Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Mallee


I've entered the Mallee, the northernmost region of Victoria, and the last before I cross the border into New South Wales.

After the last update, I spent the rest of the day in Edenhope. I found a nice shelter for oboe playing and also rode the short trail around Lake Wallace. The weather was perfect, but I saw only that one sailboat on the lake.

That evening, a couple professional hunters showed up to try to cull the enormous flocks of birds. I don't know how many they got, but it couldn't possibly have been enough to make even the slightest dent in their numbers.


Edenhope Oboe Spot


Lake Wallace Stats

Sailboat on Lake Wallace

After leaving Edenhope, I made a very brief visit to South Australia and the town of Frances. The store there was still open but, naturally, it was for sale. They still had their famous hamburgers, though. There was free camping at the sport grounds, where I expected to have the whole place to myself. Apparently, though, Thursday evening is when everyone shows up. First some boys to practice rugby, then some young girls for tennis, then women to play netball, and finally the men to play rugby. In any case, I found a good tent spot well out of the way. And I was able to get into the showers. Judging from the nice vehicles, folks around there appear to be fairly well off.  I'm told farming in the area is quite profitable.



Border Crossing

Frances, South Australia

I returned to Victoria the next day, to the small town of Goroke. Along the way, I came to a little store in Minimay, the sort of place where one expects nothing at all. Right at lunchtime, too! There's a nice campground in Goroke, fortunately right next to the tennis courts with a great shelter. That was useful, because some terrific winds came up from the north, just the direction I was heading, so I took a day off to wait it out.

Goroke still has a grocery store and another small shop, but the pub is closed.  


Another Border Crossing

Minimay Store

Goroke Oboe Spot

Goroke Bunker

When the wind finally shifted, I rode north, through Little Desert National Park. In contrast the the surrounding farm land, in the park there is native vegetation, which this time of year looks pretty lush compared to the dry cropland. I camped just north of the park at the Little Desert Nature Lodge. It is run by some sort of foundation, supporting research and education about ecology and wildlife. As soon as I arrived, I met George, the resident emu. He's apparently good at making off with your food, though fortunately he hasn't learned how to open the fridge yet. A big area has been fenced off to exclude exotic predators. There was still a powerful wind blowing, but there was a big, empty shelter building, where I set up my tent. In the afternoon, I took a walk around the area.

A young couple from Melbourne was staying in a room there, working as volunteers. Both were college students in ecology related fields. After dinner, they invited me to go along to feed the bettongs, which they are raising in an enclosure. Bettongs are sort of like miniature kangaroos, about the size of a house cat. They hop around on their hind legs, just like kangaroos. These were very tame.





Native Vegetation at Little Desert NP

More Native Vegetation

George, the Resident Emu

Little Desert Lodge Campsite


Bettong


Jeparit was the next stop, a short ride with a nice tailwind for a change. For the first time, the flies became bothersome, so I had to resort to DEET. The town itself is in pretty sad shape.  

The next stop was Rainbow, on another great tailwind. Rainbow is positively thriving, compared to Jeparit. Both pubs are actually in business. The cafe, naturally, has just changed hands, but at least it's open. I had lunch there, and later found that the woman who runs the place also manages the caravan park where I stayed. I went back to the cafe in the morning in search of breakfast, but, alas, the hotplate was broken.



Rainbow
The price of those tailwind days came due on the way to Hopetoun yesterday. It wasn't very far, but into a stiff wind the whole way. The trees along the road didn't even help much, as the wind was often blowing right straight down the road. Along the way the rear tire picked up a thorn, the first puncture of the trip, but at least there was a shady spot for the repair.



The Straight Road to Hopetoun

There's a "Retreat" by the lake in Hopetoun with free camping. Right next to it is a park with well-watered grass, where I camped last trip. It's not really clear where the boundary is, so I just set my tent up at dusk, and took it down early in the morning. I'm hoping to get away with that again tonight.


Hopetoun Campsite at Sunrise

Hopetoun has the usual business I need, so it's a good place to take a break before I head for the NSW border.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Wimmera

I'm taking another day off here in Edenhope, in part to use the computer in the library.  It may be a while before I find another one.  I've entered  the area of west-central Victoria called the Wimmera.

Since last report, I spent one more day with Steve near Colac, and helped him with a bit of antenna work.




Antenna work at VK3JA

With Steve, VK3JA

From Colac, I took the train west to Terang, then rode on the the town of Mortlake, where there's a nice caravan park, with a large population of swamp hens.



Swamp Hen at Mortlake Campsite

Quiet Road en Route to Penshurst

From there, it was a 76 km ride to Penshurst.  It was warming up, about 30 C, but the winds were light.  The town is much as I remembered it, though the washer in the caravan park isn't free any more.  The next day was a shorter ride to Cavendish, though a bit warmer.  There I learned of the big Labour Weekend event happening in Harrow, my next stop.  I didn't really want to deal with that mob, so I spent three nights in Cavendish, which was a pleasant little village, anyway.  Labour Weekend goes through Monday, so I decided to ride to Harrow on Sunday, before all the traffic hit the roads.

I had dinner one night at the Cavendish hotel.  The co-owner was a Canadian, and had just taken over the place a couple weeks before.  It seems nearly every pub, hotel, cafe, bakery, and caravan park is either for sale or has been recently taken over by new owners.

My last day in Cavendish was the warmest so far, about 35 C (95 F).  However, it still cooled of quickly after dark, so sleeping was comfortable.  The next day, a "change" arrived, temperatures dropped, and winds shifted to the south.  It's been very comfortable since then.  There were a couple sprinkles as the change went through, but otherwise no rain.


