Friday, September 05, 2008

DAY 317: Quinn’s Rocks to Fremantle

Fri 5th September 2008
62km @ 13.4 km/hr
Sunny, 21 deg C
Elevation of destination 5m
Distance to date 19523 km (12202 miles)

What with light rain overnight and a dewy morning everywhere was pretty wet early on. I had nothing in for breakfast so just got packed up and ate on the way at the cafe up the road. I didn’t mention that I have thrown away the tin of milk powder - I suspected that it might have got contaminated and was giving me the trots - and in fact for 5 days since, I’ve been OK. Fingers crossed. I had been topping up the same large tin from bags of powder that work out cheaper than another tin, and perhaps the constant warming up and cooling of the tin and inevitable introduction of dampness has caused the lot to go off. Maybe I shoud have known, but if it was this problem the contents always smelt OK.
The first 15km today is on Marmon Road, which was very busy, but there’s a cycle lane most of the way and where there isn’t there’s a wide shouder. I had a nice surprise when a Ute stopped ahead of me, and it was the lovely couple who had invited me for lunch at the rest area near Kalbarri a few weeks ago! It was nice to see them again, and they are the kind of couple who effuse warmth and make one feel very special - what a great quality that is.
I knew that a cycle track on the sea front began at Mullaloo, and when I was close I turned off right and weaved through a housing estate for 2km down to the sea, and sure enough found the track. This was to last for about 40km i.e. all the way to Fremantle, athough it kind of disappears around Cottesloe for a short spell. Here I found myself approaching a busy town on a busy road so just headed west again and refound the sea and the cycleway.
I stopped for a very nice toasted panini for lunch about 10km from Freo, but that last few km took ages. The fresh SW wind got even stronger as the afternoon wore on and in the end I was unable to maintain 10 km/hr on the flat. I also went the wrong way, not seeing a sign for the city centre, and instead finishing up deep in dead-end dockland, and had to double back. It was a much harder day than the 'just coasting into Freo' day that I had anticipated.
First impressions of Freo are positive; it’s got quite an ‘alternative’ culture with street buskers and unusual shops. It’s a relatively old town by Oz standards, with buildings close together rather than sprawling far apart as in many places here. I’ve booked 5 nights at the YHA which is right in the centre of the city. Internet access is very fast and only $10 for 3 hours, and I finally figured how to upload as it was not straightforward at first. The hostel is quite old and a bit tired-looking, but everything is here that I need. I had dinner prepared for me tonight for a change - a NZ guy, Ritch, asked did I want to share his beef stew, and we had a good feed since he made quite a panfull. Nice, and he even provided the wine! I’ll have to return the compliment soon.

DAY 316: Yanchep NP to Quinn’s Rocks

Thurs 4th September 2008
38km @ 9.4 km/hr
Sunny, 23 deg C
Elevation of destination 8m
Distance to date 19461 km (12163 miles)

Another perfectly peaceful night in the bush - probably my last, this trip at least. There was a very heavy dew again, but I wasn’t planning a quick departure so there was time to get the tent dried off in the sun before packing up. There were plenty of feathered friends around; most vociferous was the Kookaburra, but very noticeable were unidentified birds with a call just like a telephone ringing US-style i.e. one long ring repeated. At first I thought it was someone passing with a mobile!

I got going around 10, braced for a hard hour getting back to the Yanchep NP ‘centre’. It was just as tough as coming out here with some very hard pushes up steep little boulder-strewn inclines. When dragging the fully-laden bike over a fallen tree I managed to snap off the underside PET bottle cage - good job I don’t really need it any more this trip now I’m just about in urban territory again.

I spent until 1400 exploring more of what’s on offer around the park, and there’s quite a lot to see; flowery walking trails, a wetland walking / cycling trail around Loch MacNess, limestone gorge and caves, some oldish listed buildings, lots of amazing trees and plants, kangaroos, and Koalas, and there’s plenty of interpretive signs explaining all about the flora, fauna and geology. It’s all very nicely done, helped by the relative maturity of this long-established park I guess, and well worth a day’s visit. I saw a lot more of the Black Cockatoos all over the park and by the highway later on, and the park signs call them ‘Carnaby’s Cockatoos’; I think this must be a local name for them since this name is not listed in Simpson and Day, and they look like Short or Long-Beaked Black Cockatoos to me. I’m now not sure which; they’re very similar.

