Sunday, September 30, 2012

A Long Haul! Bush Camp to Nullarbor Road House

Sleep was interrupted by the loud rumble of road trains last night.

Set off at 6.30am on the deserted highway and into a strong headwind.

30 mins later, a hundred plus Rebel bikers roared past at great speed – riding several abreast across theroad.  We heard them before we saw them and leapt off the road smartly. Watched the procession scream past.

Made such slow progress, it was touch and go whether we’d reach Nullarbor Road House before nightfall.
Decided not to get off the bikes for our usual morning tea and lunch break. Instead we ate astride the bikes and were off on the road again as quickly as we could. No sight seeing for us today! It was head down, bottom up all the way!

As the day progressed, my need for comfort stops became more frequent, as the pressure from my seat was becoming more and more uncomfortable with every kilometre.

Crawled into the Nullarbor Road House as night fell – 5.45pm.

We needed a good shower and  sleep, so took a modest motel unit - $149!!!
I was ready to collapse into bed, but Del insisted that we do our chores, washing etc first.
Little in the way of stores here but we’ll need to restock for our camp out tomorrow.
Discovered that we have network coverage so dropped a quick text to the family.

Had hamburgers for dinner and downed a bottle of Jacob’s Creek - $30!!  Everything’s so expensive in the road houses!

We were out like a light as soon as our heads hit the pillows!

Did 138kms today - and in a head wind!!!

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Sudden Change of Plan! Mundrabilla - 50kms East of Border Village

Had a hearty breakfast of scrambled eggs and off by 6.45am.
Overcast with another westerly tail wind. Pretty flat most of the way then a short, steep climb up to the Eucla Road House.
Surprised to discover that the accommodation there was totally booked out - by the police, who were following a large contingent of Rebel Bikie Gang members staying at Border Village.  


On arrival at Border Village, we found that accommodation there was also booked out - by the Rebels! We grabbed a few emergency  food items. We were obviously going to need them.

As we were going to tent anyway, we decided to make some ground towards the Nullarbor Road House which was 186kms away! We'd cycle until we found a suitable tent spot by the roadside.

The road took us along the coast. Lovely views of the beach and surf. 
Since the border, there's been no road kill - though the signs remain!! Must have a clean up gang in SA.

From 4.00pm, it was urgent that we look out for a suitable tent site. The area was generally low lying scrub, but about 40 kms east of Border Village we spotted a patch of bushes.
Del did a quick recci, stamped on the ground to scare away any snakes, then the tent was up in no time.
The spot here is perfect - soft ground - protected - hidden from the road - quiet - much better than any of the tent sites in the caravan parks.

It's ham and cheese sandwiches and custard pies for tea tonight!

Did 120kms today.  Del tells me that we've just ticked over 2000kms in total! 

Friday, September 28, 2012

Hampton Tablelands! Madura to Mundrabilla

Rained last night, so pleased to have been in our tilting cabin! Slept well and away by 6.30am.

Bought a couple of ham, cheese and tomato sandwiches last night, and kept them in the tiny fridge for lunch today. They were still surprisingly fresh and tasty by the time we devoured them.

Had a strong, westerly tail wind all day allowing us to pedal relatively effortlessly at 22kms an hour.
From Madura, we followed a flat straight road running below the steep slopes of the Hampton Tablelands. The lower region was apparently sea in the Myocene Period, but now is flat as a pancake and covered in low lying scrub.

Less road kill today. 
Spotted a family of kangaroos nearby. So nice to see them bound away instead of being mutilated bodies adorning the roadside. It's a worry when one becomes so used to seeing these carcasses that one only registers when there are fewer than usual!

Mundrabilla Road House is even smaller than the others. There's a restaurant, bar, chiller with soft drinks and a few sweet treats - but no food supplies at all.

Arrived at 1.30pm. Decided to take a budget cabin again, though later, we checked out the caravan park and could have camped there at a pinch.
The budget rooms are very basic, but there's usually enough room to get our trailers inside and sometimes our bikes, too.

Did 115kms today.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

At Last - a Hill! Cocklebiddy to Madura

Another warm night. Woke at 5.10am and, after a breakfast of fresh orange and yogurt, we were packed and ready to drop off the cabin key - to reclaim our $5.
On the road by 6.30am, and, a strong tail wind helping us along, we arrived at Madura Road House by 12.15pm.


