Thursday, 29 October 2015


15 to 17 Oct - A short trip down south
Waiting in Perth for our spare parts to arrive in the mail became frustrating so we decided to take a short trip south.  We took the train to Mandurah and we explored what I remembered of the bushland between Perth and Bunbury.  Unfortunately in the decades since my childhood and today much of the land has been converted into housing estates - however if you look carefully there are still good things to see.

Sunset over Peel Inlet

Thrombolites - cyanobacteria colonies responsible for oxygenating the planet.  Lake Clifton

Banksia in flower.  The banksia woodland vegetation community feels homely to me.

Thu 22 Oct - John Forrest National Park
Eventually our bike parts arrived and we were able to depart.
Due to time constraints (and because we've not been this way before) we decided to head east towards Kalgoolie rather than south towards Albany.
We took the train to Midland and joined the Heritage railtrail from Midland, through John Forrest National Park to Woorloo.  This railtrail takes two old railway routes to create a Midland, Chidlow, Midland cycling loop that is well worth visiting.  The trail also continues north east between Chidlow and Woorloo but this less used section is a little softer than the main cycling loop - easily navigable but a bit challenging if you riding with a tour load.  We elected to ride on the quiet roads that follow the former rail reserve. 

Xanthorrhoea - thriving following recent fires in John Forrest National Park

Rail tunnel in John Forrest National Park built in the C19th and until they built the Perth City underground in early C21st the only tunnel on the Perth railway network

A red tailed black cockatoo 

Kangaroo Paw in full bloom

Friday 23 Oct Goomelling
There are two main ways out of Perth heading East.  The first is the Great Eastern Highway - which takes you to either Northam or York.  The second heads north east via the Swan - Avon river valley to Toodyay.  Both are busy undulating roads.  Of the two Great Eastern is the busier and better made.

Toodyay Road is an undulating stripe of bitumen with double white lines and a narrow loose pea gravel shoulder. Riding it a hairy experience that requires one eye on the road ahead and another in the rear vision mirror.  We were frequently veering off the road and into the loose gravel to avoid grain trucks as they thundered upon us.  Maintaining control of the bike as you hit loose gravel at speed is really challenging.

I had my first stack of the ride on Toodyay Road.  One of my panniers worked loose on a downhill run and it looked like it would fall off.   I grabbed a handful of brakes and pulled off the road.  As my wheels locked up and hit loose gravel the bike slipped out from under me and I went over the handlebars. My shoulder and hands took most of the blow but overall the stack was a minor one.

The stack tore open the shoulder of my shirt.  I pretty much had to reconstruct it.

We took the first opportunity possible to leave Toodyay Road, opting instead for a "Pioneer's scenic route" - a gravel road that followed the river and railway.

The Prospector makes its way East

At Toodyay bakery we found a lovely bakery with a first floor dining area where we ate some very reasonably priced and giant sized pastries.  It seems "Perth prices' only apply to the city.  The FIFO price premium that appears to apply to takeaway food doesn't extend into the country.

An Australian Ring Necked Parrot (aka Twenty Eight Parrot) joined us for lunch
From Toodyay we continued north east towards Goomelling, the place of the possum. As we got further away from Perth and the main roads East the traffic volumes dropped.  The road to Goomelling, whilst still undulating and narrow was sufficiently quiet to be an enjoyable ride.  The road passes several granite outcroppings and is quite scenic.  Riding was fun again.

The Goomelling Grain Silos are space age looking domes.
A big monitor lizard warms itself on the pavers as we enjoy afternoon tea.

Sat 24 Oct White Man's Rock
We are in wheatbelt country now and for kilometres of our ride we pass fields of ready to harvest wheat yellowing in the sun.  People who regularly drive through the wheatbelt had suggested the countryside could get a bit monotonous but at cycling speed I found plenty of small scale variety to keep interested.  Throughout the day we passed small patches of remnant bushland, granite outcroppings other points of interest in the sea of grain.  Those fragments of bush included some wonderful wild flowers.

The farms were established before widespread car ownership and it shows in the spacing of the towns.  The settlements are between 20 and 40 kilometres apart - about as far as a person can travel in a day with a horse or ox drawn cart. The result is very comfortable riding conditions, and a town for every meal break.  Unfortunately car ownership is near universal, these towns are losing their reason for being as locals dive to larger towns like Merredin for the weekly shop.

