Ridin’ ridin’ ridin’ keep these wheels ridin’ Dream On

Over hills gravel and asphalt

Headwinds tailwinds rainstorms and heatwaves

carbon-fibre belt drive all internal gearing

keepin’ my baby by my siiiiide

Ridin’ ridin’ ridin’ keep these wheels ridin’ Dream On


Dream On …

27 October 2016

Tom Price is Western Australia’s highest town at 720 m. It means I should enjoy the benefits of a lot of downhill as I make my way towards the coast.

First twenty kilometres are asphalt. At 0600 it’s still pretty dark when I leave the caravan park, ride down the access road and turn left on the Nameless Valley Road. Not quite sure how it missed getting a name but it’s an easy fast ride heading north-west. There’s no wind. At all. I make twenty kilometres per hour average speed. An easy ride.

This is where it gets serious. Left and gravel but only for 45 km

The next bit is nearly fifty kilometres of gravel past one of Rio Tinto’s mines. I check my tires and find my brand new tires have lost 1.5 bar in less than thirty-six hours. Not quite sure how that happened. Pump them to a bit over 2.5 bar then hit the gravel.

Mine truck dust and waste rock management fracility
A mine truck dumping a load

As a gravel road it’s in pretty good condition with the usual loose gravel and corrugated sections. Once past the mine works traffic all but disappears and I’m on my own for long stretches. The wind starts, a mild cross-headwind as I head south-south west.

Hit the asphalt, turn right. I’m going to be riding asphalt for nearly a thousand kilometres to Carnarvon, via a substantial detour to Exmouth and the Ningaloo Reef. After that? Well, I’ll have the benefit of twelve hundred and fifty kilometres of prevailing south westerlies. Headwinds. Welcome to the grind. First though I’ve got to get to Exmouth.

End of the dirt. I can ride 2000 km to Perth without leaving the asphalt. Unless I choose to

Plan for today is Cheela Plains station stay. A hundred and ten kilometres.

It’s overcast which keeps the temperature under check. It’s pleasant riding.

Decent distances remain still

I amuse myself with various thoughts: family in Perth I really should try to establish a firmer relationship with, Ram and our life in Sweden. Or Australia. Perhaps Romania. The empathy or lack thereof of Australian drivers contrasting with their charming friendliness when they are not in their humungous 4WDs. What I’m going to do when my Epic ends. The kilometres pass quickly.

Even though I meticulously measured the circumference of the Mightly Marathon Mondial tires my Cateye cycle computer is a good five to ten percent out in comparison to my Garmin Edge 520 and the kilometre posts along the road. Systematically over a number of kilometre posts, here ten kilometre apart, I change the circumference settings until the difference is negligible calibrating it against the kilometre posts. Another thing to occupy myself as I cycle on.

The countryside is magnificent. The Hammersley Range dominates, spinifex coated scree slopes rising to meet fragmented outcrops burnt dark red or black by the sun. Even the rocks here get sunburnt. Creek beds are occupied by stately white-stemmed eucalypts. Perhaps the oddly named ‘snappy’ gums. Over countless millennia the outcrops have been reduced to huge piles of rubble. Enormous boulders some this size of cars jumbled on top of each other. Thermal expansion. Cold nights, frighteningly hot days splitting the rocks along fracture plains. Gravity doing the rest. An endless and very slow process.

My Road, my new reality

I fret about water. I’ve no idea why I fret about water. I have plenty. Thirteen litres for one hundred and ten kilometres. That’s more than one litre per ten kilometres. There’s no way I’m going to drink a litre for every ten kilometres. The first fifty kilometres generally costs me the 750 millilitres of my cycling bottle. The next thirty to forty will cost me another 750 millilitres. The next thirty another 750 millilitres. 2.25 litres to ride a hundred and ten kilometres. It leaves me with ten litres still available. Why. Do. I. Fret? Dunno, but I do. I would really like to bury this fretting and accept that with ten litres I can ride damned near two hundred kilometres and do not need to carry an additional five litres.

I really wanna test this. Say, ride the 152 kilometres to Giralia station stay on the Burkett Road. Realistically the only water supply for the two hundred and seventy-six kilometres between Nanutarra Road House and Exmouth. One litre for every fifteen kilometres including an overnight stay. If a litre gets me thirty kilometres I’ll need five litres for riding, three for the overnight stay. Eight litres. I just can’t get it through to my worry centre that ten litres is enough. Too used to too many kilometres and days on roads where there is no traffic, where contingency in case of emergency comes down to my own resources. Definitely not the case here. Traffic may be light but it is.

Ninety-eight kilometres into my day a Ford Mondeo overtakes me and pulls into a rest area just ahead. As I approach a guy walks towards the road waving a bottle. Of water. I’m going to have put conditions on my concern that Australians lack empathy whilst driving their cars. For this guy can certainly see through the eyes of a cyclist and has reasoned, correctly, that a bottle of cold water would really do the trick.

Jake and Laura, he an Australian she German are travelling around and have spoken with several self-powered travellers including cyclists and walkers (yes, there are people walking around Australia) and know just how wondrous a chilled bottle of water is to a self-powered traveller. We swap travel stories and I give them a tour of my setup as one bottle become two. Jake offers me a couple of warmies for the road but I’ve only fourteen kilometres to my destination and decline his gracious offer. Thanks Guys.

Cheela Plains turns up. A short gravel access road and a nasty eight-percenter and I’ve made it. Fifteen dollars a night, decent camp kitchen, large grassy camping area but with no shade. As it’s still overcast setting up the Soulo isn’t a brain-frying tent-melting Therma-Rest-bursting exercise. The camp kitchen is affectionately called The Log Cabin although there’s not a single log in sight. A haven to retreat to, to escape the sun. Although the fridge has been turned-off in the camp kitchen since campers are pretty rare this time of year, I can put my cooler bags in the big fridge in the main building. Since it’s never locked – rural Australia is a ‘we-don’t-lock-the-doors-place – I can take my cooler early in the morning when it’s time to go. It may be all pretty basic, but it’s clean the people very friendly, and it has everything I need. Nice place.

Here for one night. Time now for a shower.

