We woke to sunshine and magpies warbling after nearly12 hours in bed. Man we sleep well when we're riding!

Been a picturesque day. Breakfast at Castlemaine (way too many beautiful buildings to start taking photos). Coffee at Maldon (got a couple there).

A little cottage between Castlemaine and Maldon.

Lunch at Daylesford after travelling through Newstead and Hepburn Springs then wandered down through Trentham and hit the freeway a bit before the Bacchus Marsh area then on into the city where we had more coffee at the TDT offices in West Melbourne.

After the assault to the senses yesterday of all the green it was a shock to see how dry it was through the Midlands, particularly around the hills surrounding Bendigo and beyond. Much land had been totally dry and had recently gained a thin dusting of green and in other areas it was a darker green, but only colour, little substance to it. Dams empty or very low levels. So, gold is not the only element which has left the area but water has as well.

It's been a beautiful ride with winding roads through beautiful trees, farmland, historic old settlements and unexpected vistas. Clearly an area which needs to be explored further in the future. Many of the roads in heavily treed areas we're very bumpy, I wonder if that's because of the extended dry and the ground shrinking away with the roots left to form the bumps. Not an engineer but sounds a reasonable hypothesis until someone who knows better shoots it down in flames.

Streetscape in Maldon.

Had to crank up the hand grip warmers on the way to Trentham and left them on until we were down around the level of Bacchus Marsh Brrrrrr! The countryside around Trentham was reminiscent of the Thorpdale area not far from home. The soil looked the same chocolaty red, the trees were tall with massive trunks and the rolling paddocks were often surrounded by cypress plantations. Obviously a lot higher rainfall than surrounding areas with the level of growth through the area. We had visited Trentham around 4 years ago with my cousin and husband before we headed off on our Scandinavian holiday and we passed through Trentham the day after the hotel there burnt down. At the time I made the comment that the hotel must have been due a re-build. It was still boarded up today so it must have been a 'genuine' burn rather than a 're-build' one. (See I haven't just recently gotten cynical, I already was 4 years ago).

From Trentham we gradually wound our way down from Trentham through dense wooded areas and it somehow seemed out of character to smell the fragrance of damp fermented wood in some of the gullies after seeing so much water deprived land since Bendigo. Once down to the freeway and on to the city the vast plains looked equally as bare and dry as a lot we had seen in the interior. Bare earth with no sign of green other than the weeds along the fringe of the highway. Pretty chilling stuff at this point in the year with the weather as cold as it is even if generous rains fall through the rest of the winter there will be little growth until the spring when the soil starts to warm up again. (That's a throw back to my days growing up on the farm....must have been paying attention after all!)

View of the Town Hall from our lunch spot in Daylesford

We survived our return to full on city traffic even with stop start traffic over the Westgate bridge and then later out to Canterbury to what we call our Canterbury B&B (my cousins home) for another holiday first. We got stuck in the lift (until it re-set itself). Being 'can do' people we looked for the ceiling hatch which is in all stuck lifts in the movies but alas, none there and had to resort to the emergency phone. Ah well, you get that on the big jobs.

So we have a couple of nights here for a brief bit of R&R (so no update tomorrow) before we head home to catch up with parents, children and grandchildren. That's the easy stuff, after that it's back to work......that's the hard stuff though not all bad news since it's what will fund the next excellent adventure!

Talk to you day after tomorrow for the holiday wrap up.

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Rain overnight and wet roads this morning but the days riding was largely comfortable with hand grip warmers only on low for the majority of the day.I didn't even have the polar fleece top on which just proves it didn't need to be surgically removed!

We had sunshine for near enough to the entire day with only a few patches of cloud to ride through though the view in the rear view mirror was often dark grey and threatening. (Best place for a view like that!) We started the day surrounded by hundreds of acres of grapes and some citrus trees and then moved into intensive sheep, wheat and cropping land. Great open plains with rich red soil and vibrant green new shoots in some areas and vigorous growth in others. The eucalyptus beside the road were prolific in number with slender limbs and dense foliage.

