Friday, June 27, 2008

DAY 243: Buley Rockhole to Adelaide River

Mon 23rd June 2008
78km @ 13.3 km/hr
Sunny, 31 deg C
Elevation of destination 46 m
Distance to date 14435 km (9022 miles)

I awoke around 7 and decided to have an early start - Adelaide River against the wind might be slow going, and I wanted to have a look around a few places on the way also. In the cool light of dawn this campsite looked a dry, dusty and dismal place. It was full of backpackers overnight, and they all had campfires, and I could hear the cracking and tearing as they demolished the nearby (living) trees for firewood, this in a protected NP. I have to note that many were British. There was litter all around too, and I tidied as much as I could around my site. No-one came for any money again; that’s 3 free nights in a row.
It was a steady climb out for 3 km then gentle undulations into the SE wind (it used to be my friend lol). After 8km I stopped to look at the thin, flat, N to S oriented magnetic termite mound field, and read the information boards. These magnetic mounds, up to 3 or 4m high and 1 to 2m wide, are so positioned to minimise the sun's heat in the middle of the day, but cathedral termite mounds are round, more volumous, and temperature is less of an issue. Apparently both species need to control body temperature carefully, and this is simple in cathedral mounds, but those in the magnetic mounds have to move to the east of the mound in the morning to ‘warm up’ on the warm, sunny side. It was interesting to read that termites eat more grass than all other grass-eating animals such as cattle, sheep and ‘roos put together!
I plugged on into the headwind, slowed down to single figures regularly as the road wound uphill, but it wasn’t an unpleasant ride in the early warm sunshine. Hundreds of vehicles poured into the NP but there was little going my way i.e. out of the park. I had a couple of close calls where cars wouldn’t wait to get past me, and they duly got the dreaded finger.
I stopped briefly at Litchfield Caravan Park for iced coffee, and by noon was entering the uranium-mining town of Batchelor. I found a nice fresh crusty roll at the roadhouse cafe and sat reading the paper for a pleasant, shady hour, then tried to upload to the blog, to no avail. The internet at the Butterfly Farm was incredibly slow and the mouse was faulty, so I gave up and didn’t pay ($8/hr for that service!!). I called in at the VIC where well-informed volunteer David chatted about route options and other stuff. He recommended the Coach Road to Adelaide River; mostly gravel but very quiet and 12km shorter - and this was good advice. I told him about the 2 feral dogs that came into my camp at Walker Creek, and he thought that they might be formerly illegal pig-hunters dogs that got lost, and then interbred with the dingoes. This makes sense as they were the same colour as the dingo only 50% bigger.
Off on the Coach Road then, south from the town with the airfield on the left, on deserted tarmac for the first 8km before the change to a well-maintained gravel surface. After 7km or so of endless winding and undulating past the odd house and fruit farm the road became a narrow track. The quaity deteriorated somewhat but was very enjoyable nonetheless. I only saw a handful of vehicles all the way to Adelaide River, and the road twisted and turned all over the place through nice Savannah forest; sometimes the track almost disappeared from view, and I had to check a few times that I was still on the right road by means of the PDA maps and GPS receiver - this shows me where I am on the 250,000:1 Austour map. Thus reassured, I could relax and enjoy this trip through some very wild and remote country - this is a great route for cyclists; much preferable to the windy and busy highway route. The track was only slightly corrugated with a couple of short sandy patches and quite a bit of stone - all can be worked around with a little care.
For the last 90 minutes I saw no other vehicles, and I landed in Adelaide River just 1km from the caravan park. I need a CP tonight since I need a good shower and somewhere to wash some clothes, and also to charge depleted batteries, after 4 nights wild camping. I plumped for the $15 roadhouse / hotel park, which has welcoming green grass = luxury! Also plenty of temptations too - beer, chocolate, barra and chips etc., however I was camped quite near to the unfenced highway and didn’t fancy leaving all the stuff behind, so I cooked another delicious rice dish, and followed up with a couple of beers and bar of chocolate from the roadhouse.
When I first arrived at the roadhouse, hot from the road, I had a nice surprise - A couple asked me was I ever in Smokey Bay in SA - and I affirmed; turns out they recognised me from last November, when they were staying there same night as me! She remembers talking to me in the campers kitchen, and I was only vaguely aware that I’d seen them before. I forget his name, but she is Kate - I gave them my card and it would be lovely to hear from them. They haven’t been on the road since then, but are up here on another holiday - what a coincidence, and what good recognition skills!

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