DAY 510: TIMOR SEA – DARWIN, AUSTRALIA
Thursday – after 1137 km and 137 hours at sea. Just before 7:30 a.m. we tied up at the wharf at Callum Bay, Darwin.
We had to stay on the boat till 8:30 am and await the arrival of Customs………Filling out the arrival card was pretty easy and I finally got a stamp in my New Zealand passport and now I am back to being a proper New Zealander, just as well because my British Passport is now full of stamps and visas and will have to be replaced because I will have trouble using it. After customs,
the police turned up with the drug dog. It was fairly young and had cute little slippers on all fours and was sliding enthusiastically all over the boat. Two departments down and all good. We still couldn’t get off until we got the final clearance from Quarantine. They started by confiscating last night’s dinner of Spaghetti Bolognese and the leftover roast from the night before. Then my bicycle became the center of attention. I thought I had cleaned it really well. There was still dirt in the cassette and there was talk of embonding the bike on the boat. I quickly explained that the bike needed to come off. Then there was talk of the bike going for a special cleaning. What a hassle……..also min fee $ 550.00. I was lucky because they cut me some slack. I got some tools out and dismantled the cassette before giving it a good clean in a bucket of soapy water. Thankfully it then passed the test. I then had to get my tent, sleeping bag, roll mats and hiking boots out for inspection.
I was relieved when they all passed. About 11:30 a.m. we got the all clear and I finally stepped ashore on to Australian soil. I then took my time to put my bike back together. Had one little last sleep on the back deck and at about 2 p.m. I started cycling. It was a bit strange. After so long in Asia I really don’t know if I am ready for Australia just yet. It may take a few weeks to get use to the culture change and the new price structure. No more $1 meals eating on the street.
When I was in Indonesia I met a family from Darwin travelling around.
They have offered me some space to camp in their yard. I e-mailed them just before I left Dili and the return e-mail read when you get here just come on out. Here is the code for the gate and make yourself at home. So I headed out to Nightcliff. Darwin is very quiet and there was no-one around to ask for directions. There were lots of different and interesting birds to be seen – I did make the 12 km in quick time and have now put my tent up on the pavers next to the swimming pool. They have a big backyard with lots of nice trees. There are also wildlife around. Lots of rabbits and a small Goawana. Winter in Darwin and the swimming pool is looking very inviting. The beach is only 5 mins away. Swimming there is out because of the very high threat of crocodiles. The customs office mentioned 300 crocs had recently been pulled out of the harbour.
DAYS 511, 512, 513 & 514: DARWIN – REST DAYS.
Day 511: Friday – Even after 24 hours off the boat I was still feeling like I was bobbing around. I spent the morning sitting out by the pool on the internet. In the afternoon I finally went out to explore. The beach is only 5 minutes away.
I stopped at the first fish and chip shop I saw and treated myself. Boy – Aussie prices……..are going to kill me. I may have to pedal a little faster to enable my money to go further. The Greek guy in the chip shop was from Wellington……..small world.
With my fish and chips I walked along the cycle path for about 5km along the coast. It was pretty hot. Very quiet. There was no-one about. No-one to ask for directions. This area is full of WWII sights. Part of the cliff was a dumping ground for the army. Buried in the sand was a lot of twisted metal and old wheels. It was very clean with lots of trees and shade with nice picnic spots with free BBQ for people to use.
After my walk I headed for the mall to get yet another new adaptor so I can use my computer and recharge the batteries for the camera and GPS. Bought a sim card for phone…so I am now active armed with a road map of Australia. So now I can start making a bit of a plan for this huge country. I got the bus back and then made full use of the pool. My hosts are great and are feeding me so well. They will find it hard to get rid of me.
Day 512: Saturday – For the first time I got the map out for Australia and started to make a plan. I now have bit of an idea on what will be happening for the next two months. The long distances are a bit daunting. 3500 km of cycling to get to Brisbane. This is going to take nearly 2 months. It is going to take at least 5 weeks to get over to the East coast. I plan to go via Katharine, Three ways, Mt Isa, Emerald and Glad Stone, before heading south down the coast to Brisbane. After a productive morning,
I gave my hosts a hand to sweep up the leaves in the yard and around the pool. We are having a BBQ tonight. Jenny and Num had some friends come over. Glen is expat NZ and his Indonesian wife.
