Friday, July 30, 2010

Going all the way

By Sundance:

Just a quick update, to let you all know that we made it to Adelaide yesterday! Hooray for us! It sure feels weird but wonderful to back in our own home. We'll post a full description of the last few days of the ride, and what comes next, in the next few days.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Coorong, and thanks for all the fish!

Distance in Australia: 2036.06 km
Total Distance: 9417.8 km

By Yana:

Harrow turned out to be one of those surprisingly charming little towns, and we found ourselves spending a little more time there than we initially intended to.  We had a quick touristy look at the log jail, which is right next to a little wooden shed which apparently used to be the local "Finishing School for Young Ladies and College of Deportment".  We've rarely seen such a grungy little building give itself such airs and graces, and had a good giggle about it.

By the time we left Harrow, it was well into the afternoon, and we were still about 15km away from Edenhope when it started getting dark.  Still, as we'd kept up alright with our schedule in the previous days, we decided that this didn't bother us too much, and we started to keep an eye out for turf surf opportunities.  We did still have to ride on for a little bit, but after a few sheep paddocks, we found a little house and knocked.  Val, the lady who answered the door, was happy enough for us to put up our tent, and got hold of her hubby, Peter to figure out somewhere reasonably dry to put it.  In the end, Peter offered to stick us in their little granny flat instead, which we accepted.  Another pretty comfortable night.

In the morning, while we were getting ready, we had a bit of a chin wag with Peter, and he bestowed on us a few grapefruits from his tree.  We set off shortly afterwards, and rode the last 11km into Edenhope.  The town was pleasant enough, though not hugely remarkable.  It did have a bit of that vibe of a South Australian country town though, which was kind of nice.  We also discovered, when we got our groceries, that the local supermarket had completely phased out plastic bags!  Great to finally see that.  That done, we skipped across the road to the bakery, as Val and Peter had told us that it was a good one, and had ourselves some pies.  While we were eating, we spotted another heavily loaded bicycle close to us, and realised that there was a fellow traveller around.  When the fellow returned to his bike, we popped out to chat to him.  His name is Guillaume, and he's heading from Melbourne up to Alice Springs via Adelaide.  Very cool.  We exchanged contact details, and if we happen to get to Adelaide before Guillaume does, offered him a place to crash.  Not sure we'll get there before him though, he's not carrying quite as much weight as us, and has a slightly more zoomy bike.  You never know though.

We headed off a little bit before Guillaume, towards Apsley - the last town before the SA border!  We were heading along at a fair clip, which was nice.  We got to Apsley in pretty decent time, and made a quick stop for the local public toilet.  We ended up having a bit of a chat with the guy who runs the local roadhouse, a fellow named Gary.  He was a bit of an interesting character, with the right side of his face tattooed, and skull-adorned swastikas on the backs of his hands.  He was interested to hear about our travels though, and we had a pleasant enough conversation.

We headed onwards, with only a short distance left to the SA border.  We stopped a few km short to dig up our grapefruits, as we would have to get rid of them soon, which was when Guillaume caught up with us.  After a brief chat, he zoomed onwards, and we lost him completely.

We reached the state border shortly afterwards, took our celebratory photo of our last state crossing, and rode on in search of somewhere to sit down and have lunch.  We ended up sitting down by the quarantine bin when we reached it, made our sandwiches, ate our grapefruits, and threw the peel in.  Interestingly, most of the quarantine paranoia seems to be about phylloxera, that nasty vineyard parasite, although fruit flies are also a thing South Australia is trying to keep out.

After lunch, we kept on pedalling, and discovered a paddock full of kangaroos, wallabies and deer off the side of the road, just short of the town of Hynam.  Quite cute - the kangas and wallabies all hopped up to the fence to say hi, whereas the deer dashed across to the other side of the paddock.  We rode through Hynam witout stopping, and headed onwards to Naracoorte, with maybe an hour of daylight left.

Once in Naracoorte, we considered our options.  The town boasts some nice caves about 6km south, but we also have a big day ahead of us tomorrow if we want to make it to Kingston, which is right on the coast.  We ended up heading to the tourist information centre, and the fellow there was quite helpful.  We wallowed in indecision for a little while, and almost went down to the caves, with the intention of camping and then looking at them the next day, but changed our mind at the last minute, as the weather was turning cold and icky.  We decided to head in the direction of Kingston, to at least knock some of that distance off of the following day's trip.  We didn't end up going much further though, as it was starting to get dark, and a few kms out of town we picked a cluster of housey-looking lights to try for a turf surf at.

This turned out to be a little more complex than expected, as we ended up riding a decent little distance over a very gravelly track with some pretty big rocks, but we eventually found the house in question.  The inhabitants saw us as we rode up, and came out while we were being mugged by a pair of friendly dogs.  Gabrielle, the lady of the house, consented for us to put up our tent, and hung around outside to chat with us while we put it up.  We ended up cooking our dinner indoors, which was a plus, and are now chatting with the family.  We also had the opportunity to do some laundry, which was an overdue necessity.

