After my constant battles against headwinds, hills, punctures and knee pains, I arrived in Wagga Wagga, and rewarded myself with a day off. Not the least bit because Wagga Wagga is the first town I've gone through with... wait for it... an accurate town slogan! “Wagga Wagga, the biggest inland city in NSW”. I thought that was modest enough, and so this modest but quietly proud city played host, and proved to be very nice for the duration of my stay.
(above: The Murrumbidgee River, separating 'new' and 'old' Wagga Wagga)
First stop was accommodation, and the guys at the Tourist Hotel very kindly donated a room for a night. This was despite me arriving on perhaps the second busiest night in Wagga Wagga; the night before the Gold Cup horse race. They then extended their generosity even further by having me stay for THE busiest night in Wagga Wagga; Gold Cup Day! The Tourie (as the locals say) has a great, laid back atmosphere, and a lot of this can be attributed to Marlene & her partner, who have been running the pub for the last 5 months. These guys could have easily sold my room for triple the normal rate, but they chose to support the Starlight Children's Foundation, and donate it to me. Thank you so much!! They even let me use their laundry and I cooked with my camping stove on the pub roof, which overlooks the winding Murrumbidgee River! A great place and great people!
(above: my dinner table on the roof of the pub, overlooking the river)
(below: smells good!)
So... relaxing in the biggest inland city in NSW, I decided I would treat myself to a coffee and catch up on my emails at a WiFi hotspot. I was trying to avoid McDonalds, but it seemed the only spot with WiFi, until... I happened upon The Storehouse Cafe & Deli. I was very content sitting in my own little 'latte and internet world' at The Storehouse, that I had already decided I would return to this comfort the next day. This became a sure thing when I got talking to Simon (owner), who offered for me to come in for lunch 'on the house' the next day, just so he could help support my journey and Starlight in his own way. I returned the next day for a delicious ravioli, and was greeted with smiles, and a BIG bag of mixed nuts, dried fruit and chocolate to take with me on my journey!!! This mix was huge, and so so delicious. All of this came out of Simon's huge generosity, and just wanting to help out where he can. My only gripe with Simon, is that his generosity was so big, that the bag of nuts, dried fruit and chocolate added considerably to my already heavy load... but I have already gone a long way to rectifying this. Delicious! I will never go back to Wagga Wagga without going to the Storehouse.
(above: my bag of happiness, courtesy of Simon at the Storehouse)
(below: close up of happiness)
Also, a big thank you to Rohan at Kidsons Cycles (www.kidsonscycles.com.au). Rohan gave my bike a full service, and most importantly, securely attached my front panniers (both of which had broken). I am now very confident that my luggage is secure, and won't spill out onto the road (an important feature, but one that was somewhat overlooked initially). Rohan also topped me up on puncture equipment (I'm sorry to say most of which I have already used), AND, when I absent mindedly left my helmet at his shop, Rohan kindly called me, and drove back after hours so that I could strap it onto my brain for my early departure the next day. Why did he do all this? A good man, working at a good bicycle shop, donating some of his time and skills to the cause. Thanks Rohan; without the extra puncture kit I most surely would still be in Yallada State Forest!
Geez... So the people of Wagga Wagga are alright huh? Even the guy at the bookshop gave me a discount! I couldn't make up my mind whether or not having a book with me was worth the space and weight it took up. The guy at the bookshop helpfully pointed out the small sized novels. I left with nothing continuing my stroll, then when walking back past the bookshop, I returned and went against his advice, buying a slightly bulkier item – The Widow Clicquot: The Story of a Champagne Empire and the Woman who Ruled it. A book is definitely worth the extra weight!
Oh, I almost forgot. I also saw my first ever wild echidna on my way into Wagga Wagga! The little fella was dawdling across the Sturt Highway, at a speed you would most commonly associate with nursing homes, and at one stage I didn't think he was going to make it. Finally he made the other side, curled into a ball to protect himself from the swooping magpie, and scurried into the long grass for protection.
(above: little fella survives, oblivious to the Sturt Highway)