Cycle Oz Day 58 – I spoke too soon

  • Start: Eridunda Roadhouse
  • End: Stuarts Well Roadhouse
  • Day distance: 106.8km
  • Total distance: 3740.6km
  • Average speed: 16.7km/hr
  • Pedalling time: 06:22
  • Total time:  09:10

The smell of the septic tank kept wafting over in the night which was pretty gross but for such a busy campsite – there were so many caravans – it was nice and quiet. I have been pretty paranoid about my therm-a-rest developing another leak and last night I placed my raincoat under it and I put my two packets of tortillas on some rooty things that weren’t particularly spiky, but I wasn’t taking any chances.

After getting up half an hour after the boys I was ready half an hour before them. The general consensus this morning was to push on to Alice Springs. It had been a mild night and our tents were dry and we decided, although it would be lovely to take a day off, it would be more useful to have a day off in Alice Springs. We set off a bit later than planned, but with a 106km ‘shorter’ day planned (I have no idea when 106km became a shorter day) we weren’t too concerned.

After a quick stop to look at the Emus in the Emu farm – one of the only living things out here, in fact there is nothing out here, there aren’t even any dead things, for there to be dead things there has to be living things and there is absolutely no life out here at all! – we set off into the wind. It wasn’t windy when we woke up but the north-easterly was picking up.

I was in a bit of a weird mindset today. One of those days where I feel really distant and cut off from everyone. One of those days where I feel like all my friends have forgotten about me. I wasn’t emotional, I just felt a bit numb inside, emotion-less maybe. I also felt tired, I couldn’t make my legs go round any faster than they were going and I couldn’t keep up with the boys. I tried to, and I was determined, but there were a couple of long hills and all I could do was watch as the gap between us grew and grew. I am really enjoying cycling with them, but sometimes I feel like I am really holding them back and they could be going a lot further without me. Maybe I am just better off by myself. And maybe that was just something to do with my silly frame of mind.

It was windy, I was struggling against it, it was uphill and I was back to doing 10kph. Ugh. Then the greatest thing happened. The boys were stopped up ahead and they asked me if I would like them to slow down a little so I could ride in their slip stream. Inside I was shouting OH MY GOD YES!! But I casually said, ‘that would be nice, but if you want to go faster don’t worry about me’. Their niceness made me want to cry a little.

They did slow down and I was trying my hardest to ride in their slipstream but the wind was coming in from the side and I was still getting battered. I was determined to stick with them and I worked really really hard, Simon was watching me in his mirror to make sure I didn’t get too far behind. After a few kilometres the boys started riding out into the road a bit more in that smooth groove created by the trucks on these rough roads, and I found a sweet spot to the left of Simon where I could tuck myself in and I was sheltered by the wind. It must have been a bit annoying for him because I was now in his blind spot so he couldn’t see me at all, but for me it was perfect, I was cruising along, sometimes freewheeling, now I had some shelter from the wind.

We had a short break after 30km, told our story to some caravaners and continued on. The next 40km went by in much the same way. It was windy and I was trying to find the most shelter I could. When we pulled in to the next rest area it felt like someone had really turned up the heat by about 30 degrees. We sat on picnic table and watched a caravan pull in and stop close to us. I hope they don’t come and talk to us, I said. It was too hot to explain our story again. But I was taught a lesson when they came over and spoke to us and they were really nice. They gave us cold drinking water, made me a cup of tea and the boys a coffee, and they told us how proud they were of us for doing what we were doing. These people we maybe the first true Grey Nomads that we have met. They weren’t just out here on a road trip, they have been on the road touring around Australia for the last 3 years!

We only had 35km left for the day so we lingered at the rest area for a while, not wanting to go out into the hot hot sun again. My hands have felt really swollen today and my left arm is constantly numb no matter what position on the handlebars I put it in. In hindsight I think the gloves may have been cutting off the circulation. The roads were so rough today, there was so much vibration and I noticed that the boys were shaking out their arms a lot as they went along. Eventually we had to get moving again, and that’s when things went tits up.

We had only been on the road for a few minutes, our Grey Nomad friends has passed us and given a little toot, the guys were being great and making sure they didn’t go too fast so I could keep up and I have to thank my lucky stars that they did. It isn’t usual for us to ride together so someone must have been looking out for me today (I get the feeling that I’m being looked out for quite a lot because I seem to get lucky a lot of the time). I was riding along and I heard something ping and then I heard a funny noise and felt a funny vibration. I was riding along trying to look down and see if I could see a problem. Simon saw me in his mirror and asked if everything was ok. I told him my bike was making a finny noise so we stopped to inspect it. I had a broken spoke on my back wheel.

Well, I didn’t have a clue what to do, and I’m not carrying any spare spokes. Yes, maybe I should have been, but I wouldn’t have known what to do with them had I been carrying them. In my naivety, I thought you may be able to carry on with just one broken spoke. Not so. The wheel goes all out of line and starts to rub against the frame and basically it’s impossible to ride. Dominik also told me that if the tyre rubs against the frame then it wears out the frame, not the tyre, and then you’re really up shit creek.

