June 2011

June 1—6 Augusta

We made ourselves at home in three different rooms at the Baywatch Manor as we had to fit in with some existing bookings, so some nights we had our own bathroom and tele and others not.  Still no hardship as the facilities are so good.  Augusta has a fantastic walking/cycling path along the western shore of the Blackwood River just at the mouth of the river so we walked and cycled along here daily to view the Pelicans, Cormorants, Gulls and Ducks going about their business.  Our mornings started as usual with a race to the Deck Chair Cafe and a scramble for the daily paper while we satiated our caffeine addiction.  We would then walk the path or the surrounding streets taking in the sights, there are still roses and hibiscus in flower and it’s the beginning of winter!  There are also jonquils and camellias just coming out so maybe the seasons are not so screwed up.  We dined at the local Thai restaurant (or so we thought) on Wednesday evening, having arrived with our wine only to discover that it’s take away only.  They took pity on us and let us sit down to eat and the food was very good but the ambience was almost non existent not to mention the lack of any heating whilst the front door swung in the arctic gale going on outside.  We had a repeat experience on Friday when we went to the local bakery which did Pizzas on Friday night.  Again we fronted with our wine to discover that the dinning area was in darkness and the pizzas were take away only.

After a few days we finally decided to ride the few kilometres out to the Cape Leeuwin lighthouse, the most south westerly point on our journey.  As Greg was quick to point out, we’ll have the morning sun in our eyes for the foreseeable future and from here moving closer to Sydney than we have for a very long time.  The lighthouse was closed for some maintenance, but with the promise that it will be open in a couple of days.  No loss, the ride out and back was magnificent, with fantastic views along both the west and south coast.  While we can’t actually say we saw any whales, we did see a couple of spouts as they came up to breath.

The Whale festival started early on Saturday morning with markets and concerts just across the road from where we’re staying.  Street parking was at a premium and it was great to see the festival so well supported.  Greg wooed me as only he can by taking me to the Pub after dinner on the Saturday.  There was a band on and at least half the town and almost all the residents of the Hostel were there in varying states of sobriety.  A good night was had by all and it showed the next morning when, somewhat belatedly, we arrived at the Deck Chair Cafe for our morning fix.  Stunned Mullets would be the best description of the staff behind the counter, but the coffee was still good and very welcome.  Monday saw us riding out to the lighthouse again and take a tour of this fantastically situated navigational aid.  It was, as is usually the case, blowing a gale and as you would expect when the nearest neighbour is Antarctica just bloody cold.  The tour was great and the tour guide a keen cyclist so we caught up with him after for a coffee and cake at the cafe that is situated in what was one of the three lighthouse keepers cottages.

A a perfect 8 days spent here, what a great place Augusta turned out to be.  Fantastic accommodation & hosts at the Baywatch Manor YHA, thank you John & Georgina, together with picture postcard walks & rides surrounding the town.  We shall suffer tomorrow as we ride 90 klms battling strong winds!

June 7 — Augusta to Nannup, 89.86 klms, Avg speed 14.0 kph, Cycling time 6.23 hrs; Total kms 21,179

With a 90 klm ride ahead we hit the road at 7.30am, me carrying tempting delights along the way to ease the pain, thermos plunger coffee, fruit & nut cake etc.  We’d conditioned ourselves for a hard day’s ride with a predicted E wind of 25kph (we heading NE) but the wind wasn’t that strong, perhaps the forecasters had got it wrong again!  In the end we encountered a scenic, sunny, undulating, quiet ride passing by emerald green fields & towering forests, the only downside being Crazy Ruby had a flat tyre.  This was caused again by the rubbing of the tyre liner on the tube, Greg fixed the hole, so he thought, but the tyre kept slowly deflating, a job to fix at Nannup.  Having turned the pedals for over 6 hours has its rewards, the excitement & anticipation of arriving in a new town & wondering whether you’re going to like it or not.  As we rode through the town to the Caravan Park we both instantly liked Nannup (pop 1,200), an unspoilt, picturesque & historic timber town with cute, timber cottages, located on the Blackwood River & surrounded by forest & walk trails.  We picked up the keys for the prebooked sole cabin at the Nannup Caravan Park & by 4pm had the heater blazing, kettle on for a cuppa, panniers unpacked & a huge blob of frozen spag bol being eagerly eyed by 2 hungry cyclists.

