In July 2012 I had the opportunity to take three months long service leave and my plan was to use this time to challenge myself with a bicycle ride from Darwin to Perth via a mix of coastal and inland routes. Regretfully after only four days of riding through Litchfield National Park and having arrived at Adelaide River I had to bail to Darwin and eventually back to Perth as I had come down with a serious bout of influenza. It took me three weeks to recover before I was able to head out again, this time on a shortened ride of ~ 3,000 kilometres in Western Australia, the Chasing the Dirt – Out and Back to Burringurrah (Mt Augustus) by Bicycle Tour.
This page summaries second leg of the Chasing the Dirt – Out and back to Burringurrah (Mt Augustus) by Bicycle Tour, riding from Geraldton through to Carnarvon via a bit of a zig zag route in a vague attempt to minimise my time on the North West Coastal Highway.
This leg was 679 kilometres and I took eight days to get Carnarvon plus I had a rest day in Carnarvon. It is written in the present tense as I wrote the notes up each day in the tent using my Apple iPad 2.
Day 11 - Tuesday August 21, 2012 - Chasing the Dirt: Geraldton to Northampton
78 km with 788 metres of climbing at an average of @ 12.16 km/h. Total kilometres to date: 739 km
I had three choices today in getting to Northampton: North West Coastal Highway, Chapman Valley Trail or chase the dirt. I went with chase the dirt so instead of a 44 km dash up the highway it was a 78 km tour of the Chapman Valley taking in Nabawa.
In hindsight given the rain (squalls), strong headwinds at times, muddy road (Scott Road which had me walking) it probably wasn’t the smartest decision. I think the Chapman Valley Trail might have been the better option given the weather, however, the high road had lots of scenery and got a chance to have a chat to a local farmer.
He asked why I was not on the bitumen. Thinking about it afterwards I feel that being on the bitumen, my focus becomes about getting there, whereas on the dirt it is about taking it all in; on the dirt the ride has a soul. The wildlife is more noticeable, the cows and the sheep take an interest , the road is variable and hence more fun to ride and the there is so little traffic. The ride gets a soul; I get in tune with why I am here what is around me.
Back to the route, I think it is well worth at least taking the bitumen lower Chapman Valley Trail and getting off the North West Coastal Highway. It really is very scenic riding. For the more adventurous hit the dirt for more fun …. just avoid Scott Road if it is raining . The mud on Scott Road outwitted my Schwalbe Marathon Mondial tyres which lost grip and had me walking and at one stage I find myself on the ground literally. Don’t worry no harm to the bike. Still it was fun.
Just don’t expect anything at Nabawa besides a pub.
The highlight of the day besides just getting into the Chapman Valley was getting out of Geraldton! The last time I rode out of Geraldton the weather was wet and windy, just like to day, but today I got a bonus … an “intelligent” bloke in a Toyota Hilux (red) thought it was smart to throw his MacDonald’s coke at me. Of course he missed and when I signalled to him and his mate to pull over for a chat about his aim, they demonstrated what men they are by failing to stop. Oh well I shouldn’t be surprised should I?
Now at Northampton in the caravan park which is not bad; hot showers for starters . Might be hard to get some charging done but. Only one powerpoint in the camp kitchen and it is used for a fridge etc. Oh $20.00 for an unpowered site of sorts. It seems that those in tents are put wherever there is some spare grass.
A quick update on my gear, well on the Ortlieb Water Bottle Cages. I lost one of the bottle cages today. It seems that the mounting system is not designed to actually secure the cages to the bag sufficiently for anything but smooth roads or paths. It did not for me securely hold a 600 ml bottle of fuel despite my efforts at securing it and hence I lost a cage and contents somewhere between Geraldton and Northampton.
That ends the day and this touring note from the tent at the Northampton Caravan Park where there is good Telstra Next G mobile phone coverage.
