Australia Blog 4
Melbourne to Seymour, Victoria – 73 miles
Seymour to Wangaratta, Victoria – 94 miles
The good news was that through literal exhaustion I cracked the jet lag problem and slept over 9 hours. The bad news was that I overslept and set off north about an hour and a half later than hoped! As it happened being Saturday the Melbourne traffic was reasonable with fewer trucks and vans. In the 22 miles it took me to leave the metropolis I obviously saw more of the city.
Just above the Central Business District the housing is mediocre in architecture (and upkeep). To add to this vista there are many empty unlet shops resplendent with graffiti. My route out of town was via my Garmin 830 Sat Nav. Like the town planners the routing it selects is to avoid cars and trucks wherever possible. This is sensible but tedious.
You are continually steered toward leisure bike trails and the number of crossings and traffic lights are innumerable. When you’re not bouncing up a kerb then you could be stood for 5 minutes at a busy junction whilst the cars filter through. Eventually the housing got more attractive, the neighbourhoods more cared for and the roads wider.
Predictably the road system was now about moving people between cities rather than suburbs. This meant a ring road, flyovers and faster movement. It still wasn’t pleasant but I was delighted when I eventually escaped the ‘stop and start’ and could make some progress.
The countryside opened up and the traffic melted away after Epping. Thereafter until Seymour it was me and pick ups at usually one every 5 or 10 minutes. The landscape was mainly flat but with undulations. The occupiers of the land were farmers. I saw horses, sheep, vineyards and cattle. There was nothing arable that I could see (except grapes). The land looked dry but not as parched as South Africa a couple of months earlier.
Noting Master Blake’s instruction to regularly stop and eat I found the following gastronomic surprise in Wadonga. I was enticed into the lunchtime special for $13. Basically chips with deep fried hake, a ‘flake’ and deep fried ‘dim sum’. The chips were great, the hake was dry and hadn’t made a successful migration from the freezer. I later learned that the ‘flake’ was shark but I would say the taste and texture was like a deep fried beer mat. The dim sun was a crime against humanity and one nibble saw me abandon any thoughts of pursuing.
Now weighed down by this lunch I went about the ready supply of hills in front of me. In fact I climbed 900 metres for the day. There were few climbs over 8% but it wasn’t the start the legs were looking for. My campsite in Seymour was fine resplendent with nearby picnic table and benches for organising my dinner and bags.
After my ablutions I’d gone in search of a supermarket and came across Aldi. At the checkout I was whinging to the lad on the tills about an absence of baskets, only trolleys. (Yes, I know First World problems). He noted the accent and enquired as to my origins. I replied the ‘north’ of England. (The risk of being identified as a southerner wasn’t a risk I was prepared to take). He pursued me by saying “where?” I now expected the supplementary of “do you know a Mrs Smith who lives in Blackpool?” Remarkably it transpired he’d four years at Queen Ethelburga’s school between Knaresborough and York. His father was posted to the UK wraith the airforce.
Back at the site my potato salad, salmon fillet, tomato and banana hopefully met the Master’s consumption requirements.
Well waking was easy. Cockatoos make the most harsh squawking sound I know as they swoop around the trees. I worry that me and the birdies may have a fractious relationship over the next few weeks.
Porridge consumed and the journey north east continued. Although it didn’t.
I went north for about 30 minutes before realising that a correction was needed and I went due East to get back on course. The scenery remained engaging with some beautiful horses and some alpaca’s seeking the shade as the temperature rose. I passed an small airport with helicopters and small planes. I know I’m a long way from the Outback but I imagined Skippy hopping 60 miles to whisper, in their special language, a message to the Flying Doctor. At which point the good doctor would be cranking up the Cessna to seek out Bruce still prone at the bottom of a creek.
However this detour was not good news given by how tight time was. Off the beaten track the roads were Roman straight and I hardly ever saw a car or truck. It was Sunday but I think it wasn’t ever like Piccadilly Circus during the week. The route was flat and the pace good. I slipped on the headphones and played the iPod.
I’d set myself a big distance for the day and had a decision to make. Should I take the motorway most of the 60 miles to Wangaratta? It was a four lane motorway with a very wide hard shoulder and permission for bikes to ride along it. It also was pancake flat. The maximum gradient, until I left it was about 2% and mainly 1%. I ate up the miles but I was seeing nothing other than trucks and cars passing at 70mph. The trucks are all American. Magnificent and massive creations of beauty. I did stop off in Euroa for lunch and to cool down. The temperatures were now mainly mid 30s but it did peak later at 39.3°.
In fact I found myself going slower. I wonder why as I toasted. It was simply the heat draining the legs. I pulled into a rest area beside the motorway to let my brain de-frazzle.
Getting to Warrangatta was touch and go and I aimed for a nearer stop. However, I couldn’t find the identified campsite and pushed onto a brilliant campsite at Warrangatta. It truly was a beautiful with well built facilities with all sorts of amenities. However, Reception was shut.
Well I wasn’t going to cycle on as I’d done 94 miles and was rather weary. I’d pay tomorrow. So I’m pitching my tent when an Eva Braun lookalike called ‘Gini’ with a German accent strides toward me in a uniform to ask about my presence? I greeted her kindly and said that Reception was closed and I’d planned to pay the next morning. “But didn’t you see the sign saying you should call?” “I did but it said ‘in emergency’”. “But it said you must ring”. So here I am contemplating the Monty Python sketch of whether we were going to have a 5 minute or 10 minute argument over bugger all.
I did gently pursue the point that a bloke on a bike is not in the same league as the laundry block on fire. She wasn’t having it and prattled on about health and safety and other miscreants coming and going without paying historically. Again my mind started to contemplate telling her that the British stopped shipping convicts across in the 19th Century. As I’m enduring this graceless customer relations disaster I’m sure I saw her fondling an Iron Cross around her neck. I deduced her irritation may have been caused by her being dragged away from her Mein Kampf reading class.
Anyway with her still insisting it was an emergency I paid my $30 and she smugly then passed across the code for the shower block believing that this was another good reason why I should have activated the ‘Emergency’ hot line. Oh Sweetie, I’m from Yorkshire I thought, I’d tapped one of the inmates for that info just after arriving. Leaving her presence I wondered whether the next morning I would awake to the tannoy blaring “Tomorrow Belongs To Me”. As It happens it was was those bloody cockatoos again…