Thursday, August 14, 2008

DAY 294: Bush camp to bush camp 9km N of Carnarvon

108km @ 16.4 km/hr
Weds 13th August 2008
Sunny, 25 deg C
Elevation of /destination 11m
Distance to date 18186 km (11366 miles)
PLEASE NOTE - I've now posted pics for the last 10 days - now all up to date.

Another chilly morning, and therefore a sluggish start. There was a nice display by a flock of Masked Woodswallows around the tent, or were they Cuckoo Shrikes? I wasn’t 100% sure; they are similar to the unfamiliar like me. Away by 0900 with a light E/NE wind on the side or slightly behind. The busier highway has boasted a decent bitumen shouder since I joined it yesterday north of Minilya Roadhouse and this continued today, although it became quite small later on today. There are alternately moderate undulations and straight, flat sections.
It was harder work today since the wind was more on the side, and lighter, and it was seldom that I managed more then 20 km/hr. I saw another of the ugly lizard-like creature in exactly the same position on the road as yesterday, and stopped to have a closer look. As I did a motorist slowed down, thinking I might be in trouble as I was stopped, and just about ran over the poor wee critter. I was gesticulating for him to stop before he reached it but he didn’t understand me. I thanked him for stopping anyway, and after he’d gone I coud see the thing was OK, but he must have missed squashing it by millimetres! Hope I find out what they are.
I stopped for an extended lunch again once I’d finally found a shady spot where I could both access and lean the bike up - this took a long time to find. Flies were a nuisance; they seem to be steadily getting more numerous. I had to wear the head net again once they’d reached the ‘annoying me to death’ stage.
I started looking for a campsite around 4 with 30km to go, but it was tricky - the vegetation was prolific and hard to penetrate. On one occasion I got in behind some good cover to find millions of flies, massive spider’s webs with red and black evil-looking residents that I didn’t fancy disturbing, and jungle-style undergrowth, so it was exit stage left again. Then I came to an area 12km N of Carnarvon that is WA’s main centre for fruit and veg growing, so it was quite a busy area, then after that more jungle terrain, but beyond that was an area set back from the road where I found some decent patches to camp on. Even then the first couple of spots were alive with ants, that at one point I found myself wading through with some crawling up my legs.
I set up OK, and had a good dinner, but as it went dark thousands of mozzies came out to play - the first I’ve seen in weeks - and despite applying repellent asap they had got me in several places, even on the soles of my feet! There seems to be more water around here; hence the fruit and veg crops and mozzies.

DAY 293: Coral Bay to bush camp 24km S of Minilya Roadhouse

122km @ 17.6 km/hr
Tues 12th August 2008
Sunny, 26 deg C
Elevation of /destination 8m
Distance to date 18078 km (11299 miles)

Leisurely start but a very quiet breakfast in the communal area; I have found it hard to engage with people here without a big effort, and this morning I just couldn’t be bothered to put the work in. People are just such hard work sometimes for me - just let me get back on the bike please! I find under-25’s especially are sometimes too self-absorbed to take any interest in communicating with anyone outside their peer group - people my age are akin to aliens.
I collected my $20 deposit for the room key and called in at the grocery next door for more muesli and a lovely fresh wholemeal loaf. This would have been made at the village bakery next door, which is a real asset to the place, as I told them so yesterday. I tried to pack it in the panniers without squashing; always a challenge.
I finally left at 0920 and straight into a NE headwind. The 13km to the highway was as hard work as it was on the way in - it all seems uphill as before, weird, because the wind hasn’t changed direction!
Turning south onto the highway changed matters, and for an hour I was pushed along nicely, but as the road bent east a little the wind was on the side, which felt harder. I stopped after 45km for a good hour’s break and a fair few slices of the fresh bread with hazelnut spread and 2 mugs of tea, but after this the wind fell behind more and speed increased along with my motivation. The first 60km today passed through very bare country with virtually no trees, and few bushes even; thereafter vegetation increased and thickened considerably. The Chiming Wedgebills were practising their scales all around me - my Simpson and Day birdie book amusingly describes their voise as “descending chime ‘why did you get drunk?’ Repeated monotonously with haunting quality” which sums it up very well. I also had another very strange sighting - on the road carriageway was a weird lizard-like creature; about 125 to 150mm long (5-6”) with a curved tail like a scorpion but front end like a lizard. It’s whole grey-brownish body was covered with dragon-like lumps. It stood stock-still as if to play dead, but when I went close it moved a little. I’ve never seen anything like it, even in a zoo. If anyone can ID it from the pic please let me know what it is.
I passed over the signposted Tropic of Capricorn and made increasingly good progress, and arrived at Minilya Roadhouse (98km) soon after 4. I had an iced coffee and watched the Olympics on TV for a few minutes, tempted to book a $60 room with TV and extend this privelidge, but no, I’ve just coughed up $160 for 2 nights at the Ningaloo Club (shock, horror!) and that’s enough for a while.
I was still feeling highly motivated and pretty strong so pushed on for another 24km until the sun was almost down to the horizon, whereupon I dived into the bush to my left and found a decent site right away some 80m back adacent to the fence.
Once set up I poured my half-mug of red, still a nice temperature from the heat of the day, sat back facing the sunset, and enjoyed the total and profound silence of the bush. The wind had dropped completely, and there was only the faint sound of cicadas clicking away in the far distance. Wonderful and peaceful; my element.
As the loaf was so fresh I decided to have tuna sarnies for dinner - I’ve eaten virtually the whole loaf in the space of just a few hours! Tomorrow I should make Carnarvon since I’m slightly over halfway there from Coral Bay thanks to today’s effort.

