June 2010

June 1 — 3 Cape Leveque - After a bouncy, dusty trip with Max the Postie at the wheel and four passengers including us all stuffed in the back of a Toyota Troupie with mail bags and boxes we arrived at Kooljaman, Cape Leveque at 8.00am yesterday morning. Our travelling partners were another Sydney couple Margie & Ray. We pitched a tent, they went to their luxurious Safari Tent with en-suite and kitchen with fridge!! Wow....the beauty of this place is breathtaking, truly a piece of paradise as our pics will attest to.  We had great fun up there with Niki, Margee, Margie & Ray who all came from Sydney.....lots & lots of laughs, we shall miss them all.

June 4 — 7 Broome — After nearly 3 weeks off the bikes we’re looking forward to hitting the road again but it will be a slow journey as we have 6 weeks to get to Karratha to catch our plane to Perth then the UK, so heaps of time.  We’ll be heading south to Port Headland, 586 klms away, where we’ll get a taste of the remoteness of Australia as we ride on the edge of the Great Sandy Desert.  From Port Headland we’ll head inland to the Karijini National Park & Tom Price, the highest town in WA where night time temps drop as low as 5 degrees, something we haven’t experienced for the past year.  Since returning to Broome we have been staying with Klari & Bob, their kindness and generosity and company  have made our stay in Broome very special.  AND......after raving about our favourite cafe spot—The Aarli—who should be there before catching their plane back to Sydney, Niki & Margee!!  Girls....we’ll be on the bikes for another couple of years so that offer still stands!!!!!

June 8 - Broome to Roebuck Plains Caravan Park, 37.86 klms, Avg speed 14.7 kph, Cycling time 2.34 hrs; Total kms 14,825.52

After saying a fond farewell to Klari & Bob (by phone, he was in Melbourne writing/researching his book) we headed to the post office to post 3 more food parcels to Auski Roadhouse, Karijini National Park & Mt. Florance Station.  Much weighing, packing, toing and froing later, our jobs were done.  2 more food parcels were sent last week to Port Smith Lagoon & Eighty Mile Beach.  We then headed with haste to The Aarli for what was probably going to be our last cup of decent coffee until we hit London at the end of July, what a terrible thought.  After saying goodbye to Sergio at The Aarli we finally cycled out of Broome at 11am which was now bursting at the seams with Grey Nomads from South Australia & Victoria escaping from the chilly weather down there, what a good time to leave!  Luckily only a short ride to our next camp as we battled head winds for most of the ride. We had our lunch on the lawn outside the roadhouse and then set up camp in the grassless camp ground. Broome and then Roebuck Plains has been the departure point for some of our clothing too. Some cycle niks, tops, shorts, inner sheets and the like are leaving us here to join the masses of crap in a ground fill tip. All have travelled far, been washed and worn often and sun bleached beyond recognition so it is time they left. After a quick shower we retreated to the roadhouse restaurant for a beer and dinner before an early night, we may have even made the end of the 7.30pm news! Rebels....

June 9 - Roebuck Plains to Bush Camp, 93.06 klms, Avg speed 15.3 kph, Cycling time 6.03 hrs; Total kms 14,918.58

From Roebuck Plains to Sandfire Roadhouse (300 klms) there’s no water to be found, no rivers or natural water causes, so you either have to carry heaps of water to cover the 3 day’s riding or take side trips to access water, which is the option we’re taking.  However, our first night will be a bush camp so we left carrying a total of 17 litres of water each, 14 litres each more than the norm.  After battling strong headwinds for the first 1.5 hours the road changed direction (thank god) until we eventually had wind over our back shoulder.  We found a great camp spot adjacent to a Telstra installation down a dirt track and just off the highway. It was still quite windy when we set up camp and the sun had not had a chance to heat the big water bag we sometimes use as our shower so it was a cold shower with wind chill. We wasted little time or water, but it’s always nice to get clean and have a cuppa. We ate a delicious dinner of pasta with chicken (tinned) in a creamy pesto sauce covered in parmesan cheese—with tummies bulging we were tucked into bed by 6pm as it was pitched black outside & getting cold.