The road was relatively flat all the way. For the first 30kms, the road kill was heavy, with more adult kangaroos than previously - many of them greys rather than the usual reds. Spotted several little 
"push me-pull you" lizards sunning themselves.

Evidence of recent burn offs by the roadside.

Seeing more bird life today - flocks of galahs plus several parakeets and  hawks.

Cycled down a steep hill along the Madura Pass, down to the Madura Road House.
It's a small road house with no supplies available - just take aways, a restaurant, bar, caravan park (a dust bowl), motel units, budget cabins (ours slopes downhill!) and a petrol station.

It'll be chicken burger and salad for tea tonight!
The strong westerly persisted all day and, even though cloudy, it was sunny and hot.

Did 90kms today.  

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

A Wonderful Westerly! Caiguna to Cocklebiddy

Had an early breakfast of scrambled eggs in the road house and were away by 6.45am.
Caiguna marked the end of the 91 Mile Straight, and this morning we had our first bend for 146kms!
Had a strong tail wind and sailed along, sometimes up to 24 kms an hour.

The road is relatively flat, and had the highest volume of road kill that we've seen so far.
Black crows, reminiscent of Alfred Hitchcock's "The Birds", gathered overhead as we left Caiguna, and we disturbed large groups of them feeding off the carcasses as we cycled along.
A couple of emus, too, had fallen foul of the traffic.

Arrived at Cocklebiddy Road House by 11.30am

A small business - run down - little in the way of stores - and set in a dust bowl.
The caravan park was barren, dusty and unprotected from the wind.
We quickly decided to take a budget unit.

What a dump! Basic and threadbare and its few windows have been blacked out with paint! 
But there's a bed and a bathroom. That's all we need.

We've been bothered by flies more than ever today - covering our backs and clinging to our faces. We'll wear our fly nets over our helmets tomorrow.

Did 64kms today. Crossing our fingers that this westerly continues!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

On the Straight and Narrow! 24 hr Rest Area to Caiguna

A mild night. It's light around 5.00am, so we made the most of it and got away at 6.45am.
Yay! A tail wind at last!
91 Mile Straight seems never ending - each new stretch same as the last! The road stretches to the horizon in both directions. Oncoming traffic appears as a dot and takes forever to reach you.


Still getting encouraging toots and waves from passers by.

Road kill seems more prolific than ever! Body after body! So sad! 
There were many lizards, too, lying stomach upwards on the road.

Scenery changed frequently today, from scattered small trees and bluish shrubs, to almost tree less areas covered with grey, rough grass. 
Disappointed to find no wild flowers in bloom, as we had been told there would be.

Reached Caiguna Road House by 11.30am and decided to take a cabin. The cabin door bears the message "Please keep doors closed to keep snakes out. All snakes in this area are poisonous."

After midday, the westerly wind became strong and blustery, blowing the red soil in clouds. It was getting hot, too. Glad we'd escaped it all.

The road house is small but welcoming, with a restaurant, bar and a few basic stores - but the advertised internet cafe was inoperative!  
Had no mobile reception for several days, so decided to buy a phone card and ring our daughter, Julie. She'll text our progress to the rest of the family, Simon and Kim.
Bought sandwiches for lunch and some stores - but so expensive!

By 3.30pm, we've showered, shopped, phoned, written our logs and had a very expensive brandy and ginger!
Time for a lie down - door shut - listening to the crows' sing-song call and the warm westerly wind howling through the trees. 

Did 67kms today.

Monday, September 24, 2012

91 Mile Straight! Balladonia to 24hr Rest Area

Another rain less night!. Packed early and had breakfast at the Road House. Had ham and tomato toasted sammies and ordered 2 filled rolls to take away for lunch. $41!!! Had to wait 30 mins, too, but still got away by 7.00am.
Easy riding with a NW side wind. Began the 91 Mile Straight today!

Apart from usual road kill every couple of hundred metres (usually young roos in various stages of decomposition), we came across a fully grown camel on the wayside.

It was heaving with maggots and shrouded in a black cloud of flies.

En route, Del was plagued by biting "horse" flies - big, lazy, grey/black brutes that appeared from nowhere. Didn't let clothing get in their way either. Kept settling on Del's legs and rump and piercing his skin. Eventually he stopped, got a switch from the bush and killed them, taking great delight in feeding them to the ever present and always hungry ants.