The view gradually changed to more rolling hills than flat paddocks and the intensity of the cropping became less so. In fact the closer we got to Bendigo it was obvious that a lot of areas where there were crops last year now had grass growing up through the stubble, possibly a reflection on how late the rains have come in the season. Also nice to see the increase in stature of the gums and a few more hills, I'm just more used to that I guess. Overall the whole day has been an experience of green, green and more green and it was easy to track how much rain had fallen and over what period of time from the first flush of almost fluro green of new growth to the darker and more dense growth where there has been more sustained availability of water for longer periods. We definitely experienced returning to the south eastern green edge of our great brown / red land.

The hotel at Sea Lake. All locked up. A bit sad really.

We've both enjoyed the sights of lots of little communities also today. Some apparently doing pretty well and much pride evident in their towns and others clearly struggling. The huge number of old (both dilapidated and beautifully preserved) buildings on our approach to Bendigo was almost too much to take in after our enjoyment of the vast emptiness of the interior. Part of this for me also was a sense of almost depression or at least reluctance as we head back to our version of the 'real world'. Do I really want to take it all on again?

We have had a number of discussions over our trip of family, friends and colleagues who have had health scares and totally changed what they do with their lives as a result. Norm's response to that was to say he needs to have a think about what he would do differently if he had a health scare and just forget about having one and get on with doing what he would do if he did. (Practical as always). I wonder how different that would be to what he is already doing. Obviously there would be much motorbike riding involved......but I wonder how different otherwise!!! Not really game to think too hard about that one for me yet. Quite apart from the work side of things I've enjoyed being out from under the immediate responsibility of oversight of the care for my frail aged parents and their progressive deterioration. Thankfully Norm's Dad has been much more able though he is currently in hospital also. I'm getting better at not wearing the burden so personally but obviously need to work more on that. Tomorrow (as in from here on) is another day. Mate, mate, m a t e!! Have I ever got the poor me's something chronic! The holiday aint over yet and I hereby commit myself to making the most of whatever is left!

The Bendigo city hall in the distance with the approaching grey clouds. This was the end product of my lets get the joints moving again walk while Norm cleaned the helmets and bikes. I'm so spoilt !

Oh yeah, we were talking to a couple of police officers today and no it wasn't on the side of the road or at least not in an official capacity. They unfortunately confirmed that when their cycle cops talk on their radio's they sound like they have their heads in a bucket and its pretty useless. Ah well.

Talk to you tomorrow.

Lakeview Hotel our home for the night $40. (Can't see the lake!)

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Well after a sometimes noisy night, at times from the odd blue or two in the bar below (no breaking glass) to wheel spins, shouting and noisy motors outside we headed off for an early start and didn't feel too bad about warming the bikes up for a while before we headed off. Ha ha.

We breakfasted briefly with two old timers from Adelaide who had been holidaying in Broken Hill for the week. The older of the two, also the fitter of the two, would have had to have been in his late 80's having served in the navy from1940 to 1946 and who had entertained me by the fireplace last night. He had spent the day on a local mail run most of it on dirt roads. travelling over 500 kilometres with 40 stops for pickups and drops. He was one of 5 paying passengers at $125 a piece. They took their own lunch and had a cuppa made for them by the postie. Seriously having a go. What an inspiration!

A service bell with a difference from the Coomella fuel stop. (The key for the toilets was attached to a mouse trap).

The day started sunny and cold and went to bloody cold and back to moderately cold. Hand grip warmers most of the day back and forth from high to low then once we hit Mildura we got a sprinkle of rain and it warmed up and the warmers stayed on low. The light shower lasted until we got through Irymple and it stopped and returned to sunshine again. We enjoyed our ride and were near enough to the only traffic on the road until we got to Wentworth. The roads were largely straight with big sweeping corners and very nice to ride. Our butts appreciated the movement from one side to another. We also saw the greatest concentration of road kill (all kangaroos) mainly up until Coomella since the Longreach Winton area. Shame to see so many beautiful animals meet their demise. From large to small and colours ranging from a light sandy grey to red and every shade in between.

