Thursday, April 17, 2008

DAY 174: Ayton (Weary Bay) to Home Rule

(Day 2 on Bloomfield Track)
Tues 15th April 2008
28 km at 8.2 km/hr
Distance to date 10206 km (6379 miles)

I fell asleep last night to the sound of the breakers crashing onto the sandy beach just a few metres away; in fact the crashing continued all night since the sea hardly recedes with high and low tides - the beach must slope steeply down. I did go for a quick paddle last night and kind of confirmed that. I don’t mind natural noises like the sea, or Kookaburras, at all; it’s drunken talking by thoughtless campers that winds me up.
I hardly stirred before around 7, at least I guess about 7 because I don’t have a watch; in fact one is hardly necessary at the moment, I’m just going off where the sun is and that’s accurate enough for my purposes. Jorg doesn’t have one on principle when he’s on holiday. We had a quick breakfast of fruit and biscuits then packed up and rode the 2km to the Ayton IGA, where we feasted on iced coffee and chicken on a skewer. We finished up spending a wondeful 2 hours sat outside the store with Alex, a former Milanese engineer who’s been here in Oz a long time. He he’s nearly 70 but fit as a fiddle, travels to Europe for a few months every year, and who still has a keen eye for young ladies. As with most well-travelled people he has some lovely stories to tell, as does Jorg, and the time just slipped away. We were in no rush at all, sipping yet more iced coffee, enjoying the warm shade, watching and greeting the locals (many Aboriginals live here), and enjoying the excellent conversation. It was nearly 11 by the time we got going, but we weren’t planning a long day anyway, just to the small camping site at Home Rule (that’s the name of the holding, not a village). We are both savouring all of this demanding but rewarding Bloomfield Track, which is considered a good test even for 4WD’s here.
The first 10km from Ayton is not too difficult apart from the odd 10-12% climb, and the road is mostly reasonably graded gravel with a few very poor and pot-holed bits that play havoc with bike balance and consequently my nerves. You don’t want to fall off on that stuff! There are quite a few creek crossings, and it’s clear that we are doing this at the best time of year because the creeks are all running well, rather than being dried out as a rule over the next few (dry season) months. Jorg enjoys a dip so we finished up immersing ourselves several times - with all clothes on because they soon dry out and you never feel cold - it’s very refreshing. With two pairs of shorts on it’s a bit squishy for a while when back in the saddle though! The sun was quite strong and the road not quite as enclosed by trees as yesterday so shade was less easy to find, however the sun kept disappearing behind the clouds for a few minutes at a time. As yesterday both the ascents and descents were usually attained at just a few km/hr - often walking up as it’s difficult to get good balance on the loose stone, and I just couldn’t risk descending at faster than 8 or 9 km/hr for the same reason - there are all kinds of obstacles that could catch you out if descending too fast - holes, wash-outs, big loose gravel, sharp bends - you name it! Even with my tyre pressures reduced from 50 to 30 PSI it still doesn’t feel safe. Jorg is able to go down more quickly as he has suspension (front suspension especially is a bonus in these conditions).
There didn’t seem to be much wildlife around, even birds, other than some Rainbow Bee Eaters, though I probably was too busy concentrating on staying upright.
We really took our time to avoid exhaustion, and to enjoy the gorgeous scenery - afforested creeks and little waterfalls, crystal clear pools (we filled our bottles straight from the creeks when required), brooding tree-covered mountains up to some 700m high, and occasional shady green tunnels through the rainforest. Much of this track is NP so fully protected from the potential ravages of developers.
After some 3 hours we reached a little village (the name escapes me) and the Wallaby Creek, and the turn-off right to Home Rule. Just a few 100m down this road was a bridge over the Wallaby, which was deep and fast flowing, and around 6m wide. The creek and banks were full of huge scattered boulders with rainforest further back, very beautiful, and reminded me of Derbyshire rivers like the Derwent. There was a rope dangling from the bridge with a plastic handle swept back in the current, the clear use of which was to hold onto whilst hanging and bathing in the torrent. Jorg of course was straight in, immersing himself totally underwater - not to be outdone I was next but guess what? I forgot to remove sunglasses first, and the $60 pair disappeared for ever in the raging river - grrr! It was quite exhilirating though, and my first shower today. That’s $100 spent since October on 4 pairs of sunglasses, but I’ll have to buy more unfortunately. We had a pooled lunch of biscuits, peanuts, chocolate and banana sat on the bridge in the sunshine, and both voiced our separate joy in this present experience. Jorg told me about his bike travels in the South Sea Islands of Tahiti and Hawaii - he rates these as his best trips ever, and as Rob did in the French Alps in 2006 with regard to cycling in Oz, fired my imagination even more.
We eventually moved on the 3km further to the Home Rule homestead, where we were the only campers. There’s a nice old couple running this place, which is only $8 / night. Jorg set up his hammock and tarp between 2 convenient trees, while I had the 3 acre camping area to myself. We bought a couple of beers from mein host and drank these while J dangled his line in the wide Wallaby Creek, with no joy unfortunately, so it’s pasta again tonight. As we ate we watched the fireflies dancing around in the half-moonlight, beautful; memorable moments these.
Jorg developed a fault with his bike today - the freewheel mechanism is sticking I think - every time he stops pedalling the pedals just spin around without driving the wheel. As I recall there’s a little pawl mechanism which by use of a spring engages the freewheel drive - this must be sticking due to dust or something, I think. He says he's been using lanolin to lubricate his chain and I wondered if this might be a problem? Not sure what to advise other than strip it down but have we got the tools? We’ll check this out tomorrow.

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