Day 11 – sleeping with spiders
After 960km of cycling since departing Darwin, here I am at ‘Three Ways’ junction where I have to make the biggest decision of the cycle leg. To turn left or go straight ahead? Turning left takes me a further 2800km across the Barclay Tablelands and a more direct route to Coffs Harbour. Straight ahead takes me 3500km down the Stuart highway and eventually to Coffs, an additional 700km longer journey in total. Both routes have their highlights and appeal, however I have finally settled on turning left. Whilst the longer route is more appealing to my sense of adventure – I would not have time to see anything as would need to be cycling over 100km every day for the next 35 days strait to make it to Coffs within my time constraints. I am trying to tell myself to slow down a little and take the slightly shorter version and at least see a little more of the country on the way through. Looking back on this journey since I started on the 3 January in Singapore – it is the times I have stopped somewhere to enjoy a view or a cup of tea or talk to someone that stick in my mind – not the actual travel.
The last three days I have ridden into headwinds and through a landscape which has changed significantly. I am now in wide open cattle country and trees are becoming replaced with low lying schrubs. Now there is bugger all shade and I have to ride for more than an hour or two to find a road sign or anything I can rest behind out of the sun if I want a break. It really is a harsh place during the afternoon heat especially.
Yesterday I rode 115km to ‘three ways’ junction after spending the night in a gravel pit on the side of the road. I had ridden into the darkness the evening before and as the flies dissapeared with the sunlight and the mosquitos came to replace them I setup my bivvy bag on sun baked, rock hard, red earth. After two hours of sweating in the bag, the heat finally dissapeared and it became cold enough to get in my sleeping bag by the time 0500 came around and I rose to head off. As I rolled up my bivvy bag a large spider came running out which kind of spoilt my mood and I dearly hoped it had been on the outside of the bag all night and not inside it with me. My mood soon improved however as I witnessed a lovely sunrise making the countryside glow as I peddled along lost in my thoughts.
Alistair Harding our legendary expedition film producer has had to return to New Zealand unexpectedly so I am now alone. It took a day or two to readjust to this and while I miss his company during the evening when we would meet it is also nice to spend some time alone. I do hope he maybe can catch up again in two weeks or so time. He was never acting as my support vehicle as we travelled independently with me carrying everything I need so the transition from a practical sense was not difficult.
Yesterday I passed this crazy guy pushing his cart from Melbourne to Darwin – this was day 72 of his trip and he run/walks about 40km per day.
Over the next week I have some massive distances to cover between water stops as I take on the Barclay Highway. I have a 180km section starting this afternoon and then immediately followed by a 290km section. For both these sections I will need more than one day – maybe 2.5 for the 290km section. Carrying enough water to get through 2.5 days is the main concern.
My body is covered in insect bites, headwinds and heat make it difficult to do larger mileage and I hate sleeping in the bivvy bag. The bivvy bag is my biggest mistake of the the trip. I am always looking for ways to cut weight and this was one step too far. Fortunately Mr Andrew Cook has come to the rescue and I have a small free standing tent waiting for me in Mt Isa – 6 days ride away which will make camping much more comfortable. The ground is so hard here I can’t even get tent pegs in so a free standing tent is more appropriate. Apart from that my legs are becoming hard as rocks as I get fitter and I am loving the over all experience of seeing this harsh, dangerous but beautiful land by my own human power.