28 October 2016

Cheela Plains is separated from Nanutarra Road House on the North West Coastal Highway by some one hundred and eighty-six kilometres. That’s not an unreasonable distance. It’ll be hot. Not too hot, since it’s forecast to be overcast. Asphalt makes it quite easy riding. Terrain is expected to be moderately flat with the odd rise or two. Two day’s ride. Plan is to make it to the House Creek Bridge roadside stop for the night, some one hundred and twenty kilometres from Cheela Plains. Leaving sixty-six kilometres for tomorrow’s efforts. Thus begins the process of water management – the basis of my fret – and how I mentally prepare for the day’s ride. One hundred and twenty is a good day’s ride. I’ll need to stay focussed and make sure large chunks of kilometres are consumed. On the other hand it is not a mega-day. I won’t have to push myself beyond let’s say a consistent but average cycling effort. There will be time for photos, but not for hour long lunches or a protracted ‘let’s-get-off-the-bike-and-check-this-out’ moment. I should be able to make the roadside stop the good side of the hot and nasty time of the day … 1400 onwards.

Today sucks. Not sure what it is, but it sucks. Am finding it really hard. I know at the House Creek Bridge the fine Australian authorities have not deemed it sensible in a brain-frying part of the country to make water available for – as my young Ranger admonished me by saying – “The Backpackers will use it all”. Err, yes, that’s the point of water being ‘available’, for anyone, self-powered or not. However, seems Cheela Plains Contracting has the contract to service the various rest areas along this section of the Nanutarra Munjina Road. And they tell me but two days ago they placed two twenty litre containers of water for the dump point. Interesting. So, no water available for drinking or personal hygiene. But there is water available for the vaners to wash the dump point where they empty the contents of the internal toilets from their vans. Doesn’t that tell all about what’s important out here.

A hundred kilometres from Cheela Plains is Wyloo Station. I finally got through to them whilst in Tom Price. Sure, I can drop by to get some water. Mount Stuart Station, just opposite the House Creek Bridge road side stop also said I could drop by to get some water, even going so far as to tell me where the bore water tap is should no one be around. Again, my concerns about Australian empathy takes another hit. I’ll be emphatic: it’s when Australians are in their cars that they seem to lose all empathy, except the not insignificant number who offer me bottles of water. Otherwise … Australians are truly warm friendly and hospitable people.

There’s a dawn down there somewhere

Sooo, water supply is not an issue. Still I fret. I figure I’ll do a status check when I reach Wyloo and make a decision then.

The kilometres continue to be a struggle to get through. My Brooks saddle is giving my butt no end of numb spots. Am gonna have to continue tweaking it, looking for that magical angle where it fits snug and comfortable for hours on end. I may also have to entertain the thought that the leather has been damaged beyond comfort from being soaked in sweat on a daily basis whilst in Indonesia, and the collapse of the saddle on the Tanami. Maybe I’ve lost so much weight that I’m riding on bones and no longer a fat ass.

The terrain is amazing. Part endless plain, part mesa country, part range. All beautiful.

It’s like The Road To Hell. Only it’s the Nanutarra Road

I keep a wary eye for tell-tale signs of water … cattle tracks and windmills but see non. Just short of Wyloo I notice a white truck-trailer off to one side. Not quite sure why anyone would abandon a truck trailer two hundred meters off a road. But seeing as there’s a fence between the road and the trailer I guess it was abandoned for a reason.

Then Wyloo turns up. Hmmm … in truth out of eleven and a half litres of water I started with from Cheela Plains I’ve used less than two. I’ve one hundred kilometres and one night left to Nanutarra. Nine litres left. Say another litre to get to House Creek Bridge. That’s eight for the night and the sixty-six kilometres to Nanutarra.

I ride on determined to break my fret concerning how much water I’m carrying FOR I HAVE ENOUGH I try to convince myself.

Ten kilometres further, Pearson’s Mine turnoff. Didn’t even know there was a mine out here. A road train is parked at the junction, the driver milling around. Should I ask for some water? A refill of my riding bottles, those on the frame? The ones I’ve not yet finished. Then I notice he’s waving his arm, wanting me to pull over.

Truck driver Steve. Coke and water a great chat and lots of information

Steve hands me a chilled can of Coke Zero before I even get off the bike. A Karratha resident he does a twice weekly trip to Tom Price and back carrying skips. He used to do quite a bit of cycling when younger and tries to connect with the cycle tourists he meets on his route, offering them drinks and lots of useful information. My ‘abandoned white trailer’, it turns out, is a freezer trailer. With water, for cattle, but water nonetheless. Damn. Missed that one. There are a lot of windmills dotted around only I can’t see them coz I’m too close to the ground. He gives me all the water he has, some one and half litres. He’s on the homeward leg and doesn’t have nor need much. He jokes and says he’ll make more effort to carry more “just in case” he encounters another hot and water stressed cyclist.

Great talking to him. Lovely generosity. More of that Australian empathy in action.

Thirty kilometres to go, a strong headwind. It is definitely not my day. I plod on. Steve rumbles by, toots his horn. I plod on.

I’m trying to get into The Zone. That mystical place I discovered in the heady days of relentless headwinds as I crawled down the Eyre Peninsular over a year ago. Then I could disappear in the monotony of the grey asphalt blur just in front of my front wheel and kilometres would disappear into it as well. Not this time. Not the least because I actually want to enjoy the scenery which keeps me pretty grounded. It’s nice to look around and enjoy where I am. Then Bam! The Plod. Urg. Where’s that zone?

By now I also know it’s all about the numbers. No matter how awful a day is, sixteen kilometres per hour moving average deals with the kilometres just as well as a brilliant day doing sixteen kilometres per hour. Sure enough, one hundred kilometres up. One hundred and ten. Then … there’s the sign telling me I should not drive tired and there’s two kilometres to a rest area, the House Creek Bridge road side stop. It’s not even 1400. One hundred and twenty kilometres in nine hours. Not bad for a Bad Day complete with headwinds.

A Fiat Winnebago and an ancient bus pulling a small Suzuki 4WD are my fellow road side stoppers. The bus dude is putting air in his tires. Shirtless, thin, slightly hunched and with a wispy beard, he looks as weather beaten as his bus. I’m asked if I want some air for my tires. “No, thanks” I answer, “But I’ll take some water if you’ve got some”. A woman emerges from the Winnebago and tells me she’s got some too, if I need more.

The dude disappears into the bus. I’m not tempted to follow. For one thing, there’s a huge spare wheel tied up in the entrance and there’s more than just a hint of an awful lot of mess in the dilapidated bus and there’s a distinct odour of urine. A large dog jumps out and immediately begins to hump my leg. Interesting. I manage to stop the dog, but every time my attention wanders, he has another go. A small sticker on a window tells me ‘This Bus Is Protected By A Vietnam Veteran’.

