AustraliaPerth to Norseman


Denis Kertz, ©2002



Day 0: Tue, Sep 03, 2002 – Naperville, Illinois to Perth, WA

I packed my bike into a bike box, my tent and sleeping bag and other large items into a large duffel bag, clothes into one rear pannier, and sensitive items such as camera into a front pannier with the plan to check the bike box and duffel bag and carry the two panniers on to the plane.  That allowed me to incur no baggage charge since the bicycle would travel free on an international flight.  My friend Dave drove me to the airport for my 7:00 pm flight to Los Angeles.  In LA I switched to a Qantas flight to Sydney.  I had enough frequent flyer miles on American Airlines that I was able to get business class seats for this trip and I managed about 5 hours of sleep on the Qantas flight.

I cleared customs in Sydney.  There the customs agent seemed surprised that I had a “used” bike packed in a bike box and apparently was suspicious that I might be trying to smuggle in a new bike and sell it.  So I had to open the box and show the bike and also show that there was no dirt on the tires.  Then I took a shuttle from the international terminal to the domestic terminal for my flight to Perth, also on Qantas.  I was disappointed I couldn’t get a window seat for a view of Australia but there was a lot of cloud cover on the flight so I didn’t miss a lot.

After almost 24 hours of flying, I arrived in Perth in the early afternoon.  When I collected my luggage I notice the bike looked OK but one end of the bike box had almost been ripped open.  Someone had apparently given a hard yank on the bike box handhold and partially separated the box at the edge where it was stapled together.  I made a mental note to tape the stapled section with packing tape in the future to provide extra support.  I had previously identified a potential motel not too far from the airport but spotted an airport ad for a Regency Motel in Rivervale, about 6K west of the airport which was on the east side of Perth.  Rather than try to assemble the bike in the airport and ride through an unfamiliar area I paid a taxi $19 to take me to the motel that cost me $50 (note all dollar amounts in this report are Australian dollars unless noted otherwise, which at the time was trading at about 2 for each US dollar – a great bargain that made everything about ½ price).

I checked into the motel at 1:30 pm and started assembling my bike.  I noticed that I had forgotten my bike cable lock so I walked to a nearby bike shop that I had noticed on the taxi ride and got a replacement.  I ate at a Subway and then packed my panniers.  Around 6:00 pm I started to really drag after a long “day” – leaving on September 1 and arriving on September 3.

Day 1: Wed, Sep 04, 2002 - Perth, WA to Cogee Beach, WA [69.6, 04:40:36, 14.9, 70]

I slept until almost 7:00 am, having woken twice in about 12 hours of sleep.  I ate breakfast at a coffee house at the motel where there was also an Internet PC where I checked and sent a couple of quick emails.  Then I finished packing my bike and left just before 10:00 am.

I headed down the road a couple of blocks and caught a bike path across the Swan River, which flows through Perth to Freemantle where it empties into the Indian Ocean.  Perth has an extensive cycling network that I had learned about on the Internet before leaving.  As I was checking a cycling sign another cyclist came along and pointed out how to get to King’s Park and how to get started on the way to Freemantle.  He also escorted me part of the way to King’s Park and pointed out some city highlights along the way.  When I got near King’s Park I found the path was closed off due to a rockslide.  So I headed west along the path hoping to find a back entrance.  As I neared the back of the park another cyclist showed me how to get in the back way. 

King’s Park is on a hill, overlooking downtown Perth and the Swan River and I took the obligatory pictures.   Then I headed down from the park towards the city centre and found how I could have gotten in the front way.  I crossed the river at the Narrows Bridge and started towards Freemantle, having seen as much of Perth as I wanted.  Generally, I avoid large cities when on a bicycle since they tend not to be bike friendly, at least when you don’t know your way around.

Earlier my cyclist friend told me the bike path went all the way to Freemantle and all I had to do was keep the river on my right.  I did that but after a while I came to a bridge where I had to cross and I knew something was not right.  I asked a woman at a house to point out where I was on my map but she seemed just as confused as I was.  Then I found a guy at a park and he explained how to get back on track.  What had happened was I followed a split from the Swan River.  So I backtracked a little ways and caught up with the Freemantle path.  The rest of the way was pretty straightforward although the path alternated between good sections and plain sidewalk.

When I pulled into Freemantle I checked a couple of backpackers for a place to stay.  The most promising one didn’t have any good place for my bike and wanted $50 for a shared double room.  So I abandoned the idea of staying downtown and headed to the beach where I got my first view of the Indian Ocean.  From there I headed south on a bike path.  In a short distance I found a caravan park in Coogee where I rented a small cabin for $59.  I had fish & chips at a nearby takeaway and then listened to the pitter patter of rain as I wrote my notes.  The weather prediction had been for occasional showers but the cool, overcast day was fine until the rain around 5:30 pm.

Overall, an easy first day with nice, cool cycling weather.

