27 November 2010

CYCLING ARGENTINA - Ushuaia to Puerto Natales

24 November Cape Town, South Africa - Ushuaia, Argentina

I was up at 5h00, ready for my early morning flight to Ushuaia via Buenos Aires, a 9h20min flight, and then a further 3h30min flight to my final destination. All went well, except that I had to pay for my overweight baggage on the final leg. I easily found a taxi at Ushuaia airport to take bike, my bags and me into the town and to Hostel Haush where I stayed for the next three nights. At last, I had arrived on the Isla Grande de Tierra del Fuego; an island shared with Chile and cut off from the main land by the Strait of Magellan.

Ushuaia is picture pretty but also freezing cold. There are more than enough outdoor stores to stock up on warm cloths. It remains light until rather late, so it was hard to go to sleep with it being so light outside. By 23h00 (24 hours since I woke up) I finally went to bed and slept like a log.

25 November - Ushuaia
With its snowy mountain backdrop, Ushuaia reminded me a bit of Alaska. With many brightly painted corrugated iron homes, it is quite a picturesque village. The city is situated on the Beagle Channel and at the foothills of the Andes Mountain Range and is known as the southern most city in the world. With a population of about 64 000 it is not much of a city. The southern location also means that it remains rather cold year round with a high of only 9 degrees in the warmest months. Heating systems remain on all year (including the summer months).

Therefore, off to the shops I went to spend a fortune on a pair of very nice Merrell hiking shoes. I only have a pair of sandals, which will not do here. I wondered around the many shops stocking up on all I may need for the days ahead. I found some gas for my stove at an equally high price. I also found a rather nice bike shop, Ushuaia Extremo; they put my bike together again.

26 November - Ushuaia – Tierra del Fuego National Park - 50km
I dressed in my warmest clothes (including my brand new shoes) and set off into the National Park. The Park gate is only about 12km from the centre of town and an easy cycle along a dirt road. Although freezing cold the scenery was quite spectacular. The end of the road in the park is also the end of Ruta 3 and known as “The-end-of-the-world”. It may be the end of the road for others, but it’s the beginning of the road for me. I took a short hike around the park and then headed back to the village. I could not believe my eyes as I saw fine snowflakes fall from the sky. They unfortunately melted immediately and now I cannot even say I cycled in snow!

After much deliberation I bought myself a pair of rain pants as well as a beanie for the cold weather ahead.

27 November - Ushuaia – Tolhuim - 109km
I was excited to get on the road and see what lay ahead. The road headed uphill out of Ushuaia and over the mountains, past numerous ski resorts; some even with chair lifts. Not a bad road, a bit narrow but sealed. Motorists were friendly and always gave me a wide berth and a little warning hoot. After about 50km I reached the top of the pass Via Paso Garibaldi, with a view over Lago Escondido and Lago Fagnano. The mountains provided some shelter from the wind, as I sped downhill past Lago Escondido and onto Tolhuim, situated on the shores of Lake Fagnano. It was a bit of a strange town and hard to find accommodation or shops, maybe there just weren’t any. I was fortunate enough to find a good enough spot to lay my head for the night.

28 November - Tolhuim – Rio Grande - 113km
I woke to lose corrugated iron roof sheets, banging in the wind. I knew instantly that it was going to be a long hard day riding into the wind. I left Tolhuim with dust swirling in the dirt roads and headed north in the direction of Rio Grande, straight into the infamous Patagonian wind. It was freezing cold and rain pelted down, driven by the near gale force wind. I was wearing almost all I had but still felt the cold.

As if that was not enough, my rear gear-cable broke. Despite this, I battled on working with the three gears I had left. It did not make all that much difference, as I was only going at an average of 10km/h, if I was lucky. As the day wore on the wind grew even stronger, slowing my pace to a mere 5km/h. Still I battled on, past vast, wind swept and barren looking estancias. About 20km from Rio Grande, a friendly Argentinean offered me a lift. I could smell victory over the harsh conditions and declined, but could have kicked myself as soon as he left. My goals became shorter and shorter, four x 5km sounds a lot more doable than 20km! Every 5km I stopped and had some sweets or biscuits took a sip of water and then headed off into the howling wind again.

