September 2011

September 1 — Bremer Bay (pop 250), still a relatively un-spoilt coastal village well known for its blue waters and endless stretches of striking white sandy beaches.  It’s a heaven for fishing, swimming, bush walking, bird watching, surfing and families so the place would swell tenfold in the peak season, how awful.  No rest for us today,  back on the bikes for some sightseeing and later admin stuff.  The forecast for the next few days is not great with “Possible Thunderstorms” and “Possible Showers” littering the weather web, and worse not so favourable winds for tomorrow for our 97 klms into Jerramungup.  We’ll feast on the remains of my spag bol & salad tonight before retiring early for an early start.

September 2 — Bremer Bay to Jerramungup, 98.11 klms, Avg speed 14.1 kph, Cycling time 6.57 hrs; Total kms 21,824

We’re sometimes asked “Do you get up in the morning & don’t feel like riding”?  Luckily we never do,  you can’t afford to think like that otherwise it would be a very long & miserable trip around Australia.  We’re always checking the weather conditions beforehand so knew today would be physically & mentally challenging—headwinds for the 1st 43 klms, then blustery Cyclone Yasi side winds for the last 55 klms with low temperatures & drizzle thrown into the pot.  We’re still enjoying the scenery so much. We’ve cycled so long in dusty, dry and drought affected areas of Australia, we were beginning to forget what colour green was.  As we ride along we’re engulfed in scents from Canola, wild Freesias and a variety of flowering native plants that bring birds of all sizes and colours.  It really is a treat.  So how did we prepare for the ride? - left early (6.45am), had plenty of breaks, had yummy food to look forward to & had iPods to listen to when the going got tough, thank you Michael Buble for an energising last 10 klms.  After 7 hours of pedal pushing we still felt pretty good,  it’s exciting too to be riding into unexplored territory.  The camp kitchen at the Jerramungup Caravan Park was excellent, fully enclosed with a fire place and some pretty comfortable chairs.  So after a cuppa tea we set up the tent, and prepared for what was forecast to be a 4°C night.  It was with this last matter that we set our minds for a beer and a feed at the local pub.  With cold beers and warm fires along with hot soup and a bacon & egg burger for me and the now ubiquitous Chicken Parmagianna (I’m sure Italy has never seen such a thing) for His Grossness, we are sure we made the right decision.  Warm and well watered and fed, sleep came easily........

Jerramungup is a wheat belt town & is known as “ Soldier Settlement Country”.  At the end of WW11 1,000s of Australian servicemen were repatriated here to return to civilian life.  It was the biggest land development project ever accomplished in the western world in such a short period of time.  We wandered the streets and found the supermarket and newsagent cum servo cum cafe.  We required only two of the three services on offer and so as the cold wind continued to blow outside we sat ourselves down for a coffee and catch up on world events. Whilst today was ostensibly a rest day it was also a preparation day for tomorrow’s ride.  With 117 klms to Ravensthorpe it’s a long stretch for a couple of out of condition cycle tourists but we seem to have the wind gods on our side as an almost perfect tail wind is forecast.  Tonight we’ll dine in, huddled around the fire in this draughty uninsulated camp kitchen.  Come on summer!  We keep saying to ourselves “it’s all about layers” but the thing is we can barely move we’ve got so many layers on.

September 4 — Jerramungup to Ravensthorpe, 116.81 klms, Avg speed 18.0 kph, Cycling time 6.28 hrs; Total kms 21,941

A great tailwind shoved us all the way to Ravensthorpe, up & down, up & down the constant  undulations, they never stopped & by lunchtime we’d cycled 100 klms.  It was one of those days you really enjoyed being on the bike.  Pat & Jane, the friendly owners of the Ravensthorpe Caravan Park (best described as “rustic”), directed us to our $30pn donga, we didn't expect much & yep, it was $30’s worth but with a tele, fridge, air con & cooking facilities it kept us happy & warm for 2 nights.  Ravensthorpe Shire is one third farmland & two thirds National Parks, Reserves & Crown Land so not many rate payers here.  Nickel mining is again being developed in the area & this was evident at the pub doing a roaring trade in food & drinks from the mining boys.  It was good tucka too, delicious broccoli soup followed by His Grossness devouring 500 gms of rump steak & me, pork fillet sitting atop a huge amount of mashed potatoes.  We waddled back to camp, the effects of a 118 klms ride starting to take its toll.    Day 2 was recuperation day, a stroll up the hill to have a cuppa, a bit of sightseeing then back down the hill to pick up supplies for a heart warming chilli con carne.  We were glad to have our donga, outside it was cold, windy & wet...bbbrrrr

