Sunday, August 29, 2010

Chapter 1
January 2008 to September 1st 2008

Why in the world would anybody, at the age of sixty, in their right minds even think of packing up everything they owned, leasing out their home, selling the car and riding push bikes, which at this time they did not even own, around Australia.

Well in January of 2008 Barbara and I decided to do just that and to prepare ourselves and at this time and our non existing gear to depart Moruya, on the south coast of New South Wales, to push-bike ride around Australia or for as far as we were both comfortable to continue.

One of the reasons that motivated us to give it a go was that we had heard Val Taylor, the well-known swim-with-the-shark lady, speaking at the Moruya Australia Day festivities. She said that if there is something you really want to do, get up and have a go at it and then you can at least say to yourself that you have achieved something or that you have started your dream even if you do not finish it. The other main reason for our even thinking of doing this was that I had had a couple of health scares and we both wanted to do something a little bit different.
We could always have sold our home and traveled in a van of some kind but I in particularly needed a challenge and so what better challenge would there be than cycling around Australia. We also wanted to keep our home as a base so that we would always have something to come back to. We are glad that we made this decision as that during our ride we met a number of women whose husbands had passed away and were left with a camper or caravan and no home to return to and in most cases were not enjoying their forced travelling.
September which was just seven months away was the time that we had decided to aim at for our departure from Moruya , as we could then ride south over spring and have a cooler summer while riding around Tasmania before heading north through Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland and the Northern Territory over the southern winter.

At this time Barbara would have been lucky to have ridden more than a hundred kilometres in the thirty three years we had been married. Because of this we had to not only get Barbara used to riding but also to be very careful of not putting high expectations on ourselves and to not set unrealistic objectives.

Our planning was now to start in earnest.

Our first stop was to Moruya Bicycles to speak to Mark Rote, the proprietor, who in days gone by had ridden most of the way around this great diverse country of ours. We could not have had more help from him and his staff to set us up with our off the shelf Giant Sedona bikes. They are basic off-the-shelf bikes and the only changes we made to them were better quality chains, cassettes and slightly thicker spokes on my back wheel as I would be carrying more weight. We also added back pannier racks and head and tail lights to both bikes and a mirror and computer to mine. We kept Barbara’s bike very simple without mirrors or computers so as to let her just concentrate on riding and relying on me to let her know what was coming from behind through the number of rings from my bell so that she knew if it was a truck, car or to stop on the side of the road. I rode behind Barbara for the first few months so that she did not feel pressured into keeping up with me and I could always see what was coming from behind us. We did intend to put mirrors and computers on Barbara’s bike as she felt more confident as time went on. The tires we chose were knobly Evolusion Tyres which were good but when we got to Darwin we changed over to Schwable Marathon Plus which we had been told about by many of the cyclists that we met on our trip so far and now know they are probably better for us as they have a low profile and therefore added about two kilometres an hour to our average speed and were a lot more puncture proof as they had a kevlar lining built into them. We now had our transport so it was time to work on how we were going to carry all our gear.

To do this we were to have back pannier bags on both bikes in which we would carry all our clothing and personal gear and I was going to pull a Bob Ibex single-wheeled trailer which could carry up to thirty two kilos. We chose the single wheeled trailer instead of a two wheeled trailer as it was more wind resistant and a lot safer on narrow roads when riding along the verge. It was also big enough for us to carry everything we needed and as everybody knows the more space you have the more gear you take.
Once again we did intend for Barbara to have a trailer later in the trip when we would need to carry more water.
As it was when we left I carried everything on my bike and trailer other than the sleeping bags and Barbara’s two pannier bags which as it happened worked out well as I was a much stronger rider than Barbara and so it kept our speed about the same on the flat and hills.
It was now the turn of working on our home away from home.

We must have driven a lot of people round the bend as we rang and spoke to anyone we could find who had done a lot of touring for advice on gear and routes for our trip.
As well as Mark of Moruya Cycles, there was Lindsay Rose of Melbourne and Ed Bourke of Anglesea in Victoria. Everybody we spoke to who had done a long touring trip had different ideas on gear so it was a matter of listening to everybody and then deciding which way we would go. Even on the trip we found people had different ideas but in reality other than for the type of food we carried as we got to the long stretches we changed very little.

On the camping front we decided on a Mutha Hubba three-man tent. It had a small vestibule at each end. These are helpful in wet weather as we are able to put our gear at one end under cover and then enter and exit from the other so that when it was raining we could enter after taking our wet weather jackets of in the vestibule before going into the sleeping area and we could then reach our gear from inside the tent. It was also just high enough for us to sit up on a small stool during wet weather or to protect us from the dreaded mosquito. It can also be set up without the fly for warm clear nights.
Our stools we departed with were very basic and as light as we could find and we ended up buying two different kinds before we got to Darwin where we found out about the “Walkstools” which we ordered from Sweden. Both of them only weigh a kilo between them and can be set at two heights so that we are able to sit in the tent quiet comfortably with our knees at almost a squatting height or at a full chair height.
Our sleeping bags are fairly basic with a rating down to minus five degrees and we had self-inflating full length mattresses.
Our cooking method was to be a Trangia methylated spirits stove, which has been around for many years. It was selected as it is almost always easy to buy methylated spirits, whereas there are so many types of gas canisters and the one you want is not always available. The Trangia also works reasonably well in the wind. It comes with two saucepans, a fry pan and a teapot and it all fits together, including the burner, to be no larger than a mid-sized saucepan. We have now used it hundreds of times and never had a problem with it as there is only one moving part which is the dampener which is very use full but can be done without. Also all the parts are available at good camping stores.
We ended up taking what looked like a lot of gear but what we took was what we needed and, besides, we were the ones carrying it. Barbara loves her glass of wine at night time so we made the deal that I would carry the gastronomic necessities and if she wanted wine she would make room for it in her pannier bags.
We also started off with seven plastic seven hundred and fifty milometre water bottles and a five litre water container. We were to learn a lot more about carrying water as we headed north through Queensland with the longer stretches between water points. The only thing we changed in the first few weeks of our trip was we used reseal able plastic bags instead of plastic boxes as the boxes when not full took up a lot of extra space. We often think of how people coped before plastic. Working out what we were going to take with us in the way of clothes was a nightmare. We only had limited space but had to have clothes for all seasons plus our riding shorts, wet weather gear and towels. We sorted this out by putting everything we wanted to take in the spare room and slowly weeded the items we could do without. Once again Barbara did well with this as at one stage we looked as though we would have to pull a pantec instead of a small one-wheeled trailer. At that time the only shoes we took other than our riding shoes, which were joggers, was a pair of the ever-reliable crocs. There is a lot more to read about our riding shoe saga in following chapters. We must have looked a bit like Steptoe and Wife as we pedaled along the road with all our gear. Now all we had to do was to get ourselves fit and used to pulling all our gear and worldly possessions.

To do this over this seven months of planning Barbara in particular went riding as often as possible, starting with very short rides of only a couple of kilometres to doing forty kilometres a day. We did rides to the beach of a few kilometers to watch the whales to an eighty kilometre ride to Potato Point, fully loaded, and camped for the night to test everything out. We rode dirt roads, highways and bush tracks. We virtually stopped using the car and would ride the seven kilometres to town with the trailer as often as possible and do all our messages. I even rode to the rubbish dump a few times with the trailer loaded up with old junk and caused the attendants there confusion as they were not too sure of what to charge for the load. Was it a trailer load or a boot load? The more we rode the more confident and determined we got and knew that our plans were very feasible and achievable to us.

It was over this period of time that Jessica, our daughter, spent a few weeks with us before flying off to Dubai with her partner Dean to finish her studies. A sad but happy time for us all, as we were all getting out of our comfort zones and going into the unknown. When we first told Jessica of our plans she thought we had gone senile but she was quickly very supportive of us.

It was now only about twelve weeks before departure and, as we had decided to lease out our home, we started the big job of packing it up into one side of a double garage. What a job that was, sorting out a house we had been in for fifteen years. This was a very sentimental chore for Barbara as she had not thrown anything out in her entire life including cards, clothes and knick knacks. It was also the changing of addresses and all the other things that have to be done when changing address. The difference for us was that we would have no fixed address and so we will be ever thankful to Michael, my brother, and his wife, Sarah, for letting us use their address and for forwarding our mail on to us. It in fact came into our minds that we may be taken as vagrants as we probably were as we had no fixed address other than our email address and a mobile telephone number.
August came and went in a blink and we did so much in that time, including painting one of the bedrooms in the house, building a dividing wall in the garage, signing leases for the house and selling the car. What a strange feeling it was to go from a two car couple to a no car and two bike couple.

All our spare time was spent studying maps to select our route. We had decided to travel south to Orbost and ride the rail trail to Bairnsdale and South Gippsland, then the Great Ocean Road and over to Tasmania for November through to March, then north to Queensland and Darwin for the wet season. We soon learnt it was not important to plan too much but to have a general idea of where we were headed, as we did find better and quieter roads by talking to people, particular in cycling shops as we went.

All was now ready and packed and we were ready to go. It was August the thirty first and two days from departure. Oh how the time had flown and our minds and emotions were running wild.

Chapter 2
Departure and finding our legs
Moruya to Orbost
2/09/08 to 24/09/08

At the time of leaving our home we looked inside our garage and saw all the furniture and paraphernalia we were leaving behind and then looked at our loaded bikes and both of us wondered how we were going to cope with so little. We had given the real estate agent our house keys and tenants were moving into our home the next day for a year. There was now no changing of minds or getting cold feet. Yes! Our bikes and gear were now our home and transport, rain, hail or shine for at least the next year.

We spent our last two nights before departure with Michael and Sarah who put us at ease, as we were both a bit anxious and concerned about the unknown which lay ahead of us. We played bocce on Michael’s recently-constructed bocce court a short distance from their home in the bush. We even considered buying a set to take with us but their weight was more than all our sleeping gear including the tent.

We finally departed early on Tuesday the second of September with excitement and at the same time some trepidation. What a strange feeling it was to be finally on the road and leaving Moruya behind.

Before leaving we had decided we would ride ten kilometers from Moruya to the Tuross River where we would make our first damper and coffee on the road. We sat there for about two hours just getting our minds together and realizing how tired we were after all the action and planning over the past few weeks. We both felt that it would have been nice to just set up our tent there and then and sit there for a couple of days.

On our first day we rode forty two kilometers to Dalmeny and camped in the camp ground on the foreshore. We both slept like logs that night and woke up to a cold blustery wind with the signs of showers to come. It took us about two hours to pack up and leave after having had breakfast, but as time went on we were able to get into a routine and were able to be on our bikes within about one and a half hours with full stomachs and raring to go. Barbara is a lot more relaxed about packing up but I as usual have to do it flat out without time to breathe but that is how I have been all my life and we can only hope that I will relax more as time goes on.

We had decided before leaving that we would only ride for two out of three days for the first few weeks, so on the second day we rode to Mystery Bay where there is a primitive camp ground at which we had two nights. It started to drizzle soon after arriving there so it was a good time to learn how to live in the tent with rain, as we knew we would have days of rain in the months to come. We were pleased to see that we did not get a drop of rain in the tent and we were reasonably comfortable but in future we would keep an eye on the forecasts and, if we saw rain on the way, would try to make it to a camp ground with a camp kitchen. Whilst at Mystery Bay we had a cheeky magpie family who would take any food we left unprotected if only for a moment.

It was on our next day when riding along the narrow windy Princes Highway that we came across our first log trucks. It did not take us long to decide to walk on the really bendy sections, and often on the right hand side of the road, so that the drivers were able to see us in plenty of time. It was rather hilly along this section so it often suited us to walk anyway as Barbara was still building up her strength for hill climbing. On the really dangerous sections I would sometimes take my bike further along and then go back to help Barbara with hers. We did this at any time over the next few months when the roads were hilly and windy. Some of the roads had guard rails on the bends and left you nowhere to go if a car or truck was travelling to fast around the bends. Once we turned off the highway at Tilba Tilba towards Bermagui it was a great ride alongside the ocean with very little traffic.

As it was Barbara’s birthday we stayed at Bermagui for two nights and Michael and Sarah came down to have a birthday meal with us. They came in their campervan with a good hot curry and we sat inside the van on the foreshore, all rugged up while it rained and blew outside. We were a little bit down in the dumps when they left as we had now had bad weather for four days out of the six since we had left Moruya. Bermagui I think is one of the nicest undeveloped towns on the South Coast with good fishing and surf, but it will not be long before it is found as a holiday location and things will change. It has a big commercial fishing fleet with a good fresh fish co-op but although fresh fish is available most of the catches are taken to the fish markets in Sydney.

From Bermugui we rode in beautiful weather about twenty kilometres along the back road which follows the coast from Bermagui to Merimbula. We turned off the highway onto a dirt track towards Mimosa Rocks, our next bush camping spot. We had to walk along this dirt track as it was first of all a steep climb and then a very steep descent. It was as we were resting along this track that we saw an active pardalote nest in the bank of the road. Although we were only metres away from the nest the pardalote was flying in and out as though they did not have a concern in the world.
We stayed at Mimosa Rocks for two nights and really enjoyed the walks and surrounds, although would not like to be there over the busy summer period. All the camping reserves along the coast are packed out during the Christmas holidays and right through to Easter.
There was no water available there so our plan was for me to ride out and get more water along the main road but we were given water by two campers who were leaving that day. It was to be first time of many that we were given water by other campers.
We were dreading the climb out of there but we did it with ease in about an hour and then rode on to Tathra where, to our delight, we saw whales from the look-out as we were having lunch. Tathra is almost a suburb of Bega, the cheese town twenty kilometres away, with a big retirement population. The Life Saving Club in Tathra is the leader of all the Life Saving Clubs becoming self-sufficient in power and lighting through the use of solar panels and small wind turbines. They claim that over about three years it has saved them enough in power bills that they have been able to purchase new equipment for the club and are working at helping all the surf clubs in Australia to follow their example.

We once again stayed on the back road to Merimbula with little traffic. To enter the town from Tara Beach we had to go down this long steep hill which we started to do but Barbara was too nervous to continue so we walked into town. Barbara now screams downs hills and leaves me trailing behind in admiration of her new-found confidence.

We stayed at Pambula for a night. It was then back onto the Princes Highway towards Eden and our beloved log trucks again, which we would have all the way to just past Bellbird.

We stayed in Eden for two nights as once again the rain returned for a couple of days. This would be the last rain or bad weather other than wind that we would have until we were on The Great Ocean Road. On the second day out of Eden the wind was so strong we only rode seven kilometres before we found a side road and sheltered there for the rest of the day and that night. It was on a logging track and we must have had the truckies who passed wondering why we were camping in such a strange spot.

We rode through to Genoa the next day, where we had a roast dinner at the hotel. We felt a little bit like impostors as all we seemed to get was strange looks and little service. We often found it like this when we stayed in small towns.

