Day 16 - Friday, 10th July 2009 - Willare Roadhouse to Broome
Because the power was intermittent last night in the Donga's, there were a lot more people crowded around the roadhouse than we would have normally got. This was really great, as it was the last night on the road before we made it Broome. It is amazing to see how close this group had become on this trip. It is no real surprise, as at the end of the day we all have a common interest in cycling, so that is always a good place to start with any group.
Because it was John's Birthday, and it was a milestone for him, he shouted the entire group several bottles of Champagne at Dinner. I decided not to partake, knowing that it was 160km the next day. I felt that I would rather enjoy the day in good condition rather than in a semi conscious state resulting from a hangover. I still had a drink, I tried an Emu Export, which was a different beer that I hadn't had before, I think that it is one that you mainly get in the Western Part of the country. I tried to have a light after that, but there were right out, so I had to settle for a Mid Strength.
We had another Roast Dinner last night, it was a very good selection though, as they had roast chicken, beef, lamb and pork on offer as well as a good selection of vegetables. There was a nice Apple Crumble for dessert that was welcomed by all of the riders. The power problems were still plaguing the Road House, as it went out again when we were all getting our dinner. Normally, we would have a celebratory dinner, auction a jersey and the like on the last night on the road, but this time that is going to be done in Broome, I suspect that it is because there are a few activities in Broome, and it is a long day.
I returned to my Donga early after dinner, I had a few things to sort out before the morning, and I wanted to make sure that they weren't going to hold me up. I switched he Television on to see if there was anything that was of interest. I came across a show about Ned Kelly and the rest of the Kelly Gang, it was presented by Tony Robinson, who is probably best known for playing Baldric in the Black Adder series. It was a very interesting insight into who Ned Kelly was, and why he became an outlaw, as well as the lead up to the shoot out at Glenrowan. There was a lot of Archaeological digs around the Hotel where the shoot out occurred, and they managed to find some interesting artefacts.
I was up slightly ahead of the alarm, and I was soon ready and waiting for Breakfast. I got chatting with a guy who was a stock man on one of the nearby Stations, he was in charge of a couple of Aboriginal chaps who where learning about managing a Station with the hope of being able to take over one at some point in time. He was interesting to talk to, and I think that he understood the whole Indigenous problem a lot better than any Politician has or ever will, for the simple reason that he understands their culture and the way that they are obliged to look after their family. Because they are expected to share their good fortune, it means that there isn't the same incentive compared to our culture to work hard for yourself, especially in a society where we feel obliged to give them all handouts. He also told me that there was a community of about 800 Aboriginals who lived just over the other side of the road, but until he told me about them, I had no idea they were there. It isn't uncommon to see them hanging around the front of the Road House, but here that wasn't the case.
The choice of cereal for breakfast wasn't the best, so I had some Weet-Bix or equivalent. Still a good choice for breakfast. I decided to have some of the hot breakfast as well, just Baked Beans on Toast and a Poached Egg, but still very nice. I knew that it wouldn't sit heavily in my stomach, so it wouldn't be a problem on the bike. There was a large map of Australia on the wall, and I was looking at the distance that we have covered so far in this ride, where Broome was in relation to Perth, and other things as well. I always knew that Broome was to the East of Perth, and it is roughly in line with Kalgoorlie. So there is still a lot of country to the West of where I am. I was also looking at the Tanami Desert road with Carl, as well as some of the other Outback Roads that you could do if you were up this way with a 4WD. I know that doing it in a 4WD can be considered the easy option, but I still remember the sign at the start of the Oodnadatta Track, and it didn't imply that it was an easy road. One thing that I did find that was amusing, was a reserve in South Australia that was listed as "Unnamed Reserve".
We had a cold start to the day, and it almost justified me getting the arm warmers out of the bag. However, I knew that the sun was up relatively early, and so it would quickly start to warm up. I was one of the last to get my luggage to the trailer, and when I got to the front of the Road House, expecting to be the last rider to leave, I found a small group changing a flat on Mark's bike. He had picked up a hole in his tube near the valve stem, so the tube was a write off. While we were fixing the flat, there was child on a BMX bike, and we asked him a couple of times if he wanted to ride with us. For some reason he wasn't that keen. We finally rolled out soon after 7:30am for our last day of the ride.
