Thursday, March 13, 2008

DAY 141 - Miriam Vale to Gladstone

60 km at 20.0 km/hr
Thurs 13th March 2008
Distance to date 8408 km (5255 miles)
Sunny, hot

Another early start, but a relaxing hour over lazy breakfast watching the birds - close-up Kookaburras, various types of Honeeater, a Brahmini Kite and the ubiquitous Noisy Miners. Not to mention Butcher Birds and Peewits. It had been a noisy night with hundreds of lorries speeding past - I understand that the police were called out to try and deal with excessive speeders; someone called them apparently (me no dob ‘em).
Straight onto the Bruce Highway (Highway 1) today but the lorries were notable by their absence; just as well as there was virtually no shoulder for the first 10km and I just pulled off and stopped about 10 times as lorries tore past. After this the shoulder was much better. I reckon in 5 to 10 years time all of Highway 1 will have been ‘upgraded’ which means a good 1 metre minimum shoulder - there’s clearly a rolling programme of section upgrade. It’s SO much safer for bicycles.
It was HOT from the start today and remained so all day - little cloud to deflect the sun, and I applied sun block 3 times as it felt like I was burning. The road was less busy than last night, thankfully. The tail wind was still with me and I coasted along over 20 km/hr without much effort. I decided to take the detour around Tannum Sands after about 40km, but I shouldn’t have bothered! It was not a rewarding ride - Tannum Sands is a mundane, yuppified settlement of yuppies and retirees; it’s brand new, has no obvious centre apart from a large shopping complex - you can’t get to the sea although it is a seaside town (not that I could see anyway), so it was a waste of time. It was also pretty hilly to add insult to injury. Anyhow you have to try these things I suppose, sometimes it reaps dividends, sometimes not. I just found this place soul-less.
It was much further to Gladstone from tannum than I thought, and i was withering in the heat for another hour before rolling into town.
I sought out the only seaside caravan park but it was $27 a night and the only tent site was shadeless, so no go. The manageress was pretty unfriendly too despite my trying to chat. The nearby beach has a sign warning bathers of Stingers - I think these are jellyfish?? I therefore had to ride another 3 or 4
Km to another CP, but it was worth it - $18 and nice shady sites to choose from. There are also plenty of big stores nearby for supplies. After setting up I headed into the CBD to try the library - free internet but no pic uploading, so after checking e-mails I sought an internet cafe which also sold ice cream - cool - well, it was for a few seconds till the heat got to it. When I’d finished uploading I realised I’d forgotten my wallet - oops! The guy was fine about it and as it happened the lad that worked for him was staying at the same CP as me, so I could give it to him later.
There are afew decent cycle tracks in Gladstone, but although it’s a big place the traffic isn’t too bad on most roads. As with Bundaberg, there are lots of wide streets to contain the traffic. It’s a very modern city with only a few buildings in the CBD looking what you might call (in Oz) old. I picked up a big rump stake for $4 and a few veggies, for a barbie supper tonight, where I hoped for some socialising, however there was only one other person using these facilities and she was just cooking dinner and then taking it back to the van.

DAY 140: Bundaberg to Miriam Vale

121km at 18.2 km/hr
Weds 12th March 2008
Distance to date 8348 km (5217 miles)
Overcast, moderate S wind

