October 2010

October 1 - House Creek Rest Area to Nanutarra Roadhouse, 63.51 klms, Avg speed 17.8 kph, Cycling time 3.33 hrs; Total kms 16,342.80

Despite yesterday’s long ride we didn’t feel too bad & were on the road by 7.30am.  It was a much better ride today, not so hot, some clouds, some downhills, winds not as strong & 50% less distance to ride today, that’s always an incentive.  We arrived at Nanutarra Roadhouse mid morning, another dusty place, however, it served icy cold drinks including beer at $7.50 a piece, food & had a huge, sheltered area out the front with table & chairs with backs—a luxury for us.  The caravan park attached to the Roadhouse had not a blade of grass but lucky for us the tent site did.  We booked in for 2 nights, rested, attempted to wash all the Pilbara red dust out of our clothes & enjoyed watching the ebb and flow of cars, trucks and people passing through on their way to somewhere. Both codes of footy had their Grand Finals on over the weekend and whilst we could have watched them on the satellite TV inside the roadhouse, we were content to just sit in the shade and read our books without seeing one boot kick one ball the entire weekend.

October 3 - Nanutarra Roadhouse to Barradale Rest Area, 71.97 klms, Avg speed 16.3 kph, Cycling time 4.24 hrs; Total kms 16,414.77

We’re at the mercy of the winds at the moment, they’re either your enemy or your friend.  So to get a couple of hours pleasant riding in we got up at 3.45am & hit the road at 5am.  It’s a fabulous time to ride, not hot & little wind & watching the sun rise is magic.   We rode past lots of dead, smelly cows having been hit by the road trains & also saw very thin cows & calfs, there’s no food around & no water for them.  The winds today were mostly favourable & we arrived at our destination by 10.00am.  We noticed how the scenery had changed, it’s less sparse with more shrubs & trees.  We’re at another dusty Rest Area, luckily there was a covered gazebo where we sat for most of the day to avoid the blazing sun.  The night was warm so we inflated our bed mats & slept on 2 concrete BBQ tables like the vagrants we are.

October 4 - Barradale Rest Area to Giralia Station, 86.01 klms, Avg speed 18.2 kph, Cycling time 4.42 hrs; Total kms 16,500.78

Greg slept better than I did, unfortunately I had to wake him at 3.45am as we had another early start for a relatively long ride—what are those rotten winds going to do today?  We had SE mild side winds for half of the way then fantastic ESE tailwinds as we changed direction & rode up the Burkett Road—hooray.  We’ve now left the Pilbara area & moved into the Gascoyne area where the outback meets the coast.  It was a lovely ride on the Burkett Road, a quiet road with more wildflowers & different bushes like a Grevillea, we also saw some large birds we have yet to identify.  We rode into Giralia Station at 10.30am.  Giralia Station is on a 228,000 hectare property situated 310 kilometres north of Carnarvon, 125 kilometres south of Exmouth and 110 kilometres from Coral Bay.  It is an area of outstanding biodiversity with many different species of flora and fauna, of which some are unique to the station, is a must for birdwatchers (we didn’t see many birds) & apparently is world renowned for the unique fossils found on the property.  From 1921 until 2003 the property was run as a sheep station. In 2002 the property was acquired by Conservation and Land Management to be run as a National Park.  There are various types of accommodation available at the Station from bush camping (ours) to budget accommodation, filled with workers who either work for the mines or for suppliers who supply the mines or in this case road workers who are building and maintain  roads used by the heavy mine vehicles. We sat for most of the afternoon in the shade of the budget accommodation & read our books then walked up to the Homestead for a delicious casserole meal washed down with a few cool drinks.  Before going up for our meal we had drinks & lots of laughs with Linda & Paul, a travelling couple who had camped next to us. They’re on their first caravan trip and it was great to hear their tales. We have met some great people on our trip.
October 5 - Giralia Station to Bullara Station, 38.07 klms, Avg speed 14.7 kph, Cycling time 2.34 hrs; Total kms 16,538.85