The barbeque is a way of life and I notice people stopping just about anywhere (out of the wind) along the road to light a fire and throw some meat on the coals. I was dead tired by the time I arrived in Rio Grande, found a room and went to bed. I was rather pleased with myself for surviving such a harsh day on the road.

29/30 November - Rio Grande
I slept and slept, and eventually woke to the smell of coffee and toast! A nice breakfast was included in the room price (standard in Argentina); a typical breakfast is normally coffee and croissants or some other pastries. At least the weather cleared but the relentless wind did not abate, I don’t think it ever does. Irrespective of what one might read or hear about the wind, nothing can quite prepare you for the reality. If Ernest and I had not battled for days into the wind along the Red Sea Coast in Egypt, at 5km an hour, I would not have believed this possible!

I was pleased for a rest day as my backside and my knees were sore. I could feel a bout of laryngitis coming on (it must be from breathing all that icy cold air). First thing was to find a bike shop to have the gear-cable repaired. The friendly chap and the bike shop also advised me to get off-road tyres for the dirt road ahead. He could only get the tyres the following day so I left the bike at the shop and did not complain about waiting another day as the wind was blowing at 85 - 100km per hour.

1 December - Rio Grande - 19km
I was up and rearing to go. Unfortunately, the wind won the day, 10km out of town I eventually gave up and turned back. It’s not just that it was hard, it was just too dangerous; I was blown across the road like a rag doll, totally out of control!! Back in town, I found Hostel Argentino (bit cheaper than where I stayed before) and found three more cyclists heading in the same direction as me. They were also waiting out the wind, hoping that the weather would improve by the next day. I don’t have much hope of that but I will wait and see what happens. We had some good red wine and swamped war stories until bedtime.

2 December - Rio Grande – San Sebastian – by car to Punta Arenas - 38km
I woke and thought the wind looked less fearsome than the previous day. I packed in a hurry and was out the gate as soon as possible; to my horror, the wind was as strong as the previous day. I was battered kilometer after kilometer; each turn of the pedal was an achievement in itself! The wind, however, blows in gusts and every so often I was blown off the road and had to get off the bike, push it back onto the road and to try again. Worse was that it also blew me into the road, which was rather narrow and even although the drivers were very courteous it was still nerve racking. It remained freezing cold and soon it started hailing!! A friendly truck driver stopped and gave me a lift to San Sebastian. With renewed energy, I set off again. The border crossing between Argentina and Chile is quite low-key but it still took a while before all was checked and cleared. This is the end of the tarred road and from there on it was a dirt road. That was about as much as I could take. I felt rather sorry for myself pushing my bike (in high wind) along this long and desolate road.

So I weakened and when a friendly Chilean driver stopped and offered me a lift all the way to Punta Arenas, I got in and was grateful for the warmth and safety of the car. The people here are so incredibly friendly, I’ll have to watch out or I’ll be given lifts all the way through Patagonia!! (Although it may be the only way, I’m going the get through it)

3/4 December -Punta Arenas
I camped at Hospedaje Independencia, easily the cheapest accommodation in town and therefore packed with backpackers from all over. Much of this region once belonged to one person namely Jose Menendez, wool baron of his time. Even today, it is still a sheep country and wool and lamb is big in this area.

Francois (whom I met at the Hostel Argentino in Rio Grande) arrived by bus and it was like meeting an old friend. The weather station put out an alert for high winds in the area (according to them over 100/120km per hour) so there and then I decided to stay put and check the weather out the next day.

5 December - Punta Arenas – Puerto Natales - By Bus - 21km
The weather looked good and after a slow start, I decided to cycle, once again. I only cleared the city limits (about 10km) and the wind hit me with full force. I truly don’t know how people do this. I’m just too scared. I turned around and flew back, down-wind into the city centre.

