Walpole was a bit of an eye-opener. Ziflex, my trusty trailer had a problem. Two in fact. The Munda Biddi had taken its toll.
The mudguard over the rear-wheel has generated a permanent annoying vibration. The mudguard itself has a sizeable hole worn in it where it connects to the wheel-forks. Although it is secured it vibrates. To mitigate this I jam two sticks either side of the screw between the wheel-fork and the mudguard. Works well even though the sticks work their way loose and I have to replace them.
More alarming though, the bushing which attaches the lower part of the Ziflex’s shock-absorber to the trailer’s frame has generated some play. Bit by bit I fear the play will increase until eventually something will fail.
Now, paying 30 AUD to put my tent in a caravan parks seems a lot of money. And I am placed in quite a busy place. I ponder whether I should begrudge this.
Then them hidden benefits begin to kick in. On the one hand the couple across the road turn out to be very friendly and we have some great chats over their great red wine.
On the other I get talking to a dude about how it is to travel with two very small kids. Turns out he’s a local from Mount Barker who happens to be a motorbike mechanic. He agrees to take a look at the Ziflex. I get some solid insights and advice. Whilst we are checking out the play between the shock-absorber’s bushing and the trailer’s bracket we notice another even more alarming problem.
There is a hairline fracture growing along the weld fixing the bracket to the frame. This could catastrophically impact the trailer and therefore my trip.
I go see the caravan park managers. The dude checks out the hairline and suggests that whilst there may be someone in Walpole who can weld aluminium I’d be better off seeing a proper aluminium fabricator in Albany, 120 km east. I am suggested to check out Smiths Aluminum. I am also reassured that the fracture is not critical. At least not at the moment and I should have little problem to reach Albany. Though prudence suggests I should forego riding the last two stages of the Munda Biddi.
Tourist Information told me of Ayr Sailena farmstay, about halfway to Denmark some 60 km to the east. Sure enough, on good asphalt roads I make excellent progress to Ayr Sailena arriving around 1530 in the afternoon even though I left Walpole around 1300. A speed incomprehensible on the Munda Biddi where on some days it took me over six hours to do a similar 30 km distance.
At 17 AUD per night for a tent sight Ayr Sailena was definitely better value than Coalmine Beach campsite.
The early morning sunshine dried off most of the dew and condensation from the humid night and by 0830 I started towards Denmark. Again I make outrageous progress riding the excellent asphalt of the South Coast Highway which was not particularly busy. I realise that this is likely to be my New Reality until at least Adelaide over 2500 km to the east. Quite a change to the slog of the Munda Biddi.
Late morning I stumble across a sign on the highway telling me that should I turn right into the driveway next to the signs I could taste cider produced on site, enjoy a meal and even an ice cream should I want to.
Waaay tooo irresistible and I pull off.
Sure enough I truly do enjoy a couple of excellent ciders which make my head spin and I eat a great pie.
Whilst I sit in the sunshine enjoying my little luxury a large Landcruiser pulling an even larger caravan turns up. The owners laugh when I ask permission to juxtaposition Dreamer and Ziflex against their vehicle and trailer. Whilst we chat they tale me tales of farms, selling up and exploring Australia in their retirement. They also fret about my sun-protection strategy and give me a Cancer Association endorsed tube of factor 30 to protect the back of my neck. I pull out my high-visibility cap and neck protector to use as I peddle along.
Continuing the ride to Denmark was quite challenging whilst the cider worked its way out of my system, but the ride itself was hardly challenging.
I make it to Denmark early in the afternoon, pull into Tourist Information and depart with more maps and some good intel. I head down to the Rivermouth Caravan Park where for 15 AUD I get to put me tent 20 m from the bay.
A couple in a flashy caravan immediately approach me after I return from shopping offering me wine and the remnants of a substantial cheese platter they claim had defeated their ability to consume. I recall his name to be John but for the life of me I can’t remember his partner’s first name, much to my great shame. I do know that her last name is that of that famous thespian family the Attenboroughs.
Wine and cheese morphed into a substantial BBQ and a great evening of conversation.
Albany lies some 60 km from Denmark. I can ride the South Coast Highway the entire way. Or take the more scenic if a little longer Lower Denmark Road. I chose the latter. The weather continued to be gray and damp and it took me good hour or so to dry the tent as much as possible before packing. I departed a little after 1000.
