Wild Dogs, Corrugations & more Mad Cyclists
Part and parcel of being out here in the bush is getting up close and personnel with nature. It is one of the reasons we set out on this ride. However at the end of a long day when you’re dead to the world asleep the sound of a howling dingo close by can be a little unnerving for both human and pet dog. Jazz is really astounding in her responses to a lot of whats been thrown her way and this time was no different. Much like when we heard the crocodile splashing about in the creek beside us her ears pricked up and she had this rather concerned look in her eye. So we let her into the tent with us for the rest of the night. Now we have heard lots of different stories about what dingoes can do and whilst some of the stories might very well be myths we weren’t about to leave her outside to be taken in some gruesome horror movie murder scene. To her credit she never barks or makes a sound when things get weird at night except when humans come too close or other peoples pets and our guess is this dingo knew there was a domestic animal close by and was trying to confirm it by agitating Jazz into a response. Thankfully no response was forthcoming and he/she moved on rather forlornly and howling all the way off into the distance. It isn’t the first time we’ve encountered wild dogs nor will it be the last. Normally they see us and slink off into the distance to observe from afar, just how we like it. Walking up and down the road the next day this one was definitely casing the area and for the next few days we seen many dingo tracks along the sides of the road.
Our fellow campers nearby (Mark & Adrian) were as suitably impressed as we were with the howling dingo close by and it was a nice morning conversation with them. Before they left us in the morning they assured us they would enquire at Hells Gate to see what happened to our water drop. With that we all went our seperate ways. At this point we hadn’t made any concrete plans on how far we would ride as the road and how our body and minds felt would dictate those terms. Although I was keen to have a look around the old abandoned Redbank Copper mine along the way. Which when we got to it some 2 hours later was worth a little scout around. It looked as if they had just walked away from it all (which i’m sure they did). The signs all around the area indicated that it was a heavily contaminated area and judging by the fluorescent blue green water the signs weren’t lying. “Don’t drink the Water” signs were everywhere however the cows didn’t seem to mind it. So I’m not sure what that meat would be like and also we were at the top of a hill and water flows downhill into some pretty big river systems so my guess is if it’s contaminated up here it’s probably not too good at the bottom of the hill. Semantics I suppose!
Late afternoon heat can take its toll on us so we rested up under some shade by the roadside when a car pulls up to check on us. Our first thought was “yes here is our water and food” it was a false alarm. However after laying down for a sleep a car pulls up. A gentleman hops out and asks did you guys order some water? Timing couldn’t have been better. Robert and Sue from Bathurst were shining lights in a sea of dust and the little boost they gave us was awesome. Now the water was still chilled from being in the cool-room at Hells Gate, oh! how nice cold water can be. The food packages surprised us. We cheekily asked for a can of soft drink each a chocolate bar and some cake if it was possible from the good folk at Hells Gate. What we got was four cans of drink, two cherry ripes and two of the biggest pieces of cake we’d seen in a long while and as an extra gift six enormous catering size cans of baked beans. So with a little restraint we shared a piece of cake and a can of cold fizzy soft drink saving the rest for the end of the day, wherever that may be. With that little goodwill and sugar hit we were cranking those pedals over like a pair of crazed cyclists. Another couple of cars passed us by and cheered us on as we rode into the afternoon sun and encouraged us to get to Calvert River where they would all be. 20Kms doesn’t seem that far when you’re jacked up on sugar. Well let me tell you, it is. By 5pm we got to the crossing and it was steep and gnarly and we had a crowd watching us push the bikes up the hill, impressed that we got there.
