Friday, 9 March 2012

Chiltern to Albury

Wake up every day at 4 or 5 and then can't back to sleep. Knocked over a door on its side in the hall on the way to the bathroom in the dark. Audra's house is being renovated and there is hardly any electricity, so a candle is required in the bathroom - and the dogs go mental when there is the slightest sound. It has to be said the toilets are a bit smelly here and that in itself would probably put off a lot of British women from coming here. Later we had breakfast at the Honeyeater (named after the rare Regent Honeyeater bird) with the third Mick I've met so far, a cyclist friend of Audra's (who moved from Melbourne, where she lived next door to Peter, to the 1,000 strong town of Chiltern last year}. Then we took a walking tour, past palm trees, monkey puzzles, and Audra pointed out all the facilities - including a men's shed - and recent flood damage (350mm rain in one week). So glad I didn't begin my ride a week earlier. We bumped into Alan and his two little dogs, all riding a mobility scooter. He showed me the mark on his leg where another dog had bitten him. Apparently in Indigo Shire (the local area) action will only be taken when a bite requires at least four stitches.

Decided to go on to nearby Albury tonight, as the next stop of Corryong was too far for a comfortable day's riding, and wrote to Warm Showers (cycling equivalent of Couchsurfing) hosts there accordingly. The couple in question replied in the affirmative a few minutes later! As it was only a 30 mile ride I hung out at Audra's all morning and then we visited friends of hers for lunch. Dot and Pat were yet another pair of laid back, charming and guile-free Ozzies. They had quite a spread, featuring nettle soup, a French savoury tart and one of those old-fashioned glazed yellow cakes with bits of fruit in it. What a lovely town. It's on cycle tours that I imagine how different my life would have turned out if I'd moved to a place like this 21 years ago, instead of Glasgow. I ignore everyone in the street in my local area, but here, after only seven months of residing here, Audra knows most of the townsfolk.

Took my leave, rode north, into New South Wales across the muddy Murray River, through Howlong and then east to Albury. I was taking photos at one point when two 80+ gents in lycra came by, followed by a support vehicle. I'm glad I had stopped because I wouldn't have appreciated being overtaken by them. Also watched a variety of insects going about their tasks, using the magnifying glass my Dad gave me. A couple of beetles in coitus hitched a ride on the handlebars for a while. They had bright orange heads, dark green wingcases, pale orange undersides and she was double his size. I took them where they wanted to go and then despatched them onto a leaf. The whole time the male stayed on the female's back and didn't vacate her nether regions, while she groomed herself. Then there was this wood ant hole, where some workers were excavating lumps of earth and others were comically trying to fit a dead grasshopper into the hole. Continued my way, weaving between more insects in the sun-dappled hard shoulder, 25 degrees, sunny, wind from behind. What a shit day.

Trace and Pat live in a beautiful, big house with their aged golden retriever. Dined on the verandah, overlooking the swimming pool and blue mountains; spaghetti bolognese and ice cream, washed down with lashings of Tasmanian beer and delicious red wine from South Australia. They told me about a Dutch cyclist who might be staying with them soon, currently in Tasmania, and will be coming up the east coast. Jan is a doctor working for Medicine Sans Fronteirs and is riding round the world. Good for him.

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