Friday, 31 August 2012

Wilmington

Left Woomera with forcast Northerly winds, and had a slow three days down to Port Augusta. Lots of opinions in Woomera about the recent mothballing of expansion plans at Roxby Downs. Didn't stop long in Port Augusta. While the traffic from Woomera down had been heavier, arriving in Augusta was overload. The usual bike lanes that vanish just when you need them. Diversions for cycle riders that direct you, and then fail to direct you anywhere else, leaving you wondering just where you are. I didn't need to do much of a shop, as i still had a lot of food from a big buy up in Coober Pedy. I got overly excited about the huge amount of choice in the IGA there and bought way way too much food. The stop in Woomera only put a slight dent in it. So I stopped at Stoney Creek Bush Camp Caravan Park, Wilmington to try a bit harder. Well, not just that, it is back cold and damp again. Crickey it's cold!! The caravan park is well off the main roads, very quiet and I was allowed to put my tent up in one of the camp kitchen areas, so was out of the wind and showers. So nice and peaceful. Also, I must admit, I've been having a bit of a crisis of decision for the last few weeks. This has reared its self now about which way to go. I'm not sure about wanting to stay bicycling and tenting about the country. Some of it is definitely related to the long distances between towns out this way, and all the difficulties that causes, and of course the cold, wet weather. Of course there are many other reasons and its not a simple decision. There are a lot of things I like about cycling and tenting. But there is stuff that I'm starting to miss. I'll expand more on this another time. For now, I'm heading back to Sydney. I'm leaning towards getting a van, but still not sure if that's a good decision. Its still 1500km to Sydney, so lots of time to contemplate that option. For now, the I just need to decide which route to take. Go via Broken Hill, with lots of space between towns and maybe less traffic, or via Renmark. More towns, but definitely more traffic, and maybe colder?

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Woomera

I did some tourist stuff. Actually really wanted to see the rockets.

And I found some. There is also other military gear on display also, like this missile.

Once was the time when Australia built and launched its own..

This was in front of a fenced off area of all the bits of recovered from the Simpson Desert. Other than the tourist stuff, lots of hanging about doing not a real lot. The usual stuff - eating, washing, repairs, and of course: baking!

Still feeling really excited about bread. Especially flat breads. Something about mixing the dough up, that is so simple, yet has lots of room for variation. Also like the hands on moving the bread about the plate and flipping over to cook the other side. Haven't geeked out the process at all. Still not using any measures, just eyeballing the amounts in the mixing pot, and judging the cooking time on the amount of heat off the stove. This kitchen stove was not as hot as my MSR. Sometimes I get it wrong, but learning...

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Woomera

Bailed on Coober Pedy, and lucky day I did too. Left town at 10am with a roaring tail wind. 120km done before I knew it. The first 100km was very barren. Nothing higher than ankle high. Would have been slow going in a headwind. Was so happy to see the bushs and trees start again. Almost got off and hugged them.

Actually I did hug a tree when I stopped for the day.. Yep, I'm a confirmed tree hugger. Met another bicycle rider on the road. Kerry on his holiday, cycling up the Highway to Darwin. He was in a hurry, so didn't stop long. I wished him always a tailwind. While he had it that day, the next was a different story.. Lots of caravans on the road. A few wide loads heading north. Wonder if this is for Coober Pedy...

Yesterday was a tail wind! I averaged just over 30km/hr. Rode 170km before calling it quits. It looked like rain. Lucky I stopped then. I just got the tent up in a dip in some sand dunes when it did start showering. Even better, as I found this morning, 4km up the road, the landscape returned to barren. Nothing higher than ankle hight again. Would have been a bad place to stop and put up the tent. A crook night was had. Something upset my stomach. It played bongo drums all night, and periodically wanted out. That really affected the sleeping. Energy levels this morning were not high.. Fortunately the tail wind continued until i was 6km from Woomera when it strengthened and moved. Slowest ride into a wind I'd ever had - just above walking speed. From the side was getting blown about the road. Luckily no trafffic. So taking shelter today. The weather station observations has it down as 50km winds at the moment. Even standing outside is unpleasant. Lucky for me, I'm standing in a camp kitchen, clean, warm and dry. Will have to rest here another day til the winds die down a bit before moving it. Time to check out the history of the place..

Sunday, 19 August 2012

My first damper

Thomas sent me the photo he took on the great central road of my first damper. I was so excited, I didn't get my camera out.

Coober Pedy

Marla was a nice stop. There is a little shop on the roadhouse. Lucky for me, I got a group having a party near my tent. So when i wandered into the shop at 11pm for something to do, I found them stocking the fresh fruit and veg section. The truck had just come in. After that it was pedal down the road..