We stopped at Dowerin for breakfast at a bakery - and enjoyed a chocolate bar in a shaded seating area overgrown with a creeper.  It made the place look like a bird hide, and it as a good spot to watch the goings on of the main street without being pulled in to the "what you riding a bike for?' conversation.

At Wyalkatchem we stopped for lunch at the pub, and it being after 12 on a Saturday it was the only place open.  (WA takes its trading hours seriously,  The shops are pretty much closed from middeay Saturday to 8am Monday).

At Trayning we enjoyed an afternoon tea in front of the English, Scottish and Australian Bank (I thought that sounded like the set up to a bad joke.  Maree disagreed).

On the road between Wyalkatchem and Trayning we found trees ripe with quondongs.  We pulled over and and sampled a few of these bright red balls of sour deliciousness.

Our campsite was a granite outcropping just north of Trayning called White Mans Rock.  It took a little longer than expected to get there but we got some great sunset photos along the way.

The Quondong tree

Kamgaroos loose in the top paddock - This Euro didn't much care about the farmers wheat.

Sun 25 Oct Mukinbudin
Today was a difficult day of riding.  The wind blowing strong from the east and we had headwinds all day.  We were both cranky about it and barely said a word to each other all day.

The we are reaching the more marginal parts of the wheatbelt - the land where it transitions into the goldfields - and localities that were not established until the soldier settlement scheme.  It is beautiful country but not a good place to grow wheat.  We passed several salt lakes and several townships were abandoned.  The scheme to turn crown land into farms might have been popular politically, but didn't work environmentally or commercially.
Gnamma Hole - these granite formations create natural water holes throughout the wheatbelt.

The Noongar creation time story about these waterholes involves an echidna who wandered throughout the wheatbelt country digging these holes as she rested. These rock hole water supplies were one of the more reliable water sources in this country - so needless to say they are places of intense cultural significance.  

The strong winds brought heavy cloud and the signs of a thunder storm.  Around four and as we approached 100km for the day the clouds started looking particularly nasty and we pulled off the road to make camp. The ground was hard making it impossible to drive in pegs so we used our panniers as corner weights instead.  Shortly after pitching the tent the rains started.  Heavy globs of driving rain hammered the nylon fly as we huddled and watched flashes of lightening strobe around us.
Thunderstorm is coming. We got the tent up just in time.

Mon 26 Oct - Bullfinch and Southern Cross
We survived the thunderstorm but as we rode the next day we surveyed the damage.  Strong winds had brought down trees.  Every low point in the ground was now a small pool and the croaking of frogs provided a soundtrack for our ride into the first town of the goldfields, Bullfinch.

Bullfinch was tiny locality. A pained car bonnet declared it a town of 35 people + Larry.  It was also the end of our quiet backroads alternative to Great Eastern Highway.  Our last leg of the day took us to Southern Cross, and from there the only road east was the main drag.

My mum works throughout the wheatbelt and she suggested the Goomelling to Bullfinch route as a place of scenic beauty and an alternative to the Great Eastern Highway.  I happily pass on that recommendation to my fellow bike tourists..  

Trees lost branches in the thunderstorm and blocked the road.

One last look at the flat fields of grain that give this district its name.

Shingle back (aka bobtailed) lizard

Tue 29 Oct - The Pipe
At Southern Cross we got a weather report.  It showed a high pressure system in the bight, meaning anti-clockwise winds (easterlies).  In addition to riding the main drag we had several days of headwinds ahead.  Not so fun.

Great Eastern Highway is the main (and only) road between Southern Cross and Kalgoolie.  It attracts significant truck traffic - a mix of oversized vehicles hauling mining equipment and road trains hauling general freight on the direct east-west route between Perth and the eastern states.  There's also a smattering of caravan traffic, but nothing like the convoys of caravans we saw on the Stuart Highway..

The highway passes through the Yellowdine Nature Reserve and Boorabbin National Parks, and there's plenty of 'big sky views' across the mallee.  The goldfields pipeline follows the highway and there are several pumping station rest areas to check out.  We didn't. Between the trucks and the headwinds we adopted a 'get it done' attitude and we each rode to our own pace (with Maree way in front this time).

In the late afternoon the sky clouded over again and threatened to thunderstorm.  This time the rain and thunder fell to the east of us.  As the sun went down we watched the horizon light up as lightening danced off in the distance.  It was quite a show.

