Update from the Darwin

Hey guys,

Just a quick update. Shirl and IΒ pedaledΒ back into Darwin yesterday after an AWESOME 12 days riding up here. We now have over 4,500km showing on our odo. Whoop! πŸ™‚

Have written a post which I’ll add to the site when I get back to Perth and am able to scan through and upload some of the pictures I took. Above is a taster. Fly back to Perth this afternoon 😦

So sad that our adventure is now completely over. Have had such an amazing time. But we’re already planning then next one! Will keep you posted.

Day 28 – Mission Accomplished!!

Shirl and I victorious at Adelaide GPO!

Shirl and I victorious at Adelaide GPO!

Mission accomplished!!! This morning, with almost 3,500kms showing on my speedo’s odo, Shirley and I reached the end point of our adventure – Adelaide GPO. The sun even put his hat on to cheer us in. The wind of yesterday had eased a bit but not much. But it’d swung more north easterly, so we were almost swept the 50kms from Gawler, which was an awesome way to end the trip.

Forget 35m-long road trains, gale force winds, torrential rain and wild camping. This morning’s ride was the most treacherous of the whole trip! To be fair to Adelaide, due to not knowing the roads I think I chose a ‘not exactly ideal’ route in. But either way, I was nearly knocked off by an old lady who literally cut right in front of me at a junction and the other drivers in general really just didn’t seem to want me to make it to the city centre in one piece! But I did make it and that’s all that matters.

Due to the ridiculously cold weather, my magnum intake has taken a bit of a hammering these last couple of weeks. With the promise of a warm hotel room with A BATH (thanks Dad!), I celebrated with one last magnum (number 14…..disappointingly low, especially given my impressive start), despite the midday temp only just making it to double digits. A lady asked me how I wasn’t cold, eating icecream and wearing shorts? I just grinned inanely at her like a madwoman, with chocolate all round my mouth, and she soon scuttled off πŸ™‚

Upon finishing what I set out to do, I have to admit my feelings are mixed. I’ve had the most awesome adventure and I’m actually quite sad that it’s over. But I’m also ecstatic to have made it safely to Radelaide and know how lucky I am. I’ve had no punctures, mechanically Shirley has held up superbly and my own body has come through with no aches or pains at all. Not even any chaffing (I put this down to my old faithful cycling shorts which unfortunately after this trip have now pretty much disintegrated. Definitely time for a new pair)!

I’ve certainly had my ups and downs and good weather and bad weather, but there wasn’t one morning that I didn’t want to get on my bike.

To anyone who’s reading this blog and debating crossing the Nullarbor on a bike…DO IT! Yes, it’s a lot of straight, flat road. I’ve never driven it, but I can imagine it’d be boring as hell in a car. But it’s not on a bike. In countryside so vast and broadly monotonous, you need to be able to experience the details to appreciate it. You don’t get this in a car, but you do on a bike. Yes, the winds can be obnoxious, especially when they’re howling in your face all day. But sooner or later they’ll be blowing on your back and the glass will be overflowing!

Also, the people of the Nullarbor, both resident and passing through, really make the trip incredible. Even though I was riding solo I was never lonely. Everyone I met was exceptionally kind and so friendly. They really made the trip for me. In fact, if you really like your own space (which is kind of a prerequisite for doing this ride solo), they can sometimes be slightly overwhelming. I’m a ‘people person’, but I have to admit that once or twice I really looked forward to my secret overnight bushcamps. The constant questioning of your sanity/safety, although totally understandable, can get a little tiresome occasionally. Maybe this was exaggerated by me being a solo female.

Regarding this, not once did I feel unsafe during the trip. You soon get used to animals scratching around outside your tent at night and learn just to ignore them. Funnily enough, Norseman was probably the least safe of all the places I stayed. Didn’t feel massively comfortable walking round after dark, but nothing major. Just something to be aware of. All the roadhouse owners/workers warned me about Yalata, but the roadhouse there is now closed and I didn’t feel any less safe cycling through the area compared to the other settlements along the way.

