Friday, November 16, 2007

DAY 42: Venus Bay to Elliston

Fri 16th Nov 07
76 km @ 18.4 km/hr
Modest tailwind

Peaceful night and relaxed start to the day since Elliston is only 64km away. Away around 0800 on a warm and sunny morning; headwind during the first 6km back to the main road then a decent tailwind thereafter. Just as well since there are more hills starting to appear now, some quite steep and others long and draggy. I should have been able to take advantage of the tailwind but I can’t engage thye highest 2 gears, which means I’m struggling to pedal faster than 30 km/hr - frustrating!
There is a little tree cover but the land either side of the road is sheep territory and pretty open. The sand dunes of the coast are never far from view.
Around 12km from Elliston is Colton, but all one can see from the road is just one house, probably the only house visible to me all day, however this house actually has a bakery. There’s a small outbuilding which contains a glass cupboard containing hand-made fresh bread, along with an honesty box and price list. you make your choice and just leave the money in the box. All the produce looked delicious (baked in a Scottish oven whatever that means) and I selected a pack of 4 sticky fruit buns - I devoured 2 on the spot, and they were really fresh and tasty.
My progress boosted by this find I was soon entering Elliston, and once again first impressions were that this is a very pretty little town. It boasts a supermarket, pub, 2 Caravan Parks, a council ‘telecentre’ and general admin centre etc. Oh and a bakery - which was my first port of call of course, for pastie, a delicious apricot and chocolate danish pastry, and capuccino. The staff and customers sat with me in the shady street tables and were sooo friendly - asking about my trip and advising me where to camp tomorrow night - this is typical of these small Australian towns; everyone is so keen to help and to be friendly in general.
I spent an hour on the (very slow dial-up) internet (and gave up trying to upload pics as a bad job). After a cruise around the coastal tracks on the bike I got my swimming gear out and spent a while in the sea and sunbathing. I had a 1km-long idyllic sandy beach, in 32 deg sunshine, all to myself.
Had a nice chat with Lyn then had another crack at the gear loss problem in the Rohloff hub. And actually managed to sort it out - yay! I can now get all 14 gears normally, so if there’s another tailwind tomorrow I’ll be able to make better use of it. Andy from Thorn Cycles had kindly got straight back to me about the problem, which helped.
I phoned the shop in Ceduna where I bought the voice recorder that wasn’t working, and was told that they had indeed received it today but that it was working OK - I can’t understand why it didn’t work for me though, I definitely put the batteries in the right way and followed all the instructions correctly. I’ll be glad to get it and put it to use to record my thoughts and observations while riding (with a view to writing the blog etc.)
Everyone at the Caravan park is very chatty and everyone wants to know the same things - when I started, where I’m going etc.
I’ve started to put the Sony SW radio to better use lately and took the trouble to find all the stations of interest, especially BBC world Service (broadcasting from China but with all UK / world news.
2145 now and goodnight.

DAY 41: Day off in Venus Bay

Thurs 15th Nov 07
Hot and sunny, SE breeze

pic on right = praying mantis some 70mm long

Nice to be able to have a lie-in this morning and not have to pack up. In the morning I revisited the Rohloff and dismantled the inner cables to try and get the ‘missing’ 2 gears. I appear to have only 1 missing as a result, so really need to find out exactly how to set the inner hub up - I couldn’t check e-mails today to see if Andy from Thorn had got back to me about this. While I was at it I swopped the rear and front tyres to even out the wear after 3000km+.

Spent some time on the sun tan lying on the beach (around 30 degC); watching with binoculars a school of dolphins moving around offshore; watching the odd antics of some of the 100 or so pelicans hanging around the beach, and reading the local paper over coffee and cakes.

After speaking to a few people I think i will take the ferry from Lucky Bay to Wallaroo in a few days time to avoid what appears to be a somewhat unrewarding ride up to Port Augusta and back down to Adelaide. The ferry will keep me ‘on the outside’ and drop me off at the start of the Yorke Peninsular which is supposed to be much more attractive. After a few days there I will then go to Adelaide, where I hope to be able to stay with a WarmShowers host all being well.

I have really enjoyed my stay in Venus Bay and thoroughly recommend it as a place of peace and tranquility. Elliston tomorrow, then it’s a long haul to Coffin bay which might take me w days depending on wind direction. I’ve been told that coffin bay is even more beautiful than Venus Bay so I’m looking forward to seeing it.

