Wednesday, July 09, 2008

DAY 258: Turkey Creek Roadhouse to bush camp 58km N of Hall’s Creek

113 km @ 14.9 km/hr
Tues 8th July 2008
Sunny, 30 deg C
Elevation of /destination 366 m
Distance to date 15379 km (9612 miles)

My caravan park jinx continued last night when some blackfellas turned up at 2330 and noisily put their tents up near mine, but after a while I blanked it out and must have fell asleep. They woke me again at 0530 as they got up again and dismantled their tents, so what the hell, it was starting to come light so I got up too. It was windy in the night, unusually, and it quickly strengthened with dawn’s light to fresh to strong.
Once underway I was pleased to find that the wind was just behind me, but only just, and a slight turn to the left negated any advantage. The advantage held for the first 80km so I made better progress than yesterday, however it was more hilly today. The road hardly ever staightens and is a series of long bends and Toblerone hills - small hills, but each descent was followed by a slightly bigger climb up which accounts for the 300m or so increase in altitude today. At 25km there is a steeper climb for 3 or 4km, around 4 to 6% I’d guess. I was feeling good though and just kept on going. The road topped out at 460m ASL.
A covered and seated rest area at 57km adjacent to the Bungle Bungle junction was very welcome, and I had tea and peanut butter and jam butties. I missed this yesterday. There was supposed to be another rest area at 97km or so but I never found it. In any case at around 95km the road direction changes from SW to S, so the SE/E wind was now a little in front, and as it was pretty strong this slowed me considerably.
The road is pretty narrow on this stretch, and I had to get off to let road trains through a few times. The surface isn’t too great either at times.
By 90km I was more than ready for a cuppa again, and finally found a shady group of trees by a creek where I could satisfy that need. After that with an hour to dusk (1730) I had trouble finding the right camping spot, but again a dry creek area had a decent site - only drawback is the large number of cattle around here - there’s as many outside the fence and on the highway as there is on the other side. Fingers crossed. At 1900 as I’m typing this it’s become very cold, and I’ll put extra clothing on tonight.

DAY 257: Bush camp to Turkey Creek Roadhouse

103 km @ 13.8 km/hr
Mon 7th July 2008
Sunny, 32 deg C
Elevation of /destination 205 m
Distance to date 15266 km (9541 miles)

A cold morning but a perfectly peaceful bush night, as expected; not even any animal noises heard. I was away earlier than of late, at 0720, and within 25 minutes was rolling into the Doon Doon Roadhouse just 6km away. I settled for a very expensive iced coffee ($4.50) and whilst drinking it outside spotted some other cyclists and went over for a chat.
There were 4, 3 cyclists and 1 driver of a hybrid car (electric / diesel) - The Mypower Team - and the four, from Sydney, were aiming to promote environmental awareness around Australia by giving talks in schools, and generally getting the message across to whomever they meet. They had been given a lot of stuff by sponsors, including a loan of the car from Mitsibushi for a year. They are cycling around the opposite way to me and likely to encounter much more headwind, though I didn’t get chance to ask why. Check out their website at . They were very switched on as regards environmental issues and it’s encouraging to me that there are young ‘uns promoting these important issues. They generously gave me some energy bars and a large bag of (rather costly) electrolyte recovery drink, which I was very grateful for. Power to you and me guys!
The meeting delayed me more than I was expecting but it was very enjoyable and worthwhile, and I’m glad we got the short time together. The ride from here on was a bit of a nightmare though.
The road veers to south and even due east at one point, so I had a headwind most of the day, moreover it was pretty hilly. It felt as if it was all uphill but I only gained 80 or 90m on the day - testament to the inability to know in this undulating landscape, without any other references or hooks such as a level lake or building, whether one is going uphill or downhill; it’s necessary to judge this from my speed and wind speed and direction. Except I’m not very good at this so it felt as if I was putting lots of effort in for nothing. The kms seemed interminable and there was no respite. I didn’t even get a proper break since there was nowhere shady that I could easily get to - the sides of the road had sandy ditches for the most part, and shady trees were scarce in this thin mountain landscape.
Enough moaning; I was glad to get 100 km in again, and the scenery was breathtaking with weirdly-shaped orange mountains abounding, especially around the entrance to Argyll Diamond Mine which had an alien look - an amazing landscape. The road rarely straightens out, and undulates constantly, and but for the headwind this would have been a plus. A kind couple stopped and ran over to me with a water container, so I gratefully took a top-up from them.
The road was much busier today after the quiet weekend, plus the school holidays have just started so there are more folk going on holiday. For the first 40km there was a decent shoulder, but then it not only disappeared, the road narrowed considerably such that there were barely 2 lanes at times. A few creek crossings are single lane; this part of the highway is about to be upgraded though and initial work is underway and will last until December 2009.
I had planned to sleep in the bush again tonight, but the map told me this roadhouse was 15km further away than it actually is, so I came upon it sooner and decided to stay. At least I can catch up with battery charging and washing. I was certainly ready for dinner after eating little today due to the absence of a lunch stop!