Day 2: Thu, Sep 05, 2002 - Cogee Beach, WA to Mandurah, WA [71.8, 04:04:37, 17.6, 141]

I didn’t sleep a full 12 hours like the night before but I still managed 10 hours.  Since there was no place to eat nearby I left around 7:30 and had to wake up the park host to get my $50 bond refund.  It’s not uncommon to have to pay a $5 or $10 key deposit but this was the first and only bond that I was required to pay.

It was overcast when I left and shortly after it started to rain.  I pulled into a park to decide whether to put on my rain gear but the rain stopped after about 10 minutes.  So I continued on the bike path that ended after 10K.  Then I had to get on the road and contend with vehicles and the rush hour traffic.  The road was so-so with a narrow shoulder.  I eventually picked up Highway 1 to Rockingham.  It also started misting but nothing requiring rain gear.

After 30K I found a breakfast place in Rockingham.  Unfortunately, “brekky” as it is sometimes called here was not very good for cycling, consisting of sausage, bacon and eggs – not the carbohydrate kicker I was looking for but that’s what I had.  After brekky I found some granola-like bars at a grocery store and then I found a good map of southwest Western Australia for my route to the start of the Nullarbor Plains at a news store.

I started my ride to Mandurah along the coast.  This turned away from the coast a bit through a suburban area with nice, compact, closely spaced houses.  Eventually I got lost trying to stay close to the shore but happened upon a bike store where I got directions.  I also got a better cable lock.  The one I picked up in Perth was sturdy but cumbersome whereas my new one was self-coiling and more compact.

I continued on a main road next to the bike shop but it ended shortly and I was forced to take Highway 1 the rest of the way to Mandurah.  Highway 1 had a wide shoulder so traffic was fine except for the noise pollution.

After a quick break at a service station I continued on to Mandurah and a dilemma.  It was early afternoon but Bunbury was another 100K.  There was another small town with camping about 70K further but I didn’t know if it had food.  So I chose to stop early and not push my luck.

In town I found a caravan park that had a van for $43 that I took.  It was close to downtown so after cleaning up I walked through downtown and found a place to eat.  I also verified that the morning’s brekky was standard fare.

Another easy day with just some light rain to mar the morning.

Day 3: Fri, Sep 06, 2002 - Mandurah, WA to Bunbury, WA [107.3, 05:22:15, 19.9, 249]

I ate at a small café not far from where I was staying.  They had cereal on the menu so I had a half decent breakfast.

Since the ride today was on Highway 1 to Bunbury, I took my time figuring it was better to wait until 9:00 to avoid the rush hour.  At 9:00 I left, jogging through town and then picking up Highway 1 that had a good shoulder for the most part.  The weather continued to look iffy with mostly clouds and a few patches of blue sky.

During the first 25K I saw several places I could have stayed had I continued on yesterday.  The road passed along the edge of Yalgorup National Park and was fairly scenic as eucalyptus tress lined both sides of the road.  After 40K I stopped for refreshments.  Midway to Bunbury the land started opening up a bit and there were a few farms with some cattle and horses

25K from Bunbury I turned on to a Tourist Drive.  With less traffic the respite from noise was a relief.  But then the road rejoined Highway 1 for the final run into Bunbury.  I rode through town looking for a place to stay with little luck.  So I stopped at a Visitor Centre and got pointed to several places.  I ended up at the Rose Hotel for $45 room with a shared bath with breakfast included.   My room was on the 2nd floor so I had to carry my loaded bike up the fire escape stairs in back since the main stairs weren’t for luggage use.

After cleaning up I found an Internet place and took care of some email.  Then I walked through town looking for a place to eat.  I couldn’t settle on anything but I spied a Chinese Smorgasbord and figured I couldn’t go wrong there.

A more difficult day today but still not very hard with mostly flat riding.  The weather alternated between overcast and threatening to clearing up but there was no rain.  I also got several honks and waves from 2 cars and a motorcycle, always a welcomed interaction.

Day 4: Sat, Sep 07, 2002 - Bunbury, WA to Dunsborough, WA [87.4, 04:40:35, 18, 336]

I went downstairs at 7:00 for my included breakfast and could tell I was an early bird, the first one there.  I had some cereal and bacon and eggs.  Afterwards I walked a short distance to a place that served waffles but they didn’t open until 10:00.  However, the place next door had pancakes on the menu and I tried that.  They were pretty good but on the small side.

I checked out, taking my bike down the fire escape stairway, to the book exchange right across the street.  The proprietor was late so I looked over my bike and discovered the right front rack was loose at the bottom eyelet.  I had heard some squeaky noises before and guessed this was the cause.  I made a temporary repair from my parts kit as the proprietor arrived.  I exchanged my “Runaway Jury” paperback that I had found in the American Airlines Admirals Club in LA for another paperback for $1.

Dolphins were a frequent visitor to the bay by Bunbury so I headed to the bay in the hope I might get lucky but I gave up after about 40 minutes.  So I took the Tourist Drive through town along the bay that led back to Highway 10 that I took south to Busselton.  There was a surprising amount of traffic on the 4-lane divided highway.  The shoulder was OK but I had to contend again with constant noise pollution.

