IP Day 6 – Coolgardie to Widgiemooltha

Thursday 24th March
75.9km, +270m
3:35 moving, 4:31 elapsed. avg 21.2, max 45.2

After the huge day yesterday, and with not quite 80k to Widgiemooltha, there was no point leaving early. So much for our sketched-out plans made pre-ride which assumed we’d have ‘trained up’ enough by then to be able to do Coolgardie to Norseman – 167km – in one day. My backside (and my body overall) had other ideas. Bugger it – a bit of a sleep-in was in order. My pre-ride research (and trust me, I had done MEGA research into any potential coffee/cafe options along the whole damn route!) had indicated that there *might* be a bit of a part-time cafe across the road from the IGA (it even had a name – ‘The Crib Hut’) – but all we could find was the closed food van in a yard. Damn. We grabbed something from the IGA, then went back to the motel for a late-as-possible checkout. By this stage, I’d well and truly resigned myself to motel room instant coffee.

Coolgardie has amazing historic buildings – the legacy of the heady goldrush days of the1890s – but the town as a whole is now visibly tired and dilapidated – and there’s not much there.

We decided to hang around and have an early lunch before leaving town, so we headed to the park, sat in the shade and made some phone calls. Unfortunately, the pool wasn’t open! Just when we thought we might have got a start (in Southern Cross) on turning this into a pool tour challenge with a swim in every town!

We tried to ring Widgiemooltha Tavern & RH to book accommodation (they have cabins), but the phone seemed to be disconnected.  Oh well. We knew it was open and operating (not a given during Covid) because other IP riders had stayed there, so we’d just have to get there and hope for the best.

Back to the servo for food, then, just as we were leaving, Marc spotted a familiar vehicle coming out of the caravan park across the road. It was Leroy (aka Jack) – who had pulled out the day before, and Greta (his mum), about to head back to Perth. Boy had she been covering some miles back and forth! We had a chat, with our commiserations. We’d also heard of yet another pull-out the day before – ‘Boyracer’, aka Rob. He’d set out of Balladonia after a few hours sleep, got himself 50km down the road (with still 130k to the next roadhouse/supplies) and realised the only food he had was a bag of trail mix. He decided he was making rubbish decisions and decided to pull the pin.

Greta and Jack asked if we needed anything? Only a new butt for me, but sadly Greta didn’t have any spares. Scotty had pushed on from Coolgardie (about an hour and a half before we got there) yesterday afternoon, had stayed the night at Widgiemooltha, and was just about in Norseman already today. Meanwhile, Otters (in the lead) was over 1000km ahead of us, so hey… we were all very much on our own ‘journey’. The rider’s Whatsapp chat had been going off with updates on where people were, strung out across the Nullarbor, with tips on food and ‘accommodation’ options, and I was starting to feel that I had to let it all go and not even think about how far ahead they all were. Comparison is the thief of… well, not ‘joy’ in this case, but it wasn’t very helpful.

A last stop at the public loos, water fill-up, and at nearly midday we headed out of Coolgardie.

The ‘Golden’ pipeline’ – the pipeline water supply (Goldfields Water Supply) between Perth (well, Mundaring Weir) and Kalgoorlie – had been a constant ‘companion’ alongside the Great Eastern Highway between Merredin and Coolgardie, but we just never seemed to stop in the right place for a photo. So then there was the Coolgardie-Norseman branch line, albeit a lot smaller in diameter. But at least we got a photo of this one.

The ubiquitous yellow rest area bins. We made the most of any picnic tables in rest areas.

This was still the main route for B-doubles and road trains heading from Perth and across the Nullarbor – and so while we had significantly less mining traffic, it seems we’d traded away road shoulders with it – so that wasn’t… great… But we did get periods of no traffic at all, so you have to count those blessings. We expected more traffic after the Goldfields Highway (the road leading south out of Kalgoorlie), but as it turned out, that last 20km to Widgiemooltha was mostly roadworks. With roadworks comes reduced speed limits, so we’d take that as a bit of a plus.

We rolled into Widgiemooltha just after 4pm. No cabins available. Bummer. We could camp for free though. Oh well. As much as we aimed to NOT camp or bivvy if we could help it, this was the reason we’d brought the tarp, groundsheet, sleeping mats and sleeping bags. At least our first night was going to be on a patch of grass, and we had an amenities block, with a shower and loos, really close by. We also had some stickybeak neighbours… and we had to ‘clean up’ after ‘someone’ we knew who’d camped in exactly the same spot! (Finders keepers, it’s ours now!)

It was the first night that we had to strategise about how to best charge our electronics. At least we were only going to Norseman the next day, so the headlight and tail lights would last. We just needed to top up our phones, the Garmin, the Lezyne, and the battery pack. We thought we were pretty clever choosing a table in the tavern with a power point on the wall. Dammit though – we’d just about finished eating when we realised that nothing was charging – the bloody power point didn’t work. I asked the kitchen staff if they’d mind just plugging the battery in until we left.

This was going to be an ‘interesting’ night’s sleep.

2 thoughts on “IP Day 6 – Coolgardie to Widgiemooltha

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