DAY 256: Kununurra to bush camp 8km NE of Doon Doon Roadhouse

100 km @ 16.1 km/hr
Sun 6th July 2008
Sunny, 31 deg C
Elevation of /destination 116 m
Distance to date 15163 km (9477 miles)

I took ages to get packed up due to the midden-like state of the tent after 4 static days, but eventually left at 0830. I was happy to find that Coles Supermarket was already open (some don’t open on Sunday) so got some nice French batons that I just managed to fit into the panniers, which were crammed with food for the 1200km stint to Broome. I also couldn’t resist a salad croissant and iced coffee (for the road) from the adjacent cafe, so it was well after 9 when I got on the road. I’m aware that with the WA time change it’ll be dark by 1730 now, which makes for a short day.
The Victoria Highway was quite busy but there were few lorries it being Sunday. The road is gently undulating and mostly straight, with many ranges of red mountains visible at a distance all around the horizon. After 45km I came to the Great Northern Highway onto which I turn left, but as there was a rest area I stopped to put the billy on and have a sandwich - Coles had some Bon Maman Gooseberry jam which is deicious with peanut butter, so I did justice to one of the fresh French sticks bought this morning - mmmmm... There was a young Dutch guy, Stefan, in a Wicked Campervan, but he was an exception to my WC rule whereby they are all to be avoided at all costs, being a really nice guy, and we had a right old natter.
I was a bit wary of this next bit of road since it bends south and even a little easy, so I could be vulnerable to the SE-er. In fact it was just on the left side as it had shifted to east as often happens in the afternoon; phew...It was still a slow day though, partly due to the odd feel of the new sandals, which are nowhere near as stiff as the Shimanos, and pedalling action feels less precise as a result. I’ll give them a couple of days then if I’m still not happy I may order a pair of Shimanos, if possible.
The road was even more pretty with oddly-shaped mountains close to the road; gorge-like in places. It’s also a bit more winding and undulating, but less monotonous for that, and I enjoyed the afternoon’s riding. Flocks of Galahs and Red-Winged Parrots were common, and I even passed a herd of wild brown horses (Brumbies) who bolted in fright when they spotted me. The Kapok was even more plentiful now, and I saw 2 more trees in flower - pink and cream respectively - that I don’t recall seeing before. There’s nothing dull and boring for me about this landscape. It’s a feast for the eyes, that just can’t be captured properly with the camera. The distant orange and pink mountains have a kind of burnished aura to them, as if they’re on fire, especially in the late afternoon sun which is when they really show off.
As the sun got lower I passed through a shadowy gorge and a draggy shallow climb, with the top half of the peaks on the left still in sun, until I passed over the highest point and descended out of the valley and into sunlight again. A very interesting ride; I hope there’s more of this in days to come.
With an hours light left I pulled off into some thickish bushes and set up camp some 150m fdrom the road, almost out of sight. As usual there was some Spinifex that left little thorns on various parts of my an anatomy - these sometimes make themselves felt when tucked up in the sleeping bag, and can get anywhere! Yes, anywhere!
That’s me finished -eaten and done diary - by 1930; must be a record, and I aim to be asleep by 9 for an early start tomorrow.