We had done some washing after arriving at the free camping area on the riverside at Genoa and when we woke up in the morning all our clothes we had put out to dry, as well as our drink bottles, were frozen stiff. We were not at all cold in our tent but this was most likely due to the fact that we had worn our thermals to bed for the first time. Genoa is after all further from the coast than we had been since the commencement of our journey.

We had heard for so long about Mallacoota and driven past the turn off from the Princes Highway every time we had driven to Melbourne. This time we did turn in and it was worth the effort of riding the twenty three kilometres off the highway to go in there. Once again it is a huge holiday area over the summer months, with hundreds of camping and caravan sites but a really nice spot at the time we were there out of holiday time. It has big ocean lakes which are protected from the winds, with good fishing from boats or beach fishing. We stayed there for two nights before riding back to the highway and on towards Cann River.

Back on the highway just south of Genoa we came across Genoa Creek Falls which was a small walk in from the highway with a great little secluded water fall. Best morning tea spot we had found up until this point.

We camped thirty kilometres north of Cann River on a fire trail where a farmer gave us eggs, parsley and some chocolate for our dinner that night. There is nothing like fresh eggs and vegetables for an omelette. The farmer’s young daughter and son came down to say hello to us and one of the questions we had to laugh at was what we do at night time without television. Our little two-match-box-size transistor is a little beauty and we now know the programs we like to listen to and our meal times are often set around our favorite programs.

It was then on to Cann River which was buzzing with travelers of all kinds with cars, vans and motor bikes by the dozen. Cann River has a beautifully kept picnic ground which we stopped at for a couple of hours to have our lunch.

That night we had another bush camp between two farms on a quiet little creek about a kilometre from the highway. We were now getting rather good at picking out good bush camping spots away from the main roads.

The next day, although it was only about thirty kilometres along the highway to Bellbird, was probably our hardest and scariest day so far, with a very narrow windy road and log trucks by the dozen. Never before did we think there were so many trees being cut down in the southeast corner of New South Wales. The trucks carrying them are very powerful and I think too heavy for some of the roads they are on.
After a lot of walking we arrived at the Bellbird Hotel, where we camped out the back and had long showers and hamburgers with-the-lot for dinner that night. While we were having dinner I mentioned that we did not have any oranges for our traditional orange after dinner; the publican must have heard me and went and got a couple of oranges for us from his private residence. As we finished our dinner it bucketed down with rain and it was so dark we had to ask for a torch to get back to our tent. From then on we always took our headlights with us if going out at night time. If you must ride down the highway this hotel is a must stop, although we would never go along the Princess Highway again as it is not at all cyclist friendly and in fact as we are writing this in Darwin it was the most dangerous part of our ride to date.
On leaving Bellbird the next morning we knew it would be our last day on the Princes Highway and we only had one long hill to climb before we would turn off the highway and head towards Cape Conran. We did this climb in quick time and what a delight it was after turning off the highway to ride thirty kilometres with only one car passing us.
Cape Conran is a great camping reserve with open beaches and good walks. It is a State Park and well laid out and once again very busy over holiday periods; they actually have ballots to select who can stay there over the peak times.
Riding along the back road from Cape Conan to Orbost was fabulous. We had morning tea on the board-walk at the Snowy River Estuary. It was a good flat road along the river from Marlo in to Orbost with dairy farms all the way.
It was along this road that we had our first mosquitoes and we saw a warning sign for kangaroos, wombats and koala bears and someone with good humor had added a giant mosquito. It was good to see humor still exists.
It was then on to Orbost where we had three nights before heading off on the rail trail between Orbost and Bairnsdale.
We were by now settling into a routine and feeling a lot more confident about the whole adventure, but kept on thinking of the huge distance to go to the half-way mark at Darwin.
Up until now we had not met any other cyclists, which surprised us, but we believed we would see more as the weather improved and we rode along the rail trail.
We had now been on the road for twenty three days and had ridden four hundred and sixty three kilometres.
Chapter 3
Rail Trail Orbost to Bairnsdale
27/09/08 to 3/10/08

There are now rail trails spreading out wherever there is an unused railway line, the most notable ones being in South Australia towards the Flinders Ranges, Wangaratta in Victoria and the one we were going on in Gippsland Victoria. These trails are always good to ride on as they are on the flattest possible route. They are ideal for families as there is usually good accommodation at regular intervals along the trail and no motorized vehicles on the trails. It still amazes us how the early settlers were able to choose the flattest routes to build rail lines sometimes a long way from the main roads, which in those days would have been bush tracks. In later months we were also intrigued to know how farmers were able to set up in the middle of nowhere in Queensland and the Northern Territory.

We rode out of Orbost to the start of the rail trail early in the morning of the Australian Rules Football grand final day, which is always on the last Saturday in September when everything particulary in Victoria stops other than the football. It was my team Geelong who were not only one of the teams to play but the outright favourite to win against Hawthornand so we planned to ride for a few hours and then find a good spot to camp and listen to the game.

Just before we rode out of Orbost we met up with Paula Pollock and friends of Moruya, who used to play soccer with Jessica, and were waiting for transport to Bairnsdale so that they could ride back to Orbost along the rail trail over the next three days.

It was good to be riding along a track mostly made of crushed rock with no cars and for the life of us we could not understand the very few cyclists we came across, particularly as it was during a school holiday period. It is another riding skill needed to ride on dirt roads, because the wheels do not have as firm grip on the ground as they do on bitumen, and are likely to slide from under you. It was a bit rough in parts and the vibration made our arms and wrists a bit sore but still a really enjoyable ride. As our arms and wrists strengthened up over the coming months the vibration did not worry us as much. We had been told to look out for snakes but did not see one along the track although we did see one of the biggest goannas we have ever seen scuttling out of the sun as we rode past.

We only rode about twenty five kilometres on as we wanted to have our camp set up before the start of the big game. There were not many good camping spots along the trail, as it was preferred that you did not camp along the trail, but we were able to find a reasonably good spot well in time to make lunch and to be settled before the start of the game. It was good to be camping away from anybody else. We had a great lunch that day with damper, tuna and avocado so as to make grand final day a little bit special. Never be worried about not having bread as all that is needed to make damper is self raising flour and water.

To my disappointment Geelong lost. In previous years I would have been sour about their loss but now I think that I was doing something which I was really enjoying so much that their loss was of not much concern. I believe football to me had been an outlet from the week-to-week stresses of being in sales for much of my working life. Hard to believe that I had spent the majority of Saturday afternoons, when living in Melbourne, standing in rain and wind to watch my beloved Geelong losing most of their games in the seventies through to the early part of this new century.

This was the first time we had to carry enough water for one-and-a-half days and we found the ten litres we had was quite sufficient but, as it gets warmer when we head north over the next few months, we will need a lot more.

The next day we continued on the trail and went past three trestle bridges which were built well over one hundred years ago. Just amazing to see what was done with timber in those days. They are fifty to eighty metres high, bridging the gap over a valley, and were built to carry the steam trains carrying goods between Melbourne and Orbost.

While we were having lunch on the riverside at Nowa Nowa, we crossed paths with Paula and her group, which included a baby in a trailer and two boys under the age of ten riding small bikes. They had enjoyed their ride but found it hard with the young ones, but good on them for doing the ride.

We also passed a young fellow on the highway at Nowa Nowa who was about one hundred and eighty centimetres tall, riding a BMX bike straight along the highway from Sydney to Philip Island, with the aim of seeing the motor bike racing at Philip Island on the following weekend. The shoes he had were as wide as I have ever seen and looked a little like elephant’s feet on an ant.

We spent second night on the side of the trail again and the following day as well as meeting a group of four boys riding and camping with one of the boys’ fathers, we met about ten cyclists going the other way. Some of these cyclists were doing the three day ride, as was Paula, and staying in motels along the way.

It was now downhill to Bruven in pretty cold weather but the thought of hot showers and meat pies, which we were told were worth dying for, made us forget how cold we were. We had our showers at the caravan park, ordered our pies found a good spot to sit out of the wind with our own coffee, and ate our very disappointing pies, but at least our coffee was the way we liked it. I think as we get older nothing tastes like it used to in days gone by.

From Bruven we left the trail and rode to Swan Reach and had a night with Kevin Leary, who was our next door neighbour in Frankston some years ago, and his wife Pauline whom Kevin had met and married after the death of his first wife June. They lived on about ten acres of land which was just cleared land when they bought it a few years ago. They have since planted some 3000 native shrubs and trees. They are also very active in the motor home association and spend most of the winter months travelling to motor home conferences all around Australia. These conferences are where all the members will camp on a town’s oval or showground and chin-wag away the days. These people love their conferences, and the towns who support them gain a lot through the extra business.

The next day we rode on down to Meetung where we camped on the side of the lake for two nights. What a glorious camp site with the sunrise over perfectly still water in the mornings. We now knew to enjoy the mornings on the coast before the wind came up as it always did later in the morning or early afternoon.

It was then back to the trail and on to the home of Michael Oxer at Nicholson a short distance from Bairnsdale. We knew Michael from our Melbourne days. He is the chairman of the rail trail committee. As a builder he has built a beautiful home with solar power and wind turbines and is self-sufficient for power. He has also planted natives by the hundreds with little theme areas around his block. The use of water for his garden is almost negligible.

We then rode along the rail trail to Bairnsdale where we stayed for a few days. While there we found a new Indian restaurant which was as good as I have been to. Oh! How we miss good Asian food.

We were now feeling good on our bikes and Barbara was getting stronger all the time and had gained a lot of confidence while riding along the rail trail. One thing we have learnt is wherever possible is to stay off main highways as they are not enjoyable to ride on. They are built to get motorists and trucks from point to point and so we would wherever possible take alternative routes, although it sometimes meant we had to ride further it was a much more enjoyable way to ride. We now also knew why cyclists find the rail trails wherever they may be a relaxing and safe way to enjoy a ride, whether it is for a day or a week.

We had now been on the road for thirty two days and had covered six hundred and seventy three kilometres. This distance does not include any side trips but only the distances from camp spot to camp spot.

Chapter 4
Bairnsdale to Philip Island
8/10/08 to 22/10/08

We were now expecting to be on reasonably flat roads as we rode through East and South Gippsland. After all as we had spent a lot of time pushing up hills and dodging log trucks we thought it was time to have an ideal cyclist’s terrain.
Our first stop was Paynsville, another town we had heard so much about, but it was so windy there that after we had our lunch overlooking hundreds of yachts and other crafts of all descriptions we decided to ride then on to Victoria Lake a little further south. A big area alongside the lake had been donated by a local family so that Melbourne schools could erect cabins to use as school camps. We were there over a school holiday period so there were not many people around.

All of the lakes along this area are behind the Ninety Mile Beach, which makes it fairly protected from the ocean but once again very windy in the afternoon. We camped in a protected alcove, to once again wake up in the morning to see the lake looking like a mirror.

It was here that our shoe saga commences. We had decided before we started the ride that we would only use good joggers instead of riding shoes. It was now that both of us were getting sore underneath our feet and in particular Barbara so we hightailed it to Sale over the next two days so that we could see a bicycle shop to remedy the problem by purchasing proper cycling shoes with the hard stiff soles which protect your feet from the pedals.

On the way to Sale we camped on a farm on the Perry River where a farmer is growing trees from local seeds for Greening Australia. Greening Australia are all over Australia working at growing indigenous plants for each area and making them available to the general public to grow on in their own back yards, farms and parks.

So as to stay off the Princes Highway and also so that we could see Paynesville and the lakes, we rode some ninety kilometres from Bairnsdale to Perry Bridge, only to see a sign just after leaving our camp site telling us it was fifteen kilometres to Bairnsdale so in two days we had gained fifteen kilometres.

On arriving at Sale we purchased the only two pairs of shoes that kind-of fitted us and although Barbara’s were a little bit small they were still better than joggers. We should have taken the advice of those that had done a lot of touring and started with cycling shoes but we thought we knew better. As you get a bit older you do get more stubborn. You will read more in following pages about Barbara’s shoe saga which finishes in three months’ time in Hobart.

We went on down to Longford, about ten kilometres south of Sale along the South Gippsland Highway, and camped at the junction of the Thomson and Latrobe Rivers close to a swing bridge. These swing bridges were designed in a way that they swing on an axle in the centre so that river boats coming up from the ocean can pass them on either side. In the case of this one there has been a new bridge built and the swing bridge only opens on weekends as a tourist attraction. On this day, with some fifty people waiting for it to swing, it would not budge until one of the operators sheepishly came to us and asked us if we had a shifting spanner. I showed him our twelve-centimetre shifter which he took and lo and behold a few minutes later the bridge opened. Thank goodness for small things.

The following day we had our longest day up to this time, covering over sixty kilometres to Reeves Beach, with a hamburger with-the-lot and chips for lunch at Woodside on the way. It was close on thirty degrees when we arrived and so we went for a swim which lasted for about a minute as the water felt as though it was at minus ten degrees.

As we were cooking a Thai curry with all fresh ingredients that evening another couple, whom we had met as we were walking along the beach during the afternoon and who were the only other people camping in the area came and asked us to join them for dinner. They had cooked spaghetti bolognaise especially for us as they thought we had been living on dried food since leaving home. When they saw what we had cooked they laughed and suggested that they would eat our food and we could have what they had cooked for us. We had a great evening with them and once again they gave us enough water before they left the next day, which saved me from going to find water.

We stayed there for two nights but it was not enjoyable walking on the beach as we had hoped, as it was so windy all the time other than for the first few hours we were there.

Our next night was in Yarram in our first motel and a great roast dinner; then Port Franklin which is the cutest little fishing port I have ever seen, with fish being sold almost straight off the boats as they come in. We had a great serve of fresh garfish for dinner that night. All we were missing was the oysters.

Port Franklin also had a great camping area right on the harbour with flower beds along the paths and some good walks. The locals have to be proud of what they have done. Once again it is a well-kept secret. There are so many great little communities along the coast which only need time for you to find and enjoy.

We were really enjoying the riding as the roads were generally flat with little traffic and, in fact, I think we had more magpie attacks than cars passing us. We ended up walking past the nests as it was too dangerous to ride and watch magpies at the same time. Even then I had one that hit my helmet and they do hit with a big bang. We have since been told that one thing that deters the magpies’ is to have cable ties sticking up from from our helmets.

It was then on to Walkerville using the rail trail through Foster and Fish Creek. Both these towns are busy little centres, with Foster being the gateway to the Wilson’s Promontory.
The rail trails were once again a delight to be on.

We came across hills for the last few kilometres into Walkerville but Barbara rode up all of them and took off like a rocket down the other side. She is getting stronger and stronger as time goes on.

Once again, Walkerville was a great camping area with good, cold swimming and pleasant beach and cliff walks but not a place for us over the holiday period. Looking at the camp ground the campers must be packed in like sardines over the busy periods. There is only a small shop there with limited supplies so most campers would have to make regular trips to towns about twenty kilometres away. We stayed there for two nights and really enjoyed the time there with the walks and swimming.

We left Walkerville in a misty rain but a tail wind and made good time to Inverloch.

