Day 11 - Sunday, 5th July 2009 - Warmun to Halls Creek
Last night, I must admit that I didn't fancy a lot of dinner, I would try and only have a small one. We all knew that the Tour de France was going to start, and it was funny at one point, as there was a television in the Dining Room with the sound off, someone said something loud enough for everyone to hear about the Tour, and there was instant silence, and every head turned to the television, all we could see was that Alan Davis was holding a press conference, but we don't know what it was about.
I managed to have a small dinner, I restricted myself to two bowls of soup, as I said to a few people, one of the reasons we all put weight on during a trip like this, is because we fuel up at night to ride about 160km (tomorrows distance) when in reality, we only have to fuel up for about 50km, as that is our first snack stop of the day. I felt that I would be better having a good breakfast in the morning, and then we I could fuel up during the day as it was needed.
I checked with Barry if I would need ear plugs, as he knows that he can snore. I didn't put them in straight away, but I did have them handy. As it turned out, Barry was the one who needed the ear plugs, Chris was on the other side of the wall to him, and he was snoring the house down. Barry could hear him through the wall. I never needed mine, not being able to hear Chris, and Barry didn't snore throughout the entire night.
I got up at about 5:30am to use the facilities, and Barry thought that I was getting up to get ready, so when I was done, I saw that Barry was up and just started to get ready, so at 6am, Barry thought that Breakfast was ready, when we still had 30 minutes to go. Breakfast was an interesting affair, I am used to seeing a hot breakfast on offer, but I normally just have a cold one. This morning, there was toasted sandwiches and croissants. I had a toasted sandwich, but I knew that the croissants wouldn't be good as they aren't very filling, but are very high in fat, not something I wanted for cycling food. I was able to get a second sandwich, but I ended up supplementing my breakfast with some purchased muesli bars, and I put some of them in my back pockets as I didn't think that I would be able to get through 50 odd kilometres given my current energy levels. All up, I felt that it was a very nice breakfast, and if I wasn't aiming to cycle 160km for the day, I probably would have relished it. Given that I did have a long day in the saddle ahead of me, I would have preferred my usual meal.
I got away towards the back of the pack, and I was sitting on a small bunch initially, but I tend to warm up fairly quickly, so I soon pressed on. The air is definitely cooler now, but once the sun is up, you can feel the heat in it. We are now reasonably South compared to Darwin, and also not far North of the Tanami Desert, so we are getting cooler nights. On the way out of the Roadhouse, we had to pass the community township that is there. It was a restricted community, so you can't just wander in and you have to get permission first. It is also a dry community. In general, I had a really good vibe about the place, and it looked like it was on the path to success.
We are still in the Ranges that we were cycling through yesterday, so there was quite a few hills around us. Today's profile looked very scary when we all first looked at it, but on a closer inspection, it wasn't a huge amount of climbing, and I wasn't expecting a hard day in the office. I was soon catching up to some of the bunches, and as I neared John and Angela, I saw Angela stop at the top of the hill, I didn't think much of it, until I got near, and a few cattle ran across the road ahead of me. I then saw them join a larger bunch that was running alongside the road. I expect that she had to stop for some of them.
A bit further up, I was descending down a slight hill, when I ran over a stone and my back tyre suffered it's first flat of the entire ride. The annoying thing was that I had only just put a new tyre on. There was a decent cut in the tyre, and you almost wouldn't have thought that it came from a rock. I swapped in my tube, but I did have to wave a few groups past at first, and then Peter in the mechanics van pulled up. I decided to put a tyre boot in, as the inside of the tyre was a bit ripped up, and I didn't want to risk it. Peter inflated my tyre while I packed up, and then I got under way again.
