We later passed another fence where a farmer was doing the same with dead foxes. It looked like it was catching on and explained the many warning signs of poisoned bate for people out walking with their pets. It’s at the first right hand corner in the road after Mepunga East travelling east on the Great Ocean Road.
Since Adelaide we’ve ridden five days southward around Lake Alexandrina and Albert through interesting and changing country. We’ve been camping all the way and have escaped the wetness of the city to sunny weather with windy days and much colder nights, reminiscent of our first camping days after we left Sydney. We are much further south which explains the chill in the weather but we’d thought it would be warmer after a month of travel. The roadside Wattle Trees are yet to flower to their full yellow exuberance where as further north, in the fruit fields around Waikerie where we recently stayed with Dan, they are in full bloom.
We’re seated in the Nelson Hotel Pub in Nelson, established in 1855, after a lazy rest day having ridden only 43km from Mt Gambier to the coast. Dinner has been vegetable soups and ‘Spag Bol’ and Sausages and Mash followed by Sticky Date Pudding and Banana Fritters. Drinks were Coopers Pale Ale and a Gin and Tonic followed by a bottle of 2012 Mother of Pearl Shiraz From the Coonawarra. We can eat a lot and it’s not always pies.
The pub is full as it’s a Friday evening, lots of drinkers and fishermen, the latter down for the weekend to try their luck on the Glenelg River as it twists around the town towards the sea. Here it slows as the waters are temporarily stopped behind the beach’s sand dunes before exiting into the sea. The town is tiny. There is nothing more than the pub, a shop, an information centre and a campsite where we are staying overlooking the river’s broadening estuary as it twists into the Southern Ocean. There are holiday homes dotted along the small lane off the main road and big tall pine trees lining the shore to the river.
As we rode here we detoured to visit the Piccaninnie Ponds where underground fresh water surfaces close to the sea in crystalline ponds up to 110m deep formed by volcanic activity and local limestone geology. We pedalled down a dirt road passing fields of cattle and huge pines into dunes to the ponds which are jewel like with crystal clear waters where we could see deep into the water’s depths below. We ate sandwiches on the sands nearby, looking over the scrubby foreshore abutting the beach which was largely submerged by the high tide and big southern rollers crashing into the shore. The late afternoon sun kept coming and going, catching in the distance the sea’s spray as it hung in the air across the coastline.
We had an odd experience pedalling along the Coorung Road as we turned southward to Melbourne. We were riding into a strong head wind following the dense line of scrub running parallel with the inland sea which is trapped by distant sand dunes of the Younghusband Peninsular. As we crawled along a car slowed down to overtake and then pulled in directly ahead of us. As we passed the car, the male driver called us over and as we are both so obligingly polite, we stopped as always to chat.
The driver then delivered a lecture on his views of cycling safely. Firstly he said we were not wearing visible clothing to be able to be seen by drivers. We were surprised as we were wearing ‘day glow’ orange and green fleeces. Secondly he thought that pedalling in tandem was dangerous. This is completely contradictory to our own experience, and with common cycling practice, as riders cycling together are more visible to other road users.
He then began to tell us about himself. ‘I’ve been ill all my life. I’m disabled and take 36 pills a day just to stay alive. I used to be more active as my hobby was shooting but now I’m more into photography’. We nodded and Yasmin encouragingly said ‘Well it’s amazing you are up and about today’. He continued by ignoring her and saying ‘I’d hate to spread you out across the road not only because that would be an unnecessary loss but I wouldn’t want to damage my car either’. He could only just fit in behind his steering wheel and hadn’t taken his sunglasses off whilst delivering his safety sermon to us. His pristine white Prius, I noted, had additional perspex protectors to the front of the car’s bonnet and headlights. We suggested he might like to head up the road before us and thankfully he did leaving us behind and able to continue.
This got me thinking. What would he have done if we hadn’t stopped to talk with him?
So dismissing Mr. Prius the other road hazards are as follows:
- New South Wales drainage covers – these are lethal as they have slots about an inch wide that run parallel with the curb and direction of travel. Riding into one of these would be a disaster to any road cyclist.
- Trucks and Road Trains – as always there are good and bad drivers but the bad ones in these fast and oversized vehicles are a real menace. The better ones slow down, pull out and give us space. The others don’t and with their speed, turbulence and proximity, push us out of the road beyond the hard shoulder.
- Horns – this applies to almost all vehicles that choose to use them. Their drivers hoot just as they pass, which of course is too late to warn us of their speedy arrival. The loud blast invariably makes us jump and wobble.
- Magpies – Hitchcock would love these birds and we are learning not to. Almost every day we are attacked by these avian beast as we slowly pass their roadside nests. They fly up and then dive bomb us, squawking and occasionally trying to shit on us, with only one direct hit so far. They actually thwack us with their wings as we hastily try to accelerate when we see their looping shadows diving down behind us. This, combined with any of the difficulties of 1 to 3 above, delivers some difficult ‘pushy’ moments.
However, our riding in Australia continues to delight. People everywhere are so friendly, interested and helpful. Drivers stop to check we are alright and have enough water on remote stretches of road. We get so many ‘thumbs up’, waves and toots of encouragement from passing vehicles. We are now very fit, sun kissed, dirty and happy. The country endless keeps changing and we are always reminded of the very recent history of it’s European settlement. We are now on ride day 25 and spend nearly all our time both awake and asleep outside. We are acclimatised to this kind of travel, eat and drink a lot and sleep like babies. The tent has now become ‘home’.