Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Superbike's end

I woke up to a thick, uniform gloom and an ulterior sun somewhere to the East. Two ravens were arching their shadowy figures from perch to perch around my campsite.

I rode for a while and then suddenly the bike was dragging, as if it were climbing or against a headwind. However, then I got my first flat tyre. The side wall of the rim on the rear wheel had torn out at the seam, and a jagged edge had pierced the tube from below.

I packed everything slowly to give me time to think out in the middle of nowhere. I thought about packing essentials into the small backpack and trying to walk. But it was too far.

Bronwyin and Neville, a couple of retirees, pulled over in their 4WD and sturdy camper trailer with a front ledge for firewood upon which the bike could fit. I told Neville that I did not feel comfortable asking them for a lift. He replied, 'We're Aussies mate. We look after each other'.

Tjukayirla to 140km out

Easily got up soon after dawn and wandered in bare feet over the pokey pebbles on a path to the toilet through some yellow wildflower bushes.

After riding for an hour, a very nice avocado growing couple from Pemberton, with whom I had chatted last night, pulled over and gave me their address. Also from last night, a couple of guys doing exploration work for a mining company passed in their truck giving me waves like they raising glasses of beer in a triumphant toast.

The road was fantastic most of the way, the bike rolled on a smooth hard surface. I made the one hundred for the day at 1pm and rode on for another few hours.

Into Tjukayirla Roadhouse

In the morning I took it easy, lighting the campfire to ease the cold of the morning. I warmed up my boots by the fire. I rode for a while and quickly came to the Kurrajong Sentinel, a large umbrella shaped tree about 17km from the roadhouse. The tree was fully green and many seeds had dropped in pods onto the ground.

I reached the roadhouse just before 9am and chatted to Ron the prospector from yesterday and also some admiring caravaners. The roadhouse opened but unfortunately the eftpos was not working. The boss gave me a toilet/shower key anyway and said to 'make myself at home'. There is a luxurious room with recliner chairs and a widescreen television. Everything was perfectly clean. Great place.

Another 100km

The silence of the morning was strange. Only one bird chirped once. None were to be seen, nor ants, animal tracks or dung. Only dried dead wood and spinifex. I lit the fire again in the morning and got up in warmth.

The road is sandy most of the way, but I did not have to get off and push, just stop a few times and stabilise a few times. The same wind pattern appeared, a promising tailwind in the morning followed up by a headwind for most of the day. There is a cloud build-up again. This is the third of fourth low pressure system to come across central Australia this Winter, seems like one after the other. Very strange weather.

Hardly any traffic today due to the federal election. Later in the day a few passers. One was a man in a bus from Gympie who was going prospecting with a couple of metal detectors. Another was a celebrity who offered me a cold beer which I gratefully declined.

Realising I would not make the 145km to reach the roadhouse, I turned off the road and followed my long shadow into the bush to place camp and gather wood for a fire. The country has become alive with many green shrubs, ants including termites, flies, spiders and moths. The bare patchy dunes seem to be over for now.

Warburton to 100km out

The road was hilly with a soft surface making it sluggish and unstable for riding. The country is getting dryer and from the crests you can see the vast uninhabited dunes with specks of spinifex and shrubbery. The distances look greater because the shrubs and grass clumps look like distant trees.

Helped some indigenous people in a sedan with a flat tyre. We used my bicycle pump to pump up the flat tyre and amazingly it stayed up. They were very nice, especially Doreen and Nita, and told me where there were some waterholes.

Have been trying not to think how far this is from anywhere. For a while I was imagining I could see signs up ahead but they were merely unusually neat, horizontal branches. I did see one real sign that indicated I had done 100km whereupon I went into the shrubs to place camp.

To Warburton 90km

The road was for the most part in a poor condition with sandy and stony heaps on an often corrugated track. The wind was also a headwind again, despite a clear blue sky.

Some campervaners pulled over, took a photo and gave me a coke. An indigenous family pulled over and gave me a very tasty apple.

Came to some interesting ranges with patches of sand in red and white, dying trees, isolated clumps of spinifex grass all coming to flat low ridges.

At last made it to Warburton Roadhouse. Place is crap, full of unrestrained dogs.

To Yarla Kutjara 120km

Today was brutal all day with a headwind. A good road, some inspiring desert vistas and a defiant attitude led me to do 120km though.

I am starting to think that Aussies are polarised into legends and fuckheads. The legends of the day included two people who stopped their cars to offer me supplies, the cops and ambos who drove past slowly to avoid the dust and tooted their horns hello. However, then a motorcyclist went past making abusive hand gestures. Then a convoy of four wheel drives came through. Half of them slowed and the others sped up.

The campground is very fine, with painted murals by the local indigenous people on a shelter and an information panel with the features of the local bush.