We also saw a fair few sheep in stretches from Broken Hill and Wentworth and some cattle near Broken Hill. No camels today but a couple of big kangaroos first thing this morning and some emus about 20 kilometres out of Wentworth and large numbers of wild goats throughout the day. These last were largely more road savvy than the kangaroos as we didn't see any of their number amongst the road kill. We also saw a couple of small packs of Major Mitchell Cockatoos lifting off as a group with magnificent white back and top of wings changing in an instant to a soft coral pink under the wings. Beautiful.

The sign outside the loos at the same road house as the shot above.

I was aware as we gradually made our way south that our great adventure is drawing to a close and found myself really soaking up the variable landscape. The red sandy soil with silver grey salt bush. The rolling plains of grasslands with dark green mounds of trees around watercourses and homesteads and then the red sand drifts with little grass and small covering of trees. It all looked and felt great and it somehow seemed fitting that we we're left largely to ourselves to enjoy it. It was also a distraction to the dark grey clouds we were continually approaching then steering away from throughout the trip.

The purpose of our destination today was to catch up with 4 of my cousins and their partners which was a treat. They are the children of the marriage of one of my Mum's cousins to one of my Dad's cousins and literally gave my Dad the dilemma (so he said) 'that a man couldn't even complain about his wife's bloody relations!'. I'm confident that didn't ever stop him if he thought he needed to. We shared lunch together and had a great time catching up. So nice to feel so comfortable amongst them when we have gotten to spend such a short amount of time together over the years. What lovely people they are and what a privilege to share the time with them.

Talk to you tomorrow.

A collective cousin and outlaws shot (Normie being the photographer).

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This will be short. I just deleted the update when I added the wrong picture. I need to find a cupboard to lock myself in so I can scream loudly and it would be best to leave the blackberry outside the cupboard at the time!

Yesterdays PS:
If you are in Port Augusta and need a bed we can recommend Ian's Western Hotel. The staff looked after us beautifully and allowed us use of our room way after checkout each day till we knew if we would be staying or going. We worked our way through the dinner menu which was great, not a dud amongst them. They also locked up the bikes at night. We were also grateful to CP Motorbikes & Accessories for the young mechanic who methodically diagnosed my unusual problem and put it all back together after YAMAHA sorted parts from Sydney.

We had rain overnight and woke to sunny clear skies and wet roads but headed off in warmer conditions than we had finished in yesterday. Thank God! Even got the hand grip warmers on to low a few times today so a vast improvement.

We had a pleasant ride through sweeping grassy plains which progressively became more sandy and stony and hilly. Saw a few emus and wild goats and a huge eagle perched on a telegraph pole cross arm which made the pole look ridiculously small. We also saw a couple of camels but that was really cheating as they belong (I suspect) to a camel farm not far distant.

The Yunta road house brand of humour which appealed.

We had breakfast at Yunta after a pleasant ride. As we had headed due east into the sun the glare on the wet roads was blinding so it was a relief as the roads dried out and we headed in a bit different direction. We stopped for fuel and a drink at the SA / NSW border and caught up with a couple of truckies who knew our trucks and one who had travelled with one of our drivers a short while ago. Small world! The staff at the road house were friendly but I won't name the town as I dubbed it the backside of the world. I think you would need to have a very strong constitution to live there and not get seriously depressed.

SA / NSW border. The bikes are there but you have to look.

We headed off the track to visit Silverton on our way into Broken Hill. To be strictly correct I should say the remains of the town. In its heyday in the late 1800's it was the richest Silver Field in the country and the Silverton Hotel we went to see is the only remaining hotel of the 10 licensed originals. The hotel is quite famous having featured in many films and TV series including 'Wake in Fright', 'The Golden Soak', 'A Town Like Alice', 'Mad Max II', 'Razorback', 'Dirty Deeds' and 'The Craic' also numerous TV commercials. Needless to say we took a pic of the hotel with bikes and the car from Mad Max II which sits out front. Morning light would have been better for the pic.

The Silverton Hotel with the bikes and Mad Max's car.

