Sunday, December 30, 2007

DAY 83: Melbourne to Kurth Kiln camping ground

76km @ 14.2 km/hr
Thurs 27th December 2007
Distance to date 5319 km (3324 miles)
Very warm and sunny again

I said my goodbyes to John and Marjorie last night, and thanked them for their hospitality and generosity, as they were away early this morning to take their youngest daughter Jasmine to the airport - she is off to Washington DC for a study year.
I was out of the house by 0900 and on the way to St.Kilda Bikes to see if I can get a verdict on the problems with the chain / sprockets, which are slipping and grinding under load. This meant a small detour from my original plan to head east to the Bunyip State Park where there are some forest campsites - utter peace after the (admittedly enjoyable) bustle of the city. The bike shop (a Rohloff stockist) is some 6km from John’s and north rather than east.
SKC put there best man on the job straight away, and he quickly diagnosed worn chainring, and unbelievebly, worn chain - this chain was only fitted a couple of weeks ago at Warrnambol. It was a cheap chain mind - $15. Probably the worn chainring damaged the chain. I decided to buy the more expensive Rohloff chain rather than a cheaper version again. I was invited to test the new assembly once fitted but it still wasn’t right - it turned out the rear sprocket which looked OK, must also be worn. The old sprocket proved a pig to remove (I have heard these things can be incredibly tight) and I discreetly looked away as as the (American) mechanic broke a chain whip and hurt his back. Why do I feel guilty on such occasions?! Once the new rear sprocket was installed everything was sweet and smooth again, and I was $199 the poorer. Still, as I am heading into mountainous country now I really need the transmission to be A1. All this only took 90 minutes and by 11 I was on my way.
I had worked out a route with John to get me out of the city to where I am now, but this had to be revised now to take account of me starting again from St.Kilda. However I had set the map co-ordinates of my intended destination into the Garmin Edge 305 gps, so I could check I was going in the right direction. I have commented a few weeks ago that this unit was not holding it’s charge, however it seems to have recovered and is behaving itself at the moment.
There was lots of traffic on the road out - the Upper Ferntree Gully road - which was down to 2 lanes with no shoulder for a lot of the way. Happily there were few lorries around and the cars mostly gave me a wide berth, however it wasn’t exactly comfortable cycling. I stopped at a supermarket to top up my food stocks and bought a new box of wine, as well as a litre bottle of Farmer’s Union Iced Coffee (FUIC) which isn’t very common in Victoria, and which I downed within the hour.
At Belgrave I turned off left and lost a lot of the traffic, and the scenery became more interesting - lots of big trees, lovely shade, a bendy road, and one hill after another. None of the hills were excessively steep though - maybe 7% at the most i.e. Moderate effort but still very enjoyable, a steady grind for a few km at a time. Starting from sea level there was inevitably more climbing today. I thoroughly enjoyed these last 30km, and there are a few pleasant little towns along the way - Emerald, Cackatoo and Gembrook. A famous tourist railway, called Puffing Billy, runs from Belgrave to Gembrook (25km), and the line criss-crosses the road. I passed the train at Cockatoo, and I was surprised at how many passengers the little loco was pulling - literally hundreds, many of whom were sitting on the outside of the carriages with legs dangling over the side!
I topped up my water stock to about 6 litres at Gembrook, as I didn’t know if there would be water at Kurth Kiln camping area, and had a look around this little place for a while, enjoying the very warm late afternoon sun. There are 2 ways to get to KK - a 7km mostly gravel track, and a 9km mostly tarmac road, so feeling a little adventurous I took the former. This proved to be a little unwise as there were some very steep descents and climbs which proved very awkward for me. The gravel road wasn’t in too bad a condition but the surface was very loose, meaning that I was skittering about all over the place, especially down the very steep descents. The mechanic at St.Kilda Cycles had kindly checked the bike over and found the tyres to be under-inflated, and had duly pumped them up to 60 psi; however this extra hardness obviously created more instability on this surface and is meant for the road.
I arrived at KK at around 1730 and got set up in a nice quiet corner before exploring. There is a large brick kiln here (hence the name!) which was used for making charcoal during WWII. I’ve never heard of this before, but this charcoal was used for powering vehicles since petrol and diesel supplies were uncertain - there are some pictures of cars with a large charcoal to energy conversion plant in the boot - amazing but innovative. Needless to say, although some 50,000 vehicles were converted the use of charcoal was short-lived as ‘normal’ fuel supplies were sustained.
It’s only just gone dark at 2110, so the days are stretching out somewhat. The Kookaburras must be telling jokes tonight because they are laughing their heads off as I type.

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