I was in a good sized group containing Rob, Sharon, Kerryn, Barry, Mark and Peter. Our first challenge of the day was to negotiate the Willare Bridge, which was another single lane bridge, and it was quite a bit longer than any of the others that we had encountered. Luckily we didn't have to contend with any traffic, either against us or going in the same direction. It was amazing how many water channels it traversed. It almost looked like it was spanning several rivers, but they would all be part of the same river, and in the wet it would be obvious that it is a single waterway.
Once we had crossed the bridge, the pace was quickly sitting on 30 km/hr and we were doing about 1km turns on the front. The group was working well, and it was riding safely, considering that we hadn't yet had even a minor fall on the road, I think that we were all conscious of staying upright on the last day, I knew that for myself, I didn't want to get this close to have to finish the last part in an ambulance. The road was very flat, and unlike our previous days we didn't have a tail wind this early in the day. I didn't think that we were going to see the tail wind for the day. On the way up from Alice, I twice heard the wind start up in the night, and then 2 days afterwards we got still days. Considering that we had the wind overnight while at Ellendale, I thought that we would have to finish without a tail wind. While this would make it harder than the previous days, no wind also meant no head wind.
The road was very flat, according to the profile, there was some climbing during the morning, but it would all be very gentle and the only hill of note was the one up to the Lunch stop at Roebuck Plains Road House. The main issue we had with the road, was that it was again as dead as a doornail, the road really hasn't been that kind to us on this trip, it as been pretty bad for cycling a lot of the time, and only occasionally has it been really fast. We were initially on some more flood plain, so there wasn't a lot of dense vegetation and mainly grass land. I wasn't sure what sort of grass it wasn't, it didn't seem to be tall enough for Spear Grass which we saw up near Darwin, and it certainly wasn't Spinifex. Because I was riding in the bunch though I didn't have a lot of time to look around unless I was on the front, but because we were trying to stay to 1km turns, you keep a pretty good eye on the bike computer to ensure that you don't overstay your welcome.
There were a few more bridges that we had to cross, and some of them were dual lane, so we didn't have any fear of having to deal with traffic. We could see a rider a long way in the distance, and we were slowly closing the gap to them. I had to stop for a refreshment break as I had drunk a reasonable amount of water before getting on the bike. I knew that I couldn't make it to Morning Tea without stopping so it had to be done.
Once back on the bike, I had about a 5km chase before I was back with the group, and in that time they had caught up with Gill who was the rider ahead of us. At this time, there was a caravan that overtook us that was obviously being driven by an impatient driver. Considering that it was probably only 8am on a Friday Morning, I really couldn't see what his rush was. He overtook us with only about an inch to spare before a truck passed us in the opposite direction. When he pulled out into the opposite lane, the truck driver immediately flashed his lights at him.
I worked my way up through the bunch, and did a turn, after that, I dropped back and bid the bunch goodbye and set off up the road. Our Morning Tea stop was at about 60km, and I was really enjoying myself on the bike. I was feeling good despite the effort that we had put in yesterday afternoon, and my knee was still niggling, but it was a lot better compared to the previous morning.
I managed to catch most of the riders on the way to Morning Tea, when I arrived, there was still things that had to be done, so I helped Susan out again, it was just peeling mandarins, but it still had to be done. There was a good selection of muffins and other pastries, I knew that I should have been careful of what I was eating, but it was all very nice, and for once I couldn't really help myself. We were ahead of schedule, which considering how much distance we had for the day as well as the activity for the afternoon was a good thing. We got away from Morning Tea about 30 minutes early. I helped them pack up, and then set off myself.
I slowly caught up to a rider, and it was Pat. Shortly before I caught up to him, I passed the 67km mark for day, which meant that we then had less than 100km to cover for the day, and for the entire ride. We were finally down to double figures after starting with close to 2,000 km to cover when we left Darwin. I rode beside Pat, and we chatted our way through the next 10 km or so. We have both done the double ride, so for us, we were nearing the end of a very long holiday.
