Wednesday, August 20, 2008

DAY 299: Bush camp to bush camp 36km E of Kalbarri

103km @ 16.6 km/hr
Mon 18th August 2008
Sunny, 27 deg C
Elevation of /destination 219m
Distance to date 18614 km (11634 miles)

I hardly slept last night due to the bitter cold - I had most of my clothing on and remained tucked up deep inside the sleeping bag - but it wasn’t enough. And I was, mistakenly, well in the shade from the morning sun too, so it took a long while to get warmed up. I’ll have to think of something else for tonight in case it’s the same again. I rekindled the fire and ate my muesli huddled close to it. I am of course heading south pretty quickly so am catching the back end of winter down here; I will probably get some rain soon too, but will my tent in it’s torn state be up to it?!
As I was packing up the flies came along to annoy me so I reached for the net; but I couldn’t find it, and I think it must have blown off when I pulled it over onto the top of my helmet yesterday - drat - I’m going to miss that today what with the numbers being so high at the moment.
So it was a miserable start as I hit the road, and the flies commenced right away to annoy me, as if they knew my face was now freely available. Later on the wind sat on the side so they had more trouble hanging on, and I got some relief, though at the expense of having to pedal harder of course. The road slowly wound around and gently undulated, so it wasn’t so bad, but after 40km or so it became more hilly, and the bitumen shoulder disappeared. The Acacia bushes were in full yellow bloom though, adding a startling contrast to the brown and green bush vegetation. 10km or so before the Murchison River there are 2 rainwater tanks on the left, fed by a large roof, so I took the opportunity to top up, taking on around 6 litres. The water looks and smells OK, but any that I'm going to drink directly I’ll run through the Katadyn filter.
Around 7km N of the big Murchison River it gets more hilly, then the road takes a steep descent down into a very different landscape, with arable fields of grain and grass plus a sudden increase in wildflowers at the roadside. This is the first arable land I've seen for many a month; since the east coast I think. It’s obviously a lot more fertile down here, which I guess is part of the wide Murchison River floodplain. There’s a large rest area by the river so I stopped for a long-wished for break. Close up the river looks pretty polluted though, with lots of filamentous algae building up; probably from agricultural activities upstream.
As I sat down at the only available shady table a lady came and asked whether I’d like a cuppa, and I was invited to join them, just as they were starting their picnic lunch. They were husband and wife Joel and Helen, and her brother Rob, all from Perth. It turned out I’d seen Joel and Helen in Coral Bay - I’d passed them cycling back to the town as I was leaving - all 3 are keen cyclists. Helen plied me with food while the men asked me about the ride, and I answered as best I can with a full mouth. It was a lovely surprise to have lunch with them, especially since I’ve been it a bit of a foul mood being fly-bothered and tired, and I thoroughly enjoyed all the fresh salad after my somewhat repetitive diet, not to mention the joy of again meeting lovely people with interests in common. After saying my goodbyes Helen sent out a large bag of food for me - oranges, bananas, nuts, dates, vegetables - what a lovely lady! I’m warmed by such unexpected kindnesses, that have enhanced my trip so much. We exchanged details and I look forward to hearing from them again. From the rest area (at 60km today) it’s another 13 to the junction with the Kalbarri road, where I turned off right. This 13km is very hilly indeed, with some steepish climbs and descents, and this theme continues for the first 20km towards Kalbarri. The hills must be up to around 6%; some over 1km long, so it was hard going with all the weight I was carrying - not least the 10 litres of water. The flies were terrible, and it’s particularly galling as they congregate on you when going more slowly up hills; I felt like screaming at times and just wished I was somewhere else. How I miss that net!
With 10km to go the road thankfully flattens out completely, and I was coasting along nicely again, pulling myself together, and losing the flies somewhat. It was 1630, and I was looking for a campsite, and I came upon a gravel road off to the left which I followed, and which had several good sites well away from the road.
As I had plenty of water I stripped off and had a good wash down, which felt good, followed by a nice cuppa. The wine is all finished unfortunately. I didn’t light a fire tonight, but just after dark it became very cold and I took my dinner into the tent and ate tucked into my sleeping bag. I’ve fitted the tent outer shell tonight for a change - that will help retain a little warmth - plus I have a bit more clothing I can wear; let’s hope I can keep warm tonight.

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