Tuesday, June 29, 2010

lets play catch up!

Hey guys,

Who to blame for the major delays in updates? Me of course, but in my defence, I didn't exactly have wireless internet following me around (I passed just ONE town in 1500km of riding). Also, in the odd places that I did find internet, I often also found hot showers, comfy beds and interesting people, all of whom I will have to write about eventually.

I should have no trouble giving you interesting stories from now on though, because guess what?! I'm in Perth! I arrived on the west coast, and had an icy (but welcome) swim in the Indian Ocean, 55 days after rolling out of Bondi.

I am 5kg heavier than when I left Sydney, and despite my recent lifestyle switch from torturous hills to lattes and microbrewery sessions, my achilles and knees are still carrying war wounds. Bring on the massages! My bicycle is carrying its own set of wounds, and I'm hoping we will both recover before too long.

So with plenty of internet, and a lot of spare time, I should be able to share the second half of my adventure pronto.

For those non-believers who waited to see if I made it before donating, now is a good time :p


Thank you for the continuous support throughout my journey!

Saturday, May 29, 2010

A Windy Day!

It is funny what life throws at you sometimes. I woke up in Port Pirie to strong howling winds, and thought "How great if this wind is behind me! I could be in Port Augusta by lunch time!" ...I arrived in Port Augusta three days later.

Heading out of Port Pirie I struggled to make 10km/hour. There was dust everywhere and I was getting absolutely pounded by the wind. I don't know how long exactly it took me to make the 6km back to the main highway, but I was getting blown off the road. I was going so slow that it was difficult to keep a straight line, which meant that I had to give myself plenty of space when cars drove past, and I couldn't clip into my pedals from fear of getting blown to a stop and not being able to unclip... and we all know how that ends.

(above: dust attacks!)

(above: the trees are bending with the strength of the wind)

(above: my attempts to keep the wind and dust off my face)

Once back on the Eyre Highway, the rain ganged up with the wind, and together they assaulted me. I was getting blown sideways (off the road), which humorously is the first easterly wind I have experienced on the trip so far. The only problem? On this particular day, I wasn't heading west!

I made it as far as a fruit shop along the highway before seeking shelter. The young couple inside seemed amused at my attempts to ride in the conditions, and fair enough. I bought a strawberry milk (which in consideration of the cold drinks section, I have become quite partial to), and sipped it slowly, in an attempt to prolong the inevitable onslaught that going back outside would bring. Once finished, I even considered buying a second milk, but in the end thought that might just add to the difficulties of an already tough day.

Back on the bike and struggling up the highway, I noticed that the left halves of my jacket sleeves were totally dry. The wind was so strong that the rain was actually coming in sideways! It would have been the ultimate physical and mental challenge to keep going, had I been presented with another option, but as it was I had no choice. I calculated that it would take about 10 'on bike' hours to reach Port Augusta, and that didn't appeal to me at all, so when I saw a sign for Port Germein Caravan Park in 16km, I actually 'yiiiieeewed!' out loud!

Port Germein, I discovered, is a one street, one pub town, boasting the longest wooden jetty in Australia. "Who cares right?" I do! Because in the protection of the trees and the town, everything in the world was beautiful to me.

(above: Australia's longest wooden jetty)

Mick from the caravan park very generously donated a cabin to me for the night, which kept me comfortable and out of the elements. Thanks Mick!

(above: a sign that made me very happy)

Port Germein Caravan Park also had an emergency vehicle that made me laugh. Actually, given the recent condition of my tires and tubes, I almost considered swapping:

Port Pirie

The ride from Burra to Port Pirie sadly signalled the end of my relationship with The Goyder. I rode for most of the day with more great scenery, and very few vehicles, before coming to A1 - the busy, exposed, windy Eyre Hwy.

(above: some peaceful road between Burra and Port Pirie)

In hindsight, I should have turned off before getting to the Eyre Highway, and I had a very tempting option in the interestingly named 'Worlds End Highway'.

(above: worlds end highway, haha "I made it already?")

Today was fairly uneventful, but very enjoyable. I passed through the sleepy towns of Spalding and Gulnare, whose populations are so low, that they probably couldn't get a football team between them (and that's saying something in this part of the world). I also stopped to stretch whenever I had the chance, and of course with my rules, when there is stopping, there is eating!

(above: protein and carb mix to keep me going; eggs and spuds)

122km after leaving Burra, I was in Port Pirie, and was kindly sponsored a room by Mick at The Flinders Range Motor Inn: http://www.theflinders.com.au/index.html. Being a Saturday, there were groups of girls all about town who had obviously just finished their netball games. It was oddly comforting, and I found my thoughts wandering to sausage rolls and killer pythons; items associated with watching my sisters play netball back in the day.

Other than a highly rated chicken parmie I had at the pub, Port Pirie didn't do too much for me, but in its defence, it probably just felt a little soulless compared with an historic Burra. Thinking of it now, it was also nice to be by the water again.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Burra (tuts my...)

What a GREAT town!

