Saturday, October 10, 2009


It was really great to wake up the next morning to a dry tent and dry ground.The cold morning air I could have done without but I knew that it wouldn't take too long to warm up once I was underway again.Well, that was the theory anyway.Once packed up and on the road it was bloody freezing and I didn't need any encouragement to pull into the first big truckstop that I saw after only 15k of riding.I wanted real food ,hot coffee and a warm place to sit in for a while and hat truckstop was just the ticket.I wanted to stall for a while anyway as I needed to get to a grocery store to buysome supplies for the isolated stretch that I would soon be facing on the ride to Hay some 260k away. Once inside the truckstop I soon got to chatting to a nice family from Queensland who were also really feeling the cold as they drove through to South Australia to visit relatives.They were pretty interested in my trip and it was while I was chatting to them that I realised just what was different about this part of my trip and what was bugging me so much.I had mentioned to these people that I had found riding through Queensland much more friendly and fun than the last few days(if you take the weather out of the equation) and the main reason I came up with was that in Queensland the rest areas allow overnight camping and caravan stays while in New South Wales that was not an option.That meant that the sort of chance meetings with fellow travellers I'd had during the first month of my trip were not likely to happen again until the Nullabor Plain about three weeks ride away.So unless I really made the effort to talk to random people or hooked up with a fellow cyclist then I was to be really doing it solo for the next little while.As I am quite a social creature I didn't like the thought of that.I spent way too much time hanging out in that truckstop but I really enjoyed it but when I looked at a clock on the wall and realised that the state had changed to daylight saving time it dawned on my that I was actually two hours behind my schedule for the day.I said my goodbyes to the staff at the truckstop and rode on into West Wyalong to a grocery store and bought some supplies for the next three days.The road broke up a little on that stretch of highway and it made for a rough ride but it was still great compared to Nth Queensland so I wasn't going to complain too much.I was too busy complaining to the cows on the side of the road about the damn cold wind.I had to ride the whole damn day in three layers of clothing just to keep warm.It sucked but I made pretty good time on a pretty uneventful day.At around 78k into the day I rode into the little town of Weethalle which pretty much consisted of a pub,a cop station,an info hut and few houses and a little old gas station.I needed to fill up all my water bottles for the night so I pulled into the gas station and a minute or so later was sitting in front of a nice hot coffee chatting to the four travellers sitting in the restaurant as the owners fussed about telling all kinds of stories about the other cyclist who had ridden through tow over the years.They even had a table with a bunch of framed photographs of a few of the riders who had sent pictures back to them after their trip had finished.One guy caught my attention as he had apparently ridden a recumbent solo and unsupported 4,000k from Perth to Bondi Beach in Sydney in a little over 11 days.WTF!!!!!That is some seriously super speedy cycling and sure made me feel like a slowpoke.I sat around chatting for a while enjoying the two free slices of chocolate cake that the owners gave me.It was awesome and just what I needed to fuel me up for the last 28k of the day that I needed to cover to make up my 100k daily total.

The last hour and a half of riding was done into a ever-increasing headwind which reduced me to crawling speed.Thankfully it was warming up a little bit and the sky looked clear so I was looking foward to another dry night ahead as I turned off the higway at the 100k mark and looked for a suitable camping spot.I had just passed a huge grain silo and figured that there might be some shelter out of the wind close to the collection of buildings surround it.I turned off and rode around to the back of the silo complex and into the scrub behind.I was right in that there was lots of shelter but once I took off my shoes and started to walk around setting up camp I realised that I'd made a huge mistake.My socks soon became encrusted with small thorns and my feet were experiencing some kind of natural acupuncture session.I didn't mind the pain of the thorns in my feet so much,it was the thought of just how many thorns had stuck into my tyres just waiting to puncutre my tubes.I was so pissed off at myself as I quickly packed up my gear again and rode another kilometer or so down the highway looking for a more suitable camping spot.

