Friday, December 14, 2007

DAY 70: Port Fairy to Warrnambol

Fri 14th December 2007
35 km @ 16.2 km/hr
Cloudy start / hot and hazy afternoon again
Distance to date 4635 km (2897 miles)

Didn’t wake up until 0810 so late start after 9. Thought about going to the PF hospital to see if they could do anything about my boily bum but decided to try something else first - adjusting the saddle angle so the nose points down another notch. This I duly did there and then and it feel a little more comfortable - time will tell though.
Quite a lot of traffic around on Highway 1 this morning but there’s a good shoulder of around a metre so no problem with getting in the way of traffic. The road is pretty flat again and no hills to speak of all the way to Warrnambool.
After 16km or so I came to the turn-off for the Tower Hill Wildlife Reserve and decided to have a look despite a big descent that I would have to regain later. The drop is actually over the rim of an extinct volcano and down into the crater. This area was all cleared for agriculture years ago but in the 60’s a deci sion was made to restore the area to natural habitat again.
I flew down the 25% hill and after 2km or so of quiet forest came to the very nice visitor centre, which hjas info about the area and lots of aboriginal crafts for sale. I had a coffee and chatted to the custodian for a while. THere are several easy walks and I took the Lava Tongue boardwalk - very pleasant and I never saw a soul, I just left the bike and gear leaning against a tree. I was hoping top see my first wild Koala Bears as they are fairly common around here, but no go. By the way the loud guttaral animal noises I heard at Portland were probably from a Koala according to the custodian - the male koala has a very deep booming voice, despite the small size. I stopped at a bird hide but all I saw were 2 emu’s in the middle of the ‘lake’ - which actually was bone dry and full of grass. I also spotted a Superb Fairy Wren.
The ride out of the crater was as expected VERY steep and I puffed for a few minutes in lowest gear. As it was now after 1 it was easy to make the decision to stay tonight in Warrnambool, and in any case I was told that it was a nice place to see. I had a good tailwind and it seemed a shame not to take advantage of it but I resisted the temptation.

As usual the ladies at the TIC were very helpful and I was quickly briefed on where everything was that i needed. I ckecked into the ($20 :-<) Caravan Park then nipped into town for a few errands. I bought a new chain for the bike as this one is just about worn out after some 5000 km use, then uploaded at an internet cafe (no free internet at library). Had a quick look at the Botanic Gardens - not bad and some very old and massive trees in there, then back to camp to fit the new chain. Delay might cause more wear on the sprockets which will then need replacing also. Problem - couldn’t get the SRAM speed chain link back on with the new (Shimano) chain - it seemed that the new chain was wider. I was aware that the bike shop was open till 8 tonight so headed back up there to try and sort it out. The owner thought that Shimano chain was a tiny bit wider so I finished up buying a second, SRAM chain, groan. I couldn’t swop for the 1st chain I’d bought because I’d cut it to size of course, hmmmm. Sometimes a seemingly simple job can seem very complicated. During the early afternoon while I was exploring the sea front I had a nice surprise when I was called by a yopung guy who shouted -"hey, the Scottish flag!" So I went over to talk. This was Graham from Edinburgh originally, and the first thing he said to me was "would you like a sandwich?" - His partner or wife Tash was just making some - chicken and avacado - of course I affirmed! Delicious. We chatted for a while and it turns out they always stop when they see a cyclist on the road and offer them water and/or food - what a kind idea! I keep meeting people like this and it warms the heart. Moreover, when I said I was going to spend Christmas in Edinburgh, without hesitation they offered to put me up themselves! What great people....... ....And then on checking e-mail I had a reply from John and Marjorie who reponded to my e-mail of yesterday also offering to put me up from the 23rd i.e. for Christmas! Lucky old me. J and M live near St.Kilda, the nearest beach to the city and where Lyn and I cycled to last December.

DAY 69: Portland to Port Fairy

Thurs 13th December 2007
73 km @ 17.4 km/hr
Cloudy start / hot and hazy afternoon
Distance to date 4600 km (2875 miles)

I slept poorly last night due to things going bump in the night - wild animals of unknown origin making lots off booming throaty-type noises. This is surprising seeing as we are so close to the city - just a km. At one point something was tearing and chewing leaves from the tree right next to the tent, and I could also kind of see it’s silhouette through the tent wall - probably a 'roo or emu I would guess. I was afraid my single pair of cycling shorts would be chewed so eventually I got up and took everything off the line. Paranoid I know.

I would have liked more time to explore Portland but at least saw some of it yesterday, and there’s lots more ahead. I used the deserted ‘C’ road by the coast for the first 7km thinking that the main Highway 1 would be busier now I was to go back on it, but at this time it was very quiet. It did get busier later however, with quite a lot of lorries after noon or so, however there was a somewhat lumpy wide verge to escape their unwanted proximity. It is more comfortable on the main carriageway, especially with my sore bottom, but you have to watch the mirror. The land either side of the road is pretty open with arable and livestock farming all the way; some bush cover, but this was unnecessary today.
With the N wind on my left, in fact when I went into shelter one or two flies tagged along.
The road bends back to the south after a while so the side wind turned into a light tailwind which blew me into PF in just over 4 hours - almost an hour quicker than yesterday for the same distance.
At first sight PF seemed a bit of a run-down place, but after I’d explored it I kind of liked it - it has ‘character’ and an interesting coastline. I got a nice welcome at the YHA from owner/managers Alison and her Turkish husband Kadir. Alison went to live in Turkey for a while but they eventually decided to come and operate this backpacker hostel.
Port Fairy is a medium-sized fishing port and a few trawlers were docked. The riverside is tastefully developed and thankfully there is public access both sides, which is not always the case. The adjacent estuary hosted a variety of birds, including 2 types of Ibis (Australian White and straw-necked varieties); White Egret, Little Pied Cormorant (see pic below) etc.

Intense conversation in the kitchen over cooking dinner about environment and politics such that never got to sit down at all. Slept well.