We ended up having a fairly late night staying with Gabrielle and Brett near Naracoorte, as we managed to get sucked into watching an AFL game.  Hawthorne vs St Kilda, a draw, if anyone's interested.  We still got up at a not too disgraceful hour, but ended up chatting with Brett a bit after breakfast.  To add to all of this, just when we were about to set off, Sundance spotted a bulge in my front tyre - yes, ladies and gentlemen, the first Wal-Mart tyre had worn through, after taking me all the way from Hazlehurst, Mississippi, to Naracoorte, South Australia.  Brett quickly ran us up to town in his ute, and we got a new semi-slick tyre at the bike shop.  A fairly efficient procedure, but it still took a bit of extra time.

Our second attempt to get going was successful, and we said our goodbyes.  A few kilometres down the road, Sundance spotted our friend Guillaume having a rest.  We had a quick catch up chat: he'd stayed at a hostel in Naracoorte, and was now tossing up whether to head to Robe or to Kingston.  We left him to his decision and kept on going, figuring we'd have lunch in Lucindale, which was at roughly the 40km mark.  The terrain was fairly flat, although we sort of felt like we had a bit of a headwind.  Must have been our imagination though, because not a blade of grass was stirring.  We got to Lucindale without further incident, though we were feeling a little pooped. 

We set ourselves up for lunch at a little picnic table, where someone had for some reason left a pristine 3 litre bottle of milk, which looked like it might even still be fresh.  Odd.  We had our sandwiches, supplemented with some chicken nuggets and a sausage roll Sundance procured from the local tuck shop.  He bumped into Guillaume there, who had arrived while we were making our sandwiches.  While we were eating, we saw him zoom past us.  He had decided to head for Kingston, the shorter way.

We headed off not much later, still noting that phantom headwind.  Maybe it was just the fairly rough paving of the road which was wearing us out - it does make a difference.

A few kilometres out of Lucindale, I saw an indistinctly blob-shapped brown thing crossing the road in the distance.  It had burrowed into the grass on the side of the road by the time we came close enough to see, but we decided to investigate anyway.  As it turned out, the critter in question was an echidna!  Very cool.  I'd never seen one before, and to come across one in the wild kind of added to the thrill.  The echidna wasn't feeling sociable, and just kind of stuck out all his quills.  We hung back a little bit, and were rewarded with it at least showing its long nose as it looked around to see if we were gone.

We eventually stopped pestering the little fellow, and continued to head towards Kingston.  We weren't going to make it before dark, so after a little contemplation, we decided to opt for a turf surf, if we could find one.  Pretty much exactly 17km before Kingston, we got lucky.  We rolled into the driveway of an invitingly scruffy-looking place with a backyard overrun with cats.  The proprietor, Colin, wandered out just as we were leaning our bikes against the fence to go and ask permission to pitch the tent, so it saved us a walk up to the door.  He gave us permission, and had a bit of a chat while we put up the tent.  He also got the nearby fire drum rolling, which was nice.

It was turning out to be a rather cold, dewy night, so after having our dinner, we headed inside to socialise with Colin and his friend Wayne who was staying over that night.  We also ended up watching the latter half of Bee Movie, which was unapologetically silly.  We turned in not long afterwards, once again grateful for the fact that the tent is a force to be reckoned with when it comes to the cold.

By Sundance:

As we ate our dinner and then later as we climbed into bed it was interesting to note the bats swooping around overhead. Apprently there are a bunch of fruit bats that have taken up residence in South Australia for part of the year, though they normally belong in Queensland. The following morning we awoke, climbed out of bed and chatted some more with Colin and Wayne - Colin is a big fan of some interesting TV series, including Seven Wonders of the Industrial World, and so we had a chat about things like the Hoover Dam and the Panama Canal, and other things we'd like to see on our future travels.

We got into Kingston after about an hour's ride. Fortunately the weather was nice, but being Sunday almost everything was closed. We found an IGA supermarket which was shut, and then some local directed us down the street to a Foodland which was open. Yana waited outside while I went in to restock us on pretty much everything. We took a brief detour to look at the beach, then on the way out of town grabbed a couple of yiros' at a cafe. We're really found that having "second breakfast" is an essential part of not getting worn out by all the exercise of riding. On the road out of town we spotted the big lobster - one of the numerous Big Things made of concrete scattered around Australia - and posed for the obligatory photos. The road north of Kingston was pretty long and uninteresting, though it was nice to reach the start of the Coorong National Park. We had a map of campgrounds in the Coorong that Brett and Gabrielle had printed out for us, and we started looking out for roads leading towards places we could camp for the night (as we figured we wouldn't reach the town of Salt Creek before it was quite late and dark). We eventually opted for a road which looked to be in the right spot, even though there were no signposts indicating camping areas. It turned out to lead us to the 32 Mile Crossing camping area, which is what we had been expecting. Unfortunately, almost immediately after the drop-box where you pay your camping fees and put them in an envelope the road turned from unsealed, to sand! We had to get off and push our bikes, and after a couple of kilometres trying to find the proper camping area decided that we'd satisfied our duty to try and camp in an environmentally-harmless, responsible area and we were just damn well going to camp where it suited us! So we picked a spot where there were no plants to crush, and Yana put up the tent while I made some yummy noodles. As the night settled, a fog composed largely of mist from the ocean rolled in and obscured the stars somewhat, but still, while the rest of the country was watching the final of MasterChef, and the pre-election Great Debate (why not just combine them and call it the "Masderbate"?) we slept in the Coorong sand dunes, beneath the Southern Cross and a full moon.