June 9 — Nannup to Manjimup, 61.13 klms, Avg speed 12.3 kph, Cycling time 4.56 hrs; Total kms 21,240

They say things come in “3s”, after Greg replaced Crazy Ruby’s inner tube yesterday, Horsey decided he’d have a flat tyre 2 klms out of Nannup, a great start to the morning!  Again it was the tyre liner gradually wearing away the inner tube.  15 mins later we were on our way, that boy Greg doesn’t mess around.  Today was a tough ride, we both struggled, I kept checking to see if my tyre had gone flat again—big undulations, strong head winds & the cafe that was supposed to be open at the half way mark, nowhere to be seen!  On the plus side riding through the huge Karri tree forests was stunning.  My research for accommodation in Manjimup found it to be expensive, only 1 of the 2 caravan parks close to town had cabin accommodation at $95.00pn way too expensive, I’d found a room at a hotel/motel with fridge, tele, toaster, kettle & microwave just out of town for $55.00pn however on arriving the price had now risen to $65pn, forget it.  For a 2 ** place even $55.00 was high so we rode into town, had lunch in the park & checked out other accommodation.  A basic room (bed only) at the other hotel was $60.00 but they were full, the backpacker’s hostel didn’t come recommended so for $85.00pn (ouch) we’re staying at the Manjimup Motor Inn in a warm & very comfortable room for the next 3 nights.  Now $85.00 really depletes the daily piggy bank budget so eating out isn’t a choice but it’s hard to self cater for a hot dinner cheaply when the only equipment in the room is a fridge, kettle & toaster.  The creative juices start flowing & dinner ended up being a cooked chook from Woolies heavily discounted at the end of the day & a bag of coleslaw on it’s last legs so also heavily discounted followed  by cheese & bickies.  The competitive souls that we are, we’re already thinking what to dish up the following 2 nights....stayed tuned.

June 10 to 11 — Manjimup (pop 5,000)

It’s the gateway to the magnificent southern forests & a largish modern & progressive town. Agriculture, viticulture, aquaculture & horticulture abound including fruit, nuts, veg,etables, cattle & sheep.  Timber is synonymous with Manjimup & its effect on the area is evident all over & now the green rolling hills are becoming famous for growing truffles with Manjimup now overtaking Tasmania as the biggest black truffle-producing region in the southern hemisphere.  Talking of food, our last supper at the motel was tinned peas & corn, deb mashed potato , packet gravy & a Woolies roast chook, it’s amazing what you can create just using boiling water from the kettle, the chook was kept hot in it’s plastic bag in the bathroom sink filled with hot water & hot water was just poured into the peas & corn, gravy & mash, a patent is now pending!

June 12 — Manjimup to Pemberton, 31.29 klms, Avg speed 16.1 kph, Cycling time 1.56 hrs; Total kms 21,271

We took a back road to Pemberton via the scenic & quiet Pemberton Diamond Tree Road but felt it needed more signs to highlight the beauty of the area. We weren’t aware we’d just ridden through a 100 year old forest until we saw a sign at the Pemberton end.  With a great tail wind we arrived at our destination in under 2 hours & devoured great coffee & a steaming hot apple cake in what looked like a good cafe & it was.  From there we whizzed down the hill to The Pemberton Caravan Park to our “budget” cabin for the next 2 nights.  With the sun shining & a great camp kitchen in the Park we questioned why we weren’t camping but realised why around 4pm when the sun faded & our fleeces came out.

June 13 — Pemberton (pop 920) - the towering karri forests remain a treasured drawcard for this town, they are the tallest trees in WA with many over 400 years old.  But Pemberton is more than karri trees, there’s many bushwalking & cycling trails, fishing for trout along the Warren River, canoeing, scaling the famous Gloucester tree & visiting the local vineyards.  Pemberton Post Office was also holding a couple of parcels for Greg, some new toys—a wind up radio (different model to the last one which was pretty disappointing) & 2 tiny iPod speakers. When we were last here we went on the Pemberton Tram which took us to Northcliffe through the forests. There used to be a regular passenger service but that ceased years ago. We couldn’t resist having another go, however now the tram only goes as far as the Warren River as the track is in bad need of repair. A shame really as the scenery right along it’s length is just fantastic. The forecast for tomorrow is not good so we go home to prepare for what will be a wet and windy ride to our next destination.