Again, riding asphalt was a dream. Great moving average, great overall average. And with no cidery or other irresistible pleasures to distract me and the grey humid weather not making for sitting chilling and enjoying the view I cover the 60 km to Albany in good time.
There I check into 1849 Backpackers and immediately leave to check out Smiths Aluminium. The shear scale of aluminium works they produce make it clear that my problems are little. I book the Ziflex in for the next day.
Today, the 19th, I pick it up. Strengthened, de-hairline fractured, with no more play between the bushings and the bracket. It looks substantial enough to handle the rest of the trip demands I intend to make on it. Mark explains how he solved the problems but it came down to a reluctant Scott to take the photo honours. Reassured I return to 1849 Backpackers.
Aaand after 47 days and some 1200 km at 1849 Backpackers I finally meet not one but two other long-distance cycle tourists. Both who are planning to cross the Nullarbor. Brilliant to meet Ray, the huge young Maori-descent ex-Queensland coal miner reformed over the last couple of years into a manic cycle touring tour de force vegan. Then there’s Living Legend Rob. 63 years old with a very impressive list of long distance Australian cycle tours under his belt. Guided by him and certainly inspired by him I get some amazing ideas for cycle tours heading north from Adelaide and avoiding the horrors of nearly 2000 km sharing the Stuart Highway with massive 60 m long road-trains. Even if I manage but half of the possibilities outlined by Rob I’ll have ridden some of Australia’s most iconic rides.
Ray has a Topeak trailer but a conventional chain-derailleur set up. Rob on the other hand has modified his Cecil Walker custom-build to take a Rohloff but has to have a chain.
Both, as in BOTH did not do the Munda Biddi!!! Ray did two days, to Jarrahdale before giving up. Too hard too risky for damage to equipment. The guys a monster and 33 years old AND HE GAVE UP! Ray, upon hearing about the Munda Biddi’s fearsome reputation, didn’t even bother trying.
And so I think … why on earth did I too not GIVE UP? Silly buggar am I, is all I can think.
Albany has been great. Busy place is 1849 Backpackers with a wonderfully diverse range of guests from all over the world. Some short stays, like me and Rob and Ray. Others have been here for months working in some truly funny jobs including the local sheep abattoir. The first time since I left Linley Valley Meats waaay back in the early ‘80s that I’ve met someone who’s actually earning a living in an abattoir.
I have been through all my stuff. Again. I can easily get rid of quite a bit of clothes: down-vest, winter Roekle cycling gloves and neoprene over-shoes, fingerless gloves and Merino inner gloves, the sole surviving muts (beanie), thermals both leg and upper-body, thick luxury wool winter socks, Gore-tex cycling jacket (I have another non-cycling one), and a couple of other things. And I was going to. Until we chatted to one of the locals who kindly pointed out that the Nullarbor can still get down to 0C in the evenings and early mornings. I decide to keep pretty much everything and dump the winter stuff at the other end of the Nullarbor.
Ray and Rob serve to reassure me on wide range of other bike-packing stuff. I have far more electronica than Rob but Rob’s kitchen dwarfs mine. Ray has pretty much the same electronica AND a more substantial menu courtesy of his need to keep up calories whilst riding a bike as a vegan. Ray has three pairs of footwear including full size hiking boots against my lightweight orienteering shoes and Rob has flip-flops, riding shoes and Keen sandals.
Ray left yesterday. Rob threatens to leave today but the frequent squalls and grey wind are not inspiring. I plan to leave tomorrow regardless of the weather.
Now I am the Last Rider Remaining. Rob set off as a rain squall hit. That’ll be me tomorrow.
Albany is the End Of Part I. The Munda Biddi ends here. The beginning of heading East starts here. Bit by bit civilisation is going to be replaced by Wild and Outback. Am fit, capable, repaired, ready, organised and more, much more. Time to Take It On.
Gonna be quite a while before the next blog update. Esperance lies near 500 km to the east. Even at 75 km per day that’s still near five days ride. Not sure if I’ll hang around in Esperance long enough to complete an update. Will see when I get there.
Albany, 19 August 2015