Day 12 - Wednesday August 22, 2012 - Chasing the Dirt: Northampton to Port Gregory
53 km with 525 metres of climbing at an average of @ 12.16 km/h. Total kilometres to date: 792 km
Thankfully, well for me but not the farmers, the rain had pretty much moved on today, leaving a moderate to fresh south-westerly in its place. Not that helpful as I was riding mostly in a westly direction today.
Packing up this morning I found that one of my Ortlieb Water Bottle Cages containing 600 ml of methylated spirits had gone. I thought I had tied the cage on securely but I guess not Thankfully at least it happened where I could easily get fuel but still not impressed about this as I reduces my outside the pannier carrying capacity.
Having lost the fuel I called into the Northampton IGA for resupply. This is a great supermarket and I would seriously considered it as major resupply point allowing for the bypassing of Geraldton all together if desired.
The route was all bitumen today, traffic was not too bad but I did have a few road trains travelling the route until a few kilometres out of Port Gregory.
I stopped at two spots on my ride today. The first being Munga Gabbe Lookout. It is on private property by the looks as you need to go through a gate but it seems that you are welcome to do so. Well worth it for the views over the valley, the wildflowers and interesting rock formations. A nice break on the ride.
The other stop of note was at the Lynton convict hiring depot. Interesting spot where convicts where hired to work on the Geraldine Lead Mine. The site is however in a run down state with the exception of the shed which has been restored and is open for visiting. Pity really as it is an important historical site.
Whoops, the last highlight is the Hutt Lagoon which today was pink! It is a source of ß-carotene which is harvested within the lagoon. The bacteria changes the colour of the water. Quite an interesting area which added to the ride into Port Gregory.
That ends the day and this touring note from the tent at the Port Gregory Caravan Park. There is no Telstra Next G mobile phone coverage at the park itself but you can get coverage down at the jetty.
Day 12 - Wednesday August 22, 2012 - Chasing the Dirt: Port Gregory to Kalbarri
76 km with 441 metres of climbing at an average of @ 15.5 km/h. Total kilometres to date: 869 km
Pretty straightforward ride today with the wind mainly at my back or a touch side on. The Hutt Lagoon was still pink this morning so a nice start to the ride. After about 20 km I had cleared the mining operations and the trucks leaving the rest of the ride to myself, the grey nomads and the odd vehicle or three. All up a pleasant ride.
Once I get close to Kalbarri I did drop down to revisit Island Rock and the Natural Brigade. After visiting this natural features I decided to continue on to Kalbarri without stopping as I have previously visited all the coastal points along here.
Kalbarri was busy with the word being that all the caravan parks where pretty much full (wildflower season). I got into the Kalbarri Tudor Holiday Park just. Had to pay $25.50 for a bit of “grass” under a street light. Interesting walking around town I found a lot of motels with vacancies signs in contrast to the caravan parks: price gouging maybe?
If you are resupplying here keep in mind there are two supermarkets: the better option is the IGA Supermarket down near the marina.
That is about it from the tent at Kalbarri. I really didn’t enjoy my visit … something about the place that didn’t do it for me. Oh there is good Telstra Next G mobile phone coverage here.
Day 14 - Friday August 24, 2012 - Chasing the Dirt: Kalbarri to Warribano Chimney Road Bush Camp
74 km with 626 metres of climbing at an average of @ 12.4 km/h. Total kilometres to date: 943 km
Had to run around Kalbarri doing a couple of last minute shopping things: the bakery is well worth a visit and I also dropped into Australia Post to pick-up a package sent using their General Collection service. They will hold the item for collection for 30 days which is handy on a bicycle tour.
Of course I had to have my “intelligent” driver experience before leaving town. Mr “expert driver” felt it necessary to repeatedly blow his horn at me because he had to wait oh 30 to 45 seconds before he could pass. He then pulled along side and wasted more time “instructing” me in the ways of the road. To cap it off after he passed me he leant over to wind up the passenger’s side window. Yep, Mr “expert driver” just engaged in careless driving after having a go at me. All of this happen in the bustling cosmopolitan town of Kalbarri where Mr “expert driver” was going oh about 750 metres down the road. I let it pass as I was reminded recently of the saying, you cannot argue with the stupid. Sadly this “driver” will know doubt take his anger out on other cyclists and probably in ignorance as well.