June 14 — Pemberton to Northcliffe, 31.06 klms, Avg speed 14 kph, Cycling time 2.12 hrs; Total kms 21,302

Most of today’s ride was through drizzling rain, can’t complain though as this is only the 2nd wet day this year, how lucky we’ve been with the weather this year.  Most of today’s ride was  also through more majestic Karri & Marri forests, spotted several pretty Scarlett Robins too.  We pulled into the Hollowbutt Cafe at Northcliffe just ahead of a down pour & sat in front of the blazing fire enjoying several cups of coffee while eyeing their home made pies & cakes, we were good & resisted.  Northcliffe (pop 850) is halfway between Margaret River & Albany & about 27 klms from Windy Harbour,  the latter a unique beach settlement surrounded by the unspoilt coast-line of the D’Entrecasteaux National Park.  We’d love to visit the area but with a miserable weather forecast we’ll visit from the comfort of a car once we reach Albany.  We checked into our very cosy room at the Northcliffe Hotel listening to the heavy rain outside, 2 nights here will be perfect. We’ve now not slept in our tent for almost four weeks and we think we’re getting used to soft beds and relatively warm rooms out of the wind.

Northcliffe has a small museum which not only provided us with some protection from the rain, it kept us amused and informed until morning tea time back at the Hollowbutt Cafe. Yummy! Once again, the weather forecast is pretty dreadful for tomorrow with strong winds, albeit in our favour, and rain.  We really need to get to Albany to get out of this......

June 16 — Northcliffe to The Shannon National Park, 32.19 klms, Avg speed 14 kph, Cycling time 2.17 hrs; Total kms 21,334

By the time we reached The Shannon we looked like drowned rats.  It poured with rain most of the way, no good stopping as there was nowhere to shelter.  Even our cycle shoes were sopping wet.  Despite the downpour Greg did spy a big black feral cat & an emu, seemed strange to see the latter in these parts, he wondered if the cat would eat the emu. Strange boy that Greg, I think the rain may be seeping into his thick skull and shorting out a few connections. The Shannon National Park is surrounded by magnificent old growth Karri, Jarri & Marri forests & The Shannon was home to a mill town built in the 1940’s to cater for a timber shortage after World War 11.  The settlement had 90 houses, a hall, church, store, post office & nursing station but the mill was closed in 1968 and the buildings dismantled & removed.  In warmer weather it would be a fantastic place to camp but horrible in the current wet & windy conditions so our initial plan was to ride straight to Walpole.  Some last minute research located Shannon Lodge with beds, a hot water system, showers, toilets & a slow combustion stove plus a note advising candles were a good idea as without a generator there was no electricity.  It was the perfect stopover and gave us an opportunity to shelter from the miserable conditions outside.  Greg made himself busy collecting wood and he soon had a fire going under the water tank and in the combustion stove.  We’d strung up a line to try and get some clothes dry and had a revolving carousel going near the stove to dry clothes, gloves and shoes, so hopefully they dry before morning as the thought of putting on damp shoes and gloves doesn’t thrill us.  Because of the weather we had little opportunity to explore, however, next time we return we’ll stay in the 2 camping huts we discovered complete with wooden bunk beds & indoor stove, much cheaper to hire than the Lodge.  Lovely hot showers and a Thai Chicken Curry warmed us up before we turned in for an early night.

June 17 — The Shannon to Walpole, 70.17 klms, Avg speed 15.4 kph, Cycling time 4.33 hrs; Total kms 21,405

A long, hilly ride made longer by Horsey getting 2 flat tyres, the 2nd flat only 500 metres later!  That shredded tyre liner causing the flats has now gone!  We arrived later into Walpole than planned & didn’t beat the drizzle into Walpole so picked up some lunch & headed to Walpole Lodge, our home for the next 3 nights.  We were made feel immediately welcome by Julie who greeted us by name and very generously ungraded us to an en-suite room at no charge.  Julie and Steele have only just taken over management of the Lodge and we were very impressed with the facilities and their cleanliness.  So thanks to Julie and Steele we’d happily recommend Walpole Lodge to anyone that asks.  Walpole & its farming area grew out of the depression era.  In 1930, unemployed men with families were selected & sent to the settlement to carve farms out of the virgin bush.  Timber milling developed soon after.  Surrounded by the Walpole-Nornalup National Park it’s now an idyllic holiday town offering boating, sailing, fishing, bush walking, scenic drives, climbing, the world famous Valley of the Giants Tree Top Walk plus the beauty of the inlets and the rugged grandeur of coast and islands.  With 3 days of wet weather we saw very little, luckily the Lodge had a fantastic kitchen stocked with every cooking implement imaginable so our time was spent over the stove & catching up on admin. stuff.

