Trying to escape Western Australia

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January 6th 2011
Published: January 13th 2011
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I apologise for the delay in getting this entry written (and therefore the ongoing delay to later entries), I've been completely stumped over what to write and it shows in the final product, hopefully the photos will make up for that.

Christmas in Espie

We got back to Espie without incident and checked into a very quiet YHA where we met Roland, a Dutch guy who had just cycled from Adelaide to Espie on a rather nice looking Santos tourer, his view on the Nullabor? The road trains were okay, but the heat very nearly had him beat. We were already thinking that we should take a train or bus across the GAFA, listening to Roland's story of his ride helped us decide, there's no way we could do the distances he was doing daily and we wouldn't be able to carry the water and food needed to cover the distances between road houses. We decided to go posh and booked two berths on the Indian Pacific from Kalgoorlie to Sydney, leaving Kal at 01:40 on 30th December.

We had just settled down to a quiet evening swapping stories of horror backpackers with Jude and Suze (co-owner and worker at the hostel) when a tour bus arrived and discharged 16 very loud guests and their beer collection, we retired to the garden while the group took over the lounge and started a pool tournament. One of the little darlings asked Roland if he had any drugs for sale. Hmm, no stereotypes there then! In the morning we were woken early (06:00) by the smoke alarms, we'd just got over the shock, dressed and grabbed the valuables bag when it stopped. Back to bed and we dozed off just as the dulcet tones of the alarm went off again, this time we'd not even managed to drag ourselves out of bed when it stopped.When we eventually surfaced the kitchen conversation was an interesting discussion of what should be done to the perpetrator if we ever find out who it was, current best guess is that it was the tour leader trying to get everybody up ready for a day out at Cape le Grande National Park.

The weather was "changeable" for the next few days, but always with a strong onshore wind. We mostly just relaxed, cycling was no fun in the wind and the occasional rain showers. We took a trip around the scenic route to the west of Espie on one of the wetter days, even with the dark grey sky above the sea remained a beautiful blue colour, unlike the hideous grey shade we always get at Southsea. On a slightly drier day we toured Cape le Grande NP, where we got to play tunes on the squeaky, white sand and marvel at the rock formations. Novelty injury of the month award went to Vernon who managed to get stung by a sea jelly - an almost unheard of event in Espie apparently.

Christmas day was sunny but windy, we celebrated by doing as little as possible before pizza and Timtams for dinner, no hassle, no grief and no It's a Wonderful Life - hurrah!

Overnight on Woody Island

Epserance stands on the coast of the Bay of Isles and on Boxing Day we took a tour trip to one of those isles - Woody Island. The ferry ride took us around a few of the other islands on the way and we saw sea lions and NZ fur seals, they all raised their heads with a look of disdain as we floated past and white breasted sea eagles which chased the boat in the hope of easy food and, of course, were rewarded with a couple of fish as the camera shutters clicked away. On arrival at Woody Island we pitched the tent and pondered whether the sea was too cold for snorkelling before deciding it wasn't, hiring all the kit, getting in the water and deciding that ooooooooh crikey oh yes it was! We paddled around for a while looking at some fantastic coloured fish and huge, red sea stars but the temperature beat us in the end and we climbed back onto the pontoon feeling rather numb. We needed coffee and cake to warm and sustain us, unfortunately the cafe's idea of coffee was to put one spoon of espresso grind into an eight cup cafetiere and fill it with water! The resulting grey sludge had less flavour than cheap instant which we wished we had ordered instead.
After the sun had set and the day trippers had left Woody Island came into it's own, once we were away from the camp there was no light pollution and we could see the night sky so well that it was difficult to make out individual constellations among all the stars, the Milky Way stood out clearly and the moon was so bright it was dazzling to look at. We tried to get a few photos but it was very hit and miss as exposure timing involved counting slowly to 60 (1 minute) and 120 (2 minutes) which Vernon reckoned were nearer to 2 and 4 minutes respectively, he then suggested that we could calculate the actual exposure time from the length of the star trails on the photos but I dunno, life's too short really.

The next morning we followed the walking trail around the island, retracing some of our route from the night before, it all looked very different in daylight with tiny pink flowers along the route and views out to the neighbouring islands. We were followed by quail which disappeared whenever a camera lens was pointed at them and disturbed numerous skinks sunbathing on the granite rocks. We got the ferry back to Espie and were disappointed to find that the tearooms at the jetty was closed for Christmas week. We walked back to the YHA via the Coffee Cat caravan at the sea lion jetty, which, as the only cafe open, was doing a roaring trade.
The sea lion jetty is used by a lot of anglers and has a fish cleaning/gutting/scaling area, it also has a resident sea lion which hoovers up any scraps that get thrown into the water. We sat with our coffee watching in amazement as a bloke turned up with a large Esky (cool box) from which he produced a number of good sized fish which he gutted, scaled and threw to the sea lion. The guts went into a bag to be disposed of later, the sea lion got the cleaned fish. Now I'm not a biologist and could be wrong but I've never seen a sea lion gut any fish it has caught itself, they get eaten whole, so why gut a fish before feeding it to a sea lion? Jude later told us that it isn't uncommon for people to buy fish from the fishmonger specifically to feed to the sea lion, especially when he returns from the isles after mating season is over. I reckon there must be quite a battle between the male sea lions to get the Espie jetty gig.

