Tuesday, August 26, 2008

DAY 306: Bush camp to bush camp 14km NE of Geraldton

Mon 25th August 2008
74km @ 13.3 km hr
Cloudy, sunny intervals, 24 deg C
Elevation of /destination 123m

Distance to date 18847 km (11779 miles)

There was a heavy dew last night, the first for many months, and it took me by surprise. I had only thrown the tent outer over loosely, so there were several places where the outer was touching the inner, which caused some serious drips. I also managed to knock some milk over inside too, durrrr...... What a nice pitch this has been though - carpets of flowers all around me. They are predominantly paper daisies (Everlastings) and I hadn’t realised they close their petals overnight - all I could see this morning was a round pink or yellow bud. Once the sunshine hits them the petals open and point to the sun.
It wasn’t quite as cold in the morning as of late, so it was a little easier to leave the pit, and I was up and away by 0830 to another draggy uphill for 3 or 4km. The wind was light and blowing from the SW, so of no help, but the constantly twisting and undulating road was quite pleasant and made a change from recent dead straight and flat routes.
With a last 3km climb, including a very steep end, I crawled into Northampton at last. I searched for a bakery but there wasn’t one unfortunately, and the cafe only had a few dubious-looking Mrs. Mack’s pies and some unappetising scones on show. I settled for iced coffee and chocolate biscuits from the IGA. Northampton is a pretty and sleepy-looking little town; older than most towns I pass through, with turn-of-the-century clapboard shops with big verandahs facing onto the street - a proper town centre. I lingered with the paper and biscuits for a while; after reading the weather forecast for today resigned to SE winds this morning and S this afternoon - right in the face. No rush though; I don’t want to get to Perth too early.
As I was leaving town for the 52km run to Geraldton I came to the junction with the Nabawa road and stopped to check the map. I remember reading about this aternative route which is much quieter and only 13km longer, and decided to go this way. Good decision as it turned out - hardly another vehicle to be seen, and the 24km to Nabawa was strewn with wild flowers most of the way. One of the main crops grown in this predominantly arable area is Canola - Oilseed Rape we call it in the UK - and what with it’s bright yellow fields and the acres of yellow Everlastings, it made for a great blaze of dazzling colour all around as far as I could see. The road is pretty hilly and never straightens out, but that didn’t matter, this was very agreeable riding indeed.
Nawaba is also a tidy little village, much smaller than Northampton, and there’s a primary school and a pub, but no shop. I got an iced coffee there though, and sat in the sun contentedly with a bag of crisps and newspaper. I lingered for an hour before setting off again, expecting a direct headwind on this south-pointing run to Geraldton, however the wind had dropped altogether for now and the first hour was easy going. Again trees came close up to the edge of the road, which bent around a lot but was considerably flatter now, with the odd rogue hill thrown in. Later on though, once over a large hill, the south wind hit with a vengeance, and I slowed considerably; hardly making 10 km/hr for a lot of the time. I passed a picture of Colonel Sanders (pic) who is standing for election in the WA elections....There was an unexpected rest area with about 22km to go to Geraldton, not marked on the map, and I briefly stopped there and thought about camping, but the canola in the adjacent field was making my eyes itchy and sore (just as oilseed does at home), and so I continued. The road is fenced very close to the road so there is little opportunity to camp there, but near to the junction with the link road to Mullewa there were a few acres of unfenced land which was easy to access and which had several flat areas to pitch the tent on, so in I went at around 1600, a bit earlier than usual. I prefer doing this even though Geraldton is only an hour away - tomorrow I will have all day to check out the best place to stay there for a couple of days, rather than being rushed tonight; plus I save a possible $20-plus camping fee. I made sure I put the tent up properly this afternoon so as to hopefully avoid more drips overnight.