A roadside memorial to three truck drivers who attempted to outrun a bushfire.
When we pitched camp I realised I'd done something really dumb when we were in Southern Cross.  I had put my SPOT tracking beacon in the garden to send a "I've safely made camp" message, but I hadn't collected it after the message was sent.  I had left my emergency beacon in the Southern Cross Caravan Park.  Fortunately I was able to call the park and ask for it to be mailed to me in Kalgoolie. Fingers crossed we will soon be reunited.

Wed 28 Oct - Coolgardie
Riding Great Eastern Highway into a headwind is one of those things you need to do to reach your destination.  My knees hurt.

Thu 29 Oct - Kalgoolie
Kalgoolie is a major city.  I expected a big town, but this is a small city - with traffic to match.
We rest here for two days Thursday and Friday, and then depart Saturday for the Nullabor.

Thursday, 15 October 2015


In the days before written history Noongar men and women met on Herrison Island and make preparations for important ceremonies.  The Noongar still camp on the Island, but their encampment serves a more desperate purpose.

After meeting at Herrison Island the tribes would split by gender.  Men and boys and men would walk the north bank of the Swan River till they reached Mout Claremont.  There boys would undergo ceremonal chest scarring and and return as men.  For over 200 generations father and son have asended the mount and performed the sacred initiation ritual.  This law was ancient when Abraham and Issac first asended their mountain.

On the southern bank the women performed their own rites.  What they where I do not know for I am not a Noongar woman and some stories are not for sharing. 

Men on the north bank, women on the south bank, the Noongar walked the Swan river in accordance with the law of this country.  As they approached the sea the men crossed the Swan at the tidal shallows located downstream from today's Sirling Highway.  Here the tribe is reunited and Noongar women meet the young men they once know as boys for the first time.

In the days of the Great White Queen captains Stirling and Fremantle sailed across the world to survey the Black Swan River and establish a township.  Part Indian Ocean naval supply station, part whale processing depot and a large part real estate speculation, the Swan river colony faced difficult beginnings, not the least because it wasn't the fertile land suited to European agriculture that the colonists thought they were buying.

By the time the grief stricken Queen donned her veil in rememberance of her beloved husband the town on the Swan had become a thriving settlement - a place that starting to strain under the restrictions of a river that could only be navigated using shallow draught boats.  If the emerging city of Perth was to take its place within the mighty British Empire it needed a deep water port.  This was a problem worthy of the colony's engineer in chief Charles Yelverton O' Connor.

Work gangs under the instruction of O' Connor dug, cut and blasted away at the mouth of the Swan river for eleven years to create a port worthy of the greatest ships of the scientific age. As shipping traffic grew and the colony was gripped by gold fever, little thought was given to the shallow crossing point once located at the mouth of the Swan.  

The Noongar gave a great deal of thought to C Y O' Connor's act of desecration.  They sung songs of sadness to the waters forever changed by the intrusion of new tidal flows, to the creatures affected by the disrupted salinity and erosion and for the land that formed the stage for their coming of age ceremony forever destroyed.  As they sang C. Y. O' Connor set to his next task - the one he is most remembered for - a water pipeline servicing goldfields of Kalgoolie .

The Goldfields water pipeline was a massive infrastructure project, nation building in the truest sence of the word (Kalgoolie gold miners were not fans of federation, projects like the pipeline helped change their mind).  It was mad, heroic civil engineering - an epic mega structure to rival the projects of that great engineer of the Victorian age, Isambard Brunel.

The Goldfields pipeline was to be the worlds longest water main, 5 million gallons of water per day, 330 miles inland via eight pumping stations.  Its 2.5 million pound price tag had the potential to bankrupt the colony and there was no guarantee that it would even work. 

The Goldfields pipeline would take over six years to complete, the project would lose its political champion to the federation debate and throughout construction C. Y. O' Connor was subjected to relentless personal attack from local newspapers.

On the 10 March 1902 C. Y. O' Connor mounted his horse, rode into the surf, put a pistol to his head and blew his brains out.

The traditional explaination for C. Y. O' Connor's death is that the stresses associated with managing the Goldfield Pipeline project, along with technical difficulties (the pipe and reserviors along the way took longer to fill than expected, resulting in an embarrasing lack of water in Kalgoolie when the pipe was first turned on) got too much for O' Connor and he committed suicide.