Was a great BBQ and good night.
Day 513: Sunday – I didn’t leave the house at all yesterday. So late morning I set off for another walk. I went down onto the beach this time and headed north. The sand was so hot it burnt my feet.
The water looked appealing. But swimming is out because of deadly box jelly fish and crocodiles………….saying that there were still people in the water. I walked for a good 8 km up the coast. The small eroded cliffs looked good. Along the way I passed through the busy nudist beach.
I then got stuck when I reached a sandy creek. I wasn’t game at all to cross it. I took the safe option walking back more then 2 km to find a track that went inland I then had a nice walk through shaded bush. Found some old WW2 bunkers in the bush. When I got to Lee Point, it was busy with many people about. I then tried to find a different trail back and ended up at the new hospital which has been built in the middle of nowhere.
Just missed the bus so continued walking. Sunday timetable which meant a 1-hour wait. Found the mall again and stocked up on some supplies for the desert. Just missed the bus again so again continued to walk. Was exhausted when I got back. Had some very sore feet.
Made sure that I made the most of the pool again. No pools in the desert………..maybe some lakes. Again though no swimming with the threat from crocs.
Day 514: Monday – I have got myself into a routine. Maybe not a good routine because I spend all morning on the computer and then head out in the heat of the day. Was going going to try and make it into Darwin today. Thought I’d better go and have a look at the city before I left. Instead I walked down to the beach. The other days I turned right.
Today I turned left and followed the coast for about 11 km out to east point which was a bit of an army base in WW2 and many of the coastal defences are still around, old bunkers, watch towers and some of the cable that stretched over 5 km across the harbour and was part of a submarine net. East point is a public reserve and has a salt water lake, completely surrounded by trees it is a favourite hang out for the Aborigines. First impressions is they don’t do much because they are always in the parks sleeping. There are also signs everywhere banning alcohol. I saw some of the reasoning behind this when I got the bus back from East point. Five people got on and they were completely drunk.
The walk out to East point was nice. They do it well by having interesting little noticeboards along the way. One board was about a WWII bomber that crashed just a few hundred metres offshore. At low tide you can still see some of the wreckage.
Day 515: Tuesday – it has been 7 years since I was last in Darwin and I had a good look around and did everything last time, maybe that’s why it has taken me 6 days to finally get into the city. I had a really nice day. Darwin is a very quiet town. Little traffic on the roads……..few people in the streets. There were a few backpackers around.
In seven years there has been some change. A new walking bridge from the top of town takes you over to the new waterfront development with new departments and shops. A new crocodile-proof beach, park and wave pool. I visited the Information Centre and got some good info on the roads ahead. Looks like I will be able to camp a lot in roadside lay-bys along the way.
Getting the bus home I saw two Aborigines fighting in a park and then a drunk guy got on the bus and sat down and opened up a can of beer. Nothing has changed in that respect in 7 years. I had my gas stove out and tested. Such a long time since I used it. It is still good and will soon get a lot of use. I am now planning to leave on Thursday. My hosts have just been too good to me and it is hard to get away.
Day 516: Wednesday- this morning I got up early. There was a light mist I went and sat in the garden and watched 9 rabbits playing. 5 of these are babies and are in some danger from the falcons that fly above because they are still so small. Being so close to a city I am impressed with how many different types of birds there are around. It is so nice to see and hear such nature……….
Day 517: Thursday – I am definitely leaving tomorrow……..in fact now after doing lots of research I am very excited and raring to go. The bike now weighs a ton with all the food I have. Combination of walking to the supermarket and Jenny and Num have given me two big bunches of bananas from their banana trees as well as some New Zealand ginger-nut biscuits and a kilo of dried banana. I have been craving for salt and vinegar chips for months. I now find myself buying one large packet every day. On the quiet walk down to the supermarket,
passed some very nice houses and some interesting sights along the way. I have had a very nice week in Darwin. The Rachman family have looked after me too well………it has made it difficult to leave. Every night I have had a lovely home-cooked meal. Tonight is no exception, with roast lamb on the menu.