The day started overcast with predictions of scattered showers but the weather just got better through the day, changing to white cumulous clouds with a hint of rain and patches of blue sky.  Riding was easy on the flat road but not particularly interesting until about two thirds of the way to Busselton when a 15K Tourist Drive presented itself.  This was probably the best part of the trip so far.  There was light traffic as the road passed through the Ludlow Forest.  There were hints of the wild flowers that WA is renowned for in the spring, with white tulip-like flowers (that I later learned were not native and considered to be weeds), yellow sunflowers, and some touches of blue flowers.  A very nice 15K diversion.

Unfortunately the diversion ended back at Highway 10 and I passed along Busselton.  About this time I picked up a fair headwind that slowed me up.  After about 10K I left Highway 10 again for a road along the coast to Dunsborough but there was still quite a bit of traffic.  I was also dragging somewhat and I attributed that to not eating enough, having only had a single granola bar since breakfast.

When I pulled into Dunsborough around 3:00, I immediately entered a fairly large shopping center with lots of little shops and restaurants.  Later I learned that this was basically the town, which surprised me as I had expected a fair sized town.  I immediately hit the grocery store for some food to auger my meager food supply.  I snacked on some muffins and sports drink to satisfy my immediate food craving.

Then I went looking for a place to stay.  I found a backpackers within walking distance of “downtown” but a single room cost $60, probably because this appeared to be a resort area.  After checking in I walked downtown to check out food.  I eventually settled for fish & chips at a takeaway place and got more than I bargained for – almost more food than I could handle and arguably enough for two normal meals.  But I didn’t complain and did my culinary duty.

Then I walked back to my residence, where it looked like I was the only resident, and did laundry.

Another fairly easy day with some headwind.  I saw my first kangaroo but it was roadkill.

Day 5: Sun, Sep 08, 2002 - Dunsborough, WA to Augusta, WA [104.3, 06:11:38, 16.8, 441]

When I got up I walked downtown for some milk for a breakfast of cereal and muffin.  I walked downtown again later for coffee and to read the newspaper.

I left right around 9:00 and did my first significant climb, a 4K modest climb on the way to Yallingup.  Dunsborough was at the eastern start of a peninsula and Yallingup at the western start.  I took the Tourist Drive to Augusta, also called the Caves Road since there were several caves along the road.

This road was winding and rolling, a contrast to the previous days of straight and flat.  The first half of the way was vineyards and some farms.  This area, the Margaret River area, is renowned for its wines and many vineyards were open for visits but I passed them by.  The scenery was very nice and the traffic modest on what was essentially a country road.

At the half way point which was also a turnoff to Margaret River, I stopped for a break.  When I continued I entered the Leeuwin Naturaliste National Park and left the vineyards and farms behind.  The next 20K was a tour through the forest of the national park, very nice with even less traffic than before.  Particularly impressive were the tall, smooth Karri trees that glistened when struck by sunlight.

After 80K the road turned left as it made its way back to Highway 10 and Augusta with farmland replacing the forest.  I got a few sprinkles but wasn’t worried since there were still some blue patches in the sky.

In Augusta I rode through town looking for accommodations and then I could see the clouds moving in and the rain became serious.  So I headed for a takeaway where I could get my bike and myself out of the rain.  After fish & chips I managed some conversation with the cook, an older woman who had grown up in the area.  Augusta was having some challenging economic times and the cook blamed the “greenies” for blocking progress.  I thought about offering to trade her our Mr. Bush for some of their greenies but thought better of it.

After the rain subsided I went back to a caravan park I passed earlier where the owners still had not returned by the time noted on their door.  I waited 30 minutes and gave up on them.  By this time, my second choice motel was full and I was irritated.  I ended up paying $71 for a pretty nice motel at the south end of town.

Today was by far the nicest riding so far.  The scenery was very nice, vineyards, farms, and forests, with modest traffic.  However, I did note that my camera’s 2 AA batteries were low.  I wasn’t concerned since I had 3 other sets of AA batteries but they all showed low charge, apparently losing their charge while they lay unused.  Had I known I could have recharged them overnight.  I did bring a solar charger and tried it but I made it through the day on the low batteries so I don’t know how well the solar charger worked with mixed sun.  I saw two more kangaroos – more roadkill.

Day 6: Mon, Sep 09, 2002 - Augusta, WA to Pemberton, WA [127.5, 07:44:03, 16.5, 568]

When I got up it was raining and it didn’t look good and I considered laying over.  I found a shop with milk so I had my breakfast of cereal.  By 8:00 there was a glimmer of hope and by 9:00 the rain quit and the sky was clearing.  So I headed north to pick up the road east to Pemberton.

After about 10K I took a right on Highway 10, the Brockman Highway.  I continued to see farms with cattle for a while then the farmland gave way to forest.  By noon I wasn’t even a third of the way to my destination and that was somewhat depressing but I continued on knowing it was going to be a long day.

