It's been a long time since we wrote an update, but if you've seen our last video you'll have seen that we made it to Sydney! The ride into city from Canberra was super easy as we aimed for the furthest west commuter ferry terminal at Parramatta. Cycling into Sydney proper to get to the Opera House was too much of a headache for us but aiming for Parramatta took us along bike paths pretty much the whole way from the outskirts of the city. We hopped on the commuter ferry with our bikes (at no extra charge) and got off at the base of the Harbour bridge to snap a few photos and wait for our friends to finish work. We were staying with a friend of Mike's from university who had a spare room and were happy for us to chill out with them until we regained a little bit of energy again! We were there for almost a week gorging on Tim Tams and binging Netflix until we figured we still had enough time and just about enough energy to head north towards Brisbane.
Whilst our journey into Sydney was a breeze on the bikes, the journey north of the city was train powered to Newcastle. Sydney is known for being one of the worst cities in the world to cycle in. There's a lot of hostility and the roads are narrow and twisty so we just shrugged our shoulders and boarded a train. Beyond Newcastle, the roads were much better and soon we were making great progress up the coast. We were pleasantly surprised with this part of Australia - probably one of the underrated areas and one which we just hadn't thought much about since we weren't sure if we'd even make it here in time. Warmshowers hosts up this way were plentiful and we had such brilliant evenings getting to know a whole heap of new people. At Terry and Joyce's we hand fed kookaburras who visited them most evenings:
We were still making use of some of the rest areas which dotted along the Pacific Highway although they all claimed that camping wasn't allowed. We had read that it was more to deter long term camping, or multiple night camping, and seeing as we act on a 'leave no trace' principle we chanced our arm at a couple where we had no alternative. We were cracking on really well with the journey north and it wasn't long before we got to Ballina - home of the giant prawn.
We stayed with Michael and his family and thoroughly enjoyed our whole evening with them. The following morning we were just going to head to Byron Bay a couple of hours up the coast, so since we weren't in a rush Michael took us the scenic route out of the town including a visit to see some wild dolphins in the harbour area.
We'd been in touch with Tracey and Steve who lived further up at the Gold Coast for a potential stay the day we were leaving Ballina. We had briefly explained (as we do to all our potential hosts) what we've been doing and how long we've been going for just to put people at ease with us and show that we're pretty well versed in the warmshowers game so we're good guests. Tracey responded with such jubilance and friendliness I knew we'd get on well; they also offered to come and get us if we didn't want to cycle the entire way to them. At one point we had considered finishing earlier than Brisbane-proper because sometimes cities can be a bit of an anti climax and perhaps Byron Bay was a nicer place to call the end point. It was only when Tracey and Steve offered us a good way of still getting to Brisbane that it felt right. Rolling down to the pristine beach with the pure blue surf of the Pacific Ocean signalling the finish line of our Australian journey was a good feeling. We were ready to draw a line and take a break and start to think about our wedding, but also to enjoy Australia without the physical difficulties the country brings with mother nature.
Our final week was spent with Heather and Lindsey in Brisbane. Their house was a traditional Queenslander with the ground floor enclosed into a separate living space - perfect for hosting! We would sit on their balcony every evening eating and drinking and becoming firm friends. Lindsey had been so kind in sourcing us two bike boxes for our flights to LA and he also had an array of tools Mike could use to make sure everything was ready. With one day to go we also sourced a second hand camera (the same model as we had before) so Mike could get back to taking all of the incredible shots he used to take of our journey. Heather and Lindsey took us to the airport in their awesome campervan and we hugged goodbye promising to see each other again either in New Zealand or Scotland.
We'd booked our flights from Brisbane to LA the day we were leaving China when I found how affordable Hawaiian Airlines were. We still had to pay $150 each for the bikes and during the process of checking in they said that they needed evidence of us leaving the United States since we applied through the ESTA programme. We thought this might happen and knew we were running a risk of not having booked our flight to Europe yet.
"We're cycling to Canada so we'll be leaving the USA by land"
"Have you booked a flight out of Canada to go back to the UK?"
"No, not yet. We're not sure of our dates yet, but we'll have left the USA before our 90 are up"
"Oh... uhhh... let me check with my manager".
The poor check in guy just wasn't sure what to do. After about 10 minutes of waiting, they figured that it would be fine, or at least it would be someone else's problem once we'd left Brisbane, and we at least had an address in the USA we could give as a contact. Don't worry, we'd already asked our friend Sandra if we could give it on the ESTA form and since we will definitely be leaving and it's not really a problem, we relaxed about it all.
Once we got to border control after a 9 hour flight to Honolulu, the border guard didn't care about our lack of flight out of Canada. He just asked what date we'll be leaving the USA, stamped our passports so we had 90 days and waved us through. Panic for nothing!
We had left Brisbane at 9.45pm on a Monday night and arrived in Hawaii 10am on Monday morning which didn't feel too odd if you didn't think about what day it was - at least it had been a night flight. I can usually sleep anywhere but for some unknown reason I hadn't been able to sleep on this flight so I was feeling a bit foggy. We had 10 hours until our next flight to LA but since we were transferring between an international flight and a domestic flight, we had to collect our bikes and luggage and then deposit them again in a different terminal building. Thankfully we bumped into a really helpful member of staff who basically just took our bikes off of us and told us to have fun at Waikiki beach for the afternoon, told us which bus to get on and not to worry. Hooray!
Waikiki was itself just as we had expected - touristy and overcrowded, but it was good to get out and stretch our legs and have the opportunity to get a new USA prepaid sim card. We didn't have time to leave the tourist area as the bus ride back to the airport wasn't direct and took a fairly long time but we saw enough to know that we'd probably give Hawaii another chance if we got the opportunity. We had been spoilt by the world class Australian beaches so had no interest in that, but the cycling is meant to be good on some of the other islands.
Our flight to LA was another night flight and I managed to sleep for a few hours, but 5 hours later we were already landing and strolling into the brisk spring air of LA. Welcome to America!