From there, I took the bus to Puerto Natales, as I had already arranged with Yutta and Francois to do some trekking once in Puerto Natales. Even the bus seemed to have great difficulty staying on the road. What an unforgiving area this is! The plains are rather barren, treeless and windswept. Every now and again there were a lonely and fore lone looking estancia, some even deserted. Once in Puerto Natales I found some good camping in Josmar Hostel with a nice campground and restaurant.

6 December - Puerto Natales
I met up with Francois and Yutta again. The day flew by as we prepared for our 8-day Torres Del Paine trek. I rented a bag and walking sticks from the local shop and bought food. The bag was rather heavy and I wondered if I’d even make the first few kilometers (and that was even before I packed the wine). Just the very essential stuff like tent, sleeping bag, food and warm cloths was already a lot of stuff to carry.

7 December - Torres Del Paine - Las Torres – Campamento Seron
Things were rather well organized to get to the Torres Del Paine National Park. Francois, Yutta and I grabbed a 7:30 bus to the park and then a small minibus to Hotel Las Torres, where we started our first day hike, a short and easy walk. I heaved my heavy pack and we strolled off to our first campsite. We had lovely views of the snowy mountains and lakes nearly all the way. Our first campsite was a bit exposed to the elements and of cause the wind blew as it can only blow in Patagonia. We managed to cook food and I was quite sure that I was going to lose my tent during the night.

8 December - Torres Del Paine - Campamento Seron – Refugio Dickson
I woke with sore ankles but paid little attention to it as little aches and pains normally come with the territory. We packed at leisure and then ambled along to our second campsite. Again, it was a short and easy day, which I was happy about as it started raining and it drizzled all day. By the time we reached Refugio Dickson we were wet and cold, my ankles were throbbing and I found it quite difficult to walk. Dickson is, however, one of the nicest camping areas on the trek, and has a lovely Refugio with a fireplace; communal sitting area, coffee, tea and one can even order food. Well you can just imagine all the wet and cold bodies (and boots) huddled around a small fireplace.

Outside it was bitterly cold, I dressed in all I had to ward off the cold, but nothing seemed to work. Soon it started snowing and turned the entire landscape around me a brilliant white. Falling snow is quite a novelty to me, but it was not as romantic as I imagined, instead all it was, was freezing cold. I thought my poor tent was going to collapse under the weight.

9 December - Torres Del Paine - Refugio Dickson – Campamento Los Perros
Once again, we were very slow at packing up. We knew it would be a short walk to our next camp and as rumors were that it was even colder there, we only left at around 12h00. I was really struggling with my ankles and to later thought that I should have stayed an extra day at Dickson. The walk however offered stunning views of the glaciers and surrounding mountains. I was going slower and slower, Fran├žois walk with me as I growled along at a snail’s past. I wobbled along; aided by my two walking poles I dragged myself to camp. I felt bad that I was holding up Francois and Yutta, but there was little I could do. It was bitterly cold by the time we arrived at camp and I knew that I should get my tent up as soon as possible.

People are just so incredible, all offering painkillers and creams. I, however, knew that there was no way I could even think of crossing the pass in the morning. I understood that the pass was a steep climb of about 1 000m in deep snow and that it was at least a 6-hour walk to the next camp.

10 December - Torres Del Paine - Campamento Los Perros
I was stuck inside my tent and could not move! My ankles and feet were so sore that I could place no weight on them. I waved Francois and Yutta good-bye and then had to think about how to get out of where I was. I understood that one could get a horse, but with no command of the Spanish language, I felt lost and very sorry for myself. Eventually I understood that I could not get a horse from Los Perros, but had to walk back to Dickson and maybe I could arrange something there. Just how I was going to achieve that, I did not know, as I found it quite impossible just to stand up.