We woke up in the mornng and, after packing up our campsite, walked te rest of the way through the dunes to the beach, watched the surf rolling in, admired the scenic beauty of it all and then headed back to our bikes, noting various animal tracks along the way. It looked like sometime during the night a wallaby and a feral cat may have crossed paths, and it was a bit disturbing to think of feral cats and foxes running around in this national park. We pushed our bikes back to the start of the path, washed the sand off our gears in a puddle, and rode back to the main highway. We rolled into Salt Creek about an hour later and stopped to buy some chips and local shark and mullet, as well as make sandwiches and clean the sand off our tent fly. By the time we had finished eating we had a bit of a tailwind! So with some astonishment we took off north again, passing beautiful views across the Coorong, and averaging about 20 km/h for the next couple of hours. We were about 10 km from Meningie by sunset, and passed Camp Coorong, an aboriginal cultural centre. We pushed on another couple of kms, and came to a sheep farm where Yana called the phone number on the gate and asked if we could camp for the night. We got permission, but I felt a little bit like it would be nice to see if we could stay at Camp Coorong, so I headed back by myself to doorknock, while Yana set our tent out to dry a bit more. I got to the camp and knocked on the door but nobody answered so I eventually gave up and headed back to Yana.

It was a very chilly night, and as we sat eating our dinner, looking at the moon, and planning our course over the next few days, we reflected that we may only have two more nights before we are back home in Adelaide. That's a very strange thought after almost ten months of travelling. It was a cold morning when we got up, and while we got our gear packed up with our warm gloves making us clumsy we were treated to the sight of sheep being herded past us. Then we set off and rolled along the road into Meningie.

In Meningie, Yana dropped into a supermarket to grab supplies. After we'd restocked we went and ate second breakfast by the shore of Lake Alexandrina, although it was chilly and very windy, and then went to the local library seeking internet access. That turned out to be fruitless, as the computers wouldn't read the pre-written blog |I had typed up on my USB key. We then headed to the council offices, trying to use their wireless network to get online, but their network was down! Frustrated and feeling like we'd wasted a lot of time (which we had) we set off again. The gong was slow and we had to deal with the headwind the whole way.  About 20 km down the road we found a  place to sit in the shelter of some trees and make sandwiches. Unfortunately as we were halfway through our lunch Yana spotted a group of bull ants making their way towards us, and as we jumped up out of their way she got a  nasty bite on the ankle from one!

We pushed on and made it to Tailem Bend just before sunset. At last we were less than 100 km from Adelaide, and could see the Adelaide Hills in the distance.We decided to stop at a caravan park in Tailem Bend for the night, have a shower in the morning, and we've just arrived in Murray Bridge, having completed our last proper river/bridge crossing of the whole trip (although the pedestrian path on the bridge was so narrow we couldn't really ride and had to walk or kick our bikes across.) We're now so close that this will almost certainly be our last blog update before we complete the trip!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

We are the Grampians, my friend!

Distance in Australia: 1631.8 km
Total Distance: 9012.6 km

By Sundance:

After our last blog update in Lake bolac, we hopped on our bikes and pressed wetwards through Glenthompson, where we got sprinkled by a sudden shower a few hundred metres short of a shelter, and then towards Dunkeld. We also caught our first glimpse of the majestic Grampians rising in the distance. About 6km out of Dunkeld a guy pulled up in his ute offering to give us a lift into town. He informed us that his wife had seen us one the road and was concerned that it was getting dark and we weren't very visible. We explained to the fellow (who's name turned out to be Robin) that while we appreciated the offer, it was a bit of a matter of pride to cover the whole distance on our own leg-power, and we really just were looking for a place to put up a tent for the night. Robin suggested that one of his sons had a farm a little way down the road where we could stay, then suggested that if we wanted more comfortable lodgings we could ride to Dunkeld and stay at his place. Since it was only another six kilometres we opted for the latter, memorised the instructions to get to his house, and set off in his wake. We arrived about twenty minutes later, and after a quick jaunt to the local cafe for some dinner, settled in to a very pleasant discussion of the upcoming election, and various envirtonmental and political matters. I also tried my hand at baking some parsnips, spuds, carrots and sweet potatoes in Robin's oven, as our appetites are gigantic and Robin offered us a few extra morsels to cook up and supplement the food we had bought from the cafe.