On the positive side, I think my right arm is about to drop-off from waving to travellers who waved and/or cheered me on today. Great to see the positive side of humanity far outweigh the negative.
The ride out of Kalbarri on the Ajana Kalbarri Road is climbing and more climbing. The first 20 km is very noticeable and then afterwards it is a steady but gradual ascent with the odd noticeable bump in the road. I felt the climbing today as I pulled out of Kalbarri with 10 days of food and 23 litres of water on board. A taste of what is to come.
I departed the Ajana Kalbarri Road before it reached the North West Coastal Highway with the intention of cutting through to Galena Bridge camping area. My chosen route, the Warribano Chimney Road took me pass the Warribano Chimney, which I believe is Australia’s first lead smelter. It was built in the mid-1800s. The chimney has been partially restored and is an interesting visit.
Not long after visiting the chimney and about five kilometres from the Galena Bridge camping area the Extrawheel Voyager trailer tyre punctured again and hence by chance it was near a half-decent off-road camping area so my day’s riding came to and end. That is my second puncture with this particular Schwalbe Marathon Mondial tyre. Will need to investigate the cause carefully in the morning. I suspect it is time for a rim tape change.
That is about it from the tent at Warribano Chimney Road bush camp. There is no Telstra Next G mobile phone coverage here.
Day 15 - Saturday August 25, 2012 - Chasing the Dirt: Warribano Chimney Road Bush Camp to Nerren Nerren Rest Area
80 km with 189 metres of climbing at an average of @ 16.7 km/h. Total kilometres to date: 1,023 km
Cold morning and my test to see if the alarm app. on my phone would wake up the phone failed so I had a bit of a sleep in … is 7:OO AM a sleep in? After breakfast the first priority was the repair of the puncture on the trailer tyre. Initial inspection turned up nothing of note other than a possible leaky valve. I then tried to find a leak using the pot with water in it; again nothing came up. An inspection of the tyre was also fruitless. Rather than take a chance I put in a spare tube and got going.
When I reached Galena Rest Area I made use of the Murchison River to test for hole in the tube and bingo there it was. I applied a Knog Porno patch to at least mark the hole for a proper repair down the track. As I went to get moving my seatpost went south. Another delay as a I fiddled getting the height right again (the tape marking the height of course moved when the post sunk.) Once sorted I got going on the North West Coastal Highway proper.
Riding the highway in a northerly direction wasn’t to bad. Traffic wasn’t bad overall and the number of trucks northbound was tolerable. Shoulder is pretty limited but most drivers changed lanes to pass. One bonus was coming across two concrete water tanks, known as the “200 Mile Tank” on the eastern side of the highway. The tanks are what remains of a series of eight tanks on the highway built in the 1930′s I believe. The tanks are located 320 kilometres south of Carnarvon and 182 kilometres north of Geraldton. Cool, fresh water on tap. A nice bonus as I was drinking more water than I anticipated today so I took the opportunity to top up the bottles and an Ortlieb Water Bag.
The only other highlights of the day was passing another odd piece of machinery on the side of the road and crossing the cattle grate the State Barrier Fence (vermin proof fence). Whoops and also ticking of the first 1,000 km of the ride and entering the Gascoyne.
The negative for the day and it was a big one: Nerren Nerren Rest Area. I had a total non-thinking moment and really didn’t think through or check the camping properly before setting up the tent here. Nerren Nerren Rest Area is a dive: the human waste and the levels of rubbish surrounding the hard pack area should have set alarm bells ringing (fly heaven) and then I missed that the “grassy areas” for want of a better word are basically thorn beds. If you tent here go for a clear dirt patch … I should have known better. Frankly having access to rubbish bins, tables and a toilet really don’t outweigh the negatives of this place. I should have kept going to find a nice bush camp. Lessons learnt I hope!
