Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Leg 1 Summary: Darwin to Alice Springs

So 1550Km down, about 2500Km to go!  Well, I can tell you that I did have some doubts 2-3 days in, and contemplated calling my contingency target of Adelaide very early on.  However, I hit my stride on day 4 and haven't looked back since.  From about day 6, I pushed hard to make it to Alice Springs for about midday so I could sort out a few things and have a relax, as well as booking a trip to Ayers Rock for the following day.  I made it into Alice Springs at about 11.30am on day 11 of the cycle. That worked out as a daily average of about 140km a day.  Perfect.  However, with the day off to Ayers rock, I will be about 5km behind schedule for Melbourne in 30 days.  Haha, pretty much on schedule really.  I have a couple of days leeway also.

Here is a quick breakdown of the approximate numbers on each day:

Day 1:        157km
Day 2:        125km
Day 3:        90km
Day 4:        135km
Day 5:        145km
Day 6:        145km
Day 7:        157km
Day 8:        143km
Day 9:        178km
Day 10:      150km
Day 11:      95km (by midday to Alice Springs)

Day 9 was a big one and a new PB for a day on the bike.  It gave me the time I needed in Alice Springs.

Coming off the plane

To say the least, I was a tad nervous about getting my bike off the plane in Darwin.  Firstly, because I hoped it was in one piece and nothing lost; and secondly, putting it together again in the airport.

I managed to find a spot outside to put it together.  I had a few little issues, but persevered and got it all put together and packed in about 3 hours.  Relieved that the bike was all in good order, I headed north for the only time in the trip to get the sunrise at Nightcliff Pier and then get some provisions at Woolworths (a supermarket in Australia).

Summary so far

Day 1

- Dingoes howling in the night
- Meeting some fellow bicycle tourers, 4 young Japanese guys (not the last of the Japanese).
- Meeting a chap from Colchester, who was driving a campervan around Australia with his wife (he was a dick though).

Day 2

- The conditions started to take their toll on me.  Daytime temperatures were starting to exceed 35 degrees, and the vastness of the country and the unending road infront of me really sunk in.

- First wild camp; no snakes or other creepy crawlies, just beautiful stars at night and and a great sunset and sunrise.

Day 3

- Seeing the Aboriginals of Katherine, a real eye-opener, as I mentioned in an update.  They seem to be very good at loitering, but I saw none working.  The White population lived a completely different life in the same town.  Many many problems with the aboriginal population in Australia it seems, they are an absolute mess.

- Nothing worked in Katherine; toilets and air conditioning out of order, no water in the supermarket, and a queue at the check outs that had to be seen to be believed.  I went to a coffee shop to make some calls and make sure people knew I was alive, using the wifi.

- Had a nice chat with an Aussie couple at a free camping area.  They travelled in their campervan with a pet cat and a pet magpie, odd combination, but they were both very nice.  He gave me a multi-tool so I could hammer my tent pegs in and said I could keep it.  It has come in very useful ever since.  He also passed me the next day on the road and gave me a cold coke and a bottle of water.  Legend.

Day 4

- Made it to Mataranka, the capital of the Never Never, and the home of some very large termite mounds.  Amazing things, there are so many here, they are almost as big as the trees sometimes.

- Met a couple of Irish girls - in different places - in the middle of nowhere, working.  In fact, throughout the whole trip so far, I have met many young Westerners on working holiday visas and/or working for citizenship.  They have been placed in some far-flung places for sure.

- Spoke to an old Swiss guy who said he saw a Japanese guy skating down the Stuart Highway once.  He was Japanese, so I wasn't surprised, they love this place.

- Stayed at a fantastic outback campsite/hotel, Aussie outback through and through, and very eccentric.

Day 5

- Hottest day yet, but came through it strong.  Confidence started to build that I could actually make it all the way to Melbourne.

- Went to the famous Daly Waters pub and had a magnificent Barramundi burger.  It was huge and delicious, and I'm sure it gave me a boost for the second half of the day.

Day 6

- Biggest headwinds of the trip so far, but again, came through it.

- Went through a very dodgy little town (Elliot), had the feeling it wasn't a good place to be around at night.  I arrived when it was brutally hot through, everyone was inside.

