Day 13 - Tuesday, 7th July 2009 - Mary Pool Rest Area to Fiztroy Crossing
Last night we had another very nice meal that was created by Susan and several helpers from the group. I wasn't on the roster to help, but I did pitch in where could. The meal was a baked potato, with a bacon and onion topping with cheese and sour cream as well as a side of salad. It was so good that I had to go back for a second one.
We were also treated to a talk by Simon, who is in medicine and knows a lot about the energy pathways within the body. I knew a lot of the basics but it was still good to learn some more. I always thought that you took protein at the end of exercise as you micro tear muscles and you need the basic building blocks to repair that damage. It turns out, that when you exercise, you deplete the amount of blood glucose you have, the only way this can be renewed is from food intake, if nothing is coming, then your body will use protein to replace it. Despite everything that you hear, the body has no way of turning body fat into blood glucose. So whenever you have exercised, you have to eat something, both protein and carbohydrates so that your body can replace the blood glucose.
It was also interesting to hear about the way that the body deals with the heat, and what effect it has on the body. It does explain why I have heard that training in the heat is better than training in the cold. The most amazing thing that I noticed, was the way that Simon had a rapt audience, you could have heard a pin drop around the circle as we were all taking it all in.
We were then treated to a couple of quiz's from Renee, the first one was on Music, and we pretty much failed on that one. There were a lot of times that no one had an answer for a question. In an attempt to try and get some self respect yet, we had a shot at the General Knowledge, it was multiple choice, but we had a shot at the questions without the options first, we did a lot better on that compared to the Music Quiz.
I went off to bed, and before I could, I had to remove a stick from under my tent. I didn't look close enough when I was putting it up. I was trying to find a bag of cycling food which I knew was in my tent or bags somewhere, but I couldn't find it when I was trying to put everything away. I turned in for the night, and unlike at Saddle Rest, it was a cool enough night that I was straight into the sleeping bag. I didn't want to risk a bad nights sleep, so I put the ear plugs in straight away. The only problem, was that there was something underneath where I was sleeping, I couldn't be bothered getting out of the tent, as it meant that I would probably get prickles in my feet, so I just slept around it.
I was up bright and early, and this time I managed to pack the tent and the contents up a lot quicker. I basically succeeded at this because I simply tossed everything out of the tent first thing. I did find my bag of cycling food, it was what I had been sleeping on the entire night. Once I was packed up, I offered my services for breakfast, and I was looking after boiling up water for breakfast, as well as for people's Tea and Coffee during the day. I had a good serving of porridge for breakfast and some raisin toast. I went to use the loo, but they had been out of water for a while, so we had to lug a bucket up there to be able to flush them. Not the most ideal situation, but better than having to dig a hole somewhere.
I helped Phil and Susan pack up as much as possible before getting ready to roll out. I was one of the last ones out with Pat and Graeme. Pat had an initial concern, as he thought that something had come loose in his front wheel, it turned out just to be the skewer and so it was an easy fix. Just as we were leaving, a truck showed up to service the toilets, a pity he didn't show up yesterday so we had functional toilets for the night.
I returned to the Great Northern Highway, and turned West and towards Fitzroy Crossing. The first point of interest for the day was the Mary River, which is where we were camping last night, it looked like it would be pretty impressive when it was flowing, but it was just a dry river bed at this time of the year. Because Pat and Graeme had fiddled around a bit before getting under way, and Pat takes a while to get his legs warmed up, I was riding by myself. We had to cover about 55km to our first break of the day, but things were looking up as we had a tail breeze already. I was soon at the back of a smallish group of cyclists, and I slowly made my way through them as they did their turns. It was a slightly slower pace than I wanted to ride, so I used it for a bit of a warm up, and before I had reached the front, I bid them Adieu, and set off by myself.
Not long after crossing the Mary River, the scenery really flattened out, I was able to see for miles in every direction with nothing to break it up. The terrain reminded me very heavily of the Adelaide to Alice ride that I did, but the vegetation was vastly different. It was a mix between spinifex grass interspersed with trees, and sometimes quite a lot of trees. The soil was also amazingly red, it has changed quite a lot in the last few days. It isn't the sand that I was seeing on the way to Uluru, and it seems to be a lot more fertile judging by the vegetation. The spinifex is also a lot greener than I am used to seeing it. I am not sure if that is because it isn't as dry out here, or they received some rain recently.
I slowly caught up to the tail end riders, but because some of them had a big lead on me, it took a long time before I was able to even catch sight of them. Because the speed difference was only slight, it also took me a long time to close any sort of distance down on them. I may have been doing speeds at the top end of 30, but they wouldn't have been doing much slower.
I caught up to Greg who was enjoying his morning on the bike, and he jumped on my rear wheel to see us to Morning Tea. We were both keeping an eye on the distance, as we knew roughly where it was, but we were yet to see Phil and Susan go past us. He was keen to pull it up, but I suspected that they may either overhaul us, or we could work out where it was. In the end, we sighted a sign for a parking bay 1km up the road, and it was pretty much at the right point, so we knew that had to be it, at about that time, Phil and Susan came past us. So close, yet so far.
