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.
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.
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/|
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.
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|Map showing the koala trail at Narrandera http://www.narrandera.com.au/images/bike_hike.pdf|