A great sight we were treated to a couple of times today was seeing some packs of galahs likely in the hundreds lift off the ground then duck and weave across in front of us as they gained height. We were treated to a uniform silver grey display as their backs were to us and then in an instant as they changed direction it would be the bright pink of their under sides then back to grey again as if on queue Awesome.

Broken Hill is a huge place but getting a little empty and sad looking. In its heyday the population was around 38,000 but is down to 20,000. We had planned to spend a few days here but the Port Augusta sojourn sort of interrupted that. Not to worry, that will be another trip and I'll stay somewhere a bit less scary than the West Darling Hotel. It’s a great huge barn of a place and very cold. I'm currently keeping the fire in the lounge company.

Talk to you tomorrow.

The Broken Hill Vietnam Veterans memorial looking across the law courts and government buildings to the council offices.

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The railway was the Pichi Richi railway and runs on vintage steam trains as well as diesel. Runs every weekend from Port Augusta to Quorn and public holiday weekends from Quorn to Wool shed Flats and back. Very expensive. $350 from Pt Augusta to Quorn (don't know if that's 1 way or return) and
$300 for the Quorn Wool shed Flat run. ( I guess return). For $400 you get to travel in the engine and shovel the coal. Tattslotto win stuff or really wealthy tourists! We had some delicious soup and damper at the Quandong Cafe where we had dined at before on our previous trip. Looking forward to seeing more of the Flinders Ranges since our last serious visit was a family caravan holiday when Jenny was 8 months old just shortly before our return to Victoria to live.

Well the part came, the Doctor revived the patient, we broke her out of the hospital and shook the dust of Port Augusta from our boots and got out of town! Actually I use the term 'dust' loosely. As we headed south from Port Augusta we were assaulted with icy needles of rain and were treated to the sight of a spectacular rainbow out over the gulf. As we continued to head south the rain caught up with us and by the time we took the 'Sydney via Broken Hill' turn and headed east we had a perfect rainbow arch over the road in front of us. As we headed east we also realised we had benefited from a strong tail wind while heading south and it became a ferocious cross wind once we headed east across the flats to the bottom of the ranges. I was thankful that the rain we were riding in was not as heavy as back in the direction of Port Augusta as that had completely disappeared from view behind a dense white wall.

While the mediterranean nature of the weather has somewhat disappeared and at best we are back to grey clouds and icy winds it was good to be back on my bike and not have my knees bent up like half opened pocket knives and have my view half obscured by Norm's helmet as a pillion passenger. Not that I didn't enjoy the opportunity for a good snuggle of course.

We both enjoyed the view of the rippling nature of the Flinders Ranges as we headed out of Port Augusta and it was good to be folded up in their hills and valleys and gain some respite from the cross wind we had experienced from the highway to there. What a spectacular little bike ride it was through the hills to Wilmington where the country opened up again to rolling plains catering to sheep and wheat activities as well as some beef. Good to see a lot of green tinges around especially new wheat shooting in a lot of the beautiful red soil.

We also loved the town of Orroroo (think that's how you spell it, the map is still on the bike). This had a great long street with stately old shops with deep hot land type verandas out to the curb. Spectacular. Were it not for the fact that the rain had been pursuing us behind icy winds and anything which could ache in the cold was aching and the heated hand grip warmers were NOT keeping up with comfort levels we would have stopped for some pics, that will have to be the next trip.

The Railway Hotel Peterborough. Our room is the Family room (1 queen and 3 singles) at the corner under the cupola so a window / door on the front and side wall.

We are staying the night at the Railway Hotel and paid an extra $8 to get a room with a reverse cycle air conditioner / heater and bonus of bonuses we have an electric blanket on the bed (already turned on and cranked up to 3). Don't know what the temperature is now but it was only 7 degrees at 1pm today so unseasonably cold for here.

Talk to you tomorrow.

Part of the ceiling in the bistro. Nicely done.

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Well here we are for another night in Port Augusta. The part has left Sydney but didn't make it to here. Where is a good transport company when you need one? So another night at Ian's Western Hotel. Not all bad news as we work our way through the dinner menu. Haven't had a dud yet.
Not to be beaten. I got my hair done today and let's just say I'm glad I didn't say I wanted it really short! A bit of a surprise when the glasses went back on but I certainly won't have to worry about hair in my eyes inside the visor. Norm decided to get his hair done also so he wouldn't have to worry about hair in his eyes either. That also will not be an issue.....for a considerable time!