We pulled in, and Walter was there ahead of us, we helped Phil and Susan set up, and we were also watching the other riders come in. They weren't that far behind us, and so we got our Morning Tea early. It was another pack like we had received yesterday, but this time it was a packet of biscuits (Susan had asked for home made biscuits, but we got Arnott's instead), another bottle of water, which at least saved some of the stuff that Phil had, and an Orange. I am not normally much of a fan of Oranges, but these ones were very nice, and I enjoyed mine enough that I ate some of the pieces that Susan had cut up.
I was again the last rider out, and by a reasonable margin, we had about 70 kilometres or so to cover to lunch, but with the tail wind, we weren't fazed by it in the slightest. It was again reinforced to me that there are no slow riders in this group as it again took me a very long time to close down the gaps to the riders ahead of me. According to the profile, we were going to have a slight climb towards about 80km, and then a good descent and then a flat afternoon. I am now used to Phil's profile maps, so I wasn't worried about the hill, and I didn't think that the downhill was going to amount to much.
I was aware that I was climbing, but it would have only been 1 or 2 percent, it looked a lot steeper on paper. Kirsten was waiting at the top with the offer of more water, but it has been a lot cooler compared to the previous days, so I was still drinking the clear stuff, but not in the quantities that I was when the ride first started. I was able to ride past without having to stop. I got to the top of the hill, and I was in for a special sight. We had been riding along the top of a plateau for the last couple off days, and we were now descending down to a lower level. The road was between two lots of hills, the ones to the left were mainly red, and the ones on the right where mainly grey. I think that the grey ones were limestone, as I had seen similar rocks in Purnululu National Park, and I later saw a sign for caves in the area. I must admit that I could have taken the descent a lot quicker, but I was riding it very upright for a lot of it as I was trying to take as many photos as possible. The scenery was just amazing, and I was in awe of it for a lot of the descent.
At the bottom, I could see some riders ahead of me, but I was only very slowly reeling them in. My speed was high enough, that the distance markers to Fitzroy Crossing were coming up very often. Out here, they are spaced every 10km, but it sometimes felt that I was seeing them every couple of minutes, rather than the more usual 20 minutes. The vegetation was different at the bottom of the hill, more grassland, but it was also interspersed with some rock formations, obviously remnants of the plateau that I had just descended. I saw a sign advertising caves, but special permission was required to access them. I wondered if they had been used as Aboriginal Burial sites, which meant that particular areas of them were off limits.
I managed to catch the group ahead of me about 10 kilometres short of lunch, it was made up of Pat, Simon, Chris and Greg, I joined in, and they slowly cycled through until I was on the front. I did my turn, and when I was just about ready to pull off, Pat rode up and asked what was happening. It turned out that they were doing 1 kilometre turns, but I was completely oblivious to it, so I had been up there for too long. I cycled to the back, but Lunch appeared slightly early, so we pulled in and waited.
It turned out that Barry and Graeme had been racing for Lunch, and Barry had gone early enough, opened up a large enough gap, and Graeme was unable to close it down. It was funny hearing the banter between them all about the way that it had transpired. Some of the next arrivals were Gill ad Trevor, they had broken away from their bunch, and having seen the gap to the bunch, they had really put the hammer down. They both must have been riding really well. Fiona was one
Our lunch was very different to anything else we have had. Normally, Susan has organised for our lunch to be made at the place we are staying at each night, that wasn't an option last night, so we had a ready made canned meal instead. It was very nice and there was a good variety to choose from. There was still plenty of other food to fill yourself up on anyway, so no one was going hungry.
When it came to time to roll out, Walter was on the bike very early, a few of us noticed this, but I was still towards the back of the group. One of the bigger bunches was still forming when I set off, so I was already ahead of them. A few hundred metres up the road, I caught up to Pat and Graeme, and I apologised to Pat, he asked what for, and I said that Graeme would take off after me when I went past, I got about 20 metres away from the, before they both came past, and then eased up. When I tried to overtake them again, they started matching pace with me. We were three abreast, and they weren't going to let me go, so I had a quick look behind me, and hit the brakes. I let them get about 10 metres ahead of me, but the pace I wanted to ride was faster than their pace.
I again caught up to them, and Pat said "Cya Mate", but the snicker gave him away. They came around me and I was again. I then said that I knew of a way to resolve the issue. At first they thought that I was going to sit on, but instead I simply pulled over and waited for about 90 seconds before getting back on the bike. I knew that at the speeds we were doing that I would be hard pressed to close down a gap like that.
After our lunch stop, the road was turning towards the North West, and I knew the wind was a North Easter, having worked it out at Morning Tea. So I knew that we would now be having more of a crosswind rather than a tail wind. The fast averages that everyone had got coming to Lunch would start to fall. It turned out to be not as much of an issue as we thought, I think that the wind was starting to ease, so the effect that it was having on us was less.
