• Start: off the road banana loop bush camp
  • End: Coober Pedy
  • Day distance: 120.3km
  • Total distance: 3150.91km
  • Average speed: 19.7km/hr
  • Pedalling time: 06:04
  • Total time: 08:30

My first puncture. Not Priscilla, she’s fine. My mattress has sprung a leak! I’ve had my Therm-a-rest for a long time now, it’s one of the few items that has made it through all 3 thru-hikes and Australia, until now. It gradually deflated throughout the night and I had to re-blow it up 3 times, each time I woke up and my bum was touching the ground. I didn’t want to believe it at first. It’s so inconvenient. 

In the morning I noticed there were all these spiky balls on the ground, normally I am super careful and I clear the ground under my tent because I am always paranoid about my mattress popping. But I had grown complacent I guess, and I was so hungry I only had getting set up as quick as possible and eating on my mind.

IF I had cleared the ground this wouldn’t have happened, I SHOULD have cleared the ground then this wouldn’t have happened. Of course these thoughts are useless and I need to get back into my Vietnamese mindset. This has happened: now what?

The plan today was to get about 10km away from Coober Pedy and camp in an underground camp site, then take a day off in Coober Pedy tomorrow. 

When we set off we found out we still had a tail wind with us and we moved along quickly. So quick in fact we had done 80km before lunch. It was a hot one today, not a cloud in the sky and just a vast expanse on flat nothingness all around. There were 2 small lumps on the landscape at one point which I thought was worthy of photo!

We stopped for lunch and decided to carry on and get to town. We had seen a discarded pizza box on the side of the road (along with heaps of other rubbish and junk) and now that was all we could think about. Pizza. 

I was getting tired, it was my 8th day in a row of 90km+ days. It was the hottest days so far. I was stopping every 10km to drink water. I would be coming into town with over 2 litres of water left, after my panic about running out I carried too much, but too much is better than not enough

I stopped at the 10km sign and the boys came up behind me. I thought they were in front of me and I was worried that they would be waiting around for me. They thought I had seen them as I passed, they should realise by now that I am incredibly unobservant!

We rolled into town and found the cheapest place to stay, The opal cave. Most places here are dug into the ground to make them bearable to live in in the summer when temperatures regularly exceed 50ºC. It’s an odd place, The Opal Cave. So is Coober Pedy in general, but we were the only ones in this funny little hostel, with 52 beds all in 4 bed chambers off a long corridor. We could bring our bikes inside and spread ourselves out.

Priority 1 – pizza. We walked over the road to the pizza place and stuffed ourselves until we felt sick. 

Priority 2 – check out the supermarket. We were fearing a small expensive supermarket, but to our surprise we found a big, well stocked, reasonably priced selection. And the chocolate was on offer. 

Priority 3 – shower. The shower was nice and powerful and it felt so good to blast off all that dust and grime from the last 5 days

Now it was time to set about mending my mattress. All I had to use was a very small kitchen sink which the mattress didn’t really fit int at all. After abut 15 minutes, I was beginning to think this was completely pointless and searching for a hole in this thing was like looking for a needle in a haystack. But eventually I found a hole! I prayed there was only one. The rest of the mattress wouldn’t have fitted in the sink. I used one of the patches that I have carried with me for over 7000miles of hiking and 3000km of biking and I patched it and hoped for the best. I lay on it for a while and … I think I’ve fixed it! Yes!! I apologised and told it I would treat it better in the future.

My German friends are cycling to Darwin which is cool. They have realised how enormous Australia is and they won’t have the time to turn right to head to Brisbane. Some things are easier when there are more of you, splitting the costs of camp sites or rooms, sharing food and not losing your mind from boredom. We are looking at hiring a car from Alice Springs to get to Uluru (which would have been too expensive for me to do alone). There isn’t enough time to do an extra 500km round trip to get there and back on the bikes. 

Things are easier when you are travelling as a pair. You share food and chores. In the morning one of them packs away the tent while the other makes breakfast. Of course travelling like that also involves compromising sometimes but I think the positives outweigh the negatives. But I also like being independent, and this way no one can let you down. 

It’s so nice to have people to share the experience with so I’m really pleased to have my German friends for company for the long long road ahead.  

••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••

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