Days Four to Seven
Day Four to Seven: Days Four to Seven have been a grind.
- Day Four was Broken Hill to Little Topar 89km
- Day Five Little Topar to Lake W 112km
- Day 6 Lake W to Emmdale Roadhouse, a nascent treasure for travelers. 113km
- Day 7 Emmdale to Cobar. 163km.
I re-provisioned at Broken Hill, and then spent a pleasant hour with Rev Lindsay Cullen of the NSW Synod, also passing through, swapping notes and stories. How Facebook keeps us in touch! While we were in the coffee shop, the kind lady at the Shutterbug Digital camera shop next door was charging my new camera for me. My little Olympus charges via USB. However only via USB on a computer. When I had plugged my USB charger in the night before, the camera software had an immediate hernia and ceased to work. She also sold me a “one size fits all” charger and I have now restarted the old camera; it needed a couple of days for the internal auxiliary battery to die before anything can be done to restart it. The new camera is excellent.
Although less than 80km, the ride to Little Topar Hotel, meant to be an easy day, was exhausting. The wind was in my front quarter, i.e. if I were to be facing north it would be coming from the east or north of east, and strong. The bitumen was also very rough.
Bitumen from a touring cyclist’s perspective.
Bitumen quality has a profound effect on touring speed and comfort. There are three factors which are significant.
- Surface variation. Over a metre the surface of bitumen can be table smooth, or vary by a centimeter or more. This variation comes from cracks, patches and the beginning of potholes and other wear. This makes riding hugely uncomfortable, and it takes a lot more energy to maintain the same speed. The Little Topar road rates as fair on this scale.
- Gravel size. Gravel on the Little Topar road is up to 1.5 centimetres in size. A good bitumen surface has 6 or 7 millimetre grade gravel, or smaller. The Little Topar Road is the worst.
- Semi-gloss is the smoothing effect semi trailers (+ heat) have on the surface. You can see the runnels where the semi’s drive as two dark or slightly lower sections in the bitumen. Semi gloss can make the surface mirror smooth which is divine- and fast. There is no gloss worth the name on the Little Topar road.
You can see the semi-gloss in the middle right in this picture. The lighter bitumen on the right has finer gravel. The dark strip on the left is much coarser.
Each of these three, plus wind and temperature combine to affect touring speed. Speed is not the only thing affected. Rough surface means a lot more stress on the wrists and shoulders and you burn through energy and water. It took me five hours riding time for a less than four hour trip, plus longer stops than I would normally take.
At Little Topar there is currently a large lake which, they tell me, without further rain will last about 18 months. I bought 6 litres of water and camped further down the road. I had forgotten just how foul a full bush camp is.
The country is alive after the rain. Finding a bare patch of ground, relatively out of site of the road, and free of ants, spiders and various other beasties, takes some time. They have very deep table drains to cope with flooding, and these are currently either full of water or too deep to drag a touring bike across. You then have to put up a tent while still sticky with suntan lotion, and be locked inside before dusk to beat the mozzies. I have never heard such a racket, and could seen dozens between the fly and the mosquito netting. Even at my camp site, up on a hill, I could hear frogs during the night!
To keep ants at a minimum, and dirt out of everything, one searches for a forked stick to make a temporary bike stand. The front tire is sitting in a scuffed out rut to stop the bike rolling or the steering turning and tipping everything off. By morning everything was festooned with little spider webs!
The tent is amazingly warm. I didn't even need the sleeping sheet until well after midnight.