IP Day 48 – Canberra to Bungendore

Thursday 12th May, 2022

45.3k +532m
Moving 2:24 Elapsed 2:44
Max 54.1 kph Avg 18.8 kph

We checked out at 7.30 and then rode around the corner to a cafe for some breakfast. We headed off in the rain at 8.10.

It wasn’t that great riding north out of Canberra on Northbourne Avenue. The supposed ‘dedicated bike lane’ was a combination of either a narrow shoulder with painted bicycle sharrow, or a narrow bike lane (sometimes with green paint). It’s alongside 3 lanes of traffic. By the time it morphed into the Federal Highway, it was just shoulder.

We made a quick stop at a servo about 6k along – I think Marc had to make some adjustments to the bike.

The shoulder was wide enough I guess, but we were copping spray from the trucks. All in all, not that pleasant.
We had a turn-off to the left at 19k, the route taking us on the Old Federal Hwy before crossing back over the Federal Hwy to head east to Bungendore. I was monitoring our approach and was about to let him know we’d be turning off in a few hundred metres, when suddenly (in a gap in the traffic), he veered across the two lanes of traffic to get into a right-turn lane.


‘You said we were turning off shortly!’

Well, it did have a big sign on it for Bungendore. It was Mac’s Reef Rd, and it was clearly the direct route any traffic between Canberra and Bungendore would take. (It would have been busy.)

I guess I hadn’t given him the full briefing of the actual route in this section.

We crossed back over and rode just 300m to the turnoff on the left! It was a relief to get away from the highway, but the tradeoff was a bit of a hill. 9km of that, and we then had to cross over the dual carriageway of the Federal Highway, and then ride south on the shoulder for a few hundred metres before turning east onto Bungendore Rd.

We had a few kilometres of relatively peaceful country road-type riding – albeit in steady rain. On a slight uphill, Marc noticed that the water running down the side of the road was brown. Hmmmm. Then we saw the roadworks sign. It was full-on dirt roadworks, where they lay down layers of dirt and then roll it. A good 12 hours or so of rain (and traffic) had turned that top layer into a two-inch layer of mud soup. Needless to say, we couldn’t ride in it. We managed to get off the bike (without falling) and got off onto the grass verge. We walked about 200m alongside the road before managing to remount and continue where it was less soupy. We passed a small pantech truck that had slewed off into the ditch, leaning against the embankment.

Relief at getting back onto the tar was short-lived once the aforementioned Mac’s Reef Rd merged onto Bungendore Rd. With increased traffic, and in the now pouring rain, the last 10km into Bungendore – including down a steep hill – was horrible. Really dangerous.  The derailleur was playing up a bit after having been coated in mud, and we had a few close passes and impatient drivers in deteriorating visibility.

We pulled up at the bakery at about 11am. We were wet, muddy and cold, and I couldn’t get warm sitting inside the bakery/cafe. Marc thought we should push on the 30km to Tarago, but I was not keen on that idea AT ALL. (Yes, my face – which you can read like an open book at the best of times – would have been classified as ‘sulky’). I felt that it was just too dangerous. Could we not try to get accommodation here? Yes, ok, getting to Sydney on Sunday would be the ideal option – particularly for my sister coming in to meet us. But I figured she’d still rather we weren’t killed trying to do that. Worst case scenario, in Sydney we would catch the bloody train to her house (so she didn’t have to take the day off work!) In the scheme of things, and how we had managed this whole damn ride, what was one more day?

There was nothing showing as available tonight in Bungendore on booking dot com. Not ideal. He rang the pub at Tarago (where we had stayed before). Yes, they did have a room.

Marc needed to go to the loo, and ended up walking quite a way – a couple of blocks to the nearest public toilet. He passed the Bungendore Motel and went up to reception. It had a ‘temporarily closed’ sign on the door, but with a phone number. He figured he may as well ring it and see whether we might be able to wrangle a room. That turned out to be a mistake, as old mate, the owner, just about gave Marc his life story about having been sick, and why he had to close. As much as Marc felt sorry for him, he really didn’t have the head space for that right now!

He ducked in to the Lake George Hotel – next door to the bakery – to see if they had anything. They did – a room out the back. It was a bit pricey. “Hold it for me for a few minutes while I double check with my wife.”

Me: “YES !” Please. I want that. I know we’ve only done 45km, but I want to stay here. I want to get warm. I want to stay alive.

So we checked in. Luckily we could leave the bike under cover, outside.

It was a case of carefully carrying the bags directly into the shower and cleaning them off before we could finally get clean and warm with a shower ourselves.

There was still tension in the air the rest of the afternoon, though. He had to let Tarago Pub know we wouldn’t be coming. Then we cancelled our accommodation at Jamberoo, and searched for options in Moss Vale.

[Message to my sister at 6:14pm: ‘… We’ve got all this way but one of us might strangle the other just in these last few days.’]

Suddenly it all came to a head. Why was he so hellbent on finishing on Sunday?

He blurted out “It was meant to be a secret, to surprise you. Ali and Zoe [two of our daughters] are flying down from Brisbane on Saturday to be at the Opera House, but they have to fly back on Sunday night because they have work on Monday. OKAY!”


“Why are you crying?”

Why am I crying? Holy crap, I don’t really need to explain it, do I? Overwhelmed that they were doing that. Overwhelmed that they were flying down from Brisbane to see us both, AND trying to do something special for me and now I’d kind of spoiled the surprise by digging my heels in. Overwhelmed that I would get to see them at the end of this overwhelming ride. (Word of the day: overwhelmed.)

But oh my god, this explained so much about the last few days.

It had been too much of a burden for him to carry on top of carrying the mental load of getting us both through this, with me in robot mode, just trying to get through each day. And it meant that communication between us hadn’t been open and honest, since this plan was hatched on, apparently, our Khancoban rest day.

When, at the time, I didn’t object to not having a rest day in Canberra, he apparently thought they could pull it off. (Why he thought I would be expecting another rest day only 3 days after Khancoban I’m not sure!!) But openness and honesty with each other were what was needed to get through something as massive as this – together. On a tandem.

So, yes, of course, we had to pull out all stops to get there by Sunday. It lit a fire under me. Ok, worst-case scenario, if we couldn’t quite get into the outskirts of Sydney by Saturday night, they could have done something crazy on Sunday morning, like catch a train to Wollongong or something. But that would have been nuts.

I maintain, however, that even if I had known, I still would have insisted we stop in Bungendore. My reasoning above about staying alive to finish still held. It was too dangerous.

While a surprise like that would have been amazing, it turns out that working together on a common goal can forge a stronger bond (and get you to Sydney by Sunday.)

(And no more secrets please!)

The next two days would have to be big (by our measure). About 150k to Moss Vale tomorrow, and then an even bigger day on Saturday to get us into southern Sydney. I think we had already booked a motel in Sylvania for Saturday night. Moss Vale is a bit of a shocker for accommodation, but we managed to book a room for tomorrow night at one of the pubs (at a ridiculous rate.)

Fingers crossed the rain would abate. The weather forecast was promising – it looked like the rain would clear from the direction we were headed.

2 thoughts on “IP Day 48 – Canberra to Bungendore

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