• arealityfewsea

Redefining our Success

Updated: Oct 25, 2019

What more can be said about the stunning sunsets in the NT
Dusty skies on sunset at Mt Price rest area

We didn’t want to define the success or failure of this journey on whether we rode all the way to Darwin or crossed an invisible finish line. We define our success and failures by the experiences along the way and this journey is far from finished. “If at first you don’t succeed, redefine success” is a quote we heard from Podcaster and Author Chris Ryan as is “If you’re scared to die you had better not be scared to live” a lyric from a song by the band the Eels and they would have to be the two main motivating factors in our life. In order to live a fulfilling life you must not be scared to die. We humans have an irrational fear of the finality of death. It is the last unknown journey we undertake although, where and what were you doing before you were born? The same can be said about success and failure, it to is viewed as a life or death decision yet it needn’t be. I believe there is an irrational fear of failure. What if we make the wrong choice and we fail? What if we make a choice and it turns out bad? What if we make a choice and succeed? What if it turns out great, better than expected? So generally what we do is freeze and make no choice at all and bumble along wishing that life could or would be different. Well I hate to break it to you, making no choice is still making a choice. That choice means you’re happy with the status quo. And that is where I found myself over the next 4 days riding towards Mataranka. Whilst pedalling along on the bike all these scenarios played out in my head, and all of them until they manifest into the now are an illusion. What does it mean to fail? And what does it mean to succeed? And by what matrix are either of these measured and to whom does it matter? Who would’ve thought so many things could run through your mind whilst riding along on a bike? So many questions some with no answers others complex and taking a lifetime to figure out.

Roper Highway creek crossing
Beyond that range lies the Bitumen

We left Roper Bar campground knowing today would be the last dirt we would see for an indeterminate time. Rough calculations had the bitumen 40kms, today would be the end of an era for us both. Although dirt roads on a bike are hard work they also mean less traffic which means less to contend with. You can also hear traffic a lot further away on dirt than bitumen so you can prepare for the moment the vehicle gets to you. It also means more people stop for a chat because they are travelling slower and also because they generally can’t believe they came across a couple of cyclists on the dirt road they can’t believe they are driving on. Although at this point we will both be glad to be off the dirt road, our butts will also enjoy the smooth reprieve the bitumen offers. Being a Friday there appeared to be plenty of traffic going in both directions today so we spent a far amount of time getting off the road and out of the way, we did get plenty of waves and encouragement from most of the locals along with plenty of big grinning smiles. The country was flat with the odd rocky outcrop and picturesque vista. About 5kms from the bitumen a couple of vehicles from Queensland pulled up for a chat and offered us a cold drink. Water or Coke was the question. Well it was our first offering of Coke in 130 days so we accepted the fizzy stuff. As we were chatting away I sipped on the cold drink and thought to myself “this tastes weird”, the driver who offered us the drink reckon we could do with some sugar to keep us going. After they left and we started on our way I looked at the can I had sculled and realised it was the sugar free version, feeling a tad ripped off, as I really wanted the sugar hit he had offered. It went along way to explaining the weird taste.

Just glorious colours in this country
Rocky outcrops and undulating corrugations a cyclists dream ride.

By late afternoon we had finally crossed off the red dirt line and onto the black top and within 100m we pulled up under the shade of a roadside stop. A huge feeling of relief swept over us and we both laid out flat on the big concrete table, no more corrugations, dust or sore arms. Whilst we lay there chatting about the day I calculated that in the last 2 months we had ridden roughly 800kms of solid dirt road and at this point, that was enough. From here on in it was faster, smoother riding for a while. For Shell that would be all the way to Mataranka and for me, well I was still considering my options. Let’s see what the next few days brings with it, one thing was certain in the time since we left Borroloola 15days ago the heat had ratcheted up a few degrees and by 1pm it was too hot to be out in the sun for any length of time. Even the flies knew to keep out of the hot afternoon sun, actually the flies and the mozzies had all but vanished which made sleeping with the tent flap open easier and cooler. We waited till sunset to set up the tent by which time some of the heat had evaporated out of the air, when a family set up camp beside us for the night. They invited us to sit by their campfire however we declined the offer all we wanted was sleep. It came quick and easily didn’t hear anything till the kookaburras made their early morning call about an hour before sunrise.

