Day 8 - Thursday, 2nd July 2009 - Saddle Rest Area to Kununurra
Yesterday afternoon, Phil, Pat and Peter went for a walk up to the hill that was behind our camp site. We could see them slowly making their way up it. Although there were three of them, we could only see Phil, as both Peter and Pat were wearing their Green All Trails shirts. Phil was in white, so he was reasonably visible. They did make it all the way up, and all the way down, I don't know how long it took them to traverse, but I would estimate at least 2 hours. Considering the heat, and the fact that they pretty much had to to do the descent with none, I can't say that I envy them on missing out. The views would have been spectacular, but they had to bush bash their entire way up, and climb up at least one set of rocks. They were pretty much beat by the time they were back.
We met a chap in the Rest Area who went by the name of Scruffy, and he and his dog, a Silky Terrier called DB (don't ask what it stands for), were touring their way around Australia. He had started in Perth in November 2007, so by the time he gets home, he will probably have been away for about 2 years. He was only in Timber Creek the previous night as well, and as he said, as a Grey Nomad, it is illegal to travel more than 120km in one day. He said at one point, he only travelled about 6km in one day, before deciding that there was a nice spot to stop, and that it would do for the day. He was a real character, and he also let some of the riders use the shower in his caravan to clean up. It certainly beat my rough wash at the water tank. He was a real character, and from listening to him talk, I can see the attraction to his particular style of touring. Given the size of this country, I can also see why it has taken him so long to get around it.
Dinner was a very nice meal last night, as ironic as it sounds, a lot of us think that it was one of the best meals that we have had so far on this trip. It was a chicken curry with noodles, but it was exactly what many of us wanted, and there was plenty of it. Dessert was a fruit pudding and custard, but I had gone back for seconds for the main meal, so I decided to give it a miss.
Overall, it was a very enjoyable night. Although we knew that we had to be up early, we did stay up to a reasonable hour, and had a good time. While we seem to spend a lot of time in a pub or bar on this trip as a group, it was really nice last night as we only had ourselves to keep us amused. Renee had a paper with some quizzes in it, and we did two of those. One was Sports, so I failed on that one, and even the General Knowledge one I didn't do too well on. As a group though, we were able to get most of the answers to the questions. It is always interesting to see who knows what with quizzes.
There were quite a few snorers in the area where I had camped, and as it was also a very warm night, sleep was a bit difficult to come by. I think that Baz and Maz had the best idea, as they had camped slightly away from everyone else, and slightly away from the Rest Area. When I went out there before going to bed, it was also slightly cooler, probably because of the vegetation. I think I will try something similar at the next place we have to camp.
I was up earlier than normal, as I had volunteered to help out with the breakfast and with loading up Phil's Troopie. I was glad that I was, as I was slightly out of practice with packing up a tent and it's contents. The fact that I had to have three goes at folding up the sleeping bag insert didn't help things. In the end, I did get everything put away, and I was able to help out.
I was in charge of the porridge, and it was simply stirring it and waiting for it to come to the boil, pretty easy stuff, but someone has to do it. Despite the amount of porridge available, we managed to get through it all. I had some with some yoghurt and some raw toast to fill me up. Despite the fact that I could have eaten more, I don't like riding with too much food in my stomach, and given that tomorrow is a rest day, I didn't feel that I needed a lot of fuel.
We were asked to get away at 7:30am – 7:45am, and I had offered to help Phil and Susan pack everything up, because of this, and a last minute visit to the toilet, I was the very last to get away, at a few minutes past 7:45am, and I knew that I had a long chase ahead of me before I would see any riders.
We had a water stop at about 25km, and a Snack Stop at the Beef Road Monument at about 45km, with Morning Tea at the WA Border at about 65km. I set off, and passed Peter in the van just up the road and let him know that I as the last rider had finally left. It was slightly cooler this morning, and having judged by the smoke from the fire's in the camp site, we actually had a slight SE breeze blowing. It didn't make a lot of difference for the first few kilometres, as we were heading slightly South West, but it did still make it easier.
I was feeling really good on the bike, so I was turning the pedals nice and fast, and I was pushing a good speed. I didn't know how long it would take me to catch some of the riders, but I knew that I still had a deadline to reach to the first stop, and so I couldn't afford to dawdle. Some of the early morning scenery was really nice, and I was still taking photos. It was slowing me down, but it wasn't bringing me to a complete stop, so I knew that I was still getting there. We had some cloud cover today, and while it was pretty grey on the Western Horizon, I didn't think that it was going to rain.
