Esperance bound - A Short Ride? - CycleBlaze

May 17, 2011

Esperance bound

It's about 185 km from Ravensthorpe to Esperance and will take me a couple of days to complete. I've been watching the traffic from the Caravan Park and there are a lot of heavy rigs on the road now - mining equipment and farming gear - big doubles and the dreaded road train triple. That third wagon just wobbles along happily from side to side - it's a real nightmare. They also put up quite a wind blast, either coming or going and the rigs that pass close can either blow you clean off the road or straight into their third wagon or following traffic if you aren't paying attention... yikes!! When I hear them coming I pull onto the gravel verge (if there is one), stop and hang on to the bike. Most of the drivers are doing the right thing and giving plenty of room - the odd one doesn't.

It's a pleasant ride, scenery wise, between Ravensthorpe and Esperance. Eucalypt forests, Mallee scrub, farms - all set out for as far as the eye can see. The heavy rigs keep you on your toes.

There is a lovely section of Mallee scrub bush out of Ravensthorpe that stretches for miles in every direction. The big trucks take their toll on the poor kangaroos on this section of road though. There were a number of big ones dead on the road, I even ended up stopping and dragging one carcass off of the middle of the road and into the scrub. The trucks just go right over the top of them and keep on moving. The dead kangaroos are a road hazard, but then a big rig stopped in the middle of the road with the driver struggling to clear the carcass off the road is worse still. To make it worse, the eagles often take advantage of the free roadside banquet and then get struck by passing vehicles.

I did about 75/80 km and decided to find a place to camp, ending up in an ok spot in the bush behind a roadside gravel dump. It was a quiet and uneventful nights sleep. There is a road house at Munglinup about 85 km east of Ravensthorpe, but I thought I was probably a bit too far away to reach it. In hindsight, I was only 7.5 km away and all of that distance was downhill. Munglinup is a good camping stop. It is off the main highway, has a grassed area for tents, covered BBQ facilities, toilets and showers and it's free. Australia needs more places like this for the travel weary bike riders and caravaners.

Next day, after stopping briefly at the Munglinup roadhouse for some breakfast and refilling my water bottles, I was setting my sights for Esperance, a distance of about 115 km. The winds were gusting at over 50 kmph and coming from the North. A big storm was 'abrewin.' Battling the side wind was invigorating as it kept trying to blow me into the traffic and it slowed me down considerably. Occasionally, the road would shift direction and I'd get a wind assist. At other times, it would push against me.

Coming the other way I met my first long distance touring cyclist - Tommo from Japan. This young man is a legend. He's been travelling in OS/NZ for the past two years and is now cycling from east to west - on a light weight chromed one speed bicycle. He flies on that thing, stacking up all his gear on a single rear rack and he can cover over 200 km in one day - legs of steel. He had left Esperance late that morning and had already covered 70 km by the time I met him at noon - he was hoping to make Ravensthorpe by nightfall. Some of the caravaners had met him crossing the Nullabor - with a tailwind he was nearly keeping up with them. You could probably drop him straight onto next month's Tour de France - one speed bike, pack, gear and all and he'd keep up with the pelaton.

Shortly after meeting Tommo the storm caught up with me... cycling into it from the southwest, the storm would have hit Tommo first, so I'm hoping he had sense enough to stay at Munglinup the night. As soon as it started spitting with rain, I took shelter in a secluded corner of a farmers paddock, away from the road and well protected by a row of native bush and a windbreak of pine trees. It was raining and blowing hard by the time I got the tent up. I made about 70 km for the day and was still 40 km short of Esperance. Blew very hard and rained all night. I'm just glad the tent pegs held and the pine tree windrow didn't blow over on top of me.

Packed up wet in the morning and battled cold rain squalls and strong southerlies all the way into Esperance, about 40 km.

Note to self: I crossed the Rabbit Proof Fence/Road twice on this trip. Next time I could just as easily take this quiet graded gravel road and save a lot of kms and avoid most of the heavy vehicle traffic.

I'm staying at the backpacker YHA and trying to figure out what to do next. Might cycle on to Cape Le Grand national park (75 km from here); might cycle back the way I came; or back to Albany; or see if I can fly myself, bike and gear back to Perth.

The airport is 26 km from town, so that adds a bit into the decision making matrix. It's Sunday, time to think and reflect on the past two weeks.

View of my farmer's paddock tent site from the tent, the morning after the storm.
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cooking breakfast in bed - less dangerous than smoking in bed.
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Munglinup rest stop - water, BBQ, hot showers, grass to pitch tents on and it's FREE!! Only about 80 km from Ravensthorpe and the last 7 km are mostly downhill.
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Today's road ...
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lots of bush, but unfortunately also lots of kangaroo road kill
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cute spiky eucalypti flowery things. Barbara Rye would know what they are. Doh!! Wife tells me its a Hakea Pin Cushion and we have one in our front garden. So much for discovering new flora and fauna on this trip....
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Rabbit Proof Fence Road strikes again. It went in a straight line while I waggled about on the paved roads crossing it twice. The RPFs (there were a number of them) ran up and down almost the whole state. And like their cousin the Dingo Proof Fence (DPF) - they were impossible to maintain and didn't ever really work that well.
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RPF Road Sign
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Today's ride: 185 km (115 miles)
Total: 796 km (494 miles)

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