Rest Stop

The Grampians in the Distance

The Grampians, Closer

A Parting View of the Grampians

Farm Country, Cavendish

Harrow is one of my favorite Australian towns, one I discovered in 2001.  Their big event was still going on Sunday when I arrived, but it wasn't a problem.  The campground caretaker, a very friendly woman named Sue, let me put my tent up away from all the other motorized campers, and the concert nearby was all over by 10 PM.  Most everyone left Monday, so Harrow returned to being the sleepy village I remember.  While I was reading in the park, a young (compared to me, at least) woman stopped by to chat.  Marita lived on a farm nearby, but had done a bike tour in Europe some 20 years ago.  Later, while I was playing my oboe, a bloke named Peter stopped by and asked if I want to jam with his didgeridoo at the pub that evening.  I agreed, though I've never done that before, certainly not with a didgeridoo!  Alas, he never showed up at the pub.




Tree-Lined Road

^The Harrow Pub

Harrow Cafe

Harrow Stow
When the Harrow store opened up on Tuesday, I learned that the same woman who had recently taken over in 2015 was still there.  She even remembered me, but then no cyclist can pass up a grocery store.

A short ride Tuesday afternoon took me to  Edenhope, which borders on Lake Wallace.  Every time I've been here since 2001, the lake has been almost completely dry, but this time there was actual water in it.  I'm told it was a meter higher at the beginning of summer.  I have a really nice campsite by the lake, so it seems to make sense to spend another day here before heading west for a brief visit to South Australia.



Lake Wallace, with Water!

Lake Wallace in 2015

Edenhope Campsite

With Table!

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Down Under Again

The long trip to Melbourne went pretty smoothly, in spite of heavy rain in Dallas. Apparently my duffel bag was out in it. I missed the connection from Sydney, but caught the next flight.

I stayed in a hotel not too far from the airport in a Melbourne suburb, chosen for its proximity to the train station. As usual, the first thing I did was to unpack the bike and everything else so I could ship the excess to Brisbane. This time I also folded up the bike box and shipped it, as well, to save having to find another one. As as my friend Peter in Brisbane pointed out, the difference in cost wouldn't even have covered the tunnel tolls for an extra trip to the airport.

The next day, a short train ride took me to a gigantic suburban shopping complex. Not my kind of place, but it had what I needed.  For the first time, I have a working mobile phone.  I just bought a SIM card at the Telstra shop, and everything seems to work. It's also cheaper than what I use at home.

That evening, I once again had dinner with Ernie, VK3FM, and his family. I met Ernie in 2015, after we had a few ham radio contacts.

On Sunday, with the bike assembled and loaded, I took the short train ride to Kyneton, and rode to the home of another ham radio friend, Ian, VK3MO, and his wife Ruth. I was able to just roll the loaded bike onto the trains, a painless way to escape Melbourne. There was a terrific wind blowing, but the ride was less than 2 km.

Ready to Roll

I had shipped my stove to Ian, but it took some work to get it going. Apparently, flushing it out with water wasn't a good idea.

Monday night, Ian and I tried to contact our mutual friend in Finland, Peter, OH5NQ via Skype, but Peter couldn't get on until after Ian had gone to bed. We did make contact Tuesday morning, just before Ian had to leave, so they had a nice chat. I then packed up the bike again for a short trip in the goldfields, planning to return Saturday to meet yet another ham radio friend at Ian's. Steve, VK3JA plans to drive over from Colac to pick me up. I'll pick up the bike trip from there after a couple days.

A short train ride from Kyneton took me to Castlemaine, to the start of my goldfields loop.  The only hitch was that the only way off the train platform was down two flights of stairs, a bit tricky with a loaded bike. At least there was a ramp back up to the street. From there it was a short ride, 22 km, to Maldon, where there's a very nice caravan park. It's a nice route, about half of which is on a bike trail along the tourist railway. 


Maldon Campsite


The next day, I had intended to ride all the way to Avoca, but there was a brutal headwind, so I only made it as far as Dunolly. Another nice ride, despite the wind. 




Goldfields Scenery

I know it's normal for this time of year, but the dryness still surprises me. Late summer in Wisconsin is when the corn and soybeans make a sea of green, but here the harvest was in December and it rarely rains in summer. 


Looking Dry

The next day I did make it to Avoca, though the wind still made it a lot of work. Avoca is one of the towns in which I stayed in 2001 with Roger and Wendy, bringing back lots of memories.

The ride back to Maldon was a long one, 80 km, making up for the extra day it took to get  to Avoca. The wind had finally died down, so it really wasn't a bad ride. I stopped for lunch at the pub in Talbot. I filled my bottles with bottled water from the cooler there, but the publican wouldn't let me pay for it.

Every day so far has been mostly sunny and warm, sometimes up to 32 C. The nights, however, are very cool, usually down to about 10 C. Great sleeping, but it's cool in the morning.

After another night in Maldon, I rode back to Castlemaine and took the train back to Kyneton. There I met Steve, VK3JA, an American living near Colac, about 200 km to the west. We drove back to Ian's place, where Ian gave Steve a tour of his radio station. Ian then treated us to pizza for lunch with a long time friend of his, Colin, another radio amateur. We then drove over to Ian's other radio station, where he's put up a special antenna system to study very low angle propagation. 

Long Path to Europe from VK3MO


With Ian and Steve

Steve and I then drove to Colac, where we met Martin, VK7GN and his wife LInda, also a radio amateur. I've made many contacts with Martin, going back many years. They live in Tasmania, but were traveling around Victoria with their caravan, doing some radio operating along the way. We had a nice visit over dinner that evening.

I'm now spending a couple days at Steve's place, relaxing and helping with a little antenna work. Tomorrow I'm back on the road, heading west and north.