January 2011

January 11 — Victoria Park (Perth) to Swan Valley, 18.39 klms, Avg speed 12.50 kph, Cycling time 1.27 hrs; Total kms 18,159.00

We said goodbye to Jessica, our house sitting moggy and really enjoyed looking after her over the past few weeks.  With the car loaded with our panniers we drove over to the other side of the city to pick up our bikes from Quantum Cycles. There had been some discussion about whether Greg’s bike would need to be returned to Perth for some more work on the gears but after a consultation between Aldo from Quantum Cycles and Maria at Rohloff Australia, it was determined that Horsey was fit and ready to go. Both Aldo and Sats at Quantum Cycles have done a great job on not only Greg’s gears, but both our rear wheels and a few other bits and pieces, thanks to both of you. Maria from Rohloff has also been fantastic and very generous as Greg’s gear block replacement including Aldo’s labour was covered by Rohloff. Not too shabby for a hub that has been out of warranty for nearly 2 years. After we left Aldo and Sats Greg dropped the car back into the city after going back to Victoria Park to pick up 2 water bottles left in the fridge (ooopps) & I waited across the road having a cuppa at Maccas with Horsey & Crazy Ruby waiting patiently outside.  By the time we got away it was 11am and hot, luckily we had a cool head & side wind for our short ride to the Swan Valley staying in a lovely Caravan Park nestled amongst the grape vines.  The Swan Valley is Western Australia’s oldest wine region & just 25 mins from Perth city so a popular weekend destination.  We’re not that fond of the wine grown in this region so didn’t do any wine tasting (yes, hard to believe!) but did discover a great cafe  Jude Taylor Studio & Cafe, well worth cycling 5 klms to.  We’re in the Swan Valley for the next 3 nights before riding to our next house sit at the end of the week. It’s always strangely comforting to get back into our tent at night, maybe we’ve been homeless for too long.

January 14 — Swan Valley to Gingin, 68.97 klms, Avg speed 19.3 kph, Cycling time 3.33 hrs; Total kms 18,227.97

Old habits die hard, we’re still waking at 5am when it gets light so we’re up & on the road by 6.30am.  Today we had ideal riding conditions—cool, cloud cover, a coffee stop every 30 klms, a slight tailwind and a reasonable shoulder to ride on, perfect, we felt good being back on the bikes.  We had a picnic in the grassy park at Gingin before arriving to look after Mandy, a loveable red heeler & Max, an enormous moggy, for the next 10 days.  Gingin (pop 473) is quaint, one of the oldest towns in Western Australia  it lies on the Gingin Brook 84 klms north of Perth surrounded by a thriving rural district.  There’s not a lot to do here, the highlight of the day being when the freight train toots through the valley, however, with 2 beautiful creatures to look after, a very comfortable house to live in with views of golden fields we’re having a very relaxing time.  Well I am, Greg has been having a few hassles with the laptop which has been shaken (not stirred) and dusted throughout most of northern Australia.  He’s decided that the relatively quite time in Gingin is the perfect opportunity to get it sorted. There’s only a little bit of swearing and a fair bit of silence, which I’m taking to be a good sign, but I think he’s got it fixed and hopefully our trusty little laptop will last us a little longer. Frustratingly he can’t fix the “4“ or “6” keys which gave up the ghost some time ago, but as you can see we have a work around, of sorts.  When he’s not hunched over the laptop or slouched on a couch, we cook, coffee, read and generally enjoy ourselves in our comfortable surroundings.  Like all good things, this too will end, we’ll head off east and into the heat while we have a closer look at the Avon Valley, WA’s wheatbelt.

January 23 — Gingin to Bindoon, 27.81 klms, Avg speed 12.9 kph, Cycling time 2.08 hrs; Total kms 18,255

We had a cuppa with our house sit owners, said goodbye to Mandy & Max & hopped on the bikes just before 10.30am into the sweltering sun.  Luckily we only had a short ride as we huffed, puffed & sweated up & down the hills along the Mooliabeenie Road to Bindoon, served us right for being off the bikes for the past 7 weeks, our fitness levels had definitely plummeted.  The scenery though was so pretty albeit dry & arriving into Bindoon we cycled straight to the famous Bindoon Bakehaus for a pretty good coffee.  There’s no caravan park at Bindoon (pop 740) but you can camp behind the Post Office near the oval where toilets, showers & electricity are provided for a small charge.  We were the only souls using these facilities and after devouring a delicious left-over spag bol for dinner crawled into bed recovering from our hill climbs.  There’s a sound one dreads during the night and that’s the sound of sprinklers, we were mentally scarred a couple of years ago after a midnight drenching when we camped on top of one of the rotten things.  That sound came to haunt us again in Bindoon, the sprinkers belting the tent both inside and outside, the one just outside Greg’s entrance doing the greatest damage.  Suddenly there was this naked man running around looking for something to put over this offending sprinkler, a brick & wheelie bin did the job and after what seemed like a long time the showering stopped.  Needless to say the rest of the night was pretty restless & damp.  I chuckled to myself that Bindoon had had a streaker in town.