The boy were amazing. They got out all their tools and spares, and although they didn’t have any spokes that would fit my bike as they have smaller tyres than I do, Dominik (the mechanical one) came up with a temporary solution that should hold long enough to get me to Alice Springs and to a bike shop. I watched everything he did and tried to commit it to memory. I have the largest tyres that will fit on my frame so the tolerance either side is really small and doesn’t really allow for any wobble. With the makeshift spoke made he then had to re-tension all the spokes to make the wheel ‘true’ again and stop it rubbing. They taped up the frame in case it did rub at all and Pricilla was just about road worthy again. All this was done while being surrounded by 2000 flies.

While Dominik and Simon were hard at work and I looked on helplessly I felt like such a fool. Why didn’t I think I could just buy a bike and set off without any idea of how to fix it if it went wrong? What makes me think I can continue cycling by myself? I should just give up now and not kid myself that I can go any further. Why didn’t I do more research into this whole bike thing?

I was so grateful that the boys were there and they were able to help me. If I had been on my own I wouldn’t have been able to continue cycling and I wouldn’t have been able to fix it, so I would have had to have flagged someone down and I would have hitched a ride to Alice Springs to get it fixed. It wouldn’t have been hard to get a ride for me and Priscilla being so close to town. Not many people like to see a young girl stranded in the outback.

I also thought to myself, this is the first setback in nearly 4000km, you don’t just give up at the first problem that you have to face. The things you lack are knowledge and experience. You can learn and you’re getting experience all the time. Before today I didn’t know the first thing about changing a spoke, now I know considerably more than I did. I ask constant questions to the Germans and all their knowledge they are sharing with me will come in useful one day. I have asked them to make me a list of all the things, spares and tools, I should be carrying. And as for the more research thing, you can read and read and read, but there is no substitute for practical experience. For example, you can read about which handlebars someone thinks is the best, but you might find they aren’t suitable for you once you get out there. Yes, my bike is basic but she had dome bloody well to get this far with only one real problem. Well done Priscilla! And as Dominik pointed out, the real Priscilla broke down on the way to Alice Springs too and had to have a temporary fix, so she is only living up to her name!

‘Well, I’ve had a look around, and I think we can safely assume that I now know less about motor cars than I did when I first lifted up that ….. Bonnety thing.’ Mitsy Del Bra, Priscilla Queen of the Desert

We got a few kilometres down the road before there was a bit of a squeak and Dominik adjusted the break pads. His temporary fix on the spokes meant that the wheel was now moving up and down rather than from side to side, but at least she was rolling along.

Simon is also having problems with his bike, his tyre has a blister and his chain has a terrible squeak, so much so that we had to change the order we were riding in, with me now in the middle because the squeak was getting on Dominik’s nerves!

It wasn’t the afternoon we had expected and we got to the roadhouse much later than planned, but at least it was before the sun set. We were all pretty knackered and really starving. They guys, who normally have a substantial lunch of tuna and couscous, only had biscuits (my kind of lunch) today because they thought they would be at the roadhouse mid-afternoon, and because they can’t stand couscous anymore!

The camping is free here, but the ground is super hard so its difficult to get the tent pegs in. Camping on the grass in $10, but we decided we would rather spend out money on food as none of us was inclined to cook. We spotted another bike! Another cycle tourist. This person has a trailer on the back of their bike. Dominik said he though he remembered one of the grey nomads saying they passed an asian man heading south on a bike with a trailer. Maybe it’s him. We never saw a person so I guess we won’t know.

A lady in a caravan came over and said she had passed us on the road and gave us an orange each. I like oranges but they are a right pain to eat because I am fussy and like to peel off all the white pith, but I roughly peeled this one and stuffed it down without caring, it was so cold and juicy, and I was so hungry. We pitched our tents, and we were feeling lightheaded every time we bent down and got back up again, so it was time to go and get food.

I really liked this roadhouse, it’s one of my favourite ones so far. It had a nice cosy friendly feel about it as well as being really random. On one side there was a whole cabinet full of smurf memorabilia and on the other side there was the most gigantic snake. After ordering food, I ordered a chicken, bacon, egg, cheese, pineapple, beetroot, tomato, lettuce and onion burger, with chips, I went outside to grab our water bottles and I saw another cycle tourist.

I chatted to him briefly, he looked like he was travelling very lightweight, and he sounded either American or Canadian. I explained that the ground was hard and it was easier to pitch a tent near the tree where our tents were. He said he didn’t have any tent pegs so maybe he is just cowboy camping. I thought he might come into the roadhouse and we could talk to him (I think he said he is going south), but he never came in. We demolished our food and I ate so fast my stomach hurts. I have drunk loads today but I haven’t needed to wee since about 2:30pm, and I still don’t need to go.

Some fellow countrymen of my German friends came into the roadhouse and chatted in German with them, so they had to tell their story for the umpteenth time today while I sat in a food coma and let them do all the talking. It is so hot tonight, it’s 10pm as I’m writing this and its too hot to even think about putting my sleeping bag anywhere near me.

••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••

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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