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Manly Dam Trails Again
Manly Dam
Winter Snorkelling
Still Surfing
Spit Bridge
Sun Jul 27 16:43:32 2008

Manly Dam Trails Again

With an inordinate amount of 'up'

Surfing yesterday, including The Biggest Wave Ever, but no pictures, so you won't believe me. Damn cold, it was too. Anyway.

Many people assume that, once the initial purchase is made, cycling is essentially free. This week I discovered a new definition of 'free'. 'That'll be free hundred bucks, madam' said the friendly mechanic to the wonderful one who had taken my bike in to be serviced. The actual quote was 'This bike has had a hard life'. Apparently, the chain and cassette were FUBAR. I don't doubt this at all, since I've done around 2,000km of trails wih no maintenance beyond replacing (many, many) blown tubes. So today, just to test the repairs out a bit, I pottered over to Manly Dam again. The new drive chain components made changing gear a positive pleasure. It didn't skip once all day.

Manly Dam trails go all around the lake. Obviously, reservoirs need to be in valleys. If they weren't the water would run away. 'Valley' is really a polite way of saying 'Two hard climbs and two steep descents per circuit'. These trails don't stop at two.The amounts of 'up' and 'down' are not rationed. Take all you want. For example:

TRail at Manly Dam This is an easy bit. Honestly. Almost counts as flat.
After couple of kilometers of gentle climbing over this sort of stuff, the down starts:
Manly Dam Trails Cameras flatten terrain. The drop in this picture is around ten metres.

The descent starts with 'This is fun', matures to 'There is no way I'm climbing back up this', develops through 'Shiiiiii-skid-slide-panic' to 'At least all the bodies will collect at the bottom' and finishes with a flourish of pure verticality in a beautiful little stream bed.

Manly Dam Stream That's the 'down' bit done. Since we're not finished, that can only mean one thing...

This huge raven (Corvus coronoides, I looked it up) was grubbing around for sticks. Since it's almost Spring, it may be thinking about nest-building.

Australian Raven (Corvus coronoides) There's good eating on one of those.

After some unnecessarily demanding climbing (I may have had to push for a bit), the GPS led me back to the starting point, and I came home just before a truly astonishing thunderstorm broke. Eighteen miles, a little under two hours, max speed fifty-lots kph down to Spit Bridge. Just on the legal side.

It'll take my legs a week to recover from that. Time for some beer.

Sun Jul 20 14:33:03 2008

Manly Dam


Coolish today, with grey skies and, critically, no surf. Since one case of advanced hypothermia is quite sufficient for a weekend, snorkelling is not an option. To the bicycle, then, and off to see what we can find. I took the back roads to Mosman Junction, then hammered down Spit Road with some enthusiasm. Across the bridge and up. And up some more. The climb to Seaforth is steep. Half way up, a roadie caught me, passed me, and dropped me in a wheezing heap. Grind grind grind, I went No hope of catching him. Must get fitter. I stopped at the top to grab this shot. Not because I needed a break. Because I didn't. I was fine. Raring to go, in fact. I only stopped for the picture. To entertain you. Stop snickering.

Middle Harbour View across the harbour.

My not-really-a-target (to preserve ego in the case of wussing out) was Manly Dam, where there are rumours of singletrack. I stopped again to consult my utterly spiffy Nokia N95, with built-in GPS. Suck it, iPhoners. In moments I had a detailed map of the rest of the route. Beyond cool. I headed off as directed, pleased to note an increasing number of mountain bikers. It's another climb (of course), but after a couple of kms, there it was: singletrack.

Singletrack Most of it is actually very, very technical.

I happily hacked along some utterly lovely singletrack, mostly climbing. There is some very technical stuff. Get-off-and-push technical. My skills need an upgrade. There are some fast forest traverses. There is lots of climbing. It's close to perfect. After about half an hour, I decided to call it a day, in the knowledge that I still had at least one big climb. The GPS showed me the way, and I bailed off the singletrack and headed home. Spit Bridge hill climbed in 4'30. Getting faster. Much beer earned.

Manly Dam The view from the top.
Sat Jul 19 16:18:55 2008

Winter Snorkelling

Hypothermia is fun!

Our normal response to a beautiful, bright sunny day is to go surfing, like this:

Manly Beach in the sun Arty, that shot is.

The weather this morning was so promising we got up early and checked the surf forecast. No, actually. That's not true. We checked the surf forecast, and decided to stay in bed. Isn't wireless technology wonderful? The surf was flatter than a flat thing and getting flatter.

