Creswick to Underbool

Day 12 was a rest day at the home of my friends Rosemary and David, in Creswick. Good food, conversation and wine.

Day 13 – Saturday September 15 - 164km -  Creswick to Donald
This day began with 20 km directly into an extraordinarily strong wind combined with rain and hail. I had forgotten that this would involve a 17% climb over a range at one point, to get from Creswick through to Addington, and then up to Lexton, so that added to the "fun." It was also a new thing to be pushing up a slope at 9% with a full-on crashing storm around me, but with not drop of rain— only hail. It felt like the left side of my face would never recover! In fact it was so cold that when I stopped at Lexton, I couldn't use my right hand to get my left glove off;  it was simply so cold that it had stopped working. From Lexton to Avoca there was a storm every hour or so, and that continued all the way up to St Arnaud.

The good thing about getting to the Sunraysia Highway at Addington was that I then turned north-northwest, which meant that I had a threequarter tailwind for the rest of the day. I should have expected all this; just south of Addington is a town called Blowhard, and the area is home to the Waubra windfarm.

I had a good lunch at the Pyrenees bakery in Avoca, and then sat down inside! and had a salubrious meal of chips and Chico Rolls at St Arnaud.

13-chasedbystorms Chased down the road...

It was really cold at St Arnaud and I was shaking with cold while refilling water bottles, etc. In fact I stopped part of the way out of the town and got out my padded gilet, and put that on under my windstopper jacket,  which is something I think I've done perhaps once before.

I had to recharge my GPS unit "on the go," which immediately bumps up the temperature so that even when riding on a cold night it reports that you're riding at a warm 22 to 24 degrees. Of course, it's just the warmth of the battery charging, and when it's unplugged it immediately drops back. On this occasion, it dropped down to 0 degrees about 15 km out of Donald, and I thought that somehow I'd jiggered the calibration by charging it on the run, and hoped it would reset itself properly on the next day; it didn't seem that cold.

This indicates one of the really odd things about cycling. Earlier in the day at 2 degrees, riding into that howling "gale and hail," my fingers had lost all feeling. Even despite full finger gloves, I was able to bite down quite hard on the tips of my fingers, and unable to feel anything. But here, in the evening at 0°, with a very gentle three-quarter tail breeze, my hands felt fine; not cold at all. It's all down to the windchill.

I decided that the GPS had exactly the right temperature, because when I came out in the morning, it was -2 degrees and there was one of the thickest frosts I've ever seen, all over everything. It didn't get above 0 until sometime after 8 am. Not a good night to be sleeping under a barbed wire fence, as my grandfather would have said.

I arrived in Donald at the same time as a couple of young shearers who'd come down from Parkes on their way to Kingston South East. One had a heavy bang on the knee the day before and was limping pretty badly. In the morning— they were leaving at the same time as me— he said they were going to find the hospital to see if he could get it x-rayed. I think it was going to be a few days before the poor bloke managed to do any shearing.


The large map

13-leavingdonald Leaving Donald – Cold!

Day 14 – Sunday September 16 – 224km - Donald to Underbool
In 1975 one of my fellow students heard that I was riding to Mildura from Adelaide. Bev Walker asked if she could come with me, so that she could ride home to her family during the university holidays. At Mildura, she got me to wait in the street after a couple of lovely days riding up, and casually rode down the driveway of her house into the back yard, where her father happened to be doing something. He was so proud of his little girl for riding home!

I spent a day at their place, and then travelled on south to the coast. Apart from a glorious high-speed morning going downhill to the sea from Penshurst, it was 5 days of hellish headwinds and freezing rain. It included going through the Grampians on a road that was often more sand than metal, which nearly broke me.  I got to ride some of this road again today.

I went up from Warracknabeal to Hopetoun, and then on to Patchewollock. This route off the Sunraysia Highway was chosen for the very simple reason that the communities along much of the Sunraysia Highway still have no potable water. And on Sunday, the little general stores in those towns— if there are any— tend to be closed. So from Birchip until I got to Underbool there would be no water. There is a two hour window on Sunday afternoons when the Woomelang general store is open, apparently, but if I missed that— and two hours is a pretty small window over that distance on a pushbike, then there would be nothing for it but to knock on doors and hope that someone would give me drinking water. This is not something I was wanting to do in the evening on a Sunday night. So, by leaving Donald and heading across to Warracknabeal, I would be going to a town where there is public potable water. There is also potable water at Hopetoun.

I can see why I found that first trip down south such a hard slog. It's a very long road, with constant rolling Mallee sand hills. At one level it's not that hard, but at another level you have to be constantly adjusting for the long slopes of 3 to 5% which constantly roll up. It's a long way in the dark too, and it gets very cold. It's around 230 km to get to Underbool from Donald.

14-betterthanaverageA better than average crop compared to many,  but I'm not betting they'll get grain.

On the ride across to Warracknabeal, I managed to take some good photos of fences, and work out some preaching and teaching and writing material, for the next couple of months. You never stop being a minister and a theologian, even when you're riding in the back blocks of Victoria!

14-fence1A fence like an old church — just holding it together, and not quite sure how, or for how long.

14-fence2Another old fence

14-fence3A new fence built on the proceeds of sale. But it's still a fence, not a resurrected church.

14-noses I hope they breed sheep dogs, and didn't name the property after their kids!

Warracknabeal is a fascinating town of a couple of thousand people. It's a bit run down, and belies a more prosperous past. But there's no hiding for those who are racist in Australia, even here. I couldn't buy a pie or a pastie on a Sunday afternoon in Warracknabeal, but I could go to one of two fish and chip shops which had just about everything imaginable under the sun on the menu,  including Vietnamese food cooked by the Chinese Vietnamese owners. And the supermarket is run by an Indian family. I have huge admiration for the Indian families I've seen all over Australia taking on marginal shops and stores, and making a go of them!

14-pastgloryA Town with Past Glory

14-tudormostoffice The mock-Tudor Post Office at Warracknabeal

thongs More Art - Cactuseucalyptus Thongpauciflorus

So having topped up on food and water at Warracknabeal, I started the road north. I re-discovered Beulah, a tiny little town which I had completely forgotten from my first ride through. The new piped water has reached Beulah, so I was able to top up my water supply there, anyway.


14-beulahcafe Little towns everywhere

14-doesitmatter Does it matter than no one remembers who these people were?

Hopetoun has a very fine café which is open Sunday afternoons. I didn't go for the long black coffee, but I did buy a couple of pieces of pizza out of the Bain-Marie, which was a nice tea before starting the long ride up to Underbool.

14-Brim Brim – The first silo art.

In the dusk, I was checked out by a farmer as I had second tea somewhere on the side of the road short Patchewollock. He was a bit worried about whether I knew what I was doing. But once I assured him that I was simply having tea while I could still see, and while I could put on my warm night clothing before it got too cold, he relaxed and wished me well.

14-nearlytea Nearly Tea Time

 I was very tired by Walpeup, and considered sleeping there for the night, since I still had a litre of water left. But the covered area was fully lit— to stop people like me camping, no doubt— and it was promising a frost which is not what I wanted to sleep in. Anyway, there were notices warning the sprinklers would turn on at any time. In a designated camping area, why do they do this? Some cyclists bed down on the floor of the disabled toilets, but I've never been able to come at that! So I limped the last 20 km into Underbool, where I slept very well indeed.


The large map

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