Sunday, December 30, 2007

DAY 86: Moe to Rosedale

71km @ 14.6 km/hr
Sun 30th December 2007
Distance to date 5529 km (3456 miles)
Cool morning, v.warm afternoon, moderate E wind

Awoke to Magpie singing at it’s best, then away soon after 8. It always seems to take well over the hour to get packed up. I wasn’t sure where I was going to end up today; a magical mystery tour. There isn’t a great deal to see for me around here, so I’ll just wander around a bit and see what happens.
As I cycled out of Moe I saw a sign for a Moe to Yallourn Rail Trail so that looked kind of interesting - what a job I had actually finding it though. I thing some of the signs have been taken away because I only eventually found it by accident, and then the trail was at the bottom of a steep embankment reached via a narrow and overgrown path. To be honest it wasn’t worth the effort - dead straight coarse gravelly trail, no views except of lots of fly-tipped waste, and then after 3km the way was completely blocked by a large fallen tree and no way to get around it without unloading everything and dragging it all through. This tree has been there for some time by the looks of it - in short this is an unloved and uncared for facility.
I managed to find the Yallourn road again and continued through green and pleasant enough countryside, passing Yallourn (coal-fired) Power Station on the way. There is also a huge open-cast coalfield nearby. Yallouarn and Tyers seem to be satellite towns to the power generation industry and have little of interest to offer the visitor from what I saw. Much of the land around here is given to beef / dairy farming, including Aberdeen Angus herds. I watched as 2 horses were exercised in a kind of towable buggy as per pic - I haven’t seen this before. Traffic was light, road surface good, so I quite enjoyed soft-pedalling away.
I could have stayed on this road and gone on to Heyfield and Maffra, but not having uploaded for a few days I decided to try my luck for internet access on a Sunday in Traralgon - and sure enough the TIC had a mchine. (This is another power statio near Traralgon.)

However it took a lot of work and goodwill on the part of the 2 assistants to get me going since at first the drives could not be displayed. One of the young ladies managed to sort it out though thankfully; it seemed that some settings had been made to prevent the public accessing areas of the computer where they shouldn’t go. In fact it turned out to be a very fast connection once up and running - I’ve noticed that connection speeds here in Victoria are faster than elsewhere in Australia.

On checking e-mail I had several from people with advice on the saddle sores - thanks for this everyone, I shall follow some of the advice.
By the time I had finished at the TIC, queued at Subway, and ate the purchase, it was nearer 4 than 3, and I went back to the TIC to ask about possibilities for Caravan Parks east of here. None until Sale apparently, which is 50km and too far on a hot afternoon with a headwind. The assistant was so very helpful though; undeterred she telephoned someone whom she thought might know more, and sure enough I learnt of a council rest / recreation area about 20km east at Rosedale. So off I set again; traffic was very heavy as I was back on Highway 1 again, but there is a good wide shoulder for much of the way so no big deal.
I found a caravan park of sorts (a faded “Rosedale caravan park” sign by the entrance), and it was at the end of a bridge as the man had told us, but I was sure it wasn’t the right place - this place looked like a home for drop-outs with mangey dogs and rusty scrap metal all over the place. No thanks, especially for $19.

About 3 more km down the road I found the site recommended to me, and it was lovely - lush green grass, no litter whatsoever, neat and tidy, and on the banks of the Latrobe River - just the job, and free of course. There are no signs saying that camping is allowed, but the TIC man had confirmed it was OK, so it’s obviously a well-kept secret. In fact only one other couple stayed the night here, and it was indeed marked in their book of Oz camping areas as an overnighter. I got chatting with the same couple for an hour or so, and the husband, Brian, made us all a banana and cream pudding which was nice.
Saw this colourful beetle in a tree near where I was pitched.
I shall probably take off again in the morning and spend New Years Eve in Sale or a little beyond, which is only a 30km + ride - unless I decide to spend another night here in this little oasis. There’s also a sizeable flock of Little Corellas stationed here (or are they Sulphur Crested Cockatoos?). I still haven’t seen them close enough to decide which.

