Overnight, it pissed down rain, and we awoke to a cold chill and grey skies as far as the eye could see. As now seemed customary for me, I spent the morning packing up and chowing down on Pop Tarts (apparently that’s all I wanted to for breakfast and lunch this trip). Rich had gotten sick of this diet and resorted to something neither of us were normally able to stomach – McDonalds. Considering we never eat the stuff, I took it as a bad omen when we showed up in the McDonalds parking lot and a local decided to drive into the back of our trailer. Luckily, there was no damage, but we were really unimpressed by how little caution the driver exercised around cyclists.
The plan for the day was to travel the 103 kilometers to Warrnambool. Originally, we were going to stop in Port Fairy for the night. Port Fairy is only 72 kilometers away from Portland, and the road getting there is reasonably flat – a good, easy ride. However, there are a few hills between Port Fairy and Warrnambool that we wanted to get out of the way. Getting those hills out of the way now would give us a much easier day to Port Campbell, which in turn would mean that we were better prepared and rested for the day after that, when we were expecting to encounter over a kilometer of elevation gain over the course of a mere 50 kilometers (meaning that it would get very steep in places). It sounded like a good plan in theory, but it would only work if those threatening looking grey skies didn’t come down on us.
We got through the first 55 kilometers of the day easily. The scenery was still pretty uninspired at best – grey, grey, some trees, grey, grass, and more grey – but it was a quick ride, with the wind mostly behind us.
Then the heavens opened and unleashed their fury on us. The rain was tremendous. I had been wearing a fleece jumper all day and the fabric quickly began to absorb all the wet. Before I knew it I was freezing. Rich had been wearing one of his quick-dry tops and escaped the cold that I was feeling for a few minutes, but ultimately succumbed to its effects. Rain was not the only thing that mother nature had in store for us either and quite suddenly, the wind picked up on all sides. There were times when I felt as if I was going to get blasted off the side of the road and tossed like a rag doll into a ditch, or worse – that a wheel would slip out from underneath me and I’d end up beneath a truck.
I held Rich back, and we agreed to keep to the original plan. We were going to stop in Port Fairy for the night. Getting to Warrnambool in these conditions would simply be too treacherous, especially going down hills. A part of me wanted to stop right then and there, but there was nowhere to set up camp and nowhere for us to get food or water. We’d have to battle it out for the next seventeen kilometers.
After what seemed like hours of desperately clinging to road, we rolled into Port Fairy – wet, cold, and tired. There was no way I was going to be ok with spending the night in a tent. We’d done enough camping in the rain in my mind, and for once I wanted to feel safe and warm. Shivering uncontrollably, I talked Rich into getting a cabin for the night. It didn’t take much convincing but we did feel a bit crap paying three times more for our accommodation tonight as we would normally pay for just a powered campsite.
Getting a cabin for the night was amazing. Really amazing. We had lights, a kitchen, a big ol’ bed, our very own shower, and a toaster! Warm Pop Tarts for me! As soon as we had the keys to our cabin, we piled all our gear inside, stripped down, and jumped in the shower. We turned the heat up as high as we could without burning ourselves. The feeling of warmth surging back into my toes is one of my favorites, and this shower sent the warmth raging in. It was really wonderful.
Eventually, the rain died down enough for us to venture out in search of food. The town center was really quite cute, but incredibly deserted (I assume that was due to the rain) – beautiful wide open streets full of little boutiques and restaurants. We veered away from the many pubs in town and settled on a little family run Italian place, where the children (barely teenagers) were working the register, which the daughter clearly loved as she bounced around behind the counter, while the parents did the cooking (the food was great).
After dinner we made our way across the street to grab supplies from a grocery store before locking ourselves into the cabin for the night. According to Rich it rained quite heavily throughout, but I didn’t notice. Nope, I slept through it all. It was the first time all trip that I didn’t wake up in the middle of the night.