Monday, October 22, 2007

DAY 17: Fitzgerald River RA to Ravensthorpe

Mon 22 Oct 07
80 (hard) km, side / headwind
cloudy and cold (12 deg C)

From my arrival at the Fitzgerald River rest area at 1530 yesterday to my leaving this morning not another soul stopped or stayed here - all to myself. I briefly felt a bit edgy when I thought I saw someone moving about in the dunny (loo) when there were no vehicles here and the nearest house is 10’s of km away - a ghost? Until I realised there was a fern-like bush wafting around in the wind, that’s all. All part of the experience!
Whilst I was packing the tent away a kookaburra came and stood beside me as tame as could be - I could have reached down and touched it.
From the start the road rose in a steady drag, and with the wind no longer behind me I knew I was in for a tough day. There would be no culinary compensations either as there is NOTHING between these 2 places, other than some farms set well back from the road - no cafes or shops though.
By just 20 km I was feeling quite weary and stopped to eat the last of my snacks - I had probably not brought enough along. The side / headwind made everything feel harder, and I just plugged away as best I could. I don’t think I’m as fully fit as I might be yet.
The road was endlessly straight, and in places I could see 6 or 7 km ahead of me - vanishing point. Lots of dead kangaroos again.
The cereal fields continued - mostly barley, wheat and canona (latter is used to make margerine), but there was usually a margin of trees at the side of the road, which offered some shelter.
With 15 km to go I saw a car parked ahead of me and wondered if it was George returning from Albany in replacement hire car. I was pretty hungry by now and my first question was “have you got any chocolate?”. He hadn’t as it happened, but I was happy to see him anyway, and in factg he did find me half a bag of sweets from somewhere to top up sugar levels. He then continued onto Esperance where he will continue his trip by bike.
The next (and last) 15 km was hardest of all - uphill, wind more in my face now, covered with flies brought out by a bit of rare sunshine, and if that wasn’t enough threatened by nest-protective magpies. These birds are renowned here for attacking anyone who comes within range of their nests during breeding season - inflicting severe injuries on occasion; I resorted to screaming at them when they came too close, and it seemed to work.
I finally crawled into Ravensthorpe and the nearest cafe for food and drink, then uploaded to the blog at the very expensive Telecentre, although it was a very fast connection.
The caravan park is good, and only $7 too!
Had a nice chat with the Dutch couple next door and got my laundry done at last - I had nothing clean left, and had to put on wet gear this morning after 2 days rain and no way of drying. All in all ending the day on a positive note.
I now have 188 km to Esperance with only 1 roadhouse after 88 km, so the extra shopping I did here thgis afternoon should easily get me by. The wind might drop according to one person I met; better then a headwind!
I will have the cane toads lullaby tonight as I get down to sleep, I can hear them starting up already. In case you wondered I’m typing this up in the tent, in the dark, with my head torch; so forgive me any typos!

