Wednesday, August 26, 2009


You know that you are getting used to being on the road when you no longer think that the trucks are loud at night.I realsed ths little fact when Eduardo and I were having coffee the next morning.He was commenting on how noisy our camping spot was and I agreed that the scrub turkeys had kept me awake most of the night as they scratched around in the leaf litter under the trees near us.He said that he wasn't talking about the birds but the noisy trucks.I hadn't even noticed them.That is wierd.
The start to the days ride was delayed by a foggy morning and the fact that Eduardo and I had so much to talk about.It was great to have a fellow cyclist to talk to as everyone else that I had met on the trip had no idea just what it was all about.Talking with a like minded traveller put a lot of enthusiasm into the days ride for me and when I eventually got going it was renewed vigour which was only helped by the massive tailwind that had sprung up.Poor Eduardo was going to have a tough day but I learned that he was a much more patient cyclist and only riding 50k or so a day was quite acceptable to him.The stupid triathlete in me did not allow for such small distances without a great deal of guilt involved.I'll have to get over that.
My first chore of the day was to get through my first traffic jam of my trip and that was the ride through the outskirts of Mackay.It had been a fast and easy 35k to the northern appraoches of the booming little city but the only thing booming for me that morning was the traffic.I hated it and was thankful that I didn't have to ride through the center of town and could just bypass most of it on the highway.Still,I did have some hair-raising moments and was happy to be through the mayhem and on the hot road to Sarina some 37k away.

I hit Sarina just before lunch and made straight for the local supermarket to buy some supplies for the next isolated leg of my ride.The only problem with that was once I was inside the air-conditioned store I didn't want to leave.I sat in the mall bakery for an hour trying to summon the enthusiasm to ride in the 40C heat for the afternoon and eventually I dragged my lazy butt out the door and back on the road into what used to be known as "the death stretch".

During the '80s this 300k stretch of highway was totally isolated with only a very small village or two hidden away off the narrow,bumpy old highway.It was said that more than a few travellers went missing during those years and it was not deemed a safe road until major upgrades and a few truckstops were put in.These days it is an easy ride from village to village and carrying three days of water is not needed.I was lad of that fact as during tat long hot afternoon ride I began to fade really badly and I went through so much water that I was starting to get a little concerned,that was until I stumbled upon an old truckstop that I had completely forgotten about. I had stopped at the Ilbilbie Caltex truck stop on a couple of previous trips and after 108 very hot kilometers it seemed like an oasis as I rolled into the carpark.

I went inside and asked one of the ladies behind the counter if it would be okay for me to camp somewhere on the grounds and after a little conference with the other employees on shift she agreed and just told me not to get in the way of the trucks.She also told me that I could have a shower and use all the truckies facilities as well as allowing me to plug in my laptop in the cafe area.That was a relief as I really didn't want to ride on any longer and the thought of actually cleaning myself up and sitting in the cafe with a meal that actually came on a plate was just too good to decribe.An hour later camp was set,I was clean and my laptop was logging on to the net while waiting for my dinner to arrive.It was a great evening as I got a chance to talk to some truckers and catch up on the news of the day on the t.v,all in air-conditioned comfort.

The night in my tent wasn't all comfort with the crazy amount of trucks coming and going and the trains which seemed to pass through my tent at regular intervals.I did manage to get some rest and was up before the dawn packing all my stuff and heading to the cafe for a coffee while I waited yet again for the fog to lift.It was so dark that morning that the cars still had thier headlights on two and a half hours after sunrise.I did manage to get away at about 8:30am and headed off into the unknown.

I again was blessed with a tailwind that blew me along the highway and through some really dry farmland.I thought of the people who lived out here and wondered just what thier life must be like.Hard I would imagine.The road did swing back toward the coast from time to time and I spied a few little coastal hamlets all with rest areas attached.I couldn't help but be totally surprised that these little seaside places ever became inhabited,I mean,there was just nothing there.Maybe that was the attraction.I couldn't even bring myself to stop at any of them and opted for short breaks on the highway instead.

By early afternoon I was still trucking along when I came across a rest area that just blew me away.For a part of the state that is supposed to be deserted here was certainly a lot of places to stay.This place had huge camping areas,covered picnic areas and best of all, drinking water.I decided that the 91k I had done that day was enough and I could use the rest of the afternoon to do some washing and dry out all my stuff in the intense afternoon heat.

