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: 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 ( Alan organised for me to stay in an old miners cottage, donated by Genita and Paxton's 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?

Friday, May 21, 2010


My time in Mildura absolutely blew my mind. Before arriving I was already considering staying two nights, but that very quickly turned into three, and even then, I didn't feel ready to leave. In the end, it took the toss of a coin to get me back on my bike, and whilst I was disappointed (curse tails!), it was probably for the best, because otherwise I could very easily still be there...

Mildura itself is a nice enough town, but when cycling away from it, the tear in my eye (wah!) was reserved for my AMAZING hosts: aka The Wolf Pack (think The Hangover, but then change the group of 4 guys on a bucks night, to 5 female med students, and double the laughs). Thank you CouchSurfing!

BIG love goes out to the VP (not a typo), who from the get-go, made me feel like just another house mate who had always been there (just a male, non-med student one). It got to the point where, a mere 24 hours after we met, I had forgotten that I hadn't always been there... “and what's this bike doing here anyway?”

I was fortunate enough to arrive on a Friday afternoon when the girls all had a free weekend ahead of them, and was initiated with coffee and the quiz... “bingalingaling!” I was immediately thinking that I must have done something right along the way to end up here.

I can't give the experience justice through my words on here, so instead, I'll just share a few memories that I feel thankful for (but this is by no means an exhaustive list): the farmers market breakfast; sand dunes at sunset; licking the most bitter thing I've ever tasted (Hatty: “Woah! That's really bitter. I mean, really really bitter!!!” Me: “Can I taste? WOAH! That's about 10 times more bitter than I expected! What do you think it is? Watermelon?” haha); quiz & coffee sessions (middle seat consequences for sissy drinkers); backgammon; introduction to The L Word (that's lee, of course); beers & wine at the pub (Georgie: “it's not …. if they're drunk”); stunned mullets (or attempts); best breakfast EVER the next morning (twice! Thanks Hatty); tangled rug hugs, my dread (still very healthy :p ); general star gazing & competitive constellation spotting; playing cards; massages; my (re)cycle(d) socks (so sweeeet); awesome butter chicken dinner including naan from scratch (happiness); actually, meal times in general!; banana cake (“why don't we just make a banana cake bowl, and fill it with icing!?” bahahaha!); my packed nutella :p; and most importantly, all the lazy rug lying laughter. BIG love!

Thinking of it now, I'm perhaps a little bit nostalgic that the social highlight of my trip is most likely behind me, and somewhat jealous that the laughs continue in the house without me, but let's face it, it was already getting too comfortable, and then it's just not ….! Hahahaha.

Swan Hill what?

Apologies for those reading this and not understanding big chunks. The important thing to know is that my time in Mildura was...well... it was ok.

Some photos :)

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Welcome to Victoria!

Thankfully, my ride to Robinvale, Victoria, was smooth. Actually, I'm at a point where I can't remember how many punctures I've had, or where I had them. I'm still using the same four tubes I had in Sydney, but they have now all been intricately decorated in colourful patches. Unfortunately, in this instance, the more intricately decorated, does not translate into greater value. It just means you've done your time... kind of like jail.

Anyway, I by no means intended for you to be thinking about jail and criminals just because I started talking about Victoria. *ahem Melbourne Storm ahem*. No no no. No state wars here. I happened to love Robinvale!

Firstly, although I was technically still in NSW when it happened, I saw two massive wedge tailed eagles! I had seen plenty of hawks in earlier days and often thought if perhaps one of them in the distance was an eagle. This time, there was no doubt that none of the ones I had seen earlier were eagles. These were huge!!! One was perched atop a tree, and his mate (the reason I saw either of them) took off into flight as I rode past. What an incredible sight! Again, the camera was an afterthought, and I just soaked in the vision in front of me.

I did however, very generously, take a photo of a date that looks like a cockroach!

(above: a cockroach posing as a date, or is it?)

In Robinvale, I was put up by David and Su in the Robinvale Motel. They even turned away paying guests to host me and show their support for the Starlight Children's Foundation. Thank you so much Dave and Su, and congratulations on your new born! I had a great stay!

