August 11th-20th, 2001
A long slow ride against the wind. It took ten hours, including stops, to travel only 124 km. My guess is that going the other direction would have taken five or six hours. Had a head wind from early in the morning, though in the afternoon it became more of a cross wind.
Terrain was more open again. At start of the day, several areas where the tallest plan was 30 cm. Fortunately, a bit taller in the afternoon. It was an emu morning with several running along. Also saw sheep, wild goats and a wild house cat.
Starting out, signs indicated limited water until Northampton. Also a road train assembly area. Between Carnarvon and Perth, no triple road trains, only doubles. Giant antenna also loomed on the hill. Not far out of town became scrub.
At 65 km was a marker at "40 Mile Tank" indicating that many Carnarvon residents had evacuated to this point due to flooding of the Gascoyne River in February 1996. Others went to Geraldton. Looking at the scenery, I'd pick Geraldton. There wasn't actually a tank here.
At 81 km was a nice rest area with picnic tables and an overhead shelter. A few goats scurried away as I arrived. Behind the bushes, didn't notice much wind. It was very tempting to stop for the day. Instead, had a long lunch and then started again.
Wooramel at last! In past, this roadhouse had a nasty reputation with
cyclists. However, new friendly owners are here. They even say water
is drinkable! I can notice I'm getting further south as this is one of the
first places with chocolate out in the open instead of refrigerated.
No wind today! Well okay, some light winds and even head winds...However, much better compared with yesterday.
Yesterday afternoon was reading when heard a knock on the door. Mitchell had heard that there was a scruffy looking cyclist staying and knocked on door next to my bicycle. Thought it might be his friend. However, Mitchell was cycling northbound, so wasn't who he thought it was. Traded some quick information, before Mitchell set off to get a few kms to camp in the bush. He warned me there would be stretches of 150 km without water. Told him he'd have at least that further north.
Slept in and got brekky when the roadhouse opened at 6 am. Just prior to 6 am, Greyhound bus pulled up, saw no passengers and kept going. Folks at the roadhouse are some of the friendliest and certainly deserve a better reputation amongst cyclists than their predecessors. In addition to brekky, also got the Sunday paper, leaving behind the heavier homes and classified sections.
Nice riding in daylight to start. It was a goat morning as I saw many scurry off into the bush as I passed. Also saw two emus today. At 21 km, was turnoff to ghost town of Gladstone and a few kms further a lookout. A few rolling hills and generally a bit hillier than yesterday. Also, slightly taller scrub again.
At 28 km, large sign indicated I was crossing the 26th Parallel and leaving the North West. I'd heard folks in Kununarra complain that some insurance was unavailable (cyclones?) and some advertisements were invalid north of 26, so this seems to be an important though arbitrary division.
Fairly quick ride to Overlander Roadhouse at 76 km. Had an early lunch and then decided to continue to Shark Bay. Shark Bay is a World Heritage Site with some interesting sights and hence reason for a ~310 km round trip, side trip before going to Perth.
First stop and camp for the night was Hamelin Pool. Hamelin Pool is one of three sites in the world where stromatolites are found. These geologic structures are built by blue-green algae (cyanobacteria microbes) and look like large toadstools in the sea. The stromatolite structure is slowly built up by accretion of calcium carbonate (and in some places iron). These were only a thousand years old, but stromatolite predecessors date back 3.5 billion years, making them among the oldest life forms on earth. For a billion or two billion years before plants, cyanobacteria created much of the oxygen on earth.
Also at Hamelin Pool was an old telegraph repeater station and a caravan park
where I camped.
A pretty ride today, with lots of ocean views and gently rolling hills. Started early with a heavy dew still on the tent when I packed up.
Rode 5 km back to the main road and then towards Denham. After 17 km, road turned northwards and provided a beautiful view of sunrise over Hamelin Pool.
This was also turnoff for the Useless Loop, the westernmost part of the Australian continent. Around a month ago, Australia's largest drug seizure occurred in that area. Smugglers had sailed a boat from South America and were planning on landing near Broome to fill a caravan and drive it east. Their boat ran out of fuel, so decided to sink it after transferring drugs to smaller craft and burying them on the beach. Australian authorities had been monitoring events and caught the smugglers. Apparently, this is more the exception tan the rule. With a huge empty coastline and big differences in drug prices in Asia vs. street prices in Australia, drugs are still a very lucrative business.
After the Useless Loop turnoff, nice riding overlooking Hamelin Pool. At 53 km, a turnoff to Nanga Bay Station, a tourist resort and 200,000 hectare (~700 square mile) sheep station.