There were some very big Boab Tree's out here as well, some absolute giants. I passed one that someone had carved something into as well as a date, it was only 1978, but it had still been there longer than me. Whenever I look at one, I always think of a Fractal Tree, they have this really big trunk, that seems to split into two branches, and each of those then split again. This keeps going right to the very end of their branches to infinity. They have a very distinctive look and while I know that we are going to see so many that I might get sick of them, at this stage I am still loving watching them go past.
We passed a creek that at first I thought was called Quartz Pot Creek, as I know that there was a Gold Rush somewhere nearby, I didn't particularly surprise me. Then a bit further up the road, I crossed over Pint Pot Creek. This made me think that maybe the previous one was called Quart Pot. I think that they must have been getting desperate for names of some of these creeks. It is a bit laughable though, there are probably a lot of waterways in this area that only flow during the Wet Season, and if they didn't have a name I don't think that a lot of people would care. I can understand naming the big waterways, but I am a bit baffled at naming some of the tiny creeks up this way. Sometimes there is a significance to them, like Attack Creek on the way up from Alice, but I think that sometimes, they were getting pretty desperate for names.
The scenery soon became fairly featureless except for some hills on the far Northern Horizon. This meant that it was a good opportunity for me to get my head down and really push the pedals over. I saw some cattle off to one side of the road, and they looked like they were Aberdeen Angus, not the usual Brahman that I would have expected. I also saw one standing near the road side, and I wasn't sure if it was actually alive. I didn't see it move at all when I rode past it, but it did look very life like. I was really hammering at the pedals, and it wasn't too long before I managed to sight a rider ahead of me. Actually, it didn't feel like very long because I was enjoying myself, but it was about 10-12km into the ride before I did see anyone. I only passed them at about the 20km mark, and I caught up to a few more only a very short distance before the Water Stop. I was actually weighing up whether I should stop or not, as I had only just finished one bidon, and I still had another one to go. Given that we had a snack stop at 45km, I thought I could get through safely.
I decided that it was prudent to carry as much water as possible, you never know what the day can bring, and so I did stop and refill my bidon. I only stopped long enough to refill it, and I helped a few others fill their bidons as well before pressing on. I passed John just up the road from the stop, and as I went past, I commented that I "felt fantastic" which elicited a chuckle from him. I think that he is our oldest rider, aged somewhere in his late 70's. If I can still do rides like this when I am his age, I think that I will more than happy. He is certainly an inspiration, and he looks a lot younger than his age. He has pretty much circled Australia piecemeal, much the same as I seem to be doing with All Trails.
I pressed on, and slowly caught up to some other riders, I wasn't keeping an exact track of who I had snared and who was still out on the road, and I managed to catch up to Pat. I thought that he was suffering at first, as he had his head down, but it turned out that he was just daydreaming and enjoying himself. He said that Graeme and Barry were up the road "hammering" so I would be lucky to catch them. I felt that I was somewhere in the middle of the pack at this stage, so I wasn't particularly concerned at not getting the front runners. I just wanted to make sure that I made the cut off to the first stop of the day. By this stage, we had covered about 40km, so we were expecting to have a stop in about 5 km. I said to Pat that Phil and Susan were still behind us, which did surprise me a little, as from my inexperienced eye, there wasn't a lot left to do when I left the Rest Area. Within about 30 seconds of us discussing it, they drove past us. So at least we knew we hadn't missed the Snack Stop.
I left Pat behind me, as I was still running a bit hyper, and I wanted to keep going fast while I could. I knew that I would probably pay for it later in the day, but that was something that I didn't have to deal with right now, so I didn't let it bother me. I caught up to Fiona and Gill, which really had me confused, as I thought that I had already passed Gill, goes to show that my brain wasn't working particularly well, and was probably a bit low on blood sugar at the time. I left them behind, and I could see a few riders further up ahead. I was starting to wonder where the Beef Road Monument was, as we had passed 45km with no sign of it. I finally sighted a sign showing that it was 5km away, and that would put it at about 55km. At about the same point, the border was about 20km away, so Phil was slightly out of whack for the distances of the day. I was suddenly very glad that I had filled up with water when I had the opportunity.
I saw some more riders ahead of me, and I could recognise one of them as Walter, and I then realised that the others were Simon, and slightly ahead of them, Graeme and Barry. I passed Walter a few kilometres short of the Monument, and I could see that Graeme and Barry where slightly ahead of Simon, and constantly looking over their shoulders. They must have realised that I was closing, as their pace suddenly shot up, and I remarked as such as I passed Simon.
The race was on to the Monument, and although I pressed as hard as I felt I could, I just couldn't reel them in. They pipped me to the post by about 50m, and I then found out that I was the third rider to land. I was pretty happy with that for an effort, as some riders had quite a big lead on me from when I left. I suspect that they may have had a longer stop at the Water Stop, but I had a pretty quick average to get the first 55km of the day done. Colin, the Yorkshire man who is touring Australia was there ahead of us, having left at about 6am.