I found a nice sheltered spot down a dirt track off the highway.It was a nice,thorn free flat spot sheltered behind a stand of small pine trees and I quickly set about making camp for the night.Once the tent was up and the water heating on the stove I tended to the countless thorns that were still stuck in the soles of my feet.I was too impatient to pick them out one by one with tweezers so I just opened the blade of my pocket-knife and scraped the crap out of my feet until all the offening needles were removed.The tyres on my bike and trailer semmed to have survived intact and so I as able to breathe easy and enjoy my dinner without the worry of flat tyres to ruin what was a pretty good day on the road.That evening I was treated to a clear sky and a beautiful sunset which turned the ground and sky all around me into a bright purple haze,something I would see a lot of while I was riding over the rich,rust coloured dirt that this part of Australia is famous for.The cold night wasn't such a treat but it could have been worse,the ants nest I had camped near could have housed some really nasty little critters but instead the scary looking,inch long ants left me alone and were not the slightest bit interested in my tent.Thank god for small mercies.The next morning was just plain bloody freezing and the nine kilometer ride into Rankine Springs was not a great way to start the day.I passed the only truck stop in town just wishing like hell for a hot coffee but after the memories of dicking around for too long in Wyalong came back to me I forced myself to ride on without a break(like I needed one after 9k-lazy bastard).My legs did feel like absolute shit though and turning into the wind after riding through town just made things worse as I crawled out of town.
I had been told that the hills were behind me once I left Cowra but the stupidly steep hill I hit about 5k out of Rankine Springs just really got me pissed of at all those well meaning motorists who keep teeling me that there are no more hills to ride.Just goes to show,what is flat in a car is not so flat on a flamin bike.Anyway,enough ranting because as soon as I climbed the 2-3k pitch to the top of the pass there was a huge downhill that saw me coasting happily(although frigidly)into the next valley.The long descent gave me the chance to eat and drink and shortly afterward my legs started to come good and I was making great time riding up and over the countless rolling hills that seemed forever to have me facing skyward.As the morning progressed the road straightened and the wind picked up leaving me in a struggle to stay on the grey strip of asphalt that stretched on in front of me as far as the eye could see. The road had narrowed and it was a mental battle against the cold,the wind and the trucks who were trying their best to give me a wide berth.I even had a friendly local cop stop and ask if everything was going okay for me as he was concerned about the danger of riding on such a windy day on that narrow road.I was fine and told him I'd be stopping for lunch at Goolgowi another 20k further up the road and then gave him an estimate of where I'd be stopping for the night.He said he'd keep an eye out for me to make sure I was okay later in the day(now that's what policing should be all about).
I made it to my lunch stop and as soon as I pulled over at the truck stop I started to get really cold.The wind was just tearing at my sweat soaked clothes and I made a bee-line for the shelter of the cafe area to the side of the building.After stripping off two layers of clothing and draping everything over my bike in the sun to dry I went in and got myself some real food for an early lunch.I then sat myself down against a low brick wall out of the wind but in the sun so i could warm up and dry off.The chicken burger,curry pie and half liter of chocolate milk seemed like a good idea at the time but soon after continuing my ride after an hours rest my stomache started protesting about having to deal with digesting all that food while I was pushing hard into the wind.I lasted about 5k before having to pull over and lie dow until some of my lunch was properly digested.After a nice little nap on the side of the road I was off again thinking that I would be able to get to within 60k of Hay that evening but the wind and my legs had other ideas.I pushed hard into the wind for another 20k when suddenly all the trees vanished and there was nothing but a whole lot of nothing surrounding me.I had hit the Hay Plain.I had been warned about the plains on either side of Hay and one guy even told me that the winds here could be worse than those on the Nullabor Plain.I didn't believe him until that moment when what I though was already a strong wind turned ferocious and pretty much stopped me in my tracks.It just so happened that as I rounded the curve in the road that is the start of the Hay Plain I came across a large silver building that looked like a barn.There was a four-way intersection and what looked like a church way off in the distance.I had found the dead town of Dunbar,78k out of Hay.I rolled off the road and decided to hide behind the big barn for a while and summon the coage to fight the wind for another hour or so.That plan was immediately thrown out when I found that the barn was in fact the restored Dunbar Town Hall and it was open.

