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TriHards Take a Tour of Port Stephens

23 March 2010

23 March 2010

TriHards Take a Tour of Port Stephens

An often-overlooked aspect of Adventure Racing is the opportunity it provides competitors to see and experience new locations. And the ultimate race in the AROC Paddy Pallin series for 2009-10 was no different. The team at AROC had headed out to Port Stephens, found some of the most spectacular views and experiences, and then formulated a course that took much of them in!

The PANDSI TriHards
The PANDSI TriHards

The TriHards signed two teams on for the AROC Port Stephens Adventure Tour: the PANDSI TriHards, and the Sydney TriHards, and all were looking forward to taking in the sights and experiencing the local adventures! It’s kind of like a contiki tour, only in adventure racing form and (thankfully) without the age restrictions (the TriHards had Father Brendan to provide the sleazy aspect!)

This tour started like all good tours - with a scenic bus ride. Fortunately for the TriHards, their bus stopped for them to take in a view from a top a hill in Nelson Bay. However, knowing full well that this was an adventure tour, the bus driver stopped a way down the hill, to ensure that all his passengers could climb the hill and have the feeling that they had earned the view. After all, if the bus just drops you there for the view, why not just look at a photo?

Once everyone had taken in the view - for at least 20 seconds - and traffic had been suitably held up, the tourists reboarded the bus to head towards their destination: Anna Bay, taking in some of the sights of Tomaree National Park along the way.

A wall of sand at the start
Nothing like a little sand wall to climb to warm up!

The first attraction of the day was the huge sand dune network at Stockton Beach, just to the west of Anna Bay. The tourists were to climb the dunes from the rear (north side) to get an appreciation of the height and formation of the dunes, then head down to the beach and across to Anna Bay.

And they were certainly not disappointed on arrival, coming face to face with a wall of sand that stretched up approximately three metres. The AROC people had even thought ahead, and provided perspective to the view by starting all of the previous tourists ahead of them; so when the final bus looked up they could see their fellow travellers, marked by their bright yellow bibs, scurrying like ants across the sand dunes beneath the darkening skies. How considerate they are!

Most of the tour started early
More tourists running on the dunes
AROC flag marking the way
AROC laid out the course clearly!

But the tail-end charlies were sent off on their way soon enough, scaling the wall of sand, and playing about in the sand dunes for quite some time, then getting back on course and following the flags to the beach. The TriHards did consider making some sand castles while they were there, but weren't sure if they could afford the 20 seconds such an activity may take...

Climbing the headland towards Fishermans Bay
Just a little climb

From the dunes they got to take in the sights of the beach, before rising up to the headland of Anna Bay. The TriHards followed the instructions as set forth by their AROC tour guides, and followed the coast through Fishermans Bay and up to Boat Harbour, enjoying the excellent scenery to be had on the way. They found their bikes; the preferred transport for the next leg of their tour, safe and sound and waiting for them, overlooking a fantastic scene in the bay.

And now they were in for a treat; the tour had them scheduled to ride through Boat Harbour (checking out any shops and attractions on the way) and down to One Mile Beach for a ride. Yes, riding on the beach! It was a shaky ride heading down, but once on the beach all had a great time. Sure, walking on a beach at sunset may be romantic, but riding on the beach, dodging waves in the middle of the day is just way more fun!

Riding on One Mile Beach
Beach Riding! What could be better?
Carrying bikes up Samurai Point
Safer to carry them than ride!

Just to ensure the tourists still derived some sense of satisfaction and achievement from their trip, another challenge was worked into the course for them. They had to climb over a headland - Samurai Point - to ride onto the next beach. And here the TriHards found another hidden gem of the location - Samurai Beach is a clothing optional beach! The boys did consider stripping for a few moments; and while the thought of where sand may end up when riding naked on a beach was a bit daunting, the overwhelming factor turned out to be that getting in and out of their race gear would take at least 20 seconds; and they just didn’t have that sort of time to waste!

From One Mile Beach they rode, fully clothed, up into the greens of Tomaree National Park. Such lush, green vegetation was a strange site for the Canberrans in the team, more accustomed to dry, brown landscapes! They parked their bikes under some shady trees, and headed down to the coast.

Those smart AROCers must have really put some thought into this tour. The sun was now high in the sky, and all of the tourists were heating up after their exertions. So the tour came with a swim! And this would be no soft, resort swimming pool swim! No, this was an adventure tour - so it would be scrambling into rocks before jumping into the surging ocean for these tourists!

One of the swim legs
Racers in the water

Not feeling hot and bothered, both Father Brendan and Mr GPS remained back, sending the Cyborg off to swim, much to his delight. And so he set off, diving into oceanic plunge pools, playing around an posing for cameras and taking the time to change the memory card in his own camera (being an experienced tourist himself). Though, he did admonish himself for wasting so much time, at least two minutes - which is six lots of 20 seconds! However, it did give Father Brendan and Mr GPS plenty of time to clean the sand out of their shoes.

