October 14, 2002 - Norseman 206k/129m*

My brain started shutting down non-essential functions around 3PM to concentrate remaining resources on getting to Norseman before dark. 129 miles on flat road is normally no big deal, but this wasn’t quite flat, and there was a steady headwind most of the day that kept my speeds below 25kph. (In fact I averaged a pathetic 21.64kph).

The sun is up at 5AM now, and sets at 6. These people don’t do daylight savings time. Here’s the view from my hotel (the Best Western in Esperance – fine rooms, try hard service, and OK food) window at around 7, just before I left.

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I went around the block before heading due north all day, and took a picture of this main street featuring banners for the wind festival. Esperance is the 2nd windiest place on the continent. A wise person would infer something from that.

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But it’s almost always still early in the morning. It was a steady, slow climb away from the ocean through the never ending pastures for the first 30 or 40km. Then the commerce shifted to a mix of 50% dead fields and 50% of a small green wheat like crop that I think is canola. None of it looked too good for spring. The news here is all about the Kuta terrorist incident (all flags at half mast) and the drought. The map shows dozens of lakes along the way. Not one of them had any water. Most of them were salt flats like this one.

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I took this one because of the tracks in the sand, which I later learned were emu tracks. The road continued on a remarkable slight steady incline, and the wind built during the day. Here’s a road shot.

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I came to some dusty abandoned buildings in a place called Grass Patch (I doubt you’ll find this on any map, it’s maybe 70k from Esperance). One had a tiny yellow ‘tavern’ sign on the roof. Sure enough, a couple people were drinking there before 11A, served by a bartender who was a bit slow, at best. I got a Coke (drank immediately) and two more Gatorades (all over here, or Powerade).

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The only place past Gibson (only 30km from Esperance) that for certain had supplies was Salmon Gums. The sign on the way into town indicated that my personal survival meant stopping here.

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Every town has an information sign. This one, a community project, was one of my favorites. (pop, 121 people)

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I had a ham and cheese salad at the old Shell roadhouse (gas station/restaurant) immediately across the street from the sign, served to me by an older gentleman with flowing white hair and bright blue eyes. He told me he passed me in his truck on the way into town and asked me why I was photographing the emu tracks.

It was hot, dry and windy already, and I spent an hour here (believe it or not) drinking stuff, eating, and reading a book on the Nullarbor. John Eyre is the first person that crossed it, and he went through seemingly unimaginable hardships to do so. They named tons of things after him though. In any case, I wanted to be fully refreshed, and for the wind to die down, before I went back into the heat (a dry 85 degrees Fahrenheit) wind.

I was refreshed, but so was the wind. Somewhere along here they shifted from the little mileage indicators every 5km to every 10km, without consulting me. Not a good sign. The blue eyed guy told me there were tons of emus about. The road kill was going 50% kangaroo, 50% emu at this point. I had my emu scan mode on, but couldn’t find any live ones. By 3:30P the sun was heading down, the pastures shifted to brush with some tall brush trees, and I had some shadows. Here’s the bike taking a break at this point, the photo providing the dual purpose of showing you the tall brush.

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As I said earlier, my brain functions were shutting down by now. It was just me and George Harrison (RIP) going over All Things Must Pass with a bit of Here Comes the Sun and While My Guitar Gently Weeps. I need to get a fresh CD of All Things Must Pass. There’s a lot of good music on it. All day long I had been riding next to RR trax (there were no trains though, all day).

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That’s normally great news, if there’s no wind and no steady incline. 10km outside of Norseman I saw two emu on them. I tried to get a photo, but they went into the woods where they blend incredibly well with the scrub. Then the Norseman sign

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I detect a pattern here. Buy or die is my expression for it. Tomorrow it’s on to Belladonia. Unless the wind comes straight from the east, which it never has, I should have a much easier time with this 197km day. The better have a room for me, because my camping gear never showed up.

(Oct 15 Norseman 8:09PM)

– It is astonishing how little traffic there is on these roads. Since Albany, on Sunday, I often go 10 km or more without a car passing me. Even yesterday (Monday) and today, I have the road largely to myself (with the flies, of course).I think everything here in SW Australia everything radiates from Perth, and only tourists come down from the Eyre Highway across the Nullarbor into Esperance, etc.

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