We were glad to because Robert had the fire going with a bucket of water on the boil and an icy cold beer to share. So a hot shower and cold beer was had after camp was set up in the dust. By dark we were sharing space around the campfire with them enjoying a dinner of baked beans and a bit of Sue’s homemade fruit cake. The conversation was relaxed and enjoyable and much needed. And we discovered that it was Mark and Adrian who had ensured that Robert and Sue would bring our water and food out to us when they got into Hells Gate. Amazing how three groups of complete strangers can organise assistance for a couple of mad cyclists. We decided that we would not move tomorrow by bike in any direction, an impromptu rest day had been earned and it was time to listen more closely to our body and mind because if we push too hard on this road we would destroy ourselves and our gear. In the morning I took Jazz for her morning wander so she could case out the area and do her doggy business away from where we sleep. I got to talking to people because thats what I enjoy doing. And generally people are keenly interested in what we are doing and why, shit even I’m interested in what and why were doing what we do. Plus if we can sow a seed with another person to ask whats possible in their world then thats a good thing. One thing we are hearing is that people are quick to limit themselves by the simple remark “I couldn’t do what your doing” to which we respond “until now we didn’t think we could do what we’re doing either, however we are, so what else is possible” sometimes you see a light flick on, other times you get dismissed. With Brett and Mary-Ann a big light of inspiration kicked in and we spent the morning chatting and sharing stories that were remarkably familiar. By 11am we had the space to ourselves and it stayed that way all day, bliss!
A foggy morning greeted us, though by the time we hit the road the fog had lifted and the sun was shining down upon us. This was to be our slowest day of riding so far with an average speed of 7kms p/hr. Combined with an endless sea of corrugations we came across motorists who were also being hampered by this incredible idea of a road. You know it is tough when the cars are nearly going as slow as the cyclists. After a rest we came across a couple who’s car had come to a rest with both its rear wheels laying beside it. Not a good look however we pulled up to see if we could offer any assistance. Mind you they had a crowd so I figured humour was the best option so I offered to tow them. Not a single laugh was had, gotta work on my routine. We stopped by Kangaroo creek and found a camp spot and set up by 4pm. We’d covered 35kms in 6 hrs and they weren’t’t easy ones. Sleep was easy though. By morning we had agreed that we needed to change our approach to riding this road. After several cups of coffee and much procrastination we decided to stay an extra day. We were weary, physically, mentally and emotionally and if someone had of turned up with an empty ute and offered us a lift to Borroloola I reckon we would’ve accepted it, no one did show up though so we were left to contemplate how to tackle the remaining 160kms. We both have a determined attitude and turning around is never an option nor is quitting, and out here by ourselves neither option was particularly appealing so we agreed that we would ride slowly, rest more regularly and have extra rest days to allow ourselves a bit more recovery time. The water at Kangaroo creek looked so inviting and my thought was “fuck it!” If I jumped in and a croc took me at least it saved me from this wretched road that was grinding me down one pedal stroke at a time. And even after our new plan was decided upon, we knew that after Borroloola the road to Roper Bar through Limmen National Park was by all account equivalent to this one so we needed to be gentle on ourselves for another month or so.
Normally after a rest day we feel good and the morning can be a little easier on the bike, today wasn’t one of those mornings. The first dozen or so cars passed us flat out showering us with rocks and dust. Deep down I was hoping their cars snapped in two and they all died in a fiery inferno. Not nice I know however I can think whatever I want. The area we were riding in had a post apocalyptic feel about it, not sure whether that was our mindset or from the damage that a recent cyclone and bushfires had caused. Either way there was no shade, no reprieve from the road and insanely fast driving dickheads (for want of a better word) in their mechanical weapons of mass destruction showering us in crap. By the time we got to the Robinson River that afternoon, all either of us wanted was a swim. Now when you’re tired you can make some crappy decisions and our choice of camp was one of them. Due to being tired and not wanting to ride anymore we didn’t venture down to the crossing, it was a steep downward run and if we got to the bottom and there was no camp we would have to ride back up again. So we took the first track on our right and camped in a dust bowl. Plenty of firewood though due to the cyclone damage and bushfires. I wandered down to the river (500m away) to get a bucket of water for a shower. All the pandanus had blocked the access to the river, and that stuff its prickly and sharp. I had found a spot though and I was leaning against a tree dipping the bucket into the water so as not to get too close when, “SNAP” tree broke and I went face first into the river covered in mud, pandanus cuts and black soot from all the burnt debris. Quickly bounced out swearing and cussing and walked back to camp covered in shit and an empty bucket, now before I went down I really didn’t need a shower now I definitely needed a clean up both in terms of attitude and visually. This didn’t help my mood at all. Especially the next morning when we rode down to the crossing to find a gorgeous camp right on the river with nice rock pools to swim in. From now on no matter how tired we are, we get off the bikes and go for a walk around before settling on second best camp options. So a cold bath first thing in the morning was had and greatly appreciated.
