Monday, 27 June 2011

Kununurra

Ended up having a wash before I left Timber Creek. Seemed a shame to kill off the ecosystem living on me, but it had to be done.. I felt lighter afterwards.
Had a slow ride to Kununurra. Stopped near the border crossing and ate lots of fruit. There is an inspection station at the border, so was lots of good pickings to be had. So much so that I needed to lie down a couple of km past the crossing. Didn't make it too far before another lie down was needed. So much food..
Now that I'm out of NT and in WA- I can say WA is a lot cleaner. NT is a rubbish dump. So much rubbish on the side of the road and at tourist spots. Okay I only went to the free stuff, maybe the pay sites have someone to pick up the rubbish. I talked to some NT people about the trash - their attitude was there is so much about a little more doesn't matter. I met people that gave me a drink of coke, and then threw the empty tin on the ground. Arrrgghh... The posters might say "pristine wilderness", but the poster writer must live in a rubbish dump. Bottles, cans, plastic, boxes, used toilet paper.. It was such a trashed place.
Kununurra is hot. Its back to heat and bugs.. So, going to head south on the tar for a few days to see if I can get to somewhere cooler..

Friday, 24 June 2011

Top Springs, Timber Creek

Yipeee... Arrrrgghhh... For the first time in days I was flying along. 32km/hr, down a gentle slope, with a bona fida tail wind. Then the hard packed clay changed. The tire track I'd been following to avoid the rocks became a thin canyon with steep sides of soft sand. Drift to far off the increasingly narrow track and I'd bog down in sand and crash.. But oh, the feeling of flying was good.. I enjoyred it while I could.. It didn't last, and it would be many days before the speed rose to even close to 20km/hr...
I'd left Katherine at lunch time and had a few easy days. One was particulary good, when I found a crash site. Somones camper or caravan had rolled. When it was taken away, all the stuff that fell out was left behind. Treasure!!! Found unopened food and drinks. Got a lid for my pot, a thermometer!! Ate food from that crash for the next five days.. Pity the chocolate was no go. I also had to leave the beer behind as I didn't want to carry it...
I also met two other bicycle riders. Philippe and Ursula (www.andakt.ch). I'd was still at the wreck site, hyper on food I'd been eating and so excited to finally meet some other cyclists. I probably seemed a bit demented.. They had Xtra wheel trailers. Neat trailers that worked well for them..
With all the food from Katherine and the food from the crash, I thought I small detour to Top Springs would be a good idea. Specially after finding Fiora River National Park closed. Top Springs - sounds good. Sounds like water... Alas, no springs there.. The pub/inn was moved to its present site at the junction of the roads. Actually there wasn't much of water from the highway turn off till well after Top Springs. Okay, that didn't pan out, but I could still go into the Gregory National Park. After 40km of riding back and forth between stations and Yaralin Community, I was back on the road to Timber Creek. Yep, the Gregory National Park was closed also.
Everyone had said the road was going to be rough, and this time they were right. Two days of grinding along in sand, gravel and rocks to get back to the tar.. Was I happy to see that. More so, was riding on it..
One item of interest from Top Springs; Noel Buntine was the guy responsible for road trains of cattle. And he was born at Stonehenge in QLD! Yeah.. I've been there...
Got to see some wild donkeys at one night camping..
All the people I talked to at Yaralin were so nice. Very helpful.
I found a tin of beer on the side of the road - and just threw it in the bin. Seems everyone here doesn't drink beer. Got tired or carrying it..
Jasper Gorge - a "high light" of the trip from Top Springs to Timber Creek was not worth stopping at. Its a camp site, but with no toilet block. I rode in and used toilet paper was blowing about in the wind. I road straight back out again.
Still got lots of food left, going to be a slow ride to Kununarra....