Later that day a group of British horse riders arrived, and it was good to hear a language I could understand. The guide offered to take my pack back to Dickson, if I thought I could make it there by foot.

11 December - Torres Del Paine - Campamento Los Perros – Refugio Dickson
I soon discovered that two of the horse riders were South African doctors, now working in London. True to nature, they had a fair amount of medicine with them and offered me some painkillers. Thanks to them, I could at least get out of the tent on could stand on my feet. I waited for the tablets to kick in and then, aided by my walking poles, shuffled back along the path. This was not only embarrassing but also very painful. I kept on telling myself “it’s only pain” but it did not work for me!! I knew that I was not doing my ankles a favor by walking back but what could one do?

I was proud of myself for making it all the way back to Dickson, where I found three other trekkers waiting for horses. I pitched my tent and did all the necessary things, like filling up with water etc., as I knew that once I sat down there was no getting up again, I had to keep on moving until everything was done. Exhausted I flopped into my tent and stayed there until the morning.

A storm strength wind picked up and I desperately had to get outside to strengthen my tent ropes. All I could do was to crawl on all fours around the tent and hammer in the pegs and tighten the ropes! What a sight that must have been! Still, I was not sure that the tent would hold up in such a strong wind. (Fortunately it did)

12 December - Torres Del Paine - The “rescue”
Early morning, and quite unexpectedly, I was told that a horse had been arranged for me. The horse was however on the other side of the river. I took my last four painkillers, waited a while, and then tried to pack up. It felt that the tablets had no impact on the pain. I tried my utmost to pack my bag and tent in high winds. Eventually the owner came to help and I set off towards the river. The wind was blowing so hard that one could barely stand. Driven by the wind the river was a torrent. The oarsmen tried everything, but could not get the boat hooked up to the cable, already spanned across the river. In the meantime the ranger with horse was waiting on the other side! Eventually everyone gave up, and we headed back to the Refugio. We had a hearty lunch after which the men went to check on the conditions of the river and wind again.

Eventually the boat was hooked up, they loaded my backpack and me into the boat and we made it across, by pulling the boat along the cable spanned across the river. Getting out the boat, across the rocks and onto the other side must have been quite a spectacle. Eventually we met our very patient ranger. (I later discovered that he was the most experience and longest serving ranger in the park). I was heaved onto the horse by strong hands and off we went!!

I was lucky to see a seldom seen part of the park as we followed one of the horse trails. After about 2 hours (and with a sore backside) we arrived at a small road where a driver with a van waited!! I had no idea it was going to be such a mission. With a most skillful driver, I set off on a very exciting ride through the park. The jeep track went up over mountains; through rivers and marshlands and past some of the most stunning sceneries the park can offer. What an adventure I had, albeit a bit unnecessary.

Arriving at the main gate of the park, I found an ambulance waiting!!!! How embarrassing, they loaded me in and took me all the way to Puente Natales Hospital. At the hospital, x-rays were taken, feet examined and I was declared fit and healthy except for a twisted ankle pulled ligaments and tendinitis. I had the luxury of an intravenous painkiller but as far as I could figure it did absolutely zilch for me!! It was 23h00 by the time I look a taxi to the hostel. Finally, I could rest my weary feet. Total cost US$470!!!!!

13/14 December - Puerto Natales
Not all was well yet! I still needed the medication from the pharmacy and had to ask one of the staff at the hostel to get it for me. At least I shuffled along and had a much-needed shower. Thank goodness for my little laptop! At least I could sit in my room and type up my embarrassing adventure. To be quite honest, I very much suspect that the problem was due to a lack of walking. After nearly 4 years on the bike, my ankles are not very strong. So overall, it’s my own fault for once again thinking that I can do more than the body is capable!!!

Both Yutta and Fran├žois arrived back from their hike and both had a great time, I was very envious of them.

Still I waited for my ankle to improve, but it was slow in healing itself. I helped it along with some painkillers, just so I could go to the bank and do some shopping.