Only a short ride today with mainly favourable winds.  We arrived at Bullara Station mid morning with the winds increasing in speed, this Station is different to Giralia in that it is a working sheep & cattle station offering outback hospitality.  We are now back in sheep country and haven’t been in sheep country since western Queensland in March 2009. The winds started to howl for most of the day blowing dust everywhere, lucky for us we could take refuse in the camp kitchen.  By late afternoon the dust & winds had weakened so we set up camp, lit the wood BBQ & collected a meal Edwina (owner) had prepared for us—porterhouse steak, sausages, salad & potatoes, it was so fresh & delicious.  The owners of Ballara, Edwina & Tim, have created a wonderful place to stay & we shall be returning on our way back from Exmouth in about a week’s time.

October 6 - Bullara Station to Exmouth, 94.72 klms, Avg speed 19.0 kph, Cycling time 4.59 hrs; Total kms 16,633.57

We rode well today considering it was a long ride however the moderate SE tail breeze certainly helped.  We’ve now moved into sheep country & saw plenty of goats too.  Unfortunately the road into Exmouth was undulating & narrow with little shoulder so it wasn’t pleasant having to battle the traffic on the road, lucky for us most traffic was heading out of Exmouth as the school holiday are coming to an end.  The temp today was 37C with low humidity of 25%.  However,  it was exciting to see the beautiful turquoise waters of Exmouth such a contract from riding through the Pilbara. Luckily for us the caravan park we’re stying in has some shade, some grass and more importantly to Greg anyway, the Pub is located directly across the road. Guess where we had dinner?

October 7 to 12 — Exmouth (Pop 2,400)

We’re staying here for a week to explore the rugged beauty & gorges of Cape Range National Park & one of Australia’s best & most accessible marine attractions—the Ningaloo Reef Marine Park, WA’s largest coral reef system.  You can virtually walk straight off the shore to snorkel over coral reefs at many beautiful locations with white sandy & turquoise waters.  In 1967, Exmouth situated on the North West Cape, was established as a support town for the Harold E. Holt Naval Communication Station, a joint Australian & USA Government venture.  Despite being hit by Tropical Cyclone Vance in 1999, Exmouth was soon back in business & better than ever.  Being situated on a peninsular the attractions are spread out, on the Eastern side is the town and on the western side Ningaloo Reef & Cape Range NP, it’s a rideable loop of 172 klms.  As often the case in the Outback, the beauty comes at a price—the challenge is that in this arid coastal desert country there is very little shade given the heath vegetation & no water is available in Cape Range NP, however, the main thing that can dampen your spirits is the wind.  So to beat all these nasty things we’re going to hire a car for a couple of days to explore this beautiful spot. Fortunately for Greg his new drivers Licence has arrived safely at Exmouth Post Office so he’ll be able to drive. One of the less pleasurable tasks while we’re on the road is trying to deal with various organisations both government and private. Greg has done a good job at arranging direct debits to pay things like council rates, body corporate levies etc. The tax office communicates and lets you pay them and they pay you, if ever, electronically, but some government departments like the Australian Electoral Office or the NSW Roads and Traffic Authority insist you either own a carrier pigeon or a fax, neither of which we do. So to renew his drivers licence Greg had to download a form, print it out at a printers in Karratha, get a passport sized photo, for which he not only paid a small fortune but looks like he’s had paedophilia lessons and then post this all back to some country town in western NSW for processing. Funnily enough, the RTA can take your money electronically.....Still he’s got a 5 year licence so that should do him for a while. 

Friday nights in Exmouth is Yacht Club night, so we rode down the road and locked up the bikes  before making ourselves quite at home on the lawn with some cold beers and BBQ’d hamburgers while we listened to the local band belt out a few covers. What a great way to spend a couple of hours.

Exmouth is also home to a pretty good organic shop. Organic is nice, but what’s really exciting is that they make lovely juices and even better COFFEEEEEEE!!!!! We now have a permanent morning booking (table 6 outside).