Retrieving my water I beat a hasty retreat to the shade of the shelters where Sandra is trying to repair a mosquito screen for one of the windows of her Winnebago. There are few enough solo female travellers and most of those tend to be middle age or more. Sandra must be fifteen or more years’ senior to me. A reformed alcoholic, a former teenage bride she’s been a nomad for seven years or more. The scars on her soul are evident and she makes no effort to hide them. It makes her interesting and pleasant company. We while away the afternoon covering a wide range of topics, as she patiently tries to repair her mosquito net and I eat, before we both take a snooze. Me on the bench seat in the shade and she in her Winnebago.

Awake again I contemplate the rest of my day. The Cheela Plains people were not leading me on. There are two twenty litre containers of water tied by rope to poles next to the dump point. I take one back to the shelter. Tastes fine considering the water is in an old 10W-40 light commercial engine oil container. I decide to accept Sandra’s offer of water and use Cheela Plains’ water to give myself a wash and other non-human consumption purposes.

Like a tap, come the end of the afternoon I thought my clever and cunning plan of sleeping on the table under the shelter was going to come to an ignominous end, curtailed by the sudden arrival of a dozen random tourists in a wide variety of vehicles. It is the French couple with their six month old and five-year-old who pose the gravest threat.

First they park their huge Nissan Patrol Dual Cab with no less than two rooftop tents broadside to the shelter and less than a metre from it. If ever there was a statement of intent this is it, particularly as aside of Sandra’s Winnebego, there’s no one else here and they have the choice of the whole empty camp ground. They need a table, they tell Sandra and I. I’m occupying one, Sandra the other. No problem, we can clear one. But, ummm, I/we are asked if we mind them camping here, right here. A metre away. We’re trying to work out the hidden meaning behind the question.

Seems the six month old cries. A lot. At night. Oh boy. I reconsider my rejection of a camping area under some trees fifty metres away. Screaming kid less than a metre away? No wonder they are warning us.

Evening’s coming fast. The sun dying. They realise that in about fifteen minutes the fully exposed concrete table the other side of some bushes will be perfect. Julia, Mom and Wife, points out to husband that they will also need to shower, which seals their fate and they move their vehicle. Both Sandra and I, co-conspirators in The Great Camp Ground Game, breath a large sigh of relief.

And more and more come. My alternative camping spot under the trees is consumed first by a Troopy then sealed by a vaner. Yet, no matter how many arrive non come anywhere near the shelter and the tables. I’ve got the place to myself.

The wind is howling from the west. Headwind stuff. Lovely. It also makes cooking dinner a slight challenge. Sandra offers me her stove in the Winnebago but my Optimus Omni-fuel is up for the challenge. Spam, onions, garlic, chillies, and Four-Cheese Pasta Sauce in a pot. Fuckin’ ace!

Julie turns up and offers me a shower. A. Shower. WoW! Actually I’m feeling pretty clean after my earlier wash and decline, though I thank her profusely. Sandra giggles … “I never even thought to offer you a shower” she says before going all thoughtful “But we were alone here” leaving me to consider the implications. Lone older woman invites lone male to take a shower in her Winnebago and there’s no one around if things don’t go as planned. Risk management. It never even occurred to me either.

Darkness is now absolute. It’s pushing 1900. Time for bed. Set up my mattresses on the table, arrange my stuff and try to sleep. Sure enough six months old makes the weirdest night-time baby crying I’ve ever heard. More cat than kid. Five-year-old gets involved too. In the preternatural darkness the lights of the vaners are surprisingly piercing. The wind seems charged with intent as well. It takes a while for me to finally fall asleep.

29 October 2016

0400 I wake and reason, quite reasonably, that with sixty-six kilometres to ride today that the wind is still blowing from the west that I may as well enjoy another hour’s sleep.

0500 get up.

0600 on the ride.

1030 arrive Nanutarra Road House, my day done.

OK day, OK ride, nonstop headwinds notwithstanding. I feel my legs. Tight. Three days of headwinds. The rest of the day I’ll chill. Pay 10$ for a campsite. Pay 30$ for a steak-burger with the lot. And a beer? Oh, yeah, why not a beer.

Nanutarra in relation to the rest of WA. It tells me distances are shrinking

The area reserved for camping at Nanutarra is a superb spread of lush green lawn. Completely devoid of shade. Any person parking their vehicle in the designated parking area of the roadhouse will be staring straight at me and my tent. Come night, that means their headlights will illuminate me beautifully.

It is also a favoured place for babies to have their nappies changed on the tables, for dad’s to play a quick game of kick-the-ball with both sons and daughters, backpackers charging their devices using the power outlet, cigarettes in abundance are getting smoked, butts covering the ground, dogs being walked and pissing against anything upright, random picnics. Busy place. No way in the fucking world am I putting my tent in the middle of all of that.

I survey the rest of the camp grounds. The usual dustbowl of powered sites devoid of shade. Except one lone large sheoak. That’ll do. I am the only one here. Doubt that’ll remain though.

It’s quite comfortable actually, the shade good, power outlets handy, a tap but two metres away, the roadhouse carpark far enough away not to be a nuisance.

Tomorrow is The Day. The First Of Many. I am damned near the coast. I am heading south. The coast of Western Australia is famous for its strong prevailing south to south-westerlies. It’s what used to power the Dutch East Indies Company’s boats to the spice islands of Indonesia during the age of sail. They were sailing north.

Tomorrow I ride south against these winds. I get a two day break after one hundred and ten kilometres when I kinda turn north west on Burkett Road, then north up the peninsular to Exmouth. But once I’m done with Exmouth and the Ningaloo Reef experience I’ve 1300 kilometres of facing off against that powerhouse as I head towards Perth.

The campground is filling up. A Mazda kingcab pulling a caravan slowly meanders through the grounds directed by two women on foot. It ends up next to me. To avoid a ‘missunderstanding’ I stand right next to Dreamer and Zi-Biddi and watch the Mazda’s front wheel miss by less than ten centimetres. The women break out camp chairs set up in the shade whilst the Mazda disappears.

After a while I realise a question has been directed towards me. The “Where are you riding to?” I’m engrossed in something else so ignore it. If they really wanna talk with me they can make a bit more effort. Already the Dutch dude I met in Tom Price has come to say Hi. The German vaner across the grounds too. And another German vaner who pulled in for a picnic. An Australian vaner got me on the way to the shop told me I was amazing and gave me ten dollars! The Australian women, in their camp chairs with their beers and cigarettes are just gonna have make more effort than simply shout a question at me.