In the morning Robin had to take some lambs off to market, so he bid us farewell and let us make brekkie in his kitchen, shower, and lock up after ourselves. Yana made some very nice porridge, and we got ourselves well fed before hitting the road, though we did feel compelled to leave Robin some money for the food of his we'd consumed. It was a pretty foggy day, but once we got out of town we found that the sky started to clear, and we had quite a good view of The Grampians as we rode along. We stopped in Cavendish for lunch, where we were amused to see the local pub was called the Bunyip Hotel, and a group of adolescent magpies wandered around our lunch table looking cutely inquisitive. The terrain was rolling, a bit less flat than we would have considered ideal, but it was nice and green with lots of gum trees. We rode on to Balmoral, where we knocked on a door for a turf-surf and met a fellow called Joe, who let us put our tent up at the back of his land, which fronts onto the Glenelg river. While Yana set up the tent, and then got sat upon by Joe's insanely affectionate dog, Monster, I struggled with getting a fire stared (most of the wood was quite damp, at some of it I concluded was taken from fenceposts that had been treated with some sort of fire-retardant chemical, since I found that they stubbornly refused to burn) although it eventually turned into a merry blaze. We popped up to the house before bed to use the loo, and got chatting with Joe and his wife Betty, and ended up having quite a late night. betty did mention that ther were platypi (or platypusses) in the river, but alas we didn't spot any of them.

This morning Joe and Betty had gone to work, and we were having breakfast when Yana spotted that one of their hirses had gotten her foot caught in a roll of wire, so Yana had to be horse-whisperer and hold her steady while I uncoiled the wire from her foot. Fortunately she was a very chilled-out horse and nobody got hurt. We hopped on our bikes, abnd rode up into town wher we saw a very cool house built into an earth-mound We knocked on the door and found that the resident was an American woman who'd moved to Australia 38 years ago to be a teacher. So we chatted a bit about our bike trip, and the design of the house, and then headed off to grab second-breakfast at a cafe in town before riding out into the countryside once more. It wasn't long before we passed the 9000 km mark of our journey, the last thousand-kilometre mark of this trip, as we're only a few hundred km from Adelaide now. We then rolled on into the historic town of Harrow, where we're currently having lunch.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Come and See Dereel Thing...

Distance in Australia: 1477.15km
Total Distance: 8859.05

By Yana:

We spent an extra day in Dereel with my parents, taking the time to chill and enjoy more excellent food.  On our second evening, Mum's friend Christiane came over for dinner, and we stuffed ourselves silly with various types of curry, at which point Sundance of course put us all to shame.  Yup, we still exercise hard.  We also took the car into Ballarat the following day, in the name of getting groceries for dinner that night (Sopa de Lima and Chicken Cordon Bleu), and also to get provisions for the next few days of our trip, as we weren't sure when we would next pass a town with decent shopping facilities - we were quite deliberately planning to circumnavigate Ballarat.

The morning of our departure, we got off to a bit of a slow start, and were only ready to go at midday.  Sundance had to re-measure the front wheel of his bike, as his speedo/odometer had obnoxiously decided to reset itself completely.  Good thing we had written the previous blog entry, so we could enter the important stats again.  The day was quite pleasant, which was a nice change from the previous day, which had been all rainy and icky.  As Mum had had to leave for town, we had already said our goodbyes to her.  Dad waved us off, equipped with his camera, and we headed down Rokewood Junction Road, deeper into the middle of nowhere.  The road was blissfully flat, and even the slight headwind we had wasn't so bad.  We passed through Rokewood Junction, as well as various other little localities which aren't marked on the maps.  We made the occasional snackstop whenever we got hungry, having decided to push all the way to Skipton, in order to have lunch there.  Sundance got a few groceries there and we had our sandwiches, bundled up against the increasing cold.  There was a family from out of town using the next picnic table - Skipton was a point of interest to them, as one of their ancestors used to be the schoolmaster there.

We headed onwards, figuring that we'd maybe get another 20km or so further before sunset.  Not quite far enough to get to the next town, Streatham, but we were going to go for a turf surf anyway.  Around the time the sun started to set, we started to keep an eye out for reasonable candidates, especially as we didn't want to ride in the dark, as Sundance's headlight had a flat battery.  We found that it was pretty empty, aside from the paddocks filled with empty tin sheds.  Farmland, obviously.  We did spot a pretty little brick house with a beautiful driveway planted with flowering natives, but it was apparently abandoned.  From the looks of it, the front yard was being used as an occasional sheep paddock by someone, as it was strewn with sheep dung.

We had almost resigned ourselves to heading to Streatham, as it was getting increasingly dark, but ended up spotting some lights a little way off the road.  We went up a long dirt driveway to investigate, and discovered a friendly-looking house.  We were greeted by the lady of the house, Sally, who didn't hear Sundance knocking on the door but fortuitously came out to look for the family dog, and her four little boys.  She was quite happy for us to put our tent, and ended up directing us to the cottage where one of their farm hands, Evan, lived.  We trundled down the driveway to the cottage in the headlights of the car which Sally had put on for our benefit, and knocked on Evan's door, explaining that Sally had given us permission to camp nearby.  He ended up inviting us to use the spare bedroom in the cottage, as the other fellow who lives in there is currently travelling.  Convenient.  We accepted, after making sure we wouldn't be cramping his style.