At 55K I picked up Stewart Road to Pemberton, a very nice road with very little traffic but some rolling hills.  When Stewart Road ended at Highway 10, now called Vasse Highway, I turned south and started some more significant hills, especially when I entered Beedelup National Park where there were some tall karri trees and the road became particularly winding and rolling.  After the national park farmland reappeared with cattle in the lush green fields, framed by karri trees along the boundaries.

Finally, I could see Pemberton in the hills to my left.  In a short distance a left turn took me down hill and then up hill into town.  After casing the town, I chose a backpackers with a single room for $33.  Initially, the hostess wasn’t going to let me put my bike in my room but I persisted.  She was concerned about getting the carpet dirty which was laughable.  The place was a dive and I had had my bike in much nicer rooms.

After cleaning up I walked into town and ate at a Chinese restaurant.  Then I retired to a pub for my first Australian beer, Emu Bitter, and wrote my notes.

For some reason this proved to be a difficult day even though neither the distance nor the climbing was particularly noteworthy.  I saw a couple more kangaroos – all roadkill.  I can hardly wait to see a live one.

Day 7: Tue, Sep 10, 2002 - Pemberton, WA to Walpole, WA [122.7, 07:26:39, 16.5, 691]

I got up after 7:00 in no great hurry since I couldn’t get my $10 key deposit back until 8:00.  At 8:00 I checked out and headed into town for groceries.  I had my usual cereal breakfast.

Pemberton is noted for its Gloucester Tree, a lookout tree with spikes to allow climbing.  I would have liked to check it out but it was a 6K roundtrip and I wasn’t sure I had the time or energy so I skipped it.  So I headed east on Highway 10 for 17K before it ended at Highway 1.  Along the way were a half dozen vineyards and farms.  Then I headed south on Highway 1 to Walpole.  After some initial farms, the land changed to forest.  What didn’t change were the continual rolling hills, slowing my progress significantly.  After 45K I stopped for my afternoon break.

After continuous rolling through the forest the route flattened with about 30K to go and my speed picked up considerably.  Then one last long climb, the longest of the day when I least wanted it, but I was rewarded with a lookout view over the Normalup Inlet.  Then I coasted into town around 5:30.

I rode through town and found a hostel, Tingle All Over, at the other end and got a single room for $35.  I thought the name was really strange until I learned later that Tingle was a tree type in the area.  This hostel was much better than the previous night’s backpackers and the owner was very friendly and helpful.  After cleaning up I ordered a large chicken pizza from the place the owner recommended and it was very good.

The day was a second consecutive hard day, similar to yesterday, except more climbing, but I felt better than yesterday.  The weather was perfect with all sun in the morning and some clouds in the afternoon.  I also met the same group of four women at the hostel who also stayed at the backpackers in Pemberton.

Day 8: Wed, Sep 11, 2002 - Walpole, WA to Denmark, WA [78.2, 04:34:21, 17.1, 770]

I took a more leisurely approach to the day since I planned only to go to Denmark and stop at the Tree Top Walk along the way.  I went to bed just after 8:00 and got up just before 7:00, almost 11 hours of sleep.  I think my body needed the rest after two hard days.

After my standard breakfast, I left town at 9:00.  After 14K I took the Tree Top Walk turnoff and rode a fairly hard and hilly 6K to the Tree Top Walk entrance.  $6 got me in to the walk on the canopy that rose to 40 metres at the highest point.  I did the 600-metre loop twice and the second time around the sun broke out, giving a different view of the red tingle and karri trees.  As I was leaving, I met the group of four women from the hostel as they arrived.

Heading back to the road was a pretty easy 6K ride since it was mostly a descent.  As the day wore on, the weather got better with clouds and sunshine.  The forest cover receded and large fields appeared with mostly cattle but some sheep too.  The road leveled out and I made good time compared to the last two days.  When I stopped around 12:30 I was already half way to my destination.

I pulled into Denmark around 3:30 and quickly found a place to stay at the Blue Wren Backpackers.  I got a dorm room for $18 where I was allowed to put my bike in the room since it was expected I would probably have the room to myself.  Then I walked through the town centre, did a little grocery shopping, and looked for a place to eat.  I didn’t find much to eat so I ended up with pizza again but only a small size since I hadn’t killed myself today.

When I returned to the backpackers, I learned I had a roommate, Denis, who had just come from Albany.  He had lived in Cairns the last four years as an equipment operator and was on his way back to Perth to help a friend move.  Then he was going to drive her car 5,000K to Cairns via Broome and across the top.  I knew he was OK when I learned he spelled his name with one n like I do.

The day started auspiciously with cloudy weather that improved through the day.  This was a much easier day than the last two but it needed to be as I could feel that my legs were tired when I had to climb.

Day 9: Thu, Sep 12, 2002 - Denmark, WA to Albany, WA [98.4, 05:19:16, 18.5, 868]

I got up and had my usual breakfast and then walked downtown for coffee and a newspaper.  I chatted some more with Denis and he told me about his sightseeing near Albany that sounded interesting.  Denis left at 9:00 to catch a bus and I stopped at the Visitor Centre to check on Albany directions.  I didn’t actually leave until 9:30.

