Two days prior to riding into Albany, early morning brewing up my morning coffee, standing there rubbing sleep out if my eyes and scratching some other part of my body, I looked down to my purring fuel stove to find unburnt fuel dripping out of the pump, only 30cm away from a roaring flame heating my water. Well if this didn't wake me up, I wasn't sure what would.
This was not good, my heart sank with dissapointment. I was able to get the water boiling while keeping a close eye on the fuel leak, but I had to sort something out, and soon. No way was I crossing the Nullarbor with a stove leaking fuel.
Straight on the phone, and the Sea 2 Summit representative, Dean came to my aid. Unfortunly it turned out Sea 2 Summit were completely out of stock when he went to send me a new unit, so Dean put his own stove in express mail to Esperance for me to collect, as I planned to be passing through, some days later.
However with the leaking stove only getting worse to almost unusable, I opted to buy a new, cheap propane burning stove in Albany to get me through the next five days riding to Esperance.
As much as I enjoyed riding into Albany and staying the night, I was happy to put it behind me. I had only riden nine days of this tour, but it felt much longer, as it always seems to on the road, and all those day were mostly spent in the 'country' rural settings, as well as national and state parks, camping well away from 'cities'. But Albany was just like riding back into the city. I felt I could have been riding down Burwood Highway, with petrol stations, businesses and fast-food takeaway restaurants galore. Honestly I was so ready to push onwards, which I did at record time of 8.50am the next morning.
Searching through WikiCamps (which was fast becoming my only go to, for any campsite and point of interest tips) I found that now I had emerged out of the Mt Franklin National Park, that bordered the highway over the previous days, wild camping was going to be harder to come by. Property fences lined the highways with not many trees or much bush to be hidden in for the night.
This did mean the scattered campsites and rest areas that were offered along the highway to Esperance, was what I needed to aim for each day.
Putting power into the pedals for Wellstead, some 95 kilometers away I rode out of Albany feeling strong, and ready for a five day pedal to Esperance.
I couldn't help but notice only a few kilometers out of town, the occasional bicycle tracks in the red dirt, that lay either side of the asphalt road. I wondered to myself if I was following another cycle-tourist, or if this was someone riding a road bike out of town and back on this Sunday morning.
I only had to wait to the end of the day when pulling into the roadhouse at Wellstead, to find in fact I was following another cycle-tourists tracks.
Vanessa was sitting outside the Wellstead road house, sipping on coffee, with her loaded bike parked up next to her, it was such a welcoming sight.
'Another psycho!' She called to me with a big grin across her face.
Vanessa lives in Perth, and having some time off work she saw no reason not to load up the bike and take off for a couple weeks touring the South West Coast, with Esperance being her finish line.
Over coffee and snacks we both summarised our stories about what we were doing, what we had seen lately and where we had camped the prior days.
With the afternoon getting on, and a campsite across the road, we both decided to call that camp for the night, which Nes kindly paid for before I could rest my bike and fetch my wallet. I managed to get her back though when we went over the road for burgers and beers that night.
Nes and I rode and camped together for the next two days/three nights, and it was so nice to have some company on the road for a change. Hills and kilometers clicked by, lost to our flowing conversation about pretty much every topic we could think of.
Riding with Nes into Ravensthorpe, I happened to click over the first 1000km of this tour. Excitedly I announced this to Nes, but completely forgot to take a photo or make a post until the next morning.
Ravensthorpe was the town Nes and I said goodbye. We had rode the last couple hundred kilometers together and she was in for a rest day.
Eager to push on to Esperance, and then Norseman before my own rest days I said goodbye after our extended breakfast.
The sun shone bright, the tail wind was blowing and I was feeling very settled in this tour. I was also quietly surprised with how fit and strong my legs were feeling.
Canola fields lined the highways making riding very picturesque. Pushing through Munglinup and onto Esperance I arrived in town mid afternoon and was keen to find 'Camping and Workwear', where my parcel containing my new stove should be.
As promised a yellow express post parcel was behind the counter waiting for me. Along with a couple other supplies including some freeze dried food for the Nullarbor crossing, I headed for camp that night just out of town.
The next push was a 210km stretch north to Norseman, where I would have my second rest day of the trip, in order to get ready for what could be a 14 day crossing of the Nullarbor, following the Eyre Highway.
I broke the 210kms into three days, an 85km day, a 95km day and the third day into Norseman only being a easy 30km stint in the morning.
Leaving Esperance was dismal as the rain was just a constant all morning. It was freezing and the winds were howling. What did cheer me up was a bloke named Murray stopping his motorbike to have a chat along the highway. Murray is a truck driver who, on a previous day had passed me out near Ravensthorpe while working, and now on a day off had time to stop and have a chat.
The road to Norseman from Esperance seemed to really stretch on longer than it actually was. I don't know if it was the fact a rest day was definitely due, or I was getting eager to start the Nullarbor crossing, or that the road was just plain boring. Mabye a mix of the three.
Come the morning of cycling into Norseman I was counting down every kilometer, pretty much keeping eyes on my Garmin ticking over more than the road.
Norseman is the last town anyone would head through before heading East across the Nullarbor via the Eyre Highway, but this particular Sunday afternoon it could have passed for more of a ghost town than anything else.
Thirty shops lined the main street, twenty five of these were boarded up and for sale, the other five were the pub/bottle shop, an IGA, two cafes and a workwear shop. There was a grand total of two 4wds towing caravans parked up in the main street, and a couple locals hanging about.
Accommodation above the pub was $45 for the night, shared bathrooms and use of the washing machines and hills hoist.
Thanks to Nes slipping me some support money throughout our last breakfast in Ravensthorpe, this was going to be home for the next two nights.
Enjoying a beer in the pub and trying to orchestrate some sentences together for my first blog post that afternoon, in walked a group of men who had just driven into town, partaking in the Varity Bash across Australia.
Once their beers were bought I got speaking with a couple of them, and of course told my story of what I was doing. Without hesitation one of the blokes stood up and shouted across the barroom, "Right fellers, open your wallets, we are all donating to this guy!"
More beers were bought, stories told and photos were taken of the group of us with my bike and their cars, it was a great evening to close, what I was calling Stage 01 of this tour.