While making dinner, we also got to meet Sally's hubby, Alastair, who was helping Evan move in some sort of cabinet.  We had our dinner in the comfort of the house, with an episode of Mythbusters, followed by Man vs Wild, which is a bit of a luxury.  We turned in a bit later than planned, but still got a good night's sleep, and didn't get up too horribly late.

We got up to a bit of a damp morning, and got ourselves ready, only briefly catching sight of Evan, as he was already up and about, doing his work.  We went past the main house on our way out, and came across Sally, Alastair, and their kidlets.  As it started to rain just then, we stepped under the shelter and ended up chatting for a bit, telling them about our adventures thus far.  We told them that we would probably be aiming for Dunkeld today, which Alastair told us is a beautiful place, boasting one of the top two restaurants in Victoria.

When we got a break in the rain, we got moving, and back onto the road.  As the road was wet, we found ourselves occasionally sprayed by a passing truck, as they kicked up a fairly impressive amount of water as they went past, no matter how polite they were about giving us a wide berth.  We shot through Streatham, wanting to head on to Lake Bolac fairly promptly.  About half-way there, we found ourselves in another little town, Westmere, and made a quick stop at the little antique shop we found there.  I partook in a cup of mocha, and Sundance got himself some ginger beer as we admired the various nifty little antiques, which were varied indeed.  There were quite a few wooden inlays of various Disney critters, as well as all sorts of crockery, and old motor cycle, a small stove, and several ceramic hot water jugs.  Not bad.

It was raining again when we came out, but we just shrugged and headed onwards to Lake Bolac, where we decided to have lunch.  Conveniently, there is a tourist information centre here, with internet access, so I'm taking advantage of the chance to type up a blog post.  The town itself is quite pleasant, and obviously geared to cater to the travellers who pass through it, which is appreciated.  The weather has also become a bit more sunny, which is nice too.  Might turn out to be a nice ride to Dunkeld, after all.  But I think we must remember to come back here sometime, partly for the consumerist urge to buy one of the rusty metal emu and wallaby lawn ornaments which can be procured here.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Leaps and bounds

Distance in Australia: 1384.2 km
Total distance: 8766.1 km

By Sundance:

We had intended to stay at my Dad's place for a couple of days, but the weather decided we should stay for three. We spent our time in Healesville happily hanging out on the farm, helping Dad move an old tree stump, tinkering with the bikes and cleaning our multifuel stove (which works nicely now that we determined that the recommended fuel, called "white gas" in North America, is what we Aussies call shellite), cooking up Sopa de Lima for Dad and Teena, and generally relaxing. On Saturday we decided not to head into Melbourne as the weather forecast was for high winds and rain. It turned out to be reasonably dry, but the winds were fierce, and we were glad we had delayed our departure. Apparently a couple of trees got blown over in Healesville.

On Sunday morning we had brekkie and set out, with much hugging and kissing and well-wishes. We rolled nicely down through the hills beside Healesville Sanctuary, avoiding the centre of town. We rode on along the road through Lilydale, stopping to pick up a few muesli bars to fuel us for the ride. The rest of the way, I found myself gradually seeing more and more familiar landmarks. The route we followed basically took us right through areas that I spent various parts of my childhood in, and I delighted in seeing familiar road names and landmarks - a library where I remembered borrowing books about dinosaurs as a little kid, the area where our family GP used to practice. It was starting to get reasonably late in the day, but I led Yana on a detour past the

park where I first learned to ride a bicycle, and past the first house I remember living in as a child - which was still standing, much to my amazement, although much smaller and dilapidated than I remembered. I knocked on the door, but there was nobody home - although to my amazement I recognised some defects in the paintwork on the front of the house, which I think five-year-old-me may have been responsible for. We pushed onwards towards town, catching sight of the central business district of Melbourne from the crest of a hill. Each new street seemed to hold different memories - being driven down a road the proud owner of a brand-new Swiss Army knife (which has accompanied us throughout this entire trip, decades later), the road my Dad had a shop on, the apartments one of my primary school friends lived in... Eventually we arrived at the corner of Glenferrie road. We decided to have a late lunch in the Chinese restaurant that occupies the building my Dad used to run his leatherworks business out of (largely out of curiosity on my part to see what they'd done to the old building) and discovered that their food was actually extremely nice, and we'd probably be inclined to eat there again if we were in the area.

It felt great to be navigating through a city by memory rather than maps. We rode onward to follow the bike path along the Yarra river, a path I haven't cycled along since I was in high school, catching glimpses of the city along the way. We turned up Chapel street, and then (getting carried away with how familiar everything was) I forgot one of the turns that Google Maps had recommended, which resulted in us going too far south and having to backtrack to our friend Grace's place. But Grace greeted us warmly, with a delicious Sunday roast, and we chatted far too late into the night.

