Making miles as the terrain flattens out - A treadling Hyohakusha - CycleBlaze

June 23, 2017

Making miles as the terrain flattens out

Morven to Longreach

Morven to Augathella
95 km

Broke camp early on the hope that I might, just might possibly find a breakfast in town. The Post Office also does coffee, so I had reason to hope. However they didn't open until 0900, so I made my own breakfast at one of the many town picnic tables. Soo yep, another 0900 start to the day.

Coffee: strong black hot
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95 km is a long ride for me and it was about 6 hrs of riding up and down gentle grades, occassionally getting up to about 500 metres and then decending down to 350, up and down all day. I had had enough by the time I got there.

Killer Car Eating Cows? Maybe the wildlife is fighting back. Forget sharks and snakes, lookout for the deadly range cattle!!
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Still plenty of roadside kangaroo carnage to try to avoid, but overall a good day's riding. I got into Augathella about an hour before sunset, set up my tent with the throng of grey nomads and then off to the pub for a $5 shower and a $16.50 counter meal. I somehow won a bottle of wine and we all had a laugh wondering what the heck I would do with it - sure wasn't going to carry it with me and I wasn't about to drink it either. So I broke even for the night.

I gave the wine away to a group of grey nomads in exchange for a chat and a cup of tea at their campfire. Fair exchange, we both reckoned.

Augathella to Tambo
13/06/2017 & 14/06/2017
120 km

I left town about noon, after killing time shopping and reprovisioning and repacking. I was planning on a shortish day as it was about 120 km to Tambo, more than I really want or need to do in a day, even with a good tailwind. I'm at this for the long haul and have to last several more months. Not far from Augathella, the countryside opened up and flattened out. I'm into the plains now. I'm not sure, but I think it will be fairly flat from here on out.

That quick tube change two days ago came back to visit me - another flat, new tube, same place, same pinprick hole. Damn... That means I've probably got a phantom piece of truck tyre wire embedded in the tread somewhere.... I spent about 30 minutes by the roadside trying to find it to no avail. So I patched the hole and put the same tube back in place. The theory being that the wire now has to penetrate the thick patch before it deflates. These are brand new quality tyres, but if in a couple of days riding I get a third flat in the same place, I'm in trouble. I'll regret not buying those Marathon Plus tyres - sorry David Cambon.... I do have a Marathon Mondial at home and can have it posted out to me by the Friendly Local, so there is a backup plan.

Return of the phantom flat. Time to buy Marathon Plus?
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The Neve River crosses the road at the 70 km mark and there was a great place to free camp next to a waterhole and windmill. Still, 72 km in one afternoon was moving at a fairly brisk pace and my body was ready to stop and rest by the time I got there. I had the whole place to myself, set up camp and made my first campfire of the trip. The sound of the windmill lulled me to sleep as in the far distance the long haul trucks continued their nightly toll on the wildlife population.


Holly Mike!! A roadside sign just informed me I'm in the Lake Eyre basin. That's an accomplishment for me - never thought I'd ever cycle anywhere near Lake Eyre, the near mythical centre of Australia. It's shown on just about every map of Australia, but it's usually a dry salt lake flat and every few years it fills with water flowing in from its huge catchment basin. And I'm cycling it.

Slept on the picnic table, half way between Tambo and Blackall. The last 40 km into Blackall the next morning was white knuckle riding on a narrow road without shoulder.
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Next morning it was an easy 50 km into Tambo. I'm camped at another free camping spot on the river under some gum trees about a km or two from town. Tomorrow is a rest and recuperation day. The tent is pitched on the Barcoo River, under some Coolibah trees and that folks is about as Australian as it can gets.

On the banks of the Barcoo under the shade of a Coolibah tree...
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Tambo to Blackall
100 km

Same start as usual. I had everything packed up by 0830, but was in no real hurry to get started having decided yesterday that the 100 km to Blackall was more than I wanted to do in a day - best to cut it in half and dry camp along the road somewhere.

So that's what I'm doing. I actually did 60 km today to a spot that intersescts with the Barcoo River again. I was hoping for another idyllic campsite by the river, but will have to settle for a roadside rest stop with picnic tables. It's an ok stopover really. We're about 100 metres from the road and the traffic will quiet down in a few hours. The first grey nomads have pulled in for the night with their caravan. The roadtrains will still run all night... poor kangaroos. I'll sleep on the picnic table and get a quick start tomorrow morning. Should be in Blackall before lunch.