Pic of Latrobe River adjacent to where I was camped. I really recommend this camping area - lovely! Thanks to the Rosedale Community for keepimng it this way. There are toilets (very clean portable loos) but no water, although I didn't look too hard as I had plenty.

DAY 85: Noojee (Loch Valley) to Moe

64km @ 16.0 km/hr
Sat 29th December 2007
Distance to date 5458 km (3411 miles)
Very hot and sunny (36 deg C), light N wind

It quietened down after 11 last night so I slept OK; woke and left early (0750) since it was sure to be hot later, according to the forecast. It wasn’t wrong either - by 9 it was well up into the 20’s and rising. It was back 8km down to Noojee (nice little village), and the cafe looked inviting), but had to get on. It’s gently undulating for the first 5km after Noojee, then a BIG uphill for about 4km at 7 to 9%. It felt like it would never end, but pretty soon I was screaming downhill for 2km or so to the right turn for Moe (pronounced as in Joey). The road was both smaller and even quieter than the road from Noojee - around 6 vehicles an hour - bliss! And the first 5km of this road is gentle downhill - 30 km/hr without pedalling; the scenery is lovely - huge old gum trees giving a green, cool tinge to the ever-winding road. If you fancied wild camping there are plenty of opportunities along this road where you would not be seen, however it might not be advisable on a windy day due to falling debris and branches - the road was littered with paper bark and branches as it was, the former making a satisfying crack as I road over it. The scenery continues for many km but there’s 2 or 3 km of 7% uphill - second gear for me mostly - and then after many km of undulations a very long downhiller for some 10km to beyond Hillend (ironically). I was looking out for Hillend in the hope of a cold drink and snack, but I must have missed the sign because next thing it was 8km behind me. However there’s a very basic general store in Willow Grove where I got my iced coffee (inferior brand lol but still tasted good).
The traffic was very sparse all the way to Moe in fact, and added to the enjoyment - somewhat offsetting the oppressive heat of the afternoon. I clearly don’t drink enough when actually riding, judging by how thirsty I was after the ride. I downed a full 2 litres of FUIC in an hour, plus another couple of litres of coke, gatorade and water!
I had no preconceptions about what Moe was like, but as it happens it’s a industrialised town, where i gather many residents work in the local power station - much of Victoria’s power is generated in the Latrobe Valley. It did have a subway though - hurray! - And I contemplated what to do whilst munching a seafood with Swiss cheese, tomatoes, lettuce and olives - yes to salt and pepper please. A girl confirmed there was indeed a Caravan Park so off I went - $21 - OK (I suppose) - and the lady owner was none too friendly when I made her mutt bark by leaning my bike in the only place it could be leaned which happened to be near Mr Bad-Tempered Yap. I managed to find a shady spot though, which was good. I was told to avoid pitching under the big trees as branches have been falling off lately. I don’t need telling twice. Despite the Tourist Information Boards up the road saying that they had internet here, it was untrue, in fact there was nowhere in town at all for this, neither will I find it tomorrow, Sunday. Victoria is much tougher than SA regarding finding internet, or maybe just my bad luck. It seems to be a go-ahead state in many ways too.
Late afternoon was just too HOT - I just sat for w hours and read the paper; no; energy for anything else. Maybe the dehydration is not helping - I need to sort this and drink more whilst riding. I’ve now put a sock over both my water bottles which when wet should help keep the contents a bit cooler.
Had a nice chat with Lyn 0800 UK time (1900 here), and it’s wet and windy in Caithness. Forecast here is a bit cooler tomorrow (30!) but hotter (42!!) on New Years Eve. I have no plans to do anything special that day / night - I don’t always bother staying up until midnight at home, however i’m glad i had a chance to celebrate Christmas with John and Marjorie and their nice family.