June 10 - Bush Camp to Port Smith Lagoon Caravan Park, 37.78 klms, Avg speed 15.3 kph, Cycling time 2.28 hrs; Total kms 14,956.36

We only had to cycle 14 klms down the road until the turn off for Port Smith Lagoon Caravan Park.  It was 23 klms further down a dirt road which luckily was in great condition, few corrugations & rideable sand, a cyclists dream on these sorts of roads, plus a tail wind! This park is one of the Kimberley’s finest fishing spots either on the lagoon or out on the bay and travellers stay here for 3-4 months at a time to indulge in their passion & escape the cold weather further south.  Southerners have been coming here for years and book the same spot year after year.  Our 1st food parcel had arrived safely, we booked in for 3 nights & set up camp in a beautiful shady spot surrounded by kangaroos as Port Smith  operates a rehabilitation & release area for injured & orphaned kangaroos & wallabies.  Tonight was the only night the Park served food—Fish & Chips served in the “Entertainment Area”, the entertainment being a local Aboriginal band & the money raised donated to The Royal Flying Doctor.  There was a buzz in the park for this event so armed with our chairs (borrowed from the park) & cask wine (sent in the food parcel! A real luxury.) we waited in anticipation for the fun to begin and what a great night it was—fantastic fish & chips for $5.00ph, the fish fresh donated by the fishermen & the band was excellent, everybody was having a great time from the kids going crazy with the music to the audience having a ball, some even brought their dogs along & special chairs for them too!!  $800 was raised that night with all staff volunteering their services, a wonderful, worthwhile event.

June 11-12 Port Smith Lagoon Caravan Park

With no access to the internet/mobile in this area we had to read our books—bummer—we also caught the boat across the lagoon to do some more reading.  It was a great Caravan Park with lots of shade, friendly staff, great facilities & wildlife too, a beautiful spot to stay.  We ate well too from our food parcel, a couple of dinners being Prawn Rendang & Vegetable Risotto all washed down with more cask wine, which we savoured all the more as this was “last drinks” for the next week or so.

June 13 - Port Smith Lagoon Caravan Park to Stanley Rest Area, 91.36 klms, Avg speed 15.00 kph, Cycling time 6.05 hrs; Total kms 15,047.72

We knew Port Smith had available drinking water which was one of the reasons why we stayed there.  Loaded again with 17 litres each we set out for our 2nd bush camp.  We made slow progress back to the main highway battling a head wind, it took us 2 hours to ride 23 klms but then we had favourable winds for the rest of the day.  We’re riding through mind numbing, relatively flat and featureless countryside so there’s nothing exciting to report—we just keep peddling those legs & listening to our iPods.  Greg to last years Boyer Lectures by Major Peter Cosgrove and me to The Conversation Hour with Richard Fidler.  On a bright note we do get lots & lots of waves from incoming traffic, in fact most cars that pass us either toot or wave—they must think we’re either mad or very brave, it’s probably the former but their waves cheer us up along the way & we always wave back.  By 3.15pm we arrived at Stanley Rest Area & took over one of the shelters—it was luxury to eat at a table with seats. It was again a cold, windy and quick shower before a huge bowl of spag boll and a nice hot cuppa. We are radio-less at the moment as Greg has sent not only the radio but his wind up head lamp back to Sydney for yet another warranty claim. He can make do for light with his bike head light but we both miss the radio. Hopefully both will be repaired/replaced and posted back to Tom Price for our arrival in a couple of weeks.  We ended up sleeping on the tables so saved the hassle of putting up the tent—had a great night’s sleep too surrounded by a night sky filled with twinkling stars. It cooled down quickly that night which was made worse with the now almost constant easterly coming, as it does, straight from The Great Sandy Desert.  Sleeping bags zipped closed for sure!

