The advertised ‘breakfast included’ (on website, and on signs upstairs in the pub) was nowhere to be seen, so it was a cafe breakfast, and raised eyebrows at what you got for the $90 a night tariff.
Not a soul to be seen as we reversed the tandem-carry out and down the back stairs.
We were back in day-ride-from-home territory, and reversing much of the first day’s route. Along the river at Raleigh the driver of a passing car yelled out ‘encouragement’, or ‘coaching’ – something like “Put it in, put it in!” Better than the old ‘the one on the back isn’t pedalling’ I guess! Hah! It was Jamie. (Has he been watching too much Tour de France?) He’d thought he would surely have seen us the previous Tuesday on our way south (while on the school/preschool run between Repton and Urunga) and was disappointed to have missed us. We nearly turned off for a cuppa, but we’d just got started, and home was calling.
We made a coffee/tea stop at the servo at Bonville, and got talking to someone who had done a ride down the Kempsey-Armidale Rd from Wollomombi and also stayed at the Willawarrin Pub. Compared notes.
We took the Beacon Hill option to avoid traffic, had a rest on a bench at Park Beach, and then soldiered on over, arguably, the worst section of the ride – northbound out of Coffs over Macauleys (aka Big Banana Hill) and on the shoulder of the highway through Korora till the off-ramp at Sapphire.
Stopped at my regular coffee stop at the nursery at Sapphire for lunch…
and then a lazy 13 km, and home sweet home.
So all in all it was an enjoyable ride – With those shorter distance days, we only clocked up about 400km over the 8 days of riding, and it wasn’t quite Europe. But it was great to get away on the bike together again. Doing a one-way trip is probably our preference over a loop (and covering familiar ground out and back), but in these times it was a good option.
Despite the pub owner experience at Willawarrin, it was the place that really got me ‘in the feels’ (as they say), hearing what the locals had been through with the fires last year, followed by the Covid restrictions which have really impacted on their ability to come together as a tight-knit community supporting each other.
And Hat Head? I was really glad we got to go there ‘for the weekend’ !
* I’ll spend some more time editing each day’s post to add route details as a resource for anyone who comes across the blog and is interested in any part of the route.
* Day 7 has now been updated so will contain a few more words and photos than when originally posted.