The climb wasn't that bad, there was a lot of stuffing around with some pretty easy climbing, and then it did steep up for the last kilometre or so to maybe 3 or 4 percent, not something which was particularly worried with. We had spent the first 30 kilometres climbing or so, and Phil had put a Water Stop at the top of the hill, I pulled in, but it was more to see what others were doing as I had left a few people behind on the hill. While I was there, Barry, Greg and Walter tore past, Pat, Graeme and I didn't even think, we just jumped back on our bikes and set off chasing. I was a bit behind when Pat and Graeme caught up, they went to the front, to have an immediate counter attack launched, to which the speed went up even more.
I decided to sit off the back, as I wanted to enjoy the scenery, and a bit further up the road, we had a close run in. A caravan was behind me and made a decision to overtake. He level with the middle of the lead bunch when he realised that a Road Train was coming the other way, I saw the issue and immediately pulled on the brakes to give him a gap to move into, and he sat on the wrong side of the road. The Road Train started flashing his lights, and he sat there. I was trying to wave him back into the correct lane, and he sat there. The Road Train started leaning on his horn, and he still sat there. I ended up yelling "F$%cking Come Over!" and he finally moved back into our lane.
I waved at the truckie and he acknowledged me, so I think that he always knew that the Caravan was at fault and just froze, it was probably a classic rabbit in the headlights scenario. A bit further up the road, I could smell burning rubber, where the truck had probably started applying his brakes in an attempt to avoid an accident. Luckily, nothing came of it, but it was a foolish driver who got himself into a situation where he then froze and didn't know what to do.
A bit further up the road, we encountered some more road works and we were diverted off the main route onto a gravel section. I was amongst the bunch at this stage, and when we came out, we had a new obstacle entirely, there was a sign warning of "Water Over Road", my first reaction was one of disbelief, thinking that they had left the sign up for too long, but sure enough, there was a ford, and there was about an inch of water over it. Some of the riders eased off the pace, and some, like Barry and I went a bit quicker through it, it caused a bit of friction in the bunch, as not everyone was happy with the speed and way that the others had done it. There could have been hidden rocks and potholes in the surface, but I didn't think that it was likely, and I wanted to be able to roll through at a reasonable speed.
I passed by the turn off to Purnululu National Park, which is where the Bungle Bungle Ranges are. Apparently, it is about a 50km dirt road for access, so they are a long way from Kununurra. I can see why a lot of people would choose to fly in like some of us did. They are incredibly remote, but are well worth a look if you are ever in the area.
It wasn't long before we finally reached Morning Tea, and there was discussion about both the Ford and the moron in the Caravan. I ate the last of my muesli bars, but I was more in need of a bathroom. I had drunk a lot of water, and towards the end, it was almost getting uncomfortable. I was tempted to either pull over and deal with the issue, or try the trick of dealing with it while still moving. Neither option was able to be dealt with ideally, so I just waited until we did stop.
While we were at Morning Tea, a bus pulled up for Roc Riding. They are another bicycle tour company, but the specialise in mountain bike tours, and they provide the bikes. They had a trip out at the Bungle Bungle Ranges over the last few days. One of the riders, was a guy from Germany called Peter who had met Phil and Susan at a conference in Europe a few months ago. He runs a similar tour business in Europe. I had met him while I was at Echidna Chasm, and he asked me to pass his card on to Phil and Susan. Baz and Maz had obviously done a Roc Ride, as they new the tour guide who was with the group. They were all invited to have a cup of tea of coffee with us, and I think that they were glad of the break.
We did have an interesting discussion about the way that if you are feeling a bit down, the best thing to sometimes do is to just deliberately push yourself. I mentioned about something I had heard on the Radio to do with the way that your brain can only deal with a fraction of all of the signals that it receives from all of the nerves every second, as a result, there is a section of your brain that is specifically designed to work out which of these messages are important, if you start consciously ignoring some, then this part of your brain will then stop sending those messages along. The person on the brain likened this to a Front Desk Receptionist. The conversation then rapidly went downhill as the guys started imagining a Female Receptionist in their head. There were several crude comments, and the girls were just as amused as the rest of us about the amount of testosterone that had been flowing through us to get the conversation to this point. While
I set off from Morning Tea with Pat and Graeme, and we were soon at the front of the group. Pat commented that it was going to be a rough 50km to Lunch with just the three off us, but I don't think I was particularly worried, as I had been doing a lot of solo riding so far in the trip. We were riding really well together, and we were probably about 30 km in, when I was starting to get a bit worried about my back tyre, it didn't feel as fully inflated as it should have been. I asked Pat, and he thought that it was OK, but a bit further on, I knew that it was on the way down. We pulled over a bit further up the road, and I set about changing it.