Old Mill (now Motel) in Quorn.

And since the status of tourist had been enforced we decided to do a quick trip out to Quorn this afternoon. A really picturesque ride out through rocky red rugged valleys dusted with silver grey salt bush and beautiful white gums along the creek beds. Just beyond the valleys the land becomes more gently undulating farmland for a bit before it gets seriously into the Flinders Ranges proper.

Streetscape in Quorn

The town is really picturesque and the historic buildings beautifully preserved. Much of the town and surrounding area were used in the making of the movies 'Robbery Under Arms' and 'The Shiralee'.

Not much else to report other than to say we called in to see the patient and the doctor in charge is confident that there are no issues so once the part is fitted tomorrow we should be on our way. Let's hope so.

Talk to you tomorrow.

Norm heading back to Port Augusta under a bridge for the historic (and still functioning) Pitchi Richi Railway from Port Augusta to Quorn.

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Well still we wait!

Fully charged battery still no go. Electronic tech from Adelaide suggested it could be an issue with the computer worth $1,100 ouch and suggested a couple of tests to see if that was it. Should be repairable, the plan being that if so Norm would ride to Adelaide with the bit to be repaired then ride back. Did the tests and thankfully it wasn't the computer, phew! Turns out they have found a short in the pickup coil (whatever that is) I just know it means there's no spark getting to where it needs to go. So now the part is ordered from Sydney and is supposed to be here in the morning. ...all going well or if not, Friday morning. Looks like we really are tourists for a bit. Might even get the hair done so it's out of my eyes. That would be good.

Had some lunch at the Outback Visitor Centre then headed back to the hotel. Norm has a pretty sore throat so a quiet afternoon won't do him any harm.

Have attached a couple of pics from around a very cloudy Port Augusta. Much more comfortable today a balmy 15 degrees! Now that any of you in the eastern states are freezing your little butt's off perhaps you can now appreciate we haven't been kidding the last few days when we were saying how icy it's been.

Talk to you tomorrow.


A view across the inlet from east to west across the old wharf with the rail lines still in place though not in use obviously.

The old Court House.

More cloud reflections in the water heading back across the road bridge from east to west.

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More strife to start the day. My bike wouldn't start again. Norm headed to the Yamaha shop for a battery (none in stock) so they got onto the local battery supplier who had one thankfully. In the meantime Norm disconnected the headlight to see if there would be enough oomph to fire but no go. Oh well, worth a shot. Fingers crossed it is just a battery issue and not a starter or something else. Ah machinery, wonderful when working! Talk about a captive market, a car battery retails at $80 where this little number set us back $150!

So change of plan, instead of breakfast at Wilmington we had to settle for egg and bacon sandwiches at the Mobil road house on the west side of Port Augusta while we waited on the battery. The breakfast and the premises were beautifully presented and seemed 5star after a lot we've eaten at over the last few weeks.

The first photo today is a PS from yesterday and is the kids tucked up for the night with the hotels extra grog supply. Bit of a concern leaving them there but did so with the lecture that we ride 00 so we don't need to call 000 and hoped they would just appreciate being in out of the weather and be responsible. Perhaps it wasn't the battery!

Last night’s resting place for the bikes

Actually it was good to see Port Augusta looking in such good shape. There had been considerable effort made by many owners of really historic old buildings (including the pub we stayed in) to have them painted up and presented well. This was an improvement on a few years ago when Norm and I brought a load over here for one of our customers then waited for the return after the shut at the power station which was where the gear we transported was being used. The town was looking pretty tired at that time. On that weekend we actually put our spare time in by exploring more of the local area which was good.

Talking on improvements in appearance yesterday’s entrance from the north of the town was spectacular compared to 72. At that time the approach was truly ugly! There was a jumble of shacks and derelict yards and buildings and the sudden appearance of power lines and mammoth TV ariels was an assault on the senses after the remoteness and peace of the interior. Obviously been a concentrated clean-up effort and a credit to them. Now we just progressed from grassy plains beside a tidy north marching power line and just entered the town in a tidy suburb. Very nice.

