Day 12 - Monday, 6th July 2009 - Halls Creek to Mary Pool Rest Area
Yesterday afternoon, I decided to take some action against my spate of flats that I received during the day. While the tyre may still be OK, I decided to swap it out for my other spare. I am going to keep the tyre with the nick as an emergency spare for the time being, but I am hoping that the bicycle gremlins have now moved on. I also purchased a new tube from the mechanics. I wanted to get two, but I can only use long stem valved tubes, and he only had one. I still have 3 spare tubes, as I have used 2, and given one to Barry. It would have been nice to have no flat tyres during the trip, but I always knew that it would be a long ask.
Last night, there was discussion about the large number of flats, I think that the majority of riders ended up flatting yesterday, there were people like me who just had bad luck, but most of the flats came after lunch when riders had got thorns in their tyres and then rode off without checking them. We also got an update about the Tour de France, had a discussion about Wolfe Creek (both the crater which is about 80 odd kilometres South of Halls Creek, and the Movie). Overall, it was a very fun briefing.
Our dinner was supposed to be outdoors, but the owners of the Restaurant hadn't organised the tables earlier enough so we were inside instead. It was a buffet meal, but there was a lot of very nice food on offer. I had the vegetarian pasta, which I didn't realise was the vegetarian dish until Peter asked if I was vegetarian. Dee had told me that there were some dodgy postcards on offer at the Mobile Service Station. I have a habit of purchasing postcards that are very localised. So I have some of the small towns and Roadhouse's that we have stopped at along the way. They are usually only available at those places. I was unable to find them, and I even tried the next service station up the road. It turned out that they were in a box next to some of the other souvenirs.
Ben and I both slept like a log last night, and we were up shortly before 6am. I don't think that my body has fully adjusted to the 90 minute time change, but it isn't doing too bad. I applied some more lubrication to my chain, it was making a bit of noise yesterday, but I initially thought that it would be fine, but when I checked it late last night, it felt a little dry. Ideally, I should have done it last night so that the lube could soak into the chain, but 60 minutes or so is better than nothing.
I was back to normal for my breakfast, so I was able to have cereal, there was even Skim Milk on offer. I was tempted to make another dash to the Service Station for the postcards, but I had to get ready to get on the road. I was ready to go, but I was being a bit tardy as we had a good 50km or so to Morning Tea, so I knew that I could afford to give some of the riders a bit of a gap. I went around to the front of the Hotel, and I was waiting with Pat and Graeme, who were waiting for Simon. Simon has had a lot of problems with his rear wheel over the last few days, and he has had to get it trued at almost every stop. The mechanics practically rebuilt it last night, so he is hoping that he isn't going to have any further issues. Before he got going though, he had a flat tyre that needed to be fixed. Ernie was in the same predicament, so the 5 of us and Peter ended up leaving at about 7:30am.
We got about 20 metres up the road, when Peter's phone rang, he pulled over to answer it and some of us rode very slowly through town waiting for him to finish the call and catch up to us. Halls Creek is only very small and it didn't take long until we were at the other side. Peter and the others caught up to us, and we set off at a reasonable pace to allow everyone to warm up. There was a large distance sign just out of town, and for once it actually had Broome listed on it. I tried to take a picture of it, but I hadn't turned the camera on, so I had to stop, walk back, get a picture and then walk back to the bike.
I chased the group down, and it wasn't long until Peter's phone rang again, he answered while on the bike, and it was funny hearing his comment of "I'm on a bike riding up a f&^cking hill!". We were all making jokes about how long until we were out of mobile range, and I asked how good his throwing arm was.
A bit further up the road, Simon had another flat. We all stopped, and I had the opportunity to have a refreshment break. It turned out that Simon had picked up a small piece of glass while riding through Halls Creek. Peter made another call, and there was another funny comment, he must have been asked if he was willing to hold, as his response was "I'm on a mobile in outback Northern Territory", which I yelled out "Western Australia". It probably took the person by surprise.
I decided to press on, and enjoy the morning. I would say that we are out of the Kimberley's by now, as the terrain has really flattened out, there were some low hills on the Northern and Southern Horizon, but they were a long way off, and the ground around us was very flat. The road was still snaking so it was very enjoyable to ride along. The Easterly wind that we have been experiencing for the last few days kept up, and after a short stint of heading towards the South, we were finally heading to the West and Broome. Looking at the map, we are very near our most Southerly point, which I think we hit at Fitzroy Crossing, after that, we come slightly North to get into Broome. At least we are finally heading West again. A bit out of town, we rode past a community to the side of the road, there was no details to what it was about, and I can only assume that it was a local Aboriginal Community. Even the road leading into it wasn't signed, there was a sign on the gate, but it was too far away for me to read it.
