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This is an account of 8 months I spent travelling Australia by bicycle.† While primarily written for my own benefit I hope others may find it of some interest.† It begins in Ďemailí style but for the most part it takes the form of a day by day journal which I wrote whilst travelling.† While some of it was written in hindsight. Good luck if you try to read all of it!†

††††††††††

 

New South Wales

 

Sydney

 

Hello everyone.† I arrived in Sydney after over 20 long hours in the air.† Surprising the in flight meals were edible and I had my own tiny TV in the seat in front of me.† I've never before seen so many movies in such a short space of time.† I came off the plane with very blood shot eyes.† The transfer in Kuala Lumpur went smoothly and we landed in Sydney about 10 minutes early.† I collected my panniers and my boxed bike, which appeared to be in one piece.† I was quite relieved!† Got stopped going though customs, they were concerned that I might be planning on selling my bike in Australia and not giving them a cut.† In the end they let me go, on the condition I would export my bike within 12 months.† It took best part of any hour to reassemble my bike in the airport arrivals lounge.† As a left the airport building at about 10am the weather was already scorching.† It must have got up into the 30's that day.† After a few test rides on my full loaded bike and a bit of weight redistribution I carefully left the airport.† From then on I got a bit lost.† Suffice to say the 10km journey to the hostel took me 2.30 hours and I cycled a total distance of 23km in the lively Sydney traffic!† Eventually I checked in at the hostel very jet lagged and with a headache, having caught a bit of sun.† Since then I've seen quite a lot of Sydney.† The highlights being: attending the ballet at the Sydney opera house and day trip to Palm Beach (aka Summer Bay) from Home & Away.† Actually watched some filming but unfortunately did not recognize any of the actors.† They must be quite far ahead over here (and of course I donít really watch it).† Met an Australian guy in the hostel who has been showing me around a bit, made good use of an all day travel pass to take numerous ferries around the harbour and under the bridge.† I have been doing lots of shopping and eating, which is much cheaper than back home.† And people tell me Sydney is expensive!† Anyway been here almost two weeks and I'm keen to get on the road, so I'm planning on leaving Sydney in a few days....

Hello.† I've been on the road six days now and have eventually found an internet kiosk.† On Monday I managed to ride out of Sydney without getting too lost again.† Leaving the hostel felt almost surreal.† With no idea of what to except and struggling to control the bike, a little voice in my head was asking me what on earth I was doing.† This time I cycled on a bearing back pass the airport and then on cycle paths along the coast around Botany Bay.† The weather was not too hot and lots of planes passed over head as the Sydney sky line disappeared into the distance behind me.† The bike is very unwieldy, I have to take care with the steering and powering it up to speed is hard work.† I took a 15 km detour to Captain Cook point; the location where he originally landed.† Having forgotten to have lunch the kilometres where passing very slowly.† Relived to find a garage I had the most delicious Twix bar and vanilla malt drink ever.† Doubling back on my self to Crunulla (the last district of Sydney)† I Then I took a pleasant 20 minute ferry journey to Bundeena.† It appears I caught the 'school ferry' as a number of kids where heading home; I was envious.† A lot better than a bus I thought.† Next I need to a find the campsite for the first night on the road.† Tiny residential Bundeena is million miles from bustle Sydney.† All my camping kit worked fine.† Dinner was plain rice! I'm going to have to come up with so more tasty meals.† Already Iím amazed my the different plants and animals in Australia.† The campsite was full of parrot like birds, which kept me up and woke me up!

On Tuesday morning the valve in my rear tyre exploded out as I was checking the pressure.† Instead of changing the tyre, which a was not keen to do since I wanted to get on the road. I just stuck it back in.† It has been fine since (touch wood).† The ride out of Bundeena was exhausting and hot in the early morning sun.† It was uphill though a National Park. Lots more fascinating bird and dried out looking trees.† It soon became clear I had far too much weight with me!† Iíd consider myselft to reasonable fit but this is just taking it out of me.† I realise Iíll be on a steep learning curve with regards to the cycle touring. After about 4 sweaty hours going up hill I eventually emerged out of the trees high up on a coast road, with impressive views down the coast and out across the cool blue waters.† At the lookout point a friendly middle aged couple from Melbourne kindly gave me some chilled water.† Great fully received!† As well as some advice, since they had done a bit of cycle touring.† I had two hot dogs from an ice van for lunch before getting back on the twisty downhill road.† The rest of the day dragged a bit but it was mainly on the flat and the scenery of endless beaches kept me happy.† Towards the end of the day the quite road became busy and I got a little lost now that I was back in suburbia.† So I did not reach my intended stopping point and was glad to find a campsite to stop at Windang after 90 very long kilometres.

Having over done it on Tuesday I had to take Wednesday off!† I did a little food shopping and had a go faster hair cut (didnít feel the need to shave my leg though).† I have a ridiculous amount of stuff as I can barely close my panniers.† I sent 2.6kg of my stuff home by sea (it takes about 3 months).† It cost about 12 pounds, not too bad.† Windang lived up to its name.† It was windy!† I had to re-point my tent to stop it blowing away.

On Thursday I travelled a relatively short 50km further south along the coast.† I stopped at a Thai restaurant in Kiama for lunch; very nice. They also have an interesting blowhole there, where the sea shoots up through a hole in the cliffs.† In the afternoon I joined the Princess Highway heading south.† The traffic actually not too bad, nothing close to roads in England.† But when I came across a number of large hills and it started to rain I stopped at the first opportunity in Gerra.† At first it appeared I had the campsite mostly to myself again but out of the blue one of the campsites owners was hosting their kid's (4 yrs) birthday party in the BBQ area!† Which was interesting.† On Friday I was determined to cover some distance, after a couple of lazy day.† So I was on the road my 8 am.† The road was flat and by about 10am I'd covered 30km.† I stopped to do some food shopping.† Feeling confident I decided to push on to cover the 60km to the next town.† Iím out of the residential areas again and light forests surround the road.† 30 km went by and I stop at a roadhouse for some shade and I cool drink.† The inclement weather of yesterday was no where to be seen for it was positively scorching under the middle sun.† I also finished the food I purchased earlier.† After an hours in the shade, from 12:30 to 1:30 (it really was a hot day), and I was back on the road thinking the next 30km would past swiftly.† They might of if it was not for the hills.† And these where big and long hills.† The going was hard and my legs were burning (not from the sun) as I dragging almost 50Kg (bike and stuff) up the hills.† I made use of all my low gears.† An hour drag by and I was now running on determination alone.† I first realized something was wrong when I noticed (after quite a while) that I had become breathless and was cycling very hard to keep the bike moving going downhill?!† I had to pull over to see that in fact I was still going up hill.† I guess the confusion was cause but a number of factors: the sun, exhaustion and very low blood sugar levels.† I'd hit the wall again and badly needed some food.† (The Wall Ė a familiar experience for long distance runner is the points where all energy (glycogen) stored in the muscles is expensed.† Muscles are then forced to switch to burn fat; more inefficient it leaves you feeling tired and breathless.† By this point blood glucose levels are low which can make you feel nauseated and distant.)† All I had with me was 3 peaches and half a pack of boil sweets (life savers), which did the job.† And I was back on my way, if only very slowly.† My water was warm and unappealing but I still had plenty of it, as I was paranoid about running out.† When I thought I was almost at the town/campsite at Milton I was confronted by yet a hill steeper that the last.† I painfully grind up the hill no quicker that walking pace.† The overtaking buses donít help.† Eventually in town I stopped at a cake shop and shoved a large slice of chocolate cake in my mouth devouring it in less than 20 seconds.† Just what I needed.† I collapsed in the closest campsite and listened to the cricket on my radio.† No surprises that England werenít doing so well!†

 

 

Today, Saturday, I covered another 60 km along the Princess Highway to Batemans Bay.† A† very nice tourist town.† It was a little but not very hilly.† I reached here by lunch and have taken the afternoon to rest.† Along the road I met 2 German girls who where cycling from Sydney to Melbourne.† They made me fell rather over equipped as they a carried relatively small about of kit strapped on top of the back of their mountain bikes.† They didn't have any dedicated cycling kit.† Compared to me with my four side mounting panniers, handle bar bag, cycling gloves, cycling shorts, cycling shirt, SPD shoes etc....† They were not stopping at Batemans Bay so Iíd be able to catch them up in a day or two.† Be a fairly large tourist are thereís a McDonalds here.† Donít really need an excuse to treat myself; theyíre so cheap here, a big mac meal only cost about 2 pounds fifty.†

 

The bike is generally performing well but I've had to attend to the rear gears.† The SPD clip in shoes are very good and make to going a bit easier as I can actually pull the pedal as well as push.† The draw back being the times (usually once a day) when I come to stop and forget to unclip my feet, leaving me falling off the bike sideways to the amusement of any on-lookers!† Anyway, so far so good.† I feel I'm getting stronger as each day passes but it will still take a while before I can get anywhere close to whizzing up hills. I'm certainly getting good use out of my hill climbing gears!† And a bit less weight would help, but not sure what I could do without?† Everybody I meet on the road and at campsites are friendly and interesting in what I'm doing and where I'm going (unless theyíre just being polite).†††††††††††††††††††

 

Rather than spending ages in an internet cafť writing this, (like last time) Iím writing this in advance. So here I sit zipped up in my small tent, a bit cold and listening to the rain. Iíll come to that laterÖ.

 

I left you last at Batemanís Bay, a small fishing and tourist town on the coast. Relatively close to Canberra. After leaving the internet cafť I stocked up on supplies.† This included a few essentials like a couple of beers and some sausage to go on the BBQ. Most of the public BBQís Iíve seen consist of a square metal plate with a hole in the middle. Drop 20 cents in or press the button and the plate heats up.†† I guess itís like that for convenience and maybe to reduce the fire hazard.† Itís so hot and dry out here (apparently, it always seems to rain on me!) that there is often a total fire ban in place during the summer.† I had my hot dogs and put the left overs and a couple of water containers in the fridge to chill for the next day.† Well, in the night.† Somebody, probably some kids with nothing better to do, broke into the locked fridge and took my lunch to be and some fruit.† Kindly they left one of my water containers.† What makes it more annoying was that the this campsite was not deserted (like some of the others) and that my tent was pitched no more that 10 meters away.† I just hope I under cooked Ďthoseí sausages!† Being Sunday I decided to take it easy and headed off to the next town Moruya.† After a few hours of gentle up and down I passed an ice cream van playing very disturbing and repetitive music.† It was parked by the beach.† So I stopped to refuel with a banana split (yummy!).† Back on the bike I encountered my first long straight flat road.† It was refreshing to be able to maintain a good speed for once.† In Moruya I followed signs for the campsite realizing too late that I was on a 7km side trip to Moruya Heads.† Which seemed to be a very long way and with failing legs.† To top that, the campsite was not that nice and it hurt my hands attempting to push pegs into the hard ground.† Unexpectedly the pair of German cyclists I had met previously arrived.† We compared notes on the route and chatted for a while.† I was again amazed by how relatively little they had with them.† I guess it was because they were on a short trip and had no option but to keep their weight to a minimum.† I started thinking again about how come I had so much Ďessentialí kit?

 

Monday

 

The trip back to Moruya and the Princess highway seemed to take no time at all in the early morning.† Soon I spotted my first Kangaroo!† Unfortunately this one smelt awful and was lying in a heap on the roadside.† Iíve past all manner of different types of road kill: from kangaroos, birds, lizards and wombats to name a few.† All of which were in various states of decay, lying by the road or sometimes in the road.† Some of they are freshly killed while others are just bones.† Luckily Iíve not hit anything yet, dead or alive!† I have developed a routine when approaching road kill.† Regardless of whether Iím going up hill or not; I pedal as hard as I can taking the farthest safe path around the animal. (In view of the traffic).† For two reasons: A. they just stink and B. because I donít fancy any of the feeding flies choosing me as an alternative lunch.

 

And that brings me on to the issue of flies.† Where on Earth do they all come from??† (Australia it seems!).† I can hardly get a minutes peace with hoards of them buzzing around by face. (They leave my legs alone because they are always moving).† It gets especially bad when Iím climbing a hill. Iím usually sweating a bit and moving slowly.† And when I try and swot them away it makes it hard to maintain control of the bike. (Which believe me has a mind of its own).† Plastering on the fly repellent helps, but they soon return.† Iíve deduced that your average New South Wales fly is capable of speed around 20 km/h.† While the sporty fit ones can reach speeds up to but on in excess of 25 km/h (17mph).† In order to out run the pests I need to maintain 30 km/h (20mph) for a good 10 seconds or so, which means a flat or preferably a downhill slope.† Even then these guys are more intelligent than you think!† As I accelerate they land on my rear panniers, out of sight!† And hand on for the ride.† When I slow down, (youíve guessed it) they take off and bother me so more!† I think that enough on the flies for the moment.† Itís nice, in a way, that one of my biggest concerns is the insect life.

 

Back on the road it was a pretty uneventful day.† Apart from when my chain (with a mind of its own) decided it wanted a change and suddenly came off.† Moving uphill I panic flooded over me and turning the pedals no longer propelled the bike forwards.† This time I managed to free one foot from the pedal.† But the wrong one and in true style I went crashing down hard onto the road on the opposite side.† Taking the full force on the side of my leg.† I was not best pleased and had to make a quick departure from the middle of the road.† (Since then Iíve finally got the hang of the clip-in shoes and have had no other mishaps).

 

I stopped for the night at Wallaga lakes.† From my tent at the edge of the lake I had an amazing view.† Tress and mountains filled the horizon.† Just before I got to sleep I hear splashing noises from the water.† I looked to see some kind of jumping fish.† It looked good but I couldnít see the point in it for the fish?

 

Tuesday

 

My legs were a little stiff and saw as I tried to stretch them in my sleeping bag.† I slept in a little to 9.00am.† The campsite was a bit isolated, not a good place to take a rest day.†† So I jump on the bike and travelled the short 10km to Bermagui, which is another small pleasant fishing town.† (The town provided the backdrop for the Billy Connelly movie ĎThe Man Who Sued Godí.† While pitching my tent I found a mysterious hole in the seam.† I spent the next twenty minutes stitching it.† For good measure I coated my stitches in glue, I donít want any nasty insect crawly in, or flying in (for that matter) during the night.† Amazing I had done a good job (most stuff I stitch comes apart soon after).† I then did some much needed clothes washing.† A Swiss couple on a tandem then arrived on the campsite. They were in a hurry to get to Melbourne since they had booked their ferry to Tasmania.† They looked very accomplished cyclists and had already travel thousands of kilometres in Australia.† Leaving my washing to dry I headed for the nearest/only pub to sit out in the sun reading my book with a cold drink.† From nowhere a rain storm appeared and I swiftly moved inside.† Back on the campsite the Swiss couple had kindly taken my clothes off the line and out of the rain.

 

Wednesday

 

Legs still not back to full strength so I spent most of the day on the beach.† It would be silly to over do it and risk injury.† So itís sunbathing, reading and swimming today, not necessarily in that order (itís a hard life for some).† Looked for, but had no luck finding Internet access.

 

Thursday

 

I continued south along the coast.† Thankfully leaving the Prices highway behind.† Before long I was on an unsealed road.† I real test for my bike which handled it just fine.† About lunchtime I took a side trip to see Mimosa Rocks.† Volcanic rocks jetting out into the sea; named after a boat that was wrecked on them.† The trip to the rock was downhill and this unsealed road was badly pot holed with lots of lose stones.† The ride down was Ďa bití bumpy.† I made good use of the brake and at the bottom one of my rear pannier fixings needed readjusting.† Itís enough to say the journey back to the road was slow and hard.† On a long down hill stretch further along the coast I set my current record top speed of 70.3 km/h (47mph).† It was a little hair razing but great fun rushing through the winds and trees.† The surface was good and the road was straight otherwise I wouldnít dare going so fast on a loaded bike.† I passed through Tathra, another sea side town with fishing boat, caravan parks and budget hotels, and started heading inland.† Camping for the night at Kalaru.† I cleaned and waxed by chain, a little concerned it was not running as well as it should be.

 

Friday

 

I started some serous climbing up toward the mountains stopping at an Information centre (also some guyís house) for a local map/information.† Before long I was invited in for a tour.† Jack was a bit of an inventor and he showed me so thing he had put together from recycled stuff.† Including: a water recycling system where the waste water from the kitchen was pumped onto his vegetable garden, a garden rotavator, a forge, and an electric powered tricycle he was in the middle of making!† He kindly made me a cuppa and talked a lot (quite a character.)† On the road I had a hours or two of tough climbing to compete before I stopped at Bemboka, at the foot of Brown Mountain.

 

Saturday

 

Got up early since I had a mountain to climb (literality). The weather was perfect, cool and still at 8am as I started to climb.† It was not too steep so I could take it fairly easy.† The snaked it was up through the trees and in about 2 and an a half hours I was at the top, about 1200m (4000 feet).† On the way up I past a lorry, loaded with hay, which had left the road and was on its side in a ditch.† There were lots of police and a couple cranes attending to it.† Good job it didnít go off the other side of the road.† On top there was still a lot of ups and downs and my leg did not have a lot left in them, so I stopped as soon as possible at Nimmitabel.† An another small town with only a about 100 residents.† As I approached Nimmitabel it started to absolutely pour with rain.† And my feet were soon soaked.† I could hear the water in my shoes as I pushed the pedals.† Had a moment of panic when shooting down hill toward a junction. My brakes were not slowing me down!† But to my relief they soon dried off and gripped the rims once again.† The campsite that night was just a field with a few taps and power sockets for caravans.† Nobody turned up to collect any fees (like the sign said) so it was free.† It did mean I could not get into the locked shower block but there were public toilets.† Anyway what did I need a shower for when it was still pouring with rain?† Iíd been pretty much soaked through earlier.† With nothing better to do, I sat in my tent and started writing.

 

Sunday

 

It was still raining this morning and it was cold!† So I set off with 3 layers on including full waterproofs and fleece.† Off the main road, I found a farmer herding his cows.† Now, I donít think cows like bikes at the best of time but the sight of me dressed head to toe in aluminous yellow waterproofs had them petrified!† From a distance they would repeatedly turn their nervous heads and stare dumbly; trying to figure me out.† As I approach they ran for their lives.† Often skidding on the road as they darted off.† Not fully looking where they were going, they would run into others as they all madly attempted to get out of my way.† Only they werenít getting out of my way at all as they ran down the centre of the road.† Soon the sealed road ran out.† This time the surface was not well compacted and the rain, mud and sand made the going very hard.† If you can imagine cycling over a wet beach.† This place felt very remote.† By the time I reached my next stop, Dalgety, the weather had dramatically changed, the sun was out and it was a hot afternoon.† The campsite here also seemed deserted.† But I found instructions to lift a phone and was told by some guy to set up my tent.† Again the showers were locked but there where public toilets.† It was Sunday afternoon and a number of local people where enjoying the sun and children where swimming in Snowy river just by the campsite.† So I joined them.† Dalgety was a small place with just a cafť/basic shop and a small pub.† With my leg still not full recovered from all the climbing I decided to stay another day.

 

Monday†††††††

 

Spent all of today on the banks of the Snowy River.† Weather was fabulous for sunbathing.† I finished my book and left it in the laundry to reduce weight.† Later the campsite owner appears to inform me Ďthis is a private campsite!í† Clearly just a bit of confusion at their end.† After a chat it turns out heís going to England to spending Christmas in Gloucestershire, somewhere?† He then says not to bother about the fee.† He return later to tell me heís open the showers for me to freshen up! What a nice guy.

 

Tuesday

 

Itís only 35 km to Jindabyre, a major tourist centre around here.† I still set off early in the cool.† But at 8:00 am Iím already slapping on the sun cream.† The route took me over Guyís range, which is not all that high but incredibly steep.† In 3km I climbed about 300 meters!† Itís so steep and my legs feel so feeble, I can only just keep the bike moving upwards.† And at one point the bike decides it want to going crashing off the side of the road.† Picking myself up I have to fight hard to prevent a random act of aggression on my disobedient bike.† †And get on with it.† My legs really start to burn but in just over an hour Iím in Jindabyre.† It turns out this place is only a major tourist centre in the winter when it snows and everybody goes skiing!† Now the place just feels a bit dead.† I check in to a hostel to find Iím the only one there!† And this place could sleep about 100 people.

 

Wednesday

Seems like I spent most of today writing this and typing it up.† Tomorrow Iím heading south through the wilderness.† Itís be a couple of day with shops so Iíve been stocking up on food, but there is a total fire ban in place and itís a little difficult working out what to take.

 

I last update the journal back in Jindabyne.† The deserted alpine ski resort.† Since then Iíve not taken a day off the road.† Now I find myself in Melbourne having survived the first leg of my journey.

 

Wednesday

Back in Jindabyne there was a storm brewing.† It had appeared reasonable fine as I arrived but since then the winds had been building.† Taking the opportunity to do some laundry I naturally hung my clothes outside, on the veranda, to dry.† Aware of the wind I secured them appropriately and subsequently moved into the hostel kitchen/lounge leaving them to dry.† On returning my towel was nowhere to been seen. Scanning up and down the road I could see noting. A short walk around the block also yielded nothing. Itís lost forever.† Luckily my clothes, which Iím more concerned about, stayed put.† In town I came across an outdoors shop which stocked camping/travelling towels.† Theyíre more like kitchen cloths than towels; I buy the extra large size.† It is smaller than my lost towel, which wasnít exactly what I would call huge.† Surprising the towel isnít too bad although it does have a tendency to move the water around a little before absorbing it.

 

It is novel having the hostel to myself but it would be nice to have some people around.† It was the night of the solar eclipse.† The only town to experience a full eclipse was Ceduna in South Australia.† That being a few 1000km away I not surprised I didnít see anything.† I watch with interest on the news as Ceduna is on my route.† The next 3 nights will take me through the Kosciuszko and Alpine national parks.† Crossing the state boarder between NSW and Victoria.† According to my guidebook Iíll be in remote country; nowhere to buy food and the only water available from rivers.

 

Thursday

Leaving town I have: half a loaf of Salami sandwiches, the other half jam, about twenty muesli/breakfast bars, a smaller but sizeable amount of chocolate bars, a bag of peanuts, some sports drink power mix and some fruit.† And what takes the form of my stable diet, rice + noodles.† I set off with about 5 litres of water, more that I take for a day but certainly not enough for three. The bike is as heavy as it has been for a while.† The road out of Jindabyne feels lonely and exposed.† And I know Iím heading out of civilisation when I pass a sign warning no petrol for the next 170km.† The winds from the previous days have not ceased.† In fact the wind feels stronger. It must be getting close to gale force.† Luckily itís not a head wind but a side wind, which would not be so bad if it werenít so strong.† Itís a good job the road isnít busy otherwise Iíd be a major traffic hazard.† Trying to cycle in a straight line is almost impossible. After a couple of close encounters with the edge of the road I un-clip my shoes so I can make a quick emergency stop.† Which proves a very wise move since on a number of occasions I found myself heading uncontrollably towards the verge at the side of the road.† Occasionally I would have to stop and hold onto my bike for dear life as the wind howled past me.† At one point it felt like the wind would blow the shirt off my back, it certainly did a good job of blowing me off my bike.† This seemed to go on forever, climbing also made progress painfully slow.† But before too long the sealed road ran out and I found myself descending among the shelter of trees.† The scenery was spectacularly.† Dense forests as far as I could see covered the rugged hills.† Mountain rivers made their way along the valley floor.† My campsite for the night lay beside the Snowy River at the bottom of a valley.† The decent through the trees was great.† I did a little filming .It was a little bumpy which unfortunately limited my speed.† As I descended it started to rain.† Reaching the campsite I erected my tent in record time and dive inside before I got too wet.††††† ††††††††††††

†††††

Friday

 

It was a little brighter this morning, a few clouds but no rain. On the path back to the road I disturbed some kangaroos (probably the same ones) feeding among the trees.† I catch a glimpse of a Joey tucking its head inside its motherís pouch as she bounced away.† I guess you donít see that too often.† I watched one jump a high fence a few days ago.† They must have very strong legs.†† Theyíd probably make good cyclists.† On the bike the road weaves its way up and down through the trees.† Iím following the path of the river running through the valley.† Thereís so much to see I keep reaching for the camera.† Iíve almost got the whole place to myself apart from a few passing 4x4 cars and a group of canoeist camped by the river.† In places the road surface is badly corrugated.† This causes my handlebar bag to vibrate wildly and my whole bike for that matter.† To the extent Iím concerned it would shake its self apart.† Itís amazing how much my camera, wallet, some boiled sweets, sun/fly screen and my guidebook collectively weigh.† I have no other option but to brake hard and roll over them gently.† Which gets frustrating when approaching at high speed.† What is worse is when the shade cast by the roadside trees obscures the corrugations and I unwillingly whiz over them.† Bump bump, rattle rattle!† Reaching the state boarder to Victoria I sit up on a bench I enjoy the first of hopefully many boarder crossings.† As I approach the campsite, at Suggan Buggan (great name), I pass a restored schoolhouse used my early settlers.† Schoolhouse cast the wrong image, itís just like a wooden shed.† Itís hard to imagine what exploring and living in such remote areas 200 years ago must have been like.† The route I have taken was once the main route between Melbourne and Sydney.† Now there is little else here other than one run down private house, the schoolhouse and the campsite by a stream.† I pitch up for the night.† Iíve been in no hurry today and the conditions have certainly limited my distance.

 

Victoria

 

Saturday

 

Haven eaten almost all my food and drank all my water, I check the map to see how far it is to Buchan.† Itís 80km and it looks like thereís a shop or two on route.† I take just under 2 litres of water from the river.† I have one big 10km climb to do and then itís mostly downhill.† Typically the sun is out early today and things soon heat up as I start to climb.† Whilst climbing, for the first time I manage to spin the pedals in my lowest gear without fatigue.† [The most efficient way to cycle is to turn the pedals as fast as you can in as lower/easier gear as is practical for the speed you are travelling.† As opposed to straining yourself (muscles and joints) by grinding away in a high/hard gear.]† This means I find myself climbing about 30% faster which is quite significant when you consider it knocks half an hour off a 10km climb.† On the way up I try the river water.† Itís like drinking from a swimming pool!† I added a couple of chlorine based purification tablets back at camp.† You have to wait 20 minutes for them to do their stuff.† Fortunately I also have the neutralisation tablets with me.† I wait another 10 minutes for these to work their magic.† And magic it is.† If the water had come out of a bottle labelled Ďmountain springí I wouldnít have questioned it. (After all thatís pretty much what it was)† The road is twisty but not too steep.† A middle age lady in a passing car stops to chat.† Sheís just dropped off her husband and some friends who are doing some walking in the area.† Within a minute or two she gives me her business card and invites me to visit for a home cooked meal!† Unfortunately Iím not heading that way, I thank her anyway.† After an hour Iíve reached the top and the first thing I notice is that the flies are back.† I hadnít missed them when they werenít around.† Having eaten my last two muesli bars and the remains of the peanuts on the way up all I had left to eat was an apple.† I was unconcerned; Gelantipy was only an hour or so away.† Feeling a little drained I mixed the last of my water with a generous quantity of my powered sports drink mix.† Still cool, the orange flavour tasted good in the heat and soon it was all gone.† I reached a collection of deserted looking building and a run down closed petrol station.† Relived to have reached Gelantipy I travelled on to find a proper shop.† The road descended steeply.† I maintain a fast speed and before long Iíve travelled a few kilometres.† But I never reached a town.† The buildings I had passed must have been Gelantipy.† There was no way I was turning around to climb all the way back up there.† Anyhow I only had 40km to go and I would be passing another river.† A little more concerned I pressed on.† Travelling through farmland means one thing; flies.† At one point, while climbing, there must have been hundreds buzzing annoyingly around my face.† There were so many they almost obscured the view of the road!† I smeared on another layer of industrial strength insect repellent.† I donít put this stuff on unless I have to, itís toxic.† Unwillingly I got some on my lips and did it burn.† Before long I could taste the stuff and with nothing to drink I wasnít too happy.† I mint polo helped a little.† That was the last big climb of the day and I reached Buchan in a couple of hours or so.† The first thing I did was to enjoy a glass of iced water (and a pie). I had been largely travelling on straight roads, downhill, through forests.† That had help kept me cool and my lack of water didnít turn out to be a problem at all.† I drop in to the hostel for a comfy bed.