DAY 518: DARWIN – ADELAIDE RIVER
START: 8:30 – FINISH: 18:00 – DISTANCE: 125 KM – RIDE TIME: 7H 07
I started cycling out of Darwin on the old Darwin to Palmerston railway line. It very nice because it was car free and shaded as it went through the bush.
Sadly, it didn’t last and after 30 km I had to join the Stuart Highway which I will now follow for the next 1000 km. It didn’t take long before I saw my first road train – trucks towing 3 or 4 trailers when they pass it is as though they will never end. Pretty much as soon as I left Darwin it was outback.
Hot and dry bush land. Scattered along the highway are reminders of the Second World War. I stopped off and had a look at a bush airstrip which ran next to the highway and the taxiways went off in to the bush. Here bays were cut out at 20 metre intervals for Spitfire parking. There was also an old railway siding where they used to off-load the bombs. Lots of oil drums lay in piles left over from the war. In the afternoon it got really hot and I was fighting a head wind as well. Distances between towns are far. I was having to stop all the time for a rest. I was craving a cold drink. On one occasion I was lying on the side of the road when an aborigine woman passed me in her car – she must have thought I wasn’t well because she came back and asked me if I was ok.
The last 5 km into Adelaide River were slow. It was just on dusk and lots of wallabies started appearing. When I finally got into town I went straight to the shop and got a cold drink. I met a Dutch cyclist here and went back with him to the campsite on the local show grounds. $12 a night. I was still feeling sick. I put the tent up. Had a shower and went straight to bed. I didn’t feel like eating. Though a few hours later I woke up and I had my appetite back. I ate a large packet of salt and vinegar crisps.
DAY 519: ADELAIDE RIVER – REST AREA
START: 9:00 – FINISH: 11:00 – DISTANCE: 34 km – RIDE TIME: 1h 52
It might be 36 degrees in the day but in the night it gets cold. I had a thermal top on and was in my sleeping bag. On the way out of town I visited the old Adelaide River railway station museum. It had a nice bit of nostalgia. After the rough day I had yesterday I was seriously considering staying another day to recover. In the end I decided to go. Like yesterday evening, there were lots of wallabies about.
Lots and lots of birds. I ended up cycling only 34 km to a free camping site. I am still not feeling that flash so I had a lie down. Two hours later a strong wind came up.
I didn’t fancy cycling into that. So instead I set up camp for the night. There are a number of caravans and camper vans here. People have kindly given me cold water and ice.
DAY 520: BRIDGE CREEK – PINE CREEK +45KM
START: 6:45 – FINISH: 17:00 – DISTANCE: 125 KM – RIDE TIME: 7H 18
I made a concentrated effort to start early this morning and get a headstart from hot sun and wind. I was putting my tent down in the dark. Many of the campers I met the day before got up to see me off.
I was given a gatorade and a high vis jacket. They were concerned for my saefty with the road trains. The first 4 hours of cycling are awesome. It is such a nice time of day. Nice and cool, no wind. Loads of singing birds. This morning I saw a black cockatiel. two days ago I saw a group of white cockatiels. There were a few wallabies around as well. 23 km up the road was a truck stop at Hayes creek. I stopped for hamburger with the works. $14. I was craving nice food and it went down a treat. I went on another 24 km to Emerald Springs and stopped at the pub for a cold drink. 80 km on I got to Pine creek.
Must have been an old mining town. On the outskirts of town was a park full of old equipment. Reaching the town there was only one shop and pub, all part of the caravan park. I was quite happy to stop for the day. It was stinking hot again. I asked the price of the camping. $17 too much for me. I traded my camping fee for two meat pies and a 2 litre ice cold bottle of orange juice. I then went and had a sleep in the park. I met some older Aussies on tour and they kindly gave me some muffins and other goodies. It was still pretty hot when I set off. The road is a little up and down with no shade. Cycling in the afternoon is tough. By this time all my water was hot and I was just yearning for a cold drink.
