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!

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