Before I get to that though, The Goyder gets another thumbs up. Today was overcast, but perfect. The clouds kept me cool and provided interesting shapes to look at along the way. However the clouds weren't the only interesting things to look at on today's ride... as standing proudly on the edge of The Goyder, was my first ever Boot-A-Full tree! Fantastic.

(above: The Boot-A-Full tree)

(above: history of the word Beautiful, and an introduction to leprechaun culture)

(above: some Boot-A-Full branches)

As the sign read, the word 'beautiful' actually derives from the leprechaun word 'boot-a-full' which humans have obviously grossly misused. I felt greatly privileged to have my first Boot-A-Full tree experience, yet at the same time felt somewhat guilty for not having anything to offer. The shoes on my feet were the only ones I had, and whilst giving your last is the truest form of generosity, I was convinced it would mean the end of my cycle journey. So, regretfully, I moved on without contributing and leaving my mark, but was pleased at the thought that somewhere out in the bush is a tribe of semantec nerds, improving the world, one 'beautiful' tree at a time.

I had hardly moved on from said tree, when the opportunity to give struck again. This time, in the form of an underwear tree! "But of course."

(above: said underwear tree)

I stood 'briefly' (haha) in front of it, before deciding it was my time to give... It wasn't until my pants were half way down that I realised there was to be no giving today. Sneaky commando strikes again! Just as the commando realisation struck me, a horrified group of girls drove past. haha only kidding... I don't think they were horrified.

So on to Burra!

I made pretty good time from Morgan, and my only gripe (apart from not wearing any underwear) was the misleading signs that told me I would be in Burra in 5km, only to be greeted at a turn off 5km later with a sign saying 'Burra 4km'. "What?"

Mysterious Burra was hidden from me by the 4km of hills I had to ride up and around, but as I reached the crest, Burra opened up to me and I like it immediately. Not the least because as I came down the other side of the hill and entered Burra, I was speeding! That's right, 56km/hr in a 50 zone!

I made my way to the Tourist Information Centre, and liked the vibe of the town, given off, mainly I think, by the old architecture and the surrounding hills. Alan from the Tourist Office proved to be SUPER helpful for the entire duration of my stay, and I would love to tell everyone to go to Burra, and obviously, go to the very helpful and interesting tourist office (http://www.visitburra.com). Alan organised for me to stay in an old miners cottage, donated by Genita and Paxton's Square Cottages (http://www.visitburra.com/Paxton_Square_Cottages).

(above: My cottage as seen from the internal courtyard)

I was over the moon to be staying in such a great place, that was not only big, clean and comfortable, but was also the place the miners stayed in when the Burra mine was the richest copper mine in the world!

(above: the richest copper mine in the world... from 1850 to 1870)

(above: searching for copper)

A massive thank you to Genita for sponsoring me a night at the cottages, and equally to Alan and the Tourist Office, who generously donated me a second night at the same place.

Alan also organised for me to speak at the local school, so the next day, I rambled and raved to 250 children (kindy to year 12) about my trip, which was followed by question time. I'm not sure how much they got out of it, but I had a few parents come up to me in the pubs and on the street the next day saying their kids liked it. The Burra Community School also donated $50 to the cause, raised by the children themselves.

My school talk was followed by an interview and photo shoot with Michelle Osborn, publisher of the local newspaper. Of course, this was organised by none other than Alan. Michelle was very encouraging and a great person to meet. I've also organised to have the few local newspapers that I've been in, to be sent home to Sydney, so hopefully I can eventually post some of the material.

Ok. With the formalities aside, I actually got to spend a good amount of time hanging around Burra. There was a tour route I could take to see the various museums, the old jail and mine lookout etc, but I chose to do my own tour... that's right... a FOOD tour of Burra! I ate a meal in all 3 pubs. I also had a great breaky in a local cafe called "Cook-o-Burra". Plus I had coffee in an antique store/bookshop/coffee shop, which used to be a brothel in the mining days. I even managed to visit the local IGA to set up a fireside snack in my cottage of camembert cheese, pink lady apple, crackers, macadamia nuts, carrot and walnut cake, and some dates. Yes, I think you could say I liked Burra A LOT!

(above: country style breaky at "Cook-o-Burra")

(above: my cosy brothel seat)

(above: getting the fire going in my cottage)

(above: lake side in Burra)


Having already halved my ride the day before, I had an easy roll into Morgan. I was once again enjoying being on the Goyder Highway (Hwy #64 for those interested), and made Morgan by around midday. Greg at The Commercial Hotel, immediately donated me a sizeable room on top of his pub, and I was chuffed to find it facing the Murray River. I had to laugh when I first met Greg and one of his regular customers in the pub. Greg told her that I was cycling from Sydney to Perth, and she said "woah, I saw a guy on a bike crossing the Hay planes about a week ago, and I thought 'what a d*#k head!' It was probably you!" Bahahaha. Then she threw $5 on the bar for me. Haha classic. Later, Greg walked me around the back to show me a place I could leave my bike. He had the standard "Beware of the dog" sign on his back gate, and when it opened I was greeted by a fluffy little labrador puppy, not much bigger than those on the toilet paper commercials. Very cute. Huge thanks to Greg at The Commercial Hotel who was very generous without much fuss.