DAY 84: Kurth Kiln to Noojee (Loch Valley)

75km @ 13.6 km/hr
Fri 28th December 2007
Distance to date 5394 km (3371 miles)
Hot and sunny (33 deg C), light N wind

Just got to sleep last night when someone arrived at midnight and in setting up his tent made no attempt to keep the noise down, so I just picked up my book and carried on reading to get sleepy again. It is a good book mind - another Oz classic “A Fortunate Life” by A.B.Facey, the life story of Albert Facey, a parentless boy who started work at the age of 8 and stayed positive despite many setbacks, including being severely whipped at age 10. Nevertheless I awoke at 0630 and decided to go bushwalking before breakfast on one of the designated walks around the Kurth Kiln area. I took about 45 minutes to walk the 2.4 km there and back through increasingly sun-dappled forest as dawn advanced. This whole area is dense with very old and huge trees; many Paperbark and Stringybark so unique to Australia.
After consuming most of a fruit loaf with peanut butter, plus 2 cups of coffee, I went on the second designated circular walk along a tributary of the Bunyip river. There were plenty of colourful butterflies cavorting around but hey didn’t keep still long enough to get a pic. Invisible frogs croaked and Kookaburras chuckled loudly over the gurgle of the small river.
I packed up after this and left at around 1100 when it was well up into the 20’s C. I headed north on Launching Place Road (C424). After a few km of utter silence rising and falling along the remote, winding and undulating road, dense forest either side, I got a shock when I heard a voice behind me - 2 young ladies in lycra on a training session in the hills. They slowly (ahhhh!)passed me as we exchanged pleasantries, and I shot past them on the next downhill thanks to Mr.Gravity’s assistance. This went on for a while, but then on a steep 2km climb they were lost for ever - shame, such a rear view is so motivating! Vicky Pendleton, eat your heat out.
Soon after noon, and having covered less than 20km in 90 minutes due to the slow climbs, I rolled into Launching Place.
Q/ Why is Launching Place so called?
A/ Because logs arising in this afforested area used to be ‘launched ’ into the upper Yarra river nearby, to float down to Melbourne for gathering and distribution.
I know this because I asked a guy in the excellent fruit and veg shop in the village, where I stocked up on fruit, veg., peanuts and fudge.
Just 4km up the road is the larger town of Yarra Junction, where I stopped for a while under a huge old gum tree to escape the intense midday heat. I asked about the internet and was told the library had it, but was unable to find the library with the instructions given. At YJ I turned right onto the C425 in expectation of more steep hills, but they didn’t appear, just gentle rises and falls with plenty of lovely shade. I stopped at the Powelltown pub shop for a pastie and iced coffee, and after this there was a huge 7 to 9% hill for over 3km - i thought I was back in the Alps again; however it was just one hill and after a 5km descent the gentle undulations returned. The map showed a campsite in Noojee, but I was to be disappointed - it closed in 2005 due to a ‘criminal element’ to the campers! I was pretty disappointed since in this heat I was ready to stop riding, however my main oir only option was to ride another 8km up to Loch Valley camping area. I might have considered carrying on to seek a wild camp site somewhere, but the last few km had been pretty intensively cropped with fruit and vines with little chance of a campsite.
As it happened the metalled road up to LV was still undulating so no big climbs. But the site was packed, and very noisy with loud music and lots of motorbikes buzzing everywhere - chaos and bedlam. It was too late to go anywhere else so I would just have to stick it out. There didn’t appear to be much in the way of walks / scenery either - a few tracks, but these were regularly used by the scramblers. If anyone reading this should think of coming up here in high season to camp be warned - it’s awful. I can’t wait to escape first thing in the morning. It’s actually quite dangerous - speeding bikes and lots of kids wandering about; accident waiting to happen, pretty much anarchy.
As I type this there’s a cacophony of noise around me - competing heavy rock / people shouting and screaming and whistling to test the echoes in this (beautiful?) valley. Hmmm. You can’t always get it right.

DAY 83: Melbourne to Kurth Kiln camping ground

76km @ 14.2 km/hr
Thurs 27th December 2007
Distance to date 5319 km (3324 miles)
Very warm and sunny again