Just before arriving in Inverloch Michael Malone stopped and asked us to be guests in his guest house which we gladly accepted. It turned out that he is in Rotary and had recently finished a ride from Perth to Inverloch to raise money for cancer research. We had a great night as he had asked his fellow riders over for dinner, which was one of the best pasta meals we have had for a while. It was a very good bed we slept in but we were by now feeling very comfortable on our sleeping mats and not sleeping as well on innerspring mattresses. Looks as though we will have to get a very hard mattress when we finally get home.

It was then on to Cape Patterson where we met Robin and Wayne Gwynne of Moruya who were on their way to Tasmania and made the effort to meet us. We had a good long picnic lunch and then a cold windy walk along the beach. The coast line here is really rugged. I heard that this section of the coast is one of the most dangerous in the country and after seeing it I can believe it. I do not think the wind ever lets up.

Our next stop was Kilcunda where the desalination plant is being built and in the hills behind can be seen the wind turbines. Kilcunda would have to be the windiest spot we have camped in. It blew all night and at times the rain was horizontal. While we were having breakfast a Dutchman strolled in with his four wheeled cart and a lot of stories to tell of his walk from Darwin towards Melbourne. We were having a cup of tea and some toast when he arrived and his cup was out before we had finished asking him if he would like a cuppa. A real character. He was on his way to Melbourne for a fund raiser about four days later and he still had about two hundred kilometres to go. Would love to catch up with him again.

We then rode on to Philip Island where we stayed for two nights at the home of Christianne Jemmett whom we had met at Bellbird and as it turned out I used to work with her mother in Moruya. Philip Island is a very busy tourist town, the main attraction being the penguin parade and the seals. There are also some good surf points on the ocean side of the island. We had fish and chips on the foreshore one evening and will always remember the seagulls trying to take the food out of our mouths. Dangerous to the eyes.

We were now fifty one days and one thousand and thirty eight kilometres into our journey.

Chapter 5
Great Ocean Road to Melbourne
26/10/08 to 19/11/08

We travelled across Western Port Bay from Cowes on Philip Island to Stony Point on the Mornington Peninsula on a small ferry in drizzly rain and a cold wind. This was the Melbourne we remembered with four seasons in one day. On the way over the ferry picked up about twenty people who live on French Island and travel onto Frankston and Melbourne by train.

We rode across the Mornington Peninsula in a bit of light rain but with little traffic until we reached the Nepean Highway at Dromana. We used to live in Frankston about fifteen kilometers away some twenty years ago and it was surprising to see how much the population had increased on the peninsula over that time. It was still very open with a lot of trees so it looked as though the forward town planning was being successful although we did see a lot of pine trees which we doubt are native to the area.

That night we stayed in a camping ground which covers about five kilometres squeezed between the Nepean Highway and the shore line of Port Phillip Bay. The camping ground is run by a community committee and we were told that there is not a spare inch of camping space left over the Christmas holidays. Some campers are into their third and fourth generation of camping there for their Christmas holidays.

The following day we rode to Sorrento to catch the car ferry over to Queenscliff on the Bellarine Peninsula. When we arrived at Sorrento we realized that the flag had fallen off the Bob trailer. We had become rather attached to it so I rode back about fifteen kilometres until I found it. I rode without the trailer for the first time since leaving Moruya and the bike felt like a racing bike. I averaged over twenty kilometres an hour on the flag rescue mission. While we were having lunch in the park at Sorrento before catching the ferry, a Dutchman named Flip joined us with his bike and Bob trailer. He had ridden from Darwin to Sorrento around the coast in an anti-clockwise direction and was on his way to Melbourne. In his broken English he gave us a few good hints.

There are two ferries crossing Port Philip Bay between Sorrento and Queenscliff and they run each hour and we were surprised at how busy they are. In fact Sorrento was as busy as a beehive. It was an enjoyable trip over the bay to Queenscliff where we were amazed to see how much it had changed from a quiet fishing village to a bustling tourist centre, with hundreds of people about since we had last seen it about twenty years beforehand.

We had come to realize how important good coffee cafes and bread shops had become to towns about an hour’s drive from the larger cities particularly on the water front.

We rode on the short distance to Point Lonsdale where we found a good little hidden camping spot, only a few metres from the concrete path along the foreshore, in a camping ground which is only opened during the busy holiday periods. We cooked our dinner that night on the rocks watching the ships entering and departing Port Phillip Bay with their pilot escorts. Some of the ships were gigantic.

There was a toilet block in the area but when walking around the nearby cemetery “which are always interesting to have a look at” the next morning we found the cleanest public toilet we have ever seen. We guessed that not many of the cemetery’s residents had much use for the facilities provided. We tried swimming in the ocean again but the water was still too cold for us to enjoy. In fact it was freezing.

It was off to Ocean Grove the next day in cold wet weather and headed to the library which is always a good spot to shelter in bad weather. From the forecast we knew the weather would fine up later that day so only planned to be at the library for a couple of hours but we met David Stewart when we were asking for directions and he insisted that we camp for the night at his home which has the most beautiful view across the entrance to the bay and along the west coast of Victoria. We were glad we did as he had spent the past twenty years travelling around Australia with his wife Elaine; They are a minefield full of information about national parks and other camping spots. We ended up not going as far east as David’s favourite spots in Queensland but may see some of them in future trips.

It was then off to Bells Beach which is Australia’s most famous surf beach. To get there we rode through Torquay and then up a couple of the biggest hills we have encountered since leaving home. It was walk and push for about three or four kilometres.

We set up camp at Bells Beach hidden behind some bushes and then walked down the hundreds of steps to the surf beach. The wind did not let up for the whole time we were there. Although the waves were small there were still about forty-odd surfers out there waiting for a wave. I could see that they would be great waves when the conditions were right.

The next morning about six tourist buses turned up to the parking area to show the beach off to mainly overseas tourists. One of the drivers even spun the billy around when making tea for his passengers.

The next night was spent at the home of Ed Bourke in Anglesea who had done the round-Australia trip a couple of years before and, as mentioned previously, had been a good sounding board during our planning. He knew just what we would want to eat and had a roast dinner and plenty of it waiting for us that night. I started to wonder what we would be ravenous for when we had done a few weeks on dehydrated food up north later in our trip. So far we had not been tempted to have a McDonald’s meal, although we did have one of their thick shakes in Wonthaggi.

Over the next few days we had dodgy weather and spent nights at Lorne, Kennett River and Apollo Bay.

At Kennett River we camped in a secluded area in a national park on the Friday afternoon of a long weekend. We set the tent up in drizzling rain and were sitting inside when a ranger turned up and told us we could not camp there. We explained that we did not want to ride on the wet road, particularly on a long weekend, as we would not only be a danger to ourselves but also to other road users. He saw our point and let us stay there as long as we moved on the next day. It was here that we saw our first koala.

Had a rest day at Apollo Bay where we walked up to the Marine look-out. What a great view it was all along the coast line. We ended up staying there for two days of the Melbourne Cup long weekend and the town was a bit like Pitt Street in Sydney on a Friday with all the long weekend visitors.

It was then off to Johanna Beach which is the alternative surf beach used for competition when Bells Beach is not suitable. To get there we rode along the Old Great Ocean Road which was dirt but it meandered through a rain-forest full of ferns and birds and was so quiet after being on the main road for so long. We listened to the Melbourne Cup while sitting on the side of the road on the way into Johanna Beach. Barbara had put on her usual yearly bet and for the first time for many a year did not get a return. One of my joys each year is to watch Barbara select and put on her bets for the cup. God help me if one year we are not in a place she is not able to do this.

Once again it was very windy on the beach but we had it to ourselves and so had a good night’s sleep. The next morning we met a group of hikers who had walked some one hundred kilometres along the foreshore with all their camping gear. They told us that the scenery was worth the effort of the walk. We now know it is a well-recognised six or seven day walk either supported or unsupported.

We had been told to go out on the same road as we had come in on as the other road was too steep, but we listened to a local who told us we could see the top of the hill from where we stood. It ended up that we took four hours to travel the twelve kilometres to the top. Every time we turned a corner it seemed to get steeper and when we thought we were on the top we turned a corner and it was even steeper.

We were so tired when we arrived at Lavers Hill that we just sat at a picnic table and ate huge hamburgers with chips and swore to ourselves that we would never listen to a motorist again. We had a good camp site behind the pub at Lavers Hill, with a real beaut pasta meal for dinner in the pub that night. Rode out of Lavers Hill in a misty rain down a steep hill, where we walked for a couple of kilometres as there were wet and slippery leaves on the road.

On the way to Princetown we rode on the Old Highway and once again it was dirt but it was flat and traffic-free. We stayed for three nights at Princetown as I had a bit of a stomach upset; besides it was very windy and in fact on the second night we moved the tent into the camp kitchen. For the two days there we could not even walk on the beach because of the strong wind.

We then rode along the scenic part of the Great Ocean Road, seeing the Twelve Apostles and the Loch Ard. The area is a real tourist attraction but, other than some of the highlights, we think all the south east coast of Australia has a lot to offer and some parts of the New South Wales and Victorian coastlines offer just as good views, good walks and camping without the crowds.

We took most of the day to do eighteen kilometres to Port Campbell but the views and the waves were worth taking our time to see so that we could really appreciate the area. We stayed at Port Campbell for the next two nights and it was here that we met Paul Nichols a twenty four year old from Melbourne, who was in his last three hundred kilometres of finishing his trip around Australia. Paul was really taking his time over the remaining part of his trip as he did not want it to finish. He was a wealth of knowledge in what lay ahead of us so we spent a lot of time with him, getting his ideas and learning from his experiences.

We then over the next two days rode on to Warrnambool, seeing London Bridge and the other coastal views west of Port Campbell.

One thing Paul had told us was to use public parks and the like to camp in. We did just that on the first night out of Port Campbell and camped at the netball courts at Nirranda, and the next night at one of the football ovals in Warrnambool, where the coach left the rooms open so we could use the facilities. After these two experiences of kindness we would often stay at showgrounds and ovals, although we always found the right person to ask if it was permissible for us to do so.

It was the morning after Nirranda that we had our first puncture in my back tyre and so had to uncouple the trailer to fix it. My back tyre was to become a real bug bear over the rest of our trip to Darwin. I thought it was because of the extra weight it carried and so naturally was easier to puncture. As it turned out it was because of a slight break in the beading and tiny bits of wire were breaking of and causing the punctures.

From Warrnambool, we headed the fifteen kilometres to Hopkins Falls which we had been told was a spot worthwhile seeing for morning tea “or should we say our coffee fix”. It is apparently the widest waterfall in Australia and it was so peaceful we stayed there for the remainder of the day and that night.

While there we went for a long walk and noticed a number of deserted farm houses. On speaking to a dairy farmer the next day he told us that the small dairy farms had been bought up by the neighbours, so as to make the milking herd numbers viable by going from a hundred and fifty head to between three and six hundred head. It was a bit depressing to see these farm houses just deserted after maybe three or more generations farming the land. We were to see a lot more of this as we headed north through New South Wales in the months to come.

We spent the next night just past Terang at a dairy farm owned by Will who had a big collection of old trucks, tractors, farm machinery and his passion of outdoor toilets. Will gave Barbara the pleasure of helping him to milk his cows and it was not long before she was to discover it is not only milk which comes from the rear of a cow.

The next day was on to Colac where we stayed with John and Judy Reynolds. I thought we had learnt but once again I listened to a motorist and went the way he told us to go instead of the way we planned which would have been almost hill free. We had one of our hardest, hilliest rides so far on the trip, riding seventy seven kilometers. John was best man at our wedding and even though they were busy running their very busy supermarket we had a terrific time with them for three nights going over old times.
We then rode onto Werribee where we stayed with Judy and Arthur Rigby, who are old friends of Barbara’s, for two nights.
While in Werribee we found a bike shop thinking we would end the saga of Barbara’s sore feet. She was now getting blisters on the heels and we had tried everything to stop them rubbing but to no avail. We were talked into buying a pair of riding shoes which were good to start with but, no, the shoe saga has not yet finished.

From Werribee we caught the train into Melbourne and what an experience that was. We did not think that the bike and trailer would be wider than the train but it was, so we were lucky that there were a couple strong young fellows on the train who were able to help us lift my bike and trailer around so that we could fit them in before the train moved off. We now knew to uncouple the bike and trailer before boarding a train. A lot of quick action to do this in the short time they give you to get on and off the train, as Barbara finds it difficult to lift her bike on and off the train because of the weight. We have since learnt to use the front carriage so that the driver can see what is going on.

We stayed at Barbara’s sister Yvonne’s home in Melbourne for about a week and spent the time visiting friends and getting ready for our next part of the journey in Tasmania.

We had now been on the road for eighty one days and had cycled one thousand and two kilometres.

Chapter 6
29/11/08 to 22/2/09

We spent our last day in Melbourne, using the very extensive bicycle tracks to ride from the Camberwell area through to the city of Melbourne and on to Port Melbourne, to catch the overnight ferry to Devonport in Tasmania.

We rode along the Yarra River for about ten kilometres with rowers, kayakers and paddle steamers all using the river, which really added colour and vitality to the river. In all we must have ridden about twenty kilometres without once having to ride on a road. No wonder Melbourne is the cycling centre of Australia.

Before catching the ferry we had fish and chips for dinner in Port Melbourne, which had become a very pleasant place to be. When we lived in Melbourne you would not even have thought of having a meal in the area but now it is alive with restaurants and cafes

The Princess of Tasmania, which is a drive-on ferry, left at about 9pm and travelled overnight to Devonport arriving at 7am. We had treated ourselves to a cabin for the trip and so had a good sleep and were raring to go on disembarking in the morning. After we had found a supermarket so that we could stock up with food there was a light drizzle falling, so we found a picnic area with shelter so that we could have breakfast and wait for the rain to clear. We were to experience this kind of drizzle and wind all through December which meant we spent more days than we wanted to sheltering at camp ground camp kitchens.

We had decided to ride east along the north coast and head to St Helens for Christmas. On the first day we rode in windy conditions to Port Sorrell where we stayed for four nights as it rained every day with strong easterly winds. It was a very well set out camping ground with good facilities and we had good walks in between rain periods.

We finally got away and rode to the Narawntapu National Park where we had lunch and then doubled back so that we could ride along Brown Creek Road and across the Asbestos ranges towards York Town, the first settlement in Tasmania. About ten kilometres along Brown Creek Road we found a great little gully with ferns and all other types of rain-forest vegetation so we set up camp and had a great night once again all to ourselves.

We woke up the next morning to steady rain and a very slippery dirt road so ended up walking up a very steep hill and down the other side, all the time in pouring rain with only two or three vehicles passing us. We must have looked like drowned rats. Anyway after we had walked about ten kilometres it finally fined up so we had lunch; and then rode on to York Town, which now consists of a small park and a monument to the original settlers.

We camped in the park for the night and the next day went on to Beaconsfield seven kilometres away, arriving there as it once again started to rain. We set our tent up in the grandstand of the local football club, which had recently been built with federal grants given to the town after the mine collapse some three years before. We had a roast dinner at the pub that night and we both agree that it was the best roast we have had so far on the trip.

