Monday, August 04, 2008

DAY 280: Bush camp to Dales Gorge

41km @ 14.9 km/hr
Weds 30th July 2008
Sunny intervals / cloudy!, 25 deg C
Elevation of /destination 670m
Distance to date 17203 km (10752 miles)

Another good campsite and peaceful night, so quiet in fact that this morning I thought I heard an animal scraping around near the tent which proved to be my tummy rumbing! Picking my way carefully through the sparsely-spaced spinifex I was back on the road at 0900 and rather than the expected SE-er, which ALWAYS blows in the morning, it was a dastardly NE-er! What hard work - plugging along slowly up a draggy incline again - thankfully it was ony 15km to the turn into the Karajini NP. Then another 10km mostly with the wind up to the NP visitor centre and what I believed was a caravan park. I must have misunderstood the map because there was no CP. I had expected to get a shower and get batteries charged - all my batteries are flat, even those in the camera. The shower could wait, or I can still get a good wash down, but the batteries? Ah - a sign at the VC desk said batteries charges for $4. Hmmm - and when I said I had 8 AA’s to charge the first reponse was that it woud cost me $32!!! You’re kidding said I? We evetually haggled it down to $4 for 4; still expensive. There is apparently no power anywhere in this NP. I wasn’t too impressed with the visitor centre either - they charge that for charging a few measly batteries but because no-one thought to put too many windows ino the exhibition area there are lots of lights on which will cost a hundred times more than my batteries - and still it was hard to read the displays. The video theatre was out of action too, and the shop sold very little worth buying. There’s an opportunity here to have a cafe - there isn’t another for 40km for example - someone needs to have a look at this place as a going enterprise. In contrast the VC at Katherine Gorge was excellent.
I collected some water from the tank, which was covered in bees all trying to get a drink in desperation and a few of which alighted on my person, and rode the 10km out to Dale Campground ($6.50 pppn) which is operated by the NP authority CALM. The caretaker couple were very helpful, but the site I was given was pretty dire - bare broken stone unsuitable for tents. I spent half an hour clearing an area of stones before setting up. Not a good day so far.
In the afternoon I rode down to look at the gorge and it is indeed very beautiful, but the water coming into it, in which people were swimming, looked pretty polluted with lots of green algae coating the rocks and bed. I think it’s fed from cattle country which might explain this. I got chatting to a couple from Sydney, David and Diane, and was telling them about the difficulty in getting batteries charged, and they kindly offered to charge some more up when they fire up their portable generator tonight!
I duly went around at the appointed hour of 5, and was invited into their caravan to have a beer and watch the news on TV while waiting. And I was also given a steak for the barbie for dinner tonight - great! That was very nice of them, and an hour later I was firing up the gas barbie and gas rings and making dinner and sipping some pink stuff. The cooking facilities are good, but there are no showers here, or even water, just composting toilets. I shall move on tomorrow west to see the other gorges.
During my ride here this morning there were some black clouds overhead, and it did indeed rain in Tom Price just 100km away. First cloud I’ve seen for months. It was quite overcast during the day here too. I’m surprised that this altitude isn’t colder than it has been the ast few nights - it’s warmer at night here than at the coast.
I had a nice sociable hour at the cooking area as people came, cooked, and left again, and learnt a bit more about what lies ahead.

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