24th September was an interesting day on this trip. It started well. I woke up at the beautiful Alexandra Bridge campground and despite overnight rains was all packed up and ready to go bright and early. The wind was behind me and I made excellent progress for the first couple of hours towards Pemberton. This small town lay 100km to the east and was pretty much the next point that I would be able to find food or water. Coming from a country as densely populated as the UK it is hard to imagine that it would be possible to cycle this far in the same direction without hitting at least a small village.
The first 70km took about 3 hours and I had visions of hitting the town for lunch and pushing on to Shannon National Park, 60km further down the road. Then I got tired. I mean really tired. All my readily available energy was gone and suddenly the pace that I had been barreling along at half an hour earlier was out of reach. I ate my few remaining TimTams but still felt pretty spent. Then I hit Beedelup NP. I would love to return one day because it was beautiful, but part of the attraction was the steep sided gorges and valleys. Not the easiest terrain for covering distance on a 30kg bike. Especially just 4 days in to the trip with no fitness under my belt! Then it started raining. Then my chain came off.
I struggled into Pemberton (which would probably do well in a competition for towns located at the top of steepest hills) nearly two hours later. I was exhausted and completely ready to give up. An old lady at the tourist information commented “ooh you look tired”. All number of sarcastic comments passed through my mind but I just smiled weakly lay over my handlebars. I think the woman behind the counter at the tourist information was a little taken aback as i dragged myself in, dripping wet and on the point of tears. She pointed me in the direction of the campsite and a few cafes but I think she was pretty glad to be rid of me.
I headed for the bakery and a pie and vanilla slice later I was feeling slightly better. The lady was about to close up so she said I could take a couple of donuts and a loaf of bread for nothing. This immediately made me feel an awful lot more positive! I got on to the internet for the first time in a couple of days and a chat with my mum did wonders. Then, following up from a meeting with Jasmine at the south west WA tourist board, I received a text from Toni at the Pemberton Discovery Tours so popped in to see her. She was told I would be dropping by and without any prompting had phoned the campsite and hotel and between them they had agreed to give me a free pitch and roast dinner. I was pretty stunned. It seemed as though the whole town was working together to make me feel better! I went to bed feeling full, and infinitely more positive. The food at the hotel was great and the staff friendly and the campsite lay in a beautiful spot, nestled in the bottom of the valley.
On waking the next day, it turned out that Pemberton was a pretty stunning spot, in addition to being generous. After a bit of bike maintenance back at the Discovery Tours building, where I have to thank Toni yet again, I headed for the Gloucester Tree. This is a 51m tall tree with rungs leading to a fire lookout platform at the top. The views were spectacular. Pemberton has views over three national parks, and with a 4×4 has access to some beautiful and diverse spots. I would recommend anybody travelling through the area to call in. Even without the assistance, I really enjoyed my morning in Pemberton as a tourist and with more time would have loved to take one of the tours to the national parks. I left feeling very grateful and a lot more positive that when things get tough, there would be people willing to lend a hand.