The Noongar have another explaination, one where the spirits of the land and the power of ceremony are central.  In this version of the story, songs can kill and the Noongar sung O' Connor to death as punishment for deceration of the Swan River.

Why am I telling you this story (other than because its a ripping yarn blending local history, heroic engineering and gothic horror?)  Maree and I have changed our plans.  We aren't going to tour the south-west of WA.  We are heading east - into the wheatbelt and gold fields following the pipeline. 

Wednesday, 14 October 2015


Fremantle 14 Oct
My last blog post was late September from Fitzroy Crossing.  Its nearly a fortnight later and many thousands of kilometres south.   Since my last post we have:

  • Ridden from Fitzroy Crossing to Broome in oppressive tropical heat
  • Spent several days bumming around in Broome, enjoying many mango flavoured treats and creepy tales of mangrove mud-men. 
  • Pulled our bikes apart, put them into cardboard boxes, flown from Broome to Perth and then reconstructed our bikes in the baggage collection area of Perth Airport.
  • Met up with three different sets of relatives - as you do when visiting your home town.
  • Organised a night to catch up with as many Perth mates as I could - which inevitably ended as a night of heavy drinking at the pub. 
  • Placed spare parts orders for our bikes after discovering that pretty much all the bike shops in Perth cater to the road racing set and that they order touring bike parts when from the same Melbourne shops we know and love.
  • Planned a day of  birthday fun for Maree 
  • Enjoyed a day trip riding around Rottnest Island.

All these thoughts of flying and the time I've spent arranging and visiting Perth friends and relatives has changed my focus.  When I was on the road and it looked like that's where would be for the foreseeable future I was focused on the experience, taking notes every day, taking photos and writing up a detailed account of the past day's travel each time we got a bit of internet access.    Deciding to fly to Perth changed my headspace and made me consider life outside the ride, people I'd not seen for years and even what happens when its all over.  Time I've previously spent writing about the ride has been spent organising Perth meetups - and even brushing up skills that could be useful when the ride is done.

The ride
On the road from Fitzroy Crossing to Broome I spent most of my 'hiding from the midday sun' rest breaks doing some coding.  Last year I learnt a bit of python, and I've been using it to clean up information that's stored on some excel spreadsheets.  Hardly gripping stuff, but its a challenging beginner level problem that applies what I've learnt and stops me from getting rusty.  If I get the code to work the way I want to, it will be useful at work.  Its been fun.   There's something pretty wonderful about coding in the bush on a device that you can keep charged using the bike's dynamo lighting system.  It's the fulfilment of the "you can work from anywhere - who needs an office" fantasy we all bought into when we bought our first laptop computer.

Foggy dawn at the campsite
The cool of the morning turns oppressive humidity into fog on the road into Broome

Broome, of course, on the ocean and the north western extent of the ride.  We celebrated by heading to the beach and wetting our feet in the ocean.  Our last view of the ocean in mid July as we ascended the Adelaide Hills.

Sunrise over Roebuck Bay
One evening we ordered a take away dinner and took it to a hill above the mangroves.  We watched hordes of  bats leave their mangrove roost as the sun set.  Our spot was a little secluded, away from the main tourist drag and near an aboriginal community.  As we ate Marie and Tommy, two residents joined us.  Marie told us that the mangroves were dangerous at night - that spirit people,  mud men, attacked people who wandered into the mangroves at night and drowned them in the mangrove stink.  Having scared the willies out of us with the perfect ghost story, she then told us that there were people who got fighting drunk in the community, so hanging around the community after dark probably wasn't a good idea.  We took their advice and quickly moved on.

A sea eagle keeps sentinel over the mangroves
If you are planning to visit Broome and you have some flexibility with your timetable, aim to be there near the full moon, when the tides are at their greatest extent.  There are two natural phenomena that we missed, but you ought to see if you can.  The first is 'Staircase to the Moon', the reflection of the full moon on the shallow waters of Roebuck Bay, the second is the dinosaur trackway off Gantheaume point. Most days the dinosaur tracks are hidden by ocean, but on the lowest tides of the month the sea recedes to reveal theropod footprints from the cretaceous period frozen in the rocks..  (We were dead keen to see these treats, didn't get the timing right.  I wish you better luck).