Dawn, a woman we had met at last night's camp, drove past and took photos of us on her phone and sent them to us.

There were a couple of 24 hr rest areas between Balladonia and Caiguna. We decided, rather than camp alone in the bush, to head for the furthest one, 112kms away.
Eventually arrived at 4.00pm, after multiple "comfort stops" to ease the pressure of the saddle.
Set up camp. No grass to be found now. The tent goes down on dry, red, stony soil. Try to clear away the stones a little, but cover everything in red dust as a result.
Then Del discovered another broken spoke - in his front wheel this time. Insisted on fixing the problem immediately. It was nearly 6.00pm when he finished, so we ate our dinner of tinned meat and veges - cold - and in rapidly diminishing light.
By now 6 or 8 caravans and campervans had settled in for the night.
A quick visit to the rustic, much used composting toilet - a splash of water on the face - then we were ready for bed. But not before gazing at a glorious, red, Nullarbor sunset.

Did 112kms today.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

An interesting couple! Fraser Range Station to Balladonia

A comfortable night! Had breakfast in the kitchen, which was still warm from last night's fire.

As we left, the galahs went berserk when they spotted our fluoro shirts.
Cycled 2kms of unsealed road to the highway. Kangaroos leapt across our path.

No tail wind but we still managed to make good time.

At around 25kms we were flagged down by a couple parked on the roadside with a ute and a caravan, and invited for coffee.
Around our age, Alan (living in his caravan since retirement) and June (who'd just joined him for a couple of weeks) treated us to plunger coffee, cheese and crackers, while we heard their stories.

June was a passionate "Greenie". 
Spent several months volunteering in East Timor 7 years ago, and returned determined to make Australia a better place for her grandchildren.
She's taken part in marches, protests, etc and has been arrested a couple of times.
She's very supportive of "our indigenous people" and is passionately opposed to the government's proposed plans to put down hundreds of wells in W.A. to extract coal gas by fracking.

She's made several major walks - Geneva to Brussels and walks within Australia - to support her cause. A gutsy granny!  

In spite of spending some time with June and Alan, we still managed to get to Balladonia Roadhouse before 2.00pm. Road trains were queueing up for diesel.

Lovely staff behind the counter - English students on working holiday, I'd guess.
Not much in the way of food stores, but a cafe and restaurant provides light meals, takeaways and more substantial meals.

The camp ground is grassless, hard and stony, but we cleared a spot right next to a BBQ table and the toilet block.
Fish and Chips tonight! Hopefully we'll get breakfast here, too, and get a filled roll for lunch tomorrow.

Did 88kms today.  

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Wind assisted! Norseman to Fraser Range Station

A 6.30am start - and a tail wind all the way! Made great progress, covering 80kms by midday.

Scrub with signs of recent bush fires and regenerating undergrowth for much of the way. 

Local councils have planted grasses and young eucalypts on the verges to prevent erosion.           
                                                                                Around 75kms from Norseman is a 24hr free camping park complete with composting toilet, BBQ tables and fire pits.
We had lunch there but had planned to make it to Fraser Range Station Caravan Park, 25kms further.    

 A group of 3 young cyclists with a variety of trailers caught up with us on the road.
They were doing the round trip Darwin to Darwin, free camping where ever they could and carrying all the food they needed for the Nullarbor crossing plus 10 litres of water each!

Also caught up with a 67 yr old man from Sydney who was cycling round Australia. He was collecting money for a charity involved with locating and removing land mines in Laos.
He'd joined the young guys in Norseman, though they seemed happy enough to take off by themselves, and he was cycling alone.

Grahame and Chris spotted us en route and 
flagged us down to farewell us and exchange e-mail addresses.

Fraser Range Station describes itself as a sheep station.
Its 445,000 acres was once a thriving merino farm, but over the years, it has been overfarmed, and in recent years, wild dogs and dingos have decimated the sheep stock and they are few in number. Emus and kangaroos wander freely now.

The caravan park was developed in 2000 to provide additional income and a single golf hole was added as part of the famous Nullarbor Links.

A strong wind was blowing across the caravan park, so we decided to take a double room for the night. It's very basic - a bed, small fridge and a heater. Walls and floor are made of local stone.

We bought a few basic stores from the small shop then wrote our journals and blog by the open fire in the homely rustic kitchen.

