We’ve heard about it. We knew it was coming. Our invisible nemesis. The Nullarbor headwind. There’s no escape. Though you can’t see it, it bears down on you like a massive invisible wall. And today, Mel and I were cycling straight into it. All day with no respite. And the heat came today too. Probably the hottest day of the trip so far. It was the first time we used the slipstream, one bike directly behind the other. At first we were swapping positions every ten k, to give the front person a rest, but even this was too much. So we switched more regularly. We took our first afternoon stop somewhere on a straight stretch because Mel’s mascot, a miniature cow called Daisy got blown right off her perch on the back of Mel’s bike. To get going again we had a highway boogy and sing to Its Raining Men. At our second stop we got hysterical. Tears of laughter streamed down our faces as we sat on the side of the highway fuelling on Snickers and snakes. A touch delirious perhaps. Passengers in passing cars seemed to be more animated too which was very welcome. Wild honks of horns, big happy waves, we even had kids from one family throw their arms out the window to wave at us. I think they knew we were doing it tough. It helped.
We’ve just come back from dinner with Gill and Paul. We struggled to sit up and hold a conversation. My eyelids are dropping, Mel’s asleep, and the zzzzz are calling. Up and at it again tomorrow. And over the WA-SA border actually. Another big milestone and something to help keep our legs turning. Here’s hoping for a change in wind direction. Night. Sogni d’oro x
Mel and I are a bit beside ourselves. It’s two in the afternoon, we’re fed, washed, the washing’s out and we’re lazing in our outback Moroccan-inspired accommodation in Caiguna. The reason? We only had 65k to ride today. What a treat. A big day yesterday meant a much easier day for us today. And now we’re savouring the moment.
We’ve had two near perfect days of riding. Luckily, as we’re on the 150k straightest stretch of road in Australia, with no wind break whatsoever. The land is flat. But the winds have been on our side and have pushed us along for the past two days. The sun is out and the sky is massive and blue. And you certainly don’t need to be thinking about which road to take. There it is laid out before you.
Out here you see the curvature of the earth, the wedge tail eagles circling and soaring high above, the enormity of the sky and the colours of the landscape. Even the road trains don’t seem to interfere with things. Mel and I have our calling system pretty much perfected now – ‘camper up’, ‘truck back’, ‘cars passing’, ‘clear’ are amongst the few words we need for each of us to know when we’re ok to stay riding on the road or when to pull off. And more times than not, we’ll get a honk or wave from everything that passes. We even had a trucker stop in the middle of the road yesterday to offer us a lift!
Last night we camped out under the almost full moon. Gill and Paul had driven on ahead and set up camp 400m off the road. A few other caravaners were also in the area. Gill had boiled hot water for us to go and have a ‘bath’. It had been a long day of 117k on the bike and I did liken the scene to Out of Africa tho rightly so, Mel did point out that it would be better if we had Robert Redford there to wash our hair. And then we sat back, opened the wine, made a fire, ate a beautiful curry that Gill had made a few days earlier, played sharades, and watched the moon rise. Two of our ‘neighbours’, after hearing of the Cycling4Parkinsons cause, both also made donations before leaving camp this morning. Even out here, in the middle of nowhere, the generosity of strangers is amazing.
Some moments of the trip so far, broken down …
K’s cycled: 1149
Rest days: 1
Towns: 12 (York, Quairading, Kulin, Lake Grace, Lake King, Ravensthorpe, Munglinup, Esperance, Salmon Gums, Norseman, Fraser Range sheep station, Balladonia)
Longest day: 122 k
Shortest day: 72 k
Toughest day: Esperance to Salmon Gums (brutal day of 110k of strong head and side winds. Baptism of fire for Mel, her first day in the saddle!)
Best shower: Norseman Best Western
Best meal: everything made by our support crew-extraordinaire Gill and Paul (and can I just say here, they have been amazing. Mel and I want for nothing, they feed us breakfast, prepare our lunch roadside, have all the gags, keep us totally entertained, plan afternoon sundowners, and have simply gone above and beyond the call.
Most delirious moment: Well, there’s been a few but most recent was last night when sitting round the big wooden kitchen table at Fraser Range, looking at all the inscriptions everyone had scratched into table. I read ‘AH 4 KT 4 EVA’ in a big love heart, as three people in a love triangle. Mel pointed out EVA was probably not referring to a girls name but more likely ‘ever’. Mmm yes.