I was pleased to learn that Robinvale was one of the most culturally diverse towns of it's size, and even happier to find an Asian grocery store!

(above: it says, congratulations Paul, you're doing great!)

I then happened upon possibly the least culturally diverse place in Robinvale for dinner. The Robinvale Hawks football club.

I started by asking the lady at the local pub if they had dinner on tonight. She was Chinese, and we had a little trouble communicating. She said later, and then either 7 or 17. I wasn't sure if she meant dinner started at 7pm, or perhaps 1700hours? Anyway, when I went back to ask, it turned out the pub hadn't served a meal in 7 years, and would be starting again next week... The guy suggested I wander over to the football club.

They were just having a regular training session, but families and friends packed in as the footy club served up a storm! I waltzed in as if I was the full-forward and smashed a chicken schnitzel with loads of sides. I couldn't believe how packed this place was, and it was just what I needed!

(above: footy club full of hungry fans)

(above: impressive Robinvale Hawks statue carved from a large tree trunk)

After a full meal and a wander around town, I went back to my hotel for a great sleep. I only crossed the border into Victoria to sleep, and tomorrow I would be riding all day in NSW again, before once again crossing the border at the end of the day.

With all this border crossing, you get some nice shots of the Murray!

On the road to Balranald

Here we go! Today was the biggest yet, in terms of kilometres travelled, and what a way to fill it!

We'll start with a childhood game called spot the difference:

Did you get it? We're just going for one (or more accurately two) differences...

Since when did our road signs have testicles on them!? "Drive with care, the kangaroos for the next 20km are bigger and dumber than usual"

Anyway I was greatly amused at this addition which has made it's way onto quite a few road signs.

At about 67km from Hay, I noticed a vehicle moving towards me at a slower rate than the thunderous trucks or zooming cars. In fact, it was travelling at roughly the same speed as I was... Another bicycle!

Meet Sean. A 41 year old friendly Canadian guy who stopped and had a chat for about half an hour. He is riding the same course as me, in reverse, which of course means that at this stage he was on the home stretch. "I'm sorry Sean, what? Could you please repeat that? Oh no, I heard you, I just didn't believe those words came out of your mouth!" Sean had ridden over 3000km, and... wait for it... not a single puncture!! Aaargh! I literally lost sleep the night before because I was worried that when I woke up my tire would be flat (and it was), and here's this superman guy with NO punctures! Plus his thighs were as big as tree trunks AND he was riding with the wind. So now I feel like chicken legged Paul, foolishly straining against the wind, with flat tires and over 3000km to go... "Great talking with you Sean!" Hahaha. It was actually really good to meet Sean, and it was just a bit unfortunate that it happened on one of the longer days, as it meant I had to hurry off to beat the sun to my destination. Of course, Sean didn't have to hurry off, he could just pedal a couple of rotations and he would zoom to whichever destination pleased him at the time. He even offered me maps! I didn't have the heart to tell him I didn't see the point, as I'd only been on two roads since leaving Sydney, so I gracefully accepted, and we parted ways.

(above: friendly, superhuman, canadian man; Sean, and I by the side of the road)

I felt pretty good for the rest of the ride, although I was constantly under pressure to keep my speed up and get to Balranald before the sun went down, and in my decision to ride west, I was granted with the small consolation that I perhaps got an extra minute of sun than those riding east... suckers!

I passed a couple of mobs of wild emu which were great to see. I couldn't get a very good shot of them on camera, but then again I'm not that fussed. They can be my reward, and if you want to see them, you can suffer the Hay planes!

(above: a poor shot of some emus, for those of you not wanting/able to visit yourself)

Ok. Pretty full day. Should be smooth sailing (nice work Jessica) to Balranald. But wait? Everyone likes a shadow photo. Low sun, long shadow. Let's do it.

(above: said shadow photo)

No time to unclip both feet from the pedals. Right foot out. Left in. Good work on the photo (see above to agree). Camera away. Pull back out onto the shoulder slowly. Leaning left! Leaning left!!! Foot's caught! Going down! Nothing you can do now (except write about it in slow motion). Crash! Dislocated shoulder!!!

