Thursday, July 22, 2010

Day 52 Noonamah to Darwin!!!

We really didn't sleep too well last night... a group of people staying next door to us were up all night drinking and drugging directly outside our room. They were extremely intoxicated, but were pretty sheepish when we emerged at 5.30am in extremely foul moods.

None-the-less, it was pack up, eat breakfast, and start peddling... the weather is humid, and we could tell that it was going to be a hot day.

However, with the end in sight, even the lack of sleep was not a factor for us. Riding was simply a joy! Heavy traffic was not much of an issue as we had significantly wider shoulders to ride on, and then about halfway in there was a bicycle path that lead all the way into Darwin! We were even able to stop and have an iced coffee at a service station... something that has not been possible for the last 7 weeks, as there have been no services or ammenities anywhere between any of our stopping points.
It was an emotional morning for me arriving in Darwin. I'm at a loss for words trying to describe what it felt like... but it was a VERY good feeling!!! Jason was on hand to greet us and to document our arrival. We road on a few more kilometers to the waterfront where we dipped our wheels into the ocean. Its been 3000+ Kilometers since we initially dipped our wheels into the Southern Ocean.
We had to negotiate our way across a muddy tidal flat to actually get to the water, and with our loaded bikes it was no easy task!
One of my favorite sayings is "the person who begins a journey is not the same person that finishes the journey"... this has proved to be very true for me on this trip in particular. I can honestly say that today it was worth every peddle stroke, every frustrating moment, every miserable fly-infested campsite, every headwind, every overwhelmingly isolated moment, to arrive at this point in time at this point in my life.

Day 51 Adelaide River to Noonamah

We were on the road again in the pre-dawn light to avoid as much of the heat as possible. Riding was fairly pleasant until traffic started picking up... About 3 hours in, I was pulled over by a car that stopped up ahead of me on the shoulder.

I had a good rhythm going, so it was a bit annoying to have to stop and speak with someone. However, this gentleman was relaying a message from Dave, saying that he was in Adelaide river looking for us and would keep riding until he caught up with us. I do appreciate the kindness and consideration that so many motorists have shown us on this trip, and this situation was another reminder not to become too caught up in the "Us vs. Them" mindset.

This said, I did have a very close call with a road construction 3-trailer road-train that literally swerved at me to force me off the road! I would love the opportunity to discuss that situation with that driver...

Arriving at Noonamah we were shown to a brand new donger-style room. So brand-new in fact, that there were workmen still painting in several adjacent rooms. The owner was kind enough to let us store our bikes in one of the unfinished rooms, as our room was very small.

Dave arrived a few hours later, and managed to talk the owner into letting him sleep with our stored bikes for free. Jason made an appearance shortly thereafter, and we all enjoyed another evening of clever conversation, lubricated with a few beers! Tomorrow is the BIG DAY....

Day 50 Pine Creek to Adelaide River

On the way out of town we stopped to have a photo next to a massive termite mound. Its only one of the millions of termite mounds that we've seen over the past several weeks, but I thought we really needed to document them as they truly are remarkable. Shortly thereafter, Andrew spotted a pair of wild asses off in the bush, and I managed to get a quick snapshot of them.

Thank God for tailwinds again today! We rode in hills (real hills) for most of the day and it would have been a rough 70+ miles if we had also had to fight the wind! We again had several close calls with vehicles- the local road-train construction truckies are a far cry from the professional long haul truckies we've come to know and respect. The heavy traffic was compounded by a lot of road constructions beginning at Hayes Creek. Hayes Creek was a nice, clean little town and I'd have enjoyed spending a little time there... next time.

We Stopped to rest and hydrate several times, but we still managed to roll into Adelaide River by 3.30pm. Just outside of town a vehicle was hailing us, and of course my attitude was not very ambassadorial... I was delighted however that the driver turned out to be a friend, Jason Scheepers! He had driven down from Darwin after work to meet up with us; fantastic!

Along with his co-worker Patrice, Jason joined us in the pub for a couple beers and a nice bite to eat... It was a very long day, and the beer and good company really helped to blunt the edge of it!