The Argentineans are quite a unique bunch of people. The men are rather macho but in such a boyish way that they endear themselves to you. Men still whistle as you cycle past (I thought that only happened in South Africa). They are warm and passionate people and I am happy that I wasn’t here when they lost in the Football World Cup.

With so many ranches, it is not unusual to see farmers on horseback along the way. This is cattle country

15 November 2010

CYCLING AUSTRALIA - Adelaide to Melbourne

6 October - Adelaide – Mt Barker - 40km
Eventually (eventually!) we packed up and left Adelaide, what I first thought to be a boring, dull town turned out to be a great city. I think Adelaide had endeared itself to me. We headed over the Adelaide hills along the Crafers Cycle Path, past Stirling, Aldgate, Bridge Water and Hahndorf (the oldest remaining German settlement in Oz). What a fantastic ride it was, through forested areas and quaint villages. Unfortunately the weather came in and what started off as a beautiful morning, became an icy cold, cloudy, blustery and drizzly day! We pulled into Mt Barker Caravan Park early to get out of the weather, pitched our tents and had some of the lovely red wine from the region to ward off the cold. Not a bad day at all!! I could definitely live in this area. We met a South African family who’d just immigrated, living in one of the cabins in the park while they look for a house and wait for their furniture to arrive – good luck to them.

7 October - Mt Barker – Tailem Bend - 79km
Gosh, I wish summer will roll on! It was bitterly old as we headed off; we followed the back road past Littlehampton, Nairne, Native Valley, Callington and onto Murray Bridge. These tiny villages are picture perfect, ever so neat and with lovely old restored buildings. We cycled past farmlands, horsey areas and even spotted a llama or two (what the heck are llamas doing out here?).

From Murray Bridge we followed the old road south along the west bank of the Murray River. The head-wind was blowing storm-strength, I lost my sense of humor and wondered just what exactly I was doing out there on a bicycle!! At Jervois village we took the ferry (motor pontoon) across the river to Tailem Bend town. After setting up camp, a hot shower, a glass of the local red and a huge bowl of pasta my sense of humor returned and things didn’t look all that bad anymore.

8 & 9 October - Tailem Bend – Meningie - 63km
We first paid a visit to “Old Tailem Town” a pioneer’s village consisting of 105 old buildings, some dating from the 1800’s - uplifted from their original places all over South Australia to form a true old pioneer’s village. Not only houses but a church, school, movie house, bank, shops, and railway station - the works!It was rather late by the time we headed out of “town” and it was another windy day on the road!! At least it was a short ride to Meningie.

Meningie is situated on the shores of Lake Albert with beautiful views of the lake. The wind subsided, the sun set over the lake and pelicans drifted past while terns ducked and dived in search of their evening meal. A perfect ending to what was a rather unpleasant and windy day on the road.

In fact, it was so nice that we stayed the following day as well.

10 October - Meningie – 42 Mile crossing - 83km
We followed the road SE running along the Coorong National Park. What an excellent day we had! A slight tail wind and excellent views of the famed wetlands with its rich birdlife made it a pleasure to be on the road. We cycled past Policeman’s Point and Salt Creek to 42 Mile crossing (3 k’s off the road on gravel) where we camped at the rather basic park camp for the night. The water tank was dry, the “camp kitchen” had been taken over by a swarm of bees, the flies and mozzies were attacking at the same time – but we weren’t bothered by kangaroos, emus, and the lack of other campers.

11 October - 42 Mile Crossing – Robe - 112 km
What’s with the wildlife in this place? While packing up I got bombed by a magpie. He obviously thought we had overstayed our welcome. Powered by a serious tail wind we flew down the road past Kingston (but not before we had one of their famous pies) and on to the picturesque seaside village of Robe.

Camping right on the ocean is something I always enjoy. We took a stroll into town and pigged out on take-away chips, fish (for Ernest), and a veggie burger for me. We should never have ordered a medium chips each, it was huge!! So no doubt it will be a chip roll for breakfast.

