Sunday, December 23, 2007

DAY 78: Cowes to Stony Point via French Island

Sat 22nd December 2007
8 km @ 13.0 km/hr
Cloudy, warm, thunderstorm, deluge!
Distance to date 5104 km (3190 miles)

NB\ I've just uploaded pics for last few days ......

Very poor sleep last night thanks to my snoring friend. The noise he makes is absolutely horrendous and I’ll think twice before sharing again after this experience.
I enjoyed a hearty breakfast again as provided by mein hosts, and made a late decision to get the 0910 boat across to French Island and spend the day there and camp tonight. It had rained on and off all night - heavy too (it’s badly needed here), but it was dry first thing today. It was pretty windy though and the little boat got a good battering from the waves, and from some frightful banging against the jetty while docked.
French Island is about the size of Hoy in Orkney - some 20x15 km; population 68; primary school with 6 pupils; no tarmac roads and some poor quality gravel roads. Most of the island is a National Park and it appears pretty much unspoilt apart from some areas cleared by Europeans during colonisation, which is used for livestock farming.
It was blowing a gale when I was dropped off at the FI jetty and I wondered if I’d done the right thing coming here. However it wasn’t raining, and I knew there was a NP campsite just 3km away, but I was unable to find any signs to tell me how to get there, and I had not seen a decent map of this island among the tourist brochures. After 3km of bumpy corrugations I came across the General Store where I was briefed on what was where. I was strongly advised not to choose the NP campsite as the 5km track out to it was in poor condition and sandy in parts, and told that I’d be better off at the campsite in the centre of the island - “it’s a lovely place!” The shop lady very kindly drew the directions on a map for me. So off I set off with high hopes of finding a little gem of a site that would dispel my growing unease about the weather, the roads, etc. The map was unfortunately the original map was not to scale, however I did arrive at the place she marked - but on arrival I saw nothing to indicate that this was a campsite. There was a settlement of some kind here; a large shed and other farm buildings along with a very large amount of scrap metal and abandoned machinery, but no sign of a house. I went around the place shouting “hello”; managed to spook a horse that subsequently cavorted all over the place, and eventually someone opened a door inside the large shed and a large dog ran towards me. I still wasn’t sure this was the right place of course so I could have dropped myself in it, however the lady that came out confirmed this was the right place.
The ladies name is Lois and she is the one who runs the campsite and operates the bus tours around the island that I had booked this morning, so OK so far!
Lois showed me where I could pitch the tent, and it was only $5/night too, so she left me to set up while she put the kettle on for me, after which we would go off in her minibus and collect some other people off the afternoon boat who were doing the tour too. As I started to set up the same horse was running all over the campsite apparently very upset at my presence, which was worrying. On top of that as soon as I laid down the groundsheet hordes of mozzies appeared and immediately covered everything in sight including myself. I don’t mind roughing it a bit but this was too much to take, and there and then I abandoned the idea of camping there. Probably the heavy rain and sheltered nature of the site increased the numbers of insects.
I decided then to leave the bike here and go on the afternoon tour, and Lois assured me we would be back for afternoon tea then in good time for me to cycle back to the jetty for the 1630 boat over to Stony Point. Lois obviously knows an awful lot about the island (she is fourth generation there) and lots about wildlife. She took us to several sites where there are Koalas,identified various birds including Cape Barren Geese and Marsh Harrier, showed us rare orchids, and generally entertained us for a couple of hours. Unfortunately the heavens opened for the whole afternoon and it was raining so hard we didn’t even venture out of the minibus - we would have been soaked in seconds (more than we already were!). It is evident that the island is very attractive and full of interesting fauna and flora, but today was probably the worst day we could have chosen to see it.
In view of the torrent of rain and gale-force winds I abandoned the idea of cycling the 8km back to the pier on flooded, rutted roads, and happily there was a bike rack on the minibus so the bike could be carried back to the jetty that way, although I was a bit concerned about the possible banging around on these poor roads, Lois was very careful - full marks to her for all her efforts in general. It can’t be easy to make a living on French Island and and she puts a lot of effort into what she does.
As the little boat docked it was harshly banged against the side of the jetty and I feared something might break, but 15 minutes later I was stepping off with all my bags, but while putting everything back together a big squall hit again just to make sure there were no dry bits left on me. There is a caravan park next to the jetty at stony Point so I didn’t have far to go, however the fact that it was still raining meant delaying erecting the tent, and there was nowhere to go to shelter either. Luckily there was a few minute break in the weather and i was able to get the tent up in that time and all was well. I also managed to cook a hot meal later on during another break in the weather - the MSR stove laughs at these squally conditioned; i don’t believe anything would stop the thing operating!
In summary, I had a somewhat depressing day; I maybe should have seen the funny side of all the negatives, but it all just annoyed me - possibly due to lack of sleep these last 2 nights due to the dreaded snorer. If you read this James I don’t care - you need to do something about that!! At least he did apologise after the first night of it.

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