It was then off to George Town which is on the entrance to the Tamar River. We rode along the west side of the Tamar River with great views and reasonably flat riding. We crossed the river using the Batman Bridge, where we bought some fresh peaches and plums from a roadside store, the first we had seen since leaving home. We then turned north and rode along a four-lane highway into a strong head wind to George Town where we booked into the one and only caravan park. For the next two days it rained and the wind blew so once again that was where we stayed.
It was here that a New Zealander and his Dutch wife rode in pulling a trailer in which was their two year old daughter. They had ridden three thousand kilometres from Cairns over about three months and were on their way to Hobart for Christmas and then back to work in Holland and to save for their next trip to Australia.
We could see that the weather looked better for the next couple of days so we headed off to Bellingham, which is a small village without any services about seven kilometres off the main road. We camped on the foreshore and were able to see the rising and falling tides, which seemed huge but it was only because of the shallow water.
We were there for two nights and then made a run of thirty nine kilometres to Bridport as we could see the weather was going to change for the worse the next day. It certainly did, with about five inches of rain falling that night. Our tent stood up to it well with no leaks. We spent most of the next day in the park’s laundry as it continued to rain and blow a gale. If this was the weather we were going to get in Tasmania our stay there was going to be pretty short. As it turned out this was the last bad weather we had until early February some five weeks later.
We left Bridport the next morning in glorious weather and rode along to the turn-off to Blackmans Lagoon. We were only going to stay for one night, as we only had limited water, but a shack owner there who had called in for a few hours offered us all the water we needed. The next morning we walked the two kilometres to the beach, along a very sandy track which made it hard walking, but what a delight it was on the beach, with no one in sight for kilometres and the water just warm enough to not freeze us. A fisherman who came along later dropped off a filleted salmon to us which made us a great curry that night.
It was then off to Gladstone which is the most north eastern towns. The local postie drove us to the north east corner of Tasmania where we were able to see Cape Barron Island in the distance.
Gladstone seems a very barren, windswept area and we can understand why there is to be in the near future a huge wind farm. All the sheep have been moved from the area, as they apparently attract more birds which do not go well with wind turbines, and have been replaced with cattle. There is also a huge population of wombats which was very obvious to us from the road kill we had seen in the previous few days.
After leaving Gladstone and heading inland there was a complete change of vegetation from flat grazing country to almost rain-forest with ferns and creepers. We also went past the Little Blue Lake which stood up to its name with beautiful blue water. The lake is a reminder of the copper mining in years gone past.
After turning on to the Tasman Highway towards Weldborough and St Helens we really found out what was meant by hills in Tasmania.
After a night at The Weldborough Hotel with a reef and beef dinner it was fifteen kilometres of walking up and down the Weldborough Pass. Luckily there was a good rain-forest walk on the way up and a good explanation on how the forest was formed over the years. The top of the pass was one of our best lunch stops, with a look-out from which we were able to see for huge distances all around us.
By the time we got down to Penganga at the bottom of the pass, which we ended up walking a big majority of, we had had enough. We camped at the local playground next to a wood chopping arena which is a big winter sport in Tasmania.
Riding in to St Helens the next morning was a stimulating thirty kilometre downhill ride where we got up to forty-plus kilometres an hour. The ride gave Barbara a lot of confidence in downhill riding as up until now she had been very nervous of going downhill. We arrived in St Helens on the nineteenth of December and had decided to stay there until after New Year as the roads would be busy with holidaymakers and so much safer for us to stay put.
After two nights of camping at Runaway Bay we met Betty and Ken Tucker at carols by candlelight. They offered us the use of their unoccupied shack right on the edge of the bay, not far from where we were camped and all out by itself. What a great way to spend Christmas with showers and television for a whole ten days. The shack was right on Georges Bay and there was a picnic table on the edge of the bay only about one hundred metres from the shack so we had most of our meals overlooking the bay. We spent Christmas day in St Helens having our lunch on top of the look-out in a nice picnic area and were surprised that we were the only ones there.
Between Christmas and New Year we spent time riding to the Bay of Fires and out to St Helens Point as well as doing walks around the area.
This part of the coast is not at all that dissimilar to the South Coast of New South Wales, so if we come back to Tasmania we would spend our time on the west coast which is entirely different to what we are used to.
Once the New Year break was over we headed south and had three nights at Diana’s Basin, one of the many free camp spots along the coast. It is a bit of a pity that some of the campers do not consider other users and clean up after themselves, and keep their music to themselves and not expect others to want to listen to their music at all hours.
We rode over three days down the coast to The Douglas Apsley National Park with the idea of having a couple of days there but ended up spending a week there, camped in a primitive camping area where at the most there were only six or seven other people. I rode into Bicheno about thirty kilometres a couple of times to get supplies. The rest of the time we did great walks and swam in the rock pools which were scattered all the way up the Douglas River. We also watched a pair of grey fantails looking after their young ones in the nest.
We rode for ten kilometres out of the park along a dirt road and I knew that Barbara was now going to be a lot more confident on dirt roads.
It was at this stage that we knew the shoes Barbara had were really going to cause us grief if we did not do something about them as soon as possible. We decided to head inland to St Mary’s and then on to Campbell Town where we would leave our bikes and bus it down to Hobart to once and for all fix the shoe problem.
To get to Campbell Town we spent five days riding through St Mary’s and then along the Esk Highway, where Steve and Jan Young of Moruya drove passed us and stopped and had morning tea with us. It was good to see some familiar faces
We had given ourselves three days in Hobart while staying with Chris Gwynne to find shoes. We ended up only needing less than an hour as the first cycle shop we went into spent the time with us and solved the problem. Barbara’s feet have not given us a problem since. This is the end of Barbara’s shoe saga.
It took us more time to find our favourite coffee plunger mugs; we walked Hobart before we found them. There was no way we were going to leave Hobart before we had arranged the shoes and our plunger mug replacements. These mugs are a must for us as our morning coffee is a time we cherish.
While in Hobart they had a state-wide storm. It felled trees and power lines and fanned a bush fire which closed the Esk and Midland Highways which we had ridden along only three days before.
We went back to Campbell Town and stayed there for four more days as the winds were strong and hot.
The day we headed west towards Cressy was calm but about thirty degrees so we camped on a farm by mid-day and sat out the heat of the day. A thirty degree day in Tasmania is more like a forty degree day at home and the sun is a lot more intense. The farmer explained to us that his sheep were merinos but big barrelled ones which means their actual body is a lot bigger than the ones they have on the mainland. Before we left the next day he gave us some frozen lamb chops which we barbecued in Cressy that night.
We did plan to stay on the river just out of Cressy but we could not find any shade so rode in to Cressy and camped at the town park. It was the hottest day ever recorded in Cressy at forty two degrees and did we feel it. A local couple who lived nearby came to us and insisted that we come to their home for showers and drinks which of course we accepted. We were surprised at how green the grass was in the park but found out why during the night when the sprinkler system came on.
Very early the next morning we rode the twenty one kilometres to Poatina, a church group town nestled at the foot of the nine hundred metre climb up to the top of the Central Plateau, a part of the highlands of Tasmania.
We stayed in Poatina for three nights, sheltering from the forty degree temperatures, and were offered a lift up the steep part of the mountain, which we accepted, as all we had heard for three days were log trucks going both ways up and down the steep climb. Once up the top it was a pleasant ride to Arthur’s Lake where once again the rain returned.
It was during this rain that we found that it is all very well to get a light tent but you still need a ground sheet to prevent getting small holes in the light floor from stones and thorns, so there is no saving of weight in a light tent. We purchased a ground sheet a few days later and have not had a problem since.
We were to meet Michael and Sarah in their campervan up on the highlands a few days later but, due to the weather forecast, decided to get off the highlands as quickly as we could. When there is bad weather up there it can be very wet and less than zero degrees. The people we spoke to while up there lived for their fishing and so for people like us the area was a little bit barren. We had been in the area two years previously with our kayak paddling some of the lakes and camping at Lake St Clare.
We then had a very pleasant ride along the edge of the Great Lake on a dirt road which once again Barbara handled very well, even with log trucks and cars passing us going flat out. We had lunch at the rangers hut at Llawenee which is supposedly the coldest spot in Tasmania. On this day it was well over thirty degrees.
After camping in an idyllic spot on the side of the Great Lake, we were looking forward to riding nine hundred metres down the mountain to Deloraine but sadly it was not to be. The hill was so steep that the rims on my bike were almost red hot so we had to walk about eight kilometres down the hill. I had a good laugh as I had to call out to Barbara to tell her to stop as she had taken off down the hill like an experienced down-hill racer. Going down we walked through fog and mist and had some beautiful views.
At Deloraine we visited the opportunity shops to find new tops in dark colours as we found the light colours we started off with showed the six months of ground-in dirt.
We had a rest day at Kimberley on the bank of the river in which we swam three or four times a day. We were shown by a local farmer our first dairy farm with a rotary milking system which milked six hundred cows in about two hours with two operators. He also gave us fresh eggs and home grown potatoes for our omelet that night.
It was then on to the topiary town of Railton where around the town they have grown a lot of topiary with different themes. It must take years to grow these themes but it has been well done and worth seeing.
It was then Sheffield, the town of murals, for a night and then Devils Bend, which is the dam wall for Barrington Lake, and is the centre for rowing and other water sports in Tasmania.
We spent one night in Devonport before heading east, with our first two nights being at Turners Beach which has huge tide movements and when low we were able to walk for a long way along the beach on firm sand. Once again the tides seem big but once again are because of the shallow water.
Penguin was next port of call and both of us think that if we were to settle in Tasmania this area would be our pick of all the spots and towns we had seen in Tasmania. Wayne Gwynne travelled up from Hobart where he was visiting his son Chris and family to Penguin to see us.
We camped in the Apex Park. On Saturday we had a good laugh when some thirty or forty vans and campers turned up for the market the next day, which we visited and lasted there for about five minutes before we had had enough. We had heard about this market as a must visit since we had arrived in Tasmania. The two spots we had been told by some grey nomads were must places to visit was here and the Cadburys factory in Hobart
Once again we were offered showers by two local teachers whom we met when walking along the beach.
It was then on to Forth on the way back to Devonport to meet Michael and Sarah before they caught the ferry back to Melbourne. In Forth with a population of only about two hundred we came across two people who had close relations in Moruya.
We had a very relaxing afternoon with Michael and Sarah on the banks of the Derwent River catching up with all our news and talking about our and their trip so far. It was so good to see them.
We spent our last night in Tasmania back at Port Sorrell, at the same camp ground as on our first night in Tasmania and felt very comfortable there. It was good to see how much stronger Barbara was after riding about one thousand hard kilometres in Tasmania over about ten weeks.
We had a daytime trip on the ferry back to Melbourne and spent that night in a motel in St Kilda where we had to carry our bikes up four floors before dropping our bikes off in Richmond with Peter Moore the next day for a complete service before heading to Yvonne’s for the night.
We had a night with Mark and Susan Barsdell whom I had known since my school days and it was like old times and then an evening at the Farrens who had organized a night with a lot of the people we knew from The Great Victorian Bike Ride days.
It was then on to the home of Lindsay and Susan Rose who were to drive us to their holiday home at Strathbogie, about one hundred kilometres north of Melbourne, so that we could by-pass the areas of the disastrous bush-fires earlier that month. We had five nights there, three of them being on our own before heading north to New South Wales, Queensland and, if all goes well, the Northern Territory and Darwin.
We had now been on the road for one hundred and eighty four days and ridden two thousand seven hundred and ninety four kilometres.
Chapter 7
Strathbogie to Mungindi
5/3/09 -25/04/09

It was a very pleasant time at Strathbogie with good meals and interesting conversations with Susan and Lindsay.
After almost two weeks without riding we were raring to go. We were both very confident about our riding but kept on thinking how far it was to Darwin and would we get there by late August before the build up to the wet season begins. Our first day’s ride started with a great downhill ride into Euroa, where we stocked up with supplies, and then went on to Violet Town and found a great camping spot off the highway in a conservation area.
As we have said we decided to use side roads as often as possible so over the next few months we tended to zig zag our way north. We felt it was better to ride further than have trucks and fast cars zipping past us all the time. It is not only unpleasant for us but is sometimes annoying to drivers who are not used to seeing and handling cyclists on the open road.
It was a long weekend in Victoria on that weekend so we headed for Tocumwal on the Murray River and rode about seventy kilometres on the third day. It was fairly flat and we averaged about sixteen kilometres an hour.
It was on this day that three of our tyres found their first cat eye thorns at the same time, which we were now to live with for the next six or seven thousand kilometres. These thorns had three or four spikes and were sharp and strong. They would even go through the soles of our Croc sandals we wore when not riding. We found the best way to avoid them was to stay off any grass at all and even when camping we would carry our bikes over the grass and leave them standing upside down.
While at Tocumwal Jessica’s partner’s parents, Geoff and Margaret, drove from Albury to see us and we had a pleasant morning tea with them by the river. Margaret was off to Dubai to visit Jessica and Dean the following week and told us she would tell them how well we looked.
It was also at Tocumwal that we had our first game of bowls and in that first hour on the green we knew we would be playing again. It is definitely a game for all ages. It was about now that we felt as relaxed as ever within ourselves and were enjoying every day as it came.

Over the next few days we had head winds and on one day at Oakland they were strong enough to make us stay put for the day. We spent the day playing bowls and in the evening spoke to a scout group about our experiences up until this time. A lot of the questions asked by the scouts were very sensible and showed us that the scout movement was still doing what it set out to do all those years ago. It also made us very aware that organizations such as scouts and the lifesaving movements are something that all children should be encouraged to be a part of in their peer-driven youth.
We then rode through Urana where we stayed on a farm in the shearing shed. This farmer who had just had his seventy fifth birthdays introduced us to his full blooded dingo. He also told us that the current drought was the worst that he had experienced in his life time.
A lot of the towns we rode through over this period were really struggling due to the drought but you could not meet a group of people who were more willing, not only to make us welcome, but to work together so as to keep their towns operating.
What a weekend we had on the banks of the Murrumbidgee River. We asked Paul Funnell, a farmer at Millwood nearby to Wagga Wagga, the directions for a good camping spot we had been told about on the river but he took us down to their private beach on the river. As we were settling in his wife Catherine turned up with fresh bread and a jar of jam and an invitation to join them for dinner, and what a pleasant night it turned out to be. It was hot the next day so we spent a big part of the day just floating in the river.
We headed off to Coolamon after two days and while having lunch there met Richard MacArthur who also, as I did, used to work for Rural Press. He would not take no for an answer for us to ride to his home some fifty kilometres away and spend the night with him and go over old times.
After Coolamon we headed to Temora where we climbed a very steep hill on the outside of the town, which Barbara rode up without a thought of walking it. It showed how much stronger and more confident she was than when we left on our journey.
That night we camped on our first stock route rest area next to a creek. After this camp site we used stock routes as often as possible. It was here we met a couple who lived nearby and had built their home out of old Victorian railway carriages. They had a beautiful view over mountains and valleys.
Our next night was spent in a pub at Bribbaree where we had a great meal but the room had no screens, no power and no cooling, but only cost twenty dollars so what can you expect.
We stayed in Bimbi State Park for two nights which was very pleasant as we had water nearby and complete silence which was nice for a change.
At Grenfell we called in to see Sue Heffernan, whom we knew from Moruya, and had a very welcome shower and a nice lunch before we headed towards Gooloogong where we once again stayed on a stock route reserve.
During this period we were experimenting by using a few packets of dehydrated food, so that we could find the ones we liked for the long stretches that lay ahead, where we would not be able to buy fresh food for sometimes six or seven days at a time.
We went through Eugowra and Parkes over the next few days and had two nights halfway between Parkes and Baldry, in a forest opposite a farm run by an eighty year old farmer, who could still lift a bag of super and empty it into his sixty year old combine harvester. I did not even attempt to help him as I knew it would break my back to do so. He too told us he had never seen it so dry and this would be his last planting if he did not get rain this season. He was disappointed that no one in his family wanted to take over his farm after three generations of running the farm.
It was here we had our first contact with Jude Costello of Mungindi with whom we arranged to house-sit her farm for two weeks starting on Anzac day. We had about eight hundred kilometres to go and about six weeks to do it so we started to take our time and enjoy our stops and to also do shorter days.