We spent Monday looking around town (and bumped into an old friend of mine from gymnastics, on the tram into town), doing a bit of shopping, and headed back to Grace's place, where we all watched the DVD of Secretary for after-dinner entertainment. On Tuesday we wound up going shopping in town a bit - I'm looking for a new phone, and Yana's been on the prowl for a new camera to replace the one we've used during this journey (which has gradually been wearing out, e.g. the timer button no longer works, which is why all the photos of us on the blog are taken at arm's length), and in the evening we took Grace out to dinner at an Indian restaurant on Lygon street to say thank you for letting us stay at her place. On Wednesday we headed to lunch with my brother, Luc, and sister Greta, and their mother and caught up on what they're all keeping busy with these days. After that we scooted back to Grace's place, collected our bikes, and rode out to the home of Brad, one of my oldest and best friends from high school. The route was a bit confusing in places, as I haven't lived in Melbourne for 19 years, and a lot of roadworks have happened in that time, but we got there in the end (despite a near miss from a silly woman in a car who rolled through an intersection and completely failed to see me), had dinner, met Brad's wife (at long last - I don't think she really believed we actually existed, as we've kept not meeting each other for one reason or another for several years!), and gave Brad the slideshow treatment of our excellent adventure.

On Thursday morning Brad showed us how to get on the Federation Trail bike path down to Werribee, which was a pleasantly traffic-free and reasonably verdant way to go, even if we were fighting a headwind the whole way. We stopped in Werribee for lunch, and to buy supplies, then headed out of town along a road that eventually turned to hard-packed dirt. That and the headwind made it slow going, but once again we were glad we had mountain bikes instead of road bikes. By sunset we found ourselves a turf-surf on the farm of a fellow called Damien, who drove us across his paddock to camp by a natural spring, sheltered from the wind in a stand of manna gums. Oh, once a pair of cyclists camped by a billabong...

The following morning Damien picked us up and chatted to us, describing how his farm was located quite close to where the explorer Hovell had found a stream and good soil for farming. We then pressed on past Anakie (which means three sisters in the local aboriginal language - referring to three extinct volcanic cones in the area), up into the Brisbane Ranges national park, stopped for lunch in the town of Meredith, then pressed onwards through Mt Mercer to Yana's parent's place in Dereel.

The dirt by the roadsides was becoming that wonderful red-ochre colour that screams "Australia!", and we saw a few mobs of kangaroos bounding across the road in places. Yana's Dad wanted us to call just before we arrived so he could take pictures of us arriving, but the mobile phone reception was lousy, so we made several failed attempts, eventually arrived without proper notice, and had to pose for our "arrival" photos.

This morning we went in to Ballarat, to watch Yana's mother taking their new dog (which looks like he's half-bear) through his paces in obedience class, and this afternoon and tomorrow her father is dedicating some time to teaching me how he bakes sourdough bread. Yummy!

By Yana:

Thankfully, our most recent day of riding hadn't been as windy as the previous one.  As I came to realise in the morning, part of the reason I was going even slower than usual was my chain, which was producing an obnoxious screeching noise with each tread of the pedal - probably less than a km into the day, we stopped at the top of a hill and Sundance lubed the chain for me, which shut the bike up.  Words cannot describe how grateful I was for that, as I really don't think I could have taken twenty minutes of that noise, let alone all day.  Apparently our recent ride through the rain, on the way to Brad's place, had washed the grease off.

Ironically, the steepest hills that day were not while going through the Brisbane Ranges - that was actually quite flat and pleasant - but further on, as we had to cross two valleys.  One of our decents was so steep that even Sundance put on the brakes, which is saying something.

As Sundance has already mentioned, it turned out to be practically impossible to warn my parents when we were about to arrive.  Apart from the reception being absolutely awful in the area, it turned out one of the landline phones was on the blink, too.  Upon seeing us, dad chased us out of the gate again to ride past as he took the photo.  It was already getting a little dusky by then, so we ended up opting for an artistic 5-second shot of us riding past in a curve with our blinky lights on.

It's been surprisingly comforting being back at my parents' place, and not just because I finally got to see my crotchety old cat again.  We also finally got to meet the new additions to my parents' household, their new Siamese cat, and shaggy black rascal of a German Shepherd puppy.  The little bugger is quite the handful, and it's not without a certain amount of glee that I have watched my cat smack him one every now and again.

We now have the decision of which way to go back to Adelaide ahead of us.  While we have pretty much decided that going along the Great Ocean Road is going to be a) cutting it very close in terms of time, and b) disgustingly cold, there are still some other possibilities, including possibly going along part of the Murray River, which sounds like a nice idea.  We shall have to look into it. 

Thursday, July 8, 2010

I love the smell of Eucalyptus in the morning! Smells like...Victoria!

Distance in Australia: 1164.01 km
Total distance: 8545.9 km

By Sundance:

Once again it's been far too long since we have updated the blog. Email access has taken backstage to getting camp set up in the evening and making dinner. And with it being winter in Australia the days have been short - so hours of daylight tend to be spent riding rather than getting online.

