Tuesday, November 30

HOLS: Snaps from the Final Days

I set out early to beat the heat for my last day's cycling.  The midges had the same idea.
A few lovely days with the 'rellies' in Albany weren't spoilt by the odd drizzle.
There are plenty of bike paths in Albany, most in sight of water.
The Albany Wind Farm is high on the hills outside of town with some great walks along the coast.
. . . . and a lot of wind!
It's rugged, beautiful and . . . windy!
When I caught up with half a dozen friends, this was served 3 meals a day!! Yep, they're Aussies!
With all that meat and booze a bit of a stroll around camp was needed before we started again!
The green of the south coast, was quickly replaced by the gold of the wheat-belt on the 450km coach trip home.
Arthur River Roadhouse, 2 hours from the city in the late evening.

Wednesday, November 24

HOLS: Doing Denmark

I spent an extra day at Parry Beach. After mooching around in the bottom of my panniers I found tuna, rice, green beans, coffee, sugar and oats and realised I wasn't going to starve. Not that I would have anyway, having already received an invite for dinner that night. Off to the caretaker with another $2 in my grubby paw and then down to the beach for a spot of fishing. Fish caught=0 (unless you count an undersized whiting), lures lost=1. All in all, a not uncommon result for yours truly.

Parry Beach Camp

I met a fellow who had built his own bicycle wheels and who gave me an in depth description of balancing them. It was fascinating and, yet again, it crossed my mind that I really should get a little more hands on with the Surly. An hour later, his wife came in search of him. She'd known where to look as soon as she'd seen my bicycle. Turning to go with a fond, if exasperated smile, she commented that she was truly grateful he'd never 'found' God or she would have had to leave him!

In the afternoon, I scouted about for firewood for a communal campfire that night. I have some rather set rules about gathering firewood. I only pick deadwood up off the ground and don't get it all from the one area, so as nature can take it's course. I never break 'dead' branches from shrubs or trees, as often they can look on their last legs only to break into new growth after bushfires or a rainy season. If I wasn't so ignorant I could probably be more discerning, but, as it is I'd rather err on the side of caution. I was very grateful for a tip I'd read ages ago from Justine of 'Mid-Life Cycling' about propping your bike up on it's pedal. I don't have a stand on my Surly and it saved putting the bike on the gravel.

You're never too old to learn.

The late afternoon entertainment was provided by a devout Christian couple having all sorts of trouble putting up the annexe on their caravan for the first time. Not a single cross word was uttered during the entire exhausting exercise which I found most impressive (I almost felt like quietly cursing in sympathy). They were lovely folk and gave me some very sound advice about where to camp when I reached Denmark, which stupidly I didn't follow on this occasion, but, certainly will if I find myself in that part of the world again. I should know by now to go with local advice.

Although determined to make an early start, I was up at 6.30am, I didn't actually set off until 11.30am. So many people stopped by for a chat that breaking camp proved difficult, having to be fitted in 5 minutes here and there, between visitors: The long-term travellers with the snazzy solar-panel setup, the couple (she in a wheelchair) with the dogs who took my finished 'Dick Francis', the Christians, the couple from the Porongurups with tales of cycling the same route in March (don't, the flies draw blood if you stop cycling), the foursome from Meekatharra with the tall tales of bush bike-mechanics, the local fishermen (I so wanted a go on their quad-bikes), the quiet lady who admitted that after 3 years of continuous travelling she had only just begun to sleep well at night, and, of course, the lovely caretaker couple who gave me some very disheartening news about a rather large hill on my day's route and the brilliant news that Denmark had an award winning bakery (that'll get me over any hill).

Back on the highway and about 5kms later I happened across 'The Toffee Factory' where I enjoyed a fantastic icecream that had fresh fruit (I picked cherry) blended into it as you waited, along with little chunks of praline and chocolate. Heaven! Along with a chilled pear cider and some chili-chocolate toffee for my handlebar bag I was well-fuelled for the morning. Near the turn-off for Green's Pool I hit the hill I had been told about. I ended up resorting to Shank's Pony, although as I climbed the view compensated for the effort.

The view ascending the Green's Pool hill.

At the top, dripping with the effort and shimmering heat, I borrowed a  roadside seller's shack for a shady rest and a munch on some toffee. What goes up, (if there is any justice in the world) must come down, and I had a fabulous descent for some kms after that which required very little effort and left me grinning like a beserker.

A stolen rest spot in the shade.