Normally, I would be onto my emergency tube by this point, but I had put a spare tube in my day pack, so I had another new tube in my back pocket. It turned out, that the tube that I had been carrying day after day since Alice Springs had perished. Greg, one of our mechanics who joined us in Darwin had commented that the sweat from your body can cause damage to a tube, I had since put it in a plastic bag, but I suspect that the damage had already been done. I put my new tube in, and while we were working, Eddie and Walter caught us up, Eddie asked if we needed a hand, and we replied in the negative. As he went past, he gave us one anyway by applauding us.
Once the tyre was inflated and back on the bike, we set off again, and we didn't get more than about 50 metres before there was another problem. Pat had opened up his saddle bag, but hadn't closed it up again while I was fixing my flat. So, some of the contents fell out, which included his spare tube, but his wallet also came out, which then opened up, and emptied itself onto the road. This meant that there were several bank notes being blown across the road, and we all suddenly stopped to help him grab them all. In hindsight it was all very funny, but it was lucky that it was noticed straight away.
We set off again, and we hadn't gone more than a 100 metres or so, and I bounced in the saddle while saying "That feels better!" meaning about the now fully inflated rear tyre. The problem was, it didn't. We pulled over again, and I checked the tyre, and it was going down. I waved Pat and Graeme on, as I felt that I had held them up enough already, and I set about putting my emergency tube into the tyre. It turned out that I had a pinhole leak near the tube. I normally patch my tubes, but I am confident enough in my ability to do a good patch, that I don't bother checking the tubes afterwards. I don't know how long the hole has been there for, but it is very annoying.
I was offered help again, but I had a good pump, and I was soon on my way again. I set of chasing some of the riders ahead of me, and I knew that I wouldn't catch the front runners, but I could at least catch someone. By this stage, the day was not going as well as I could have hoped for, I was down on energy, I had had 3 flats so far, and potentially ruined my rear tyre, and I was riding in no man's land.
I ended up catching a few riders, including a large bunch shortly before our lunch stop. I was a bit annoyed, mainly with the tyre situation. We had a nice lunch consisting of sandwiches, a very nice fruit salad and an ANZAC biscuit. There was more on offer, but I didn't want a lot more. During the day, we had been passing through Pastoral Lease Hold properties. Just south of Warmun, we entered into Texas Downs, which is largely inaccessible in the Dry, and impossible to get to in the Wet. We then passed by Mabel Downs, and by this stage, we were between Springvale and Alice Downs. They were easy to spot, as they had very large signs made up of bent metal at the side of the road.
While I was at lunch, I asked Phil if he had a tube, I don't like riding without one. I didn't purchase it off him, as I was hoping that I would give it back to him at the end of the day, but if I needed it, it was better to have one than not. While we were at Lunch there was a bit of verbal sparing between Graeme and Eddie, Graeme said that he was going to take it easy from here, and we all ridiculed him for it. I don't think that Graeme knows what the word means. He does so much racing though, that he he is used to keeping his cards very close to his chest, and so he probably says things like that by reflex. I think that he was smarting a bit at getting piped to the Lunch stop, Pat and Graeme managed to get sight of Eddie and Walter, but that was as close as they got.
When it came time to depart, Graeme left with the front riders, and we knew that the game was on for him to try and be the first to Halls Creek. I was pretty much the last rider out. When we landed, Walter pointed out that there were some very nasty seed pods in the grass, and he had a couple in his tyre already. I had checked my tyres, and they were clean, and I carried it back to the road surface. I set off, and about 200 metres up the road, there were two people already fixing flat tyres, not everyone had been as lucky as me, or as vigilant as Walter. I had also heard that Barry had a flat at one point during the day, so it was not a good day to be riding for a lot of people.
