Having just started cycling about 6 months ago, it has taken some time to adjust to living and commuting on this two-wheeled contraption. Surprisingly my legs have been holding up well to the riding, as I’ve yet to be sore the day after a long ride. My longest being about 125 kms. The toughest challenge is actually just navigating, being unsure if bicycles are allowed on certain stretches of highway or if there is a designated bike path. Will it just take me into the next town or will it keep me on the outskirts and just give me a direct path to the town I’m headed to. I rely completely on my two mapping apps on my phone. So keeping it fully charged is of the utmost importance. My last ride from Yamba to Coffs Harbour was a stretch that had me stick to the main highway the entire way, which is just as you would imagine with long boring stretches of asphalt on a sometimes very narrow shoulder with big semis towing double trailers. Until my app showed me a small road that leads through farmland and bypassed the highway by about 60 kms. As I approached the intersection I stopped and saw it was an unmarked narrow dirt road. I could either take a chance with it and hope it doesn’t get worse as I’m sure it will be much better scenery, or I could stick with the same uneventful highway I had been riding. I decided to take the farm road and see what happens. It was taking my full concentration to keep the heavy bike upright with the skinny tires digging into the soft dirt. The view made it all worth it though. Peddling on through seeing the occasional house with an old man sleeping in a rocking chair on the porch. Then on through one ranch after another. That’s when I started to see them. The one thing I was not warned about before starting this trip. The one thing I never thought would be a problem. The birds, particularly the Magpie birds. Before I can continue with this story, I should give you some context about these little shit heads.
Magpies, said to be direct descendants of Satan, are black and white birds a little larger than a pigeon. They are everywhere in Australia and practically the national bird. They even have two professional sports teams with them as the mascot. These birds are extremely territorial, targeting mostly cyclists and occasionally pedestrians. Once you cross into their domain they swoop down and will either intimidate you by doing a flyby or peck at your ears and dive bomb you in the back of the head. Some people I’ve talked to said they have been known to follow you for 400 meters before giving up. In Byron one cut me pretty good on the top of my ear, drawing blood. They are particularly aggressive during their nesting season which just so happens to be October and November. Magpies are a protected species which means you are not allowed to harm them in any way. Most locals protect themselves by attaching 20 or so zip ties to their helmets with the leftover tie sticking out 8 inches, so that when the bird comes for them they get lightly poked by the zip ties and fly away. It’s a strange sight to see these cyclists with helmets that look like they are out of a bad 80’s Sci-Fi film. Some that I’ve talked to said it only works on the less aggressive ones.
So as I’m riding on this dirt road focusing on not hitting the big rocks and falling. I start to see them in the trees. But this time I think I’m ready for them. It occurred to me they know I am the larger animal, I just need to remind them of this fact. So as one spots me and waits for me to pass him. These cowards only attack you from behind. Its always a surprise attack, they don’t chirp or squawk at you, they just position themselves right behind you and swoop in. I can only tell this one is coming because I see his shadow. Once I do I turn to look him right into his lifeless eyes and let out the fiercest war whoop I can. Sure enough, it works. He flys away back to his tree. I must have encountered a dozen more Magpies throughout the rest of the day. Allowing me plenty of chances to perfect my war whoop, I can say it had a 100% success rate. Eventually, I had to get back on the main highway, which is the only place they won’t go because of the semi trucks. After a few more hours of riding, I make it to my destination with just a bit of a sore throat but feeling good. 280 miles down roughly 1,700 miles left to go.