Monday, October 29, 2007

Day 26 Day off Fraser Ranger Station Caravan park

Weds 31st Oct 07
Warm, overcast

Awoke early to the noisy Galahs (pic on right) rushing around the site with much raucous squaking, and I opened the outer flap so I could watch proceedings from the comfort of my sleeping bag. After a breakfast of porridge and toast and chatting to an ex-Dumfriesian I went for a walk into the surrounding hills before the flies got going. I took binoculars and camera - I haven’t had much time to use the former yet and did consider whether I really need to haul them around, however this morning they allowed me to see a lot more than I would otherwise. I watched scores of kangaroos grazing on the plain below, their eyes darting up to stare and check me out from time to time, and I was able to identify a few birds too. I was surprised how tame some of the birds are - I was able to get right up to a pair of 28’s (pic on right) grazing on plant seeds and the Galah’s too seemed hardly aware of my presence. I also identified some crested pigeons cooing away in a tree, having trouble with the rampaging Galahs it seemed. There were also large nos. of ‘roos grazing on the tough grass and woody plants, and by moving quietly and slowly I got within 100m of so of a group of 6 before they took off. They remind me of deer the way they stare with ears pricked. I sat on a rock nearby and some that hadn’t ran became more at ease and carried on munching, ignoring me. I remember a talk by Scottish wildlife writer Jim Crumlin, who does just this and writes about what he sees.
I had a really lazy day just wandering around, reading my Ned Kelly book (True history of the Kelly gang by Peter Carey - a dark story describing the poverty and discrimination against the Irish immigrants), snoozing, and watching the indefatigable and noisy Galahs. The relaxed day lefy me feeling very at ease, and savouring more days like this over the next year - I feel very lucky to be able to do this.
I bought a small barbecue pack of steak and sausages from the site shop, and cooked these up with half a zuchini and large tomato, well seasoned with salt, Tabasco, Aromat and a drop of whisky. I brought a miniature of Old Pultney (Wick) malt to have a few drops on my porridge, and it’s good for steak too. The meat here is of very high quality, always tender whatever I do with it, and dinner was thoroughly enjoyed.
The sun came out late in the afternoon and there was a beautiful sunset as the flies finally disappeared for the day. The tent has proved very effective at keeping flies and insects out as long as I zip it open and closed quickly - just a few small ants seem to find their way in.
Early start tomorrow, back on the road again and onto the Nullabor ‘proper’ to Balladonia Roadhouse, and hopefully uploading facilities.

DAY 25: Norseman to Fraser Range Station Caravan Park

Tuesday 30th Oct 07
104 km @ 16.2 km/hr
Headwind for most of day, warm

I awoke before 6 to hear Thomas packing up to leave, but by the time I was up he had gone - shame we never said goodbye properly. I look forward to corresponding with him in the future though.
By the time I’d checked e-mails at the garage (the $12/hr internet terminal there had no uploading option) and I’d visited the ATM it was 8, but I was feeling good as I left on a lovely spring morning with a slight tailwind. The road is pretty straight as usual, but rises steadily up to around 350m.
By 30km I was really enjoying the ride - despite 2 100km days back to back - when my digestive system decided to revolt again. I don’t know what’s going on, but it may be that the chorizo suasage that I had a little of uncooked last night, and thought would keep quite a while, does not do so - anyway if it was that then lesson learnt. No dunny for miles either so off into the bush and behind a bush.
Despite this my mood was indefatigable, and I sailed along until I came to some major roadworks that I had heard about. Highway 1 (which by the way goes all around Australia) is being upgraded for fully 50km, and the surface is not tarmac but smooth consolidated dirt - not too bad to ride on but you have to keep an eye open for stones etc. Well, during this 50km there were 6 traffic control points where I had to wait for up to 15 minutes, however rather than feel annoyed about this I enjoyed talking to the ‘lollipop person’ holding the stop/go sign. I learnt quite a bit about the work, Australia, and even in one case his secret love! Only downside was a rather clumsy lollipop lady who kept threatening to knock my head off with her lollipop; and she nearly broke off my new handlebar-end mirror (with which I am very pleased). I was repeatedly told that my destination today was a really nice place, and I thought I might have a day off tomorrow on that basis, plus I can get some washing done.
As the roadworks came to and end the going got very tough, with an increasing SE wind almost in my face, and a steady drag upwards. I was very tired when I arrived at the turning to Fraser Station and crept along the rough 2km side road. On arrival I could see it was worth it though - a tidy collection of mostly old-style Australian buildings, set in a fertile grassland valley with birds everywhere - noisy Galah parrots; the ubiquitous 28’s (ring-necked parrot / Port Lincoln parrot); crested pigeons etc. Unfortunately there were also billions of little flies again - folk are saying they are particularly bad at the moment, however I usually manage to ignore them, they don’t bite and are really just an annoyance more than anything. The place has a lovely sense of peace about it, and I’m going to enjoy staying here.\
The campers kitchen is excellent here and has everything you need. As usual there was a general getting to know each othert session as the (small number of) campers prepared their evening meal. This place is pretty remote and they have their own water and power supplies of course. It is a working sheep station covering a huge area.I have a picturesque camping site under some trees, and felt very cosy and content as I retired for the night.

