Today, I ramped up the overall average speed, from 16.4 km/h to 16.7 km/h. It was supposed to be a tougher day than yesterday; more undulations, even if shorter. The first half, I had already ridden in 2004 - from Gloucester to Krambach. It included three climbs, the first one up towards Mograni Lookout, and then two more after that. The section after lunch included one climb past Krambach Mountain and then about 15 kilometres of smaller undulations.
The day started with fog - a real white-out - and at the top of the first climb, we couldn't see more than 20 or so metres ahead. By the time of the second climb, the fog had burnt off. It was a medium climb and not too steep. The third one was much more steep and I surprised myself by digging deep enough to climb what was a slightly tougher section than I had been forced to walk up on day 2. Everyone called me a trojan for doing so.
Sunrise through the fog
The undulating terrain really worked for me after the third climb. I'd fly down the descents and then get up and over most of the following ascents without much effort. On the occasionally longer ascent, I'd end up diving for bottom gear to make sure that I didn't push my legs too hard and not have energy to dive downhill again.
After Krambach, the climb around the mountain was 3 kilometres of windy and not too steep country road - a not very well maintained surface. The heat was picking up by this stage, and once I hit the relatively flat country leading into Wingham, it was all proving a bit of an effort. I wasn't too exhausted when I reached camp, but arriving in a shade-free show-ground that is damp on the surface and rock-hard beneath and covered with horse-shit was depressing. Trying to get the tent pegs knocked in was tough, and I had to borrow a hammer. Next time (and I said that last time) I need to carry one myself.
The other depressing things are that, for the third time in four days, there is no welcoming committee in the form of Lions or the like. What food and drink do we have for refreshment at the end of a long day in the saddle? On top of that, the show-ground is 2 or 3 kilometres from town. I started walking in the general direction of the town centre, according to the map in the ride guide, and was luckily plucked out of the heat by a volunteer who offered me a ride, saying that the best way into town was actually some other way. She dropped me at the top pub where I got a beer and some fish and chips. Very nice food and a quite reasonable price.
Thinking about the lack of amenities in camp, this year, I am reflecting on the lack of anyone like the MS Society being involved. For the first 3 years I've done this, they had been active in camp, organising events of all sorts with a gold coin donation to participate. We always had people whose sole job was to provide social activities and raise awareness of their organisation by promoting a wonderful atmosphere on the ride. Last year the Heart Foundation did a similar job.
This year, the "charity" is the BNSW Environmental Fund - themselves. From what I hear, Bike NSW has planted a tree in each town we've visited, but the whole process hasn't been publicised very well. I wonder if they think that we'd get a bit antsy, if they started big-noting themselves as a charity. Of course, it's nice and all that they make some effort to better the environment, but it all seems a bit strange to my cynical mind. It looks like BNSW is trying to get people to give them extra money in the form of charity, of which some unspecified amount is used in unspecified ways. Not having a registered Charity as a third-party, with which some financial deal is to be made, might save BNSW money, but it does mean that they depend on the same staff of volunteers to do the function that the MS Society supplied extra staff for. We're already seeing the way that the volunteers are being stretched, trying to do more with less.
I got back from a brief exploration of the town, where I found a very nice cafe, Bent on Food - which sells all sorts of cooking accoutrements as well as local jams, cheeses, ham and teas etc., and has very nice coffee. It is next to a cookery school, where there are classes in bread and pasta making and various cuisines. The Cafe has coffee making workshops, as well. I also found a very friendly electrical store where I picked up some extra batteries for the camera. It was next door to an internet cafe where the owner was more than happy to let me plug in the Edge and upload the first two days' track logs, as well as normal web browsing etc.
The first thing I did back in camp was to ask at information about the laundry arrangements for tomorrow. It turns out that (as written in the website FAQ and forgotten by me) that you have to take your own laundry to the laundromat in town. I could have done it today, if I'd known in time. As it is, I expect trouble tomorrow when 500 or so people attempt to drop off bags of clothes.
My next question was about photographers. I said that I hadn't see Top Shot or any public display of daily photographs over the last 3 days, but that I'd been seeing a photographer every so often on the days' ride. When asked if they had been taking photos of us that we were able to buy, the volunteer said that they were taking photos for the DVD that had been mentioned in some evening briefings but if I asked nicely they might be able to show me some on the laptop. When I asked where I might find them, I was directed to the Media Team - "I think that they're up the hill and past where St Johns are set up". They weren't. It seems strange to me that management doesn't see value in the old way of displaying photos at the end of each day's ride to generate interest in buying them. If we don't know that they're available and we don't see what's on offer, we won't be likely to buy something weeks after the ride has finished.
After that debacle, I went to Cafe Big trying to find Ed and Glenn, people I knew from the last few years and with whom I've chatted on and off over the last few days. They weren't there, but there were some people - teen and pre-teen - in leotards. No-one seemed to know who they were, or be paying attention to them. I eventually worked out that they were The Gymaroos - some local gymnasts. They had apparently been setting up peoples' tents in search of donations for some overseas trip, and were now giving a demonstration of their abilities in the horse shit and long grass. When they had been setting up tents, I have no idea as I did not see them anywhere when I rolled up into camp. The information about them was (I found out later) on the web site. If we have been told anything about this more recently, I don't know. It could have been in the daily newsletter, but I rarely see one.