Roper Highway rest areas are quality spots
Standard facilities at the roadside rest areas. Hard ground, full water tank and shade

On rising to the glorious birdsong, we quickly packed up and looked forward to a fun days ride on the bitumen. The air was cool and we were motoring along and had covered 30kms by 9am. It felt good to be able to cover larger distances with relative ease. Although the riding was indeed easier my mind was still working through whether to continue riding all the way to Darwin. Still all these nagging little issues were chewing away at my psyche. Again I was left to ask myself a whole raft of questions, had I achieved all that I set out to do? And most importantly was I being honest enough with myself? We can delude ourselves into believing anything and I wanted to be sure that by ending this part of our journey in Mataranka that I was honouring my intentions of what I’d set out before I left Cairns.

Hindsight is a wonderful tool, although we only get to use it when we can look backwards from where we are. I didn’t want the riding to end as it is a very liberating feeling to not have to be anywhere or be committed to doing anything for anybody else except for yourself. And after 5 months of living a simple life that we had only dreamed to be possible here we were actually living it and that was the bit I didn’t want or desire to give up. My fear of being stuck in a life of mundane working for someone else other than myself had driven me to ride off with Shell into an unknown place that most people we encountered along the way feared to do. And yet 5 months and 3400kms later here we were contemplating the end still standing, strongly and proudly of what we had done. With all that, it was hard to stop doing what felt good. Mind you by 2pm the sun was cooking us and we stopped at another roadside stop with shelter, a table and a big water tank. With 65kms behind us we again laid out flat on the concrete table and had a lovely cold shower. Donkeys and dingoes kept us company overnight both making their strange noises in the dark of night off in the distance.

Roper Highway truck stop at the top of a long downhill run
This was a cranking downhill the top speed was 45km/hr

Again the alarm clock of the kookaburra woke us from our slumber. Another cool morning which was handy as we had a range to climb first thing. So in that fresh damp morning air we climbed over the top and zoomed down the other side. Shell was flying along and I couldn’t keep up even though I clocked a 45km downhill there was no catching her, whilst Jazz was looking out the back of her trailer at me with this terrified look in her eyes Shell was having a blast yelling and hollering all the way to the bottom. Traffic had picked up as we drew closer to town and as the sun rose higher in the sky it got hotter earlier, by 1pm we stopped again at a roadside stop and again laid out flat on the concrete table. The country for the last two days had been pretty much blackened by bushfires, actually come to think of it most of the land from the border to here was blackened by bushfire. So it added an element of barrenness to what was already a hot and uninviting landscape. It was with that backdrop that I decided that tomorrow would be the end for me to. Continuing onto Darwin by bike at this late stage of the dry isn’t the wisest of choices. The heat was the new battle as the dirt road was previously, maybe the heat was always there and dealing with the dirt had taken my mind away from it, either way I had come to the realisation that I had achieved, actually no we had surpassed all that we set out to do and ending this leg of our journey now was the wise choice. This was to be a pause until the end of the wet season that we agreed we would do when we got to the Territory and now is the time. So that afternoon we laid out on that big concrete table and listened to a few podcasts and some music and really revelled in our last night out in the bush till next year, away from people and towns just the three of us. Tomorrow we will roll into Mataranka by early morning in time for a coffee, something we haven’t had for roughly 20days and a nice dip in the thermal pools of Bitter Springs, what a way to finish.

