Week 20 Swan River to Thunder Bay

Day 135

A “getting it done” kinda day.

Another cold start and with headwinds most of the way it left Stevie suffering in the bitter blast with Laura hiding behind in her “neck gaiter”.
We picked up supplies at a quaint time-gone-by kind of shop, which was just as well as the cafe we were aiming for didn’t exist and had us snacking on the side of the road trying to stay warm enough.

There seems to be a Ukrainian influence here and we passed lots of little cemetery, peaceful and quiet on the roadside. Finally about to turn out of the wind we came upon an unexpected cafe which made up for the one missed earlier and had much needed cups of tea.

It sustained us enough to get the last mileage down down a quiet road with lots of abandoned and dilapidated buildings. A glorious sunset led us in and pizza on the menu made Laura’s day after a tough ride yet again.

Day 136

Another chilly chilly start at dawn, but the sun was out today and it gradually warmed up despite the headwind. A tough ride to our first stop…65miles down the road! We were both shattered and hungry by the time.we got there, wiped out from pushing into the wind but finally warm enough to consider taking some layers off.  Stopping at a roadside restaurant we went round twice on sandwiches and soup before tucking into dessert too.  The friendly owner then gave us a couple of packs of M&Ms for the road too!

With 45 miles still to go, crosswinds were a welcome relief but we were still struggling to get the speed up.  Another beautiful sunset but we road into dark, and dark it was with no signs of civilisation around.  Finally we spotted lights glimmering through the trees and reflecting on the lakes below. Laura spotted the sign for the lodge we had booked a couple of days before and we pulled up relieved after another tough ride…

There was a closed sign on the restaurant door but this was no surprise as we’d been told the restaurant was closed…but then the bar door was closed too and we thought this odd as the website said this was open until 8pm and it was 8:05pm…we tried both doors anyway then called the number only to hear the landline fainting ringing inside.

Yet another accommodation disaster.

Investigating around the back we found a guest who then helped us try and contact the Owners as there was no number to call. Soon a few people were trying to help us out but to no avail.  We’d  just upped our ambitions from the tent to the corridor which had been left open when one of the guests offered us a spare bed!! We were taken back by his kindness but he refused to let us sleep on the floor we we got warm and clean and he even shared his chicken and gave us tips on way to stay down the road!

Faith in humanity restored we settled down after another big day, ready for an another big day tomorrow.

Day 137

Feeling extremely grateful to have slept in a bed, but not entirely well rested after the stressful end to yesterday we set off in subzero temperatures again.
We ate up most of the remainder of our previous for breakfast and waved goodbye to Dave who had helped us so much (and apologised for Stevie’s snoring )

A brief glimpse of the water was all we got of the massive lakes we can see surrounding us on the maps as we wound pur way through them initially to then head South East -finally towards Winnipeg after our jaunt to gain mileage.

The wind was meant to be turning in our favour but it was taking its time about it and it was a tough push to second breakfast…or rather lunch at 50miles in.

The wind and direction gradually aligned later in the day and like so often we managed to pull it put of the bag later on.  We were relived and delighted to reach Winnipeg as it has been really tough going these past few days and this means we are still on track.  The prairies will soon be behind us and we are looking forward to a change in terrain from the endless flat straight roads which are more of a challenge mentally if not physically.

A hotel with and actual reception let us in our room just as it got dark and we’re getting an early night before a (hopefully) easier day tomorrow.

Day 138

Leaving the motel to another glorious sunrise the massive living skies of the prairies were soon blotted out by skyscrapers as we crossed Winnipeg.  We were soo on the Trans-Canadian Highway and heading East along yet more flat straight roads.
A brief stop as we need to get to the motel by 6pm to check in and we picked up cross tailwinds and put the hammer down!!

We’ve made it halfway across Canada (according to the sign) but there’s plenty more to go!

The road got more forested and slightly more undulating towards the end and we were treated to a view over a lake as we reached a small summit- we’ve been missing the views!!

Getting to the motel with time to spare the welcome party was out to greet us and we’ve got some good time for recovery.

Day 139

A relatively warmer start amd a surprise as we bumped into an expat from just down the road in Allenton!

The scenery started off good and only got better- forests, lakes and rocky outcrops…it was like pocahontas would jump out from behind a tree any minute.  The road rolled all day giving us the most elevation we’ve had since the rockies but in steady ups and downs.
It warmed up significantly and we could barely believe the difference to a few days ago!

Tailwinds helped us through and it felt like the most enjoyable day we’ve had in a long time.  A solid stint after brunch (where the server was from Yorkshire! ) and we’d broken the back if the rode to reach Dryden at dusk.
Hopefully more of the same tomorrow!

Day 140

Wow! 40 days to go… hopefully…

We aren’t brimming with confidence today because just before leaving we’ve found the Fundy Bay ferry we planned to get 2 days before our flight is undergoing maintenance and not running until 1 day before our flight… there is a detour but this will involve a fair bit of rerouting and possibly missing out on visiting Cycle Touring Life who have been an amazing supporter of our challenge.

We needed to get on the road and the next stumbling block was we opened the motel door to rain!
We’d kinda forgotten about rain seeing as this was the first time in Canada!!

Switching to waterproofs and neoprene gloves we set out to a day with less elevation, hills and a slight headwind.  A very remote road left us waiting until 65miles in for a cuppa and two footlongs (we have Subway ordering down pat now and just have to hope we don’t get stuck behind someone that dictates their salad preference tomato slice by tomato slice…)

Stocking up on dinner as well we pushed through the last few miles to an isolated motel.  The sky had cleared a bit to give us some views on the way in and quickly got settled in a warm room to rustle up some dinner.

Day 141

A peaceful start from the motel by the lake we’d stopped at and an early win when the Owner knocked  on the door and gave us muffins!

It was to be a day of headwinds and hills so not easy going.  With long distances between places we had to take what came along so ended up having a fairly early stop just under 30miles in for an unusual second breakfast of chilli and chicken burgers! It was all fuel for the tank though.

We had lost time though…mostly because we’d hit another time zone.  Not as unexpected this time (even if it does seem to be the one bit of pretrip planning Laura failed to do…) but still made us feel on the back foot.  With a long way to Thunder Bay we pressed on and as it heated up we peeled layer after layer off. It feels like  completely different season and as it’s warmer at night too may give us options to camp which can help split up distances. 

We had a stark reminder to stick to campsites though as there was a young bear which had been hit by a car dead on the side of the road.

It was still warm as we reached Thunder Bay at dusk and a supermarket sweepof Walmart to stock up on essentials before things become more remote again.


Weekly mileage: 783miles

Total mileage: 14,028 miles

Puncutres: 0 (we don’t dare mention them now after such a good run…!)

Pizza : 4

Week 19 Leduc to Swan River

Day 128

A glorious sunrise start from the wonderful motel after what felt like a well deserved night’s rest.

We decided to divert from the less straightforward route through Beaumont (and hoped for some Mark Beaumont like speed to be transferred to us ) as the roads were quite due to it being Thanksgiving!

Heading as close to Edmonton as we dared we verved East with the skyscrapers in the distance And opted to take the more minor road East.  This made for great scenery and a quiet ride, but no facilities: just as well we had stocked upon motel buffet breakfast! Getting back onto the Highway we were crossing a National Park so we’re still without a break at 40miles but had the widn behind us so decided to push on. Lots of lakes and waterfowl but we also saw what looked like bison grassing and beaver lodges in the lakes. (Look closely at the photo).

The road flattened out and the wind picked up and we were flying! Getting to close to 60miles the next town was off route and we still decided to keep pedalling snacking on the move.  80miles in we had reached Vergeville in record time and finally caved at a Tim Hortons again.  Laura was queuing for food when she heard a lady exclaim ” you’re going where?!?” To Stevie.  As she got more and more details her incredulity grew and grew and the group of three ladies were really impressed with our trip.  They followed us on social media and found us on the tracker and then gave us some cash!
We said we’d add it to the charity donations, but no! They were admanent this was for us and we were overwhelmed with their enthusiasm and support! Another seperate lady who had overheard the whole thing came and gave us another note too- it was wonderful and surreal!

Still buzzing back on the bike we were flying again, the speed frequently in the 20mph now. Waterfowl overhead were psyching themselves up for migration and we had one of those rare moments of reflecting on how far we’d come.  Making fantastic progress to the motel we still had plenty of time for recovery after a big day and can barely believe the day we’ve had after so many tough times!

Day 129

We smashed it!
It was windy to begin with and it only got windier! Every time we stopped it was like we had to hold the tandem back to stop her starting on her own, like an impatient steed. The tailwinds have been epic.

We’d got to the point we never thought this day would come, so many tough times: illness, injury, weather, hills, mountains, road surface, cities, traffic, route issues… sometimes it feel like all we do is complain and we try not to feel hard done by as if these challenges are what cycling around the world is, then it is up to us to take them on. We chose to be here.

But, we hadn’t dare expect this, powered along by the winds that normally hinder us! We’d forgotten that karma works and luck can be on our side (or at least the law of averages…)

Blasting through the first 50 miles to second breakfast in a wonderful classic diner playing country music and serving pancakes we were set up for the rest of the day.  The terrain was flat but not boring with little  lakes full of waterfowl, the odd field of cows and little villages and farms dotted along the route.  We could hardly get our heads around the miles flying by, we are so used to working on a 10mph average.  We arrived at North Battleford around 4:30pm, far earlier than we expected and turn off the main road to the town.


The crosswind hit and we slowed to a crawl, hit by  massive crosswinds for the last miles across an exposed bridge. Laura ready to bail from the stoker seat of they got blown too close to the edge.  In the motel early and a takeout curry to celebrate!

Day 130

We got up
We rode fast
We had a diner brunch
We rode fast
We hit Saskatoon
We rode fast
We got to the motel early..

Might sound straightforward and 20mph+ and a 157.5mile day is nothing to complain about, but it’s not as easy as it looks on paper!
Firstly and slight deviation from straight tailwinds to slight crosswinds was a huge challenge in winds this strong…especially when it pushed us into the traffic.
Secondly the concentration, especially from Stevie on the front, to hold and steer the fully laden tandem at high speeds is not to be underestimated.  The number pictures taken today show it wasn’t an easy ride in the backseat either!  We swapped our front panniers around at the brunch stop the help with a speed wobble we’d been having and it took us two goes to get out the exit back onto the Highway the wind was so strong!!

But we have had a massive dayband are rapidly putting ourselves in a great position to catch up the mileage we need to make our original 180day target in Berlin…it’s still a long way off yet but having days like the past few give us confidence of what might be possible.

And also, we hope, show how hard it has been when we’ve struggled average 10mph or stopped at 80miles!!

We change direction slightly tomorrow and the winds change too so our flying run maybe over for now, but we are just so grateful as even just the thought of going the other way is sickening!!

Day 131

A bitterly cold start had us finally cave and ait we needed to source some warmer clothes-we had had some sent to Dunedin…but they had arrived after we got to Canada!