Help, get

us outta here.
On the 29th we sat at the TransWA stop waiting and hoping that what the driver had told us was true. He pulled up, looked at the kit, grinned, opened a luggage bay and said "If you can get it in there, I'll take it, that space is all yours." Fantastic! We dropped the front wheel out and slid the Jaffanaut straight into the bay, secured it with a compression strap and threw the bags in around it. The driver checked on us, "Need a hand? Ah no, you're sorted, good, let's go." Four hours later we reversed the process in the 40 degree heat of Kalgoorlie. We had 9 hours to kill before check in for the Indian Pacific so I went looking for a left luggage area so we could dump the bags and take the Jaffanaut on a local tour.
"Can I help you?"
"Er yes, we're on the Indian Pacific tonight and..."
"No you ent.."
Clare thinks "Shit we're here on the wrong day, we've missed the train, what do we do now?"
"...there's bin a derailment, nuffin's gooing up the track."
"You wanna goo tuh Visitor Centre, we dun't know nuffin 'ere"

It occurred to me later that the Kalgoorlie locals speak Australian with a Northamptonshire accent - weird.

The Visitor Centre didn't know much more than the station staff but they called GSR and let me speak to them, our options are a complete refund or we get the train at 01:40 on Saturday and spend 2 nights in Adelaide, courtesy of GSR, on the way to Sydney. For us it's a no-brainer, the tandem is too big to fly out from Kalgoorlie, so we'd have to get a bus back to Perth before taking a plane from there with a large excess baggage charge because internal flights have lower baggage limits than international ones. We take the later train with stopover offer and find accommodation at the YHA.

You know you are somewhere hot when even the budget accommodation has air-con. We wilted whenever we stepped outside, this didn't stop us pedalling up to the Super Pit on the 30th, it seemed such a good idea until we hit the slope up to the viewing area, the artificial hill was made from mine waste and was light grey gravel, so we were dazzled by the light reflecting off the road, boiled by the sun from above and reflected heat from below and skittered all over the place on loose gravel. Having said that we got to the top without incident and gazed in awe at the most enormous hole in the ground. It is an astonishing structure, the ore carrying trucks have wheels taller than me yet they look like Dinky toys from the viewing point. The whole thing stands on (or in) the Golden Mile which is the most gold infested area in the world (at the moment). Originally there were a lot of little mines in the area, they eventually all amalgamated, started open-cast mining and now the hole can be seen from space.
The ride back down to Kalgoorlie was scarier than the ride up, we bounced and clattered around in the gravel trying not to brake too sharply or accelerate too much to take the corner at the bottom of the hill, all the while being showered with gravel spat at us by the wheels of cars heading up the hill. Safely back on tarmac roads we headed to the CBD for a coffee and were delighted to discover from a couple of young lads that the Jaffanaut is "sick" although they weren't too impressed with the SPD pedals and didn't believe it is safer to be attached to the bike while riding it. We chatted about set up and touring for a while before they said "Anyway, mustn't keep you" and wandered away, we were still grinning as we ordered our daily caffeine fix. It has been noticeable that small children see us and point in wonder, adults either look confused or just don't see us but teenagers always notice and usually want to ask questions and are very interested in the tandem and our journey. We've been asked about gear ratios, steel vs aluminium for distance touring, the comfort of Brooks saddles, how much the whole thing weighs and how long it takes us to stop in a hurry, how far we can ride in a day and how we got it all over here.

Back at the YHA we stuck our fingers in our ears and said "La, la, la We're not listening" as the other residents queued to tell us horror stories about the derailment, apparently it wouldn't be cleared for a fortnight because a driver of an important bit of plant had gone on holiday with the keys in his pocket, it'll be months because they've got to rebuild so much track and we won't get free accommodation in Adelaide because, well we just won't, okay?
We sought refuge in the swimming pool and agreed that we'd check in at the time we'd been told to and see what happened next.

Additional photos below
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13th January 2011

Hello my fat friends! Clearly this is fast becoming a travel with a bike rather than on one. Whilst it is easy to laugh at your feeble efforts to ride any meaningfull distances, cope with the heat, road trains or size of the task you set out for yourself, I remain slightly jealous and wholely enjoy reading your blog. During my ride across the deserts in Oz I would often wake at 4am as the sun rose at 7.30 I'd then ride 160+km at 26kph without stopping due to the flies. At least your having a ball sight seeing. I took the Ghan back from Darwin, a great experience! Best of luck x
14th January 2011

...occasional cycling!
'Ow do skinny, we're managing 100km on a good day and when the heat is too much we manage bugger all. We always knew that riding the whole thing wasn't likely to happen but we blew a lot of time in WA just stopping to look at stuff and faffing around. Of course we should have ridden all the way to Kalgoorlie and on solos we may well would have done but the road trains coupled with not having any control absolutely terrified me. Standing at the side of the road shaking and crying uncontrollably isn't good for anything! And yeah, we're still fat, need to get out on the bike more!! Cheers, C&V.

Tot: 2.066s; Tpl: 0.053s; cc: 22; qc: 94; dbt: 0.048s; 1; m:saturn w:www (; sld: 1; ; mem: 1.6mb