I said my goodbyes to John and Marjorie last night, and thanked them for their hospitality and generosity, as they were away early this morning to take their youngest daughter Jasmine to the airport - she is off to Washington DC for a study year.
I was out of the house by 0900 and on the way to St.Kilda Bikes to see if I can get a verdict on the problems with the chain / sprockets, which are slipping and grinding under load. This meant a small detour from my original plan to head east to the Bunyip State Park where there are some forest campsites - utter peace after the (admittedly enjoyable) bustle of the city. The bike shop (a Rohloff stockist) is some 6km from John’s and north rather than east.
SKC put there best man on the job straight away, and he quickly diagnosed worn chainring, and unbelievebly, worn chain - this chain was only fitted a couple of weeks ago at Warrnambol. It was a cheap chain mind - $15. Probably the worn chainring damaged the chain. I decided to buy the more expensive Rohloff chain rather than a cheaper version again. I was invited to test the new assembly once fitted but it still wasn’t right - it turned out the rear sprocket which looked OK, must also be worn. The old sprocket proved a pig to remove (I have heard these things can be incredibly tight) and I discreetly looked away as as the (American) mechanic broke a chain whip and hurt his back. Why do I feel guilty on such occasions?! Once the new rear sprocket was installed everything was sweet and smooth again, and I was $199 the poorer. Still, as I am heading into mountainous country now I really need the transmission to be A1. All this only took 90 minutes and by 11 I was on my way.
I had worked out a route with John to get me out of the city to where I am now, but this had to be revised now to take account of me starting again from St.Kilda. However I had set the map co-ordinates of my intended destination into the Garmin Edge 305 gps, so I could check I was going in the right direction. I have commented a few weeks ago that this unit was not holding it’s charge, however it seems to have recovered and is behaving itself at the moment.
There was lots of traffic on the road out - the Upper Ferntree Gully road - which was down to 2 lanes with no shoulder for a lot of the way. Happily there were few lorries around and the cars mostly gave me a wide berth, however it wasn’t exactly comfortable cycling. I stopped at a supermarket to top up my food stocks and bought a new box of wine, as well as a litre bottle of Farmer’s Union Iced Coffee (FUIC) which isn’t very common in Victoria, and which I downed within the hour.
At Belgrave I turned off left and lost a lot of the traffic, and the scenery became more interesting - lots of big trees, lovely shade, a bendy road, and one hill after another. None of the hills were excessively steep though - maybe 7% at the most i.e. Moderate effort but still very enjoyable, a steady grind for a few km at a time. Starting from sea level there was inevitably more climbing today. I thoroughly enjoyed these last 30km, and there are a few pleasant little towns along the way - Emerald, Cackatoo and Gembrook. A famous tourist railway, called Puffing Billy, runs from Belgrave to Gembrook (25km), and the line criss-crosses the road. I passed the train at Cockatoo, and I was surprised at how many passengers the little loco was pulling - literally hundreds, many of whom were sitting on the outside of the carriages with legs dangling over the side!
I topped up my water stock to about 6 litres at Gembrook, as I didn’t know if there would be water at Kurth Kiln camping area, and had a look around this little place for a while, enjoying the very warm late afternoon sun. There are 2 ways to get to KK - a 7km mostly gravel track, and a 9km mostly tarmac road, so feeling a little adventurous I took the former. This proved to be a little unwise as there were some very steep descents and climbs which proved very awkward for me. The gravel road wasn’t in too bad a condition but the surface was very loose, meaning that I was skittering about all over the place, especially down the very steep descents. The mechanic at St.Kilda Cycles had kindly checked the bike over and found the tyres to be under-inflated, and had duly pumped them up to 60 psi; however this extra hardness obviously created more instability on this surface and is meant for the road.
I arrived at KK at around 1730 and got set up in a nice quiet corner before exploring. There is a large brick kiln here (hence the name!) which was used for making charcoal during WWII. I’ve never heard of this before, but this charcoal was used for powering vehicles since petrol and diesel supplies were uncertain - there are some pictures of cars with a large charcoal to energy conversion plant in the boot - amazing but innovative. Needless to say, although some 50,000 vehicles were converted the use of charcoal was short-lived as ‘normal’ fuel supplies were sustained.
It’s only just gone dark at 2110, so the days are stretching out somewhat. The Kookaburras must be telling jokes tonight because they are laughing their heads off as I type.

DAY 82: Day 3 off in Melbourne

62km at casual pace
Weds 26th December 2007
Distance to date 5243 km (3277 miles)
Very warm and sunny

I was up last again - nearly 8 - but I seem to be sleeping so well here; I think I must have slept an average of 10 hours a night for the last 3 nights.
After breakfast I got the bike out onto the front path in the shade, and set about changing the Rohloff hub oil for the first time. It’s not a complicated process but I always worry a little about something going wrong - and indeed I duly had a moment of panic when I though that I didn’t have the essential bit of tubing purpose-built for the job - but I was relieved to find it in a place I’d put it months ago for ‘safe keeping’. This tubing screws at one end into the hub and it’s used for drawing out the old oil by vacuum after addition of cleaning fluid. It took about an hour but appears to have been successfully carried out, and that should be good for another 5000 k m, or until I reach Cairns or thereabouts. I will have to get another oil change kit from the supplier here; the main Rohloff dealer is based in Brisbane, so I may be able to collect it there in February. I will also probably need to order new sprockets as they are unlikely to last all the way round Oz or 19,000 km or so.
I also gave the bike a good clean and visual check, then headed off the 20km into the city the direct way, along fairly busy roads. Drivers here in the city seem more aware of cyclists though - probably because there are a lot of us around. I ambled around the quieter city roads a little but soon finished up at Mecca - the food court on the Yarra embankment opposite Flinders Street Station. Lyn and I had trouble choosing what to have when we were in here last year as there are so many different types of food to choose from. There are around 20 food stalls selling Indian, Japanese, Italian, etc. Etc. I finally settled on a chicken and avocado toasted ciabatta, which was fresh and delicious. This place is in the ‘tourist centre’ of Melbourne, and the paved bank of the Yarra for some distance either side of the place features buskers (one playing haunting Chinese music); a Chi healing specialist soothing peoples’ stresses and strains, jugglers etc. It’s a really lively place and a far cry from the remote for est and bush that I havbe seen so much of - but I still enjoy this other face of the country. There are a lot of British visitors here judging by the accents.
I planned to type up my blog in the shade of the food court terrace and sat down at a table for two where another guy was reading, and he readily invited me to join him, and so started a long chat about all things Australian and otherwise; a very chatty guy and typical of the openness and friendliness of Australians, which I continually enjoy - I’m never alone for long. His name was Charles and he or his family came here from Malta. These chats have given me a lot of insight into how Australians think and their attitude to life, which adds to my enjoyment of this great country. In no way can you call people reticent here.

DAY 81: Day 2 off in Melbourne

Tues 25th December 2007
Cloud AM, sunny later
LEFT: Jasmine and Dot

Christmas Day, and John, Marjorie, daughters Ruth and Jasmine are all off to enjoy the festivities at their traditional family gathering on the eastern outskirts of the city. Outward travel arrangements included a train journey, which is free on Christmas day here - to reduce wage costs in collecting fares presumably.
The sun was out by the everyone arrived at around noon, and we were able to enjoy al fresco partying all afternoon. It was a typically enjoyable get together with plenty of kids and pets to liven things up, and a mountain of food to be consumed (hard life eh?). There are about 6 families here and they all brought some food, resulting in a large choice of edibles. It’s so enjoyable to sit around outside for this type of gathering, completely informal and relaxing, everyone swapping seats constantly so you eventually get to meet everyone. I wasn’t the only overseas guest either, a lady from Zimbabwe was here with her son; they were staying with another of the family members. Lots of chat, baby holding, eating, drinking - wonderful!
LEFT: Jasmine (John and Marj's daughter with 2 of the kids.

The piece de resistance for me was the ‘second course’ - a huge plate containing my favourite sweet thing - Rocky Road - in 6 different flavours including white chocolate, liquorice etc. My eyes nearly popped.
PIC LEFT: The lady from Botswana and Marjorie

After that lot it was present-opening time and even I got a present, which was very thoughtful of the hosts. Finally we had the ‘official’ pudding - trifle / fruit salad / fruit cake etc. Mmmmmm!
It all broke up around 7 and we headed home ion little need of any dinner; just needed to sleep it off..
I rang Lyn at 2100 ( 1000) in UK and enjoyed a nice chat - I was about to go to bed having ‘done’ Christmas Day and she was just preparing the Christmas lunch!
Tomorrow I’m going to do some maintenance on then bike then cycle into the city for a lazy day wandering around.