After all of our fun and games yesterday with flats I was feeling very paranoid on the bike. I was convinced that my rear tyre was going down. I bounced on the bike, I looked at the way it was sitting on the ground, I even tried tapping it with a fingernail, a trick Graeme explained to me yesterday. Every now and again, I would convince myself that it was all OK, and then a few minutes later, I would be back to thinking that it was going soft. In the end, I had to pull over to the side of the road and check it out. The whole time, my mind had being playing tricks on me, but once I knew that there wasn't an issue, I was able to ride with a lot more confidence.
About 20 km out of town, I passed a sign that was indicating that it was the turn off to the Wolfe Creek Crater, I knew from having looked at maps, that this was the Tanami Desert Road, which I had passed on my way out of Alice Springs. It is considered the short route from Alice Springs to Broome. There was a sign indicating that Alice Springs was about 1094km away. A lot shorter than the over 2,500km that I have covered since I left there. It got me thinking as I went past, I would love to do that road at some point in the future, but I don't think that it would be possible to do unsupported on the bike. I would probably have to look at doing it by 4WD. For me at least, it would also be a great opportunity to do more of the Northern Territory in general. There were areas in Litchfield National Park that were 4WD only, and the same is also true of Kakadu National Park. As much as I enjoy cycling my way around Australia, there are many areas that are simply inaccessible to a bike, both supported and unsupported.
Because I was a long way behind everyone else I was still yet to see any other riders. The vegetation was really varied today. Initially it was some reasonably dense trees, and then it went to Spinifex, and then back to trees again. The road was swinging between pretty much due West, and at times South West. When it went West, I was able to push the speed up into the high 30's or low 40's, depending on the profile of the road, but when it turned South West, the wind was more to the side, and it slowed me down quite a bit.
The profile for the day, showed us going up and down for the first half or so, and then downhill a reasonable amount for the last part of the day. I think that many of us were going to use it as a bit of recovery day, as it was sandwiched between the 160km of yesterday, and 180km tomorrow. The only problem for me and some of the other riders, is that when there is a tail wind, we tend to push the pace up even higher than normal.
I finally caught sight of some other riders, and it turned out to be Rob and Amanda. Amanda had done a personal best in distance, so she was feeling a bit exhausted today. I rode beside Rob for a bit and we discussed the Tennis match last night. It was the final of Wimbledon, and Feddera managed to win in an epic match to beat Sampres's record of the most Grand Slam Wins. Rob follows his tennis pretty seriously. We had a brief discussion about it before I dropped back to Amanda and gave her the Gel out of my pocket, if she was feeling a bit flat and dead on the bike, it would be a good pick-me-up.
I pressed on, and it wasn't long until I was at Morning Tea. It was about 50km into the route, so just short of half way. Despite me riding solo, and the ups and downs, we all had pretty good averages to get there. I initially went to Phil to get some more Water, but it turned out that we were going to be given a bottle of water in our Morning Tea packs, so he wanted us to use that before he started offering the water that he had. We weren't able to drink the water out of the tap at Halls Creek last night, so Phil had had to purchase more drinking water. He wanted us to use the bottled water first as it would save what he had. Given that we are camping tonight, it meant that Phil had to get enough water for today and tomorrow as well.
Morning Tea was still a while away, as Phil was waiting for all of the riders to arrive, the last group wasn't that far behind me, but while we were waiting, I spoke to Graeme, and told him that I had thought up a nick name for him. Jekyll and Hyde. When he is off the bike, he is Dr Jekyll, but on the bike he is a real Mr Hyde. He only knows how to ride the bike really fast, and is always mentally in a race. It can make him interesting to ride with, as long as you are prepared to push the pace a little.
The Morning Tea pack, contained a Scone, and Apple, and a bottle of water, I put the bottle of water in my bidon, and I only ate the apple, and donated the scone back into the communal food. When we were asked to move away, I waited for the last riders and then moved out. Just up the road, there were some very large rock piles, they were the last real feature that we were going to see for the day. I caught up to Carl and Lesley who where being followed by John, and I stayed with them for a bit and chatted. I can't remember the catalyst, but for some reason we ended up talking about evolution. A large pack went past us, which contained Pat, Graeme, and several other fast riders, they were making the most of the tail wind.
I let them go for a bit, but in the end, I bid Carl, Lesley and John goodbye, and set off after the others. I passed Martin, and I mentioned to him my plan, I was going to tear past the bunch, and see who was prepared to jump with me, he named the same riders as I was thinking of, Pat, Graeme, Simon, Ernie and maybe Walter. I termed it shaking the tree and seeing how many nuts fell out.