October 13 - Exmouth to Bullara Station, 93.90 klms, Avg speed 13.8 kph, Cycling time 6.46 hrs; Total kms 16,727.47

Set alarm for 3.45am to be on the road at 5.00am as we knew we’d be battling headwinds today.  In an effort not to disturb the other campers, Greg carried his tent to a grassy,  vacant area so he could pack it quietly & was suddenly accused & abused by the Caravan Park’s “Groundsman” of illegally camping there.  During our stay we were also yelled at by the Nazi  wanting to clean the Camper’s Kitchen at 12.30pm (uuuhhh isn’t that when most people would want to use it) & in another instance Greg was told he’d have to move his tent as the office had allocated our site to another camper in error, needless to say we didn’t move .... we were glad to be leaving. The caravan park is owned by Aspen and has all the hallmarks of a corporate park where the process is more important than the outcome. We think they’ve forgotten they’re in the tourism business and people travel for fun, not to be boxed like some sort of commodity. We’ve completed and posted their “Customer Feedback” form but don’t expect to hear from them regarding our feedback. We were returning to Bullara Station where we had stayed a week ago on our way to Exmouth.  Today battling headwinds it was head down & keep peddling, this same trip took nearly 2 hours longer, we did see 2 eagles which brightened our day.  We were looking forward to our stay again especially as I’d booked a room in the Shearer’s Quarters for Greg’s birthday present, on top of that I’d organised a BBQ pack & 6 bottles of cold beer to celebrate. Glen and Gay were house sitting the Station and were there to greet us as the owners were in Perth. We settled ourselves into our simple but clean room, showered and made for the Bull Bar common kitchen to read and enjoy the scenery before cooking dinner on the veranda, it was all superb & a perfect ending to our day.

October 14 - Bullara Station to Coral Bay, 72.04 klms, Avg speed 15.4 kph, Cycling time 4.39 hrs; Total kms 16,705.61

Our stay at Bullara included breakfast which we ate on the veranda watching the sun rise & listening to the birds, one of our favourites is the Butcher Bird.  We left at 7am (it’s hard not to feel guilty leaving that late!) our drink bottles icy cold after being in the freezer all night.  Winds today were a mixture of side & blustery head winds, we saw a couple of emus & inhaled  the perfume of some wildflowers, due to the lack of rain we haven’t seen many wildflowers, hopefully we’ll see more as we head south.  Coral Bay is usually packed during school holiday so we’d purposely delayed our visit until the hols had finished.  Turning off the quiet Exmouth-Minilya Road to cycle the 13 klms down to Coral Bay we were surprised how much traffic was heading the same way, shouldn’t it be going the other way taking their kiddies with them??  On top of the traffic the headwind suddenly increased in speed...”Greg...you said we’d have a tailwind into Coral Bay...Greg...how much further”....no wonder he rides ahead!!! We’d booked a camp site at the Peoples Caravan Park and quickly set up tent before heading off for a wander around to check out the place. We’d been told by Glen and Gay, the house sitters at Bullara Station, that the burgers were good at the local pub which was conveniently located next door to the caravan park. We took their suggestion and dined with Brad and Annie who we’d been speaking to earlier in the day. Good company, burgers and cold beer, just the ticket.

October 15 to 17 - Coral Bay

Coral Bay is situated just north of the Tropic of Capricorn and is one of the most beautiful holiday areas in WA being the southern gateway to Ningaloo Marine Park.  The reef forms a natural lagoon which runs for 80 klms, 3-7 offshore, starting about 300 metres off the beach.  No wonder this place is so popular, you can virtually walk straight off the shore & snorkel over coral reefs while being surrounded by white sandy beaches & those beautiful, crystal clear, turquoise waters.  We stayed for 4 night’s at the People’s Park Caravan Park (lovely park) but unfortunately were surrounded by families with screaming kids or kids with screaming parents or kids that woke at 5am!!  Modern parenting apparently involves a lot of counting. When the darling little child is doing something that they shouldn’t, either Mum or Dad starts counting. One two three four five and so on. We’re not sure what this intends to achieve, it certainly has no obvious effect on the child behaviour and Greg is sure he’s heard parents still counting at 996,378,  996,379,  996,380.... Australia watch out! These kids are growing in number and size, aarrgghhhh!!!!! Lucky for us we could escape, I’d managed to buy a cheap Sun Shell at a garage sale so most days we’d escape to the beach with our books.  There were 2 supermarkets at Coral Bay charging ridiculous high prices, luckily, the local hotel dished up reasonably priced hamburgers offering great ocean views too. We spent our days sitting in our Sun Shell, reading, swimming, eating and sleeping. As Greg keeps reminding me, we could both be sitting in an office staring at a computer screen, he with a tie around his throat. Yeah, that sounds fun...