The question dies quietly in the gathering gloom of late afternoon, its ashes blown away by the pervasive wind as I continue my tasks. I stand to stretch my legs and without intention catch their eye and the question returns. I tell my tale and ask theirs. Mine’s an Epic. Theirs’ a drama. Raylene, the asker of the question and Ray, her husband, broke down well north of Nanutarra, the injectors on their Hilux apparently. Kristen and her husband Roger, the driver of the Mazda, are friends of Raylene and Ray, live in Exmouth and have come to the rescue.

At that moment the Mazda, not in the best of condition, pulls into the caravan park towing a far more impressive looking Toyota Hilux. Mazda clearly lost a great photo-op for an advert: King of the Off Road being rescued by the lowly Off Road Underdog.

Roger is beside himself with stress. The What To Do question hammering away. Injured 4WDs in remote areas are a Worst Case Scenario. Costly in terms of time waiting on parts, the cost of the parts and staying for what can amount for weeks for the parts to arrive, what the mechanic charges, the time it consumes. Horror stories of months spent in tiny remote roadhouses, like Nanutarra and tens of thousands of dollars in bills are a BBQ favourite on the road. Roger is well justified in his stress.

I’m sucked into the vortex of the drama by virtue of the less than two metres separating them from me.

Kristen points out that she and Roger have an empty Mazda pick-up and will be heading to Exmouth …

Roger confirms. They are leaving in ten minutes. Doable. I could pack everything up but don’t feel for it. Too hasty too wrong given the dynamic of the troubled people. Better to deal with my own issues tomorrow, that headwind.

The group dynamic changes anyway. They are going to tow the injured Hilux to Exmouth which is a far more sensible place to repair it than Nanutarra. The sensible decision made, part of the dark shadow eases from the shoulders of Ray.

I’m waving them goodbye, wishing them well as the Mazda slowly takes up the strain on the towing ropes to lead the Hilux to salvation. Suddenly the Mazda stops, Kristen pops out comes up to me and says “Tomorrow the guys are coming to pick up the caravan. The ute will be empty, if you want a lift. We are really happy to give you a life”. And I believe her. “That’s really kind of you” I answer “I’ll take you up on your offer.” And they trundle away.

This could work out nicely. Winds are forecast between five and eight kilometres per second tomorrow (20 to 30 km/hr). Headwinds. The day after tomorrow they are forecast at a maximum of thirteen kilometres per hour (<4 kph). A vast difference. I have seriously been thinking about spending an extra night here to take advantage of the lighter headwinds the day after. So, since plans do change and I don’t have their number and they don’t have mine, I may find they do not turn up tomorrow simply coz they are in a Drama and Dramas have a life of their own but the extra day here is not going to hurt me. I’ll wait. And see. Coz you never know, they may actually turn up. And if I know anything about Australians they do like to keep their word and they offered me a lift. They would not have offered me a lift if they did not seriously believe they can deliver what they offer. Australians are not like that.

30 October 2016

I sleep in. I wake up at 0530. That’s quite a sleep in, a full hour and half. Luxury. I take my time. I figure the guys will be here no earlier than 1000. Two hundred and seventy-six kilometres between Nanutarra and Exmouth. Nearly three hours. I can’t see why they would leave around 0700 on a Sunday morning to pick up a caravan.

Leisurely I pack my things, place Dreamer deep under the boughs of the sheoak and take up position on the terrace of the roadhouse, drink coffee, work on this blog, watch the waves of travellers come and go and wait. And see. Will I leave today. Or not? Will see.

A bus turns up. As in a long-distance coach. I go out and speak with the driver “Do you guys run a service to Exmouth?” I ask. “Yup” answers the driver, “this one. I leave at 1000 for Exmouth”. It’s 0940. For 90$ I can get a certified reliable bus ride to Exmouth. Right Here Right Now. Next bus is in four days. What to do? Y’know, I can handle a fortuitous lift dropped on my lap by fellow campers. But I don’t really need to do a bus ride.

I’m also a bit peeved at the weather forecasts. The howling eight metres per second has not materialised. Barely a four meter per second, if that. I could have ridden this. Perhaps I should still. Do a few kilometres. But then again, Roger and Ray may yet turn up.

A familiar vehicle turns up. Adrian and Joy’s Big Foot Hilux camper. I’ve been bumping into them since the Stanley Road Side stop on the Great Northern between Broome and Port Hedland. Nice couple. Perhaps ten years older than I, deeply religious, Olde Skool travellers with Olde Skool values in a good way. We’ve been criss-crossing each other’s paths for weeks as they meander their way south clearly no faster than I. Quite funny actually.

Joy and Adrian and their Big Foot

They buy me a coffee and a sausage roll. I tell them about my waiting game. They tell me about their latest adventures. It’s early afternoon. I notice a well-worn Mazda utility roll into the apron heading for the diesel bowser. I think my lift has arrived. Time to find out how I leave Nanutarra.

Ray wanders up and recognises me. He’s a different person than yesterday. Clearly getting the injured Hilux to Exmouth was a good idea. And yes, they are still happy to give me a lift.

Dreamer and Zi-Biddi get loaded into the Mazda’s spacious tray, the caravan hitched, I crawl into the tiny rear seat of the dual cab, next to the esky with the beer in it, Ray takes the wheel and Roger the passenger’s seat and we are off.

I’m looking out the window as coastal central north Western Australia races past at one hundred kilometres per hour, trying to imagine myself on Dreamer riding this strip of good quality asphalt over a relatively flat landscape devoid of landmarks to capture my imagination, with mottled arid-semi-arid vegetation dotted around. It is not inspiring. The road would have been fast, relatively speaking. The topography kind. The landscape, the view, the visuals, the immersion in Australia’s fascinating biodiversity on the other hand … somewhat … sparse, boring even. And that’s without battling a headwind. I decide to not feel guilty in accepting the lift shift my butt on the tiny seat stretch my legs across the width of the Mazda accept a chilled beer and a cigarette and let coastal central north Western Australia race past.

Three hours later I’m dropped off at the humungous Big 4/RAC caravan park. Big 4 is a franchise and generally expensive and here it is no different. A powered site is nearly 40$ per night and unpowered like 32$. I notice a ‘Backpackers’ sign in reception. For 26$ I get an airconditioned room, a decent bed and space inside. I take the room. Not quite sure how they price their various accommodation options but for now I’m a backpacker, not a camper.

31 October 2016

Exmouth is the gateway to the UNESCO World Heritage listed Ningaloo Reef. In season the Intrepid Explorer can swim with whale sharks, manta rays, turtles and even migrating humpback whales. Unfortunately I’m right at the end of the ‘season’. Some whale sharks are still around as is the odd humpback whale.