The wind was strong and my lips were dry. I can’t cycle fast enough to get away from the flies. I cycled on 45 km and then just stopped and set up camp on the side of the road. I got straight into my tent to shelter from the sun. I opened my emergency can of pineapple and drank the juice straight away. I then went to sleep – at 6 p.m………… a few hours later it was a lot cooler and I had a muffin and some more fruit. There was absolutely no wind. The sky was clear and the stars were out.
DAY 521: PINE CREEK +45KM – KATHERINE
START: 7:00 – FINISH: 9:30 – DISTANCE: 45 KM – RIDE TIME: 2H 30
The extra effort I put in yesterday meant I had a nice run into Katherine. I was at the backpackers before 9:30 a.m. and cyclists get a special rate of $11. I mentioned I was going to get a pie and Coco, the owner gave me $5 back.
I did my housework straight away. washing, shower and shave………..I am now just sitting around catching up on the blog. I can really feel the heat. It is so hot here………….I am just thankful I am not cycling right now. I am going to have to come up with a plan to beat this heat………maybe shorter days. There is a chance I am lacking salt at present. I am losing more then I can replenish. The other day I took my shirt off and it had white salt lines all down the back. There is a big aborigine community here in Katherine. They are always sitting in groups in the park or sitting outside the pub. It really doesn’t look like they do much at all.
DAY522 & 533: KATHERINE – REST DAYS
Day 522: Tuesday – I got up early this morning and was out at 7:30 a.m. on a bit of a heritage trail around Katherine. Started off with the old steam locomotive and then a walk over the old railway bridge.
The trail then followed the river bank downstream. All along the bank were old car wreaks and old machinery from a few years ago. I had a wallaby run out in front of me and lots of birds were flying around as well. After about 3 km I reached a small nature area and a low level bridge crossed back over the river. Either side of the road were some very smelly big bats hanging in the trees. On the same side of the river as a natural hot spring which just came out of a rock. There was a bathing pool about 100 meters from the source. I went for a very nice dip. It was well-shaded from the sun. I got back to the hostel around 10:30 a.m. and it then became a lazy day.
Day 523: Wednesday – Thought I had better go and visit the national park near Katherine before I leave.
I would have felt guilty if I didn’t see the Gorge before I left. So I got up early this morning, walked to the edge of town and tried to hitch the 30 km. About the third car stopped, it was an aborigine guy and he said I can take you about half-way. In fact he only took me about 5 km. But from there I got a ride very quick. A Korean backpacker picked me up. We were at the park by 8:30 a.m.
I then hired a canoe for the day which cost $62 so that I could canoe up the gorge. There are crocodiles in the river. I think they are only small. I saw a crocodile trap and there were signs not to go on the beach. It was very nice canoeing. The gorge had high sides, lots of birds, some fish and some small caves.
I never saw a crocodile. But some others said they had seen some small ones sunbathing on the beach. In total I canoed 6 km up to the third rapid. At the second rapid I had to get out of the canoe and drag it over the rocks. I stopped at the third rapid for lunch. I didn’t go any further because I would have had to drag the canoe a lot further so I turned back after lunch. It took about two and a half hours to get back. It was nice to paddle with the sun on your back. It was downriver the current as well. I started to walk back to town. After 1 hour, 10 cars had passed me without stopping. Then finally some French backpackers stopped for me. For some reason the Aussies won’t stop. I’ll be making sandwiches tonight for the road tomorrow which will be 106 km between shops.
DAY 523: KATHERINE – MATARANKA
START: 6:30 – FINISH: 13:00 – DISTANCE: 111 KM – RIDE TIME: 5H 16
I got up at 5:15 a.m. this morning and after some breakfast I was on the move. It was still slightly dark as I cycled out of Katherine. It turned out to be a calorie burning morning. The road was pretty flat or even slightly downward. I found myself motoring. During good periods, it was 30 km an hour.
