Wednesday 30 October 19 – Albany to Wellstead – 99km
We said our goodbyes to Jen, George and Frida and left the comfort blanket of our final WarmShowers hosts…
There doesn’t appear to be any WarmShowers hosts from here to Adelaide, so we’re on our own! What a fabulous introduction to Australia we have had though, and it’s been great to meet so many locals.
Quite early into the journey out of Albany it became very rural with little in the way of human activity except the odd car and road train. We’d thought that the road trains we’d seen further west were big, but here they are enormous…
We try to get off the road as they pass, so that we stay safe. Although they are surprisingly quiet, it’s not difficult to do as I can see them coming in my rear view mirror and there are not that many of them so it doesn’t happen too often. But it’s even more necessary when two are passing each other in opposite directions…..it would be just impossible for them to try to get around us so it’s a no-brainer; they’re bigger than us so we just get off the road!
On a couple of occasions we passed a small settlement of a ‘community’ – this is a very liberal use of the word community as there would generally be a petrol station/store, a community hall and not much else – not even houses. We guess that these facilities are to support the local farming community, travellers and the odd crazy cyclist!
As the morning wore on the wind got progressively stronger and a few dark clouds appeared. The wind was blustery and made for really difficult riding as it was mainly coming from our left. But we made good progress and got to Wellstead, our end destination, by 2pm. Wellstead is another small community but with the addition of a library, community resource centre and a bush campsite. As we were having a drink, a guy called Robert came over to say hello and tell us he owned the campsite. As it was so windy we’d not really been looking forward to putting the tent up, but Robert said that there was an old caravan at the campsite that he could rent to us. We hung around the resource centre for a while as we were so early, but then decided to check out the caravan. It was old and a bit grubby, but suited us fine, so we got settled – in fact Martina was asleep within about ten minutes of getting in!
The caravan turned out to be a godsend as the wind turned up a couple of notches throughout the evening. It was quite bizarre as the wind would blow really hard for about half an hour, rock the caravan around and then just suddenly stop, like someone had flicked a switch….only to start again ten minutes later.
Another bizarre thing today – I saw a signpost to a golf course in the middle of nowhere. I’m sure that they did some kind of market research before deciding to open a golf course in that location, but I really can’t think who might use it!
Thursday 31 October 19 – Wellstead to Jerramungup – 80km
The wind dominated our ride today as it was a very strong westerly. At times it pushed us along and at other times it made life very tricky as it turned into a side wind and sometimes a headwind. There is a lot written in cycling folklore about the wind in Australia, especially if you are crossing the Nullabor Desert, which we will be doing in a week-or-so. And these past couple of days have definitely given us a taste of what might be ahead! It has also shown us that there is an awful lot of Australia and not much in it…
We stopped at one of the few roadhouses along our route today. The signs for the Boxwood Hill Roadhouse boasted awesome coffee and awesome cakes, so we thought it must be good. If only the welcome had been awesome too! The woman who served us was best described as curt…not quite rude, but close! Luckily for me the coffee was actually pretty good!
For the rest of our ride we dodged big black clouds and managed to avoid getting drenched, that is, until we approached Jerramungup, our destination, when the heavens opened. As the wind was still blowing hard and it looked like there would be more rain we decided to book into one of the campsite’s budget rooms. This turned out to be a great little room in a port-a-cabin with a shared bathroom and use of the camp kitchen. Just after checking in there was another massive downpour, so we felt vindicated in not putting our tent up! We were also sharing the campsite with these lovely ladies and their children…
Friday 1 November 19 – Jerramungup to Ravensthorpe – 115km
Another blustery day, this time with the wind mainly at our backs. Blowing at around 30kph you’d think that we’d be whizzing along, but actually there were quite a few hills which slowed us down so it wasn’t quite as easy as we’d had hoped. There were also a few showers for us to try to dodge during the day, sometimes successfully and sometimes unsuccessfully. Big black clouds like these chased us all day…
On our route we saw in the distance, and then overtook, another cyclist. He’d come from Hong Kong to cycle the Munda Biddi trail, a long distance off-road route, which was nearby. He didn’t seem that well-equipped for a long trip except that he was riding a fat-tyre bike, which suits the Munda Biddi – and was the main reason we’d caught him up and then passed him.
About 10km from our destination a particularly violent shower almost blew me off the road, the temperature dropped rapidly and we experienced the most bizarre hail storm. Within a few minutes of battering us the wind blew the hail away and we could actually see it blowing away along road in front of us, moving further away.
We made it to Ravensthorpe and to the campsite we’d earmarked on Google, and as we were now rather cold and wet we decided to have a cabin rather than camp. Call us wooses, but when we are cold and wet if there is an option for a relatively comfortable night indoors, we will take it. We met the other cyclist in town a few hours later and I can’t say we didn’t felt a little guilty when he said he was off to wild camp in the woods!
Saturday 2 November 19 – Ravensthorpe to Munglinup – 80km
There were absolutely no settlements along the route for the whole day – nothing really to see except farm land and bush. You’d think that we’d be bored, but actually we both commented on the fact that we weren’t. Considering we’ve come from busy work lives and also a busy cycling journey we’d expected to struggle with this part of our trip, but we’re not at all. In fact we are quite enjoying it!