Anyway, excuses over. We're now almost in Melbourne, at my Dad's place in Healesville, taking our first actual rest days since we left Sydney. And that means we can at least update the blog!

We spent the first part of our day in Narooma restocking our supplies, washing clothes, and relaxing a bit. There's a nice new bike/pedestrian path along the inlet which we cruised along as we headed off after lunch, and wound our way past a caravan park I nostalgically remembered camping in as a very little kid. After grabbing an afternoon snack in town we headed out along the highway, making it to the campground at Mystery Bay in time for sunset. Another spot I recalled fondly from years gone by and camping trips with my Mum. It hasn't changed appreciably in twenty years. Yana and I cooked dinner and sat on the beach chatting, before crawling into our tent. The following morning it was overcast and threatened to rain, but I spent a little while climbing on the rock outcrops at the end of the beach. Eventually the clouds opened upon us (just as we finished packing up camp) and we sheltered under the roof of a toilet block before deciding to don our wet weather gear and ride off to the highway, along a winding dirt road fringed by cows in paddocks, wondering who these strange flourescent two-wheeled things panting past them were.

We grabbed an extremely nice gourmet pizza in Bermagui, and pushed on to a little north of Tathra, where we sought a turf-surf. The house we knocked on turned out to be an excellent choice. Peter and Danya who lived there with their three kids told us they'd come home one day to find a female cyclist sheltering from the rain on their front porch one day, and were glad to host more travellers. They fed us cous-cous, let us sleep in a caravan they had in the yard, and I put on my physicist hat, answering questions for their kids about light and mirrors and stuff. And by a stroke of luck, as I stepped outside at one point I noticed that there was a lunar eclipse happening. In the morning we got up and were fed some delicious five-grain porridge before the kids were driven off to Eden to play soccer, and we got back on the bikes. We rode into Tathra (another place I fondly remember camping in as a kid) and on through Merimbula (where we stopped for groceries) before pushing on out of town along a very nice off-road bike path, eventually reaching Eden that evening. We had a chat with a local council worked who pointed us towards a park behind the local sports grounds where we could put our tent up, and nobody would mind. 

Eden used to be a whaling town, and has an interesting history with Orcas herding the whales into harbour to assist the humans with hunting them (in exchange for the humans throwing the whale's tongues back for the Orcas to eat) but our principal interest was hunting for a screw to replace one which had fallen out of our gas camping stove. We spent the morning looking in hardware stores, then a jewellery store, who directed us to a fishing store, who directed us to a camping store, who directed us back to the fishing store, and finally we were in luck. Confident that our cooking equipment wasn't going to dismantle itself mid-meal, we set off through some very daunting hills, but beautiful countryside. We got close to the state border by evening but decided to camp at a roadside rest area. It was a bitterly cold night, and we made a fire in the barbeque area before making dinner. The morning was also icy, and we had to rekindle the fire before we could face making breakfast, but we did get to cross the state border in Victoria in daylight.

We had used up all our lunch supplies, and expected to get more food in Genoa, but discovered that the general store had closed, and there was no food to be had, save for a few packets of potato chips. We decided there as nothing for it but to press onwards to the next town, passing through the annoyingly mountainous Alfred National Park in the process. In the evening we reached Cann River, where we inhaled a couple of pizzas and settled into the local council-run campground for the night, seduced by the prospect of warm showers. In the morning we climbed out of the tent, and the first thing I noticed was an overpowering smell of eucalyptus - whch really drove home the fact that we're back in Australia. We stopped for lunch at a little hotel/tea room in Bellbird Creek where the friendly staff (and friends/relatives) listened to tales of our journey and advised us to avoid the highway on the way to Orbost due to hills and winding roads with logging trucks. They recommended that we take the longer but flatter detour past the mouth of the Snowy River at Marlo. We rode to the appropriate turn-off, tried to make up our minds about which route to take, tossed a coin, and headed to the coast. And very glad we were that we did - the road opened up into coastal grassland, we saw our first non-roadkilled kangaroos since getting back to Oz, and made it to the coast road running between Cape Conran and Marlo. In Marlo we settled into the local pub for a counter-meal, warmed ourselves by the fire, discovered that Hey Hey It's Saturday has returned to Australian TV, and had a delicious sticky-date pudding for dessert. The pub owner even allowed us to put our tent up out the back.

The next day we rode back inland along the Snowy River to Orbost, where we stopped to consider the option of moving onto the East Gippsland Rail Trail, to get off the highway.  While the trail was quite pretty, it was also gravelly, so we ended up deciding to stick to the highway for the most part.  At dusk, we stopped in the locality of Tostaree, where we knocked on the door of Glen and Jen, asking for tent advice.  They pointed us to a spot along the path where we could put it up, and invited us in for a cup of tea, and dinner to boot.  Some very good conversations were had before we trundled off to put up our tent and turn in for the night.

We got up and knocked the ice off our tent the next morning, then headed onwards  through Lakes Entrance (where we had lunch), and on to just before Bairnsdale. We thought about pushing on, but came to the edge of the fruitfly-control zone, where we would have had to dispose of any fruit we were carrying.  So instead we opted to find a place to camp for the night, use our fruit making dinner and breakfast the following morning, and then push on.  

