Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Yarra Glen to Mansfield

Woken at 6.30 by the kids getting up and repeatedly woken again by magpie song, which is very melodious compared to the squarking of their British counterparts. The breakfast news was full of flooding stories east of here - where I'm heading. The presenters were ridiculously jolly and upbeat, even more so than US news anchors. Of course all the females were gorgeous, skinny and tanned; whereas the men were older with gravitas. That's the first time I've seen Australian TV. And hopefully the last. When Kelly and the kids went off to work and school, Katrien, who had a day off from grape-picking because of the inclement weather, told me about the hoops she and her boyfriend had to go through to be able to extend their stay. Luckily Nico has found a sponsor who has guarranteed to give him two years work as an electrician, which aids their visa application. The only trouble is that his job is in Broome, which, at 2,500 miles is just about the furthest you could travel from Victoria! He works outside and it's so hot there that he keeps spare T shirts in a bucket of cold water, so that when the one is wearing is saturated with sweat, he dons another.

Cool drizzle to start, followed by cloudy main course and six helpings of a sunny desert to finish, on what was a long ride. I knew the first kangaroo I saw would be roadkill. Plenty of birds too, including screeching, sparkling white cockatoos or cockatiels. Wide open countryside, ranging from bucolic to wilderness, through the Land of Euphoria and the Principality of Negative thoughts. It's often the way with long, lonely cycle trips - I run the gamut of emotions. Hardly any signs of human life until the little town of Yea after 35 miles. Here I stopped for a delicious chicken roll for $8 and to fill up water bottles. Everything is so expensive here. Turned right and stayed on another main road, mostly with a shoulder, all the way to Mansfield. The wind was usually behind me. Hallelujah! I was worried about the second day of cycling, with so little training under my belt, especially as today's mileage was double yesterday's, and I'm so relieved to get it over with and it wasn't arduous anyway. Didn't have to ask for directions or even look at the map once, as there were plenty of signs and it was such a straightforward route. The rolling landscape was so pretty in the late afternoon sunlight. The cottage cheesesque clouds and the sighing wind in the trees with their shimmering silver leaves made my heart sing, and made all the expense, effort and stress of coming here worth it.

In Mansfield I stayed with Emma and Cameron, friends of tomorrow's Couchsurfer. Almost immediately Cameron asked me :

"I want to know how old you are, your marital status, what you do back home, what you're doing here and why you're doing it."

He was a policeman. Again they were all so happy and friendly, with no sides. I want to be rude about Ozzies, but there's nothing to be rude about! Their 18 year old daughter, Sarah, joined us for a sizzling steak from the barbie, along with their neighbours, Lynn and Michael. This couple were interesting to me because (I think after their children left home) they spent 10 years touring the country doing any temporary work they could lay their hands on. Apparently this is quite a common thing for people to do here. A lovely evening, but too much beer and local wine on my part...

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