June 14 - Stanley Rest Area to Sandfire Roadhouse, 106.21 klms, Avg speed 17.6 kph, Cycling time 6.02 hrs; Total kms 15,153.93

Another long day so on the road at 7.30am.  Slight undulations with cross winds most of the day although we managed a pretty fast speed of 17.6 kph.  The landscape changed to more open so less shade for us when a break was needed.  We saw our first hill in 3 days, and Greg said he saw a mountain—I think he’s hallucinating!  We also saw 2 dead feral pussy cats & lots of kangaroo road kill & again lots & lots of waves from fellow travellers.  We arrived at Sandfire Roadhouse at 2.30pm & ate our lunch outside.  This Roadhouse was destroyed by fire a couple of years ago then hit by Cyclone Lawrence last December so all the facilities had recently been replaced.  The place was a bit like Old MacDonald’s Farm with peacocks, geese & chicken roaming around & the biggest bull (affectionately known as T Bone, hopefully he doesn’t know his name) we’d ever seen in a field with a grumpy camel.  If you stroked the bull the camel got jealous & bit T Bone on the bum.  In another fenced area were 2 enormous emus, in fact they looked huge—whatever do they feed these animals?  We spoilt ourselves & ate at the Roadhouse watching a fantastic sunset in this “big sky” country. It’s sometimes hard to tell in the big country if you’re making any progress down the road but I guess we must be as Greg had to change the map on his handle bar bag from The Kimberly to The Pilbara. No one seems to know where one region starts and another finishes but the fact that we’ve changed maps is proof enough for us of some sort of distance covered.

June 15 - 16 - Sandfire Roadhouse to Eighty Mile Beach Caravan Park, 54.26 klms, Avg speed 19.9 kph, Cycling time 2.43 hrs; Total kms 15,208.19

A short ride to our next stop & a fantastic tail wind, at one stage I reached 32 kph, if only all rides were like this.  After some not so gentle encouragement from me, we’ve started riding more as a team instead of Greg’s preferred individual event mode. We takes turns to ride one in front of the other and change every 10 kilometre. This suits me much better as it’s pretty lonely cycling by myself & I ride faster as a team but I can sometimes see Greg chaffing to ride ahead and wait for me to catch up...... Stay tuned for further developments, as they occur.... Again we knew we could pick up water from Eighty Mile Beach hence our detour 10 klms down a dirt road, this time it was very heavily corrugated for the first part but luckily improved for the last 5 klms.  Like Sandfire Roadhouse, this Park was partially destroyed by Cyclone Lawrence last December loosing its staff quarters & the tops of most of its trees resulting in very little shade which everybody wants as its still so hot & sunny & yes it’s winter here!  However this lack of shade hasn’t stopped the brigade of fishing enthusiasts that come here, like Port Smith, to stay for 3-4 months during the winter months, when you see the beautiful azure water & long, long beach you can see why.  It’s the longest, uninterrupted beach in WA, it’s glistening shores stretch 220 klms from Cape Missiessy to Cape Keraudren.  It’s a huge park filled to the brim with an assortment of travel vans that have settled in for the season & entertainment such as karaoke & lots & lots of fishing talk & fishing.  The beach is lined with these fanatics however one seasoned traveller said the beach was pretty empty, normally they’re lined up cheek by jowl, it’s hard to imagine.  Eighty Mile Beach was a rich pearling ground in the late 19th & 20th centuries.  Many lives were lost in the industry with cyclones being the major cause.  The worst was in April 1887 when 24 vessels were destroyed & 130 bodies of sailors & divers, of various nationalities, washed ashore.  Today it doesn’t just lure sun lovers & fishing enthusiasts seeking a pretty beach & molten sunsets, it also attracts millions of feathered migratory birds each year from the Northern Hemisphere, between June - October Humpback whales migrate from Antartica, dolphins are regular visitors & flatback turtles comes ashore from Oct — April to lay their eggs.  We saw very few birds, no whales, dolphins or turtles, oh well we’ll just have to return one day.

