Nyamup to Rocky Gully 1996

Nyamup to Rocky Gully, day 6, Sunday 20 October 1996. I awoke on a frosty, sunny morning a little after six. The sun shone brightly on the back of the house. I had more biscuits, sultanas and hot chocolate, washed the pots and dishes, tidied the house and left a little sadly at 8:08. I should have made the effort to get going earlier. I rode up the hill, then down to the Muirs Highway.

Rocky Gully

Rocky Gully

The road was hilly at first, gradually becoming more gently undulating. The regional radio station I had been listening to faded and I couldn’t get the Great Southern regional until later in the day.

Winds were mostly calm during the day, with spells of light NE, N, NW. The day became very hot. I was to hear later that Perth this day recorded its highest October maximum for many years, at 37, about 100 on the old Fahrenheit scale.

I had a drink-stop at 1187 and again at 1203. It was time to pull out the Albany map onto which I was coming. It showed that a series of lakes, with Lake Muir as the biggest, lay ahead on both sides of the road. I expected the road to level, as it did, giving me a good steady run for a number of km. But I never saw clear water – these lakes were actually wetlands, swampy areas with much plant and animal life.

I was starting to suffer from the heat and have lots of little discomforts. I was putting four barley-sugars into my mouth at each rest stop, and these seemed to help restore my strength in between. The hilliness began again after I had left the lakes, and there wasn’t far to go now, but I was flagging. I was getting close to that limit that I have found in the past, when my legs seem to have no strength and every turn of the pedals is a pain. I made an effort to slow down and freewheeled down hills instead of pedalling. I was to make a habit of this later in the ride.

On the long trip down Muirs highway I saw six dead kangaroos and a couple of kangaroo skulls and a dead crow. I saw a green parrot killed by a car. It was unlucky enough to fly across the road at the same moment that the first car for half an hour came, heading back west. The parrot hit the car with a thump and the remains of it fell to the road, with green feathers drifting in my face. The first live thing I saw on the road was a bobtail lizard, which turned and smiled at me in that way they have as I cycled around it.

The 5-km posts ignored Rocky Gully but gave the distance to Mount Barker. Since Mount Barker is 65 km beyond Rocky Gully this enabled me to check my progress.

Thundery-looking clouds began developing from the northwest. It was a relief when at last they moved over me and kept the sun off, but the day had become very muggy. A few drops of rain fell on me towards the end of the day’s ride.

I took further drink-stops at 1219 and 1235. Finally I rolled to a stop in front of the ‘Rocky Gully Pub’ which looked quite nice from the road. But only the facade was modern. It was 12:53, 1248.4.

They had told me that they opened at three on Sunday, and that if I arrived before three I was to go and look for them round the back. I walked with the bike down the side of the building, but there was no-one around the back. I left my bike round there, then I let myself into the building and found my way into the bar, which was doing business, open or not.

The pubkeeper was a young man with a ponytail. I explained that I had booked the night before and that I was a bit earlier than I had expected. He told me that his wife would show me my room, and yelled out to her. There was no response. He yelled again. A girl sitting on the lap of one of the customers slowly got up and came over.

They had a little boy who was fascinated by my arrival. He wanted to know if that was my bike, and if it was a good bike. He showed me his pet lamb which had the run of the place.

The lady showed me my room, which looked clean and comfortable enough, though there was no flyscreen on the window which I would need to have open against the muggy weather and the hotel smells. When I asked for the key she showed me a hole in the door where the lock had been, and said it didn’t matter because I was the only guest. She showed me the ‘guest bathroom’, dirty and cluttered with her family’s stuff. She showed me where to get breakfast for myself the next morning. It was included in the price. I like this eat all you want, as early as you want, arrangement. I paid $20 at the bar, unshipped my luggage, locked the bike and went in to have a wash, some biscuits and a sleep.

