Quairading to Northam 96km_7 May

Another long day with nothing in between … we can put our panniers on the truck. There are a lot of us in hotels tonight as the campground is 4km out of town and we have our final meal at a hotel togther.

I start off early … I’m meeting up with my cousin in Northam. It’s a nice ride … quite still some headwind a few rolling hills. There is quite a contrast in the country from leaving 3 weeks ago when it was as dry as a chip … now tinges of green, creeks and rivers are flowing. The sheep look happy and lambs are bleating. Hopefully it is a sign for a good season.

I pass through areas of fog. Approaching Northam I take a wrong turn and I’m only a couple of kms from York and about 500m from where are cars are. I correct my route and later learn I wasn’t the only one … that feels comforting. I get to camp … my detour only cost me 6km. Luckly my cousin takes me to see the silos and we go to York to get my car. Am I cheating? No I was originally on roster to drive the truck tomorrow to York so officially my tour on my bike is over.

A great night with thanks to Brian for the vehicle support; Trevor … tour leader; Christine … paying the bills; and everyone for being great company.

Well it’s like this … in these Covid times you have to take up what you can, when you can … I had a great time and failing overseas travel this was the best.

Bruce Rock to Quairading 77km_6 May

Another straight road heading west to Quairading a steady incline coupled with a headwind makes it a tough day. A short stop at Shackleton which a famous for having the worlds smallest bank … other than that it is just a stopover. A phone call yesterday confirmed ‘we don’t have food’ not to mention their coffee was cheap for a reason. Back facing the wind and onward to Quairading. It was nice to see another sculpture of Jordan Sprigg.

The camping ground had nice grass and camp kitchen. Rain forecast tonight, I make a special effort with my tent.

As per forecast a deluge of rain for about 45 minutes along with thunder and lightning … a test for our tents.

As with a lot of country towns, they are stretched with a large group. The pub is staffed by a husband and wife and it’s their darts night … staff are hard to come by … 5 of us have a lovely meal.

Merredin to Bruce Rock 50km_5 May

More rain overnight but clear as I head off today, heading south … surely we must get a tailwind. Unfortunately not but a nice straight ride … not a busy road so at Bruce Rock for lunch. A few shops to choose from, camp grounds with lots of grass and a great camp kitchen.

A short ride to see ‘Bruce’s Rock’ not very significant … even less significant was the hotel, publican and meal tonight. Well ive3had a very good run so far with country pub grub.

Narembeen to Merredin 70km_4 May

As predicted the rain started early morning … it was nice to have my tent pacled up. An executive decision was made to allow panniers to go on the truck … wonderful. Waiting around for a break in the weather proved fruitless, I’m big on the weather radar. Toughen up … out I go into the rain … thankfully it wasn’t heavy just light for about an hour then steady rain. Still tackling a headwind and further on roadworks a couple of kilometres of dirt, my fear when some trucks passed but thankfully they were very kind and slowed down on their approach … it could have been rather ugly.

I reached Merredin for lunch, quite embarrassing to front up at a cafe dripping wet. My mind goes back to my overseas touring days when cycling in the rain … on reflection I’ve cycled in much worse conditions than today.

I’ve book a single room for the night as rain is still hanging around for the day and night. The laundry gets my vote as I wash and dry my wet clothes.

A quick ride to the painted silo … that’s what we are here for. This will save me extra kms in xase it is raining tomorrow.

A great pub meal, bonus the hotel has a courtesy bus so several take up the offer.

Kulin to Narembeen – 78km_2 May

A very cold night and morning.   No wind puts a spring in my step or pedals and 20km on I’m at Kondinin, a nice coffee shop is open and I take advantage; it was originally the old postmasters house, then a backpackers – a young couple are now making a go of it as a cafe.

There have been no little towns between destinations this tour.   A nice break and on the road … a nice ride and into Narembeen for 2 nights.  It’s a Sunday so same old same old … just the roadhouse open and the pub.   We learn that the AFL derby is to be played with no spectators and mask wearing out doors still in place … we are all making secret plans of our own to continue travelling if Perth goes into lockdown again before we get back.

Day 2 at Narembeen we have some cyclists leave today as that was their plan, however rain is forecast for overnight and tomorrow … a few cyclists decide to head to Merredin while it is dry and get accommodation. The remaining of us seek a spare bed or floor under cover at the campground and pack our tent, I was lucky to get a foldabed in a room.

Narembeen is a bit of a mystery … 3 lovely sculptures around the town by local sculptor Jordan Sprigg, his work is very unique and it takes time to see how he has strategically placed old tools to create these magnificent sculptures.

About 15km out there is ‘The Mile of Boots’ a few of us got a lift out to see the boots hanging on a fence.

Unfortunately, I missed the Narembeen ‘Op Shop’ by 45 minutes … it was said to be quite a must-see … there’s an excuse to visit here again.

Another pub meal … a talk to the publican, he’s only owmed it for under 12 months and making changes to make it more family friendly. He has a great chef and apprentice who turn out lovely meals, it was worth a 2 night stay.

