Mon, 22 Mar 2004
RTA Big Ride, day 3: Tuncurry to Bulahdelah // at 23:59
Breakfast took longer than anticipated, the weather saw to that. Ominous dark clouds threatened while some chose to pack up before eating, others chose to eat first and pack later. I was one of the latter group, not only had I not packed up, but I was only just joining the queue as the downpour began and put a delay in the procedings. The sudden deluge caught me between toilets and breakfast so I huddled under shelter to wait it out, then managed to grab some food, eat and pack in hurry all while not getting too wet.
The rain stopped for long enough to allow us to pack up, then Doctor Alan and I headed out under very dark skies. Stopping to wait for the police to allow us across the river into Forster we glanced back to see ever darker clouds gathering ominously. A flock of pelicans sat on the sandbank beside the river, very strange in appearance as they sat facing directly towards us — into the rain — beaks half open, maybe catching the fresh water. Finally we were allowed to cross; light showers, heavy showers, turning to torrential deluges for the rest of the day.
Punctures galore in the wet, after pumping my front tyre up it at a rest stop it went straight back down again as we were leaving town — luckily next to a boat showroom where we sheltered under a huge awning, repaired the puncture and joked about taking a boat the rest of the way...
At Bungwahl we stopped and stood around in the mud for a while then started to head off, only to find that we were prevented from getting back onto the road. The police had decided that with torrential rain, a narrow road, one thousand five hundred cyclists and a small number of local motorists, that they couldn't safely continue the ride and so 1,500 cyclists had to stand around for up to five hours in pouring rain while buses were organised to take us the rest of the way to Bulahdelah! A few shouting matches between BNSW staff and police, assorted people calling each other idiots. Meanwhile the vast majority stood and dripped and shivered, St Johns ambulance staff treating the worst affected.
Trucks were hired on short notice to carry the bikes, of course these were whatever was available, so there was no chance of any of the bikes being well protected! There was no organization to packing them either, until JB grabbed a dozen of us and took charge, doing his best to minimise the damage and get us out of there before nightfall.
A complete catastrophe of a day. Somewhere through the afternoon one of the VRA volunteers found us a packet of jelly snakes — the only food for a dozen people in four hours!
Finally we'd packed the last of the bikes into the last of the trucks, seven hours of walking around in pouring rain. Totally exhausted, we piled into the mini-bus for the trip to Bulahdelah and the show-grounds, to discover that we had to find our luggage and take it up to a sawmill that the owner had volunteered the use of. A freshly scrubbed, warm, dry BNSW staff member told us: “Don't worry, we'll take care of you when you get there, there's hot showers, accomodation's been arranged, you've done a fantastic job...” We staggered out of the bus into the mill to find every last square inch of space occupied, all rooms in town occupied, and a total lack of interest in any BNSW staff member we could approach. No showers, these were back at the showground that we'd just left! No accomodation, that was all full. No food, we'ld missed dinner! Four of us marched off with our bags to a likely looking corner, barricaded ourselves in and got changed, then managed to get the scrapings of dinner.
Accomodation for the night was the carpetted floor of the manager's office. Three or four of us sharing with some of the cooks from the catering firm, cooks who would be getting up at four a.m. to start on the breakfasts....
As organizational stuff ups go, it was one of the more impressive ones I've ever been involved in!
Tuncurrey, Bungwahl, Bulahdelah