Saturday, 14 March 2015

Griffith, Narrandera, koalas and the destruction of David's bike (Part 1)


We started the morning innocently enough. We are at Griffith, the first stop on our much delayed trip to Kangaroo Island in South Australia. This is third time lucky territory, if we don't make it this time we will give up forever.
Griffith and its neighbours Leeton and Narrandera are the three large towns of the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area (the 'MIA'). The MIA extends across 1,600,000 acres of land in central New South Wales and has made the area green and fertile - a welcome change from the barren countryside and red dirt of so much of central and western New South Wales. This is one of the most productive agricultural regions in the country contributing billions of dollars to the national economy.With a population of about 17,000, Griffith is the big smoke.

Today I was on the hunt for koalas. A bit of internet research suggested we might find a few along a bush track at Narrandera about an hour's drive south east of Griffith. Koalas are remarkably elusive. Although they are native to much of south-eastern Australia, there are very few areas where you can be reasonably sure of catching sight of one.

After a leisurely morning's drive to Narrandera we unloaded the bikes at Lake Talbot and cycled east along the southern shore for a few kilometres. We were rewarded almost immediately with the site of a koala nestled in the fork of a magnificent River Red Gum. He was asleep, of course, but woke briefly to shift his position before drifting off again. Koalas sleep an average of 20 hours a day. A couple of kilometres further on we saw another, also fast asleep. He was higher up in the branches but just as cute looking.

Isn't he cute!

The scenery was breathtaking with the towering Red Gums lining the cycle track on our right and the lake on our left. We stopped for a few minutes to chat with a local out for an afternoon walk and learned that on cool windy days the koalas slept lower in the trees while on very hot days they climbed higher to catch the breezes. Today was unusually cool; perhaps explaining why our koalas were so close to the ground.

River Red Gums at Lake Talbot/

Back at the car we made our first mistake. We decided to cycle through the bush on a rough track leading to the Murrumbidgee river. I thought we might see more koalas and David wanted to find a spot for a picnic lunch. We didn't know it until the next day but the bush track would end in disaster for David's bicycle.

Our bikes on the Lake Talbot Path before we destroyed David's

After returning to Griffith we had a couple of hours to kill before sunset so we unloaded the bikes again at Lake Wyangan for an easy cruise along a gravel path back toward town.

My front tyre was the first to go; about three and a half kilometres from where we parked the car. The culprit was a 'Devil's thorn' known locally as a 'three cornered jack'. Today's lesson: Don't mess with the devil! We're pretty sure we picked it up on our bush cycle. In all we found about a dozen thorns in each tyre.

While David was changing my inner tube. I found more thorns in his rear tyre. They were in a thick part of the tread where I was sure they hadn't pierced the tube. I had read about these little nasties and we'd had grief with them once before on a trip to South Australia.

David is never at his clear-thinking best when he is changing bicycle tyres. He tries to rush, gets stressed and sometimes makes poor decisions. That is the only excuse I can think of for what he did next. Having finished my tyre he stepped across to where I was holding up a thorn to show him, looked at his own front tyre, saw another thorn and pulled it out. We could hear the rush of air escaping from the inner tube as soon as the thorn came out. Stupidly, I made matters worse by doing the same thing a moment later - more rushing air sounds.

Now we had two flat tyres. Worse still - David's flat was on his rear wheel. Rear wheels are always harder to change because of the gear assembly and the rear wheel on David's bike has been particularly difficult ever since it was damaged flying to Denver last year. Having changed the tube D couldn't get the wheel seated back in - by now he was tired and stressed and absolutely not in the mood to let me try to help. All I could do was stand back and watch.

Finally the wheel slipped into place but it was clear we hadn't found all the thorns - the tyre was already flat again. We were now out of spare inner tubes and it was beginning to get late. Worse yet while we were struggling with D's tyre mine was leaking air again. At least it was a slow leak this time. With the choice between walking back together or one of us making a dash on my bike David made the decision to sprint for the car hoping he could get there before the tyre became unrideable.

I waited by the side of the road with his bike. While I waited three different people stopped to check I was okay. One guy even offered me a spare inner tube. Don't you just love it when you come across the best in people.

At this point D's bike was eminently fixable but that situation wouldn't last long. His flat rear wheel is just out of the picture.




David reached the car without further grief and was back with me in under half an hour. It was late, we were tired and we had two flat tyres and an unknown number of thorns still stuck in our wheels but we kept reminding ourselves that it could have been so much worse. We are often twenty or more kilometres away from the car - a long walk if things go wrong.

Back at the hotel we decided to deal with the problem the next day. That was the crucial decision in a long line of bad decisions which sealed the fate of David's bike.