Couple on a tandem bike
Tandem bikes! We can bring our parnters!

So refreshed, the boys headed back to their bikes for a ride through Tomaree National Park; taking in various fire trails and climbing a few hills for some fantastic views. It was atop one of these sandy hills that they ran into a couple on a tandem bike! What a great way to take the tour!

Then it was more riding, uphill, downhill, taking in the wonderful greenery that surrounded them before returning to civilization in the form of Fingal Bay. The TriHards rode through the town, taking note of shops (particularly where hot food may be served after the race!) before dropping their bikes off at the next transition area near the beach.

The Fingal Bay Bike Drop
Looks like a nice beach to run on!

As with all good tours, the guides had arranged for a refreshment stop. Refreshments were served at the Fingal Bay Beach in the form of Red Bull energy shots, delivered by young, attractive Red Bull girls. But the TriHards were old, experienced men of the world, and were oblivious to such temptation - they could not afford the 20 seconds it would take to swap banter and drink the energy shots - and ran off down the beach towards Fingal Spit.

It’s a little known fact that the sand bridge at Fingal Spit was the location for the Where the bloody hell are you advertising campaign.

This part of the tour involved running over the soft, white sands of the Fingal Bay beach - which is patrolled - highlighting not only the beauty of the location, but the safety features! And it must be said, the sights were wonderful; to the north lay islands and headlands, rising steeply from the aqua ocean, cast in the settings of the white sands the area seemed more reminiscent of some of the beautiful locations advertised in South-East Asia rather than just north of Sydney!

Great view north, save for the storm
Is that a storm approaching?

Still, the TriHards didn’t waste too much time taking in the view - not more than 20 seconds - and ran across the sand bridge to navigate the rocky outcroppings on the north side of the spit. Finally, they climbed back over the top, onto the sand bridge, and ran down to the big yellow bathtubs awaiting them on the beach.

The final kayak leg
The TriHard Tourists preparing to launch the kayak in the surf

The penultimate leg of the tour would have the tourists paddling out into Fingal Bay; giving them an opportunity to sample some of the fantastic activities on offer in the area! While a big southerly was blowing through, the seas in the bay were relatively well protected, with only a mild swell! And the lifesavers were out and about to make sure all were well looked after for their cruises on the water.

The tour ended with a quick bike ride back to the Fingal Bay oval, where all of the tourists were reunited and could partake of sausage sandwiches. Those clever people at AROC had even arranged for a huge downpour to come, just as they were giving their presentation; a welcome chance for all of the tourists to get out under fresh water and wash any salt away from their gear!

Tour Highlights:

Where to Stay:

The TriHards stayed at the Discovery Holiday Park Port Stephens in Lemon Tree Passage Yes, it was a bit further from everything else to do with the tour, but that’s what happens when you let worst navigator in the team look up and book accommodation.

Where To Eat

Blue Groper at Halifax Point
Blue Gropers: the labradors of the ocean!

As with their usual tradition, the TriHards sampled the meals at the local Bowling Club, which provided some excellent meals of monster proportions. In fact the Cap’n was nearly reduced to tears when the special he had ordered, ribs and steak, arrived on two plates!

What to Do?

There are plentiful activities in Port Stephens when the AROC circus isn’t in town. The Cyborg sampled diving at Halifax Point with Feet First Diving Nelson Bay which proved to be a fantastic experience. The shore diving was excellent, dropping down to 24m, with plenty of life to see!

How To Get There?

Port Stephens is a relatively short, easy and very boring drive north of Sydney (unless you climb some of those cuts next to the highway... they look really interesting!) Alternatively, you could probably fly to Williamtown airport in Newcastle and have a much shorter trip.

Race Stats

Date: 13 March, 2010
Location: Port Stephens, NSW
Rating: Excellent adventure (would’ve been a tub thumper, but we got to wash our gear at presentation!)
PANDSI TriHards: Mr GPS, Father Brendan and Cyborg
Sydney TriHards: Cap’n, Doc Runaway and McFly
Results Dunes Beach Ride Coasteering Park Ride Run & Paddle Home Ride Total
PANDSI TriHards: 0:57:05 0:33:57 0:33:05 0:58:11 1:22:14 0:06:18 4:30:50
Sydney TriHards: 1:02:31 0:38:31 0:26:17 0:56:46 1:21:09 0:05:56 4:31:10
Average: 0:54:33 0:34:21 0:27:04 0:55:10 1:14:30 0:07:58 4:12:45
Event website: AROC Sport site


Many thanks go out to the team at AROC for another excellent Adventure Race! And series!

Pix ‘n’ Stuff.

All the pictures taken by the TriHards throughout the race can be found on our FaceBook page.

The Cyborg also wore a helmet cam for the entire race, so hopefully some wobbly, bouncy, out of focus video footage will be up on the site too!

See also

Doc Runaway also wrote a report which contains much more information about the Vibrams.