Day 11 – Cocklebiddy to Madura

Wednesday 30th March, 2022
90.26km  +147m
4:50 riding. Avg Speed 18.6km/h Max  49.8km/h   Elapsed Time 6:09:56

Strava description: [expletive, expletive, expletive….]

We had a bit of rain during the night, but thankfully not too much, given we were ‘tarping’ rather than ‘tenting’ it. (No opportunity, though, for star-gazing from the middle of nowhere and away from ambient lighting.)   During the night I was half-dreaming about something on my face. I kept brushing it off, then finally turned on a torch to find I had ants crawling all over my face and arms. Arrrrrrrrggggggghhhhh!  Needless to say, I’d woken Marc up by this stage. He couldn’t do much from the other side of the front wheel, but I brushed them away as best I could. He got the stick of aeroguard out of the frame bag and I went nuts rolling it all over my face, neck and arms, and on the groundsheet to hopefully form a barrier over which they would not want to cross.   We did manage to sleep some more (ant-free) and woke up again in daylight.

At this point we would highlight the following piece of kit as essential for such a trip, whether free-camping or not (because you never know when you’re going to get the urge to go; this was not in fact its first use!) – and this particular one we highly recommended for its mere 28g in weight. We carried it strapped to one of our water bottles.

Actually took this photo a few days later (different soil colour!)- when we were discussing the topic of litter etc on our TwoUp facebook page. Used loo paper (for #1s, if you’re female) carried out in a separate plastic bag till you get to a toilet, and #2s buried in a hole!  We’re on a bike, and we can do it, why can’t all the people in vehicles?!

Our departure that morning ended up being delayed a bit.  We were doing ok with the pack-up. Marc wheeled the bike (backwards) to lean it against a tree so we could pack up the tarp and guy ropes.  When we went to leave he realised that we had a bit of a problem.  At some point, probably while wrangling the tarp over or off the handlebar hoods, the release lever ‘released’ as if to go down a gear (onto the granny ring), but without the pedals turning forwards to complete the change, and actually turning backwards when he rolled the bike backwards, the chain jammed in between the chainring and derailleur.  While trying to ‘rescue’ the situation – trying to put the lever back up –  the chain stayed wedged, and the cable inside the shifter also got very jammed. Oh bugger.

It took a bit of cycling bush mechanic-ing to sort it (him mechanic-ing, me doing the best I could at being a bike stand while not really understanding what had actually happened and what he needed to do. And maaaaybe there was a little voice in my head going ‘ah well, if he can’t fix it, we’ll just have to walk a kilometre back to Cocklebiddy, and then we can pull out oh dear what a shame’).  Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on whose head you were in at the time) he ended up, after well over half an hour of work, saving the situation – albeit leaving us with a frayed cable end, and not-ideal cable tension.
(That’s the shorter, Tracey-interpreted version at any rate. If you want the full and technically accurate version you’d probably want to do it with him over a schooner of beer or two.)  In the end, we rode with it like that to Adelaide, after picking up a peace-of-mind spare derailleur cable in Port Augusta which was sent to us in a care package by good friend and angel, Malcolm.

So we finally set off at (*checks strava) 8.45am, which was actually probably 45 minutes later in local time.   As evidenced by my Strava description above, it wasn’t much fun of a day – slogging into a headwind.

There were numerous examples of ‘artistic’ (?) rockpiles, but this was one of the most bizarre.

The most frequent topic of conversation between us, apart from swearing about the wind, is how disgusting humans are. Yes, already partly covered that above, but there was just SO MUCH rubbish strewn along the side of the highway – and in the rest areas.  It is a travesty at any time but when there are so many (well-maintained) bins, there is just no excuse.  You couldn’t blame just one particular group of highway users. From truck and vehicle parts, to beer and drink containers, to disposable nappies. And the ubiquitous toilet paper.  Just disgusting and shameful.  

Our day’s destination, Madura Roadhouse, was at the bottom of Madura Pass.  Before this trip – and not having travelled across this part of the country before – and despite having heard about ‘Madura Pass’ and ‘Eucla Pass’- we hadn’t really clocked that the Eyre Highway drops down nearly 100m from the Nullarbor Plain to the Roe Plains,  at about sea level.  The escarpment is a continuation of the cliff lines of the Great Australian Bight, running inland from the Bunda Cliffs in the east to the Baxter Cliffs (to the south of Caiguna and Cocklebiddy) in the west. At Madura, it’s about 40k to the coast. At Mundrabilla about 20k, and by the bottom of Eucla Pass, only about 4km.  (The only access to the coast is by 4WD to the south of Cocklebiddy (and where there is the Eyre Bird Observatory) or the more doable 4k to the old Eucla Jetty and Telegraph Station.  Not possible of course for us to do either, although I had had some crazy thoughts pre-ride of being able to do the Eucla side-trip.  Anyway, I’m getting ahead of myself…

We were pretty happy to finally get to the top of Madura Pass.  There was a lookout off to the left, but at that point, we were not interested in even riding a few hundred metres off the road – we just wanted to get to the roadhouse and motel.  We stopped on the shoulder part way down and still got a pretty good view.  And then enjoyed picking up some speed and zooming downhill – for a few hundred metres. Yee-ha! When was the last time we’d been able to do that?!

Drink! Food! Hit us with some calories baby:

Seemed like a good idea when we ordered it.

A swim was off the table (even if we’d wanted to – it was only about 19 degrees).

But they had a laundry, so we got washing done.  For dinner, spaghetti bolognese sounded like a great option, but it turned out to be a huge disappointment with it being mostly bol, and not much spaghetti. Derp.  Marc at least got his One Fifty Lashes, so he was happy.  

We ordered some sandwiches as well for the next day’s breakfast and lunch. 117k to Mundrabilla – and we were going to start pre-dawn to hopefully get as much done as we could before the bloody wind got up again.

I’ve just found a cool graphic in my Garmin records that shows road speed throughout the ride. (I think I might try and go back and add the interesting ones to all the preceding days, as it’s a really interesting comparison.)

One thought on “Day 11 – Cocklebiddy to Madura

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