Monday, January 07, 2008

DAY 93: Orbost to Cann River

74 km @ 14.6 km/hr
Sat 5th January 2008
Distance to date 5903 km (3689 miles)
Sunny and VERY hot (lower 30’s)

Peaceful night, decent sleep, awoke to the laughing Kookaburra’s making a tremendous din before 6 (kind of din I like!). Another very warm and sunny morning, promising a very hot day, although the forecast is for cooler weather later (hopefully not too much later!). A lady whom I had spoken to at Stratford came to chat - I never got her name - her Campervan broke down and she was towed here back to Orbost from the hills where she was headed.
I was away by 9 (why does getting going always take too long?) and set off on Highway 1 with the mercury touching 30 (I reckon). There are now plenty of hills, increasingly steep, and with little wind there was nothing to dissipate the heat - I was sweating buckets and drank 2 litres in little more than 1 hour. The road is fairly busy - not so much as west of Lakes Entrance - but enough to distract attention from the surrounding environment in favour of scanning the mirror constantly for traffic coming up. There’s a decent shoulder (left) for the first 10km or so but this disappears for 30km later. Not many lorries around though, but plenty of caravans and motorhomes who gave me a wide berth in the main. There is plenty of tree cover both sides of the road too.
I stopped at the Bellbird Hotel for a ham and salad sandwich and mug of tea, and watched the cricket for a while (Oz v India). The sandwich was nice but the lady serving was rather unfriendly unfortunately. True to name, Bellbirds were regularly heard along this stretch of road. After this there is a long uphill for about 6km, not terribly steep at 7% or so, but fully laden in this heat it was a plod. It was VERY hot indeed, and I stopped a couiple of times in the shade to take a rest, drink of water, and to cool off a bit. I understand that it’s pretty hilly for the next couple of days en route to Canberra from here, but it is due to cool down a bit for a couple of days as I said, which should offer some relief.
I saw a few dead snakes on the road today, indicative of a higher local population? Or just reflecting the highj temperatures? I saw quite a few Pied Currawongs as well, with their single insistent call and haunting yellow eyes.
After a bit of downhill I rolled into Cann River with the CP on the right just by the river. $21.50 - one of the highest charges so far, and no camp kitchen and not exactly 5 star toilets / showers - bit of a rip off thank you East Gippsland council. The caretaker sympathised with my complaints and said that many others had said the same - too dear. I’ve no choice though really apart from going camping in the bush outside the town - just the lack of security that puts me off. However later on after leaving the more populated part of Oz I will be wild camping more often. For one thing you can almost guarantee a bit of peace.
I have no pasta and expected to be able to buy some here but everywhere’s shut as it’s Sunday, however I managed to buy a tin of beans at the garage so that will do instead.
The CP is pretty quiet so should be a peaceful night. It’ll be quieter still when I spread the word about the charges. I got a booklet about Canberra and it does look like there’s a lot to see and do. Heading tomorrow to Bombala - 87km - it shouldn’t be as hard as today as the weather has clearly changed now (at 2000), so it won’t be as hot. There’s nothing at all between here and there though so I need to carry whatever I need for the whole day. I’ll be heading due north so remains to be seen what direction the wind will be in. This is therefore the point where I ‘turn left' again as far as Oz is concerned; I’ve gone as far east as I am going to as I want to avoid all the traffic that will build up as Sydney is approached - and I haven’t been to Canberra so that works out OK.