Warrakurna to 20km

At the start of the day I rode up to the Giles Weather Station where a portly chap took me and some of the campervaners on a free tour of the station. We got to see the launch of the weather balloon where a tall, lanky young guy in a blue lab coat strode out, counted 3-2-1, and released the balloon. He then walked to a viewfinder to track the path of the balloon, to focus the radar I believe.

When I got back to the roadhouse to hand the keys in, the bloke told me of a wind warning for 100km winds and that Giles had to launch an unshceduled balloon at 11pm. I rode for a while but the winds were pounding me and I took shelter behind some heaps of gravel left by roadworks.

I slept all day in my sleeping bag, even when rained soaked it. The darkness of nightfall crept up suddenly as there was no chorus of birds singing at dusk and no animals howling or scratching or running. The red craggy gravel heaps made a desolate silhouette like a lifeless skull of a planet with penetrating winds.

Docker River to Warrakurna (Giles) 98km

The first 5 or so kilometres were very sandy but as soon as I hit the border the road was magnificent, freshly graded probably, and with multiple smooth tracks.

An excellent tailwind made it easy riding all day. On the way, Colin and Robin in a bus stopped for a yarn and gave me a pair of sunglasses to replace the ones I had lost somewhere at Docker River. I got to Warrakurna Roadhouse mid-afternoon.

The roadhouse was great with an excellent camp kitchen (indoors) with tv and all cooking facilities. The chap at the roadhouse has the eccentricity that he ignores you when you say hello, but when he talks he is actually a very nice man.

To Docker River campground

I procrastinated in the first light, telling myself I will wait until the sun appears and leads. It was not cold and I got away soon finding a tailwind was bustling superbike along. The road overall was quite good, with a few sandy patches especially before Docker River. These patches are annoying, sometimes corrugated, and may in total add a good half hour to your riding time. But they do not last long.

The campground at Docker River was very well set out and clear of litter, with just a few secluded sites, each with a tap with good drinking water, a fire place with an iron cooking plate, and a toilet nearby.

I made a fire and in a sociable mood invited a couple in a caravan over to share. I found a local radio station for the community broadcasting a relaxing mix of reggae and indigenous tunes. The caravaners came over and had seen a couple of dingoes looking back at them. We heard some large animals trotting and saw a couple of brumbies, a mother and a pure white foal, galloping playfully around the campground.

I slept in the open with just my bag, mat and pillow and was worried about the dingoes. I woke up once to howling of a pack and the pitter patter of many dogs close by. I dreamt a dingo was licking my face and then another was putting its jaws over my neck, but soon I awoke to my relief.

Park border to Somewhere West of it

As I write I have reached a very relaxed state by giving up hope of knowing how far I have to go until the next supply point at Docker River. I have lit a very small fire to dry out my sleeping bag from last night's rain. I am quite content to go a few days in the bush with a warm fire at night and bright stars above.

The road started off sandy and I doubted my tyres were knobbly enough. I got rolling and saw a couple of cyclists coming towards me. They were two South Africans, looking very lean and fit, who had just come the way I am going. We had a nice chat then parted as I dropped some dirt to the ground to discover a headwind for me.

I rode slowly the whole day with some sandy patches (usually only about 20 metres long) that can usually be solved by moving to a different part of the road. The corrugations were there but sandy so they hammered the bike only softly.

The sand was bright and a few distant ranges decorate the south of the road. A few minor hills are on the road but mainly only inclines.

Now the sun has gone down and the wind has stopped, the air is cold and I must tend to the fire.

Yulara to Western edge of the National Park

Despite a headwind the day was good on a sealed road. I rode to the cultural centre near the rock and had a yarn with Mick, one of the rangers, who had cycled there from the east coast and stayed at the rock.

I then rode against a strong headwind to the sunset viewing area for Kata Tjuta (the Olgas). Here there were buses of tourists coming though. A cute Japanese girl asked to have her picture taken with me. A cocky young Spanish backpacker quizzed me and recited the usual backpacker mantra of really liking Melbourne.

I placed camp just outside the park border, no more than a few kilometres.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Yulara and the Rock

The Ayers Rock resort at Yulara is huge yet secluded with a vast camping area divided into small lawns with different shower blocks and kitchens. Most of the people here seem to be from France and then Germany. The staff are very friendly, even to Aussies, which is great.

I met a Korean cyclist who had come across the way I am going. He was very nice and called himself 'K' as his Korean name was too difficult for English speakers.

Took a tour to see the sunset at the rock with a crowd of coach travellers. It was spectacular and there was plenty of oohing and ahhing. Then the rock turned a malign, dull dark brown colour as the sun sank below the horizon, and a French guy yelled out 'It's ugly! Let's go!'.

Now I am off to see the Olgas and then to the WA border!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Curtin Springs to Yulara

Today the superbike stomped all the way to Yulara, the official resort and only camping ground near Uluru. A bit over 20 kilometres away the first sight of Uluru was brilliant, a fine, soft pink on a slightly hazy sunny day. The road in was almost hilly but a tailwind made it quite easy to zoom up the hills.