I set off for the front riders, but I didn't think that I would catch Pat and Graeme, when I caught up to Carl and Lesley, I could see a rider ahead, and they said that it was Walter, after many kilometres of chasing, I finally caught him, and he said that Pat and Graeme were both ahead, but he hadn't seen either of them for a long time. Knowing Graeme, if he and Pat got together, he would have been determined to stay away, so I didn't try and chase. My legs weren't crash hot, but I was still doing a good pace. I wanted to enjoy myself on this trip, and I didn't want to bury myself in an attempt to try and close an impossible gap.
The terrain was really starting to flatten out by this stage, and while Phil's profile showed at least one more hill to climb, I never really noticed it. We had about 60km to cover from Lunch, and Phil said that he would put a Water Stop in at about 30 km. Several times while I was riding, I thought that my rear tyre was going flat again. I didn't stop and check it, but I used a few tricks to try and check it on the bike, they all came up clean. I ended up guessing that it was a bit soft from when I had inflated it, and I was a bit paranoid about getting another flat, I didn't think about pulling over to check it, but I felt that it would be wasted time. If it was going down, then I would find out when it was flatter than it currently was.
The road was still winding it's way between some hills, and Phil and Susan eventually passed me at about the 30 kilometre mark from Lunch. A bit further up the road, I just came across a water bottle at the side of the road. I had worked out, that as it was cooler, I should be fine for the entire 60kms on just my two bidons, so I didn't bother stopping. I was seeing the distance markers to Halls Creek counting down the distance to go, but the 10km one was missing. It was interesting approaching, as I seemed to see a lot of vehicles leaving with a lot of stuff on them. They didn't look like the usual Grey Nomad crowd. Given the amount that Halls Creek had been in the news on my lead up to this ride, I was starting to wonder how much truth there really was.
As I got closer, I could see some of the township from a reasonable distance, yet, when I passed the signs welcoming us to the town, it didn't seem that there was anything there. We are right on the Eastern Side of town, and I pulled in a good time behind Pat and Graeme. My room was ready, and I am with Ben tonight. I did the usual of grabbing mine and his bags. Pat and Graeme were looking to do some laundry, and I jumped in as well. There were a lot of machines, and as Pat had a reasonable amount, Graeme and I used one, and Pat the other. I then set about stretching and my normal post ride routine.
Most of the riders were in by this stage, and once I had showered and cleaned up, I set off towards Town. We had been told that the only safe water to drink was in the kettle or in the fridge. As expensive as it is, I wanted to get some bottled water as I didn't think that there was enough in the fridge. I saw Chris going out as well, and initially we headed towards what we thought was a food store, it was a Camping style store, and it was closed. It then twigged that it was Sunday, which was also why the liquor store across from the Hotel was also closed. We headed up the main drag, and we did find a Petrol Station that was open. It was interesting walking past some of the shops, as they looked a bit like Fort Knox they way that they were closed up. I was starting to think that the media wasn't beating the stories up that much.
We are right on the outskirts of town, and it is a Sunday with a lot closed. Hopefully, if there are any real issues they won't disturb us, and we will be gone early enough before anything is likely to happen. I was wishing that it was just media hype at Halls Creek, but unfortunately, it does seem to be as bad as the media make it to be.
Tomorrow, we have a shorter day, and we have our second Bush Camp for the ride. I suspect that we are going to get some mileage out of Wolfe Creek tonight as we are just up the road from it. Tomorrow we also pass the other end of the Tanami Road, which Pat and I passed just north of Alice Springs.
The early morning bunch
The start of the hill for the day, seriously, it looked like Alpe d'Huez on the profile
The Ord River, no really, it's a river
A Big Group for the day
There is an end to the road, actually, I hope there isn't
for more Photos from Day 11.