 

Sunday

 

Buchan has a river running through it.† Which follows I have a climb to get out the valley.† The route today leads back to sea level, the coast (which I havenít seen for a while) and civilisation.† I pass more road building work.† I guess since Australia is so huge they still are developing the road network in more rural areas.† I complete another 80km and for once my legs are feeling strong.† On the main street of Barindale, my stop for the night, I enjoy being able to accelerate away from traffic lights faster than the cars.† (what I usually do on a unloaded bike).† It started out a sunny day but it clouds over later in the afternoon and rains a little just for me.

 

 

Monday

 

Since I havenít been in a town of any considerable size for some time I take the opportunity to do some shopping.† The item on the top of the list is a small pillow.† Iíve been improvising with towels and clothes for too long and my neck canít take it any more.† Whatever I do, itís still not comfortable enough.† I find just what I was looking for- A small fluffy specialised camping pillow that folds up in a synthetic bag.† I also purchased a little pocket sized radio; a steal at $12.† My wind-up radio was too heavy and a little impracticable.† I give it away to group of English backpackers, living on the campsite will they worked.† The weather today is cloudy, grey and a little windy.† According to the paper itís a south-westerly wind.† Exactly the direction Iím going!† And theyíre not wrong; back on the road my speed is two thirds of what I usually maintain.† With all my luggage I have a relatively large amount of wind resistance.† It gets a little frustrating as it feels like Iím wasting my effect.† At least it is flat but endless farmland become a little boring to look at.† Another deserted campsite for the night; nothing new there.† Had a bit of hairy moment when arriving, one patch of the approach road is covered in sand.† Hitting it at high speed my back wheel skidded sideways, uncontrollably away from underneath me.† I looked back at my tracks in the sand.† How I remained on my bike I donít know.† I spend twenty minutes looking for some grass to pitch my tent on.† I never found any; it was all sandy coastal scrubland.††††††

† ††††††††††

Tuesday

 

On the road I met my first Australia touring cyclist.† Sheís heading for Sydney.† Iím amazed sheís wearing a pair of headphones and no helmet.† The wearing of cycle helmet is law out here.† But it does give me an idea.† I put my new radio on my bar bag.† It seems okay for a while but I find it difficult to keep a good signal and it interferes with my cordless cycle computer.† I reach another sizeable town, Sale.† For lunch I stop at McDonalds; I felt in need of some calories.† I decide against a drive through although that would be quite amusing.† After my meal, an Oreo McFlurry hits the spot.† The sun tries to come out this afternoon but itís still mostly cloudy and windy, but not as bad as before.† I reach Rosedale to find the caravan park has closed down.† So I treat myself to a motel.† Which is very still very cheap compared to England.† The friendly owner, who is a keen cyclist, is very chatty.† He warns me about the poor road quality on the route Iím taking.† Having a TV a can catch up on Neighbours, I suppose I have to watch it since Iím in Australia.

 

Wednesday

 

The cleaner walks in on me in the morning.†† I think she was more concerned about it than I was.† Since I had no car parked outside she figured I must have left!† On my way I noticed my cycle computer is not working.† I stop and unpack one of my panniers to consult the manual.† Still stumped the only thing I can think of is that the radio interference has prematurely drained the transmitterís battery.† Just about to attempt the awkward job to replace the battery it starts to rain.† I then notice the transmitter is no longer pointing towards the computer.† Itís always the simple things.† I have a considerable 600m (up) climb to end the day.† Iím soon on a dirt road that isnít great.† But since the climb is limiting my speed more the surface isnít as much of a problem.† Iím entering the Tarra-Bulga national park.† Itís an isolated area of rainforest and rain it does.† The flora is fascinating, very different to anything IĎve seen so far.† Tall trees tower up high blocking out most of the sunlight.† Ferns dominate the ground.† And because of my altitude and the bad weather thereís a spooky misty fog hanging around.† Reaching the only campsite around involves a side trip decent almost back down to sea level.† Fortunately, for safeties sake, road is sealed, very twisty and good fun.† I pass an impressive waterfall on the way down; braking hard I stop for a look around.† On the campsite a huge bonfire of leaves is burning.† Still a little cold and damp I stand over it for a while to warm up. [Thereís definitely no fire band in this region, or so it seems.† Although areas around Sydney have had some bad fires this week.† They have had dry weather but shared the strong winds.† How far Iíve already travel starts to soak in].† I start my own fire in a purpose built half oil drum come BBQ.† It keeps me entertained for hours and I manage to cook my noodles on it.† However all my clothes get rather smoky.† So wonderfully colourful red and blue birds join me for dinner.

 

Thursday

 

Itís another slow climb back up to Balook.† Well, they all are.† Although today I still feel strong as I reach the top.†† On top itís grey, drizzly and misty.† The next 70km has a lot of little ups and downs, eventually leading back to sea level.† Itís the road I was warned about.† Itís fairly bad but no worse that roads Iíve been on before.† However the rain makes it worse.† Iím warm after the climb but I soon cool down.† And with it intermittently drizzling, my now very smoky raincoat is on off on off all day.† Iím in a tree logging area and a couple of large tree loaded trucks thunder past.† I get well off the road.† After an hour in the drizzle my feet are damp along with my fingerless gloves.† With the added effects of wind chill my fingers and feet go a little numb.† (Before coming to Australia I expectations to be on long straight roads in the hot sun all the time.† All too often I find my self at attitude in the rain. Hopefully the flat roads are to come.)† The road surface is holding me up and Iím forced to descend at a slow jogging speed.† The mist limits my view of what is supposed to be some impressive scenery.† It takes me a long 5 hours to cover about 50 km, back to a sealed road.† Which is an extremely welcome site, it had been a long depressing slog through the damp and mist.† By this time itís the middle of the afternoon.† With the loss of height I soon warm up and see a little sun.† As descend toward Toora I meet my first English cyclists, a couple on a tandem.† Theyíre heading back the way Iíve come.† I tell them about the road and the rain but make it sound better than it was.† Anyhow the weather is clearing up a little.† Anyway turning back on a bike is never really an option.† Anyway itís the difficult condition which makes it varied and Ďinterestingí.† Iím just glad Iím not going back that way.† Itís still windy which justifies the number of wind turbines I pass.† The campsite in Toora has a spa.† So I spend most of the evening recovering in the warm waters.† Have been damp most of the day, I start to think itís a good job skin is waterproof.

 

Friday

 

Itís STILL cloudy this morning so I leave my waterproof covers on just in case.† The route is a little hilly so I decided to only do 50km after yesterday strife.† Unsurprisingly it does rain but only briefly.† I manage to pick up the cricket on the radio and England seems to batting well.† It keeps me entertained for a while (not that Iím particularly interested in cricket).† The campsite at Walkerville is meant to have a great view of Wilsons Promontory (an area of national park sticking out in to the sea) over Waratah bay.† But the horizon is just grey.† Later in the afternoon there is a brake in the cloudy and some sun.† Iím quickly in it.† I go to the campsite shop to get an ice-cream and come away with a free pie.† It was almost closing time.† (They seem to be quite big on their pie and pasties over here and theyíre obsessed with putting tomato ketchup on them?)

 

Saturday

 

I consider spending today on the beach but the weather makes the decision for me.† I now understand Neil Finnís inspiration for the Crowed House song ĎFour Seasons in One Dayí.† The weather can change so suddenly around here.† At least thereís no head wind today and itís flat for a change!† I cycle 40km in a couple of hours.† The best progress Iíve made so far.† In the afternoon I pull off the highway to visit an historic coal mine site.† Thereís not much too see: the remains of a few builds and a commemorative plaque to some guys who had died in the mine.† The hot sun is out and the view stretches along the coast toward Philip Island.† Iíve soon covered another 40km and stop at Kilcunda to soak up some sun.

 

Sunday

 

With only 40km to Cowes, the end of the line on Philip Island, I take it easy today.† Famous for it penguins and motor circuit Philip Island is join to the mainland by a bridge and sits just outside Melbourneís Port Philip bay.† Still sunny, I stop off at Churchill Island.† Which claims to have had the first farm in Victoria.† There are a few old buildings to see and a couple of people dressed in period costume.† Chatting to one of them, I donít think heís too impressed when I tell him my house would be older that this!† Phillips Island Penguins visit the south tip of the island at certain times of year.† Apparently they come out a night and thatís the best time to go and see them.† Cowes is a small but busy tourist town with a long sandy sheltered beach.† I cycled to the end of the pier.† With no road left Iíve finished my journey from Sydney to Melbourne.† I find a quite campsite on the edge of town by the beach.† Nearly all the campsite Iíve seen passed have been full.† I get a large pizza and garlic bread for dinner, stuff myself silly, and still have enough left over for breakfast.

 

Monday

 

I pack up my stuff early.† Itís usually an hour between the time I wake up and the time Iím ready to hit the road (longer on the cold grey mornings).† Although I can do it in 30minutes if Iím in hurry but I never am.† Back to the pier I catch the ferry to Melbourne and then a train connection into the centre.† Iím staying here for Christmas.† Then next stop, Tasmania.

 

Melbourne

††††††††

Melbourne is a more manageable size that Sydney.† You donít get the feeling that the suburbs go on for ever and ever.† The CBD is sensibly set out in an American style rectangular grid of streets.† Most places of tourist interest are contained within it and on the banks of the Yarra River which runs beneath it.† Old and new style trams still rumble their way through the streets giving and the combined with contrast between the modern and old buildings gives this city a charming character.† Although unlike Sydney, Melbourne does not have many city located beaches.† But you never have to go far along the coast of Australia to find one.† Melbourne claims to be one of the worldís most liveable cities.† I guess thatís not far off; at least thatís what some one from Melbourne would like to think

 

I spent a little over 2 weeks in Melbourne including Christmas.† In which time I felt like Iíd exhausted most of the attractions.† On boxing day I attend one of Melbourneís biggest sporting events.† The 4th Ashes cricket test between Australia and England at the MCG.† A very enjoyable day in the sun despite England getting thrashed and eventually losing the test.† I visited the old Melbourne Gaol, where the infamous and strangely admired outlaw Ned Kelly was hung.† I took a trip to Ramsey Street. (Unfortunately I did not bump into Holly Valance.)† As well as visiting a hand full of museums.† The highlight being the six and half hours I spent in the Melbourne Museum, I wanted to get value for money.† And I still did not see everything.† Iím certainly all museumed out for the while.

 

Attempting to book the ferry to Tasmania Iím surprise to learn the first available crossing is over a week away on the 6th of January.†† With no other choice I book it.† It turns out everybody from Melbourne has decided to take a quick holiday get away over the Bass Strait.† With time to spare I take the opportunity to see a little more of Victoria.† With only five days I decided on a short tour of one of Australiaís Goldfields areas 100 miles inland from Melbourne.†

 

(If youíre not interested in Gold or think you know all about you can skip the next paragraph.)†

Gold was first discovered here in 1850.† When news of the find was released in 1851 (not sure how it was kept quiet for that long?) the gold rush was on.† Over the next years tens of thousands of people arrived at the port in Melbourne to seek their fortune.† Many of them coming from Europe and China.† The population of Victoria soared and at one time Melbourne grew larger than Sydney.† Conditions on the gold fields where hard and the Chinese, particularly, endured a lot of the racial tension.† Not only from fellow gold seekers but also from the authorities.† To avoid a harsh arrival tax many landed further round the coast and undertook a long difficult walk to the goldfields.† At first there was a considerable amount of surface gold to find.† Panning in streams and river beds often yielded sizable nuggets of gold.† Gold contained within quartzes rocks was also found on the surface.† But before long much of this gold was gone.† The real fortunes were still to be found underground.† People had to start working together to dig shallow mines to access the gold trapped below the surface.† With all this new found wealth the whole area flourished.† Towns sprung up with large impressive building of Victorian architecture.† Bars, hotels, crafts men and shops also benefited able to charge inflated prices to the gold seekers.† These people often provided the start up capital for the larger mining companies.† Extracting gold from deeper underground became an increasingly complex and expensive process.† Above the deep mine shafts wooden strutted towers known as poppet-heads became a familiar site on the landscape.† These structures operated a lift into the mine shaft.† To raise any considerable weight these lifts had to be steam powered.† Although horse power was utilised on shallow, smaller operations.† A track system was use to transport quartzes, containing gold, from the mines to the battery.† Where steam power was again utilised to crush the rocks and gold to fine power which flowed away suspended in water.† Various automated shaking processes as well as Mercury where used to separate out the heavier gold.† As the mines became progressively deeper, water and flooding became an increasing problem.† Stream operated pumps had be used to drained huge quantities of water out of the mine tunnels.† Work in the mines was extremely tough and hazardous but well pay for the poor soul who accepted the work.† If the pumps broke down it did not take long for the mines to flood.† Cave ins were also common when explosives were used.† Later with the introduction of compressed air powered drills dust inhalation became a big killer.† One such drill was nicknamed the Ďwidow makerí because most of the men who operated it would be sure to die within 12 months.† Consequently workers in the mines were paid extremely well.† A man could set his family up for life after working for a small number of years.† Sadly the work would often claim his life or at least, significantly shorten it.† Because of the technical problems of removing water at greater depths many mines had closed by the turn of the century.† By the time of the world wars and the following depressing in Australia all gold mining had ceased in the area.† Only recently, with modern technology, has mining recommenced.† Removing the enormous quantities of water required is now possible with todayís pumps.† But mining in the damp soft earth remaining still poses an expensive technical challenge.† If they manage it, it would be worth their while since it is estimated only 10% of the gold reserves have been removed.

 

Monday

 

With not enough time and having learnt my lesson not to cycle in and out of large unfamiliar cities, I took the train to get to Bendigo.† Taking 90 minutes, I arrived just after lunch.† The train service being pleasantly cheap and efficient.† To stick to my 5 day schedule I had to make it to Castlemaine that afternoon.† It felt good to be back on the bike having not done any riding for a while.† My legs were fresh.† The weather; a little cloudy but not bad condition for cycling.† Following the railway back out of town I soon find myself surround by what Iíd call classic Australian scenery.† Rolling hills and large flat expanses covered in a gold coloured dry grass.† The only green visible, being on the tops of tall spindly trees.† Have had the same view for much of the train ride it gives me an appreciations of the vastness of this place.† Making good progress the weather starts to turn on me.† The wind picks up and it starts to drizzle.† Within an hour it amazingly clears up.† Returning to a completely blue sky it sun bathing weather.† I passed a few memorials to a couple of guys who where among the first to find gold.† These men had walked out here from Melbourne with bare feet.† (Seems a little silly to have forgotten their shoes?).† I pass a beautiful lake set amongst some trees, obviously a popular swimming spot for the locals.† A couple of kids where playing with an inflatable shark.† From there it was not far to Castlemaine and the afternoons 60 km has pasted swiftly.† For dinner I cooked a steak on the campsite BBQ.† What made it taste even better was the fact Iíd found it marked down in the small local supermarket.† Soon after dinner it gets very grey and begins to pour with rain.† I shelter in my tent and soon fall asleep.

 

Tuesday

 

Iím awoken briefly.† Not by my alarm or the sunlight, but by the sound of the rain.† It must have been about 7 am.† Itís still pouring!† Not prepared to brave the wet I roll over and return to dreamland.† This happens a few more times, until finally I can sleep no more.† Itís just gone 11 am and it has not stopped.† I unzip the tent a little and stick my head out.† ďYepĒ, itís grey and nasty out their.† Some water runs down the back of my neck- errgh!† I crawl back into my sleeping bag.† To make things worse my wet tent is sagging down on top of me.† (I later discover that because of the water logged ground my pegs have loosened).† I did a bit of reading; I listened to a CD and then the radio.† And itís still raining.† By 12:30 pm I come to the conclusion it may never stop.† Being the 31st of December I donít fancy the idea of staying here in my wet tent for the whole of New Years Eve.† Anyhow Iíve got to keep to my schedule to ensure Iím back in Melbourne in time for the ferry.† Thereís nothing else for it, Iím just going to have to get wet.† Out comes all my water proof gear again!† That keeps the worse of it off me but it is awkward packing my kit up without getting it soaked and covered in mud.† I rolled up my soaking wet tent and itís so much heavier than normal.† As Iím just cycling off the campsite the rain stops.† Typical.† Being lunch time and having not had a substantial† breakfast Iím very hungry.† Passing back through Castlemaine I some how find myself in a fish and chip shop. (I think Fish and Chips are the top take-away food in Australia.† India takeaways have not taken over like they have in England.† Probably something to do with the climate).† The fish is good and Iíve got enough chips to feed a family.† Not one to waste food I do my best, but Iím beaten.† On the road Iím soon regretting lunch.† It feels like it weighting and slowing me down.† With a bit of climbing I quickly overheat and stop to remove my waterproof but un-breathable attire.† Progress is slow and the water I drink does not go down well.† The thought that I might have been better off in my tent crosses my mind.† The scenery is at least interesting.† I pass an abandoned poppet-head, engine house and a Chinese cemetery.† Just as Iím starting to feel okay the road begins to climb and Iím fighting a head wind. Itís taking a lot longer than I thought.† By about 6 pm Iím close to Daylesford, where I was planning to stop.† A bit of determination see me through the climb and wind.† I reach the top feeling completely drain and pull off the road for a breather.† I then realise not only had I not eaten anything since lunch I had not stopped for a rest.† I eat what food I have to hand.† Enjoying a steep fast descent I whiz through Hepburn Springs and on to Daylesford.† Being New Years Eve I was slightly concerned about finding somewhere to stay as it was getting later.† In retrospect the hostel in Hepburn Springs (which I was unaware of at the time) would have probably been a good place to stop especially considering the weather.† But having built up a good speed I was not prepared to brake to take a look around.† Another climb saw me arrive in Daylesford as the New Year celebrations where just getting underway.† The main street was closed to traffic (Not bikes!)† and lots of people were milling around.† A few kilometres out of town I find a campsite.† Iím so hungry I start cooking dinner before putting, the still soaked, tent up.† After Iíd eaten and taken a much need hot shower I switched the radio on and lied down in my tent to rest.† Next thing I know itís pitch black.† Fumbling through the thick darkness I find my clock.† Itís 4 am, without thinking I switch the radio off and crawl into my sleeping bag.

 

Wednesday

 

My first thought of the New Year:† It canít be raining again?!† My second thought:† oops missed the New Year.† At least I was awake for the British New Year as the clock ticked 11 am.† The rain takes until noon to clear up.† Not keen to be confined to my tent by any more inclement weather I get out all my maps/guide books out and consider my options.† I choose to break from my planned route and escape south to Ballarat.† (Once Australiaís largest inland town, I can only assume Canberra holds that title now.)† Ballarat, like most of the town around here, emerged out of the gold rush.† Before leaving Daylesford I purchase some supplies for the day and more importantly, for breakfast.† I received a few odd looks sitting in the supermarket car park eating muesli out of a Tupperware container.† The terrain all day undulates up and down and the gentle rain showers come and go.† Making a concerted effort to take Ďchocolate breaksí,unlike yesterday, I reach Ballarat in the late afternoon.† By which time Iíve devoured 400g of chocolate.† (All this cycling is great. I can/need to constantly eat!!)†† The hostel is located behind Sovereign hill gold museum.† A well done recreation of an early gold mining settlement complete with period actors and working steam engines and smelly horses. (www.sovereignhill.com.au)

While staying at the hostel I need only pay the entry fee once and can come and go from the museum as I chose.† Intending to stay for a couple of days I walk the few kilometres into town to find a supermarket.† Having brought loads and loads of food the walk back was looong.† I swear my arm have been an inch longer ever since.

 

Thursday/Friday

 

The next two days where old similar.† Twice I was awoken early by the kitchen smoke alarm.† Whether itís very sensitive or some one had been playing with the timer on the toaster Iím not sure.† I never find out; Iím on pancakes for breakfast.† Completely stuffing myself †for three days in a row.† Nice.

 

At the museum I walk around the recreated town buildings, take a deep mine tour, a shallow mine tour and pan for gold in the murky stream.† The banks of which are continually swarming with people trying their luck.† Lots of kids were having a splashing good time in the dirty water, at the disgust of their patents.† However the children were having not luck finding gold.† It takes a little skill and lots of patients to find any here.† In the grips of gold rush fever I spend a good few hours in the hot sun panning for gold with reasonable success.† Iím sorry to say I didnít find any nuggets but tiny flecks of gold.† Just as Iím considering buying my own pan (available in the old town shops) and cycling off in to the hills to seek my fortune, I learn that all the gold in the artificial stream is placed there for the tourist entertainment.

 

England are playing Australia at cricket again, only this time a think we won.† To use the remains of my pancake ingredients before leaving I bake some individual muffin/cakes things.† They donít raise so well with the only raising agent being in the supermarkets own brand value flour.† They are tasty none the less.

 

Saturday

 

I catch the train back to Melbourne and check-in at the same hostel I left a week ago.† Funnily enough Iím in the same bunk as before and even the two bottles of beer I left in the back of the fridge are still there.

 

Tasmania

 

Monday

 

Catching the ferry to Tasmania means an early start.† I creep out of the dorm and load all my belonging back on my bike.† Iím fairly confident on how to get to the ferry terminal.† I need to cycle across the CBD, over the river and to the coast.† I can follow a tram line for the second half of the way.† Losing sight of the tram line I referred to tourist street map at the side of the road.† Itís a good job I did.† I had passed the ferry a long way back.† Heading directly for the coast I regain my bearings and cycle back toward the ferry, which was just in sight.† The journey to Devonport, Tasmania is comparable to a channel cross between England and France, only longer.† The only crossing available, between the closest points, takes over 10 hours.† Cycling past the long que of cars outside the terminal Iím one of the first on the ferry.† I lock my bike to the ships haul on one of the fume filled lower decks and find my way up to the sun deck.† Although still early in the morning I feel the need to generously apply the sun cream.† The sun deck is designed to accommodate a swimming pool and spa but to my disappointment theyíre sealed over.

 

As the ferry left the coast and built up speed the deck was subject to a chilling wind.† I was the only one brave or stupid enough to remain in shorts and a T-shirt.† Anyhow I had no other clothes with me.† By mid afternoon my skin had had enough sun.† And after having all my papers repeatable blown across the deck Iíd had enough of the wind!† Below were the usual ferry entertainments, so not a lot really.† Therefore I engaged in one of my favourite pastimes, eating.† Not impressed by the food on offer at the self-service restaurant.† I turn my attention to a large bar of chocolate. Munch munch, much better.

 

Whilst disembarking from the ferry I find myself in the midst of a swam of cyclist from the Victoria/Melbourne bike touring club.† An interesting bunch of people.† I get invited to join them for a casual dinner. †With no plans I met them later that evening.† Theyíre all heading east to join up with a mass organised ride down the east coast to the state capital, Hobart.† [Over a 1000 riders took part in the ĎGreat Tasmanian Bike Rideí.† All riders had their luggage transported from one mass camp to the next where food was provided.† For the privilege they had to pay about $700 (250 pounds).† Sounds like cheating to me, and a little chaotic. They invite me to join them.† They certainly are all determined to enjoy themselves but Itís clear to me I wouldnít quite fit in with a slow restrictive riding style and also being the youngest by a good 20 years.† So I give it a miss and stick to my original idea to tackle the tougher mountainous terrain of west Tasmania first, returning to Devonport via the east coast.† Not having booked a return ferry I have no pressure on my time, the way a like it.

 

Tuesday

 

I need a few things before I leave Devonport.† [The only town with a descent amount of service until I reach Hobart].† A map of Tasmania might prove useful and of course food is on the list.† I also need some super glue to repair my glasses.† Somehow my cycling shades snapped in half whilst in my bag.† Luckily the detachable lenses remained undamaged.† Back in my budget hotel room Iíve about 20 minutes to eat my muesli, drink my tea, pack my panniers and fix my shades.† In my rush I come close to making a mess with the supper glue and almost sticking my fingers together.† After a bit of a fiddle I manage to reunite the two half of my shades. Having to brace the join with a couple of small nails I was not overly concerned about any loss of fashionably appearance.† It seems to have done the job.† Outside, at 10 am, the sun already has a sting in it.† I liberally apply factor 30 to my most exposed areas.† Cycling out of town I think Iím in trouble whilst accidentally rolling over some barbed wire at the side of the road.† Doh!† However, no puncher, it just goes to reassure my belief that I can cycle over almost anything.† Having nearly covered 2000 km with no punches the Kevlar in my tyres is obviously doing a good job.† Heading up a steep road towards Sheffield, a large smelly lorry chugs past me.† Leaving a cloud of fumes I take the opportunity to pull over and wait for it to clear.† Behind the lorry a car bursting full with Japanese tourist also stops.† With their window down I expect them to say ďhiĒ or ask for directions.† (I get that quite a lot).† But they donít respond to my greeting.† With smiling astonished looks on their faces they say nothing (perhaps their English is not great).† After a long brief moment they drive on.† I can make a good guess to what they were thinkingÖ. Ďwhat idiot would be climbing up hear in the heat of the midday suní.† Iím surprised they didnít take a photo.

 

Attempting to cash in on the tourist trade in the mid 1980ís, Sheffield engaged artist to paint elaborate scenes on just about every spare inch of wall in the town.† By all signs they were successful.† The place was swarming with tourist and the murals were impressive.† Back on the road the climbing was over, for today, and I met a cyclist heading the same way.† An unusual occurrence; if you think about it.† Heís a student at Hobart and living locally heís out for an afternoon ride.† We cycle and chat for 10 km, consequently it seems like no time until I say goodbye having reached my stop for the day at Gowrie Park.† This place use to be a settlement where the workers who built the near by hydroelectric dam lived.† Although itís still early in the afternoon the next place to stop is 60 km across and 700 meters up.† Anyway here I get my own room for an amazing $10.† Well the word room paint a too pleasant picture, try cell instead.† At least I need not unpack the tent.† The back drop to this place is the unmistakable dramatic vertical craggy rock face of Mt Rolland.† Not only worthy of a photograph, Mt Rolland take pride of place on the $1 international stamp.