Dressed warmly for a chilly night in our stone room.
There were fly traps - full - just outside the door and several cans of fly spray inside. Telling us something, perhaps?

Did 102kms today. No worries! Too easy!!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Gold in them there Hills! - Norseman

Had a wonderful night's sleep. My back twinge seems much improved by it.

Decided to take a break, stay a second night and plan the next stage of the trip.

Walked into town to buy stores from a well stocked IGA and a bottle of red for tonight. Then called into the Visitor Centre.

Later we went for a short cycle to check out our surroundings and our exit route for tomorrow.

150 years ago, so the story goes, a horse called Hardy Norseman, pawed the ground and revealed a gold nugget. A  gold rush followed. The town was called Norseman and became a mining mecca.

The gold mine closed down in 1974 leaving a big, grey "cliff face" overlooking the town - a man made heap of gold mining tailings.

The town has changed little since then - old shops with metal grilles - small, run down houses with unkept gardens, many for sale - streets with wide, bare, dusty verges. Found locals a little odd looking,too.

Spent some time planning the trip and stopovers from Norseman to Eucla.
Looks like we'll have a tail wind, but the first few days could be hilly.

Looking forward to it all.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

An uncomfortable Ride! Grass Patch to Salmon Gums to Norseman

Another warm night - with no dew.
We got away by 7.00am after a breakfast of banana and health bar.

The road was relatively flat and the wind was side on most of the time, turning to a tail wind for much of the afternoon. Very few road trains today - mostly caravaners and a few cars.

I'd developed a painful niggle in the back while at Grass Patch. It developed during the day and became quite painful.

Arrived at Salmon Gums to find a ghost town. Called into the local store - poorly stocked. The lady operator couldn't believe her luck when we rolled up wanting to purchase.
Another traveller joined us. Turned out to be Brett from Epsom (Auckland) who is a writer for "The Lonely Planet". Had 5 weeks to investigate the Perth, Margaret River, Esperance and Kalgoolie areas for another book.

Headed off looking for a suitable camping area. Couldn't find one, so decided to try to get to Norseman before dark.

Followed the railway line, which runs parallel to the highway, all the way to Norseman. 
Trains are extremely long, carrying ore from the mines in the north to the port at Esperance.

Salt lakes of various sizes appear all along the route from Esperance. They appear cloudy and pale blue, with salt crystallising around the edges - dead - no life. Stock refuse to drink from them.

Poor Del had to wait for me to catch up from time to time and agree to frequent stops to ease the pressure of the saddles and my twinging back. Luckily a tail wind helped us along.

Eventually, as twilight fell, we reached Norseman - a small, rough, sleepy town - and took an ensuite cabin in the Gateway Caravan Park. Del bought a microwave dinner at the local Caltex station, while I unpacked.

I was absolutely pooped! An early night for me!

Did 126 kms today.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Little Community - Big Heart! Grass Patch

Had a warm night. Slept quite well in spite of the humming generator and crowing roosters.
Both had lovely hot showers and Del was collected at 8.00am by Suzanne as planned.

I decided to stay and mind our gear.

The facilities are immaculate! - toilet block, showers, laundry - even a microwave!
The local community built the small park, hoping to make a little income from overnight stayers.
Large numbers visited the toilets today, but I think that overnighters may be few and far between.
Cement and stones were donated and Suzanne and husband, Dave, made all the lovely pink tinted bricks.
Another local built the block, and with a little help from the WA government, it was finished, complete with washing machine/drier, 8 powered sites for caravans, a small, flat, grassy patch for tents, a permanent gazebo with table and benches, a BBQ and a rainwater tank collecting water from the roof.
At $5 each a night (includes a key to the showers), we certainly can/t complain.

Del arrived home with the wheel fixed plus a couple of extra tools - so he's equipped to do the repair himself next time.

Apparently the wheel was fixed at the bike shop by  midday.  Del had to cool his heels for the rest of the day, with Dean chattering about his life experiences, and Suzanne giving him a tour of Esperance and the local wild flowers. So indebted to those two - and George!

Now we're back on track again!

Cycling resumes tomorrow!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Unplanned stopover! Esperance to Grass Patch

Off to an early start at 6.45am and reasonably flat roads, but a terrible head wind all morning. Wore us out and reduced the speed to 10kms an hour at times.
Rained several times. We sheltered under our tarpaulin.
Passed several salt lakes fringed with the eerie white tree skeletons.

