Monday, June 16, 2008

DAY 235: Day 6 off in Darwin

15th June 2008

20 km @ 14.0 km/hr

Sunny, 31 deg C

Elevation of destination 37 m

Distance to date 14229 km (8893 miles)

Up as usual at around 0830 and after breakfast decided to change the oil in the Rohloff gearbox and turn the tyres around to get more even wear. No snags with the oil change - and unlike last time I changed the oil (in Melbourne) there was some old oil left in the hub - almost nothing came out last time, due to the oil leaking out at the start of this trip. Well, the gearbox doesn’t seem to have suffered as a consequence, it’s still changing smoothly and not slipping out of gear or anything at all. I swopped the rear and front tyres over and gave them a good examination for embedded objects - and duly found a small steel splinter well stuck into the front tyre but clearly it hadn’t gone all the way though, so I carefully removed it. Whilst I was at it I checked the trueness of the wheels, and it’s testament to Thorn’s wheel-building expertise that they are still running very true after over 15000 km, mostly with heavy load. The chain is in a sorry state, and very dirty, but no point in cleaning it when I am (hopefully!) so close to fitting a new one, once I get the new chainring.

Around noon I ambled into town and straight into Monty’s on the Mall for another delicious sandwich - ingredients as fresh and tasty as the first two, and after a long stay rode over to the Esplanade to type this stuff up on a shady seat overlooking the blue sea. Although there are lots of tourists in Darwin it doesn’t feel overcrowded ever - there are plenty of open spaces to accomodate all. I wandered off for my regular afternoon B&R Ice cream sundae but came back to read some more and watch a friendly game of 7-a-side rugby on the green. Lazy days, a far cry from pedalling 120km under load....

I hung around for sunset over the bay then headed back to camp for dinner.

DAY 234: Day 5 off in Darwin

14th June 2008

36 km @ 14.0 km/hr

Sunny, 31 deg C

Elevation of destination 37 m

Distance to date 14209 km (8881 miles)

The weekend comes around again and I’ll be spending it here in Darwin as I await my parcel. The post office isn't open again until Monday. I would probably have been moving on by now if it wasn’t for this, but it is a very nice place to be stuck - plenty to see and do, and good cycleways to get around on. All this pleasure is hitting my budget hard though, and I’ll no doubt bust it again this month. I could get used to this climate I think - at least now, in the ‘winter’, where it rarely drops below 30 deg C during the day. It has been a bit cooler at night recently thankfully, however if I lived here I’d have a fan going at night which would make it more acceptable.

Today I sought out a few places I haven’t been to yet - first off, the Charles Darwin National Park. This is only 3km from the Leprechaun Caravan Park, and comprises a few hundred Ha of thinnish forest and coastal mangrove swamps. You don’t get to see the latter, unfortunately, as the tracks don’t go that far, and the forested area isn’t very interesting; no wildlife or birds were seen. There is a nice view across the bay to the city, but little else to persuade me to linga longa.

From here I headed towards the city on the southern highway, which runs parallel to the Stuart Highway via Fisherman’s Wharf. There were hundreds of trawlers moored here indicative of the importance of the fishing industry to Darwin, and it’s also a centre for private yachts. I had been told of an excellent fish and chip shop here so as it was lunchtime it seemed a good time to try it out, so I ordered Barramundi and chips. As usual there was enough for at least 3 starving people, and I probably managed to devour around 80% of that so I did pretty well. The fish was straight off the boat, never been frozen, and you could tell that. Reminded me of the superb fish and chips at Kinlochbervie Fisherman’s Mission in N.Scotland, which I’ve been enjoying for the past 12 years when working out there.

I was looking for somewhere to sit / lie down for a while and have a read after the large lunch, and found some shady rocks at the front of the Deckchair Cinema down on the foreshore. However as I got comfy on the big rock-armour boulders the novel, that I just started yesterday (Cloudstreet, Australian classic by Tim Winton) fell from my grip and dropped between the rocks. It was some way down and out of reach, and I was starting to think I would have to abandon it until eventually I managed to lift it up a little with a couple of sticks so I could just get my fingertips on it. Anyone watching me probably wondered what the hell I was doing. I decided to go for an ice cream instead at Baskin-Robbins - I just can’t resist that place!

Whilst down at the shore I noted that there was a decent film on at the Deckchair cinema tonight - Brick Lane - and having read the novel I knew it was a good story (of Bangladeshi woman trapped in a miserable relationship with older man after arranged marriage), so after riding back to camp for shower and change I returned for the 1930 showing. It’s very pleasant watching the film unbder the moon and stars - and cooler and more airy - although I had to put plenty of mozzie repellent on to ward off the usual sporadic evening attacks. I get bitten at least 6 times every night no matter what I do. Occasional white streaks across the screen indicated other, larger, flying insects, as well as the odd bird and bat looking at what was going on. Curry dinner was being served from 1830, and it looked good too, but I was still quite full from the massive lunch so just contented myself with a couple of beers and bags of crisps. The deckchairs are pretty comfortable but most patrons took one of the available cushions to lean back against. The film was pretty good, and I enjoyed the whole experience. It would have been nice with someone to go with, but I got to chat a little to the ladies sat next to me. I have had little social contact since staying with Kingsley actually; the Warmshowers hosts I had planned to stay with here in the city were away at the weekend and I didn't make contact with them until very recently, and it was hardly worth me moving so close to leaving Darwin.

Afterwards I saw very little traffic on the easy ride home, which took only 15 minutes or so. I enjoy riding at night; no wind, just warm air slipping past and the usual night sounds and rustlings from unseen fauna.

I’ve pretty much done Darwin to death now I think, so will spend the next couple of days doing some bike maintenance and just resting and reading.

DAY 233: Day 4 off in Darwin

13th June 2008

24 km @ 15.0 km/hr

Sunny, 32 deg C

Elevation of destination 37 m

Distance to date 14173 km (8858 miles)

Usual relaxed start to the day and a ride down to upload at the Book Exchange, however my card reader refused to power up when connected. It has been a bit iffy for a few weeks but has eventually worked, but not today. I was able to use the SD port integral to the PC I was using, but I’ll have to replace the reader, and might as well do it whilst in Darwin where such an item is easily available.

Whereupon I cycled up to an electronics shop I was at yesterday and bought a universal card reader for $20. Afterwards I rode around for a while and finished up in the city again and back to the cafe where I had the nice sandwich on Tuesday, Monty’s on the Mall - and it was just as good today. Such a lovely spot for eating too, in the middle of the Mall where there’s lots going on - the cafe always seems to be playing Bee Gees music (what’s wrong with that?) but today a small group of Aboriginal men were making tribal music in competition. And there are a couple of Chinese masseurs offering their services, and plenty of takers too - I may try this before I leave, it looks so relaxing. And just people watching is always interesting, so it was a pleasant couple of hours alternating between these distractions and the Telegraph Weekly (and eating). It might not sound very exciting but it’s one of my favourite pastimes.

I checked at the PO but the chainring from St Kilda Cycles hasn’t arrived yet, and when I phoned up to inquire Vince wasn’t in today and no-one else knew whether it had been posted or not. No change there then, those people don’t seem to talk to each other; remind me NEVER to deal with them again.

Back to the internet place to check out the card reader, and it was fine, and I chose a novel while I was there - Cloudstreet by Tim Winton - a recommended Australian classic.

Where’s the day gone? Didn't take any pics today, unusually.