Day 15 - Saturday, 17th May 2008 - Erldunda to Stuarts Well
Last night at Dinner, Phil told us of an incident yesterday, Chelsea has been informing truck drivers of us on the road, she radioed out that there were 12 riders on the road, this was when the 8 of us were riding to Mt Ebenezer, a driver who was nearby replied "There's only 8 there luv, you've lost some!". Also, someone asked about the average age of the riders, and Sue had worked it out. The final result? 54, but if I wasn't on the ride, then it would be 58. I think I can be considered a statistical anomaly on this ride.
Today we had the larger part of our remaining 200km to Alice to cover, but not by much. Because it was only 109km, we had a later breakfast at 7am, and a depart of 7:30am to 7:45am, as has happened on previous days we were treated to a beautiful day, clear skies, cool morning but warming up, and for once, a tail wind. Phil had finally managed to deliver on his promises.
I set out towards the back of the pack and was riding at a fast but sustainable pace, surprisingly, my legs weren't in too bad condition considering the abuse I gave them yesterday. The only problem, is my left knee, which has been troubling me since leaving Mt Ebenezer, was quiet sore today. A few kilometres up the road, I stopped and finally managed to get some reasonable pictures of a Wedgie. I was tail gunner by this stage and so I set of again, the hill turned out to be no issue and I was over it before I realised that I was on it.
I caught up to John and Jane tailing Chris, and I took over on the front. We were travelling through some fantastic country again, while there hills in evidence they were currently quiet distant and not a problem. The tail wind was propelling us at a very comfortable 35km/hr and as I commented to Chris, it was more scenic than my usual Saturday Ride.
We had a snack stop at about 35km, and because of the wind, most people made it in an hour or so. It was only a snack and water stop, so I just took some more water on board. Morning Tea was supposed to be at 11-11:30am, but we were already ahead of schedule, Phil moved it forward by 30 minutes. That gave us about 90 minutes to cover the next 40km or so. I set off by myself and I had to stop up the road again to adjust my gearing, I again went to to the 53x16 that I used yesterday afternoon. I was easily able to push speeds of about 40km or so, and so I guessed that even Phil's adjusted Morning Tea time would be easily beaten.
This next section of the road was really scenic, there were some hills which we were weaving our way through, them and the tail wind really made the distance fly. It also helped that the when the road was straight, it was with the wind right at our backs. As I was passing a more wooded area near a dry river, I saw a large flock of birds to one side of the road, at a guess, because they were making a lot of noise, they were Red Tailed Black Cockatoos. I passed Fiona, and she was enjoying the wind as much as me, and a bit further on, I saw another Wedgie, which I again I tried to photograph.
I set off again and saw some more beautiful scenery. I was closing the gap to Morning Tea, and it started to look like I could be there by about 10am. Morning Tea was at the Finke River Rest Stop, and as I crossed the bridge, I caught John and Jane. It is really funny crossing these bridges, which are signed as a river, but them being nothing more than a dry river bed, it would be an amazing sight to see them in flood. Morning Tea was left over from yesterdays Afternoon Tea, and we were encouraged to wait until all riders had made it in. That made it a very relaxed stop.
I have been keeping an eye on my rear tyre for a few days, as there is a section that is starting to get very worn, I was fairly confident that it would get me to Stuarts Well, but these roads have been incredibly wearing on my tyres. The rear was pretty new when I left and it is now completely stuffed. I am not the only rider who has seen their tyres shredded on this road surface. Alan, from America, had a second hand spare tyre that is in better condition than mine, and I will use that tomorrow to get to Alice.
The Finke River is one of the oldest rivers in the world and has been dated at about 360 million years old. It is currently the longest river in Central Australia and like so many rivers in this part of the country they do not connect to the ocean, and instead drain into the Artesian Basin.
After all riders had made Morning Tea and had a sit down, we moved off again. We had about 35km to cover to Stuarts Well and again we had some beautiful scenery to enjoy along the way, I caught up to John, Jane, Rob and Chris and again I took the lead. The wind had either shifted, or the road had, because while the wind was still beneficial, it wasn't directly at our backs. The other riders weren't interested in going at a break neck sped, and because of my knee, I wasn't prepared to either. I found that a low cadence was better than a high one, but it was still hurting, but this close to Alice, I will walk if I have to. David and Graeme overtook us and they were pushing to catch Bronny, Andrew and Pat who were ahead of us.
In the end, we turned a corner and spied a building ahead and so we knew we were close, after a bit more twisting and turning we made Stuarts Well at about 11:30am, way ahead of schedule. The last section had been really painful for me as my left knee was really hurting, a few times I was grimacing in pain, but I as I was close I simply kept going. I bought a milkshake and got my room key, I am sharing a donga with George tonight, and thankfully, two single beds. I heard Fiona refer to hers as 1 star accommodation, and as Gill responded, does that include the one you can see through the roof.
After some stretching and a shower, Lunch was served, and it was steak sandwiches, which all riders gratefully devoured. After Lunch, we were treated to a performance by Dinky, the Star of the Roadhouse. Dinky is a Dingo, who will jump up on the piano, press the keys with his feet and howl in accompaniment. Jim, the owner of the Roadhouse, found him as a pup, as his parents had been killed by 1080 baits, he was hand raised and he taught himself to play the piano and howl in tune. He started doing it when Jim's daughters were learning the piano. He then told us some of the history of Dingos in Australia as well as their persecution and their now reintroduction to some areas to control other predators. It is also now believed that Dingos first came to Australia about 5,000 years ago, and all of them come from a single litter of pups, as a result there is very little genetic diversity, but they have still managed to survive this long. It is also believed that they were only responsible for the extinction of only 3 species on the Australian mainland, one of which was the Thylacine, more commonly known as the Tasmanian Tiger.
Jim also told us about the area and it's productions, and there is an 80 acre lucerne farm over the road. It is watered by a pivot irrigation system that uses 90,000 Litres of water per hour. While their production slows in winter, they can cut it about every 4 weeks. I had a brief wander around, including to the camel farm next door, the closest I was likely to get to seeing a camel on this trip. I also went and had a look at the lucerne farm out of interest as my parents grow lucerne on their farm. It is watered by a 5 span irrigator, not the largest I have seen, but still big. Interestingly, they don't mow it all at the same time, I could see one section that was baled, and another which was still growing.
On my return to the Roadhouse, I read some info on Jim and the explorers in the area. Jim's father was the first person to cut a track to Kings Canyon, and it looks like the were very involved in the very early tourist trade out of Alice Springs. It is hard to believe that 2 weeks ago, we were in Clare, some where about 1,500km South East of here, now it is 15 days down, 1 to go. Tomorrow is 90km to Alice and we are done. But first, we will no doubt party tonight.
It's so close I can smell it.
Looking North towards some low hills on the horizon.
Some of the low hills we were weaving between on our way to Stuarts Well.
The Finke River...
Dinky, playing a duet and singing
Yep, I think it's stuffed
Life's hard when you're a singing piano playing dingo
for more Photos from Day 15.