Had delicious Mrs Macs pies at Gibson.

After midday the wind lessened and we managed to make up time somewhat.

Roadside scrub is lessening, but still flanked by large, well maintained farmland.
Wheat "bins" are the main feature of each little community.

Roadsides are continually strewn with discarded drink bottles and cans - a bad habit of, I suspect, the Aussie traveller rather than the overseas visitor.

Stopped at a tiny community called Grass Patch to buy an iced coffee from the pub, to have with our lunch.
As we cycled away, Del discovered a problem with his bike.
Thought it was the brakes, but on closer inspection, he discovered a broken spoke - and on the cog side of the rear wheel!
Realising that this was a major problem, we back tracked to Grass Patch.

The publican directed us to a lovely, newly developed caravan/camping/toilet area that the local community had developed.

We set up camp on the only patch of grass in Grass Patch and Del got to work on the problem.

An old local, Dean, called in for a shower and offered some help.
Would you believe it! The essential tool that Del had bought for the job, was the wrong size!

Dean called in neighbour,George, who brought in his ute and tool kit. Cogs had to be removed before a new spoke could be inserted.
Try as he could, George couldn't shift it - though all the ball bearings managed to fall out in the process!

Finally, Dean suggested that his neighbour, Suzanne, who was driving in to Esperance the following morning, might be able to give Del, the wheel (and ball bearings), a lift to the bike shop.
Suzanne agreed - pick up at 8.00am - back by late pm.

Crossing our fingers that it all works out well tomorrow!

Did 77kms today.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Esperance - City of Hope!

Had a relaxing day and checked the  Visitor Centre for information re the next stretch - Esperance to Norseman.
Bumped into Graham and Chris again, who helped us work out possible camping sites using the Aussie Campers' Bible - "Camp 6" - a weighty book of maps showing all the free camping areas and caravan parks.

Del invested in a mirror for the bike, some extra bungies and cans of degreaser and lubricant for the bikes.
He spent an hour or so, cleaning them up and preparing them for the next stage.
Calculated our food and water requirements for the next couple of days and bought them at Woolworths.
Del lost a $10 note on the way home, to his dismay. At least it wasn't $100!

On our bikes and heading north tomorrow.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Mad Magpies! Munglinup to Esperance

Munglinup Parking Area was right by the highway, and our sleep was disturbed half the night with road trains charging past. Nevertheless got away at 7.00am as usual.

Apart from a few easy riding sections, a developing head wind made for slow progress.

We were flagged down by a couple who tempted us with lovely cold ginger beer. Had a chat - they took photos - and we were off again.

Our high viz clothing is worrying the bird life! Warning calls come from the bushes as we ride past. The magpies were particularly vocal.
Long before we reached them, long, loud squawks and calls heralded our arrival, and agitated parents dive-bombed us as we passed.

The weather is definitely heating up during the day - though still chilly in the morning and evening.
Having to smear ourselves with sun screen and, as the mosquitoes seem bigger and hungrier than ever, we're using "Bushman" daily.

Stop regularly to give our rears a break and always look forward to our morning tea stop.

Started to rain as we approached Esperance. Stopped under a tree and sheltered beneath the tarpaulin that Del always carries on the top of his trailer.

Reached Esperance at 4.15pm.

Did a recci of the town centre and chose a motel close by - The Bay View Motel.

Looking forward to a good shower tonight!

Did 106kms today.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Hello Sunshine! Ravensthorpe to Munglinup

Off early as usual. Lovely weather - hot and sunny.
More scrub flanking the roads now. Hearing more birds, too - probably feeling threatened as the scrub offers less cover than the forests.
Lovely wild flowers everywhere.
Hectares of wheat and canola plantations, with a "bin" at the edge of every hamlet. 

Navigated around several dead echidnas and an emu and, at one stage, a 5 foot snake slithered across the road.
Del was keen to cover as much mileage as we could today, but I insisted that the trip to Munglinup was enough. 

Opposite the Munglinup Roadhouse is a parking area with toilets which is available for overnight stays. 
We have a table and seats, water and toilets right next door to our tent. What more could we ask for?

Two caravans are also staying the night.
After our evening meal, Graham and Chris from North Sydney invited us to join them for a wine.

Made our day!

Did 79kms today