We have had an exciting few weeks since leaving you last in Port Pirie. Dingoes, Emu’s, Kangaroos, Road trains, houses on trucks, outback grand finals, outback hospitality, new cyclist friends, dinner in caravans, Wedge tailed eagles, Kestrels – and no more bloody magpies!
We’ve met some amazingly generous people on ‘the track’ (what the locals call the Stuart Highway) – Dan and Kirsty taking us in at the last minute in Port Augusta; Rob and Amanda who we met at Coober Pedy Caravan Park driving us out to the Breakaways site; Linc and Neil driving out from Creswick to watch the footy grand final with us in Marla; Michael and Julie camped at a rest area with us and invited us in for dinner in their caravan; countless caravaners refilling our water bottles and backpackers filling us up with cold beer in front of warm camp fires. We are truly blessed.
We made a tough decision about five days ago. After being belted by a strong headwind for days on end, we decided to deviate from the original plan and leave the trip to Uluru for another time. Uluru would have been close to a 600km, one week, detour for us, and morale picked up markedly when we decided to soldier on to the Alice instead. We were greeted with an incredible tailwind the following morning and rode our 96km at 28kmh. It’s hard to describe just how quick and easy that was for us – normally we potter along at 18kmh.
Two days out from Alice we met the first cycle tourer we have seen on the road. Jane, riding Beijing to Melbourne, was travelling along with her mum for that leg. We had an excited five minute conversation, exchanged details and wished each other luck. Perhaps one day we will be lucky enough to catch up with Jane for a beer in Melbourne upon our return. You can follow and support Jane here: http://intrepidcycle.com
Arriving in Alice, we raced back and forth to the ‘welcome to Alice Springs’ sign taking timer photos, sans tripod. With our tiny camera perched on our lunch box we were doing ok, but quickly accepted an offer to have our photo taken for us from the first carload of people that arrived. Exchanging small talk, we informed them that we had ridden from Victoria and they quickly let us know they would be back in Melbourne in just a couple hours time – on a plane. We shared a laugh and it was incredible to think that our thirty-four day ride was equivalent to just a couple of hours on a plane. I guess we’d made some savings on a plane ticket doing it our way.
In the mall in Alice we met three cyclists from Hong Kong who had cycled Gold Coast > Cairns > Tennant Creek > Alice. We had a cup of coffee and exchanged stories of the road that lay ahead. Each of the boys had chosen a western name to be called in Australia: Keith, Bernard and Oscar. To our amusement Keith had used his spare time while cycle touring to sunburn his new name into his forearm. Gold.
Almost immediately after we split with the boys, a traveller/photographer who had filled our water on the road saw us and we chatted for another couple of hours over more coffee. Christopher was travelling around Australia in a bus taking brilliant photos. Christopher is really talented (when you choose a website Chris, please forward it on and we will share it with everyone).
As Christopher left, Martin, a belgian cyclist sat down and again we chatted (but by this time the coffee shop had closed). Martin had cycled from Melbourne also and is homeward bound by bicycle. He is making bread in Alice for a while to fund his trip! (I’m sure Owen Shepherd can think of a pun to go with that one if you are following out there somewhere mate).
In Alice we have had our first experience of being truly welcomed into the cycle touring community through a website called warmshowers.org. Similar to couch surfing, hosts offer up somewhere to stay during your journey. It’s a global network and our first experience was absolutely brilliant, Mandy and Stuart (former NT cycling president and a bike mechanic) allowed us to pitch up our tent in the backyard and use their house as a base while they went to work (and cycling camp) during the day. Thanks so much for welcoming us in at short notice guys.
We are now staying with Laurel and Cal, friends of friends at first but now just friends! We have been fed and given a bed and fed some more. Thanks!
This seems such a brief summary of our past few weeks, but I will give a little insight into a typical day for us at the moment.
4:15am – the alarm goes.
4:30am – up, pack up bikes and slam a jam sanger.
5:15am – we are on the road. We might see one vehicle on the road for our first hour of riding in the dark. It’s cool and still at this time, great cycling.
6:15am – outback sunrise. Brilliant.
7:00am – the sun is hot by now.
7:30am – it’s hot AND windy now.
8:00am – stop for another couple of jam sangers and a rest.
8:30am – back on. Caravaners are up and on the road by now.
10:30am – arrive at rest area/servo/town.
10:31am – shovel food and drink.
11:00 – set up tent and nap.
12:30 – lunch and read books/swim/fix things.
4:30pm – prepare rice/pasta for dinner. Plan the next days ride. Chat to other travellers. Read.
8:00pm – lights out. Rinse and repeat.
Apart from the cycling on some windy days, it is a dream lifestyle.
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