A Tale of Two Cities …

The toilets in Maryborough are so much better than the toilets in Maryborough. On the other hand the train station in Maryborough knocks the train station in Maryborough into a cocked hat.

I have good friends at home in Maryborough, Vic who rode their bikes to Maryborough, Qld. Hats off to them, sterling work. They rode from a goldrush town of about 8,000 souls about 1,900km to a goldrush town about three times as large (and wetter and warmer).

Currently putting a smile on many a face in Maryborough, Qld is the Cistern Chapel, public toilets that have been given a bit of a lift …

The railway station though is a superannuated wooden shack from which you can catch a bus to a real station. Whereas in Victoria we have a grand edifice.

Any Victorian Marybourian will tell you that Mark Twain described the place as a train station with town attached (although any Twain scholar will tell you he said no such thing). Queensland Marybourians sometimes say that the plans simply went to the wrong address like half their mail, although I have heard that it was Mumbai that was expecting the plans to be delivered there.

The other big difference is the pronunciation. In Vic we are rather formal and say Maryborough. In Queensland they shorten it to Mary-bra (think Edinburgh).

It has a lovely park by the Mary River in which I saw a Kooka-bra.

Queensland at last …

Another world, beautiful one day perfect the next, where education is so lacking that beer is spelt XXXX and the premier can’t even pronounce her own name. But beautiful nonetheless, even in the rain. First priority in South East Queensland was the endemic Black-breasted Buttonquail. I recruited expert help in the form of Roy Sonnenberg, bird guide extraordinaire. We found many good things …

and not all were birds …

Little Red Flying-fox

but we did not find the Buttonquail. As they feed they clear away the leaf litter leaving cleared circular areas called platelets. Roy regaled me with tales of the many occasions he had watched them at work rapidly churning out platelet after platelet. He found me excellent examples of platelets. The Buttonquails themselves were not to be found.

Good reason to come back.

Byron …

We hit the coast at Byron Bay, the most easterly point of the continent. A lot of the locals lead an unhealthy lifestyle tending to be red in the face and prematurely wrinkled …

Australian Brushturkey

But not everyone is so debauched …

Cooktown…

Was named in honour of Captain James Cook, the explorer who put the east coast of the great southern continent on the map. He was by no means the first European to visit Australia. That honour goes to one Willem Janszoon on the good ship Duyfken in 1606. More of him a little later.

The Dutch had mapped the west coast of Oz pretty thoroughly over the course of a century starting with Dirk Hartog in 1616. Abel Tasman put the southerly limit on the continent with the discovery of Van Dieman’s Land in 1642.

The first Brit to hit the shore was John Brookes who wrecked the Tryall off the WA coast in 1622. Survivors spent a week on the Monte Bello Islands. William Dampier made a far more successful visit in 1699 discovering an excellent site for a bird observatory.

Turn the clock forward to 1770. After making a thorough survey of New Zealand Cook sailed west heading for Van Diemen’s Land the next known spot in the ocean. The weather caused him to take a more northerly route and on 19th April 1770 Lieutenant Zachary Hicks, a Stepney lad, spotted the east coast of Victoria. Like a lot of Victorians since our James then headed north to Queensland. No landings were made in Victoria and only one in New South Wales, at Botany Bay (29th April).

Once in the future Queensland’s waters Cook made 13 more landings. None more important to the success of the voyage than the one at the mouth of the Endeavour River.

On June the 11th Endeavour struck a reef. It took 23 hours to get her off and she was badly holed in the process. A desperate bout of pumping followed until the inflow of water was reduced by passing a sail under the ship’s belly a process known as fothering. The ship could then be kept afloat by use of a single pump until a suitable landing site could be found. On the 17th the ship was beached at the mouth of the Endeavour River. Repairs took 7 weeks.

Relations with the locals were mainly good perhaps because Cook had unwittingly chosen to camp at a traditional meeting place where custom forbade the shedding of blood. Some aboriginal words and names were recorded for posterity. The word kangaroo was borrowed from the Guugu Yimithirr language. Subsequent scholarship has disproved the furphy that it meant “buggered if I know” and suggests that it was the name of a particular species of macropod.

One kangaroo had the misfortune to be shot. It was sketched by Sydney Parkinson then eaten by the officers and gentlemen. That sketch may have been the model for a painting by George Stubbs that was itself the source material for an engraving that appeared in John Hawkesworth’s 1773 book describing the voyage.

Cook and Banks are often credited with being the first to describe a macropod forgetting that Western Australia had been on the map for about 150 years at that time. The honour should go to Francois Pelsaert who described a wallaby from the other side of the continent in 1629.

Returning as promised to Willem Janszoon. In 1606 he sailed eastward in the Arafura Sea and bumped into land that he thought was a southerly extension of New Guinea. It was in fact the west coast of the Cape York Peninsula in the vicinity of present day Weipa. He then sailed south in the Gulf of Carpentaria charting the coast as far as Cape Keerweer. When Cook was at Cooktown he was just 437km as the crow flies from Cape Keerweer and 164 years too late to be the first European to visit Cape York.

Hopkins Falls

Over the years this blog has largely been driven along by travel and travel photography. The last couple of years has seen that shrivel because of our great pandemic. The blog has shriveled along with it. There is a limit to how many times you can spin a tale out of spending your two hours outdoor exercise riding your bike in circles. For the moment though country Victoria is off the leash – Victoria is my oyster, can’t leave the state, can’t visit Melbourne. The pearl in my little oyster is Port Fairy and that’s where I am.

