Tuesday, October 16, 2007

DAY 11 - Shannon River to Walpole

67km @14.4 km/hr
slight headwind, hot and sunny (later on in ride / cool in early morning)

DAY 11
Got away at 0650 this morning, nice and early. Last night was the coldest yet, I had to get head and all into the sleeping bag to be warm enough. The Coorowangs were up nice and early and very interested in my porridge, or whatever else they thought they could get. Tough luck everyone.
I didn’t have very much food left and have gathered that there’s nothing between here and Walpole, 67 km away. I have a couple of muesli bars so with an extra large helping or porridge, that will have to do until 1 or so. I need to carry more spare provisions like this, that are easy to eat.
The road rolls up and down continuously again, not a straight or flat bit for the first 40 km or so - some of the hills are quite steep too, but again not too long. Plenty of smelly dead ‘roos again - poor blighters. The odd dead snake and lizard too. The guide on the train at Pemberton had told us that there a lot of Tiger snakes around at the moment, and warned us to look well out for them.
There are regular signs warning that fox poison has been laid in the forest - this by CALM who’s job it is to protect the forest environment (as I understand it) but I guess the foxes are threatening other, possibly rarer species.
Today is warm and sunny with not a cloud in the sky. Happily there is plenty of regular shade from the continuous line of trees that have stretched for over a hundred km now. As an expreiment I tied to charge the Garmin Edge bike computer / GPS up using one of my solar panels strapped to the back panniers, but it wasn’t having it. I’ve got a feeling there’s a fault with the Edge; it seemed as if last time I fully charged it it only lasted for asbout 1 hour before disharging completely again. The panels are ok though - I managed to charge 4 x AA batteries up yesterday in the afternoon sun.
About 10 km from Walpole there was a sting in the tail - a 2 km-long hill with some very steep sections which took the wind out of me a little. I’m SO glad I chose a really low gear ratio for the Rohloff hub - 36-16. I finally rolled into town and devoured a huge tuna / sald sandwich and blueberry tart, before spending an hour in the telecentre, where I seemed to spend as much time chatting as actually working. Everyone here is so friendly and interested (read aghast) about the trip.
After this I headed the 4 km out to the Coalminers beach campsite and after setting up went down onto the (deserted} beach and had a paddle. One of the site staff told me that the bay is mostly freshwater at the mo, due to recent heavy rain and the fact that the entrance to the bay here is very narrow. It’s lovely to feel the hot sun on my back (as I type this out down on the beach). Just reward for days effort.
The couple next to me at the campsite are the same couple i met on the Pemberton train - Geoff and Jen from Sydney - coincidence - and I’ve been asked over to their barbie tonight so some company for me. I have found it a bit lonely some nights on my own, but then again rising so early I get to sleep by about 9 anyhow. I do get lots of chats most days though one way or another.
Later: went next door to Geoff and Jen’s and cooked my risotto by the campfire. Geoff had caught some fish (Bream) which he cooked over the fire, and I downed one of these also. I’m nearly always hungry; unsurprising since I reckon to be burning between 1500 and 2500 calories each day whilst cycling, roughly equivalent to doubling of ‘normal’ energy use when not cycling. We had a good blather about this, that, and the other.
Fell asleep quickly despite a pair of drunken Geordies spitting and shouting all over the caravan park.

DAY 10: Pemberton to Shannon River campsite

DAY 10: Pemberton to Shannon NP campsite
58 km @ 14.3 km/hr
slight headwind, 20 deg C

Awake at dawn (0540) and away at 0715. Earliest start yet but I hope I will get packing up and breakfast to under an hour. It was a little cool but a mostly clear sky despite the overnight rain. I headed out NE to meet Highway 1, rather than ride the longer way via Northcliffe. I had a faint hope that if I caught a tail wind I might make it the 115 km to Walpole in 1 day.
Lots of birds around again, Whip Birds, the ubiquitous Kookaburra, and magpies - 1 of the lattter attacked me a couple of times but didn’t make contact. Magpies are notorious for attacking cyclists during the nesting season.
The road in this area is hardly ever flat - up and down, up and down, sometimes steep but usually short climbs. Constant cries of birds and occasional smell / sight of dead 'roos.
Soon after noon I was in the Shannon NP so planned to have lunch at the campsite then maybe carry on and wild camp somewhere nearer to Walpole. However the forest setting of the campsite was so attractive that I decided to stop here for the day. Only $7.50 (3 pounds). Each site has it’s own table and ‘fireplace’, and logs are provided free. There’s no drinking water though there are showers / toilets. The forestry organisation here is CALM (Conservation and Land Management), and the site is managed by volunteers John and his wife.
There’s lots of wildlife around here, Kangaroos wandering about quite openly, and Currawong lurking ready to pounce on any unattended food - these birds are beautiful and make wonderful noises, but are a bit of a pest here it seems - John told me that one went aftersome food that a small girl was eating and managed to spear her straight through the cheek.
This place is really peaceful and I'm glad I stayed overnight.

NB/ having tyrouble uploading pics, probably because I have the camera set to high resolution, I'll have to see about resizing pics or changing camera settings.

DAY 9: Day off in Pemberton

0 km, warm, a bit cloudy

I was determined to rest as much as possible today to regain strength after a rather taxing week. I had a lie-in until around 0730 and made porridge and coffee just outside the tent without having to leave it. The Thermarest chair (converts mattress to chair) is excellent for sitting around in and only takes seconds to put together.
I strolled the half-km or so to the ‘railway station’ to wait for the tram excursion. This is an excellent way to see and learn about the local trees and plants and area in general in comfort ($18). The trip takes you out through forest and over wooden creek bridges for some 10 km under the expert guidance of the driver and former bushman. We also saw a large flock of wild emus down by the river (WA turkey as our guide called them).
After a nice pastie,donut and latte lunch in the local bakery I had a chat with a 70-year old Brisbane man and his wife here on a mountain biking holiday. He also runs tours to New Zealand for a living - nice work, all expenses paid. What a fit and active guy too. I have to repeat I very much like the small Australian towns like Pemberton and Nannup - I expect to see much more of the likes on the route I take from Melbourne north - bypassing Sydney well inland, then heading for Brisbane cross-country via Canberra. The people are so friendly and welcoming, and the shops and cafes are such good value and high quality compared to the coastal towns, as far as I can see.
I went to the YHA to use the internet but no uploads so no go. Nothing else open today either.