Anyone can do this ride. Physically it’s easy. You can just ride 40 or 50kms a day if you so please. It’ll just take you a bit longer and you’ll need to carry more water. I averaged about 130km a day, but as my fitness improved I found the short, winter daylight hours to be much more limiting than my body or mind. The latter of which is the clincher. The Nullarbor is more of a mental challenge than a physical one. As I said, anyone that can ride a bike can cycle across the Nullarbor, but you have to really want to do it, as there will be a number of times when you’re riding into a stonking headwind along a relentlessly flat road with no end in sight and you’ll start to question your reasons for wanting to carry on/sanity. If your ambition and want at the start of the ride is strong enough, that’s what will carry you to the end. Not your legs. But obviously being more than a little bit insane to start with helps enormously as well πŸ™‚

Gear wise, I’m super happy with everything I’ve dragged along with me. Aside from one less pair of socks (underestimated the awesomeness of icebreaker socks…worth every penny), there’s nothing that I packed that I wouldn’t pack again. Especially given the temps of the last week. The only additional thing I’d include would be a mug. I’ve just got a small bowl that I use for everything, but having tea and hot oatmeal in the morning takes twice the amount of time when you’ve on got one receptacle πŸ™‚

I had the capacity to carry 8 litres of water but as it’s winter I only needed this much a few times. I never got caught out, but there were a couple of days in WA, when the weather was warmer, that I needed every drop of my 8 litres. Obviously doing this ride in the summer would completely change all of this. Unless you want to rely on grey nomads (which apparently a lot of riders do. Not something I’m comfortable with, but each to their own), I reckon 10 litres would be the minimum you could get away with.

On this note, I’m not sure why you would chose to ride across the Nullarbor during summer, unless you had no other choice. Yes, winter means limited daylight hours and some rain and colder temps in southwest WA and SA, but I’d take those any day of the week and twice on Sunday over 50 degrees and relentless sun!! Even though it was mid-winter and I got caught up in a couple of storms, I was very happy with the conditions I encountered, given the distance travelled.

Having said this, I’m now off to sunny Darwin (on a plane) for a bit more cycle touring and some HEAT! After the last couple of weeks of frosty camping, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t bloody excited about overnight minimum temps of 22 degrees! BRING IT ON! πŸ™‚ I won’t be keeping a daily blog, but I will write a post about my tropical adventure. Until then, thanks for reading my ramblings πŸ™‚

Days 26.5 and 27 – Wallaroo to Gawler via Port Wakefield and Balaklava

Well, Mother Nature wants to make sure I earn my right to say I’ve ridden across the Nullarbor! Tough day of wind and rain today, but with the end in sight it takes more than a bit of weather to dampen my enthusiasm!

Having said this, the wind was behind me for a lot of my 60km ride from the ferry terminal at Wallaroo to Port Wakefield, where I pitstopped last night. So I really can’t complain. Take the bad with the good!

Very uncomplicated couple of days of riding. Here’s the route I took.

The ferry worked out great! Love ferries. Only $40, including Shirley, which I think is very reasonable for a 2.5 hour ferry ride. Rode out of Wallaroo at 3pm and with the wind behind and me easily made it to Port Wakefield by sunset. The first bit of this ride was a bit of a culture shock after the Nullarbor and Eyre Peninsula. Numerous Barry Bogans obviously inhabit this area and it took me a while to get used to car horns being blown in a non-friendly way and passengers hanging out the window telling me to “get the f*ck off the road”. Nice. Needless to say, I was looking forward to getting off the main road. Did have an awesome decent from the scarp down to the plains though just before Port Wakefield. Would be a great climb too!

I did unfortunately just get caught in a heavy downpour as I rode into town, but I made it to a roadhouse before I got absolutely drenched and paid an eye watering $6.50 for a fruit salad just so I could stand and hug the bain-marie to dry out and warm up while I waited for the rain to ease before heading to the caravan park πŸ™‚ Port Wakefield is a bizarre place. Tiny little town with a motel, caravan park and post office (no real food shop), but it’s got 6 petrol stations, all in a row!!! Random.

Woke up this morning to 35km/hr wind and cold rain, but with the end in sight I didn’t have too much trouble throwing my leg over Shirl and hitting the road. The wind was certainly against me for a lot of today, but I only had 90kms to Gawler and I was back on country roads with little towns with great bakeries and hot drinks to keep me going. Life was good. To be honest, the wind was so strong and gusty that I preferred it in my face than in my side. I struggled to keep Shirl on the straight and narrow for the sections of road where I had a side wind.