Along the road we’d met a retired Dutch lady (Anneke) cycling in the opposite direction. She came to visit her daughter and is now cycling back to Netherland. She has no watch, no odometer and no cycling partner! As she said, all she needs is a credit card, passport and water!! She cycles when it’s daylight and sleeps when it’s dark. You go girl!! Hats off to you!

12 October - Robe
I woke to the unwelcome sound of tip, tip, tip on my tent! A steady drizzle settled in, and it did not look like the kind of rain that was going to stop any time soon. Ernest was already packed up but there was no ways I was getting out of my tent – so he had to unpack everything off his bike again!

13 October - Robe – Millicent - 81 km
I listened carefully for that tip, tip, tip sound on the tent, but fortunately did not hear anything. So we quickly packed up, loaded the bikes and got out of Robe. It was still bitterly old and I was dressed for the Arctic Circle! We met 3 other Australian cyclists, cycling from Adelaide to Sydney and I looked at their bikes and gear with great envy! Jan was kind enough to invite us to his home in Sydney (when we get there) for a comfortable night. We may just take him up on that!

14/15 October - Millient – Mt Gambier - 53km
We knew it would be a short day so we took our time in packing up. Fortunately we picked up a good tail wind and reached Mt Gambier early. No sooner have we set up camp, at the campsite in town, or the weather came in again. A steady drizzle accompanied by a strong and gusty wind brought freezing cold weather, enough to send me shopping for warmer clothes.

By the next morning the weather deteriorated even more (if that’s possible). I lay cocooned in my tent listening to the wind and rain for most of the day. I fortunately found some girlie magazines in the camp kitchen, and a packet of chocolate coated peanuts in my bag! That, together with numerous cups of coffee kept me occupied me for most of the day.

16/17 October - Mt Gambier – Portland - 106 km
One can only be stuck in a tent for so long. Dressed in my new winter woolies we got back on our bikes in freezing cold weather accompanied by occasional rain and high winds. Not my best day on the road!! We followed the coastal road past Nelson and through large sections of state forests; up and down over the hills we cycled in freezing cold weather. For the second time on this trip we were attached by Magpies along the way. I read the following: “Spring in Australia is magpie season, when a small minority of breeding magpies (almost always males) around the country become aggressive and swoop and attack those who approach their nests, especially bike riders” . Now I know why they require you to wear a helmet! I was more than happy when we reached Portland. In fact it was so miserable that we weakened and took a cabin at the campsite. What a good idea that was. The cabin came equipped with TV, microwave, kettle, toaster etc, etc. We lived in style! In fact it was so good that there was no getting me out of that cabin the next day. I was warm as toast and very comfortable on a bed!! (Ernest packed up and had to unpack again).

18 October - Portland – Warrnambool - 105km
Eish!!! Time to go. Back on the bike and out in the weather again. Actually it was not that bad at all, we only got wet once or twice but at least we had a bit of a tail wind. Past more wind farms and farmlands we went. We even had time to explore the quaint and historic town of Port Fairy. With its many old buildings and pretty wharf it surely must be a popular place in summer. Warrnambool is much larger than I expected and we found a campsite right in the middle of town and with easy walking distance to the shops. On a cold night there’s not many things better than a hot shower, a mug of hot chocolate and a choc chip muffin, ooh the luxuries of life.

19 October - Warrnambool – Port Campbell - 71 km
The sun came out for the first time in days. We were rather slow in packing up and sat in the sun for hours. The road took us past many a dairy farm, cheese factories and miles and miles of picturesque pastures. We even spotted some black swans. Eventually we reached the coast and the renowned Great Ocean Road. I was not disappointed!! The scenic and very dramatic coast draws thousands of tourists with prices to match. The wind and ocean has eroded away the limestone to form dramatic pinnacles, coves, caves and arches, a truly magnificent site. It was a good day on the road and we turned off at every chance we had to admire the view and take a few snaps.