I caught up to to the group, just as Graeme was finishing his turn, so he was trapped on the inside. Initially I was going to sit on for a bit and recover, but I felt that it was a good time to put a hard turn in, and I shot past. I got about 100m up the road, before Graeme was there, and shortly afterwards Pat was there as well. After a bit, I indicated that I was going to pull off the front, and Graeme then said that they never said they were going to take a turn. We all laughed at that, and then a few kilometres up the road, Pat and Graeme said that they were going to fall back to the bunch. They were in front, so they eased up, and I then went to go past them. Graeme then paced me, and they were joking that they were falling back, so I could go, and he continued to pace me. They did this to me about 3 times, and we all having a good laugh by the end of it.
They did end up letting me go, and I was pushing myself fairly well. I knew that tomorrow was 180km, but I felt good on the bike, so I wasn't afraid of pushing my body and paying the price tomorrow. Despite the speeds that I was pushing, those who were ahead of me were not getting closer quickly, all of us were riding fast for the day. We only had 60km to cover between Morning Tea and the end of the day, which I would normally allocate 2 hours to cover, but I knew that it was going to tumble a lot quicker.
I had nearly caught up to Greg, when I suddenly realised that Graeme was back with me. I joked again about him being Mr Hyde when he was on the bike. We caught up to Greg, and he commented that I was on the big ring. I have spent most of the ride on the small ring, as I prefer to spin the pedals rather than grind. Because of the speeds that we were pushing today, it was a day that made the big ring a good option.
There was one last rider to reel in, and it was Chris, I asked if he was coming along, and he said that he would. However Mr Hyde sensed that there was a weaker rider in the group, and that two was company and three was a crowd, so he got to the front and pushed the pace until Chris was no longer with us.
A bit further up the road, there was a photo opportunity, and I managed to get a few shots on the way past. It was a shot where a ridge had been eroded in the centre, and it framed the plain on the other side of it. It wasn't the worlds most amazing photo, but when you are in the middle of a plain, anything like that is nice to see.
We were pushing the pace, and when we had the tailwind, we were pushing the low 40's, but when we turned South, the wind slowed us down to the low 30's. I checked the distance to go, and it was quite low, I had a look at the time, and I said to Graeme that we would be in by 11:15am. He asked if I had worked it out, and then I threw down the challenge. Maybe we could cover the last 13km in about 18 minutes. I knew that it would be a tough call, but it is better to set a high target and miss than to set a soft one and make it easily.
Unfortunately for us, the road ended up doing a lot of South on the approach, so it was going to be an even harder ask than it already was. Luckily, the Rest Area where we were staying for the night was closer than we expected, but we did end up rolling in at about 11:12am, so outside of our target, but still a very good result. A sprint finish wasn't possible, as we had to cross a flood way to get there, and it was pretty rough, we came out the other side to a very nice large and shady Rest Area, a vast improvement over the one at Saddle Rest. Despite it being called Mary Pool, there wasn't a lot of water around from what we could see.
The other riders weren't far behind us, and I quickly grabbed my bags and staked out a camping area. I then got my towel out so I had somewhere to stretch as my post ride routine. Once that was done, I grabbed my tent and put it up, like before, I didn't bother pegging it down, or with the fly. I went for a wander with Pat and Ernie to get some water, as there is none at the tank, and apparently the toilets are pretty full and foul as well. There were a few puddles of water, and while they should be stagnant, they look reasonably nice, I wouldn't drink it, but it will be fine for washing up, and cleaning ourselves up. On the way back, I managed to find a really nice rock. I don't know exactly what type it is, but it had two amazing faces with concentric rings radiating out. I will have to see if I can find a way of polishing it when I get home. It is a bit big, and it will certainly increase my baggage, but it is going to be a nice souvenir.
After Lunch, I wandered back down to the pool to have a wash with some of the other riders, I had grabbed a bucket off Susan, and it was a very refreshing wash. Several of the other riders went down for a swim, and many of them did use it as an opportunity to clean themselves up.
One of the other problems with the camp site, is that there was no firewood on hand. Kirsten was assigned to go and get some, and I volunteered to give her a hand. We didn't have far to go, but it was still slim pickings and not a lot of good heavy wood that would burn for a long time. The other issue was that we didn't have an axe or anything else that we could use to break it up with. Despite us getting a reasonable amount, more is going to be needed, as we are often running a couple of fires, and we will need to run some tomorrow morning for breakfast as well.
Tomorrow is a long day to Fitzroy Crossing, and then we are camping again for another night. After that, we only have one more night before reaching Broome. This tour and my holiday is rapidly coming to a close. I will admit to being ambivalent about the finish. On one hand, it is going to be the closure on a fantastic holiday, but on the other side, I am also looking forward to getting home and into a more normal routine.
Finally, Broome makes a distance marker
Stopping for another puncture, the road ahead is calling me
Tanami Rd, I passed the other end of it just north of Alice Springs. At this point, I have covered about 2,800km to get to here
The quick way to Alice Springs, as long as you don't mind passing the Wolfe Creek Crater
Everythings happening at the camp, fires are burning, dinner is being prepared by the girls, and the guys are playing cards
for more Photos from Day 12.