We still had tailwinds but made more of a steady start today to get to 2nd breakfast at  Subway. Laura’s hands were too numb and the winds were too  strong to take many photos.  Pushing onto Regina we hit cross-tailwinds which were challenging but nothing compared to what we had to come.  Stopping at Walmart Laura lucked out with Leggings, mittens and a neck gaiter… but they didn’t have a single pair of gloves for Stevie to go over his current ones (it is pretty cold with the wind chill!)

The  search will continue and we agreed to keep options open as we hit the crosswinds proper heading North. We sometimes have a set destination on a day and book in advance but when the distance we can cover is less easy to determine we often have a conservative and stretch distance.  In this case we had 3 options: 14, 22 and 44 miles from where we were (at 95miles). Give the past few days the stretch distance didn’t seem ridiculous…until we got on the road!
The crosswinds were thankfully from our left but blowing us into the grassy verge.  If it hadn’t promised a soft landing we don’t know what we’d have done as it would have been too dangerous.

We quickly realised that 14miles was plenty in these conditions, especially as the wind is due to drop tomorrow.  Struggling all the way we reached the motel with relief.. only to find it shut, the telephone number not working and accommodation looking dubious. We discussed options, the stretch was too far, the middle distance motel didn’t pick up and we were pretty sure it would be a bitter night wild camping affect our performance.  The most reasonable option seemed to be to back track 7miles to the last motel.  It took a bit if courage to get back on the blustery road, and we took minor roads to avoid the traffic but if was the toughest 7miles of the past 3 days with cross-headwinds/severe crosswinds and both us needed to be on the ball to stay safe, ready to pull over at a moments notice.

Making it to the hotel it was another cosy night in!

Day 132

A rather chilly start had Laura kitted out in her new wardrobe and Stevie wearing his down booties on his hands…

It is clear you can’t take your eye off the ball for a minute when planning record breaking logistics and after the faff getting a motel last night we’d not tried to book tonight’s until this morning.

And it as full.
And the other two “hotels” on Google maps were a retirement home and possibly a pub?

So Laura searched nearby areas…nothing…until a last ditch at Airbnb found one spot on…until they refused to accept our booking.

With the clock ticking to get on the road and already feeling like we’d had  mission Laura eventually found an Airbnb roughly the right distance but more due North than East.  Plumping for it we got on the road and rerouted not to back track to it later.

Which went well until it turned into an actual back-track of a gravel road. Feeling frustrated we couldn’t get anything right today we diverted to the original route which not only gave us a stretch of out and back at the end but also made it a 127mile day instead of 107miles and we had left late after all the accommodation faff.

We were just about on track though…then the gear cable snapped.

Working quickly in the bitter cold Stevie somehow managed to keep enough feeling in his hand to get the new one in and got the gear set up spot on first time!

Back on the road we tried to push hard to warm up to Fort Qu’appelle and fuelled up there before pushing hard into crosswinds to try and make up time. It was tough going though and we hit the dark and cold again.  Luckily the wonderful Airbnb people left the apartment open for us and after our second A&W burger stop of the day we arrived late but relieved and ready to warm up and make sure we’ve got tomorrow’s plans nailed before bed!

Day 133

We had a bit of a lie in this morning to 6:30am after having got to bed close to midnight after yesterday’s antics.

We felt vaguely refreshed but rather stiff and sore after the big push to get there last night and had a slow chilly roll out after a light breakfast.  Pushing onto Foam Lake for second breakfast it only got colder but with cross tailwinds we made reasonable progress.  Over easy egg and pancakes fuelled us up again and it seemed everyone in the restaurant wanted to know what we were up to- one girl even came in especially as she had spotted us on the road and offered us a bed for the night! A less optimistic gentleman speculated whether we’d make our distance today as it was “a very long way” and warned us repeatedly it was very cold… buy he wished us well in general!

It warmed up a bit in the afternoon but we were still feeling pretty tired and I think the endless expanse of the prairies is getting to us a bit. With the wind mostly behind to get to Yorkton in time to go shopping for Stevie gloves.  Finally replacing his ever so slightly worn out liners and getting some heavy duty gauntlets.  We might need to slim down his glove collection somewhat though…not all of them are pictured!

Day 134

We made a mistake…
…we thought it has been cold the past few days…
…we were wrong!!

It’s certainly looking like “fall” here with beautiful colours in the trees but it was certainly crisp steeping out the motel room., despite us wearing the most clothes yet. It certainly wasn’t warming up and definitely agreed with @epicrideweather “feels like”, with a weirdly dry cold- no ice or snow and barely any frost.

Surviving the long push to Subway the down booties came out again for Stevie. Thawed put slightly we had a long drag after lunch into a forest area- a welcome break from the monotony of the prairies where the vast landscape seemed infinite. There were small lakes admist the tree and beaver 🦫 houses (aka lodges) amd evidence of their tree felling. Suddenly Laura heard a loud splosh and there was something swimming that wasn’t a duck! With just his eyes and nose sticking above the water there was a trail of ripples as the beaver swum along. Too cold to get the gloves off in time Laura missed the photo opportunity.

We have also made another mistake amd got caught out by yet another time zone! Adding some mileage here and crossing into Manitoba we had lost track a bit but at least it was dark later. Missing the grocery store was a great excuse to order takeout pizza.


Weekly mileage 880.66miles

Total mileage: 13244.66miles

Pizza: 1 (15″ epic of my dreams…)

Punctures: 0 but one snapped gear cable…

Beavers: 1

Week 18 Vancouver to Leduc

Day 121

Back on the road

After a wonderfully refreshing stay with Moray and Jose we were up early and ready to see Canada!

Weaving our way through the suburbs of Vancouver we crossed some epic bridges and had a bit of off ŕoad section with narrowly avoided a sense if humour failure from Stevie.  We could see the logs being shipped downstream from upriver-a welcome change from logging lorries on the roads.

It was pretty stop start with the traffic lights and the first half of the day seemed to take forever. But the mountains were visible through the mist and the scenery got more and more dramatic. It was also surprisingly warm- well over 25’c and we just about squeezed all our winter clothes into our panniers. A relatively smooth day meant we still rolled into Hope before dusk, with the longest freight train we’ve seen rattling alongside us.  Into a motel tonight to rest up before we start some serious ascent tomorrow!

Day 122

We knew the Rockies would be a challenge… but it is one thing knowing it and another riding it!

Leaving as the sun was still rising and giving an beautiful pink tinge to the mountains around Hope we started climbing steadily early. Winding our way amongst the peaks we gradually gained ascent for the first 20 miles before the road started in ramp up and our average speed dropped well below 5mph.  The view back down was rather intimidating and lorries crawled their way down the incline with their exhaust brakes chugging against gravity.  We pushed on up though and luckily a lot of roadworks meant we often had a closed lane to ourselves.  Reaching the first summit after 4hours, 28 miles and over 4200ft we stopped for a well earned break at a food truck in the sunshine.

Next was what looked on the profile to mostly be a descent to Merrit but not losing all the height we had gained still didn’t feel easy on a rolling road.  Some beautifully flat tarmac and time off the highway was a welcome break though and picking up lightweight dinner supplies we were set for the next hill (well mountain pass…). This summit was even higher at 4400ft and we got there just as the sun was setting.  Still further to go to our mountain lodge it was a slow ride in in the dark and a very long day in the saddle.

We get a bit of respite tomorrow but the rockies aren’t over yet!

Day 123

For some reason we were feeling a bit tired and sore this morning…
10hours in.the log cabin wasn’t long enough but we were on the road not long after dawn again but now heading down.  Some massive sweeping descents down to the river valley had beautiful sweeping views but too fast for photos! Kamloops was only 20 miles in but needing WiFi after the log cabin had let us down another McDonald’s it was! At least there’s some different breakfast options..

Moving in on the flat alongside the river we were racing massive trains along the railway nextdoor. We stopped at what looked like a trendy retro cafe, which turned out just to be a wonderful stuck in a moment in time sort of place serving homemade chilli and bread instead of superfoods.

The valley got narrower and the mountains higher and the views got better but sadly we were on the wrong side of the road. A few sharp climbs at the end of the day and a brief supermarket stop before getting respite in a motel before we embark on some more serious climbs tomorrow.

Day 124

A misty cold start to the day as we started off just before dawn for a big day.  Winding past lakes and through valleys it took a long time to warm up and the sun had only just made it over some of the summits by the time we got a Revelstoke 45 miles in. 

A rather longer stop than we intended but pizza for second breakfast was a treat.

Then the only way was up as we started climbing gradually at first and we’re treated to views of the peaks, some still with traces of snow, that just got better and better.

It was tough going though and the climb ramped up at the end. The summit of Rogers pass was the high point and we then went plummeting down through snow tunnels down an epic descent which left us feeling a bit overwhelmed by the majesty of it all.

One more climb up and over left us getting to our mountain cabin after dark, made even later by the time zone we’d ridden through.

Day 125

Another sunrise start having got up at 5:30am which now felt like 4:30am given the time difference.
We road through the misty river basin and the temperature dropped in the chilly fog sowe were pretty cold by the time we got to Golden for second breakfast.  Knowing it would be a long ride along the mountain road we opted for yet another McDonald’s to save time and try and avoid the wait we had yesterday…we still managed 2 courses though!

We had seen signs that the road to Banff had been closed and was reopen today over Thanksgiving so we thought little more of it as we climbed out of the town.  Reaching the road block we were pretty upset to find the road wasn’t open until midday and no, there wasn’t any chance a tandem could slip through ahead of the traffic.  Settling down to wait Stevie tinkered with the bike while Laura updated this blog.

Finally allowed to get through not a minute before midday we were squeezed onto the dusty single carriageway with all the other traffic which was now in as much of a rush as us.  We had been determined to beat sundown today and it was looking unlikely.

The climbs seemed much tougher than the profile implied and it was already 4pm by the we got to Field, only halfway… the overly chatty trading post owner seemed intent on keeping us there ĺonger and Ste had a small meltdown over non-moustache‐friendly application of peanut butter to his bagel.

We decided to pysch ourselves for what promised to be the major climb of the day and set off determined.

What seemed like a much shorter than expected time later we reached the top “I’m still high on sugar” Laura complained having stoked up on a doughnut in anticipation of something harder.

Then we were finally treated to some of the descent we’d been earning over the past few days and flew down past Lake Louise still surrounded by the beauty and splendour of the mountains- it seems every bend gets more spectacular!

Approaching Banff just before sunset the full moon emerged from behind yet another mountain to guide us into the mountain town.

Day 126

A chilly bit beautiful start from Banff had us piling into a burger joint called A&W for hot cups of tea in Canmore before peeling off the main highway 1 to highway 1a which was a wonderful stretch of road.

And suddenly the mountains were behind us and disappearing into the distance, we waved goodbye both relieved and sad and Stevie noticed a likeness to his cliff bar wrapper…is this where the image is based??!