September 6 — Ravensthorpe to Hopetoun, 50.75 klms, Avg speed 15.5 kph, Cycling time 3.15 hrs; Total kms 21,991

After riding long distances over the past week, it was a nice change to only ride 50 klms this morning, we had expected strong headwinds, luckily they turned out to be strong side winds.  Hopetoun is picturesque & is spectacularly situated reaching out into the Southern Ocean between two bays, the coastline is stunning.  Accommodation here is expensive, a room at the pub is $90, cabins at the Caravan Park $85 so we’ve pitched the tent in an unpowered site for $28.  We thought we were ripped off as the Camp Kitchens were non existent, one containing a sink with hot water, the other containing a sink with cold water & a smelly BBQ.  No fridge, jug, toaster or microwave-too much trouble the manager said.  Funny how other Caravan Parks have them.  Still we’re camping in a great spot near the beach although it’s cold, windy & overcast outside.  Our lounge tonight will be the pub, tomorrow we’ll be dining in a chilly camp kitchen eating left over chilli con carne. We mooched around and enjoyed the warm Town Beach Cafe after our ride to Two Mile Beach where we came across a Seal lazying on the rocks at the south end. That was pretty well the extent of our activity as the weather was not all that good with fresh south westerly winds and not much sun.  After dinner in the breezy camp kitchen aka the shed, we headed straight for the warmth of the Port Hotel again.  With its warm fires, good views and friendly publican we were soon made comfortable before heading back to camp for an early night.

September 8 — Hopetoun to Munglingup, 88.43 klms, Avg speed 13.7 kph, Cycling time 6.24 hrs; Total kms 22,087

Today would be called a daggy day’s riding, I had no energy, pedals kept churning but felt I wasn’t getting anywhere.  On top of the strong winds we were rained on several times, not the best day’s riding.  We wheeled into the Munglingup Roadhouse & ordered a cuppa,  paid $3 each to use the grubby shower facilities, pitched the tent across the road, got eaten alive by mozzies, wondered across the road to pick up our hamburgers & beer & by 8.00pm it was lights out.  While the conditions were not all that great we knew that this weather would not last and we are in good part still paying a price for our sins in Albany.  Boy we must have been big sinners!!!  I think the highlight of the day was the fact that Ol’ Eagle Eye Greg found $2 on the floor of the toilet.  This was on top of the $1.10 he found along the side of the road.  It’s the most money he’s brought into the relationship for a while so he’s safe for another day.....

September 9 — Munglingup to Esperance, 109.31 klms, Avg speed 14.9 kph, Cycling time 7.18 hrs; Total kms 22,197

One of our longest rides with SE winds so moderate head winds, another tough ride for me, it must be the long distances & winds that’s knocking me about.  Greg rarely complains, he just soldiers on & keeps churning his pedals.  We did pass miles & miles of beautiful yellow canola though but had repeated enemy attacks from magpies zooming like Kamikaze Pilots onto our helmets.  Greg’ll be ready next time.....the Whipper Snipper challenge is about to begin in earnest.  The last time we were attacked by mating magpies was in Queensland over two years ago, so it came as a bit of a shock to be swooped upon again.  Greg has now turned his Eagle Eyes to looking for material along the side of the road to make his Whipper Snipper, it keeps him amused.  The Esperance Wind Farm came into view, a welcome relief & after more than 7 hours cycling we checked into our very comfortable cabin at The Esperance Bay Caravan Park.  With food parcels to post along the Nullarbor, lots of sightseeing & office work to do our 4 day stay has happily been extended to 7.

September 16 — Esperance to Salmon Gums, 109.13 klms, Avg speed 13.7 kph, Cycling time 7.54 hrs; Total kms 22,306

A near record breaking day, nearly 8 hours churning the tredlies as we battled blustery, strong head & side winds, a rotten day to be on the bike.  Could have camped at Green Patch after 78 klms but pushed on for another 30 klms to Salmon Gums as we had to reach Norseman the following day,  gale force head winds were forecast in a couple of days & there’s no way we wanted to be riding that day.  Poor Salmon Gums, they’ve been in drought for the past 3 years, the farmers have suffered terribly and the Caravan Park was a dry, dusty place, not one soft green patch to put up the tent.  There was a huge undercover BBQ table, I knew where we’d be sleeping that night so after a feed at the pub we rolled out sleeping mats & bags & jumped into bed, it was freezing outside.  Suddenly the wind increased & a storm hit Salmon Gums, we couldn’t believe it,  it hardly ever rains here, luckily the huge roof kept us relatively dry as we sunk deeper into our sleeping bags listening to all the wild action around us.