June 17 - 18 — Eighty Mile Beach Caravan Park to Pardoo Roadhouse, 102.11 klms, Avg speed 16.7 kph, Cycling time 6.06 hrs; Total kms 15,310.30

We were going to stay 3 nights at Eighty Mile & 1 night at Pardoo Roadhouse, however, we changed our minds to only stay 2 nights & then 2 at Pardoo to rest after another long day’s ride.  On today’s ride we were both happily listening to our iPods—Greg his music & me more interviews—the road was slightly more undulating with taller trees as we approached Pardoo Roadhouse, the latter displaying a big sign saying “Cold Beer”, needless to say Greg was very, very happy to be soon having his first beer in 9 days!  At the Roadhouse we met Michael Young cycling around Australia raising funds for the Qld Cancer Council.  He left Brisbane in March and hope to complete his journey later this year, when he finishes he’ll be the youngest person to have cycled around the country.  Pardoo is 150 klms north of Port Headland & an ideal rest stop for us with grassy sites, large shady trees, a swimming pool, restaurant & bar.  Again we have no phone or internet access, it’s been 9 days now, so more reading will be done over the next 2 days along with a a few cold beers too.

June 19 — Pardoo Roadhouse to De Grey River Rest Area, 70.78 klms, Avg speed 18.1 kph, Cycling time 3.54 hrs; Total kms 15,381.08

The road continues at mostly easy grades but is by no means flat as we ride through magical riding weather—sunny with no humidity so not blazing hot.  We saw a mountain range & electricity poles for the first time in weeks & also a railway line, the first sign of mining activity as we get nearer to Port Headland.  We’re camping in a cool & shady spot right on the banks of the De Grey River which is lovely in this otherwise waterless land.  It’s a free camp spot surrounded by beautiful paper bark trees & river gums & being free is very popular.  We lit a fire & ate well—vegetable risotto with ham, peas & parmesan cheese washed down with many cups of tea. 

June 20 — De Grey River Rest Area to Port Hedland, 84.30 klms, Avg speed 18.5 kph, Cycling time 4.33 hrs; Total kms 15,465.38

After cycling 678 klms from Broome we finally arrived in Port Headland after riding past rocky outcrops, mountains & desert plains.  About 12 klms from Port Hedland  we were suddenly in a whirlwind of traffic—road trains & utes all bearing safety flags—a bit of a shock after our peaceful ride over the past week.  We congratulated ourselves after riding through one of the harshest landscapes we’d encounter.  Our cycle book  described this ride as follows “ It’s a hard ride, some cyclists choose to catch a coach instead.  It’s extremely dry without even a hint of a creek line for over 450 klms. Shade is very hard to find and most of the time you need to set up your own.  It is a long way between food & water and the open country means you are at the complete mercy of the winds.  The landscape does not change rapidly, it is just a matter of covering the kilometres.  It is a test of the body & the mind, despite these difficulties it can be done if you plan well, are self sufficient & sensible you should be fine.  Be prepared mechanically to handle breakdowns & carry all spares, it is not a good place to have to stop for very long, carry extra water & food and an adequate first aid kit”.  As you can imagine we weren’t particularly looking forward to this trip, but, in the end we didn’t find it too hard & actually enjoyed the ride mainly due to breaking up the journey with side trips to Port Smith & Eighty Mile (food parcel, access to water, fresh fruit & veges), mostly favourable winds & listening to our iPods along the journey too—good research & planning always pays off in the end.

Port Hedland (pop 15,000) - a major change took place in the 1960’s with the development of the iron ore deposits.  Major expansion took place in 1965 with the population exploding from a mere 1,200 people & the port handled 100,000 tonnes of cargo in that year.  Today the port is one of the world’s largest in tonnage terms with over 158 million tonnes of produce worth billions shipped each year.  We picked up lunch at the local supermarket & headed to a very pleasant park overlooking the water.  We’re only in Port Headland for 2 days so tomorrow will be very busy catching up on emails & other admin. stuff over the past 2 weeks.