.....................................................................

How did a series of events beginning with a koala and leading to four flat tyres destroy David's bike - sorry you'll just have to wait a couple of days. This post is already too long, We have replaced David's bike with a shiny new one and are now on Kangaroo Island where there are losts of koalas to spot. I'll post the conclusion in the next few days.

If you want to find out how we managed to destroy D's bike completely you have a few choices:

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Or now I have published it just click - here
Map showing the koala trail at Narrandera http://www.narrandera.com.au/images/bike_hike.pdf





26 comments:

  1. I've always wondered How do the koalas (and other animals) not fall out of the trees when they're sleeping?

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    1. I have too. Koalas have very long sharp claws and I think they dig them in. They also seem to move about quite a lot while they sleep as if any slight chance of falling wakes them up just enough to re-position themselves - but I could be wrong.

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  2. I remember picking those seeds -- we called them doublegees in WA, back in the '60s -- out of the soles of my sandals (and sometimes of my feet) pretty much every time I walked off-road. I've had hawthorn go through Kevlar reinforced puncture resistant tyres and I expect those natural caltrops to do likewise.

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    1. Hi Steve. We have now put a product called Stans No Tubes in the tyres. It seals punctures as they occur. So far so good but we have moved on so maybe we have just moved away from the devil thorns.

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  3. Sorry you destroyed your bike tires but at least you got to see some cute koalas!

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    1. Hi Jessica. Unfortunately as events unfolded it wasn't just the tyres. David's entire bike which was only a year old wasn't worth fixing in the end - but these things happen. We don't buy expensive bikes because of just such eventualities and you're right the koalas were cute.

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  4. What an adventure! I'd dare to say that it was your fault for biking on such remote roads, but hey, you are young, you can take it. I can't think of anything more cute than seeing a Koala bear sleeping in a tree. They are adorable!

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    1. Hi Anda. Koalas are cute. You should see the one I photographed on Kangaroo Island - he'll feature in a post soon but for absolute adorableness you couldn't go past the mother kangaroos and their babies who came to our cabin on the Island each evening wanting to be fed. It broke my heart to leave them.

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  5. This is an area that I know well and it was lovely to see an article on it.

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    1. Hi Paula. We just loved it. I had been to the MIA as a child but David had never been there. It will definitely get a return visit from us.

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  6. Thank goodness the tyre disaster was overshadowed by those cute koalas! Thanks for linking up to #SundayTraveler again.

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    1. The koalas were adorable but it wasn't just David's tyres. We had to replace the entire bike as you will see when I post part 2. On the plus side we saw lots of emus on the way to our next stop.

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  7. That koala makes me want to hug it!

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    1. They have very sharp claws but I know what you mean.

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  8. Well, at least you got some cute koalas out of the day. I'm not sure what I would have done once I was stuck by the side of the road with two flat tires - mechanical problems never bring out the best in me, either.

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    1. Hi Jess. It got much worse. In the end we had to buy David a new bike but these things happen.

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  9. I'd like to see a koala, they're soooo cute! Didn't know they sleep 20 hours a day...wow!

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    1. Hi Colibrist. I don't think you can see them anywhere outside Australia. They are very picky eaters and I understand that they just don't survive overseas. They are cute though.

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  10. Those koalas are so cute! I hear they can be rather vicious though. Getting a flat on a ride doesn't sound fun. At least you guys managed to make it to the end okay!

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    1. Hi Adelina. They have very sharp claws but I've never heard of one attacking anyone. If you see them on the ground, which is rare, they just want to find the nearest tree and climb it. In the end our puncture count reached five and led to us ruining D's bike and having to buy him a new one. You can read the saga in my most recent blog post. There's a link just above the map on this post.

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  11. The koala is CUTE! and those seeds are evil indeed. I stepped on them once visiting my mother in law in coffs harbour... ouch!

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    1. Hi Margherita, If you think that guy was cute wait until you see the fellow I photographed on Kangaroo Island.

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  12. Sounds like you had yet another adventurous journey! Poor David! We call those seeds "double gees" in Western Australia. They hurt like hell so I can see why they are also known as Devil's thorns! Thanks for linking up at Mum-bo Monday

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    1. Hi Kelly, Every state seems to have a different name for them but everyone who has ever come across one recognizes the thorn I mean. They leave a lasting impression.

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  13. From Valeria on 15 March 2015 at 03:07
    That koala looks like the snuggliest, cuddliest animal ever!

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    1. Hi Valeria. Isn't he gorgeous - wait till you see the one I photographed on Kangaroo Island. His photo is going in my next blog post. I've already put him up on g+ and Facebook if you want to take a peak.

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