I had a good lunch of Nachos con carne at the Chocolate Box tearooms but resisted buying another bag of Rocky Road which got quickly demolished yesterday; plenty of treats to come in Freo and Perth lol....And apparently the ‘Ghost House’ was so named simply because it was never lived in after being painstakingly built in the 30’s - so no ghosts actually reported then. And Loch MacNess was named after an early benefactor who supported the parks initial development, an immigrant from Scotland of that surname (I’ve never heard of that name before and had thought it was an invention).
After a great morning it was back on the job and facing up to the busy Wanaroo Highway again, but thankfully the authorites have seen fit to provide a bitumen shoulder from Yanchep south, so it was a bit more relaxing to cycle on. NB/ a map of the area showed a coastal road from the coastal town of Yanchep down to Quinn’s Rocks with a note that it would be available from June 2008, however the information centre told me it is not yet complete, but is now expected to be open in October 2008. This would eliminate the highway altogether.
After 16km on the highway I was able to turn off for QR, which is 3 or 4km more. I headed to the only caravan park here ($18/nt) since there’s no bush left any longer to camp in, and managed to find a sheltered place to pitch in the face of a strong SW wind which had quite a cold edge to it. It definitely feels like winter down here now as soon as the sun starts to get low in the sky.
I cycled 2km along a coastal cycle track to have a look around, and noted some amazing houses on a prestige marina / housing complex where some of the (presumably) multi-million dollar homes had huge boats moored at the back - the type of boat that can probably cross all the world’s oceans - and this must be where the rich and famous of Perth / WA shack up. It was very tasteful though and not developed in a vulgar manner as can be the case. From there I headed uphill and around the edge of the town centre and bought some dinner to save cooking out in the cold when I get back.

DAY 315: Lancelin to Yanchep NP

Weds 3rd September 2008
83km @ 13.7 km/hr
Sunny, 24 deg C
Elevation of destination 4m
Distance to date 19423 km (12139 miles)

Didn’t sleep well last night for various reasons, so felt a little weary this morning. I didn’t see anyone at breakfast - the young ‘uns were presumably still in bed, and I left just after 9.
After calling at the excellent bakery for ‘emergency snacks’ for the day (2 megabuns), I spent the first 8km plodding up the hill out of town against the wind, which got me off on a bad foot. In fact despite the forecast of NE winds, which would have helped me along, the wind was mostly on the side E/SE and no help in difficult terrain.
All the way to Nanchep NP i.e. all day, the road undulated with some longer and some steeper climbs. It seemed interminable, and the quite heavy traffic and lack of a decent shoulder added to my woes. I got heartily sick of vehicles whooshing by me, sometimes close, and long before I reached my destination I was ready to call it a day. The key issue is the consequent almost contnuous double white lines in the centre of the road - with little shoulder, traffic was pushed towards me all the time. The scenery is pretty monotonous too; coastal scrub / Banksia. There were a couple of rest areas but the tables were unshaded and so pretty useless for my purposes. I did stop in a small shady wood, but got attacked by mozzies and had to dig out the spray. If ‘doom and gloom’ is coming across to the reader, well, that’s just how it seemed; I couldn’t raise any motivation at all today.
I did see a flock of Black Cockatoos - not the usual red-tailed variety but with white patches on their cheeks, and heard more Kookaburra’s than I had in a long time too, not to mention the reappearance of the 28’s (Austrailian Ringneck or Port Lincoln Parrots), which provided some distraction from the tedium. I think too that in my mind I’ve finished this tour now that I’m so close to Perth, and I’m left with a feeling of anticlimax, which may have affected my mood today. I’m only 60km from Freo / Perth after today.
Finally I saw the sign for the Nanchep NP and thankfully turned off. It’s about 1km to the cntre of the park complex, comprising Ranger HQ, visitor centre, and yessss! a cafe that was open!! The latter was my first port of call, not having seen a shop or cafe since leaving Lancelin, and after marvelling at all the hand-made chocolates on display I ordered a Devonshire tea.It was OK but on the small side, so this was a good excuse to go and buy a bag of Rocky Road from the chocholatier to top up calories, which was utterly gorgeous. This is all it takes to change my mood around - sad or what?!
I’d heard there was a campsite in the park somewhere, and on enquiring I found out it was 5km up a walking track. The ranger thought it would be OK for me with the bike, so I decided to give it a go since I still had 2 hours of daylight left.
The first 2km of the trail were reasonable, but after that there were some tough rocky bits and steep uphills where I had to push, but that far in I was committed, and I just pressed on. It was very tough, taking over an hour for the 5km, and I was pouring in sweat on arrival at the Ghost House (an old ruined cottage adjacent to the camping area). There was, of course, no-one else camping here, so I chose my spot and set up. Pretty soon I was enjoying a mug of Semillon and wondering what all the stress today was about as usual (should have faith man!!).
The wildlife is pretty concentrated in this NP, and I’ve seen plenty of ‘Roos, Kookaburra’s and lots of other birds I haven’t identified (what IS the species that calls “pretty, pretty, pretty” all the time? YES - YOU ARE PRETTY, I'VE TOLD YOU!!!).
There’s a large lake in the centre of the park facilities area called Loch MacNess (!), and I must try and find out tomorrow how it got its name as well as getting the story behind the Ghost House (don’t want to know tonight since I’m camped near to it).
The remarkable resonant call of frogs or toads dominates the background as I write, but I haven’t seen what’s making the noise yet.
The last pic is of the Ghost House; the red flowers were growing from a tree blown over onto its side.