Tuesday, March 18, 2008

DAY 146: Carmila to Mackay

DAY 146: Carmila to Mackay
91 km at 20.5 km/hr
Tue 18th March 2008
Distance to date 8873 km (5546 miles)
Cloudy, sunny intervals

I didn’t sleep well last night due to the neighbouring couple leaving the TV blaring until the early hours, and a mammoth family row going on nearby. After a quick muesli breakfast I hit the road at 0720, glad to get away from this place. Why didn’t I just find somewhere at the side of the road to camp? There would have been somewhere suitable I’m sure given the remoteness of the area.
The road was busier today than the last 2 days, mostly extra lorries; however there was a good width for the whole of today’s route, so I never felt pressured. The SE wind was just as strong as ever too, so I was blown along very nicely. There’s still nothing in the way of a hill other than gently undulating sections, and even when going uphill I rarely dropped below 15 km/hr.
After 12km I spotted the rare sight of another touring cyclist coming south towards me so I pulled over and waited for him. We were quite delighted to meet as you see so few cyclists out on the open road, and we had a good chat for a while. His name is Mark, from Barcelona, and he is riding from Cairns to Sydney. He came out to Oz with his girlfriend and they bought a campervan, and as I understand it she has gone back to Spain and left the campervan in Sydney for him to collect, so at least he has somewhere to live for now and some transport. I gave him my card and he will hopefully be in touch when he gets chance.
I stopped for a rest at Ilbilbie and decided to have a bacon and egg roll, but when it came it included salad, cheese and a pile of chips! Far too much for me but I kept the chips for later and ate the rest; not quite what I was after though, still it only cost $6.50 so I shouldn’t complain. Thus fortified I continued north over muddy creeks, weaving through broken branches and bits of lorry and shredded tyre scattered along the road, until I rolled into Sarina, a small town 35km before Mackay. I tried the library for internet but it was expensive and the librarian had no idea whether I could upload, so I didn’t try and went to the nearby internet cafe instead and got it all done in no time for $3, and had an iced coffee whilst at it.
The run into Mackay from here was very fast - the wind was strong and bang on the tail. I knew I needed to be at Peter and Jackie’s at 1730 so I had time to kill, and I had a look around the Botanic Gardens, which are close to the road in from the south. They’re nice enough but very new - planted from 2002 I think, so there were few big trees for shade, and not so much to look at; however it will be very nice in 10 years or so. There was a nice cafe there too but it’s closed on Mondays and Tuesdays unfortunately. From here I went to have a look around the town, which is pretty modern and a bit sprawling at first sight, but I understand there is a lot more to see than this. I saw a bike shop and went in to buy a rear light after losing my last one somewhere, and Norm was in there, whom I met in Rocky! He had broken a spoke so was having his wheel rebuilt. I gave my host Peter a call and he said it would be fine to bring Norm along to stay tonight too. Once Norm’s bike was sorted we went for a coffee and cake to await 1730 and had a good natter.
Peter and Jackie and their 2 boys Tamma and Bellamy, and not least their very friendly dog Cactus, made us very welcome in true Warmshowers style. Throughout the evening we learnt about what to see and do both locally and further north as we travel to Cairns. I was particularly interested in visiting Cape Hillsborough which several people have recommended, it being very quiet and unspoilt with idyllic beaches and peaceful rainforest, and it’s not too big a detour either. Tamma cooked us all a great spag boll (the family take turns in cooking dinner) and afterwards we watched the Graeme Obree DVD “The Flying Scotsman”, which I haven’t seen before and really enjoyed.

DAY 145: Marlborough to Carmila

130 km at 19.9 km/hr

Mon 17th March 2008

Distance to date 8782 km (5489 miles)

Cloudy, sunny intervals, 26 deg C

A nice quiet night and up at 0630. Unable to engage with either of my 2 neighbours so not a very sociable experience - even in the pub I couldn’t get a conversation, oh well, thank goodness that’s unusual. I was on the road by 0730 since this will be another long day.

Much the same as yesterday, todays stretch is similar scenery (flat plain with hills in the middle distance); perhaps a little bit more undulating today but no steep hills or sharp bends - long straights of 3km or more were common. An adequate shoulder is present for about 50% of the way, but the absence of shoulder was of little consequence as a result of the sparse traffic - a few more lorries today (especially wide loads for some reason) but no more than one vehicle every 1 or 2 minutes.

At 33km there was a roadhouse where I had the usual iced coffee, stared at mercilessly by a 50-seater coachload of what mostly appeared to be Swiss tourists. I gleaned from one couple that the package tour started and finishes at Melbourne; north on the east coast to Cairns, west to Darwin then south via Alice Springs and Uluru. I couldn’t think t the moment of anywhere I would less like to be than on that tour.

At the halfway point I had a half-hour stop at a rest area then on to Kalarka Roadhouse at 100km for more caffiene. Another tour group were having a break there, with Oziexperience, who seem to have a lot of buses on the road; this one was Melbourne to Cairns over around a fortnight.

