Saturday, March 15, 2008

DAY 143: Day off in Rockhampton

PICS: Egret; friendly butcher board; roo, koala, cenotaph; Norm; 2 of Rocky streets; Botanic Garden; Butcherbird

Sat 15th March 2008

Distance to date 8550 km (5344 miles)

Sunny, hot

I’d planned a lie-in this morning but with people up early around me and the increasing noise from traffic on the nearby bridge it wasn’t to be. After saying au revoir to Norm I was off at 8 for some sightseeing, starting with the Botanic Gardens, about 10 minutes cycling away. The gardens cover a large area and there is a distinctly more tropical feel here compared to further south- there are many more varieties of palms for example that don’t easily grow further south. There is also several Ha of lake / wetland, and I spent a good hour watching the birds through the binocculars - all the usuals such as Black Swan and Ibis, but others I haven’t seen that much of yet such as Darters, Great Egret, Royal Spoonbills and what I think were Hardhead Ducks. The birds were thick in the sky, in constant motion, swooping and wheeling back and forth with food and nesting material in their mouths - busy place - a foretaste of things to come as I move north.

There is a free zoo at the BG too, but the animals and surroundings don’t look too great, and half the enclsures / cages had nothing in (or maybe they were hiding). There’s a decent cafe though, beautifully surrounded by shady trees, with the Lorikeets and Blue-Faced Honeyeaters scooping up scraps and crumbs practically out of the eaters hands. Very up-close, as was the Butcher Bird in the pic, who came and sat on the bike for a while right next to me.

Before noon I headed back into town; I had decided to buy some decent cycling-specific sunglasses as the third or fourth pair in 5 months have started to fall apart - If I’d bought decent ones to start with I would have saved some money. Anyway on the way to town I saw a bikeshop and they had a good selection, all around $60, so I chose a comfortable pair and handed over cash. Because they’re for cycling they don’t slip down when i’m riding like my old ones did. These new ones come with 4 spare (different-coloured) lenses in a nice neat and strong case - perfect.

For a Saturday, Rocky was like a ghost town. I’d heard there was a race meeting just outside town wh ich would account for some absences, but I sense that as most of the shops shut after the morning it’s always like this. It was very pleasant anyhow, and I really warmed to this place with it’s old buildings and wide streets. It’s smaller than I thought; maybe about 30,000 population I would guess. I had a Sub for lunch and spoent the afternoon back at camp fiddling with the bike, repacking bags and planning routes - oh and plunging into the inviting swimming pool at the CP.

Dinner consisted of yet another steak, the third in a row, seeing how there is a decent gas barbie here. It’s been another very warm day but the wind got up again in the afternoon which made it feel a little cooler. The weather forecast is predicting SE winds for the next week so I hope that’s right - it would be tailwinds all the way

Tomorrow or the day after I will pass north of the Tropic of Capricorn, 22.5 degrees south, but it’s pretty remote from civilisation for the next 300km or so, and as far as I can see I will need to stay in roadside rest areas - a very helpful gent at the VIC today made me up a photocopy map showing where all the allowable camping places are in this section - there are about 6 so I should be OK since it will take 3 or 4 days (to Mackay where I think i have a Warmshowers host.

DAY 142: Gladstone to Rockhampton

111 km at 19.7 km/hr
Fri 14th March 2008
Distance to date 8550 km (5344 miles)
Sunny, hot

After an early start away for 0815 for possibly another long day in the saddle. I was 4km on the 'wrong' side of the town but managed to negotiate the morning traffic without too much hassle. It was pretty hot already as I left the last of the suburbs behind. This place is an industrial centre with a local power station, aluminium refinery and petrochemical refinery nearby presumably providing lots of employment. It's not a 'touristy' place.

I'm going to be on the Rocky Road all day today - no, not eating my favourite sweet thing - riding on it. The road to Rocky, as it is endearingly called, runs parallel to the railway for most of the way, and I passed many trains hauling coal, ore etc. into the area. Some of the trains must be over 1km long, with 2 locos at the front and another 2 in the middle pulling their huge load. Soen are electric and some diesel.
Thankfully the road was reasonably quiet both on the 30km of highway from Gladstone to Mount Larcom, and then on the Bruce highway (Highway 1) from there to Rocky. Road surface was mostly good with a decent shoulder for 60 to 70% of the way. When there’s less traffic like today the shoulder isn’t quite as critical - less likelyhood of having to get off the road for lorries etc. I fitted the new K-Mart mirror this morning and for $8 or so it works very well.
Good news too that the SE tail wind was still on the go - I was averaging 20 km/hr or more for most of the time. Mentally, it makes you feel good. I stopped at Mount Larcom for coffee and steak pie (“hand made on the premises, and very nice too!), and again after 75km at Marmor. These breaks I find fortifying and I always feel better, more energetic, once underway again. These stops are a ‘reward’ for my efforts, and are important to me.
The scenery is quite nice on this stretch and although the road is as flat as a pancake there are quite a few mountains just a few km away as a backdrop.
As I entered Rocky I stopped at the Visitor Information Centre and met another touring cyclist there - the first for many weeks. His name is Norm from Canada and he’s just started off from Brisbane heading for Cairns, and then on to New Zealand. He came to Oz intending to buy a motorbike but finished up buying a $500 Cannondale bicycle. I naturally wished to stay at the same caravan park and we duly met up later on and camped neare each other.
The caravan park is by the river with a nice shady area for tents. Norm and I did supper together, he providing steaks and roast potatoes and me providing pasta - we had a really good feed once the manager got the camp kitchen lights to come on; we were cooking by torchlight for a while. It made for a very pleasant evening, and we were joined later by a Filipino gentleman and between the 3 of us we set about putting the world to rights.
As usual I had a great thirst later on, it had been a hot ride and I had drank around 5 litres; clearly this isn’t enough. Maybe I’ll get some Gatorade powder tomorrow to make the water a bit more drinkable and attractive. I’m having another day here so will have a good look around the place tomorrow - Norm is moving on north.
The rather gruesome caterpillar pic shows a hundred of these creatures all tangled up together gently moving (very slowly) down a tree. Their rear ends have a white coloured stabbing mechanism that seems to help anchor them and stop them falling down. I was watching this over breakfast (yeuchh!). They are each about 2" long (50mm).
The last pic is the bridge in the centre of Rocky - just across from the caravan park.