About halfway a couple with a caravan pulled over and yelled if I knew Maree, a rider who is down in Victoria right now on tour. What an awesome bush telegraph! I met Maree last year cycling to Melbourne and have kept in contact. Then she met these caravaners in Victoria who were headed my way.

Later on, I saw the guy I met at Erldunda Roadhouse who was on his return trip from Docker River. So another breath of familiarity made it a great day culminating in my first sight of an awesome landmark, Uluru.

Mt Ebeneezer to Curtin Springs

Today started with a cold so icy that I put on my oilskin rain cape to protect me from the wind chill. After an hour, I discovered that the day had become warm. I was sweating. The icy headwind had changed to a tailwind! The superbike elevated its speed and I thundered the rest of the way to Curtin Springs.

The Curtin Springs Roadhouse has free camping and there I met a nice couple, Michael and Maggie from Jervis Bay in New South Wales. Michael had ridden from Perth to Melbourne and was a keen cyclist. They invited me for a fine dinner of mince and potatoes and carrots boiled over a campfire, the wood for which Michael had collected earlier in the day. The campfire brought many friendly people trying to garner some wood off Michael for their own fire or those seeking to warm themselves on a freezing night. Fair enough too. It was great company and they even boiled me up some eggs and buttered some bread as a gift for the day's ride to Yulara.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Erldunda to Mt Ebeneezer Roadhouse

Today never really started. The thawing hot showers at Erldunda delayed me past 8 in the morning. Then an iced coffee, while I watched some dark clouds pass over and a headwind persist, took me to 9 am. The wind was relentless and every 10km was a fight. There was no way I could make halfway to Yulara so I pulled in to Mt Ebeneezer.

Mt Ebeneezer was surprisingly good with attentive staff and an amazing Aboriginal art gallery by women of the nearby Impana community. Some of their men were gathered outside the bar at opening time asking people for beer money, but they were friendly and did not press.

Stuarts Well to Erldunda Roadhouse

The road for most of the way is very hilly with great landscapes.

Many of the motorists coming the other way give me a wave. At a rest area I was offered food by two groups, one a family with four bikes (nice steel frames) attached to the back of the caravan, the other was two Dutch girls in a van who gave me a green apple.

At Erldunda I had some good yarns. The first was with a tour bus driver who was very nice but claimed adamantly and repeatedly that I would not be able to do the Great Central Road in less than three weeks (1000kms). His basis was that he was a driver for an international race on the same route that took 3 weeks, and they were 'international riders'. Nothing could inspire me more.

The other good yarn was with a bloke who was interested in doing something similar one day. He was part of a team of two couples heading to Docker River to visit a sister.

Alice Springs to Stuarts Well Roadhouse

Rode out of Alice with a lucky and rare tailwind. The path was climbing but really more of inclines, easily managed.

The country is spectacular with coloured hills and ranges. A few sharp rises close to Stuarts Well brought me to a spacious roadhouse with restaurant, pool, and some emus and a red kangaroo enclosed. Over this enclosure hawks and ravens were fighting over the vegetable scraps for the emus, while some punk rocker pigeons snuck a few pellets of grain while the red kangaroo was not looking.

There I met Kazu, a student mechanical engineer who works for Honda in Japan, who was riding fixed gear from Darwin to Adelaide on a sleek chromoly frame with custom bottle racks made by one of his teachers. We had a quick and friendly chat and laugh, especially about our common preference for single speed, before he rode on for another 50kms for the day.

Time in Alice Springs

I enjoyed my stay in Alice Springs for three nights and two rest days. Met some nice campers including Doug from Newcastle who cuts gemstones and has four other trades as well. We had a few chats over coffee and the last night we went to the watch the live music at the pub.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Alice Springs!!!

There was a frost in Gem Tree overnight but I still managed to get up and ride with the cold air biting hard on my bare hands.

It was good riding initially, but then a headwind came up again. Some of the cars, all the same model of working car, were also very menacing on the one lane sealed road. They did not slow down and two of them drove at full speed to within a foot of me. I could sense I was getting closer to a city, after the kindness of the motorists out in the bush.

I reached the Stuart Highway, the main road between Alice Springs, and began a more or less Southerly path to the city. The road was slightly climbing until about 20 kilometres to go when a spectacular descent into the city takes place.

Having a break in Alice Springs today after 12 days straight of riding, staying at a great caravan park (the cheapest one too).

Side of the road to Gem Tree

It was terribly cold in the morning. I rushed to pack up and get riding to warm up. A fast pace brought me to the Altijere community which has a service station, general store and a very fine take-away shop.

I rode in to a very clean town and straight for the take away joint in a very weak state. To solve my lack of nutrition, I ordered a burger with the lot, chips, and a constitutional chiko roll. All were cooked to perfection, the burger with a due amount of salad, fried egg and bacon, the chips cooked crisply in a lightish fat. It took a while to devour this needed feast and in a few hours I felt on top again.