We have replaced some equipment since we arrived back in Karratha in September including our tent, which seems to be holding up well in what have been pretty tough conditions, our stools, stove, bike stands, pannier buckles, map case, Greg’s sandals, some clothing , tyres and a drink bottle. So far, so good....

October 18 - Coral Bay to Minilya Roadhouse, 98.50 klms, Avg speed 15.1 kph, Cycling time 6.31 hrs; Total kms 16,804.11

A long ride ahead today, we know we’re going to battle more headwinds so we got up at 3am.  This time we didn’t care if we made a noise, it was payback time from the noise we suffered over the past few days especially the loud snorer next door!  By 4am we were winding our way, in the dark, back up to the highway & seemed to reach it quickly.  It’s a fantastic time to get on the road, hardly any traffic, a chill in the air, winds not too strong & watching the sun rise never disappoints.  By 7am we were riding through mist, it looked magical, & we saw lots of feral goats too.  The headwinds were stronger than predicted but by midday we’d arrived at the Minilya Roadhouse.  We’d crossed the Tropic of Capricorn today, but there was no sign of cooler temperatures as we crossed the line heading south. It’s still well into the mid 30’s. There was a free camp over the road, however for $26.00 we had access to hot showers, a grassy site, drinking water, chairs to sit on, a washing line & a fridge so happily paid.  Greg did mention during the morning that if the winds changed in the afternoon in our favour we could cycle another 60 klms to our next stop....he must have suffered heat stroke during the day to suggest such a thing.  Even if the winds changed I wasn’t psyched up enough for more cycling, he didn’t mention it again and the winds didn’t change! We’re still talking.

October 19 - Minilya Roadhouse to Yardoo Creek Bush Camp, 101.00 klms, Avg speed 14.4 kph, Cycling time 7.00 hrs; Total kms 16,905.11

Up at 5am & with no other campers at Minilya it was so relaxing having breakfast & packing up.  Our little stove heats water rapidly but does sound like a jet taking off in full flight.  We were hoping to camp at Boologoro Station, 60 klms away, where we knew water was available to cyclists but their phone always went unanswered so we carried 17 litres of water each just in case we had to bush camp instead.  With Boologoro sighted we hoped our ride would soon be over, unfortunately the gates were locked and unfortunately we also knew we also had to ride another 35 klms through this open, hot arid country until the possibility of a suitable camp site.  It was a tough day, even the winds were driving Greg mad, they were all over the place—SE then SW then S—almost stopping when we were having lunch then increasing more after lunch.  There were some highlights thou—a bloke from Geraldton stopped, introduced himself as Paul and gave us a juicy apple & mandarin & an offer of a bed when we arrived in Geraldton (he was a fellow cyclist so knew what we were battling through) thanks Paul, we’ll give you a call when we get a bit closer. We saw eagles, kites, goats, galahs, cattle but also so much roadkill, mainly kangaroos and the smell in the heat was stomach churning.  By late afternoon  we were having a rest when Mick & Glenn stopped on their motor cycles for a chitty chat.  They were riding around Australia for the Stephen Walter Foundation Charity Ride raising money for research into children’s cancer.  It was a great break talking to them & we felt more inspired hopping back on our bikes to cycle the final 7klms.  For this short distance Greg battled the headwinds as I slipstreamed behind him—thanks Greg, he rarely complains about anything and really is a trouper.  Finally at 4.45pm we arrived at our bush camp at Yardoo Creek, drank numerous cups of tea, set up camp, had a wonderful bush shower & eagerly ate our meal of Spaghetti with Pasta Sauce.   You’d think after riding 101 klms we’d have slept well but we didn’t, could have been the noisy road trains rambling by.  In one way Boologoro Station being closed did us a favour, we only had a very short ride tomorrow into Carnarvon.