I crossed over the Dog Proof Fence today. Now I'm technically on the "doggy" side of the fence. There are wild dogs/dingoes on both sides of the fence, maybe just more of them on this side. It goes for more than 6000 km; is about 5 ft high and dug into the ground a few feet; and runs all the way to the WA coast. Technically, I could ride it all the way to WA. My guess is it isn't all that well maintained for it's entire length, but it's a pretty good effort anyhow. I think they've given up calling it the Dingo Proof Fence because they have now interbred with feral dogs and it's hard to tell one from the other. I wonder if it intersects with the Rabbit Proof Fence?

The Dog Proof Fence: more than 6,000 km of it. I'm on the doggier side of it now...
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My GPS app (Locus Pro) can also show elevation charts for a given ride. Sometimes I'm tempted to see what lies ahead and I take a peek. From Tambo to Blackall, I'm suppose to be dropping from 400 to 100 metres. I was looking forward to a big free downhill with a tailwind yesterday.... never happened. There seemed to be as much up as down and at times it felt like I was riding into the wind, not with it.

Let's see what today brings.

It brought more of the same. I did get a bit of an elevation drop, but only about 50 metres - we're still about 300 metres above sea level. Why am I dreaming of long downhills when I'm only 300 metres above sea level - I gotta stop that.

It was only about 40 km into town and I would have got there quick, but my phantom flat returned. I tried pumping it up and riding, that got me into town and it went flat between the bakery and the caravan park. First stop was the bakery for the long black, meat pie and lamington. Then I pushed the bike over to the caravan park.

I spent about 2 hours looking for the bits of wire that I knew were stuck in that tyre somewhere. I had previously narrowed it down to a small area and was searching an area about 1 inch square, but bugger if I could find it. I finally spotted the little blighters from the outside tread side of the tyre. Two small pinprick dots of wire, almost microscopic in diameter and about 1/4 of an inch long. Over the course of a day or two riding, they would just, just barely push through the tyre casing and into the tube, but go no further. They were not detectable to either touch or sight from the inside. I dug them out with knife tip and tweezers.

Hopefully, that's the end of it, but I won't know for sure until I ride it for a couple of days. But I've lost confidence in them and have sent for reinforcements - my Marathon Mondial spare. I'll keep the Maxxis for a spare. I'm sure to need it between here and Perth.

So, tyres sorted, peanut butter resupplied, freshly showered, pub meal and ale quaffed - I'm ready to ride.

Blackall to Isisford
120 km

It's about 120 km from Blackall to Isisford, just outside my maximum daily distance, so I figured to camp in the bush somewhere in between. Isisford is off the main highway, due west of Blackall. It's popular with the grey nomads, who tell me I have to go fishing for yellowbelly while I'm there. It's was great to finally ride a distance on a back road after all that time on the A2 Highway. Around the 70 km mark I started looking for a spot to camp and pulled off on a dirt track, found a creek bed where I couldn't be seen and got busy setting up camp.

74 km from Blackall, stealth camping with the kangaroos. No dingoes 😀
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With a good tailwind to help, I finished my ride by 2 pm, so I had a lot of time to relax and unwind. It was a good days ride, a great spot to camp and left me with an easy 50 km for the following morning.


Usual start at 0830; like I said, it's my fate, may as well not fight it. I had another great tailwind, maybe better than the day before. At a creek crossing, I came across a group of three fossil hunters, Audrey and her two mates. They live in NSW and take every opportunity to head bush on fossil hunts. Audrey has a Land Cruiser Troop Carrier and tows a trailer. Her two mates each drive small camper vans. These old girls were the real deal: out bush, fossicking and finding fossils, having a great time.

Major Mitchell set out from Brisbane to explore the countryside and look for evidence of other lost and presumed dead explorers. His reports of fabulous lush grazing lands got people thinking...

I've been following him for weeks now.

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With that tailwind, I flew the 50 km into Isisford in two and a bit hours. It was a great ride. Lots of cattle, emus, kangaroos and bird life. And for a change, not too many dead kangaroo carcasses. Yesterday there was a dog/dingo carcass hanging from one of the fenceposts. Like I said, I'm now on the doggy side of the Dog Proof Fence. At night I'm now camping with all my bags and my shoes safely inside the tent with me. I've heard of more than one camper who has woken up in the morning with their stinky boots missing. My friend Susan reckons that they stole her heavy locked tucker box from outside her tent. I reckon it was one of the other campers... Whatever it was, they would have eaten well for a couple of days.

