Monday, November 19, 2007

DAY 45: Coffin Bay to Tumby Bay

Mon 19 th Nov 07
97 km @ 16.3 km/hr
tail - head - tailwinds!

Some funny animal noises in the night - a kind of booming throat-clearing that I’ve not heard before - kangaroos?? Slept well apart from this and awake with the inevitable galah chorus of chaos. Actually forgot to have breakfast this morning, maybe I was still full from last nights huge meal at the yacht club.
After taking a wrong turn and climbing an unnecessary hill I finally hit the right road out and at the top of the first hill were 4 emus walking in single file along the side of the road (facing oncoming traffic too!) until they saw me and diverted into the bush.
The first 16km was to rejoin Highway 1 and was easy with a tailwind; I turned to the right on 1 and the wind was then in front for the 30km to Port Lincoln. Scenically this stretch was mediocre; mostly boring sheep pasture again, but I spent a while at The Swamp watching the birdies - the road passes over a causeway here adjacent to which is a large area of wetland. I identified more white-faced herons; a single white-necked heron, much bigger than the former; a large no.of black-winged stilts, and a hundred or so black swans. I didn’t use the binoculars much at first and i thought they might be superfluous to requirements, but I’m glad I’ve got them as they do allow you to see a lot more than with the naked eye. I was able to watch the dolphins in detail the other day too.
Anyhow as I was saying there was a headwind, plus lots of traffic as the larger town of Port Lincoln loomed nearer, plus a number of steeper hills. I was feeling strangely disconnected as I entered PL, not in the usual state of expectation a new place usually generates in me. The place left me cold actually; there’s nothing much of interest within the town as far as I could see, it is little more than a bustling regional centre with a small beach, and although the PL National Park might have been interesting it was a longish detour I didn’t feel like making today. I went to the post office hoping to collect the shirt that I left at Salmon Gums that was supposed to have been forwarded here poste restante, but it wasn’t here, so I can finally say goodbye to that I guess.
This done, I made some lunch sat on the Esplanade and decided to carry on - there’s no good reason for hanging around here - too busy, noisy and not my cup of tea. Tumby Bay was 47km away, it was only 1230, and i should now have a tailwind as i have reached the south end of the Eyre Peninsular and now head up the east side with the south-easterly.
The wind actually was more easterly and almost on the side but their was some ‘tail’ in it for most of the time, and I was averaging 18 km/hr or so. More open fields so not very scenic, and lots of road trains carrying grain, so hard to relax and enjoy the cycling. The gravel verge is pretty rough and roly-poly so great care is needed when I need to use it. In not time at all I was arriving in Tumby Bay, and to add to a rather negative day the tent site fee was a whopping $17- compare to $9 yesterday at Coffin Bay! The latter was a nicer site too and I politely told the lady in the office this, evoking little interest unfortunately. It’s the only caravan park in town. I did a little shopping in pursuit of a desire for spag bol, and also bought a new 2l box of wine (well, the last one lasted a week?!)
After a huge dinner then (again) I cycled to the end of the long jetty and watched a perfectly clear sunset (about 2000 hours) - unfortunately after all yesterdays socialising there’s no-one around here to talk to - must be all indoors, or the mozzies are out and about?.
I might have stayed another night here but not at $17; I’ll head north tomorrow, possibly after uploading if that can be done here.

DAY 44: bush camp 25km S of Mount Hope to Coffin Bay

Sun 18th Nov 07
45 km @ 16.4 km/hr
no wind!