Not far up the road, Greg overtook me in the van, and when he pulled up, yelled out "Willy Willy!" having been hit by one on day one, I thought that it was very close and did a rapid inspection of the surrounding roadside. What he was gesturing to was a long way off, and I had simply labelled it as a fire and it was the smoke from it. However, it wasn't there a few minutes later, so I think that he was right.
I was soon riding off the front of the main group of cyclists, but I could see some a long way ahead of me. The road was as straight as an arrow, and because it was slightly rising and falling, it was possible to see for a long way at times. I passed one creek, and I noticed that it was possible to read the sign on the other side as well. At first, I thought that the sign had been put up the wrong way, but it turned out that it was double sided. Not something that I can say I have seen before.
After our Lunch, we still had about 60km to ride for the day, but there was a final Water/Snack stop at about 30km out, I was keeping an eye out for it, as I was drinking more water compared to what I had been in the morning, and I didn't think that I had enough to see me to town. As I neared it, I passed Trevor and Gill, who were again on the solo attack. They had been holding me at bay today for a long time, so they were both showing a great turn of speed.
I arrived at the final refill station, and Pat, Graeme, Simon and Ernie were there ahead of me, they rolled out soon after I got there, I refilled the bidon that I had emptied, and I knew that I would have enough to then get me to Fitzroy Crossing. I had again let the group ahead off me leave so I wouldn't run a risk of catching them, but they were also chasing Walter, who was a fair way ahead of them still, I left just as Trevor and Gill showed up.
I was into the final 30 km of the ride, but it had been a very easy 150km so far, and I didn't expect the last 30 km to be difficult either. There were still the odd rocky mesa around, but they were few and far between. We were obviously coming back towards civilization, as there were power lines shadowing the road. I had also seen a few signs for things like Cattle Yards and the like, things that you typically get near towns.
I was slowly catching up to a rider, and I guessed that it was Simon, that meant that the front group had probably exploded, possibly due to their determination to catch up to Walter. As I neared him, I saw another Willy Willy to the side of the road, normally, the ones that I have seen, are quite small, and seem to self destruct after only about 10 seconds or so. This one seemed to be sustaining. It also looked pretty fierce. It was a bit off to the left of the road, and it looked pretty stationary, as I neared it, I moved towards the centre line on the road, and I was prepared to get out of the way if necessary, I could see that it hit a tree and it was doing a pretty good job of tearing the leaves off it. I went past it, and I could feel that it was drawing a reasonable amount of wind towards it, and it almost seemed to be keeping pace with me afterwards. It did finally cease when I was about 50 metres past it, and when I looked back, you almost wouldn't have thought that it had happened. I would hate to see the destructive force in a full blown tornado, that was bad enough.
I caught up to Simon, and we chatted briefly about the Willy Willy, and I then pressed on. I could see another rider had been blown out of the front group, and it was Ernie. We were only about 10km out of town by this stage, and he asked if he could jump on. He was pretty spent, but he still did a few good turns on our way in despite how much it was hurting him. We had a few narrow bridges to negotiate, but there was no issues, and we finally made it to town.
We are split in to accommodation places tonight, I was in the first one that we reached, and Ernie was in the one further into town. I pulled in, and I assume that he kept riding on to his accommodation. I followed the road around and I found Pat and Graeme talking to Susan. I am in a triple share with Graeme and Rob, so that made it an easy start. We started riding slowly with Susan to find Phil and our bags and accommodation and we tried to short cut across the grass. I was the first to realise it, but there were nasty thorns in there, and by the time I noticed it, I already had a few in the front tyre. One had gone all the way through, so when it was removed, I got the distinctive hiss of air leaving the tube. Graeme and I had to carry our bikes the rest of the way.
We are in Safari Tents tonight, so they are semi permanent tents, they are fairly Spartan, but they have a proper bed, shower and toilet. Not a lot different to a Donga when you get down to it. Despite there being porters to move our bags to our Tents for us, I still grabbed mine, Robs and Graeme's. I asked where the Laundry was, and I quickly grabbed my stuff and headed over there. I needed to get 3 one dollar coins, and I had to ask around the Grey Nomads to try and get some change. Once the laundry was on, I set about stretching and getting myself cleaned up.
I collected my laundry, and phoned my Parents, despite it only be about ten to four, with the time difference, it was a reasonable to assume that my Parents would be in on the East Coast. We have another interesting day tomorrow, as we again have a diversion in the morning which means that the 90km listed is deceptive. We are again in a bush camp tomorrow night, our third and final bush camp of this ride. After that, only one more night to Broome.
The Mary River
The Red Centre, the soil colour changed a lot throughout the entire trip, and even during the day
Green Spinifex in Red Soil, the colour was amazing
Our Morning Tea Stop
Nglenban Cliffs, the scenery here was stunning
The willy willy that I passed at the side of the road, the winds in it were terrifying
Our Safari Tent for the night
for more Photos from Day 13.