The Mighty Murray River!

The Mighty Murray River!

Thursday, July 31, 2014

A bike ride out to Simpsons Gap

Today we did a day ride of 54km!  It is the last of our warm days before the southerlies arrive tomorrow and we got to a high of around 27 degrees.  So it was perfect to take the bicyce trail that goes out to Simpsons Gap.
From the showgrounds we passed through the gap and took the Bradshaw road that crosses to Larapinta drive and from there we headed west to the start of the bicycle trail, it was 7km to there and then the bicycle trail itself is 16km. 
Riding along you are between 2 parts of the West MacDonnell ranges and at one high point you are rewarded with sensational views of the Heavitree ranges ...
 here you are facing south and the ranges are going west ...
 the showgrounds are on the other side of this range.  Riding along you are predominantly out in the open with small mulgra bushes, some wattle, a few stunted ghost gums and various other desert trees surround you.
 4km along you come across the only water tank on the trail.  It is nice and cool water to drink ...
 the trail is completely sealed and is very winding and gets a little undulating in the last 6km to the gap but it is completely ridable and the small undulations are okay to ride .... maybe because I had Kouta at the back the undulations felt steeper!
 One tree I have always liked is the Ghost Gum - the ones along here I thought were small as when I rode along the East MacDonnell ranges about 20 years ago the ghost gums were alot bigger and very impressive!
 like I said you are riding between 2 ranges and this one you are facing north with the ranges heading west ... this is the part of the ranges that has Simpsons Gap ...
 The path meanders along and only come across 5 other cyclists all day, as we approach the gap we have to be careful as this trail is in the national park system and technically dogs are not allowed, this is our first view of Simpsons gap ...
 and we only go as far as the end of the trail before you have to go onto the road and go up to the gap ... I have been here before so I didn't mind not going up and into the gap - there would be heaps of people there so what is a photo of a gap with people in it!
 so we backtrack a bit and find a seat in the shade and have a bite to eat.
Going back was alot faster as there was less stopping for photos and also we had a tailwind!  One thing I did stop to take a photo is a campspot Neil had when he was last here!
 It is a nice spot but you wouldn't want to stop there too early in the day in case someone comes along!
The only criticism Neil has of this trail is the gates at the start and also at the end before you go on the road to the gap ... they are very unfriendly to loaded bikes, or bikes carrying a trailer or pannier bags ... we had to unhitch Koutas' trailer ...
 Neil could have taken his front pannier bags off but he found a unique way through ...
 here is the map of the cycle trail (in red)
 Opposite where this bicycle trail starts is the John Flynn Grave Memorial ...

 One thing we noticed along the bicycle trail is a few desert flowers ...

 and in town I came across a Sturt Desert Pea plant and it was in flower - Alice Springs has quite a few of these in and around town ...
 here is a close up of the flowers - they are so beautiful ...
 I have cycled many a time in this outback and this is my FIRST Sturt Desert Pea flower that I have seen!
On the way back we detour into town to pick up some dinner and came back for a well earned cuppa tea!
Below are photos taken from around the Showgrounds we are in - now these are the back view of the Heavitree ranges with me facing north and the ranges going west ...

 and this is opposite the Heavitree ranges (not sure what these ones are called with me facing south and the ranges going west ...
 this is taken from our tent site ... the colours of the red rock at sunrise and especially sunset are surreal
We have paid for another 3 nights so we will maybe head off on Sunday morning.  Tonight it is meant to reach a low of zero, so the dog is staking his place between the 2 off us and on both of the sleeping bags. 
Tomorrow (Friday) is bike maintenance day.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Ti Tree to Alice Springs


 Ti Tree to Alice Springs = 201km (day 1 = 79km; day 2 = 75km; day 3 = 47km)
Cummulative totals = 6152km and 26,153km)
Alice Springs Showgrounds = $20 unpowered