Not sure whether it was the good night sleep or the cold tub in the morning however today neither of us felt as jaded as we had done over the last week. The road improved slightly or we had adapted better. Our resting every hour may have helped and the traffic was slightly less and more considerate towards us so by the time we reached the Foelshe river, we weren’t as knackered as previous days. The refreshing swim and chats to a few locals helped as well, apart from the two young rednecks cruising down shooting their gun off at everything and scaring the crap out of Jazz it was a nice stop. I would’ve loved to jam his gun right up his arse though. Also we were only 60kms from Borroloola now so we figured 3 more days was all we needed to get there for what will be an extended stay to repair and replace what we had lost/damaged. The Wearyan River was only 16kms away so we decided to take it easy and only ride that far tomorrow. Spent the evening staring into the fire and the gorgeous moonless night sky, Bliss!
Mad cyclists! They are everywhere and they turn up in the strangest of places. Whilst we were wandering around the Wearyan River scouting out camp spots two cyclists appeared from behind us. Will and Henry both travelling separately had joined up at Hells Gate and tackled the road together and thankfully had a similar experience to us. Which is comforting because sometimes you question whether what your’e experiencing is true or just drama created in your head. Will’s bike was buggered, front wheel bearings had collapsed and his rack mounts were broken. The fact he’d got this far was astounding. We helped patch up his rack although there was nothing we could do for his wheel. We shared stories and discovered Will had been hearing about us for about a month and was looking forward to catching up with us. We had also heard of Will while we were at Lawn Hill from a crazy lady in a canoe who somehow recognised us as the 2 cyclists she passed whilst we were paddling along the river. Being a Friday these guys needed to get to Borroloola today to order new parts as this neck of the woods is notoriously hard to get stuff delivered in a timely manner (as we would soon enough discover). So after a 3 hour chat we bid them farewell and set up our camp. We knew we would have plenty of time in Borroloola to catch up. So we spent the day watching traffic cross the river and boy there’s some weird shit that goes on at river crossings. One instance that still shocks me was the back packer with his funky Toyota van. Upon reaching the crossing he walked it and moved some rocks around, smart move I thought. Then I heard his car drive away and I thought thats strange he must’ve changed his mind. So I stood up to see what was happening and before I could scream out “NO DON’T DO THAT” he’d spun the car round and gunned it flat out into the river from a hundred metre run up. The car smashed and bounced its way across the river and crawled out the other side. I was expected to have to go down and pick up the pieces of car and human that fell off however it wasn’t to be, and he drove off into the setting sun like it was normal. On a side note Shell was blown away by how the locals drive SS Commodore Utes through knee deep river crossings, gently and slowly definitely not adopting the backpacker way.
We awoke the next morning to the sound of a grader on the road. It was like an apparition that appeared out of the dawn light and brought a rise in positivity. A graded road is a joy to ride on and we quickly packed up and hit that smooth road. After 5 kms we came across the other grader and chatted to the operator and was informed that for the next 50kms into Borroloola it was all graded, sweet! Borroloola here we come, so it was decided we’d make a push for town today. Now a graded road sounds amazing and it is when all the little lumps are flattened out and it’s hard and smooth although it doesn’t make much difference to bull dust or sandy roads, yep it is flat although it’s soft. We spent the day alternating between riding the hard bits and pushing through lots of soft stuff. The advantage was two cyclists had passed through the day before so we followed their tracks when hard and avoided the bits where we could see footprints beside tyre tracks. It was still a hard day coupled with a light splattering of rain we staggered into Borroloola Caravan Park by 5pm. We figured we could find a hotel for a counter meal or a restaurant or something as we didn’t want to cook. Nope nothing here, hotel closed and now a supermarket and the only restaurant in town is closed on weekends so it was servo bain-marie meal which was pretty bloody sad, on top of that you can’t buy beer in town on weekends. So with that we set up camp chatted to Will and Henry who were enjoying a relax and trotted off to bed. Safe in the knowledge that we had overcome some fairly tough days in the saddle, gotten to know ourselves a little deeper and discovered that anything is truely possible even when the going gets super tough and uncomfortable. You don’t grow better as a human by being comfortable. To forge steel you need a hot fire and big hammer and I feel thats what we had been through in the 12 days from Hells Gate to Borroloola and we wouldn’t have it any other way. Again “what else is possible”.