It was while I was drying all my stuff that a guy from a trailer parked nearby asked if I would mind keeping an eye on his trailer and especially the solar panels that he had sitting outside soaking up the suns rays.It seemed that his campervan had shed a wheel the day before and had caused some damage to his trailer and the wheel itself.They were now stuck in the Waverley Creek rest area for the weekend as they could not get a new wheel sent to them until the Monday three days away.He and his wife wanted to go to the nearest town,St Lawrence,to get some supplies for the next couple of days.

While I was keeping guard I did manage to get all my chores done and met a few of the other travellers as they came and went over the next couple of hours.When to owners of the trailer came back they asked if I had eaten and if I would like to join them for dinner.Nothing special,just some vegetables and whatever else that could be found.That nothing special turned out to be some lamb roast with vegetables,beer,coffee and dark chocolate.Man was I spoiled.

I sat there with Paul and Judy for hours and chatted about all kinds of things and had a truly wonderful night with two very generous people.Eventually our eyes started to close of thier own accord and it was time for bed.I wasn't sure if I would see them as I had planned to leave very early so I said my goodbyes and snuck into my tent to what ended up being a very deep and satisfying sleep.

In the end I did see Paul and Judy again as yet another thick fog blanketed the area and as soon as they saw me the coffee was on and some toast was provided.I was really touched by the warmth and class of these two lovely people from Port Stephens on the New South Wales central coast.I vowed that if my ride took me close to thier home town then I wold drop in for a visit.Finding them would not be a problem as their surname is a famous one here in Oz .Paul is the uncle of one of Australias most famous female athletes, racewalker Kerry Saxby.There is no doubt in my mind that they would be easy to find.