DAY 92: Orbost - Marlo - Orbost

30 km @ 17.0 km/hr
Sat 5th January 2008
Distance to date 5829 km (3643 miles)
Sunny and very hot (lower 30’s)

Woke to the tinkle of Bellbirds and promise of a very hot day. I’m staying here in Orbost CP another night - partly to avoid a long ride on a very hot day and partly to get some e-mailing done on the Park Wifi. Unfortunately I’m not able to sign into my blog to add to it - probably bugs in the Windows Mobile 5 operating system on the Axim. I Phoned Lyn 2145 UK time and we had a good natter. Sher has 3 jobs on the go at the mo poor thing.
I went into town for a wander around, and it really is a pleasant little place. The park is very well done out with sculptures and mosaic floor tiles in places; very tasteful. Had a peek at the mens clothes in the Op Shop (charity shop to you in the UK) as I still haven’t replaced the (only) one I brought with me that I left at Salmon Gums in WA. Nothing I fancied, though I had a laugh at some of the clothes on the rack - some people must have a good sense of humour judging by some of the patterns and gaudy colours.
I grabbed a paper and spent the next 3 hours by the tent which is under a huge shady tree, nice and cool against the extreme heat out in the open. I can expect more very hot days over the next few months, but I should be able to build up days off to do little riding at these times. Several cups of tea later I decided to brave the sun and ride into the coastal town of Marlo just 14km away..
It was hard going on the way to Marlo as there was little shade and a headwind, but I was there within the hour anyway, just in time to watch the start of a triathlon. There were lots of people watching, and I struck up a conversation with an older local man about local stuff and my ride. Riding back was infinitely easier with the wind behind me and the later hour creating more shade on my left, apart from some moron who shouted out of the car window for me to "Get off the road". When I got back to the CP I sent a few e-mails again to try and organise accomodation in Canberra for 5 days or so, I have 3 different offers so will probably accept 2 of these with gratitude. I’m looking forward to exploring Canberra.

The evening light makes colours come to life so well, as in this shot in the CP of trees to the west:

DAY 91: Bruthen to Orbost

71 km @ 14.0 km/hr
Fri 4th January 2008
Distance to date 5799 km (3624 miles)
Sunny and hot (upper 20’s)

Up early and breakfast with Tez and magpies, with 6 King Parrots watching a few metres away. Said goodbyes and got on the East Gippsland Rail Trail again heading east. Away by 8 and already very warm, and plenty of flies as ever. The trail is just a delight to ride on, smooth, quiet, and quite shady and cool earlier in the day too. A few wallabies hopped across my path, and Bell Birds becoming increasingly evident - they have a single shrill, metallic note that’s hard to describe - a bit like a bell, or a high note on a xylophone or piano. It seems to reverberate for a few seconds after delivery. Eastern Whip Birds are also increasing with their strange whip crack-like call.
Yesterday the cloudy sky made for a flat-looking landscape but today was bright sunshine, and dappled shadows were cast by the trees.
After some 25 km I stopped to look at the Old Trestle Bridge over Stony Creek - this was the longest such bridge in Victoria at around 270 metres - it carried the railway but was not used after 1988 when the line closed. I guess it hasn’t been maintained and would be dangerous to use as a cycle trail - shame. The trail therefore has to plunge down the side of the valley and back up the other side - the latter being VERY VERY steep i.e. It must be 33%. No way of riding up it, and it was all I could do to push the bike up it. I had to get my feet secure and then push it forward a foot at a time - it took ages and lots of effort. I therefore deserved an egg and bacon roll and pot of tea at Nowa Nowa 10 minutes later.
I met Brian and Bente coming back from Orbost later on, and they asked me about the Discovery trail and whether it was worth the effort. I’ll be interested to learn how they got on, because I found it hard enough unladen, and they had all their gear with them.
More pleasant riding in the afternoon; I was actually going slow to make it last I was enjoying it so much, but I rolled into the pretty town of Orbost at around 1530. The caravan park is very nice but a bit dearer than Bruthen, at $18.50. It has wireless internet though , so that’s some compensation. It stayed very hot into the evening, and the Bell Birds numbered in their hundreds around here, making lots of melodic noise. I may stay another night here and get up to Canberra by the 11th or 12th, where I hope to stay with some hosts.

