We woke up with the sun and desperately in need of petrol (gas, for the trans-Pacific friends). We reckoned that stores wouldn’t open until around 9-ish, so we packed up the tent, lest any trigger-(or, as is the more likely case, ticket-) happy ranger rolled round, and wiled away the time reading – I love the smell (???) of popular econometrics in the morning – smells like victory (??? throughout). We wound our way back along KI, and bought some dreadfully expensive fuel that let us catch our 11 AM ferry back to the mainland.
Today marked the turn-around of the trip – from here on in, every day would bring us closer to Sydney. Given that neither of us had showered in several days, this didn’t seem like the worst thing in the world. Given that both Yaegs and myself are predisposed to the predilection of wearing speedos instead of undies, we were both fresh and tropical, though still seeing the need for a wash sometime soon.
We stopped in at a winery along the Flerurieu Way when going up to Wellington, and picked up a fucking piquant as shit (apologies to xkcd) Reisling, which we saw as a nice little way to celebrate the turning point of our trip. Sadly, we overestimated our ability to keep this cheeky number as cool as it deserved for the rest of the day, which unfortunately coincided with the start of the worst of the heatwave.
The riding along the Fleurieu Way was fantastic – nipping into corners and blasting over crests, with diverse and beautiful scenery. One minute we were ripping past paddocks, the next we were going through scrub, then even some rain-forest-esque scenes. We stopped in at Victor Harbor, where one scum-hole proprietor of a bakery (you know who you are) denied us a powerpoint to charge our phones. We played with the idea of taking our custom elsewhere, but settled for a pie and custard tart. After a lazy break, we went along our merry way – sadly, once we passed Wellington, things rapidly took a turn for the boring. We had heard from a useful tradie that the road we had planned to use was “bullshit” (I, too, have often doubted the veracity of inanimate objects), and so we were going along a semi-major highway. High-speed, low-interest.
We met up in the lovely town of Keith (from the name alone, we decided that we had to visit – it was a similar story with Seymour – read on), and went into the local to have some dinner and a beer or two. Calamity ensued when the television feed went down for two minutes, depriving the locals not only of cricket, but far more importantly, Keno (gambling on the flip on twenty simulated coins). Thankfully, the publican was able to restore the signal before anyone was able to develop a meaningful relationship or conversation with their co-drinkers. Crisis averted! Another exciting development was when a really fat lady swore her tits off at the members of the local lawn-bowls team. Keith had a lot going on, really.
We headed back onto the A66 (Duke’s Highway!), looking for a side-road that we could sneak down to find a decent place to bunker down for the evening. We travelled about twenty k’s down the road, and still saw the same properties on either side of the road. I was reminded about the sheer size of Australia, with the length of these properties bringing to mind cattle stations that are bigger than France, or electorates bigger than all of Western Europe piled together. We soon decided that, with failing light, beggars couldn’t be choosers (a similar mindset for when we’re trying to pull girls), and so camped on the side of the highway. Oddly enough, it was one of the best nights of sleep I had on the trip.
We opened the Reisling, which was by now somewhere a few degrees on the wrong side of room temperature. See it as a testament to the willpower/poor taste of university students that the bottle was drunk. We stayed up a little past the sunset to watch more of the night-sky, spot satellites and talk shit.
We had planned this day as a fun way to break up the trip. We planned to ride up North through the Grampian National Park, then head a bit further East and kip down for the evening, with the goal of putting ourselves within striking distance of Milawa, the heart of the Victorian gourmet region for the next day.
We were now well and truly into the heat wave, and, given that we didn’t shower yesterday and were sweating like motherbitches all day, we decided to do our utmost to avoid the heat of the day. With best intentions, we set our alarms for before sunrise, which meant that we were well and truly able to wake up about an hour past sunrise. We quickly packed up, said goodbye to the rare and refined beauty that you can only perceive after sleeping on the side of a major highway, and rode along. We crossed over the border into Victoria about half eight or so, and celebrated by being served breakfast by quite possibly the grumpiest corner store lady known to mankind. Although we attempted to immolate her in a firewall of charm, as is our wont, she simply retarded the flames of charm with a blanket of asbestos-laded ill-humour. She also made rubbish hamburgers (we were both doing Samuel L. Jackson impressions à la Pulp Fiction, which I suppose was facetious, given just how un-tasty the burgers were).
We headed off, and stopped at the Southern tip of the Grampians around lunchtime. After the long stretch of highway riding, it was a beautiful relief to get back onto smaller, twistier roads. We were both amazed to see the extent of the flood damage that still existed, with portions of the road gone, branches and limbs of trees strewn to the side of the road, and large sections of pastures either ruined or still flooded. The morning’s ride had been good, and the Grampians were just beautiful. The road snaked and scythed through massive stretches and slabs of rock (possibly granite?), and we had the road to ourselves. However, the day was getting unbearable, so we stopped halfway up the Grampians in a campsite for a few hours to wait out the heat. We read, made some tea, attempted to flirt with a ranger (with limited success, which we put down to her professionalism, rather than our poor grooming and hygiene), and just generally lazed. We rolled out around four, and snuck through small back-country roads that were the most amazing mash of block-colours – the red of the earth was beautifully weighted against the most intense sky-blue, with the two separated by a golden band of wheat.
We peeled off the road a few hours before dark, and rode for about twenty k’s trying to find a quiet place to sleep, though farmhouses kept on popping up at all f the best locations. We eventually found a side dirt road, which led us just far enough off the road to feel comfortable enough to pitch a tent. This was another day without a shower, and instead of trying to write about the smell, I’ll just describe the inputs and let you do the rest. Several days of no showering? Check. A heat wave with temperatures easily above 40 degrees Celcius? Check and Check! Spending days in the sun wearing leathers and Kevlar jeans? Check. Yum yum!