The usual routine of hills set in until 8kms outside of Denmark where my eye caught movement on the gravel edge of the road. A 5 foot dugite, head weaving in the air, was obviously as horrified as I by the unexpected encounter. I know dugites are as poisonous as tigersnakes, but, somehow they don't look quite as menacing. Even so, I shot to the top of that hill in record time without even changing gears and, only when I was half way up the next incline, did I stop to listen to the 'thumpity-thumpity' of my pounding chest and consider the situation from the snake's point of view. I couldn't tell you much about the scenery as you enter Denmark, as for the rest of the ride my eyes were fixed on the gravel verge, sussing out every little twig I came across.

It was wonderful to arrive in a town where I could get a good coffee and then, extremely quickly afterwards, find a decent bakery. The first of a series of purchases (like I need to say that) was a seafood mornay pie crammed with plump prawns, tender fish and a light, fluffy cheese sauce. Yum! I also bumped into the 'Meekatharra Foursome' and was ordered to pull up a pew.

Denmark itself is rather picturesque, set on the banks of the Denmark River, it has the good bones of country town born of timber (initially) and the still present farming, yet wears it's robes of the eco-dollar well. There are more alternative healers than GP's, the chemist stocks Birkenstocks rather than Hush Puppies, you can purchase off-grid energy systems, crystals, organic produce and hemp clothing, books on global warming and stay at 'organic accomodation' (whatever that might be). However, it doesn't have the split personality of some towns when general store meets boutique, instead you are left with the impression of a happy community for all.

Denmark still has farming town bones.

The town is set on the river.

The only experience that jarred with me whilst in Denmark was the caravan park. Rivermouth Caravan Park has the most idyllic setting on the corner of the river mouth (obviously) and the inlet, you couldn't wish for better. However, it is clearly becoming more and more geared to tourist cabins and long-term leasing. After so many tranquil, shaded camping spots I really objected to paying $25 per night to camp out in the sun, close to a noisy motorhome, on a patch of lawn covered with duck poo. I felt like a gypsy on the village green with the locals peering out at me. The ablutions weren't as clean as the little block at Parry Beach (the effort had been made, but, the ever present bird poo was winning), and although there was a fine camp kitchen the rubbish bin (emptied daily I'm sure) had an aroma that sent me scuttling back to my little meth stove.

Still nothing could detract from the scenery and I had a lovely time cycling around the inlet and enjoying some of the tracks in the area.

Another old rail track that's now for horses, bikes and walkers.

So, today I was off to Cosy Corner, back to a freebie, basic site under peppermint trees by the sea and my last night's solo camping of the trip. I turned off onto the Lower Denmark Road and suddenly encountered a large number of suicidal beetles. They had obviously been brain-washed from birth to believe that their sole aim in life was to end their days gloriously smashing into the spectacles of a bicycling great-aunt. The day was heating up and I had to stop and remind myself that holidays were not meant to be endured and that trying to cycle in the middle of the day, as the road shimmered and breathing felt as though I was inhaling kiln fumes, was not the definition of fun.

After stopping for a milkshake and a chat with a couple of gals cycling the same route in the opposite direction (which meant they had a tailwind for days, clever things), I persevered a little until I reached Bornholm which, other than the odd farm in the distance, seems to consist of a voluntary fire brigade and a weatherboard hall with 4 beautiful tennis courts behind it smack bang in the middle of nowhere - only in Australia! I snuck round to the back of the hall, lay on the blissfully cool verandah, made myself a coffee, smoked a cigar and read my book until the sun had lowered a little. Whilst I lack any athletic ability whatsoever, I do possess the uncanny knack of being able to make myself comfortable pretty much anywhere.

Tennis in the middle of nowhere anyone?
Coming up to the Cosy Corner turn-off.
The lone fisherman on another deserted beach.

The evening had cooled to a pleasant temperature and after putting up camp I spent my time chatting to a couple from the Barossa Valley, SA who were touring in a fabulous, old bus. A walk along the beach and a chat with a lone fisherman confirmed nothing was biting, so I cooked myself a risotto, smoked my last cigar and settled into my sleeping bag for the night, updating my journal to the sound of the ocean in the company of a dram (or two) of Laphroaig. Not a bad way to spend my last night alone.

Cosy at Cosy Corner.
Sunset, my last solo night.

Wednesday, November 3

HOLS: Beach Bum Days

I left Walpole a little reluctantly, but, was soon caught up in the perfection of the morning's ride. The wet weather had cleared up leaving the day soft and grey with no hint of impending sunburn. The ever present hills made it somewhat of a challenge to wave enthusiastically at acquaintances of the previous few days as quite a few of them passed, heading on towards Albany or Denmark. There was very little other traffic and my attention soaked up the beautiful timbered surroundings as I cursed the shortcomings of my camera, yet again.