 

Wednesday

 

Leaving early, but as always not as early as intended, I had a treat in store.† Before the upward grind toward Cradle Mountain, the descent to Lake Cethana was magical.† With the sun low in the sky and in the crisp cool morning air I glided in and out of the shade cast on the road by the surrounding trees.† I completed the following twisting climb away from the water before it got too hot.† Iím getting use to these accents now, even the steep ones.† Tasmania has some of the cleanest air in the world, blowing in from the vast expanses of surrounding ocean; itís a real pleasure to breathe.† The tone for the rest of the day was set by the gentler upward gradients towards Cradle mount national park.† Cradle mountain, so names because of itís resemblances to a cradle, is probably Tasmaniaís most famous natural land mark.† I canít quite visualise it myself.† As I get closer and higher the sky ahead of me is grey and full of rain clouds.† Looking around, the sky Iím leaving behind is clear blue.† Suddenly Iím out of the sun and into the wind and drizzly rain.† I notice how cold it is.† If I werenít still working hard climbing, these conditions would call for some serious insulating and weather proof layers.† Determined not to get cold and numb fingers again, I protect my hands from the rain with a couple of plastic bags.† Not quite ideal.† I met an Australia cyclist coming the other way.† He was wearing a pair of marigold washing up gloves.† What a good idea, I thought.† You can get fancy waterproof and windproof cycling gloves but you pay dearly for them.† On an isolated downhill stretch I picked up a good speed.† The increased wind chill factor on my damp face must have driven the effective temperature to down freezing as the cold penetrated into my skin.† Until I reached the bottom I experienced that painful head ache feeling you get as a kid (or for some of us as adults) when you eat ice cream too fast!† The weather is obscuring much of the scenery but itís pretty in a wild and rugged way.

 

The accommodation near Cradle Mountain is all located around the visitors centre a little under 10 km from the actual mountain.† Being the height of the tourist season everywhere is full, including the campsite.† After realising that Iíd obviously cycled all the way up here the women on the desk makes a concession.† (Anyhow a campsite can never really be full; me and my small one man tent could camp virtually anywhere.)† I pitch my tent in the cold and the wet, the tent peg are going right in today.† I canít wait to get a hot shower and some hot food.† The enclosed natural looking dome shape camp kitchen has an open log fire.† And there I say for the rest of the day, drinking tea and reading.† I Ďhaveí to cycle to cradle mountain and nearby Dove Lake some time while Iím here.† But Iím not going back outside.† Not today.† I decide to go tomorrow morning instead.† As it got dark I could feel the temperature drop away.† Returning to my tent from brushing my teeth, Iím surprised at a sudden movement.† Shining my torch and adjusting my eyes I see a black cat sized animal dart from my tent.† It seems confused as it tries to escape in the direction Iím approaching.† I caught its shiny silver eyes in my narrow torch beam.† We both froze and it stared at each other.† Iím not sure who was more shocked.† After moments contemplation it turns and runs.† Unfortunately for the poor animal it crashes into the back wheel of my bike, which was locked to some small trees.† Realising its error it somehow scrambles up wheel to my saddle.† Suddenly Iím more concerned for my bike and try unsuccessfully to shoo the animal off.† But it only crawls along my top bar and sit across my handle bars.† Caught again by my torch light it sits there trying to figure me out, now configure by the strange creature waving it limbs in the air and making funny noises.† I have a better idea.† Causally, I unzip my tent and reach for my camera.† Obviously a little shy, it jumps off into the darkness before I could say ďcheeseĒ.† Subsequently I have identified the mysterious animal as a Tasmania Devil.† I considered myself lucky to see one.† The best way to describe these guys is like a fat cat with stubby legs and a rat shaped head with evil red eyes.† Like cats theyíre meat eaters.† Luckily it didnít return for a taste of me.† It was a icy cold night.† I pulled the draw string tight on my mummy style sleeping bag, leaving just a little hole to breathe through.† Completely cocooned I was just able comfortable enough.†††††††††††††††††††††

 

Thursday

 

I was relived it was not raining but it was still a little grey and cloudy.† I made do with a quick breakfast of chocolate and unsalted peanuts.† Not a bad combination, however chocolate is never the best things to eat first thing in the morning.† My plan was to leave my stuff in the tent, coming back later to collect it (and have a bigger breakfast).† The road to Dove Lake, the closest you can drive to cradle mount, is a heavily travelled unsealed road.† Still early, I only see a few cars on the fairly gentle climb.† Although climbing on un-sealed roads is always little difficult.† Arriving at Dove Lake car park Iím not surprised to see the top half of the surrounding mountains obscured by cloud and mist.† Iím still having problems visualising the cradle shape.† Probably something to do with the fact I canít actually see it.† Looking at the information board I appreciate how it should look.† Also discovering that itís only clear and sunny here for 30 days of the year makes me feel a little better.† After taking lots of photos I start the journey back to the campsite, just as a large number of walkers are arriving.† Conscious of the traffic I keep to the edge of the road where in places dangerous amounts of stones have built up.† (I usually have unsealed roads to myself and can travel on the best surface).† Without my panniers I cycle a little faster than and less cautious than usual.† With my tyres still at extremely high pressure, to minimise rolling resistance on sealed roads, I was aware that the back tyre particularly was trying to skid.† So itís not a surprise to learn that on one down hill stretch it did.† I experienced my first high speed dismount.† Or to put it simply I crashed.† My speed, a good 30 km/h, meant I was unable to control the back wheel sliding away.† But fortunately I able to lose some speed before flying to my right and over the handle bars.† Taking the full force of the impact on my right forearm and knee I skidded and bounced into the middle of the road across the large gravel stones.† A cold numbness rushed through me.† Instinctively tucking in my arms and legs there I sat in a little bundle.† I was convinced Iíd broken something.† As the shocked cleared it became evident that all of me still working.† My gloves had protected me from a hand full of grit and by wearing my full waterproofs it appeared Iíd got away with just bruises.† I tentatively climbed back on my bike, which had only surfed minor scratches to the brake leavers, and returned to the campsite with my head held low.† Looking down my yellow waterproof trousers had turned a peculiar red colour around the knee; same story around my elbow.† I took a hot shower to recover and survey the damage.† Apart from some modest cuts, a stiffening knee and an elbow I canít lean on, Iím fine.† The prospect of sitting by the fire for the rest of the day was tempting but would have become quite boring.† And the only way to escape the bad weather would be to lose some altitude.† Although a little unsure I donít think Iíve damaged my knee joint.† On the road Iím aware itís not quite right but Iím still climbing okay.† It is cold wet and windy and for hours itís unchanged, until eventually I get to a big descent and things warm up again in the sun.† Iím relieved to leave the weather behind me.† Having had survived on peanuts all day Iím pleased to find some descent food at Tullah.† I consider stopping but the only accommodation suitable is full.† The shoulder of Mount Black stands between me and the larger mining town of Rosebery.† It takes a good hour to climb up through the tress and down again but proves to well worth it.† While asking the lady at the campsite if there were any food stores open, she tells me about Nancyís.† Primarily to cater for the local mine workers, Nancyís is much like an old style school canteen.† For only $10 (3.5 pounds) you get a 3 course meal.† Soup followed by a chose of 3 mains.† I chose roast turkey and then to follow that fresh raspberries, cream, chocolate cake and ice cream.† Iím sure if you wanted seconds of the mains you wouldnít have been turned down.† However the portions where generous and after two helping of chocolate cake I could barely move.† I shared this feast with a fellow cyclist called Ralph.† Heíd spotted me still in my cycling gear as I had entered.† Heís on a 2 week cycle touring holiday and lives a little way from Melbourne where heís a science/P.E. teacher.† Itís no surprise to learn weíre staying at the same campsite.† After discovering were both going the same way we decided to cycle together.

 

Friday

 

Its clearer this morning and after a while Iím sure itís going to be a nice day.† Leaving Rosebury behind the terrain is relatively tame and shaded in places by the surrounding trees.† Cycling side by side and talking it take no time to reach our lunch stop at Zeehan.† After refuelling on bread rolls, bananas and chocolate milk we continue towards Strahan.† The gradients are still kind and we soon sight the coast.† Cycling into the wind Ralph suggests we do some drafting.† Having only read about this before Iím eager to try it out.† Drafting involves cycling extremely close behind the bike in front of you such that it shields you from the effects of the wind.† With many cyclists you can form a snake like chain.† It makes a significant difference.† Taking turns at the front we maintain good speeds; arriving in Strahan in the middle of the afternoon.† It almost certainly the quickest 70 km Iíve covered.† Attempting to check-in to the full hostel we discover the oddest coincidence, that Ralph and I share the same surname.† Settling for the nearby campsite we both do some laundry in the sun.† Ralph, travelling lighter than me, has a tunnel style tent which make my little triangar tent look spacious.† Dinner this evening comes from the takeaway over the road.† We both go for the Australian speciality Ďburger with the lotí.† A beef burger with so much swashed between the bread it always a challenged to pick it up and eat it with out losing half the contents down you shirt.† Feeling hungry we agree to share the largest bag of chips.† As we ordered the lady asked us whether we were sure.† Looking at each other we were confident we could manage it, after all weíd had been cycling hard all day.† We are also reassured by the modest size of the chip bags stuck up on the wall as a guide.† Well, I thought I had a lot of chips back in Castlemaine but this time there was enough to feed an army.† Wrapped up the chips was the equivalent volume of a box of small cereal.† We both made a determined attempt to eat as much as possible.† A bottle of HP sauce helps a few more slip down but we hardly made a dent to the mountain of chips.

 

Saturday

 

Strahan came into distinction in the 1980s as a base for protest against the proposed hydroelectricity dams on the Gordon and Franklin rivers.† Eventually the protestors were triumphant and this spectacular area was preserved and has now become one of Tasmaniaís top tourist destinations after Port Arthur.† Many cruises leave daily to explore Macquarie Harbour and the lush rainforest surrounding the Gordon River.† We both catch the afternoon cruise.† Within the harbour we stop off at Sarah Island, the site of an early convict settlement.††† Escape being almost impossible it must have felt like the end of the Earth to the arriving convicts.† Hence the name of the harbours entrance, ĎHells Gatesí.† Their crimes, in most cases, were no worse that stealing food for their families to eat.† We also stop within the rainforest were there is a wooden walk way into and around the rainforest.† Being cooler almost the trees it has an eerie, ancient and peaceful feel to the place.† Arriving back in Strahan just in time for the second nightly performance of the dramatisation of the true story of ĎThe Ship That Never Wasí. †Ralph had attended a previous year and assured me it was not to be missed.† Performed by just two actors the play involves a certain amount of Ďaudience precipitationí.† Myself being cast as the rough convict Benjamin Russel.† The convicts on Sarah Island were employed in ship building.† One of these ships was captured by a group of convicts as it was leaving the harbour.† With no significant sailing experience between them and only enough supplies on board to reach Hobart they sailed west all the way to South Africa.† The play tells the story of there journey and eventual fate with lots of jokes, water and gags all along the way.† It was extremely enjoyable.

 

Sunday

 

Talking to a few people I get the impression weíve got a bit of a climb in store to reach Queenstown.† Packed up were on the road by 10 am after the usual breakfast of a sliced banana on lots of muesli. Itís another very warm day.† Reaching Queenstown in a couple of hour the going was not too bad a bit of up and down for most of the 42 km.† We stop in a bakery for lunch.† Consulting the map the next stop is near Lake St Clair, a tough 92 kmís of climbing away.† There no deliberation; stopping now and sitting around all afternoon would be point less.† Leaving the bakery we need to re-supply on water for the rest of the days cycling.† A lot of towns in Tasmanian are so small or remote they donít have a treated water supply.† A lot of the local donít drink the water.† Considering the amount of water I drink switching to bottle water would be expensive.† You can never be sure, but unconcerned we fill up from a tap outside the public toilets.† Anyhow Queenstown is the west coastís largest town.† First gold, then silver and copper were mined from the surrounding hills.† Copper smelting began in 1895 and since then the rain forested hills have been stripped of three million tones of timber to feed the furnaces.† Producing a very stark and bare mining landscape of which it is famous for, proud of and is of considerable tourist interest.

 

The climb out of town is a steep hard thirsty slog in the heat of the day.† At the top, the road flattened out for about 20 kmís.† Travelling on the quite highway through magnificent world heritage areas the views are very pleasant on the eyes.† Itís a bit windy travelling over the exposed lakes.† Drafting again keeps us moving at a reasonable pace.† Iím stating to feel drained as we leave road to take a break at a very basic campsite.† Ralph goes looking for a little more water.† Sitting on the grass in what shade I could find, I munched through chocolate, peanuts and dry muesli.† Itís another winding climb up to Victoria pass.† The climb is shaded but it still warm and hard work.† Iím starting to lag behind Ralph on the climbs.† Ralph is very keen cyclist, having touring across Europe in 1996.† He does a fair bit of racing, time trial and leisure cycling.† And I become progressively more fatigued Iím lagging further behind on the hills.† (I can also use my heavier load as an excuse.)† At about 70 kmís, for the day, from we get a bit of relief with a steady descent to Collingwood river.† But going downhill is not as fun when youíve got to soon climb back up again.† The scenery is still impressive.† We can see the peak of Frenchman Cap (1445m) to our right, which supposedly look like a French manís cap.† Itís a familiar sight since we saw it from the other side on the cruise the previous day.† In the late afternoon we take another break in a car park for walkers.† Iím still very hungry and just canít eat enough.† From here it 5 kmís to the start of a 10 km climb to King William Saddle, the geological divide between east and west Tasmania.† Iím reduced back to the climbing speeds I was achieving after leaving Sydney 2 months ago.† Which is just about as slow as you can go on a bike while still being able to balance.† It not too steep so itís just a case of stick at it.† I get a bit of a lift when my speedometer clicker over the 2000 kmís mark for the whole of the trip. †After an hour of continuous climbing Iím still not on top.† A few times I think Iíve reached the top only to discover a little more climbing around the comer.† I lost sight of Ralph ages ago and no cars had passed me since the start of the climb.† With the sun beginning to set my extremely long shadow is strangely intriguing to watch.† Iím feeling a little weary but my legs are on automatic now, they just keep on turning.† I have to make an effort to look at the scenery.† But in spite of all the climbing Iím content; †I couldnít think of anywhere else Iíd rather be at that moment.† At the top Ralph is waiting for me by a historical plaque.† After a brief break, for me anyway, we push on to cover the final 15 km to Derwent Bridge.† I switch on my rear LED light for the first time as the dusky darkness closes in.††† My weariness had development into faintness as I blood sugar levels continued to drop.† I evidently had been unable to adequately replace my lost energy thought the day.† What I really could have done with at this point was some sports drink mix.† I had run out at Cradle Mountain and itís little hard to come by outside large supermarkets.† It was windy up here.† There was no way I had the strength to battle against it and maintain any kind of speed.† I had enough trouble keeping up with Ralph even with his considerable drafting help.† Even dropping a little way behind Ralphís bike required a determined effort catch him up and regain his shelter.† My leg were now turning independently of my body and my thoughts drifted elsewhere.† Conscious I was seeing shapes in the shadows I focused intensely on his back wheel, mindful not to get to close but resolute not to let it slip away from me.††† Neither of us said a word in was what seem like an eternally long hour.† It was an amazing relief as we rode into Derwent Bridge just before 9 pm, it was pitch dark and all I wanted to do was to sit down.† The hotel here has budget cell like room, we checked in not long before they closed.† Of course they stopped serving dinner.† All that is on offer is toasted sandwiches.† After couple each and a sweet sweet glass of lemonade I start to feel normal again.† Sitting on comfortable seating the hotels rather plush reception area we congratulate ourselves on a good days cycling.† By a long margin it the hardest ride Iíd ever done.† On the road for 11 hour we covered just under 140 km, climbing (and descending in places) a total of around 1500m (5000 ft).† It was also one the harder touring rides Ralph had done.† I got my stove out and cooked up a load of pasta to supplement our dinner. I was asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow.

 

Monday

 

We give the overpriced $15 continental breakfast at hotel a miss.† The 5 km cycle to Lake St. Claire seems to take a long time on empty stomachs.† The visitor centre here has a reasonable selection of food.† We start breakfast with a bowl of fruit salad.† Ralph has a great idea to go and get the muesli from his bike while I purchase some fresh milk.† Sitting in the restaurant using the same bowls we eat our full, still a little drained from yesterday.† My legs arenít feeling to bad considering.† Sitting out near the lake we plan a comparatively modest day to a campsite by a lake near Tarraleah.† The terrain is mostly flat for the start of the day.† We start to notice the country side is looking a little drier than further up north.† Luckily for me thereís a dirt road short cut which not only cuts out a few kmís but also a bit of climbing.† Ralph, rightly concerned about his slick tyres, takes the longer sealed road.† After about 20 kmís we go our separate ways and arrange to meet at the campsite.† Itís another hot day and I make reasonable progress on the dirt road.† Before too long Iím enjoying a substantial amount of downhill riding.† Maintaining high speeds the kilometres fly by, Iím concerned I might have missed the campsite turning.† The campsite was in a beautiful spot by the lake.† Having arrived before Ralph I do a good few leg stretches and relax in the sun.† While going to find a spot to camp, one of the tents here looked oddly familiar.† When I sighted a tandem bike I recognise it as the Swiss coupleís Iíd had meet about a month ago at Bermagui.† (They had kindly taking my clothes off the washing line when it rained.) Unfortunately they were having problems with their bike and had been to Hobart for spare parts.† I subsequently learnt they had sold everything they had owned and were spending 3-4 years cycling, wellÖ the world.† Having pretty much Ďdoneí Australia their next big adventure would be to cycle down the American continent from Alaska.† Making my little trip look like a walk in the park.† Whilst pitching my tent another cyclist arrives.† He get straight off his bike and makes run for the lake; clearly in need of some refreshment.† Michael is a student who lives in Melbourne, heís touring Tasmania for a long holiday.† Having already travelled the east coast he recommends a number of great places to visit, I listen intently.† I would have probably missed them otherwise.† He also inspired me to expand my campsite cooking.† His idea of putting sultanas and bananas in porridge is now one of my favourites.† Itís certainly been a while since Iíve eaten packaged noodles but I havenít been able to make the transition to camp cooking very well.† Disregarding a lot of things I would cook at home simply because either: Iím not carrying all the ingredients or it just too much fuss.† It can also be difficult to get the right quantities of food.† I certainly donít want to carry around a whole bottle of oil for instance.† But clearly, eating is very important when youíre exercising all day.† Recently, I rearranged my stuff and I now have one of my smaller front panniers entirely devoted to food.† So once Iíve build up a stock of some basic ingredients Iíll see what I can come up with.† I hadnít had too much trouble with insect life in Tasmania until that night.† With the dark, hoards of insects descended upon us.† The mosquitoes you can usually see coming and I was not too concerned about these tiny little flies.† They looked too small to cause any damage.

 

Tuesday

 

Well I was wrong.† I was completely coved in red bites.† I could count about twenty on each arm.† My legs were liberally covers and my ankles speckled with bites.† Itís another hot day and we donít get on the road until quite late in the morning.† The riding is pretty uneventful until we reach gut bustlingly steep climb.† Some of these hills cars have trouble getting over.† With lots of little towns on route today we donít bother to carry a dayís supply of water.† However there are sign by all public taps warning it untreated.† I fill a couple of bottles anyway.† [And Iím still here to write this].† In one of these little towns we stop for an ice cream.† Sitting on a bench relaxing our peace is disturbed by an eccentric lady referring to here self as Ďnannyí.† With tight shorts, a cowboy hat and an unfortunately large amount of facial hair we had just witness her terrorising another local who was visiting the shop.† Smoking and clearly drunk she invites us to stay at her place!† We politely decline.† But sheís not taking no for an answer.† This goes on for a while until our excuses turn to lies and Iím getting a little scared!† Itís a blessing when the shop keeper distracts her long enough for us to make our escape.† We sneak back onto our bike and pedal away, looking frequently around encase she came after us.† With the local hostel full we camp in the Mt. Field national park campsite.††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††

 

Wednesday

 

One place Michael recommended was the Styx valley.† Not far from here contained with a working forest is some of the tallest hardwood tress of Earth.† This side trip involves a lot of unsealed roads; so Ralph decided to go straight on to Hobart.† We arranged to meet the day after next.† The climb into the Styx Valley on the dirt road was hard work.† I reached the big tree reserve in the middle of the afternoon.† The enormous eucalyptus approaching heights of 100 meters has a mysterious inspiring feel.† I certainly wouldnít want one falling on my tent in the night.† Finding a nice isolated spot by the river I camped for the night.† I spent the evening reading on a log suspended across the Styx river until the sun set.† It was a very mild night and my bites where torturingly hot and itchy

 

Thursday

 

Travelling out of the forest the road surface was completely covered in large chunks of gravel for long stretches.† After a while Iím forced to let air out of my tyres to improve the bikes handling and to avoid a repeat of my Cradle mountain tumble.† After 2 hours I final emerge out of the forest and Iím back on the road.† I spend the best part of an hour on the road side inflating my tyres, cleaning my chain and having lunch.† Back on the sealed road my bike is rolling like a dream.† Those unsealed roads are too much like hard work.† I stop at a garage for a chocolate fix consisting of: chocolate milk, a chocolate bar and chocolate brownies.† Iím making excellent progress towards Hobart.† Cycling with Ralph has without doubt made me a little faster.† When cycling on my own thereís no real incentive to push my speeds.† Avoiding the main highway in to Hobart involves climbing over a spur of the Wellington range.† From the top I had a good view over Hobart and started my descent into the afternoonís rush hour traffic.† It was a bit hairy in places but before too long Iím in the city centre and checking into a hostel.† Walking into my room Iím pleasantly surprised to find Ralph in there.† The entire population of Tasmanian is less than half a million.† So itís no surprise that Hobart is the smallest of the Australian capitals with only 130,000 people.† It sits on the river Derwent estuary and is surrounded by mountains. It is the furthest south (nearly 43 degrees south) that my trip will take me.† Many old buildings of Georgian architecture have survived the rapid growth experienced by other Australian cities.††† Hobart also has an extremely deep harbour and is used by passing cruise liners and ships heading for the Antarctic.† I did get an edge of the world feeling as I descended down into Hobart on my arrival.

 

Hobart

 

Over the past 10 days the mass organised ride has been travelling down the East coast.† On Sunday over a thousand cyclists rolled in to town at varies times throughout the morning.† They were everywhere and the parks were full of people packing bikes in to boxes ready for transport.

 

Ralph took the bus back to Devonport to return home (and to work) on the ferry.† I spent just over a week in town in which time: I took a coach tour to another convict settlement at Port Arthur, watched the Australia open tennis on TV (as well news coverage of the bad bush fires sweeping by Canberra and some areas of the Snowy mountains Iíd passed through) and visited a few local sights.† For a bit of light exercise I cycled 1271 metres up Mount Wellington.† Without my bags I raced up there, passing 4 cyclists on the way and completing the 20 km climb in exactly 2 hours.† Thereís a spectacular views to had from the top but itís cold and very windy!

 

Monday

 

I get up early to make a huge pile of pancakes to use up my fresh ingredients before I check out at 10 am.† The left over flour I leave in the communal box.† Returning the favour having helped myself to free spaghetti, a little salt and a couple boxes of matches.† The matches being the most useful since you can only buy then from the supermarket in packs of 8.† What could I do with 400 matches other that take up some model craft building or indulge some pyromaniac tendencies?!† Most likely Iíd get in trouble with the law as suspected bush fire arsonist.† I travel back up through Hobart on the bike path; I was unable find it on my way into town.† Locating the bridge to take me across the Derwent River and out of Hobart also proves to be a challenge.† I somehow double back on myself and only realise when reading signs for suburbs Iíd already passed through.† Out of the town Iím greeted by a nice long climb, just to remind me whatís this riding is all about.† My long stop in Hobart means Iím accumulated more extra weight than usual.† After lunching in the historic town of Richmond Iím on the road straight to the coast.† (By the way cold salami pancakes are great!).† It becomes surreal for a while as a pass through an area of smoke which blacks out the sun light.† I canít see any bush fires but it would only take 1 of 400 matches to get this dry landscape blazing.

 

Iím again heading through logging country.† They seem to be cutting down trees everywhere on this little island.† Every 5-10 minutes a large noisy truck roars past loaded up with freshly cut tree trunks.† And just as frequently empty trucks return in the opposite direction.† The road is bumpy, only each bump is a couple of 100 meters high.† Iím virtually run off the road a number of times as log trucks attempt to over take, very slowly, on the up hills.† Thereís a bit of a shoulder but any veering to my right would have unpleasant consequences.† The campsite that evening is at Orford and has a lovely view over to Maria Island.† Itís a basic place and the showers are coin operated.† Somehow the cooking oil, Iíd just started carrying, has leaked out of its secure container into my bag.† Thatís the last time I carry oil.† What follows was a slimly clean up operation and a tasty dinner.† Although the deep fried potatoes wedges and fried eggs didnít quite make up for the mess.

 

Tuesday

 

I plan to spend the day exploring Maria Island.† Packing up early Iím keen to catch the first ferry.† It sails from the next town up the coast.† By chance I reach the pier at 8:58am, just on time for the 9am sailing.† The attendant, on the ferry, seems to think I can pass my full loaded bike over to him.† I inform him otherwise and spend a quick minute taking my panniers off.† (I can now just lift my bike over kerbs now, but itís still pretty immovable unless itís pedalled.)† Itís another fine day; and life feels good heading out across the water with the sun and wind in my face.† The modern boatís 2 decks are about half full of tourist.† Some other guys are taking their bikes to the island.† Theyíre locals and seem impressed by the distance Iíve covered.† Thereís plenty of pristine coastline to take in on the brief 40 minutes journey.† 4 large and striking industrial silos appearing in the distance marking the approaching dock.† The island became a national park in 1972 and has an interesting history as a penal settlement, a farm and the then the site of silk/wine/cement industries.† Many people visit the island on day trips to enjoy the walks and wildlife.† Looking at the island map I decide on a 12 km ride to a secluded camping spot, halfway across the island, at encampment cove.† Some of the original building have been full resorted and are open to the public to wonder around.† Like stepping back in time they give a fascinating inside to early life on the remote island.

 

The track is unsurprisingly in poor condition.† Long sections are covered in sand and it is hard work to get off and pushing my bike through.† The dam flies are also out in force.† Arriving at the cove Iím immediately struck by the crystal clear waters.† Thereís not much of a beach between the water and scrub but itís pretty close to paradise.† I pitch my tent with a sea view.† Some of the best sites already have tents on them but thereís no one around.† I spend the afternoon relaxing on the beach.† The wildlife is very active and obviously use to humans.† A hungry wallaby, a smaller variety of kangaroo, approaches me for food.† Heís cute but heís not getting a thing.† Human foods such as bread can become trapped in their mouths.† They canít clear the food with their stiff tongues and over time the food will begin to rot and poison the poor animal.† More amazingly I witness a couple wallaby playing in the surf.† And then when Iíd thought Iíd seen it all, I see a couple of wallabies full submerged doing doggy paddle.† A couple of small white sail boats set anchor in the cove as I turn in for the night.† While drifting to sleep Iím treated to a drunken rendition of Queenís ĎBohemian Rhapsodyí.† I guess the sailors have come ashore to camp.† Iím awoken twice in the night, this time by possums eating my rubbish bag.† They take some convincing to go away.†

 

Wednesday

 

I catch the first ferry back to the main land and am looking forward to a good days cycling.† Described in my guidebook as; Ďone of the most pleasant days riding imaginableí with Ďcommon tail windsí. †Iíve high hopes.† Disembarked from the ferry I spend an hour cleaning my very sandy chain and ensuring everything is in order as not to hinder my progress.† Turning the corner out of town Iím immediately hit by a strong headwind.† Iím not best pleased about it.† A wildly rattling rushing old wind vain standing on the roadside taunts me as I battle past.† No matter how hard I pedal I canít get up to cruising speed.† My motivation is replaced by frustration and I start verbally abusing the wind.† Itís a good job nobody is around to hear.† The virtually flat terrain only severs to aid the wind.† The usually Ďpleasant sceneryí is dry and dull and Iím soon sick of the wind whooshing past my ears.† It takes 4 hours to do 50km to Swansea and Iím physically and mentally exhausted.† With absolutely no will to go any further I call it a day.††††††

†††††††††††††††††††††

Thursday

 

Itís still windy and Iím not going to go anywhere.† Sitting in my tent reading the paper my decision to stay put is vindicated when it begins to bucket with rain.† Soon I get bored listening to the rain pelt the canvass and I reckon a dip in the sea is in order.† Afterwards I do a few lengths in the pool to warm up a little before I finish with a hot shower.† The rain has now stopped and I venture across the road to the only museum in town.† Itís an old bark mill with loads of old rusty industrial/farming machinery.† The rest of the day is spent knocking off a hundred odd pages of my novel; looking out over a cold, stormy and windy sea with a cold beer in hand.