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Katherine

Made it to Katherine today and am staying at Coco's. While traveling up the Stuart Highway a couple of people said to stay there. They give a discout for cyclists. Well got into town and met Garry again (met him down at Dunmarra) and he'd been staying there.. So went and checked in. Very nice place. Coco is a nice guy. Love the Bantam chooks wandering about the yard.
Shopped at Woolworths for the first time since the coast. Wow.. After the smaller stores, its soo huge. Fresh fruit!!! I'm in heaven..
Actually riding into Katherine, there is a bike path from about 10km out. Its lined with Mango trees for part of it. Pity there isn't any fruit on them at the moment.. Like all bike paths it vanishes at one point with no signs on where to go. A construction site is the cause. I rode on the dirt for a bit, then hopped onto the road. But that was the outbound two lanes from Katherine. Arrgghh.. Back on the dirt.
The ride from Tenant Creek to here has been for the most part uneventful. Highway riding - cars, caravans and trucks. (Over it for now. Looking forward to finding some dirt again.) Camping in the bush. One night, on a stretch of bush, I walked across about a km of hard clay to camp near a creek. The ground was so hard I couldn't get tent pegs in very far. That night about midnight it stormed. Wind, lightening and rain. Well the ground turned to mud. Tent pegs wouldn't stay in now.. So a long night of tent flapping. It was also cold. Being awake I started packing up early before daylight. But with the mud it was daylight before I went to lift the tent up. There was a small snake where I was sleeping. Reckon it was sleeping with me for warmth.(it didn't provide me with any!) Neither of us could get excited - it was too cold. I kept packing up and it slithered off slowly into the bushes. Since then I've been packing up later, and checking underneath earlier in the packup routine.. Oh and that km of clay, was soft as custard. It took a lot longer to get back across it with the wheels sinking to the rims..
Looking back on the Barkly Highway, when I didn't have enough food, the Stuart has been lots easier. Still got food left from Tenant Creek, so bought too much then. But I've been eating well. It certainly made the days easier. Actually some days I rode less than four hours, and spent a lot of time reading. Much better way to travel..
I have stopped at some historical sites along the way. But frankly most of them you'd never know it. World War II sites - seems to be nothing there except the sign saying its a historic site. There could be something under the thigh high grass, but I'm not tracking about in it to look. Others like the Tenant Creek telegrath station and the over land wire line did have things to look at. Actually you'd need a week at the Tenant Creek Telegraph office to read all the material there..
The Stuart Highway has a speed limit of 130km/hr. This time of year, the big migration is underway. So its busy. All the grey nomads and holidayers from down south heading north for the winter. Some of them are in such a hurry. I've heard that some of the places don't take bookings, so I guess people rush to get there in time for a space.
Me, I'm puttering along at my own pace.

Tenant Creek

Well Barkly Homestead, while nice, didn't do it for me for a good rest. I just couldn't sleep. Think I've been out in the paddocks too much. At Barkly Homestead, people walking, the generator changing tone, cars slowing or stopping on the road, trucks doing the same. Every noise I'd wake up. In the end was up and packed up early to get away. Found out then that NT is in a differrent timezone to QLD. I didn't know till I went to hand the key back.
The lack of sleep, made for a tough day. Struggled along. The good thing was that night I slept so well. My spot was right near the road behind some bushes. Very close actually. But such a good sleep.
Still was struggling with lack of food. Stopped twice to cook up pasta and peas. Reckon that it just wasn't enough though. The dire food situation has forced me to do something I've never done before - plan meals for x days ahead, and plan more than one meal. So, when I arrived and did the shop up at Tenant Creek, I knew that i needed 6 or 7 days food. Planned breakfast, lunch and snacks. (I don't do dinner. Last eat is late afternoon. I sleep better that way). Probably got too much food now. Will see how it works out over the next week as I head towards Katherine.
A big "Hi" to Terry in Tenant Creek. We met at the supermarket and he invited me back to his place for a cuppa. He also offered that I could stay the night, but I was wanting a paddock, so declined. (I slept out of town about seven km in a gully, which was good. Very windy night it was.) He has helped out other cyclists he's seen about Tenant Creek. Super helpful guy. The only person I really ended up talking with in Tenant Creek.
Random things so far:
All the budgies that escape head west. Seen flocks of them out here. I've never thought of them as birds that live outside of a bird cage.
Mining equipment on display at Tenant Creek looks like its for kids. Small dinky machines.
Carrying more than 10liters of water most of the time. Mostly leaving a town with 20 liters. There are rest areas with tanks, but sometimes the tank is empty. Been annoyed a few times arriving to find caravan people using the water to do their washing, or washing their cars. Grrrrr.
Been avoiding the caravan crowd for the last few days. Tired of their whinging. They complain about the cost of fuel (just shy of $2/liter, cost of food, traffic, everything.. Aren't they every happy?

