Sunday, December 16, 2007

DAY 72: Princetown to Apollo Bay

Sun 16th December 2007
81 km @ 14.2 km/hr
Cloudy and cool / cold again!
Distance to date 4808 km (3005 miles)

I woke to an unusual bird cry that I haven’t heard before so had to stir myself to record it and send it to someone I know for identification if possible, so as I was awake I decided to get up straight away and head off - I was away by 0650. Breakfast had been a cold affair and I had to don my warm jacket again _ I wasn't going to bring this but I'm glad I did - it's much cooler at times than I thought.
I enjoyed this quiet spot at Princetown and would recommend it to anyone coming this way. It is also a good launching pad if you are heading east like me, since it is at the western foot of the Otway Range of mountains, that I found out today go on (and on) for 75 km. You get the whole range topped in one hard(ish) day too.
This turned out to be one of the most enjoyable days so far - an antidote to the touristy sites of yesterday, as beautiful as they were - this was just quiet and relaxed, in nature, lots of trees and greenery.
From Princetown (down at sea level) there’s around 350m of climb over the first 7km then a big fast descent to the Gelibrand River, then a very steep climb up the other side again for some 8km - greater than 10% in places. However this was all before 9 when there was little traffic about, and it was extremely pleasurable for that. Despite the steep climbs is was sheer pleasure to pedal away in a low gear, through attractive rainforest, just the sound of the birds, my breathing, and the mild whirring of the Rohloff gears. I don’t think a single vehicle passed me in the best part of an hour so it was all mine!
Even later in the morning the road was quiet, and only in the afternoon did it get a little busier, but not intrusively so. During the whole day there wasn’t more than around 750m of straight road; it bends continually in and around the hills.
The whole ride was mostly through natural forest in the Otway NP, apart from some dairy and beef farms scattered here and there. There were lots of round hay bales in the fields so I can only assume that they winter cattle inside here?

I didn’t get off the bike at all today - there were cafes at Lavers Hill but 1/ I wasn’t that hungry, and 2/ it was pretty cold, and if I’d stopped I would have felt chilly, so I just kept grinding away. The saddle soreness has been a bit worse lately but I was OK today so fingers crossed the sore might be healing. I really need 2 weeks off the bike to get it properly sorted, but no chance of that! All the many pleasures of this tour help cancel out the pain!
I would have liked to have gone to see Cape Otway lighthouse but it was about 12km off the main road, a 24km round trip, and I wasn’t THAT interested. The hordes would be there anyway judging by the number of cars turning off. About 15km from Apollo Bay there was a great descent where I touched 65 km/hr for a while, and I confidently expected to get all the way to AB that way, but of course there’s always a sting in the tail, and there were a few more steep ascents to go yet. Many of the ascents in the last 50km today were steeper than 10%, some steeper than 15% - and I was very glad of the lowest gear, which I spent some time in spinning at around 75 rpm, and moving at around 4.5 km/hr! I have the 36-16 gear ratio which I beleive gives me around a 20" lowest gear (one revolution of the pedals gives 20" forward movement). Even on the steepest bits I never felt under any pressure. Only problem I have is the tendency to waggle about a bit at low speeds, possibly due to unevenly loaded panniers.
I reached Apollo Bay around 1330. It’s not a very pretty place to be honest, very touristy e.g. I could only find one small supermarket whereas there are about 99 cafes and 3 bottle stores. It has a nice beach, but even a search in the TIC failed to uncover any other attractions of interest to me. I thought I’d stay at the YHA again but on arrival noted that the office is closed until 1700 so you can’t check in until after that. I just wanted to shower and change and have a wander so no way was I hanging about that long, so, it was the Caravan Park again. This proved to be a financially sound decision as I was only charged $10 again! That always cheers me up after a disappointment. It was also $10/hr on the internet so I’ll leave until tomorrow and download 2 days notes together. No free internet in Victoria boo hoo.
After a toasted BLT and over-microwaved stale tourist's scone I was at a loose end with nothing to do, nowhere interesting to go, so I bought the biggest newspaper I could find (it weighed around 25kg) and staggered back to camp with it, and spent the next few hours reading it all, chatting to neighbours and drinking tea (and later, red wine). The Merlot wine by the way was very cheap - only $9.99 (£4) at IGA bottle shop for a 2 litre box - bargain. It’s good too (hic).
A funny day this; enjoyable ride but disappointing arrival.

This insect was on my tent next morning (Apollo Bay). it's around 30mm long.

DAY 71: Warrnambool to Princetown

Sat 15th December 2007
81 km @ 14.2 km/hr
Cloudy and cool / cold
Distance to date 4726 km (2954 miles)

Peaceful night and up and away just after 8. I spent 10 minutes fitting the new chain - and it runs nice and smoothly without skipping, so the sprocket and ring can’t be too badly worn even though the chain was just about done in according to the gauge that the bike shop mechanic used.
Bit of an uphill pull out of Warrnambool but then cruised along nicely for a while until turning off Highway 1 onto the B100, the Gt Ocean Road road.
Stopped briefly to have a look at Cheeseworld and the cheese museum (I kid not), mostly due to the TIC lady in Warrnambool telling me you get free samples of cheese, but there was no such benefit available so I moved on quickly.
The S wind was now either head-on or on the side depending whether the road zigged or zagged, and it did plenty of both. Pretty soon the road hits the coast and the tourist trek starts - all of a sudden there’s scores of coaches and motorhomes hopping from viewpoint to viewpoint i.e. Bay of Islands, Bay of Martyrs, The Grotto les pieces de Resistances Loch Ard Gorge and The 12 Apostles. This coastline is certainly very beautiful and rugged, but the numbers of tourists (like me!) is a bit of a turn-off. Some people openly stare at me arriving by bicycle, others make a joke about it - it’s a bit wearing. I am asked the same questions over and over again - where have I cycled from; where to etc.....the attention becomes somewhat unwanted eventually.
I did enjoy the ride though despite all this and the traffic wasn’t too bad at all. At least all tourist stuff going slow, few lorries. I had a look at most of the viewpoints, but I was glad to roll into Port Campbell thinking that was that for the day - until I was asked for $25 for an unpowered tent site at the only Caravan Park grrrrr. I said I’d think about it but after some lunch at the bakery decided to try my look further on; Princetown was only another 18km and there’s a CP there.
This was the stretch containing the 12 Apostles so I stopped for a look along with 1000 others and got someone to take the obligatory pic.

Princetown is a tiny place but although there is a CP there is also another site, just before you come into town, operated by the local community, nicely set in a National Park by a river and wetlands. A really nice find and only $10!! That’s more like it. After eating went exploring along forest tracks, across the dunes and onto another sandy beach; a very tranquill place. For me these places will stay in the memory with fondness as they are more unexpected than the well-known places. Unfortunately there weren’t many birds about, must be the weather conditions or something. The evening was so cold I had to put 3 layers of clothing on, mind you this is almost as far south as you can go on the Australian mainland at roughly 39 deg S.