Monday, April 21, 2008

DAY 178: Cooktown to Bush Camp 15km SW of Lakeland

Sat 19th April 2008
97 km @ 13.6 km/hr
Elevation of camp 490m
Distance to date 10346 km (6466 miles)
I had hoped to get up earlier this morning and get a good start, but didn’t wake up until 8-ish. I had breakfast with Jorg, who weirdly had lost a shoe overnight - he left them under his hammock but some creature must have taken a fancy to one of them! What a drag - they are really good quality, strong sandals he uses to ride in so if he doesn’t find them he’s got a problem. It may have been the ‘roos; I can’t see the Brush Turkeys being big or strong enough.
It was sad to say goodbye to Jorg - he has become a good friend - but that’s the nature of travel relationships; temporary as a rule. We’ve had a great time together and I’ve learnt a lot from him. I wish him well and hope maybe we’ll meet again one day.
I faffed around for an hour posting cards, doing the bakery run, blowing tyres up etc. so finally got away from Cooktown around 10. I had psyched myself up for this being a tough day, and it’s just as well I did because the first 30km today out to the Annan Gorge was tortuous! Headwind, blazing sunshine with no shade and steady upward gradient, conspired to punish me for having such a soft time for so long in the form of weeks of tailwinds and many days off the bike lately. I need to get a bit of fitness back these next few days. It was pretty hot and sunny today - it felt like 30 deg C or so. I stopped at the Black Mountain viewpoint again feeling a bit wasted, and cowered in the scanty shade of a lone tree whilst having a few soft biscuits. Pretty soon someone came along and we chatted for a few minutes before I took my leave.
Things improved once at the top of the Black Hill Ranges and I descended to the rocky Annan River Gorge, where having got into the habit with Jorg, immersed myself totally in the deep, clear, cool water on the slack side of the river. Wonderful - this keeps you cool for quite a while as the clothes dry off over the next couple of hours. I understand there are no crocs in here - ahem! Soon after the river the road turns to the west, so the fresh to strong SE wind is on the rear left shoulder and this felt 110% better than before. The second 30km then was twice as fast as the first, and I was averaging 20 through somewhat arid savannah-type land with small trees as far as the eye could see. There was very little traffic so this section felt pretty enjoyable, and now the dense rainforest was no more the birds could be seen much more easily - I spotted my first Wedgetailed Eagle; one alive and one dead, plus Kookaburras, red and green parrots (?), and lots of Black Kites, to mention but a few. There were quite a few kangaroos too, surprised by my silent approach and bolting into the bush. There was more roadkill than I have seen for a long time too; indicating the higher density of ‘roos here. It’s a very remote area mostly given to (mostly Brahmin) cattle grazing. There are no settlements whatsoever.
After 60km there’s increased undulations and I started to tire again - the sun was merciless and there were few opportunites to get in the shade and have a sit down, however eventually I found somewhere and rested for 20 minutes.
2 vehicles stopped today to ask if I wanted anything, but they were both going the other way to me and I didn’t want to stop - maybe this is a bit anti-social, but the first time I was focussed plodding away up a hill, and the second time it was getting quite late - I appreciated them stopping and said so, and I hope they weren’t annoyed. In fact I was well-prepared and had sufficient water and food.
It was clear I was steadily climbing since there were few big downhills but plenty of steady climbing. At 81km I arrived in the little village of Lakeland and had a look at the Caravan Park, but as there was no-one around, and the cost was $15 for apparently very little benefit, so I went and had a long iced coffee at the roadhouse and consulted my Cycling Otback Australia book. This said there’s a nice wild campsite after another 15km, but this was cutting it fine as it was already 5. The iced coffee really hit the spot and gave me some extra energy, so I carried on, after taking on around 5 litres of water for a bush camp situation. After 12km it was getting a bit dark, 1745, and I hit a long steep climb up as the Great Dividing Range loomed up ahead. Just what I didn’t want at that time, and by the time I reached the col it was well after 6.
There was a viewpoint up a little road to my left so I took it in the hope that there would be somewhere discreet to camp here. The viewpoint itself was all on a slope, but a 200m walk off to the west revealed a nice little spot partly hidden from the road, which would do.
I just about got the tent up as it went completely dark, but the full moon was on the rise and so it actually got lighter thereafter. It was a bit stony but I lay the shade cloth first, doubled over, then the footprint next, so that smoothed out most of the bumps that I couldn't clear away.
A vehicle rolled up at the viewpoint just as I was cooking, and I’m sure they saw me, but I wasn’t too concerned, and anyway they moved off again later on. This is quite a good pitch in that there’s a good breeze up here on top of the slope to deter mozzies, but I sprayed anyway just in case. There are lots of Cicadas and other grasshopper-type creatures all competing to be heard as usual, the normal, familiar bush noise which I like. Here’s to a peaceful night and an early start tomorrow.

Note in pic above that Cape York track is closed!

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