About 50km from Gem Tree I stopped for a chat with two couples from Tasmania who had done the same route in four wheel drives. Then the road became a one lane bitumen (sealed!!) road at about 40km to go.

I was striding along at a superfast speed when a woman pulled over in a car and said her husband was cycling too! The bush telegraph (word of mouth between travellers) had not informed me of a close cyclist. Then after 10km I saw a man cycling towards me on a recumbent no less. Recumbent bikes/trikes are by far the optimum choice for sealed road cycling due to their better aerodynamics, but hardly anyone rides them.

We had a great chat, and I stupidly turned down an invite to dinner at his place, as it was to go backwards 10 kilometres. It would have been great to talk to someone who knows about cycling, and who also has experience working with the clowns in Defence.

Rode in to Gem Tree no problems. Nice place, well organised except for the hot water of which there is none.

Jervois Station to side of the road - 111km

The road out of Jervois Station was more of the same boggy road and slow going. There was one good stretch where the roadworks had built the road high. Some spectacular ranges, Harts Ranges, made the ride worth it. After the good patch the road became sandy and smooth sometimes, but torn-up in the middle and often corrugated.

It was a tailwind and I thought I had gone a good distance, after 10 hours of riding, but a sign showed I had done only 111km. I went to the side of the road, forlornly got out my sleeping mat, bag and pillow and lay motionless too tired to move. Slept well.

10km to Jervois Station

I rode the track finding solid thin lanes until reaching Jervois Station, a large cattle station with a camping ground, iron fire enclosures, tap water, and a shower and toilet, and a public phone. There is a kiosk there but it only has packets of chips, cans of fizz, chocolate bars and packets of lollies. No meals. The generators come on mid-morning so no hot water until then.

Slept in the tent all day very exhausted.

Marqua Station turn-off to 10km before Jervois Station

The rain during the night led to a cold and wet getting up. The sleeping bag was warm all night but getting out of it led to shivering until I changed into two dry wollen jumpers.

The road was ok for most of the day, apart from the usual corrugations, until I hit some road works that had turned the road into mud. I had to push a little but could still find a thin firm track to ride on as the bike collected a coating of red mud.

I saw a huge fine bull by itself, maybe an escapee from the knife or the cattle truck. Two red kangaroos, each on either side of the road, were contentedly watching me approach with bodies upright to raise their heads for a better view.

I was getting close to Jervois Station and dreaming of a meal when I hit Bonya Creek about 15km before. The road was boggy at the creek as expected, but then the entire road became full of torn-up, muddy holes like the Kokoda Track. I pushed the bike for a long while before finding a side path dug in from previous road works that provided shelter from the wind.

NT Border to Marqua Station Turn-off - 110km

You know you are tired when you are at the Northern end of the Simpson Desert and a fierce, noisy wind has come suddenly with an ominous murk of spiraling clouds at the approach, and you are totally relaxed, having pulled out your oilskin anorak and put on some wool.

Today was a very hard day with a good result of 110km. The road was corrugated all the way, stony most of the way and with a headwind all day. Each stone hammers the bike back to lose speed, the jolts passing the bars up my arms and to my chest, like a string of Bruce Lee one inch punches. A slow fight all day long took me to some low places in my mind.

A motorbiker stopped for a chat and gave me some bananas dried in orange juice. He had just quit his mining job in PNG and had a beautiful looking KTM.

These black clouds have arrived now and are very eerie. They are so low lying that I feel I could stand up and place my head in them. Jut before a small patch of rain was floating down in an arc from a huge cloud, like a mosquito net dropping and twisting.

Georgina River to NT Border

Right after getting off the bike today I was very negative about this stretch. I thought the best part of it was the fact that after only 2 days you were half way through it.

After leaving mosquito city at Georgina River and riding out of the no view river country, I happened upon some vast Mitchell grass plains and was hopeful of a change of scenery, now that I was just North of the Simpson Desert. Alas, that one type of tree showed up in patches for the same show as yesterday.

The road, however, was quite good until about 20km before the NT border where some large stones blocked any speed gain. A headwind also appeared.

At sunset my mind changed about the landscape. The dark stunted trees do a simple, stark silhouette against an orange sky. Very nice, especially with a new perception from a rested body.

Boulia to Georgina River

As I write (wrote) this I am recovering from direct sunlight in the afternoon making me sick. I was staggering about with a frazzled mind earlier, now my hands are a little shaky.

I set out from Boulia with 26 litres of water for a 467km stretch, on the basis that I used 10 litres to cover 360km from Winton to Boulia on a sealed road, adjusting it to 13 litres for the longer distance, and then doubling it for the dirt road . First stop was the supermarket which opened about 6am and has quite good prices.

Then I rode for a while on some sealed road out of Boulia and a fine tailwind with a breakfast of 'cool fruits' was a tantalising mix.