DAY 255: Day 3 off in Kununurra

Sat 5th July 2008
Sunny, 30 deg C
Elevation of /destination 55 m
Distance to date 15063 km (9414 miles)

My wonderful young camping neighbours were up at 5 for some reason - and made sure everyone else heard them, crashing pots and pans around, shouting and laughing loudly - lovely people! So I didn’t sleep after that and just fiddled around passing time until I was collected for the El Questro day tour bus at 7. Driver Denis was an old hand at telling stories to keep the punters amused, such as this one: ...we passed a creek bridge called Cheese Tin Creek (they all have names and are all signed), and he explained the origins of the name. During the early days of white settlement Afghans and their camels were the main means of supplying goods, but these devout Muslims would not carry and pork products and threw them away if found. They became suspicious about every unlabelled package, and when they saw some large tins with no labels they assumed it was pork and threw them in this creek - in fact the tins contained cheese! And the rest is history as they say...
We full busload of customers were taken out firstly to Emma Gorge, where at various speeds we scrambled up the 2km rocky path through magnificent rock formations, up to the large pool at the top of the gorge. A waterfall cascaded some 100m into the pool below, in which several of us unwisely were determined to have a swim. The sun rarely gets into the narrow gorge so the water was icy cold despite a warm spring entering at one end, nevertheless a swim is mandatory and in we went, to many oohs and ahhs as the chilly water bit the warm skin. I didn’t stay in too long but found it very refreshing and invigorating. The setting is very nice indeed, beyond my humble adjectival efforts; hopefully the pics will demonstrate. The descent back to the car park was even more hazardous than the ascent, the diversely-sized and sometimes loose boulders threatening to snap the ankles of the less than wary. My new sandals were cutting into my big toe despite me loosening off the velcro - not as comfy as the defunct Shimanos though probably more grippy in these conditions. (Did I say that the Shimano's straps snapped yesterday?)
From here and after smoko (morning coffee) we were bussed to Zebedee Springs for a short walk up the steep-sided creek culminating in another, this time warmer, dip in the warm springs feeding the watercourse. A few of us sat chatting in a small pool, enjoying the luxuries of the lush green setting. Unfortunately I took no pictures here.

We were finally dragged away to have a delicious beef and barramundi lunch at El Questro resort (all the places we visited are part of the million-acre EQ estate) in the pleasant steak al fresco restaurant, where we dozen folk got to know each other better. During this short drive we passed Alistair plying his way through dusty clouds and river beds, just about to arriver at EQ, and I sat with him for a while before and after lunch. He seemed to be enjoying the Gibb so far, though had been told that the road gets worse further west.
After lunch we were taken on a cruise up the Chamberlain River gorge and regaled with jokes and facts by the competent guides. I was interested to learn more about the Boab trees which are such a feature of this area. Many of them are a thousand years old and more; no two look the same and there are fat ones, thin ones, short ones etc; they can grow when not in leaf because the bark can photosynthesise, and so on. We were also showed some fossils of the waves formed on a patch of sand, and told that these ancient rocks - 1600 million years old - predate life on earth so contain no fossilised flora or fauna. The diversity of bird life is amazing here, and rock wallabies could be seen jumping around on the narrow, vertical gorge sides. It was very relaxing, and on the way back upriver we were plied with fizzy wine and mounds of watermelon, whereupon everyone became very chatty indeed... he he...hic
We landed back in Kununurra at around 7, and though a long day it was very enjoyable and worthwhile; I’m glad I chose this one.