So there I am. Lying on edge of the Sturt Highway, next to my bike, with a dislocated shoulder, a low sun, and no cars passing... (insert swear words here!) Hahaha what an experience!! When it didn't go back in after my first attempts, all I could think was I would have to come back to this spot to continue the journey when I get back from the hospital. In the meantime I would have to wave a car or truck down (although not with my right arm!) Wait. A few more attempts myself. It was my right shoulder that was out, and so with my right hand, I grabbed my bent right leg, and with all the strength I could muster, I straightened it, at once feeling all the goodness of the world shine on me as my shoulder slide back into place. Heaven! The feeling of relocating my shoulder at that point was SO good, that I would almost dislocate it just for that feeling... almost.

Soon after I snuck up on a kangaroo having a feed by the side of the road. What a great sight to see such a big, healthy, wild Skippy at such close range. I travel quite quickly for something so quiet, so I am able to see wildlife that otherwise would be frightened away... or flattened.

15 one-handed kilometres later, I was in Balranald. To family who are worrying about my shoulder, it's fine! I'm already taking Voltaron for my knees, so I just tripled the dosage for one joint each. Hahaha, of course I'm kidding. I happen to be pill popping very responsibly.

In Balranald, Joanne very kindly put me up at the Balranald Capri Motel. HUGE thanks to Joanne at the Capri! I was super comfortable and the feeling of a hot shower and clean clothes was unbeatable. Being another one street town, I was thrilled to find Joanne so close to... well... everything. I asked about the best place for dinner, and after telling me I could eat at the Chinese restaurant in the RSL, or go to the pub, Joanne offered for me to take her car for the 800m journey!!! I of course declined, not so much because I couldn't justify driving 800m, but more because I could only imagine how nice it would feel to be in a car, and was worried I might make more than 800m. So off I walked to the pub.

Given the day I'd had, I would have been satisfied with a quick meal and home to bed. But no such luck. Meals at the pub were taking an hour, and so I asked two guys if they minded if I shared their table. It turned out these guys were two cops on a small work trip around the country towns. We had a good laugh, mostly at my expense, and it was nice to sit back in good company and have a chat. One of them, who for some reason wanted to be known (on here) as xyz kept laughing and saying "Geez man, I just couldn't do it! I couldn't what you do... I don't mean the cycling. I could do that! I mean the studying your whole life and then not being able to get a job after it". Hahaha! What a champ. They were good blokes, and it was great to sit back and have a laugh at everything at the end of a BIG day. Perhaps the best laugh came after they had eaten their meals in front of me, knowing I was famished and drained. My food FINALLY arrived, the lady said "steak medium-rare, with chips and vegies", and Peter, without missing a beat, "yeah that's me..." Bahahaha, simple. But classic in the moment. Great to meet you boys!

The end of a big (GREAT) day.

Hay! There's a grasshopper!

Riding into Hay, I passed a grasshopper plague (or they passed me), which lasted for over 100km! I had to be careful not to open my mouth when I looked up, or I could have very easily gained a few accidental protein points, not that there's anything wrong with bonus protein. It was easy to see who the locals were, as their cars had a couple of centimetres of solid grasshopper covering their grill, whereas the tourists just had a few hundred individual grasshoppers (and more often then not towed a campervan :p). I had a few satisfying thuds into my helmet as well, which I proudly attributed to my great speed. I also sometimes played a game in which I had to catch a grasshopper in my hand, but that proved more difficult than you may think, and moreover, even when the odds went in your favour, it wasn't a great reward to catch one!

So I have the grasshoppers to thank for preventing me relaxing completely during another very flat, but beautifully scenic day.

(above: more of the flat Hay planes)

(above: another common view of mine)

I arrived in Hay and made it to the Tourist Office at 4.59pm. To my surprise they were open, and I later learned that the girl was held up with a phone call and otherwise would have already shut - thank you mystery caller!

