- Lake Keepit (A) to Coonabarabran (B)
We left Lake Keepit for the drive back to the Oxley Highway just before seven o’clock. The weather was cool to start, but not cold enough to justify the wearing of a long sleeved top. It was very easy going at first, with lots of flats and slight downhill stretches. Once again we were treated to a colourful passing parade of birds, in flocks of up to forty or fifty or more. Well, I never really counted them, it’s just a guess. There were also large numbers of white cockatoos and it was thrilling to ride through a continuous cacophony of bird-calls.
After just twenty-nine kilometres we passed through the Gunnedah, a town of over 8000 people nestling in the valley of the Namoi River in an area of very flat plains. Shortly thereafter Jane spotted a wild koala in a eucalyptus tree at the edge of the road. A wonderful piece of luck ably assisted by a pair of sharply peeled eyes as the slow moving creatures are really well camouflaged. When I came cycling along a few minutes later Jane pointed out the dozy little creature and we spent several minutes watching it do exactly nothing. We had read that the koala’s diet of eucalyptus leaves was low in energy and therefore koalas were inclined to be somewhat sedentary and slow moving. No kidding? I’ve seen stuffed teddy bears move with more vigour.
When I had covered seventy-five kilometres or so from Lake Keepit the roller-coaster started, with the road rising and falling regularly, although the hills were gradual and really not very testing.
Fifteen kilometres further on I rode over some unidentified object in the road and developed a slow puncture in the rear tube. I stopped and replaced the tube with the spare that I carried on the bike and continued on my way. Within the next few kilometres, on a slight downhill, when I had my speed up to a respectable 40 kph, one of the seams on the new tube came apart. An instant flat with a concomitant instant loss of stability. And an instant adrenaline rush as the rear of the bike weaved from side to side until brought it to a standstill.
We reached Coonabarabran and booked into a caravan park at about 1.30 pm. Coonabarabran is the self proclaimed Astronomy Capital of Australia, and high in the nearby Warrumbungle Mountains is the Siding Spring Observatory, home to Australia’s largest optical telescope. It is also the closest town to the Warrumbungle National Park and is sometimes called the Gateway to the Warrumbungles. Warrumbungle. Don’t you just love that name?