By 10:30 a.m. I had done 72 km. By 1 p.m. I had made Mataranka. Just a small town……..It’s claim to fame are the hot springs nearby. Having reached 100 km, I was happy to stop. Next town is 76 km away. I preferred just to get out of the heat for the afternoon. So I checked into the campsite next to Bitter springs.
I have put my tent up next to the river in a very nicely shaded area. I am right down the bottom away from everyone. But it is a 200 metre walk back up to the kitchen and toilet. On the walk there are always wallabies near the track. They scatter as soon as I come. I have been told there are no crocodiles around. Hope not. Around 3 p.m. I walked down to the spring for a swim. They say the water is 34-36 degrees. It wasn’t as boiling hot as I thought.
It was very nice. The spring has turned the surounding area into a very green oasis. The water was very clear. The current was strong. You can float a few hundred meters down the river before you have to get out and walk back. I enjoyed my afternoon in the spring so much. I might even stay another night. Soon there will be a few 1000 kms of nothing and it won’t be worth stopping for an extra night other than to have a rest.
DAY 524: MATARANKA – REST DAY
Well I decided to stay another night and I’m glad I did. 7:30 a.m. this morning I went back to Bitter Spring. It was lovely.
There was steam coming off the water. It was a lot warmer than yesterday. There were only a few people around. Floating down I was pretty much on my own. So peaceful with only the sound of birds. I was watching small birds flutter in between the reeds that lined the banks. I saw a tiny frog on a branch and some large spiders in a web. I did the the float down, walk back about 5 times. I went back and did it all again in the afternoon. Nothing much else happened today.
DAY 525: MATARANKA – LARRIMAH
START: 6:50 – FINISH: 11:15 – DISTANCE: 80 KM – RIDE TIME: 3H 56
There is a smell of death on the Stuart Highway. Everyday I see so many dead wallabies, Birds, rabbits, a couple of really big wild pigs and a dead horse. After a few days you become so used to it. The road this morning was flat or slightly up.
The head-wind arrived early. Getting up around 8 a.m. I still managed to have another calorie burning day. I feel like I am really getting into it again. I wa covering 20 km an hour. So after just over 4 hours I reached Larrimah. I stopped first at Fran’s cafe. But Fran wouldn’t give me any tap water so I went for lunch at the Pink Panther pub. There is a real theme going on with a pink painted pub with a pink panther sitting out the front and another pink panther flying a micro-light. It was an early lunch at 11:15 a.m. If I was to go on to the next town Daly Waters it is another 90 km away. I was going to push on and do a few more km and then wild camp. Giving me a easy run into Daly Waters in the morning. With a camping ground behind the pub it is just too easy to stay. So I have….Just as well because after putting up the tent, having a nice shower,
I went for a little wander in this historic town. population is just 30. There are only 13 buildings in the town. Larrimah was a military town in WWII and had a major rail-yard up until 1970’s.
Opposite the pub was a free museum full of history. Mostly Rai and WWII memorabilia. Opposite the museum was the overgrown rail-yard and old station platform. The tracks were still down and a lot old machinery lay around for me to explore. Behind the pub is also a small zoo. They say the animals are orphans or have been injured but I am not sure.
They looked okay to me. There were a lot of very nice colourful birds, Emus, a small crocodile, quite a few snakes and some wallabies. I will rest up for the remainder of the day…….it is still so hot. Have an early night. I won’t be tempted by the pub.
DAY 527: LARRIMAH – DALY WATERS
START: 6:20 – FINISH: 12:00 – DISTANCE: 94 KM – RIDE TIME: 4H 47
I left this morning before the sun came up. As I did so I had hundreds of black cockatiels flying beside me. 7 km out of Larrimah I stopped at the site of a WWII hospital. Not much remained. Just the concrete floor that the timber huts used to be placed on.
Just like yesterday the wind came up early. I still managed to keep a good pace. Knocking off 20 km an hour. I reached the historic Daly waters pub just on midday. Full of character and a bit touristy. There was a Contiki coach when I pulled up. Above the bar are hundreds of bras and out the back hundreds of flip-flops are tied to the trees. Daly Waters has an aerodrome and was the site of Australia’s first international airport. This afternoon I explored around the old town.