The rain eased as the day went on and I cycled into Gawler in the sunshine. Very quaint little heritage town on the northern outskirts of Adelaide, at the foot of the Barossa Valley. I detoured to here rather than riding directly to Adelaide (which I comfortably could have done today) because Cathie and Kevin, who I met all the way back in Salmon Gums, recommended Gawler to me. It was a good recommendation. I could also camp here, which I can’t closer to the city. As it’s at the foot of the hills I’d hoped to tag along for a ride in the hills with a group of local cyclists tomorrow (Sunday). But it doesn’t seem like it’s meant to be. I visited the uber friendly and helpful local bike store (www.gawlercycles.com) on my way into town and they told me the local group rides on Saturdays. Apparently all Adelaide Sunday riders head to the hills closer to town, especially in weather like this. I’m not too disappointed. I intend to come back to Adelaide to do some more riding anyway, but (close your ears Shirley) for a smashfest with my race bike πŸ™‚

Time now to go and find somewhere to watch the rugby (go Lions!) to take my mind off the fact that it’s my last day of riding tomorrow! Just don’t want it to end!

Days 21-26 – Eyre Peninsula Epicness

I’m writing this post on the ferry from Lucky bay to Wallaroo after the most amazing 5 and a half days cycling round the Eyre Peninsula. From Ceduna I had two choices – head directly east and carry on along the highway to Port Augusta and then Adelaide, or take my first junction exit in 1500km and detour around the Eyre Peninsula. Everyone I’ve met has told me that Port Augusta is definitely nothing to get excited about and to be honest the choice between the highway with its roadtrains and heavy traffic or the Eyre Peninsula with its sleepy fishing villages and sweeping coastline was a no brainier. I’ll take the latter thanks! It would have added an extra 400km to the trip, but taking this ferry and bypassing Port Augusta cancels out most of this addition distance.

I ended up spending a day in Ceduna drying everything out, booking flights, restocking supplies, showering (yes, believe it!) and to be honest, eating…lots! I lost a fair bit of weight on the Nullarbor which I really didn’t want to do. After Ceduna and then feasting on the amazing and cheap seafood of the Eyre Peninsula, I’m back to a weight I’m more comfortable with.

I really can’t put into words how incredible the last few days have been. I think I’ll let the pictures do most of the talking. It’s a big call to make, as I had a brilliant time in the Southwest and on the Nullarbor, but I reckon the Eyre Peninsula has been the highlight of my journey to date. Fabulous riding country; lovely undulating topography, great roads (not much of a hard shoulder, but plenty wide enough to compensate for this) and NO ROADTRAINS! The area is predominantly farming country, so there were a few grain trucks. But after the roadtrains of the Nullarbor, I hardly batted an eye when they passed. Uncomplicated touring at its best. Wake up, get on bike, ride for as long as I feel like, pitch tent at beautiful spot on the coast, sleep, repeat.

I’ve also been amazingly lucky with the weather. Beautiful clear blue sky days with virtually no wind every day, except for today which is a bit wet and blustery as a cold front approaches. The nights and mornings have been ridiculously cold though, due to the clear skies. Hovering around 0 degrees most nights. My tent has actually had frost on it! I’ve cooked my oatmeal inside my tent most mornings, just to delay the inevitable cold exit. But thanks to good gear I’m warm as toast at night and I warm up quickly as soon as I get riding. So really nothing to complain about at all. I’ve learnt not to drink as much as I normally would before I go to sleep, so I don’t have to leave my lovely warm sleeping bag during the night πŸ™‚

All the locals I’ve spoken to have informed me I’ve seen the area at its absolute best (although they question my sanity for having camped!). Everything is so lush and green. Apparently it’s not like this in the summer, when the mercury can reach 45 degrees.

This is the route I took.

