Thursday, January 10, 2008

DAY 98: Day 1 off in Canberra

Fri 11th January 2008
42 km
Distance to date 6234 km (3896 miles)
Very warm & sunny

Last night I just lay down on the bed and fell asleep fully clothed, and didn't wake up until 0400 so must have been pretty tired. Felt much better thgough than I have recently with getting disturbed at night.

After breakfast I did a lot of sorting out on the computer - updating the blog, e-mailing, and lots else besides. Patrick's is a very fast connection and fast PC and a joy to use!
In the early afternoon I rode off into the city but managed to get lost on the cycle tracks and finished back where I started! It took a little more effort to get to the VIC where I had a good browse around, especially at the hot air balloon flights over the city.
I also collected a parcel from Lyn's son Gareth in Brisbane, which contained his old mobile which he has very kindly given to me complete with SIM card. He also put in several energy bars for me which was a nice thought.
The pics are views of Canberra from the the bridge over Lake Burley-Griffin; plus one of the cycle track.
In the evening Patrick, Christine and I went to friends Julie and Keith where we had a sumptuous gourmet 3-course dinner - absolutely delicious and a eal treat for me. J and K are also cyclists and we had a good old natter about everything bikes, including what route I should take from here to Brisbane - a lot of the routes inland are very hilly and maybe I would be making life hard for myslef by going that way - should I stick to the coast?

DAY 97: Cooma to Canberra

Thurs 10th January 2008
Very warm & sunny
112 km @ 13.2 km/hr
Distance to date 6192 km (3870 miles)

Thankfully had a really good sleep last night, no distrurbances, and I felt much better this morning.
I was unsure how today would turn out - I was due at Patrick and Christine's tomorrow (Friday) so I expected to find somewhere between Cooma and Canberra to camp, although there was nothing anywhere to say there was a formal campsite - but possibly a (personal!) bush camping site would appear.
As I rolled out at 8 it was already pretty warm and a hot day was promised, and it was also quite windy with the NE wind in my face. A hard day was likely.
I had been told by someone that this stretch of road was pretty boring, and this is actually true - all bush has been cleared to make way for sheep and cattle, though not many animals were apparent.
It was very slow going against the wind, and the gradual uphills seemed interminable in the very hot weather - it must have been 30 deg C by 1000. I though that I was actually climbing up to Canberra from Cooma, but in fact I later learnt I actually descended 200 metres! Such is the deception of a headwind.
Patrick had said that if anywhere it might be possible to stay at Michelago, but on arrival there there and after sitting in the shade for a while with iced coffee and sandwich, and considering that it was only 1300, I decided to press on.

The road is pretty straight as you can see, and you have the added discouragement of being able to see too far ahead what is in store - you can see it's going to be tough!

Today I knew it would be tough so made absolutely sure I looked after myself by drinking plenty (6 litres before and during the ride) and eating well, and also using plenty of sun block - there was no cloud cover or shade in these blistering temperatures. I think this worked quite well, and I never felt compromoised by the heat, even though my skin felt a little baked. Despite 3 applications of 2-hour sunblock I still had clear signs of over-tan on my arms, though no soreness. You just can't be complacent if out for long periods in this weather.
Before long I left NSW for the ACT, so yet another new state.
As I neared Canberra (30 km away) the wind eased and the road flattened out a bit, so I was up to around 18 to 25 km/hr, which felt good. There is a good shoulder all trhe way from Cooma, and with 20km to go it was designated as a cycle lane also. Canberra is reckoned to be the city best-provided for cyclists in Australia - they are everywhere, both an on-road and off-road (through parks etc) system.
I tried to ring Patrick from a filling station back up the road but there was something wrong with the phone, so I rolled into the city up Canberra Avenue into the centre, found a call box, and got through OK - and without hesitation. yes it was OK to start tonight - great! I had intended to get directions to the house but P insisted on coming for me in his 4x4 which has a roof rack for bikes, and a few minutes later we were saying hello and loading up.

On the way to the house Patrick told me a little bit about the planning of Canberra, and told me that although we were close to the city centre, and their were trees all around (it looked like bush!) there were actually housing estates behind the trees. The planning regulations are refreshingly strict here it seems, and the city is fiercely protective of it's many green areas. My kind of town!
I was made very welcome indeed (as always in Australia!) and after a shower myself, Christine and Patrick sat in the garden with a beer with all kinds of birds swooping around the houses. I was able to learn a little more about our feathered friends as P and C know quite a lot about them.
After a good dinner and wine I was just about shot, and I just lay on the bed as soon as I entered the room - amd fell asleep fully clothed until waking at 0400! It was a hard day but I now have an extra day in Canberra to look around.