There is but one company still operating offering a full-day snorkel trip accompanied by a plane with the chance of whale-sharks and humpbacks, and two others doing diving trips. With custom scarce it comes down to confirmed trips: when enough people sign up for a particular day. One is going tomorrow the other isn’t sure yet. I’m booked for tomorrow.

In the nineties Coral Coast Marina Development Pty Ltd proposed to build a large-scale marina north of Coral Bay and pretty damned close the southern border of Ningaloo Marine Park. The original development the Western Australian Environmental Protection Agency assessed and approved not only included two hundred and fifty hectares of “… a (46 ha) marina, a resort complex, private housing, a variety of short-stay accommodation, basic utilities infrastructure and associated commercial buildings and shops” it also “included a golf course and a large number of residential properties” and found it “environmentally acceptable” (http://www.epa.wa.gov.au/epadoclib/B1073.pdf).

In simple terms: a “2000 bed resort, a 46 Ha marina (large in other words), caravan park and a facility for backpackers” and least we forget the commercial and retail spin-offs such a development inevitably leads to (http://www.theage.com.au/articles/2003/07/04/1057179145794.html). Staff have to be housed, shops need to exist for supplies, fuel stations, garages and service centres for them boats and cars, entertainment and eating and drinking … One direct job in an advanced economy generates between 1:1 to 1:4 direct:indirect jobs. For each person directly employed by a company/project between one and four full-time indirect jobs are created. The variance tends to be based on what services already exist to supply the new company/project. In very remote areas, the ratio can be as high as 1:10 whilst in a city it may only be 1:0.25 or even less.

The company calculated 700 direct jobs would be created. A total new workforce of 1400 jobs, at a minimum and perhaps as high as 3500 new jobs at the high-end. There are towns up here with far fewer people. It is, or would have been, a massive development with concomitant massive changes to the onshore, near-shore and off-environment. Make that environment a fragile pristine marine eco-system then such changes are very unlikely to be negligible, reversible or even manageable.

The Western Australian Environmental Protection Agency apparently approved the original proposal. The one with the golf-course and the large number of residential properties (The Age, abid).

After considerable opposition the golf course gets removed and the number of residences proposed reduced. Subsequently the WAEPA suggested the “that the proposal’s footprint could be managed to meet the EPA’s objectives with onerous and diligent management by the proponent”, i.e.: the development’s onshore and near-shore infrastructure. But that the “possible scope of far-field human-use pressures associated with the CCR proposal are beyond the power of the proponent to manage”. In other words the reef is at risk of being fucked and there’s no way the Coast Marina Development Pty Ltd managing the marina development can do damned thing about. Cumulative impacts we in The Business call it (http://portal.appealsconvenor.wa.gov.au/pls/portal/docs/PAGE/OAC/ADMIN_CONTENT/DECISION_SUMMARIES/2003/CCR_REPORT.PDF).

After all, the point of a marina is to moor boats. Boats may well look pretty in a marina, but that’s not what they are designed for nor why people buy them. They will be used and the marina’s location is not a coincidence. Them boats will be used to access the pristine fragile marine eco-system that is Ningaloo. And it is this traffic and its related impacts including increased fishing pressure, waste and human-waste releases, accident and hydrocarbon discharge risk, collision with wildlife: them mantas, whale-sharks, humpbacked whales, turtles, dugongs, dolphins, etc etc, that the Coast Marina Development Pty Ltd will not be able to manage.

And the WAEPA approves it! I mentioned in another blog about Australians and their profound knowledge and love of their unique nature and biodiversity, but that they don’t wanna change anything they are doing now, including development policies and precedents let alone an individual’s specific activity choices, to preserve it.

There was protracted international opposition to the development and fortunately even though the WAEPA approved the development, the Minister, being far more cognisant of public opinion, rejected it (The Age ibid).

The Federal Australian Government steps in and increases the size of the Ningaloo Marine Park from 10% (when the project was proposed) to 34% of the whole Ningaloo Reef. Note the difference between the juridical systems: Western Australia approves a huge marina project, but federal Australia increases the size of a marine park. On the face of it, that should result in a drop in income and development because of the restrictions imposed on any project proponent and/or entrepreneur. Let’s look at the ten years’ after assessment reports. According to one 180 000 tourists are visiting Ningaloo and spending 140 million AUD whilst doing so (http://ningaloo-atlas.org.au/sites/default/files/Ningaloo%20Coast%20region%20visitor%20statistics.pdf). And that was in 2009. Already nearly a decade more has passed. Such numbers would only have increased.

No word on the number of jobs created but to service 140M$ spend per year requires a vast infrastructure and lots of people. The RAC/Big 4 caravan park, where I am writing this (in sublime airconditioned comfort) is fully booked from June through to the end of September, so reception tells me. Let’s put it in perspective. There are ten backpacker units, each with four beds. Four hundred people. There are perhaps three hundred powered and unpowered camping sites catering up to six people per site. Let’s assume a conservative two: another six hundred people. A thousand per night and we haven’t even got onto the various types of cabins. And there are two caravan parks in Exmouth, another seventeen kilometres up the coast and range of National Park campgrounds on the west coast. 180 000 tourists. It’d dwarf the employment opportunities of the marina development and spread the income over a wider demographic range with less impact.

Since I’m out of season the backpacker units are largely empty, the caravan park devoid of people, the camp kitchen clean and the pool empty. It’s hotter windier and wilder and few of the tourism operators are still operating but somehow I figure I’ve got the better deal.

Which brings me back to scuba-diving and having to wait for a confirmed day. Tomorrow.

I’ve heard rumours of a water tank on the west side of the Exmouth peninsular, the side where all the pristine awesome world-famous beautiful – my point should be made by now – beaches are, where UNESCO World Heritage Ningaloo reef lies but a few meters from the beach.

I go to the Parks and Wildlife office just down the road and find myself talking to Kristen, partner of Roger. Small towns. She’s sceptical but calls a Ranger on my behalf. Their response? Well, it’s bore water. I don’t really get this. Tens of thousands of Australians rely on bore water. I am still struggling to get why this is always presented as a bad thing. Anyway, apparently it is not too salty. To drink. If you wanted to do. Parks and Wildlife, Kristen tells me, cannot and do not recommend I drink this water. They also don’t tell me that I should not due to salinity or other health risks. And if I wanna drink the water, well, there’s not much they can do about it.

I would like to camp for a week or so down the coast. Minimum of three litres per day. Twenty one litres I’d have to haul from town. Or drink bore water. I’ll take say fifteen litres and get the rest from The Tank.

01 November 2016

01 November 1962, 1 Warburton Clouse in Altrincham, Trafford, Greater Manchester, the pink squealy thing is me, newly born.