The road to Albany was flat and fast, just over 50K.  After 17K I took the alternate scenic route and was just flying but I stopped long enough for my first Emu sighting.  I was in the Albany area by noon, having passed by farmland with cattle and some sheep.  I took the Frenchman Bay Road around the opposite side of the bay from Albany, a 20K detour.  I stopped first at the Gap Natural Bride that was spectacular, both for the named sight and the coastal view.  I also saw a whale well off the coast.  Then I continued on to Stony Hill Lookout.  This involved some significant climbing and Denis had warned I would probably have to push my bike.  I did make it most of the way and I might have been able to ride all the way but I decided not to waste my legs.  I figured after another week of conditioning I could have ridden it all the way.

The top afforded a 360 view of the ocean and the Albany area that was well worth the effort. I took a number of photos but found my helmet mirror on the right side of my helmet appeared to be interfering with my camera’s autofocus so I had to adjust by using my left eye for view finding.

Then I made a beeline back to Albany, retracing my way back along the way to the Albany side of the bay.  This required about a 270° route to get back to the Albany side.  I followed signs to the Visitor Centre to get information on accommodation and whale watching.  I was referred to the White Star Hotel where I could get a basic room for $28.  So I headed to the hotel and checked in at the bar and signed up for two nights for $44.  This place was not on a par with the Rose Hotel in Bunbury but it was quite a bit cheaper.  My only concern was noise from a band at night so I got assigned a room well down the hall on the 2nd floor away from the band stage.  I had to drag my bike up a flight of stairs but I didn’t have to take it in the back way like in Bunbury.

After cleaning up, I walked through the town centre.  Albany is a town of 21,000 and the oldest English settlement in Western Australia.  I ended up eating at a café right next to my hotel and had lasagna that was very good.  What was not so good was I didn’t find any Internet access, a grocery store, or a convenient place to get milk in the morning.  The good thing about small towns is all these things are close together and easy to find.

What would have been an easy day was harder due to the sightseeing along the Frenchman Bay Road but the sights were worth it. 

Day 10: Fri, Sep 13, 2002 - Albany, WA, rest day

The band last night didn’t interfere with my sleep.  I could hear the drum all night but I think the beat put me to sleep and I slept well.  I had my usual breakfast and then had coffee and read a newspaper at a café.

I decided to do the morning whale watch from 9:30-12:30 so I got my ticket ($35) from the Visitor Centre and walked to the jetty.  There were 2 whale-watching boats, catamarans, but only my boat had passengers, about 25.  The captain explained the whales we were hoping to see, humpback or right whales.  Right whales were the “right” ones to hunt when whales were hunted because they were slow and floated when dead.  They migrated from the sub-artic to the King George Sound at Albany to calve in warmer waters than the sub-artic.

We pulled out of the Princess Royal Harbor, considered the 3rd best natural harbor in the world, and proceeded to do a loop of King George Sound.  The weather varied between partly sunny and overcast.  We didn’t see anything except for a sunning sea lion but that was OK as sitting outside in the front of the boat was just the right exercise for my legs.

After the whale watch, I visited the Albany museum, did some laundry, and some grocery shopping.  I also checked Mike Vermeulen’s web site to get a better preview of the ride to Esperance, which takes 3 fairly long days since there are only two real towns between Albany and Esperance.

Day 11: Sat, Sep 14, 2002 - Albany, WA to Wellstead, WA [101.1, 06:03:44, 16.7, 969]

I got up early because Jerramungup, the next town, was 180K, long enough that I could run out of daylight.  I ate in my room using powdered milk for my cereal and was off just before 7:00.

It was a bit windy as I made my way out of the city to Highway 1 to head northeast.  I made good time until around 10:00 despite the rolling road.  Initially it was mostly farms with cattle and sheep and I saw my first canola fields, distinctive with their bright yellow tops.  Then the farms changed to brushy forest.

Around 10:00 the wind, mostly a cross wind, picked up and started affecting me significantly.  I started doubting I could make Jerramungup but after 20 minutes or so it eased up and I was back on track but it projected to be long day.

Around noon I had covered 85K and was looking for Wellstead, a place to stop for a break.  However, I misread a sign and later learned it was 100K to Wellstead.  I had just about given up and was going to stop along the road when I saw the grocery store sign.  So at 1:00 and 101K I pulled into Wellstead, a very small town with just a grocery store, school, and a church.  While I was there the wind suddenly picked up dramatically and it became a dangerous cross wind, not to mention impossible to make Jerramungup.  So I made the decision to stop for the day.  I talked to the store owner about where to stay and he said the church next door would be fine and no one would mind.