The post office and police station are now in ruins. The doors on the cells were open and I had a quick look inside. I then went on a bit of a heritage trail passing a tree with the letter S carved in it presumably by the explorer John McDouall Stuart. Then it was the old flying fox that went over the Daly creek. The Chinese cemetery was very overgrown and a little hard to explore.
More interesting was the old Aerodrome with its Quantas hangar and abandoned runway. When I got back to the campsite I went straight in the salt pool. It was so nice and refreshing. I went to Happy Hour………..one small beer was enough for me. Somebody bought me a second and I struggled. I had dinner with a warm and friendly group of backpackers who have promised to stop and give me water tomorrow if they see me on the road. Water is always appreciated. I am now hiding from the pub. I know it will be too dangerous if I go back in. It has already been suggested I take tomorrow off.
DAY 528: DALY WATERS – NEWCASTLE WATERS
START: 6:45 – FINISH: 15:30 – DISTANCE: 130 KM – RIDE TIME: 6H 33
Oh……….boy. Famous last words……..I got sucked into the pub last night. I didn’t even buy a drink. But it was 2 a.m. before I got to bed. It was painful getting up 4 hours later. I just packed up and left straight-away. It was a cold morning. I had to get my long-sleeve cycling jacket out. I cycled out to the highway and stopped at the road house for a hamburger for breakfast.
It will be 50 km amd then 104 km between towns. I reached Dunmarra and stopped for a cold drink. It was then very tempting to stop for the day. But at only 10:30 a.m. I thought I’d better push on. There was a change in the landscape for a while with a bit of a mini forest before the trees became more spread out. For lunch it was difficult to find some shade to stop. I ended up sitting under a small bush eating my meat pie. After lunch it was hard going. I really struggled with the headwind I have had all day. For good measure I had a few hills to go up as well. The sun is a killer as well. The last 30 km was slow. I just keep pushing on because I knew there was a free camping area at 130 km. I arrived exhausted but happy. There were a few motor-homes and caravans around. I set up my tent on the concrete next to the information boards. It wasn’t long before I had an elderly Dutch couple come over and invite me for some dinner :
rabbit, mash potatoes and beans. By the sounds of it I think the old guy had shot the rabbit himself. It tasted very good. Dessert was nice cold peaches. I also got invited for drinks with some more Dutch people a couple of caravans down. I came away with some Puarpua lipbalm and some rehydration powder. I am getting well looked after.
DAY 529: NEWCASTLE WATERS – RENNER SPRINGS
START: 6:30 – FINISH: 15:00 – DISTANCE: 115KM – RIDE TIME: 6H 37
When I woke up the first thing I saw was a very reddish sky. I knew straightaway I was running late. I jumped out of bed immediately. Packed up and I was gone. Once it is light I can’t afford to hang around and miss out on valuable cycling time. I cycled to Elliott.
Stopped for a burger in the roadhouse and had a cold drink. Next town 90 km so I will be drinking warm water all day. The wind was bloody strong again and the Stuart highway was very straight and the road went up and up. From the top it was a nice view over the outback. It may have been down, but with the wind I still had to pedal.
I got in to Renner Spring at 3 p.m. It is a one stop town. The pub, service station. store and campground are altogether. Camping was $10 and as soon as I had my tent up I was in the swiming pool to cool off. Having a swimming pool in the middle of nowhere is great.
DAY 530: RENNER SPRINGS – BANKA BANKA
START: 6:30 – FINISH: 10:00 – DISTANCE: 60 KM – RIDE TIME: 3H 16
Even when you know you don’t have far to cycle for the day it is still hard going. I have heard of a campground at Banka Banka cattle station which is free to cyclists.
