Still so far to go – Cycling from Ceduna to Pt Augusta
You think when you get to Ceduna that you’ve nailed the big distances in the journey so it’s a bit hard to get your head around cycling another almost 500 km just to reach Port Augusta. There are a number of ways you can go but we had chosen the shortest route as we had a self imposed deadline to reach our home town of Broken Hill (Another 400+km) just 12 days later and I wanted to spend at least part of the weekend with my sister and her family in Port Augusta.
We aid our goodbyes to our new Dutch cycling friends Jelle and Carla and headed out of town towards our first stop at Wirrulla. I wasn’t feeling too crash hot so it was a relief that the winds weren’t too bad but we had around 95 km to ride and the weather was certainly turning towards summer.
At one stage I was having a bit of a dry retch (charming I know!!), well off the side of the road when a car came careering around the bend. It just missed us as it skidded into the gravel, swung back onto the bitumen, lurched onto two wheels into the path of an oncoming car and then swerved back again, just on the nick of time onto the gravel on our side. We waited a couple of minutes in stunned silence to see what would happen next and when there was no movement from the car we cycled up to see if the driver was OK. Bloodshot eyes told a tale of fatigue. Two empty cans of Red Bull lay in the console. Bloody Idiot!!!!! He told us he’d had a 20 minute nap back up the road but perhaps he needed a bit more sleep. We very politely told him to get his arse over to a parking bay on the other side of the road for another sleep before he killed himself or someone else. We should have taken his number plate as he came tearing past us not 15 minutes later. We fully expected to see him wrapped around a tree or perhaps another car as we headed up the road. The terrifying thing was no-one at Wirrulla seemed surprised when we told them the tale. Apparently it happens all the time.
We reached Wirrulla just after 2pm. As we cycled towards the “campground”, a jovial chap stuck his head out of the local store and cheerfully informed us he’d bought us a wedge of icy cold watermelon. He’d driven past us and realized that the store was closing at 2pm. Not only had he bought us the watermelon, he’d made the poor store owner stay open so we could get a drink and the key to the facilities ($10). He had been surfing down at Cactus Beach and was heading back to Victoria. When he heard we were headed that way he offered us a camping spot in his back yard when we reached Warrnambool or the house itself if we were there in early January. What a nice guy.
It was too hot to pitch the tent on the dusty, shade less camp-ground so we headed to the pub to get a cold drink and see if we could watch the Caulfield Cup. The publican was a nice bloke and offered to trade in our key if we wanted to stay in one of the small but comfy pub rooms. In the end we took up the offer as I still wasn’t feeling that crash hot. It was pretty quiet during the afternoon but later that evening it quickly filled up with a visiting bowls team and locals in to enjoy the great pub food and welcoming atmosphere. It was really good to see that country pubs were still going strong.
We had only intended to go as far as Minippa the next day but when we dropped in at the roadhouse at Pochera, the guy told us that the pub would be shut when we got there, as would everything else. Luckily we had good tailwinds so cycling the extra 35 km to Wirruna (total 117 km) wasn’t too much of a struggle. Of course tailwinds meant the flies were atrocious. They were so persistent, crawling underneath our sunglasses to try and suck the moisture from our eyes that I thought I would be driven totally insane. No amount of swatting, jiggling the shades or huffing and puffing would dislodge them from their maddening attack.
Once again we chose the soft option and grabbed a room at the pub for the night. The bar was hopping, the meals reasonable and very substantial and the beer icy cold. We had a TV and air conditioner to add to our comfort. The budget was a mess but our bodies certainly appreciated the upgrade.
Cycling the extra distance the day before meant we were a day ahead of where we thought we’d be and faced with another 100 km plus day into Kimba. Unless we wanted to bush camp, there wasn’t much options. There were a few more hills and the temperature climbed into the 30’s. The tailwind didn’t come to our rescue until later in the day and was very welcome, except for the extra attention we got from the flies as it got behind us.
There are two community camp-grounds in Kimba. There is one at the Show grounds and another close by. Both were walking distance from the centre of town but we hesitated at setting up all our gear and then leaving it while we went for a drink and grabbed something to eat. So…once again the soft option…A room at the pub. We spent a nice afternoon chatting with the barman and a few tourists who wandered through before having an early dinner and heading to bed.
We had been warned by at least 3 people that we probably wouldn’t want to camp at Iron Knob. The pub is pretty rough and there had been issues with camping in the area. That meant we had two choices. Bush camp somewhere along the road OR cycle another 116 km through to a property called Nutbush Retreat. Headwinds, lots of hills and high temperatures made for a challenging day.
As we fought the flies for our Vitawheats and Vegemite at a lunch stop, a couple of 4WD’s pulled in with lots of advertising on the sides. It turned out to be the support crew for an Ultra marathoner Patrick Malandain, who was attempting to break the world record for running between Sydney and Perth. His goal was under 43 days and he was travelling around 100 km per day. Let’s just put that in perspective. We were pretty damn chuffed that we were cycling about that per day and this guy was running it. Yes…there were way crazier people in the word than us. We took a couple of pics, wished him well and we went our separate ways.
The wind really gave us a proper thrashing for the rest of the day; especially the last 30 km. Nutbush Retreat is a working farm with rooms, dorms and convention facilities. It’s a lovely little place with grassed tent sites, comfy rooms, good amenities, a swimming pool and a well equipped camp kitchen. (No prizes for guessing we wimped out and got a room after the day we’d had!) They even has a bar and restaurant but while you can buy drinks any time, the restaurant is only open if there are a few more people than just two of us. It didn\’t matter. We had our macaroni and tuna supplies to get through and could replenish them in Port Augusta, only 39 km away.
We had a reasonably late start the next day as there was no point in getting to Port Augusta before lunch time. The first leg to the Port Lincoln highway was quite pleasant but as we turned onto the main road, things got hairy. Lots and lots of big trucks and speeding cars coupled with a narrow road and almost no shoulder made for an adrenaline fuelled ride into town. Even with a lovely tailwind for much of the way, the trip was slow as we were off the road letting the traffic pass almost as much time as we were on the bikes. It was with welcome relief we pulled into my brother-in-laws workplace and picked up a lift to their home. The bikes, our bums, our legs and our nerves could have a few days off while we enjoyed the hospitality and good company only family can deliver. The next leg of the journey will be home to Broken Hill to surprise our mums.
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