Not much else to report for today, though that doesn’t mean I’m bored, far from it - there are occasional interludes today for example where I saw a black snake slither away into the grass; a Wedge-Tailed Eagle tracked me overhead for a while; I spent some time looking for Koalas when I saw a sign warning of their presence; lots of Black Cockatoos screeching around - and there’s always the Wicked Campervans to read. A company with this name hires out campervans which are all painted differently grafitti-style and with different jokes or logos - for example “Virgins wanted - no experience necessary” or “Toot if you’re sexy” etc. etc. It must be quite a big company as lots of these pass me every day. Some of the rest of the time is just spent deep in thought, about life, love, the next ‘project’ etc., or just spent in a dream-like spiritual state - no, I never find this boring even for over 6 hours as per today.

I called it a day at Carmila which gives me 113km to Mackay tomorrow and my Warmshowers host Peter. I’m looking forward to having a look around the town as it sounds pretty interesting. I spotted the library as I entered town and for once I was in luck, finding the library open on one of it’s 2 days a week of opening. And yes, I could use the internet but I was warned it was ‘very slow’ - indeed it was, and I barely managed to send a couple of e-mails in half an hour, and didn’t even bother trying to upload. And then I was asked for $2 when no charge had been mentioned to me earlier! I then had a quick look around the town (that took 5 minutes lol) and then armed with 2xGatorade from the 24-hour service station I cooked spaghetti at the tent. There seemed to be fewer mosquitos around here - the last 2 nights have been pretty bad and I sustained several attacks, all over the body. A nosy Brush Turkey was mooching around for scraps though, and when I went to the toilet block there were dozens of frogs all over the place and i tried to avoid standing on one as they make such a mess! It’s a bit more noisy here compared to last night but it should settle down a bit later - I hope to be up and about early again tomorrow.

DAY 144: Rockhampton to Marlborough

t that time

102 km at 20.3 km/hr

Sun 16th March 2008

Distance to date 8652 km (5407 miles)

Cloudy, 26 deg C, rain in afternoon

Up at 7 and realised I had a friend sharing last night without knowing it - the Green Tree Frog in the pic. It was resting on top of the inner mesh tent just over my head. They’re a very vivid colour and seemingly quite tame as it took it’s time going home, wherever that is, a tree presumably.

Rain before dawn had ceased by the time I rose so I just had to dry the tent out a bit with the chamois. I spent quite a bit of time looking for somewhere open to buy bread, and I also phoned Lyn back home, so it had turned 10 by the time I left town. The good ol' SE tail wind was blowing away, and after the first undulating 10km or so the road became flat and I was cruising at well over 20 km/hr without much effort - this is the life! Compensates for all the hard headwinds on the Nullabor!

The Bruce Highway is in pretty good shape here with some 90% of today’s route having a good shoulder, plus it was Sunday and traffic was fairly light with few lorries. Around half the vehicles seem to be campervans or caravan rigs. Apparently central and north Queensland is entering the busy holiday season (the rainy season is ‘supposed’ to finish soon, but this has been an abnormal year by all accounts so we’ll see).

There is nowhere to buy food or drinks for some 80km today so I was glad of the bread and scones that I bought this morning. I stopped at a rest area at around 50km and had jam butties and some of Rocky’s best tap water.

Today’s ride was pretty pleasant; nice scenery, light traffic, not too hot, tail wind, so I felt good and well-motivated. I got quite a few toots from passing motorists, and even long hoots from 2 trains - the railway line (from Cairns to Brisbane) runs next to the road for a long way. It seemed funny to think that Lyn and I travelled on this line in December 2006; at that time I had kept a close eye on the quality of the road and shoulder when I could see the road from the train. It was nice to chat with her this morning; I am missing her a lot after we were together again for 2 or 3 weeks, and I read again the beautiful words she wrote on my birthday card (7 March).

Wildlife tally for the day also included a gang of Red-Tailed Black Cockatoos, a family of Kites (I think) and a live snake slithering off the road. I stopped and went back to have a look again at the latter but it had gone.

At 90km disaster struck and my rear tyre went flat. Luckily there was an embankment at the side of the road where I could lean the bike and strip everything off the rear end. A piece of the outer tyre had lifted away to expose the lining beneath, plus there was a metal staple stuck through into the (new extra-thick K-Mart) tube, so after 9000km, mostly on the rear wheel, it had reached the end of it’s life. It’s a Schwalbe Marathon Supreme, a fairly slick road tyre, and the new one is the first of a pair of Schwalbe Hurricane Raceguard which is quite knobbly. It seems to ride well though with no noticeable loss of speed.

After 95km a BP service station materialised and I had an iced coffee and asked for some water, but was refused - the lady assistant said they didn’t have mains water and weren’t allowed to let anyone have ‘untreated’ water - that’s a new one after 5 or 6 months here; I’ve never been refused before.

As it was around 4 I decided to call it a day at Marlborough, and rather than stay at the CP, which is quite close to the Highway, I cycled the 2km off the highway to the village pub where you can camp for free, pay $2 for a shower, and get some peace and quiet, not to mention a pub dinner - I haven’t eaten out for a while. There weren’t many other campers so it should be quiet, and after a shower, cuppa and Sudoku I went over and ordered Barramundi and chips, washed down with a couple of beers.