This hotel was basically a family home where paying guests would intrude now and then. There was a little baby as well as the boy. Before having my shower I checked, cleaned and oiled the bike, then I put it away in a disused laundry kindly pointed out by an older man who appeared while I was wondering where to put it. I explained that rain seemed likely during the night. When I had my shower I took advantage of the family’s shampoo.

I walked up the road to the roadhouse where I bought milk, boxed juice drinks (for next day’s drink stops) and biscuits and checked out the closing time and hot food available for later. Then I took a walk round the town. I remembered a movie where one of the characters keeps imitating Bette Davis saying ‘What a DumP!’ with emphasis on the P. I passed a neat little fibro house, maybe 40 – 50 years old, with a ‘For Sale’ notice on it. I felt sad for it. Who would want to buy it? I hoped a big truck might come and lift it to a better place.

I must reiterate for those who would ask: Where’s Rocky Gully? What’s there? Why go there? Firstly, who cares; secondly, nothing much; thirdly, it represented a Challenge; long distance ride, unfamiliar road, thinly populated country.

I walked back a different way and found a big area of flowers. I don’t know what they are called, or whether they are native, but they are like freesias, only bigger and multicoloured. There are plenty of them at Araluen.

The pub had a sign on the front saying “Smorgasbord dinner every Sunday!” I went in and asked the pubkeeper about this. He shook his head vaguely and said they could do me a steak sandwich or something. I thanked him but didn’t commit myself. I resolved to have something from the roadhouse.

I strolled back up the road, worrying about the wind. It was still light and sometimes seemed to be coming from the south, but more from the east. I hoped I would get a southerly for the next day. I had thought back in Bridgetown, on watching the weather forecast the previous Friday evening, that I would get westerlies to help me to Rocky Gully, then southerlies and easterlies to help me get back north and west. But as it turned out I only briefly if at all got an honest tailwind during the entire 13 riding days.

I booked the Hill View Motel in Kojonup. It looked nicer, in the brochure, than the Commercial, where I have usually stayed, and it was only going to be $39. Then I rang up Perth, then rang (09) 1195 for the southwest weather information. I had some idea that the cost would be that of a local call, since I was in the area for which the forecast was intended, but I had to waste many small coins that I needed later to hear the whole thing. I should have just put a couple of dollar coins in. And after all that it turned out to be lies.

I went and got my dinner. I wanted fish and chips, which was on the menu, but it wasn’t available. I ended up with chicken and chips, a cheese sausage, a fresh tomato out of the fridge (where all the fresh fruit and veges were kept) and a rich choc milk. I thought the tomato would improve the meal and it went with the oranges from Harvey and the golden delicious apples from Bridgetown as part of my new policy of improving my usual ride diet of fried food, cakes, biscuits and white bread.

I ate all this and spent the evening in my room, reading my book. The children screamed and fought with each other in their bedroom for an hour. Their parents continually thumped up and down the passage outside my room. When the time came for sleep I put tissue in my ears and took a pill to help me sleep.

Reading at Rocky Gully: 1248.4. Km for day: 78. Aggregate: 384. Km per day: 64. Kph to Rocky Gully: 16.5 (too fast! Should have had more stops and ridden more slowly. 15 kph would have been good enough and I would have been less tired. Result of anxiety about the day’s ride).

Charles A. Pierce

Other Days on this Tour:

  1. Kelmscott to Rocky Gully Tour 1996
  2. Kelmscott to Pinjarra 1996
  3. Pinjarra to Harvey 1996
  4. Harvey to Donnybrook 1996
  5. Donnybrook to Bridgetown 1996
  6. Bridgetown to Nyamup 1996
  7. Nyamup to Rocky Gully 1996
  8. Rocky Gully to Kojonup 1996
  9. Kojonup to Boscabel 1996
  10. Boscabel to Darkan 1996
  11. Darkan to Collie 1996
  12. Collie to Waroona 1996
  13. Waroona to Mandurah 1996
  14. Mandurah to Cottesloe 1996

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