Quiet and peaceful. Not that much traffic. No one stops to talk, like on the dirt roads. Just watching the landscape change. Spotted this old coral in a bunch of bushes..

When there were more trees about. And no so much steel.. Lots of sky out here.

Also lots of small flowers can be found. But you have to get off the road to look for them...

Close to Coober Pedy, the landscape changes. Barren is the word that springs to mind. There are also signs up warning about tresspassing and the danger of falling down mine shafts. I'm finding that I'm not like the bare landscape. I want some trees, or at least bushes. Coober Pedy is not like I imagined it would be. I'm not sure what I was expecting really. Its a major tourist center by the feel of it. I'll not be staying long. Actually, only until early tomorrow morning.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

The Rock

Well, some people noticed the lack of photos of the Olgas, and the Rock. Reason for that is I didn't take any pictures of the Olgas, called Kata Juta as its other name. I also forgot to take pictures of the rock, until leaving.

There. Done. I did hang about for a bit. And then headed out the highway. It was to have been another dirt road, but some people thought i really needed a permit to be there. I didn't think so, but after thinking about it a bit, decided that I wasn't welded to riding that particular dirt road, so turned back and rode on the highway. This was a mountain on the way that I would have passed closer to.

One thing about the highway, lots of good stuff to pick up. Useful stuff. My bike is loaded up even more than before now. Found a foam bed roll, rolls of duct tape, spoons, forks, knifes, towels, plates, pots, pans, money, and a useful half a meter of underground high voltage cable. It weighs a fair bit, actually, but I have plans for the copper in it. So the highway is pretty good at the moment. And to make it more exciting, I've had a tail wind. Yah.. Managed just over 100km today with that. Made a change from the 60km days into a head wind. Been stopping early to get some baking in before it gets dark. Bought wholemeal flour in Yulara, and been having some type of bread for snacks each day. The last few days been experimenting with thinner bread, cooked on top of the stove on a plate. I like the baked bread, but haven't tried it on the stove yet, and lighting a fire and getting the coals right each day takes a lot of time. The wind doesn't always play its part - sometimes it doesn't die down till late. Sooner or later fire bans will start, so stove use is a must. The thin breads seem to cook faster, well, they seem cooked for me.. Was looking forward to the border crossing today. Was thinking the bins at the checkpoint would be a good source of fruit and veges. But..

Had to stop and read that again.. So for now, just plugging along down the Stuart Highway towards Coober Pedy. I'm thinking the bins might not be so full when I get to them...

Friday, 3 August 2012

Great Central Road Summary

Overall, how did I find it. I'd rate it as the best road I rode in Western Australia. I enjoyed the dirt riding. The level of traffic wasn't excessive for me. There were days when only a few vehicles passed, other days,  a short stop while the convoy passed and it was good to go again.
I carried 24liters water out of each road house, so had ample water for the weather to make it to the next water stop. While I was initially planning 80km days, the cold nights meant a late start to the day - the sun needed to be well up and have warmed to between 5 and 10C before riding. When sunset in WA was at 5pm, I'd stop at 2:30 ish to have a relaxed camp setup. Overall this meant shorter riding days but 60km was achiveable.
I didn't find the road terribly bad. There were certainly sandy spots that I walked. The road in NT was more sandy than in WA.  There were times of dragging the bike through the sand. Been on better, had worse also.
Corrogations - yep, plenty. Weave about the flat spots, or worse case, ride slowly over each one. Riding was still faster than walking..
Sometimes the sides and the banks were in good shape, but other times they were churned up also. I experimented with going off road a couple of times, but when the road was sand, off road was also sandy, so it was no gain. Worse in fact.
Seemed to be more upgrades happening in WA, but it may also depend on the time of the year of the ride - it upgrades have just happened for the tourist season, and before its had time to break up again.
Slowest average for travel in WA was 12km/hr. In NT it dropped to 9km/hr.
The other traffic - is the full list of considerate to "did they see me?". Lots of wonderful people stopped and handing out fruit or other food treats. Always very much appreciated. How can you thank those people enough?
I had enough food options at the road houses that I didn't feel constrained. Basics were available everywhere. Prices are higher, but your a long way from anywhere, and it costs a lot to get food in.
Traffic on the Great Central can only go up. Talking with carvaners, many said the numbers have risen in recent years as more baby boomers retire, load up the 4x4 and set off to "do" the desert tracks.
Camels - my count was less than a dozen, till one herd of eight upped the numbers. Not sure why this was. I saw dust in the distance a few times. Maybe they have been culled lately.
Car wrecks also was down. I did spot some collecting areas where perhaps the road crew had gathered up the wrecks.  One thing on the wrecks, the cost of a tow from the Great Central Road would be pricy. I spoke to a guy who broke his axle, $4000 was the quote for a truck to Alice Springs. Kalgoolie would be the nearest point in the other direction. Insurance options off road were also pricey, or not an option. So dumping the car could be a sane financial decision, expecially if the car is old, like most of the wrecks were.
One funny incident. I rode up to two guys whose 4x4 had just rolled to a stop. I called out "I can give you a tow, but I don't have a rope". One called back "push push".. They were getting stuff out of the car,  and I stopped. "a push" the other guy said. I was worried this point, did they think I was serious? Turned out they had a flat tire, and yeah, the battery was flat, so the more help push starting on the sandy road was certainly welcome. I got a laugh from it..  And yeah, push starting a 4x4 on sand is a hard push!