So I am heading there with the plan to have a quiet afternoon. My legs are still sore…….and I was feeling it this morning. A rest will do them good. I am really in cattle country now. Yesterday I saw 3 dead cows on the road. They are not fenced in and at night they wander on the road. There are plenty of big black skid marks where a truck has had to break suddenly to avoid a cow. The outback is now very open and flat. Very little shade………and very exposed to the wind. The wind is a cyclist’s worst enemy. It just saps the engery from you. Not to mention dries you out. My face is suffering from days and days of wind burn. This is where you need to dig deep because I know I will be battling into a headwind for weeks and weeks. I arrived at Banka Banka dead on 10 a.m. The tent has gone up in the shade. The facilities here are good – hot showers, kitchen………best thing is the fridge so at least I will be able to drink some cold water and gas stove so I will cook tonight. There is a watering hole 2.5 km away –
so I might walk up there this evening when it is a lot cooler. Good facilities and because I have a bit of time I have done some hand washing and had a shave. There are some plugs in the kitchen, so everything is getting charged up. I asked the camp site about getting some food and they gave me 3 pieces of steak for my dinner.
DAY 531: BANKA BANKA – THREE WAYS
START: 6:45 – FINISH: 11:30 – DISTANCE: 78 KM – RIDE TIME: 3H42
I was up before light. I packed everything up and then shot up the hill behind the camp ground to watch a beautiful sunrise. I then jumped on my bike for a 70 km down to Three wayswhich is where the road splits. Straight ahead for Alice Springs and South Australia or left for where I am heading: Mt Isa and Queensland.
I am camping in the campground behind the road house – for $12 it is rubbish. The kitchen has nothing but there is a swimming pool. I filled up my water bottles and the water is brown. Water and the next cold drink is 190 km away at Barkly Homestead so I need enough water for two days. I am going to boil it up and then filter it through a cloth. Saw another 3 dead cows on the road. Tennant creek is 25 km south from here. I tried to hitch a ride so I could go to a supermarket to get some clean water and a few other supplies. After 1 hour of no luck, I gave up. I will just have to eat very basic for the next few days – bread and mustard sandwiches or veggiemite and crackers are on the menu.
I went and had a dip in the pool. It was freezing cold………but very refreshing. I met two retired Australian teachers and a Swiss guy Andy who is in Australia for work providing technical support to McDonalds coffee machines. It was a spot of luck meeting Andy because he was going into Tennant Creek so I hitched a ride. It’s just a one street country town. It was great getting to the supermarket. I will be eating well while on the road for the next week or so. I will then restock again in Mt Isa. Andy invited me for dinner – compliments of his company. We cooked up some minted lamb and marinated pork with some fancy salads from the supermarket. Not to mention a beer to wash it down.
DAY 532: THREE WAYS – 41 MILE BORE
START: 7:00 – FINISH: 12:10 – DISTANCE: 71 KM – RIDE TIME:4H 31
This morning the Swiss guy Andy brought me over 3 litres of frozen water and the retired Aussie teacher also came over to check I had enough water for the next few days. It is great that people are always willing to help.
As soon as I got out on the highway there were a hundred galahs sitting on the road. For a short while I would cycle up to them and they would fly another 20 metres and settle again. It was windy all night and there were some big gusts of wind where I thought the tent was going to blow away or a tent pole was going to snap. Thankfully no damage. I did lose a sock – I leave them in my shoes each night. It either blew away or a mischievous bird has grabbed it. I took the turn-off leaving the Stuart Highway to join the 66 Barkly Highway.
It was then head down as I cycled straight into the sun and worse a blustery cross-wind. Wasn’t going anywhere fast. It’s 190 km between cold drinks and there is no way I would make that. At 70 km was a free camping rest area and I was happy to stop at the old bore. Some of the old machinery still remain. I collected some wood and started a fire in the designated fire pit. Then after boiling some water for a tea I have set up my camp under the shelter and next to the picnic table.
I had a visitor when a 500 mm lizard crawled down from the roof. I had a few other people stop for a break around lunch……….then I was alone again. Early evening two lots of « Grey Nomads » arrived. That is what the retired Australians who travel around Oz with their camper van or caravan call themselves. They were parked about 250 meters away. But they both came down to say hello. They both gave me a 1.5 litre of drinking water to see me right for tomorrow and one lot also brought me down some fresh pikelets.
