Port Augusta to Mona Lena Rest Area
Up = 263m - Down = 201m - Highest Point = 137m
PORT AUGUSTA TO MONA LENA REST AREA - 20th August 2017
We were away by 7:15 am on what was a lovely morning - perfect for a Sunday morning bike ride - but what a shame it didn't stay that way!! Our stay at Discovery Park Port Augusta and been wonderful and the “gold coin” donation sausage sizzle boosted our Indigenous Literacy Foundation funds by $166.30. It had been great to get into camp and catch up with Bette and Barry yesterday – and it was super to have them get up early to see us on our way this morning – troopers!!
The weather was perfect to start with – no wind – and while “crisp” it was lovely for cycling. A quick right out of the park, and then the next right had us on the Stuart Highway – the road we would follow all the way to Darwin.
For this morning our first stop was Range View Rest Site – 34 kms from Pt Augusta. We made there in good time. Caught up with our supporters and heard that Bette had managed to get through to Macca on the ABC radio programme that morning and talk about our ride! Us riders took on food, but couldn’t wait to listen to the clip – so Bette taped it and we were able to hear it later. Well done Bette - great work as PR lady!!
We all noted the heavy dark clouds that were forming, and commented that they looked rather ominous and maybe there would be rain. Well the weather did a total change in the next 14 kms. The wind started to blow harder and harder from a northerly direction – we were heading straight into it. Rain also started to fall which made us cold and miserable. Our average speed slowed considerably which was a bit of a worry with a full day of biking planned (178 kms). Around the 50 km mark the conditions took their toll on Liz as she was exhausted battling the head wind. Pat was there as we crossed one of the several grids (probably about every 10 kms) and Liz and her bike hopped into the van. Pat carried her forward to the rest-stop we were aiming for at the 62 km mark, and then double-backed to support Annie and I.
There were some interesting land formations on our way – one I jokingly said looked like Uluru to our left. The scraggy trees were eerily beautiful, but no pastureland pretty much right from the time we turned on to the Stuart Highway - we were definitely heading into the barren inland of Australia. We did see some sheep – one running alongside the road in a panic with her 2 lambs for about a kilometre before giving up - because Annie picked up the tempo and got in front of her to head her back. Three or four horses were in a paddock, an emu streaked across the road in front of us and joined others on the right hand side – and there was the frequent kangaroo the victim of roadkill. It is amazing how road-trains can thunder past the live animals and they take no notice – but if they see 3 cyclists – they seem to run off in a panic!
We got lots of “toot-toots” by cars this morning. Some were people we had met at the Port Augusta Caravan Park sausage sizzle the previous night, others were probably folk who had heard Bette’s call to Macca.
Traffic was excellent – big trucks gave us wide berths. Oversize vehicles seemed to be heading in the opposite direction and we didn’t have to get right off the road for any of them although we were always watchful.
Annie and I pushed on and on – struggling in the strong head winds (have since heard they were gusting to 65 kph) and the rain, which I thought was hail in places, but our support crew have described it as sleet. Not nice!! We knew there was climbing today – but we even had to pedal hard on the slightly downhill sections which were few. Very disappointing to only have a top speed of 23 kph – average of 19 kph for the day and many kms we were down around 15 kph.
There was a rest area at 102 kms and looking at the profile there were still 2 big climbs to be made to get to our planned stop. There were no rest areas in that next 70 kms, and at our current rate of progress we wouldn't make it before dark. So "Plan B" came into action. We called it a day and "free-camped" where we were. Tomorrow was a scheduled "rest day" but we would use it to ride the 70 kms. The wind was bitterly cold and strong, but we were able to park under a shelter at this stop. A check of the weather map showed severe weather conditions coming through - so we battened down all hatches!!
Tomorrow is supposed to be a rest day – BUT – because we are 70 kms short of our target - our ”rest” won’t begin until we get to Pimba / Woomera in the morning ……………. or in the afternoon depending on conditions!!