October 20 - Yardoo Creek Bush Camp to Carnarvon, 40.64 klms, Avg speed 15.6 kph, Cycling time 2.35 hrs; Total kms 16,945.75

We arrived in Carnarvon at 10am and the sight of banana & other tropical fruit plantations is almost like a mirage in the desert, a fitting end to a long hard ride from Karratha.  We’re staying here for a week at The Coral Coast Caravan Park but not as campers....for an extra $12.00 per day we’re staying in a shipping container (aka a budget cabin) with double bed, fridge, air conditioning, kitchen & outdoor table & chairs (with backs!) outside—what decadence!!

October 21 to 26 - Carnarvon (Pop 9,046)

It’s a lovely town, we really enjoyed our week here especially living in our luxurious abode, our very own shipping container. Our neighbour Hans very kindly drove us to Quobba Point about 50klms north of Carnarvon. Quobba is really part of a large cattle station as well as a salt mine. It also has blowholes which is what we were there to see. It was blowing a gale on the day Hans drove us, so the sea was a furious mix of turquoise blue and white caps. Perfect conditions for blowholes. The fishing is supposed to be very good here as well, and we drove around a small clutter of makeshift fisherman's huts. Thanks Hans, we had a ball. We’ve found pretty good coffee, the pub does an OK feed and we’re within walking distance of the centre of town, so all in all we’re pretty happy with our lot at the moment, but gee we wish the wind would stop. We also ventured out to One Mile Jetty and the Heritage District. This was developed in the 1800’s as a means of linking Carnarvon by sea to get its wool and livestock to markets down south, that job is now done by road. The Coffee Pot train still makes the journey out to the end of the jetty and we took the opportunity to catch a ride. Carnarvon is almost as famous for its climate as its bananas, veges & seafood.  It supplies 70% of WA’s winter veges & its seafood produces over 56 million dollars per year.  Unfortunately we arrived here at the end of the tourist season so were unable to sample the gastronomic pleasures of the  Gascoyne Food Trail & Growers Markers, the trail being launched a year ago www.gascoynefood.com.au

As for the climate, apparently the winters are glorious and although Feb & Mar can be very hot, the town is one of the coolest in the North West, even we dragged our sleeping bags out for the 19 degree nights...we must have gone soft having spent too much time above the Tropic of Capricorn.  We’re certainly in no rush to head south too quickly with Perth recording min. temperature of 9 degrees...brrrrrrrrrrrrr.  It’s been a very windy week which is not surprising, it’s here that year round winds tend to be E or SE of S in the morning & SW in the afternoon, the wind intensity increasing after September, yippee here we are in October and heading SW tomorrow making our way to Shark Bay.  Bikes washed and checked over, chains oiled and we’re off. The alarm is set for 3am again, tomorrow we’d like to reach Wooramel Roadhouse 120 klms away but with relatively strong headwinds forecast we’re carrying 34 litres of water so we can bush camp along the way.

October 27 - Carnarvon to Wooramel Roadhouse, 122.00 klms, Avg speed 15.2 kph, Cycling time 8.05 hrs; Total kms 17,067.75