At Yeoval we spoke at the local school about our trip and had the night on a property half way to Dubbo on the side of a river. A very pleasant evening.
We spent two nights at Dubbo looking for bike bits, including a new mirror to replace the one I had broken, and also for new camp chairs which we were finding very hard to find. Good, light camp stools made camping so much more comfortable. We by now found that our backs were so much stronger that we did not necessarily need backs but wanted strong light stools or seats.
We had been looking forward to a good Asian meal in Dubbo and ended up going to a Chinese restaurant but would have been better off having a cold meat pie. What a disappointment.
By now the roads were generally much flatter and we were doing greater distances each day with much higher average speeds. We were now also on the route of the grey nomads and so were seeing a lot more caravans on the roads. The free camping grounds were getting more crowded but nothing like we would find in later months.
The next few days were taken up going through Mendooran, Binnaway and through to Coonabarabran where we had a rest day and a game of bowls.
We had lunch one day in Mullaley and were puzzled as to why there were so many caravans at the town park. We were told there was a week-long country and western festival starting the next day at Tambar Springs and there would be about two thousand caravans there. They were all waiting in the area as they were not allowed to line up at the festival site until the next morning so as to get a good camping spot for the week.
We went through Gunnedah, a thriving country town with all services and a big retail sector. We were going this way so as to miss the Newell Highway and all the heavy traffic on it and we were so glad we did as, over the next week or so, we had some great camp sites and met some interesting people.
We planned to stay at Lake Keepit for a couple of nights but when we arrived we changed our minds, as it was very barren and the camp ground was very expensive for what was there. We went on to Manilla where we stayed at the showground and the caretaker opened the kitchen and showers for us.
We then stayed at Split Rock Dam for two nights, with a fabulous view over the dam and some long walks, but once again we could see the shortage of water in the area.
It was then Good Friday and we rode on to Barraba where it looked like rain so we stayed in the caravan park and had fish and chips from the local store. The caravan park owner could not have been more helpful, not only to us but everyone else who was there, a great example of how a park should be run. It was here that our tent zips really started to play up and one end was not working at all; although it rained we did not get wet and it was just lucky that there were no mosquitoes about. We knew we had to do something in a hurry about our tent but thought we would have to wait until Moree, another three or four days’ ride away.
As it was Easter we could not get into a camp ground at Bingara, after a fast fifteen kilometre downhill to get there, and ended up camping in the park behind some bushes all on our lonesome with no disturbance at all. Wherever possible we tried either to camp about twenty kilometres away from towns or right in the town at a caravan park on weekends, so that we did not have trouble with the drunken hoons.
As we were meeting Michael and Sarah the next day, we rode along until we found a suitable camping spot where they could bring their camper in. It ended up being a gravel pit about two hundred metres off the road, about five minutes walk from a river in which we could see large fish which we later found out were carp.
Not long after Michael and Sarah arrived it started to rain and became very boggy as we were on a kind of clay surface, but we had a good night and it was really good to see them. Michael and Sarah left the next morning by sliding almost sideways down to the road. We stayed on for the next night as it rained all day. We found out how good it was to have a Weekend Australian as a door mat to the tent; it helped to keep the mud out of the tent which incidentally did not leak one little bit.
The next morning it fined up and once the tent was dry at mid-day we set off for Warialda about thirty kilometres away. What a great meat pie we had there. We also found a canvas worker who inserted new zips in our tent and suggested we silicone spray the zips weekly, so as to get out any dust and to help them run smoothly. We stayed in a pub in the town and had a good counter meal roast for dinner that night. Nothing beats a good roast.
The next morning it was up our last hill we were told for some one thousand kilometres or so; although when we got into Queensland a few weeks later it was a very gentle uphill for quite some time, not hard but we could not coast along at all and had to pedal all the time. More about that later.
It was about from here that we started to come across the cotton road trains heading towards their processing plants around the Moree area. We must have seen a couple of hundred of them over the next week or so and all along the side of the road there were little tufts of cotton. We found these road train drivers very courteous to us, as has been the case with most of the trucks for most of our trip.
We still had more than a week to get to Mungindi so spent two nights at Gumnut Reserve by the river which was too low to swim in. We spent a good two days there and met a German couple who had been there for a month or so on their way around Australia. Once again it is a pity it has to be mentioned but the rubbish left in these spots spoils it for everyone else.
We then went on to Moree, did our shopping and went back to a stock reserve where we spent another two nights on a river, biding our time before we headed to Mungindi. All the way around this area was in drought so our campsites were good but everything was dry and to us a little bit sad as we had not seen this before. It was also an education for us to see with what the farmers had to put up. They are really only small business people and if small businesses in the cities had to put up with similar situations to the farmers a lot of them would have given up long time ago.
We spent two nights just out of Mungindi in a stock reserve before heading into town. It was at this stock reserve that we first came upon the mouse plague which had mice running over and under our tent. In the next few weeks we really found out what a mouse plague was all about.
Our first two nights in Mungindi were spent in a bungalow behind the local police station, thanks to Jason, a local policeman whom we had met a couple days out of Moree when he stopped to ask us if we had enough water and food. He also arranged to bring us into Mungindi township from Cubberoo station, where we were to do our house and dog sitting, so that we could speak to the local school children. Jason has five children of his own but still finds time to run the junior football, blue light disco and anything else involving youth in the town.
On Anzac day we went to the dawn service and then rode the thirty eight kilometres to Cubberoo, which included eight kilometres of dirt road from the highway in to the homestead. We had to dodge around the weeds and thorns which we successfully did until the last two hundred metres when my back tyre found a thorn.
We were met by Judy Costello who showed us around her station and introduced us to the twenty one breeding kelpies, forty six geese, twenty chooks, a black swan, two pigeons and thousands of mice, for which she had traps set in every nook and cranny she could in the house. There were not many days when we would not trap up to a dozen mice. Judy spent three days with us before leaving for a Melbourne dog show with her fifteen Colossae Cairn Terriers, which she bred and was well recognized for in Australia.
The fun really started the day after Judy left when two of the dogs got into the chook pen and killed two of them, two geese died and one of the kelpies fell ill. The neighbours, although some fifty kilometres away return, were always contacting us to make sure all was well and to see if we needed anything in town; One even came over to take us to their home for lunch and to see them seeding some of their thousands of acres with wheat. Another one came over to take the sick kelpie home where it died, not from something we did but from old age and the cold.
It was during this time that Jason came out to get us and our bikes to take us into town. We spoke at the two schools about our trip and also emphasized the importance with examples of wearing helmets at all times. Jason contacted us some months later and told us that helmet wearing had gone up and stayed up.
All up we had a good time at Cubberoo and we will always have a good laugh about our experiences there.
After Cubberoo we spent two nights on a goat farm so that the owner of that farm could get away for a few days. This farm had Maremma Sheep Dogs to protect the goats from dingos and other wild animals, and stayed with the goat herds day and night. Beautiful-looking dogs but very timid and really had no contact with humans.

We had now been on the road for two hundred and thirty six days and had ridden four thousand four hundred and eight kilometres.
Chapter 8
Mungindi to Darwin
10/05/09 to 9/08/09

After spending fifteen days at Cubberoo near Mungindi it was good to be on the move again.I still find I have to be on the go and find it very hard to have a nothing day.
Jude had asked us if we intended to go to Lightning Ridge. We said no as we did not want to spend three days on dirt roads to travel the one hundred and fifty kilometres to get there, so Jude insisted that we take up her offer of driving us over there. Once we had travelled only a few kilometres we were so glad that we did not attempt to ride there as the roads were like white powder and very sandy and it would have been hard, boring riding.

It was mother’s day on that day so we had a roast dinner at Lightning Ridge which is very much a mining town and not much to offer other than a few tourist shops and local tours. We had a quick look around, stocked up our supplies at the IGA store which we now knew were the supermarkets we would find at any town not big enough to support one of the bigger supermarkets and peddled out of town.

Once we got going it felt really good to be on our own again without having to worry about anybody else.

It was only about twenty kilometres out of town towards Hebel that we saw a side road which we went up and ended on top of a ridge surrounded by mine shafts of which some were still in operation but most were now redundant. We spoke to a miner there and probably learnt more from him in half an hour than we would have by going on a tour. He showed us where we could set up our tent but cautioned us in regards to the many mine shafts about, which were open without any barrier around them, and told us that we would be surprised at how many people had been lost in the area and never found.

We were also told that there are a lot more mail boxes used at the post office than there are people enrolled to vote in the area so we gather there are a lot of people in the area who are unknown by the authorities.

That night it was a full moon and as we were on top of the ridge the sunset and the moonrise will always be something that sticks in our minds. The glow from the sun on the western horizon at the same time as the rising moon to the east was something to behold. That night we saw more stars than we thought possible. After the two weeks of rest we both felt as though our trip had just begun.

The next day we went through Hebel and over the border into Queensland. We celebrated the border crossing with an ice cream at Hebel.

It was from here until we got to Tambo some seven hundred kilometres away that there was a very gentle uphill which meant we were very rarely able to coast but had to pedal for most of the time. This was why on most nights we were pretty tired but our average daily distance had gone up and we were often doing fifty to seventy kilometres a day.

Michael and Sarah once again met us in their camper at Dirranbandi on their way back from Cairns and we had a pleasant evening with them with a barbecue dinner. The next day they found a great little bush camp spot about thirty kilometres further on towards St George. We had a great afternoon and evening, with a camp fire, wine for the ladies and once again a lot of laughs.

We left early the next morning to head north, with heavy hearts as we knew it would be the last time we would see them until we arrived back in Moruya in about eighteen months time; they had become such an integral part of our lives since they moved from Perth to Moruya some four years before.

Up until now we had been using wine bladders to carry ten litres of water. We could see that they were not going to be suitable for the long stretches ahead so we purchased a five and a ten litre plastic petrol container. They are slightly heavier but we know we will not have the containers bursting and leaving us with no water. We have found that water is our most consistent worry and is never far from our minds as we travel further north.

We stayed in St George for one night before the short ride to Lake Kajarabie on the Balonne River, where we stayed for two nights. It was still cotton harvest time and about the only traffic we saw was cotton trucks coming out of the Cubby House cotton station, not in the big bins we had been seeing, but in round bales about three times the size of round lucerne bales on the trailers of road trains.

It was at this time the coast both north and south of Brisbane was hit by severe storms with torrential rain for about three days, causing flooding and chaos all the way along the coast and for much of Brisbane. We were right on the edge of it and had heavy rain as we rode the last forty kilometres into Surat. We had got very wet and cold, which was our fault as we had thought it would only be a passing shower and did not bother putting on our wet gear until it was too late. Another lesson learnt.

As soon as we arrived in Surat we booked into a motel and had hot showers and ordered a huge serve of chips from the local take-away to warm the insides of us up. What a site our room was with two bikes, a trailer, camping gear and all our wet weather jackets. We did not like leaving anything outside as we had heard of bikes and gear being stolen from all kinds of strange places so we had decided to play it safe. We now did not leave our bikes outside supermarkets or toilets without one of us staying with them as then we knew they would be safe although it meant we could not often do things together. Rather be safe than sorry.

We spent two nights in Surat, with it raining most of the time, but we did manage to arrange to speak at the local school for which the teachers were very grateful. When speaking to these children it made us very aware that a lot of them have not seen much beyond a few hundred kilometres of where they live.

Our next main town was Roma which is on the main road from Brisbane to the Northern Territory and beyond. We noticed the roads and the caravan parks were much busier and in some cases it was even hard to get a tent site.

At Mitchell, where the road trains hitch up to head west, we spoke to a few of the drivers on what we should do on the road to make it easier for them and safer for us. We gathered from them that if there was only a truck or road train coming from behind or from in front of us to just stay to the left and they would leave us plenty of room. However, if there was also a any vehicle coming in the opposite direction we were to stop and stand still, as far to the left as possible or, better still, right off the road. It was explained to us that some of these road trains will carry about one hundred and fifty cattle which will weigh up to five hundred kilos each and so they are not easy to stop or swerve. They also said that if we showed common sense the word would get through by two-way radio that we were on the road and to look out for us. Since then we can really only praise the truckies and sometimes wish some of the caravan drivers were under the same stringent regulations as the truck drivers. It also helps that the truckies are only allowed to drive for twelve hours with certain breaks before they have a twelve hour break; most of them will drive through the night so that they do not have to be on the roads at the same time as the caravans.

At Mungallala, a small town on the Warrego Highway where we stayed for two nights, we saw a family of four taking their pig, a pony and two dogs for a walk. A more relaxed couple we have not yet met.

Morven, where we once again spoke to a school, has a terrific free camping ground with all facilities. We camped for a night and it was just one of those towns where the shopkeepers could not do enough for you.

For the last few days from Roma we had been going due west on pretty flat roads, seeing a variety of fauna with always something to interest us. Now from Morven we headed north west towards Mt Isa some twelve hundred kilometres away. We were really enjoying the camp sites and the riding and were averaging about sixty kilometres a day.

Yes! All was going well until one day or about fifty kilometers before Augathella. As we were moving my bike around to set up our camp spot we heard this loud crack and it was the arm of the trailer which had snapped. Just by looking we knew we would not be riding with the trailer until it was fixed. We quickly packed up our camp as it was about four o’clock and stood on the roadside hoping for a truck or ute to stop and take us into Augathella but, when darkness started to set in, we decided to camp there for the night and try again in the morning.