I had thought to turn off and spend time in the Valley of the Giants, an area of Karri and Tingle forest renowned not only for the size of the trees, but, also the age of them. There is a treetop walk now which wasn't there when I was younger and it is truly an area of exceptional beauty. But, the day was so perfect for cycling that I didn't want to stop off so close to Walpole, knowing that if I started wandering through the forest I would be there for that night and not continue on.

One of the problems with cameras is that they seem to make hills disappear. This is the little town of Nornalup (most of it is in the picture) and you may have to take my word for it that it is set in a valley. The tearooms (wonderful menu) were shut that day. Curse the cycling gods!

This is the river weaving out of Nornalup and back towards coast. A few metres along an elderly lady sitting on her verandah waved at me so enthusiastically that for a second I thought she was going to flip over the back of her chair. It had been a day of friendly gestures. 

The hills continued on (no,really, this IS a hill), flattening out miraculously whenever I took a photo damn it!

At Bow Bridge there is a bridge over the river (obviously) and an excellent, ramshackle roadhouse. It's only claim to fame is that Cold Chisel song, "dumm, de, dumm, . . . I'll be back in Bow River again."

I turned away from the hills and started towards the coast again and Peaceful Bay. The landscape was swampy and strangely menacing. I was expecting to hear Gandalf warn me that I was too close to Mordor! The relief of cycling on the flat was short-lived as I was buffeted by a headwind and soon realised that if I dropped below 20km an hour (and believe me I do drop below it) I was fair game for the bush flies.

Arriving at the campground I rather guiltily rode past the other campers, finding myself a bit of secluded lawn protected by a peppermint tree and a scruffy hedge, but, hopefully far enough away from the swampy scrub to deter tigersnakes (yes, I know, I'm a wimp!). It had so far proved quite hard to find some solitude, given that I was travelling alone, and a bit of 'me' time was in order. I pitched the tent in the company of splendid blue wrens and honeyeaters in the hedgerow and then I strolled 50m to find the beach in the late afternoon sun.

Sigh! Life is good!

Peaceful Bay is a collection of shacks, chalets, a pathetic general-store and a couple of permanent residents in the campground. Ramshackle and sleepy, I think the only thing that tweaks the interests of the few locals is fishing. That morning I legged it over the dunes at dawn only to find the surf too rough to cast a line with any success, which was confirmed later in the day by 4-wheel drives rigged with large surf rods returning empty handed.

I had a lovely walk along the beach gaining the hours of 'alone' time I'd been hankering and met a couple of enthusiastic girls doing a stretch of the Bibbulmun Track. To be quite honest looking at the mobile homes, contained in the biggest backpacks I've ever seen, that they were lugging around and hearing how far they were going to walk that day made me feel a little faint.

In the afternoon it started to rain again and the wind picked up to a dull roar. That night I listened to a spoken book on my ipod drowning out the howling wind, splattering rain, crashing waves and the rhythmic slapping of the tent. 'Peapod' stayed dry and snug and, yet again, I found myself relieved that I hadn't packed my summer tent.


Although the wind had dropped dawn was still a little overcast. Outside of the tent ducks waddled about. The first evening they had been joined by half a dozen rabbits hopping about. I broke camp without even a coffee and got on the road pretty early (for me).

I knew that I would join the South Coast Hwy at the Bow Bridge Roadhouse and I had noticed the day before that they catered for a full cooked brekky. After a 9km pootle I would just feel like bacon and eggs. I must have looked rather crestfallen when the owner stated he was on his own that morning and, therefore, would not be cooking. After a few seconds of scowling silence he mumbled that he'd give it a bash, but, that if other customers came in he would have to serve them so it might not arrive that quickly. Good humour restored I told him I was on holiday and that if he could sling a coffee my way I would be happy to wait and extremely grateful. I followed this up with my best beam as I realised I had rather 'guilted' him into it and he looked about as happy cooking as I would babysitting!

He did me proud, even putting HP sauce on the tray. One of the eggs was broken and he admitted to dropping a bit of bacon as he came out the door, but that didn't damage his status in my eyes. MY HERO!

A little further along the road I encountered this. I may be paranoid about tigersnakes, but, at least this proves its not unfounded. Yuck!

Old Kent River Wines offered a very tasty menu, including marron (not that you'd guess). But, I didn't stop, something about brekky being big enough to feed an army stopped me wanting lunch or a big dinner.

