Day 11 - Tuesday, 13th May 2008 - Kulgera to Mount Ebenezer
For last nights dinner, I had a really nice chicken stir fry, despite staying at the stereo typical truck stops, some have done some stellar meals. Today was a shorter day, if you can call 130km short, and after joining it in Port Augusta, we finally turn off the Stuart Highway and heard towards Uluru on the Lasseter Highway. This morning, I found that my front tyre had gone flat overnight, but I was unable to find anything in the tyre, or the hole in the tube. I suspect that I have a pinhole leak in the tube which will only reveal itself with a bucket of water.
Breakfast was cooked again, and there was quite a good selection including steaks. Phil wanted to take a picture out the front of the Pub so he could send it to them. They had other pictures on their wall of other groups who had stopped there. In the end, only a few riders managed to turn out as most were getting ready to depart. I wanted to do some solo riding this morning and as a result I was the last to leave. Rob hung back as well and he set off, he had two choices on which way to turn, and the sign to the Stuart Highway must have been a bit obvious. Despite some people yelling at him, he wanted to persist and in the end I quickly chased him down, it was either that or let him ride to Finke.
I set off on the route, and Rob was sitting behind me. At first I had thought that today was going to be as cold as yesterday, but my fears were ungrounded, so I set off with no cold weather gear on. The day was starting off pretty fantastic, no wind and a really nice temperature. Despite my limited gearing I was putting on a good pace and Rob was holding my wheel easily. The terrain initially started off as we left it the previous afternoon, but as has been the case on so much of this ride it changed fairly soon. The road condition varied between quite good and quite average, but still pretty rideable. It didn't take too long before Rob and I caught up to the tail markers and we pressed on, not far up the road we passed the lead bunch and Graeme jumped on the back of Rob's wheel. Graeme asked if we were doing set turns to which I gave a negative, he then asked if I wanted a break, to which I also gave a negative. The first break was at about 35km or so, and in the end I spent most of that on the front.
I saw my first Western Red Kangaroo today, but it was as roadkill, so I am not sure that counts, today again we saw a few Wedgies, but I am still hoping to get a good picture of one. In the end, we pulled into our first snack a bit before 9am, well ahead of the bunch. Graeme started a timer to see how long the next bunch was behind us, and it turned out to be about 4:30. Because we were ahead of schedule, Phil was happy for us to take our time and when the groups pulled out Rob and I were again the last to leave. I didn't have as large a gap to close this time and I soon passed Pack 4. There were a few short climbs this morning and on cresting them they presented some great vistas of the country to the North. On approaching the lead bunch I knew I was approaching my limit, so instead of passing them I simply tagged on. My initial plan was to recover and press on, but I simply stayed with them to Morning Tea. Andrew was staying on the front, and as I moved up the line I got beside him and I stayed there as well.
By this stage we could see some mountain ranges to the North West, I speculated that it may be Mount Ebenezer, as it was in the right sort of area. In either case, we first had to reach Erldunda for Morning Tea. I was pretty sure that Erldunda was about 200km from Alice Springs, so as we passed the distance markers to Alice, it was easy to work out the distance to Morning Tea. Andrew thought that it was further, but I was about right. About 15km shy, David forged out solo, and despite the urging from Andrew, I held my pace and let him go, surprisingly, so did Pat and Graeme. By this stage, the usual North East wind had picked up and it was just enough to annoy us.
At one point there was some roadkill right in the middle of the road and the bunch had to split to go around it. Andrew showed that he passed anatomy 101 and correctly identified Bronny as a Girl, while I quipped that the roo wouldn't have the guts to do that again. We ended up making Morning Tea slightly ahead of schedule and so we had to wait for it. Sam had pulled in with us and that threw Phil initially as Sam is usually more towards the back of the pack.