We suddenly saw a lot of riders standing on the side of the road, and we feared the worst. We thought that maybe someone had gone down. We were partly relieved when we saw one of the support vehicles go straight past, we didn't think that would be the case if there was a problem. It turned out that two groups had come together, and it was just too big. Maz had laid down the law, pulled the bunch over and split it up into two smaller groups. A ride like this riding single file, it isn't a good idea to have a bunch much bigger than 6 or 7 riders. It just isn't safe, and it takes vehicles too long to overtake it.
We caught up to another Bunch, ad Pat decided to cruise with them as Graeme was in there. I wanted to keep going, so I pressed on. I wasn't far up the road when Barry came storming past towing Simon, Ernie, Chris, Graeme and Pat, who exclaimed "Sorry James, I couldn't help myself!" as he went past. I couldn't either, and I grabbed the last spot in the bunch. Barry was showing how much power he could put down, and he was driving a good pace. He peeled off, and Simon, Chris and Ernie all followed suit. Pat and Graeme took over the duties on the front, and it was soon down to the same four as yesterday, Barry, Pat, Graeme and I. We were all doing good turns, and as the tail wind had picked up, we were pushing a very fast pace.
We had a water stop at about the 102 km mark, so about 40 km from Morning Tea. We ended up covering the distance in just over an hour, it had been an impressive ride by all of us. We all worked very hard and it was amazing that we had anything left in our legs this late in the ride. We were all low on water and knew that we couldn't do another 30 km with what we had, so we all pulled over to get some more at the water stop. It was another hot dry day, so we were all drinking a lot in an attempt to stay hydrated. Phil was doing his usual duty of filling up people's bidons, and Susan was wandering around with more fruit. Kirsten pulled up in Bus, and Lesley was riding a short section in the middle. We were told that there were some wide load trucks coming up behind us, so it was easier to let them get past us rather than having to deal with them on the road. We even heard that one of the truck drivers say "These Guys are Amazing!" over the radio. It is fantastic to get support like that from the truckies. I know that not all of them like us on the road, so it is really nice to get a comment like that.
The trucks were transporting a building, and as Simon commented, "Well, now that we have been overtaken by a House...". John, who has his own support vehicle on the ride kept on going past the stop, and I jumped on the bike soon afterwards. I caught up to him just a bit up the road, and we started chatting. I haven't ridden with John at all on the trip, as our speeds are usually quite different. He was riding well today, especially considering that he probably drank a fair amount the previous night, and he had admitted earlier in the day that he was a bit worse for wear. We had a good talk for about 20 km, and our conversation covered several topics. He is someone who is determined that age isn't going to slow him down, and the way he is still riding he is an inspiration to everyone. Surprisingly, at 75, he isn't the oldest rider, that went to Bill, who is 78. I only hope that I can ride as well as these two can when I am that age.
In the end, John and I were caught by a bunch that he was able to sit with, so I was a bit of a 5th wheel sitting at the back of the group beside him. We were about 10km shy of our Lunch Stop, and so I decided to press on and get there. Ironically, the Roebuck Plains Road House was at the top of the hill, it looked a lose a lot worse than it was, and I don't think that I dropped below 30 on the way up. But then again, having a tail wind makes hills pretty easy at the best of times.
Throughout the day, the soil has changed dramatically, it has gone from a dull reddy brown, to a very light brown colour, and to a very deep red that is iconic of Central Australia. It can be difficult at times to see exactly what colour the soil is, but there are still plenty of termite mounds, and they are always the same colour as the soil, so they are a good indicator. In some places, they are so dense, that it looks like a field of mounds. The vegetation was new as well, it was a reasonably dense bush of some description, it reminded me of the Salt Bush that we saw a lot of in Northern South Australia last year on the rock ride, but it was a lot greener.
I pulled into the Road House, and there were a reasonable number of riders ahead of me. Many of us were taking Simon's and Walter's talk to heart from Mary Pool, and we were getting stuck into the flavoured milk. For once, they had a good range and a good amount, so they weren't likely to run out any time soon. We had a toasted Steak Sandwich for lunch, and we were also entitled to a drink from the Road House, like many of us, I had already purchased one, so I didn't feel the need for a second. Amanda was suffering a bit at Lunch, but she was determined to get through the entire day. I supplied her with another Sports Gel to help give her a kick. When you are down, they really are rocket fuel. Amanda has really had a tough time on this ride, she isn't the strongest rider, but she was determined to do as much as she could. Even when she is down, she is always ready with a laugh, and a smile.