A short climb out of Cochrane had us rolling down towards Airdrie to skirt around Calgary with sunny fields and a the sense of the end of a hot Summer here.  We got our heads together to power on to our stretch distance for the day and got to Olds at sundown  for another motel and supermarket tea before doing it all again  tomorrow!

Day 127

Just the day we’d been hoping for: boring!
No dramas, no mountains,, no headwinds, no route issues…just riding.

Still making good use if the early starts it was still chilly and we wrapped up well.  Heading North today yo Edmonton we took the more minor 2a almost parallel to the main highway 2 and made good progress to our firs stop at Red Deer where it took two go’s ordering at Tim Hortons to fill us!

The road was basically flat and miles and miles of farmland lined it with occasionally towns and villages with inevitably traffic lights to slow us down.  We still continued to make good progress through and one more short break and after the miles dragging through the afternoon Leduc came up so suddenly we missed the turn.  A supermarket sweep at Safeways and a massive motel for the night.  We asked where we could put the tandem and after initially kindly saying there was a space down a hall the manageress came to find us and gave us a ground floor room…and an upgrade! A massive suite with a full kitchen, 2 double beds, fireplace and a massive whirlpool bath and we couldn’t be happier!

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A beer and oven pizza and jacuzzi before bed I reckon!


Weekly mileage: 809.5 miles

Total mileage: 12364 miles

Pizzas: 4 😍

Punctures: 0 🥳

Week 17 Waipara to Vancouver

Day 114

I’m pretty sure we’re somewhere near middle earth…

We made a particularly early start from the old sleeper carriages and the sky was just beginning to blush pink with dawn.  A quiet start along the main road until getting to a turn off the highway for a backroads route we were considering.

Getting a mile down the road a plummeting descent followed by a wall of a climb gave us second thoughts and with the main road being so quiet we quickly retraced.  It was to be a long enough day already with a headwind and plenty of miles and ascent.

Second breakfast in Cheviot, with hills reminiscent of the Northumberland version but without dry stone walls.  Then up into the hills and what wasn’t quite a mountain pass but enough if a climb for our speed to plummet.  Snowy mountains peeked over the green hills and the view around every corner became more impressive.  A jaw dropping descent with the mountain backdrop and suddenly waves crashed alongside the road.  It had been a long 80 miles to Kaikoura and a brief stop before battling into the wind again to try and get to our bnb before dark.

We spotted sea lions on  the rocks beside the road and continued along the coast soaking up the impressive landscape.  Just about making the bnb by dusk it had been a tougher and longer day than we’d hoped and we were relieved to be welcomed warmly.  They even had dinner ready for us too and we are warn, full of good food and looking forward to a good night’s sleep before a push for the ferry tomorrow!

Day 115

After a wonderfully restful stay at the bnb we had a late start to allow for a bit of recovery before the 60 miles to the ferry.  The sun was shining and it was much warmer…but…

I’m sick of writing about headwinds.
But lets just say our average speed was 9.8mph, we peddled downhill and Air New Zealand is asking passengers to rebook their flights because the winds are so bad…

The scenery was stunning again with a wonderful mix of pasture, mountains, vineyards and coast and we tried to take in as much as possible as we climbed and crawled towards Picton.  Having decided to take the most direct route we made good time, stopping to pick up some supplies before checking in.  Stela the Tandem was securely lashed to some railings and we enjoyed a celebratory meal (the only time I’d have felt justified eating New Zealand lamb!) and a therapeutic glass of pinot noir after moving in slow motion past the vineyards earlier today.  Now to cross to North Island and see what we can achieve there!

Day 116

Antipodeal point number 1

We rolled off the ferry yesterday to be met by Andrew who works @wheelworkshandcraftedwheels to ride us to his flat.  We couldn’t have had a better placed host, about only a mile from the ferry port and this enabled us to get to a real bed asap after snoozing on the ferry.

An early wake up call as ever though and Andrew helped guide us out of the city of Wellington along the bike paths.  We are really grateful to him for responding to our online plea as his hospitality meant we could get a full day’s ride in today and he gave us lots of route tips too.

A rather steep climb got the lactic acid flowing in our legs tired from the previous days climbing but was soon made up for by a descent down the otherside to beautiful sunshine coast.  The wind wasn’t as bad as expected and we were making good progress battering on but needed to refuel with second breakfast-a complete let down at the first cafe which wouldn’t accept our debit or credit cards and it was second time lucky after 45 miles.  A solid bruch saw us another good stint down the road into rolling farmland and leaving the shore further away.  After the worst bridge ever in Bulls (we were diverted onto a cycle lane with holes covered with planks of wood) we made the last push to Marton and some amazing warmshowers host who fed and housed us for thr night.  We even had Jim the goat as a neighbour!

He’s meant to be on the other side of that fence…

Tomorrow we head up to the mountains…the fact we are staying in a ski resort says it all!!

Day 117

We reluctantly left our wonderful warmshowers hosts with bellies full of breakfast and half a dozen fresh farm eggs! (Hard boiled…)

It was climbing from the off but we made steady progress to second breakfast at the oxymoronic Flat Hills cafe.  The hills were becoming increasingly rolling with a few sharper ups and downs but mostly long drags.  Taking a break again in Taihape we picked up Josh who was heading the same way as us on his solo bike and happy to wheelsuck until our turn of the highway. I think all three of us were feeling  the need for a boast so it was good to chat about life on the road as the hills ramped up.  I was starting to rain slightly as well but then we rounded a bend to find ourselves facing a massive snowy peak.  Josh stayed on the main road as we peeled off to circle the peak on quieter roads- we had been warned about the lorries on the narrow switchbacks down the road.

The climbing wasn’t over yet and for every brief reprieve downhill it soon went up again. Quieter roads on the otherside of the mountain with some impressive railways engineering in terms of a massive bridge spanning a river gorge.

We reached National Park just as it got dark and too late for the shops but not for the pop up takeaway van. Settling in to our ski chalet for the night our legs are well and truly knackered!

Day 118

A bit of a grey start as we ate leftover chips and eggs for breakfast having missed the shop last night. Last few checks on the bike were overseen by the local feline and we were off towards the mountain again.

The peak was shrouded in mist this morning though and we felt we were missing our of the views a bit. Finally getting a bit of descent we found a fantastic cafe for second breakfast and even went for breakfast pudding too (check out @stela_fuel !)

We rolled into the rain and a few miles down the road Laura went to adjust her helmet…which was still in the cafe
A speedy backtrack and Laura retrieved it with her tail between her legs for such a daft mistake. (But admittedly our @exustar_global helmets are so comfy we don’t know they are on!)

As we pushed on the rain set in and the views of the epic laje Taupo were obscured with it disappearing into the mist.  A hot chocolate stop in Maccas to warm up didn’t last long as we were still quite high up  with chilly rain and wind combined with more descent.  Riding past hot steaming springs somehow didn’t make us feel warmer.

The main highway 1 we had been avoiding yesterday was horrendous in the rain with angry drivers, narrow hard shoulder and roadworks testing Stevie’s patience and handling to the limit.  Thankfully it warned slightly as we descended but suddenly we were flagged down by a lady in a ute on the side iof the road.  Her husband needed medical attention but with Stevie shivering on the roadside all we could do was flag down someone in a motor vehicle to make sure they got help before pushing on to try and keep warm for the last 10 miles.  Turning up at the motel we were soaked through and unlike the monsoon this was cold rain so it was straight into warm showers to recover.

Day 118

Not a day for taking lots of photos…

It was still raining in the morning.  Stevie used the opportunity of a sheltered front to the motel room to change the brake pads while Laura did some route plotting and we started a bit later.

Another job was to improve hand comfort as we’d both suffered yesterday and we have two pairs of wonderful @huubdesign neoprene gloves…waiting for us in Auckland so we resorted to an audax trick of marigolds!

The rain was set in as we got back on the dreaded NH1 with traffic sounding much worse than it was on wet roads.  We finally peeled off but the drivers didn’t seem to get any friendlier- honking, swearing and making gestures at us which made us feel very much unwelcome.  We had heard about kiwi drivers before coming but had tried to reserve opinion until we got here but today made it clear there are lot of very angry small minded people here.

We tried not to get upset and with the rain still pouring opted for a quick and easy McDonald’s stop before continuing to head into more rural areas.  There was a hint of mountains through the clouds and plenty if dairy cattle in the lush green fields but most of the views were lost on us.  We passed through the town of Te Aroha and picked up some noodles to cook for dinner.  It seemed a strange backwater kind of place and some youths shouting at us were incomprehensible but we decided to take it ad encouragement.  We’d been treated to tailwinds for a while but as we nearer the coast the wind started spinning around heads one minute, tails the next and the showers kept coming.

The grey sea merged into the grey sky both barely visible through the rain and taking the scenic route was not paying off as we cycled along the coast- it would have been a wonderful ride on another day!

The strong headwind had set in by this point  and too wet to be navigating from the phone (the Airbnb location wasn’t uploaded to the garmin) we were counting house numbers to find our stay for the night.  A wonderful apartment to dry out and get cosy for the night after what felt like another unnecessarily tough day! There was even a documentary about Middle earth on TV…

But to the airport tomorrow…New Zealand feels over in a flash!

Day 120

Has been a long day…actually! We have crossed the date line (a concept thar boggles our minds) but today has been much more than 24 hours!

Starting out we were relieved to have dry weather and got to see some of the beautiful scenery along the coast, then up through densely forested hills before descending to a beautiful bay and rolling through farmland.  We were almost scuppered by a landslide on the coastal road and there was still localised flooding but we were able to get through on our short stint to Auckland.

Barely believing we were done with New Zealand already we arrived at the airport in good time to pack the bike and cannot thank Rob and Chris enough who got the boxes and packing stuff too us.  They also had a delivery of our cold weather kit including lots of great items from Huub and Laura’s shoe from Exustar… it was finally time to say goodbye to the sandals!

Packing up went smoothly and we navigated the hurdles of checking in, getting the boxes accepted (with extra weight fees again), security, customs and finally had a bit of time to relax before the flight.  This soon went though and we were getting settled in for long haul- 13 hours to Vancouver. 

We both got a bit of sleep but not the most comfortable and we’re not used to being sedentary so long so feet and ankles swell despite flight socks.

Finally making our descent what felt like the following morning it is actually the previous afternoon and exiting the airport warm and sunny! It appears we’ll be waiting a bit to try all our new kit out yet.

The bike build went smoothly- Stevie is well practiced and Laura assisted while catching  up on more admin before we had a short ride to some wonderful relatives of a friend of Laura’s who feed us a fantasies curry and gave us somewhere to sleep  before we set out into Canada tomorrow!


Weekly mileage 654.16 miles

Total mileage 11,586miles plus

Pizzas: 1 breakfast pizza which wasn’t a real pizza

Punctures: 0

Week 16 Bellata to Waipara

Day 107

After a rather comfortable night camping at the golf club we were up before the dawn to make a good start.  A short push to Moree for second breakfast and then we got stuck in.
Flat terrain and cross head/tailwinds continued to make the road conditions more interesting and it began to heat up too.  Apologies to Australia but Laura got her pasty hairy legs out! He flies were back too and made for a miserable lunch stop and hitchhiked on Stevie’s back for the rest of the day.