I slid back the latch and opened the large double dorrs to find a big old hall with an elevated stage at the far end and another long room to the left.The place was dirty,dusty,full of cobwebs but most importantly it was warm!That was enough for me,I was going to camp inside for the night.The thought of a night out of the wind and cold and secure to boot was just too much to pass up so I just rolled my whole rig inside and set up camp right there on the floor of thr main room.My first night out of the wind in five days,awesome!!!I took my small tarp and laid it out on the floor on top of which I set up my tent.No need for a fly or the other tarp for protection tonight and best of all no chance of being rained on.After putting the water on to boil I stripped of and hung all my clothes out to dry and did a little investigating.I had seen how much of a footprint I was leaving in the dusty floor and so I checked out the rest of the building to see if there was any sign of recent life and there was none.No human footprints and at all but better yet no animal tracks meaning there was little chance I would have any visitors that evening,human or otherwise.I had only ridden 95k that day but I didn't care I was a happy boy and once the coffee was hot I got dressed and went for a stroll around the "town".

That walk took all of about ten minutes as all ther was too look at was the building I had claimed for the night and the ruins of the old Dunbar pub.The church in the distance was too far away for me to walk to but it was nice to be walking around in the middle of nowhere wondering what life must have been like back in the day when this place meant something to the small population who used to call it home.According to the tourist signs outside the hall they still have a traditional Christmas gathering there for people in the district each year. I wonder where the hell they woud all come from? The rest of the evening was spent taking some pictures and watching the sun set through the dirty windows of the hall while listening to the wind howl through the various cracks in the doors and walls of the building.I hoped that the place wasn't haunted I mean, I really had been wishing for some company over the previous few days,not that kind of company though.


The next morning I was up before sunrise to check on the weather and it was still windy,still really cold but at least the damn rain had gone away.I figured that I'd go back to sleep for a hour or so and let my stuff dry out a bit in the win.At 6:30am I took down my tarp and let the wind blow through my tent to dry up the moisture inside the tent created by my breath during the night.While that was going on I brewed coffee and prepared to head out into the raging tailwind that had turned in my favour.

At about 7:30am I was on the road and heading toward Cowra riding through more rolling hills that seemed to me to be tilting slightly ever downward.I wasn't quite sure what was going on as there seemed to be lots of uphills to be conquered but each downhill just got longer and steeper until I found myself coasting for long sections at a time.Before too long I saw,stretched out in front of me a green valley whch I hoped was a sign that I had finally reached the end of the constant hills I had fought for the previous couple of days.It wasn't long after I reached the bottom of a very long descent that I started to see the teltale signs that I was close to town.The good old roadside advertising bilboards.One of then told me that Maccas wasn't far away and as was just about moring coffee time I was dead keen to get there. Twenty minutes later I rolled straight through the center of Cowra and over the bridge on the other side of town to the large carpark under the big yellow M.

As I was taking my helmet off a group of people were leaving Maccas and they came over to look at my bike.They turned out to be avid cycle tourists who rode most of the big organised charity tours around Australia.They were really interested in my trip and my gear so I chatted with them for a little while before heading inside for a coffee and a sit down.It was nice to meet some people who were genuinely interested in my trip and knew what it was all about to be out on the road for days.The weather had made me more that a little sad and downhearted about what was doing and they had cheered me up a bit. I stayed in Cowra for about an hour before mounting the bike for the afternoon session.The morning ride had seen me cover 58k and as the next town of Grenfell was another 50k away I figured that I'd ride until just before town and chalk up an even 100k for the day.