The next morning the first car that came along was a Land Cruiser driven by Kathy, a nurse at the local hospital, who stopped and took our trailer and bags into Augathella. Not only did Kathy take our gear into Augathella but she lent us her Cruiser to take our gear to the race course where the local policeman had set us up to camp with showers and shelter, as it looked as though the rain was to come back again as it did for the next three days. We had just finished setting up camp when along came another nurse with the scones and cakes left over from the hospital Biggest Morning Tea. They did not last for long.

As far as the trailer went, we phoned Mark at Moruya Cycles on the Thursday morning and the spare arm arrived by post on the Monday morning. Australia Post with all their mail every day does a remarkably good job.

Anyway we were ready to go but the weather came in again so we ended up spending an extra couple of nights there and once again spoke at the local school. Whilst at the showground one of the water pipes sprang a leak so I spent a day digging down to find the leak. I found I was a lot stronger in the arms and stomach than I was when we left Moruya, which must be because of the use I give all my muscles while riding. Barbara was finding the same with her strength and her riding was becoming a lot stronger.

The distances between towns were now getting longer and we had started to experiment with dried foods.

Just out of Tambo we came to the highest altitude spot on Queensland’s highway system, with the run-off going to Lake Aye to the west and Darling system to the east.

We stayed for a night at the Barcool River free camp spot where there were a number of vans and campers. At Blackall we once again camped by the river in an area with all amenities for only five dollars a night. There would have to have been sixty caravans and campers there on both the nights we camped there.

It was at Blackall we started to mix our own muesli with rolled oats, mixed fruit and seeds. We are sure this helped us with our riding and stamina as there was no added sugar such as we were getting in packaged muesli. We were now also making sandwiches for our mid-morning snacks rather than having muesli bars or the like as, once again, they are packed with sugar. We were stopping each hour to have a half-sandwich or some fruit and usually at about ten thirty or eleven we would stop and make ourselves coffee in our plunger mugs. Our coffee break was a time we looked forward to each day. Damper is often our morning tea snack.

The days were getting warmer now so we were leaving at first light and would, if we could, find a good camp spot by one or two o’clock when we would have lunch, a walk and even an afternoon siesta.

After Blackall we went west to Isisford over a couple of days. Really flat roads and averaged about twenty kilometres per hour on both days. Once again made good use of the stock route camps and had a good camp fire at night.

Isisford is an interesting little town, steeped in history. The hotel has a camping ground behind it at a cost of ten dollars a night. Isisford is on the Boundary River. Nomads come up from the south and stay there for three or four months. They are all set up with everything that opens and shuts and spend their time fishing and talking to other campers whom they have known from there for the past umpteen years.

It was then on to Ilfracombe, made famous by the kilometre-long line-up of old machinery, all labelled, telling their use and where and when they were used. We camped in the centre of the town next to the pool which also had a spa; we made good use of it, after riding slightly up hill since Isisford, with a head wind.

We visited the Qantas Museum at Longreach and stocked up for our three-day ride to Winton. We were finding the dehydrated Continental pastas and rice dishes were the best for us, with packets of tuna and surprise peas to mix with them. We found the instant potatoes with a packet of tuna, surprise peas and dehydrated cheese made a good meal, but we really did find a truckies dinner at a road-house was hard to beat after a few days on dehydrated food. We had by now cut back on the fresh fruit that we were carrying as it was heavy and, as it was round, there was a lot of wasted space. By now we knew we could not rely on road-houses to have anything other than beer, chips and coke and not very often anything that we had become used to eating. For this reason when we head west to Broome we will post food parcels ahead of us so that at least we know we have the basics. We will have to do this for different sections almost all the way to Adelaide.

We were finding that we were comfortable with twenty litres of water for a day-and-a-half, so our idea was to stop somewhere by lunch time on the second day to get water or wait at a rest area and hope the caravanners would give us water. We had decided that we would not ride on with any less than about three to five litres of water.

There were now long stretches between towns with sometimes, as was the case of Winton to Cloncurry, more than three hundred kilometres between them and only road-houses at the small towns. The locals in these small towns out west think nothing of driving four or five hundred kilometres to do their fortnightly shopping. All of these small towns have pubs where all the locals meet to catch up on the news of the week. I think if it were not for the pubs the little towns would die a slow death.

The night before Winton we spent at the roadside free camping area at Crawford Creek, where there is a good toilet block and good camping areas on both sides. When we arrived there was one caravan there so we went on to the other side. By dark there were about twenty vans squeezed in on the other side and we were left as the only ones on our side, which we think was the better side anyway. We think the nomads are frightened of being too far away from other people.

We spent two nights in Winton and in Cloncurry which, once again, had a lot of activities and amenities for the grey nomads. At Winton we purchased a solar charger for our mobile phone. A big waste of money and time that proved to be. The easiest way to have a charged battery for our phone is to purchase a spare battery and to only use the phone at a set hour when in an area that has reception.

We found that most of the road-houses out this way had small camp grounds which by about three o’clock were full of nomads.

On the way between McKinley and Cloncurry we were passed by a cattle truck with some one hundred and fifty head on board and we think most of them were all peeing at the same time. Some of our clothes must have smelt for a week.

The night before we arrived at Mt Isa we camped on the Leichhardt River well away from the highway, with thousands of budgerigars flying around. That night we were the only ones there but we could see that the area was very well used, most likely by locals on weekends.

Mount Isa is a very busy town or small city with its big smelters viewable for kilometres around. A lot of mine workers take up the camping ground sites and what is left the grey nomads take after having booked them sometimes a week or more in advance.

After Mount Isa the terrain just flattened out and we had good long days across the Barkly Tablelands all the way to Tennant Creek, about six hundred and fifty kilometres away. On this stretch we camped just inside the gates of cattle stations, under Telstra transmission towers and off the road in gravel pits which are all great camping spots.

We also had two nights in a pub at Camooweal. Nearby there is a huge water lagoon with hundreds of birds of all types. We spent some hours walking around this area. There were also a lot of campers all the way around the lagoon, some staying for a short period and others looking as though they were set to stay for a while.

Barkly Homestead where we spent two nights, is about half way between Camooweal and Tennant Creek was the only spot you could buy anything for about three hundred kilometers either way but they had nothing but baked beans and spaghetti in their groceries. Plenty of grog and chips, with hundreds of caravanners and campers calling in, but next to nothing in groceries.

It was here that as we arrived about twenty people converged on us to ask the same old questions: how many tyres, how many punctures, how far each day, where did we sleep and so on, but it is only because they are interested so we always take the time to answer. It took us almost an hour before we were able to start putting up our tent. It is also these people who always offer us water and fresh fruit and go out of their way to help us on our journey; here, at Barkly Homestead, one gave us methylated spirits, rolled oats and other basic food which the shop did not stock.

It was also here at Barkly Homestead that Barry and Sue Weeks of Moruya caught up with us after driving the extra distance just to say hello. They had been told where we were by a couple we had seen a couple of days before who told them that they had seen these two cyclists from Moruya.

My back tyre was giving me problems now as I was getting punctures in it almost every day. I changed to the spare, which was a cheapy, and it did help for a while before it started to wear and little spurs would go through it very easily. I put the original one back on and didn’t realise until we were in Darwin that the beading was damaged and small bits of wire were giving me the punctures. I had thought it was because of the extra weight from the trailer but it was probably from that and not enough pressure in the tyre that caused the damaged beading. There has not been a problem since I have put on a new tyre and bought new spare tubes but between Mt Isa and Darwin I must have had fifteen flat tyres. It also helps to have good quality inner tubes which are a bit thicker. We have also purchased a better pump which will get our tyres up to sixty PSI within a few minutes. We also check our tyre pressures every second day as they do lose pressure over a few days.

While going over the Barkly we saw some great sunsets as the terrain was so flat and sometimes our camp site was on a slight hill.

On one night we camped on Alexandria Station which covers about a million acres. The main homestead is almost one hundred and fifty kilometres from the highway. A jackeroo told us that they have a monthly road train in with supplies and a weekly small plane brings in the mail and fresh produce. It was only luck that we met this jackeroo as he told us he had not been along this particular track for a month or so.

We met Haley the cook at the secondary homestead of Alexandria Station which was alongside the highway. She told us she cooked for about thirty jackeroos for six days a week and was looking forward to three days off which she was going to spend in the big smoke of Mt Isa.

The day after this we met a jillaroo from Avon Downs station and she took Barbara in about ten kilometres to show her the offloading of cattle at a water hole. A few minutes later the Avon Downs water-pump man came past where we were camped. He explained to me that he and two others spend their whole time visiting the pumps and bores to make sure that they are working properly and each pump and bore gets a weekly visit. I am not sure how big Avon Downs is but it is in the million or so of acres and water for their stock is of the highest priority.

Just riding over these tablelands started to make us aware of the vastness of the top end of Australia and of the reliance on water.

It took us ten days to cross the Barkly Tablelands and most of the time we could see from horizon to horizon. It was a bit strange on some nights as we seemed to be able to hear the quietness. It seems a strange thing to say but we have heard other people say it, but it is true and hard to describe. What an experience it was to cover these tablelands and to know that we were able to do these long distances and that we had our food sorted out.

One of the things that we will always remember about this crossing was the oranges we were given at a rest stop. We were having our lunch and a couple of caravanners asked us if there was anything we wanted and we replied saying we would love some fresh fruit. Never has an orange tasted so good.

We now knew to keep our supplies simple and to enjoy the food at the road-houses and forget about being too pure about what we ate out in the outback.

What we did see a lot of was signs telling us we were entering a prescribed zone which meant no alcohol was to be taken into the area. It was because there are Aboriginal settlements off the highway and it is one of the ways the government is trying to stop the alcohol problem in the top end. I think we must have passed five or six of these settlements but at no stage did we see any sign of Aboriginals other than some burnt-out cars on the roadside.

When we rode from Three Ways, where we spent a night, to Tennant Creek, a distance of twenty five kilometres, we were amazed by all the signs telling us where and what liquor could be bought in the town. When we got there we saw why we did not see any Aboriginals out of town, as they were in Tennant Creek by their hundreds, just sitting around the streets and we think waiting for the bottle shops to open. We did not feel threatened by them but just felt sad that there were so many of all ages in the town with, we think, one purpose only and that was to get their next drink.

We spent two nights there in a very friendly caravan park and were asked over for dinner by Peter and Christine Andrews who are travelling Australia in a caravan. We had first met them back at Mt Isa and Blackall. Once again a roast dinner like my grandmother used to cook.

After Tennant Creek it was due north for nine hundred and ninety four kilometres to Darwin.

We both think the ride from Mt Isa to Darwin has been our favourite part of the ride so far. We had been told how boring the tablelands would be and how frightening the trucks would be but we found it just the opposite, with something new to see every few kilometres. It may have been our frame of mind but I think we knew we would be in Darwin before the build-up to the wet so we relaxed and enjoyed the experiences we were going through.

We spent two nights at Banka Banka station, which is the old homestead of a three million acre station which they have set up as a camping spot and each night they have up to a hundred caravans set up.

We also spent a night at the town of Newcastle Waters, where we had arranged the previous day to speak to the mostly Aboriginal children at the school but when we arrived there was no one to be seen. We were led to believe by one of the locals there that the elders had decided that they did not want us to speak to the children so they took them elsewhere until we left.

We once again spent most of our nights off the road in bush camps until we got to Daly Waters. Then there were towns every sixty kilometres or so and we were easily covering that distance on the mostly flat roads, with a tail wind for most of the time.

All the way from Tennant Creek we had heard of a couple by the names of Mark and Denise Arundell from Canberra, who were following us with a very similar set up to ours, and they finally caught up to us at Daly Waters. We then met them each night all the way to Katherine, including three nights at Mataranka where we swam in the springs and had a lot of laughs. Mark and I both shared in our love for fruit cakes.

We had done a ninety three kilometre ride into Mataranka which was so far our longest day. As Katherine was one hundred and seven kilometres from Mataranka Barbara was determined to do that distance, so on one of our hottest days so far we did the distance and Barbara arrived in Katherine with a smile from ear to ear.

Mark and Denise left us in Katherine, as we were taking our time but they were planning on getting to Broome and down the west coast before the hot weather set in and over to Tasmania for the summer. We hope to see them in Canberra in the last few days of our ride.

After Katherine we went to Edith Falls, a delightful camp area with showers, a kiosk and good walks. We were only going to stay for one night but ended up staying for three. It is most definitely the best camp spot we have been to. We had some great walks and watched the sun set as it changed the colours of the cliffs in the area.

We were told it was safe to swim in the lagoons in the area, as there were crocodile traps set around the area, but I in particular felt uneasy about swimming there so we decided we would not swim now until well out of the crocodile area in a few months’ time.

Our last rest day before Darwin was at Adelaide River, after spending a night on a back road from Hayes Creek to Adelaide River. It was the hilliest road we had ridden on since Mt Isa but it was really good to be riding with only about four or five vehicles passing us in almost a hundred kilometres.

Adelaide River has the war cemetery for those killed during World War Two in the north, with four hundred and thirty four young, mostly men, buried there. It was most moving to walk through the cemetery and see the ages of those killed.

After Adelaide river we rode about ninety kilometres into Palmerston a suburb of Darwin, with the idea of having a few days sorting ourselves out before heading back to Humpty Doo, where we intended to stay over the wet season.

The first thing we did when arriving in Palmerston was head for a McDonalds to have a thick shake for Barbara and a sundae for me while we thought about what we had done over the past eleven or so months. We had now ridden through parts of New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania, Queensland and half way across the Northern Territory and more than half way around Australia and seen things, met people and done things which will forever be in our minds. We stayed in Palmerston for two nights before riding out to Darwin Plant Wholesalers, twenty kilometres east of Humpty Doo along the Arnhem Highway, where we were to spend the wet season working before heading west to Broome and Perth.

We were pretty proud of ourselves for having ridden eight thousand three hundred and seventeen kilometres over three hundred and forty two days.

Chapter 9
10/8/09 to 12/04/10

Our next six months over the build up to and during the wet season were to be spent at the largest wholesale nursery in The Northern Territory. The Darwin Plant Wholesale Nursery is about sixty kilometres from Darwin along the Arnhem Highway and twenty kilomtres from the nearest shops.

The ride out to the nursery from Palmerston was probably our worst day on our journey so far as my back tyre finally gave up and I had three punctures. It was hot and we were not sure what lay in front of us at the nursery.
When we arrived at the nursery we were met by Darryl South the nursery owner and shown our home for the next few months. It is what is called a donga in the Northern Territory which is a self contained stand alone cabin.

We started work the next day with me being in the dispatch area with Barbara being in propagation. What an education for the both of us. With myself coming out of newspapers and Barbara out of nursing it was like a new life to us. We sometimes think what have we been doing over the past forty five odd years when there is all this out there and we now sometimes feel we have to rush to see the rest of it while we are able to.
There are about thirty people working at the nursery which sends plants to all parts of Australia. Their speciality is Frangipanis of which our donga is in the middle of about five hectres of the mother plants and as we write this they with the help of the wet season, humidity and storms which have really set in are starting to flower . Fantastic lightning and thunder which we had heard about but you have to be here to believe it.

