded by the Pacific Ocean on 350 degrees, and a narrow strip of land, connecting it to the continent. Camping on the coast are too expensive - A$33 per tent site. But I found another one far off the coast for A$10.

April 21. Took a new freeway to Tweed Heads. 36 km cost 2.2 billion A$. It has wide (1.5 meters) shoulders for cyclists, but noisy 9-axes heavy trucks, going with 110 km/hour, spoil all pleasure. I turned to a local coastal road. At night rain started "cats and dogs" and continued all next day. All my stuff was wet.

April 22. Cycled to Surfers Paradise. Heavy rain continued. Luckily found a phone number of Linda, local bicycle club coordinator. She was ready to take me to stay, otherwise I should stay in wet tent and sleeping bag. To the moment I rode 850 km from Sydney. Tomorrow will take the last ride to Brisbane.

April 23. I stayed with Linda, washed and dried my wet staff. She took me by car along SURFERS PARADISE, the best resort in Queensland, real paradise for surfers. It can be compared to Miami in Florida. We went up the 80 stories tower. Each story has 4 flats, costing 1 mln A$, and almost all of them are sold. In the evening we went to seafood restaurant, tried calamari (squid).

April 24. The final part of my ride to Brisbane. Trevor and Jackie met me and invited to stay with them. I met them in Moscow last November, and they sent me the invitation to Australia. They are active travelers by kayak and strong rock-climbers. 

April 25. Australia has the national holiday, called ANZAC. 90 years ago Turkish army has defeated Australian troops near Gallipolis (Dardanelle). To commemorate their victims every city is holding demonstration of veterans of all wars, Australia took part. This is unique situation - to celebrate their own defeat, not victory as we do it in Russia. We watched the colorful parade in the center of Brisbane. One tank brigade had no veterans alive, and its sign was carried by their families and children. After the parade we took 40 km ride along the river. The beautiful bike track was built partly on posts over the river, because of lack of space on the parallel road.

April 26. I took a trip around Brisbane by "Citysights" bus for one hour and then similar route by foot for 4 hours. Near the central square I noticed homeless people, drug users and beggars, though not so many as in other countries. One old woman asked $3 for bread, but there was a smell of alcohol from her.
In the evening I visited a meeting of the local bicycle touring club (Brisbane Bicycle Touring Association). Its president Steven Jackson told me about their activity. They have 320 members in Brisbane. I showed them "The road of death" of Anatoly Gael and other his films. They were very interested in Russia and asked me many questions. Especially John Chilton who is going to visit Russia next August with his wife for a bike ride.

April 27. Trevor and Jackie took me for a "bush walk". They drove to the mountain 1000 meters high, and then we started walking down along a creek, it happened to be a real "Jungle walk". We clambered sometimes through a narrow canyon between rocks. It was a real rock-climbing in the first part. Then heavy rain started and lasted all the day long. We had to swim across 7 small lakes, keeping our staff in water-proof bags. Just before the darkness we reached the final point. The walk took more then 8 hours. I was very tired and had some bruises, found some leeches on my body, but survived.

April 28. Spent the day reading books about Russia. Trevor Robertson is Doctor of Medicine, now retired. Trevor has hundreds of books about Russia, most of them I have not seen before. He visited Russia 6 times and is one of the leading Australian specialists on traveling in Russia, esp. Siberia, Kamchatka, Altai. Now he is writing a book about these travels.

April 29. Jackie's relative Dawn and her daughter Alexandra have come from Tasmania for a visit, and I had a good chance to satisfy my curiosity about the cloudy island. Interesting, Tasmanian Devil (like our wolf, but marsupial - having a pouch for children like kangaroo) nearly extinct, and the government promised to pay A$100 000 to anybody who find the Devil.
Visited Modern Art Exposition. Very enjoyed Fiona Hall's art. She is very successful in provoking imagination: conjures ordinary things into extraordinary objects. Sardine tin cans turned into sculptures of garden paradise; simple videotape - into a tragedy of man; cakes of soap - into carved seeds and fruit, illustrating the laws of economics (carrot is called "incentive for investors" and so on); the recycled soft drink cans - into figures of people, which look like letters of alphabet. You can read these people-letters, presenting a message, hanging along the wall: "THE ROUTE YOU TAKE LIES PARALLEL TO THE WORDS ALONG THESE WALLS...." She managed to turn money of many (50 or so) countries into botanical illustration of their most typical plants. But I could not find Russian rubles (with birch tree leaves, I would propose to Fiona) among them.

April 30. I restored my physical shape and rode 55 km along newly built bike track to Nudgee Beach on the Pacific Ocean, washed my feet in it for the last time. The track goes nicely winding through the mangroves wetland, on wooden bridges over marshes and swamps, having them untouched: thousands of birds live there, and you can watch them from specially arranged shelters. Brisbane has 500 km of bicycle roads and plans to double their lengths in few years. But cycling in the central part is not easy because of heavy traffic and steep hills. Brisbane lies in subtropics area: palms, banana trees, bamboo and other tropical plants are everywhere. Temperature is higher 30 degrees C in the midday. This day I completed 1000 km of cycling on my route from Sydney to Brisbane.
Afternoon a big party was held in Jackie's home. It was her mother's 83 years birthday. More than 20 relatives were present. All 4 her children arrived with wife's and their own children. I have got a real pleasure watching Australian traditions of such celebrations. An enormous quantity of delicious food, mostly vegetarian, ice-cream with fruit salad, very few wine, lovely presents to mother, blowing of the candle, singing "Happy birthday to you..." and playing cards "Crazy whist". I played it for the first time, but took the second place. Then plays and songs followed until late time.

My story about bike ride from Sydney to Brisbane is going to the end. I tried to mention only the main events during it, having no chance to go into details. I hope to add them on my return home on May 4.

Igor Nalimov

Top | Main page