DAY 16: Pallinup RA to Fitzgerald RA

103 km @ 18. 8 km/hrwindy, squally showers
cool 13 deg C
Sunday 21st Oct 2007

I awoke to the sound of more rain pitter-pattering on the tent, so didn’t bother trying to get away early. By 0700 it had stopped so I took the chance to get up and packed. Once again it was cloudy and cool, but the SW wind persisted, so it wasn’t all bad news. The other 3 motorhomers that had stayed here last night were allquiet. A roadhouse about 10 km up the road provided a pie for breakfast then still dry, I headed on east. On arrival at this place I suffered the indignity of falling off the bike as my left pedal cleat refused to let go of my foot, and seem to have a decent bruise on thigh for my trouble. i don’t like these Shimano cleats; not as effective as the time ones I use on my other bikes. As was the case yesterday, Highway 1 was almost flat as huge cereal fields endlessly bordered both sides of the road. (see pic above - vanishing point!)
I received quite a few good toots this morning from happy motorhomers, which always initiates a big wave back.There wasn’t much to look at scenery-wise so i just kept plugging away at around 25 km/hr helped by the tailwind again. It started to rain around 1000 and more or less kept it up for the rest of the day.Well inside 4 hours I had arrived (in fairly wet state) at Jerranunjup where satisfied my sugar craving with an apricot Danish. J is not really big enough to be called a town and to be honest had nothing else to offer, especially on a Sunday. I asked a guy with a paper whether the result of the rugby world cup final was in there, but it wasn’t, and he wasn’t inclined to chat. The sign here by the way means 45 km to go to Jewrramanjup - they are positioned every 5km along the road between all towns.
Maybe it was the poor weather, but no-one seemed very happy, not least the lady that served me in the cafe. I had the option to stay at the caravan park at Jerramunjup but (1) I didn’t like the look of the place and (2) there was a rest area 39 km down the road and it was only 1230, so i pressed on.The road bent more to the east now with the result that my friend the tail wind was now on the starboard beam and with the loss of the tree shelter belt to open cereal fields I was buffeted somewhat with wet squalls - not at all pleasant - where the hell is the sun and nice weather? I was down to 12 km/hr since there was also a draggy uphill for about 10km. Feeling quite tired I thankfully arrived at the rest area at about 1530. Happily it had stopped raining so i quickly got the tent up, and next job was to slap on some mozzie repellant as there seemed to be a few eyeing me up - “hmmmm, now where shall we start........”The last 200 km i.e. since Albany was quite remote with very few settlements. Water is available at least every 50km or so though, and as it has been so cool i have been drinking a lot less than on hotter days, so i have found that 4 or 5 litres is enough - you just need to check every time you stop what is ahead - what services etc., and make sure to ask so no disasters. If stuck I’m sure the motorhomers would help out, but it’s important to take responsibility for yourself.Typing this up in daylight for once (on the PDA / portable keyboard) rather than by headtorch as is the norm. Feeling very tired so will try to sleep soon after dark (about 1900).

DAY 15: Albany to Pallinup Rest Area

122 km @ 21.2 km/hr
Good tailwind

Last evening while Dan and Paula were in Perth George turned up at the house. George Brown is also cycling around Oz and was a few days ahead of me, however on his arrival in Esperance he discovered that there would be nowhere to watch the Rugby world cup final between England and South Africa tonight. He therefore decided to hire a car and return the 480 km or so from Esperance to Albany, and duly arrived around 2200 last night. It was the first time we’d met in person although we have conversed by telephone and via cycling websites regarding our plans to cross the Nullabor together.
Things hadn’t quite gone to plan for George though - unfortunately he hit a kangaroo in the dark and half-demolished the front of the hire car - it was a real mess and clearly not driveable any further.
Anyhow that drama aside we had a good blather over a rum and coke and both retired since our hosts were not expected back until the middle of the night.
This morning then I was ready for off at 0730 and George cycled to the bakery with me and we had a pie brewakfast. I happily noted a moderate westerly which should blow me along nicely.
G and I parted at the outskirts of the town, to meet up again in a few days. I was indeed enjoying a decent tailwind and with little effort was cruising at around 25-30 km/hr - woohoo!
Every silver lining has a cloud though, and my digestive system was protesting about some indescretion or other - in short I had the trots. Not sure why as i have been very careful about water and food - something wasn’t right somewhere though. Happily this did not spoil my day unduly as I managed to find a dunny whenever I really needed one.
Before long I was approaching 100 km after only 4 hours or so, but prior to this I had a nice surprise when a couple in a motorhome pulled alongside and offered me some fresh fruit - yes please! People are very kind sometimes, and I devoured an orange with gusto. At exactly 100km I reached Wellstead Roadhouse and enjoyed some toast and jam and a pot of tea.
I carried on after this since there was still a good tailwind, and would have gladly gone on to 150km but I came across a really nice rest area by the river, and decided to stay the night. There were a few motorhomers in too and we compared notes for a while. Only downside was the unwanted attention of some giant ants - didn’t like the look of them at all, and I tried to make sure none got in the tent to take a piece out of me later.
I went down to the river as the sun went down, and it was quite beautiful with the small birds swooping around to catch insects, and the sun dappled the tops of the trees with a rainbow backdrop just for good measure.
After a pasta and spicy sausage dinner made on the camp stove I lay listening to the silence before falling into a deep sleep.