I'm camped behind the pub: at $5 a night I can't beat it - pub grub tonight. Might stay two nights. Behind the bar there is a heavy cane and a short heavy cudgel within easy reach. The owner is a lovely quiet gentleman, but I reckon his wife could easily clear the bar of any trouble in short order. Nah, she's quite lovely, too.

I was thinking that I'd try to coordinate my arrival with the post restante parcel's arrival in Longreach, but I might just get there when I get there and have the parcel forwarded to Winton or Boulia. My tubes and tyres will last that distance.

There's not much to a place like Isisford and I guess that's what makes it appealing. The main street has a pub, the townhall, council buildings and library, a fossil museum and a number of fairly neglected and derelict buildings. There are interpretive plaques along the main street recording where pubs, public buildings, theatres and businesses once stood. A sad theme runs through most of them: destroyed by fire; some rebuilt and then destroyed again by fire a few years later.

Spotted them outside the back door of the local shop, just lounging... The Friendly Local grew up in a town like this in WA, with a pony like that, cranky attitude included (the ponies, that is). The pony has free range of the town, crops lawns and provides fertilizer.
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The homes that flank the main streets of these small towns are mostly well looked after and almost all of them have green lawns, courtesy of the Great Artesian Basin - the massive artesian water reservoir located 3000 ft below us. The local towns tap into it and it bubbles to the surface unaided. It flows up under its own pressure and they don't meter it or charge for it: free water in the world's most arid continent. Yet surrounding these small oasis towns the land is many years into a crippling drought.

There are hundreds of grey nomads camped along the river here. The council charges a $3 donation per night and in return supply toilets, rubbish bins, hot showers and drinking water. These people are the only reason these small towns are alive and thriving.

Today's lunch: because I could...
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Isisford to Longreach
120 km

Another town just outside my maximum distance, so I'll do it in two days again. Started at the usual time and found the road from Isisford north was a one lane bitumen road, with no useable paved shoulder. There was a surprising amount of traffic and unfortunately, not every driver knew how to drive on this type of road. You're suppose to slow down to about 50 kmph or less and put the left side of the vehicle into the dirt: basically you share that one lane as you carefully pass one another. I had a few coming up from behind at 100 + and literally blowing me off the road, passing just inches from my panniers. WooHoo!! I also had a couple of grey nomads coming straight at me from the opposite direction, simply refusing to cede even an inch of the one lane. Playing chicken with a geriatric 4wd/caravan driver on a narrow one lane road... not fun. It was actually more difficult and dangerous than riding the white line on the main highway.

I broke the ride into two days, spending the night at a historic waterhole about 20 km south of Ilfracombe. The dry watercouse had been "stone pitched" to help divert water into the manmade waterhole during the wet season when the stream would flow. The only other point of note was that many of the station properties I passed had erected their own dog proof border fencing - that would not be cheap, so the dog problem here must be significant.

The lost art of stone pitching. They collected the rocks, figured out the laying pattern and then hand placed them on edge in the creek bed.
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I'm staying at a (actually the only ) cheap accommodation in Longreach. Pitching the tent on bare dirt in an overcrowded caravan park is $30. Hotel rooms are at least $120 if you can find them. I'm spending $35 a night for a bed/dog box in what looks like was once a mining camp singlemen's quarters. I could say much about it, let's just say it has character.

"How about clean sheets?" says I.
"Those have been used only once, they're clean enough," he hacks.
"Ah, nope they aren't. Give me some clean ones and I'll change them for you," we agreed.

I'm definitely in the outback now. People out here can be real characters and the services they provide, very original. And it will only get better the further I go....

Meet Andrew and Bella, they are pushing that 300+ kg cart from Brisbane to Broome to raise awareness about depression and funds for the Black Dog Institute. And I thought I was pushing a lot of weight up those hills...A good guy, and no Bella does not pull the cart. She rides inside.
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And I'm getting tired of adding up the total km, so here's the deal: I'll keep recording my daily tally, but if you're desperate to know the cumulative total I'm slowly racking up, you're going to have to do it yourself.

Brolgas. They are wild, but like to hang around my accommodation here in Longreach, flying off each night to the river to join their mates.
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Today's ride: 550 km (342 miles)
Total: 1,280 km (795 miles)

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