 

Friday

 

Iím back rolling along the road today and fortunately thereís more of a crosswind than a headwind.† Which, after a few hours, starts to dry my left eye out.† I try to remember to blink lots.† The road is still flat as I follow the coast north.† The sun comes out a little bit.† Stopping in Bicheno to buy lunch I discover Iím low on cash.† Iíve not seen an ATM since Hobart.† To conserve fund (and because thatís where I ended up) that evening I stayed on a bush camp at Lagoons beach.† With an eventual drop in wind my speed almost doubles and I reach it in no time.† Itís amazing what an extra 10 km/h can do to my journey time and my sanity.† Sitting on the beach I watch the sun set.† But soon itís too cold and I have to climb into my sleeping bag.

 

Saturday

 

No fresh milk around here so itís porridge for breakfast.† I cover a quick 30km on my remaining half bottle of water, reaching Scamader to refuel.† Thereís a bit of a beach here and a few families with kids running about.† Planning another bush camp for that night I take the opportunity to freshen up under the outdoor showers provided for the bathers.† Itís cold but the sun is doing its stuff to day.† I buy a carton of chocolate milk with my last 5 dollar note.† Crisis over, as the next town of St. Helens has an ATM in fact it has several.† Loaded up with supplies and cash (donít tell the muggers) I leave town in search of an idyllic camping spot.† My head doubles in size as I over take an unloaded cyclist on a racing bike.† (Okay, it was an elderly women but it still felt good).† After finding a beautiful spot in a secluded bay I pitch my tent a few meters from the water.† Iím alone apart from the occasional jet skier doing a circuit of the bay.† A make my wave brief in case they havenít mastered one handed jet skiing.† Dinner consists of freshly cooked hot dogs and a tall bottle of beer (which I had gone to great lengths to keep cold).

 

Sunday

 

More porridge and jet skiers this morning.† Iím leaving the coast behind and heading back inland, which means up hill.† Before long Iím climbing again.† The sun is high in the sky and the sweat is just rolling off.† By mid afternoon I pass a pub with a campsite out the back.† The lure of a cold beer is too strong and I call it a day.† The grass here is green and lush; a real treat.† For as long as I can remember Iíve been sleeping on dirt, dust and sand.† I pitch my tent next to a willow tree that gives a comforting English garden fell.† Thereís nobody else around apart from an elderly Dutch couple in a camper van; we exchange pleasantries.† After a few Boags in the sun itís come as no shock when I develop a headache.† Tasmania is renowned for its good quality beers.† Both the main brewers: Cascade and James Boags win numerous awards for their beers.† Needing some proper hydration I go in search of water.† The water out the taps is brown; I instantly pour it away.† Spotting the rainwater tank I think Iím sorted.† Only this water is not only brown but it has bit floating in it!† I opt of the plain brown water without the sprinkles.† Next to the showers, but due to the poor cleanliness of the amenities I feel dirtier afterwards that I did before.† Regardless itís still a nice spot.

 

Monday

 

No chance of fresh milk this morning so no prizes as to whatís from breakfast.† Soon Iím pedalling into the tiny settlement of Derby.† I swap my brown water for cool mineral water and an overpriced sport drink.† Much better.† Thereís not much here other that the little general store and a handful of house.† Iím back on the log trucking route, they rumble passed every 20 minutes or so.† But with non-existent traffic they pass me easily enough.† Iím still in hilly country with winding roads and lots of forests.† At midday I reach the relatively large but still small town of Scottsdale.† I read about the Columbia space disaster over a lunch of lasagne and chips.† Out of town I pass through Springfield.† I keep an eye out for yellow two-dimensional people but all I see is lots of cows.† Another long climb marks the end of the day.† It was pleasant enough with the sun casting long shadows of the tall trees lining the road.† I rest at the look out at the top before moving on to a campsite for the night.† No showers but a least thereís clean drinking water.

 

Tuesday

 

With only 30km to Launceston, Tasmanianís second largest city, I was in no hurry this morning.† My first stop in town is the visitorís information centre.† Realizing there was only one thing I wanted to see here I headed straight to it.† The James Boags brewery.† Thereís a small museum and they run tours around the working brewery, which is still housed in some of the original Georgian buildings.† After the tour Iím now knowledgeable about brewing and itís was on to the best bit, the tasting.† Luckily stilling cycling in a straight line, I headed north out of town.† Passing by a caravan park I set up camp.† Enjoying browsing the large range of food in a nearby supermarket I decided I needed a treat.† Itís amazing how much ice cream you can eat without feeling bloated.† But after a whole litre Iíd had enough for sure.†††††††††††

††††††††††††††††††††††††

Wednesday

 

Back pass the supermarket, this morning; I spot another solo touring cyclist in the car park.† Over the brow of a little hill I started pedalling hard to pick up some speed.† My rear derailleur was obviously in need of adjustment as changing up through the gears caused the chain to come off.† It had never come off the back cogs before and it became well and truly jammed locking the pedals in the process.† I free wheeled down the rest of the hill and as far up the other side as possible.† The chain was lodged between the rear chainset and a nut securing the pannier rack.† My cheap multi-spanner is not up to the job and is virtually useless as it bulk under the strain.† Just as I had concede and had started the short walk back to the supermarket complex for a spanner, Robert the cyclist Iíd seen, came down the hill and stopped.† Robert, from Canada, had just arrived in Tasmania from Western Australia and had also done some cycling in Fiji.† With his adjustable spanner I loosen the nut but in the end pulling the wheel quick release did the trick.† A few minutes and a pair of greasy hands later my bike was back to normal.† I adjusted the extreme limit of the derailleur to prevent a repeat and thanked Robert for his help.† He was the oldest touring cyclist Iíve met; I guess heíd be around 50.† Catching up with him a little way down the road I thank him again and soon leave him behind.† Stopping in the next little town (itís quite a bit more populated along the north coast) I find a hardware shop and buy the most expensive adjustable spanner I can find.† (Which also mean itís rather heavy).† Elderly volunteers who are friendly and chatty usually run the tourist information centres in these small places.† Today is no exception and I eventually leave with not only knowledge on the local area but a couple of complimentary apples.† The terrain is easy going as Iím following a river to the coast.† But the sun is being shy today and it starts to drizzle.† Just as I consider taking shelter it easies a bit.† Reaching Beauty Point I have to imagine that itís probably beautiful when the sky is not grey.† Thereís not a lot here but I find a seaside take away.† Fish and chips are definitely a no-no.† Instead I go for a huge baked potato with garlic butter, sour cream, coleslaw and bacon.† Itís so good I could eat another.† I comment on how nice it was and order another one.† The girl behind the counter thinks Iím joking but Iím not.† Having been told the caravan park at Kilso was nice I cycle almost another hour to reach it.† But when the view from my tent was a corrugated fence Iíd have probably been just as well off back a beauty point.† Although having the radio playing in the shower block was a nice tough.† I took a longer that normal shower.† I did not need much dinner after those potatoes.† I was feeling good; it being my last night before returning to Devonport where I started out almost a month ago.

 

Thursday

 

While stocking up on Mars bars at the caravan park shop I enquire about the condition of the dirt road short cut I was going to take.† Apparently itís very steep and bumpy.† I not convinced at first; Iím sure Iíve travelled a lot worse.† But the friendly old lady seems adamant and eventually Iím persuaded.† The alternative evolves a lot more kilometres but itís all sealed.† I have to back track the way Iíve come before I can start heading west.† Itís still cloudy but very hot?† Iím soon feeling tired and fed up and the road seems to be going up and up and up.† Steep in places.† I was not expecting this.† After a few stops I pull off the road yet again at the bottom of yet another steep climb.† What Iíd do for an armchair right now.† The verge of the road is all stones and dirt so I choose to sit on the road.† I listen out for any cars!† I eat a Mars bars not only for the energy but also in hope it may motivate me.† One was not enough and the second one follows in quick succession.† On a bit of a sugar high I reach the top within 30 minutes.† A short high speed decent follows (theyíre all too short) and the signpost to Devonport is met with elation, some of which I verbalize.† Suddenly Iím feeling strong and with a gradually slight downhill gradient Iím flying.† A couple of hours pass and I find Robert standing on the side of the road eating an orange.† He took the dirt road and had to get off and push.† Iíll never know just what it was like but I didnít regret taking the longer route.† Sensing my proximity to Devonport I pedal hard over the gentle rolling hills, maintaining a good 30km/h.† Soon I join the busy highway and arrived back in town.† To give some symmetry to my trip I check back into the same budget hotel Iíd stayed in before.† I can see the huge ferry from the hotel but Iíve got a couple of night here before I leave Tasmania.

 

 

Getting back to normality I spend my time eating, watching TV and catching a few movies.† Iíd enjoyed travelling Tasmania although it would have been nicer if it werenít so dry in places.† Iíd been going round in a circle for the last 4 weeks and now had itchy feet to continue my journey across the Australian mainland.

 

Iím booked on the 9pm sailing.† Before cycling to the ferry terminal I stocked up on food from the supermarket.† Thereís a delay loading the freight onto the ferry so I get chatting to a guy on a motorbike.† Mike has been on a day trip to Tasmania testing out and enjoying his new bike.† Heíd done a bit of cycling when he was younger and was interested in my journey, giving us lots to talk about.† Being a night crossing most people have cabins and the public areas were reasonably quiet.† Sitting near the bar Mike joined me for a few drinks which he absolutely insists on buying.† Not relishing the prospect of sleeping in my assigned seat I crash out on the sofas and get 6 hours of broken sleep.† Backing in Melbourne at 6:30 am I cycled to the station terminal on Flinders St. which I was now very familiar with.† I had to wait a good few hours for the first train out of Melbourne to the next city of Geelong.

 

 

Backing in Batesmanís Bay (the place with the fridge thieves) Iíd met a lovely couple, touring with their Caravan, from Geelong.† Kindly they said I could stay with them if I passed through.† It was the first such offer Iíd received but not the last; these Australians are a friendly bunch.† Having already spent ages in Melbourne and all along planned to catch the train out of Melbourne to Geelong it was an ideal place to take a break from the bike.† But they were unfortunately out of the country; however their son Mark offered to put me up instead.† Mike and his family were great hosts and I was touched by their kindness.† I hadnít realized how much Iíd been missing home comforts, camping and communal living does not compare.† I stayed for a few nights.† I was well feed, shown the sights around the start of the Great Ocean Road and make a new best friend with their 2-year-old son, Reagan.† I canít thank them enough.† Havening already seen the surrounding area I was dropped a little way along the Great Ocean Road at Eyreís Inlet to recommence my Journey.††††

 

 

Wednesday

 

Itís a fine day.† The blue sea and sky meet at the horizon to my left.† The road ahead of me twists along the coastal cliffs as far as I can see.† As I pedal off it dawns on me that Iím all out on my own again.† With Tasmania behind me I can continue my adventure across Australia.† The sea is breaking at the cliffs below me and now and then I spot the serious surfers who tend to prefer the wilder remote beaches.† Soon, Iím at the holiday town of Lorne.† I sit on the tourist packed beach and enjoy my packed lunch!† Making good progress Iím keen to go further and eventually stop on a campsite just outside Apollo Bay.† Before the sun goes I take a dip in the sea to cool off.† Also staying on the campsite is a solo Swiss cyclist going the other way.† We talk the usual cyclist talk; about the route, the weather and each otherís bikes and how much the dam things weigh.† If only for an unloaded racing bike.

 

Thursday

 

Itís raining this morning.† Iím not sure if this is this is normal?† Or just for my benefit!† I donít fancy sitting on the beach so I get moving.† It takes a few hours but at midday the weather clears leaving behind an annoying head wind.† When the road starts to climb I think Iíd be better off turning around and heading back to the beach.† Lavers Hill is getting the better of me, Iím not sure why.† Some half melted chocolate helps a little.† Just off the road a come to a busy car park for a forest walk in the Otway national park.† Being the odd one out on a bike people take a good look at me.† As I enjoy my tuna sandwiches I watch numerous mini buses and camper vans come and go.† Travel weary people file out of the buses do the 10 minute walk and then their back on the road.† Regardless of the hills (but maybe not the wind) Iím glad Iím on my bike.† The accommodation for the night is a field behind the roadhouse at Laver Hill.† Itís nice and green but down a steep slope.† For dinner I treat myself to a big plate of pasta in a restaurant with views back down the hill.† But the sea is nowhere to be seen.

 

Friday

 

Shortly after I awake a large tractor with a blade mounted on its underside appears and starts cutting a path through the grass.† Back and forth it goes, churning up the turf clearing a track to apparently nowhere? And managing to destroy a wire fence in the process.† Thereís no way I can pedal back up over all that lose soil, so I had a hard push to get my bike back to the road.† A bike with a mind of its own and gravity are two things you donít want to contend with first thing in the morning.† With only 1-litre cartons of milk available, I have half on my muesli and I mix the rest with chocolate power in one of my water bottles to sip as I go along.† Eating too much at breakfast is a mistake I often make.† After a gradual decent the sea views are back and the road soon hugs the coast again.† The limestone coast from here around to Port Campbell has many spectacular rock formations that have been sculpted over time by the sea.† Each is sign posted off the road and has it own car park and usually a wooden platform to ensure you get a good view.† I cycle my bike out along these structures as far as I can go; only flights of stairs can stop me.† The most famous of which are the Twelve Apostles, 12 pillars of rock sticking out of the sea, although you canít see them all from one place.† The roads are good and flat and the weather is fine but Iím making slow progress, because there is so much to stop and see.† Reaching Port Campbell at lunchtime I call it a day and spend the afternoon on the beach.† For dinner I cook up some frozen burgers on the BBQ.

 

Saturday

 

Itís a quick easy climb out of town and back onto the cliffs.† For the first hours or so there are plenty of rock formations to stop off at. I get a light tail wind and average over 25kh/m along the coast to the large town of Warrnambool.† Having had a late start this morning I just manage to hold out for lunch until Iím in town.† I couldnít resist as I passed McDonalds on the outskirts of town.† But some how it fails to really satisfy.† Itís a busy place and once Iíve left the highway I get lost in residential areas before I find it again.† And then thereís a compulsory detour for cyclist around the houses again.† Eventually Iím out of town but thereís yet another detour off the highway.† Okay, it perhaps is a bit of a short cut but the small hills are not welcome.† The sun is hidden and the winds are not in my favour any more.† Iím surprise to find myself getting cold.† Being not too far from Port Fairy I decide to pedal harder rather than to stop and rummage through my panniers.† Gradually creeping towards town and I can tell somethingís not right.† This is really hard going.† Iím getting fed up and I just want to stop and lie down.† In town I blindly follow the signs to the campsite.† As soon as Iíve paid, found a site and rested my bike against a picnic table, I collapse onto the grass and lie there for a good few minutes.† A headache comes on and the pain I experience as I move my head to stand-up makes me want to sit down again.† Considering I might be dehydrated I drink the rest of the water of out my riding bottles, which does not taste too good.† The tent goes up in slow motion because any sudden movements or bending over is followed by crippling pains in my head.† Having set up camp I lay out in my tent.† Boy, Iím exhausted and really cold!† Thereís a nasty wind blowing but even now with layers on, Iím cold!† A steamy hot shower is in order.† But now Iím too hot.† I slowly walk into town for some food although Iím not as hungry as I should be.† What seems like 1000ís of birds are chirping from the trees.† The high pitch noise is going straight thought me; combined with the headache itís sending me nuts.† In the end I only manage some rice and as soon as Iíve finish Iím immediately asleep.† But Iím still too hot; you could cook food on my forehead.

 

Sunday

 

I donít sleep too badly but as I regain consciousness itís clear my headache is still with me, only now at full intensity.† I donít feel like eating and a few slip of water from my bottle is unpleasant.† After two hours still in my sleeping bag it takes a real effort to get up and take a shower.† All I feel like doing is going back to bed.† So the rest of the day is spent in my tent.† I manage to read a little but canít get comfortable.† Whichever way I turn I canít get a descent radio signal.† The cracking static is sending me crazy.† My temperature is out of control I just canít cool down.† I must be at sweating temperature but Iíve not drunk enough fluids to sweat.† Iím still not hungry and canít face any more of the water.† The penetrating cold winds have not ceased all day and as darkness comes I shiveringly cold.† My tent provides good shelter and cocooned in my sleeping bag Iím soon asleep.† Being unwell is exhausting business.††

 

Monday

 

Same story this morning.† Concerned that if I didnít eat or drink anything soon I may cease to function altogether, I slowly and gently walk to the campsite shop.† Milk for cereal, I thought, and an in retrospect a large bottle of cool mineral water would have been a good choice, but my calorie deprived body came away with a sugary bottle of Sprite.† I also brought a bag of ice to keep these liquids cold.† But as an unanticipated bonus, a handful of ice in a sock placed on my forehead served to keep my soaring temperature at bay.† I forced down some muesli but itís particularly disagreeable.† Iím still weak but force myself to attempt the long walk into town (a short walk to everybody else).† Port Fairy is a small tourist/fishing town.† Apart from a few pleasant old buildings it hasnít got much going for it, especially not in this weather.† Every year they host a big folk music festival here, but thereís not much going on at the moment.† However the small main street is busy with people.† A newspaper provides some entertainment.† I read virtually every page; sitting in the reluctant sun on a roadside bench.† The paracetamols Iíve been taking have stopped having any effect and the pain is still droning away in the background.† I try, but I canít eat anything.† The cold winds return in the evening and Iím asleep by nightfall.† I donít sleep at all well and keep waking up.† Iím completely fed up and this just what I donít need.† I twist my small mag light touch on and manage to read for an hour before snoozing off again.† Thank god for a good book.

 

Tuesday

I think I must be hugely de-hydrated this morning.† Iím still not sweating as my temperature soars.† I canít face the thought of any milk so I mix up a weak solution of sports drink in one of my water bottles.† Drinking this green liquid (lemon + lime flavour) just makes me nauseous.† The headache is still with me, I might as well throw my paracetamol in the bin.† Looking on my tourist town map I locate a pharmacy and plan another expedition back into town.† Iím hoping the pharmacist will have a magic cure up his sleeve.† I chat to the guy; heís not got a clue whatís wrong and canít offer me anything.† Gee, I would have brought anything and paid any price if he told me it would help me feel better.† I purchase another paper along with a bottle of mineral water and some grapes.† I figure there must be some reason you always gives grapes to sick people?† Back to my bench in the sun and wind today!† I have to change to a more sheltered one.† The water and grapes go down slowly but tastes good.† Next back to the tent to kill a few hours before sleep takes me away giving some relief.

 

Wednesday

 

Iím awake early enough this mourning to call home.† Iím feeling a tiny bit better.† I manage more grapes and mineral water for breakfast.† On my trip into town a little extra effect takes me on a trip around the campsite first.† As a pleasant surprise I discover thereís a camp kitchen no more that 20 meters from my tent.† Iíd managed to over look this for 4 nights.† The fridge and microwave will considerably raise my standard of living.† I go in search of a TV room, if only!† My hunger is a good sign and I read todayís newspaper today over a chicken sandwich and a pot of tea in a bakery come cafe.† That was the best tea Iíve ever tasted.† To follow it with a heavy chocolate slice probably wasnít the wisest move, although it felt good to have eaten something.† Iíve give up taking paracetamol but I replenish my depleted stock anyhow as well as picking up a microwave meal for later.† The post office here has internet access, which passes an hour.† All this feeling unwell is getting me down something chronic.† Of all the hours spent in my tent some have been spent looking through my collection of maps.† Western Australia looks an insurmountable distance from here.† I donít want to think of an alternative plan.† My microwaved spaghetti bolognaise is good, still I was not particularly hungry.† My supply of chilled bottle water in the fridge is just what I need and Iím now drinking as much as I can.

 

Thursday

 

On wise instruction/advice from home I decide to move to a more suitable form of accommodation for someone in my condition.† I would have considered moving earlier; only taking my tent down and packing up would have taken more effort that I was capable of making.† Leaving THAT campsite behind felt good, so good.† The grass underneath the tent had gone yellow, a clear indication Iíd been there too long.† Being in pain can limit your thought processes somewhat.† Iíve only now gone from continually thinking Ďooh Iím ill, it hurtsí, to Ďwhy am I illí. ††I suspect the frozen beef burgers but Iím not sure if the symptoms match food poisoning.† As far as I can remember I never experienced any else quite this draining.† I check in to the central town motel.† Itís a bit pricey here but thatís no concern as Iím still feeling a long way off normal.† Iíve now got my own TV and fridge, what luxury.† And the town is on my doorstep.† Concerned about the nature and longevity of my illness I make an appointment and visit the doctors. (I didnít realise itís as easy as arranging for a haircut, I even paid in cash.)† And maybe they even have the magical cure Iíve been looking for?† The young looking balding doctor is very interested in my cycling.† We spend as much time taking about it as we do about my health.† He does the usual doctor stuff; however the best he can come up with is suggesting that perhaps it was virus and that Iím going toÖÖ live.† Seven years of medical training and thatís it?!† I guess I wanted my magic cure.† A dose of the Simpson followed by neighbours help alleviate my symptoms or at least my boredom.† While walking across the main street, to get to the pub, the cold wind blows straight through me.†† A look up to the sky and I can tell it will soon be raining.† My appetite is still absent and my steak doesnít settle well.

 

[You maybe getting tired of reading about my health but the good news is that youíre almost half way.† I had to endure it too!† Iím always going to remember the Melbourne to Adelaide stretch of my journey as the time I got ill.† A kind of lowlight if thereís such a thing, or does that not make it a highlight?]

 

Friday + Saturday

 

Itís nice to have a bed and I try to sleep in but itís just not happening.† One of the biggest things about camping is not having a comfortable seat.† And no longer does reading involve getting a stiff neck and having to adjust position every page.† Iíve now expanded my fruit diet a little but I long to be properly hungry.† I make up some fresh cheese and ham sandwiches.† But I get the oddest sensation whilst trying to eat them, similar to the thought or smell of alcohol with a bad hangover.† I only manage a mouthful.† Australian TV is a bit of a cross between British and American TV.† Which means thereís loads of adverts and thereís guaranteed to be nothing worth watching on a Friday or Saturday night.† Sadly little Port Fairy does not have a cinema. †)-:

 

Sunday

 

Iím still not eating right but I make the decision to leave town.† I just canít stand to stay any longer.† Iím positively shocked to find specks of rush on my reasonable new and well-maintained bike; more proof Iíve been here too long in the salty sea air.† Itís a good feeling to roll out of town and get moving again.† Itís 70km to Portland and the wind is not helping.† My painful progress is painfully slow.† The residual nigglings in my head and stomach are making me live every second twice.† I wish I were somewhere else, anywhere, but not Port Fairy.† The legs are working fine but the rest of my body is not willing.† Iím not able to drink from my water bottles, my body wonít let me!?† As always I make it into town.† Yet another town on the sea; Iím not in an easily impressible mood.† Itís another motel tonight and at last Iíve worked up a proper appetite.† I manage all but 2 slices of a large pizza.

 

Monday

 

Iím not staying.† But soon Iím wishing I had, as I start to feel nauseous form pedalling too hard.† I was considering my new and apparent inability to drink the local water supply.† Then it dawned on me that perhaps my bike bottles were tainting the water.† (I have two identical bottles from which I consume all my water from).† After a quick sniff of the bottles the nausea comes flooding back.† On closer inspection one of the bottles has a mouldy residue that is barley visible through the plastic.† Iím in no doubt Iíve found the cause of all my problems.† But water canít go mouldy, can it?† Milk!† That has to be it.† Although I thought Iíd cleaned it form my bottles (and I had), it obviously had not been enough.† All the pieces now fall into place explaining my strange aversion to any dairy products (thankfully excluding chocolate).† And no wonder my recovery had been slow, Iíd been trying to drink from my bottles for about 3 days before witching to bottle mineral water.† Giving myself a regular top up of viruses and toxins.† Iím surprised I managed to drink any water at all from them yesterday.† Acting upon this revelation I do my best to sterilise my bottle using: tissue paper (to get the goo out), boiling water and chlorine tablets.† With unjustified confidence, I foolishly put all my eggs in one basket or if you prefer all my water in two bottles.† Itís no good, all I can manage is half a litre out of the cleaner of the two bottles, and I canít drink anymore.† Itís a warm day and Iím thirsty.† The road is flat but the wind is limiting my speed and time is dragging.† Iím on a minor road going through a national park with lots of trees to look at.† Yet it appears as if Iím on the main artery of Australia road transport network.† More trucks and huge semi-trailers pass me than cars and Iím not exaggerating.† I find myself getting increasing angry with each one that passes me.† The ones from behind because they roar passed me making a hell of a noise and sometimes coming unreasonable close.† And the oncoming ones, because they pull a strong gust of wind behind them that hits me full on.† I follow signs to a rest area an unnecessarily long way off the road.† Itís unusually to find a rainwater tank.† I take a couple of gulps before considering it cleanliness.† Itís cold and wet and that does just find.† I figure lightening canít strike twice not after what Iíve been through and if Iím not immune to every water borne bug then I should be.† Nelson is a pleasant tiny town just on the Victorian side of the South Australian (SA) state border.† The caravan park more closely resembles somebodyís garden but has a good views over the river and out to sea.† In need of more time to recover I plan to spend 2 nights here.†

 

Tuesday

 

You can hire kayaks near by, everything is near by in a place this size, so exploring the river should keep me entertained.† Well, the sun never comes out on this particularly windy grey day that is not at all suited to water activities.†† So I sit around and about my tent.† Doing a bit of reading and sleeping.† I donít know how a whole day went past.

 

South Australia

 

Wednesday

 

As I completed the mundane packing of my panniers the sun comes out.† With less than 50km to Mt. Gambier I have time for a quick paddle.† Itís a nice change to be using my arms to move, although itís hard work against the wind.† I pray it will be blowing by way later.† It does!† Before I know it Iím in SA and flying up the slight hills.† Having also travelled back in time, crossing my first time zone (30 minutes difference).† I had replaced my cycling bottles with old mineral water bottles and now Iím feeling much better.† Mt. Gambier is the major commercial centre of southeast SA.† Itís built on the slopes of an extinct volcano.† Two old craters of which are now lakes.† One of them changes colour between blue and grey with seasons.† There are a few hostels in the town but one stands out from the others.† The jail, which closed 8 years ago, now offers accommodation in its cells.† I move my bike into my cell where I also have my own toilet and sink.† Thankfully the locks are now on the inside.