Maxine at Claughton House in Hay, kindly agreed to donate a bed to me for the night, and I was extremely happy to arrive at her family's youth dorm style accommodation by the Murrumbidgee River. Maxine and Tony have rescued this grand youth hostel over the past 5 months, and everyone I spoke to in Hay are very pleased (none more than me!) that it has re-opened after being closed for 12 months. They also included me in their family dinner which was very kind of them, and so I sat down to a delicious lasagne.

I decided to stay an extra day in Hay to rest the knees and walk the streets, and Maxine said it was no problem for me to stay with them - simple but much appreciated generosity.

It was the next day, my rest day, that I was in the library using the internet when Maxine came in and pointed to me and said "there he is". I sat with a blank face because as far as I was concerned nobody knew I was in Hay, let alone the library. But... word gets around. Maxine was with a lady who introduced herself as Judy. When my blank face didn't change, she added that she was Amber's mum. Still blank. Amber is Steph's best friend. Blank-ish. Your cousin Steph. "Whaaaaaat!?"

I had forgotten that the day before I had sent a text message home to say I arrived safely in Hay. That message got sent to my Nanna in Noosa, who had coffee with my cousin Steph, whose best friend Amber lives in Bendigo, but whose mum lives in Hay. So they all did their thing on the phones, and let Judy know that I was in town. Then Judy found my accommodation and Maxine, and Maxine knew I wanted to use the internet, and so here they both were standing in front of me in the library!

Anyway, Judy invited me over for dinner, I accepted, and we had a great meal and what felt like a 'catch up'. Big thank you to all involved in feeding me that night!!! Especially Judy. It was great, and took me some time to get over that I was tracked down in the corner of a library in a small town.

Narrandera to Hay

It has been a while since I've had the chance to sit down and write about my journey, and a week has past since my last blog update. Luckily, I can catch you up on the scenery with just a few photos:

(above: some scenery)

(above: some more scenery)

(above: a little more of *ahem* the same)

Alright, you got me. I just posted the same photo 3 times, but the Hay planes were showing me the same thing repeatedly, so I feel like you have now seen what took me 3 long bike days to see.

Hay is 170km from Narrandera, and with a slow mothers day breakfast with the parents, I decided I would camp about half way between the two. Mum and dad drove out about 5-10km along side me to take a few action shots, before turning around back to Sydney, and leaving me to pedal into the distance. I copped a few nasty punctures along the way (both tires at the same time), but I'm now a pro at fixing tires and changing punctures, so I just kicked back and made it my lunch stop.

At about the time I wanted to find a place to pitch my tent, I saw a small sign saying “Yallada State Forest” with a dirt track leading off into some trees. I couldn't have picked a better spot to camp. I was a few hundred metres from the highway, in an oasis of trees, which once I got to them, stretched on forever. I set up my tent and cooked some dinner in plenty of light, then bunkered down and watched the stars come out. It wasn't until the last of the sun's glow was extinguished that the initially quiet forest came to life. There was one particular noise, very close to my tent, that sounded menacing, like I was in its territory. I couldn't, for the life of me, figure out what animal or even family of animal was making the noise, and I was transported back to the childhood sensation of lying in bed, scared for an illogical reason, and trying to build up the courage to get up and close the blinds. Haha it was pretty funny. But being the masculine, testosterone fuelled, pioneer that I now am, I managed to quickly close the tent flap and curl up into the foetal position until sleep took over :p

(above: dinner at my camp spot)

All in all, my first night camping was a 'screaming' success, which I thoroughly enjoyed. There is a small issue regarding the length of my body and the length of my tent, which translated into very frosty feet during the night, but that minor issue was remedied by the morning sun. After a warm breakfast of toasted muesli with hot milk, followed by hot baked beans and Lebanese bread, I was off... to fix ANOTHER flat tire. As it turned out this flat tire was not due to one single hole, or even two, but FIVE punctures! It was getting to the point where I was running out of repair patches, and as nice as the forest was for one night, I wasn't planning on moving in permanently. Finally, with two patched to spare, I got back on the road, and headed off to Hay.