DAY 90: Bruthen - Lakes Entrance - Bruthen

71 k/m @ 16.1 km/hr

Thurs 3rd January 2008
Distance to date 5728 km (3580 miles)
Cloudy, low 20’s

I decided to leave the tent and gear here today and head down to lakes Entrance on the trails and tracks. I had breakfast with Brian and Bente, said goodbyes, and headed off around 9.
It took about 40 minutes to cover the 11km to the junction of the East Gippsland Rail Trail and the EG Discovery Trail which runs down to Lakes Entrance. A pair of wallabies scuttered across the trail and made me jump - still thinking about the wild dogs maybe. The Rail Trail surface remained good quality as yesterday, although there were a few steeper hills; in fact the section is just about all uphill, but gentle uphill as it was a rail line!.
The Discovery trail is not such good quality and is narrower. The first 4km includes some very steep hills both up and down, and quality deteriorates the nearer to Mississippi Creek Quarry you get. The 100m track off to the quarry is in a very bad state with some deep ruts and plenty of sand, but the quarry is worth a look - there's some interpretation there about it's use. The heavy rainstorm of a couple of weeks ago must have caused this flood damage, which is evident all the way along this track. The quarry produced stone for the development of the Lakes Entrance harbour and from here a tramway formerly hauled blocks of the stuff.
The cycle track follows this tramway, but is badly flood-damaged. I think I would have been better off with knobbly tyres rather than semi-slick road tyres, which proved very unstable with little grip. It took constant effort to stay upright. There is no way I could have done this fully laden as I first planned. I had to get off the bike in a few places to get past fallen trees and patches of deep soft sand. As always in the gum bush there was lots of debris - leaves, bark and branches - and one had to be vigilant that that piece of rolled-up hollow bark wasn’t a solid twig, which unless you hit it at right angles can skew the front wheel and cause loss of control. Thus there was little opportunity to admire the admirable forest vegetation - walking would offer a better chance of this.
The trail deteriorates even further in the last 10km (it is 25km long) with more sandy sections , exacerbated by trials bike riders, 3 of whom flew past me with little disregard for safety. Some 5km from Lakes Entrance a tarmac road runs parallel to the trail, and I jumped at the chance to abandon the latter. Very soon traffic built up and LE itself was teeming with tourists as expected. It’s best to get on the path wherever possible to avoid the speeding and dense traffic. Although the town has a beautiful setting, located at one end of the famous Gippsland Lakes, it is spoilt for me personally by the hordes, and by the commerciality of the place. Clearly thousands love it because it is said to be completely booked out this time of the year (Australian long summer holidays). I had a pie and cake and coffee and thought about leaving for a quieter environment. Funny how I dislike these coastal resorts yet really enjoy the big cities; can’t explain that.
I had thought this morning I’d cycle back the way I came, but having seen and done it i decided to take the easier road. It took me only half the time going back; up Highway 1 towards Bairnsdale then turn right at Swan Reach, and this second road was very quiet and much more enjoyable. The sun had still failed to show up, but despite black skies in the morning the rain also failed to materialise. It’s badly needed not only to replenish diminishing water supplies, but also to help extinguish a series of bush fires in this immediate area. I haven’t seen any of these fires, but saw a helicopter carrying a water bomb this evening, and I know from the newspaper that there is a fire near Orbost where I am planning to head tomorrow. It’s nearly 80km but I should get there OK unless prevented by fires.
I washed the chain in petrol tonight as it was covered in debris from the Discovery track - I don’t want the new cogs wearing out too quickly. It’s a simple operation with the Speedlink connector which takes only seconds to undo and refit.
Spent this evening around the fire in the campers kitchen with Tez and Johnny from Carlisle in England (working and touring for a year) and Peter the friendly caretaker. Johnny played a few tunes on the guitar; he’s quite good at Oasis and stuff like that; very enjoyable.
Hope I sleep better tonight - last night some *&#$%)@#$ left the radio on all night and I kept waking up.