With crop planes and Galahs overhead it was steady progress to Queensland.  We’d already prebooked the motel and arrived in time for sunset (yet another spectacular Australian sunset…) and the Queen’s funeral.

While the UK has had a day off today we have soldiered on, but duty and dedication were traits of our late monarch so hopefully an appropriate tribute to maintain our goal towards Brisbane.

Day 108

You just can’t take your eye off the ball for a minute this trip…

Having spotted a shorter route to Pittsworth on Google maps and feeling tired after the past few long days, Laura neglected to double check it on a routing app.  Starting out from Goondiwindi, we ignored signs to Brisbane hoping to get off the highway.

Stevie started to get suspicious when the next turn said “no through road”  but we were soon distracted by kangaroos in the bushes.

Then the road ran out and we were on track.

Squinting at the faint lines on Google we decided to push on rather than backtrack to almost the start of the day.

Then the track ran out.

There was nothing for it but to retrace to the main road and try and  get back to the highway.  Finding another road linking up Laura prayed it would be paved, otherwise she was a risk of being sacked as chief navigator.  We were also now low on water too after the unexpected delays.  A ute pulled up and a man asked the usual questions about where we were from and going but when we asked where the next stop for water was he offered to leave some out a the end of his drive!

The road was thankfully tarmaced, and also wonderfully quiet.  We approached the point we though the man had described to find nothing apart from mozzies so vicious they pierced pur thick jerseys.  Feeling disheartened we rode on only to have a chain suck and then gear problems due a slipped cable.  Stevie went to work fixing it all whilst Laura tried to keep the insects at bay…rather in vain, we’re both covered in bites!

After all that excitement we had barely gone another mile before we spotted the water container!  Just in the nick of time and we’d got thirstier standing I the heat and there were Tim tams too!

Back on the main road we needed to put the foot down  and stopped briefly at a rest stop (with a shallows nest) before carrying on.  The miles were clocking up and we knew it would be a long one so we’re releived to have prebooked a motel and even more relieved when they were still serving food- Laura’s last chance for a “chicken parmi” before we get to Brisbane tomorrow to fly the New Zealand the following day!

Day 109

And what feels like against all the odds…we are in Brisbane! 🥳👊💪

It was a block headwind start and piling into McDonald’s again after 18 miles but much needed fuel for the road.

The main road was rolling and got busier and busier as we headed towards the city and we were glad to finally turn off into suburbia. Start to pick up cycle lanes we would our way towards the centre following some fantastic off road routes. The rain cane down though which was the last thing we needed before packing the bike up this evening.

The navigation got more intricate as we approached the centre and we followed the river for a bit as city commuters flew by on lightweight bikes.

Finally making it through to the other side of the city after dusk it had been a real big last push… and we were delighted to have a welcome party in the form of Matt and his daughter. He’d sourced everything we needed to pack the bike and hung around to wait for our arrival- we are tremendously grateful!!

And not having ridden 118 miles into a headwind we need to box the bike tonight to get a taxi early tomorrow to fly in the morning to…. New Zealand!!

Day 110

You would think a whole day off the bike would be a good chance to rest…but ìt never goes that way with flights!

Having got to bed at around midnight the alarm went off at 5am to get a shuttle to departures for 6am. There was already a queue for check in and it’s always more complicated because of the bike boxes which inevitably need to be dropped at the other end of departures from whichever check in desk were at. Then a miriade of security and border control checks which are different at every airport and this time Stevie got held up as the automated camera barriers didn’t like his beard and then we were finally through the scans and checks. Time for some breakfast and we were soon boarding our flight to Wellington. Better than the last flight we had managed to get exit row seats for Stevie’s long legs and had some films to watch.

Unfortunately at the other end we had to collect the boxes and check them in again before our connecting flight to Dunedin. It was a bit weird knowing we’d be riding back here in afew days but weren’t leaving the airport this time. We collected the boxes from oversized luggage to find one of the handles ripped off and needing repair before the next flight, luckily nothing had fallen out! Having gotten Stevie’s beard through passport control this time we still had our covid travel declarations checked and then customs where all food had to declared and the bike and tent had us diverted down a seperate lane.

The customs officer wanted to check the bike abd the tent for dirt and seeds which involved opening and unpacking both boxes and digging out the tent from the bottom and unpacking it. We were pretty horrified by this idea but the officer was so friendly the process was actually relatively painless and ment we could use his official tape to repair the damage.

Checking the boxes back in again we at least didn’t have to worry about passport control as this was a domestic flight and went to while away the 5 hour layover. A good chunk of time for Laura to catch up on admin but we were both tired and keen to get the travelling over and down with so we’re rather disappointed when the flight was delayed but almost an hour. Finally getting on it was too short to rest properly and we touched down in Dunedin close to 10pm.

It wasn’t over yet though! Dunedin a tiny airport out of the city there was no accommodation nearby so we needed to build the bike to get to some. Reassembling as fast as we could: frame together, seats back on, pedals on, gear reconnected, brake back on, stoker bars on and front bars turned and aerobars reset, racks back on etc. the kind security guard kept the lights on for us but we hadn’t quite finished by the time the airport so finished off in the cold and misty with cows bellowing in the dark as if just to prove we were in an isolated spot. Finally assembled close to midnight we rode towards civilisation and got our first last if New Zealand hills- some sharp gradients we were genuworried we might not get the laden bike up! Finally rocking up at our accommodation close to 2am we were very grateful for some home cooked food after a day of airport sustainence and winding down it was 3am New Zealand time before we were tucked up in bed.

Day 111

After the long day flying and a late night (well early morning ) after the delayed flight we had a bit of a lie in until 8am (equivalent to 6am Oz time).

We had been hosted by an old school friend of Laura’s and although she was away we still felt completely saved by a warm house, homecooked food and a comfy bed.

The morning sun revealed what we had missed in the dark last night riding from the airport: the bay in Dunedin, blue and with waves lapping the shore. A great cycle way out if the city along the railway and we soaked up the views of mountains and sea.  After 10 miles we were climbing…and climbing hard. A long time with no serious gradients and we had forgotten what it is to have to winch uphill! As we gained altitude we rode into the mist, surrounded by sheep and lambs in the New Zealand spring. A descent down to get a sandwich and a cuppa at the village store.

We diverted off the main road for most of the rest of the day with some steep rolling hills and frequently rolling along the beach.  The scenery was stunning.

After out later start we rode past dusk to the sound of the waves crashing on the beach in the dark a friendly motel for the night and we’re ready to catch up on sleep.

Day 112

A rather cold and misty start to the morning had us in down jackets and the views not quite so amamas yesterday.  Feeling tired and groggy the big day flying was catching up with us too and it was a weary slog to the first cafe stop.
The sun did break through briefly though and Stevie seemed surprised every time he took his eyes of the road to see dusky mountains or beautiful beaches.

It all seems so strangley famiher compared to Australia: the soil, the grass, the plants and we even saw a hedgehog last night and heard skylarks today!

We had  a tailwind which was just as well and we soon began to flag again with the ongoing weariness that is a permanent feature at the moment and flew past more cafes, restaurants and tourist attractions.  A few of you followers have kindly suggested restaurants or attractions but we just don’t have tike to stop: missing the famous boulders on the beach and blue penguins yesterday.

But pushing on Today has got us what we need moat: an early finish in a wonderful motel room! With time to recuperate and get an early night.

Day 113

We made a mistake…

Now, we knew the clocks went forward here for Spring time and had planned accordingly, not wanting to lose another hours sleep had set the alarm for the usual time of 5am and left Stevie’s phone on airplane mode so it didn’t update overnight.

We still felt groggy when the alarm went off and it took us a good 20minutes to realise by some kind of strange magic Stevie’s phone had updated so it was what would have been 4am and we had lost and hour of precious sleep.

It made for a good early start though and it was cold again on the road. Glimpsing snow covered peaks in the distance did little to warm us up as we veered off the main road to take to back roads to Christchurch.  It was remarkably quiet and we barely knew we were passing the big city with mountains in the background and nice suburban parks and cycleways.  A brief stint along the beach at the front and we headed inland again.

The main road got busier and we passed vineyards following the railway line toward Waipara where we have some very interesting railway themed accommodation (again!)


Weekly distance 667.75 miles

Total distance 10,935.21 miles

Pizzas: 2 (rubbish shop bought ones…)

Punctures: 0

What really happened at the Railway Barracks…

It was only in the time after we left things seemed to piece together…our memories are strangley vague…almost dreamlike… and maybe we are wrong..maybe the exertion is getting to us…or maybe, sometimes, things cannot always be explained…

We often book accommodation ahead, especially when options were limited so when we spotted a hotel in Binnaway, saving us from a ridiculously epic day to Coonabarabran we were gave them a call earlier in the day.

A man picked up phone, sounding vaguely disgruntled it had rung…”do you have a room for tonight?” Laura asked.

A long pause which suggested the question wasn’t straightforward and a “nope, sorry”.  Feeling persistent Laura asked if there was anywhere else.

A sacking of teeth and “there’s the railway barracks…” with  wry chuckle.  OK great thought Laura and got onto Google maps to track plan b down.

Unusually, nothing was apparent so she called back to get more information but only a telephone number was gleaned.  Not to be put off a good night’s rest Laura made the call.

“Yes, yes” a friendly woman said ” it’s $100 a night just give us a call when you get there, but make sure it’s before dark and one of our volunteers will let you in!”

“Ok” said Laura “we’ll do our best!” Knowing that it was going to be a stretch to make the distance but not seeing another option.

“Yes, before dark! Yes…” said the lady and the line went dead.  Well it’s better than nothing Laura said to Stevie with a shrug and we peddled on. 

It was a long day and not far off dusking by the time we got to Binnaway and the wind whipped leaves around the streets as two adolescent girls rode undersized bikes in circles with speakers pumping put a dubious choice of music.

“Watch out for the magpie” they screamed and looking up there was a pied bird fixing us with intent gaze from the telegraph wire above. Before we could beat a hasty retreat in case it attacked Laura’s phone rang.

“Are you here yet dearie?” A voice crackled down the line.

” Yes we’re here” answered Laura feeling vaguely surprised-she hadn’t left a number earlier but it must have shown up on the phone.  “I’ll meet you at the hotel” the lady said.

The hotel was in full swing having had a night of “money darts” and as we pulled up a trio of of locals rolled out of hotel. After asking the usual questions: where were we from? Where were we going? Where had we cycled from? Where was the motor? They asked where we were staying…

“The barracks?” One exclaimed ” you’ll not sleep well there! It haunted!”

“Yeah” his mate followed up with, whilst sloshing his pint into his shoe “some little girl. She like appears in the corridors…woooo” and bursts into giggles with his tipsy mates.