 

Thursday

 

Itís a short walk into town and already itís hot, much more like it.† Iím looking for new water bottles, the two small bike shops have little to offer but I do find the cinema.† Afterwards, I cool off in the local outdoor pool that is situated next to the jail.† They have the radio playing over the water; itís a good idea to relieve any boredom, as you donít get much of scenery change while swimming.† After countless lengths I manage another much needed early night.

 

Friday

 

The sun is nowhere to be seen this morning.† Leaving the sandstone jail behind at 9am I have to content with some traffic before Iím out of town.† Iím pleased to be feeling normal again for the first time in almost 2 weeks.† Thereís a strong wind blowing in random directions so Iím apprehensive.† I spot three luminous yellow and orange cyclists coming the other way.† Rain?† Soon enough Iím soaked by a lonely rain could.† I contemplate stopping to kit up but instead pedal harder.† Iím soon out the other side, but not before my socks are soaked.† Thousands of tiny black worms have taken to the wet road.† I do my best to limit the carnage as I weave between them.† I stop at a bakery in Millicent for lunch.† Foolishly I purchase a newspaper.† I try my best to read it however the wind has other ideas.† ďGreat!Ē Iíve now got a serious head wind and itís not too warm either.† And if thatís not enough the lonely rain cloud is back with his friends.† If this is Australian summer weather I wouldnít want to be around for the winter.† The roads are long and flat, meaning the slow moving grey scenery, along with everything else, is getting to me.† This is demoralising stuff and Iím feeling low.† A mass of tiny hands waving enthusiastically from the back of a yellow school bus provides a brief moral lift.† I respond with equal vigour.† Many people feel the need to wave at me, more so on the remote roads.† Some, you I can tell really mean it, while other just lift a lazy finger of the wheel.† Itís always nice to receive a big wave but replying to the fingers can become tiresome.† (It takes considerably more effort for me to continually lift my body weight off one on my arms and move it into the air.)† So remember, if you ever wave at a touring cycling on some remote road make it large, friendly and over the top.†

 

Even though itís not far back to the coast at Beachport this is one tough physical and mental battle.† Iím feeling like the howling noise of the wind in my ears will do me permanent physiological damage.† I stop at a world war memorial on the edge of town; dismounting from my bike seems to take a superhuman effort.† Eventually in the small town I canít find the hostel and soon give up settling for the campsite.† In desperate need of a physical and moral boost I immediately start cooking dinner.† A sudden heavy down pour washed any effects of it away.† Everythingís wet by the time the tent is up, at least it gave me a head start on the washing up.† If all else fails, a hot shower should pick me up.† This one has the opposite effect when it soon runs cold on me.† I head to bed on an all time low.† After such a good start to this leg of my journey, between Melbourne and Adelaide, I have covered less than 200km in 2 weeks.† At this rate it would take me 9 months to reach Perth.† Which seems a distant and unattainable target tonight.

 

Saturday

 

After a wet and windy night, and morning, Iím not keen to cycle anywhere.† But soon Iím moving slowing along the road contenting with the wind.† (Nothing new there)† The scenic town of Robe is only 50km and that far enough for today.† From the map I can see Iím passing 3 lakes, yet trees totally obscure any view from the road.† Robe is a lovely town; at least it would be against the backdrop of a blue sky.† And the stinky mud pond on the approach was not appreciated.† Here was one of the locations Chinese immigrants landed to start their long walk to the Victorian gold mines.† I certainly donít want to cycle back, let alone walk it.† Tonight the food is better: potatoes wedges covered in yummy sour cream and sweet chilli sauce follow by apple pie drowned in cream.† However the weather is maintaining its depressing effect and Iím still down about going nowhere fast.

 

Sunday

 

Itís definite not sun bating weather today.† So a day on the beach is ruled out.† With Ďmyí illness my bike is feeling a little neglected.† I spend an age cleaning its chain with my old toothbrush (well itís certainly an old one now).† And the tyres get a top up on air.† Like the previous days I still need two layers to insulate me form the penetrating winds.† Again my ambition for the day is limited to a short 45km to Kingston SE.† (Never did find out what the SE part is all about?)† Iím counting the slow kilometres all the way.† Now in bad need of a break from the weather I find a nice pub with budget rooms.† Dinner is good and Australia is playing England in the cricket world cup on the TV in the bar.† Guess who lost.

 

Monday

 

The start of a new week, and after a good nightís sleep Iím determined to do some decent mileage.† With almost 150km to the next town of Meningie and only limited services in between I donít set a target for today.† With no water for 84km I fill up before passing a giant lobster as I leave town.† I stop for a quick photo.† Thereís no wind today, yippee!† Soon Iím settled on an average of 20km/h.† The road is flat, the sky is thick with cloud and I still need two layers on.† I stop every 20km to refuel and stretch; necessary to maintain my almost continuous pedalling.† Mental concentration or just plain day dreaming help the hours pass.† (I not sure which one it is).† Time passes relatively quickly when youíre fixed in a good frame of mind as a result of a descent speed.† And the scenery changes at just the right pace.† Iíve cover the 84km and roll into the roadhouse at Salt Creek at about 2pm for a light lunch.† After 30 minutes I restocked with water and set off again.† The clouds have cleared revealing blue sky and a little sun.† Trees no longer line the road and I can see the little of the Coorong national park.† The Coorong is a narrow lagoon curving along the coast separated from the sea by huge sand dunes.† The road now undulates gently, a welcome change.† Iíve pushed the dayís average speed up to 21km/h.† The late afternoon sun feels warm on my back dissolving the blues of the previous weeks.† Iím feeling good again and the trans-Australian crossing looks to be back on.† Before long Iím approaching Meningie, feeling strong and a good kind of tiredness all in one.† I pick the pace up again and soon Iím sitting in my tent looking out over Lake Albert (and caravan park), a fitting end to an excellent day.† My cycle computer confirms this, reporting 147km in a little over 7 hours of pedalling.† The sun soon sets and needless to say I sleep really well.

 

Tuesday

 

The local bird life joins me for breakfast.† But they are not having any of it; I need it all.† My legs feel good and Iím ready to go again.† Still thereís no obvious wind around today.† Back on the highway and I resume yesterdayís pace.† After a few hours I have to turn off to avoid the freeway into Adelaide.† The road leads to a river but thereís no bridge here.† Instead thereís a neat cable run car ferry.† A swift crossing sitting next to a semi-trailer lands me in Wellington.† I stop for a burger and a much needed cold drink.† (Theyíre very keen out here of serving a burger between two slices of toast?!† Personally Iíd prefer a fresh roll.)† Moving again and suddenly itís very windy.† Iím skirting around Lake Alexandrian and I figure itís to blame.† My moral drops in proportion to my speed and I find myself blowing into the wind, anything to change its direction.† With the passing of the lake things improve a bit.† Vineyards now line the road providing more interesting scenery.† I stop for the night in Strathalbyn leaving Adelaide in easy striking distance for tomorrow.† Settled by Scottish immigrant the town has retained many picturesque old buildings.† Being my last stop before Adelaide I need to celebrate, the bottle shop (off licence) is closed so I tuck into 2 litres of Cadburyís ice cream.† I demolish just over half of it.

 

Wednesday

 

I turn the melted ice cream in to a milk shake for breakfast.† But Iíve got a chocolate swirl over load.† Adelaide is surrounded in hills; the first proper hills Iíve seen in a while.† Iím enjoying them, as they donít seem to be able to slow me down to any extent.† I pass lots of pleasant old villages nestled in the hills and forests.† Gradually the roads become busier and little shops turn into big stores and supermarkets.† I have direction for a bike route out of Adelaide; however trying to interpret them backwards is a real challenge.† I have to do a U-turn on the freeway access road.† Even if I were allow on the freeway I wonít want to use it.† I spend a while staring at numerous maps.† I do find a back route into town but not the intended one.† With all the climbs behind me I have a superb decent into Adelaide.† The momentum from which propels me all the way into the CBD, maintain 30km/h along the bike lanes.† I check in to a hostel.† They have a pool, sauna, wok, decent gas stove and a walk-in fridge here so Iím happy.† It will be nice to settle in one place for more than a few days.

 

Adelaide

 

Over the next week I do a little sightseeing, lots of eating and sun bathing.† And to ensure I donít become too inactive I visit the gym.† One thing Iíve leant over the pass few weeks is that cycle touring is no good unless you body is willing.† Adelaide is a calm and civilised city of 1 million people. †It is contained between the sea and the Mt. Lofty ranges.† The CBD is again a sensible, if not boring, road grid surrounded by a generous amount of parkland.† The city has a thriving bar and cafť scene, many of which spill out onto the pavements.†††††††† †††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††

††††††

The plan from here is clear, keep heading west.† To avoid cycling out of the city Iíll try and get to Port Augusta by other means.† From there navigation wonít be a problem, as Iíll follow Eyreís highway a couple of thousand kilometres into Western Australia.† With the eventually destination being Perth.† The distance between Adelaide and Perth is not much less than the distance from London to Moscow.† The long and lonely highway crosses the Nullarbor Plain.† (Nullarbor is Latin for Ďno treesí.)† The highway takes it name from John Eyre, who in 1841 was the first to make the east-west crossing taking him 5 months.† The first bicycle crossing was made in 1896, 16 years before the first car.† It was not until 1976 that the route was completely sealed.† Services along the way are limited to roadhouses, basic motels/hotels and caravan parks; all that I need.† But there are no cheap well-stocked shops, so Iíve posted a couple of boxes of goodies and essential supplies ahead.† The whole stretch is virtually flat and can get hot especially in summer.† My sole concern however is the wind.† With it frequently blowing west to east Iím praying for favourable conditions.† Thereís no way on Earth I can travel that distance with a head wind.† Well, at least not without some kind of incentive.

 

But before I move, thereís one thing I must see.† Synonymous with Australia, Ayres Rocks surely canít be missed.† Now increasingly know as Uluru to recognise its aboriginal heritage.† Itís a 3000km (2000 miles) round trip form Adelaide so biking it is out of the questions.† Adelaide is the base for many bus tour operators catering for every market; so I get myself booked on a backpacker tour.† Leaving most of my belonging behind the bus arrives early one morning and the endless hours of driving begin.† The white bus is air conditioned and comfortably seats 15.† There is plenty to see on the way to the ďred centreĒ: Flinderís Ranges, Lake Eyre and Coober Pedy to name a few.† I loved Coober Pedy, one of the last places on Earth youíd like to live but fascinating none the less.† It owes its existence to the vast underground opal reserves.† In aboriginal Coober Pedy means ďwhite manís holeĒ.† In the summertime daytime temperature reach 55 degrees and do not fall below 30 degrees at night time.† Consequently anyone with any sense lives underground.† You really have to see it!† On the night of the four dayís driving we finally reached Uluru.† Itís indescribably special, standing proud in the midst of the vast, unspoilt wilderness.† Last stop is Alice Springs before I return to Adelaide. ††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††

 

Catching the bus out of Adelaide I felt glad I didnít have to content with the traffic for only limited scenic reward.† Port Augusta is a major crossroad in this part of the word.† Heading north leads to Alice Spring in Northern Territory, east to Sydney in New South Wales, south back to Adelaide and west, my direction, to Western Australia and eventually Perth.† This place is a small urban mess growing in, around and under the single lane highways.†

 

Saturday

 

After one night here Iíve fresh legs and enthusiasm but I get underway later than intend.† I picked up a lot of bits and bobs in Adelaide and packing and sorting through took a while.† Before the true ĎNullarbor Crossingí begins I have to travel 300 miles across† Eyreís Peninsula to Ceduna.† Turing left out of town and the landscape takes a dramatic change.† On my right the southern end of the rugged yet beautiful, dry and harsh mountain terrain of the Flingers Rangers sits directly under the hot sun.† (Where Iíd pass through nearly 2 weeks before by bus).† Ahead the road stretches out to a point; an inspiring sight to the long distance cyclist.† Offering endless opportunities to cycle over the horizon.† The terrain lining the road matches my expectations of outback Australia.† A red dusty expanse with no green plants and no signs of life.† Today this semi-desert landscape has the extreme weather to match.† Pulling off the road into a dusty rest area Iím hot and thirty.† In temperatures of 30+ the water is my bottles would quickly become warm and unpleasant.† Previously I could only dream of a cold drink but not any more.† Back in Adelaide I pick up some addition cycling stuff:† replacement water bottles (without milk flavouring!), an adjustable stem to raise my handles bars to a critical level to improving comfort on those looong days, a luminous yellow sun proof (SPF 50) cycling top (to ensure my fate is not the same as the skeleton kangarooís that line the road) and the best of all an ĎEskyí.† (For those you donít speak Australian Ė an ice box).† Itís a 5 litre square box complete with tap.† Almost if designed to do some, it fits perfectly on top of my rear rack.† It was a dream find.† I was inspired by the bus tour; a 3.5 kg bag of ice (cheap and readable available in shops and roadhouse) thrown into a large cylinder full of water supplied cold refreshments all day long.† That was also my intention although today the esky contained two of my frozen plastic water bladders.† If Iím going to have to carry lot of water it might as well be frozen.† Drinking freshly melted water out here was indescribably great, going a long way to keep me cool and happy.

 

With nothing to restrict my view I spot Iron Knob from a long way off.† A small deserted mining town at the base of a long hill/knob sticking out of the flatness.† As I discovered, over a steak sandwich, the tiny town is in recline, some of the low-grade housing look virtually derelict.† Thankful the roadhouse is open.† Before leaving I filly the esky with Ice and water.† I cram in almost the whole bag and force the lid closed.† With 70km behind me itís 3pm.† Kimba, the next point of civilisation, is a long 90km away.† Never the less Iím not/canít stop here and Iím feeling good.† But time is not flying as a headwind challenges me to battle.† Half way to Kimba and Iím tired and hungry from the fight, resting my bike against a reflective road marker I collapse on to gravel.† Being tea time I need some good nourishment, although I hadnít anything suitable to eat.† But iced water mixed with milk powered, surprising produces a palatable combination.† So I enjoy a few bowls of Wheat-Bixs (Australian Wheetabix) toped with excessive amount of white sugar.

 

Before I know it the sun has gone out, replaced by a blanket of stars.† By now Iím determined to reach town and I have to make proper use of my lights for the first time.† The air temperature noticeable drops away, but is off set by an increase in pedalling intensity.† The traffic is virtually non existent after dark.† The couple of road trains that do pass me make me extremely eager to get of the road ASAP.† The sometimes absent white road markings, faintly illumined by my headlights, are the only way I can tell my whereabouts relative to the road.† With no light pollution the dense display of stars that engulf me is most impressive.† With nothing to see ahead of me I look upwards trying to identify the constellation one by one until a small glow of light appear behinds trees in the distance.† Some how I find the caravan park through the thick inky darkness. (Another tiny town and it only have a couple of street lights.)† Fortunately itís part of a petrol station and they are still open a 9:30pm.† Through the narrow beam of my pen touch I looked in vain for some grass.† Putting my tent up is no fun and with no energy left to shower or even cook I pass out to sleep.

 

The 160km, my longest ride yet, had take just over 9 hours of actual pedalling excluding anytime I was stationary.† It would prove good preparation for what was to come.

 

I awoke in the very early hours of the morning needing a shower and some food.† I did what I needed to, to return sleep.

 

 

Sunday

 

In the light of day it was clear why I couldnít find any grass last night.† There was none.† Kimba is half way across Australia and to celebrate this fact thereís a giant parrot by the road side?!† Itís a good job I didnít run into it last night.† Being Sunday the small general store is closed so I stock up for the days ride at the bakery by the parrot.† The terrain is less desolate and more agricultural today as Iíve reach a major wheat growing region.† Australia is one of the five major wheat exporting countries in the world; a fact a can vouch for.† Since as I slowly move through named Ďtownsí on the map I come across many huge white grain silos towering into the air.† Coming in threes they dominate the horizon from a distance.† Apart from a well worn industrial railway that is all there is in these places.† Certain no services and if a few people do live here they are well off the road.† Itís another fine hot day but that no concern with my ice.† Around mid day I take the opportunity to stop as I reach a rest area.† Thereís a Ďrealí Australia guy here, wearing a worn t-shirt, a small pair of hard wearing shorts and heavy work boots.† Over a cup of refreshing tea ( even in 30 degreeís) and a biscuit he tell me how he makes a living looking for gold. I was fascinated.† Travelling in his dusty jeep with a Ďdieselí motor bike on the back he was currently heading for Western Australia (one of the last place you could hope to find gold readily in Australia.).† Where he uses his bike to ride off into the bush with his metal detecting equipment and find gold.† He does not stay for long as previously un-encountered insects are preying on us.† Horsefly or locally known as March flies. (I donít know whether the fact it was March has anything to do with it?).† Boy, I thought normal flies where annoying.† But these guys go way past annoying.† They are bigger and strong; meaning any half hearted attempted to squash them usually resulting in them fling away unharmed from under your hand.† They are faster; so out running them by pedalling like crazy is not longer possible without the help of a near vertical gradient.† And worst of all they bite; even through my clothes!† The surprise and pain is like that of a bee/wasp sting.† However, this is also there weakness since there bite alerts me to there presence resulting in almost certain death.† For the rest of the day, at any one time, a have the attention of about 3 flies.† They annoyingly buzz around for a while look for a landing site before attacking.† If I didnít know better I swear they had coordinated there attacks to try any bring me down!† Since time after time they bit my right thigh??† I give them a quick slap and they fall away, lifeless, towards the grey blur that is the road.† At a reasonable time in the late afternoon I roll into Wudinna.† It has the train line and the silos.† It a big places as they go.† The motel/hotel/caravan park has a pool and spa!† Iím also happy as I find a patch of green grass by the washing lines.† The spa is heaven.† Surveying the fly damage I count no less than 17 large itchy red bites (among others) on my right thigh alone; all within an area the size of my hand!† However with no head wind today Iíd made good time almost averaging over 20km/h and having covered a more modesty 90km.

 

Monday

 

An elderly couple travelling from WA invited me into their caravan for breakfast.† After tea and toast, on top of the cereal Iíd all ready had, I get on my way.† The scenery and flies are unchanged from yesterday.† After 50km I take much need shelter from the flies in the store in Minnipa, of course itís only a small place and Iím the only one around.† Theyíd scored more bites today on top of yesterday which were now excruciatingly itchy.† Enjoy an ice cream sitting in a reclining camping chair (that was for sale) I causally mention the March flies.† The assistant tells me this is the worse sheíd ever seen it.† Great! They have all come out just for me.† Back on the road in the hot 30+ temperature the flies are now worse than ever.† This is just getting ridicules - barely a minutes passes between the painful bites and Iím tired of flaying my arms around my head like a crazy man.† All this is distracting me from controlling my bike safely; not to mention the fact Iím turning in to a human pin cushion.† Theyíre really starting to get to me so I decide enough is enough and something has to be done about it.† After one last futile attempted to out run the little bastards, me and the flies pull up on to the gravel besides the road, hot and distressed (thatís just me by the way).† As a last resort I kit up in my water proofs.† Now my face, covered my indispensable fly net, is the only area of visible skin on my body.† Iím now a peculiar sight for passing motorists with the scorching sun still beaming down.† One car even pulls over to ensure Iím okay and that my clothing was not an attempted to attract attention.† I thank them and tell them of the flies.† They donít seem convinced or understand my pain?!† The motorists have no idea; they likely pass through the infested area without having to stop once.† The water proofs are more effective that I could have hoped for. I figure the luminous yellow colour must jam their Ďradarí or maybe they just canít smell me any more.† I hardly see another fly all day.† My supply of cold water helps combat the heat.† Again I found the only patch of grass at the caravan park at Poochera.† I treat my self to a mixed grill at the little pub with also operates the park.

 

Tuesday

 

The remains of the melted ice mixed with powered milk provide the usual quick breakfast.† Itís a bit cloudy, windy and rainy today.† But Iím not complaining since it keeps the flies away.† Regardless I cover a quick 44km to Wirrulla and stop for lunch.† The little store has yummy and surprisingly fresh iced buns.† I just resist the temptation to eat two.† It was too early to stop so at 1pm I set off again to cover the reaming 90km to Ceduna.† The last town before things start to become really remote.† 90km didnít seem too far considering how far Iíd come in a few days.† The sky clear and the temperature creeks up.† I start regretting not restocking on ice.† The March flies are out again and so I cover up again.† Hours pass by as the sun drops to the horizon dead ahead of me.† The light is blinding, I have to squint down at the road.† It eventually sets at 6:30pm since the clocks had just been adjusted for day light saving.† Dinner being way over due by now, I stop at the next rest area and eat a packet of savoury biscuits seating on the green table.† The flies are also hungry but Iím too drained to be overly concerned about them. †My bites from the previous day are still giving me hell though especially under my hot clothes.† By 7:30pm its pitch black and my light only just illuminated the sign posts as I approach town.† I find the hostel surprisingly easily and Iím the only guest tonight.† The legs are weak since Iíd pedalling harder that usual chasing the light.† And no matter how many times you ride 90km it certainly get no shorter.† I can tell Iíll be real soar tomorrow as I hobble into town for a large pizza.† The plan is to stay here for a few days to rebuild up my strength before leaving civilisation behind.† The 500km from Port August was the warm up for the 1200km to the next proper town of Norseman taking me over the vast Nullarbor Plain.

 

Friday††††††††††††††††††††††††††† †††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††

 

Ceduna has a massive population of 4000 and aptly means Ďresting placeí in Aboriginal. After two days of eat, reading, writing, planning, watching TV and resting Iím feeling ready to move on again.† While loading my bike a small Japanese girl with a bicycle arrives at the hostel.† Sheís just got the off coach which runs between Perth and Adelaide.† Having gotten on at Norseman she plans to stay a few days before cycling back across the Nullarbor.† With complete respect I wish her well.† Talk about diving in at the deep end.† Passing back through town I get some last minute supplies from the little supermarket as well and ice and cash.† From here the only provisions available are the limited groceries on sale at the roadhouse.† These inevitably only consisted of over priced crisps, sweets and chocolate bars.† Leaving town late in the morning the road signs have dauntingly large distances marked on them.† After a couple of hours I met an American on a racing bike, towing a trailer (a setup finely tuned to travelling quickly, I still feel my bike is cumbersome and resistive), coming the other way.† We chat for a while; he seems to of enjoyed the crossing.† Reaching Penong and its windmills I call it a day; not wanting to over do it on the first day back on the road.† A track from here leads to one of Australia best surfing beaches, Cactus beach.† I take one of the on site vans at the caravan park to save me putting the tent up on the gravel.† I figure theyíll be lots of camping on gravel yet to come.† Even after a day my kit could do with at clean so I visit campsite laundry and enjoy the rest of the hot sun.† Unfortunately Cactus beach is a good 40km return journey on a less than ideal track.

 

Saturday

 

Getting up be fore dawn Iím pack up and on the road as itís getting light.† I have few catchy songs in my head which pass the 76km to roadhouse at Nundroo.† After a caffeine and chocolate boost I push on.† Iíve now left the farm land behind me and the road is line with dry scrub and woody trees.† The trees turn into a forest and the road start to undulate.† The March flies return and are particularly bad in the rest areas, where in one I meet an Australia cyclist.† This guy looks like he live on his bike.† Not only has he got four panniers and trailer heís also brought the kitchen sink.† It seems he passes the hours on the bike by smoking and expresses his concern that he may run out of tabaco before he reaches Nundroo tomorrow.† Itís no mystery why he was surprised by how far I was coving each day.† He shares my hatred of March flies who had also been giving him hell.† I warn him itís not going to get much better for a longwhile.† His tactic for dealing with the flies was a much stressed plastic fly swat and a large can of Areoguard.† Being conventional fly spy it was having no effect for him against the super flies.† I assure him that between us we must have slaughter a few hundred of the evil insects.† It helped to share are frustration and I pedalled on with a renewed determination.† Another 50km still among the tree and I reached Yalata roadhouse.† Before the roadhouse there is a turn off for the Yalata aboriginal community.† I sure sign of Australia continuing social problems; a lot of aboriginal live in these isolated community which are no go areas for white people.† Whilst approaching this turning an old banger, missing lights and pieces of the body work, comes up from behind and drives along side.† The aboriginal family within had a good look at the oddity which is me in my fly protection water proofs.† I give a customary way before finally Iím overtaken.† The campsite is deserted and again it is dry hard dirt; I enjoy an expensive ice cream before struggling to pitching the tent.† Not long passes before Iím join by John and his wife, an elderly couple travelling in their 4 by 4 towing a collapsible caravan trailer.† Itís nice to have some company.† John made his living in the British Army before falling for Australia.† Iím surprise the roadhouse has frozen meat for sale.† I purchase a BBQ pack to add some protein to tonightís pasta.† It took a lot to fill me up and the lamb was especially good.† The stars are out in force tonight; I leave my fly sheet open so I can see the sky as I fall into a deep sleep.†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††

 

Sunday

 

Having 150km of nothing ahead of me I need supplies to last me all day as possibly more.† I come away from the roadhouse with a block of ice and a couple of frozen pasties.† Pies and pasties are popular among the passing motorists meaning theyíre widely available.† Most of the roadhouse service fast food but the idea of a cold burger down the road some how doesnít appeal.† Some places do sandwiches and thatís about it for real food.† I have to practice some ice sculpture with my penknife before block will fit in my esky.† And once Iíve filled up from the rain water tank Iíve leave behind the only building Iíll see all day.† For the first hours the road still undulates through the trees.† And Iím still on the March flyís turf.† I stop at a rest area to eat the first of the now thawed pasties and Iím engulfed in flies.† Iím still in full fly protection clothing but with so many of them they have found my weak spot at my angles and wrists.† Itís hot, sunny and calm today just fine for riding.† Thereíre old fat lizards like creatures sun bathing on the road.† They are superbly camouflaged for life on the asphalt.† By the middle of the afternoon the tree dissipate and the road drop away to the flat expanse of the Nullarbor Plain which fills the horizon.† The limestone plain was once at the bottom of the sea.† Thirteen million years ago the sea receded and the old sea bed was uplifted to form the Bunda Cliffs.† Chemical weathering by rainwater formed the extensive underground cave systems within the plain.† Every year the sheltered waters along the coast here are visited by whales rearing their young.† Not in April though.† Already having covered about 130km today I figure Iíve got time for the windy 24km return trip to the sea before the last 20km to the Nullarbor roadhouse.† I donít see any whales but I do see a dingo.† The Nullarbor roadhouse is fairly large modern complex, but not the backpacker accommodation which is pretty basic and well worn over the years.† Never the less it saves getting the tent out which means a quicker departure in the morning.† Thereís a few dingoes (wild dogs) scavenging around the roadhouse, I say hello but decided against petting them.