Then the dirt road was coming up on a descent. The superbike thundered onto the gravel with a swift, pliant style. I did not seem to gain any friction on the dirt if any. The bike performed well under a heavy load. It surfed the fast little lanes that I detected with a quick steer and test.

Somehow in the last hour the wind turned against me and the frontal glare of the sun started to weaken me. The dirt track also got very rugged and I nearly fell off twice. It also seemed to be a climb. The scenery remained the same the whole day with short tree with dark lightning branches and grey leaves on desert grass in patches of red sand. I found this monotonous when my body was under stress.

Monday, July 26, 2010


Boulia is a small town with one of everything and friendly locals and travellers.

The caravan park was great, especially as the manager discounted the fee. One of my unpowered tent site neighbours started quizzing me and then gave me a fine cup of tea and three slices of banana cake (four were offered). Jenny was her name and a very nice woman.

Then my next door neighbours offered me a dinner that turned out to be a huge rump steak with onions, peas, chips and gravy. A very handsome meal from a lovely couple. One was a former road train driver who hit over three hundred kangaroos in one night, the other a very intelligent woman who grew up on a dairy farm.

Middleton to rest area at relics of Hamilton Hotel 112km

Left Middleton before 8 for some nice riding in some cool air over some plains and rocky hills to admire. At about 45km for the day I entered agape a range of beautiful orange hills made up of coloured powder and pebbles pressed into ledges and blocks. Some stretches of red gravel smeared across the sides of the road, with an orange gravel road all made a stunning sight.

After this range came an almost treeless yellow plain of the Mitchell Grass, broken by a string of trees at a creek sometimes. A major tailwind shuttled the bike along on a fantastic day of riding.

Another bonus, the ancient bore water at this rest area, pumped by a clattering windmill, tastes superb with no after taste at all!

Rest area to Middleton

Rode across some gently inclining land with more of those fine ranges about. The last 10 kilometres the road enters a spacious, yellow plain with a few more orange ranges in the distance.

At Middleton I was greeted by an old farmhouse turned into a pub. You walk into the front door and people are watching tv in the room on the right while you turn left into the bar full of welcoming faces.

Decided to stay the night at the rest area across the road with the sign that says 'Hilton Hotel', with two open sheds coupled together, a kitchen sink from the 1950s probably, spinifex thatching one of the ceilings and a few benches.

There was also a nice couple, Stephen and Claire from Boonah in a caravan with a dingy on top of the towing Land Cruiser. They set up a fire and and cooked up a couple of delicious pizzas in their portable pizza oven. They invited me to join them for some pizza and great conversation.

It was a very nice evening with their company, a brilliant pink sunset on the Western side of the bubble, and watching events across the road at the pub. Some kangaroo shooters were getting ready for a hunt in a four wheel drive utility vehicle with spotlights on the front and a rack on the back for hanging the carcasses. A father and his daughter first whizzed around the paddocks on their motorbikes, trying to outdo each other, then took a leisurely horse ride. The lady manager of the pub would come outside and crack a whip to quieten her barking dogs. At dusk the roo shooters set off in rush, driving the engine hard, when they heard where some kangaroos were.

Winton to rest area 90km ~

Rode out of Winton just after 8 in the morning to yet another tailwind most of the day. The vast, blank yellow grass (Mitchell Grass) appeared again unless a creek gave rise to some trees and shrubbery.

I noticed some exquisite orange triangular humps poking up out of the flatness. I came to the Diamantina River causeway (almost dry again). This river flows all the way to Lake Eyre.

Then more of those hills showed up spectacularly with the classic flat tops and diagonal sides with greenery on the upper levels and glowing orange below. Then a newly made rest area appeared (not on the map) with a charming lookout to all these ranges, including some yellow pyramidal hills too. The only very rare litter about was from the construction works and the place was totally clean.

Winton day off

Had a great day in Winton. Went to the opening night of an art exhibition for two artists, a clothes dyer and a painter. There was free food and I shook hands with the Honourable Bruce Scott, a member of Parliament. He is in a right wing party, but I overcame my Marxist leanings.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


I arrived in Winton, the official start of the Outback Way, Australia's longest shortcut from Northern Queensland to Southern WA around mid-afternoon after a blazing tailwind on flat land all the way.

The information centre in Winton is very, very helpful. The manager and the service desk showed me where the free showers were in town and tried to think of other ways to help me and chatted quite a lot. At first sight Winton is a dusty, windy place with delapidated houses but most things are available here and the people seem nice.

The town water comes from the ground hot, so the tip is to have a shower in the late afternoon when everybody has their sprinklers on and the water has not cooled as much in the town pipes. There is a sulphuric smell in the water and you can imagine a mix of ancient inland sea animals, including the dinosaurs, and the ash from diabolical volcanos going into the ancient sand filter for the water.

Camped last night at a free camping area called Long Waterhole, 2km south of Winton. The winds were quite bad, however, and the place is quite dusty. Staying tonight in a pub room. Tomorrow I ride out to Boulia about 360km West of here.