I have visited Rottnest Island as a child many times.  I've ridden much of the island, but for all my childhood adventures I never made it to the west end of the island.  In my mind it was this distant, almost impossible destination.  When planning the ride making to the west end was one of my goals.
It turns out the west end is only 11km from the Tompson Bay Jetty and if you are reasonably fit and are riding something other than an ill fitting, slightly rusty single speed hire bike its quite a manageable ride.

We finished the Rottnest circuit ride earlier than expected and spent a few hours at the settlement enjoying icecreams and watching the quokkas. It was a great day.

Rottnest is an island of beautiful bays
Pelican roost - A reason to build those lamp poles strong. 
Mother quokka with upside down baby in pouch
Baby quokka emerges from pouch
Baby returns for a feed 
Away from the settlement most quokkas thrive on wild foods
Although the smell of fresh bread in a pannier bag can be irresistible
And daring quokkas will stick their heads into the front wheel to stop you from riding away
Shop keepers on the island don't find quokkas quite as appealing as tourists do.

Thursday, 1 October 2015


Thu 24 Sep - Kununurra and Doon Doon Roadhouse
Our Kunanurra stay was three days of blessed air conditioning and a chance to escape the heat.  We became experts in the siesta, getting up with the morning sun, seeing a few sights before breakfast then hiding inside until dark.

Hidden Valley National Park is a beautiful group of sandstone outcroppings on the suburban edge of Kununurra.   There is a lookout over the town and signs explaining bush food and medicinal uses of local plants. It is close enough to town to be popular with morning joggers and has some great looking rock features.  Well worth a look.

The country on the road out of Kunanurra is fantastic.  It's a mix of natural rock features, irrigated crop lands and small mines. Riding out of town meant riding through the Ord River agricultural area, then through the undulating country that forms the river basin.  Eroded Devonian sandstones provide the spectacular rock formations, and waters of the Ord support the plant diversity.
Today the winds were a mixed blessing.  Our first 30km was generally westerly and the winds gave us a strong push along.  Then the road turned south and we were riding into the wind.  It fought our progress but at least it was cooling.

At the 100km mark we arrived at the Doon Doon roadhouse where we did our now familiar trick of spending big on cold drinks and icecreams.  We arrived at 1 and left at 4pm.  Our campsite was a pretty spot not far from the roadhouse.  We had intended to go further, but haven't quite got used to the new timezone.   The sun is now setting around 5pm.   We expected more riding time and got caught out.  I blame the three days in Kunanurra under artificial light.  Town living has made us soft.

Hidden Valley National Park
A national park on the edge of town, a Kununurra must see

Boab country

Fri 25 Sep  - Doon Doon to Warmun
More beautiful country.  Overall I'd say the country from Kathrine to here has been some of the best in our travels.  This really is great place to live. No wonder the people who do live here are getting cranky about the efforts of the WA government to close down their towns. 

Closing down remote townships is a stupid way to make the problems with remote townships go away

In the midst of this wonderful country is tbe Savannah nickel mine. As we rode we were passed by road trains with dumper trailers carrying ore. Carrying ore by truck seems a labour and fuel intensive way of transporting metals and it got me thinking about the economics of working in remote Australia.  How valuable (dollars per tonne kilometre) does something have to be before its no longer worthwhile transporting.  How much do subsidies such as the diesel fuel rebate change those sums?  Is the tax system propping up business practises that might otherwise not be financially viable, and if so would more places remain wilderness if these tax perks weren't in place?
At the Warmum (formerly Turkey Creek) roadhouse we arranged a bus tour to see Purnululu National Park (aka the Bungle Bungle Range).  Both Maree and I had flagged visiting the Bungle Bungles as something we'd wanted to see but missed on our first trip, so visiting the National Park was one of the things we were looking forward to since the planning stages of the ride.   

Purnululu National Park is about 120km Warmum and 150km from Halls Creek.  The only access is via a 53km private road across Mable Downs cattle station - a corrugated track best suited to high clearance four wheel drive vehicles.  We'd both skipped it the first time for good reason.  Attempting to ride there was likely to destroy our bikes.   A bus tour was the only really practical way to make the journey. 

Clocking over 6,000km
Shadow selfie

la vache furtif

Sat 26 Sep Warmun to Mable Downs
We rose early for our 60km ride to the Mable Downs farm gate, the start point of our bus tour.  We arrived at 9am and then had a day to relax.  The bus tour departs 7am on Sunday.  We found a shady spot and then improved it by using grass and tree branches to create temporary roof.  Without really trying we'd made a bird hide.  From our covered position we watched as flocks of black cockatoos and budgerigars did their thing whilst and kites soared overhead.   