June 20 — Walpole to Kentdale, 32.28 klms, Avg speed 15.3 kph, Cycling time 2.06 hrs; Total kms 21,437

Dark skies loomed overhead as we cycled out of Walpole, wearing rain jackets is the norm at the moment.  Bow Bridge Roadhouse (26 klms away) was our next stop for a cuppa, we could see a huge mass of rain approaching on our left & cycled like mad to beat it, we made it just in time as the heaven’s opened.  We happily sat indoors scoffing apple muffins, drinking excellent coffee & chatting to a keen cyclist from Walpole as we waited for the rain to pass.  7 klms later we’d arrived at our cabin accommodation at a working farm called Ayr Sailean.  The farm has been offering accommodation (Country Luxury) for a long time, however, the camping, caravan & budget cabin (Non Country Luxury) accommodation only opened at Easter along with a new camp kitchen & facilities.  The farm is surrounded by the Walpole Wilderness & overlooking the magnificent southern coast.  We were the only guests staying & enjoyed the peace & beauty of the place as the rain poured down.

June 21 — Kentdale to Denmark, 36.78 klms, Avg speed 16.6 kph, Cycling time 2.12 hrs; Total kms 21,474

Climbing over a relatively big hill the drizzle started & got heavier as we descended into Denmark arriving at the Bibbulmun Cafe soaking wet.  After several cuppas we headed to the Blue Wren YHA, our bed for the next 2 nights.  Denmark (pop 4,600) has many natural attractions including the world famous Tree Top Walk, glorious beaches, wildflowers, birds & whale watching & is a major wine producing area, it would be awful to be here during the peak of the tourist season.  We came here about 12 years ago & could hardly recognise the place, the developers had moved in.  We dined out that night at a place called Bento Box. We were almost the only diners there and began to wonder why.  When the food came we knew.  It wasn’t bad it just wasn’t what we expected and, we thought, relatively expensive. The following day after the dreaded clothes wash, we walked along the river to the mouth of, you’ll be surprise to read, the Denmark River which drains out into the large and very picturesque Wilson Inlet.  We toyed with idea of eating out again, but decided not to push our luck.

June 23 — Denmark to Albany, 57.28 klms, Avg speed 18.8 kph, Cycling time 3.02 hrs; Total kms 21,531

We woke to a cool day but the sun was out.  Thank god as we’re tiring of being rained on.   A great ride into Albany along the Lower Denmark Road, little traffic so a much better choice than the busier South Coast Highway.  Made all the more pleasurable with a good tail wind, fair coffee at the Elleker General Store and the thought that we’re nearing our winter retreat. Albany (pop 30,000) is our winter stop-over for the next 3 to 4 months, we’re waiting until the sun comes out again and the wet weather abates .  We’re staying for the first few nights at the Albany Youth Hostel while we try to arrange more permanent, in a temporary sort of way, accommodation.  We’ve been looking for a housesit but to no avail. We’ve been offered a few, but none meet our requirements of being close in to town etc.  It looks like we’ll have to rent somewhere and the thought of dealing with so called property managers sends shiver down both our spines.  What is it with these idiots, calls not returned, incorrect information, viewing sometime next century, who would use these people to manage their investment.  Greg’s blood is clearly boiling, until we met Pat.  Pat is from the Albany Tourist centre and, in short, had us in the apartment we wanted at the advertised price, with no rental application, no bond, no condition report and electricity included within an hour of us meeting.  We moved in the following day, Saturday, and it’s perfect.  Within spitting distance of the main street, north facing (very important to get warmth in the weak winter sun), bright, walking distance from supermarkets, library, restaurants, cafes, markets, the new Albany Entertainment, and according to Greg most importantly, Albany’s largest wine store.  We’re 408 klms south-east of Perth on a stretch of coast which looks out to Antarctica, several thousand klms to the south.  Not only does Albany boast one of the best natural harbours in the world, it’s got spectacular coastal scenery, rivers, dense karri forests, rich farmland & a great selection of walking & cycling paths.  AND there’s a choice, yes choice of good places to eat, drink coffee, read the newspapers, listen to bands, what a perfect spot to laze away the next few months. Greg reckons he’s already seeing signs in my eyes of market madness.  Certainly we’ll both be spending a little bit of time at the local charity shops outfitting ourselves in something other than lycra and nylon.  So here we are, and happy about it too.

Our cycling stats so far for 2011:

Cycling period—11 January to 23 June (throughout E & SW of WA)

Klms cycled-3,389.63

Avg klm per day-50.94

Avg klm per hour-15.7

Total klms cycled to date-21,531