Oh mostly tailwinds today and a relatively flat road. Had I got a good start to the day I think a 100 km would have been on the cards. Maybe tomorrow as I aim to get to around the Overlander Roadhouse which Wikicamps is showing as having Telstra Next G access.
That is about it from the tent (read dive of a place), at Nerren Nerren Rest Area. There is no Telstra Next G mobile phone coverage here.
Day 16 - Sunday August 26, 2012 - Chasing the Dirt: Nerren Nerren Rest Area to Carbla Station Bush Camp
102 km with 160 metres of climbing at an average of @ 16.0 km/h. Total kilometres to date: 1,125 km
Not a special day of riding today. Bitumen, grey nomads and the odd oversized load pretty much sums it up. Billabong Roadhouse stop was informative. There is no free water available unless you need it for your car’s radiator. Yep, if you are cyclist and need it to survive you need to buy it but if you drive a car you are okay. After being told this followed by a lecture about the water shortage I didn’t bother to check the hotel/caravan park. They may be more helpful. Oh 1.25 litres of bottled water was $5.00. Now you know how much your life is worth
The next roadhouse north, the Overlander has a well known policy of selling water only. At least they have the option of 10 litre containers. I only needed three litres so brought a couple of 1.5 litre bottles for $5.00 each. Another possible option is to pay the $11.00 for an unpowered campsite and then full up at the caravan park. Just take a look first to make sure you can get water. Heck there is no need to even stay
As I was still a little early to camp at the Overlander Roadhouse I headed up the road a bit more until I found a reasonable spot to camp off the road. The west side of the road has a decent “verge” to allow one to get in a bit before hitting the station fence. As it turned out my spot appears to have been used before. Nothing new under the sun
That is about it from the tent at Carbla Station. There is Telstra Next G mobile phone coverage here as I was only few kilometres north of the Overlander Roadhouse.
Day 17 - Monday August 27, 2012 - Chasing the Dirt: Carbla Station to Edaggee Station
117 km with 117 metres of climbing at an average of @ 17.5 km/h. Total kilometres to date: 1,242 km
Broke camp earlier this morning with the intention of hoping to knock off as many kilometres as reasonably possible to ensure only one more day to get into Carnarvon. The map was not showing much of interest other than White Buff Lookout and Wooramel Roadhouse so anticipated a lot of bitumen riding and that was pretty much it.
Whoops, nearly forgot, I officially crossed the 26th Parallel and therefore formally entering the north-west on the bitumen … not really adventurous at this stage.
I did climb up to White Buff Lookout which provides an view over the planes and a reminder at how it is here … sand, scrub and the odd track. From White Buff Lookout I continued on northwards towards Wooramel Roadhouse. A friendly place with sign promising a lot but delivering little. In terms of offerings probably the worse of the three roadhouses but they do have four litre containers of water in the fridge for sale (no free water). I made the mistake of not sticking to a cold drink and water and ordered a chicken burger and chips for lunch. I paid for it for the rest of the afternoon!
From Wooramel Roadhouse there is not much else, other than sightings of emus and goats. Tried to get photos but not much luck.
I did call in to the Edaggee Rest Area (toilets and tables) for a look but as I still had a good 1/2 hour of riding and given my experience of Nerren Nerren Rest Area I decided to continue on. My daily approach is to ride until at least 4:00 PM and then to start looking for a bush campsite unless of course I have a planned destination. Back to Edaggee Rest Area. From what I saw riding through it is a pretty nice rest area with some tent bays and it looked clean. Nearly as good as Galena Rest Area which wins as it has the Murchison River running through it
Being the last night on the North West Costal Highway I thought I would share some thoughts from the tent on what I have learnt so far:
- Flies along here are bad, much worse than I expected given it is August. I am now considering delaying camping/eating till closer to dark to try an win the fight with them;
- I have been using Aerogard Tropical Strength insect repellent which may work in the tropics but is no performer against these flies. I had hoped to pick up some Bushman insect repellant which I have heard is pretty good but both the Billabong and Overlander roadhouses only sold Aerogard and Wooramel didn’t sell insect repellent at all. I thought this was the outback? I suggest getting some Bushman insect repellent before heading this way if possible. [An update: I got some 80% Deet Bushman insect repellent in Carnarvon and I pushed it to its limits later on. Really the only option out here for adults in my view.]
