Ah, the wind is coming from the east…..so back down to Brighton on a train crammed with beach-loving trippers who want to stretch out on the piercingly uncomfortable pebble beaches of the south coast……and get a tan.
I step off a beguilingly air-conditioned train to be greeted by the suffocating heat of Brighton… I started feeling week at the knees immediately….so, westwards I headed, enjoying a garden BBQ with family on my first night….
then on a long drawn out day, I painfully negotiated both Portsmouth and Southampton in my bid to get to the New Forest, only to find a chained gate trying to deprive me of my rightful access to a bridleway…..
I make a mental note to complain to the Forestry Commission….
but, as ever, there were moments to savour on the day’s 117km (73 mile) route….including the growing discomfort of the saddle!
It may sound dumb to go for a 3-4 hour ride when the morning temperature is building up to 30+ degrees C….. which, to you Americans, means 86+ degrees F (what we sometimes call ‘old money’). Well, you may be right but, putting it into context, it makes more sense to go riding than to go walking or running.
If you walk, or even run, in such conditions, and continue for 3-4 hours, you are likely to start pushing your body into heat-stroke meltdown. Why? Well, principally because at the speeds you can run/walk, you can’t benefit much from the air-conditioning effect of a breeze (even if it’s just one you create yourself by your forward motion). Even if you run at 10mph, when there is no appreciable breeze anyway, that wouldn’t be enough to cool down your system. And, as soon as you stop, the sweat will just begin to pour out of you.
Riding a bike, however, in still hot conditions, is a little more forgiving. If you can keep a steady pace of 15-20mph, and take full advantage of downhills to reach 40-50mph, you will have a ready source of air conditioning wafting all about you. Going uphill, of course, is a different matter, and when you come to stop mid-ride or at the end of the ride, you will have the same challenges as runners or walkers. Though you might be tempted to dive into the nearest air conditioned shop just to enjoy that sudden chill, it’s best to avoid that. The body doesn’t like sudden changes, and you can actually end up sweating much more. The body gets confused, as it does when you jump into a cold shower or knock back a few icy drinks.
Now I know my 2,500 mile cycle ride in the Antipodes did not elicit much sympathy from anyone out there……nor did I expect it, given that I had chosen to do it. There was always an element of “serves you right” that had to be addressed, whether it was in the face of appalling weather conditions, tough terrain or serious mechanical issues. But there are some things in life that should elicit sympathy, even from the most hardy of comfort-zone dwellers……but then they might argue along the same lines: ‘you chose your bed of nails, so lie on it!’.
The day before I left Melbourne, the mercury had registered 38 degrees C. Back in the UK, the mercury hasn’t risen above 5 degrees C in the last week, but today (just a week before Easter) the country has been brought to its knees with heavy downfalls of snow, whole communities left without electricity, and flooding in some areas.
Whereas Melbourne was registering all-time records for heat in March, and this time last year the UK was registering the driest winter on record, we seem to be ready to set yet another record for the latest snowfall on record.
The bookies are raking in the money from punters backing the possibility of a white Easter this year. After all, it only takes one flake of snow to fall in the right place………on the Met Office?
Self improvement literature constantly reminds the reader: “if you fail to plan, you plan to fail”. Well, I had planned to be in Melbourne two days earlier, but my failure to keep to that plan was my good fortune. Staying a couple of extra nights with Jim & Anne was the best thing that could ‘befall’ anyone.
I accompanied them to their church on Sunday, where I was warmly welcomed, and showered generously with donations.
We drove into the mountains to a country restaurant and enjoyed a plate of locally farmed trout
…then we went to check out a beautifully restored wooden trestle rail bridge,
that once carried a line for the transportation of logs. Through a combination of bush fires and arson, the line became unserviceable and had to be closed.
But temperatures continue to be in the mid 30s, so resting in the cool indoors, or plunging into the pool, are as much as the doctor would advise……:-) How sad!
So, what about the ‘best laid scheme’ for my departure? The concept of leaving about 6.30am, before sunrise, obviously reflects my prowess as a decision-maker……but when you are a guest in somebody else’s house, it has ramifications. My hosts valiantly dragged themselves out of bed, Jim courageously donned his cycling kit, and he led me to the outskirts of town, just as the sun was breaking the horizon……
….and riding in a westerly direction, I had it warming my back, and not dazzling my eyes (a feature that has been constant for the duration of my journey in both countries).
I passed through Garfield, Jim’s birthplace
….and I doffed my cycle helmet, and thought of Jim (nice place, Jim!). But my best laid scheme (to have a shorter ride and camp somewhere out of Melbourne) did ‘gang aft aglay’ (with apologies to the bard). Once again, I got the bit between my teeth, reached the homeward stretch following the cycle track round Port Philip Bay, saw the city skyline of Melbourne in the distance,
and just kept pedalling. And to cut a long story short (thank goodness, you are saying) I got to my hostel accommodation in the city centre before I was fried to a crisp in the suffocating 36C heat which, unfortunately, will be with us for two more days.
The upside of this planning failure is that, with the extra day in Melbourne, I’ve been able to book an all-day bus tour to see the delights of the Great Ocean Road. What a considerable gain, I would say!
So this is journey’s end. I go into ‘recess’ and the bike now will probably go into retirement.
The welded frame makes its future durability uncertain. The big question now is: do I leave it in Melbourne, or box it up, bring it home, and dine out on all the derring-do journeys we’ve had together over 20 years? Is there room for sentimentality in the life of a long distance cyclist?
Do help me with this quandary…..
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Rosedale to Warragul 95km(60m)
I told a lie in my last post. I had intended staying in Sale, but the sun went behind a cloud, it freshened a bit, so I decided to sneak another 30km to Rosedale,
where I knew there was a campsite…….but, you know, these things happen…….. you make a change to plans and then you regret them down the road. And, down the road, the sun came out again and made the last 20km a superhuman effort. When I got to Rosedale, I was spent………and I do mean, spent. I checked into a ‘freebie’ campsite, discovered it had portaloos
and a tap (no showers……..:-( and was about to break a cardinal rule…….) when I fell into conversation with a crowd of Queenslanders (some of them most definitely British born)
and before ‘Bob was my uncle’, I had been invited to a shower on board Terry and Karen’s caravan, to supper and to an early breakfast the following morning. If this is typical Queensland hospitality, I would buy into it any day.
Terry and Karen have sold up house and are now spending their time travelling Australia in their caravan, working as and when is needed to top up the bank account. What a lifestyle! Thank you to them both for their kind hospitality.
I have been cycling now for three days in impossibly warm temperatures. The following press article
did not reassure me about the coming days. Melbourne was heading to break an all time record for March: the highest temperatures and the most consecutive days above 30C since records began. It’s that Mother Nature thing again…….some days it throws vicious headwinds at you, or throws an inch of rain on you……and now temperatures that make all but the siesta impossible.
But relief was on the horizon. I was about to meet Jim Connelly
on the road a few kms out of Warragul (meaning ‘wild dog’). Jim very kindly guided me into town, delivered me to the offices of the Gazette (the local newspaper) for an interview and photos, then took me to his home, where a swimming pool,
air conditioning and cold drinks awaited me. Jim and Anne
had very kindly invited me to stay at their house on my run into Melbourne. No sooner look at me, they realised I needed more than one day and night to get back on track. I am very thankful to them for being good Samaritans, and for allowing me to stay three nights before making the final run into Melbourne. Besides, this is a holiday weekend in Melbourne, and the city will be steaming with heat, street processions, wild behaviour, excessive drinking……I mean, who would want to be a part of that?
See you up the road!
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