DAY 40: Streaky Bay to Venus Bay

Weds 14th Nov 07
83 km @ 14.7 km/hr
Headwind from SE (usual place)

Awoke 0530 and felt like an early start, so went for breakfast in camp kitchen - cinnamon and port raisin bread with peanut butter and raspberry jam in case you wondered - and away soon after 7.

It was evident from the start that a headwind was in operation so resigned myself to plugging away, head down etc. I wasn’t sorry to leave Streaky Bay though; didn’t feel so comfortable there despite the idyllic beach site; maybe too crowded as per Ceduna. I had expected the tide to wake me up when it came in around 0300 but I slept through it, probably due to the calmness of the waters in this protected bay. But I digress.....

After a few km I came to Eyre’s Waterhole so stopped to have a look. This was a camp of the explorer Eyre who was the first European to travel across SA from Port Lincoln to Albany. All that could be seen of this (apparently) reliable water supply was a damp shallow well.

For the next 40km there was the usual bush with the road mostly bordered by eucalyptus and other trees, as the sun climbed higher and hotter in a clear blue sky once again.

I took the 2km side trip (up a hill) to have a look at Murphy’s Haystacks - a collection of weird-shaped rocks on top of a hill. There were quite a few other tourists having a look, none as far as i can see putting any money in the honesty box for the $2 admission charge. Two Dutch gentlemen, retired naval officers, came to chat about the ride and stuff, and very kindly made me coffee. They are touring in a hired VW camper, and having examined the thing I was quite impressed with the way it was equipped - very comfy. They also had a look at Walter’s website name and thought it should end in ne rather than nu - makes sense.

We said our goodbyes and I continued at a faster pace now since the road had turned such that the headwind was now a sidewind.

I stopped in Port Kenny for a pie and (yet another; I think I’m addicted) strong iced coffee (600 cc carton) - so satisfying when thirsty, but this place is somewhat depressing - a bland and dusty little backwater with no redeeming features that I could spot from the main road at least, and hurriedly continued on the last 14km to Venus Bay.

This was a very different kind of place -I liked it immediately with it’s rugged and winding coastline which partly forms a calm lagoon by which the village is set; the bright blue and green waters, and a generally tranquil and beautiful setting. Anyone who travels the Flinders Highway and doesn’t visit this place has missed out big time. I had a quick scout around the small settlement of around 100 houses, a general store / cafe and a Caravan Park on the waters edge, and looked forward to an extra day (or two?) here. When planning this trip this is just the kind of place I imagined coming across.

I had the pick of the camping sites and found one between 2 trees with plenty of shade throughout th day, and adjacent to a short path down to the Pelican-strewn beach 20 metres away. After setting up I headed up to the GS cafe for yet more iced coffee, then left the bike and followed a 2km walking track around the headland which was very enjoyable - at first the sea was calm but as the coastline passed out of the lagoon the waves became bigger and louder, with spray thrown up and over me as the waves crashed down onto the rocks. Seabirds flitted everywhere - the ubiquitous silver gulls, a larger gull similar to what we call in Scotland a black-backed gull; some cormorant-type black birds, and herring gulls (I think). The rocks were of very strange and twisted shape with millions of seabird-smashed pink and purple shells coating them everywhere. Everywhere I looked I saw a scene worthy of a photograph, and I became somewhat snap-happy for the next hour. I met and chatted with another couple also obviously enthralled by the beauty of the place, which I can come nowhere near describing to its true merit.

The sun was really beating down now at 3 in the afternoon, and I had no sunblock on so I headed back for the Park and got showered and changed. Two different men said they had seen me on the road this morning, apparently I am getting quite well-known by the long-term motorhomers, many of whom, like me, are spending a full year touring round the country. I have met many people more than twice or so over the past few weeks.

Did myself pasta / tuna and sat in my Thermarest chair admiring the view of the bright blue sea whilst sipping a large Cabernet Merlot - bliss. My site is right next door to a small campers kitchen with cooker, electric kettle, fridge etc., and as I am staying another day it was worth buying milk, so I had a ‘proper’ cup of coffee au lait. As I sat on the beach afterwards with my coffee the pelicans entertained with their waddling gait and little skirmishes with each other, and for all the world they reminded me of penguins with their awkward walk. The galahs noisily screamed around the sky, seemingly in some kind of avian dogfight - everything seems a crisis with these birds, but I like to see them. Hundreds of swifts weaved silently and rapidly around all this chaos with some better sense of order than the others.

It’s 2120 now and all I can hear is the sea crashing onto the rocks behind and beyond the lagoon, otherwise utter silence and peace. I am unlikely to be disturbed since there is only one other tent some 50m away.