DAY 305: Kalbarri to bush camp 19km NW of Northampton

Sun 24th August 2008
86km @ 14.6 km hr
Cloudy, sunny intervals, 24 deg C
Elevation of /destination 111m

Distance to date 18773 km (11733 miles)

Up a bit more sharpish this morning with the intention of an early start, but by the time I’d had breakfast, packed the bike up, checked e-mails and watched the mens marathon, it was nearly 1000. After saying goodbyes it was off into a light headwind and 16km of climbing straight off. It felt quite hard even after just a few days rest, and the hill seemed interminable. There’s not a lot of cover for the first 30km either; just coastal heath low scrub. I didn’t find it very enjoyable, even though the scenery wasn’t too bad, with regular glimpses of the distant blue ocean and all.
I wasn’t able to find a decent place to have lunch until 55km, when I found an electricity pole to lean against, and then I was troubled by flies and mozzies. I bought a new fly net yesterday but it’s hard to eat with a net over your face lol.
The whole ride today is moderately undulating with some steepish hills thrown in, and time and time again I dropped down only to have to climb up again. The only flat part is where the road runs alongside Hutt Lagoon, some 12km. The SW wind was either on the right side or just in front, so no help at all to me. Traffic was very light though. I did get buzzed by Three Hell's Angels riding flat out giuving off about 150 dB, well done guys.
After Hutt Lagoon there’s a right turn to Gregory, and I did consider riding to the CP there, but it was almost back in the same direction, and completely open to the wind, so I decided not to bother and chance my arm for a bush camp site. This wasn’t easy due to the fence close-to on both sides of the road. At 1700 I finally spotted a possible site - on the right the fence disappeared for a while, so I dove in to have a look. It was very nice actually, an area going back at least 100m and covered with swathes of brightly-coloured Everlastings and other wildflowers, as if it was someone’s wildflower garden. No houses for several km though as far as I could see, so in I went, and easily found a flat area without thorny shrubs (which were almost everywhere around here) and hidden from the road. I can be seen from the ploughed field beyond the fence, but surely no-one will see me from there.
I was very hungry so did a mega-portion of pasta for dinner. It’s 2000 as I type and it’s getting very cold - I’ll need plenty of clothing on tonight.

DAY 304: Day 4 off in Kalbarri

Sat 23rd August 2008
Cloudy, sunny later, 25 deg C
Elevation of /destination 5m
Distance to date 18687 km (11679 miles)

I decided to stay here another day as I’m enjoying the relaxing, low-season atmosphere both in the town and in the YHA backpackers. It’s nice to be able to dip in and out of socialising at will and also wander around on the beach right on the doorstep. Not to mention availability of a good bakery. And being able to watch the Olympics (usually).
I uploaded again this morning in between watching the games, and in the afternoon rode over to the Wildflower Centre to have a look around. This is a few acres of bush with a wide variety of wild flowers, most labelled with the for identification. I was consequently then able to name some flowers and plants that I’ve been wondering about, such as the Smoke Bush, which is very common around here. It’s a large shrub with white ends to the branches that look like smoke from a distance. It was a warm sunny afternoon so it was very pleasant strolling around the 1.6km of paths. Even more pleasant to afterwards quoff the best Devonshire tea I’ve had in Australia - big and light home-made scones; proper whipped cream, none of yer spray-on stuff, and large portions of cream and jam too. Mmmmm......
By evening the backpackers was full of women - passengers on the Easyrider bus tour service who were staying here overnight - there are very few men that use this service for some reason, it’s usually 90% or so female. They’re good company, but get so loud together, and I had difficulty hearing the Olympics; in fact I gave up in the end and went to bed (alone of course!). I had another surprise on entering the (8-bed) dormitory when I saw that there was a woman making her bed up in there. Apparently there are so many females staying here tonight the only bed available was in this mens dorm. Her husband was also in here though to keep an eye on her.......
The lower flower is Kangaroo Paw, floral emblem of WA; upper is an Everlasting Daisy (Peper Daisy).