 

Monday

 

Iím awoken briefly in the night by a rain storm.† My alarm goes at 6am and soon Iím rolling along the damp road in the twilight of sunrise.† Itís a long 190km to the next roadhouse on the WA/SA boarder.† Iím not planning to cover it all today but to just go as far as possible.† Soon I pass the sign indicating the western end of the Nullarbor plain.† The next few hours are spent spinning away at a happy 20km/h all the time the temperature is climbing to another scorcher.† Pulling into a rest area Iím starving hungry at 10am.† No wonder really.† Thereís a large road train park here; I expect the driver is getting some sleep.† I munch through a chicken & salad sandwich and a delicious orange (my last piece of fresh fruit).† And wash my sticky hands and face with cool water from the emergency water tank here.† They are a bit of a peculiar feature with only 3 tanks on the whole Nullarbor crossing and the official line is not to reliable upon them due to vandalism.† Nor is the water safe to drink without treatment.† And youíd have to be unbelievable lucky to brake down next to one.† Anyhow I still had over 10 heavy litres of water with me, enough to get me comfortable through two days.† For the next 140km or so the road closely follows the coastal cliffs, with about 6 viewing point only 1km off the road down gravel roads.† I stop at each one.† The cliffs here are hugely impressive; felling like a very definite and dramatic edge to the landmass.† There are also a lot of motorists at the viewing points taking a break from the long hours of driving.† I spend some time eating and chatted to the other traveller and they came and went.† After about 100km in the middle of the afternoon boarder village seem to far away to reach today, especially after an elderly couple wave me off the road to offer me a cup of tea and some cake in their caravan.† It was nice just to sit on a comfy seat.† After two cups of tea and lots of fruit cake they kept offering me I thank them and got on my way (they even gave me some cake for later and I could refuse).† I could hardly believe it; I was now spinning at an easy 30km/h.† While I was inside the wind had picked up, or was there was something in that cake.† Amazing it was in my direction!† After an hour of this, boarder village looked within striking distance.† And so on I pedalled.† Sadly my first real tail wind left me and the sun began to set, returning me to my usual speed of around 20km/h.† As darkness crept in the grey clouds were sucked out over the southern ocean which was now visible from the road in places providing a real treat to look at.† The blood red sun diluted to orange before the rotating Earth took it away from me.† Travelling almost directly west it felt like I was on a treadmill chasing the sun around the Earth as it turned; a wonderfully rousing feeling.†† (Iím sure the distance I travelled today must have given me a few extra minutes of sun light; although Iíd have to be going quite a bit faster for a really noticeable effect.)† With the dark the traffic reduces, anyone with any sense would have already stopped for the night, just leaving me and the road trains. Most of the traffic consists of: people on holiday (Australian and otherwise), people that live on the road (it not uncommon for people, especially the more senior Australians, to spend prolonged period living and travelling around Australian) and the roadtrains (several trucks connected together in a train).† These things canít turn corners or stop; I keep well clear partially at night.† Due to the long straight roads you can see them coming miles off even in the dark when they look like soothing out of the Coca-Cola Christmas TV advert with along their multi coloured lights (no smiling Santa on the back though).† Having come this far Iím determined to reach the boarder this evening.† Soon a crest moon is high in the sky draped in grey wispy cloud.† I swear the moon smiling at me?† To readdress any sugar deficiency and for entertainment sake, I quickly eat my way through my emergency bag of chewy sweets.† In the dark the Nullarbor has a distinct different lonely feel to it, with the drop in temperature, change in smells, the proximity of the sea and the sounds of the insect life all around.† I pedalled for what seems like a timeless eternity through the all encompassing darkness; for no stars are out tonight.† Iíve been running on automatic at the same speed without stopping for hours now and my legs were starting to feel good kind of empty.† My body was obviously competing with physical trauma on a chemical level since the more exhausted I felt the happier I became.† The faint light from the Roadhouse sign in the distance was met by the most amazing sense of euphoria.† I sprinted the last few kilometres towards the lights like a man possessed.† This is another large complex and they even have a bore water swimming pool.† I paid for a budget room and move my bike inside.† I still had over 5 litres of water in my pannier untouched.† Iíd carry this water 190km seeming unnecessarily but had the wind turn on me I would have needed every drop.† The speedometer provided interesting reading: 189.42km in 8h 37 minutes of pedalling,† an average speed of 21.9km/h and a maximum of 41.6km (a good top speed considering it was all on the flat).† I enjoyed a swimming in the dark before a hot shower; which you have to pay for out here, itís about 40p ($1) for 5 minutes.† After replacing a large number of calories I get a relatively early night.

 

Iíd keep a recorded of what Iíd eaten that day, in order it goes like this:† 6 weet-bix + milk + sugar, large current bun, chicken sandwich, an orange, pasty, 3 weet-bix + milk + sugar, mars bar, pasty, 2 cups of tea, 5 pieces of fruit cake, muesli bar, packet of chewy sweets, hamburger with the lot, super noodles, and a muesli bar before bed.† Aswell as few litres of sport drink throughout the day.††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††

 

Western Australia

 

Tuesday

 

Iím still felling surprisingly well this morning with no real ill effects from yesterday, although I not in a hurry today.† Thereís a giant figure of a kangaroo out side the road house and a sign post with distances and directions to a number of major cities; which makes interesting reading.† Crossing the boarder into Western Australia (WA) involved passing through a quarantine check point.† Since Iíve not seen any fresh fruit or veg for a while I have nothing to declare.† A short 12km further on is the little settlement of Eucla, which once play an important role as a telegraph station.† There does seem to be few houses here.† Leaving Eucla the road drops steeply down to another flat plain.† It was good fun to whiz down at high speed; something that had been lacking of late.† The scattered cloud from yesterday has cleared up and itís a good bit hotter.† Itís only 60km to the next road house but the time is dragging today.† Iím getting the occasional twinge in my knees (no surprises really, Iíve done some hard riding since leaving Ceduna last Friday) and I swear I have a head wind, but thereís not really evidence of this so it must be my imagination.† Mid afternoon and I could have pushed on a bit further but Mundrabilla roadhouse looked as good as place to stop as any.† At least I could take a shower and cold beer.† Of course there is no grass and pegs require bashing to get then into the dry harsh earth.† As usual I collect dry wood from the ground and start a fire for dinner (1 cup of teat, pesto pasta followed by chocolate porridge).† Even when Iím not cooking itís satisfying to get a fire going and it acts as a centre of attention especially important when Iím on my own.† The little roadhouse bar was surprising busy; there was a family with young children from Perth and a couple of English backpackers, one from my home town Cheltenham!†††††††

 

 

Wednesday

 

A cloudy and damp morning results in a sluggish start to the day as I trudge through the daily saga that is packing up all my kit.† Itís evident I badly need to do some laundry but more for comfort than hygiene reasons.† Iíd solely been wearing my yellow cycling shirt for traffic safety reasons.† I stocked up for the day with sandwiches, pasty, crisp and block of ice (knowing that if I didnít buy ice it would be a hot day).† The sandwiches and the crisps are soon gone as I use food to keep up the motivation levels.† Itís 116km to the roadhouse at Madura; a reasonable days ride.† As usual the weather clears up.† In my typical state of pedalling induced psychosis I name this stretch of road Ďdead valleyí, due to the extreme number of decomposing animal corpses that line the road.† The smell is physically offensive.† A valley because the Hampton tablelands, that I descended from back a Eucla, are still visible on the horizon to my right.† Next comes drizzly rain; the weather canít make it mind up today.† Madura roadhouse is half way up a hill which is a welcome change from all the flatness.† I pull up on the forecourt and get chatting to a group of middle aged bikers, all in black leathers, who roared passed not long ago.† With all the accumulated days of riding beginning to take their toll, I opt for a motel room.† This one has an en-suite and a TV! (It satellite TV and it needs to be).† I fell in need of mindless entertainment not to mention catching up of the news which I havenít seen since Ceduna.† Being out of touch only adds to the feeling isolation out here.† While chatting to guy on reception he mentions that some roadworks are going on further up the road.† And that with the rain(?) it had turned into a muddy mess.† Iím a little concerned about this, as fighting my way through mud could mean a huge amount of extra effort, not to mention time.† Any how I do some laundry grab a burger and cold beer and follow it up with porridge made from the kettle back in my room.

 

Thursday

 

As always a decent bed does wonder for the legs and Iím inching to go again.† Iím well on the way by 8am; itís hot and Iíve already covered myself in white sun cream.† After a tiny climb to the top of the hill I pull off the road for a quick photo.† I can see for miles and miles but from here on itís flat again.† As Iíve process the scenery changes subtlety, now there a tree to look at again.† It feels as if Iíve have the road to myself today.† 83km to Cocklebiddy roadhouse and its lunch time Iím excited to see a couple of cyclist drying there tents outside.† One of these guys is from England and the other from Scotland.† Itís always comforting to meet people from Ďhomeí.† There not being having a good time of it recently.† With the rain last night (I didnít notice) and the headwinds (hadnít notice that either.)† Understandably this had got them down and I tried to be sympathetic.† As they left I wished them better winds but not before a far enough away to experience different weather.† I could have pushed on, but considered that if I were to stop now, it would qualify as a rest day.† Not to mention Cocklebibby was where Iíd sent my second supply box and I had over 4Kg of food to eat!† The ground at the campsite, around the side on the roadhouse, is rock hard so I pitch my tent in an empty flower bed.† I cooked up spaghetti bolognese (out of a tin) for lunch, snacked all afternoon and have my customary burger for dinner.† Followed by apple pie and ice cream.† Itís starting to get dark far too early for my liking.† Regardless of the time changes, as I head west it feels as if Autumn has well and truly taken a grip.† The noisy generator doesnít stop me sleeping off all the food.

 

Friday (The Nightmare day)

 

I sleep well; so well I sleep in past 7am.† Lying in my tent thinking about moving I can hear the wind.† The canvass on the tent is flapping strongly this morning, I donít believe it but it look like Iím going to have a tail wind?!† Itís only a short 64 km to the next roadhouse.† However the wind is having a limited effect on my speed.† I come up to road works Iíd been warned about.† All manner of trucks and machine are busy working the road.† One lane is open; the surface is a little rough but I pass through without loss of speed.† Chatting to a work worker with a stop sign, I learn that Eyreís highway nearly always has road working going on.† This is because of a number of reason: its tremendous length, the quality/depth of the bitumen of the road could be better, its heavy use by road trains and long hours in hot sun with temperatures approaching extremes of 40 to 50 degrees at certain times of the year.† The road works keep me entertained for the 30 minutes it takes me to pass them all.† On the other side I stop at parking area on the road side. (Just some dusty yellow gravel).† Thereís an old man here throwing stones for his little dog to fetch.† He offers me a cup of tea Ė great!† Just what I was hoping for.† He and his wife live in the caravan and are on the road most of the year, occasionally stopping at friends and family.† Theyíre heading into WA to look for gold!† Again Iím intrigued; apparently you can wonder into the bush with a metal detector and unearth solid nuggets.† In previous years they have found enough to pay for the equipment and to justify the expensive of travelling across Australia.† It starts me thinking.† Two delicious beef and pickle sandwiches later I thank them profusely; they pull off in a cloud of dust and return to the road.† Replacing my shades, helmet and after topping on sun cream I follow.† Iím not impressed with the roadhouse at Caiguna which I reach around lunch time after passing thought another time zone.† Thereís no useful groceries (not unusual in its self) and $2.50/£1 for a mars bar is just extortionate.† It wouldnít bother me so much if it came with a smile.† But I have to stand at an empty counter for several minutes just to buy a cold drink and when Iím served I get the impression Iím somehow inconveniencing them.† As soon as Iíve taken on lots of water (10 litres +), in the unpleasant bath room, Iím off again keen to make the most of the wind.† I still have just enough food left from my re-supply at Cocklebiddy.† The next 182km stretch take me to Balladonia, I figure I could have half of it done before dark.† Caiguna marks the start (or end) of the longest straight section of sealed road in world.† 90 miles or 146.6km without a single bend.† Wow!† My guide book tempts fate for me; ďItís a glorious ride in a tailwind Ė or a cycling nightmare in a headwind.Ē† And this is where it beginsÖ.

 

My tailwind has inexplicably turned into a head wind.† WHAT! Iím baffled by it?† The wind is nothing to severe, but enough to make it hard work.† Anyhow I canít moan as Iíve had reasonable weather up to now.† 5km passed Caiguna there is blowhole just off the road.† An extensive network of limestone caves exists underground the ground.† Due to an air pressure gradient the opening here is breathing out cold damp must cave air.† I spot a snake slivering slow between the rocks just a little down the hole.† Itís the first one Iíve seen thatís not been squashed on the road.† It has heard me coming and soon moves out of sight.† Luckily for me itís the hibernation time of year; in the high of the summer the Nullarbor crawls with all manner of deadly snakes.† Back on the bike I soon have another close encounter of the serpent type.† I donít see it until it has passed directly beneath my pedals and it suddenly moves.† Another inch to the left and it would have been roadkill.† Iím not sure which one of use was more startled; it certainly made my heart jump.† As I pedalled on in a heightened state, I thought to myself how seeing two live snakes in one day, the first living ones in 5 months, had to be a bad omen.† If only Iíd know how right I was.

 

I change my aim to cover only 60km and get up ridiculously early tomorrow, before the wind, to complete the remaining 120km.† At sunset Iíve only managed a mere 50km from Caiguna.† As the has now set I donít make it to a designated camping area and instead find a rest area, some way from the road, with only a few yellow drum like bins.† There are no trees or shelter as far as I can see on the flat expanse of dry scrub surrounding me.† The designated camping areas in WA are generally better than those in SA.† They have tables, fireplaces/BBQ, bin, trees, individual camping/parking lots and some even have toilets.† These places can actually get quite busy in the evenings; as people feel safer in groups.† However tonight the light is against me and Iím all alone.† I start a small fire in a circle of rocks on which to cook dinner.† Iíd picked up the wrong liquid stove fuel in Cenuda and had mixed with the remains of my good fuel.† The resulting liquid vapours too easily producing wild yellow flames, lots of thick black smoke and little heat.† Itís virtually useless to cook with, but handy to get a fire roaring quickly.† With the strong wind my fire is burning brightly, now the only light in the descending darkness.† I think I notices flashes in the distance but dismiss them as figments of my imaginations.† Dinner finished and it starts to rain.† Hurried packing my cooking equipment away by the dim light of my Maglite.† Due to water rations, washing up will have to wait.† Itís wet rain and Iím damp before I can climb into my small gloomy tent.† Sheltering in the darkness I can only sit and listen to the storm outside.† The rain continually pelts the canvass and the wind relentlessly pushes past.† As suddenly as the rain has come it stopped.† I unzipped the tent inter and the out fly sheet a small way and poke my head out.† All was still; seating menacingly on the horizon was the largest and darkest storm cloud Iíd ever seen.† Itís not long before I notice the lighting strikes, every 20 seconds or so.† Many of the strikes are contained within the cloud and are followed by ripping thunder Ė a real sceptical.† I watch for ages mesmerised like a little kid; in ore of the tremendous dramatic power on display.† Perhaps it was naive of me to think the storm had now past, but thatís what I thought and I soon fell asleep.†††††††††††††††††††† ††††††††††††††††††††††††††††

Saturday (still Friday to me)

 

Iím awoken a few hours later at 1pm by the noise of the wind buffeting my lonely tent.† The canvass is being sucked in and out above my head and Iím genuinely scared my tent will blow away.† In an advanced state of undress I put my shoes on and exposed my self to the elements in an effort to secure the tent.† The fly sheet had some how slid over the inner frame.† I mentally kick myself for cutting corning pitching my tent earlier, I was too eager to cook dinner before dark.† Itís usually sufficient, but not tonight.† Itís not possible to reline the canvass and the frame without taking the tent down and starting again.† Pitching a tent half naked in gale force winds, rain and pitch darkness, is just frankly out of the question.† Instead I bashed the pegs in as hard as I can with my now cold and raw palms of hands.† Iím praying it will hold by canvass down.† Iím almost overwhelmed by a sense of isolation and helplessness, for I was completely at the mercy of nature.† With heavy eyes I return to the warm protect of my sleeping bag and to sleep.†

 

I dream of being asleep, as I am, lying out in my tent.† All of a sudden the flysheet is caught by an almightily gust of wind and flaps away over the prickly scrub, guy ropes flailing and dragged behind.† Soon it has dissolving away into an angry wild sky.† Iím now on outside looking down on the remains of my tent from far above.† A solitary white triangle shape stand out of the vast engulfing flatness, myself contained within, now without protection from the hostile environment.† Next I feel dampness in my sleeping bag.† Iíve got my shoes on!† How stupid could I have been to return to my sleeping bag with muddy wet shoes on?† I wake up and open my eyes to nothing but blackness.† Still in my dark cold tent separated from the world by the opacity of my flysheet.† Only now the force of the wind is collapsing the inverted U frame supporting the tent.† This is just not fair.† Desperate and fearful the tension in the tent fabric may be approaching breaking point I sit up and lean my back against the poles, anchoring then in place.† Unable to move I reach for my book and start to read.† I can now feel the cold wind penetrating into my sleeping bag and sucking heat from the skin on my back.† An eternity passes slowly on my watch.† In an act of futile desperation, now with a stiff neck, I venture outside for a second time.† Thereís still nothing I can do.† The pegs are holding but the canvass is warped over the clasped frame.† The tension in the fabric cause the flysheet zips to fail as I struggle to seal myself backing into my only shelter.† Minutes of fighting with the teeth of the zip pass and Iím getting dangerously cold.† I settle for zipping it half way and climb back into my now inadequate shelter.† I hope for no more rain.† While Iíd been away the wind had taken the opportunity to dump sand and dirt all over my bed. Great, what next!?† Sometime later and with an easing of the wind the tent stand on its own again.† Returning to a horizontal position I try to sleep.† Only the peace of sleep is frequently interrupt by the wind clasping the frame on to my face.† During these bursts of air repeated efforts to push the tent frame back to the vertical are futile.† I try to sleep with one arm in the arm holding the frame but only achieve precious rest when the wind dictates takes it.† This game goes on to the welcome light of early dawn.

 

A new day, new hope?† But not for me.† With only 4 hours of broken sleep and all the drama Iím physically exhausted and emotionally distressed.† Weighing heavy on my mind was the imperative need to return to civilisation today.† Packing up my equipment only proves to be more of an ordeal.† The fierce wind is blowing dust everywhere including in my eyes.† Which Iím not best pleased about.† In all the commotion by shades some how end up broken.† I attempt a quick repair but only manage to make a mess with the super glue.† My bike collapse on to me as I try to load it and the chain is coated in dirt.† None of which does anything to improve my mental start.† The wind is being unrelentingly evil; it just couldnít be worse.

 

I need to decide whether to attempt the remaining 140km to Balladonia or turn back to Caiguna (having to cycle backwards would be to accept defeat! An option a wouldnít at all relish).† Leaving my campsite site behind prove satisfying itís as if Iíd spent for ever there. (I expect itís similar feeling to leaving prison.)† Approaching the end of the pot holed track back to the highway I turn left in to wind, the direction I Ďwantí to go.† The wind was so strong, that as I turned into it, it pushed me back and I unwillingly I had to made a right turn instead.† Itís instantly clear I have no hope of riding against it, but test it out anyhow.† After turning on the spot I can only manage 9km/h at a push!† I can walk faster.† I resign myself in returning to Caiguna.† With the wind now behind me Iím maintaining speeds more commonly associated with racing cyclists 35km/h even 40km/h with a slight gradient.† Iím in no doubt the wind is the strongest Iíve seen it in Australia.† On coming traffic, particularly caravan are noticeably slower.† In little over an hour I undo all of yesterdays struggle; returning the beginning of what now seem an insurmountable barrier that is the worldís longest straight road.††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††

 

Back in Caiguna Iím yearning for the comfort of a motel room.† Only the road workers have all the rooms booked out.† I reluctantly unpack my tent again.† The wind is still blowing strong so I pitch my tent downwind a large tree for extra protection.† This time Iím meticulously hammering in each peg with a large rock until it disappears in to the hard dirt.† A good job done.† With bags inside and my bike locked to an anther nearby tree I sit in my tent and enjoy the bliss of just to Ďstopí.† I get value from my camp fee by a long and surprising good shower.† Itís not coin operated and is one of the better ones Iíve used on the Nullarbor.† Relaxed from the cleaning nature of running water I catch up on some much needed sleep in the Ďdarknessí of the afternoon.† With my map out the 374km to Norseman still seems an awful long way despite the 807km Iíve travelled from Ceduna.† I spend some time updating my diary.† With darkness coming I take the opportunity to light a fire.† It keeps me busy.† Even If I do say so myself, Iíve become very good a lighting small efficient rectangular fires backed by stones.† Now dark I head for the roadhouse for a hamburger.† As I finish a pair of cyclist pull up outside the roadhouse; LED light flashing away.† Dave and Trevor both work in Tasmaniaís Cradle Mountain/Lake St. Claire national parks.† For their holiday theyíre cycling from Perth to Hobart.† And yes they had the wind with them today; covering a remarkable 270km (170miles).† Theyíre understandably elated by this remarkable achievement.† Iím a little less enthused by this but Iím glad somebody benefited from the wind.† As they pitch there tents near mine I perch by the fire and share my sorry story.

 

Sunday

 

No wind disturbances in the night; I sleep well.† My windsock, a bin bag tied to a tree, indicated no improvement in the weather.† Dave and Trevor understandably get on their way early while they still have the advantage.† Before leave they offer me some of their excess supplies.† A bag of pasta, sauce and stove fuel!† A question their wisdom giving valuables away this early on their crossing.† But they have also posted boxes ahead, awaiting them.† In exchange I can only thing I can offer is information on their route, since Iíve travelled from Hobart.† All alone again I do some laundry; it dries fast in the wind.† Writing my journal perks me up a bit.† It takes me until lunch to motivate myself for another attempt to reach Balladonia.† What really swings was that I was not going to spend another $11 to stay in this dump.† After unfortunately having to spend a lot of money on what limited supplies the roadhouse had on offer I leave Caiguna for hopefully the last time.† What follows was a repeat Friday afternoon, only without the snakes.† People say all the Nullarbor looks the same; especially from a car.† But believe me I recognised it all uniquely when passing the same stretch for the third time, at slow speed.† I donít over do it today and stop at a large rest area after just 40km.† There is a large water tank surround by a wire fence here but Iím only going to trust it to wash my dishes.† It busy here tonight there are four or five other vehicles and me.† I start chatting to John and his wife who kindly offer the use of there gas burner.† Daveís and Trevorís pasta goes down a treat.† I finish most of the bag.† The air is super still for the first time in a while; the Nullarbor can be a magical place at night time if thereís not storm (or maybe even if there is).† I consider getting back on the road but thatís not going too happened, I sleep instead.

 

Monday

 

Up at about 6:30am and the air is still, still!† The cold remains of my ice water go, as usually, with milk power on my muesli.† John offers me a cup of tea as I begin to pack up my kit.† How could I refuse?† A second cup of tea follows the first and then a couple of rounds of toast.† The wind awoke while I ate.† Though I was happy to relax in the anticipation of what I knew was going to me a long hard and lonely day.† I top up on water from Johnís large plastic tank that heíd filed all the way back in Ceduna.† With no change in the wind it was clear Iíd need the water to spend a second night on this now infamous straight road.† Earlier in my trip was looking forward to this straight section of road; perhaps something about its uniqueness or novelty factor appealed to me.† But now it had become a ďhighlightĒ for different reasons.

 

Underway at last and my speed reads a sad and painful 12km/h.† ďYep itís sure going to be a long day alrightĒ, I thought to myself as I settled in to rhythm of another days pedalling.† I soon reach Friday nightís legendary campsite and stop to make my peace.† Although the scenery changed slightly, if only slowly, the straightness of the road required minimal concentrations and distancing myself from the cycling made the day dissolved into a blur.† For motivation chocolate again played an important part.† I had purchased a large Cherry Ripe back at Caiguna and rationed it to one strip ever 2 hours.† Hour after hour I cycle dead straight to the horizon.† At times itís distinguishable at the crest of a slight incline or marked by a group of tress, but typically the overwhelming flat and straightness of the highway stretches to a point that seeming comes no closer.† For lunch I pulled off the road and onto a side track at the start of a well forested area.† For the first time today Iím Relived to be properly out of the saddle.† I sat up against a fallen tree truck in the shade of neighing trees.† Iím always mindful not to disturb any wildlife lurking in the undergrowth; but all I see are a few March flies that have also come for a meal.† Lunch consisted of a slightly warm and soggy salad sandwich and a box of shapes (savoury biscuits).

 

The light begins to fade, signalling the end of all of todayís riding. Iíd covered roughly 90km; a large proportion of the leg and a respectably total considering the conditions.† I hadnít checked my cycle computer all day Ė a physiological trick to maintain my sanity.† I stopped at a camping area just before dark, put up the tent in anticipation of the apocalypse and collect what fire wood I could find.† There werenít many trees around and pervious campers had collected what little there was.† Iím alone tonight; I really feel it more when it gets dark.† I read by fire light while digesting dinner and then check the maps for tomorrow.† Regardless of the wind I should make Balladonia by lunch time.

 

Tuesday

 

Iím up with first light and feeling surprisingly good - maybe a combination of having not a care in the world, a clear conscience and sleeping outside.† Or just that end of the Nullarbor crossing is now within reach.† I large RV had joined me in then night, I briefly remembered its headlights penetrating my tent.† With no water/cold milk and nothing else to hold me up Iím under way before 7:00am.† It had been a bad night for the kangaroo with fresh claret blood smeared on the grey sun bleached asphalt.† In their last dieing moments the kangaroo often managed to crawl off the embanked road and into the scrub where they wait for death to take them.† Itís certainly not pretty; as I understand it the road trains can notch up a few kills a night, sometimes without even noticing.† Dawn and dust are just fantastic times of the day to be riding.† And as bonus the wildlife, that is alive, is more active.† The Nullarbor may seem to be an inhospitable play but itís not short on animal activity.† Since Ceduna Iíve seen: lizards, snakes, kangaroos (most of them squashed), Emus, Dingoes (wild dogs), eagles and all manner of colourful birds.† Not to mention the insect life! I kept waiting for the wind to wake up but it never does to my great relief.† The end of the straightness is marked with a bended arrow road sign to reminded motorist to use their steering wheels.† With my head down I donít see it until Iím on top of it; and Iím glad to see it!† I stop for a celebration and the usual photo opportunity road signs offer out here.† Lots of bends follow in quick succession just to iterate the point.† A flock of pretty little red and white birds are sat on the road ahead of me.† As I approach they fly off and land again further down the road.† This happens several times before they realise they need to fly sideways.† Well, simple things please long distance cyclists.† Before Ballondian I ride over yet another flying doctors landing strip.† These always fascinate me and start me thinking.† How far to the nearest hospital?† Doesnít really bare thinking about.† Do they some how close the road before trying to land?† Not that there is much traffic to contend with anyhow.