DAY 24: Salmon Gums to Norseman

Monday 28th Oct 07
98 km @ 19.0 km/hr
Warm, sunny, slight side wind.

This was to be another near-100km pull on dead straight roads with hardly any hills. There was nothing at all along the way so we carried snacks and plenty of water, and stopped about 3 times to stretch and eat.There was a little more traffic today this being a Monday, but still not what you would call busy.the last 20 km was (as usual) quite hard, with a slight headwind and slightly steeper uphill stretches. I felt OK on arrival at Norseman though. The boils had gone down quite a bit but I was still feeling some discomfort there despite using lots of Vaseline and Savlon.We chose to stay at the local campsite (with a million flies as our guests) and shot off for bacon anmd eggs at the local caff. Norseman is ok, but you wouldn’t want to spend too long here. It’s more of an industrial centre than tourist attraction. The Telecentre is temporarily closed so I don’t at this point know whether I’ll be able to upload this and photos (I’m typing it up in the camp kitchen).Tomorrow I plan to head for the Fraser Ranges caravan park which is supposed to be very nice - it’s located on a sheep station about 100km down Highway 1 from here - so another long pull will be required. Thomas is going to try and get to Belladonia roadhouse which is all of 200 km, so we will part company tonight. I shall miss him, even though we’ve only been together for a few days I feel as if I’ve known him longer; we seem to have done a lot together. Unable to upload at all in Norseman unfortunately.
On arrival at Norseman - the Telecentre is temporarily closed and there are limitd other options. I completed my first 1000 miles (1600 km) which is encouraging - to say that October has not been a full month I feel more confident that I can manage the mileages required, boils and disaters allowing.

DAY 23 Esperance to Salmon Gums

DAY 23: Esperance to Salmon Gums
Sunday 28th Oct 07
104 km @ 19.2 km/hr
Strong W side wind, very cold

Yesterday’s storms were astonishing with lashings of ice-cold hail and strong winds. The wind was still much in evidence this morning, but it looked a little brighter, so no question of not setting off. I will ride with Thomas Donovan, a lawyer from Seattle, who is riding Perth to Adelaide, before going up to Cairns for a weeks scuba diving on the Great Barrier Reef. We have agreed to ride together as far as Norseman, 204 km to the north, in 2 days - a slightly quicker journey than I would have liked, but then it is mostly flat and there is a slight tailwind.
It was bitterly cold though - only 9 deg C! At times the westerly crosswind was hard to cope with, but for the most part there was some shelter thanks to the endless gum trees and increasing Mallee shrubbery. After a short stop for a Mrs.Mack’s pie (Gawd bless ‘er) and cup of tea after 20km, there would be no services until Salmon Gums, another 80km or so - in fact nothing at all really.
We stopped a couple of times on the way to Salmon Gums but got so cold once stopped that there was no pleasure in it at all. After one 10 minute stop I was literaly shaking with cold.
It warmed up slightly for the last 20km into SG and on arrival we checked out the available ‘facilities’ in this ‘town’ of only 40 people. The hotel was a nice looking old building (see pic). We had a beer while we thouight what to do and learnt from our hostess Jackie (I bet I’ve spelt it wrong if so sorry Jackie) that a double room in the Sheep Shearer’s Sheds’ would only be $32 so that was the chosen option - less hassle than unpacking everything to set up tent etc., and besides, judging by the local characters we were in for an interesting evening; also, there was a huge log fire to melt in front of and watch the unfolding action. Off we went to shower and by 1700 we were back in the bar awaiting our order of T-bone, chips and salad. We chose a nice bottle of red to go with it - live in style why not?! - I’m on holiday!
The meal and wine were delicious, and things were starting to happen to hold our attention. For one thing a succession of animals came and went - a lovely old white lab (or was it a Pyrennean Mountain dog?) followed by a very fat cat that rather aggressively demanded our attention, and not least Emma, the pet Joey. She had been rescued when injured and was still quite a young kangaroo. As the animals competed for attention 2 young German girls, Uta (20) and El (24) arrived and swpotting a bargain when they see one, decided to stay the night. Soon after their arrival Jackie brought Emma out wrapped in a blanket, and gave her to Uta along along with a baby’s feeding bottle, and Uta played mum for a while while El and I took pics. Thomas and I were sat either side of a huge log fire - so welcome after such a cold day.
A local man, Ivan chatted away to everyone, and we were later told that he was a millionaire - the story goes that he was left some land and built a new house on it - when he knocked the old one down he found $2 million dollars under the floor! We did wonder whether it was a tourist wind-up but you never know with these guys!
Uta and El joined us by the fire and we helped them improve their English, which was pretty good to start with I have to say.
By 2130 we were all talked out and tired and hit the sack, asleep in seconds.