Day 1
Woo Hoo we passed the 6,000km mark today!
We woke early this morning to do some kilometers before the wind picked up ... it was forecasted at an east south easterly at 15km per hour which isn't too bad.  We were on the road at 7.45am and it was slightly chilly so I think I might have to get my socks out and wear them for the first hour or so.
Now as some of you may have read that I have a real bee in my bonnet about the openly racial comments we get from white Australians well here is one that openly refutes what they all think of Aboriginals ...
riding along this morning there is no one about and alongside this highway is a dirt track (you know the one we often camp on where they have laid a cable and it is relatively clear) well quite often we see Aboriginals driving along here to get to their communities well we saw one this morning and thought nothing of it ... well further up ahead on the highway on the opposite side to us we see a bus has pulled over and we think yep the Bush Bus is dropping off Aborignals and the car we just saw on the track is coming to meet them and pick them up.  We are approaching them and I see the car again and I think wow that was quick and then I look at the people coming off the bus and there is a few of them and think that it is strange that they are milling about.  We are approaching them and I say to Neil that I don't think they are Aborignal as they are wearing funny hats and dressed in light coloured clothing (Aboriginals tend to dress in very dark colours - just an observation I have noted!).  So we both agree that it is a tourist bus and as we get closer they see us and start to hollar and wave and begin to cross the highway and to my horror they are young Australian men and they are yelling and hollaring and line up on our side of the road in a guard of honour style and I say to Neil what do I do and Neil just said slow down and go thru it.  As I approached they begin to heckle us and I think by crikey it is 8.36am in the morning they are drunk and what is worse they are still drinking at this time of the morning ... I think anyone that is drinking at that time of the morning has problems ... somehow I think the racial metho and orange juice comments should be aimed at these men.  Once we passed through and put up with the heckling, one even started to chase after us!  I say to Neil later that lucky we didn't mention we had metho with us or else I think they would have mugged us for it!  So I think that these men definitely have a drinking problem.  Funny enough we have come across the drunken groups of Aboriginals but not one has heckled, hassled or abused us like this bunch of (and I am going to have to put this in a nice way but for those that know me you know what I REALLY mean!) young Austrailan men!
So with that over and done with I can begin todays ride.  We are still in an open speed zone and you constantly come across this sign ...
 but what we like is one of the conditions
 LOL there is another sign that singles this condition out
 There is also a sign to warn them of animals as well.  It got me thinking as to why they put this and then I remembered the bush bus and all the driveways to the outer Aborignal communities - they drop them off and some may walk around a bit so I suppose it is a not so funny sign after all!
At 47km we reached Prowse Gap rest area - it has water and a toilet so we filled up the bladders and had a cuppa there.  Initially it looks small but there is a legitimate gateway to go through to an area that can fit more caravans.
A further 13km on is Aileron which is a roadhouse and next to it is an Art Gallery.  Aileron is probably famous for the Aboriginal man on the hill which can be seen from the main highway

 As you turn off to Aileron and you head towards the hill with the man on it you see a woman and child statue as well
 here is a close up of the man on the hill
 and various angles of the woman and child (the woman is spearing a goanna)


 We think these statues were done by either a french or dutch person.  Outside the gallery we found this sign

as you can see Ray Jones they have decided to turn the Alice Springs to Darwin railway line into a Rail Trail since they no longer use this line anymore!
 It will be over 1400km long - fantastic for cycle touring ... can't wait for this to open!
From Aileron we rode for another 20km to our bush camp which is about 30m from the highway but no one can see us as we are behind some scrubby trees.  We are in an opening so there was no clearing away the ground for the tent
 We were here early at around 2pm.  Tomorrow we will try to do another 75-80km and that will make it a short day to Alice Springs on Monday.

Day 2
Neil forgot to turn the phone on last night (as this is our alarm) and so we overslept - didn't crawl out of bed until 7.15am!  It was 3 degrees this morning and this is the norm for around the Alice Springs area although a little colder around Uluru!
Koutas' key words for this trip are soft and warm that is what he seeks first thing in the morning and the only thing he can find is one of our laps and he just plonks himself on one of our laps and we have to get our breakfast around him!
 So on the road at 8.45am this morning and we cycle for 22km to Connors Well rest area where we pick up water and have another cuppa.  We got chatting to a couple that live in East Ringwood which is the suburb near us ... small world!
So we didn't get back on the road until 11am so that was a longer break than normal.  We decided to have an easy day today and make it so we have 40km to Alice Springs and then another 8km out to the Showgrounds camp ground tomorrow.
The road is very uneven and very lumpy and bumpy as they have used large gravel ... I think one more season of hot weather where the bitumen will melt and the cars will push the gravel into the  bitumen and make it alot smoother ... will have to return next year for that!  Todays wind is very light but it is a headwind - south easterly.  But we can sit on around 16km per hour so the going is good.
Here is a view of what we normally look at
 At around 55km we come across a walker - His name is Nicolas and he is from France and has walked Japan, New Zealand and now Australia (Sydney to Port Augusta to Darwin) and will then go to Nepal and India.  Now I thought we were doing it tough.  We offered water but he didn't need any and knew where the water stops were.  But he did want so food, so we gave him a couple of muesli bars as what remains of our food is either weetbix or dinner tonight.  Although after I did think that I could have given him a spare apple we had.
 He is bit of an odd one but clearly is okay and surviving - he has a backpack that can be extended with a handle and has wheels on it.  As well as you can see he has an umbrella, and thermarest and tent which are carried in the other hand - personally I would try to attach it all to the backpack/trolley.  It must be pretty hard going on this highway as the shoulder is either not there or very narrow so his backpack/trolley is always one wheel on the road and one on the dirt.  Exceptional effort on his part and we certainly rode on admiring his courage and effort.
We had a quick break late in the afternoon where Neil could have a look at his new road kill - just before we came across Nicolas he pulled over and found a helmet camera exactly like the one that you have Dad, it was still in its' waterproof casing (with a little crack on the casing wherer the camera lense is) and the bracket is a bit worse for wear.  But the small camera inside is perfect.  So he is charging it up at the moment and it has a 32gb card inside which we tried to view but we think the card is too large to be read on our little tablets.  When we get to Alice we will look it up on the internet all the specs for it.
Anyway at this little spot off the road I notice that we can see a range to the East and I think this is Harts Ranges
 And while taking this I see the trainline and then I hear a toot so I run to the fence line and there enough is a damn train using our potential rail trail!
It is a goods train
 and we are not sure if the 4th carriage is a passenger one ...
 it is a long train but a very quiet one ...
 maybe that is why we haven't heard it at night although the trainline has been far away from the road and it is only now it comes close to the highway and crosses under it at 16km out from Alice Springs.
I have just told Neil to turn the phone on so we have they alarm for tomorrow morning!  An early start to get to Alice before lunch so we can pick up a few bits and pieces of food and dinner - I think something fresh like salads! No steak as we will be at the showgrounds and it doesn't really have facilities to cook!