Because it was the last day, nearly all riders were wearing an All Trails Jersey, not all riders had one, and Walter was one of them. I had offered him one of mine for the day, but he only wanted it for the last leg, so it had been in my Day Pack so far. I gave it to Susan to pass on at the last stop of the day, which was going to be at about the 160km mark, only 30km up the road. We were all getting pretty excited at this stage, as we knew that it was very close to being over.
I was the last rider to get back on the road after lunch. There had been talk of a sprint finish to the 160km mark, but I wasn't that interested in it. If I got there with the lead riders, I might try something, but starting last with only 30 km to go would make it difficult. When I got to the road, Barry was just ahead of me, and we rode beside each other for a while, before Barry dropped back to have someone to pace him. The wind seemed to have dropped off, but we had a bit of a downhill run this late in the day. We were a good hour ahead of our planned schedule, and we didn't have a police escort going into Broome, so Phil would form us up into a convoy himself.
Barry and I rode for a bit, and then we picked up Greg, we passed a few more bunches, and we came across Chris riding by himself, he jumped on as well. I now had 4 riders behind me, and they were pretty thankful for it. I was happy on the front, and I wasn't pushing a super high pace, just one that I knew that I could keep up for a long period if it was necessary. We passed the turn off for Cape Leveque, and I knew that we were getting close at that point. We also passed a few roads that lead into Cattle Stations in the area. One was a long straight road, and the red of the dust was truly spectacular. One of them was very wide, and I suspect that it sees a lot of Road Train Traffic.
With about 5km to go, we got a surprise. The wind had shifted, and it was now a head wind. I knew that it wasn't far, so I just knuckled down and kept the pace as steady as I could. We could see Phil and Susan ahead of us on the verge, and we pulled in. We were behind Pat and Graeme, and they had ridden to a stop side by side, and arm in arm. So there was no final sprint finish. As much fun as they can be, I think that the show of solidarity was a better end rather than a mad dash for an imaginary line where anything could have gone wrong.
Phil and Susan had their All Trails Banner out, and so some riders where having their pictures taken in front of it. Walter hefted his bike up in a show of celebration. Considering that it was a Dual Suspension Mountain Bike, that was no mean feat after so many days on the road. Some of the other bunches rolled in, and those that where already there clapped and cheered them in. We all looked resplendent in our matching All Trails Kit, and after some more water was handed around, we formed up into a convoy. In an attempt to keep the traffic as happy as possible, we had to ride single file, which meant that we were pretty long. We rolled our way into Broome, and a lot of vehicles riding the other way tooted their horns, they may not have known what the event was for, but it was great to get a reaction like that.
We got to a roundabout, and Phil and Susan sped ahead and did a full lap so Susan could get some footage of us riding in. Walter had tried to follow them, so he had to do a lap of the roundabout as well. I was near the back of the group on the way in, so I was able to see pretty much all of the riders in a line. They looked fantastic on the way in. We pulled into the Visitors Information Centre, as Phil wanted to try and get a photo of us in front of a sign saying Broome. We had to cover up the "Information Centre", but we did manage to achieve one. Luckily, there wasn't the usual "One more... One more..." that usually comes out of taking a group photograph like this.
From there, it was just a short ride to our Accommodation for the night. At first, it looked like we were going to be leaving Broome, and then we were treated to a great view of Roebuck Bay. Broome is on a peninsular, and it has the Indian Ocean to the West, and the waters of Roebuck Bay to the East. The water was a brilliant Aqua Colour and it is really stunning. We had come in at a high tide, so there was a lot of water there. Our Hotel is just slightly away from the centre of Broome, and we pulled in and that is where all of the congratulations happened. It is a happy and sad time for all of us. Happy because like the Territory Tour, all riders finished upright for the entire trip, and because it was a fantastic achievement. We have covered about 2,000km in 2 weeks. But it is also sad, because all good things must come to an end. I know that many of us wish that it could keep going. The emotions were certainly high, and it was evident looking at all of the beaming faces.