January 24 — Bindoon to Toodyay, 55.83 klms, Avg speed 14.4 kph, Cycling time 3.51 hrs; Total kms 18,311

We decided to ride though the Chittering Valley along the Julimar Road to get to Toodyay.  Again it was rolling, steep hills, crawling up hills as slow as 5 kph & racing down at 41 kph, that part’s always great fun.  Again beautiful countryside riding past cropping, grazing & marron farms.  Today was one of the coldest rides we’d done for a long time & it was still only 22C by the time we arrived at Toodyay at 10.30am.  Toodyay (pop Town 800, Shire 3,700) was founded in 1836 and originally the town was constructed 5 klms west of the current site, which proved to be flood prone.  It grew in its present setting from 1860 & was known as Newcastle until 1910 when it was renamed Toodyay (derived from the Aboriginal word “duidgee”, meaning place of plenty) to avoid confusion with the town of Newcastle in NSW.  Today the area is an important agricultural district & we’re staying in this very pretty, historical town until after Australia Day.  We had a pretty awful cup of coffee in town and rode the 1.5klms to the caravan park to set up. The caravan park is beside the river but as usual in this part of the world at this time of the year, it was dry. The park had no camp kitchen but we used the BBQ and our stove and certainly we’re still al ong way from being mal-nourished.

Australia Day started with a BBQ breakfast with all the Toodyay town folk in the local park. We lined up with everybody else for the free sausages, bacon, eggs, fruit juice, fruit and coffee.  A two piece band provide the entertainment before the formalities of Citizenship ceremonies etc.  I then dragged Greg on a walking tour around town and up to the lookout before heading back to another cafe, the Wendourie Tea Rooms, for a reasonable cuppa and a read of the papers.  Lunch, at the recommendation of the local Delicatessen boys, was at the Toodyay Tavern, which was very pleasant and predicably long.  Prying my better half from a conversation in a pub in the late afternoon/early evening is not an easy task, mmmmmm..  

January 27 — Toodyay to Goomalling, 51.60 klms, Avg speed 13.3 kph, Cycling time 3.52 hrs; Total kms 18,363

“You must be mad” shouted a farmer as we rode past his farm on the way to Goomalling.  “It helps” I shout back as we pushed through blustering head & side winds, up & down dales along a very quiet road, gazing at the wheat & sheep country, we love riding through the wheat belt countryside.  With a high forecast today of 39C we arrived at the Go Cafe in Goomalling mid morning and had excellent coffee and a carrot muffin which was yummy.  Goomalling (pop 1000) is nestled away in the Avon Valley & is predominantly a grain & sheep town with the “Dolly Twins” standing out like a beacon as you approach the town—the only grain storage structure of their kind in the Southern Hemisphere.  The Goomalling Caravan Park is great, located next to the local swimming pool where we spent the afternoon as the temp rose to 39.5C & with the mercury rising even higher over the next few days we’ll stay put in this rural charming town. After our afternoon swim, we ventured to the Bowling Club for a cool beer before heading back to the caravan park.  Greg cooked a pretty good (vegetarian, he calls it, but it’s got bacon!) risotto.  It was still 28C when we went to bed at 10.00pm and just as we zipped up the fly screen we had a quick shower of rain, just to make sure it was steamy enough.  Tomorrow and the next day the forecast is 43 degrees! 

January 28th-30th — Goomalling

For two days now the temperature has risen to over 43C so we’ve decided to stay here until the weather cools a bit. The caravan park is right next to the town pool so we coffee and cake in the morning and swim and read in the afternoon.  It’s certainly no hardship.  Friday night we went to the local Bowling Club for a few beers and a pretty good and very cheap fish & chips. On the Saturday afternoon we had just finished lunch and were at the pool when the sky went dark red.  We’ve seen this before and knew what to expect.  Greg was in the pool when the dust storm hit and the pool was soon covered in leaves branches and red dust.  A howling wind blew several trees down in the caravan park but this time we were lucky and they missed us and our tent.  The rain followed for a brief moment while we struggled with flapping tent and tarp.  It was worth it in the end though as the temperature dropped by more than 20C to a more civilised 23C.  There’s not much open on a Sunday in these country towns so to have Go Cafe open & serve up a great coffee confirmed our plans to leave on Monday.  Sadly after the storm hit the town was without electricity for 24 hours so everything was shut—we were coffee & swim deprived all day, luckily the Caravan Park had a fantastic camp kitchen with shade under which we sweltered all day reading our books & listening to the generator keeping the fridges alive. We did discover the pub was open so armed with cool beer we returned, enjoyed the casserole I’d cooked the night before & said to each other how easily you take such services as electricity for granted.

January 31st — Goomalling to Wongan Hills, 51.43 klms, Avg speed 16.0 kph, Cycling time 3.09 hrs; Total kms 18,413

It drizzled with rain and was relatively cool on our ride to Wongan Hills, it was less hilly too.  We couldn’t remember the last time we’d ridden in light rain, could only remember leaving Derby last May in pelting rain so a long time ago.  Wongan Hills (pop 1553) had also been hit by the storm but power had been restored.  After a really dreadful cup of coffee at the only cafe in town, we checked in at the local caravan park.  No shade, a little grass, but a very good camp kitchen with a shaded and air conditioned sitting area, so we spent the afternoon on admin and clothes washing.  Nothing particularly striking about Wongan Hills except for the Hotel, a charming Art Deco Style building that was initially built by the State Government. Yes, that’s right, the WA State Government was apparently responsible for the construction of a number of hotels/pubs within the State in an attempt to open up the area early last century.  I guess it’s just another example of the complicated relationship between our society and the consumption of alcohol.  Anyway, not to deprive the WA Govt of revenue that goes with the sale of both beer and wine we went to the pub for dinner which, of course, meant the consumption of the said social drug.  Not a bad feed either!