Monday, January 28, 2008

DAY 112: Bush camp to Gresford

Fri 25th January 2008
80 km @14.9 km/hr
Distance to date 6910 km (4319 miles)
Cloudy, rain showers

I awoke with a start last night at around 3 - something had woke me up even though the creek was absolutely silent now. All I could hear was my heartbeat. A few minutes later I stiffened when there was a thumping - 2 or 3 thumps as if caused by someone banging a log into the ground. It happened again a few minutes later, and nearer. When I thought about it I figured it wasn’t a human noise, and I guessed it was a kangaroo. They are heavy animals and the sound they make when landing on their big rear legs would be substantial? Later on today someone said they thought it would have been the ‘roos tail slapping down on the ground after each hop - so there you go! Sounds silly to be concerned in the cold light of day but at that hour in the otherwise eerie silence it was a bit scary. But hey - I’m a bushman - scared? Me? Ahem....
Anyway I must have got to sleep again OK because next thing it was 7 and the Bellbirds were my alarm clock, ably supported by their friends the screechy parrots (probably Sulphur-Crested Cockatoos, which are very common. I managed to keep the giant ants at bay while having breakfast - they are very amusing in the way they seem to panic when you challenge them by going for them; they run one way, then the other, jumping up and down and eventually running away, only to return for another go 3 seconds later! One must have managed to get in my food pannier because I was to see it in there later on. I have a feeling these may be bull ants which have a rather nasty sting. Bull ants apparently rear up at you in a threatening way too. I’ve also started checking my stuff more closely before I pick it up as an evil-looking spider jumped off my bag when I picked it up a few mornings ago. I could do with a book on insects but have to watch my baggage weight.
So once again (apart from the supposed ‘roo) I had found a good campsite, and I don’t think I was seen by anyone. I was away by 0730 for the last 5km gradual downhill beside Darkey Creek - more interesting bends around craggy rocks, with a bit less shoulder than previously, before emerging onto the plain where the landscape changed considerably. The pure bush turned to mostly-cleared arable land stocked with beef cattle, and quite a few small farms and homesteads. There was a very good shoulder again though, and as has been the case all the way from Windsor (the Putty Road it’s called), the surface is very good indeed. It seems as if a lot of money has been spent upgrading this road, possibly to provide an alternative to the busy coastal highway?
I stopped at Bulga for raisin toast and tea and a paper, and continued on to Singleton, passing a large open cast mine where the traffic increased considerably, and where it started to rain. I sheltered under a bridge for a while and then carried on when it eased somewhat.
Singleton is a largish, busy town with a good range of shops and the world’s largest sundial. And a Subway - hurray! I tried a toasted chicken and bacon ranch (12” of course) which was OK. I found that the library had free internet, but at a price - lethargic and unpredictable performance - twice I waited 15 minutes while 4 images uploaded and both times I got the maddening “Page not found” before I could publish. I did a quick shop at IGA and thought about staying at the CP here, but it was too early and had stopped raining, so on it was towards Dungog (lovely name!).
Of course after a few minutes it was raining again, and there was aa steady upward drag, and there was no shelter as everywhere’s been cleared for pasture, and I felt as if I was getting nowhere. I stopped at a cemetery to use the toilet, got chased by an angry dog who seemed to be looking after the place (council savings no doubt) and ploughed on feeling a little depressed. Oh, and did I mention the SE headwind? Well, light headwind at least. It all conspired to feel as if I was not going well. For the next 40km there was no shelter from the on-off-on-off rain, no shelter from the wind, nowhere to sit, and no interesting scenery, and the steady drag up was wearing me out. I had no idea where I was relative to the next town, Gresford as there were no signposts, and was delighted when it suddenly appeared.
First thing I saw was a cafe so I took my wet self in for a while and had a nice chiat to the very friendly owners and their young son Gus. They told me all about the town, including where there was a municipal campsite withs showers (yessss!) while I had a very welcome latte (followed by a second which comes free!). Funny how something / someone comes along to cheer me up when feeling under the cosh - I certainly felt better when i went out compared to going in. The lady owner (forgive me forgetting the owners names) also gave me a boxed collector’s spoon engraved with Gresford, which was a lovely gesture! I gave her my card with web details.
It was raining quite hard still when I left the cafe, but it was only 2km to the campsite, and I had the tent up in another 10, outside in again so’s to keep the inner dry. Off for a welcome shower, then waited a while for the rain to ease, whereupon I quickly threw some food together under a huge tree nearby which was mostly dry but starting to drip. A couple of folk came chatting - the man on the bike provokes plenty of interest as usual, but I strive to ask about their trip as well so it isn’t all one way. I had planned to eat at the hotel as the cafe lady said they do a good curry, but it was a good walk, and I’d just changed into (practically my last) dry clothes, so it wasn’t a good option as it was still wet.
Incidentally there’s a bridge I crossed just before entering Gresford that is apparently the largest laminated wood bridge in the world - so there! Gresford looks like a nice little place (pop ~1000) and I hope to have a look around before I leave tomorrow (if it’s still raining I might stay another day). I understand there’s a comminity ‘do’ for Australia Day tomorrow in Dungog, which is only 30km east and enatailing a big ascent I’m told.

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