I found a seed pod at Erldunda and when Jane came in she identified it as a Desert Oak, which is native to this area and further north. Morning Tea was a quiche, which while unusual was very enjoyable. I rolled out at about the same time as Rob, but he took the scenic route to the Lasseter Highway, while I took the direct route. I stopped to take a picture and that allowed Rob to get in front. The first thing I noticed about the Lasseter Highway was that it was narrower and not in as good condition. Because we had turned to the West, our wind was slightly at our backs, so initially it was beneficial, but not always so. When I caught up to Rob, I flew past him and he wasn't able to grab my wheel, he gave chase but was unable to close the gap. I caught up to Andrew and the group he was leading, David Pat and Graeme weren't in evidence, I could just see them ahead, and so I kept on riding.
The road was a series of rolling hills and the traffic was heavier, mainly cars, cars with caravans and camper vans, but trucks were still in evidence. The country side had also changed and we ere finally seeing a lot more of the red soil that is so well known of this part of the country, the red of soil with some of the greenery made for some fantastic sights. Sometimes we were riding over flood ways and unlike the Stuart Highway, where we were crossing rivers, these were just lower areas of the country side.
We only had 56km between Morning Tea and Mt Ebenezer but after about 40km the pace from this morning was starting to take it's toll, further, the wind which was supposed to be behind us was back on my right shoulder at time, and it was causing me to slow down. Luckily, I had grabbed a banana at Morning Tea, and I gratefully ate it. Whether it made a physical difference is irrelevant as I did feel a lot better afterwards. I finally passed a 10km to go sign, and from about 5km out I could see some vegetation that was out of place, so I knew I was nearly there.
I finally rolled in at 12:30pm, pretty much broken. I got my room key as well as a flavoured milk and I started my post ride recovery. Lunch was served promptly at 1pm which caught everyone by surprise, I had grabbed a shower by this time and so I was a bit more civilised that those who had just rolled in. Lunch was a meat pie, chips and salad, not ideal but we were all hungry enough that any food was good.
Alan (non American) is my room mate for the night and we were discussing our options for seeing Uluru as well as the dinner for tomorrow night, strangely the conversation never seemed to get to the bike ride of 192km required to get there. I had a wander through the Art Gallery here to see what was on offer. Mt Ebenezer is an Aboriginal owned truck stop and the Art Gallery contains Native Australian Art. Most of the works are produced by the local community and they had a range of products including lots of paintings. I wasn't tempted but I did find a T-Shirt that I liked. As Graeme said, we would probably be paying 2 to 3 times the price at Uluru.
Out of curiosity, I had a look at the price of fuel, Diesel remained at $1.98/L, but unleaded had risen to match it. Also of note was the sign asking for staff, above Award Wages, with Free Board and Lodging, currently, a German Couple, Alex and Thomas are making use of the arrangement for a month, they were returning from Uluru, were a bit short of money and saw it as an ideal opportunity. After Afternoon Tea, Phil organised a game of cricket, but just before it started Pat grabbed me to try and help him to reset Fiona's bike computer. I can't seem to get away from Computer Support even away from work.
The cricket game was a hoot, it was played in a real dusty environment on an uncertain wicket, as is often the case with these sort of games the rules for getting out were being made up as they went along. On getting back to my room, I found that my rear tyre was flat. After some cursing I managed to get the tyre off and I found that it had been a pinch flat, probably caused by a cattle grid near the end of today's ride. Also of concern is the wear on my rear tyre, it is starting to get a bit thin in one spot, I only hope that it can survive the remaining distance to Alice Springs. If not, I do have a spare tyre for such a situation.
Tomorrow is another big day, 192km, but there is a big reward along the way, and an even bigger reward at the end. To a degree, this ride has been aimed at getting us to Uluru since we left Adelaide a week and a half ago. Hopefully the wind will continue to be from the North East, so we can get some benefit out of it. Regardless, we have to get there and so we will ride no matter the conditions.
Not far now... except for the detour to Uluru.
The distances on the Lasseter Highway.
The landscape changed from as barren as this, to quite vegitated at times.
The road stretching away from Mt Ebenezer
for more Photos from Day 11.