Headwinds are hills. Hills are headwinds. The difference is that a headwind can die down, change even, become a tailwind. A hill always remains a hill. Until you crest it, then it is a downhill.
Not only do I have a headwind. It’s also a hot day.
I don’t struggle. Or, it is not a struggle. It is windy. A constant flow of air around me. If it wasn’t for the wind I’d be really hot, so I am glad there is some wind for its cooling effect. To while away the time I start doing some mental arithmetic. In Australia wind speed is presented as kph: kilometres per hour. In the Netherlands it’s presented as mps: meters per second. If indeed the wind is 30 kph, what is it in mps? Ok … 30 kph divided by 60 is 500 meters per minute divided by 60 is about 8.3 mps.
Well that puts it in perspective. 8 mps is a mild wind in the Netherlands. 5 to 6 mps is a light wind. As in, almost no wind at all. 15 mps is windy. I rode to work at 18 mps once. In kph? 5 = 18 kph. 6 = 21.6 kph, 15 = 54 kph and 18 = 64.8 kph.
You see what wonderful things you can do when you are riding, slowly, into a mild but persistent headwind. With all the baggage and the Eyre Peninsular’s grotesque lack of vegetation the headwind slows me to a mild 14 kph average moving speed. I don’t try to force it. When a sudden squall hits I simply gear back. When I need to climb a hill I simply gear back. The trick I’ve found is to focus on a consistent cadence, much like a road-racer/rider. Pushing hard into the wind, even for a short squall, or trying to hammer up a hill merely brings on tied muscles much earlier. I employ an energy-conservation strategy. The aim is to have power and push left in my legs at the end of the day, rather than that rubber-leg lactic-burnt out-acid feeling from pushing too much too soon.
It’s great to be on my own again. A travel buddy certainly comes in handy. With Rob and similar headwinds we’d be a good couple of kilometres per hour faster, since one of us would rest in the wind-shadow of the other. On the other hand we focus more on doing kilometres. The one in front focussed on completing his ten minutes of leading, the one behind focussed on keeping up and keeping in the wind shadow. There’s a cause of mutual responsibility going on. It is the responsibility of the guy in front to provide a rest period for the guy behind who responsibility is to rest so they can take over and repeat the whole process. Works great.
Now, on my own, I plod, I look around more, I focus on what there’s to see and experience as I plod along. No one is going to offer me a wind-shadow and I provide a wind-shadow for no one. I have a responsibility to only myself. And I enjoy it.
Mallee and I have a long relationship by now. 1000s of kilometres of relationship in fact. Mallee is the eponymous ‘tree’ of semi-arid southern Australia. I have basically covered all the southern range of the Mallee tree. It has provided shade, fire wood, wind protection and something to look at as I ride along or stare at once stopped. Great tree. Mallee are a thin multi-stemmed tree with a light cap of olive-green leaves bedecked during the flowering season with a hint of white from its blossoms. Though I could swear I’ve seen red-blossomed Mallee as well. Long strips of bark hang down like dreadlocks off the lower branches and the floor is littered with fallen locks.
The ground is a matrix of ultra-fine with angular bits of limestone from sub-centimetre to decimetre size. Bleached shells lie scattered about. Ancient remains of the sea-creatures whose miniscule bodies make up the vast karst plateau which is the middle bit of southern Australia.
Today the Mallee moves and moans to the same strong (head)wind into which I pedal. It gives me time to have a good close and long look at Mallee.
The ‘should I stay in Elliston?’ question is answered when I encounter the Elliston Caravan Park. Just opposite the long jetty it has … grass, pretty much everywhere. Grass! 5 Star camping is camping on grass. I pull in, fork over 20$ and pitch my Soulo on grass. Shear luxury.
The ride against the wind was relentless. The wind never stopped. A bit like Terminator it does not sleep, does not rest, does not feel, never gives up … Not that bad in truth. Just a matter of approach. Plod along, don’t push it.
0530 wakeup on the road by 0640. Chill sky, thin clouds hide a cool sun. Light headwinds. The distant sound of surf hammering the coast.
I am alone here. No car, cycle, walker, camper, no one.
The plan is to get some decent kilometres before the headwind picks up again. Port Lincoln is like 170 km south. I’d like to do at least 100 km today, leaving 70 km for the final ride into Port Lincoln.
Forty five kilometres see me enjoying a coffee at Sheringa. Odd little roadhouse. The proprietor can not be described as ‘engaging’.
Not bad, 45 km in 3 hours. Am doing OK. But, then again, the first 50 km always slides by a lot quicker than the second 50 km.
The Eyre Peninsular is a brutal example of overwhelming habitat destruction and loss. It has been shaved. Flat featureless farm land, devoid of any remnant of former vegetation to preserve the original biodiversity.
All the tourist information and attractions concerning the Eyre Peninsular actually do not concern the Eyre Peninsular. Rather it concerns the coast. Beaches, beach fishing, rock fishing, boating, surfing, whale watching, swimming with sealions, shark-cage diving, oysters, and fish or rather fishing. I can’t recall any significant Point of Interest which lies in the middle of the Eyre Peninsular, away from the coast. Except Murphys Haystacks, and they are like 10 km from the coast.
The headwinds I struggle against flow remorselessly across this naked land uninterrupted by topography or vegetation until it slams into me. I do not believe I interrupt it in any meaningful way either.
In a word, the Eyre Peninsular is awful.
The coast is pretty though.
I check out the Lake Hamilton Eating House. Right next to the road, looking great. It’s open. There’s history here. Travelers could eat their fill. Back in the day it would have been very nice to finally see the eating house after a hard days travel.
For me though the joys have just begun. For in the eating house is a large box of lemon. And another of grapefruit. Fresh juicy fruit, for a ‘donation’, on a hot dry day. I donate. And I gorge … the bitter beautiful juice sending off cascading bombletts of taste and juice through across my tongue and mouth. Lovely.
Lake Hamilton, like Lake Newland from yesterday, is full. Of salty water.
105 km since starting out I am sitting in my wild camp just north of Warrow.
So I did it. 105 km regardless of the headwind. Started off calm. Headwind picked up after about an hour. Not particularly strong but consistent from Elliston to Sheringa. After Sheringa the road turned due south, from south-east, resulting in more of a cross-headwind. As we know winds are fickle here in southern Australia and between Mount Hope and my campsite here the wind seemed to tease me by almost becoming a tailwind.
I passed many great camp sites, especially around the 90 – 80 km to Port Lincoln mark. Great places. But I am or was obsessed with ‘breaking the back’ of the 170 km ride between Elliston and Port Lincoln, so I ride past such magnificent campsites, sure in the knowledge that such excellent camping opportunities are the norm here.
Then came that looong stretch where to the east of the road was the Eyre Peninsular’s infamous barren pasture devoid of anything even remotely looking like a Mallee for shade and shelter. To the west is Lake Greenly. A salt lake, so not much vegetation there either. And it looks pretty damp. The edges too. Exposed. The road runs pretty close to it. No camping opportunities there either.
The large shady Mallees start again south of the lake.
Identifying a suitable area, I point dreamer off the asphalt and simply bash a path through the light undergrowth and make my way deep into the thicket.
I sit in some shade, the breeze light, a beautiful view to some large hills in the distance, the road invisible through the thicket. Lots of rabbits. Almost plague proportions. A bobby wanders through, right past Dreamer.
Riding was a systematic approach of just not pushing it. Instead aiming for The Zone, where speed is immaterial and kilometres tick by of their own accord, time stands still. Only the bike moves.
Warrow north wild camp 8 Oct 2015