01 November 2016, Big 4 Caravan Park, Exmouth, the grey grizzling thing with stubble and skin spent too long in a harsh environment (but still looking damned good) is me, not so newly born.

Happy birthday to me.

0715 the dive shop bus picks me up. 0800 I’ve got a wetsuit, fins, goggles, BCD and are pretty much ready to go with a handful of other divers when Thibault, the Instructor, comes in looking concerned. The wind is picking up he explains and with it the swell and declining visibility. I’ve done some pretty outrageous swell ingresses and egresses off/on boats. Always a small dose of excitement and risk. I can live with a 1.8m swell. It’s the 4m and declining visibility that concerns me. Diving at Ningaloo is all shallow coral and fish stuff. Stunningly beautiful, simple, easy, safe, enjoyable and is completely dependent on being able to see things. With a dive depth between ten and fourteen metres the swell will influence the bottom stirring things up.

So, Thibault, what are you really saying? It’s up to us he explains. Dive. Or postpone till Thursday when the winds are meant to be less and the swell lower. Or a full refund.

I and most others postpone till Thursday.

I buy myself a pair of board shorts that actually fit as a birthday present. I’ve lost a lot of weight and none of my shorts look decent on me anymore. I buy some prosecco, food I can not normally enjoy: pate, camembert, smoked salmon, hummus as well as tomatoes, avocado, salad. A treat. A birthday treat.

Return to my little room. Return to bed and do something else I rarely do during my Epic: sleep in, in comfort.

The rest of the day? Chill, swim in the pool, try not to feel too guilty that I’m not doing something. Come evening spread my goodies on one of the outside tables and take to enjoying it all as the sun dives below the palm trees. Watch a couple of movies and go to bed quite late.

Happy Birthday To Me.

02 November 2016

Should have gone on the snorkelling tour today. Wind’s died down a lot.

Instead I take it easy.

I go to the local fishing shop. I present the man with A Challenge: “Let’s imagine you are riding a bicycle around” he looks at me very dubiously “you have no fridge, and all you can carry is a handline. And … “ suitable dramatic pause “ … you are heading to The Reef”

The Dude rose to the challenge. Very well. A running sinker onto a hook. Cast onto the top of the reef. Not around bombies or other entanglement risk places. Allow the fish to take the bait before setting the hook.

And, for the bait? Simple … freeze dried squid. Obviously. Soak in water for ten minutes. Place on hook. Catch fish. Simple. Guess if I get hungry enough …

Freeze dried bait. Hilarious

03 November 2016

Dive Day. Was meant to dive on my birthday. Too windy. Today though the wind is almost negligible. Should be a good day. Diving with Exmouth Diving Centre – http://www.exmouthdiving.com.au

Picked up at 0715, dive shop 0730, confirm the dive, that all the equipment is ready, load onto trailer, await the late(r) comers, pile into the mini-buses, head to the marina, cart all the stuff to the boat, depart (following safety briefing), chug for forty minutes, get ready, buddy up buddy check await signal giant-step entry confirm all OK descend …

That’s the plan anyway and I’m all for it. Only, ten minutes into the chug Mark, my Dive Guide, calls me over and introduces me to Sabine. Ok, nice, why are you introducing me to Sabine, my mind goes. Sabine, I’d noticed, is part of The Team.

“Are you trustworthy?” I am asked.

This is Australian humour as a means of communication. I still don’t get it. Do I take the question seriously? Or am I meant to reply with some equally poor sense of communication: Yeah, I can be trusted to rip yer ‘ead orf and shit violently darnyernek if yer pizz me orf? I play it safe and answer that “Yeah, by and large.”

Sabine it turns out is an amateur underwater photographer and needs a buddy. Would I mind? As Sabine’s buddy I get to enter the water first, enjoy a rapid not quite PADI endorsed descent enter and cruise the dive-sites before the group stay long skip the whole safety stop thing (we are talking a maximum depth of fourteen metres) and be pretty much able to do my own thing so long as I keep Sabine in site.


“Sure” I answer.

I join the dive briefing with Mark and the group I am no longer a part of, return to the back deck get ready, waddle to the stern of the boat and do a giant-step entry and … BOOM! World War III has started with me from underwater. Air gushing around me, violent rapid release. Something is, err, not quite right. Both regulators, my main one AND my octopus-spare one are free flowing. Happens occasionally to the main but to have both is quite rare. Andy the Skipper is watching me, as is Sabine. It is their equipment. Grabbing both regulators I turn them upside down give them a good wack and they start to behave. All good.

Sabine enters and retrieve’s her camera looks at me signals descent and down we go. We’d already agreed to go straight down, which I like. There are a lot of bubbles around me as I descend. Not the regulators this time. I follow them to where the hose from the First Stage runs to the BCD control value. The Buoyancy Control Device is how a diver established smooth buoyancy and equilibrium underwater and prevents them from sinking when on the surface. It has a valve which the diver presses to allow air into the BCD and another to release air. An essential piece of equipment and mine’s leaking like a sieve.

There are only two solutions to this problem: replace the regulator or replace the BCD depending on whether it’s the O-ring on the hose or the fitting on the BCD. No way to do this with an entire atmosphere of water above my head. Sabine plays around, just as I did, but cannot solve the problem. Our long leisurely dive has now become compressed into however long I can stay underwater given my 220 Bar now has to support not only me but that leak.

The Labyrinth is not named the Labyrinth in some testimony to Australian’s back-to-front humour. It really is a Labyrinth. Random reefs two to three metres high above a sandy to coralline bottom winding about each other disappearing into the gloom of suspending fine sediment and plankton. The reason whale-sharks and manta-rays congregate in a particular place is coz their favourite food – plankton, sub-microscopic organisms – are present in large numbers. Large volumes of sub-microscopic bugs means visibility is, let’s say, significantly reduced. Consequently the Labyrinth is a mysterious brooding place full of zillions of sea-creatures from them macroscopic plankton thingies to huge beasts like the Manta Ray and Whale-Shark. If you could only see them.

Sabine is just in front of me and starts to gesticulate wildly. I come over the reef and peer myopically into the gloom. Something’s up, but what?

Through the gloom coming straight at me is a white flap. Quite a large white flap. It is now perhaps two, maybe three metres away. There’s something dark to the right of the white flap, which then becomes another white flap. The picture suddenly snaps together in an instance as my mind finally adds all the things together: the flaps the dark area the strange way the water behind the flaps is distorted for it is not distorted that is the head the back and the humungous wings of a giant Manta Ray heading straight towards me with less than two metres to go!