During that night in the truck pullout I got the shock of a lifetime when my tent was lit up like daytime thanks to a trucker who parked his rig right next to my tent.I thanked the lord that I chose to put my tent under a tree because heaven knows,he may well have parked right on top of me if the tree wasn't in his way.It did wake me up enough that there was little point in going back to sleep as it was near 5am and 20 minutes away from my alarm going off anyway.
I got out of my tent to find yet another heavy dew had coated my tarp and so as the sun rose I stripped the tarp off and spread it out on the ground to dry.Bad move!!Above me,in the tree were a bunch of very noisy birds who had woken up about the same time as I but for these guys it was bath time and they used the heavy dew in the tree to wash with.As they rubbed up against the leaves the moisture fell off in heavy drops onto,you guessed it,my dry tent.Bloody hell!!I had gone to all the trouble of covering it with the tarp and those bloody birds snuck in while I wasn't looking and soaked the place.Grrrrr...
After packing everything away and having a quick bite to eat rolled my rig out toward the roadside when I noticed a few small thorns(or Bindi-eyes as we call them here in Oz)stuck to my bullet proof, $130,you-beaut German tyres.I removed the ones from my back tyre but of course as I picked the one out of my front tyre I heard the unistakable sound of air escaping rapidly through a puncture hole.Damn,damn and double damn.Bloody Germans and their bullet proof tyres!! Not much to do now but to change it and why not brew some coffee and enjoy the clear morning while I was at it.
The rest of the day passed without incident as I contintued ever southward with the assistance of a very hot tailwind.I had made a prediction at Bluewater that the winds would turn around and the headwinds that I had fought for the first week or so would begin to help me.How right I was but to an extreme degree.The winter in the north had failed to materialise and with the weather patterns shifting around to cause north -easteries the heat began to rise.I didn't mind so much but the road temps did start to climb into the 40 celcius range and in the afternoon heat I began to suffer mightily.Around 3pm I started to fade badly and a quick look at my bike computer told me that I had just passed the 100k mark for the day.That was all the convncing that I needed and I pulled over right then and there and made camp.
The chosen spot was about eight meters from the highway but hidden by some very thick long grass.It was on that grass where I made my bed.I found that if I lay my small tarp out on the grass and rolled around on it for a little while,the grass flattened out quite nicely and formed a comfy matress for me to set my tent on.This became the standard practise for my campsites where soft ground was not available.Having the small tarp to protect my tent from underneath and the large one to protect it from above made for a very secure and dry little house.After all, I did spend a huge part of each 24hour period in there so it needed to be a comfortable as possible.The noise of the trucks however,would take a little longer to get used to.
Next day,I was off again early for the run past the small town of Proserpine which is the gateway to the famous Whitsunday Islands,one of Queenslands tourist meccas.I rode the 37k into Prosipine pretty quickly and stoped for a break at the only gas station on the highway.The heavy fog that had been around early in the day had made it a very humid ride and I was soaked by the time I sat down in the shade and had a coffee.I could tell that it was going to be a hot day and as I rolled south through endless fields of sugar cane the northerly winds blew in again and pushed me along down the highway.
That afternoon was really a bit of a chore as I soon became weary of the same sights and even more weary as a result of the ever increasing temperature.I still had trouble beliveing that we were having such a hot winter and could not get my head around the fact that it was getting hotter the further south I rode instead of cooler as is the norm.There was no fighting it though,once I rolled into some hilly terrain mid-afternoon I was toast,well almost.The last 15k of the day were hard but I had seen a sign telling me that there was a rest area ahead and so I pushed on until I finally reached the Palm Tree Creek rest area at around 4pm. I rolled in and was a bit pissed off to find that camping was not permitted there but there was no way I was moving anywhere.I had ridden 126k for the day and I was hot,tired, stinky and in no mood to pass up a night in this pretty park.So as the coffee was brewing I set about washing my clothes and hanging them up to dry in the stiff afternoon wind.
It was during that time that a met an old couple from Oregon in the U.S who pulled over in their van and started wandering around the bushes seemingly lost.I walked over and asked if I could help but they told me not too worry as they were geo-cachers looking for a cache at a hidden location in the park.WTF!!Turns out tat they spend their holidays touring the world geo-cacheing(trying to find purposely hidden objects with hand held GPS units).I can't say that it would emy idea of a fun way to see the world but then again most of what I'm doing 'aint fun most of the time.So,whatever floats your boat I okay by me.
Just as darkness was enveloping the park in rode a dude on a touring bike all kitted out like mine(minus the trailer).It was another long distance cyclist who was heading north from Sydney to Cairns.His name was Eduardo and he is a young Swiss guy who had already cycled through Europe and parts of Sth America.He told me that he once drove across Australia and promisd himself that he would ride it one day.Well he was hard at it ploughing into endless days of hot headwinds. I showed him where I had hidden my tent uner the cover of a big tree and he put his tent next to mine before we sat at the park picnic table and shared stories about each others adventures.Soon though,it was time for bed and we headed off to our respective nylon bedrooms for a well earned sleep.The next day,I was to enter what used to be called "The death stretch".


I had a pretty good sleep in the next morning and rose well after sunrise which was quite a luxury for me.I had only 40-odd kilometers to ride to Home Hill that day so I was able to let the sun dry the heavy dew off my tarp before I packed it away.It seemed that every day was started with me folding a very soggy tarp and soaking my shoes by walking through wet grass.No such worries this morning but the late start left me riding into a very stiff wind for the entire 38k to Home Hill.Now that would not normally be a problem but the road surface was heavy chip-seal with lots of potholes and very little shoulder.Add to that the wind and it was a really tough morning and one that I really didn't enjoy.

The little town of Ayr was a non-event and given that it is the home of champion golfer Karrie Webb I would have thought that there would be some kind of recognition of her in or around the town somewhere,but no.I don't really know why it was issue for me but I guess I am comparing Ayr to Mirriwinni just south of Cairns where world series triathlon champion Brad Beven is celebrated by a big sign on both side of his home town.

Once through Ayr and there was the huge bridge over the Burdekin River to negotiate.I hate bridges at the best of times but this one required me to get off the road,unhitch my trailer,carry the bike and trailer down a bunch of stairs to a metal,mesh walkway and ride on to the end some 400meters away.The problem was the workmen in the middle of the bridge who were not happy with my request that they raise the platform they were working on so I could get my bike through.After some cursing on their part they raised the platform just enough for me to squeeze under and I was on my way again.The old,rusted mesh walkway did nothing to give me any sort of confidence and I was pretty happy to have made it to the end.Thankfully,Home Hill was only about 5k past the bridge and it was a happy little Nick that reached the comfort stop in the middle of town. I parked my bike in the shelter of the huge rest area and set about having the first hot shower(or any cleansing process)of my trip.It was bliss!!!