DAY 292: Day off Coral Bay

DAY 292: Day off Coral Bay
Mon 11th August 2008
Sunny, 26 deg C
Elevation of /destination 5m
Distance to date 17956 km (11222 miles)

Nice to sleep in a real bed for a change, and I was surprised how much warmer it is here at night compared to the last few weeks. There’s a fan in the room, which I employed to mask the hubbub emanating from the bar - it wasn’t excessive but I tend to tune into these distractions almost against my will. I think it may be the grumpy old man syndrome that increasingly afflicts me!
I only had to get around to the ticket office by 0915 for the whale-watching tour so as it was only 100m away I could afford to take my time.
There were around a dozen people on the tour, which included snorkelling on the reef, and we initially headed out to the deeper waters just beyond the reef where the whales have been seen lately. Within the hour we had spotted a pod of 3 Humpbacks a few hundred metres away, and we shut off engines and kind of drifted towards them. They were 2 females and a calf - one was the mother and one (we were told) was either a relative such as an aunt, or a female without a calf for some reason. They stick together for security and companionship. It’s the first time I’ve seen a whale up close, and they are an amazing site - the adults 7 or 8m long and 30 tonnes or so in weight. They obigliged by doing all the whale-type things like breaching, wagging huge tails, and blowing off (exhaling!). A great thing to see. At one point one of the females cut across the calf as it started heading towards the boat, possibly curious of us and the boat. These Humpbacks are still moving north, and as summer comes on they’ll head back to the Antarctic to feed (the females don't feed at all for months as they travel north).
We also saw a couple of Dugongs - big seal-like creatures that apparently gave rise to the mermaid myth. (Very drunken) sailors were it seems attracted to the wavy tail; you get the gyst. We later moved to a ‘turtle sanctuary’ - a protected area for 3 different species - and many of them obliged us with an appearance on cue. It was quite a good value trip, there was plenty of snacky food around too to add to my pleasure.
I didn’t go snorkelling in the end, the water was quite cold, and I was content to laze about on the deck, in the sun, with most of the others. Good tour though, good value.
On getting back I went to upload, but the internet connection was very slow and I could only manage to send the text component, not a chance with the images. I was somewhat annoyed that the place charges $8/hr for what is tantamount to dial-up speed, but there were plenty of punters using the service nevertheless. Money for jam; big money for very poor service!
I strolled down to the beach to watch the spectacular sunset, and it was very beautiful, but might have been better shared with someone as usual. It is hard travelling alone at times, yet at other times it is certainly a distinct advantage. One can’t have it all ways! I had supper at the backpackers again, and a couple of beers, and got chatting to a few young folk from the UK. Tomorrow I head off again, and although Coral Bay is OK, there’s really nothing to do here apart from spend money on tours and in shops - maybe morewill come as this very young town matures.