Ilfracombe to Rest Area 68km N of Longreach

Had an easy ride into Longreach from a Sou-easter over some flat land to arrive before 10 in the morning. Longreach has a lot of tourist attractions.

I rode out of Longreach about 11 with a fine tailwind boosting the bike to maximum speed until reaching this basic rest area. With only a big, broad sky, a bin, a table and chairs, and a twin toilet, I laid out my sleeping mat for a snooze on the white gravel with the sun on my back warming it in the cooling air.

A Pommie turned up in a sedan, got out and ignored my big, friendly "hello there". He paused then asked me "you're not a dangerous psychopath are you?". I said, "no, are you?". He seemed genuinely worried, keeping a safe distance and adjusting to my postures as we chatted. After that he went to the car and gave me a can of lemonade and some nice sandwiches. Weird.

A white coloured stick insect was fooling around near the rims of my bike. It moved about like a panther with extra long paws and then ran to some invisible target, loping quickly and rocking forward and back on the skip.

That night a few campervans turned up for an amazing pink sunset on a white lattice cloud pattern. Later some cattle road trains turned up too and made a racket.

Barcaldine to Ilfracombe 79km

Rode in to Barcaldine, a town with only a few square blocks and lonesome streets. A revered town tree had died a few years ago but was still boxed in a wooden protective enclosure, like a post-modern building growing on a tree trunk. A kid bounced a ball against a closed shop wall one street off the main.

I left Barcaldine at noon and the land was very flat. Sometimes the vast stretches of yellow grassy fields were dotted with dying trees. Other times a few more woods.

The landscape was turning into geometrical lines, with the white lines of the road, grey lanes, power lines, the table and shelter of a simple roadside rest area. I began to lose a grip and pulled into a caravan park at Ilfracombe.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Alpha to Barcaldine 140km

In Alpha I slept on a table in the park next to a rest area. There seems to be a great little main street in Alpha, just off the highway going through the town. I arrived there after everything was shut though.

Left Alpha a bit before 8 O'clock and the riding was arduous for some reason, until I saw the sign for the Great Dividing Range at 440km altitude! After that there seemed a long almost imperceptible decline, though with a headwind, for most of the day.

I decided to go for Barcaldine in one day with a little night riding (about ten minutes). At dusk the animals cross the road returning to their night quarters. I passed a dam on the right and there were tens of Kangaroos and echidnas crossing from the right side to the left side. Some of the Kangaroos just stop in the middle of the road and loiter. The Echidnas just make a dash with each of their four legs operating independently of each other. It is important to be wary as a cyclist that the animals may stop to look at you and be distracted from the traffic.

Found a rest area just outside of Barcaldine where I was quickly invited to dinner with Adrian and his family. Our table was joined by Kiwi Bob who was planning to ride around Australia next year and a truckie who had a disposable can of Coffee that heats itself up.

Anakie to Alpha 124km

Was glad to leave the caravan park at Anakie. It is a very fine place for motoring campers but for the tent campers the grass is full of thorns. I also recommend not camping anywhere 'pets are welcome' as the camping area is where people take their animals.

Rode out in trepidation about crossing the Drummond Ranges. After some easy hills in a thick fog (perhaps the blinding fog made them easier?), I climbed a set of bigger hills and thought that was the range. This climb, however, curved to a frightening vista of the dark ridge of a mountain range with no apparent gaps.

I stopped just before this large range at the town of Boguntungen where a couple of Afghan-Australians pulled over in a work car to ask me questions. They told me where there was some excellent rainwater in a tank, gave me an accurate description of the road ahead, and did not ask why I was riding a bicycle which was unusual.

I started the winding ascents with no problems but then the longest ever slope into the heavens appeared along which I had to push the bike the last 300 metres. This one lasting incline was the only major pain on the range. At the top of the hill was a sign indicating the top of the range about 12km from Boguntungen.

A fantastic descent brought monkey noises from my mouth, first down the range and then at a gentle downward slope for a long time. The road on was mainly inclines and declines with the trees becoming sparser in parts.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Comet to Emerald to Anakie 116km -

Woke up in Comet at the first hint of blue in the sky with no heat in the world beyond my sleeping bag and sleeping bag liner. The sleeping mat was also doing just great. I snuck in a few sets of ten minute snoozes before dashing for the showers.

The ride out of Comet was at first an inert drudgery from pebbly road mix and some climbs. After not long, however, an interfering crosswind swung enough behind me to hurtle me along the now flat country. Comet to Emerald is mostly easy and flat.

Rode out to the village of Anakie, a town a kilometre off the main highway. Went into a pub to get money out from the Eftpos machine and ordered a diet coke. I took the diet coke into the bar area where a rough looking set of mugs were staring at me. Most were quizzing me and there was plenty of banter, but one bloke was very drunk and aggressive and started talking to his mates about wanting to bash me. I left reluctantly without another drink as the other people were great company.