To reward my day I bought an ice cream and met another customer who was also enjoying an ice cream.  He (Roger) and son were in town to see some farm machinery and as we talked another guy pulled up who was going to demo the machinery.  He, Darryl, asked where I was from and I said the Chicago area.  Amazingly, Darryl mentioned Naperville, a city on the western fringe of Chicago, and my jaw dropped.  Then Darryl’s jaw dropped when I said “That’s where I live” and he replied “My wife’s from Naperville.”  I learned that Darryl’s wife, Corinn, grew up in the western Chicago suburbs and had lived in Naperville.  Darryl quickly called home and arranged for me to stay on their farm for the night.  He had to tend to business but 45 minutes later Corinn stopped by to pick me up.

In the meantime the wind continued fiercely, making it obvious that continuing was really not a realistic or safe option.  Corinn stopped by in a station wagon that would have been a stretch for my bike but another neighbor offered to deliver my loaded bike in his flat bed truck, a style that is common in Australia.  So my bike and I were delivered to a 3,000-acre farm about 7K down a gravel road.  Later I learned Darryl and Corinn owned another 3,000-acre farm in partnership with Darryl’s brother.  Though at one time they had sheep on their farm now they only raised crops.

Corinn and I had a good conversation while she tended to some baking chores.  Corinn grew up in Hinsdale and had also lived in Naperville and Hinckley before meeting Darryl through friends when Darryl was working in the USA.  It was interesting to talk with someone with both a USA and an Australian perspective.  Later, Darryl returned with Roger to discuss machinery business.  Then that night we watched Australian Rules Football which Darryl explained so that I was able to follow the action.

Day 12: Sun, Sep 15, 2002 - Wellstead, WA to Jerramungup, WA [74.9, 03:49:54, 19.5, 1043]

Darryl was already up when I got up and he was pretty happy.  It had rained some yesterday afternoon and some more overnight for about 0.5” of rain.  The farmers were desperately in need of rain and close to losing their crops.  Of course, I took credit for bringing the rain.  While Corinn slept, Darryl filled me in with some particulars about farm life, including a recent farm show he and his brother attended in Adelaide as part of their farm equipment sales business.  This involved traveling across the Nullarbor in both directions, dragging their demo trailer that also contained a gas tank reserve that allowed them to make the entire trip non-stop without refueling.

When Corinn got up I got my first taste of a real breakfast – oatmeal, or porridge as they call it here – which I had not seen on any menu since arriving.  However, it was uncertain if I would be able to take advantage.  The weather was still uncertain as it switched back and forth between good and rainy with a little hail.  The wind was still fairly strong but the good news was it had switched directions and was now a tail wind.

A little later, Darryl’s brother, Roger, arrived and it was time for another round of coffee and some conversation.  The weather had cleared up again so I decided to take off.  Darryl and Roger were going to their other farm so we loaded my bike into Roger’s truck and they gave me a lift back to the main road.  So weather that threatened to be a mini-disaster for me turned into a nice visit on a farm and a chance to learn a little about Australian farm life.  We traded business cards so there is some chance we might see each other again some time in the future when they visit Naperville.  A small world.

Meanwhile, the weather that had looked good was now looking ominous.  I only had 71K to Jerramungup but it didn’t look like I would be able to outrun the rain even with a strong tail wind.  In fact, the rain out ran me and after a little rain it cleared up again although the wind died down somewhat.  But the weather was still very uncertain as clouds and some rain continued to blow through, mixed with some blue sky and sun.  With the temperature in the low teens (C), I wore my rain jacket most of the way.

The wind switched around several times but I still had favorable wind most of the time.  The relatively short ride took less than 4 hours and I pulled into Jerramungup just after 2:00.  Jerramungup was a small agricultural town with a motel and a caravan park.  The caravan park probably would have been cheaper but no one was around so I booked a motel room for $45.  I ate at a takeaway next door and settled in for the night.

Day 13: Mon, Sep 16, 2002 - Jerramungup, WA, layover day

Yesterday I noticed my throat felt funny and this morning I had a sore throat but apparently a mild one.  After breakfast I picked up some throat lozenges at the store.  When the woman at the checkout counter said the weather prediction was for cool and showers I decided this was not the day to be on the road with a sore throat.  So I stayed over to let my body recover.  I finished reading my paperback, traded it in for another at a used bookstore, and checked my email.  It never actually rained but it was quite cool and overcast all day.

Day 14: Tue, Sep 17, 2002 - Jerramungup, WA to Ravensthorpe, WA [117.7, 05:57:50, 19.7, 1161]

I woke up to no sore throat and sunshine so it looked like the start of a good day.  I ate my breakfast in the room and was off just before 8:00.  It was a bit on the cool side, probably low teens, without a cloud in the sky.  I took the right turn out of town towards Raventhorpe, 113K away.  For the first 10K or so it was farmland as far as you could see with some sheep in the fields.  The road was long, gently rolling hills and I made good time.   After the initial farmland, the fields gave way to bush.