At 60 km, crossed a grid and a large electrified fence. Loudspeakers by the grid played sounds of barking dogs. This was site of "Project Eden". Introduced animals, particularly cats and foxes have bred in abundance and driven out many of the native species. For Project Eden, they built this electrified fence a few kms across the isthmus. North of the fence, they poisoned and otherwise eradicated foxes and cats. Not all are gone as two full-time cat trappers are employed. As the non-native predators are eliminated, original native animals are being introduced. The loudspeaker barks I'd head were part of an effort to keep animals from sneaking back via the road.
Past the Project Eden fence, I took a turnoff for Shell Beach. This beach has five or six meters of accumulated shells (with more still accumulating). They are still quarried near Hamelin Pool.
After Shell Beach road, followed other coast and got a few more hills. Came into Denham in time for lunch. Nice place to stay, so relaxed and looked around town. Was even able to (barely) spread my wet tent in the room.
Denham, population 400, is Australia's western most town. A small road
along the beach, two small piers, some shops, restaurants and hotels.
Got on the road even earlier than normal. Reason was to see the dolphins. I'd heard conflicting stories ("go early since there are more dolphins then", "stay later, since the crowds are less",...) so decided to ride the 26 km in plenty of time to catch sunrise at Monkey Mia.
It was very dark. Something I hadn't accounted for was an overcast morning that hid the moon. May seem like a strange oversight, but in the tropics it had rarely been cloudy, particularly at night. So carefully made my way along, stopping occasionally to shine a flashlight on a road sign. Fortunately, only four cars passed, all with lots of advance warning from their headlights and noise. The road had some long gentle rises and descents, but couldn't tell much about scenery on the way there.
Monkey Mia is a little resort. Had brekky and looked around some as I discovered dolphin events start around 8 am. At appropriate time, a crowd of ~150 people stretched along the beach, looking a bit like airline passengers waiting for the luggage carrousel. No dolphins...finally about 8:30am, two dolphins came, followed by three others.
Dolphins at Monkey Mia have been visiting the beach since 1964, getting fed and interacting with tourists. They are fairly tame and come quite close. There are about seven "regulars", but up to twenty-two have visited. They are fed up to 2 kg of fish and only in the morning, so remainder of their 8 kg daily food must be caught elsewhere.
Also in Shark Bay are large marine animals called dugongs. Purchased an
11 am wildlife cruise in hopes of seeing some dugongs. In meantime, saw
interesting video films about Shark Bay, read the paper, etc. The cruise
was on a fast catamaran, Aristocat2, and was fun. Saw lots more dolphins,
but no dugongs. Reasonable winds and on way back in, it rained lightly.
Once at Denham, had to make a choice of whether to stop or continue to Nanga
Bay, another 55 km further. Nice tailwinds but chance of rain.
Decided to try for Nanga. As if to lock in the choice, it started to pour
not long after I was underway. For the entire distance, it was
intermittent hard rains with sprinkles in between. I was very happy to
find Nanga Bay still had rooms available, not a good night for the tent.
Listened to the storm blow in as I typed in the journal.
Woke up to strong SW winds and a bit of rain. A front had been blowing through overnight with the worst of the clouds past by 10am. Coastal gale warnings of 30 knots from south, along the coast from Carnarvon to Eucla (and seemed like at least that this afternoon). While only 30 km south of the 26th parallel, I'm getting closer to where the "roaring forties" blows a sequence of fronts against south west Australia. Winter is the time with most precipitation in Perth. It has been drier than normal this year, so the 18 mm rain Perth received yesterday is much needed.
Nanga Bay is a small resort area with some of each type of accommodation:
caravan sites, motel, dongas, etc. A small store, a restaurant and
laundry. Some caravaners I met spend a week each year, with the prime
attraction being to fish for snapper. Today, not many boats on the
water. Hopefully less wind tomorrow.
Last night heard the wind gusts through the palm trees. Forecasts also called for next two days to have strong southerly winds.
The wind worried me less than a discovery I had made last night. My bike frame had developed a large ominous crack. On a diamond frame bike, chainstays are the horizontal bars that go between pedals and back wheel. My left chainstay was cracked about halfway around the tube. My guess is a combination of wear (~47,000+ km of loaded touring + >25 airline flights + commuting + shorter rides) and current loads caused the frame to snap.
In any case, this presented both a short-term and long-term challenge. Longer-term will need to replace the frame/bike with either something else from Australia or one of my other two bikes in the USA. Do not expect this frame to get me across the Nullarbor. Short-term challenge is to get myself and the bike closer to a populated world of bike shops, transport, etc where I can make the long-term switch...using a combination of cycling and also bus transport if necessary.
Last night I wrapped the cracked tube with some duct tape and decided I'd see how the riding went today...
