Wednesday, April 30, 2008

DAY 188: Croydon to Black Bull Siding

Tues 29th April 2008
83 km @ 18.8 km/hr
Sunny, up to 30 deg C
Elevation of destination 49 m
Distance to date 11157 km (6973 miles)

Despite a lot of noise from a lorry with the engine running, and from many neighbourhood dogs (why can’t they be quiet and aloof like cats?) late on last night, I was wacked enough to fall asleep anyway. When I got up for the loo in the small hours there were dozens of ‘Roos / Wallabies grazing the CP. I had a nice lazy lie-in - I don’t have so far to go today so can make a slow start to the day - and had decided to have breakfast out. I only have one breakfast left in my food bag and as prices are high and choice low in these little towns I wanted to save that for tomorrow, my last morning before arriving at the bigger town of Normanton - where there is a supermarket - yessss!
So after packing up I went and had a bacon and egg roll at the famous General Store here in Croydon - it claims to be the oldest store in Oz! To see the inside of the store is like stepping back in time to the 19th century. Most of the grocery produce is behind the counter on old-fashioned wooden boxed shelving, and you have to ask the lady assistant for what you want (even though you can't see it). The roll and pot of tea went down a treat too, and as I was sat on the verandah at the entrance everyone and his dog asked after me - very friendly lot - oh and I was also offered a dog by the bloke next door to the store, whose recently-littered mother and pups were established comfortably and awaiting inspection under the floor of the old wooden Queensland-style house. Nice try but no thanks! I have enough of a load as it is.....
After brekkie I went to have a look at the Croydon historical buildings in what is now the VIC - the old police station, jail, courthouse etc., and the interpretation is very good . This was a big boom town after discovery of gold in 1885 which at that time supported 37 hotels and 122 liquour licences - there is only one hotel / pub now. Talking of which I feel bad about not going back for a meal or even a pint last night after they were good enough to give me cash on my card (there’s no working ATM here as with Georgetown). Truth is I had the trots something awful again last night and just couldn’t think of going out....I was never more than 25m from the loo! Anyway I digress - in short Croydon is well worth a few hours wander, a very nice place in the old style.
I discussed with Savannah Ranger Chris, who is based at the VIC, the grey and black birds I saw yestarday that I couldn’t identify - there were hundreds of them in the trees as I left Georgetown, screeching around just like the Noisy Miners do, and we decided they were definitely Apostle Birds. As usual the VIC people were excellent - very knowledgeable and enthusiastic - they are a great asset to Australian tourism.
I decided to have a look at Lake Belmore, just 4km away, to see what bird life might be lurking there, but after crawling up 2 very steep hills and then seeing another big descent down to the lake which would have to be reclimbed, and as the lake looked pretty much devoid of life at this late morning hour, I turned back after the obligatory photo and set off for Black Bull Siding.
BBS is the mid-point on the railway line between Normanton and Croydon, a line just used for a weekly tourist train - the Gulflander - as far as I can see. I would have liked to have taken this trip but (a) it runs on the wrong day, and (b) having seen the line running alongside todays route there isn’t very much to see from the train - the landscape is the same Savannah Scrub / Woodland as the last 2 days. What I would like to do though is to take the 1931 RM60 train on Saturday when it goes for a 2-hour run from Normanton to Four Mile Hill - which includes morning billy tea and (apparently) delicious mango fruit loaf. To this end I will probably firstly factor in a quick trip from Normanton up north to the Gulf Coast town of Karumba, a 70-odd km side trip for me - this would be the last chance to see the sea before Darwin.
The road from Croydon west is all modernised so no more single-track. Scenery is just the same Savannah woodlands and traffic is still very light indeed. It was a hot and sunny day but I had a strongish tail wind, so could average over 20 easily once the Lake Belmore attempt was over with. A lorry stopped ahead of me for the driver to have a word - he was concerned that this morning he nearly didn’t see me in the dark......not me I said when he gave more details, and we realised that there is another cyclist right behind me! The driver meant well, and is a cyclist himself; he was concerned for the cyclists sake. We had a chat about cycling stuff and then went on our way.
I arrived at BBS around 4 to find no-one around the house there, so I just set up anyway as you do. The facilities were basic I knew, but good enough for me - later on the folks came home and I wasn’t charged anything for the pitch - probably because the loos and showers were not working - no problem, Wet One bath for me tonight.
I had a nice relaxing late afternoon under a shady tree reading the paper, drinking tea and watching the birds. There was no-one else staying here until - someone behind me said “Hello - David”!!
How does he know my name? I thought as I looked around to see a cyclist beside me - and it turned out that he had seen my website - and moreover when we exchanged details I realised I had seen his website too when I was researching this trip! He is Erik Straarup from Denmark, a very well-known cyclist who is currently trying to break the record for lapping Oz for the third time, having failed on the first 2 occasions. The record is held by Australian Eugen Schilter, who has offered to pay the Australian Red Cross $50,000 if anyone beats his record of 55 days 17 hours and 8 minutes which he set a couple of years ago. It puts my 340 or so days to do this in stark contrast! Anyway Erik is ahead at the moment by 1.5 days - incredibly, today he cycled 302km from Mount Surprise to BBS! He left at 0200 today, as he always does, and the lorry driver I’d been talking to saw him at 0500 or so wayyy down the road to the east. Erik told me he gets to sleep when the sun goes down so he can get up at that early hour. He is carrying much less weight than me and has no stove, relying on buying food instead. He has numerous home-made attachments to his bike which hold small bottles, and just a kind of plastic box on his rear carrier. He’s set himself a target of 54 days for the attempt and this is day 32. What a guy! If you care to have a look and maybe check his progress over the next 3 weeks his website is .I promised to send the pic by e-mail to his wife, and I filled in a page in his little notebook to verify that I had seen him here today, for official verification purposes. It’s a shame we can’t spend a bit of time together, but he’ll be gone when I rise in the morning, way down the road and over the horizon! We actually only got a short chance to converse, unfortunately.
I cooked dinner and drank lots of fluid - I did drink more water today during the ride but obviously still not enough - it was a very hot day though and I was cycling at the hottest time, midday. I don’t feel the heat when riding though due to the moving air cooling me down. I just can’t stop guzzling. I have left the tent outer layer off tonight as there is virtually no chance of rain in this dry place - what a contrast to the wet tropical coast and Atherton Tablelands, which is only a few hundred km away! Everything here is bone dry, the creeks are just dust and there is no dew at all. Washing dries easily though!

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