At about the 80K mark, I noticed a stick perpendicular next to the road.  Except as I got even with it, I noticed this stick had beady eyes and, since it was brown, I assume it was a brown snake, one of the notoriously deadly Aussie snakes.  It was about 3-4 feet from me and not in an attack stance so I really wasn’t in any danger as I rode by.  However, as I rode by I saw the snake react a bit, perhaps getting ready to attack should I not prove to be a nice guy.  Of course, Australia is known for its deadly snakes and other deadly creatures.  Despite the extremely venomous snakes, Australia only averages about 2 snake bite deaths a year, apparently because they are very good at treating snake bites.  This particular encounter was what I figured was the most likely one for me – seeing/riding over one as I blithely rode along the way.  For the rest of the day every stick looked like a snake…

After about 90K I stopped at a rest area for a break, just a little after noon.  Unfortunately, there was no picnic table so it wasn’t the best rest stop for a cyclist.

About 10K from Raventhorpe farmland returned along with a bunch of sheep.  I pulled into Raventhorpe just after 2:00 and stopped at the Visitor Centre to check for accommodation.  I rode to the other end of town to a caravan park where I got a backpackers room for myself for $11, an incredible deal.  After cleaning up I walked to a restaurant for fish & chips.  I was going to eat my meal in the restaurant but it would have cost me $12.  Instead, I carried my meal to a table outside to eat where it only cost me $7.  I decided I liked takeaways.  Later I did a little grocery shopping and had a beer at the pub.

Day 15: Wed, Sep 18, 2002 - Ravensthorpe, WA to Esperance, WA [191.4, 10:17:26, 18.6, 1353]

I got up early due to the long ride to Esperance, 190K, and was off at 6:30.  It was chilly, about 8C, and my fingers and toes could feel it.  Right at the start I started seeing the infamous road trains, trucks with 3 cargo units – the truck and 2 trailers.  In the morning they were all headed towards Raventhorpe and later all headed back to Esperance.

The caravan park host misled me, saying the road was flat.  The first 40K were anything but flat and were much like yesterday.  My time was not good at the start but the road leveled out as the day wore on and my time improved.

Initially, the first 20K or so was farmland with lots of sheep.  I saw more sheep today than the previous days combined.  Then the country reverted back to bush for a while.  At 80K I pulled into Munglinup, the only stop along the way.  It had a roadhouse but all I could get was a steak and mushroom meat pie and a drink.  I ate in a rest stop across the street and talked with a guy from England who was in a caravan of 3 vans of vacationing couples.

After Munglinup, the land switched back to farmland with mostly sheep although there were some cattle as I neared Esperance.  Some of the fields were planted with canola and the bright yellow fields were captivating.

All along the way I did mental calculations to project my arrival time.  Initially I thought I might arrive as early as 5:00 but as time wore on it became obvious I would be pushing darkness.

Yesterday a snake lent some excitement to my trip.  Today it was some magpies who started dive bombing me.  Now I had to watch the road for sticks that might be snakes and shadows on the road that might be magpies on a bombing run.  Later I learned that magpies could be very territorial when they are nesting.  I even read about a school where a magpie was terrorizing the kids in the school yard to the point where they couldn’t go outside.

Through the afternoon my pace was slowing.  Although this was probably partially fatigue setting in I was also fighting a modest head wind.  Yesterday I had a tail wind when I didn’t need it and today I had a head wind when I didn’t need it.  Fortunately, I picked up the pace in the last 20K and made it into town just as darkness was setting in.  I knew exactly where a backpackers and a caravan park were so I rode straight there.  When I pulled into where the backpackers was I met two guys outside drinking beer.  When they offered me a beer, I accepted and drank a beer with them.  Later they said I looked so tuckered that they had to offer me a beer.

After a while I discovered I was really at a mission, not a backpackers.  So I thanked them for the beer and headed next door where I met a couple on mountain bikes.  They were staying at the caravan park and riding to Melbourne where they lived.  I never found the backpackers so I ended up getting a cabin at the caravan park for two nights ($42/night).

After cleaning up I found a pizza place down the street and ordered a large pizza since I was famished.  It was good but not as good as my first Australian pizza.

A very hard day due to over 10 hours of riding.  I hoped I wouldn’t have many more days like this although this one did end magically with a beer in my hand.

Day 16: Thu, Sep 19, 2002 - Esperance, WA, layover

Esperance is a town of 13,200 with agriculture its leading industry followed by tourism and fishing.  It’s known as the Bay of Isles because of the number of small islands in the bay.  After breakfast I bought a ticket ($54) for the Bay of Isles Island Cruise that had a 9-12:30 morning cruise.  After coffee at a tea room next to the jetty, I boarded the catamaran that can hold 120 and had 90 on board today.  It was a perfect day for a cruise, no clouds and warm temperature.  We cruised around the islands and saw eagles, sea lions, fur seals, wild goats, and birds but no dolphins or whales.  We also stopped at Woody Island for tea and a short hike.  Then we made a beeline for home.  An interesting cruise.