 

Balladonia is one of the larger roadhouses and is full of life with caravans, cars and motorbikes as I pull up and lean my bike on a pillar outside the restaurant by the gas pumps.† Ballondonia made international news in 1979 when pieces of the US Skylab space station rained down here.† Thereís a little museum here all about it, among other things. It provides interesting reading while Iím waiting for my lunch.† From here I have a choice of routes to the fairly large seaside town of Esperance, where Iím planning to stop and recuperate.† Itís another 400km on the high way via Norseman, or 200km on a more direct un-sealed track.† Having seen enough highway to last a life time the short-cut sounds like fun, although there are no services on route.† I stock up on food from the reasonably selection on offer as well as a can of beer and not to mention ice.† The beer may seem an unnecessary weight, but if you never expired a cold beer in the middle of nowhere after riding all day then youíre missing out; nothing is as refreshing.† Not sure where the next tap will be a fill up for the first time to my maximum capacity of 17 litres.† My panniers are now literally bursting with water.† The roadhouse can give me no advice on the current quality of the track but warn me it can become impassable after rain.† Rain, what rain?† A couple of phone calls later and I learn that the national park ranges are at present checking out the track.† And were unfortunately out of radio and mobile phone contact Ė very helpful tourist information!† Apparently when I was suffering from the wind, buckets of rain were falling here.† Suddenly I have mental images of myself trying to cycling through a muddy bog and then remember I how much I ďloveĒ sealed roads.† So, 191km on to Norseman it is.† With the rest of the day left to ride I reckon I can make a good dent into it today and make it there sometime tomorrow.†

 

Still not a breath of wind and I pleased to feel the hot sun on my back once again.† I down a litre or two of water and pour a couple onto the road.† I never like to waste it and you never exactly how long it will to find more of it, but 17 litres is an excessive amount now.†† Iím on sealed roads and after all, I have beer!† My experiences on the bike have changed to way I view water.† In every day life I hardly think twice about drinking but out here you grow to respect it.† The clear liquid takes on a mysterious quality and you certainly canít take it for granted.† Rolling hills and an increase in trees is a sign the true Nullarbor is far behind me now.† After a few hours and a bit of a climb later, I come across a little sign post for Newmannís Rocks.† A short way down a side track Iím was met by a couple a pinch tables a bin and some less than extraordinary rocks.† Never the less they make a good seat while I polish off a sandwich from the roadhouse.† Itís a high vantage point and thereís an impressive 360 degree view of the surrounding trees and thereís even a giant puddle of water here.† I get a sense of nostalgia as it feels like Iím looking backs across the vast distance Iíd covered.† Iím in high sprits; Iíve nearly completed the epic Nullarbor crossing.† But at the same time Iím a little sad to be leaving it behind.† The climbing continues to take me further into the Fraser ranges.† Iím suffering no ill effect from the past 2 weeks and Iím feeling stronger that ever.† The nearby trees are silhouetted against the dark and cloudy sky as the sun being to set for another night.† I have information suggesting there is proper campsite in the ranges.† I cycle up to the gate; itís locked and a handwritten sign says itís closed.† Itís been a few day since Iíve seen a shower now.† Itís a good think then that Iím on my own.† Itís now dark and I need my touch to read the map.† Thereís a roadside camping area some distance ahead, I not exactly sure how far?† By now Iíve been on the go for 12 hours.† Never the less, with red LEDís flashing behind me and I white beam cutting to the darkness lingering on the road in front, I cycle on.† All civilian traffic has long since left the road leave me and the roadtrains.† They are even scarier at night, roaring out of the dark.† Then the improbable happens; a roadtrain from behind, from in front, and me are all about to occupy the section of road at once.† Just in time I make my escape, veering sharply on the rocky grey gravel at side of the road.† My heart was racing.† Too close for comfort.† Just ahead of me a can see a lay-by, Iím going no further tonight!†† I venture into the forest to move away from the road.† The clouds and the tree block out what little moon light there is and I strain my eyes to see.† Conscious not to encounter any wildlife I pitch the tent in a small clearing.† The ice cold WA beer goes down a treat.† After a meal of plain pasta the batteries in my bike lights and the bulb in my Maglite coincidently and simultaneously fail.† Leave me in total darkness with nothing to do but sleep.††††††

 

Wednesday

 

Iím on the road not too early.† The clouds of last night have cleared and itís a warm day.† With less than 100km to Norseman I think Iím nearly there!† At least that is what I keep telling myself.† But the distance is dragging to an extreme.† A 100km is still a long way and it is starting to feel like the longest 100km Iíve ever ridden.† In my cycling induced psychosis I decided I would define this condition as NNS (Near Norseman Syndrome).† The kilometres continue to draw out and my frequent stopping just makes matters worse.† Road signs warn of wild camels on the Nullarbor; Iíd loved to of seen one.† When the 5km town sign eventually appears, in the middle of the afternoon, it is gratefully received.† Looking bad the way Iíve come the road sign make satisfying reading (1986km back to Adelaide).† Delight, but more a sense of relief and satisfaction fills me as I roll gently into town in the early afternoon.† First stop, the small supermarket.† Iíve not had so much choice for what seems like a lot time.† Itís overwhelming and I acting like a kid in a sweet shop.† Somehow the confectionary does not appeal and I just end up with some fresh fruit and a newspaper.† Resting on the bench out side Iím surprise to spot a familiar face.† Itís the Japanese cyclist Iím met as I was leaving Ceduna.† Wait a minute; donít say she beat me here!?† We have a chat.† Turns out the gale force winds had the better of her and she was force to catch the coach.† The only hostel in town is small, comfortable and run by a friendly retired couple.

 

Thursday

 

A real bed was absolute heaven.† Number one active today is to eat as much possible and not a lot else.† Iíd expect Iíd lost weight on the crossing and body was determined to put it back on.† Towards the end of yesterday the temperature was picking up.† Today it is pushing high 30ís, I nice change.† My camping kit is long overdue a clean.† The tent and sleeping bag get a wash down with the hose.† Iím cautions not to waste any water; there are no natural sources anywhere near here and has to be brought in by tankers.† After a little attention on my bike its so shinny it looks new again.† A lazy afternoon in the sun is top off with a barbeque and a few beers.† Iím kept company by a couple of Aussie.† One of whom worked at the Caiguna roadhouse and was on his day off and try to get his car fixed in town.† Iím in need of a good weeks rest but Norseman is not the place for it.† So I plan to get back on the bike tomorrow, heading south to the seaside town of Esperance.† Itís 207km, a good two day ride.

 

Friday

 

Iím all packed up and out of the hostel by 7:30am.† The hot early morning sun shines briefly before for nowhere the sky becomes over cast.† I see no cars as I start on the lonely road leading south out of town.† My legs are heavy and I canít get in to a rhythm or the mental zone as it were.† I donít want to believe it but it can only mean one thing; headwind!† I discount the easy option of turning back; the sooner I reach Esperance the sooner I can properly rest.† I put my head down and pedal.† The road is lined on both sides by an uninspiring dense mass of trees; rusty brown trunks supporting a lifeless spiky washed out green canopy.† After less than an hour I have to take the first stop of many today.† On a gravel siding, in the trees, I take a look at my cycling computer.† I frustrated, almost angry at my lack of progress.† On the plus side I have lots of tasty snack food and some bacon and egg sandwiches.† A train track appears out of the trees and joins me on the left side of the road.† A number of extremely long industrial looking trains roars pass.† I start dreams up ways for the train to pull me along.† My enthusiasm had been slowly ebbing away all day.† It reaches a low in the early afternoon.† Passing the first turning for the unsealed road to Lake King (160km away) marks the half way point for me.† Iím desperately in need of something to break the monotony, and physical Iím drained.† Sitting on sharp stones, leaning against my bike leaning against a tree on the edge of the road, I come to a stop.† A book provides a little of the entertainment Iím lacking while I much my way through a pack of shape biscuits.† Only a hand full of cars had pass all day and despite having reached Norseman I feel in the middle of nowhere again. 45 minutes and a sore bum later I pull myself up for the cold stones and back onto the narrow perch that is my saddle.† Ever since I changed my saddle in Horbart and eventually position it just right I not had any problem with it at all.† But I wouldnít go as far to say it was comfortable.† A couple of caravans give me a friendly wave but the positive effect is short lived.† Itís grey, cloudy, a little on the chilly side and again the noise of the wind is cutting right through me.† Iím always conscious of keeping a narrow profile to the wind so in an act of desperation I remove my front two panniers and rig them up behind my saddle.† Iím not convinced theyíre very secure?† But it does not matter, it had made no difference, my legs were still heavy and my speed low.† Before I have a chance to put them back a police car appear from over the crest of a hill and stops in the road in front of me.† I was half expecting them to tell me off about the unstable mountain of bags piled up behind me.† Turns out they just wanted to say hi and ask me where I was going.† Which was a little bit of a redundant question since the sealed road only goes to Esperance.† Turns out their part of the patrols designed to keep accidents down over the bank holiday weekend.† I return my pannier to the normal configuration.† Hours pass and after a few more stops I find a picnic area with benches.† Joining the ants I lie down across the full length of a concrete table.† Despite having eaten all my snack food I still felt hungry.† Weet-bix, milk and sugar gets me moving again.† The scenery is changing to farmland I sure indication I must now be approaching my stop for the night.† The small settlement of Salmon Gums.† Now late in the afternoon the wind still wouldnít give me a break.† I seem to moving slower and slower and it pains me to watch kilometres slow tick over.† Cycling into a headwind is like cycling uphill only you never reach the top, see the views and zoom down the other side.† An eternity passes before I roll into Salmon Gums at 5:30pm, a real sight for saw eyes.† 10 hours after I left Norseman, that was quite an ordeal and easy in the top 3 of the hard rides Iíd done.† Anyway, canít complain to much as it was my choice to do it.† The campsite here is very basic.† A scrap of land and a tiny run down amenities block.† A spooky sixties style caravan stand alone amount the scraggy trees.† It does not look as if itís been moved in forty years.† The campsite operates on an honesty box system; only problem is it appears someone has stolen it!† Anyway Iím no mood to pay after an icy cold shower, the boiler is either broken or out of gas.† I take a walk back across the train tracks to the road hoping to find some food.† Autumn must be on its way as it is now dark as dark could be.† In fact pitch black because there are no street lights, my little torch is woefully inadequate.† The run down petrol garage is now closed Ė just great.† The small shops that once would have served this isolated community are deserted.† A telegraph wire groans in the wind above my head.† Realising Iíd not seen a soul since arriving I come over a bit spooked.† This could well be a ghost town.† But no need to despair yet as there is a pub.† Yippee.† Only I find it to be closed; advertising its special of fish and chips, on a black board outside, just to tease me.† It had been a long physical day and mentally Iím feeling fragile.† Food is always great to boast morale.† I concede to making the most of what food I was carrying.† Digging in the dark to the bottom of my food pannier I pull out my emergency carbohydrates.† Tonightís dinner will consist off: cold orange electrolyte soup followed by pasta bows in a water sauce and to finish chocolate porridge surprise. (The surprise it that it may contain or taste of pasta as Iím not prepared to wash up between courses).† Itís certainly not gourmet food but satisfying none the less.† Iím so tired I go instantly to sleep on a full stomach.††††††††

††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††

Itís 112km to Esperence, 10km further than yesterdays ride.† I could not face another day like today, so I set my alarm for 5:30am in an attempt to avoid the cursed wind.†

 

††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††

Saturday

 

After surreal dreams about a bus?! (Maybe my subconscious is trying to give me travel tips.)† My natural alarm clock kicks in at 5am.† I pack up my kit by touch light and hit the road at 6am in the twilight, still in need of my bicycle lights.† The whole world is beautifully still and quite as I cut through the fresh still morning air.† Salmon Gums is named after the gum trees found in the surrounding area.† I spot one such fish coloured tree by the roadside.† Now itís light and still no wind, I canít quite believe my luck.† Still I donít want to break my rhythm or temp fate by stopping to turn my rear LED light off.† Having done 50km non-stop and with still no sign of the wind Iím chuffed and feel Iíve left yesterdays trouble far back up the road behind me.† I stop to enjoy the second bacon sandwich Iíd saved from yesterday.† A little before 10am and with 76km behind me Iím delighted to find a garage. A mars bar and a cartoon and icy cold chocolate milk had been playing on my mind since Iíd passed the signs 10km back.† Thereís no chocolate so in a moment of madness I buy a carton of iced coffee instead.† I donít even like coffee!?† Still itís full of calories and goes down all the same.† The terrain take a down hill turn as the coast get tantalisingly close.† Stopping at the look out on the last hill before town Iím finally there, having made record progress today.† The ride down the last hill puts a big smile on my face.† Road junctions, roundabouts and traffic provide a novel almost fun experience as I head for the busy town centre.† And the all of a sudden Iím hit by a walls of colour and intrigue.† Itís the most unusual sensational.† Weeks of staring at dirt, scrub and trees had obviously left me sensory deprived.† Car yards, garages, DIY stores and fast-food restaurants are almost overwhelming.† It has turned in to a pleasant morning as the sun shined down over the busy little tourist and fishing town.† Dismounting from my bike on the side walk, which runs along the sandy shore line shirting the town, I take a moment to enjoy the view to the islands jutting out of the water on the opposite side of Esperance bay.† The town shops are buzzing with activity as visitors and locals a like, prepare for the bank holiday weekend festivities.† After a customarily visit to the visitors centre I progress to the independent hostel Iíd been recommended.† I make a meal of finding it, getting lost in the residential streets.† The townís camp sites are heaving with activity: caravans, trucks, busses, tents and people all moving about on the surprisingly lush and green grass.

 

The hostel is a large bungalow and family owned and run; always preferable to the commercial hostels.† A shower quite literally washes away the past few daysí efforts.† And for the first time in 17 days, it took to get here from Ceduna (not at all bad looking at it on the big map), I can RELAX.

It was good to have finally completed the Nullarbor crossing.† A feat in itís self that would make many people question my mental stability.† Why would anybody want to do such a thing?† But man, or women, on a bike make a wonderfully efficient motion machine and this combination had allowed me to cover great distance with relative ease.† When considering if I was indeed crazy or not, I have tales of other more adventurous, or foolish, Nullarbor travellers to reconcile me.† For a start I heard of cyclists who make the crossing will their entire luggage in a rucksack.† That kind of extra weight can not be good for your behind on the bumpy roads.† Then thereís the guy who did it on a two wheeled push scooter.† Apparently he worn the first out and had to replace it half way across.† Also some one told me of an unicyclist who undertook the crossing; and every time a road train when past he would be blown off his wheel, into the dirt.† Even more ridiculous is the story of the Ďwheely bin maní.† He carried all his belongings in the bin.† Pulling it behind during the day and sleeping in it at night.† And Iím sure many† have attempted to walked or run across.† In comparison my chosen form of transport is unarguably sensible.††††

 

Esperance was name after the French frigate "L'Esperance" (roughly translated to ďThe HopeĒ) which sheltered from a storm in the bay in 1792.† People initially where drawn to the area because of the easy catching of seals and whales that also used the bay for shelter.† Esperance really started to grow in the 1860ís when the land was opened up to pastoral used and subsequently the port thrived when it served the gold rush some 300km inland to the North.† One story goes that Norseman was name after a horse who found a gold nugget.† A bronze (not gold!) statue of Norseman still stands in the town today.† Back then just a dusty track connected Norseman to Salmon Gums which was the centre of the farming activity.† Large surrounding areas where cleared by slash and burn to make way for agriculture.† I canít imagine what the vast distances and isolation must have been like for the early settlers.† Changes in farming methods and improvements in transport explain the ghost town we see today.†††††††††††††††††††††

 

I donít think I had fully appreciated how run down my body was getting.† Iíd been riding through twinges and odd pains for some time now.† Sure, I was doing a reasonable job at eating enough to match by daily energy demands but Iíd been lacking fresh food.† Supplements are not quite the same.† So fruit is top of the menu for the next week, not because thatís what I thought I should be eating but because thatís what I was drawn to.† A week soon passes, much of it spent watching videos (just what I needed).† The good thing about hostels is that you meet many different people and you get to know them quick when youíre sharing a room.† The weather is noticeable more mixed now and sunbathing conditions canít be guaranteed.† Going for a dip in the sea also means sharing the waters with the sea lions that come in for the fishing scraps.††††††††††††††††††††††††

 

Friday

 

Time to move on - Esperance and its surrounding coast line is a beautiful place to visit but thereís not a great deal happening here.† My map tells me the hard riding is by no means over.† The next town of any consequence, Albany, is 500km west alone the coast (a little short of the distance London to Edinburgh).† Limited services mean more long lonely rides.† Yesterday I sent another box full on non essential items back to England.† Having now completed the true isolated stretches I said good bye to by spare tyre and seconds spare inner tube.† Since Iíd come all the way from Sydney with out a single puncture I thought it was worth the risk.† The rear tyre value that mysteriously popped out on my first night out of Sydney was miraculously still in place, I only poked it back in with my finger.

 

Itís another overcast morning as I set about the task of loading up my bike.† By now Iím self confessed expert at loading my bike; an art in itís self.† With six separate piece of luggage it can involve a lot of going backwards and forwards.† Each item of equipment has it own place: heavy bulky camping equipment and reserve water go in the rear pannier, clothes in front left and food in the front right.† Shades, camera, sun cream, maps, sweets and the like live in the handle bar bag carefully secure behind my saddle, all still accessible on the move.† And finally the ice filled esky on top of the rear rack.

††††††††††††††††

Back in my over familiar position on the saddle, I track my way out of town.† Itís a good two days and 183km to Ravensthorpe, an old copper and gold mining town, with only one roadhouse at 110km.† Resetting my lap time, as I do at the start of each days ride, I notice Iíve not updated the time on my cycle computer since the clocks had changed.† I pull up to make the adjustment.† In disastrous moment I press the ĎAll Clearí button.† Itís identical to the ĎSetí button.† Iím indescribably crushed having just erased over 6000km of ridingÖ.† I was taking much pleasure from watching the 1000ís of kilometres tick over.† I was not best pleased with myself.† And you can trust the wind to kick you when youíre down.† Combined with uninspiring scenery it was grim and grey few hours to start the day.† I donít know if the week off had effected my fitness but I just wasnít feeling comfortable.† Well out of town the traffic dropped dramatically off.† Green fields populated by cow interspersed with light woods surround the road.† And with the cows come my old friends, the flies.† I wish I was back on the couch watching telly as it seems as that is where I left my motivation.† Cold pasta leftovers are on the menu for lunch.† By mid afternoon I cut my loses and take the first opportunity to camp up.† An average 70km covered, I turn left, south towards the water onto a yellow gravel road and followed the camping signs into Stokes national park.† A popular fishing stop, it seems, as two utes loaded up with fishing rods sticking into the air, roared passed stirring up a cloud of dust I try my best not to inhale.† The facilities are limited, just tables and bins.† All the established pitches are occupied and yet there are not sign of life.† I carefully make my way around the sandy water front; an beautiful estuary forms the centre of the national park.† I have to drag my bike reluctantly through the sand.† I set up camp back from the water amongst the twisted bows of some creepy looking trees.† The awesome views eases away some of the day pains.† But watch really topped it was remains of my home made curry and a couple of cans of icy cold EMU draft.† Studying the map after dinner; I really must make Ravensthorpe tomorrow.† Thereís something special about sleep out in the wild.† And as the sun, cast orange ripples on the water, goes down behind the clouds I find my motivation again.†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††

 

Saturday

 

Itís a pleasant enough morning.† All ready to set off I first push my bike, through the sand, off the shore and to the bins to dispose of my rubbish.† I thought Iíd got away with out paying until I bump into the park ranger who gets 5 bucks out of me.† He was a friendly old guy with wild grey hair but a little short of hearing.† He writes out my receipt with the name of Mike on it?† I donít feel the need to make an issue of it.† Itís a bumpy 8km back up the track to the road.† By the time I reach it dark clouds moving in over head and it starts to drizzle.† Bad weather equals headwinds, but why would I expect anything else?† Soon I get any excuse to stop as other lone cyclist approaches.† Ben a young aussie, with a nose ring, is riding from Perth to Byron Bay.† As usual we moan about the weather.† Taking the opportunity, Ben eventually gets a cigarette lit quite an achievement considering his damp matches and this wind.† Iím able to tell him all about the route we would be riding and Ben recounted heís last night scary camping experience in the rest area by Munglinup roadhouse.† Being Friday night he had been woken up by some noise drunken youths who were daring each other to see if anyone was in his tent?!† Nothing came of it and we both had a bit smile over it.† Reluctantly we both set off in our different directions, he wants to reach Esperance today where he is going to spend a few days with some friends.† The hills and the weather team up and when I eventually reach Munglinup I badly in need of a chocolate fix.† I know I go on a bit about chocolate but it is pretty magical stuff; I did some research:†

Chocolate gets a bad press from almost everyone. The word derives from xocoatl, the original Mayan / Aztec word for the frothy cocoa drink; these peoples drank vast quantities of it for their health. The Quakers promoted it as a health drink (probably to wean people of stronger stuff!)† The health problems it causes are more related to its consumption in confectionery form, where biscuit-based treats can be up to 30% fat. Chocolate itself contains no cholesterol, but is a source of protein, carbohydrates, vitamin B, magnesium, potassium, iron and copper. Consumed in its milk form you will also take in essential amino acids that would otherwise be missing.† On the stimulus front: 100g of chocolate contains more caffeine than a cup of ground coffee. It is also a rich source of PEA (phenylethylamine) which increases blood glucose and adrenaline levels, raising both pulse and blood pressure and thus energy levels. Theobromine is a muscle stimulant. PEA also boosts serotonin and endorphin levels. The combination of these effects makes chocolate the ideal high-energy food for cyclists and sportsmen alike.

Sitting on bench and now feeling cold in the wind I work out Iíve still have to cover 80km to Raventhrope.† After re-supplying on water from the public toilets, not literarily, I set off again.† Leaving the cultivated land behind I take a turn in land over the rolling hills.† Itís still a dark and dismal day and getting worse all the time.† Menacing storm clouds loom over head and the cold swirling wind are threatening to become a strong head wind.† Yet up and down the hill I go taking pleasure from the stark harshness of the landscape accentuated by the evil skies.† An expanse of black and charred Ďscary treesí, I passed by, could used as a scene in a movie about a nuclear war, I thought to myself.† I limit my stops since time is against me.† The wind engages me in yet another battle, but I driven on by the thought of a hot shower.† Signs of civilisation eventually appear in the distance, and in the last few minutes of day light I reach Raventhrope.† I can see the caravan park on my right and ahead of me is the main street on a ridiculously steep hill.† I slog my way up to the top to see what services are still open.† Two stops later I bomb down the hill, almost careering into the kerb as a result of the inadequate street lighting (that could have been ugly), and pay for a pitch on the campsite.† Leaving my bike fully load I can eventually stop moving and relax.† Sitting on a rusty old children climbing frame I whip out my huge burger and tall bottle of beer and savour them in the cold black windy darkness.†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††

 

 

Sunday

 

Still in my sleeping bag I dangle a plastic bag out of a small opening in my tent.† I donít like the look of it; too windy Iím stay put.† I make the most of the small information centre come museum.† I buy lots of comfort food in the reasonably stocked shop.† All this riding gives me a licence to eat anything, so family bar of chocolate is devoured as a mid morning snack.† I try to sunbathe while reading the newspaper.† Between breaks in the clouds the sun is still warm; however the wind had other ideas.† I concede and sensibly put by shirt back on.† Making a cup of tea in the basic outdoor kitchen I meet a couple of Dutch backpacker who looking fed up.† They had been stranded in Raventhrope for four days now since their car broke down.† They have written the car off and were waiting for the weekly bus to Perth on Monday.† The Europeans travels Iíve met have a great appreciation why someone would attempt to cycle so far.† I think lot of English and Australia people are not quite sure what to make of it and donít realise how you can easily travel far on bike?† The beautiful efficiency and benefits of cycling is obviously embraced more in Holland and Scandinavia.† The campsite is surprising busy and as dinner time approaches the kitchen becomes a hub of activity.†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††

 

Monday

 

Canít tell what the winds doing this morning but Iím moving on anyhow.† Iím a little slow packing up and I also have to attend to my left hand.† Before reaching Esperance I was aware that the cumulative effects of hundreds of hours of pressing on the handle bar was leading to a little numbness in my palms.† I thought the rest week in Esperance had fixed it but coming into Raventhrope of Saturday it had be worse than ever, but just in the left hand.† Itís a little painful but mainly disconcerting.† I not sure if it was the colder weather of that my padded gloves have just about had it.† So as a temporary measure I wrap my paper thin green travel towel around the handle bar and fix it in place with cellotape. I say goodbye to the Dutch girls; theyíre going to keep an eye open for me when they pass in the coach later.† The weather is still a little unsettled but I canít complain.† Thereís no end to the rolling hills, valley and rivers.† Six months ago these hills would be giving me real grief but now I can take them in my stride.† In fact, will a little effort; I cycle faster up the hill than I do on the flat.† Fully enjoying the down hill runs I make good time.† After a couple of hours a big slick air conditioned coach roars by; I still think Iíve got the better form of transport.† Stopping for a food break on bench by a smelly bin I soon get swarmed upon my biting flies.† I donít stay any longer and make a sprinting break for it.† As the afternoon pass the weather settles down, the hill give way to rolling sheep filled green fields.† The occasional white dome shaded wheat silo give an indication of increasing activity.† I cover the 111km to reach the farming community Jerramungup at 5:30pm and still feel fresh but hungry.† The campsite has a little hut with a couple of beds, arm chair and TV.† Itís a bit grubby but with no one else around I make it my own.† Itís dark by the time Iíve shower and start the short wall to the townís only pub/hotel.† A soup course followed by a delicious mixed grill and Iím back in the hut the watching TV.† (I still canít get over how cheap the food is).†††††††

 

Tuesday

 

For the first in I donít know how many thousands of kilometres, I actually have a choice of roads to Albany.† A slightly shorter coast route or an inland road through the Stirling ranges National Park.† Thereís not really a choice to be made; the stark cliffs and rugged peak of the Stirling Ranges have been highly recommend by many people Iíve talked to.† I didnít realise it at the time but yesterday I passed a significant mile stone.† Iím now coming in to the more density populated areas of WA.† From here to Perth the distance I need to travel between services is greatly reduced.† I no longer need to set off in the morning will all the food and water I need for the day.† Finishing my breakfast on the bench outside Foodland, I make my plan for the day.† Itís about 100km to the middle of the ranges where I believe there to be a campsite, but Iím not certain?† The small and closed tourist bureau canít help me.† The warm sun is back as I complete a delightfully short and flat 30km ride to Ongerup.† Oddly enough I feel the need for some more iced coffee, which I use to wash down a pack of Lamingtons (An Australia speciality - coconut and chocolate covered sponge cakes).† Itís turning into a really nice day; blue skies and itís warmer than itís been all week.† The country side is looking greener than ever as I spot the silhouette of the ranges in the distance.† No time at all passes before Iím in Borden, an excuse to stop and eat more.† I canít believe the speeds Iím averaging now the conditions have improved.† The lady in the shop is able to give me information on the camp site.† I purchase fresh food for dinner and some ice.† I need it; the temperature must be pushing 30, genuinely good news!† The extra weight and the increasing climbs slow me down a bit but Iím too busy admiring the views to really notice.† The campsite is more commercialised that I was expecting; run more like a retreat it has modern amenities, log cabins, bunkhouse and a large campers kitchen.† I settle for the pitch with the best views.† Itís a popular spot especially for hikers.† Iíd of loved to take a day and do some walking unfortunately a lack of appropriate footwear prevents this.† My Ďbeachí shoes wouldnít take the punishment and climbing over uneven rocks would do my rigid cycling shoes no good what so ever.†

 

Wednesday

 

The melt ice provides cold milk for breakfast, as always.† The road from here weaved its way through the ranges and then onward to the coast.† After clearing the ranges I meet a Canadian cyclist coming the other way.† We have the usual enthusiastic chat.† The road from here is almost all down hill to Albany.† I make excellent progress coving 100km in 4 hours to reach Albany just after lunch time.† The sun is still smiling on me and thereís not a cloud in the sky.† The main street of Albany slopes towards the sea, I speed recklessly through the busy traffic and before I know it Iím at the bottom looking out over the dark blue waters of the bay.† At just under 30000 inhabitants Albany is considerably larger that Esperance and also steeped in history, so I check in to one of the town three hostels for a couple of nights.††††††† †††††††††††††††

 

Thursday

 

After consuming countless rounds of free toast laid on by the hostel, I wander into town.† Summer has returned and Iím glad to cold off in the old stone gaol.† Thereís also an interesting museum next door and a replica of the brig Amity which brought the first settlers here in 1826.† The oldest town in the west, Albany started life as military outpost 1827 and many of the old building still remain.† For over a century Albany economy was build on whaling until it was banned in 1978.† The old whaling station, on the other side of the bay, is now museum.† I guess tourist now bring most of the money into this charming little town.