After a hot shower, I had a walk around town and visited every business there was! Buying a meat pie here, and a flavoured milk there. I didn't go into the RSL because it was closed, but I'm not sure how much I was missing out on...

(above: Morgan's RSL)

I also walked up to the top of a hill, appropriately called 'the lookout', and met a 77 year old lady marching along. We had a great chat and she must have told me she was addicted to bush walking 5 separate times. She sure looked active for her age though, and we agreed that an active life outdoors is a good life.

(above: The Commercial Hotel, as seen from the lookout)

(above: The Murray River, as seen from the lookout)

I liked Morgan a lot. Everyone I met was very friendly, and I even saw Greg having a beer and a game of pool at the pub across from his. I also got lucky with a surprise internet connection, while I was typing on a picnic table, eating a pizza and overlooking the river. Go Morgan!

Pooginook Conservation Park

A new road!!! After the noise and rush of the Hume, followed by the bumpy, truck (and grasshopper) ridden Sturt, I was pleased to turn onto my third road. The Goyder Highway. The Goyder is by far my favourite of the three. I was overjoyed to find myself off the truck route, and peacefully winding my way toward the Southern Flinders.

Not long into my newfound bliss however, I found myself staring at yet another double puncture. It looked as though a sharp object had gone straight through my tube and pierced both sides! I patched it up, but the holes were too big... "what did I run over!?" I ended up changing the tube altogether, and it wasn't until I was about to get back on the road that I realised what had happened. I had snapped a spoke, and the end of the spoke went through my tube. Whoops! "I'll have to remember to fix that later..."

While I was on the side of the road changing my tube a guy stopped and asked if I needed a hand. It has only happened a few times so far, but I never know what to say. "Have you got a spare spoke... or a muesli bar?" haha. I can imagine the blank face staring back at me, so I usually just say "I'm fine thanks, just stretching" and let them go on their way.

With such a slow morning, I had decided that I would camp somewhere between Renmark and Morgan, and had the perfect location appear before me in the form of Pooginook Conservation Park. There weren't any signs to say I could camp there, but then again there weren't any to say I couldn't, so I found a space amongst the trees about 400m from Mr Goyder and set up camp.

I had such a great spot, and felt bad for every person in the world who spent time in an office that day. I cooked some dinner in the last of the sun, and then sat up and watched the stars come out. I got up once in the middle of the night to use my sizeable ensuite, and found myself gazing into the clear night for some time. The only other occurance that night happened when I was asleep and drowsy, and that was that a car drove up past my camp site, stopped, and a torch shone on my tent. I was too tired to realise what was happening in the moment, but awake enough to know it wasn't a dream. Anyway, whoever the mystery people were, they didn't cook me any breakfast, so I was left to do that myself when the sun came back around.

Camping night number 2: another screaming success!

(above: sunset at the sand dunes just outside Mildura... late addition)

Out of touch

Hey guys, my bad for being super slack on the whole 'keeping you updated' business. Internet access has been scarce at best, and I've also been putting a lot of effort into eating recently. Boo ya! It's almost as if I'm doing a steak and chicken parmie tour of Australia, and I'm pleased to tell you, that the pub fare so far had been delightful.

I left Mildura on a massive high, and even though the 144km to Renmark was my biggest day yet, I found myself recalling jokes and laughs from the weekend, and made great progress without feeling it. It was my only day of cycling in Victoria, and I was provided with fine weather and some great views along the way.

(above: some of the great scenery; rainbow out of cloud)

I did get jammed with a double puncture, that had me munching on my scroggin just 20km out of Mildura, and as tempting as it was to turn back, I have become somewhat of a pro changing and patching tubes, so wasn't delayed for very long.

The other thing to note on this journey of course, is that I crossed into my third state, and was welcomed to South Australia by having all of my fresh fruit and veg taken off me. I did manage to eat my banana there and then, and somehow a delicious avocado slipped through (my bad), so all in all it wasn't that bad, especially considering that Renmark is not far on the other side of the border. It did cross my mind that I could hang out a bit before the border and ask for fruit donations off all the passing tourists, but the sun was low and I was eager to get to my destination. On a side note, wouldn't it make sense to set up a donation table, so that vehicles coming out of South Australia (or any 'no fruit zone') could pick up the fresh fruit surrendered by those going in??

The ride from the day must have taken more out of me than I thought, because I struggled to lift my cutlery at dinner, and then crashed soon after. The next morning I found that Renmark is a nice town, with a great river front.

(above: Riverfront in Renmark)

(above: River front in Gol Gol - Mildura's NSW sister town)

I slept in and had a slow breakfast at a bakery around the corner from my accommodation, before stocking up on fresh fruit and anti-inflammatories. Next stop?