Another early start and with only 40kms to go I felt we could be sipping espresso coffee at the cafe in town by 10am. It is funny how everytime I imagine what amazing things we can get and by what time it all backfires to ensure that we slow down and enjoy the moment, not race ahead and miss it all. As was the case this morning, traffic was heavy so we spent a lot of time off the road as it was only a narrow single lane chunk of bitumen that the NT call a highway and then 10kms from town Shell is yelling out for me to stop. I’m like no way sister there’s coffee and thermal springs close by, however she wasn’t riding anywhere. Our very first flat tyre, un-fucking-believable!! 10kms from the end on a bitumen road and Shell gets a flat, turns out the tube split on the seam. So pull over and instead of mending the split we threw our spare tube in and off we went, through a whole strip of double gee’s or as they are called in Queensland three corner jacks. Bloody hell, thankfully no more flats but we did spent 30mins pulling all the prickles out of the tyres.

Stuart Highway near Mataranka
The wide shoulders perfect for a cyclist.....NOT!! It"s a long way to Darwin town still.

The Stuart Highway. There is no way into Darwin from the south without traversing this horrifying strip of road and all its associated traffic. At least it was only 7kms of it although within 3kms we had both nearly been taken out by caravans and fools who don’t know how to slow down and give way to cyclists. It was at this point that both of us peddled like madmen to get off this road and also the exact moment that cemented my decision not to continue riding beyond Mataranka. It was a long way to Darwin on this road and early indications weren’t that promising. I hadn’t ridden this far to be killed by some dipshit towing a caravan or driving a car who doesn’t comprehend that giving a little bit of space and time to the most vulnerable and exposed road user won’t kill them but it may kill the cyclist. It was at this point that the “Roadtrippers” song “Stuart Highway Upside Down” started to reverberate through my head and before we knew it we had pulled up outside the cafe in town that to our horror had a great big sign up saying “Closed till next Year”. Bloody hell who does that shit? Turns out the roadhouse did a pretty mean coffee and breakfast so we enjoyed a break from the mayhem that is the Stuart Highway.

Bitter Springs Mataranka NT
Pandanus lined Bitter Springs

We topped up some food and refreshments from the supermarket and the rode the 4kms out to Bitter Springs caravan park. Best bit about this little van park was it was only a 500m walk to the springs. So with that we set up camp in the shade and also the biggest campsite we could find, grabbed our pool noodles and walked to the springs. To say they were underwhelming would be an understatement. After some of the amazing places we have swam in over the last 5 months this wasn’t the best and it also had heaps of people floating around too. Once in the water though it was truly amazing. Without doubt the clearest water we have ever swam in, nice and warm too. It was very relaxing floating down stream with the gentle current. Before we could float away though we met a motorcyclist who also happened to do some bicycle touring as well so we sat and chatted about the world of travelling by bike, both types for about an hour or two and by the time we had floated to the exit we were both wrinkled from a good soaking. And with that it was all over. Our long adventure by bicycle was at a temporary pause in Mataranka. Within two days my good friend Dukey had arrived to collect us and our gear and return to his place at Darwin River. It is here we will camp for a period of time until we figure out our next move and what direction it may take. Rest assured there will still be plenty of cycling and touring around to view the sights of the Darwin region and the Top End.

Little Roper river at Bitter Springs Mataranka NT
Cooling down in the crystal clear waters of Bitter Springs

Life is a journey and as such we will continue to focus on the journey not the destination, joy is found not in finishing an activity but in doing it! And so much Joy has been had and more will definitely be had. Which brings us back to the question. How do you define success or failure? If success or failure hinges on you arriving at a destination. Then I feel you may have missed the point of the journey. I personally believe that in being goal orientated you may miss the journey and that’s where the true success lies not over the finish line. The only finish line we cross is the one of physical death. So you’d better not be afraid to live before you reach that destination. There are things that both of us aspire to over the wet season and in 2020 in the top end. So now we get to pursue those things. There are places we wish to visit and many a back road that requires us to explore them. Definitely stay tuned as we will continue to write about what we are up to and what we are witnessing as this journey has no destination our joy is in participating and always asking “What else is Possible?”

Last bit
Gear loaded up with the Dukestar for the final leg to Darwin

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