No massively epic days. Longest was the 160km from Elliston to Coffin Bay, which required a frosty, numb fingered, pre-dawn departure. I stopped overnight at Streaky Bay, Elliston, Coffin Bay, Tumby Bay and Cleve (which FYI is a bloody cold place in mid-winter, as it’s on top of the scarp!). All these places were incredible, but Coffin Bay was definitely the highlight. Well worth the 40km detour. It was here that I found my favourite camping spot of the whole trip. On a beach just outside the national park entrance, where I was treated to the most breathtaking sunset. I’m not entirely sure I was allowed to camp there (read ‘know I wasn’t allowed’), but thanks to a tipoff at the pub, I knew the only cop in town was away on holiday and I made sure I was packed up by sunrise, before any rangers could sniff me out (hadn’t showered since Ceduna, lol!). I rode into the national park to watch the sunrise from one of the lookouts. Chilly, but awesome. It was also here that I came across my first public water fountain since Albany. I nearly shed a tear! No more sneaking around looking for rainwater tanks with external taps or drinking water so salty you’d think you were drowning in the ocean.

I had originally intended to stay a night in Port Lincoln, which is the main town on the peninsula. It was a nice place, but much larger than I thought it was going to be (there was a traffic light!) and I wasn’t quite prepared for civilisation yet, so grabbed lunch and pedalled out as fast as I could!

As with everyone I’ve been lucky enough to encounter throughout this trip, the people I’ve met have been incredibly friendly. But because there aren’t many tourists around at this time of year, the atmosphere has been more laid back. More cruisey conversations with locals than all out, grey nomad, “wtf-are-you-doing-isn’t your-mother-worried-sick?!”. At Cleve, the lovely Maureen and Ron felt so sorry for me camping in the near-freezing temps (even though I made it quite clear I wasn’t cold at night), that they offered me the caravan in their backyard for the night. Thank you kind people! With that of course came a home cooked dinner and tea in the morning. So lucky!

The only other anecdote worthy of a mention is my dabble in the art of fishing. I had this romantic notion of catching my dinner. All good in theory, but as many of you know, I was a vegetarian for 10 years and am still pathetically squeamish when it comes to eating anything that looks like an animal. Especially if it has eyes! Anyway, I pedalled into Elliston with plenty of daylight to spare, so went down to the jetty to chat to the numerous evening fishermen and get some advice. They were so helpful, offering to show me the ropes (rods?!) and suggesting that the caravan park may have a rod I could borrow. But as I was chatting to them I watched one of them pull in fish and throw it in a bucket, still wriggling and gasping in the air. ‘Poor little fish!’, I thought and realised I didn’t think I had the heart to do this. But I pedalled over to the caravan park to explore my options. The son of the owner kindly lent me his rod for the evening and also indicated that I could easily catch squid all along the peninsula. Surely I could catch and eat a squid? Not too dissimilar than a jellyfish, right? And I love to eat squid in all its forms. So I brought a squid catching thingy for $5 to use with the rod and off I went. The fisherman on the jetty said all I needed was patience. Patience I have, but rumbling tummy I also had! I fished for just over an hour, watching a glorious sunset in the process, but by this time I was so hungry I was almost gnawing on the rod! So I admitted defeat for the night and went back to the caravan park to cook the quickest thing I had in my panniers (more instant sweet potato).

But I now had the equipment to fish anywhere I could borrow a rod from, so each place I stopped for the night I had a go at catching some squid. It wasn’t until Tumby Bay that I finally caught one. I was so excited I thought I was going to have a heart attack! Had my camera at the ready for proof. But when I pulled it in, IT HAD EYES!!! Although I’ve eaten A LOT of squid in my time, including sashimi, I realised I’d never actually seen one straight from the sea! The vegetarian still living inside of me was screaming and it dawned on me that there was no way I was capable of killing this squid. So I said sorry, unhooked it as quickly as I could and put him back in the sea. He swam off, so I hope he survived. Didn’t even take a photo. How pathetic! I was so glad I was the only one on the jetty! With no dinner I decided to go and get some fish and chips. Normally get calamari, but for obvious reasons I couldn’t stomach it that night πŸ™‚

Right, ramble over. So much for letting the pictures do the talking! Lol. Now just need to navigate my way into Adelaide. Going to have to consult Google Maps on my phone for the first time since Albany! It’s only about 160kms from the ferry terminal at Wallaroo direct to Adelaide. But I intend to take a bit of a convoluted route to avoid the highways where feasible and also to prolong this trip as much as possible. Just don’t want it to end!