Jason and Patrice had to get back to Darwin right after supper, so Andrew and I set to the tasks of preparing to ride in the morning. It is only around 40 mile to Noonamah tomorrow, and I'm really hoping its an easy ride...

Day 49 katherine to Pine Creek

We saw a LOT of kangaroos of all sizes this morning scampering across the road. With a STRONG tailwind we made really good time on our 55+ mile ride today, stopping only a couple times for a breather. The heat was a cause for concern and we made an effort to continually refer to our water bottles throughout the ride.

Traffic was very heavy and we were forced off to the road over a dozen times... which doesn't really sound like big deal until you consider that there is nothing but large loose rock, broken glass, and sharp hazards of all types littered over an uneven surface. Add a heavy, somewhat unstable touring bike to this and you have a recipe for disaster. I had a very close encounter with an "Adventure Tours" bus that still makes me shutter. The drivers are getting significantly more aggressive the closer we get to Darwin, and our attitudes are becoming a lot more "Us vs. Them".

Pine Creek is a well-kept little town with a pleasant hotel and cafe... of course we are not staying there. We are instead in a "donger" across the road. We have decided to ride through Hayes Creek and on to Adelaide River tomorrow, and that of course shortens the ride by an entire day.

Day 48 Katherine

Had a very pleasant rest day... mostly napping and taking care of the mundane details, such as laundry, to be ready to leave tomorrow morning.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Day 47 Mataranka to Katherine

We were up at 5.30 today, and out the door well before dawn... however we were delayed after a bird crapped all over Andrews helmet (and head!). When he went back into the room to clean up, he returned to find another bird had soiled his bike seat!

So after a few small delays we were off and riding (again together), and we immediately started spotting wildlife... numerous kangaroos, a black-headed python (deceased), and what I thought was a small black bull staring at us as we approached. The "bull" turned out to be a massive, bristly, black wild pig! We slowed a bit not wanting to threaten it, but preparing to peddle like hell if it charged. Fortunately, it decided to turn and go...immediately disappearing into the tall grass.

There has been a slow but noticeable change in the ecosystem the past several days, and we are now firmly in the lower tropics. There are tree everywhere, lots of grass, and other mysterious plants, many with beautiful flowers.

We had a break at the only rest area along the route today with several caravaners. I'm always amazed how these simple interactions can lift my spirits and have a nice life-affirming effect on me. We rode back onto the Stuart highway, and almost instantly encountered a car-load of people that very clearly did not like the fact that we were on bicycles, as they gave us the universal finger gesture of displeasure. This was followed up a short time later by having what we strongly suspect was urine sprayed on us by a passing van of young tourists...!!

Otherwise the ride into Katherine was pleasant, even if the temperature in the sun was over 105f... We showered, had a sandwich and wandered off to catch a movie in air-conditioned comfort.

Day 46 Larrimah to Mataranka

Today we actually rode together... Andrew's 50 mile "record" ride took its toll on him, and my tortoise pace seemed quite adequate to him today!! Truth be told we are both a bit sore and in need of at least a day off. Not that we've been pushing ourselves so hard, but rather the cumulative effect of the trip is wearing on us.

It was a longer and hotter ride today, and we both agreed that we could live without seeing the famous hot springs. Riding into town we were relieved to see a grocery store and a small library with internet access. Checking into the Mataranka Hotel, Andrew quickly made friends with a crowd of indigenous locals outside the bar... he was quite popular! We had a bit to eat and then set out to do our shopping.

We were really amazed to find that with the exception of the pub and the gas station, the entire town was closed for business! The Katherine Show, formerly the Tennent Creek Show, has once again worked against us. Apparently everyone had gone to Katherine for their equivalent of a county fair... leaving us with very few options. However, we did manage to get some basic items at the gas station, and we only need to make it to Katherine (pop. 10,000+), so we're good.

Our ride to Katherine tomorrow will be the last day of the trip over 60 miles, and I'll be only too happy to put that one behind us!! The length of the trip is starting to have an effect on us as tourists, in that we are finding very few things eye-catching or interesting any more. Additionally, and more importantly, our sense of humor seems to be wearing thin... and small set backs are becoming harder to handle with a smile.