The general rules of interaction between diver and Manta and Whale-shark is: keep out of their way, do not swim under them (the bubbles annoy them), do not approach, do not try to touch. The General Rules do not apply to the Manta-Ray. I wondered, as you do, as it got ever closer at what point should I panic. I mean it will hit me in about a meter if it keeps on coming. I can’t duck since I’m already on the bottom lying prone on the reef. At the last second it banks tight above me and my entire world is the underside of a Manta-Ray measuring at least four metres wing tip to wing tip.
It is not finished with me. As I hang onto the reef it circles back, flying around me giving me the opportunity to study what a metre and half of remora looks like up close. The Manta’s theatrics and acrobatics just go on and on as I hang there and watch. Its wings whisper past my mask no more than a few paltry centimetres away and its long tail trails away right in front of me. If there is anyone else in the ocean I don’t know about it. This show is for me and me only.

Finally Sabine catches my attention. Time to leave. The group won’t be far away and they should see this too. Beyond awesome. Beyond beautiful. Perhaps awe-inspiring. Definitely incredible.

The reef isn’t the spectacular colour show of those I’m used to in Asia. It is however pristine, no-one’s ever dynamited it. Fish density and diversity is incredible. A wobbegong shark lies in a crevice. Its main defence is camouflage. It does not move even though we could run our hands down its back. A huge groper cruises past. Sometimes their curiosity outweighs their caution and they’ll bump into your mask. This one however swims past Sabine and I catches a glimpse of the group and buggers off well fast.

Courting turtles performing an intricate dance routine around each other. A huge Hawksbill chilling on the reef ignoring us. Long Spanish Mackerel racing past barely discernible in the gloom. A large school of giant trevally whizzing around and around us, checking us out, so many that I almost get disorientated as my visual world is a blur of silver with yellow highlight. A large sea snake with a broad brown head and cream body swims right under me not even arm’s length away turns around returns and I kid you not raises its head and kinda checks me out. Snakes do not frighten me. Think like a snake and you know when to be concerned. I have done nothing to this snake yet here it is right under me clearly checking me out. I decide not to panic. It comes to some conclusion, evidently in my favour, and swims away.

And this is but dive one.

Finally though we are back at the mooring line. I’m nearly on 50 bar and the dive but forty-five minutes long. That leak taking its toll.

Blizzard Ridge, our next dive, is a long ridge of reef. The Blizzard refers to low tide when the swell breaks against it turning the water into, well, a blizzard. Fortunately the dive has been planned at high tide and I won’t need to practice my blizzard survival skills.

Turns out my leak is the BCD. Replaced I’m ready for it.

Down we go.

Like Labyrinth it is not a single wall of reef. There are outliers, castles of reef with a courtyard of sand. In this are millions of glass fish. Five centimetres or smaller they obscure the reef by sheer weight of numbers. If I thought my trevally troop was bewildering this is a hallucinogenic experience in four dimensions. Since I’m floating I am completely surrounded by this cloud of tiny fish performing organised random choreography. As a school of fish does they tend to change direction at exactly the same time which completely distorts me sense of vision and I don’t know if the fish are moving, I am moving or we are both stationary and the ocean and reef are moving. Brilliant.

At one point a tuna bullets through splitting the cloud and I can see a fish tube created around the tuna’s path.

Sabine calls me over and points at something in the reef. I look at a matt-green-grey knobbly reef with a bit of white spongy stuff and a smattering of fish and tiny critters. Nothing to see here. Sabine rolls her eyes and shakes her head before pointing explicitly with eyes wide and nose pointy back to the matt-green-grey knobbly reef with a bit of white spongy stuff. I peer back at the reef, my mask but centimetres from the reef. Nope. No idea. Sabine is gurgling through her mouth piece by now going somewhat apoplectic shaking and trying to point with hands full of camera gear at something that is among the matt-green-grey knobbly reef with a bit of white spongy stuff. I peer back at it, damned close. Then I see it … the white spongy stuff is a fish. A frog fish, no less. Quite a rare fish to find since it’s rather hard to find.

Getting quite a list of awesome critters on my dive tour. Welcome to Ningaloo.

Another wobbegong, more turtles, a shark in the distance, milk-cowries with their star-bedecked black velvet mantle, sinuous jet black catfish, a painted crayfish, nemo and his family in a large anemone, a groper who opens its cavernous mouth enormously wide as Sabine clicks away. A yawn or a warning before it swims away.

I love this shit.

The dive profiles

An hour this time then back on the boat, lunch and return to shore.

Great. Expensive. Diving in Australia is not cheap. But, eh?, the experience? Isn’t it all about experience? Life is for the living and sometimes it costs, and sometimes that cost is worth it paid back many times over by the reward of an experience I’d never have had otherwise.

Thanks guys, thanks for a great dive.

I’m on for the dive tomorrow too. Hell Yeah!

What the underside of a fly looks like up close

04 November 2016

Or so I thought. The dive today is to the Murion Islands, two hours chug to the north where currently turtles are busily nesting away. Sounds great. But … it is a full day trip. I am on an Epic. And my Epic needs some attention. Brakes to be precise. The mechanic twat in Bicycle Centre in Alice Springs did not a good job do and I need to fix my rear brake. Hydraulic brakes are fantastic. They are also hydraulic. Oil. They can be fiddly. If I do not work on my brakes today should I run into a problem I won’t be able to address it until Monday. Experience has taught me that fiddly hydraulic brakes have but one method to be maintained. There is no ‘if this doesn’t work, we can try that’. Nope. But one way. And if I do not have all the bits or I do not precisely follow the methodology I will not succeed. Which is what my mechanic in Alice Springs failed to do.

Roz has sent me the Magura bleed kit for HS-33 rim-brakes, as provided me by Bikers Best in Rotterdam. I am goin’ in. Glen, he of the minimalist cycling style who I met months ago on the Barn Hill road and again in South Hedland, is gonna give me a hand.

Sorry Exmouth Diving Centre, sorry me too, but this is a priority. No diving today.

Unpack the bleed kit. Two syringes, one piece of hose, one hundred millilitres of Royal Blood.

My mechanic in Alice Springs fucked up my brake-lever by screwing into the EBT (Easy Bleed Technology) port a nipple to which a hose was attached to collect the old oil. Only on Magura model HS-33 2014-present we don’t do that. Simply shove in the syringe tip. I check my syringes. One’s broken, the tip snapped off. Here we go. This is why you do it on a weekday.