Up early for what looks like a long day, and away by 8 after being waylaid by several other campers I’ve met here. Last night I was chatting to Lynn and Sean from Norfolk who scuba dive, well, Sean is this week on a course here in Bundaberg, and interestingly it only costs around $250 (£100) for the weeks course - much cheaper than UK and apparently an equivalent qualification to PADI that's widely accepted (forgot what it's called). Maybe I should have a go at this as there are likely to be other courses at future destinations seeing how the Great Barrier Reef attracts so many visitors.
Once underway and crossing the pathway at the side of the road bridge over the Burnett River (the only way north for a bicycle) I was to note that the southerly wind was still with us i.e. a tailwind for the 5th day running - just what’s needed for a long day. Although bright and sunny first thing, as per the last couple of weeks it clouded over before mid-morning, and was somewhat humid too.
Once on the Rosedale road, 4km N of the city, the traffic reduced from crazy to just busy, and thankfully after another 20km reduced further to more acceptable levels. There is no shoulder for at least two-thirds of today’s route, but as it got quieter it was less important. I was pleased to have my mirror in action again, the Araldite job seems to have lasted one day at least - fingers crossed.
After 30km I was starting to enjoy the day’s ride - the scenery, whilst not spectacular, is pleasant enough, being predominantly bush, and of course a tailwind is always a good motivator. I stopped for half an hour at Rosedale, where there was a ‘market’ on at the village hall. All that was for sale was a few plants, vegetables, and a load of bruck (jumble) and I was the only customer at the time. I bought a cup of tea and topped up my bottle with chilled water and moved on. From 30km on the road was undulating too, mostly gently with no long or steep climbs - an easy day really given the tail wind too.
At 94km I reached the junction of the Agnes Water and Miriam Vale roads where there is a roadhouse. Gatorade was required at this point and possibly some friendly intercourse, but I wasn’t gonna get it here - the management weren’t intrerested even though there were no other customers, so I gave up and carried on. It’s 26km from here to Miriam Vale, and with a strong tailwind I averaged over 20 km/hr for this leg.
I thought about staying at the MV pub which had been recommended by Aarn whom I met in Caboolture, but it can be a hassle what to do with the bike and bags so decided to decamp to the CP just north of town. After paying my $17 I was disappointed in the place which looked none too cosy and there was not another soul staying here - should have clocked it first and then gone to stay at the pub lol. I was further aggrieved to discover that I left my washing on the line at Bundaburg - my (only) towel, undies and a T-shirt. Grrrrr! I was too busy chatting this morning probably. I can do without the last 2 but will have to buy a new Lifeventure towel in Gladstone (next town).
I cooked a nice dish of pasta and had a glass of red which consoled me somewhat, and a 750ml bottle of iced coffee never touched the sides. My getting very thirsty in the evening probably means I’m not drinking enough during the day.
The pineapple cost 50 cents (20p) at a roadside 'trust' stall! It was delicious too, just right for eating.

DAY 139: Day off in Bundaberg

Tues 11th March 2008
Sunny intervals, hot, dry

Nice lazy start to the day, lying in sleeping bag, but when the sun hit the tent at 8 it was time to move! After a relaxed breakfast of muesli by the river I rode off. The city centre has wide streets and pavements and even on a normal working weekday like this there is no crowding, and I was able to cycle on the pavement without fear of colliding with anyone.I found a bike shop run by a gut with an Irish accent and I asked about a centre stand, but he only had side stands - however he recommended a particular one as being very strong (needs to be to support 60 or 70kg without falling over) so I took the plunge. I do miss the centre stand that broke for being able to stand the bike up independently, so hopefully this will work, although I’m not utterly convinced yet. One of my brake cables is a bit sticky and he told me about some liquid stuff that frees them up (it’s not oil apparently) but then he didn’t have the small bottle of this stuff, only a big aerosol, so I didn’t get it.

2 blocks away I found a hairdresser and got thoroughly ‘sorted’ - short haircut and beard thinned out with a ‘no.1’, and it now feels much better. The lady hairdressers were very friendly and we had a thoroughly good natter about everything. Next stop was internet place but on trying a different place to yesterday (which was SLOW) this place lost internet access as soon as I started so I went back to yesterday’s place and eventually completed uploading to date.
Time for lunch, which was a ‘fill your plate for $9 with Chinese dishes’ type of lunch, washed down with a Bundeburg ginger beer.
I spent the rest of the afternoon in the Botanic Gardens, where hundreds of Egrets were established with nests in the trees surrounding the lakes, and the Ibis as numerous as ever. There is a very attractive Japanese Garden here, which has been beautifully designed, asn shown in the pics, and I enjoyed a quiet half-hour listening to the wind-rustled bamboo and gently trickling stream, away from the madness of the world lol.
The rest of the day was spent chatting to my Norfolk neighbours and reading the paper, at the end of a very relaxing day off.

NB the white birds are Cattle Egrets (I think).