IP Day 30 – Mount Gambier to Portland

Thursday 21st April, 2022

123k +646m
Moving 5:34 Elapsed 7:41
Max 51 kph, Avg 22 kph

We got away at 6.30 again. Seems to be our go-to compromise time. From my point of view, while I can’t eat, I’m at least not too nauseous and can keep down a slowly sipped cup of tea or coffee. When it’s almost sunrise, and already light, I can usually manage about an hour before my stomach is saying ‘What do you think you’re doing, idiot? You need fuel!’

The route heads south out of town, clearly deliberately going past the famous Blue Lake, before then turning hard left and cutting east across the southern edges of town and beyond on a backroads detour which (at least) skips 30km of main road. We quickly stopped to check out the lake from a viewing point, but at that time of morning on a cloudy, gloomy day, it was grey. Oh well.

Farmland morphed into pine plantations. There were hardly any cars, and the riding was pretty enjoyable. We stopped for a break at about 26km when we came to an intersection. We had technically reached the state border, turning right onto a road that runs south from there along the SA/Vic border. 13km of that, with a little dipsy doodle back into South Australia to stay west of the Glenelg River; through a gully, and back up through the little locality of Donovan. One more kilometre of quiet road running exactly south along the border, and we met up with the main drag – ie. the Mount Gambier to Portland road.

Official border sign time. Goodbye South Australia, hello Victoria. Back to our own ‘local time’ with a half an hour jump forward. (Yep, just half an hour!)

Only a few kilometres to Nelson (at the mouth of the Glenelg River). Breakfast. After this, there would be nothing for nearly 80km until we got to Portland. We rode down to the general store/kiosk by the river, got some takeaway, and tried to get out of the wind in a picnic shelter in the park. We were serenaded by the sound of a refrigerated truck generator outside the store taking one hell of a long time to do its delivery. So much for the serenity

(did the public toilet have a sign up that the water wasn’t potable?)

We asked at the tourist information centre about water after saddling up to ride out of town, and it turned out we had to purchase it from a machine back down at the kiosk! Not what we were expecting, although we had experienced a couple of non-potable water towns on our Sydney-Melbourne ride a few years ago.

The next 50km to Gorae West (where we were thankfully able to turn off) was also, as mentioned in yesterday’s post, horrible. With all the pine plantations, it was no surprise there were a number of logging jinkers on the road, and most of them are cowboys.

In the latter part, there were thankfully some roadworks with a stop/go sign which held up the traffic for a bit. Once we were through Marc timed the gaps. We would get about 6 minutes’ grace in between pulses of traffic, so we would pull off the road, let them pass, and then start back again for another 6-minute session of clear riding.

Other riders and local dot-watchers complain about the circuitous route into Portland, but we are fans. It was sweet relief to get away from the trucks. We stopped for a break just up the road, but the dog on the property we’d stopped outside was not impressed.

Portland is the home of dot watcher legend, Shannon (and his family), who, every year set up ‘The Portland Refuge’ for the IPWR riders – a camper trailer set up in their front yard, with signs and lights, available for all riders to access whatever time of day or night. (Remembering that the M.O. of many riders is to ride at all hours, ‘crash’ for a few hours sleep, while they charge up their electronics (and themselves… a bit….) and then keep going.

Shannon had let us know that he’d kept the rider refuge up in case we needed it, so we accepted his offer.

He and another local dotwatcher, Cyril, rode out to meet us on the backroads and guided us through the turns. Shannon’s daughter greeted us on arrival with a plate of chocolate slice (if I recall correctly!)

The legendary Portland refuge.

We dumped some gear and then rode downtown to grab a late lunch/post ride carb-up. And then back for a much-appreciated shower in their house.

Shannon invited us to have dinner with them, and we gratefully accepted. It would be nice to have some homecooked food and to have some conversation with other people! Marc went with him on a quick supermarket trip so we could contribute by way of beer, wine and snacks.

Shannon, Madlaina and the kids were great, and it was interesting talking to them about how they had ended up choosing to live there. At first glance, to us, it didn’t seem much more than a busy port with a bit of industry going on (it has an aluminium smelter and fertiliser industry, for example). But the more that I look back on what else there is around there, the more I see what spectacular coastline there is nearby (Cape Bridgewater). It should go on my list of places to re-visit and explore on foot. Portland is the start/finish of the Great South West Walk (loop).

[Back up near Nelson I noted the Glenelg River, and, as I’m checking out Google Maps now, that looks like an amazing place to do canoe touring/camping. Not that we clocked any of this at the time, but crossing the country as we did has familiarised us with places we had barely or never heard of before. Maybe we should re-diversify our adventuring experiences.]

They insisted on leaving the front door unlocked so that we could use the loo in the night and early morning (rather than the porta-loo set up in the front yard. I hoped I wouldn’t wake them when I inevitably would have to go pee during the night! And we’d be up early. 😬

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