(written by Nancy)
We woke to heavy fog this morning – could not see the road or much around us. It was not too cold though – felt pretty muggy even at 6:30 when we finally crawled out of the tent. We figured we would eat breakfast and pack things up in the hope that the fog would burn off before we were ready to leave. We had a nice chat with one of the other caravanners – they live near Adelaide and gave us their name and phone number for a place to stay if we go through their area. Always good to make friends on the road.
We finally left about 9 as the fog had mostly burned off. We could see some fog banks ahead but we never actually had to ride through any and as the sun finally broke through the clouds it got quite warm. We seemed to do a lot of climbing in the first 20k or so as we rode up the Drummond Range. Most of it was not too bad, though we did have one pretty steep climb that I am sure is a real challenge for the road trains that go up it. Fortunately we did not meet any on the way up, though we did pull over at the bottom and let a couple go by. Good timing for us. We pulled over at the lookout at the top of the range – it was a very nice view back into the valley. Lots of yellow flowering trees or bushes – I think they are wattle (or Acacia) – that give a nice contrast to the green gum trees and pine trees. Also still seeing lots of boab trees and Dave always has his eye out for the perfect picture. Perhaps we’ll have to get one of these trees to plant somewhere – I am sure they would grow in the dry desert of Nevada if they grow out here!
After we got to the top of the Drummond Ranges we had generally flat roads – a little bit of up and down but not much. The tailwind of the previous days has unfortunately disappeared though and we were a bit buffeted by head and cross winds most of the day.
There were no towns between Bogantungan and Alpha so this morning I made peanut butter and honey sandwiches for us to eat along the way – they hit the spot about two hours into the ride today. Today was a bit of a grind, just trying to get here and hoping that there was a nice caravan park in Alpha and that we weren’t going to have a repeat of the Emerald day where we could not get a spot. We have heard that there are several mines opening up around here so there is pressure on housing. It sounds like people are a bit apprehensive about the effect of the mining on the town – they do want people to spend money in the town but do not want the town to become a ‘mining’ town with nothing left for tourists or residents.
We made it into town about 1:30 or so and on our way down the main street we saw a tourist information centre. The lady there was very nice and friendly and told us about the caravan park and recommended the bakery next door – the baker has apparently won awards at several shows for his pies. So, off to the bakery we went – shared a pie, milk, muffin and apple turnover. That cheered us up, as food often does! Dave had spotted a butcher shop down the road and was keen to have steak for dinner, so he got some groceries at the grocery store and we headed down to the butcher where he picked up two scotch fillets to barbecue for dinner.
The caravan park is nice (whew) – though it is close to the highway so expect we will hear some trucks tonight. Shower felt extra nice after our cold sponge baths yesterday and we even got a load of laundry done.
Alpha is named after an early property in the area that was described in Town and Country Journal in 1876 as “one of the prettiest spots that could be imagined.” It is also known as the ‘Town of Murals’. The murals were pained by local artists on various buildings around town after a flood in 1990 put up to two metres of water through parts of town. The artists are not paid – the owners of the buildings just provide the paint. It adds a nice touch to the town. There are 26 murals in total – we saw several along the main road that we rode down this afternoon. Perhaps we will see a couple more on the way out in the morning. Importantly there is Telstra mobile signal so we will be able to post tonight.
Dave has reported that we are 2500 kilometres from Darwin – halfway there, he says. I think I’ll just concentrate on the next couple of days as that sounds way too far. Tomorrow we are heading for Jericho – short day at 55k, and then Wednesday to Barcaldine (another 83k) where we will see the Australian Workers’ Heritage Centre. We may take a day off there if we don’t get there early enough to see the centre. And then we head to the big town of Longreach (another 107k) where we will take several days off to see all the sites and plan for the journey up to Mt Isa. That’s the plan anyway – hopefully the winds will not make it too difficult!
Finally, Happy Birthday to my mom – sorry we couldn’t be there to celebrate with you but we are thinking of you. We’ll have to celebrate when we meet up somewhere along the road!