Day 6: Albany to Margaret River
Distance: 450ish km through a slight scenic route (orange line above)
Temp: 15°C to 37°C
Despite yesterday's impromptu escapade to hell and back, I somehow woke up with a clear and optimistic mind and had a lot of energy to start the day. After enjoying breakfast with a hostel roommate at a local cafe, I set off on a coastal ride westbound.
I can't exactly remember the route I took to get to Nannup, but I do remember enjoying myself thoroughly. Being very much a West Coast Canadian, it made sense that I felt at ease surrounded by trees and hills. I recorded my slowest average speed today, partially because the roads had more shape to them, but also because it was a Western Australian public holiday and families were out and about. The kilometers flew by as I belted out the lyrics to my favourite songs, each curve justifying the length of time it took to get here from Melbourne. There was an obvious effort to create some sort of path through the forest to allow for traffic. Some parts of the road were cut away in a straight line so you could see a car coming toward you from 5km away. Other parts had leafy overhangs that seem like it might brush against your helmet if you didn't duck down in time. Both had a vibrance you simply can't get from a screen.
I started to get hungry so I pushed to the somewhat central town of Nannup, hoping something might be open there. When I rode into what I thought would be like any other sleepy town, I realized 500m in that I was wrong. There was a full on music festival happening there and every parking spot had competition. There was also a small market selling handmade goods, supervised by elderly stallholders patiently waiting to pique the interest of passersby.
I awkwardly made a couple rounds and finally parked my bike between two vehicles - something I'm not used to doing (Victoria allows motorcycles to be parked on footpaths). As the heat started to peak, I scuttled to a nearby cafe to enjoy a couple scones and an ice coffee. The fans in the cafe just ended up circulating stifling hot air but I hadn't noticed the temperature reaching 37 degrees as I sipped my cold drink. When I got up, the plastic chair stuck to my body and regrettably detached only when I fully stood up - and not without an audible slurping sound to accompany it. I looked back at the chair with embarrassment and disgust. There was a sweat imprint of my body still on it. I don't think I could ever get used to Australian heat.
I enjoyed a smooth ride into Margaret River and quickly found the hostel, complete with some very sunburned teens drinking boxed wine and playing cards on the porch. I then realized I'm too old for this shit and promptly upgraded to a private room. Best $40 ever spent. A group of septuagenarians next door were chatting about how they are thankful this hostel has an adult dorm.
I chimed in, "I agree - there are teens hanging out in the front."
The three of them just shook their heads.
"...Drinking boxed wine."
Their mouths gaped and I heard an audible gasp.
"...From the box."
"Ooohh NooOoOo!!!" said one of the ladies.
"Absolutely despicable." said another.
I walked back into my room and scolded myself for being so ageist. My age is about 6 times closer to the teens' than the ladies'. Who have I become.
After laying facedown for a solid two hours, I decided to catch the sunset at Prevelly beach and stop for a bite on the main strip. West Coast sunsets are the best sunsets. I played in the surf and laid in the sand, then headed back to fuel up myself.
When I reached the main strip, I walked up to a guy in a suit who worked at the fancypants restaurant on the corner. Without saying much I asked him if I'm in the right place for dinner. He scanned my evening attire: motorcycle gear covered in red dust from yesterday's brown pants incident, plus sand in my hair and backpack, and black oil all over my face from trying to clean my bike. Funny that motorcycle riders pay that much for gear yet our bike life makes us constantly look like shit. Especially if you've been traveling by motorbike for almost a week. To top it all off, I smelled like a camel made love to my jacket.
His response cut deep: "This is the top end of Margaret River, so you have the top restaurants. Might I suggest walking that way toward the town centre?" And then he pardoned himself to help a couple standing behind me.
I looked at my own reflection on the insect graveyard that is my helmet. Fair call. I'm definitely not cute enough to win over anyone while looking like this. Especially French men in pink suits who work at seafood bars, apparently.
Korean food it is. I've always found comfort in Asian food and a nice bibimbap solved my problems for the evening. It's been an oddly tiring day regardless of it also being the shortest so far. I feel productive having completed pretty much the full length of Australia's south coast in under a week. Although it was lengthy and a major test of stamina, it wasn't impossible, and it was definitely the vote of confidence I needed to start heading north. All in all, I think it was a healthy start to what will be one heck of a conversation when I'm older.
Tomorrow is Perth, the most isolated major city in the world, though in the company of very welcoming and hospitable riders from Western Australia's premier ladies' riding group WAWMR. Sweet!!