Find the local vet, phone them. Yes they sell syringes. Borrow Gary’s bike, ride to the vet’s, witness a discussion with an owner who’s dog’s been badly speared by a sting-ray in the leg working out if 700$ is too much and whether he should simply “shoot it” (dog is worth it, fortunately), pay 2$ for a new syringe return to the caravan park and face-off against them Maguras. Again.

Random emus wander through Exmouth

Cognisant of my mechanic’s ignorance I am not particularly perturbed that there is no ‘barbed fitting’. It was a barbed fitting the mechanic screwed into the brake-lever which broke it. But, do I need one for the filling line? The fact that it is not in the bleed kit suggests I do not. The manual kinda suggests that I do need one. The Magura official video on bleeding HS-33 brakes is six years old and well out of date. My brakes do not look anything like those on the video. What to do?

In principal it’s simple. “Insert the barbed fitting into the filling line by hand” and then “screw the barbed fitting … into the filler hole” Hmmm … I don’t have a barbed fitting. I have a piece of hose.

Back on the handlebars I’m meant to rotate the brake lever until horizontal, shove in a syringe with the plunger removed.

Back down the filler line side, I press down the syringe full of Royal Blood until it comes out into the syringe at the brake lever which I flick a couple of times whilst “gently tapping” the master cylinder to remove trapped air. When no more bubbles are coming through I remove the syringe on the brake lever, replace the EBT screw, remove the barbed fitting replacing it with the screw plug and everything will work perfectly.

Almost. First, I kinda screw up getting the Royal Blood into the syringe. How hard can it be? I remove the plunger, which was a lot harder than I expected coz of a ridge around the syringe designed to prevent the plunger being removed, well, easily. Full now of Royal Blood I have to manoeuvre the plunger past that ridge. ‘Always apply more force than is necessary’, right? Right! I have my left thumb over the end of the hose to stop Royal Blood from leaking out when I force the plunger in which forces out a fine spray of hydraulic oil beautifully fanned by my thumb. It covers E V E R Y T H I N G in a near perfect drop by drop pattern of oil: me, Gary the table diary phone computer camera E V E R Y T H I N G. A tiny amount in truth but it spread wide.

Magura wants my brake lever to be horizontal and then shove the tip of a syringe into the EBT port. Right. Only Magura have not explained how to do this on a touring bike with butterfly bars and various cables and accessories in the way. It is not possible to get the syringe into the EBT port. Hyrdaulic oil start to leak down onto my binoculars, the forks and onto the floor.

Back down the filler end it seems really clear to me that I need that fucking barbed fitting for the hose does not a good seal make with the filling line. More Royal Blood on the floor.

But we do it. We replace all the screws and EBT thingies and press the brake lever. No brakes. There is air in the system.

If Gary was not here to help I would not have been able to do anything for it clearly requires two people, one at each end of the bike. We try. We try multiple ways. But we cannot try The Way because we do not have a barbed fitting. We cannot get rid of air from the system.

Time to call Magura. Eurocycles, Magura’s distributer in Australia, somewhere in New South Wales. Rich. As in Richard, but here in Australia everything gets shortened. We get a bit hung up, as you do, with certain people and organisations about specifics. I need one EBT screw coz the one I’ve got is fucked, damaged by repeated screwing and unscrewing. Eurocyles sell them in packs of ten. What the fuck am I meant to do with nine more? He’ll call me back. Yep, they can open a pack and give me one. Thanks. The rest goes smoothly.

On Monday next week heading north by express post shall come: a new EBT screw. A barbed fitting. Another piece of hose. And more Royal Blood.

Another packet. Another week in Exmouth. This is not as bad as it sounds.

Ah well, now what? Time to go fishing. Taking my handline and freeze-dried bait I return to the marina. I actually catch a fish! Quite proud of myself. No idea what type but it’s big enough. I try until it’s well dark and all sensible people are long in bed to catch fish #2 so Gary and I can enjoy a fish but to no avail despite nibbles. I clean my fish, removing its head, its guts, its scales. I place it into a plastic bag strap it securely onto the back of Dreamer and return to the caravan park. Only. To. Find. My. Fish. Has. Escaped.

Yep, my headless fish got away.

Must have fallen off. Obviously fallen off. Any alternative is unthinkable.

Damn! Poor fish. Killed for what? Some cat, fox, goanna, dingo, sea-gull will have a feast but not I.

Finally. Three times I told my tale. Three times I was asked the same question. Three times I answered that same question. Three times I was denied. Three times I was palmed off on someone else. Until, finally, I get the response I need.

Keen sandals. Great footwear. Not exactly cheap. In May I replaced my long suffering Keen Venice sandals with brand spanking new Newports. By August it is beyond any doubt. My Newports are falling apart. By September I have had to stitch them together to keep them useable. Four months. Fuck this, I try to contact Keen. Keen do not want to be contacted. There is no phone number and no email address. Eventually I find an online-form I can fill in. I tell my tale. I am told to return them to the shop I bought them from. I tell my tale. Again. I can’t, I tell, them, for I am on an Epic, check out my blog. I am a long, long way from Darwin. Can I return them to shop I bought them from? I am asked again, Do I still live in Darwin? I suppress my initial reaction and answer clearly again. I can’t, I tell, them, for I am on an Epic, check out my blog. I am a long, long way from Darwin. Silence. After a week I ask if they have a reply for me. Silence. After a week more I ask if they have a reply for me.

Nearly three months after First Contact Keen have finally agreed that they will take responsibility for their product. How to recommend a company whose products fail to deliver and they fail to accept responsibility? So I can’t. You pay your money and you take your chances. If you do nothing exceptional, like an Epic, you’ll get away with it. But if you are not in a Cozy Niche, nor in a Pigeon Hole, your game of chance increases dramatically.

05 November 2016

The Plan is simple. Pack everything today, post this blog. Leave tomorrow. Hang around the west side of the Exmouth peninsular where the Ningaloo Reef directly abuts the beach. Armed with snorkel and fins I’ll wade into the pristine water off a blinding white fine sandy beach and swim among endless amounts of beauty for like ninety kilometres.

No point of a plan if a plan cannot be changed.

Trying to get organised, write a blog, complete the shopping for the trip AND socialise with a fellow cyclist PLUS all the other random tourists means I am not leaving tomorrow.

I’ll leave Monday. That’s the current plan.



Exmouth, 06 November 2016

2 thoughts on “Exmouth

  1. I had a manta sit on my head off Lady Elliot Island, it seemed to get entranced by the bubbles and just hovered in them, drifting lower and lower until its weight was pushing me into the sand. I had to grab it by the gonads to get it off me. Philippa, watching from the side, thought it was hilarious.

    West side beaches = lots of turtles and fish, plus the odd bout of wind !


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