- Start: Coober Pedy
- End: side of the Stuart highway
- Day distance: 107.3km
- Total distance: 3258.21km
- Average speed: 13.6km/hr
- Pedalling time: 07:52
- Total time: 09:30
With strong northerly winds forecast we decided on an early start. When my alarm went off at 6am I had absolutely no desire to get up. I was tired and lacking in motivation. Priscilla had her heaviest load yet and I wasn’t looking forward to battling against the wind. I ate my breakfast of French toast and avocado and we set off with the aim of doing 120km, which was halfway to Marla and the next roadhouse.
My confidence was pretty low. I didn’t think I would be able to make it, I was worried I was holding the boys back, I just felt slow and incapable. But there was also another voice inside my head telling me I was being ridiculous. It was telling me I could make it, I would just have to pedal nonstop and I’m definitely not incapable. It’s times like these when I question my sanity. But I have also been through enough of these mental games on challenges like this to have an answer for all the doubts floating about my head.
It was just one of those days you get after taking a day off. I felt tired and sore, everything seems to hurt more the day after the day after. My feet have changed from tough hiker feet to soft biker feet. After a day of wondering around Coober Pedy yesterday my feet are so sore. You don’t use your feet when you’re cycling.
The wind wasn’t as bad as we had feared for the first 3 hours, but I was still going slowly, there were a few long, gradual uphills to contend with and I just couldn’t make my legs go round any faster than they were going. I was also fighting my mental battle as I went along, and not even Harry Potter could distract me from it. As soon as we reached the boundary of the city there were mining molehills as far as the eye could see. I saw the boys stopped at a rest area and asked them if they had been there long. They had cleaned and oiled their chains, so a little while then!
We decided to stop for lunch at the rest area 35km ahead. And that’s when things began to get bad. The wind was brutal. A horrible northerly headwind. I was barely managing 10kph. Every time a road train came towards me it blew me to a standstill. I have decided that the worst thing about a headwind is the sound, it is so loud and there is no let up from it rushing past your ears. A few times I had to stop, get off the bike and just stand facing the other direction to give myself a break from it. Another thing that’s unpleasant out here (not helped at all by the wind) is how dry the air is. Your mouth is constantly at 0% moisture, and drinking water cures that only when the water is in your mouth, as soon as you swallow it is instantly dry again. Your eyes are always sore because they are so dry. Your food suffers. I got out my pb&j sandwich, because at a 10kph pace I would arrive way past lunch time, but within 30 seconds of being exposed to the air it was crispy, the crusts were like toast!
It is pretty normal now for me to arrive at a rest area to find the boys deep in conversation with some grey nomads. Today was no different. When I eventually rolled in I was welcomed by applause, the offer of water and a food package with an orange, 2 carrots and a wafer thing. And the water had ice in which was a real treat because today was exceptionally hot and cloudless. The landscape was very dry and baron with no vegetation to shield any of the wind. The carrots shrivelled quickly in the dry heat, but people heading north will have to throw away their fresh fruit and vegetables at the border so they were trying to get rid of some.
The lady said she had passed me on the road and asked if I saw her waving out the window. I said I didn’t, I was head down and focussed on a small patch of road in front of me, and occasionally my attention was in my mirror, because today was a 2 earphone day just so I could actually hear what I was listening to. No one got a wave today, partly because of the mood I was in and partly because it was just too windy to look up or confidently remove a hand from the handlebars.
After a lunch break we still had 43km to go and the wind was just as intense as it was before lunch. I battled on and stopped every few kilometres just to give myself a little break from the noise and the intensity of the wind. On a particularly long large hill I lost sight of the boys and caught up with them again at a rest area with 19km left to go. We had all had enough of the wind, everyone has dry eyes and dry mouth and is working so hard just to keep moving forwards. I checked to see if I still had two hours of daylight left to see if I could make it before it got dark.
As we continued to cycle on Dominik was in front, then Simon, then I was at the back, fully expecting to lose sight of them pretty quickly. But the greatest thing happened. It was still windy but I found myself riding in their slipstream. Cycling had just become heaps easier than it had been a few minutes ago. With two large boys sheltering me from the wind I was able to keep up with them with very little effort, I even just freewheeled for a bit at times because I was going too quickly. I could see Dominik just ahead still battling hard against the north wind and felt so grateful that he was putting in all the hard work and making my life easier. Unfortunately I would never be able to return the favour as he is a good head, shoulders and chest taller than me so he would still get blasted by the wind!
To make a good late afternoon even greater, we saw a nice looking spot to camp and decided to stop early. Rest areas are generally pretty grotty, exposed, with rough gravel and lots of trash around so we thought this would be nicer. I could have carried on happily in the slipstream but I was even more happy to stop.
We set up and I completely cleared my area of anything pokey, thankfully there were no spiky balls in this place. I had a rather gross dinner of pasta and tuna and a boiled egg. I didn’t use enough water for my pasta so the whole thing was rather gloopy and unappetising but I was hungry so I ate it all. The flies didn’t leave us alone, they like to go for the face all the time which is super annoying, but they disappear when the sun goes down which is nice.
I had been concerned about the pressure of my tyres for the last coupe of days, they were looking a bit softer than that had to begin with, not helped by the heavy load. I didn’t check them at all between Sydney and Adelaide, but they were checked by a professional in Adelaide and they were fine, no extra air required. So with the help of my German friends and their portable pressure gauge, after a bit of faffing about in the dark, I used my pump for only the second time (the first being at the maintenance course) and we eventually got some more air into them (after letting a fair bit of air out). So hopefully Priscilla will now just float along like a dream tomorrow.
After a boiling hot day the temperature when the sun went down was perfect so we sat out and watched the stars for a while. We debated the constellations and I pointed out the only one I can name, the Southern Cross. We saw a coupe of satellites moving across the sky and a couple of shooting stars before the desire to lie down became overwhelming and we retired to our tents. Now I am writing this and the boys are already fast asleep snoring!
I continue to raise money for Just A Drop – they bring sustainable clean water, sanitation and hygiene projects to communities around the world.
663 million people across the globe are living without access to clean, safe water. That’s 1 in 10 people. A child dies every 90 seconds from a water related disease. One third of the worlds population – 2.4 billion people – don’t have access to adequate sanitation.
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