I have been riding my bike in circles but at least the circle is a big one. What more could a girl ask for? I like to call the route L’Étape Charles de Gaulle …

Étape Charles de Gaulle

My accommodation here is built from bluestone which is basalt from the Newer Volcanic Province. Port Fairy’s basalt was donated by Mount Rouse 60km to the north. It seems a long way for the lava to flow. Perhaps it could have got further but sizzled to a stop in the sea. There is a closer but older volcano at Tower Hill which I have written about previously <HERE>. Rather than slowly boiling over it went off with a phreatic bang.

Hopkins Falls is about 40km east of Fairy and is another side effect of the newer volcanics. Said to be the widest waterfall in Australia at 90 meters in width it drops about 12 meters off a basalt shelf. It’s been a fairly wet winter. It’s quite a satisfying sight at present …

Circling the Asylum …

Lock down again. That changes the plan.

In preparation for the Peaks Challenge at Falls Creek I’ve been knocking out a 100km ride about once a week. Aside from that I’ve concentrated on intensity rather than volume with hill repeats (outdoors and on the trainer), intervals and some racing. Rest days and the odd light week are vital to the mix and the first week of February was the light week. There are now 25 days to go. My intentions were to ramp up the climbing and get in at least one 200km ride. Now I find myself limited to two hours a day and within 5km of home.

The nearest asphalt to home is a kilometer away. I could ride back and forth on 4km of black top – hill repeats without any significant hill. The alternative is to take to the gravel on my mountain bike. And it’s not such a bad alternative, increased resistance from wider tyres and the gravel plus the less aerodynamic position and greater weight put the legs to the test. The distance limit means going around and round. It could wear thin but I enjoyed it this morning.

I also slipped in an extra weights session. Tomorrow I’ll do some indoor hill work and perhaps take the mountain bike out again. I can’t see myself doing more than a couple of hours at a time on the trainer.

The Nationals …

Yesterday after a light morning ride I sat in front of the TV and watched the Australian National Championships (thank you SBS).

In the women’s Sarah Roy cruised away and stayed away for the honour of wearing the green and gold for the next twelve months. The drama all played out behind her in the battle for the lesser places. Sarah Brown was an absolute powerhouse taking second with Lauretta Hanson in third place.

Breakaways had been the theme in the week of cycling that had preceded the big events but the men’s race didn’t follow suit. Breakaways got away but were reeled back in. Welsford and Johnston teamed up out front just before half way. Welsford is a track rider with a big sprint and looks it. Johnston is lighter and better built for the climb.

The course is an 11.6km circuit. You’re either going up Mt Buninyong or down Mt Buninyong. There aren’t too many places where you’d care to pitch a tent. The girls did 9 laps, the boys 16.

Johnston led the way up taking care not to drop the sprinter. Welsford did his share of the work on the way down and it looked a pretty effective combination for a while. Eventually though they were chased down. One of the pursuers didn’t stop to say hi. Lucas Plapp just sailed on through with about a third of the race ahead of him. Just 20 years old Plapp has an amazing career waiting to become a reality. He soloed away to a lead of more than a minute. It was easy to believe he would make it another win for a bold breakaway.

Every spectator, apart from the family members of the riders behind, loves the courage of a rider that goes it alone. A group sharing the work enjoys an enormous aerodynamic advantage over a solo rider.

The dream held good until two laps to go. Plapp ran out of gas. He would go on to finish 17th 3:37 behind the winner. Five kilometers out there were nine in with a chance. Tim Roe was one of them but he came off his bike on the second from last corner. Everyone else managed to stay upright but one rider was disadvantaged to the extent that he lost contact with the bunch. So seven hit the kilometer marker with a medal on their mind.

Kelland O’Brien turned up the power and jumped away. He quickly opened up what looked like an unbeatable lead only to cramp short of the line. He was the last breakaway of the day to get reeled back in, pipped at the post by Cameron Meyer. Scott Bowden finished third.

I shared every pedal stroke with the competitors. What made it so incredibly real was the fact that I had ridden the course on Saturday evening in a road race open to all. We were only allowed 5 laps of the course but it was more than enough to feed the addiction. I finished fifth in the 70-74 age group or at least my number did. Somehow they managed to screw up my name in the results.

Indoor Mountains …

The Peaks Challenge at Falls Creek entails more than 4,000 meters (13,100 feet) of climbing. Living in the flat land makes it hard to prepare the legs. One answer is an indoor trainer that can simulate the resistance that would be experienced climbing hills. I settled on the Tacx Neo 2T and with the help of Youtube got it up and running. I’m currently enjoying, if that’s the right word, a one month free trial of the Tacx software.

Here’s a shot of the pain cave …

I’ve repurposed a superseded lap top and thunderbolt screen and added an ANT+ dongle to the computer so that it can read my heart rate monitor. In this shot I’m setting off to climb the Jaufen Pass. The video advances to match the speed that you’re making whilst the software adjusts the resistance to reflect the gradient.

Here’s a screen grab nearing the top of the pass …

On the left of screen you can see speed, power, cadence, heart rate, time elapsed, the gradient and in the tiny letters the most important information is the distance to the top.

The real Jaufen Pass is in the Alps in the far north of Italy. On the Tacx the ride to the top is a little over 15 km and climbs 1,087 meters. Average gradient is 7.2% and it maxes out at 9.4%. You can continue down the other side but I can’t for the life of me see why you would, you reach impossible speeds with no effort and round corners in a fashion that would be lethal in real life and are too dizzying to look at on screen.

How does it compare with the real thing? It certainly feels pretty realistic and I think it will substitute well for the missing mountains.

As well as a library of videos there is a workout section where you can set up an interval session with control over gradient if that’s your thing and there’s a built in ramp test and FTP test.

The trainer will work with other apps such as Zwift and RGT. They have free introductory offers that I will probably make use of before choosing which way to go in the long term.

Meanwhile there are 54 days until the big event which equals four Jaufen Passes plus a whole load of connecting asphalt.