DAY 254: Day 2 off in Kununurra

Fri 4th July 2008
Sunny, 30 deg C
Elevation of /destination 55 m
Distance to date 15063 km (9414 miles)

I was up with the sun after a good sleep in this busy camping area, with Alistair packing ready to leave. I shall miss him, having greatly enjoyed his chatty companionship for a few days, but the Gibb calls for him.
I had another good sort out of my stuff after breakfast, and added a few bits to the parcel I’m sending to Lyn’s with stuff I don’t need. Round at the PO I found that it weighed 1.3 kg - nearly 3 lbs, so with some other bits I’ve decided to give away / throw out I’ve reduced my baggage by 2 kg all told. I sent it by sea El Cheapo - no hurry - and it may not even be there when I get back home according to the PO lady.
Late morning I cycled the short rise up to Kelly’s Knob lookout, a small hill that overlooks the town and affords a great view of the surrounding area, including the Ord River Valley.
In the late afternoon I left the bike at the tent and walked into Mirima NP, which backs onto the Hidden Valley CP where I’m staying. The path leads to the Hidden Valley itself, which is a breathtaking Martian-looking landscape of deep red and orange sandstone mountains, and meanders around the crags and through the Acacia shrub, Kapok trees, Turkey Bush and thick Spinifex. The tiny Fairy Wren is supposed to be common around here but they weren’t revealing themselves for me. There were several species of Honeyeater as usual along with the Bee Eater. The path climbs quite steeply over massive boulder steps up to a viewpoint overlooking Kununurra. At half an hour before sunset the colours were unforgettable; this is such a beautiful place it’s a ‘must see’ for anyone coming this way. The red sandstone derives from ancient sedimentary deposits which have been eroded into weird shapes by the ages. My timing had been perfect since I got back just as the light was disappearing, about 30 minutes after sunset.

DAY 253: Day 1 off in Kununurra

Thurs 3rd July 2008
Sunny, 31 deg C
Elevation of /destination 55 m
Distance to date 15063 km (9414 miles)

On crossing into WA we had to turn watches back 90 minutes, which plays havoc with dawn and dusk - it was dark well before 1800 last night, and light around 0600 this morning, which will take a little getting used to. To say this caravan park is pretty full, it was fairly quiet last night - June is the start of peak holiday season up here since it is so pleasantly warm compared to the south of Oz.
After breakfast I set to to sort the puncture problem out, and found that there was nothing stuck in the tyre that had caused another blow-out in the same place, rather it was the tyre patch I’d fitted inside the tyre that must have had a sharp edge which cut into the tube! So I patched the tube and swopped the rear tyre to the front for good measure. I also managed to get a 3rd spare tube in town at the sports shop, so I should be well provided for now.
I’ve decided not to ride the Gibb River Road through the Kimberley. It sounds as if it would be overly hard work for 700km without suspension or trailer, what with endless corrugations and sandy patches. It also seems to be pretty popular and busy, so there will be plenty of bulldust to contend with too. The alternative, sealed Highway 1, is obviously easier, but there are also some nice places to see along the way too, such as Geikie Gorge, so I won’t be making such a sacrfifice. This will also give me a bit more time to spend in the Pilbara, inland from the coast, which is said to be awesome in terms of scenery, so I’m happy about that. So that I can get a look at the Kimberley on Saturday I’ve booked onto the El Questro all-day tour, which takes in some of the Gibb, Emma Gorge, El Questro Station, a river cruise, and lots of food including Beef and Barramundi for lunch! Look forward to that!
I managed to get all the website updating done, albeit on a slightly slow connection, and bought a new map of WA to plan the last ‘leg’. I had a nice e-mail from Lyn who says she is missing me lots, and we are really looking forward to getting together again. Her son Gareth and wife Jen have been over from Brisbane and fly back to Oz soon - they spent a few days with her up in Caithness and so Lyn is missing them to. Lyn and Mary’s pet-sitting business is almost underway, and she e-mailed me their smart new business card to have a look at - cool.
I had a good lunch of Shepherd’s Pie and had heartburn all afternoon, but it was worth it. Late on I went a walk around the base of the red mountains that lie next to the CP as the sun went down. The colours are so vivid, and in the cooling air the rocks radiate lots of heat as you walk past them.
Alistair is off tomorrow to start the Gibb River Road, so I may not see him again; I shall probably have passed Derby by the time he gets there - he’s planning to take 3 weeks.