“Nope.” A voice says from the shadows under the eaves. A lighter sparks illuminating a gaunt weathered face lighting a cigarette “it’s the youngest of the three sisters. She never left.”

The lads go quiet and then shuffle back inside, ricocheted off the door posts and each of as they go but the gentleman follows in a more dignified manner leaving Laura and Steive alone on the suddenly quiet, dark, empty street.  The wind picks up and rustles the leaves, creating shivers.

“Maybe we should try again for a room here” says Laura fearing their host may not arrive.

“Evening dearies” a voice suddenly says and they both jump, having  not perceived anyone approach from down the street. A lady in a floral dress and piercing dark eyes peered at them. “You’ll be wanting your room no doubt?” She stated, rather than asked.

Not in the mood to question Australian country fashion sense on such a cold night we both agreed.

“Go back down the road, take a right then over the tracks then a left and I’ll leave the light on” she directed and strode off down the street. Mounting the tandem again and switching  the lights on we thought we would catch her up but it was almost a mile to the Railway Barracks and we saw not track of her on the road but, true to what she said the light was I  when we arrived.  The front looked smart and recently done up but she quickly beckoned us to the rear of the building.

“Main door’s this way dearies” she said, unlocking it with a large mortice key.  We wandered in and the lights came on revealed a great space- communal dining area, kitchen and 11 bedrooms.  We were able to wheel the bike in too which was great.

“I’ll leave you to it then” said the lady “I’m Lila by the way, great to meet you”.

“What about payment?” Stevie asked. “That’s fine in the morning dearie”.

Trying to be efficient and stay on top of the record attempt Laura remembered the witness book just in time. “Would you mind signing it?” She asked, and for one moment the lady looked like she would say no but them with a shaky hand put her details in.  Then bidding her goodbyes she swept out of the door leaving us to our own devices.

Wandering around our accommodation there was a communal dining area and kitchen and 11 individual bedrooms and 2 bathrooms laid put down a long corridor. The dining room had books and photos about the history of the barracks and the railway line which ran through Binnaway .

Old photos showed three sisters and their daughter who used to run the barracks and a seperate photo of the youngest daughter with a magpie perched on her shoulder. She was apparently a favourite amongst the railway workers, often helping out with the mechanical tasks.

We had neglected the issue of dinner somewhat and spotting a takeaway menu for the hotel tried to call for a takeaway.   Despite a full bars of signal the line wouldn’t connect just making a crackling chugging noise. Of course there was no WiFi earlier or roaming Internet and we were completely isolated. Trying to make the best of matters we rustled up what we could from the food bags and we’re soon feeling tired after a long day. There was a strange chill inside despite the heaters being on and Laura’s wandered around wrapped in the blanket from the bed room.

“You look like an old lady like that!” Sevie said wearily. “I think we should change the chain tomorrow morning. I know it’s due but it won’t take long. Can you just get the new chain out please?”

We both went to bed, and inevitably Laura was sound asleep in no time having forgotten about the chain.

We were sleeping soundly but Stevie got up in the night to us the loo. On the way back he spotted Laura, wrapped in blankets again down the corridor.

“What are you doing down there?” He mumbled sleepily, ” go for a wee and come back to bed” and wandered back into the room to Laura’s soft snores thinking no more about it.

The next morning Stevie was first up to put the kettle on in the kitchen and found the new chain out in the kitchen. Laura must have got it out in the night when she was up.

A while later Laura emerged. “I can’t find the new chain anywhere! ” she complained. “It’s here, you got it out last night when you were wandering around ” Stevie said. “I didn’t get up in the night” said Laura confused.

“Well I saw you wandering about!” Said Stevie and eventually we had to agree to disagree as Laura was convinced she slept through and Stevie convinced he saw her up and the chain was out and ready.

We changed the chain, got breakfast and packed up. Trying the backdoor it was now firmly locked and the heavy kettle nowhere to be seen, only a small modern one which opened the front door.

While Stevie was finishing up Laura went for a wander outside and admired the new frontage and various artefacts from times gone by. A curious magpie followed her around.

We were just ready to leave and wondering what to do about payment when a ute pulls up with a yapping dog in the back.

“Oh so you did make it” and Aussie lady calls from the drivers seat “When it got dark I thought you’d stopped elsewhere and it was only when one of the neighbours said they saw lights on they saw lights on we realised you turned up. How’d you get in?”

“Another lady let us in” said Laura feeling a bit confused, “I forget her name now.”

“That’s strange… Carol and Sharon are out of town, no one else should have a key.” Laura paid up and the lady still looked uneasy.

“Did you see any magpies round here?” She asks warily.”Yeah, one was following me around all morning”

Without another word the lady wound the window up and drove off in a cloud of dust down the road. We both decided it was about time we got going too and headed back to the main road.

After a couple of hours we chatted through the whole experience and a lot of things didn’t add up. The call, how she got to the barracks ahead of us on foot, the back door, the chain being out… but all easily explainable. As we tried to figure put who she was Ste remembered “she signed the book! Check that!”

On getting the book out the signature was there, the date unclear but certainly not any of the volunteers the lady had names and the photo of the photo of Lila the youngest sister missing from Laura’s phone too…

Week 15 Melbourne to Bellata

Day 100

Wow! 100 days on the road!!

After a great night’s sleep and a great start from Liz and Shane’s in Melbourne we started to make our way past skyscrapers and trams in the centre of Melbourne.  It seemed relatively quiet for a Monday morning though and we were soon I  suburbia. Weaving our way along bike paths we passed posties on ebikes which seems like a great idea!

The switch from city to country seemed sudden and we had fields of sheep and çows back again, interspersed with the occasional emu.  The road was a rolling gradual climb so despite a tailwind progress was slow.  The rolling countryside continued into the afternoon and the back roads were very quiet- we’re certainly not missing road trains! Plenty of sulfur crested cockatoos and the occasional kookaburra cheered us on.

The slow start heading cost us though and we were riding into dusk again with enough light to spot the bridge that was rickety enough to trap a tandem wheel.  We got the lights on but were slightly unnerved when a kangaroo bounded across the road in front of us in erratic hops… we had to be on the lookout as in tandem vs roo, we knew who would win!

We’d precooked the motel in the afternoon to be safe and Stevie rustled up a microwave dinner tea.

Day 101

A wonderful hotel stay: nice and warm, plenty of towels and a good drying are for clothes, not to mention the toaster and kettle for the morning!  We skipped a dip in their pool though…

Stevie needed to adjust the front derailieur cable and clean everything up a bit to make changing smoother so we were yet again later leaving than we intended.  It was a sunny day though and the wind was still behind us.  We had joined the main road so the trucks and trains were back and it seemed very busy compared to the previous day. We did spot some camels though! The road wound it’s way through swamp land up to Tocumwal with eucalyptus trees poking through the water and koala warning signs.

“Stop the bike” Laura cried, and there he was!

Seeming completely precariously balanced on a branch and half asleep.  The koala opened his eyes slightly as we approached and then nodded off again.  We took a few photos and left hoping he was well wedged in his nap spot.

Lunch at a bakery is always a good way to save time and a couple fo cups of tea, rolls pies and cake later we were good to go.  We’d established that we had an inconvenient gap in terms of facilities where we needed to stop so we’re preparing to wild camp. We stocked up on noodles and water in the last town and road off into the sunset with herds of emu running along the flat plans around.  Reaching the rest area we’d spotted just as it got dark it was a speedy transition to get the tent up and dinner on the go.  Soon we were tucking into pot noodles and ready to get cosy for a long nights sleep.

Day 102

As well as being woken through the night by what seemed to be cows bellowing at the full moon… Stevie’s guts had been rumbling all night.

In an attempt not to sound like all we do is moan, we’ve skipped over the fact that he had had 2 bouts of a gastrointestinal bug picked up in India. He’s had 2 courses treatment, but this was 3rd time unlucky.

He managed some breakfast but wasn’t on top form- especially we were riding into a headwind.  Next came what was possibly the hardest 40 miles of the trip into the wind and going nowhere with Stevie feeling rubbish on the front.

We made it to Narranderra early afternoon where they have a medical centre but even though they saw us really promptly the Doctor was convinced it was just a bit of reflux and an hour and a half later we left with a prescription for antacids.  Feeling drained and shocked we called it quits after only 43 miles and got a motel for Stevie to get some recovery and consider our options.  It’s about 85 miles to the next town in a headwind tomorrow and given Stevie’s weight loss and other symptoms we’re not convinced it’s all down to reflux so need to get a second opinion before we run out of time to get to Brisbane…

Day 103

It’s been one if those “heads down and do it” days.  With rain at the start it was just a case of keeping going and not seeing much until Ardlethan. Stevie was feeling OK, bloated but not weak as he has been but we are still working on getting so meds so tried the community medical centre there to no avail so went to the cafe instead to feed him up!
A lovely quirky place and we met a fellow Brit on a coach trip who was really interested in our ride.

Back on the road a shortcut out if the town resulted in a ford crossing that was too deep for us and a hasty retrace.
We pushed hard into the headwind to get to Wyalong before the medical centre there shut, but dodging the double rumble strip and roadtrains was tricky.

Making it just in time we were really grateful to be squeezed in at the end of evening consults and then when the doctor heard what we were doing he waived the consult fee!
We had almost won the day, until the pharmacy had no stock if the meds we needed so we settled for a motel and microwave tea before trying our luck down the road tomorrow.

Day 104

Thankfully we awoke to sunshine and made a nice early start from last night’s motel.  Stevie was kinda doing ok and we made steady progress towards Forbes. There had been a fair bit of rain here and the fields  around were swamped with even the road flooded in some places.
After losing more time faffing about in pharmacies we opted for yet another McDonald’s to cheer us up and get the calories in fast!

The roads have not been great recently, busier than we’d like and with massive potholes and variable hard shoulder take a lot of concentration from both of us.

Next stop was Parkes to pick up some dinner from Woolworths (Laura is becoming quite an microwave dinner chef) and we rolled into sunset again to reach Peak Hill; which thankfully did not live up to its name! A steady day’s mileage to hopefully keep us on track for Brisbane

Day 105

Yet another McDonald’s sign lured us towards Dubbo this morning…
We’d had an early start, determined to maximise daylight for a long day and knew it would be important to stay fuelled up on the road. 

A horrible road to start with- busy, no shoulder in places and craterous potholes big enough to have to stop the bike.  We were happy to get off the Newells highway for the rest of the day.

Leaving Dubbo only having visited the golden arches and a supermarket we turned East into a forested nature reserve.  The road was rolling and it was noticeably an uphill trend bit thankfully the wind was slightly behind us.  A brief stop in a small village to tuck into supplies from the lunchbag and we pushed for the remaining distance…unfortunately uphill again.  Having come back into farmland cows and calves ran along with us and we saw several kangaroos skipping in the forest areas next to the  road.  Emus as we’re zig zagged before all settling on the same direction, the mound of feathers on their rumps jiggling as they made an undignified retreat.