A sorry sight my bike in bits at the Mobil as the black clouds approach. (That's weather type clouds I'm referring to).

Well the bike drama continued to unfold. After starting albeit using Norm's spark plugs, after fuelling up it refused to do so again. Turning over well but absolutely no spark. Norm checked all the fuses and connections and tried with and without choke. Continued to turn over but WILL NOT fire up.
Got back onto the bike shop who sent a tech up but he just confirmed what we already know, it' not going anywhere soon. At this point we would be concerned if it did go because while we don't know why it won't go, if it decided to it could just as easily let us down at a later place and time. So we waited for what seemed like forever for the bike shop people to get back with a trailer to pick it up. Told them we were RACV Total Care which arrange for collection but were told there is no-one here who does that. Norm also called the Yamaha Shop in Darwin where we had them serviced to see if they had any suggestions. To quote them 'it could be anything but just make sure they check all the connections and the coil. They're usually just so reliable and fire straight up' which has also been our experience until now.

When the trailer arrived Norm having a functioning bike was the accompanying family member to go and hear the status and prognosis of the patient while I got us settled back into the same room at the pub we had last night. So now I have an anxious wait hoping Norm can arrange whatever specialist assistance my little girl needs to return to perfect health.

The patient (my bike) on the ambulance (trailer) heading for the hospital (bike shop).

Another unsettling element was how reluctant Norm's bike was to fire up before he left. When we transferred the fuel from the jerry can to my bike yesterday it was an awful watery colour and we wondered if we'd been sold opal / opel fuel (don't know how you spell that) at Coober Pedy. This is the only fuel allowed to be sold to the indigenous population as it doesn't have the additives which maker sniffing it dangerous. We'd had this explained to us at Curtin Springs when we asked why their pumps were all padlocked. We had apparently pulled up at the opal / opel pump and were told we wouldn't want that in our bikes. The fuel we got this morning in Port Augusta looked equally pale. Who knows if it's crook or just what they can get!

Talk to you tomorrow, hopefully with good news re the bike.

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Well have you been looking at the news tonight? The weather report confirms our firsthand experience of the front coming through from the south west. It's freezing!

That said the day started cold. All the layers on apart from waterproof jackets and hand grip warmers on high. We were comfortable enough and were soon able to alternate from high to low and back again on the warmers. They need a middle setting because high was too high but low was too low. Proof again that the day was a smidgen less cold than yesterday. We ran into a shower Just north of Glendambo which as Murphy would dictate was just before we had to transfer the fuel from the jerry can into my bike. It has been running slightly richer since it was serviced in Darwin and I've had to go onto reserve a couple of times when my tank hadn't been topped right up where prior to arriving in Darwin we would literally have to reach for the reserve tap at the same time. Anyway we had been travelling a good 10 to 15 kilometres slower from Coober Pedy till then and cut back another 10 kilometres till Glendambo since Norm went onto reserve 10 kilometres after me. One really good outcome of the rain was that the temperature became less cold and in spite of dire predictions from north bound travellers of how much rain they had driven through right back from Port Augusta, and we saw a lot of the proof of that with wet roads, we only got a slight sprinkle a couple of times between there and Port Augusta and enjoyed some sun on our shoulders late in the afternoon.

Oh forgot to mention we had a bit of strife this morning. There we were conscious it was a long weekend and not wanting to disturb other residents at the Opal Inn with the bikes firing up and instead our day started out with both bikes refusing to start! Norm eventually got his to fire up but mine had to be pushed to start down the only hill in the main street. To quote Norm to me stating the obvious somewhat 'push it like starting the bike depends on it'. We provided a good bit of entertainment for some of the local indigenous people sitting around the roundabout at the top of the hill both the hoppity kick run with my pushing effort and the Michelin girl appearance complete with open helmet as I pushed and the gasping for breath as I walked back up the hill. Anyway the thing went. Started okay for the rest of the day at all stops including the refuelling in the rain EXCEPT after lunch when it would have been coldest at Pimba and then it was the old push routine again. Thank God it fired more quickly then because it was VERY flat.