Duaringa to Comet 110km ~

When people tell you it is all flat from here on, they mean that it is flatter than before, and maybe flattish overall. Today there were some difficult climbs and gullies, but certainly easier than yesterday with easier slopes mostly.

Dingo was the first town on the way and has a friendly but very expensive roadhouse. After Dingo were some nice ranges in the middle distance to the south which had orange cliffs illuminated by a golden sunlight.

The next town was Bluff with a big train station servicing the coal industry. After Bluff I rode past some great heaps of coal ready for loading onto conveyor belt that passed over to the other side of the road. The conveyor ended at a big metal drum that emptied the coal into train carriages. Some of these coal trains take up to a maximum of 101 carriages, not including engines. One poor bugger told me he had stopped and counted the carriages and proudly told me it was 102 carriages, not including engines. The next town is Blackwater, a coal mining town which seems to have a big rest area and showers available, according to a sign.

Camped at Comet at a very small caravan park for $10, almost worth it for the shower.

Rockhampton to Duaringa 115km

Left Rockhampton 7 O'clock and for the first time headed to WA. The main road out of Rocky splits at a big roundabout, like a prism separating the soot and noise of the east coast highway from the dreams of the road west. This road got ever quieter in stages of elation at the longer gaps between the purring, grinding and ominous hind traffic.

The country was golden brown round hills spotted with trees with burnt black trunks like the humps of a Brahman bull.

The riding was across flat and easy slopes for the most part but 50km from Duaringa a sharp range appeared that got my muscles aching and heating up to a fatigue. One hill just before town was a slow grind like an echidna scratching at hard earth. After summiting this hill, however, another steeper and longer hill appeared where the cars shrank in size as they tracked up the embankment. The man at the Post Office in Duaringa told me the story that upon sighting this second hill, a Japanese tourist had abandoned his broken down moped that he was pushing toward town.

In Duaringa there is a vast dirt parking area with hearths for open fires where the caravaners camp for free. Showers are free with a request for a gold coin donation. At this place I camped next to a bloke who with an off-road trailer camper made in Australia. He had had some high level jobs but had been on the road for over a year. He invited me for coffee and then a fine dinner of sausages and salad with balsamic vinegar.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

"The Vagabond" by Robert Louis Stevenson

Give to me the life I love,
Let the lave go by me,
Give the jolly heaven above,
And the byway nigh me,
Bed in the bush with stars to see,
Bread I dip in the river,
There's the life for a man like me,
There's the life forever,

Let the blow fall soon or late,
Let what will be o'er me,
Give the face of earth around,
And the road before me,
Wealth I seek not, hope nor love,
Nor a friend to know me,
All I seek, the heaven above,
And the road below me,

Or let Autumn fall on me,
Where afield I linger,
Silencing the bird on tree,
Biting the blue finger,
White as meal the frosty field,
Warm the fireside haven,
Not to Autumn will I yield,
Not to Winter even!

Let the blow fall soon or late,
Let what will be o'er me,
Give the face of earth around,
And the road before me,
Wealth I seek not, hope nor love,
Nor a friend to know me,
All I seek, the heaven above,
And the road below me.

My top reasons for cycling

I get asked "why are you doing this", so here are my top reasons in no order:

  • To ride a bike is fun.

  • To complete my ninja training.

  • To complete my jedi training.

  • To get fit is fun.

  • To look for my mojo.

  • To see spectacular landscapes.

  • To separate my needs from my wants.

  • To experience adventure.

  • To live in the spirit of the poem, "The Vagabond" by Robert Louis Stevenson.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Gladstone to Rockhampton

Rode out of Gladstone on the road to Mount Larcom yesterday afternoon and did about 20km before camping near a sportsground in a tiny little town whose name escapes me right now.

Hit Mount Larcom just after 8 O'Clock in the morning and had a home made pie at the cafe and an iced coffee. Then rode on to a roadhouse about 45km from Rockhampton for a quick break. Then to Rockhampton!

The whole day of riding was either flat or with very slight undulations and mostly a tailwind boosting the bike's speed.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Miriam Vale to Gladstone

Left Miriam Vale about 8am after a hot shower in the morning too. Having some consternation about my lack of weight loss. I was convinced that the shiny windows of the roadhouse were distorting my body to make my stomach look bigger, massive in fact. This is an issue I have to resolve as I would hate to get to Perth and still be as fat as ever.

40km on from Miriam Vale is a small town of Benaraby with a very good rest area and two roadhouses. The second one going North does a very good burger with the lot.

I took the turn-off to Gladstone at Benaraby and encountered quite a few hills that you find near a headland. I was told by two people that the route to Gladstone was all flat, unlike the highway that bypasses it.

Gin Gin Miriam Vale

Stayed at a rest are just out of Gin Gin that is very large and busy, but plenty of people around.