By Yana:

Quite close to where the fruit fly zone ended, we found a driveway into a property.  The house was empty, but there was a caravan with its lights on a little further in.  When we investigated, we came across Peter, who turned out to be the owner of the land.  Instead of having us put up the tent, he invited us into his spare bunk room, which we accepted.  He refused our offer to share our dinner with him, and we ended up having a very nice chat, comparatively late into the night, by our standards.  Early the following morning his partner arrived, and they took us along on an errand of buying some rams.  If we had ever felt bad about eating sheep, we came away thoroughly cured of that.  They're not exactly the sharpest tools in the shed.

We got going on our bikes a little before noon, and headed into Bairnsdale for lunch and a quick mechanical check of our bikes.  Sundance's bottom bracket was starting to make some noises, but the local bike mechanic had nothing useful to say on the matter before closing time.  During lunch, we came to the conclusion that we might deviate off the highway and pass through Maffra after all, so I called my rellies from Briagolong to ask if they wanted to catch up.  As I had suspected, they were somewhat out of the loop, and had no idea about my trip, so we accepted their invitation to drop past Briag.  We pushed our way a little bit past dark, and made it at a not too obscene hour.  While Gill and Kline were busy with dinner guests, Frieda took us in very warmly - it was wonderful to catch up again, as it had been a while.  It reminded me of the fact that I really want to set some time aside to bond with my extended family.

The next morning, we stuck around for a little bit to socialise, and Gill showed us her printing studio, which had been built since the last time we had been there.  After some hugs and a group photo, we set off again, through the back roads.  It turned out to be a bit of a short travel day, but we made it a little bit past Heyfield, where we ended up turf surfing on a dairy farm.  While we were making dinner, the owner, Nick, came out for a chat.  He trundled back inside when we were ready to eat, but invited us to come in once we were done.  We did so, and ended up bonding with the entire household and a bunch of people who had dropped past.  Definitely one of the more sociable groups we have dropped in on, and we left the next morning, feeling that we definitely should drop past to say hi again when we're in the area.
We got past Moe and Trafalgar, and turf surfed in the front yard of an elderly couple just off the highway.  It was set to be a bit of a cold and damp night, but we did alright.  The couple in the house invited us in for a cup of tea in the morning, and we warmed ourself while waiting for the fog that had come down to lift.  It stayed pretty dense, so we ended up just riding off, and finding ourselves out of the fog pretty quickly.  We agreed to make it to Healesville in the next two days, and that this day would be for getting a little bit north of Pakenham, and into the Dandenongs.  We got off the highway a little past Warragul, and rode through the town of Drouin with a sense of deja vu - turns out we had stopped there last time we had been in that neck of the woods, to get petrol.  We continued parallel to the highway, stopped in Bunyip for lunch, and finally got to go through the cutely named towns of Garfield and Nar Nar Goon, which was nice.  Not that the towns themselves were necessarily that interesting, but we had both wanted to go through on account of the names.

We made it to Pakenham pretty much exactly at sunset, and pushed north a little bit.  Things got pretty dicey after dark, as there was no shoulder, the road was winding and unlit, and there were some reasonably fast trucks going along it, so we decided it was time to stop for the night.  We were just about to ride into someone's driveway when a car beat us to it - it happened to contain Paul, the owner, who happily gave us permission to put up our tent.  He also remarked that it was going to be a bloody cold night, but we assured him that we had almost certainly camped through worse.  As it was, we did take the opportunity to warm ourselves for a while at the fire he lit outside, and Sundance explained physics-related concepts which Paul was curious about.
It did turn out to be a fairly cold night, but nothing we couldn't handle.  We did wake up to rain pattering on our tent, so we had to roll it up soggy again.  Not to worry - we got ourselves ready to go before Paul and family were up, so we left them a thank you note, put on our wet weather gear, and got going.  We rode through the rain for a little while, grinding up a few respectable hills before the weather cleared and the road flattened somewhat. It was a real relief - we had expected crossing the Dandenongs to be a lot worse than it actually turned out to be.  We made it to Woori Yallock for lunch, at which point we were only another 16km from Healesville.  We bypassed the town itself, and took the back way to Gary's place.  We pushed our way up the steep rise of our last hundred metres or so, and were greeted by Gary and Teena.

By Sundance:

Teena spotted us coming up the street, and Dad was waiting in the driveway to take a few happy snaps as we rolled in the front gate. It was a true delight to back at my Dad's place, settling into familiar surrounds, and sharing the company of my father and Teena again. From here on, everything will be familiar ground, and perhaps for the first time in the entire journey I feel physically connected to Adelaide, and the culmination of our trek. But for now, we get a couple of rest days. Today we relaxed, ate well, and went shopping for dinner and breakfast ingredients after talking travel, politics, and life. I've even got a few of my old clothes to wear that I'd left behind last time I was here. It makes the person in the mirror seem just a little more like a long-lost friend.