Uluru, Ayers Rock

Well, after that last post, you probably thought I had a feed of hot damper. Sadly, that wasn't the case. After it was cooked, it was packed up and we left. Thats right, no damper eating. Twas a sad moment. But still, it planted a seed.

As I left next morning, I thought about how simple it looked making damper. Then I met Mike. I'd heard about a cyclist heading my way, but reports were sparodic. I hadn't heard anything in days, so thought he might not actually be on the Great Central Road. Then I met Ted. Wonderful gentleman stopped and we chatted. The cyclist was about two hours back, so at say even 80km/hr, that was a long way back. But then he said later, between here and Warakunna Roadhouse. Oh.. I was 90km from there, so we could meet today. In the end I stopped and made lots of effort to mark the road. It he missed the markings I'd have to backtrack and find him. We met. Mike rode 88km and was going to stop at 90. So it was a lucky chance that we met that night. Ted also left me a block of chocolate. Mike got some of it from me. Ted was so nice!

So Mike and I sat and talked and talked. It was good to met another tourer. Been a long time since my last one. Was a real boost for me, and was also great to give Mike tips that I'd found out the hard way. Go read about Mikes trip at Crazyguyonabike.com
Mike also lit a fire. So next road house, I bought flour. Got buggered up with the timezones for the weather balloon launch at Giles weather station. Hammered it to get there before 8:30, only to find I was too late. The launch was Central Time, I was on WA time.

Almost missed the shop also, it posted a sign saying it was shutting for a while just as I arrived. A funeral was taking place at the local community. I'd heard another report of two cyclists heading my way. So, set out to find them. As it happened we camped 5km apart and met first thing in the morning. Thomas and Stuart. I'd figured they would light a fire a night, and I'd have an experiment with making damper. Blow me down, I'd meet the traveling bakers. I'd no sooner explained about damper, that it seemed in minutes they'd produced scones, damper, and a cake! All baked on a fire, or a small stove with a couple of pots. Wow. I was so impressed. Speechless in fact. A huge thanks to Stuart and Thomas for sharing some of their skill with baking with me. We also stayed the whole day talking. And next morning I baked my first damper. Thomas has a photo. I was to excited holding my damper to get my camera out.. It was (and still is) so exciting. Been baking a damper or two each day that I can since then. Lots to learn about fire temps, getting the coals right, length of bake time, etc. But so easy to get an edible damper. And so tasty doing the eating! I'm still in the space of raving unbidden to people about cooking dampers. I'm sure it will pass in time... But it is really simple, fun and exciting. Try it :) Thomas and Stuart had a bag of fruit a lovely couple had given them for me. I'd met them the day before and been given a banana, chips and a couple of biscuits. All food that was happily accepted and eaten, but later they thought they'd should have left more fruit. Some people are so nice. After farewell to Thomas and Stuart, onwards to Docker River.

Wasn't too many trucks on the road, but when they did, it wasn't too hard to decide where to be. Upwind!!

The road changed. Hills happened in the distance. Something to feast the eyes on.

Early snake or legless lizard. Whatever, I decided to act and chased him or her off the road before the next vehicle arrived. Sadly, I arrived in Docker River 5minutes after the shop had shut on a Saturday. I'd forgotten the day. So, another day and a half of resting, till the shop reopened on Monday at 9.

Couldn't say there where no facilities on the side of the road. If I hadn't already cooked damper the night before... Another morning, I met up with Henry and Jane.

Weren't too many motorcycles on the road, and even less with a sidecar. Talked for about an hour. They have some similiar experiences with people stopped, asking a few questions and then leaving. Also met William. Cycling on a single speed with full touring gear from Newcastle westwards. We didn't chat long. He was in a bit of a hurry. Speed for him on the sand was slow. We met early in the morning - I was still packing up the tent. He'd managed 36km the day before - so lots of walking. The day for me ended up being 63km, proving what I'd found earlier in my travels - its slow touring on a single speed. Then yesterday the dirt road ended. Tar is back, and with it lots more traffic. Tourists out in force. Until the next dirt road...