Monday, August 6, 2007

Equipment

A final word about this trip. It again was a susbtitute for another and totaly different trip (I hope I'll get a chance of that one eventually). In a way it also was a test of my abbilities to cover large distances in short time and without rest days. The test was completed succesfully, I think, I made 4640 km in 33 days, which is 141 km in 7:06 hours of cycling per day on average. Except some pain in the shins in the first 3 days of the trip I didn't have any problems with keeping the high pace, it quickly became undisturbing routine. It is reasuring to know that I can make 4000 km in a month. For example I could make a trip from Europe to China, a standard tour of the Europeans, in 3 summer months, profiting in high temperatures and long days. At the risk of being boringly repetitious, I must add that this is possible also becouse of the minimalistic approach toward equipment. Only mistake that I made was that before the trip I was training on a different bike. I got used to a different saddle and the one I used on the trip felt uncomfortable for surprisinly long time - 15 days.
Other than that the bike was performing great. I had no punctures and even a cracked back tyre patched with duct tape held for the final 1700 km. The "crack" in the chainstay that I discovered early into the tour happened to be just a residue from the leaking of a water bottle. However, this bike has now covered 12831 km without modification and this is starting to show. The chain is understandingly worn, but so are the most used cogs in the cassette, as I happened to notice after the trip. This is a small price to pay for trouble free shifting during the amazing 2 years of use and three awesome tours. A more worrying fact is that I got a scratch on the carbon fork. The replacement of the fork is out of the question, since that would cost almost as much as a whole new bike. My assessment is that the scratch is not severe and that the bike is good for another 10000 km or so, but I will take it to the bike shop to get a professional opinionMy tool kit.

My other equipment was standardly minimal. Weighing only 6200 grams it was the lightest tour with camping gear. In fact it would be less then 6 kg, if I didn't take a bathing slip, T-shirt and a second lock as the last minute inclusion - a sign of weakness even in the strictiest of light-weight practiciants .

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Perth


Rain fronts were moving from the west one after another. Most of them unloaded their cargo onto me during the night and the mornings appeared clean and cold. The wind works still in my favor, mostly I might add, as I will disregard the few exceptions when the road turns toward west. In the last days the sunny intervals are interspersed with light showers, spraying me without permanent damage. The sun is warming my back, and making this final stage a pleasant ride filled with flash back memories of what I had experienced. From Wubin to New Norcia and Perth there are some hills, resulting in a roller-coasted type of road, undulating up and down with the frequency of 1 or 2 km and requiring frequent gearing changes, cuddling in fetus position on dowhill, a little bit of standing on pedals on uphill and alike cycling folklore which was absent and forgotten so far. Nothing to worry about, except possibly the road itself which at this leg would might be aptly renamed to Great narrow highway instead of Great northern highway.
As I came to the sign "Perth 46 km" I become a bit sentimental. I remembered a moment on the opposite side of time and space, the end of the first day (Day 0) just outside of Darwin. I was at the kitchen of a caravan park and a young fellow asked me where I was going to. "I'm cycling to Perth", I said. I had a sum total of 41 km under my belt at that time. The other camper, preparing the meal at the kitchen, looked at me bewildered, thinking probably "What is this lunatic talking about?".


Day 30: 117km. Day 31: 153km. Day 32: 141km. Day 33: 110km. Total 4681km.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Yalgoo