We had arrived at Broome an hour ahead of schedule, which meant that we had a bit more relax time before we were due to depart to Cable Beach. I was sharing with Ben again I tried to find our room, but I hadn't looked at the map close enough and so I originally went to the wrong end of the Hotel, I eventually tracked it down, and I helped Ben move everything to our room for the night. I got stuck into my stretching and post ride routine, I knew that I didn't have to do it, but I knew that it would mean that I would feel a lot better in the morning if I could force myself to go through with it. The shower was fantastic, and after that we had a chat while sitting on the balcony for our room.
We met again for our Bus trip to Cable Beach, it wasn't far, and we were being treated to a Sunset Camel Ride along the beach. We had to walk onto the sand, and this is one of the few beaches in Australia where you can still take vehicles. There are only certain areas where you can drive, but I think that it is looking at being stopped. There was a swimming area to the South, and from the looks of things it was pretty packed.
We passed a car that was bogged down in soft sand, some of the riders tried to help him out, but I took one look and had an attitude of "You got yourself into it, you can get yourself out of it". There were a couple of Camel Trains along the Beach, and we were all in the one train. We had to sort ourselves into pairs, and I teamed up with Peter. We had to also try and meet a Camel. They were very docile, and didn't seem as evil tempered as I have heard that they can be. Some of them were chewing their cud, but a lot of them were just sitting on the sand very patiently.
It was an interesting experience. Peter was on the back of our Camel, and I was forward of the hump. When they stand up, the get up at the rear first, so they can potentially pitch any riders forward. It was a strange experience, and then we were off walking. They are a very tall animal, so it is a long way down when you are mounted up on one. The guide walked down the line talking about Camels and the rough history of each of the Camels. Ours was named Randy, he was a bull, and he got his name as you would expect any male to get a nickname of Randy. He was also an ex racing Camel, and when he was in his prime, he was pretty much able to win any race.
I asked about the wild population, and Australia has an estimated one million wild camels, and like the Water Buffalo, Australia is now the only country where they are wild, despite being an introduce species. We are even exporting them back to the Middle East, as we have some very good bloodlines out here. Their hair can also be used, as well as their meat. I asked about mass export, but as they are a very tall animal, they require a lot of head room, which is difficult to come by on many standard ships. As a result they are normally only shipped as a single or small group. I asked if they were related to the Alpaca and Llama, which I based on the fact that all 3 animals are known to spit, and I turned out to be correct.
We were able to see the sun going down on Cable Beach, and there were a couple of Pearl Luggers out in the water. It was a really amazing sight, only spoiled by the large number of vehicles that were on the Beach. The tide was going out, and I looked at the distance between the High Tide mark, and where the water was now. It turns out that depending on the tide, Broome experiences tides of up to 10 metres, with an average height at about 8 metres. They also get 4 tides a day.
We were returned to our starting point, and we were off the Camels just in time to see the sun drop below the horizon. I have now stood on the East Coast of Australia and watched a sun rise, and stood on the West Coast for a Sunset, something that I feel is quite an achievement, especially considering the way that I made my way to the West Coast.
Some of the riders were keen for a swim, I wasn't dressed, but I was still determined to get my feet wet, as I didn't know when I would next be at the Indian Ocean. So I took my shoes off and waded into mid calf length. Renee had gone running in, tripped over a rock, and then cut her hands when she tried to stop herself from falling, not badly, but still not the way you want to end your holiday.
We were jumped back on the Bus back to the Hotel, and I got changed into something more respectable for dinner and headed down to the Bar. Some of the other riders had the same idea, and we were really enjoying the fact that we didn't have to ride tomorrow. The evenings entertainment wasn't yet over, as we were due to see Staircase to the Moon shortly before 8pm. It only occurs about 3 days a Month, and we were lucky enough to be in Broome on the last night when it would occur for July.
We went inside for Dinner, and there was another Tour Group in there as well. I know that we should have been more considerate of the other diners, but we were in a party mood, and we were really glad to let our hair down. We had a very nice meal, but it was interrupted by the Staircase to the Moon.