- Lack of rocks: Two of my campsites (Edaggee Station and Nerren Nerren Rest Area) seriously lacked rocks and the ground is hard! A free standing tent or a hammer or bring your own rock are recommended.
- Thorns are common off the highway, particularly if bush camping. I check my tyres and remove the thorns, stones and glass from my them before hitting the highway each morning. Beats the increased likelihood of a puncture. Those same thorns can be a pain with tent floors and sleeping mats so keep this in mind.
- Winds: For me the prevailing wind has been from the south-east, sometimes it swung north-east for a short period. In the afternoon/evening it has been from the south-west.
- eBay camera batteries: Stupid mistake as my second battery for my Olympus XZ-1, an eBay job, is only holding charge for a few days and when I charged it with the PedalPower+ Super-i-Cable it kept charging even though it was full and flattened the batteries in the Super-i-Cable. I have battled for three days to get the Super-i-Cable fully charged whilst trying to also keep the Garmin Edge 800 purring along, the Apple iPod Shuffle happy and my Samsung Galaxy S11 working as an alarm (really need a little alarm clock).
- Spot Messenger 2: The on/off button starting flashing red today which is how it signals that a battery change is required. I have got sixteen days of touring out of a set of Eveready Ultimate Lithium batteries in the Spot Messenger. Being a cheap stake or an idiot I have installed a set of Coles generic brand lithium batteries. Will be interesting to see how they go. Really I think the smart approach is to use a quality battery when touring.
That is about it from the tent at Edaggee Station. There is no Telstra Next G mobile phone coverage here and no more coverage until Carnarvon.
Day 18 - Tuesday August 28, 2012 - Chasing the Dirt: Edaggee Station to Carnarvon
82 km with 44 metres of climbing at an average of @ 19.6 km/h. Total kilometres to date: 1,324 km
Pretty bland days riding. I had a south-westerly which was 90% in my favour and other the site of the 40 Mile Tank there was nothing to stop for. Maybe I should have taken to the dirt for the last 20 to 30 km and seen some of the coast. Ah well a lot of dirt coming up for sure.
As it turned out I got into Carnarvon around lunchtime and whilst I could have done the washing and shopping in the afternoon have decided to take a rest day and will look around a bit tomorrow.
Also since I have around four more weeks of life in the tent I splashed out for an “apartment” at the Carnarvon Caravan Park … $119 a night. Pricey for what is, but little options in the “cabin” market here in Carnarvon. Riding through town I saw a Woolworths supermarket and close to me is a pretty good IGA so reasonable resupply options. No McDonalds but so no free WiFi
That is about it from the apartment at Carnarvon Caravan Park. There is Telstra Next G mobile phone coverage here and even Vodafone coverage in Carnarvon.
Day 19 - Wednesday August 29, 2012 - Chasing the Dirt: Carnarvon Rest Day
16 km with 30 metres of climbing at an average of @ 15.4 km/h. Total kilometres to date: 1,340 km
Lazy day of washing and shopping and just resting followed by a little ride around town to visit Chinaman Pool, a permanent pool and swimming spot on the Gascoyne River. It was the town’s water supply in the 1800′s.
From Chinaman’s Pool I headed out to One Mile Jetty which is 1,493 m long and was built in 1904. I then swung back into town via the tramway walking path and footbridge.
There ends my rest day in Carnarvon
Your Turn To Talk
I hope you found this bicycle touring note of my ride from Geraldton to Carnarvon an enjoyable read and hopefully informative as well. Please do share your thoughts on ride and/or riding this area with the rest of us by leaving a comment below