June 22 — Port Hedland to Indee Station, 73.53 klms, Avg speed 14.9 kph, Cycling time 4.56 hrs; Total kms 15,538.91

Lucky for us we had a great tailwind along the North West Coast Highway for the first 41 klms which pushed us quickly away from all the road trains & other noisy traffic, the traffic seemed to quieten after the t/o to South Hedland, it was pretty stressful riding through it all.  About 10 mins into our journey Greg suddenly stopped, he’d noticed some $1 & $2 coins, then some more then I started collecting too and we picked about $26.....not a bad start to the day.  Once we left the Highway we had strong side winds of 39kph, a slow journey for me doing 10 kpm made worse by a terrible grating noise when I turned the pedals.....Crazy Ruby was not happy & Greg diagnosed a crank shaft problem, the same problem he had last year in Cairns.  Indee Station was 9 klms off the road so I limped in there after battling now a strong headwind!  Over lunch Greg decided we had to return to Port Hedland the next day to fix the problem, how we were going to do that was another matter. 

Indee Station opened its doors to tourist about 12 years ago, it sits on  400,000 acres, runs 2,400 head of cattle plus has a variety of other animals wondering around—geese, 2 roosters (no hens), a donkey, orphaned calf & a most beautiful dog, called Issy, I was in my element.  We confirmed with Betty, the owner, we’d be eating there that night & set up camp in the dusty yard.   Darren & Simone were camping next & Darren had secured a job at Wedgefield, an outer suburb of Port Hedland and he kindly offered us a lift the next morning.  With this problem solved we went to the Homestead for drinks followed by a delicious meal cooked by Betty—Pumpkin & Potato Soup with Croutons, Steak Parmigiana & assorted veges followed by Banana Meringue Pie or Strawberry Pie that you could smother in cream &/or ice cream.  When you’re cycling you can eat loads of food & still loose weight!  There were about 20 sitting around the table—Betty & Colin (owners), various Station workers, tourists like us & Mine Workers, it was a great place to stay.  Back at our tent, Issy had made herself comfortable on Greg’s bed then during the night she slept in my annexure.  Whilst we were at the Station we  found out that on 31 December 1968, a Vickers Viscount operated by MacRobertson Miller Airlines crashed at Indee Station. The plane had flown from Perth to Port Hedland without incident until about 10 minutes before landing when it suffered a catastrophic right hand spar failure with the wing separating from the fuselage. All 26 on board, including the pilot, a first officer and 3 hostesses were killed.

June 23—30 — Port Hedland

With incredible generosity from Darren & Jann (???) we returned to the Cooke Point Caravan Park & booked in for 8 nights, at least this time we had a shady spot.  The spare parts arrived from Melbourne in 2 days but unfortunately didn’t include the ball bearings so had to wait another 3 days for them to arrive.  We used this time to play cat & mouse with the local bus service, it didn’t turn up 2 days running, finally on Day 3 we had mastered the art so daily went into town (about 5 klms away), took a tour around the BHP Billiton Plant, enjoyed a decent coffee & read of the newspaper at Kath’s Place, dined at the Yacht Club on Thai food which was cheap & tasty, took long walks along the recently paved foreshore (thanks BHP), cancelled our bookings at Karijini & Tom Price & organised a couple of food parcels to be returned. Greg also ordered a new stove (he broke the other one), some new stools (current ones worn out), some new tyres & we planned the next leg of our journey now via Whim Creek/Roebourne/Point Samson/Karratha/Dampier & back to Karratha flying out on 21 July.  This delay hasn’t mucked our plans about, in fact it’s probably turned out for the best as we’ll cycle to Tom Price & Karijini when we return in September so the nights will be warmer too.