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Day 20 – Penong to Ceduna

14th June

I’veΒ done it! Today I finished the official Nullarbor stretch. Whoop whoop!

It was only 75kms from Penong to Ceduna, but the easterly was even stronger today, so it was a very slow 75kms! At least the wind kept the flies away.

Two things helped break up what was actually a pretty frustratingly slow day. Firstly I FINALLY passed another cyclist! A German lady called Henriet (sp?!) heading to Perth. She was hilarious! Her accent was very strong and her English a little broken (but not as broken as my German!), but from what I could gather she had left Perth to head east in January but “it was like a BBQ”!! Lol! So she pulled the pin at Norseman and caught the bus to Adelaide. She’s been there ever since, doing a bit of touring around SA and Victoria. Given the cooler weather she’s now attempting the Nullarbor in the opposite direction. It was so nice to chat to her. She asked me plenty of questions which I was more than happy to answer and she gave me some great advice on where to stay in Ceduna. As we finally said goodbye and good luck I realised I was strangely slightly jealous. Not becuase she had a decent tailwind (ok, I was a bit envious!), but more that she was just starting what I was finishing. Despite the last few days of unfavourable weather, I have had the most fab time crossing this great plain. I sincerely hope she makes it and enjoys it as much as I have.

The second thing to buoy my spirits was when I spotted what looked like a phone tower. Would I possibly get phone reception for the first time since Norseman?! After taking my phone out of airplane mode, the answer was yes! Cue furious beeping and vibrating as messages and facebook posts from my friends came flooding in. These were equivalent to a kilo of toffee and I stormed the last 40kms into Ceduna fuelled by the encouragement of all my awesome friends.

Seeing the ‘Welcome to Ceduna’ sign was awesome! Shirl and I had conquered the Nullarbor!

We passed through the quarantine checkpoint without any dramas at all. I hadn’t seen any fresh fruit or veg since I finished my last avocado near Mundrabilla! The quarantine officer really couldn’t have cared less about me. Tip for any wierdo aspiring fruitfly smugglers that happen to be reading this – push bike is the way to go πŸ™‚

I was absolutely starving by the time I finally span into Ceduna and literally ate everything in sight! Went to the supermarket (you have no idea how exciting a supermarket was to me!) and brought 2 apples, 2 heads of broccoli and half a kilo of grapes. They didn’t survive the afternoon. I also ate something from every food outlet in Ceduna. Although it’s hardly a metropolis this was no mean feat. I spent more on food today than I have in the last two weeks combined!

I’m now lying here in my tent at the awesome foreshore caravan park that Henriet recommended (great suggestion) in a food coma. I don’t have a food baby, I have food triplets πŸ™‚

The adventure is far from over. Phewf! Radelaide is still at least 800kms away. But a hugely satisfying day. Smiles all-round πŸ™‚ Now to decide what route I’m going to take to Adelaide…exciting!

Day 19 – Yalata Bushcamp to Penong

Woke up to a very quiet morning. Still plenty of rain clouds around, but nothing worse than a few showers. After breakfast and pulling down camp I hauled Shirl back to the road to ride the 50kms to Nundroo. Worked up a sweat before I even started riding!

Very uncomplicated ride to Nundroo. Similar undulating forests to yesterday, but as I got closer to Nundroo I saw the first signs of population, aside from the roadhouses of course, pretty much since Fraser Range station just east of Norseman. I even passed a for sale sign! Random! The station for sale is 53,600 acres. That’s one hell of a backyard!

House with a Small (54,600 acre) Backyard, Anyone?!

House with a Small (54,600 acre) Backyard, Anyone?!

As this is the start of the Nullarbor for those heading west, as a cyclist I’m a novelty to them so I had my picture taken by passengers in passing cars even more often than normal today. Never fails to crack me up and I always smile if I notice in time.

But for those heading east the end is near and their patiences are obviously running low. Especially roadtrains driving to deadlines. Witnessed a couple of crazy overtaking manouvers today. The worst was when a roadtrain decided to overtake a caravan while they were passing me. To say the road isn’t that wide is an understatement. Luckily I saw what was happening in my mirror and got off the road just in time.

