I’d lost my way. On a Sunday of all days. Mondays I can understand. On Mondays, the world returns to work and a collective lull hovers across the morning. But this was a Sunday and I was out riding and I didn’t know which way to go.
We set out soon after sunrise to ride a new circuit; some roads would be familiar and some would be new. It would be our longest ride since returning home from the GreatVic. There would be hills to climb too.
Out to sea, sunlight sprayed from behind a curtain of clouds. Overhead, the grey sky hung low, pressing steamy air into a thick soup. We pedalled south, heading for the northern tip of our neighbouring state, New South Wales. Here the land turns green. The Tweed Valley, home to Wollumbin and the Tweed caldera, is rich with orange soil and bordered with hills. To ride there, we must climb.
Through the twin towns of Coolangatta and Tweed Heads we ride over the state border. Time marches forward an hour with daylight saving automatically spending my early hour. Crossing over Terranora Creek, we pedal along Dry Dock Road where lands run low and waters run high. Then, turning into Fraser Drive, we begin four kilometres of steady climbing up to Terranora Road. We head west, still climbing. This is a familiar route.
Then we take a right turn and descend into unfamiliar roads.
A steep descent on a road wrapped in trees brings shade and speed. It’s fun. As the pitch of the hill flattens, I’m looking for signs of the small community of Bilambil. I was expecting to see the community hall, the tennis courts, the store and garage at the bottom of the hill. Nothing’s there. To the left, the road heads inland. To the right is a no-through road. Ahead is a steep hill that I wasn’t expecting until after Bilambil. So I stop. I’ve lost my way.
Looking behind to where we’ve come from, I see a bicycle speeding down the hill, and another and another. As the first cyclist passes, I call out: “which way to Bilambil?” “Up the hill”, he replies with a touch of glee as he pedals to squeeze every bit of energy out of the descent. Another cyclist passes and another and I notice their bikes are different from what we usually see.
This area is a popular destination for weekend cycling but in our trips south we’ve only seen speedy road bikes racing their way around the hills. These bikes, though, were touring bikes like ours. It was like meeting your own kin.
So up the hill we rode, mingling with the tourers, yarning about bikes and travel, and finding out about this interesting group of bicycle riders. By a stroke of serendipity, we’d met the Wollumbin Bicycle User Group (BUG) on its Sunday ride from Murwillumbah.
Bicycle User Groups (BUGs) are social riding groups that meet regularly for an enjoyable ride. They might be formed around a suburb, city, workplace or university campus; and can be found in many different countries. BUGs vary in terms of how often rides take place, the distances travelled and the type of riders attracted. For example, some groups focus on road bikes, while others are formed for mountain bikes. Most of the Wollumbin BUG riders we met rode touring bikes, but I get the sense they’re a very inclusive group with a genuine interest in encouraging people to get on a bike.
After summiting the hill, we descended into Bilambil where the group stopped for a cuppa in the local park. After some enjoyable chat, Jane and I continued on to the Gold Coast, leaving with a lift in our pedals and an invitation to ride with the Wollumbin BUG sometime soon. I’m looking forward to it.
The following link takes you to a list of BUGS in Australia: