Wednesday, January 16, 2008

DAY 102: Canberra to roadside camp 1km E of Tarago

Tue 15th January 2008
89 km @ 14.5 km/hr
(includes 20km from Lindsay’s to Hyatt Hotel and back)
Distance to date 6398 km (3999 miles)
Hot & sunny 34 deg C max
Roadside camp location S 35deg 05.010’; E 149deg 37.858’

Telstra Tower

350,000 cu ft balloon (my one)

Another very early start - up at 0415 and on the road at 5. After yesterday’s hot air balloon ride abandonment trying again; weather seems calmer today. Arrived at Hyatt Hotel in good time and around 20 of us went off with two balloons flying this time. I was to fly in the largest one, volume 350,000 cu ft. The same launching site as yesterday was chosen so the wind must be of similar direction again. There were 4 balloons to be launched at the same time so looked a bit crowded. My balloon holds 16 people and 14 were to fly today.
We were inflated pretty quickly and we all scrambled in - some of the ladies in a not too dignified fashion as there is no door on the side of the basket - just foot holds - and those already in with me discreetly pulled on older ladies feet so they could get their leg over (ahem.....). Once we were all in it was chocks away and with a good long burst of all 3 propane burners we started to lift off, and slowly and gracefully floated up and away in our beautiful balloon (good line for a song that!). The burners were shut off from time to time and we drifted downwind silently.
There is not that much that the pilot can do to steer the balloon, apart from making it rotate, and changing height to test for slightly different wind direction - that is part of the beauty of the travel; you just drift gently. The route is roughly along Lake Burley Griffin from the airport to beyond Scrivener Dam and the Telstra Tower. We floated right over the Carillon and got a proper view of Parliament Hill that you don’t usually see from the ground. We reached a maximum height of some 350m I think, but changed height regularly as the burners were fired up and shut off.
The landing can be interesting apparently - bear in mind that there are no wheels or runners underneath the wicker basket, so as we approached the chosen landing area you have to crouch with knees and back against padded areas within the compartment - and indeed
As we made contact with the ground there was quite a bit of bumping and dragging before we came to a safe stop - even then we have to stay in to keep weight on the balloon until the big flap at the top is opened and the air starts to spill out. When we were receiving safety instructions at the start we practiced getting down into this brace position, and also into an even more secure position that entails getting into the ‘spoons’ position with your nearest passenger - in my case a lady, which was somewhat amusing. I think the lady lingered a little too long in this position.....
Anyhow we landed safely after about 1 hour in the air - a very pleasant experience and although it was expensive it was worth it - it’s not often you get the chance to do something like this. We got taken back to the Hyatt where bottles of (real) champagne were popped and poured - apparently this is a traditional celebration of a safe return.

....”The winds have welcomed you with softness...
The sun has blessed you with it’s warm hands.
You have flown so high and so well that God has joined you in your laughter and set you gently back again in the loving arms of mother earth.”....

I cycled back to Lyndsay and Penny’s and went over some last minute map planning whilst eating most of their bread covered in raspberry jam. I said goodbye to Penny last night as she wouldn’t be in when I returned today. Like Patrick and Christine they have been completely welcoming and friendly, and I’m very grateful to them all for the lovely time I’ve had in Canberra, it’s been a ball. I was told straight away by both couples to just ‘help myself’ to whatever I went - out of the fridge, cups of tea etc. - And that makes one feel so accepted. is a great organisation for touring cyclists and I urge anyone reading this who tours to have a look at the website and join as both host and guest. It’s not just accommodation either, it’s good local advice on routes and what to see / where to go - all 4 of my hosts have been a great help in that respect.
So having said goodbye to Lindsay and temporary luxury I loaded up and set off towards Queanbeyan - and straight into a long steepish hill as the temperature passed 30 and the sun blazed mercilessly. After a quick call at the VIC in Q (asking about caravan parks / camping on my chosen route to Torago) but there were none. After Queanbeyan there was another big hill, in fact it felt like hills all the way for the first 30km although the modest headwind might have helped give that impression. Either way I didn’t much enjoy the ride to Bungendore - hills, heat, about 3” shoulder for the most part; busy road - need I say more? Only consolation was that this route fitted in perfectly with my longer-term route planning from Lindsay’s house. I think I will take L’s suggestion to ride east of Sydney via Penrith, with options from there to dip into the Blue Mountains or even a train ride without the bike into Sydney for a quick revisit.
I was delighted then to reach Bungendore, not just because the traffic reduces considerably, but also because the bakery sells Farmer’s Union Iced Coffee. 1.2 litres later, plus steak and kidney pie and blueberry tart, I was revived and ready for anything. B looked quite a nice little town but I was off and soon enjoying a quiet road with fewer hills and the wind now on the left side. There was still little in the way of shoulder, but it wasn’t so important with the lack of traffic. The road winds and rises and falls fairly gently through a border of trees and is quite pleasant - good tip Lindsay! It’s 31km from Bungendore to Tarago and the main option for accomodation was the pub at the latter, and a possible roadside camping spot was looking unlikely as the road is continually fenced both sides, however I was vigilant, and spotted a cracking site to camp a few km before Tarago, on the left hand side of the road on a right hand bend with a camber - I’m kind of tucked away under the camber just 15m from the road but I am completely unseen, even by lorries. It was easy to get the bike down there too and the site is quite flat. The sun was still blazing (it was 1700) so I slung the piece of shade cloth up in a tree which cast a nice cool shadow. Grace’s eyelets in the cloth have proved very useful. I’m sleeping without the tent outer as it’s unlikely to rain, so I should be nice and cool if it’s a warm night.
Once set up I had a lingering cuppa as I watched the dragonflies dive bombing quite close to me (they have diagonal black and white stripes - what kind are they?), and i got a visit from a Crimson Rosella and a chorus from distant Kookaburras. At dusk kangaroos started grazing on the hill just behind me. Better than a busy caravan park, quiet, and free of charge. I had plenty of water so was able to get cleaned up a bit. I cooked a tasty pasta with tuna, red onion, tomato and zuchini with tabasco sauce and plenty of olive oil. Perfect end to a very long but interesting day.
These last 4 photos actually belong to tomorrow, Weds 16th - I uploaded to the wrong page, and as this connection is very slow I will leave as is! The pic of the tent is at the

Johnno's Corner cafe (above)

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