- As I paused on the side of the road for a drink and woman stopped on the opposite side of the road, got out of her car and said, "This might seem like a stupid f#@king question, but which way are you going, towards Alice Springs or Darwin?"  I replied, "Alice Springs".  She then curse, "Oh, f#@king hell, I bloody knew it, I've been going in the f@#king wrong direction for a f@#king hour and a half!" "Thanks anyway".  I told her that if she is ever in doubt that the sun rises in the East and travels over the the road and sets in the West, and seeing as the road runs almost exactly North to South (and it is always sunny), it is a good way of checking your direction.  Still, I chuckled after she left, but paused to think how gutted I would have been if I had cycled in the wrong direction for an hour and a half.

Day 7

- Stopped at a campsite, but didn't stay there.  The owner gave me a cut price coke and a cool bottle of water in exchange for me writing what I was doing in his visitors book.  The book had tales of all the other bicycle tourers that had passed through over the last couple of years; most were doing much longer journeys than me and Australia was just part of their journey.

- 3rd wild camp in the bush was the worst; lots of ants and spilled all my dinner in the dirt!

Day 8

- Went through another dodgy town with ots of aboriginals, this time Tennant Creek.  Every shop was locked-up like Fort Knox.  I did a quick shop at a supermarket and got out of there.  Later at a free camping area a woman told me that when she was there a couple of hours earlier a couple of aboriginal women got into a fight in the street.  The way she told the story was very funny, in a very thick Aussie accent with lots of body language.

- Had a 90km section with no stops and no shelter from the sun, and also with quite a strong wind.  In the heat of the day with no shade, it wasn't much fun.

- After that horrible day, I met some lovely people in their campervans in another free camping area.  One lady offered me a cup of tea, and with the biscuits I had bought earlier, I relaxed and felt right at home.  Another kind lady offered me the use of her shower in her van.  Now normally, I would have refused out of politeness, but after 4 days without a shower and an incredibly hot and arduous day, I gladly accepted.  It was so good.  Such adventure really make you appreciate the simple things in life, like a cup of tea and a shower.

Day 9

- Windiest day so far, fortunately not quite a headwind, just a hint of it, but mainly right across me.  Despite this, I stormed the day with 178km.  Just what I needed to make it to Alice Springs in good time.

- Visited "The Devil's Marbles", a collection of giant red rocks.  Got there at sunrise and no one was there, very nice.  Northern Territory tourism fitted a satellite dish there to get wifi so people could share pictures, so I shared one on Facebook.

"It's dignity!" (If you get this joke, you're a legend).

-  Saw two more Japanese cyclists; one was on a fold-up bike and dragged his suitcase for it behind him on wheels.  He had a big Aussie flag on the back also.  I should've bought a Union Jack and done the same.  The second guy was much friendlier and gave me his business card (as East Asian men seem prone to do), I looked at it carefully and asked him questions about his work (I didn't learn nothing in Korea).  He was travelling incredibly light, I assumed he must have support or be doing the route very fast.  He didn't speak much English so I spoke a little Japanese to him as well as pigeon English.  Grand total of 7 other bicycle tourers seen, and all Japanese.  What's going on?

- Saw a dingo in the bush! Ticking-off the list of Aussie animals nicely.  Hopefully I'll see an emu at some point down the road.

Day 10

- After the monster previous day, I struggled through 150km, but really had to fight.

- Met "Crazy John", a man from Geelong pushing a 200kg cart from Cape York to Cape Leeuwin.  That is the most north-easterly point in Australia to the most south-westerly point, safe to say an absolutely epic journey.  He was doing it at 30km a day!  All this and I think he was well into his sixties.  He was doing it for Leukaemia research, but had done many long journeys like this before, this being the most epic.  From what he was telling me, he faced some huge challenges along the way.  I was very fortunate to catch him almost exactly halfway through his journey.

- Met the only idiot of the trip; a roadhouse owner who wouldn't fill up my water bottles, but told me to buy water at $5 a bottle.  I told him I was cycling and that I drank an awful lot more than the average Joe coming into his shop, he didn't care.  Moron.  An English guy working there on a working holiday visa snuck out a bottle of water to me while I was thinking of paying, nice guy.  He also passed me later down the road and gave ,e another bottle.

Day 11

- Smashed 95km to Alice Springs by 11.30, absolute result.  This gave me time to grab some more supplies, write this blog, make some calls, charge various pieces of equipment, and switch the front and back tyres on my bike around, as the back was starting to wear and I was worried it might wear down too much over the next leg.

Day 12

Ayers Rock tomorrow!

1 comment:

  1. Hello Son, lovely to read your comments, although
    I think you must be totally nuts it sounds like a really enjoyable little bike ride and an interesting with lots of enjoyment which is the important thing. Anyway keep going and keep in touch---- Dad