Finally rewarded with a descent in the last 10 miles we reached Binnaway and called the number we had been given for accommodation.  Waiting outside the hotel (which was full) the smells from the bistro were tempting but then a car pulled up and a lady gave us directions to the railways barracks.  Almost a mile down the road pur hearts sank slightly-it would be a cold trek back or a choice of ditching bags and coming back on the bike.  The barracks is volunteer run and we were really grateful for somewhere warm to sleep but the issue of dinner wasn’t resolved.  With a full kitchen and breakfast supplies we decided to cobble together what we could to eat rather than lose time and get cold retracing to the rowdy hotel. 

With the next town a short distance tomorrow a large brunch may be on the cards…

Day 106

After surviving the night in the railway barracks… (full story to follow)

We set off in the sunshine to lovely quiet roads through the countryside.  Rejoining the dreaded Newell Highway just before Coonabarabran
we piled into Subway for footlongs. 

Stocked up we got back on the road to a long stint towards Narrabi.
Not the most stimulating riding but it got the miles done and we only had 30miles left.  Replenishing the lunchbag at Woolworths we wolfed down a quick McDonald’s before riding into another glorious Australian sunset.

We reached the small town of Bellata and camped up at the golf club (officially allowed! ) and had a warm dinner and a couple of pints before bed at the club house.


Weekly distance: 727.75 miles

Total distance: 10,260 miles

Punctures: 0

Pizza: 0

Koalas: 1 🐨😍

Week 14 Port Augusta to Melbourne

Day 93

A rather large motel room breakfast ( it’s amazing what you can make with a toaster and a microwave…) we started the slog from Port Augusta to Horrocks Pass.  It was a gentle slope but the headwind was back and we were crawling.  The hills reared ahead with green finger-like proturberances like a rumpled sheet. We finally started to climb properly and lost the majority of the wind, not moving any faster but happy to put our energy into the ascent instead of going nowhere.  We weaved up the hillside past plenty of birds and sheep with lambs bounding away as we approached.  The scenery seemed unusual bur beautiful and we were glad we’ve chosen this route rather than the more direct main road to Adelaide. 

Reaching the top we were treated to a bit of descent and wonderful views towards Wilmington.  We then started rolling through quaint villages with cafes, museums and art galleries with old fashions village stores; obviously proud of their heritage.  The farmland in between was lush with sheep, grain crops and occasionally rapeseed and lots of birds shouting about our arrival. 

Suddenly the squawking took on a more furious note and there was a rush of feathers above our head.  We both ducked the dive bomb of black and white feathers but he came back around for another attack.  It a magpie attack and for some reason these birds are known to be particularly aggressive to cyclists.  Our shouts and flailing with the go pro stick did nothing to dissuade him but after a certain distance he obviously decided his job was done and he’d chased us away.

Feeling traumatised we could do nothing but stop at the next bakery (or maybe it was just the smell of meat pies) a lovely local place in Wirrabara and tucked into hot pastries and doughnuts.

A few miles down the road was the highlight of Laura’s day:a town named after her and not being allowed to stop so soon after lunch she made Stevie slow down for a photo of every sign with her name on it.

We had a gamble to make this for this evening: either carry straight on to the small village of Blyth with one pub/hotel which we hadn’t got around to contacting in advance or turn to Clare a bigger town with guaranteed accommodation but slight further today and certainly further tomorrow over the hill.  We were feeling positive to as the sun set headed to Blyth.  It had been a warmer day up to this point but dropped dramatically once the sun set and our back up plan of camping seemed less practical.  We pushed hard through the last few bitterly cold miles almost at 120miles distance and we’re delighted to roll into the village…and then instantly heartbroken to see the hotel dark and empty.

We tried calling and tried nearby bnbs but to no avail. The options were a cool hilly 8 miles ride to Clare to then try and hunt down accommodation and food or pitching up on the sports ground and sandwiches for tea.  We decided we’d gone far enough for one day and didn’t fancy the extra miles the next and it was slightly warmer in town too so got wrapped up and headed to find a pitch.  A great little set up for RVs/campervans with a shelter and benches was just the ticket. We had the tent up in minutes and and cosy inside we could have heated up some food but were quite happy with a dinner of ginger nuts, peanut butter and honey sandwiches, biltong and cherry ripe chocolate bar! And early night was a good chance to catch up on sleep too!

Day 94

After what was actually a very comfortable and long nights in the tent we were packed and aaya in no time and feeling vaguely surprised the cafe was open got breakfast too.  We started.out and it warmed up and then…we.felt wind on our backs! We could barely believe it!
The lush countryside rolled downhill and it felt like bliss after the past few days to see the miles clock up. A brief snack just before 50miles and we were flying towards Adelaide.

A short stint on the main road certified we had made the right choice in taking the high road as it was busy with trucks and rushing traffic.  Diverting off we found a steadier route into the city and were soon surrounded by the.unfamiliarity of familiar sights! McDonald’s, Subway, KFC, dominoes and even woodfired pizza all beckoned but we weren’t done yet and had a destination to get to.

The centre was wonderfully quiet but the tall building and people suddenly felt strange and confusing after so many days in open spaces. Soon into the suburbs on the other days and dodging hordes of schoolchildren at kick out time we stated to climb…and then climb some more…

A stiff slope on a narrow winding road wasn’t ideal and Laura didn’t even have time to get a photo of the “koala crossing” signs. A car slowed behind us just in time to get us passed the worst bends and we pushed to the summit. Thankfully rolling down the other side we waved to someone videoing on a phone but pushed on.

We had an very kind invitation to stay with a couple who had not only hosted the Tandem Men the original mens record holders but also Tnadme WOW who hold the women’s record! Taking a slightly convicted route through the suburbs we found out the considerate driver up the climb and the video taker were in fact our host and the hot tub and dinner were waiting!! We finally have had our tailwind day.

Day 95

And it’s been a pretty momentous one!

We left the wonderful Alex and Trish very reluctantly having felt like we’d had a few days off rather than just an evening; actually relaxing and enjoying great company rather than doing jobs! They filled us full of breakfast and snacks for our lunch bag before waving us off and we headed up and down over the Adelaide hills.

The views were great and it was sheep on the road rather than koalas but we did spot a kangaroo (you’ll have to look closely at the photo!) and the bends and undulations were very welcome after so long in the Nullabor plain.

It did cost us time and energy though and when we stopped I Meadows the smell of the pie shop Alex had mentioned was too much and we could respite trying a couple from their amazing array.

Spot the kangaroo!

Well fueled for the rest of the day we pushed on down a great descent and a slog on the flat to reach a very important point: 9000 miles, and technically only 4.5days of mileage down despite 6 days off the bike with mishaps. We are delighted!!
And on our way home!

The day wasn’t over though and we had to catch (a very short) ferry at Wellington across the river which was a welcome break. Turning up to the main road we were battered by crosswinds for a bit before turning back onto the busier road to Coonalpyn.  It was dark and busy rolling in so we were glad to get to the motel.  The reviews had read well and we had expected something a bit more upmarket, but it was quite a “compact” room. The pub was “lively” with live music from a bloke singing with keyboard and lots of punters getting merry.  We had rushed back to the bar to order dinner before the kitchen closed, forgoing showers until later.  It was all feeling a bit surrafter such a big day and then we made a big mistake ordering dinner…

It was schnitzel night and based on the size of previous schnitzel we went for one between two and a vegan salad main to share. Sadly the schnitzel was a more average size and the salad, although nutritious, was not what we felt we had earnt after 9000miles. Feeling rather put out Laura went to bed while Stevie raided the salad bar to fill up.

Day 96

After filling up on cereal and toast at the motel we were on the road and ready to go.  With cross tailwinds for a change the miles slipped by until second breakfast at a petrol station.
The terrain was a mix of wooly Dorset sheep and chunky Angus, Hereford and Simmental cattle interspersed with row upon row of grape vines which seemed odd. The twisty patchwork trees are full of shouting parrots and parakeets: galahs, cockatoos, rosellas and lots we don’t know.  Thankfully the magpies didn’t attack today but added to the cacophony.

We made great progress with few stops and hit Naracoorte just a dusk. The campsite was on the town showground and the lady that answered the phone when we had called earlier to check they were open seemed a bit concerned, asking “what are you going to sleep in?” when we said we were on a bicycle. We explained we had a tent and she seemed to take us.  The facilities were basic and after squelching across the water logged grass to near the toilet block it was a bit of a worry pitching in the dark but we managed to find a dry spot and went to find some dinner. Just starting to rain as we got back we prayed it would stay dry overnight but at least it was warm!

Day 97

We did manage to stay dry…much to the campsite owner’s surprise! It seemed the site wasnt as regularly used by tents as the website implied! Waking up to the news HRH Queen Elizabeth had passed away too was very sad and a bit surreal, if anybody embodies dedication and commitment it was her.

A slow steady start packing up and a tactical Maccas (Maccy Ds) stop to fuel up and we were off.  Vineyards stretched for miles but eventually gave way to more pastureland where we spotted a kangaroo hiding amongst the sheep.  This gave Laura a fanastic opportunity to tell one of her few jokes:

What do you call a cross between a sheep and a kangaroo?

A wooly jumper!
*insert tumbleweed sound here*

What was meant to be a brief loo break at 30 miles somehow became a full blown bakery stop and full of pie we headed towards Mount Gambier.
On the way out Stevie needed a drink and we ended up in the second McDonald’s of the day eating big macs! With still 54miles to go and have  figured out we lost 30minutes of time entering Victoria, the next state we needed to put our foot down.
The single lane road through the pine forests became more rolling and on the look out for road trains it all became a bit more stressful than we would like.  Dark brown kangaroos skipped into the darkness of the forest and the full moon rose above.

Getting into Heywood we were too late for the shops so opted for pizza and chatted to the lovely staff there who were really interested in our trip.  When we collected the pizzas they refunded us the money and said they were on the house! We were really grateful for such a kind gesture and the amazing pizzas certainly will keep us going. A small motel room explosion to dry the tent and we’re ready for bed!

Day 98

A good night’s sleep at the motel and we made a better job of packing up this morning, eating left over pizza for breakfast.
The wind was blowing and it was bitterly cold… but it was behinds us and we had tailwinds!
Heading towards the coast the Great Ocean Highway was rolling but the wind pushed us on.  We got lured into another McDonald’s stop in Warranabool but not before getting attacked by magpies again first!
Opting to push the distance and get a motel instead of camping we booked one at lunch and thus motivated us to get is as close to dark as we could. Passing lots of eucalyptus trees lining the road a very  sad dead koala gave a clue there were more.

Que Laura scouring the branches from the backseat. Her search was rewarded when she spotted a ball of grey fluff wedged in the nook of a tall tree but so well camouflaged we didn’t have time to go and hunt him out.

We’ve been thankfully free of roadtrains today and even more so as the sunset and we approached Colac. About 20miles out we’d stopped briefly on the side of the road when a man pulled over advising us to take care on the busy road (it was actually one of the best yet from our perspective) and when he found  out how far we had to go (20 miles out of 130) he offered to put us up for the night!
Sadly the motel was already booked and we needed to try and get as close as possible to hit Melbourne tomorrow!

