Friday, June 27, 2008

DAY 240: Humptydoo to Walker Creek (Litchfield NP)

Fri 20th June 2008
94 km @ 14.0 km/hr
Sunny, 33 deg C
Elevation of destination 99 m
Distance to date 14377 km (8986 miles)

After last night’s song and dance I slept poorly, but got up just before dawn to hopefully avoid embarassing any early joggers that might come this way, and as the sun came up I was sat at the picnic table at the side of the loch watching the Egret’s coming and going, and the ducks browsing on the submerged weed. The sprinklers only stayed on for about 90 minutes and were quiet by midnight.
A nice early start then; away by 0815. I never saw a soul come into the lagoon park where I was. There was a bit of a headwind once back on the Stuart Highway, and I stopped for an iced coffee at the first Servo, and was also tempted by a home-made steak and bacon pie - which was delicious; all lean chunks of meat.
After 18km I took the right turn onto the pleasantly quiet and scenic Cox Peninsular Road and rode 24km, via the small settlement of Berry Springs, to the left turn onto the Litchfield Park Road. This is gravel for 43km, and my hopes that it would be in good condition were initially met since workmen were converting the first 9km to paved (tarmac). There was only 3km tarred, in the middle of this stretch, but the other 6km were good and flat, however there were 2 short sections being wetted and rolled and the claggy clay flew up and stuck everywhere that the mudguards didn’t prevent access to - so some cleaning will be called for asap. My new chain looks brown with clay dust too. This 43km road is quite pretty; mostly rolling Savannah and Pandanus forest around a twisty road, but once past the first 9km I was too busy watching the road in front of me to take much notice. It was 34km of almost continuous corrugations, with a few longish flat strips where I could get some speed up, however I was caught napping a few times when the flat, hard road became thick bulldust, and on one of these I lost control and fell off. It got worse - I punctured (rear of course) about 24km in, and had to find a shady bit to do the necessary. Maddeningly, despite me checking the tyre inside and out for splinters / the cause of the puncture, and having checked all my 3 spare tubes a few days ago, within 15 minutes of retsarting the tyre was flat again! I can’t understand why, unless there is a tiny splinter there that I couldn’t see. Anyway I got away with re-pumping every 15 minutes or so until the end of the day, about 2 hours later.
It was a relief to get back on tarmac again, and the last 10km of gravel had been a nightmare with continuous deep corrugations and deep sand patches thrown in at random.
I finally reached the NP boundary, then Walker Creek, which was one of several options for camping in this part of Litchfield NP. The information board showed 8 campsites spaced along the creek for 2km upstram; the first one was at 600m, so I thought I’d ride up and have a look, however there were some large steps and no way could I even push the fully-laden bike up them, and I left the bike and walked up to have a look at the first site at least. Well, Site 1 was vacant, and utterly gorgeous! The camping area was set some 50m on the other side of the river, which is about 4 or 5m wide, and access is across the flat rocks forming the top of a 4m-high waterfall. Needless to say I went back for the bags and even though it took a while, it was well worth it. I only saw 1 other couple on the path so I have the place virtually to myself - the self-contained camping area is virtually unseen from the path so it’s quite private. It should be $2.50 a night to camp but there are no special envelopes so I guess the NP folk are not bothering charging.
I quickly set up, then got the billy on, then went to sit in my ‘private’ waterfall for a while cooling off. There are swimming holes further up I think, and the river is deep enough to swim in just 100m upstream from me, so I’ll check that out tomorrow. I’ll definitely be staying at least another night! This is the best camping site so far on this trip.
There’s also a good fireplace and lots of wood to collect everywhere, so I got a good fire going at dusk, which was nice and cheery. I felt so content and relaxed I actually sat by the fire until well after 11. Before that I cooked pasta and salami and had about 4 mugs of tea. The ranger passed with his family early in the evening and seemed fairly impressed that I’d dragged all my gear and bike up the path to this site - well, it was definitefly worth the effort.
I feel asleep later than usual to the noise from the falls, which cancels just about everything else out - not that there’s much else to keep me awake - certainly no humans for several km anyway.

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