My reference to 'Michelin girl' is a generous description of me decked out with long johns, draggin jeans and waterproof pants on the lower half with a sleeveless T, a long sleeved T, a polar fleece jacket and my Dri-rider jacket which has the outer jacket plus a waterproof lining and a quilted padded lining on the top half! Thank God it hadn't been raining when the bike didn't start this morning because when I also have to don the hip length waterproof jacket (for extra warmth and waterproofing) I go to 'Blimp girl' and then I can barely lift up my hands to undo my helmet. A very unflattering look. Normie is an equally attractive version. It' an interesting exercise if we want to give each other a hug. Likely looking to source a new battery in the morning since it's a public holiday today and the bike shop is shut. Damn, have to have a sleep in but I guess I'll cope.

Some driftwood desert style. The pic doesn't do it justice. Looks magnificent. The grain has opened up and has red stripes from the constant sand blasting of the sand.

The countryside has been less diverse than we have had. I was amazed that we had continuing gibber desert and mine workings for over 50 kilometres south of Coober Pedy. The amazement being at the extent of the mine works rather than the gibber. We continued to come across stretches of gibber from there until almost into Port Augusta. Was it not for the thin veil of silver grey of vegetation across the gibber we could be forgiven for thinking we were viewing great stretches of moonscape! In between we had stretches of sandy soil with grass and shrub and tree growth and more densely treed patches as well. Hard to imagine that people are making a living with cattle stations in these areas as the signs as we crossed another cattle grid would attest to with the name of the station we would be entering. Trust they are doing well, the lifestyle may have it's appeal but I bet their work is taxing.

A magnificent view was as we were only 10 to 15 kilometres from Port Augusta. We were travelling in under heavy cloud but looking to our left at the western slopes of the Flinders Ranges were in contrast brilliantly lit with sunlight. A spectacular sight!

A disappointing view of Lake Hart.

My blackberry is misbehaving and will no longer zoom as I take a photo. Don't know if it is locked or gotten a bit wet but will no longer function as it should and the end result is the same. Limits the options for pics which was a shame today. We'd stopped at Lake Hart to take a pic but was a bit ordinary from where we were as you can see above. Also working on the odd callous or two on the palms from hanging on so hard to the hand grips in the wind the last few days. The things we do!

Talk to you tomorrow.

The Western Hotel in Port Augusta a lovely old building and only $55 for the night.

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Yesterdays PS:
Norm had great fun on his climb yesterday. A couple of examples of that would be comments to a number of climbers heading down near the top of the climb of 'sorry I can't stop and talk I want to beat my walk time from this morning' to which he had a huge variety of responses from suitable laughter to incredulous responses. There are a lot of gullible people about let me tell you. ...or perhaps it's oxygen deprivation. Then to finish as he stepped down off the rock from his climb he realised he'd stepped into a camera shot a tourist had set up. He said 'now that photo will be worth a lot of money'. When asked he responded 'you caught a real live fossil coming out of the rock!'

We started out a little later but the temperature from start to finish was uncomfortably cold. I'd already donned the long johns under the draggin jeans and waterproofs and the legs were more or less comfortable but the rest of me was freezing. The heated hand grip warmers were on high and not feeling like it. You've no doubt heard the saying that the lights are on but nobody was home, well today the sun was out but someone definitely forgot to pay the heating bill!

Road trains at Cadney Park Homestead (think that's what it's called and the map is under the cover outside and not looking now) a really nice WARM and welcoming place.