Sun 27 Sept - A bus trip to Purnululu National Park
We slept under a fly net and a bright nearly full moon. We awoke before dawn to the sight of an Venus low prominent in the sky.  After pulling down the tent and hiding our bikes we walked to the caravan park just inside the farm gate to meet the tour bus.  Given our distance from the nearest anything I'm not sure what the caravan park residents made of us casually strolling through the front gate the front gate. 

The bus trip visited Cathedral Gorge and Echidna Chasm, two prominent features of the Bungle Bungle range.  The range comprises eroded sandstone, once a riverbank later forced up from the surrounding land by volcanic activity associated with a fault line that rounds from Halls Creek to Darwin.  I suspect activity associated with this fault has also been responsible for much of the spectacular landforms that we've been enjoying during our last couple of weeks riding.

Cathedral Gorge is on the southern part of the range where finer river silts created softer sandstones.  These fine sandstones have eroded to form banded beehive shaped domes.  The coloured bands reflect the clay composition of the rock and the action of cyanobacteria.  The clay rich rock retains moisture, promotes bacterial growth and is stained black.  The drier clay poor rock is stained red by rusting action of iron oxides. The overall effect these rounded blocks projecting from the ground is reminiscent of abandoned city.

Echidna Chasm is on the northern side of the range, upstream of the ancient river where smoothed fist sized igneous rocks were deposited.  Here the rock is a conglomerate resembling a loose red concrete. Echinda chasm is a long, deep crack in the range.  About 20m into the fissure it opens out into  amphitheatre space before narrowing again to a passage little wider than your outstretched arms.  It's an eerie space that reminded me of the hidden passages of an Indianna Jones movie.
At the entrance of to the chasm there are Livingstonii palms, a relic of a rainforest past.  The creationtime story of the place involves an echinda desperate to escape a crow digging into the rock and shedding its spines in its efforts to escape.  The long stems of palm trees are the remains of its spines.

The bus tour included the an offer of campfire dinner back at the caravan park.  We politely declined in favour of returning to our bikes before dark.  We'd hidden our bikes quite well and were were a little concerned that we might not be able to find them in the dark.  Fortunately didn't become a problem and we were able to find our bikes,  enjoy a spectacular sunset and watch the full moon rise in company of our own choosing.

Mon 28 Sep - Mable Downs to Halls Creek
We are currently waking up at 4.30am, half an hour before dawn.  Whilst that sounds mad, in our minds solar time and clock time are two different things.  Here in the eastern part of WA clock time is screwy.  WA is a big state and wider than a usual timezone.  The current clock time seems a compromise to keep the state on Perth time at the expense of a solar reality.  We (and it appears most of the locals) cope just doing things earlier in the day - in effect creating a defacto daylight savings.
As we ride south towards Halls Creek we pass over bridges and sandy river banks.  On my first ride I swam in those rivers and held my head underwater listening to the clicks of underwater life.  Now it is only the green of established trees that give clues to any life at all.  The place is dry, and drier than normal.  The skinny looking cattle that stray over the road provide more proof that the country is stressed this summer.

The cattle are floppy eared Brahman cattle, bred for drought tolerance but not smarts.  As we ride cows regularly stray onto the road and look confused at our passing.  Sometimes they hold their ground other times they take one look and bolt.  Many times I've ended up herding a bunch of cows who'd rather run along the road at my pace rather than turn into the bushes. Sometimes its a bit concerning that such big beasts are so unpredictable.

These particular cows are a little bit famous.  We are passing though the cattle stations that were the subject of a 2013/14 animal welfare video depicting conditions inside Indonesian abattoirs.  It depicted poorly trained and poorly paid people working a crappy job and taking it out on the cattle.  At the time it created a massive scandal as people were outraged that 'those' Indonesians could treat 'our' cattle so badly.  The upshot was a temporary suspension of live cattle exports.  The scandal saw a unusual meeting of political interests, vegans and anti-Halal Australian nationalists.  Its an alliance I don't expect to see again any time soon.