The highway (yes, the title does refer to that tiny 2 lane road in the picture, hee hee) continued on through beautiful beef farming countryside until I veered towards the coast again in the afternoon. Here I stayed at my favourite campsite of the entire trip, Parry Beach.

I came over the hill to find this handmade sign and, by dutifully looking at the sea, found Beach Cottage. What an idyllic spot.

I can't begrudge such a lovely couple the job as caretaker, however, when they retire I will physically elbow any other contenders to the ground and I don't care if I have to cycle 60km for groceries. Because I was on a bicycle I was offered the Bibbulmun Track rate of $2 a night. For that I had a shady campsite in amongst the peppermint trees (sheltered from the wind), a solar-heated shower and delicious rainwater from the camp tank.

Three metres away from my tent door, I could look down the lane and see the ocean. With the dunes rising behind me I felt like I was part of a secluded, fairy camp with a window out onto the big world.

Monday, November 1

HOLS: Coasting around Walpole

After cooking a late brekky of bacon and eggs on my little stove, one eye on my thieving feathered friend from the night before, I set the record for the laziest break camp in the world, filled all my water bottles from the rainwater tank (delicious) and pootled into town. I rang family, had an icecream and then packed the panniers and duffle ready for coach transport. You are allowed 1 item of luggage under 20kg and 1 item of hand luggage under 7kg. I solve this by packing 3 panniers, the duffle and tarp into a cheap, woven plastic bag (which folds down to nothing and is a great front door mat which stops sand getting into the tent). Then I take the remaining pannier on the coach as my hand luggage. Easy-peasy!

Ready at the coach stop.
Part of me wishes I had cycled this stretch, particularly whilst motoring down hill! But, it was mainly 100km of lovely scenery similar to that which I had already enjoyed or was confident I would encounter later. Time is the constraint to some degree as I remained determined to have plenty of days mooching and lazing around as well as pedalling and moving camp. In the early evening we headed over a rise and there was the coast! I was dropped at the Walpole Tourist Information Centre and as the coach pulled out I glanced across the road and the first thing I noticed was a bakery. After exploring a little (read: acquiring a sausage roll) I cycled out of town along the South Coast Hwy passing all of 3 cars until reaching the Walpole-Nornalup National Park, at which point I turned off down Coalmine Beach Road heading for camp.

The view cycling to the campsite
Although a national park site, Coalmine Beach has private campground facilities and prices. Even so, I took to the place straight away. It was quiet, the campspots were in amongst the trees and, being out of town, it seems to attract grey-nomads rather than holidaymakers. Think respectable, middle-income hippy-trail with BYO electrical appliances. I settled to sleep that night listening to the strains of an ancient BBC radio play coming from a camper-trailer amongst the trees. You know the type of thing, a spy-thriller from an era when the lisping 'foreigner' is bound to be the villain and the hero had a clipped British accent. I've always been a sucker for old radio dramas, even whilst cringing at the simplistic stereotypes (am I the only person to own multiple 'Paul Templer' radio mysteries?). For some reason I dreamt of Graham Greene!

I woke to the constant patter of rain which, when I poked my head out of the tent, seemed to have set in for some for while. After having a hot shower and drying some laundry, I found a 'Dick Francis' on the little office's 'Book Swap' shelf and dove back into my sleeping bag for the morning. At the camp kitchen I had a chatty lunch with couples from South Australia and chap from Queensland. Then the weather cleared just a little and I decided to try and duck the showers and go for a walk on the headland. I spotted tens and tens of little frogs, hardly bigger than my fingernail and too shy to even try and macro on this camera, but, a sure sign that the eco-system must be pretty healthy.

Found myself humming Kate Bush's "Wuthering Heights"
the whole walk!

Boardwalk across the swampy bits
After crossing the headland I found I could continue on into town (much shorter route than the road), so I stocked up on groceries and found myself at the bakery again (surprise!). The rain had set in again and I had company under the shop awning. Although damp and freezing the walk had been most, err, invigorating!

Butcher Bird getting out of the rain.
The next day started out grey and drizzly, but, soon brightened and I hopped on the Surly to explore the area of Nornalup Inlet. What a beautiful little pocket of the world, the day culminating in a pootle around Knoll Drive (self-explanatory). A tiny, one-way circuit through lush scenery that drops down to the water. Even the bitumen is covered with moss in places, with green and blue being the theme of the day.

I got a small glimpse of Walpole across the inlet and later that evening, whilst strolling along the water's edge, stumbled across a few pelicans snoozing.

The township
Snoozing with dry feet.