September 17 — Salmon Gums to Norseman, 98.90 klms, Avg speed 15.4 kph, Cycling time 6.23 hrs; Total kms 22,405

After warming porridge for brekkie we hit the road at 6.30am, the winds were all over the place but at least more favourable than yesterday.  We saw a brown snake slither across the road in front of us, we were attacked by horrible, sticky flies having morning tea & lunch, and Magpies attacked and swooped, but other than that a better ride than yesterday although we were both glad to get here.  Norseman (pop 1,000) is a  prosperous mining town with over 5 million ounces of gold having been extracted from the fields, accumulatively making it the 2nd richest goldfield in WA.  We stayed at The Norseman Hotel in a great balcony room & devoured a delicious fillet steak for dinner on the first night.  On the Sunday Norseman was blasted with 98 klms wind gusts, we didn’t mind, we could see all the action outside from the comfort of our hotel room. The following day we walked the sights of Norseman and had a fair cuppa coffee at the Cafe across the road from the Pub.  Norseman will be a take off point for  South Australia across the Nullarbor Desert when we return in a week, so we reconnoitred the supermarket for supplies.  We’re leaving here early in the morning because of the forecast winds so it was an early night after His Grossness stuff his-self with a large Pizza while my good self had a hamburger so big I couldn’t get me choppers around it.  No health food freaks here....

September 19 — Norseman to Widgiemooltha, 91.71 klms, Avg speed 17.3 kph, Cycling time 5.18 hrs; Total kms 22,496

Have to keep our wits about us on the roads, we’re in mining country so loads of road trains thundering by.  Most of these guys give us a wide berth if they can, lucky otherwise we’d be sucked under their wheels!  We were on the road at 6.30am, bit worried with 45 kph winds forecast but our spirits were lifted when a strong side/tail wind hit us & pushed us along, what no headwind today!  Plenty of trees uprooted from yesterday’s storm, plenty of pesky flies too.  I rode well & only slightly slower than Greg, unusual for me, his average is always higher.  By lunchtime we rolled into Widgiemooltha Roadhouse cum Tavern cum Caravan Park, there’s nothing else here except a place to camp, hot showers, a cool beer & a feed, perfect for us.  Actually they need to be on the power grid, couldn’t sleep as the generator was SO NOISEY, at one stage I thought a huge MACK truck was idling outside our tent, wouldn’t see us & squash us, had to get out & warn the drive, on checking the generator seemed to be smiling....grrrrr 

September 20 — Widgiemooltha to Kambalda, 45.35 klms, Avg speed 18.1 kph, Cycling time 2.30 hrs; Total kms 22,542

I know we’re always talking about the wind, if you’re a cyclist you’d know why.  Slight headwind first 20 klms, slight tailwind next 20 & slight undulations too, it was good getting up today knowing we had a short ride ahead.  Kambalda is a nickel & gold mining town built in the late 60’s, first sightings of the Caravan Park were impressive filled with appealing looking cabins surrounded by lush gardens.  Not so the caravan/camping area best described as lacking in love but we did benefit from the mining boys, the campsite was cheap, $12.50, the washing machines were free & for $15ph we had a 3 course meal in the miner’s dining room plus filled up containers for lunch the next day.  We’re trying to be positive here as there’s once again, little to like about mining towns and Kambalda is no exception.

September 21 — Kambalda to Kalgoorlie, 57.42 klms, Avg speed 13.6 kph, Cycling time 4.11 hrs; Total kms 22,599

Relatively tough ride into a relatively stiff headwind on a busy road with lots of trucks, we rode most of the way on the shoulder, lucky for us there was one.  For the past 8 months we’ve been devoid of traffic lights but not here in Kalgoorlie (pop 30,000), it’s a  large goldfields town, famed for its fascinating gold rush history & fabulous old buildings.  'Kal' was born amid the 1880s gold rush when thousands of starry-eyed prospectors made the 700 kilometre journey east of Perth seeking their fortunes.  Vibrant Hannan Street (named after Irishman Paddy Hannan who struck gold in 1893) is lined with majestic old buildings, a rich reminder of the golden era.
Kalgoorlie is still an active mining town and the 3.5 kilometre long, 1.5 kilometre wide Super Pit Mine - where 800,000 ounces of gold is produced each year - is mind-blowing.  This massive hole in the Earth is as deep as Uluru with about the same circumference.

