29 Apr 2021
“We could be in Greece!” The sweeping view reminded me of a landscape I’ve never seen. As I imagine the Greek Islands might be like, minus the buildings and people, that is. Layers of rocky mounds on a blue sea.
We were walking along a neat boardwalk clinging to the cliff edge at the Cape Tourville Lighthouse and Lookout, just north of Freycinet National Park.
“This is a better view than from Wineglass Bay.” David said taking a photo.
Following the boardwalk north, we could see a cluster of granite islands just off-shore. They’re called ’The Nuggets’ and are home to thousands of birds. It’s a popular nesting spot because of the lack of predators like mammals and snakes. They just have to watch out for birds of prey and scavenging gulls.
“Are those seals, we can hear?” I wondered out loud and squinting into the distance.
“Yes! They’re in the water and on the rocks on the closer island. You can see them through the binoculars” I man said standing behind me. I turned and he pointed to the binoculars with a smile.
“Thanks!” I stepped up to the binoculars and just before I touched them though of COVID. I’ve got sanitiser, I reminded myself. (It’s a strange new world)
Looking through the binoculars, I could see the seals horsing around in the water. They were so noisy and playful, it made me giggle.
Walking back to the car, we could see over to the northern peninsulas.
“That’s where we’re going to ride” I said pointing. “Bluestone Bay.”
“Great! Let’s go!”
We unloaded the bikes and left the car parked at the lighthouse. Saddled up and set off down the hill to the trailhead about 200m away.
The trail is technically a 4WD track that leads down to a bay and a nearby camp site. It started with a gentle downhill and was a comfortable way to warm up and get the blood circulating.
Dave noticed he was having problems with his gears and pulled over to sort it out. He’d made some adjustments earlier and he wasn’t happy with the side effects.
He managed to fix the problem and we set off again. The track continued with a good downhill run. It’s exhilarating to be standing on the pedals (heavy feet, light hands), in the ready position (hinging at the hip) dual suspension fully open and coasting. Navigating dry water channels, pot holes, rocks and roots.
Dave was waiting for me at a fork in the road, and I pointed out the right way. Down a very steep incline. There was a couple hiking up the hill, red faced and really puffing.
Ah yes. We will have to ride back up this mammoth hill. I pushed the thought aside to make way to enjoy riding doooooooowwwwwwnnnnnn, woohoooooo!
Pulling up at the bottom of the hill, we dismounted and walked the bikes onto the rocky beach looking for a good spot to sketch.
So many different shades of blue; from the mountains layered on the horizon, across the sparkling blue bay, to the bluestone boulders crowding the beach.
Leaving the bikes leaning on a rock, we rock-hopped down closer to the water and some larger boulders, and got comfortable. Well, as comfortable as one can get, perched on a boulder. Neatly folding my jacket into a cushion helped.
It was challenging painting facing the sun, using one hand to shield my face, balancing both sketchbook and watercolour pallet on my knee guards, with the light constantly changing. But I found a comfortable flow, and am happy with the results. Considering.
“Babe, I’m going to work on my bike while you finish”
“Okay” I was nearly done anyway and started to pack up. As I stood up, I noticed the tide had gone out and exposed some interesting red sea creatures in the rock pools. I went to investigate.
They opened and closed with the waves gently lapping around the rocks. I wondered if their striking red colour is to attract or repel.
They’re a Waratah anemone. Sea anemones, or sea-squirts, and when they’re under water they unfurl their dark red tentacles and filter food from the water. They move around too. Fascinating!
“Ready?” asked Dave with a cheeky grin. We both knew this was going to be hard.
“Slow and steady” I steeled myself to tackle the hill. In a low gear I knuckled down and kept a steady pace. Dave disappeared ahead, powering up. ’This is how you get stronger’ I told myself as I pushed through the effort.
I stopped to catch my breath and then pressed on, standing tall, pushing down on the pedals and pulling up on the handlebars for added torque.
David was waiting for me at the fork in the road. I felt pretty good and had enough in the tank to keep exploring, so instead of turning back, we went to check out the camp site and lookout.
A bunch of high school kids and a few teachers we striking camp and gathering around. They called out ’hello’ as we passed.
“Have a great day!” Called a young man.
“You too!” I called back, not sure if he was being nice or ironic.
We pulled up to the cliff edge and were rewarded with a beautiful blue view. Looking through wispy and graceful pines trees and cool bluestone boulders to a quiet ocean, reflecting the blue sky.
It was time to turn back and head back to the car. It was still going to be up hill but with a more manageable gradient. On the flatter ground I could pick up a bit of speed and our big ole 29er tyres held the momentum easily. I was enjoying the freedom.
“Bugs!” I rode through a cloud of tiny sand-fly things. I felt them pepper my face, one went up a nostril and hit the back of my throat, I coughed, one hit my right eye which started watering. My armoured bike gloves prevented me from rubbing it. Eye streaming, I squinted and peddled harder to get away from the cloud.
Vision through a single eye robbed me of perspective and navigating through some tricky water channels felt surreal. “I’ve got a bug in the eye!” I called to Dave who stopped to help. Dropping my seat-post as I reached him, I pulled up, removed my glove, rubbed my eye for a second before David’s inspection.
“I can’t see anything…” he said holding my chin. “We need to get riding glasses” The trouble is, finding them while on the road.
And after a minute I was fine again and we continued on. But a few minutes later the bug peppering continued, this time I collected one in the good eye. With one eye shut and the other streaming and stopped, pulled off the gloves and sorted myself out. Dismounting, I took off my backpack and fished around for my sunglasses.
Sunglasses obscure the vision in shady forest trails, but I was desperate. They made a small difference. I could still feel them swish behind the lens but at least it stopped them colliding with my eyeballs.