About 90 kms north of Marla despite many valiant position changes and stretching exercises my right hip started to threaten that it would likely go 'twang' and end up in a very painful position not consistent with being seated on a motorbike. At the same time I started catching Norm quickly and realised he had his left hand indicator on and we thankfully turned into a pretty rudimentary wayside stop. We got off the bikes, had a drink and a creaky walk, and complained about the cold. I climbed a hill of gravel to get a bit of perspective to take a couple of pics then we both walked down the other side out of the wind and lay down on the stones which were warmer than us and told each other we were soaking up the sun. I don't know if it was warmer than we had been or just less cold or if that's even a difference. We stayed for a bit then decided we'd better suck it up and get on with it. Norm actually folded up one of his T shirts to stuff down the front of my jacket to hopefully warm me up a bit more. He is my hero! When we fuelled up and got a hot coffee at the Marla Road House which gave the appearance of being caravan central, I also had a hunt in their store and found a polar fleece top which I bought and have been wearing since. It may well have to be surgically removed when I get home! Suffice to say the rest of the trip has been much more comfortable though the hand grip warmers stayed on high for the rest of the day so seriously nastily icy. As we got closer to Coober Pedy the cloud cover increased and the temperature wasn't so low but still needed the high setting for the hand grip heaters.

Having travelled a bit though remote Australia over the years I'm always amazed by people saying all the scenery is the same and despite the cold today I still enjoyed the ever changing countryside and vegetation and the myriad of combinations which were possible. The rolling desert like plains vary from light creamy pink to rich ochre red sandy soil occasionally becoming more gravely and stony. The plains change now and again to gently rolling hills with jumbles of rocky out crops and more substantial ranges. The vegetation cover can vary from none at all to a gossamer thin veil of grasses and low growing salt bush and scrubby bushes. Tree cover varies from none at all to a sporadic scattered number to dense collections usually around watercourses. These ones are usually also the largest which is hardly surprising. I'd just get used to what seemed like a new mix of the above and think okay this must be what it is now and the next couple of kilometres would see another change. So, ever changing and always beautiful in spite of the cold.

About as close to nothing in any direction for as far as you can see approximately 50 kms north of Coober Pedy.

Around 50 kms north of Coober Pedy we came into the gibber (stony) desert lands. Very little vegetation and what is there is low growing. When we got to around 35 kms out I realised that the last two times I'd been through Coober Pedy which was on our way to and from the National Road Transport Hall of Fame Reunion in Alice Springs 4 or 5 years ago was in the night time because I was gob smacked by the lumps, bumps, hills and mountains of mine tailings from all the opal mining in the area. What a mess!

The town has certainly grown since our visit in 72. Then the road was unsealed even through the main street and we booked a room in the ONLY motel in the town which was new. The rooms were okay but not a window in the whole room to combat the incessant red dust. The only hotel had recently burnt down amid a scandal of opal theft and a big argument between the hotel owner and another local. Such intrigue! There wasn't any restaurant at the motel but we got directions to the fish'n'chip shop around the corner. We stood for a bit looking at the building wondering how we could get in when the aluminium window to our side slid open and we were asked for our order which we gave. Next thing the window slid shut and a car drove past and then as we coughed and choked in the dust we understood the reasoning.

Well things today are nowhere as rudimentary with a lot of accommodation options and supermarkets and restaurants and oodles of opal sale points, just about every second shop, as well as all sorts of tour options. The road is sealed right through and even some curb and channelling and footpaths amongst the red dirt. The underground Catholic Church instead of being on the outskirts of town is now in about the middle and has been extended somewhat. Very quirky place.

Nola outside the underground Catholic Church at Coober Pedy in the faithful polar fleece. (That's literally underground not a fanatical fringe element) I have a photo of me and Danny and Michael in 72 and there wasn't a tree in sight then to throw shade anywhere!

We've fuelled up and filled the jerry can as the next fuel stop is 270 kms away and with the head and cross winds we've had today we want to have our bases covered. Have only seen a small number of road trains again but have continued to see the never ending march of caravans and the like towards the sun. Interestingly NO large road kill today and only a couple of small wallabies and a small handful of eagles. All of this is a direct opposite to our trip to the Hall of Fame when we were blown away at both. Hardly surprising really, quite a smorgasbord for the eagles and no doubt accounting for the progressive increase in numbers at that time. Wonder how they're managing now with the change of so much freight to the rail.

Talk to you tomorrow.

PS: The feedback seems to be that yesterday’s iconic shot of Ayers Rock is the crowd favourite (ours also) and unlikely to be outdone I suspect.

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