We’re staying at The Desert Rest Guesthouse for 4  nights run by the (some bloody) Church, suits our needs, we have access to a kitchen, can walk into town & after cleaning our own room (we offered, looked as though it was last cleaned in 1960) will see if ‘Kal” can dish up a decent cuppa.... Nah, day three in Kal’ and the best cuppa we could get was a the Dome chain of Cafes, sad but true.  We feel really skinny in Kalgoorlie as the locals seem to eat and smoke in large measure.  Whilst our accommodation is owned and operated by a Church, godliness and cleanliness are definitely strangers.  The kitchen is disgusting and confirms Greg’s theory (yes, another one) that there is a direct correlation between the number of notices stuck on the wall requesting cleanliness and the ensuing filthiness.  We’ve some admin things to do here like Medicare claims, banking crap (Greg is running a raging war with AMP Bank in which he has now involved the Ombudsman) and a few other bits and pieces and this is a good place to do it.  In fact until we arrive in Adelaide later this year this is the largest town we’ll come across for the next few months.  We’re also watching the weather forecasts with a keen interest to see if the westerly winds will push us across the desert.  So far, so good.......

September 25 — Kalgoorlie to Coolgardie, 41.56 klms, Avg speed 18.9 kph, Cycling time 2.11 hrs; Total kms 22,641

Happy memories of Kalgoorlie?  Lots of majestic, old buildings including The Hannan Club (named after our mate, Pat) where we had drinks & a fabulous, cheap curry & also whilst in ‘Kal’ securing a house sit in Adelaide for 4 weeks over the Xmas/New Year period.  Not so happy memories of ‘Kal’ - rotten coffee & staying in a guest house that only a gurnie gun could clean, the kitchen was especially disgusting.  We happily rode into Coolgardie this morning, our fastest ride since leaving Albany, by 10am we were having a cuppa, only slightly better than its neighbour.  Our panniers were bulging more than usual, we’d stocked up with some supplies to feed us over the Nullarbor as we knew we couldn’t get these particular items at Norseman eg. tinned chicken & tinned leg ham, yummy.  Once leaving Norseman the next supermarket will be at Ceduna, 1200 klms away.

September 26 — Coolgardie to Widgiemooltha, 77.74 klms, Avg speed 18.4 kph, Cycling time 4.12 hrs; Total kms 22,718

Before we left Esperance, someone mentioned that we’d be peddling slightly uphill all the way to Kal.  I think they were right, returning to ‘Widgie’ seemed pretty easy, the favourable side winds would have helped too.  The Coolgardie to Esperance Hwy was great to ride on, so little traffic, we pedalled like mad hoping to beat the strong winds forecast & we did, phew....the generator smiled as we rode into the Caravan Park again grrrr.  We both ordered roast beef & veges from the Tavern, with a belly full of food & a few beers it was lights out by 7.30pm, what an exciting couple we are! 

September 27 — Widgiemooltha to Norseman, 91.90 klms, Avg speed 17.3 kph, Cycling time 5.18 hrs; Total kms 22,810

Up at 5am we hit the road at 6.30am hoping to beat the strong W & SW winds that had been forecast to be followed by storms & hail.  Quite often the forecasters get it wrong & lucky for us they did today, we ended up having a great ride with WNW @ 30 kph.  I was glad to get off the road busy & noisey with loads of road trains & grey nomads pulling their huge caravans, with a narrow shoulder I felt 3 vehicles get far too close, they got the royal wave, an unusual occurrence, most are considerate & give us a wide berth.  By lunchtime we checked again into our comfortable room at The Norseman Hotel Greg declaring he cycled well today, his legs felt lighter a sign he says that he’s getting fitter.  Poor fool, it’s actually a sure sign his brain is going to mush.

September 28 to 30 — Norseman

Our plans to start our trip across the Nullarbor Plain tomorrow have been thwarted by a forecast of 4 days of strong E head winds commencing Friday, followed by a strong S side wind the following Tuesday.  With limited supplies/water on the Nullarbor we don’t want to be stuck in some awful Roadhouse waiting for favourable winds to appear so we’ve decided to stay put in The Norseman Hotel for another week hoping the wind pattern will change.  There’s also a cold shot of air passing through & across the Nullarbor at the moment, it was a chilly 1 degrees this morning, hibernating in our cosy room for another week sounds like the perfect plan.

We’ve picked up some mail from Norseman sent by Greg’s Mum.  He will turn 50 somewhere on the road and Robin has thoughtfully sent him a present and card.  I’ve whipped away the card until his actual birthday but let him play with the present.  He seems happy enough with this gift fit for a 5 year old, maybe he has early onset dementia, see for yourself and click on the link below.


Greg’s Present.