After a quick trip to a local Cafe for some real food I was set to plug in the old laptop and start documenting my adventure.It felt great to be clean,fed and in touch with the world again.One thing I really wanted to find out about was the results of the Ultraman Canada Triathon which had been run and won during the first week of my trip.It was the first year in the history of the event that I wasn't present and I felt more than a little sad about that fact.I missed my friends in Penticton and really wished I was there but there was more than one reason that I was on this epic journey and one of them was to get myself back into the kind of shape that won me two Ultraman Canada Championships.My last two efforts were not spectacular and I had a lot of work to do to undo the damage I had done during the last few depressed years.
I sat in the rest area for about eight hours working on my blog and chatting with all the travellers who were parked in their vans nearby.It was a fun night spent mainly with a multitude of French backpackers who were in the area to help pick the local harvest.The travelling backpackers really do a world of good for our economy as they do the work that most Aussies just will not do.Sadly they are looked down upon as road scum and I really think that is not fair.Little did I know during that night of wine charged chatter that the next day I would find out just what to felt like to be cast out of a town as an undesirable.

Dring the afternoon I met up with two really,really,sweet,young and naive German girls who asked if they could plug their phones into my electrical adaptors for recharging.Or course I let them and then knew I was a soft touch when they plugged their I-Pods into my computer for recharging as well.There I was with all this crap plugged in and recharching while half a dozen people were giving me evil stares for using one of the two communal power-points available.The two girls were living out of a station wagon that they had bought and they just left all of their stuff with me and wandered around town doing whatever two young German backpacker babes do.The funny thing was that parked next to the them were an old Spanish/Australian couple,Tony and Carmella who took it upon theselves to act as surrogate parents for the two wayward Germs.It seems that the girls had left the back of the station wagon open with their handbags on full show.It was pretty funny to see Tony tell them off like an old grandad.I guess they realised just how stupid they had been and thanked me profusely for looking after all their electronic equipment.I just laughed it off but did manage to give them a stern warning of my own before they went off to bed that night

After what was a very late(11pm) night for me I went off to my little tent in the train station garden and slept long and well,emerging at around 8am the following morning.As usual it was time to brew some coffee and have a little bite to eat before logging on again to continue my contact with the real world.It was a very peacfull morning until one cranky local started giving some of the backpackers a hard time.He had his portable fridge and other assorted appliances plugged into one power point and refused to let any of the van dwelling youth plug into the spare spots on his powerboard.He was a real dick about it and when I offered to share my multi adapter with a young French couple he gave me a hard time as well.I was in no mood for this dickhead and gave him a serious piece of my mind which made him pack up all his stuff and storm off in a huff.
While the assembled cast of charcters thought that I was pretty cool for standing up for them the gods of Karma descended and hit me right between the eyes.At around 10am I was approached my an offficial from the local council and was told that camping was not allowed in that rest area and my tent would have to be pulled down.WTF!!!!Living in a car or camper was okay it seems but not in a tent.Sometimes I just don't get the world. Anyway I told him that I would take my tent down in a little while to which he told me to either rent a bed in a local motel or leave town as there were no campgrounds in Home Hill..nice!!!

I stayed and chatted to a bunch of people as they got ready for the days work in the fields and had a awesome chat with a young Asian couple(he Korean,she Japanese)about all kinds of topics before I was reminded yet again by a council worker that I could not stay the night.I got mad at him and bluntly told him that if he wanted me out of town then he could go and get the cops first and they cold escort me out,Otherwise he could just fuck-the-hell-off and watch me leave when I was good and ready.What a dick!!!!!!!

I stayed at the comfort stop until around 3pm before I headed out of town in search of a campsite and was pleasantly surprised when I came across a roadside truck parking area 27k out of town.It was perfect and I set my tent up on the only grassy area in site right next to a tree which I figured would act as a kind of barrier just in case a weary truck driver pulled in for a sleep at 1am.I really didn't fancy getting run over while I slept.So after a spot of dinner and a nice sunset I was back into my sleeping bag and ready for a long sleep and another long day on the road.I was starting to get used to this whole idea of life on the road and my sleeping bag had fast become my best friend in the world

Early morning in Cardwell,Nth Queensland