I rode out of the rest area about 7 O'Clock in the morning and it was not long before some even worse than the day before appeared. I still did it without getting off the bike to push, but stopped mid-hill for a quick break a few times.

Stayed out the back of the Pink Star Roadhouse in Miriam Vale where they had a camping are and hot showers, my first shower of the trip.

Childers to Gin Gin

Left Apple Tree Creek about 7:30am for some high and mighty hills on the road to Gin Gin, about 50km further North. Most of the distance was hills. These hills were achievable but culminated in a heavy fatigue.

There is a shop after the first set of slopes at a sign post for a town named 'Booyal' which had a school and not much else. At the shop, I bought a 1 litre milk and a packet of smarties. Then some more hills lead to a series of vistas of cows on round hills in the foreground and murky triangular mountains in the background.

There was one small stretch of flat land on a nicely paved highway between canefields and orchards, but then some more hills lead the approach into Gin Gin.

Internet is available at the Gin Gin library but opening hours are limited and so are the computers for which you need a booking. There are a supermarket, cafes, op shop and fish and chip shop in Gin Gin.

Gympie to Childers

Started the day at a roadside rest area 29km North of Gympie where I laid down my sleeping mat, bag and pillow in a concrete enclosure used for giving out free coffees and teas to the motorists on weekends.

Grabbed a hot pie, a packet of chips and a 1 litre Pepsi Max at a supermarket in Tiaro about 25km along.

The next town on the highway was the harvest town of Childers. I call Childers a town of the sneaky host, where the hosts (the farmers, the accommodation providers) are really the parasites upon the workers. It does, however, have a good supermarket with friendly staff.

Camped at Apple Tree Creek rest area just North out of Childers. Not recommended as it is too close the main road and noisy.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Short note from Gympie

Hello out there!

This is a note from an internet cafe in Gympie, about 60km North of Noosa, on my first day on the road!

The day began tough. The sky was in different segments of gloom and spitting down cold splotches. I had to say goodbye to my parents, brother and niece at the caravan park. The first stretch of road had a killer hill with a sign warning about the steepness. On this hilly road with no safe shoulder, I had to get off to walk the bike and wondered if a single-speed was crazy.

Once I entered the main pipeline of traffic going North on the Bruce Highway, however, the excitement of beginning a journey quashed the inclemency of the cold drizzle. What is more, a tailwind began to help my mighty galleon, the superbike, to float over the hills. Happily, I think the single-speed will not be defunct on a sealed road with hills, so far.

Gympie now has an Aldi clearly visible from the highway which is great for a tourer on a budget.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

The bike

Bike photo

Bike Components

  • Frame - old chromoly mountain bike frame.
  • Rims - Deep V 26 inch 36 hole by Velocity (made in Australia).
  • Spokes - straight gauge 2 mm by DT Swiss (made in Switzerland).
  • Rear Hub - Eric's ENO Eccentric 135mm by White Industries (made in USA).
  • Front Hub - M15 by White Industries (made in USA).
  • Bottom Bracket - 113mm square taper by White Industries (made in USA).
  • Crankset - ENO with 38 tooth chainring, by White Industries (made in USA).
  • Pedals - Urban Platform Pedals by White Industries (made in USA).
  • Tyres - Topcontact by Continental (made in Germany).
  • Racks - Cold Springs (front) and Red Rock (rear), by Old Man Mountain (made in USA).
  • Saddle - B17 by Brooks (made in UK).
  • Toe Clips - Strapless by Velo Orange (made in USA).

Equipment List

  • Panniers - Super C (front and rear) by Carradice of Nelson (made in UK ).
  • Tent - Akto by Hilleberg (made in Estonia).
  • Knife - Folding knife by Leatherman (made in USA).
  • Allen Keys - Bondhus (made in USA).
  • Adjustable Wrench - very old Stanley.
  • Spare tubes - Schwalbe (made in Indonesia).
  • Tyre levers.
  • Pump.
  • Puncture Repair Kit.
  • Shorts by Cactus Climbing (made in New Zealand).
  • Shirts - secondhand (made in Australia).
  • Base Layer Jumper and underwear superfine merino by Joneswares (made in USA).
  • Jumper merino by Tarcutta Textiles (made in Australia).
  • Non-inflatable Sleeping Mat by Thermarest (made in USA).
  • Headlights by Niteflux (made in Australia).
  • Still Camera - SLR Pentax ME 35mm film (made in Japan).
  • Movie Camera - Zeiss Ikon Movikon K8 8mm film (made in Germany).
  • Backpack - Cactus Climbing (made in New Zealand).
  • Still Film - 6 rolls of 36 exposures of 35mm Fuji Velvia.
  • Movie Film - 15 rolls Wittnerchrome V50D by Wittner-kinotechnik (made in Germany).
  • Sleeping Bag - -20 degrees Celsius by Wiggys (made in USA).
  • Desert Boots - Rossi (made in Australia).
  • Tripod - Minette (made in Japan).
  • Water - either supermarket bottles or bladders.