It's over six weeks since the water temperature fell too low for snorkelling. The weather has been colder since then. Still, too nice a day to stay dry, and we'd look like complete plonkers waiting for a wave as the Tasman Sea did its millpond impersonation. A day after the full moon, at low water on a huge spring tide. No significant surf for a week, and the water was crystal clear. Shelley beach has rarely looked so inviting. Just how cold could it be?

Fairy Bower Can you believe this is the middle of winter?
Shelley Beach It takes us 30 minutes to get here from home. How is your commute?

Answering my last question: very cold indeed. Despite predictions of 18 degrees, the water was so cold it hurt. Either the forecast was wrong, or I've become a wuss. Submerging my face was painful. Still, what's pain when the visibility is over ten metres? We snorkelled happily over the reef, saying hello to all our old friends, and making some new ones. One of the giant cuttlefish waved a few tentacles, muttered something about the temperature and undulated back under a rock. After 20 minutes, sensible people went back to the beach/ Ten minutes later, unable to feel my feet, I followed.

And now, for no reason at all, a perfect flower:

Perfect Flower Pretty.

If the surf isn't better tomorrow, I've no idea what we'll do. Getting wet at the beach every weekend is a basic human right.

Sun Jul 13 18:11:08 2008

Still Surfing

Even in July

Today was warmer, but greyer than yesterday. Frankly, I'd rather have taken the bike out again. Unfortunately, my neglect for the bike works both ways. While a razor-style saddle improves control and allows for sharp, assertive control on technical downhill, it takes a bit of acclimatization. Which I haven't had. Do I have to spell it out? No? Good. Let's just say that lying face-down on a board in the cool, soothing ocean seemed preferable to more time in the saddle.

Surf was two feet and perfect. Other people were sensible and stayed dry behind a camera.

Bodyboard on the break Small, but perfectly formed.

Sometimes, rarely, the wildlife is exactly where you want it. The Talented Wildlife Photographer set this one up perfectly. I was so focussed I never saw the bird.

Bodyboard and seagull Do you think the get out to go to the loo?

Also: Last weekend we went to see the first night of Don Giovanni at the Opera House. Verdict: Awesome, but not as good as the last opera we saw. The atmosphere at the Opera House is fantastic.

Sun Jul 13 17:27:49 2008

Spit Bridge

Five minutes. Boo Yah.

Sydney is not a bicycle-friendly city. Busy traffic, Australian driving standards, a complete lack of cycle lanes and the beaches all conspire to prevent all but the most suicidal from the pleasures of cycling. Why beaches, I hear you ask: how can a beach be anti-cycling? Simple, dear reader. Why would you risk death and dismemberment upon the diesel-slicked, potholed roads, populated with collosal gas-guzzlers piloted by psychotics, when you could go surfing instead? Surfing has been my excuse, anyway.

Regular readers may recall that I own a bicycle. Possibly the finest bicycle ever constructed. We went through a huge amount of hassle to send it around the world in a container. Twice. And I have ridden it once. See previous paragraph for excuses. Anyway. Yesterday, bright, sunny, and very, very cold. Maybe 15 degrees. No surf forecast. Not getting wet, then. Major excuse gone. So, I evict the local fauna from residence in my camelback and get the bike. A couple of months of neglect seem to have done little harm, so I poke the front end in the general direction of 'up'. Sydney has a lot of up. Also, a lot of down. On average, it's flat. Over towards Mosman. The first climb went quite well. Legs feeling OK. It seems that paddling uses the same major muscle set as pedalling. Along Spit Road. Down the hill. Sensibly. I didn't exceed the speed limit. Which is 60kph. Remembered just how scary high speeds in traffic are. Managed to stop before piling in to the traffic stopped at the bottom. Another reason to love disc brakes. By pure coincidence, I had arrived just as the bridge was opening.

Spit Bridge Open An excuse for a short break

As the bridge opened, I took a few moments to consider my plans. Onwards and upwards, or backwards and upwards? From sea level, the 'downwards' options for a cyclist are somewhat limited. Backwards, I decided. I took a picture of Middle Harbour, in case any skeptics challenged my strty later:

Middle Harbour, Sydney It's a long way to the top of the hill from here

As I started the climb, the joy of the sport all came back to me. The effort, the pain, the realisation of sheer futility. The unreasoning refusal to get off and catch the bus. Five minutes, it took. I was taking it easy. Not wanting to overexert. Climbing may suck, but 'to have climbed' feels so good.

Today, I decided to go surfing instead. Nothing to do with a feeling of dread terror when contemplating the saddle again. Honest.

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Last modified: Thu Aug 31 22:46:12 AUSEST 2006