Day 3
The alarm was on this morning so we got up early ... it is still dark at 6am and we always begin brekky with the torches and solar lights on.
On the road at 7.45am and 11km up the road we dumped our rubbish at the tropic of capricorn rest area - it has water and toilet, there is a statue signifying the tropic of capricorn 
 so at this point we are in line with Rockhampton and i have always thought this line represents the warm and cold areas of Australia!
Another 10km up the road is a memorial for the highest point along this Stuart Highway which is about 710m above sea level ... funny as you don't realise that you are climbing ...we also think part of the memorial is missing ... somehow it doesn't quite look right!
 At about 16km before Alice Springs you go over a man made hill again and the train goes under this hill.  but at the top of this man made hill there is a nice view of the East and West MacDonnell ranges, this is a view of part of the West MacDonnell ranges (the East is often obscured by other small hills in front of it)
 if you look to the right of Neil you can see the railway line (which will hopefully be a rail trail one day!)
 another one as we approach Alice Springs
 just before the photo was taken there was a good spot to take a photo of the East MacDonnell ranges but I was concentrating so much on where to pull over for this photo that I missed it!
We get to Alice Springs around 11am and stopped at the Northside IGA to look for 500g packets of tetra pack fruit (I found these in Queensland but have been unable to find it since!).  However I did get a $1.50 caramel mud cake and some chocolate chip brioche bread also marked down.
Then we stopped off at Coles to pick up some fresh food for lunch and dinner and then off through Heavitree gap to the showgrounds.
As we went through the gap there was some pet camels being walked along the Todd River ...
 The showgrounds is about 5km south of the town center just pass the gap if you approach it from the north.  It is massive and is suppose to only take oversize rigs and those with animals, but there are a few caravans here that don't fit that criteria.  So lucky we have Kouta with us or else we may have had to go to the only park that takes dogs and that would be $30 for both unpowered.
You can camp anywhere in the showgrounds so everyone is spread out and we are in amongst some trees and under a peppercorn tree so we get shade for most of the day.  We are next to a table and a short walk to the Country Liberal showground shed that has a sink with water so that is handy, although they must all be midgets as you really have to bend over when doing the dishes.  Lucky this is here (I don't think the other campers know it is here) as there are laundry facilities so this will come in handy to do my handwashing.
So lunch was cheese, lettuce and ham on a sour dough vienna loaf and the cheese comes from Victoria ... this ones for you Heather and Anthony ..
 my buy of the day ...
 Kouta taking advantage of the shade and catching up on some sleep ...
 our spot ...
 and a view of part of the West MacDonnell ranges from the other side ...
 Essentially the showgrounds is between the official West MacDonnell ranges and another range running in the same direction.
It is also sandwiched between the sewage farm to the west (lucky not too many westerly winds!) and the RSPCA to the East - alot of barking dogs.
It is such a great place and we are booked in for 3 nights but strong southerlies are coming this weekend so we may sit them out here since it is a good spot for us.
Happy to be here in Alice Springs and I really like this town, I always have and this is my 4th time here ... It has changed a bit with the town being presented a lot neater than when last here ... especially the main road they have a nature strip that is quite good considering the dry climate here and also we saw a bike path all the way into town from the gap.  Will have a look around tomorrow and check out when I can get a badly needed haircut!