It took us a few weeks to settle in particularly due to the weather which was just into the build up period to the monsoon season which goes from about mid November until the end of March when we intend to continue our journey. We found the build up rather depressing particularly as the donga we were in at that time did not have air conditioning. It did not arrive until just after Christmas. It meant we were never cool as the temperature even at night time did not get below about twenty five degrees. In fact to tell the truth we were besides ourselves and thought we were at the end of the world.

One of the problems we both had was a rash or fungal infection which we soon learnt to control through the use of ointment and powder. We have not had a problem since we got on top of it but very uncomfortable until we did so.

We had a lucky break over the month of Christmas when we were asked to house sit Saskias Stockmans home while she travelled with her family to visit her parents at Tomakin which is only twelve kilometres from our home. When we arrived back at the nursery the air conditioning was working and it was like heaven for the remainder of our stay there.

I think Darryl took pity on us and let us use the nursery delivery van on weekends so that we could drive and ride on most weekends to explore Darwin and its surrounds. We tried to ride about fifty kilometres every weekend so as to keep our riding muscles working. We visited Fog Dam, The Northern Territory Wild Life Park, The Museum and many other spots but we must admit we had to push ourselves to do this as the hot weather was getting to us and we think we now understand why the alcohol consumption is so high. We got into the habit of Barbara having beer and I found tonic water was very refreshing.
It was a very interesting six months where we realised we had led a rather sheltered life as up here things were a lot harder.
Probably the highlight of our time in the north was the visit of Jessica who at this time we had not seen for some eighteen months. While she was here we went to see the jumping crocodiles on the Adelaide River which is a guaranteed way of seeing them although it is a little bit like having them on a string. We had a round of golf and generally just had a good time talking and catching up. We were so proud of her in what she had achieved in Dubai at university and her work.
For our last four weeks in Darwin we spent two weeks in a caravan park so we could make sure all our camping gear was up to scratch and water proof and then did a house sit for two weeks close to Darwin proper.
The only camping gear we changed was getting better sleeping mats and self inflating pillows.One thing we did find over this period was that the weather started to get to us as we never seemed to be comfortable and can understand why some people up this way do go tropo.
One thing I now know is that I myself must always have a real purpose to get up in the morning as it is so easy to fall into the lazy way of doing nothing.
I will have to make sure we have some real purpose in life when we finish our journey.
The last two weeks before peddling of from Darwin on the second half of our journey through Broome, Perth and Adelaide will be spent in Dubai with Jessica and four nights in Singapore on the way back.
As mentioned many times water was to be our main concern over the next few months and so we worked out to have two ten litres containers in my trailer which now gave us capacity for about thirty litres.
We had also put a trailer on Barbara’s bike on which she would carry all the sleeping gear which would then a lot of room for the water on my trailer.
We had also resigned to the fact that we would only carry dehydrated food on the big stretches and hog into fresh food at road houses.
We were now ready to depart Darwin the next morning for the trip to the west.

Chapter 10
Darwin to Broome
April 13- June 10

What a surprise to our bodies it was to be back on our fully loaded bikes after eight months and riding in thirty five degree temperatures. This was particularly so for Barbara who was riding with a fully loaded trailer for the first time. We realised after a few days that we had ridden into Darwin at the tail end of the dry season and out on the tail end of the wet. The weather of conditions of these two times are the complete opposite with the former being dry and the latter being very humid and how we payed for it for in the first nine days to Katherine. We were good as far as Adelaide River but once we hit the hills we could not get enough water into us. I felt a bit of colour at Hayes Creek and so we stayed there for three nights with about five inches of rain falling on the first night. We bushed camped at Fergusson River where it was plus thirty five degrees and we could still not get enough water into us and in particularly me so we just stayed there for about twenty hours until we had re- hydrated.
On the way to Katherine we decided to replace our tent so ended up waiting for it in Katherine for about a week which let the dry season start to set in a little bit more before we headed off to the west. As it happened this was not the case and you will read about this further on.
About two days out of Katherine we both started to feel better on the bikes and started to enjoy ourselves again although all we seemed to doing was riding up hills.
On the second night out we asked the station manager’s wife at Willeroo if we could camp inside their gate next to a dam but were told to come up to the homestead and camp on the lawn near the jackeroo’s quarters where we had showers and television.
It was on this day we met Roland a German who was averaging about one thousand kilometres a week around Australia and was doing the trip in about five months from Perth to Perth. Makes our distances seem rather paltry but we are really enjoying our adventure.
As we approached Victoria River we came to our first rocky escarpment which just seemed to come out of nowhere. They seem to be moving towards us as we ride along and change colour at every angle. We also started to see the boab trees as well as the odd dingo along the road.
The crossing at Victoria River now has a spanking new bridge which now makes the road passable at all times during the wet season.
We were now bush camping as often as possible as we found it a lot better without other people around but we do enjoy the caravan parks every four or five nights with good showers and washing facilities. We found some great camp sites not far off the road but far enough away to be out of sight and private.
At this time when bush camping we stay on Central Standard Time so that we are able to start at first light and are able to eat at dusk as it is dark by five thirty in Western Australia. Our minds tell us it much better to get up at five thirty rather than four o’clock.
What a time we had at the Northern Territory and Western Australian Boarder at the quarantine station where we stayed for a night and ate fruit given to us by people travelling west over the border like there was no tomorrow. It was surprising that we did not need a lot of road side stops the following day on the way to Kununurra.
We stayed in Kununurra for three nights and just relaxed and ate well.
On leaving Kununurra we came to our first of what Western Australians call step ups but we just call them hills and this one was a beauty and took us almost half an hour to walk up.
We were three days out of Kununurra when the rain came and we had no alternative but to bush camp in the same spot for two nights spending most of our time in the tent and eating muesli for our meals and any time we ventured from the tent we had thick red mud to contend with. Of course out here there is very little radio reception and as they only have a good weather report a couple of times a day a lot of our forecasting is done with pot luck until we get to a town and are able to get onto the internet.
We stopped at Doon Doon road house for a night and what a great camp ground it is. If we had known the weather that was in front of us we would have stayed there for the best part of a week as when we left there we only had one rainless day in the next five and so we ended up staying in a motel for three nights at Turkey Creek. The art gallery at Turkey Creek is worth while making the effort to see as the explanation of the aboriginal art is excellent.
We were told that the rain at this time of the year is very unseasonal and it was the first time in twenty years that it had occurred.
It was over this time that we started to see the four wheel drive tour busses and guided four wheel drive tours and because of the rain all the dirt roads to the out of the way places were closed and so all these people were left in limbo until these roads were reopened. Some of these vehicles had done amazing trips on dirt roads for thousands of kilometres.
After our nights in Turkey Creek we made the run for Halls Creek over three days but once again got caught in the rain on the second night and if we thought the mud was deep a week ago we were wrong as it was now about six inches deep.
We arrived in Halls Creek in the rain after having packed up our camp site in the rain and had the best egg and bacon sandwiches so far on our trip.
We had been told by a lot of people not to stay in Halls Creek but because of the rain and waiting for mail we ended up having six days there and it was probably the most educational and interesting towns we have been in on our journey so far. We spent one morning at the Biggest Morning Tea and met a lot of the locals including some of the aboriginals who we found interesting and sincere. The following day we were asked to go to a group discussion on smoking and obesity with a group of aboriginals. Once we sat with them for a while they lost their shyness and opened up and we had a good time answering questions about our trip and why we had taken it on. A lot of these people do want to improve their health and do make an effort to do so. Whilst there a young aboriginal boy showed us how to crack open a boab tree nut and get the white pulp out which has a high content of vitamin c.
We also spent time at the weather bureau each day and David Murray who was based there showed us all the important parts of their web site and how to interpret them. We also saw them launch a weather balloon and were shown all the gauges and instruments which they use.
It was time well spent and although we really wanted to be riding we did learn a lot and made us realize that we were doing this trip to see things and not to achieve distance in a short time.
We left Halls Creek in fine weather and it was not long before we turned towards the west and started to get the dry season tail winds we had been waiting for. We rode to Fitzroy Crossing over four days with good of road camp sites and had no trouble getting water along the way. We rode one hundred kilometres on the second day.
Fitzroy Crossing is a small town where the supermarket had been burnt down a few months ago and they were operating out of a small hall while a new shopping complex was being built. Everything in the town is owned by the aboriginal community but is managed by staff usually from the south. We had a rest day there and then rode with a tail wind and few hills the two hundred and sixty three kilometres to Derby in two and a half days.
We stayed with Chris and Lindsay Le Lievre for three nights in Derby for one of our most relaxing home stays we have had on our trip. My father and mother new the Le Lievre family from back in the fifties when they stayed on the Leopold Downs cattle station when my father was doing exploration work in the area. Lindsay his brother Philip and Sister Dell used to stay with us on some weekends when they were down at boarding school in Perth. Derby is a growing town with a new jail being built and sixty new homes ane about to be built with the tourism industry growing every year. We saw the Prison Boab tree and the longest cattle trough in Australia. The tidal variations which can be of up to eleven metres are the biggest in Australia. The mud flats which are some two to three kilometres across are a big play ground during the evenings of the dry season. We went for a walk on them and the mirage is incredible as you think you are close to the water but when you get there it is just as far away. The jetty which used to be used for loading cattle is now not being used but we saw some small sharks being caught by the local aboriginal ladies. One of the ladies by the name of Rosie Thompson remembered my mother and father from all those years ago. One thing we noticed was on the day we were there only the women fishing and the men were waiting to do the eating.
On leaving Derby we headed for Broome over two nights with good camping spots and tail winds when riding with undulating hills.
On arrival in Broome where we were to stay for four days we went to McDonalds to celebrate riding over the top with our traditional thick shakes only to find that their machine had broken down but we made up for it with great ones at the Saturday markets.
After we had our bikes serviced we went to Cable Beach and all the other sites but found it more of a tourist town with not much to offer but we did enjoy the day’s just reading and eating.
We had now ridden ten thousand three hundred and sixty kilometres over a total of six hundred and forty six days.

Chapter 11
Broome to Perth
June 14 – August 17

As we had been told that the section between Broome and Port Headland would be one of our most testing stretches we did a lot of planning with food, water and camp sites.
There are only two road houses along this part of the highway with limited groceries so we sent a food parcel to Sandfire Road house which is about three hundred kilometres south of Broome or half way to Port Headland.
We now find that posting a food parcel with Australia Post a few hundred kilometres ahead saves a lot of worry and is very cheap to do so.
It was on the first day out of Broome that we saw the first of the open plains where you are able to see from horizon to horizon.
We did mostly bush camping in great little spots and had one night in a twenty four our rest area. We spent two nights at Sandfire Road House and watched all the travellers at the road house and we had a lot of laughs at the expense of the travelling nomads.
We had tail winds for all of this time which made it great riding and the terrain and vegetation or what there is of it changed every few kilometres so we did enjoy this ride but can understand that if it was hot with head winds it would be extremely hard.
We saw an eagle as well as a fox in the distance and had one of the best thick shakes ever at Pardoo Road House. Barbara’s tongue now hangs out for a thick shake after a few days of riding.
One of the overnight free camp spots we had been hearing about was De Grey rest area which is right on the river with fabulous camp spots on Grass along the river. We decided to just have lunch there and move on as while we were there half a dozen vans came in and we knew it would be packed out by evening. Instead we camped fifty kilometres out of Port Headland on a sand flat some half a kilometre from the road but the ore trucks during the night sounded like jet liners taking of just outside our tent. We should have stayed at De Grey but that is the fun of a trip like this as often we have stayed at better spots than the ones we had been told are second to none.
The last ten kilometres into Port Headland was horrendous as we had a strong head wind, road trains and a lot of traffic on not to wide a road.
There is an over pass bridge which we walked across and in fact walked for about five kilometres until the wind was more favourable.
On walking across the bridge we were able to see the vastness of the ore port area where there are huge conveyor belts taking the crushed ore out to the ships from huge piles of it which have been brought into the area by train which are up to three and half kilometres long. These trains of which there can be fourteen a day come in from the Newman area which is two hundred kilometres away. There are also salt piles which would be the same size as a small town and as high as forty or fifty metres.
The following day we went on a bus tour of the port area and it made us realise the enormity of the area which photos are not able to show and we now know seeing is believing. There is up to three thousand people working in this area.
It was at Port Headland we once again met up with Greg and Kathy who followed us into Darwin and also stayed there over the wet season. They had already left Port Headland the day we arrived but had to return as Kathy had damaged her bottom bracket and so had to return to wait for spare parts to arrive by mail. Kathy showed us the plastic storage boxes they were using for food and so we went to Woolworths and found the same two boxes which are a perfect fit in my trailer bag between the two ten litre water containers. They are much better than the bags we had been using with one for all our condiments and spreads with the other being used for our pastas and the like. They also make good little tables.
It is funny how your food desires change but at the moment we are enjoying Cruskits with Pecks spread or jam.
We are now carrying our bread and biscuits in a back pack strapped to the top of my trailer bag and are finding the biscuits are not turning to powder or crumbs. We had also purchased dry bags to fit the bread bag and front panniers and now we had no worries about our food getting wet.
On leaving Port Headland the road was not as busy but we still had a head wind as far as South Headland where we sent a food parcel down to Nanutarra Road House which is about five hundred kilometres south. For the next two hundred Kilometres to Roebourne we had tail winds.
On the first night out of Port Headland we camped on Munda Station on the edge of a river bed under some great shady eucalypts. What a fabulous spot and if there had been water in the river we would have stayed for longer but we find staying next to a dry river is a bit depressing.
On the following day we were passed by seventy nine year old Bill Staudy who was riding from Broome to Perth on the last leg of his round Australia trip which he started ten years ago spending about six weeks a year doing a section of the ride. This was the only section he was doing with a support crew and he was looking forward to the ride from Carnarvon as most of his children were to ride with him into Perth. What an inspiration Bill was to us. We camped with Bill in a bush camp fifty kilometres north of Roebourne.
We rode into Point Samson and stayed at the Cove Caravan Park which we think is the best park we have stayed in up until this time. Good beach walks and swimming and although there is about two hundred caravans in the two parks we almost had the beach to ourselves. We used the community bus to go into Karratha to pick up our mail and print some photos. What a busy town Karratha is.
It was here we met John and Pip who with their three month old daughter are travelling around Australia on board a yacht. What a life they are having.
We spent two nights at Miaree Ponds south of Karratha right on the water’s edge with swans, ducks and quietness.
We would have stayed longer but it looked as though there was rain on its way so we headed for Fortescue Road House and camped on a grassed area and used the laundry as our kitchen. Much better than being in mud next to a river. This road house is owned by a mining company and has a five hundred person camp for fly in fly out workers and on walking through it they have all the mod cons of home such as gyms, pools games rooms and a huge dining room with about a dozen chefs. We were told there is about six or seven thousand people in camps like this in the area. Mostly uneventful for the next few days other than for our night spent at Bullara Station where we had fresh porterhouse for dinner. A delightful camp spot with a great family atmosphere.
We were now starting to find the scenery a bit tedious but we were half expecting it and new we only had a few hundred kilometres to go before we would out of the cattle country and into the wheat and sheep areas.
We went into Coral Bay for three nights as we had been told it is the place to see and although it has nice beaches and coral we think the south coast of New South Wales is just as good with less people.
Carnarvon was our next three day rest stop and we did enjoy the walks and history of the town. On the way into Carnarvon we visited the fruit shed and purchased a bunch of bananas and we both thought they were the best we had tasted for many a year. We both ate four bananas and could have kept on going they were so good. We walked out along the one kilometre jetty where we had our lunch and coffee in an empty shed to shelter from the wind which had now been blowing for almost a week. It was good being in a caravan park as we were able to watch the Tour De France for three of the days while they were in the mountains.
We once again sent a food parcel ahead of us to Billabong Road House and this one included a fruit cake and a packet of Passage to India Curry which we have with a tin of chicken breasts, a potato, peas and a tin of mushrooms. Something we now forward to on each section of the ride.
On riding out of Carnarvon we were only nine hundred kilometres from Perth but we knew it was not going to be easy as we would be riding into the southerly winds which are normal for this time of the year all the way to Perth although we did plan to go inland from Geraldton so as to get away from the coastal winds. We only had to average about forty kilometres a day to get to Perth on time for our two weeks of house sitting we had organised and was starting in the last week of August so it was just a matter of plodding on.
We were one day out of Carnarvon when we started having punctures on my trailer and when checking out the tyre I realised it had just about had its day and so on went the spare and no problems since although I was worried about not having a spare and arranged to have one to be sent out with a caravaner from Carnarvan to us at Wooramel Road House. The old one must have done about eighteen thousand kilometres and so we were lucky we had not had problems before this time. It did not look worn but was very soft and any sharp sharp object could go through it.
One thing we were seeing along this section were a lot of goats and on speaking to the owners of Wooramel Road House they told us there are some fifty thousand of them in the area. They will keep on eating as cars go past but on seeing cyclists they are of like a shot. There are some stations who breed the goats but I think all the ones we saw were wild.
At the Overlander Road House we met two young fellows riding from Perth to Broome. Their bikes and small trailers had more solar panels than a manned space ship. They had cam cameras, gpss, mobiles and any other electrical gadget that you could buy but they were having fun and were probably the youngest riders we have seen on the journey so far.
Just north of North Hampton we came across the last of the water tanks which used to be about fifty miles apart for the travellers and trucks of fifty or sixty years ago.
North Hampton where we stayed for three nights is one of the friendliest towns we have stayed in with people smiling as they walk past and one of the best caravan parks we have stayed in.
It was really starting to get cold at night time now so whenever we could we had a camp fire but the mornings were terrible and so we thought the quicker we get to Perth the better.
We went into Coronation Beach and spent two nights there at a camping ground which was cheap and as clean as we have seen.
It was here we once again came across Jill Simonds with her travelling partner John who we first met at Carnarvon. Jill lost her husband and had one leg amputated all in the space of about four weeks. She and John would take the dogs for a walk all around Carnarvon every day with Jill on a gofer and John on a bike. At Coronation Beach she cooked us a cake and as we left she went up a very steep hill about a kilometre out of the camp so that she was able to get a photo of us pushing our bikes up the steepest hill we have been up I think since Tasmania. What an inspiration is Jill. Any of the aches or pains we had quickly disappeared.
Next stop was Geraldton where we had our bikes serviced and actually slept in a bed for the first time since Derby some eight weeks before.
On the way out of Darwin we were having a rest on the side of the road when John Roberts stopped to talk to us and asked us to stay with him and his wife Gladys on their farm just out of Dongara. This we did and we had two nights there and George showed us all around his cattle farm and explained everything he was doing there. They had just had a farm steer killed and for dinner on the first night we had one of the best steaks we have ever had. They gave us a rump steak on our departure and how nice it was on our first night out with fresh vegetables all cooked on our Trangia stove. A farmer’s hospitality is second to none.
It was after this that we really struck the cold southerly head winds for two days before we got two days of tail winds but still a lot of hills between Dongara and Moora. We pushed it a bit to get to Moora as we knew there was some wet weather on its way and we were glad we did as it bucketed down for a night and a day.
We were now less than two hundred kilometres from Perth and as it was cold we decided to head there and have a good three weeks with little riding and let our bodies have a good rest in beds and good healthy food.
We had arranged to house sit for two weeks in Perth and were looking forward to staying in the one spot for those two weeks.
Although we had decided not to ride into a city on a weekend we rode into Perth on a Sunday and suffered the consequences with heavy week end traffic.
During our time in Perth we had picnics, saw the Pompeii exhibit and caught up with old family friends. It was also good to be of the bikes for a while.
We had now been away for seven hundred and eighteen days and had ridden thirteen thousand and twenty five kilometres.