As expected had a strong headwind today. It took seven hours to ride only 80 km. First half of the ride was worst as it went directly into the wind. Placed bike in low gears and pedaled slowly. Long gradual rises and falls, with less wind on the uphills than on downhills. Thankfully, shrubs shielded some of the wind.
At 39 km was turnoff to Useless Loop and then a long turn to the let. For a while wind became mostly a cross-wind, though later shifted more SE and thus from the front.
The following twelve kms had half a dozen frantic emus and two kangaroos. Emus ran along the way, but also crossed over the highway. One emu crossing from left to right almost ran into a car, stopping at last minute with a skid and slip on the pavement before standing and making a hasty retreat to the left again.
Nice to see the turnoff to Hamelin Pool and then eventually Overlander
Roadhouse. Fighting against the wind had worn me out enough that after a
late lunch I decided to stay for the night. So far the frame was holding.
Today a long, slow day. Still a good ride and not as frustrating as some recent long days. Shrubs and trees are slowly getting tall, most in this area taller than I am. Mostly head winds, though much lighter than yesterday. Some more small rolling hills.
Overlander is a 24-hour roadhouse, so got brekky before I left. The morning was cooler than recent mornings. In the first 47 km, many sheep and goats. Some of the goats had long horns, looking a bit like a miniature version of longhorn cattle. Once again, I didn't have any difficulty chasing off sheep and goats, though caravaners occasionally honked to get them off the road.
On the way to Billabong Roadhouse was first overtaking lane since Katherine. A sign of both hills and more traffic. Billabong Roadhouse was large and also had a separate motel and restaurant. I checked in with email, had a second brekky and took a long break.
At 60 km was first curve in the road, slightly more out of the wind. Also some more gentle hills to keep the riding slow. Was early afternoon when at 92 km, I came to a nice rest area with about eight caravans already parked and more undoubtedly to come. There was even a street lamp, solar powered of course. Brendan and Wendy had been here the previous night (and Overlander the night before that). Talked with caravaners, had some snacks and was tempted to stop, but decided to get just a bit more distance.
Slow riding into the wind. At 106 km, a car stopped and asked if I was "raising money for lions". Nope, that is Brendan and Wendy, try ~70 km ahead. Also around here was a tall fence, Murchison Barrier, part of a fence network to keep emus and wild animals from agricultural areas of WA. On cue, as I stopped, three emus were poking around inspecting the fence.
The last 10 km was surprisingly bumpy road. Kept it slow and reached
large black water tanks. Lots of glass on the ground and in contrast to
streetlight rest area, only a truckie parked. Set up tent and
relaxed. Happy the frame is still holding.
Out of the outback and into farming country. A dramatic change today at 40 km as I saw the first wheat fields. From there these were joined by canola, pasture lands with grazing sheep and short plants that looked a bit like clover. Along the road sides were many wildflowers: yellow daisies, purples, pinks, reds, etc.
The day started cool, my thermometer said 3°C. Cold enough for a few extra snoozes. Wool hat and mittens that seemed out of place in Kununarra were now welcome. Packed up and left just as it was getting light. As I was leaving, thinking "riding in dark, cold and upwind on a bicycle reinforced with duct tape...probably not the best for promoting cycle touring :-)..."
Nice sunrise though and fairly quickly warmed up. Each 10k I would stop briefly and taking something off (not all 110k!); extra shirt, sweat pants, mittens...as it warmed up. Came past turnoff to Eurardy Station and then the dramatic change to farming country at 40 km. Not much further was Murchison River and Galena Bridge.
Hills were getting bigger today, particularly at the end. Several long climbs and descents. At 64 km came to turnoff for Kalbarri and at 74 km to Binnu store and lunch. Wildflowers were particularly nice in the next stretch. A border of shrubs and fields beyond.
Made quick progress to Northampton. Looks like a quaint town, with old buildings, two cafes, two churches, a former convent turned hostel and two hotels. Both hotels feature "skimpy" tongiht, which I'm told is what it sounds like, a show by women in skimpy attire.
Am pleased the frame is holding. My father found on the internet that
bike store in Geraldton is a Cannondale dealer. Am told some larger hills,
but looking forward to riding to Geraldton tomorrow morning and sorting out the
bike situation on Monday.
Skimpy consists of Jill tending bar in black lace bra and panties. Food was more appetizing at local restaurant, Heidi's, so had delicious meal there. It was likely I was their only customer on a Saturday night, but had fun talk with owners (also travelers, educators, clowns and a bit of everything) and saw Australian "ug boots".
Still a cool easterly breeze, but hills were less than I had anticipated or been told. Two reasonable sized hills and a bunch of rollers. Beautiful pastoral scenery, blue skies, green fields and air cooling on the ascents. The route slowly brought me to the coast and Geraldton.
