Wednesday, January 02, 2008

DAY 89: Stratford to Bruthen

85 km @ 17.4 km/hr
Weds 2nd January 2008
Distance to date 5657 km (3536 miles)
Very warm; SW tailwind

Thankfully awoke feeling quite supple rather than crippled as was the case yesterday. I’ve really enjoyed my stay here and would recommend Stratford as one of the better (but not most expensive) caravan parks. It took me the best part of an hour to say goodbye to everyone I’ve met in the 2 days here; everyone offering advice about where to go and where to stay, and asking for my e-mail address etc.
I had a good tail wind which blew me along Highway 1 at over 20 km/hr and by noon 52km later I was rolling into Bairnsdale. This is a commercial centre similar to Sale, but a pleasant place nonetheless with wide streets and nice shops and cafes. I stopped right in the centre at the Visitor Information Centre (I’ve referred to these as TIC’s previously rather than VIC’s which I shall use in future), which happens to be next door to Subway. Food came first, but one Spicy Italian 12” with Caesar Sauce and tomatoes / olives / lettuce later I was bombarding the VIC man with questions. My main dilemma was how to get to Canberra - there are several options. My original idea was to take the Buchan / Barry Way to Jindabyne, which involves 80km or so of gravel, but several reports have deterred me recently. John, whom I met at Stratford, has relatives in the remotest part of this area told me that it is a very hard road indeed - steep, narrow and poorly maintained, and if that wasn’t enough, there are occasional reports not widely publicised of packs of wild dogs roaming around. Not yer dingoes, which are only a little bit dangerous, but these babies are VICIOUS if you come across them, and locals always carry guns for protection. He told a story about a pack that chased a lady on horseback for miles until she just made it home to safety, but had to stay inside for hours until they went away. In some places traps are set for them and where they are trapped they‘ve been known to tear trees to pieces in their angry efforts to escape. Er, no thanks; I couldn’t relax now having heard that anyhow - I’m adventurous, but not that much! Apparently they were originally loggers / farmers dogs who escaped or were abandoned and then went feral. I can just see myself stuck up a tree for a week waiting in vain to get rescued with snarling, salivating dogs down below waiting for me to fall out and then eat me.
Option 2 was to take the C545 Omeo to Corryong road, but most of 1 above applies to this road also - very remote. It was the VIC man in Bairnsdale today that said the roads were rough and corrugated.
Option 3 was the Omeo to Callangatta road, but that means quite a long wat round to Canberra.
Option 4 is the one I have chosen, OK it’s the cowards way out - the Monaro Highway from Cann River to Canberra - it’s all metalled, and not too busy, and this means I can use all of the 100km of Rail Trail
From Bairnsdale to Orbost - always a pleasure to be free of traffic for a while - a couple of days in this case.
Having made this decision I spent an hour looking around Bairnsdale, especially at the beautiful Catholic church, St.Mary’s, also next to and looming over the VIC. It’s more like a cathedral it’s so big - unusual in Oz outside the main cities - and the murals inside are very nicely done. I particularly liked the graphic 25m wide depiction behind the altar of heaven (above) and red hell (below) and good old purgatory in between. Every inch of the walls and ceiling have pictures, and whether you are religous or not it is well worth a look.
I also went to the chemist and bought some Lucas’ PaPaw Ointment, which many people have told me is great for saddle sores and the like. I’ll try anything as mine are still lingering on.
I was now really looking forward to the afternoon on the East Gippsland Rail Trail
(Having decided against staying the night in Bairnsdale). The pamphlet I’d been given at the VIC explains how to get onto it and this proved easy, unlike at Moe a few days ago. The trail is very well surfaced and passes through pleasant farmland for the first few km, before bush vegetation becomes more predominant. It is easy to get through the ‘barriers’ where a road crosses; there are several tunnels, bridges and cutting as you would expect of a former railway line, and it is very pleasant to ride indeed. Quite a few
birds around and pleasant country smells -and no traffic of course. I saw a few other cyclists including a lady whose name I have forgotten who rode with me for a while before turning off for home. She was telling me about the 4 years she spent in Scotland, in Perth and Stirling mostly. After 20-odd km I arrived at Bruthen where I knew there was a CP. Bruthen is a very small village on the Great Alpine Road, and as I rode in i went to speak to 2 other cyclists, Brian and Bente - a couple riding the area for a couple of weeks, also taking the EGRT east tomorrow like me. We got together back at the CP ($10 before you ask by the way) and chatted all about routes and rides. Brian may try to set up for me to meet the Brisbane Cycle Touring Club in February which would be great. Yet another sociable evening; as I said before I may be riding alone but I have plenty of regular friendly company.
This CP is by the river and there are plenty of mozzies around. The flies had been OK today though apart from the last 10km when they were in plague proportions. I also took a large insect - God knows what - into my mouth today but managed to spit it out quickly. This is Australia (and I like it!).

St.Mary's Bairnsdale - lovely catholic church.

DAY 88: Day off in Stratford

Tues 1 January 2008
Very warm all day

Just as well I’m having a day off because I woke up with severe backache. The slightest move caused me intense pain and I couldn’t reach my pain killers which were in a bag outside. It had been a very hot night - not sure about here in Stratford but in Melbourne it was still 30 at midnight according to today’s paper - and so I was wearing very little (don’t get excited please ladies) , and it was a real struggle to get some clothes on since I was hardly able to bend at all. Eventually I managed to crawl out like a cripple onto the grass and get some tablets (3!), but it was fully half an hour until I was able to stand. In the meantime some people had passed but didn’t ask what was wrong, when it was evident something was wrong; possibly they put it down to a New year Party hangover! Once the medicine took effect things improved fairly quickly and I was up and about again. A very nice (formerly) Polish lady, Anna, passing with her dog, was very kind and looked quite concerned about me.
I still took it very easy and spent a lot of the day reading the papers - there were even papers today too despite the holiday. It was very hot by just 0900 and it was going to be a scorcher all right - not a cloud to be seen. The pool opened oat noon and I was there soon after getting in when hot; out for a while; back in when hot x 10 or so etc. Gentle swimming seemed to loosen the back up even more. There’s a kiosk at the pool to get ice creams and cold drinks too so that added to the pleasure. I could practically see the tent and my stuff from the pool too.

I tried a new kind of ice cream - dippin' dots! I've never seen this before, but it comprises a tub of little ice cream balls some 2 to 3 mm in diameter (you get around 10,000 for $5.50!!!) and they are delicious - a sensuous icy cold tingle as the balls hit the tongue - ahhh!! (:->)

Anna checked that I was OK in the evening and we chatted about how she had travelled extensively and lived in Australia, Italy, Sweden, Spain and other places. She has for the past four and a half years been looking after her sick father, and is just taking a well-earned break here.
Nothing much else to report today so I won’t waffle unnecessarily; only took 2 pics too.

This magpie came a few metres away from the tent whilst I was eating dinner and sang a beautiful song to me for ages, and I tried to teach him or her a song too without success. They are very interesting birds and I must find out more about them.