Yeah, we made it to Wooramel, these early morning starts are worth it, it’s just hard crawling out of bed so early while everybody else is sound asleep.  With the winds W or WNW and not hindering all that much we’d cycled 77 klms by 10.30am & 102 klms by 12.30pm when we stopped for a much needed lunch break.  Unusual to see lots of cloud cover today, a bonus as being exposed to the sun on such a long ride can make you really hot & irritable, the latter more so me than Greg!  Over lunch the wind increased in speed & direction to SW so we battled these strong side winds for the last 20 klms & we’re glad to arrive at the Roadhouse by 2.30pm.  The winds were now getting even stronger so we parked Horsey & Crazy Ruby in the shelter of the Camp Kitchen where we all contemplated life for a while over a cuppa..  Greg and I were thinking the same thing—”why put up the tent in this wild weather when we could sleep on the floor of the Camp Kitchen– easy”.  So with the decision made we organised our beds, enjoyed a refreshing shower & filled our hungry tummies with the yummy, frozen Spag Bol I’d carried from Carnarvon, now well & truly defrosted. While the wind rattled the shed we lay down for a comfy and well earned sleep on a lovely soft concrete slab, zzzzzzz.

October 28 - Wooramel Roadhouse to Overlander Roadhouse, 77.49 klms, Avg speed 13.2 kph, Cycling time 5.51 hrs; Total kms 17,145.24

Lots of bangs & crashes during the night as the wind continued to howl, luckily it had eased when we hit the road at 5am but we still had to battle a headwind for most of the day.  I had to ask Greg to slow down so I could get in his slipstream otherwise I’d never make it to the Overlander Roadhouse.  We’d read camping reports of this Roadhouse from fellow cyclists, Mark & Denise, our expectations were low so we sort of knew what to expect and it was pretty disgusting, rubbish everywhere, facilities dirty, management didn’t care and it showed.  We tried to stay positive thou—hot showers, flushing toilets, roadhouse burgers & grass to pitch our tent on next to the goats! It’s only one night and we’re leaving early in the morning.

October 29 - Overlander Roadhouse to Hamelin Pool, 34.67 klms, Avg speed 20.6 kph, Cycling time 1.40 hrs; Total kms 17,179.91

We couldn’t leave the Overland Roadhouse quick enough especially with the wind in our favour and only a short distance to ride today.  By 8.15am we’d cycled 34 klms & arrived at our destination, historic Hamelin Pool which has a population of 1.  The cafe wasn’t open but when it did we sat in the sun and had a cuppa.  Greg scoffed two pasties (yes two, what a pig) before we went for a walk to have a look around.  It’s here that a Telegraph Station was established in 1884 but Hamelin Pool is probably more known for its ancient Stromatolites, one of only a few places on earth where these exist, the oldest living organisms on the planet.  The water at Hamelin Bay is twice as saline as the sea water due to a sand bar across the bay’s entrance & rapid evaporation from the shallow water allow the Stromatolites to thrive in these conditions.  We really enjoyed our stay at Hamelin Pool, lovely Caravan Park & staff and will look forward to returning on our way back from Denham.

October 30 - Hamelin Pool to Denham, 106.98 klms, Avg speed 20.3 kph, Cycling time 5.16 hrs; Total kms 17,286.89

When we left the Overlander Roadhouse we could have continued south down the North West Coastal Highway but decided to ride a return loop to visit Shark Bay which became Western Australia’s first world heritage listed area in 1991.  To get to Shark Bay we changed direction, heading NW and finally the winds were in our favour.....yeehaa.....and what a great ride we had,  beautiful scenery with constant water glimpses, no large trucks so no smelly road kill, very little traffic really so a quiet ride tackling undulating hills for most of the 107 klms, they  were fun to ride up & down, it was one of the nicest rides we’d had in a long time.  As we’d left at 5am we arrived in Denham just before midday & headed for the Bakery & felt no guilt devouring our vegetable pasties, we’d earnt it.  We booked into the Denham Seaside Tourist Village Caravan Park for the next 4 nights. We set up tent on what is a pretty common ground base here of crushed shells and under the shade, which is less common, of some Casuarina trees. Lunch, catch up with emails, showers and then... You guessed it, down to the local for a few beers while we watch the sun fall into the sea and then inside for a feed. The early mornings and today's long distance was catching up with us and I think we were in bed before 9.00pm. Greg slept like a log, as usual. I on the other hand had difficulty sleeping. There was a 40th birthday party on in town and the music went until 4.00am, gggrrrrrrr.