Monday, April 21, 2008

DAY 179: Bush Camp to Mount Carbine

Sun 20th April 2008
102 km @ 14.5 km/hr
Sunny, 28 deg C-ish
Elevation of destination 370m
Distance to date 10448 km (6530 miles)
It took me ages to get to sleep last night for some reason, but still got up at dawn (0610) and off by 0720. This was a nice peaceful place to camp, and I didn’t even hear any ‘roos or other animals. There were a few big spiders lurking around outside the tent though so I gave them a wide berth without harming them.
The road continued to climb up to 530m in the Great Dividing Range, then undulated for a few km before dropping 100m or so, whereupon there are a few big undulations between 300 and 400m approx for some 30 or 40km. I had bacon and eggs at Palmer River Roadhouse and phoned Lyn, thinking it was 2300 at home, but it was midnight with 9 hours time difference not 10 as I had thought. We chatted away as per normal and will remain good friends whatever else occurs - I’m confused about how our relationship is to be honest, but I remain very fond of her, whatever happens.
I saw a lot of wildlife early on - plenty of astonished ‘Roos, a feral cat, another Wedge-tailed Eagle, lots of Black Kites, and a huge Stick Insect that I nearly ran over. Later, in the heat of the day, there was little other than thousands of Brahmin cattle scattered all over the place, who had free access to the road. They were always frightened to see me and sometimes galloped across the road to reach their ‘safety in numbers’ mates; luckily there was little traffic, around 10 vehicles an hour otherwise it could have been interesting. There is a good shoulder as far as Bob’s Lookout, then very little thereafter. It’s quite a boring road, and one has to be inventive with thoughts and ideas to avoid the tedium. No, I’m not going to tell what I was thinking about!
50km after Lakeside the road changes from heading SW to SE, and the SE wind that was on the side was then bang on the nose. I slowed down from 18 to about 14km/hr, and coupled with the hot midday sun and absence of any shade, I felt like I was working twice as hard. I realised today how valuable my little iced coffee and snack breaks are to enable me to revive and recover - the entire length of todays section is pretty much devoid of anywhere to lean the bike and/or get into shade, and I started to feel pretty weary as the hot day wore on. I hadn’t enough water to bush camp again tonight (I need at least 4 litres to cook, drink, and allow 2 litres for tomorrow) so would have to ride the 84km from Palmer River RH to M.Carbine RH. From the start of the headwind that meant around 55km. The road wasn’t flat either, and I was regularly reduced to a weary 7 km/hr on 6 or 7% climbs.
With 29km to go I reached Bob’s Lookout, a spectacular viewpoint across miles of Savannah forest on a screaming downhill to the plains below. By this time I was feeling cooked, and daydreaming about icy-cold drinks, rather than my warm water. I lingered a while in case anyone else stopped to admire the view whom I could ask to buy or blag something cold if they had it, but no-one appeared. It’s times like this you have to draw on some willpower to persist with the hard work; pushing through the negativity of travelling so slowly against the wind, and ignoring the now-blazing sun, but the ride still seemed interminable.
At least after the Lookout descent the road became flat and straight for the last 29km, and I was mostly able to hold 14km/hr, but I was very tired, and just about out of water. I should have carried more - I underestimated the headwind and heat.
None of the rivers or creeks had been fit to drink or to take a cooling dip in, due to their dryness and the presence of cattle all over the place, but the Macleod River (14km to go) was clear, deep and flowing, so I sat down in it after topping my bottle up. The dip revived me a bit but I was then a bit wary of drinking the untreated water! Nevertheless I finally saw the Mt.Carbine RH (or is it a mirage?), and it was built in the shape of an Iced Coffee bottle. It tasted wonderful, as good as I had dreamed!
I had planned to bush camp again at Mary River, but was so tired I checked in at the CP in Mt.Carbine ($10). At least I got plenty of washing done, and was able to go to the pub for a pint - er, schooner. It was spoilt buy 4 old men and an old lady nearby F’ing every other word as they joyfully described how they each killed animals. I’m dog tired now, ready for a good sleep.

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