It was a slow morning due to yesterday’s long ride (those beers may have also had something to do with that), plus the tent was quite wet with condensation (made worse by the poor manner in which I put up the tent, easily spotted in the above photo) and my clothes were not yet dry courtesy of the 6.30pm hang out (those beers!). Thinking the rising sun would dry the tent out quick time once it rose high enough, I took my time getting ready, making sure I looked casual and relaxed to the FIFOs who headed off to work while I was trying to get my head together.
It is good practise to make sure the tent is dry before packing it up, so, feeling professional, I hung it on the clothesline, conveniently positioned to receive the morning sun, while I took my time packing and eating breakfast (oats, seeds and honey). In the end I gave up in frustration and rushed through the final packing process when the tent didn’t seem to be drying. Didn’t the tent know I had 140kms to do today?
Fortunately my clothes dried better than the tent and by 7.30am I was off with a cheery wave to the caravan park lady and Dave, who was out the front doing some gardening.
Jason had mentioned some hills when I reached White Mountain National Park, part of the Great Dividing Range. It was stunning riding through the hilly section with grand views from the lookout, which was 550 metres above sea level……all the while hoping no roadtrains would come around the next corner as there was no shoulder, simply rock faces close by on either side of the windy sections. I was lucky, just experiencing moments of adrenalin when I thought I could hear a truck, something that was pretty beneficial as the bursts served to power me on. Once at the top, there were a few kilometres of lovely descending road. The lack of shoulder and steep drop off combined with a weird increase in traffic did spoil this part a little, but it was over before long and so the ride continued quite pleasantly.At some point in this ride I realised my speaker had loosened out of its Velcro straps on the handlebars and was about to disembark. Fortunately that crisis was quickly averted. I had downloaded some podcasts to listen to while on the road, something new to me, but something I was definitely enjoying as the kilometres rolled by.
The small township of Prairie was at about the 120km mark for me that day. Rolling into town over the bridge, it was clear where the water had come up and washed through the town just a few days ago. It was around 1pm and the school (with only eight students) was on again after being closed briefly during the flooding. Prairie has a local honey store, so I stopped and bought a small bottle. I had heard stories of cycle tourers taking honey on tours…
Prairie Hotel looked inviting with lots of antique items, pieces of furniture and big wide verandah. I parked my bike near the horse rails and enjoyed a good hour chatting with Andrea, the owner of the place, while consuming a sandwich and coffee. Andrea and her husband have owned the Prairie Hotel for 20 years, and have spent that time ‘doing it up’ with a love for old things that makes the place worth a visit. The recent flooding had come right up to the steps of the pub, but Andrea said she was ecstatic. This was the first good rain since 2009 and Andrea described the shift in mood experienced by the whole town. I felt privileged to be riding through this ordinarily dry and dusty place and seeing lush green plains and water in the creeks.
Reaching Hughenden around 3.30pm, I headed straight to the visitor’s centre, fast becoming one of my favourite spots at the end of a big cycle touring day. There is airconditioning and sometimes cold water, the person working there is paid to be polite and interested no matter how dirty and smelly you are or how daft your questions when you’re really tired and can’t work out which way the caravan park is!
Exhibiting said tiredness, I stopped at the supermarket on the way to the caravan park and bought some food for dinner and upcoming days. Another packet of biscuits (first one not even half empty), big bag of crisps…I wasn’t running out of food anytime soon…not junk food anyway! Thankfully I also bought some veggies to have with rice.
The council-run caravan park was quite pleasant. I used the tables and chairs in the camp kitchen for dinner and chatted with a man who lived at the park and worked in the town. He just packed up and went to another town for the weekend if he got bored…definitely cheaper than owning a house!
Bedtime came soon after, tomorrow I was off to Richmond!