Just before Nundroo the forests gave way to true agricultural land. Not pastures you wouldn’t even know were pastures due to the total lack of any stock. Actual fenced green fields and croplands. Very exciting!

I’m going to be honest, Nundroo roadhouse was pretty shit. The grey weather probably didn’t help, but not exactly the nicest of places. I finally ran out of wraps yesterday so didn’t have much to make lunch with this morning. I wasn’t worried as I’d assumed I could get something at Nundroo. No such luck. Just packaged pies and chicko rolls. No thanks. But the lady there kindly sold me some slightly stale bread for 50c, so all was good as I still had some tuna left. Lunch solved.

I was pretty wet and cold by the time I reached the roadhouse, so brought a cup of tea and hugged the bain-marie for a while to defrost.

Unfortunately the wind picked up to a decent easterly while I was at Nundroo, so I spent the afternoon struggling along into the wind. With wide open pastures there was little to stop the wind roaring into my face. Slow going to say the least. I forgot to mention in my blog from day 19, but during the crazy storm day I deemed the conditions horrendous enough to crack open the emergency sense-of-humour-failure-prevention toffee I’d brought all the way back in Denmark. With the rain and wind this afternoon I finished it off πŸ™‚ Nuff said.

Just as I was almost starting to feel sorry for myself and doubt my ability to make it the 80 additional kms to Penong today, I bumped into someone that put everything into perspective and made me feel bloody pathetic. I had the absolute pleasure of meeting Jimmy and his lovely family/support crew. Jimmy is walking round Australia to raise money for cancer ( http://brainchild.org.au/story/jimmy%E2%80%99s-walk-cancer ). He’s only 20 and a seriously inspirational young chap. This was the perfect opportunity to pay forward the $10 (plus interest) that the lady at the border gave me for water.

After a nice chat I bid Jimmy farewell and carried on suitably humbled. Having started in Adelaide he’s going in the opposite direction to me, so the silver lining to my headwind cloud is that at least it’s a tailwind for him.

To keep me sane as I battled the wind, I chatted to the sheep and cows now common in the paddocks next to the road. Yet again, I dread to think what anyone would have thought if they saw me!

This is supposed to be wombat country and I am bitterly disappointed that I still haven’t seen one! However I reckon there were a few scratching around my tent last night. I’m now used to hearing wildlife outside my tent during the night, but with my dingo dinner partners last night I was quite happy to convince myself the noise was from wombats πŸ™‚ Due to this lack of a real life encounter I was pretty excited to see a sign to a ‘giant wombat’! I deemed it more than worthy of the 2km detour off the highway down a muddy track. The mud was actually quite fun and the wombat was definitely worth it πŸ™‚ Hilarious and a welcome break from the tedious wind.

The rain had eased through the afternoon and I was almost dry again, but as I approached Penong I watched massive rain clouds build on the horizon, heading my way. I could see the heavy rain falling east of town. Could I make it to Penong before the rains hit or should I pull off the road and bushcamp again? I made the executive decision to get down on my drop bars and smash out the last 10km as fast as I could into the wind. Smashfest central, but an amazing triple rainbow sat over Penong as I grinded along. This and the white silos illuminated in front of the black clouds helped muffle the screams coming from my legs.

Amazingly I made it to Penong just in time! I didn’t even have a chance to get to the caravan park. Ducked into the shelter of the roadhouse just as the heavens opened. Massive relief. Sheltered/recovered there for 20mins while the rain passed before making my way to the caravan park.

Tough 135km day, but PUMPED to be only 75kms from Ceduna and the official end of the Nullarbor!

Day 18 – Nullarbor to Yalata Bushcamp

It took me a while to realise where I was when I woke up this morning. Weird not to be in my tent! The epic deep sleep after my disturbed night on the cliffs probably didn’t help either. Felt like a million dollars though, especially after another hot shower. If I shower 7 times in one day, does that mean I can go another week without showering? That equation seems balanced to me πŸ˜‰

I nervously peeked out of the window and was massively relieved to see that the weather had eased. There was still a strong southerly, but the clouds looked like they’d finally got rid of most of their rain. So I made some breakfast, packed up all my gear, put on my still damp shoes and hit the road with Shirl. I’d washed her down and cleaned and lubed the hell out her chain last night, so she was running a lot better than she was when we got washed in yesterday.

