Tuesday, May 27, 2008

DAY 212: Elliott to Dunmarra Roadhouse

Fri 23rd May 2008
99 km @ 17.6 km/hr
Sunny, 25 deg C
Elevation of destination 229m
Distance to date 12961 km (8101 miles)

I took ages to get to sleep last night - lots of banging outside, music playing loudly somewhere, some stones under the tent sticking in my back, and just a general feeling of unease with this poor caravan park. After a few hours sleep I was awoken by the loud trumpeting of the many peacocks resident here - a sign on the shop door says to help yourself to one if you want one! Er, no thanks, you can have them!
I had breakfast with Steve, the Irish guy parked next to me, then packed up carefully to avoid getting bulldust onto my gear and myself, which wasn’t easy. I took my key back to the shop for the return of my $5 deposit and complained to the owner about the dusty park - when the brochure says “grassy sites”, but she wasn’t interested and walked off muttering that she wasn’t arguing, so I left it at that. If anyone’s coming this way be warned - it’s the first CP on the left as you come into Elliott from the south.
I noticed another CP next door as I left, but couldn’t see if it was any better than the first one. I passed quickly through Elliott - it’s a dismal and dreary place that is starting to look like a ghost town - the houses look as if they were thrown up in a few minutes using leftover building materials. Only redeeming feature was a friendly wave from an aboriginal lady as I passed out of town.
So, back onto the same old road - flat, straight and fairly featureless - but I switched into spiritually absent mode and didn’t notice these features. I stopped briefly for a snack at the rest area after 23km, since this is the last one until Dunmarra Roadhouse, then ploughed on. The road starts to undulate after the Newcastle Waters junction (I didn’t go on the 3km detour for a look as I think it’s just a ghost town), and the landscape changes significantly from dry scrubby Savannah to green undergrowth and bigger trees; clearly there is more water around to support this. I even saw a few muddy puddly creeks, whereas these have been bone dry for the last 1000km. As a result a few more birds started to appear, including the Apostlebirds again, and the presence of a lot more roadkill pointed to a more abundant habitat.
There was no metalled shoulder but the road isn’t too busy again so it isn’t important; there is a good gravel shoulder anyhow. The main carriageway is quite bumpy though, and I didn’t appreciate the jarring effect on my sore nether region. Scores of people waved and/or hooted, which was nice, and I’ve got into the habit of waving at everyone coming towards me, though I can’t always see if they wave back, as if it matters.
Between 30 and 40km the road bore to the left into the wind a little, and as it was also mostly uphill this was annoying, but after this the tailwind was back and helping me along again.
I stopped at 60km and got the billy on under a shady tree, and enjoyed two leisurely mugs of tea and jam butties. 90 minutes later I was at Dunmarra, and celebrated with an ice cream and Cookiedough Kit-kat and iced coffee, as you do.
I had planned to cycle another 20km or so and camp in the bush, but fate had other ideas, and I punctured 3km N of Dunmarra, in the rear of course, and with nowhere to lean the bike. I removed all the gear and fitted a replacement tube after failing to find anything sticking in the tyre, but when I came to pump up the tyre again I found that the (expensive) Zefal pump was blowing back. No matter what I did, as soon as I stopped pumping the air escaped through the nozzle end of the pump. I reckon a seal / ‘O’ ring or similar has fell out, but I’m puzzled since the pump was working OK 2 weeks ago and I haven’t touched it since. I tried to flag down the few vehicles that passed over the next half-hour but the 2 that stopped didn’t have a tyre pump, so I started to walk the bike back to the roadhouse; however as I had managed to get a little air in I risked riding back with all my weight positioned over the handlebar i.e. not on the soft rear tyre. One of the two that stopped were a Japanese couple, who nodded affirmatively when I asked for a pump, but supplied me with one of those plastic pumps that you blow beach balls up with! Awww, bless!
It was starting to darken as I arrived back, so I decided to camp at the roadhouse CP (very nice site with pool and only $5!). One of the campers had an electric pump so we had the tyre back up to 50 psi in a jiffy, and it appears to be holding OK later on. I now have no way of pumping the tyres up until I get to the bike shop at Katherine nearly 300km north; let’s hope I don’t need one.
After setting the tent up I cooked a curry using half a pack of green curry paste and served it with the rice, but it was so hot as to be utterly inedible - so this was the second disaster of the day, and it went in the bin. I therefore went to the roadhouse for dinner of a burger ‘with everything’, and as it also came with a huge pile of chips I was unable to finish it despite 2 more cartons of iced coffee to wash it down!
Lets hope tomorrow brings more normality....

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