We are still in boab country.  In the late morning I stopped at a particularly fruitful specimen and collected several nuts lying on the ground.  At lunch I cracked one open and we shared the pulp as a tasty treat.  In the afternoon as I rode I flung seeds in regular intervals along the road.   In my way I felt I was continuing the tradition of human dispersal of the boab.

The weather has moderated. We are now experiencing maximums of 32 degrees with evening minima in the teens.  The cool nights especially have improved cycling conditions. Calling 32 degrees a cool change feels a bit odd, but a welcome cool change it is.
Halls Creek was chance to fill up with water and enjoy some junk food under a shady tree.  We missed our chance for a more substantial supermarket shop because it closed early in response to a WA public holiday.

Tue 29 Sep - On the road Halls Creek to Fitzroy Crossing
Its just under 300km between Halls Creek to Fitzroy Crossing.  There are no roadhouses and no public water tanks between them  This is our longest stretch so far between facilities. On the whole a bad place for bike problems - so of course here is where I badly damage by back wheel.

I was riding and making good pace when I felt the thud of my back wheel hitting something hard.  The bike started handling badly as my back tyre lost pressure.  These are the classic signs of a pinch flat.  They are annoying but they happen.  I took the gear off, removed the back wheel, tyre and found the pinch flat on the inner tube.  I glued on a replacement patch and was started the process of putting it all back together when I noticed a loose spoke, then another.  This was more than just a puncture.  The spokes weren't broken, a chunk of the rear hub had been torn off.  Fortunately I was able to jury rig something with some kevlar spoke replacements.  It involved threading the kevlar around several of the remaining spokes, then repacking to reduce load on the back wheel. It's fairly ugly looking hack but its been holding up so far and I'm reasonably confident It will get me as far as Broome.

The country still delivers surprises.  We passed a granitic ridge line that resembles the Devils 
Marbles.  The suprising part of it was it didn't even have a road side parking area.  The are spectacular and are yet another example of the things you see when travelling at a human pace and miss when travelling behind a windscreen. Perhaps the NT is just better at exploiting this type of feature as a tourist thing than WA is.

A huge red full moon rises over our campsite.  The sky is full of smoke from nearby fires and as the moon appears over the horizon it appears a deep orange through the haze. The features of the moon, its rocky mountains and dusty lava plains, are clearly visible on on its face.  It is the only point of light and dominates the sky.

A wedge tailed eagle patiently waiting for me to get away from his roadkill dinner.
Not the devils marbles - a natural WA wonder that's not publicised

My back wheels is now held together with a few bits of cord

Wed 30 Sep - Arrival at Fitzroy Crossing
Once again we awake before the sun rises and the moon has set.  Mornings are a special time to ride, it is cool and dawn gives the land a rich orange palate.  A few kilometres down the road we reach the end of a plateau and head through a gap in the Ngunban cliffs.  The cliff face provides a scenic backdrop for our breakfast which we enjoy before the sun starts to bight.

Starting the day with the sunrise.
Breakfast at Ngunban cliffs

The road to Fitzroy Crossing is narrow and has several single land bridges across creeks.  As we ride we are assisted by an easterly wind, its hot breath formed in the central desert.  Our days of relief are ending as the temperatures start to rise.
When we arrive in Fitzroy Crossing the sun beats down and road is radiating heat.  We head to the supermarket, stake out a shady spot and order a couple of Fanta slushies. Slushy brain freeze and borderline heat stress is a strange combination, not recommended.

We've decided to have a rest day and have booked a hotel room for a couple of nights.  After checking in, showering and getting changed we decided to visit the pub.  Most of the people at the bar were local aborigines enjoying a  beer and a smoke on the balcony in the late afternoon.  Several locals introduced themselves and it being AFL finals season they wanted to know who were were supporting.  Not being big football fans had to wing our end of the conversation, . I can report that even here no one likes Collingwood.

Later Anna introduced herself to us.  She was here with her brother's friends - and for skin reasons she was looking for a different group to socialise with.  Anna told us about the best way to prepare boab nuts (roast the green ones in the coals - or put the pulp in a billy with a bit of sugar), and what various wild things taste like (yep, you guessed it - crocodile, goanna etc all taste like chicken) and how to find the bush banana (green fruit, yellow flowers).  Anna has a fascinating career working a cook at Fossil Downs station.  One of the stories she told was about the royal visit to the station in the 1970's and the preparations behind the scenes to put on a formal dinner.