Tuesday, May 27, 2008

DAY 213: Dunmarra RH to bush camp 36 km S of Larrimah RH

Sat 24th May 2008
104 km @ 18.4 km/hr
Sunny, 25 deg C
Elevation of destination 190m
Distance to date 13065 km (8166 miles)Another very cold night saw me fully clothed with everything, including head, inside the sleeping bag, and then I was only just warm enough. I stayed put until the sun was well up, at around 8, and sat under her watchful eye whilst having breakfast. I though I’d probably camp at Daly Waters Hotel tonight, which is only 47km, so I got cracking on trying to fix the bike pump.
Unless there’s something missing, such as an ‘O’ ring that has fallen out, it all looks OK, but was still blowing back when connected to the partly pressurised tyre - through the pump metal shaft where it enters the pump body. I didn’t have silicon grease to hopefully sprayed some WD40 on the key bits. I also made a small washer out of some Katadyn neoprene tubing and placed it inside the nozzle body just in case one was there and has fallen out. But then the pump was hard to operate, however it seems to stop the leaking. Whether I can pump hard enough to get up to rock-hard is another question. Anyhow, for the time being I’m OK because the tyre stayed hard all night after pumping it up with the borrowed pump, and with a bit of luck and no more punctures I’ll find another pump in Katherine, assuming there’s a bike shop there.
It was now 1030 and I was hungry again so had cereal and toast at the roadhouse (and a free drivers coffee) before departing. I must say the folk that run this place are very nice and friendly, and prices are unusually reasonable too for a roadhouse.
Plenty of lorries on the road today, but they gave me a wide berth and I gave them a wave. I’ve learnt that they’re mostly heading for the busy port of Darwin for importing and exporting goods to and from China and the far east - especially cattle going out, but there are plenty of cars coming in too.
One lorry driver told me he hauls cattle from Cloncurry to Darwin - that’s a trip of 1700 km - I wonder if the cattle get any relief during that time? I certainly haven’t seen them being loaded or unloaded anywhere.
I stopped for an iced coffee and banana muffin at the Hi-Way Inn Roadhouse and was surprised to see a couple cycle in just after me, and the guy was hauling a trailer with a little girl toddler in it - sound familiar? Yes, this was the family that had left Normanton the very day I cycled into the town, that the lady at the VIC told me about! They were taking the mostly gravel ‘Top Road’ to Darwin via Hell’s Gate and Boroloola (1080km), whereas I chickened out and chose the longer tarmac route via Cloncurry and Mount Isa (1395km). The two routes rejoin at this very point where we met, so a bit of a coincidence that we arrived there within the same hour! They are Gunnar, Sandra, and the wee one is Kimberley; I don’t think she’s more than 3, and they are from Germany. Kimberley was enjoying an ice cream and looked very pleased with it. Gunnar told me he did this same trip 8 years ago, when he also cycled up to Cape York - hardcore stuff, and I’m impressed. Sandra’s bike has panniers and it looked as if they were pretty heavy too, whilst Gunnar was hauling Kimberley in her trailer. They have been carrying 30 litres of water at times. I was surprised that Gunnar’s bike has no suspension, which I’d thought would be an advantage on such rough surfaces. I forgot to take a photo for the website, but maybe I’ll see them again yet.
I said goodbye and cycled the remaining 6km to Daly Waters pub. When I saw the open caravan park I had doubts about whether I would stay here after all; there was little shade and it was pretty dusty-looking, and also quite crowded. When I saw the hordes in the pub, mostly taking photos rather than drinking, I decided it wouldn’t be very enjoyable for my tastes and abandoned plans to stay here. I had another iced coffee and took some pics myself, and also had to accept a 2 Euro coin pressed upon me by an admiring and nice German lady who had seen me cycling down the road and wanted me to have it as a ‘talisman’. Fame....another groupie!! The pub is amusing with scores of bras, caps, coins, notes and number plates hanging everywhere, but I’ve seen it all before e.g. at the Drover’s Arms near Loch Lomond.
After 2 iced coffees I was pretty charged up and charged down the road with a little tailwing for the most part, and put on another 50km or so on a pancake-flat road. I was struggling to find a decent campsite in the fenced bush, but finally managed a reasonable one, a bit near to the road but quite well-hidden. There are lots of road trains going through now it’s dark; I guess they time it so they miss the caravanning hordes tootling along at 60 km/hr during daytime.
As soon as I got off the bike I donned leggings and long-sleeved top to hopefully avoid being mozzie-bitten. During the last 3 days they’ve taken over from the bush flies who have reduced significantly. The former like wetter conditions and the latter dry - and it is significantly wetter now. The last 2 mornings there has been a good deposit of dew that has been absent for weeks in the very dry central Outback that I’m now leaving.

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