About 10 km outside town, met someone hanging a "beware cyclists" sign. The local club was having a race. I followed the sign hanger to the race start. Here I met local owner of the Bicycle Entrepreneur bike shop. Showed him the frame and let him know I'd be by on Monday morning. Offered to give some gear to some of the racers, but none were interested in an extra handicap.
Cycled rest of way into town and found nice room at backpackers hostel close to the bike shop. The building was constructed in 1884 as a hospital, used as a prison between 1967 and 1984 and as a hostel since 1988. Another part of the same building was the tourist information center and yet another part had become a medical clinic.
On inspection, I noticed that my back tire now also had multiple bald spots, so ~4900 km on that tire. Front tire is still going well at ~5600 km.
Tourist info center had a reasonable combination tour of town and cruise on the Greenough River. River cruise was nice with many birds along the way. Greenough was a settlement about 20 kms south of Geraldton. Originally larger than Geraldton, a combination of being built on a floodplain and having the railroad bypass it, caused it to become home for only ~100 people where Geraldton now has >25000 (largest town in WA outside of the Perth area). An explorer named Gray named the rivers in this area. When settlers came some time later, they were off by one concerning the river names (e.g. Chapman should have been Greenough, Greenough should have been Irwin, Irwin should have been Arrowhead,...), however discovered too later to correct.
Nice tour of town, almost from a realtor perspective, seeing some
neighborhoods as well as the harbor, downtown, etc. Got some ideas of
further places to investigate if it takes a day or two with the bicycle.
A day for sorting out details concerning the bicycle. Started at 8:30am when Bicycle Entrepreneur opened. Darryl, bike shop owner, was very helpful in working some parts out. You know you've got a good shop when proprietors Darryl and Vicky cycle to work on their Cannondale tandem :-).
First, the tube was cracked ~75% of the way around now. Inside next to the tire was polished, with cracks starting there and propagating to both top and bottom sides. A likely contributing cause was that Broome bike shop had forced a mountain bike hub (136 mm) into the width of my touring frame (126 mm) instead of taking spacers from the hub. Not only did this stretch the frame open, but it also made the tire/wheel off center and closer to the left (cracked) side. That probably doesn't help my warranty situation on Cannondale frames, but will need to sort that out separately. It also left me more queasy about forcing the frame open again and riding to Perth on the damaged bike (or for that matter, closing it back up and letting the cracks propagate the other way.
There are no available new 25" Cannondale touring frames in Australia. Volumes of new frames are also low and reserved, so prospects of getting a replacement frame quickly don't look good.
This left alternatives of either getting one of my bikes from the US or finding a replacement bicycle in Australia. In San Jose, I had another Cannondale touring bike with the same frame and lesser components, and in Colorado my new bike (and people wonder why cyclists need more than one bike!)
Next stop, an internet cafe and after browser troubles, another internet cafe. I found an ok price on the net to fly from Perth to San Francisco and brought a printout to Traveland travel agency where Sarah was able to beat that price again.
So, plan from here is to fly from Perth to San Francisco on 23 August with broken frame and return with replacement bicycle on 30 August. Will likely cycle from Perth northbound back to Geraldton and have Bicycle Entrepreneur construct one really good bike from both bikes. In any case, an intermission from bike riding until start of September.
Perhaps the web site now needs to be titled, "One Year By Two Bicycles"?
Also this morning, Brendan and Wendy stopped by the bike shop. They had a press stop to explain their ride. We had a McDonalds breakfast and caught up again. Fun folks and interesting to have ridden through the same places.
After taking care of travel business, had some time to look around. Got a first glimpse of the Maritime Museum before it closed for the day. This part of the Australian coast has many shipwrecks. I bought books on two of the more notorious ones: the Batavia and the HMAS Sydney. Both seem like very intriguing stories.
The Batavia was a freighter for the Dutch East Indies Company. On its maiden voyage in 1629, the Batavia was wrecked on reef islands offshore. The captain and a small crew sailed off thousands of miles to Indonesia to get help. While he was gone, a mutiny occurred and mutineers murdered over 125 of the rest of the crew. When the captain returned months later, eventually things got sorted out and brought the mutineers to justice.
The HMAS Sydney was a formidable light cruiser that fought a naval battle
with a German raider, HSK Kormoran on November 19th, 1941. Both ships
eventually sank, resulting in all 645 men aboard the Sydney being lost.
More than 300 German sailors survived. There is speculation about why the
HMAS Sydney lost this battle against a supposedly inferior foe, though naval
records are sealed for 75 years. One of the more intriguing speculations
is that the HMAS Sydney was actually sunk by a Japanese submarine (18 days
before Pearl Harbor!), but hushed up to help bring Americans into the war.
In any case, a memorial to the Sydney is being built on a hill overlooking
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