Stopping a Woolworths we stocked up on dinner and breakfast (not pick a mix) and were very pleased with a massive hotel room we could fit the bike in.  Stevie huddled  under the aircon to warm up and we were both shattered after such a big day.

Day 99

Starting late after Stevie had used the advantage of having the bike inside a motel room to change the crossover belt we made it less than half a mile up the road when Laura realised she was missed the crib sheets for the route and facilities.  The compromise was Stevie went to McDonald’s and Laura scurried back down the road.  A second breakfast later and we were off!
The wind was still behind us and if was a warm sunny day.  Apart from a brief stop where all the cows came to watch we powered on to late lunch in Geelong.  Settling down to blast through the second half of the day we started to follow some great country lanes towards the city of Melbourne.  We ground to halt at the slip road to the motorway… having replanned this section on the fly a few days ago the software hadn’t picked up on it not being cycle friendly.  A bit of rerouting later and a few extra miles got us on the road to Melbourne again.

It started to shower and then to rain properly and for the first time both waterproofs came out in Australia.

Our next misdemeanor came on entering the city and spotting signs for the Federation trail we wanted to take.  We suspect we may have started in the wrong direction though as we were soon off route and the wrong side of the motorway…more rerouting later and we picked it up in the dark, dodging rabbits along the way.  Just as we got close to the centre it ended abruptly at roadworks and we diverted again.

The rain had set in and we were getting pretty cold and miserable by this point.

We had been due to take a “punt” over the river but this was inevitable long closed when we rocked up.  More replanning to find a bridge we were allowed on and Laura’s phone died just a few miles short of our destination.  We were delighted to be welcomed by a sister of an old school friend of Laura’s and get warm and dry a filled with fish and chips!


Weekly mileage: 801.56

Total mileage : 9529

Pizzas: 4

Punctures: 0

Kangaroo sightings : lost count

Week 13 Madura to Port Augusta

Day 86

The wind had been blown out of our sails a bit by the unexpected nights camp, we were quite comfortable in the tent but we’d been banking on a lot of recovery for our hard work and felt cheated. 

Another stumbling block was the clocks had changed. 

We were now 45 minutes ahead of Western Australian time and on Central Western Time and would gain another 45 minutes in Adelaide…so it was 45minutes later than we thought and will watches and mobile not connecting to the Internet (I’ve never figured out if there’s a way to manually adjust my GPS watch…ridiculous I know! ) only David the Garmin GPS was getting it right!  This lead to a slight,  and potentially deliberate, setting of the morning alarm for 6am WA time and us leaving at gone 9am CW time (plus a lot for faffing).

One job we’re glad we made time for though was to chase up  Eucla and we were delighted they had a budget room and promised an upgrade if one came up, we just needed to get there by 8pm.  

It was time to put the pedals down!

Our blessed tailwind had morphed into a brutish crosswind and we battled to keep the average above 13mph. Stops were brief to keep the pace up and the flies off and we made Mundabrilla roadhouse, 72miles later, for a fast turnaround, scoffing sandwiches standing up before hitting the road for a 42mile time trial to get in in time.

The road was flat and the wind dropped allowing us to up the pace to 15s and 16s. The desert was green but monotonous along this great plateau bowl and when we did stop seashells indicated its past as the ocean floor; the great bluff surrounding us once the coastline.  Wildlife was sparse except a few birds and a large ginger catlike beast a dusk, not a fox or dog we think…

 But still not a “bloody kangaroo!”

We finally hit the far edge of the bowl in the dark and we’re delighted that our efforts paid off to get us in before 7pm.  Checking in there was a bit of a rush on but the lady remembered my call and said room 4 still hadn’t turned up…otherwise it was a budget room with the showers in the caravan park.  While she served another customer we stuck our heads in the restaurant and by luck noticed it was about shut so got an order in quick.  The lady behind the desk was happy for us to eat first and then check in after.  By the time we had wolfed down some food it was 8pm and room 4s key was still on the hook and after she tried to call them a few times just to make sure they weren’t coming it was ours!! For a mere $160, but it was luxury! A fantastic shower, kettle fridge amd great drying area for our clothes and even a promised sea view in the morning.

Day 87

We felt pretty smug packing up our hand washed clothes and gazing out on our sea view the next morning. 

Stevie did some bike maintenance and we ordered a solid breakfast ahead of what was planned to be a long day with no stops and a night under the stars before rolling into the Nullabor roadhouse for breakfast the next day. We were meant to pick up provisions for breakfast and lunch here too but skirmish of the shop came up with a few packets of biscuits, some sandwiches which had been around since the night before and plenty of toothpaste.  Border roadhouse was only 9 miles down the road so we decided to have a super fast stop there to supply. A brief perusal of the legend of the Nullabor Nymph and we finally rolled out for a very steady start.

Stopping shortly down the road the Border roadhouse had an amazing shop, filled rolls, cake, coffee and… After 6 days without…WiFi! Ideas of a 5 minute turnaround evaporated pretty quickly!  Just as we were leaving we stopped for obligatory photos with the giant kangaroo and got chatting to some Germans.  They were heading the other way and trying to give away a jar of local honey which isn’t allowed across the South Australian- West Australian border (along with fruit and veg).  It was too heavy for us and we were stuffed full of cake abd we enjoyed chatting…but more time evaporated. 

We had another set back on leaving…the clocks had changed by 45minutes again.  It was not 11:40am and we’d done 9 miles!!

Our plan to hit 110-115 miles was in jeopardy as it was not only the clocks we were fighting but daylight.   And we were straight into a headwind. 

Deciding to knuckle down we felt better for knowing we could stop anytime as we were camping wild and could afford to ride into the night.   The afternoon flew by with brief glimpses over the Southern Bight where whales are often spotted this time of year.  Not time for stopping though and before we knew it the sun was setting. 

Luckily dusk is long and we got lights on and wrapped up against the bitter headwinds.   As it got darker we got more and more cautious of the roadtrains and as much as they always seemed to see us and give us a wide berth no hard shoulder made us wary and their rumbling thunder seemed worse at night.  The wind never let up and our average speed plummeted as we got tired and cold.  It was clear we were on a hiding to nothing to male our target distance and when a parking area came up at just over 90 miles we bailed into it.  The tent was up in minutes, the kettle on for pot noodles and biltong and we were soon bundled up in our cosy down sleeping bags.  It was still close to 10pm by the time we conked out and sleep well despite the incessant rumble of roadtrains on the main road.

Day 88

All too soon there as a faint light in the tent and the noise of birds outside (they don’t sing here…) meant it as time to get up.

We had over 120miles to do and the ruffling of the tent suggested the wind hadn’t dropped.  It was also now over 30miles to breakfast and with a limited supply of Tim tams it was touch and go.  The headwind was stiff and our speed was barely making 10mph but breakfast called and we pushed on to Nullabor roadhouse.  The waitress looked a bit taken aback after we inhaled their famous “Nulla breakfast ” and followed it up with cakes and muffins.  Having sated our calorie deficit and freshened up after our night roughing it it was getting late again by the time we left and the thought of 90miles into a headwind made us rethink our plans.  Yalata was about 60miles away and seemed like a safer bet to have a final big push to Ceduna tomorrow. A few people chatted to us and we mentioned stopping at Yalata including a couple that pulled over later to give us chocolate…no one said it wasn’t a great idea…

The winds dropped and the terrain became more rolling with patches of woodland which helped morale and we felt determined to have a plan in place to maximise efficiency and  minimise faff. It was still way before sunset as we approached Yalata but we were happy to stop for the day and rolled in to… a deserted caravan park and building works where the roadhouse was.  Wandering around in a bit of a daze it quickly became apparent this was not even somewhere we wanted to wild camp.  Needing water and ideally dinner we made the decision to ride the extra 32miles into the night to get to Nundroo.  

We were in better spirits tonight and a downhill start spurred us along, calling out the mileage “100miles!!” “Less than 10 to go!!” helped motivate us as the sky got dusky again and darkness set.  We could spot the lights of roadtrains from miles back in the darkness and although they flashed their lights when they spotted us we bailed into the gravelly hard shoulder before they got close.

Stopping for a final break the milky way was as sparkling arch above us in an unpolluted sky of unfamiliar constellations. It was bitterly cold though and we weren’t looking forward to pitching the tent again. 

Finally we saw static lights ahead and the roadhouse appeared.  Fearing another let down we stopped.and tentatively lent the bike up.  A man can out of the shop “can I help you?” he asked.

Ready to fight not to be turned away “are you open?” We asked, it looked a bit dim inside.

“Yes” he said, looking confused by such an obvious question.  We looked at each other in shock. Buoyed with confidence “do you have a room and food?” Stevie asked.

“Yes” the man said. On the verge of saying “are you sure” or hugging him we got hussled inside, just about to pick up cold cans of beans for tea the man said “would you like some fish and chips or schnitzel?”  I think the answer was quite obvious and  soon we were settled in a warm room, devouring schnitzel and celebrating our escape from the Nullabor with a beer!

Day 89

There are good days…

…there are bad days…

…and there are block headwind days.

Well it was slightly crossed but that only served to make the bike harder to handle and the buffeting from the roadtrains worse.

A good start from the motel riding on our success if last night we tried to stay positive but with massively slow progress to Penong, the most built up place we’ve seen in almost a week, we arrived tired and hungry.  The burgers from the cafe fuelled us up but the wind was unrelenting.  The countryside stretched greener, with trees and sheep and was more stimulating than the desert but the monotony of ploughing into a headwind wore us down.  It was meant to be a shorter day to Ceduna but the miles dragged and we finally crossed the fruit fly quarantine point and then into the town just on time not to put the lights on.

Delighted to get into the first motel we picked we were even happier when the kind owner offered to pick us up pizza!! Truly knackered it isn’t over yet…with the first overnight WiFi in a week there is a lot to catch up on and it’s a busy evening doing admin.

Day 90

What do you say about a day into a block headwind…

…it’s blooming tough…more than tough!

With flat scenery and very little to take our minds off a long straight, uphill road the miles dragged slowly both in all senses.

Today is day 90…but still hundreds of miles short of 9000 probably best not to dwell on that whole going 9mph.

A brief stop at “the town with a secret” hiding from the bitter wind was all we had time for before pushing on into the night.  It got colder and colder even though the wind dropped slightly and the high hopes we had of camping to save a few dollars were left miles behind on the road when we road into Minnipa shivering and exhausted.  Luckily there was room in the Inn and the friendly barman even switched the cooker back on to make us schnitzel. Stevie got on the pulses to try and get some wind power in the opposite direction and we curled up in bed with a electric blanket dreading the same tomorrow.
We were meant to be wild camping tomorrow to get our distance done but the locals said it had dropped to 2’c outside (so we’re not being wimps! ) and it wasn’t going to warm up for days!

Day 91

To say we were a bit reluctant to leave the warm hotel was an understatement, but leave we must and straight into the same wind.