DAY 96: Day off in Cooma

Weds 9th January 2008
Very warm & sunny

Not a good nights sleep again unfortunately - drinking session was going on until the early hours nearby, and then I was wide awake very early with the usual morning noises. I need to get to sleep early to get a full night’s quota of sleep.
I took my time over breakfast and headed into Cooma and to the camping / trekking gear shop as I have decided to chuck my old trousers and buy new, and get a shirt also to replace the one I left behind. The shop had a good selection and I got what I wanted. I also looked up the chance of a ride on the tourist train but it only runs weekends - beautifully-kept station though (see pic). I was also impressed with the dozens of mosaics on the edge of the park in the centre of town - they depict life and work in the area and are very well done.
I headed the 2km on the other side of time to have a look at the exhibition centre for the Snowy Mountain Hydro-Electric scheme, the biggest in Australia I think. It was built between the 50’s and 70’s to divert water from the mountains to augment the Murray and Murrumbidgee River systems and so irrigate land in these catchments, where rainfall is very low. The system is huge and includes 16 major dams, seven power stations (2 underground), a large pumping station, 145 km of interconnected tunnels and 80km of aqueducts. The system sits in the Mount Kosciuszko National park in the highest part of Australia (Mt.K is 2228m high).
The (permanent) exhibition is worth a visit, there’s lots to look at.

I spent a long lazy lunch at a pavement cafe watching the world go by and reading the Canberra daily and had little energy to do anything else other than a bit of shopping and riding back up to the CP. Lack of sleep made me a little jaded and my usual enthusiasm was somewhat lacking!

DAY 95: Bombala to Cooma

87 km @ 16.4 km/hr
Tue 8th January 2008
Distance to date 6080 km (3800 miles)
Cloudy & cool AM, warm & sunny PM

Poor night’s sleep thanks to another Mr.Snorer in a tent nearby - couldn’t drown the noise out any way. I was awake at 0515 so decided to just get up and get going. I hadn’t paid the camping fee yet as I hadn’t seen the caretaker last night, so I had to get on the telephone provided at the site (the caretaker lives in the town). he told me to just put the $20 under the door, but I only had a $10 and $50 note, so he said $10 would do (he he). That got me off in a good mood!
I was away at 0650 on a cool misty morning; a few logging lorries passed me early on so I had to squeeze off the road on the initially narrow shoulder. The shoulder did get better though after the first few km, and the drivers gave me a wide berth when they could. I started the day at 700m or so and the whole day was up and down - maximum height 1135m a few km south of Nimmitabel and finishing up at around 830m at Cooma. Some of the climbs were fairly steep - 8% or 9% - but never much more than 1km in length. The descents seemed more gradual though - which is good - nothing worse than a steep descent on the brakes, wasting energy. The landscape is mostly open sheep country, but there was hardly any wind v- in fact it was a very enjoyable mornings ride with the lower temperatures making it seem more like a UK ride. Traffic was fairly frequent but not oppressively so, and as I say a good shoulder most of the time.
Nimmitabel is about two-thirds of the way to Cooma and just the right time for lunch - cheese salad sandwich and muffin, with iced coffee. The latter has a big blob of ice cream dropped in it - mmmm. The elephant is built at the side of the cafe - interesting! It was very pleasant sat on the verandah in the shade - not bothered by flies for a change. The flies are still bad however, and I have to wear the net if I don’t want to get plagued, especially on the climbs where i’m going slow and the little beasts have full scope to mither me to death - in my ears, nose, and the corners of my eyes is especially annoying. I am getting used to them, but not that much. The net works very well though and is not really inconvenient to wear.
A few km after Nimmitabel there is the highest point at 1135 (N is at 1070m) and then there’s about 7km of gradual descent which is very pleasant, cruising down at 30 or 40 km/hr. There are still some steep rises though, which in a way I was pleased about, because I’m aware Canberra is quite high up, and height lost has to be regained.
Thanks to my early start I rolled into Cooma after a hardish day before 2. Yesterday had been harder though, with it’s rise from sea level to 700m, but that’s nothing compared to the European Alps which are twice as high. These are some of Australia’s highest mountains though.
Cooma is quite a nice place and a pretty big town - lots of shops - and a Subway! I spent an hour in the VIC Internet but it was sooo slow I gave up trying to upload images to the blog, it’ll have to wait until Canberra at the weekend.
The only CP ($19) is 1.5km out of town up a very steep hill, but it seems OK; I’ll probably stay another night here. After setting up I went to explore, but there’s not an awful lot that’s of interest to me - I fancied the tourist train ride but it only rides at the weekend - but I’ll probably have a lazy day with the paper and wander around. I need to book a VW campe for a week in Brisbane too, for when Lyn’s here next month - we thought we would try this out and I could show her what life is like in a Caravan Park!