Afterwards I cleaned my bike chain and did some general bike maintenance.  I took advantage of the on-site Laundromat and washed my clothes.  Then I found Bart and Nicole, the couple I met on bikes last night, at a nearby cabin.  They are from Melbourne and are riding from Perth to Melbourne, starting a week earlier than I did and finishing in Melbourne on November 3.  They were both nurses, an in-demand profession, allowing the flexibility to take time off knowing they can easily find another nursing job.  We talked for several hours on a very pleasant day.  I picked up some tidbits on cycling around Melbourne and Tasmania.  Tomorrow they are headed to Cape LeGrand National Park just east of Esperance for a couple of days before heading up to Norseman and the Nullarbor.

Later, I did some grocery shopping and had fish & chips at a takeaway.  I also found a small store that had real ice cream.  Most single serve ice cream is packaged in a variety of sandwich and bar forms and no chocolate chip cookie vanilla sandwich bars, a real disappointment.  So finding the real ice cream was a treat.

An enjoyable layover day with a great cruise in the morning and a chance to talk with the first touring cyclists of the trip.

Day 17: Fri, Sep 20, 2002 - Esperance, WA to Salmon Gums, WA [112.3, 05:47:00, 19.4, 1466]

I packed up and was off just before 8:00.  It rained overnight and was fairly cool compared to the previous day that reached a high of 32C.  There was a fair amount of traffic as I caught the morning rush hour but after an hour traffic was light.

It was 207K to Norseman, just too much for one day so the goal was Salmon Gums, just slightly over half way.  It was also flat so I made very good time as I passed fields with crops all along the way.  I stopped for a break just over half way and then again in the small town of Grass Patch.  Just after 2:00 I pulled into Salmon Gums, a town of 212 supporting the local agriculture and named after the gum trees in the area.

I turned off at the hotel and continued across the railroad tracks to what was called a caravan park.  The park was just an unappealing, open area for hookups and tents.  So I retreated to the hotel and got a room for $20 but I had to pay cash.  I had the place to myself but this was not surprising since Salmon Gums was just a small town between Esperance and Norseman and probably of overnight interest only to cyclists who need a stop along the way.

I did encounter a disaster of sorts.  I discovered my camera zoom lens was not working and I was in a real quandary about what to do.  I wasn’t close to any large city where I might expect to get a camera repaired.  Fortunately, after I played around with the camera I discovered the zoom lens worked but the optical viewfinder was stuck and didn’t track the zoom lens.  Since the LCD viewfinder worked it looked like I might have to use the LCD viewfinder since it wasn’t obvious there would be any opportunity to get the camera fixed/replaced in the near future.

This town was really jumping.  I was the only customer in the hotel bar at 5:00 on a Friday afternoon and it was unclear whether they were going to serve food.  The roadhouse served food but I kept getting a different story when the kitchen would open.  The third time I showed up they had my order of fish & chips ready when I wasn’t expecting it.

Day 18: Sat, Sep 21, 2002 - Salmon Gums, WA to Norseman, WA [99.3, 05:49:10, 17.1, 1565]

I slept OK despite the fact I was virtually sleeping in a hammock since the bed sagged in the middle so badly.  I got up at 6:00 and was off by 7:00.  I wanted to get to Norseman as soon as possible so I could take care of various things before heading out across the Nullarbor.  However, I discovered I had a modest head wind and a slight gradient so I didn’t make great time like yesterday.

The first half of the way was farmland with the roadside lined with gum trees.  Then the farmland disappeared and was replaced by bush and gum trees with some gently rolling hills.

I pulled into Norseman at 1:00, a gold mining town of 1,800 that has seen better days.  It is supposedly named after a miner’s horse, Norseman, who supposedly kicked up a gold nugget that uncovered the gold.  In town is a statue to this famous horse.

I got a cabin at a caravan park ($35) at the end of town close to the Nullarbor turnoff.  After cleaning up, I headed to the Visitor Centre and got a Nullarbor brochure with a nice map of the route, the same one that Bart/Nicole showed me in Esperance.  Next door was a telecentre where I used the Internet for an hour and got caught up on my email and paid my VISA bill.

I walked through the town centre and picked up some cash from an ATM machine.  I walked by a used book exchange but it was closed on a Saturday afternoon.  A few minutes later it was “open” and a woman let me sneak in to get a book before she closed for good – another example of Australian hospitality that I’ve gotten used to.  Then I stopped at the grocery store to load up since there would be few groceries available along the Nullarbor.

On my way back to the cabin I stopped off at the Visitor Centre again to see if there was a way I could mail a birthday card since the post office was closed on the weekend.  I told the woman at the centre that the cost was $1 and she said to bring the card by and she would take care of getting the stamp and mailing the card.  So I walked home, unloaded my groceries, got my card and old paperback, and walked back to the Visitor Centre.  I gave the woman at the centre $2 to make sure the postage was covered and I slid my old paperback under the locked book exchange outer door, figuring the book exchange deserved the donation.

On my way back home I picked up a chicken dinner and started organizing my packing.  The big problem was how to carry my two water bags for the extra water needed to cross the Nullarbor.





Copyright Denis Kertz, 2002. All rights reserved.