Monday, 6 June 2011

Barkly Homestead

Firmly in Northern Territory now - at the Barkly Homestead. Going to stay here the night. They have $10 per person camp sites. So had an easy day. Got in at 12:30 after and easy 100km. Done the washing. Had a shower. Wow. First in a long time. Been eating hot chips - carbs and fat. Yum..
From Camooweel to here there is heaps and heaps of country side.
My first night in NT I slept near the Kaima Creek. Interesting spot. When the breeze died down at night I could smell the sulphurous creek. Actually, the next day I wasn't certain if it was the creek or some plant. Smells to me like hydrogen sulphide. A rotten smell.
Also during the night I heard dingos? howling. Several times. Each time nearer to my tent. Eventually they were outside. Since I had the outer clipped up- they were very close. Smart animals they understand english. I told them to go away and they did.
The full belly at Camooweal didn't last long. Back starving again. So hungry these days. Inhale food time. Looking forward to getting to Tenant Creek so that I can buy up big.

Saturday, 4 June 2011

Gregory Downs, Lawn Hill, Camoowheel

I declined the $20 night camp spot in Burrketown and ended up camped out of town. My departure was delayed, when I stopped and talked with Frank at the information center. Frank knows so much. Stayed talking with him for hours. You must stop at the information center and talk with Frank.
Found the gps didn't match the roads. I reckon the datam is out, as the road was always half a km off were I was. Had me worried for a while, as I took a short cut and was worried I was on the wrong road.
In general I found the roads from Burketown to Lawn Hill rough. The section from Gregory Downs to Centenary Mine turn off was in better shape. Go the heavy vehicles!
Lawn Hill was for me a bit of a let down. Its a water spot in the middle of no where. But I thought that there were nicer creeks, rivers and rock ranges on the way. The Cascade walk - the cascades are tiny. I was told later that the recent rain had changed the water cause, and so their size has shrunk. There were other things that didn't sit right - like the aboriginal rock art. But in the end it was somewhere I rested for two nights and caught up again with Nic and Carrol. First met Nic and Carol at Gilbert River. They are English driving an english car. We've kept meeting up again and again. I thought I'd seen the last of them given my speed and route. So it was a nice surprise to find them at Lawn Hill. Had a wonderful meal with them.
A huge thankyou also to the Chris and Andrew for all the food they donated to me. I had thought to buy a top up at Gregory Downs, but there was nothing there.. I was then going to go back to Adel Grove and buy a bag of pasta to get me to Camooweel. But thanks to the donation, I had heaps of food leaving Lawn Hill. Lucky in a way, as it took me four days to get to Camooweel. I've still got heaps left. Thanks so much guys!!!
A thank you to Russel, Malcolm and Trever - the road work crew out of Mt Isa. Met them and shared a lunch break. They also gave me the run down on what was ahead. Their hard work had made the road easier for me to ride on. Keep up the good work guys.
Now sitting in Camooweal, full belly, thinking of where next. Decided I'm going to stick to the tar for a few hundred km. Have a rest from the rattling dirt road and get into the Northern Territory for a bit before tackling some more dirt.