From Nullarbor I headed about 10km east to the turnoff for the Head of the Bight, where I’d wanted to camp last night. As I mentioned yesterday, this is one of the best places to see the Southern Right whales that migrate along the coastline from June-November. Again, I’m so glad to be doing this ride at this time of year. Turning right, into the 30km/hr southerly, I have to admit that I was thinking “there’d bloody better be whales!”. They didn’t disappoint! It was a tough 12km to the coast, but WELL worth it. Amazing. Saw 8 whales, including a mother and her calf. They came right up to the cliffs, almost as if they were saying hi. My photos don’t even come close to doing the experience justice. The view aside from the whales was gorgeous too. Made even more dramatic with the fierce onshore winds. Took this video to add some context to my weather descriptions. In hindsight I’m very happy with my decision not to camp down here last night! πŸ™‚

Head of the Bight from Leah G on Vimeo.

The whales were so captivating I ended up spending over an hour down there, despite the icy winds. Although I know that this along with the 24km detour and the enforced Nullarbor layover would put my Ceduna arrival back a day, I really don’t mind. I’ve got more than enough time up my sleeve and the experience was well worth it.

The ride back to the highway was awesome! Barely had to pedal, thanks to the wind. Turning right I pedalled the last few kms of the treeless plain. Although the open pastures continued for a while after this, after about 30kms they gave way to Mallee forest. Yes, that’s trees, plural!! Such a refreshing change! Interestingly, the vegetation was very similar to that around Norseman at the other end of the Nullarbor. Slightly different species (mallee rather than salmon gums and larger eucalypti) and smaller in height, but after so long it looks broadly similar. A bit exciting tbh! Ceduna is suddenly feeling that little bit closer.

The change in vegetation also accompanied a welcome change in topography. Hills (in the very loosest of senses)! I almost had to crack open my smaller front cog, but not quite πŸ˜‰ Numerous people I’ve met along the way warned me of the hills between Nullarbor and Nundroo. One thing I’ve learnt is that people’s opinions of the severity of gradients is directly correlated with the size of their vehicle/caravan. People in cars would say it’s pretty much flat but according to those towing mini-mansions these hills rival the Himalayas. I’be learnt to take everyone’s opinion with a pinch of salt. It was actually fantastic riding country. Undulations large enough to provide a challenge but certainly nothing epic. A welcome change after 1000kms of flat as a pancake. My legs ate it up and begged for more.

After yesterday’s dearth of birdlife, with the improvement in the weather and the increase in vegetation the birds came out to play. As always, galahs were numerous, but my favourites were the lorikeets with colourful chests. Smaller and more spectacular than the ones in Perth.

Much to my relief, the wind dropped off as the day went on. With the scenery it was like a different world compared to yesterday. Despite the return of the flies I was loving life. A few heavy rain showers did away with many of them anyway. The showers didn’t bother me. During the heaviest one I was soft and took advantage of the trees to treat myself with some welcome shelter. Had lunch here…no soggy sandwich for me! Yay for that πŸ™‚

As the day wore on it was clear I was cycling towards some more persistent rain, with massive, brooding black clouds on the not too distant horizon. So rather than risking having to set up camp in torrential I pulled the pin a bit earlier than normal today at about 4pm after 131km of some of the best riding yet.

This area is aboriginal land, so I had to be extra vigilant with finding a secluded camp spot. This was easy with all the tree cover, but the dense ground cover was quite difficult to haul Shirl through. As always, I picked a spot then waited for a gap in the traffic before actually heading into the bush. But I had to abandon my first spot as a car drove past before I had a chance to get far enough away from the road to feel undetected. So I left that spot and successfully found another one a bit further down the road. Great camping country. No worries pegging here! The wind has virtually disappeared too, so it’s very peaceful.

A couple of dingos came to check me out while I was having dinner tonight, but they kept their distance. Evidently couscous or smelly cyclists don’t float their boat πŸ™‚