Day 26 – over halfway
I spent a relaxing day in Winton on day 23 visiting the museums and wandering around the town eating ice cream after ice cream, until I became embarrassed at buying too many from one store and moved to the next. My appetite has gone crazy and I can’t stop eating, generally I seem to crave fatty junk food. Winton is famous for dinosaur fossils but they are 11km out of town and cost 55 dollars to visit which I thought was a bit steep so didn’t make the effort. Maybe I should have. I am still debating it! I did enjoy what is left of the Waltzing museum after the main part burnt down unfortunately recently.
The temperature has been dropping down between 0 to 4 degrees overnight and it makes it a little uncomfortable for early morning starts from the tent so I find myself huddling in my sleeping bag until the suns rays start to show and warm things up a bit before surfacing.
I set out on day 24 for my last long 180km ride between water stops. As usual I smashed into headwinds, all day and 115km later just on dark pulled into a rest area and set up my tent. That day I saw a frog, a dead kitten, my first flock of sheep, 500 dead kangaroo and 15 emu. And some people say there is just miles of nothing in the outback?
What a beautiful night I had there by myself enjoying the solitude of the outback from the comfort of my tent. The stars were twinkling in their full glory and I cooked couscous and tuna with a massive mug of sweet tea for dinner before curling up in my sleeping bag for the night.
Then next morning as the sun rose I had muesli and tea for breakfast then set off for the remaining 65km into Longreach. Longreach is an interesting country town. It’s two main attractions are the Qantas founders museum and the Stockmans hall of fame. I absolutely loved the Qantas museum – Longreach was the base for Qantas originally because of its geography and also the warm dry air which would not corrode the planes. The history of Qantas is fascinating with two guys who met flying fighter planes in WWI. They became friends and after the war returned to Australia where they were awarded a job from the Commonwealth to travel from Longreach to Darwin and identify potential emergency landing sites for planes. The planes were taking part in the first London to Australia air race. Their epic journey in a model T car through the outback with generally no roads took 51 days. I had just cycled this same distance in reverse in 25 days. At the end of the journey they both realised that this vast inhospitable country was ripe for an air service. So they founded the Queensland and Northern Territory Air Service – which if you look at it can be shortened to ‘Qantas’. Their friendship ended unfortunately due to the rigours of their overland trip and one soon left Qantas. The rest is history!
At the end of the day visiting museums I rode 27km down the road to Ilfracombe. A tiny town with a pub and a caravan park. I slept there the night and was invited to thaw out for breakfast with a lovely couple from Sydney who cooked eggs and toast with coffee.
I then set off for an 80km push into the wind to Barcaldine. There are so many dead and rotting kangaroo on the roads now it stinks to high heavens. Every 100m there is another carcass. The country side is still very flat and open here and today I met my first proper cycle tourist on the whole journey – this dude who is 60 and is Cycling around Australia for a year!
I have 1400km to reach Coffs now – I have travelled 2450km and am a little sad to be slowly moving away from the outback and closer to towns and more people. People in the outback wave and talk to you, every single one of them. I enjoy the sense of isolation and never feel lonely out here – it’s only when I visit a town and see people around that I may start to feel vaguely lonely. This sure is a remarkable part of the world and I must sound like a broken record but I really do feel privileged to experience it by day from the seat of my bicycle and by night from the nylon of my tent.
Have a lovely weekend and leave the ipad and TV alone and get outside for a walk, run or a ride, climb, ski, paddle or a swim. Your body and your spirit will thank you for it:)