Saturday, March 15, 2008

DAY 143: Day off in Rockhampton

PICS: Egret; friendly butcher board; roo, koala, cenotaph; Norm; 2 of Rocky streets; Botanic Garden; Butcherbird

Sat 15th March 2008

Distance to date 8550 km (5344 miles)

Sunny, hot

I’d planned a lie-in this morning but with people up early around me and the increasing noise from traffic on the nearby bridge it wasn’t to be. After saying au revoir to Norm I was off at 8 for some sightseeing, starting with the Botanic Gardens, about 10 minutes cycling away. The gardens cover a large area and there is a distinctly more tropical feel here compared to further south- there are many more varieties of palms for example that don’t easily grow further south. There is also several Ha of lake / wetland, and I spent a good hour watching the birds through the binocculars - all the usuals such as Black Swan and Ibis, but others I haven’t seen that much of yet such as Darters, Great Egret, Royal Spoonbills and what I think were Hardhead Ducks. The birds were thick in the sky, in constant motion, swooping and wheeling back and forth with food and nesting material in their mouths - busy place - a foretaste of things to come as I move north.

There is a free zoo at the BG too, but the animals and surroundings don’t look too great, and half the enclsures / cages had nothing in (or maybe they were hiding). There’s a decent cafe though, beautifully surrounded by shady trees, with the Lorikeets and Blue-Faced Honeyeaters scooping up scraps and crumbs practically out of the eaters hands. Very up-close, as was the Butcher Bird in the pic, who came and sat on the bike for a while right next to me.

Before noon I headed back into town; I had decided to buy some decent cycling-specific sunglasses as the third or fourth pair in 5 months have started to fall apart - If I’d bought decent ones to start with I would have saved some money. Anyway on the way to town I saw a bikeshop and they had a good selection, all around $60, so I chose a comfortable pair and handed over cash. Because they’re for cycling they don’t slip down when i’m riding like my old ones did. These new ones come with 4 spare (different-coloured) lenses in a nice neat and strong case - perfect.

For a Saturday, Rocky was like a ghost town. I’d heard there was a race meeting just outside town wh ich would account for some absences, but I sense that as most of the shops shut after the morning it’s always like this. It was very pleasant anyhow, and I really warmed to this place with it’s old buildings and wide streets. It’s smaller than I thought; maybe about 30,000 population I would guess. I had a Sub for lunch and spoent the afternoon back at camp fiddling with the bike, repacking bags and planning routes - oh and plunging into the inviting swimming pool at the CP.

Dinner consisted of yet another steak, the third in a row, seeing how there is a decent gas barbie here. It’s been another very warm day but the wind got up again in the afternoon which made it feel a little cooler. The weather forecast is predicting SE winds for the next week so I hope that’s right - it would be tailwinds all the way

Tomorrow or the day after I will pass north of the Tropic of Capricorn, 22.5 degrees south, but it’s pretty remote from civilisation for the next 300km or so, and as far as I can see I will need to stay in roadside rest areas - a very helpful gent at the VIC today made me up a photocopy map showing where all the allowable camping places are in this section - there are about 6 so I should be OK since it will take 3 or 4 days (to Mackay where I think i have a Warmshowers host.

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