The road flattened out for most of the afternoon with one small range to ride over but the change of wind direction made sure I wasn't going to have an easy time of it.About two and a half hours later my legs were fried and after logging exactly 100k I pulled off to the side of the road and found a really nice place to camp on a grassy patch by a farmers fenceline about 200meters from the highway.I set up my tent and while the water was heating over the stove I got stuck into my dry-land swim training as well as some resistance training with my swim bands.They work pretty well and are definately better than nothing.We will see in December I guess. Just before sunset the rain came again and I was foced indoors for another cold damp night.I will say that I had yet to get wet from the rain itself inside my tent but the humidity was a pain in the ass and the cold was really statring to piss me off.Still I quite liked the time I spent each night in my sleeping bag.I'm pretty lazy really and sleeping is something I love to do.

The next morning was cold as usual and I was starting to think that sping was never going to arrive this year.I got my shit together and was on the road pretty quickly which is something quite unusual for me.I didn't take long to ride into Grenfell and as I rode in I saw a huge billborad that told me this was the birthplace of one of Australias legendary poets,Henry Lawson.I hadn't known that and it was pretty cool to be riding through this historic little town.I stopped at a gas staion to fill up my water bottles and have my usual breakfast which consists of a mixture of rolled oats,weetbix,mixed nuts,dried fruit,Nestle choc powder and brewers sugar(maltodextrin and dextrose) with a drizzle of honey over the top.

After a short look around town I headed out on the highway again toward the next major town of West Wyalong.The ride that day was pretty easy and I had covered 57k by 10 am along the boring flat isolated highway.It was at that point when I started to see the effect that the prolonged drought has had on Australias farming towns.I rode into the the tiny town of Caragabal to find pretty much every store in the place empty and boarded up.I think that the only places open were the store,the pub and the police station.It was very sad to see but a sight I would soon get used to.I sat and had some lunch and a coffee hiding out of the cold wind in a shelter at the edge of the local playground.There was a local couple playing with their kids there when I arrived but it didn't take long for them to pack up and leave once their son became interested in my bike.I was really beginning to get sick of being the guy that everyone seems to worry about.I mean really, does everyone have to be suspicious of me just because I'm on the road by myself?Fuck me,what has happened to the world?

Another 30k or so riding along a featureless highway I hit the T-junction of the Mid-Western Higway (which I was on) and the Newell Highway which came in frm Forbes in the north.I turned sout-west and dead straight into the same wind that had been at my left shoulder all morning.God almighty what a pain in the ass to suddenly go from getting the job done to struggling to turn over evry pedal stroke.I stared at my speedo and was flat out determined to hit 100k that day.It was still pretty early and I knew I was approaching West Wyalong and so when I hit the 100k mark I immediately started looking for a campsite.Luckily for me there was a state forest lining on side of the highway and at 102k I found a dirt road which I followed into the wood to a really great camping area in a think stand of pine trees.It was perfect,out of the wind and in the sun where I could actually get warm.Woo hoo!

After hanging pretty much everthing I had in the trees to dry I went for an hour long run in the forest trails followed by my swim band session in the sun.It was great to be warm again and hanging in this beautiful forest but still I felt that something was missing.I guess the isolation was starting to get to me here on the road after spending the two weeks in the company of my parents.It had been good to be able to have conversations with my dad and hang out with him and his pub mates at the "local" on Friday nights.I guess I just missed having friends around and was hoping that the trade off for all this isolation would be increased interest in Athletes in Kind and from the Nth American triathlon community in my ride.I was beginning to think that I would set a deadline for commitment to crossing the Nullabor Plain.If there was no more interest by Mildura another 600k away then I would reconsider the rest of my trip.I didn't want this trip to turn out to be a chore.I wanted to achieve something positive for Athletes in Kind and if I failed to attract interest this year like I had done in the last two attempts then I would bail.The ride across Australia is just a vehicle to attract interest to my fundraising,I really didn't want to spend my "holiday" alone and in the middle of nowhere.Most of my life is spent alone, then again what the hell else is there to do?If nothing else I'll get fit as a fiddle.

Early morning in Cardwell,Nth Queensland