The Beef Road Monument was an interesting one, it didn't seem to symbolise anything to me, and the plaque had been removed, so there was no information about it. The only interesting thing that we did see, was the Douglas Road heading South. There was sign warning that the next services were 441km away, and at Halls Creek, which we will also be passing through. It is literally a road to nowhere, and must only lead to cattle stations out there. It meets up with the Buntine Highway, which we passed the turn off to on the way to Victoria River. It seems that out here, all roads lead to Halls Creek.
I commented to Colin about the distances, and that I had heard about motorists getting stuck between Perth and Broome. The distances between Service Stations is greater than a car with a caravan can sometimes cover. He said that at one stage, he was in a car with a few people, and that he drove past a Service Station on that road with 3/4 of a tank. He pretty much coasted into the next one, having only just covered the distance. He said that the manual for the car said that it was a 9 gallon tank, but he managed to get more than 9 gallons into it. I had a look at my rear tyre, which was new when I landed in Alice Springs. I think that it is stuffed, I have two decent nicks in it, and I can see that it has a definite flat profile to it. It is starting to look a bit worn out, so I will replace it before it gets any worse. I have done about 2,400 km on it since Alice Springs, so it is only slightly worse that I would have expected. These roads are very harsh on tyres, and I always knew that I would wear one out. Pat had a look at his rear tyre as well, and he still has a bit of life in it, and it may even manage to get him to Broome.
We left the Beef Road monument, at about the time that Martin finally pulled in, he is a bit crook today, and so he is slightly down on power, he was also a bit late to leave as he had stayed back to help pack up, and so he was a bit late landing there. It is a bit demoralising when you finally reach a snack stop to see everyone going. Luckily it wasn't far to the Border, and our next stop, and with the wind starting to pick up a bit, it was very easy to cover. We made it just behind Phil and Susan, and there were a lot of signs warning that it was illegal to bring any fruit honey and a few other products into the State. We had our final Morning Tea where we ate all of our remaining fruit, set our clocks back and had a photo in front of the Sign welcoming us to Western Australia.
This is the third time I have cycled from one State to another, I have crossed the NSW/Vic border in 2007, SA/NT last year on the Rock Ride, and now NT/WA. It is also interesting to note, that while crossing the boarder, I was also crossing exactly 127 degrees East of the Prime Meridian, which passes through Greenwich. This is the definition of the boarder for Western Australia with South Australia and the Northern Territory. I am sure that I have passed other significant Latitude, but this is the first time that I was aware of it.
There was a reasonable queue of caravans waiting to be searched for any food, but in typical cyclists fashion, we just road up past the queue. I asked if we were OK, and one of the Customs Officers said that we were fine. I was a bit worried at first if we were going to have our back pockets searched. I knew that we would be fine as Phil and Susan had pointed out to us at several times that we had to make sure that we had no fruit on us when crossing the boarder.
There was quite a number of cyclists ahead of me as I came out of the border crossing, and it was very nice seeing all of the different jerseys (with the majority being All Trails) on the road ahead. Because the caravans were being held up, it also meant that there wasn't a lot of traffic on the road, and it was only coming through in chunks. I was soon up the front of the pack, and Pat, Graeme, Peter and Walter were ahead of me. While I could have caught them, and I did on a few of the earlier climbs, I didn't want to ride in a group. I wanted to be able to look around and take photos if necessary. It was a good thing, as there was a lot of pretty scenery for the first few kilometres into Western Australia. We are finally into the Kimberley Region of the country, and it almost looked like the hills were respecting the border as well.
I found it interesting, as Australia is considered to be the flattest country, and apart from the East Coast and Tasmania, is generally thought of as being flat. But this is only true when you think on a Continental Scale. When you think of it it at a local area, there are still plenty of places that have decent hills. They are no where near the scale of the Great Dividing Range, but they are still very pretty to look at, and to think of this country as flat is doing it a great disservice.
I was always riding to keep the group of ahead of me within a good distance, it probably varied between about 30m at the closest, and maybe 100m when I got a bit slack or took a picture. It meant that I had to work pretty hard a couple of times, but I was still feeling very good despite my efforts from the morning. Mind you, the Tail Wind was probably the biggest factor. The scenery did move away from the slightly hilly, and the k's continued to roll past. It was only about 40km from the boarder to Kununurra, and at the pace we were going, it was only going to take a little over an hour.