Chapter 12
Perth to Adelaide
August 18 – December 10th

We were looking forward to the ride out of Perth and being on the way again but did not expect the hills of the Darling Ranges which we had to cross to go east were as steep and as long as they are. It was three days of purgatory so we spent the first and second nights in motels as we were as buggered as we have been on any part of our trip and besides it was Barbara’s birthday on the second night so that was good enough for us.

Once we got past Cunderlin it started to flatten out and we started to enjoy the ride but we still felt the effects for several days after.

It was still cold and we now know that also takes a lot out of you. When it is hot you need water and when it is cold you need food and plenty of it

We had also had a bit of junk food in the last few days in Perth and while we were in the motels and that also shows up in general fitness and well being

We spent two nights at Merredin Caravan Park and once again well laid out and clean with a good camp kitchen. 

After Merredin we were bush camped for most of the way to Kalgoorlie in some delightful spots including a night next to a billabong with camp fire.

On the way we spoke to three schools at Moorie Rocks and Southern Cross.

The night we had at Southern Cross was the coldest we have had when the temperature got down to minus two point five degrees but the days were sunny and warm without being too hot.

It was during this time that one of my teeth developed an abscess and so I went to the local hospital at Southern Cross to get a prescription for some antibiotics but was told there was not a doctor in the town and the closest one was Kalgoorlie one two hundred kilometres away. Finally the very kind nurses phoned a doctor so that they were able to give me a starter pack and I arranged with the surgery at home in Moruya to send a script to the pharmacy in Southern Cross. The end result of this rogue tooth was a visit to the dentist in Kalgoorlie who put antibiotics and a temporary filling in. No problems since but a root canal filling coming up.

We had strong head winds and hills all the way to Kalgoorlie where we spent four nights. The open cut gold mine in Kalgoorlie is a must see.

It is just huge and makes the trucks which are as big as a house look like matchbox toys.

The Saturday in Kalgoorlie was spent watching the drawn grand final between Collingwood and St Kilda whilst eating meat pies and hot dogs.

It was then of to Norseman and the start of the Nullarbor. We felt as though we were about to start a whole new journey across the bottom of Australia.

The start of the Nullarbor was not what we expected with three days of hills and head winds. We felt that all we were doing was riding up hills but in fact there were just as many down hills but as the wind was strong we were not able to coast downhill.

On the third day it rained for the entire fifty five kilometres and on arrival at the Balladonia Road House we filled ourselves with egg and bacon sandwiches and chips and decided to stay in the motel there for two nights so could watch the replay of the grand final.

Not long after we arrived Mick rode in from the east and Jessie came in from the west. We had been hearing about both these riders in preceding days and so it was good to see them and to share our experiences. One thing we did learn was that neither of them carried anywhere near the amount of water as us and when we thought about it we had not had to use any of our two ten litre containers as we had been filling up our small containers through the generosity of the caravaners. We decided we would continue to carry all this water as we did not know what lay ahead and we had so often heard about riders with next to no water.

On leaving Balladonia after watching Collingwood walk all over St Kilda in the grand final we were looking forward and in fact were excited about only having thirty two kilometres to ride to get to the longest straight stretch of road in Australia. We rode one hundred and fifteen kilometres for the day with all but about twenty kilometres being with a tail wind.

We thought we would take two nights to reach the end of the one hundred and forty six kilometre straight road but we only needed one night.

On the second day into it we once again got the head winds as we did all the rest of the way to Cocklebiddy. We spent one night in a twenty four hour rest stop where we were given four hard boiled eggs which two of  went down well with our breakfast and the other two made a great lunch for us.

It was towards the end of the second day from Balladonia that Barbara felt some soreness in the bottom part of her right ankle and on the short ride into Cocklebiddy on the third day it was absolute purgatory for her. 

On arriving in Cocklebiddy  we decided it was not going to get better in a hurry so we decided to hitch a ride to Eucla where we knew there was a Royal Flying Doctor nurse and a good caravan park with a camp kitchen and all the facilities we would need if all we needed to do was to give Barbara’s leg a good rest for a few days. We hitched a ride for the three hundred kilometres in a pilot cart and a float carrying a forty foot luxury cruiser in which we slept for a night half way to Eucla. How many other people have slept on a cruiser half way across the Nullarbor.  Quite an experience being in one of these trucks of which several thousand had passed us in the preceding two years and worth the experience to see what these drivers have to do to give us space and how long it takes for them to slow down safely.

The Flying Doctor nurse in Eucla thought it was tendonitis and some rest and anti-inflammatory tablets may do the trick but because of  her broken ankle a few years ago it may take some time to repair but time will tell.

We sat at Eucla for two days before we were able to arrange for our bikes and ourselves to be transported to Ceduna where we could see a doctor and have x-rays taken.

Being in a car for the five hundred kilometre trip to Ceduna made us realize how much we saw and smelt when travelling at our speed rather than at one hundred kilometres an hour in an enclosed vehicle.  

It was on this day just past Nullarbor Roadhouse that we called into the Head of the Bite which is well set out with board walks and an information centre. During the breeding season there can be hundreds of wales with their new born calves there but although we were there late in in the season there were till about a dozen wales with their calves. How could anybody kill these magnificent mammals.  

On arrival at Ceduna we were seen at the hospital and the results of the x-rays showed no bone damage but the doctor said the only remedy was rest and some ante inflammatory tablets and rest.

We decided that we would just rest for as a couple of weeks and if it was no then better we would make our way to Adelaide or Loxton where we were to house sit over the Christmas period.

While in Ceduna I went out on the sailing clubs rescue boat for their twilight races and have spent time in the local bike shop learning more about bicycle mechanics so the time was not completely wasted. At Ceduna which is the start or the end of the Nullarbor Plain depending on which way you are going a number of cyclists caught up to us after riding across the Nullarbor and all of them talked about the strong head winds.

There was Jessie a twenty four year old Canadian who had just about finished his ride going in an anti-clockwise direction around Australia from Melbourne. There was also Margaret and her team who we first met in Katherine and are riding around Australia making people aware of midwives.

The Nullarbor seems to be a real challenge for cyclists from all over the world as we also met two other Canadians a Welshman and there was a French couple who rested for a day in Ceduna.

For all of them it was good to arrive in Ceduna where they could have fresh meat and vegetables after riding twelve hundred kilometres between supermarkets. The bakery also had the best thick shakes we have had on our trip.

After ten days in Ceduna Barbara and I decided that rather than testing her ankle we would give it a good rest and she would bus it to Adelaide and I would ride alone for the seven hundred kilometres to meet her there.

We packed up Barbara’s bike and left it with the kind family at the Ceduna Sports Power store to forward it onto us when Barbara was ready to ride again. Once again people who went out of their way to help us.

We thank Helen Knox an aunt of mine for having Barbara stay with her in Adelaide for two weeks until I arrived. 

After riding with Barbara for seventeen thousand kilometres over two years it felt very strange to ride out of Ceduna on my own.

As I had not ridden for almost three weeks I found the first fifty kilometres very hard but after a good lunch I got back into the swing of it.

All the way from Ceduna to most of the way to Adelaide there were wheat silos about twenty to thirty kilometres apart. The farmers were in for their best crop they have had for several years and even I could see how lush their crops looked. The main problem they were going to have was to be in finding enough trucks to transport their crop to the silos as a lot of the trucks had left the wheat areas to work in the mining areas.

I spent three days in Kimba sheltering from the weather which was wet and cold and when I thought the rain had cleared I set of for the seventy kilometre ride to Iron Knob. Twenty five kilometres out of  the Knob the rain came down with the road covered with water twelve centimetres deep. I arrived at the Iron Knob Hotel dreaming of hot chips but as their kitchen had been flooded I had to survive on a sandwich.   

The next day I averaged twenty five kilometres an hour for the sixty seven kilometres to Port Augusta.

It was on this day my fourth computer of our trip decided to give up the ghost. When we thought about it the only gear problems we have really had are electrical gadgets such as computers and headlights.

The most pleasant time I had while riding on my own was spending a day and a night with Robert Milne on his wheat and sheep farm. I was at boarding school with Robert some fifty years ago. Roberts’s wife Jill cooked roast lamb for dinner which still has my mouth watering. Robert showed me around the farm and I watched Robert and his son Andrew mustering and crutching sheep.

These farmers spend their lives juggling the conditions of drought and rain and when you consider it they are just as important to the country as the mining industry.

After leaving Roberts farm at Wirrabara I rode hard for three days to get to Gawler to catch a train to Seacliff in Adelaide where Barbara and I were to stay at the Brighton Caravan Park for four weeks before heading to Loxton.

I spent my time at the park doing gardening and other odd jobs in return for accommodation in a cabin.

It was good to be back together again as it was lonely out there on my own.

After our four weeks in Adelaide  although Barbara’s ankle was a lot better we decided after some advice from a physiotherapist to transport our bikes to Loxton and give Barbara’s foot a little more rest at the same time as doing exercises to strengthen the foot. If we had gone to a physiotherapist a couple of months ago she may have been back on the bike a lot earlier.

She has now done a fair bit of riding around Loxton with no discomfort so by the end of January when our house sitting finishes we should be ready to go.  

We have now been away for eight hundred and two days and have ridden more than fifteen thousand kilometres.

We were into our third week of eight weeks house sitting in Loxton when we decided we had really enjoyed our time on the bikes but for the sake of doing about five hundred kilometres to say we had been all the way around Australia we thought it was better to call it a day and remember the trip as great rather than all our thoughts being in the last few hundred kilometres.

We had previously decided to purchase a slide on camper once we arrived home so we spoke to the manufactures of our chosen camper manufacturer in Tasmania who put us onto the owner of one he had built only a few months previously and as it was exactly the one we wanted we bought it unseen on the back of a low mileage Mazda Bravo. 

We flew from Adelaide to Devonport to pick up our camper and spent six weeks in Tasmania before heading back to the mainland where we had arranged to do farm sitting in different areas.

Our past two years have been a time to remember with all the people we have met and the different experiences we have had on the road.

What a wonderful country we live in to be able to do what we have done and not once feeling frightened of our surrounds and we are both so glad we moved out of our comfort zone and have been able to experience this time together.