Lake Grace to Kulin – 72km_1 May

A cool night and morning … The weather has turned.

At last it is not windy and a very pleasant ride into Kulin.

On the way out passing lakes and a lookout ‘Salt Lake Lookout’ a nice view of the lakes.

Kulin is another very clean and tidy town … it’s Saturday and no shops open, however the Community Hub is operating under disguise of the hotel … on passing it looks empty but on further inspection the cafe is serving coffees and light lunches which are well received. They are open for dinner … which was equally delicious.

We learn that more Covid cases are in Perth.

Newdegate to Lake Grace – 54km_30 April

My tent was a little damp through the night … pitching on fake grass under the verandah was not ideal.

We are battling head winds again so it makes a tough 54km. Through the lakes is low brush and the side/head wind rips through. It’s like cycling 100km.

Its a nice very clean town, some modern shops. We are lucky to have a tour of the Australian Inland Mission Hospital Museum. The hotel has recently had new owners and a Chinese banquet is on offer … there is a lot of local interest. The food was great just a little disorganised … I’m hoping they get it together.

Lake King to Newdegate 63km_29 April

A quiet night … no trucks, warm but not hot and dry tents.  We woke up to no electricity. My porridge soon morphed into muesli – just add sultanas and nuts.

Main topic this morning was wind direction, possible rain … strange how every weather app differs.  ‘It is what it is’ … and it was!!

The wind was relentless … head and side wind … my early start was to escape they predicted strong winds as the day went on.

It was tough from the start … crossing over dry salt lake with no protection, however the lakes were quite spectacular as the sun glistened on the salt crystals. Areas of bush were welcome for a little wind protection. I arrived at Newdegate around noon as the wind speed increased, cyclists still on the road had a hard time of it as the winds exceeded 50km/hr; the last 10kms always the hardest. … The local general store and cafe was the first port of call … choices … I’m too exhausted to make a decision, the assistant looked at me a little strangely … I later learned that most of us presented in the same exhausted manner … haha … the joys of cycling.

The wind became more gust as the day progressed … The weather radar predicted rain some time later that evening. The caravan park is very basic … this area is ticked one box away from ‘drought’ few resort to cabins … we are able to erect tent on verandahs.

‘Will it rain tonight?’ The big question … The locals are mixed … ‘I hope so!’ It is so dry they would love a good downpour. A meal at the tavern and on return a few rain drops. Through the night we had just over 4mm, not much but a start for the locals.

Ravensthorpe … rest day_27 April

Great day in Ravensthorpe as I unravel a family puzzle.  George Dance known for paving the way from Esperance to Ravensthorpe and beyond; making roads and scooping dams amongst much more achievements in the area; was my Great grandfather.  What a find. 

With the puzzle solved … there is a lot ot offer here … beautiful scenery from the centre(top) of town of the escarpment. A lolly factory with all that could satisfy any sweet tooth.

Jerramungup to Ravensthorpe 116km_26 April

A lot of angst for the long ride … searching temperatures, wind direction and gradient.

Our full pannier tour has evolved during the tour inception.  A relaxation of tent and camping equipment to be carried in Brian’s ute. During the course of the tour other items have been smuggled on board to lighten the load on our bike,  however there are a few stalwarts riders who have kept to the original full pannier tour … hats off to them!!! So today most of us have chosen to put all our gear on the ute.

We weren’t prepared for the heavy fog that blanketed us this morning.   The plan was to get up early and beat the heat, predicted in high 20s/30. The tents were so wet it may as well be raining.   Oh well … they will dry out on the other end.   I broke a tent pole the following night and had a temporary fix that sort of worked.

Of to the servo to pick up lunch … the fog is still very heavy,  a driver stops and says the 6 cyclists he saw on the road we very visible so we chose to take off.   At time I’m not sure if I’m going up or down … the fog is so thick you can’t tell.   I’m getting drips on my face from my helmet.  The bush on either side of the road is spectacular as the sun shimmers through large cobwebs laden with heavy dew;  I’m back in fairyland … horizontal webs look like fairy beds.

The fog lifts at 8.30am and the country is visible again … some farms have unique entrances which occupies the long straight undulating road.  I make a plan to stop every 20km or so.  The traffic increases in both directions … it must be moving day for caravans as they head to their next holiday destination.

It’s great to see the 30km to  Ravensthorpe sign … I sit on the roadside … no ants or flies … my ham and salad rolls hits the spot,  another hill ahead.  The view becomes more spectacular as the escarpment envelopes me.   On the right is the Fitzgerald National Park, then a big decent as I cross the Phillips River; not to mention the steep climb up … my garmin takes forever to go from 99km to 100km as I crawl up the hill … a memorial site is a good stop to relieve the legs for the next 20kms to Ravensthorpe … it’s 30C and I’ve done in excess of 100km … is it psychological or I’m just tired … it’s becoming hard work.  A few more hills and a painted silo in view … lovely site and I’m here in Ravensthorpe.