Day 45 – I made it!
After 3900km, 45 days, 29 nights in my tent, one puncture, one tantrum, 1000 dead kangaroos, zero days of rain and one near punch up with a truck driver I have arrived in Coffs Harbour.
My journey took me from Darwin, across the remoteness of the Northern Territory where life is tough and people are rough. I spent 20 days by myself smashing into headwinds day after day as I crossed the Barkly Tablelands into Queensland. I revelled in being by myself in the outback but at the same time I yearned to see my family. I spent many nights in my tent with the door unzipped,watching the most beautiful display of stars twinkle in the night sky as I drifted off to sleep – tired and dirty after a long day on the bike but with the feeling of calm and contentedness that only comes from a hard day’s physical effort.
I rode through the outback nights, through the cold and complete darkness – alone but for the kangaroos feeding close to the roads. I met people whose life and livelihood depended how much rain that year would bring. I met people who gave me drinks, oranges, chocolate and invited me as a complete stranger into their homes. I saw the sadness of lives lost to alchohol, drunk at 10am in the morning.
I was passed by trucks so large they created a blast of compressed air so strong it stopped me in my tracks. Flies drove me crazy by day and I counted the minutes until 6pm when the sun went down and they mysteriously vanished. I slept in camp grounds, gravel pits, under trees, and roadside rest areas. I ate peanut butter sandwiches every day, drank water from bores and used three plastic bags the entire journey.
I rode through sky so blue against plains so brown and flat with roads so long and strait I thought they would never end. I saw emu, cockatoo, crocodiles, dingo, frogs, a snake, sheep, eagle, cattle, horses, wallabies, kangaroo and rabbits. As I left Queensland the kangaroo were replaced by white balls of cotton lining the sides of the road, the trees started to became greener and the temperatures colder.
My legs burned as I hit New South Wales and I rode over the great dividing range. ‘Great’ is the apt name for this most magnificent area of our planet. Up and down I rode for three days, crossing the expedition high point at 1100m before using gravity to coast down the other side for 10km into the East Coast of Australia, and a different world. Green grass finally! Beautiful stony rivers with crystal clear water. A land which looked like it had been created as perfectly as possible.
I packed up my tent amongst a sea of mist for the final time. My heart felt torn – between wanting this to continue forever and the burning desire to see my girls again. It is painful for me knowing this stage is over. Photo: Alistair Harding.
Australia I thank you, you challenged me, you tested me, you made me laugh out loud with joy as I witnessed the sunrise from the seat of my bike, you made me angry at your relentless headwinds, you made me scared as I rode through long lonely nights by myself and you made me stand speechless time and time again at your beauty. I have no words to describe the daily portraits you painted – each one different but just as beautiful. I will never forget you. As one journey ends another begins. It’s time to focus on the Tasman.