 

Friday

 

Today Iím leaving Albany and cycling around the bay into the Torndirrup National Park, itís a dead end so Iíll have to double back on myself but it should be worth it.† Before leaving town I pick up a few essentials at the supermarket.† Iím so lucky; itís another spectacular day and I canít get over how blue the ocean is.† To the left are the still waters of the bay and to the right is the wild Southern ocean.† I take a few side trips towards the ocean to visit the touristy ĎCaveí and ĎGapí.† Rock formation carved out by the sea.† Iím dripping in sweat, for the first time in awhile, after a killer steep hill.† At the top of the hill Iím face with stunning view back over the bay to Albany.† I tried to take a picture on the fast descent but it proved a little too dangerous.† I brake hard and turn right to the whaling station museum.† Itís a large site with lots to see.† Itís a gruesome process this whaling business.† Specialised ship would sail out to sea and start tracking groups of whales. Once spotted, they would lay chase before harpooning the poor whale, killing it and then pumping it full of air.† Next they go on and kill so more whales before returning to collect them at the end of the day and towing then home.† At the station a winch would be used to drag the several tonne carcasses up onto a wooden deck.† A team of smelly men with huge knife on the end of poles would then go about hacking up the whale and pushing the bit through holes in the deck and into huge cooker.† After cooking the oils, fats and meat can all be separated.† A few minutes back on the bike and I reach Frenchmanís Bay caravan park and beach; where I take the rest of the day off.† Itís a popular little spot on a Friday afternoon.† The sunset is something else, but itís just my luck to miss the whales that swam through the bay (a fellow camper informs me them).

 

Saturday

 

After a slow slog back up the hill itís easy riding.† I take a secondary road to Denmark which runs parallel to the highway.† Thereís even less traffic that usual, I just have the black and white cows in the lush green fields for company.† Itís not as warm as yesterday but still very nice as I enjoy yet another milk iced coffee (Iím now official addicted) sitting in a plastic garden in the shade of a little store.† My legs are spinning me along almost effortlessly and itís so nice to be climbing hills at 20km/h.† Before I know it and before lunch time I reach Denmark.† What I wonderfully pleasant ride.† I didnít want to spoil it by racing onward.† Instead I make my way to the caravan park on Wilsonís inlet.† Dinner is banger and instant mash (not bad when covered in gravy) cooked on an open fire.††† That night I thought sleeping with out my fly sheet on would be nice, so that I could see the sky.† Well, it didnít rain but I woke in the night very cold but I soon rectified the situation.

 

Sunday

 

Iím now entering an area of the Southwest known as the valley of the giants.† With the best soils and rainfall in WA, lust forests line the southern coast.† These forests consist mainly of two giant varieties of eucalyptus trees; the karri and jarrah.† The karri being the taller of the two, growing to the dizzy heights of 90m (300 feet).† Both trees yield very desirable timber.††

 

The ride to Walpole will take me right pass the Tree Top Walk, one of the major tourist attractions in this area.† Bill Bryon had sung it praise in his book on Australia, so I was expecting good things.† The coastal highway continues to undulate and the farms and coast scrub give way to density forested areas.† The forest east of Walpole is the only known habitat of the rate Tingle eucalyptus.† After a several hours I arrive at road side cafť, at Bow Bridge, thriving on the tourist trade.† I get an iced coffee and some potato wedges covered in sour cream and chilli sauce, delicious.† From here I leave the highway and follow a narrow twisting lane through the farm land between the trees.† Not far from the cafť a small area of trees are actually on fire. Not the inferno you see on the TV news but charred trunks, lots of smoke and the lick of flame here and there.† I assume itís nothing to concern myself with; itís just that trees on fire are not a sight that will ever be familiar with me.† Clear of the noxious burning wood smell I next encounter smelly cows.† An itchy nose now sets off an unfortunate chain of events.† Raising one hand to my face, something I must have done thousands of time, causes me to lose balance.† Iím travelling at a good speed.† Time slows down and for an awful moment when I feel the bike beginning to topple sideways.† In a flash Iíve released both feet from the pedals (second nature to me now) and slam them down on to the road.† In an almost vertical stand Iím now skidding along the road pushed by the momentum of bike.† Just as Iím about to breath a sigh of relief for not crashing into the road surface by bike bites in the back of my right leg.† The spikes of my greasy chain-ring imbed them self into the flesh on the back of my leg as the bike finally comes to rest.† Ouch! Or something to that effect.† I let my bike drop on itís side and start jumping/hobbling around like a mad man standing on hot coals.† As I clam down I move my self and bike from the middle of the road, not that Iíve passed any cars since leaving the highway.† That was quite a shock and my nerves are shot.† On the back of my right leg, just above and to the right of my achilles tendon in a oily black and bloody mess about the size of a cigarette.† In retrospect Iím lucky it missed the tendon; that could have been truly nasty.† Iíve nothing suitable to clean the oil out of the wound so I decided to let it be.† I certainly not prepared to scrub it out with the remains of my drinking water.† Anyhow oil is clean enough and I sure itís completely harmless; in fact It might even keep other nasty things out.† But can I still ride on it?† I tentatively get back on the bike only to notice that on top of all this my chain has slipped off.† Itís a mucky job lifting it back on; I canít be bothered to dig a rag out of my bags instead I wide my hands on my legs, not really giving a damn anymore.† Iím feeling faith and slightly sick, maybe thatís just the fatty potatoes wedges, what ever chemical changes have occurred theyíre seriously limited my power output.† Although apart from the stinging the wound is not directly affecting my progress. After about 30 minute Iím feeling a lot more settled as I reach the boom gate of the Tree Tops Walk.† A reasonable steep climb enclosed in the shade of the forest brings me to the large car parking area.† The trees have been noticeable tall for a while now.† Iím not leaving my bike here so I cycle down the now foot path to the entrance buildings.† Walking is proving more painful thank cycling as I buy a ticket for the attraction.† The friendly old lady in the booth is concerned for this oil coved slightly crippled cyclist, but thereís nothing that can be down.† The government run Tree Top Walk is pretty much what the name suggests.† To save countless tourists tramping and damaging the forest floor a network of steel gantries were erected up to 120 feet into the canopy of the overgrown eucalyptus trees.† With the whole structure designed to sway, waist height railings and I see through girded floor this attraction would not be recomemded for vertigo suffers.† Sadly one man died while it was constructed, I do not believe theyíve lost anyone since.† Itís not very busy today which would be a good thing for claustrophobia suffers on the narrow isolated platforms.† Saying that, the spectacular views would be enough to distract a vertigo afflicted claustrophobic.† The mass of green foliage and the slivery brown bark provide a pleasing sight.† I make a point of walking around extra slowly and not just because Iím still hobbling.† At the end of the elevated walk thereís second short walk on the forest floor knows the Ancient Empire.† Itís a charming and almost mystical to move in and around the huge trunks of these towering ancient trees.† All in all it was probably just about worth that sting gash on my leg.† Itís a good thing itís only another 20km to Walpole; Iíve had enough excitement for today.† A misty darkness has descent by the time I reach the caravan park on Nornalup inlet, just outside Walpole.† Finally I get a chance to clean my wound; itís not as bad as I first thought, it should give me a nice scar all the same.††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††

 

Monday

 

I take a sandy short cut into Walpole.† Today Iím heading for a campsite in the Shannon National Park only 70km.† Itís a remote campsite so I stock up on food before leaving Walpole.† Itís still overcast but there are no signs of rain as I start the twisting climb through the tree and out of town.† As Iím on the main highway around here I have to put with the few speeding tourist coaches that unsettle me, but soon the roads opens up I donít notice them.† Iím really going for it today and soon enough Iíve drunk the 2 litres of water I had with me.† Recently Iíve been carrying less and less water, not only because it is my more available but it means I can go faster and faster.† Seems today Iíve been caught out, still itís no disaster Iíll be at the campsite in a couple of hours and its not exactly hot today.† The map profile shows Iíve been climbing steadily, which explains why Iím also tired.† Out of interest I follow a sign post saying Ďwaterí, down dirt side road.† Iím certainly not drinking out that muddy stagnant hole; instead I find a nice log to rest on.† A little perseverance later I reach Shannon campsite.† I almost repeat yesterdays mishap when as I turn off the road at high speed.† I should know by now that heavily loaded bike does not handle well on large loose gravel.† A few skids later I find a drinking water tap by a sheltered picnic area.† Iím not sure where itís coming from but it tastes good.† I fill up all my containers for tonight and tomorrow.† A 48-kilometre drive through the spectacular old growth karri forest starts from here.† Thereís even a system of radio broadcasts, so you can tune your car in for commentary as you drive around.† Due to its inaccessibility this was one of the least areas in Southwest to be opened up for logging.† A shortage of timber after the Second World War meant a timber mill and accompanying settlement was setup here in the late 1940ís.† Today only traces of the mill town can be seen where the camp ground now stands in the same clearing.† Normally the campsite is unmanned, but during busy times of the year volunteers preside over the campsite.† A friendly old couple welcome me.† They believe a storm is on the way and so offer me one of the little huts for the price of a camping pitch.† Anything to save putting the tent up is good.† The huts have wooden shelves raised off the floor for sleeping on, kind of like bunk beds.† With my air mattress and sleep bag it should be really cosy; if I ignore the dust and cobwebs.† Iíve already fallen in love with the place before I get a roaring fire going in one of the specially designed pits.† Thereís no shortage of fire wood, so much so that there are showers heated by a wood boiler.† Talk about getting back to nature; you really appreciate a hot water even more when youíre out in the wild. Saying that, thereís nothing natural about the behaviour of the fat, black, evil and calculating crows that lurk amongst the trees. I turn my back for a split second and they swam over my bags on the table, picking and searching for food.† Theyíre only mildly intimated by my attempts to scare them off.† I have to pack all my food away out of reach.† Even when Iíve managed to scare most of them away, one remains, perched in a tree to keep watch.† And at the slightest opening heíll swoop down and call his mates back.† I canít help thinking that if a couple of them fly directly at me theyíd probably scare me away and could take all the food they want.† Itís the most extreme case of, so called wild, birds adapting to man I have ever witnessed.† Iím moderately successful at cooking pancakes in the dark before I need to take shelter in my small wood hut.† The winds are howling outside now and are forcing icy cold air through the many cracks around the windows and in the walls.† But having transferred flaming wood for the fire outside to the old wood stove in the corner I soon turn in the hut into a sauna.† I just about managed to reading by dim touch light and a flickering candle that adds a bit of atmosphere.†††††

Tuesday

 

Iíd love to spend more time here, perhaps explore the forest, but food supplies dictate I move on.† I not in hurry to leave however, another roaring fire provided porridge and hot tea.† Iím on the road at 11am.† Autumn has well as truly come, the sky is a blurry mixture of white and grey cloud with only specs of blue.† The temperature is still pleasant enough though and does heat up considerably when the sun comes out.† Today itís a leisurely 60km ride to Permberton with a half way stop at Northcliff.† Turning off the highway, shortly after the leaving the campsite, I now have a road to myself.† It rained in the night and the dense undergrowth of the tall karri forests that shades and encloses the road, emanate this moistness to me.† By the time Iíve stopped for a lunchtime snack at Northcliff the clouds have cleared and itís sunny and warm.† I have plenty time today so I turn off the highway and head down a bump track to the ĎCascadesí.† I start to regret it as the dusty yellow track twists downhill; Iím going to have climb back up here.† It proved worth while when I reach the bottom to find a beautifully tranquil spot where crystal clear water was running over grey rocks under the shade of the green canopy.††† Pemberton is charming little timber town with a historic feel to it; situated in the heart of the hilly karri forests.† Thereís no missing the smell of wood smoke rising from the industrial mill I pass on the right as I speed down a hill and then back up the steep main street.† The caravan park, also on the slope of a hill, has pleasant camping amongst the tree by a stream.† Thereíre few large piles of firewood around the back of the amenities.† All the wood is saturated with water and appears to have no calorific value; in fact itís stifling my fire.† After hours of persistence, and now very hungry, I manage to sustain a blaze by drying the wood out on top of the fire first.††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††

Wednesday

 

Time enough for a lie-in this morning; the sun is out but the shade keeps my tent suitably dark and cool.† Itís a short walk to Pemberton train station, which now only operates for the benefit of tourists.† A narrow gauge track runs all the way to Northcliff (not sure why youíd want to go there; explains why itís a round trip).† Iím taking the short Warren River service which takes you for a scenic tour into the forest.† The train has an open carriage with plastic drop down windows in case of rain.† At about half capacity, the 15 of us wait for the stereotypical, friendly, large, eccentric and bearded train driver, who also provided commentary, to get the train underway.† Back past the saw mill the train descended deep into the karri forest.† Back in 1930, when it was completed, it was the most expensive train track in WA costing £20,000 a mile as its path cut through trees, around hill and bridged river gorges.† The lattice wooden bridges still remain, of course, and remind me of a run away mine train rollercoaster.† Alas weíre not going as fast; none the less thereís a lot to look at.† I sit back and relax as the train chugs deeper into the forest.† Reaching the Cascades, I visited yesterday, thereís a chance to walk around before the 40 minute return trip to Pemberton.† I take the rest of the afternoon to laundry all my clothes (and I mean all my clothes; Iím left standing in only a pair of shorts), eat and I surprisingly manage a bit of sun bathing.††††

 

Thursday

 

Next stop Augusta; situated on extreme south-western tip of Australia where the Southern and Indian oceans meet.† For me it will mark the completion of my trans-continental crossing.† Itís a miserable morning, the pouring rain trapping me in the tent.† I canít wait any longer so I put on my flashy waterproofs and start packing up in the rain, trying to prevent get all my kit soaked.† And of course when I complete this damping task the rain stops.† My special cycling socks are an unpleasantly damp so I hang them near the fire to dry out.† The fire accepts the challenge and it no time at all burns a hole in my right sock; now they really are toasty hot.† After all this messing around it now looks unlikely Iíd have time toady to cover the 100km, plus, to Augusta.†† I set off along the wet and darken road regardless.† Just outside town I pass a group of Japanese tourists struggling up a hill on hire bikes.† Cruising effortlessly past them gives me a satisfying boost.† Itís not long before Iím alone again on the open road.† Any kind of shop is always a reason to break and the executive resort complex I reach after an hour is no exception.† The coffee milk and chocolate propel me on my way again.† The storm clouds still threaten over head nevertheless the rain has stayed away.† The continuous ups and downs limit my progress until I pass the Donnelly River and turn left on to a recently surface short cut to Augusta.† Iím making good progress now but the afternoon is slipping away.† I could preserver a few hours into darkness but instead a find details of a National Park campsite only 10km of the road.† Like the Shannon campsite, the national park campsites are always in beautiful spots.† Itís already getting dark and a little cooler as I start the 10km to the campsite.† Iím now racing as itís many times more awkward setting up camp in the dark.† Finishing the last drop from my water bottle I suddenly have the realization Iíve not check if ĎSueís Bridgeí has drinking water.† My national park guide confirms my fears.† I stop to consider my options.† I now have an even longer journey, in the dark, to Augusta or I can press on and hope to find some water.† The campsite is on the Blackwood River so perhaps Iíll be okay.† The campsite seems to be empty until I spot smoke rising from among the trees.† An elderly couple in a collapsible caravan think the river water is safe to drink.† Unlike the sparkling clear water I had drunk from mountain streams in New South Wales this dark mass of water look less inviting; not that I have much choice now.† Squinting to see through the impending darkness I carefully climb down the muddy banks to the river edges.† I intend to boil the water but Iíve got the wet firewood problems again.† Instead I chemical treat the water, even after neutralising the Chloride it taste badly of chemicals.† I drink only want I need too.† Occasional rustling noises from the darkness are little bit off putting until final a cheeky possum shows his face and join me for dinner.† When he realises heís forgotten to bring his invitation he climbs a tree in a sulk and watches me eat.† Reheated curry I made in Pemberton hits the spot follow by vaguely normal tasting cups of tea.† Itís not a very conformable night; the funny water has not gone down well and my tent and some of my kit is still damp.

 

Friday

 

I wake up with the dawn and get on the road so after.† The sooner I have a clean drink and hot shower the better.† What was a long way last night does not seem nearly so far today.† I have all my waterproof layers on to protect me from the weather; itís raining on and off and the cold gusty wind is beginning to get on my nerves.† Iím please to find a small shop not far from Karridale.† I have the usual with a large bottle of mineral water.† I get talking about the weather with the shopkeeper.† The winds are usually much much worse around this time of years.† It seems Iíve been lucky then.† Refuelled and revived and now leaving the forests behind me I take another shortcut through farmland before reaching Augusta.† With a population of 1000, Augusta (named after the daughter of King George III), is probably the largest town Iíve been in since Albany.† Having seen enough of the inside of my tent I check into the YHA hostel.† Purpose built, it has won the award for best hostel in Australia many times.† Squeaky clean with new fixtures and fitting it feel more like a hotel than a hostel.† Leaving my bags behind, I have a date with the corner of Australia, Cape Leeuwin.† Without the weight to slow me down I cover the 8km over the coast grasslands at breakneck speeds (40km/h +).† Moments later I am standing in the shadow of the whitewashed lighthouse that marks one of only for places in the world where two oceans meet.† I take a minute to reflect on reaching the India Ocean; I find it difficult to appreciate exactly how far Iíve come.† Humpback, Southern Right Whales and Dolphins can often be see in the waters here; only itís not quite the right season yet.† I cycle back to town with a satisfied sense of completion.†††††††††††††††††††††††

†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††

What the hostel lacks in atmosphere it make up in comfort.† I stay the weekend to rest and explore the little town.† As always the other people in the hostel prove interesting company.† Perth is no more that a few days ride from here and the sad realisation dawns on me that my Australian adventure is drawing to an end.

 

Monday

 

Looking down to the coast out of the rain splattered dorm window I can see a storm is raging.† After sitting around for awhile the rain recedes slightly.† Itís now or never, fully kitted up in my yellow protective clothing I get back on the road.† I stop briefly to slip on my washing up gloves on as the heavens open again.† Along with the forests, coast and the wineries a vast network of limestone caves also draw tourist to the area.† Only 10km out of Augusta I reach Jewel Cave, the first of a hand full that are open to the public.† Now completely soaked through maybe going underground will allow me to dry out a bit.† A delightfully steamy cup of tea brings me back to life while I wait for the guided tour to start.† Iíve seen limestone caves before; but like many this in Australia the sheer magnitude of the attraction something else.† They boast to have the longest straw stalactite found in any tourist cave; Australia is certainly a country of extremes.† Above ground the falling water has stopped.† Off the highway Iím travelling on a narrow road through another wooded coastal National Park.† But the trees are not as huge as the eucalyptus found further inland.† Regardless of the damp Iím moving well and reach the caves central museum in little more that an hour.† There are more caves here but theyíre not free.† My ticket from earlier get me into the museum; where Iím glad to be out of the wind.† Iím not in a hurry; from here itís a quick 15km to Margaret River.† Like many places in Australia they make a lot of wine around here.† The regimented lines of grape vines make a pleasant change from the forests.† And each wineries entrance is marked with a snazzy colourful sign.† The rain just about hold off until Iíve reach a hostel in town.† The storm from this morning has now returned.† Margaret River is a trendy buzzing little town with many boutique shops.† Thereís meant to be some of the best surfing in the southwest around the ocean here, but in this weather Iím not going to stick around to find out.

 

Tuesday

 

Unlike yesterday I manage to make an early start.† Itís a grey day but no signs of rain.† Iím back on the highway and thereís more traffic that Iíve seen in a long time.† Traffic is always a drag.† I canít relax like normal instead I have to concentrate on the vehicles around me with buses, and farming vehicles trying to squeeze past.† Many more wineries today and a few hours pass before Iím approaching Busselton.† In the distance I canít see a mass of luminous yellows and oranges.† Its turns out to be the Busselton cycle club; a good 20 cyclists milling around their bikes outside a garage.† Naturally I stop and share my experiences with some of them.† The towns are getting progressively bigger and busier, Bussleton is no exception.† I head through the busy shopping street to the water front where I stop for lunch.† From here itís only another 50km to Bunbury.† Passing some luxury house on the waterfront Iím soon back on the highway.† Only now the highway is two lanes.† Cycling in the shoulder itís not that bad, apart from the noise.† Thereís plenty of room to be over taken and the speed of the traffic is propelling me along.† Surely at the peak of my physical fitness and carring a reduced load I was now average speeds approaching 30km; unthinkable 8 months ago.† Iíd come a long way in that time, in many more that one sense.† This was now my last serious ride in Australia; a sad thought.† From Bunbury the roads will just get more busy, confusing and less enjoyable.† About half way there I climb up a sallow embankment and sit on a log.† I sit, watch the world go by, and think back to all the countless times Iíve been alone with my bike on the road side.† Despite the traffic, today is no different.† Living on the road and cycling each day has become a way of life for me now and Iím going to sorely miss it.† Passing the houses on the outskirt of Bunbury and following the sign for the town centre Iím feeling a strangely ambivalent.† In one sense I feel a much stronger sense of completion that I did back in Augusta and on the hand I canít help feeling sorrow at what had now become an ending that I never wanted to reach.†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††

††

With population of 30000 Bunbury is amazingly WAís second largest town.† Bunbury is firmly fixed on the backpacker map since Koombana Bay is one of the top locations to see dolphins.† Booked on a swim tour; I may finally get a good glimpse of these seemingly elusive creatures.† All wet suited up, 10 of us squeeze on to a little boat and start searching.† But true to fashion the dolphins are no where to be found.† Eventually we spot a pod of dolphins doing there characteristic jumps on the water surface. But soon itís clear that these intelligent animals just donít want to play today.†††††††††††††††

 

In the midst of another downpour I leave the hostel and catch the coach for the short 90 minutes journey to Perth.† My cycling is finally over.

 

Perth

 

The rain does not ease much for the next week; so much so that the Swan River floods it banks closing one of the busy inner city roads.† Perth is noticeably smaller that the capitals in the east but maintains a nice ambiance and relaxed nature with a good slice of history to go with it.† Saying that Iíve seen enough museums, and the like, in the last 8 months to last me a while.† With a flight booked my thoughts turn to my return home.† And having now accepted by adventure is over, the sooner I get home the better.† I spent about 10 day in Perth before leaving.

 

 

Travelling with a bike is always a fuss, except when youíre riding.† With pieces of card for the bike shop next to the hostel and with bubble rap and sticky tape I able to fabricate a box around my bike.† After all, my bike has served me well having taken me 7600km (just under 5000 miles) without a single puncher.† And the most complicated mechanical problem: the trap chain I suffered in Tasmania.††††††††††††

 

Itís dark as I cart my luggage out of the hostel and wait for the airport shuttle bus.† Iím expecting complications at the airport, number one on the list is excess weight, so Iím getting their early.† Iím initially surprised how small the airport is.† First stop is to find the customs office.† Which is quite a challenge because a lack of trolleys mean I have carry five separate pieces of luggage and drag my bike along at the same time (I can no longer attach my pannier to the bike).† And then I get the unwanted attention of security guard when I wonder no more than 5 metres away from my bags.† When I arrived in Australia customs has problems over the duty on my bike.† To avoid paying, I have to now complete some paperwork to confirm Iíve exported the bike.†† Next; check-in.† After tickets and passport itís weighing in time.† Iíd disposed on a lot of superfluous items but by bike and bags weighed a combined 37Kg.† Sometimes they take no notice of a little extra weight, but it just my luck that the supervisor is overseeing the lady on my desk and their going to do it by the book.† 7Kg over the limit equates to a charge of 210 dollars.† I say ďpleaseĒ but get no joy.† I gather itís a bit of a soar topic in cycling circles, getting a bike and luggage within the standard limit seem unfair when most airlines make allowances for diving equipment and golf clubs.† Of course I opt to repack my bags, but Iím not quite sure how Iím going to get the weight down.† I empty all my bags and start again.† With all my clothes, camping equipments, books and souvenirs among others things spread out over the departure lounge carpet I make an interesting spectacle for the passing travellers.† One trick is to jam as many of the weighty but small items in to the carry-on hand luggage and pretend that the bad is not really heavy at all (Itís usually 10Kg maximum).† Being ruthless this time I manage to half fill a bin bag and sadly leave my perfect good esky out.† I rejoin the short cue for the check-in desk and flick thought my tickets and passport.† I the find £15 pounds Iíd stashed in my passport for safe keeping when I arrived in Australia.† Iíd inadvertently attempted the bribe the check-in staff in front of their supervisor (I remember reading on some internet site that someone recommended bribes).† I find it all rather assuming and have to constrain myself from laughing out loud.† Iím down to 31Kg this time and rightly so they let me get away with it (I have the money in my pocket this time).† Making my way upstairs to departures I realise that in all the confusion Iíd packed my heavy tool kit in my hand luggage.† Complete with pen knife and allsorts of pointy tools theirs no way theyíll let me take that on the plane.† So itís back to check-in for a third time.† Theyíre able to get one of my bags back and I can transfer the tool kit.† Back up to departures and the fun and games with the X-ray machine can now begin.† I have two pieces of hand luggage a small rucksack with water, sweets, book, music etc and my one of my pannier filled to the brim.† The rucksack is okay but the monitor show a large dark circular shadow in the middle on my pannier and they want a look inside.† Itís of course my canteen stove; a pot, frying pan and a stand/windbreak all pack tightly like a Russian doll.† Forming yet another sceptical and holding up other travellers I have to almost empty my bag to get at the canteen.† In the centre of the Ďdollsí is my liquid fuel burner.† Itís empty but does smell of alcohol.† The lady decides itís an explosive hazard and politely but reluctantly confiscates it.† She appears to accept my argument that high volume sprits like rum and gin are potential as hazards but never the less sheís got a job to do.† Repacked and the bag goes through for another scan. This it reveals a tin opener Iíd left in a side pocket.† With a half inch razor sharp blade I have no reservations about giving it up.† A third and final scan is all clear.† I could see the funny side of my check-in ordeal, now with my luggage positively radioactive I can think about relaxing before boarding the dauntingly long flight home.

 

 

 

© Copyright 2003, Jonathan Wright.