20 October - Port Campbell – Lavers Hill - 52km
We were lucky to have another sunny day with little wind. Our fist stop for the day was at Loch Ard Gorge another dramatic view point, then on to the famous 12 Apostles. Soon the road left the coast and headed uphill through eucalyptus forests to Lavers Hill, a small settlement perched atop the Otway Ranges. It was a slow but beautiful ride to the top. We met 3 cyclists from Adelaide cycling to Melbourne, the night before, and saw then from time to time along the way. In Lavers Hill I was hoping to see the glow-worms but none came out, and once the sun set it was far too cold to go exploring.

21 October - Lavers Hill – Kennett River - 73km
After our usual slow start, we headed downhill at over 50km/h. Soon, however, we climbed up the hill again through the Otway National Park, a dense forest with lovely fern gullies and then a nice downhill ride to Apollo Bay. We carried on cycling along a magnificent coastline to Kennett River where we found a campsite across the road from the beach. With Koalas in the trees, ducks and colorful birds, it was close to a paradise. We also met Alan and Heather form England, cycling for the past 9 months on this trip. The most amazing thing is that we previously met them at Kannur in India in December 2008. That night Ernest cooked a huge pot of pasta, we could not even finish it all. The leftover pasta was neatly left in the pot but we discovered that Koalas also likes pasta. The next morning we found the lid under the tree and the pot totally empty. Unfortunately Ernest also heard that his mother had passed away the previous day.

22 October - Kennett River – Anglesea - 56 km
We chatted to Alan and Heather forever and it was midday by the time we left. It was also our first warm day in ages. What a beautiful coastline it is, we cycled along the shore past Lore and Aireys Inlet. Unfortunately the weather came in again and we reached Anglesea to set up camp just in time before the rain came down.

23 October - Anglesea – Rosebud - 80km
Instead of cycling up the road via Geelong on the Western side of Port Phillip Bay to Melbourne, we decided to take the ferry from Queenscliff across the mouth of the bay to Sorrento, and cycle to Melbourne along the Eastern shore instead. It was a good choice as the stretch of road from Sorrento was very scenic. We just missed the 15h00 ferry so had to wait until 16h00 for the next one. In the meantime we had a bite to eat and then it was time to board the ferry. The ferry cost 12 dollars and took about half an hour across the short stretch of water. The road from there to the camp site at Rosebud runs alongside the coast, and although it was all built up, it was easy cycling. Instead of cooking, we splashed out on pizza (just across the road from the camp site).

24 October - Rosebud – Melbourne - 80km
I was concerned (as usual) about cycling into a big city, as traffic can be hectic and we had no idea where we were heading. My concerns were unjustified as it was Sunday and the road leading into the city had a bicycle lane all the way, how cool is that? What an organized city Melbourne is. Once we crossed the famous Jarra River we were dead in the centre of town. It did not take us long to spot a backpackers along King Street, aptly named King Street Backpackers. Nothing in Australia is cheap but it was very comfortable accommodation, with neat, clean rooms, a kitchen and large communal area. I must admit that being in a place where everything is closed and all locked up makes me be a bit claustrophobic! Time to move on again.

25 October - Melbourne
I spent most of the day organizing a flight from Melbourne to Cape Town (where I intend spending some time before going to South America), getting a bike box and organizing a taxi to pick me up and take me to the airport the next day. Ernest kindly packed my bike for me in the box, as he will cycle on to Sydney from where he hopes to get himself to South America. So that’s Australia done and dusted for me!! Although I did not see half of the country I was very impressed with what I saw and to think I was not even all that keen on coming here in the first place.

26/27 October - Melbourne, Australia – Cape Town, South Africa - By airplane
It was another long and boring flight from one end of the world to another. I was happy to have the opportunity to stop over in Cape Town instead of flying direct to Buenos Aires, Argentina. It was sure great to see my family again. We wasted no time and immediately got out the wine and ordered pizzas! Some things never change.