Monday, August 04, 2008

DAY 281: Dales Gorge to Karijini Eco Retreat

72km @ 11.7 km/hr
Thurs 31st July 2008
Cloudy, 22 deg C
Elevation of /destination 694m
Distance to date 17275 km (10797 miles)

Didn’t sleep too well for some reason but awoke early nevertheless to a neighbouring smoker coughing liberally over his or her first fag of the day. I decided to just get up and go, and after brekkie of jam butties got away by 0730.
I had originally thought to just head for Tom Price via the main bitumen road, and forego all the Karijini gorges, but changed my mind soon after setting off since I felt strong and positive enough to tackle the gravel through to the gorges, and Eco Retreat camping. I’d heard the road was rough, which had put me off, plus the ground is so hard for tenting in Karijini - loose red stone that last night felt like sleeping on a bed of nails - but hey, I’m up to it! Plus there’s a nice restaurant at Eco and SHOWERS too! I’m pretty mucky after 5 nights bush camping.
The first 11.5 km from Dale is bitumen, but just after the visitor centre the gravel starts and there will be no more bitumen today, or tomorrow for that matter.
The surface actually wasn’t too bad at first - for the first 20km I rode down a nice flattish strip in the centre of the road and allowed what little traffic there was to pass either side of me, which they were quite happy about. A tour bus stopped and the young lady co-pilot, who was a keen cyclist, asked me lots of questions and gave me an orange - cheers luv. I was pleased with my progress and at one point when the SE wind was behind me I was actually doing 30 - bit dodgy though on gravel, calm down buoy, there are still some rough patches here and there! The SE was short-lived though because very soon it was a a NW-er right in front of me, and my speed halved. Undaunted I plugged on, but the road surface deteriorated with increased and sometimes deep corrugation right across the road, and sandy patches, and I had to weave about at walking pace trying to find the best line to take. Hitting deep corrugations at speed is a scary experience, it feels like the bike is shaking itself to bits - don’t want to damage anything! Traffic was very understanding though and gave me a wide berth, slowed down, and gave me a wave or toot. They appear incredulous sometimes at seeing a cyclist in these remote places, and some of them tell me they’ve seen me several times on the road over the past few weeks.
I landed at the Eco Retreat just after noon, and went to look at the empty camping places to hopefully find a less gravelly one than that at Dale ast night. I found one, it was avaiable, so I paid my $25 (arghhhhh!!) and set up.
It was pretty cool in the afternoon, and sitting with a cuppa in the open kitchen / barbie area I could have done with a coat all right.
I rode out to Weano Gorge after lunch - a hard ride on a rough and rolling gravel road. There are some very steep but short hills and continuous undulations. The 10km took me 80 minutes, but it was worth it - at the Oxer Lookout there’s a 100m drop down to where 4 gorges meet, an absoutely awesome view, and there are some steep steps down to Weano Gorge itself, where you can walk through the deep gorge which is only a few metres wide, with vertical red walls towering above for 100 metres. The rocks have a crumbled appearance as if about to collapse - 2.5 billion years old - an amazing sight. Shame it was cloudy - the colours would have been even more amazing in sunshine.
I was much quicker coming back and got on with the blog since I planned to occupy my evening dining out, or so I had thought. After 30 minutes typing I had become very cold, and had to put on practically all the clothing I have (which isn’t much). I cycled up to the restaurant and confirmed that it was completely open ‘al fresco’, which would normally be attractive, but even as the first couple were being seated for dinner I heard them asking for the warmest table, and I figured what was the point in eating there in this cold weather? I would be cold, the food would become cold quickly, and it wouldn’t be the pleasant experience I’d anticipated. I’d been planning to push the boat out too and have whatever I fancied for once, cost aside. Never mind, I’ll get the chance again soon probably; maybe in Tom Price if I don’t stay here again tomorrow - haven’t made my mind up yet. I’ll see what the weather’s like tomorrow and if cloudy again I may just head on to TP since the other gorges I’ve not seen yet may be less spectacular.
Anyway it was just tuna sandwiches tonight, but at least I was warm inside the sleeping bag!

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