Monday, January 07, 2008

DAY 90: Bruthen - Lakes Entrance - Bruthen

71 k/m @ 16.1 km/hr

Thurs 3rd January 2008
Distance to date 5728 km (3580 miles)
Cloudy, low 20’s

I decided to leave the tent and gear here today and head down to lakes Entrance on the trails and tracks. I had breakfast with Brian and Bente, said goodbyes, and headed off around 9.
It took about 40 minutes to cover the 11km to the junction of the East Gippsland Rail Trail and the EG Discovery Trail which runs down to Lakes Entrance. A pair of wallabies scuttered across the trail and made me jump - still thinking about the wild dogs maybe. The Rail Trail surface remained good quality as yesterday, although there were a few steeper hills; in fact the section is just about all uphill, but gentle uphill as it was a rail line!.
The Discovery trail is not such good quality and is narrower. The first 4km includes some very steep hills both up and down, and quality deteriorates the nearer to Mississippi Creek Quarry you get. The 100m track off to the quarry is in a very bad state with some deep ruts and plenty of sand, but the quarry is worth a look - there's some interpretation there about it's use. The heavy rainstorm of a couple of weeks ago must have caused this flood damage, which is evident all the way along this track. The quarry produced stone for the development of the Lakes Entrance harbour and from here a tramway formerly hauled blocks of the stuff.
The cycle track follows this tramway, but is badly flood-damaged. I think I would have been better off with knobbly tyres rather than semi-slick road tyres, which proved very unstable with little grip. It took constant effort to stay upright. There is no way I could have done this fully laden as I first planned. I had to get off the bike in a few places to get past fallen trees and patches of deep soft sand. As always in the gum bush there was lots of debris - leaves, bark and branches - and one had to be vigilant that that piece of rolled-up hollow bark wasn’t a solid twig, which unless you hit it at right angles can skew the front wheel and cause loss of control. Thus there was little opportunity to admire the admirable forest vegetation - walking would offer a better chance of this.
The trail deteriorates even further in the last 10km (it is 25km long) with more sandy sections , exacerbated by trials bike riders, 3 of whom flew past me with little disregard for safety. Some 5km from Lakes Entrance a tarmac road runs parallel to the trail, and I jumped at the chance to abandon the latter. Very soon traffic built up and LE itself was teeming with tourists as expected. It’s best to get on the path wherever possible to avoid the speeding and dense traffic. Although the town has a beautiful setting, located at one end of the famous Gippsland Lakes, it is spoilt for me personally by the hordes, and by the commerciality of the place. Clearly thousands love it because it is said to be completely booked out this time of the year (Australian long summer holidays). I had a pie and cake and coffee and thought about leaving for a quieter environment. Funny how I dislike these coastal resorts yet really enjoy the big cities; can’t explain that.
I had thought this morning I’d cycle back the way I came, but having seen and done it i decided to take the easier road. It took me only half the time going back; up Highway 1 towards Bairnsdale then turn right at Swan Reach, and this second road was very quiet and much more enjoyable. The sun had still failed to show up, but despite black skies in the morning the rain also failed to materialise. It’s badly needed not only to replenish diminishing water supplies, but also to help extinguish a series of bush fires in this immediate area. I haven’t seen any of these fires, but saw a helicopter carrying a water bomb this evening, and I know from the newspaper that there is a fire near Orbost where I am planning to head tomorrow. It’s nearly 80km but I should get there OK unless prevented by fires.
I washed the chain in petrol tonight as it was covered in debris from the Discovery track - I don’t want the new cogs wearing out too quickly. It’s a simple operation with the Speedlink connector which takes only seconds to undo and refit.
Spent this evening around the fire in the campers kitchen with Tez and Johnny from Carlisle in England (working and touring for a year) and Peter the friendly caretaker. Johnny played a few tunes on the guitar; he’s quite good at Oasis and stuff like that; very enjoyable.
Hope I sleep better tonight - last night some *&#$%)@#$ left the radio on all night and I kept waking up.

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