We marched outside, and tried to get as close as possible to the edge of the balcony as possible. Some people had been there since we arrived, but we could still see well enough. They turned off a lot of the outside lighting, and we were able to see the initial light from the moon. It took a while before it actually formed, but it was pretty amazing to see. The moon was a very yellowy orange colour, and the reflection off the mudflats did look like a staircase. I tried to take some pictures of it, but I am not sure if my camera was good enough to get a good shot. We watched it for about 15 or 20 minutes before heading back inside to finish our meal.
I tried to keep my meal to a reasonable size, but when it came to dessert, I failed badly. There were two choices on offer, and I enjoyed the first so much, that I went and had the other as well. We were then given our final briefing for the ride. Simon read out a poem that he had composed while on the ride, and it was very funny, he was able to have a dig at a lot of riders in a playful way and most of the riders were mentioned. Phil and Susan are going to get it up on their website, which means that it saves me the trouble of trying to put it on mine.
Like the Territory Tour we were again given certificates to celebrate our achievement. The photo was the one that was taken at the Western Australian Border, so all riders are present and accounted for. They were handed out in reverse alphabetical order this time. As before, we were asked to say a few things about each rider, and as before, it is a really nice touch. I have only known a lot of these riders for the last 2 weeks, but we have all grown together and made it through as a group. It is a very nice way to finish such a fantastic event.
A big thanks was given to our entire support crew, Kirsten, Greg and Peter. They were fantastic throughout the entire ride and it was great to have them along. Phil and Susan were also amazing, they are able to keep the whole ship running at all times and they are always happy to help us out and give us words of encouragement. They are what make an All Trails Ride so special. Susan was termed a Mother Hen, she treats us all as if we were her children and nothing is ever a hassle for her. It is fantastic getting in at the end of the day, knowing that she has your room key and that everything is going according to plan. Kirsten gave Phil and Susan book on the Kimberly that each rider had written a comment in and signed, it was a really nice touch.
Then it came time to auction of an All Trails Jersey which every rider had signed. The bidding quickly went up above $500 and kept going. It ended up going to Ernie for $1,250. I tried to get it, and missed out, in hindsight, I really wish that I had bided higher and tried to get it. It would have been a fantastic memory from the ride. The proceeds go to the MS Society, so it is also for a good cause.
Kirsten also donated an hour long massage with the proceeds going to the MS Society as well. Despite her living in Melbourne, some fool in Sydney purchased it for $160. Now I need to travel to Melbourne for my next massage. Kirsten was surprised at me buying it as I hadn't had a single massage throughout the entire trip.
By this stage, it was 10pm, for many this would be an early night and there was a temptation to keep on going, but many of us had been up since about 5:30am, and it has been a long day. We are all tired despite our bravado to the contrary. So we decided to call it a night. I am on a 2:20pm flight out of Broome direct to Sydney tomorrow, I want to get some sights in of Broome before I leave, but I have heard that once you have seen Cable Beach that is pretty much it. I also want to see if the Post Office is open tomorrow, but as it is a Saturday it is unlikely. I would like to try and mail some stuff home in an attempt to avoid my excess baggage fees again.
This has been an amazing ride. Many people have asked me what my next ride is going to be. I honestly don't know. These two rides haven't been cheap, but I was really glad that I did them both. I have some fantastic memories and I have seen some really beautiful country along the way. I am thinking that I am going to take a break from organised touring next year, and maybe do something a bit smaller by myself. I would like my next big cycling adventure to be in Tasmania. Of all the Australian States and Territories, this is the only one I am still yet to visit. I have heard that they cycling there is amazing, and it would probably suit me very well as there are a lot of hills. The other option is the Nullabour. It is another challenge that I want to knock over.
All I do know, is that I am going to keep an eye on the All Trails Calendar for any upcoming rides.
The bikes racked up at Morning Tea
Graeme getting the jump on everyone else for the next stage
The peleton in matching jerseys riding in formation to Broome
At the end of the line
The beautiful colour of Roebuck Bay
Phil and Susan
Our Camel Train on Cable Beach
Camels on Cable Beach at Sunset
Staircase to the Moon
for more Photos from Day 16.