Awake 0530 and away before 7; sun already up and casting huge shadows over the tree-lined road. I had a very peaceful night and a good sound sleep in the bush - no traffic at night and all I could hear was the distant rumbling of the breakers crashing on the shore some 3km away. It was over 20 and probably going to be a hot day again, and not a cloud in the sky. Compared to yesterdays dull and featureless sheep terrain this was much more interesting. The ’usual’ eucalyptus bush ended within a few km and more varied trees and plants resulted from the increased human settlement in evidence. Houses were spaced much as in the north of Scotland i.e. every 200 km or so. The smell of pine was added to the usual ‘bush’ smell, and the birds were active at this early hour in their thousands - many galahs and currawong and plenty of others I didn’t identify. Hills were more ion evidence, some steep, but short, and in the absence of headwind not a problem. The scenery was much more interesting too with creeks, dry salt lakes, sea views and plenty of twists and turns in the road.
After 30km/ or so I came to a choice of road - take the gravel road to Coffin Bay (12km) or the tarmac one (24km) so I chose the former, and it was in pretty good shape apart from the odd pothole. I was in CB before 1000 which is the earliest arrival yet, and I relaxed with capuccino and pie and read the Sunday paper for a while. The caravan park next door was excellent, as all the others on the Eyre Peninsular have, and this one was only $9 (£3.75). It was easy to find a shady pitch away from the daytime glare of the sun and after setting up I headed out on the lightened bike to explore. Nice place - strange-shaped coastline with many little bays and lagoons contained within a large lagoon some 2km diameter - white sand, blue sea, dolphins playing etc. - the usual (for this area) idyllic scenery. Quite a few oyster farms out in the bay; this is a big industry here. Oysters are only $7.50 (£3) a dozen and I must try some soon while in the area. There’s a cycle / footpath which stretches for several km around the coast. CB seems to be becoming a rather upmarket place with lots of houses being built although I’d say it is still unspoilt.
I bumped into Bob and Joyce from Newcastle (the NSW one!) for the third or fourth time and we spent the afternoon shooting the breeze over a few beers. We had both discovered that the local yacht club put meals on on Friday and Sunday nights so decided to give it a try. I decided on fish - the locally caught and sought-after King George Whiting, with chips and as much salad as you can eat (and I can eat a lot lol). They were also doing puddings and I went for apricot crumble - so delicious I had to go back for a second helping! The whole thing only cost $21 (£8).
When I returned to the tent there were a few kangaroos hopping around - they love to fed on grass in the early morning and late evening; I guess the stuff they eat in the bush is much more course. they tend to stay at least 50 or 100m away from humans so not quite so tame. As I was cycling the short distance back the galahs put on a terrific squabble - I’m sure me passing on the bike seems to excite them even more, if that’s possible. Like many other creatures here they are beautifully coloured with their perfectly coordinated pale pink and light grey plumage and more dusky pink underparts. They are as common as pigeons are in Britain I would say. It also seems to me that the bird population is greater where there are human- testimony to a begging / scavenging strategy. I saw what I reckon was a white-faced heron this morning, feeding at the edge of the shore; the first I’ve seen if indeed that’s what it was.
Bob offered to take me out fishing in their boat (which they tow along behind them) if I hang around here for another couple of days, but there are so many new places to see it’s tempting to keep moving on, but I’ll make a decision tomorrow. It’s only 40-odd kms to Port Lincoln so I would be there very early as today, which gives me a full day almost to explore on arrival. Difficult decisions; it’s a hard life!

DAY 43: Elliston to bush camp 25km S of Mount Hope

Sat 17th Nov 07
97 km @ 12.4km/hr
strong headwind for first 55km

I had intended to sleep under the inner tent only last night as it definitely didn’t look like rain, as a nice old guy in a nearby caravan had confirmed. No sooner had I settled into the tent it started raining, and as I was fitting the outer the guy came around with a flashlight to apologise for his poor weather predictions and to help me if I needed it. That’s typical of how folk will help you out here. It actually rained very little but the wind got up strongly in the night. Seemed to me in half-awake state that it was the good ol’ southeaster again; I am heading south-east today!
After breakfast I said my goodbyes to my neighbours and headed off into the said wind. It was hard on the nose and pretty strong, so initially I trundled along disconsolately at 12 km/hr. Perhaps it will die down later? it wasn’t just the strong wind - this needn’t be a huge problem if there is tree cover alongside the road but at the moment there was no such cover - the fields were given to sheep farming and not a hedgerow had been retained. This lack of cover continued for some 55 km and the wind actually became much stronger, gusting to force 6 or 7 I reckon - I was down to 9 km/hr for lengthy periods. Did I lose heart? Yes i did! I was totally p***** off as it happens. Even on downhills I had to pedal hard to achieve even a small increase in speed. After 50 km i was ready to quit for the day in the hope things would be better tomorrow, but there was nowhere to pitch the tent.
After 55km there was some respite as the road bent away from the wind and there was the odd clump of trees - my speed increased by a third as I drew level to any tree cover. This kept me motivated and before long the road was back in good old bush again - trees either side and ‘normal’ speed of 18 km/hr or so again. whoopidoo.........
I only took 2 pics all day - one with and one without trees.
After nearly 100km i was still 50km away from Coffin Bay so called it a day and found a secluded site in the bush off the road. The majority of Australia’s fly population were there to greet me - how friendly of them! I decided against going out of the tent to cook (it’s not safe to cook inside the tent) and made do with muffins, peanut butter, fruit loaf, cab merlot etc.
As it was a little overcast this morning I didn’t get around to applying sun block today, and as it was quite sunny this afternoon I’m a little pink in parts.
Dickhead of the day was a roadtrain driver who hooted and hooted and refused to move over to the right to overtake me and forced me into rough gravel where I had to stop completely - he could see the road for a good way ahead and there was no obstacle to him pulling to the right. Grrrr when I was battling a huge wind at the time.
Just seen a massive ant walking over the tent inner (outside thank goodness) - must be 20mm long. As a rule nothing gets through the fine mesh of the inner apart from the smallest ant, and they’re no big deal. Lots of birds in the bush this aft, especially currawongs, Galah parrots (many of these dead on the road) and ’28’ parrots are everywhere too.
3 to 4 hour run into Coffin Bay tomorrow and I should be able to upload to the blog. Ooops - but it’s Sunday of course so maybe not.....