Number of Snickers and Picnic bars eaten: lost count
Most competitive moments: Playing UNO. It gets serious.
Highlights: raising awareness for Parkinson’s and receiving generous donations on the road from strangers, many with their own stories of relatives or friends living with it.
Best IGA: Ravensthorpe. Nothing compares.
Road kill: a few, even a camel today.
The trip continues to be amazing. ‘Turning right’ at Norseman was a massive milestone as we are now heading east towards Sydney and approaching the Nullarbor. Now in Balladonia and beer o’clock has just been called from the next room. Must dash.
Munglinup was the meeting spot, pretty much dead centre between Ravensthorpe (or Ravi as the locals say), and Esperance. Paul and I left our little cabin at the Ravi caravan park this morning (after doing a quick live interview with ABC Albany radio) and had the most blissful ride with full tail winds for the 80k into Munglinup. The winds have been very kind since we left Perth but even we were amazed at how a strong tail wind can make it seem like your legs aren’t even having to work. We cruised up and down the ‘rollers’, with what seemed like a helping hand pushing us to the top of each hill and then gliding down long runs on the other side. On we rolled passing through hills of thick shrub as well as beautiful fields of yellow canola as far as the eye could see.
We were quick to grab a coffee on arrival in Munglinup (we got rather excited about the ‘real’ coffee machine at the roadhouse and were pretty delighted we weren’t disappointed) and sat waiting for Gill and Melissa, who had left Perth this morning to meet us here. We got talking to a lovely Dutch couple who’d been on the road in their camper since May (we even got the full tour) who also happened to be listening to the local ABC radio that morning. They’d heard me being interviewed and were quick to donate in support. It was a lovely moment.
As we waved them on their way, in rolled Gill and Melissa, with their Cycling4Parkinsons t-shirts on and car branding on Red. There was lots of whooping and hugs all round. Up went the tents, out came the red, and we settled in to Gill ‘s delicious dinner of ratatouille and chocolate custard biscuit fondue. Absolutely delicious, especially after a week of pub and roadhouse dinners!
So now we’re all settled into our tents. Onwards to Esperance tomorrow where we’ll have our first rest day the day after. Melissa will then join me on the bike with Gill and Paul support in the car. But that’s two days away. For now, with my new found love of the Kindle, I’m zipping up my sleeping bag and having some time with Little Women. Night xx
This is Al. He’s a friend of Paul’s, a really great writer and pretty funny for an alpaca. He’s come along for the ride and is blogging about his adventures on the road too so you might like to check out his blog at http://www.alabroad.com.au
I can’t quite believe we only left Perth yesterday. So much seems to have happened. We had a wonderful farewell from Mt Lawley in the wee hours of the morning yesterday. Sheina brought coffee and muffins, Chris brought the flat tyre jokes and everyone else brought smiles, hugs and cheer. It was a great way to be sent on our way. Thanks everyone!
It was a beautiful day cycling yesterday. The winds were kind, the rain stayed away, we were welcomed into the Lakes Roadhouse (about 50k out of Perth) with a ‘Hilltop Recharge’ chocolate cake care package left by our gorgeous friend Jessica (thanks Pilbara!) on her way to work. Boy, did it work. We sailed along the gorgeous road into York, the winds at our back, the odd toot from a passing car and kind traffic who gave us wide berth. And were met by Sarah with our gear who, with a 8 1/2 month belly, joined us in York for the night. In great Sarah style she entertained us for the afternoon with stories and laughter but even she couldn’t keep us awake past 8.30. Asleep by 8:31pm.
We all had breakfast together, then coffee and with the rain coming down we said our goodbyes to Sarah, feeling quite relieved the bub decided not to make an early appearance. Can’t wait to meet wombat in 7 weeks time. And then we cycled on. The countryside again was beautiful. Undulating hills. Green green hills. Yellow canola fields. Oh yeah, did I mention the rain? It was heavy. But least we now know our panniers are fully waterproof whewee! Now waiting for the kitchen to open at 6 to fuel for a big day of 120k tomorrow. Here’s hoping for sunshine. Night.