At one point, Peter dropped off the back of the bunch, and I moved forward to try and get him back on, in doing so, we had a major problem. Peter was near his limit, so I could ride with him and very very slowly close the gap, but if I went too fast, then he would drop off my wheel, which meant that we would lose ground on the group ahead. I could see that Pat and Graeme were swapping turns, and Walter was also looking back, so I assumed that he was relaying instructions forward. We could get close, but we could never quite make contact. After about the third failed attempted, I called out "Plan B" to Peter, rapidly closed the remaining distance, and asked them to ease up to get Peter back in with them.
Walter told me to ride in front of him so he was on the back, but as I said, I was happy riding by myself, and I was just trying to get Peter back in. I hung off the back again, and I was probably a bit closer this time. We reached the outskirts of Kununurra, and I moved up to the bunch as I was expecting a sprint to occur between Graeme and Pat. For the first time today, I finally went to the big chain ring as I wanted to test myself as well, possibly as a Dark Horse, as I doubted that they knew I would have a go. In the end, nothing eventuated and they were too busy waiting for the other person to go. I didn't know where they had decided on the sprint line being, so I couldn't have gone myself.
There was a really big Boab just inside Kununurra, and it is probably the biggest that we have seen so far. I will have to try and get back to it at some point to see if there is any information on it. Our Hotel was very easy to find, and only just off the Victoria Highway, we pulled in, just as Phil and Susan where also arriving, and because of the fast pace, we were all buzzing. Despite the fast pace that we had ridden, it wasn't long before another big bunch of riders landed. Because we were all pushing a good speed, it was difficult to put big time gaps into the bunches. Walter ducked across the Service Station and nicely provided us all with a Flavoured Milk, my preference wouldn't have been for Coffee, but as flavoured milk is a good recovery drink, I wasn't going to complain. Susan appeared with some keys, but not all of the rooms were ready.
I moved my bike around to the pool area with others, and set about doing some stretching, I managed to convince Graeme to join me, and once that was done, I grabbed my bag to get my protein powder in. There was a bit of a delay with lunch, as Susan had made a mistake with the time failing to consider the different Time Zone that we are now in. Some of the riders were already making use of the pool, usually in their cycling kit. I was sharing with Martin, and we actually had an argument over who was going to get the single bed, we were both insisting that the other person take it. We sat down to a slightly early lunch by the local time, but for us, slightly late. I had joked to Phil that it was the quickest 115km I had ever done. It only took me about 3 hours, and that included the rest stops.
There was also another minor issues with the rooms. Carl, who joined us in Katherine apparently snores pretty loudly, and so he was trying to be kind to other riders. I offered a set of ear plugs as I still had some spares ones which I had purchased back home. They were passed onto Ben who was sharing with Carl for the next two nights. There was still a delay in getting access to our rooms, and I stripped down to my nix and did a few laps of the pool in desperation to cool down. It wasn't super hot, but I did want to get out of the sun.
Kirsten was wandering around trying to get people in for a massage, she tries to give preference to people who haven't yet had one, and I am in that group. She was trying to convince me to get one, but I was digging my heals in. I tend not to have a lot of massages generally, and on these trips I have a very good post ride routine of stretching and protein powder, so my legs are able to stay pretty fresh. I am probably not going to be the only rider not to have a massage, but I will be in the minority by the end of the ride of not having a massage.
Martin and I were still waiting on our rooms, and some more keys arrived. Ours wasn't one of them, but Susan gave us Greg's and Peter's room to get us in. The argument over the single bed was quickly resolved as I was first into the room, so I got it. I grabbed first shower, as Martin wanted to do his stretching, and after that, I collected mine, Martin's and Barry's Laundry. Barry provided the money, Martin the powder, and I the labour. There was a laundry in the Hotel, but it only had one working machine, and there was quite a queue for it. I went looking for the Laundromat, and I initially went the wrong way, it was just across the road in the Service Station of all places.
It was a pretty full load, and after that I was up to the Shopping Centre for a few more supplies. I was walking around town for a bit trying to find a few things before finally making my way back to the room.
Both Martin and I are on Bungle Bungle flights tomorrow morning, and we have to be in the Hotel Foyer at 5:30am, I suspect that it is one reason that we are sharing for the night. I am looking forward to tomorrow, I have nearly a full day trip out to Purnululu National Park, and I think that it is going to be one of the really big highlights of the trip. Because I only get back at about 5pm yesterday, I needed to do as many chores as I could today. I was hoping to get some Internet Access, but I don't seem to be in luck at the Hotel. I will try and track something down to get this report and photos on the site.
The spectacular sunrise from Saddle Rest Area
A Lone Boab
Colin, loaded to the gills.
I have ridden the entire black line, and the red line to the West
Mobolising the troops for the group photo
One advantage of cycling kit, you can swim in it too
A Red Tailed Black Cockatoo in flight
for more Photos from Day 8.