Highlights of today’s ride included:
Taking a left turn
Seeing a hill in the distance
And purchasing a new food/lunch bag from a shop with aisles (we got lost several times)

After spending way too long attaching it to the bike…we definitely weren’t avoiding getting back in the headwinds…

Funnily enough we gave camping a miss tonight and finished early at Kimba to get a basic motel room.  The sun was setting though and the temperature dropped quickly making it a trade off between what was more dreaded: the ascents or descents.

The motel did curry which was a novelty since Asia and more catching up on jobs online before bed.

Day 92

After a bit of a bad start with the rubbish motel trying to serve us burnt fruit toast we cheered up a lot to see the “halfway across Australia” sign! (And the giant galah).

Pushing on into a large national park it was pretty empty but the scenery is changing and hills are appearing on the horizon.

“Emus!” Laura suddenly shouted!

A flock of them were running alongside the road and stopped to stare at us. The wind had moved too and we had crosswinds sweeping great plumes of clouds  across the sky.  We were making good progress and will the town of Iron Knob being almost creepily quiet we stopped on the side of the road for lunch.

A great long distance view of Lincolns Gap urged us on towards a skyline of hills.  Then we spotted kangaroos too and they just stood and stated at us as if to say “what are you looking at? You’re the weird ones here!’

Making Port Augusta before sunset we ransacked the local supermarket for fresh food and a cheap dinner before tracking down our motel.

It was dark when we got there and we were worried our luck was out but finally get through with a call we got let in and rustled up a microwave dinner before bed.  We have to fearsome climb of Horrocks Pass tomorrow so it may be an early start!


Total mileage: 8732

Weekly mileage: 719.27

Pizzas: 2 😍

Punctures: 0

Kangaroo sightings: 2

Week 12 Cranbrook to Madura

Day 78

After the excitement of yesterday (new country, kangaroos etc) it felt like a toughie today…but that might have been the nagging headwind too!

On the road it was pretty pastoral with Merino sheep flocks staring at us concertedly.. they are much more skittish than the UK! The first  roadhouse provided piping hot meat pies and tea which was great news as it is bitterly cold and we’re struggling with the >30’c temperature drop!

The ladies appeared vandalised at first but on second   glance is just a load of love messages.

And so far the facilities have been great if widley spaced.
It made good for cracking on though which we need to do with the rolling terrain and stiff winds.
Heading into the dark we had our sights set on a bnb but as the countryside got more remote we got a bit nervous passing the turn for the last village.

Finally Stevie’s headlight illuminated the sign but the drive and then the house was pitched black with just a farm dog barking in the night. We found a number to call and it turned out a email reply hadn’t come through and they were away. With it being cold already we had little option but to back track to the turn for Cranbrook and deviate there in hope of accommodation.

Stumbling into a toasty warm and bright pub hotel a fair bit later Laura hesitantly asked if they had a room- yes they did have a single room! Admitting to having Stevie outside as well Laura pleaded for the single with one of us sleeping on the floor- anything to stay in the warmth! The kind landlady offered to clear out a spare double instead and in no time we were warm, showered and tucking into lamb chops by the fire.
A glass (or two!) of Australian shiraz and we were done!

A glass (or two!) of Australian shiraz and we are done!
Praying for favourable winds soon…

Day 79

An early start from the hotel put us in a good position but itvwas bitterly cold.  We’re not sure we didn’t see a touch of frost and it wasn’t just us as the lady behind the till at the Mount Barker services commented we looked pretty chilly and the unseasonably cold weather. 

The fields of rapeseed and Merino sheep changed to vineyards and Angus beef cattle. Luckily we didn’t have time to stop at a vineyard…

Pushing on into the wind which seemed to be coming directly from the Antarctic we lost any benefit of the descent into Albany but still made good time thanks to starting early. 

Finally turning East we got a bit help from the wind and picked up the pace.  The farmland gave way to low brush and trees and we saw multitudes of parrots; dusky pink breasted Galahs eating seed from the road and even what we think we’re black Cockatoos with distinctive red tail feathers.  We had two sightings of ‘roos too, the second time bounding across the road.

A quick stop to ransack the store at Wellstead for dinner and a warming bottle of Aussie red before making the campsite with crack-a-jack timing to pitch the tent before admiring the sunset over the mountains.

Day 80

Punctures 0

After a great night camping it was thankfully a warmer morning and we had the campsite cabin to get tea and breakfast.
Making an early start before 7:30am on the road we were ready for a big day.  The next town was 50miles away so we didn’t have much to stop us powring on. The road was pretty rolling though and when we checked the profile later a steady climb. Reaching Jerramungup for lunch we fuelled up and we’re ready to push on the next 70miles to the next town.

The roads were quiet though and the peace was beautiful with lots of brush and a few parrots but no kangaroos today.  Just making Ravensthorpe by nightfall we were gutted to find the hotel and motel full but relieved to get in the campsite, albeit a wee bit stinky with two days of unwashed clothes!

Day 81

A crisp start at our last minute campsite but the sun soon came up and a kettle for tea greatly facilitated us getting on the road.

It was certainly rolling with views of great long snakes of tamac ahead and most of the time only a few Galahs to keep us company.  Our one and only roadhouse stop was at about 50miles and we were grateful to tuck into burgers.  The lady there assured us that the motel/hotel at Gibson, our destination for the day, would be very unlikely to be full with moat drivers pushing on to Esperance one way and Norseman the other.  Feeling relived of a prospect of a bed and shower we pushed the next 60 miles through “Many Hills” and into a light headwind.

Laura’s routing fell through at the last and after almost ending up on a gravel road in the dark and almost bailing another 15miles down to Esperance we found our road. A peaceful ride in in the dark and we were relieved to see shining lights ahead.

The pub was a haven of warmth after being out in the cold night…but it was not to be!  Despite the local advice, Google maps and recent reviews the hotel was closed after a fire.  We knew the answer but asked if there was anywhere else anyway but the nearest was Esperance, too far for tonight and too much distance to add in the morning. A kind chap at the bar offered us a lift, but it was still the same predicament.

We had decided to get a meal and suffer another cold night on the football pitch in the tent when a kind bloke came over for a chat. He was on his way to a drilling job South and hearing our problem offered to get us space to sleep in an outhouse gym belonging to the Macguiver of Gibson next door. We couldn’t believe our luck to get somewhere warm and dry and the day was saved! He even pinged us some wifi to book the following nights hotel and things were definitely looking up!

Day 82

After being waved off by our saviour from last night we hit the road…straight into a block headwind.

50 miles later the novelty had definitely worn off as we piled into the Salmon Gums roadhouse for lunch.  It was only just starting to warm up too and we felt hard done by having had headwinds going South to Albany and now North to Norseman.

Stevie got his glove stitched up and a rather awesome video message from Queen tribute bands but will have to wait for his home-baked cake until we are closer to an oven!

Setting off again we managed to get our navigation spot on for the rest of the road and pushed on to Caiguna our next roadhouse. About 15 miles out, suddenly the wind switched and came in from our right side. It was immediately apparent how much help we’d been having and the last few miles were tough but finally we turned the corner…literally and rolled into Caiguna before dark.

Happily the wind dropped in the second half of the day and we were able to make Norseman just in time for a tremendous sunset-the photos don’t do it justice.

Fuelling up on a birthday dinner of chicken parmi’ we are set to hit the Nullabor desert tomorrow!

Day 83

Feeling much refreshed after a shower and a night in a bed we enjoyed an all you can eat breakfast before hitting the road.  But first we needed to stock up on supplies before the Nullabor desert!

The prices have noticeably gone up as we are getting more remote and we set off with a heavier bike and a lighter wallet! The warning signs leaving the town suggested we’d been right to be prepared and our next stop was Balladonia, 120 miles away.  

It had been a chilly start but soon warmed up and for the first time in Australia Laura’s leg warmers came off!

We did pass a couple of picnic areas with benches but that was the extent of facilities on the road.  We decided to pull over just past the halfway mark and had planned to put the kettle on, but as soon as we stopped the flies descended!! With the heat an the flies we grabbed a very brief lunch before escaping on the tandem.

The rest of the afternoon was a rolling downhill and now we finally had crosswinds we made great progress. The temperature dropped rapidly once the sun went down, but it was definitely worth it to ride through another glorious sunset.  Making the motel in time for dinner we were able to get an early night…but not before watching a bit if “escape to the country” which surreally had a property 10miles from where we live in the UK! 

Day 84

Walking out of the motel room the morning to brilliant blue skies we were more excited about another bit of weather: westerlies!

Today is a big day, and should be relatively straightforward…Well very straightforward… 90 miles straight forward! 

About 20 miles with a couple of bends and them we hit the famous 90 mile straight- the longest straight road in Australia!  And the wond had the potential to make it 90 miles of misery so we were delighted to have finally got the wind on our back.

This is our first proper day in the Nullabor and the desert of “no trees” doesn’t quite live up to its name starting off with plenty of rough trees and thinning out to bushes and scrub.  It is still pretty green but this is spring and the air is already parched and dry, feeling brittle compared to the incessant humidity of Asia.  The views roll for miles and miles and the level of vegetation varies but aside from a couple of flocks of galahs the wildlife was sparse.  We found a picnic area for lunch and were joined by some chirpy and  cheeky birds who happily shared our pastries.  The only other bit of wildlife was the flies…Laura is pretty sure the same three followed us from Balladonia to Caiguna on Stevie’s back no matter how much we swatted them!

The other end!

Day 85

Walking out of the motel room in the morning there was initial sense of dread as the wind seemed to be against us…then we realised we were on the other side of the road and it was tails!

A bit of breakfast as we were ready to roll with the wind on our backs.  The scrubland came and went today and the curves and bends in the road were welcome.  Only just over 40 miles down the road was the next stop- a real treat for lunch! Not theist inspiring soup in the World but a very interesting spot as Cocklebiddy where budgies outnumbered permanent residents.

The wind was still blowing strong throughout the afternoon and at one point Laura’s windproof went flying as she tried to clip it around her waist.  By the time we had turned to get it it had overtaken uson the way down the road ! We just about managed to catch it up…

Apart from that there wasn’t much other excitement- I think we are due some sort of refund from the Australian tourist board because the kangaroo/emu/camel/cow warning signs are definitely false advertising! 

Suddenly though the road dropped down and we had an amazing view over an immense flat plateau, scooped out by the ocean many years ago and leaving a great bowl of desert.  

Getting to Madura early we were really looking forward to a long evening to recover…but it turns out we’ve used up our luck for the day and the motel was full! There is a campsite but we had been pedalling hard for a warm shower and a comfy bed so we’re more than a bit disappointed. Pitching the tent in the bushes we at least got a hot dinner and decided to call ahead to book the next two roadhouses/motels.  But these are full for the next two nights too! It looks like we’re going to have a tough stint in the desert!!


Mileage 788

Total mileage 8016miles

Pizza 0 😱 😭

Kangaroo sightings 2