We ended up at Munglinup, which has a free municipal campsite, a roadhouse and not a lot else. But it just happened to be in the right place for us to stop on the way to Esperance. We got there by 2pm and although we thought we’d have too much time on our hands, once we busied ourselves with research into flights to New Zealand and trying to sort out our malfunctioning camping stove, the afternoon passed nicely. We also had the company of a strange chap who was staying in a van nearby. He started off friendly but progressed to being a pain in the arse, especially when we were trying to cook on a stove that still wasn’t playing ball. Speaking of playing ball I had to watch the dismal outcome of the Rugby World Cup by BBC text whilst fending off the annoying, supposedly helpful commentary about what I was doing wrong with the stove from this guy. Dinner was a lukewarm gloopy pasta and pesto dish that filled the gap, but didn’t exactly hit the spot!
The campground was opposite the roadhouse, which sold hot food, some groceries, booze and petrol, so a few trucks pulled up during the evening. It sounds like a nightmare, but actually it was a great spot, with a toilet block, playground (for Martina to let off some steam!), picnic tables etc. We chatted to one particular truck driver and asked if we could have a look around his enormous rig…
Of course he said yes and like a couple of kids on an outing to a fire station we had a look around his cab. You should see the huge bed in the back – quite a boudoir!
He was carrying 70,000 litres of red wine, which I worked out to be well over half a million glasses (normal size, not home measures!) – that’s a lot of wine! It was brilliant to look around it though and we’d had a lovely chat with him about the wine industry, his job and his truck. It was only four months old and the tractor unit alone was quarter of a million pounds! I’m surprised he even let us sit in it…but then again it wasn’t his!
It got dark soon after that, so like exhausted children after an exciting outing, we were in our tent and asleep before nine – and had a surprisingly good night’s sleep!
Sunday 3 November 19 – Munglinup to Esperance – 113km
A beautiful day with what started as tail winds and lots of open spaces and farmland…
The flies were as bad as they’ve been and we resorted to wearing our headnets whilst cycling because they were becoming a proper hazard! These are just a few of my friends – the rest were on the front!
Easy cycling and we got to the edge of Esperance by 2pm and took a round-about route into the town itself, taking in the Pink Lake, which we found wasn’t so pink…
Our riding days have definitely changed from those we were doing in Asia. The temperatures here are much lower, as is the humidity, so we can start later in the day. We’re still going to bed early and sleeping really well, so perhaps we are catching up on the broken sleep we had in air-conditioned rooms…or maybe the air is just cleaner here so we are sleeping better! I’m sure we will return to early mornings as the temperatures go up again in the near future.
Monday 4 November 19 – Esperance – 20km
We had a leisurely get up and Martina got a lift to the supermarket first thing to stock up, which left the rest of the day for us to take naked bikes for a run along the coast. What a fabulous experience – the scenery was amazing and we had to keep stopping just to have a good look…
….and every time we turned a corner there was another fantastic view…
Just when we thought it couldn’t get any better we spotted a pod of at least 40 dolphins close in to shore. We spent at least an hour tracking them along the coast – absolutely mesmerising to watch…
We reckon that this experience is up there with the best our journey has given us so far!
A note about our fellow travellers…
“Grey Nomads” is the name given to retirees here who buy either a caravan or camper van and tour Australia. There are literally thousands of them and we see plenty of them every day on the road. The rig of choice is generally a 4×4 ute (pick up to us non-Aussies) and a caravan with chunky off-road tyres as shown below…
We’ve met loads too, usually when we stop for a snack/drink, at campsites or tourist attractions. They are generally very friendly though they do have the tendency to chat a lot and take up a lot of our time, which can be a bit of a distraction if we’re trying to push on somewhere!
Comment by Margo
Margo 10 November 2019 at 5:51 pm
Or desert even. Can’t spell or type it would seem
Comment by Margo
Margo 10 November 2019 at 5:46 pm
Sounds great going in Australia!! Best of luck crossing the Nullabor. Laughing about the town names already. I remember we camped in a town called Iron Knob, still chuckle all these years later. When I say camped we were had the luxury campervan, really admire you guys crossing this huge dessert on your bikes. Look forward to your updates. Love the term grey nomads, never heard that before!
Comment by Martina
Martina 16 November 2019 at 8:13 am
Margo if we travel through Iron Knob I will ensure we take a photo for you!! Weird (in a good way!) to think you and Norah travelled this road quite a few years ago. I’m sure it hasn’t changed much!!
Comment by Al Crane
Al Crane 6 November 2019 at 1:18 pm
Hey Martina. I just got the link from Eva – wow!!! Looks like the most fantastic adventure, I am so jealous. Stay safe and look forward to reading all about it as it continues. Al
Comment by Martina
Martina 16 November 2019 at 8:25 am
Thanks Al! It is indeed an incredible adventure …but it is slowly coming to an end. After Australia it’s only New Zealand left to go….and then back to the real world for us. But that’s still a while away so lots more to experience before that. Hope all is well with you.
Comment by Paula
Paula 5 November 2019 at 5:41 pm
I’m looking forward to seeing your photos of Australia! I imagine that many of us have ideas about the country based on fairly limited TV and film viewing. Skippy anyone?! Take care. x
Comment by Martina
Martina 16 November 2019 at 8:23 am
The photos don’t do the scenery justice Paula, especially when we are only using our iPhones. But hopefully they convey a sense of how amazing this country is – much more spectacular than either of us imagined! Kangaroos are just about everywhere here and even after a month here we still get excited when we see one bouncing passed. Unfortunately we haven’t seen Skippy yet….even though I do shout “G’Day Skippy” every time I see one….just in case it might be him!
Comment by Eva Szalay
Eva Szalay 5 November 2019 at 7:21 am
Comment by Martina
Martina 16 November 2019 at 8:14 am
Thanks Eva! Easy to have good pictures when the scenery is so stunning. You and Richard would absolutely love it!