DAY 533: 41 MILE BORE – BARKLY HOMESTEAD
START: 6:15 – FINISH: 15:00 – DISTANCE: 117 KM – RIDE TIME: 6H 41
I had some interference with the bike last night. I woke up and could hear a scratching noise as something was trying to get into my food in the front panniers. I jumped out and found a little mouse standing on the spokes. He soon shot off. I then saw a wild cat.
I shone the torch on it and it wasn’t bothered at all. They say you shouldn’t upset a wild cat because they can rip you to pieces so I just got back in my tent and left it at that. The little mouse came back. I woke up again to find him running over the clear netting on the roof of my tent. Before that I could hear him scratching on the side of the tent. In the morning I just got up and went. The wind was down and I wanted to take advantage of it.
After all it will be 120 km to the next cold drink. After about 40 km and around 9 a.m. the wind got up. The « Grey Nomads » from 41 Mile Bore caught up with me and both lots stopped to see if I was okay or needed water. After 60 km I stopped for lunch at the next free camping spot. A German and French girl had camped there the night before and they kindly made me a cup of coffee. After lunch I pushed on for another 56 km. For a change it wasn’t too hot, just windy. I got to Barkley Homestead around 3 p.m. This is the last stop for 260 km and I will have to cross over the border into Queensland to get there.
Once the tent was up I went straight in the pool and then got out and had a little snooze. Feeling pretty tired after today’s ride. There is a bit of an open-air museum out the front of the Homestead with a number of steam tractors and other bits of old farming equipment. The road house is too expensive to eat in so I cooked up some pasta and a tin of beef stew. There is only one other tent in the camping area. It belongs to a Kiwi guy, Graeme, who has got himself an ex-Australian posties motorbike and is riding it around Australia.
DAY 534: BARKLY HOMESTEAD – SOUDAN BORE
START: 6:30 – FINISH: 15:00 – DISTANCE: 127 KM – RIDE TIME: 6H 45
It is 260 km to the next cold drink – probably 2 and a half days away. I have filled up every bottle I have with water. I cycled 40 km to the first rest area and stopped for breakfast around 9 a.m.
I had some museli. I have no milk so have to add water to it. To make it taste better, I put the water in first, add a sachet of cream and one of sugar. I then add the museli so that it is just slightly damp. It is then okay to eat. I only got 30 km done this morning before the wind came up. I got a shock when I left the rest area as there was a sign indicating the distance to the next rest area.
From the map I had worked it out to be only 52 km and this is where I was going to be happy to camp. So when the sign read 85 km I was a little disheartened knowing it was now going to be a long hard day. After 1500 km of road that is pretty much the same.
I am definitely getting a bit bored of it now. Not good when I probably still have another 1500 km of the same. It would have been okay if there was no wind and I could knock the km off quickly…………It is painful when you are pedalling so slow and it feels like you are going nowhere. Well I did get somewhere today. I reached Soudan rest area eventually. At 100 km I was tired and the last 25 km were tough. When I pulled up at the picnic table there was an English guy who had stopped for a break. He gave me a cup of tea which tasted great and before he left he gave me an ice cold beer which I then drank in about 10 seconds or two mouthfuls.
DAY 535: SOUDAN BORE NT – CAMOOWEAL QLD
START: 6:10 – FINISH: 15:30 – DISTANCE: 135 KM – RIDE TIME: 7H 12
Soon after leaving the rest area this morning……..there was a drastic change to the landscape. All the trees disappeared and were replaced by short dry grass that stretched for miles and miles.
I have two options today cycle 65 km to Avon Downs and camp or cycle 135 km to Camooweal. I reached Avon Downs at 11 a.m. and after a one hour break………I forced myself to go on. At 120 km I crossed over the border into Queensland. It was then only 13 km to Camooweal. For the last 6 km the legs were really hurting. I have camped in the free rest area down by the river.
There are lots of nice birds around. There is an eagle nesting on the opposite side. I saw a couple I met at 41 Mile Bore. They have invited me for some spaghetti bolognese.