Thursday, July 03, 2008

DAY 251: Bush camp to bush camp 19km W of Saddle Creek RA

Tues 1st July 2008
154 km @ 20.8 km/hr
Sunny, 32 deg C
Elevation of /destination 50 m
Distance to date 14971 km (9357 miles)

The temperature dropped considerably last night, to around 6 deg C or so I’d guess. I was aware of being cold despite sleeping OK. Tonight I’ll get into my silk bag liner as well as the sleeping bag, which should help if it’s as cold again. I enjoyed the utter silence of the bush, without human intervention other than the odd passing vehicle. Even those sounds were muted as I was some 300m from the highway.
I got away around 0840 with thoughts of a ‘treat’ early on; the Timber Cree Roadhouse at 17km, and the SE to E wind had picked up a little from yesterday afternoon, being now moderate to fresh. I reached the roadhouse in under an hour, and enjoyed a toasted sandwich and iced coffee, and chats with half a dozen caravanners. I failed to see the rare Gouldian Finch, one of Australias rarest birds, which are found in reasonable numbers very local to here.
I continued in very good spirits after a couple of ‘down’ days; possibly the result of 2 good nights’ sleep, and of course the tailwind helped lift spirits considerably too.
At around 20km the road runs alongside the Victoria River, which is some 200m wide here and still tidal apparently despite being a long way from the sea. I think it's NT's largest river. There is pedestrian and cycle access to a bridge across the river which provides great views of the river near here too.
Increasingly throughout the day the characteristic Boab (bottle) trees make an appearance, becoming more common as one travels west. The are massive and strange-looking trees that provide fantastic shade if required. They look even stranger having dropped all their leaves recently. Some of them have split trunks whereby 2 or more trunks are evident. There are also many Kapok trees with their yellow flowers, and at the moment, avacado-size fruits - I don’t know if they’re edible though, as well as the odd red-flowered Kurrajong. Turkey Bush is also common and is currently showing it’s pinkish-mauve flowers. The grass cover in between is mostly Spinifex with it’s sharp thorn-like ‘grass’ blades, and Sorghum.
The scenery becomes rugged and mountainous again as you pass through another part of Gregory NP - the dramatic red terraced cliff faces as per the pics, however the road hardly deflects from being dead flat. This together with the good tailwind accounts for the high average speed (for me) today. It seemed a good day for getting a good distance in, and I kept going until almost 1800. After some 95km I spotted another cyclist under a shady tree, and it turned out to be a middle-aged couple from New Zealand cycling to Kununurra. We chatted for a while, and I forgot to ask their names, but I’m fairly sure I’ll see them again while I spend a few days there.
I had been told by the cycling couple that Alistair was only a few km in front of me, but I didn’t see him if he was. I half expected him to be at Saddle Creek rest area, but he wasn’t, and no-one seemed to have seen him either, so I must have passed him unknowingly somewhere. A few km before reaching Saddle Creek there was another magnificent display of red rocky mountains alongside the road, which looked deeply coloured in the late afternoon sunshine. As I was heading roughly west the sun was a bit of a nuisance in front of me, dazzling me and hiding the landscape from view.
I didn’t stay long at Saddle Creek (135km) since it was very busy with caravanners, and a bit dry and dusty, so after more chat and topping up water from the tank there I kept on going. Unfortunately the nice wild camping sites only lasted for another few km, and once the mountain range slipped away the land either side of the road reverted to cattle grazing and was thereby fenced off. However the strip between fence and road was wide in places so I easily found a camp set back from the road, and there were plenty of flat areas to pitch the tent too. I just hope the cattle stay the other side of the fence - I can hear them moving about nearby as I type.
I finished the last of my vegetables prior to crossing through the food quarantine checkpoint at the West Australian border tomorrow some 70km down the road. No fruit, veg, honey and unprocessed nuts are allowed into WA to prevent the influx of plant disease.
I will be in reach of Kununurra tomorrow, it’s only 94km away, and I will spend 2 or 3 days there as there’s lots to see and do, and I’ll decide finally whether to ride the 730km gravel Gibb River Road to Derby after taking local advice.

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