The ride down the #95 to Mt. Magnet was a piece of cake, again blown by tailwind mostly. The places were flying by: Newman (a bit of headwind here, though), Capricorn RH, Meekathara, Cue, all of them entrants, finalists or even winners of "the most tidy town" competition. I however discovered another thing: hunger. I don't know if that was because I didn't take rest days or something else, but I felt hugry like never before. During previoust days I must have lost 4 kilos; I was at the summit of my ultra-light-weight cycling career, I might say that was giga-light cycling. But the food was not easy to find, especialy the cheap options like supermarkets were missing.
After Mt. Magnet I turned right on #123, towards Geraldtown, with the intention to change the scenery and to cycle a bit along the ocean. The first day went along just fine, low trafic and not much flies, due to shortage of roadkill. That night there was considerable rainfall and in the morning the wind picked up, but now blowing from the west. That day was the the hardest one of the tour. A 100 km against the cold headwind and without food, not having eaten enough the day before, I could almost see through my stomac. The vision of the great town of Yalgoo with its aboundance of food kept me going. However, the first thing I saw as I came to this somewhat dissapointingly small village, was the sign that the restaurant was closed, with the optimistic side message that it will open in about a week. I almost fainted, more so as the opening hours of the only store had passed too. Hopefully the grim looking motel/hotel had an "Open" sign, and as soon as I entered I ordered a lunch and a take-away dinner. I was hungry as a wolf and thin as a toothpick, yet, everything dissappeared into me without trace.
The next day continued with strong headwind. 30 km before next village a rain storm started at it made me change the mind: I turned and cycled back to Yalgoo with tailwind and rain pleasantly and undisturbingly spraying me from behind. At Yalgoo, which now became one of my favorite Australian towns, a huge skyscraper-styled local goo-burger waited for me to slam it down my system. I took a room in the hotel - first time after 25 days of camping - and in the morning filled myself with assorted items from the breakfast table. With pleasant feeling of fullfillness I sailed back to Mt. Magnet, barely aware of the huge wind that I had in my back.

Day 26: 140km. Day 27: 101km. Day 28: 148km. Day 29: 150km. Total 4159km.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Karijini National park



From Port Hedland I turned left, inland on the road #95. Expectantly, it was now pedaling against the eastern wind for about 80 km. Then suddenly the road turned south, climbed a little pass (yes, there are passes in Australia) and my dearest tailwind was with me again. Not only that, the scenery became amazing, now there were gentle hills all along, with little Ulurus and Olgas doting the horizon. This stretch through eastern Pilbara range was the most beautiful part of the road so far. Some 100 km further I veered right toward the Karijini national park and its famous gorges. I practically fell through the first 35 km to the Visitor centre, but then a hell of the dirt corrugated road started. I really didn't expect to find the worst imaginable road in one of the most beautiful national parks. The traffic is quite high here, much more then on Gibb river road, lifting clouds of red dust, so at the end of the 100 km trip both ways to and from the gorges I was looking like an Indian. I also devoured a record number of chocolate bars, as that was the only food available at the N.P.

A day after the visit to Karijini, as I looked down my back tyre, I saw a wobble in the wheel. That can't be, I thought, this rim - despite its slim look - is strong as a rhinoceros. I set out to true it, and discovered that the problem was in the tyre, the sidewall of it had cracked and it bulged at the most severe place. Bad news; it was 3000 km mark then and still some 1500 km to go. The tyre may blow out and it will be the end of the trip, as I don't have a spare. I made a tyre boot with duct tape and hoped for the best.

Day 18: 157km. Day 19: 130km. Day 20: 93km. Day 21: 142km. Day 22: 100km. Day 23: 147km. Day 24: 203km. Day 25: 164km. Total 3620km.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Derby, Broome and Port Hedland.

After 7 days bumping on dirt roads I thought that 70 km asphalt  before Derby
would come as heavenly change. But it wasn't entirely so, there was nothing magical in this transition and I soon started missing the good (I mean bad) old red dirt. In Derby I made a quick raid of the local supermarket, washed the clothes and did an inspection of the bike. In chain stay I discovered something that might be a crack in the frame. It's still 3000 km till the finish of the trip so, if it really is a crack it will certainly show. Ride to Broome was just too easy with magical tailwind. There I again gorged myself with supermarket food (an item I particularly favored was Greek-style yogurt with blueberries), took a stroll on Cable beach and moved on. On day 15th I made a record breaking ride on the longest stretch without facilities - 286 km from Roebuch to Sandfire roadhouses. I started at 6:00, which wasn't particularly early but still bloody cold, so I didn't get into right pace until 7:00. From there on it was pedaling, pedaling, mostly with tailwind, until sunset when I reached 250 km mark and an further hour on night ride lightning my way with a small torch and being careful not to run into a dead kangaroo or a cattle grid.
The following days were marked by tailwind almost all the way to Port Hedland. The scenery changed too, instead of the bushes by the side of the road which obstructed the view, there was now dry grass stretching to the horizon. The flies became more active. On one ocasion when I tried to chase them away, I hit my glasses with the hand and sent them to the ground. In the panic glasses-rescue operation I stepped on them and crashed them. Jesus!!! I felt like Mr. Bean in one of his best roles. I had a spare pair, but I was really pissed-off: can't just one tour end without some similar embarassing event happening?! On the other hand, if there were no such events I would not be able to tell anything interesting about the trip, would I? Something like this:

They (people expecting a fascinating tour report): "So, we heard you cycled in the Indian Himalaya. That must have been an amazing trip!"
Me: "Yes, it really was."
They: "So, what was the most memorable moment?".
Me: "I fell through the hole in the stairs and almost killed myself."

Day 12: 156km. Day 13: 115km. Day 14: 145km.
Day 15: 283km. Day 16: 155km. Day 17: 168km. Total 2485km.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Gibb River Road



In Kununurra I found out that Gibb river road was opened to all vehicles less then 15 t in weight. I'm light weight, so I fall in that cathegory. So I went. It's about 640 kms of dirt road, and final sealed 70 kms to Derby. The quality af the road changes from smooth hard beaten earth where you float almost like on the pavement to terrible washboard across all the width, soft gravel and sand and stones - the surface which makes you yell and curse after an hour or two riding on it. The scenery along the way is a bit more changeable then so far, the view frequently opens beyond the trees bordering the road on cliffs and eroded mountains. The road is mostly flat or gently undulating, but there are several "jump-ups", steep short paved sections that leed you up (dozen of times) for a couple of tens of meters or down - if I remember orrectly only twice - when you've got the chance of reaching more then 50 km/h, a rare occasion in Australia.
But the real beauty of this road are the river gorges which are 2 to 20 km away from the road. I visited only two Calvin gorge and Lennard gorge, but the last one is one of the most beautifull places I've ever been to. It's a wide pool of dark turquoise water, encircled by black and orange rocks and fed by three waterfalls. It's a place you just can't leave, especialy if there's a young naked woman swimming, sun bathing and walking about.
There are many river crossings, most of them narrow enough to cycle through. Few are wider, namely Pentecost river (100 m wide) and Durac river (50 m). There are signs that saltwater crocodiles inhabit these waters, which makes crossing all the more exciting.
There are few facilities along the road, at kms: 26 (Emma gorge), 50 (El questro, 12 km turn off), 69 (Home Valley, 2km t.o.), 156 (Ellenbrae, 5km t.o.), 341 (Mt. Barnet), 380 (Iminji store) and 430 (Lennard river snack), where you can get water and food. It's hot during the midday hours, but even so I cycled throughout the day; I drank from 3 to 3.5 liters of water a day. I had water filter, but never had the chance of using it, also because two times some nice drivers gave me 1 or 2 liters. Sun gets high quickly after the sunrise, and the shadows indicating holes and corugations are disturbingly lacking, until just before the sunset. I had two occasions close to falling off, which also reminded me of resemblance of this road and the Chinese road 219 in Xinjang.

Day 6: 103 km. Day 7: 102 km. Day 8: 110 km. Day 9: 118 km. Day 10: 100 km. Day 11: 110 km. Total 1462 km.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Kununurra



Another day blown by (moderate) tailwind. Mornings are too cold for me (11 deg C), so I don't start before 8:30. Up to 12:00 it's pleasant fast riding, admiring the countryside and wawing to passing cars. The hours from 13:00 to 16:00 are hot and windless, a bit of a downside, but I stop frequently in the shade, have a snack and motivate myself by thinking I am riding around the world - a surprisingly good motivation. I stopped in one rest area between Timber creek and Kununurra. A guy told me the Gibb river road was closed due to recent rain, a week ago. Shame, I wanted to through. But it may be opened by the time I get there. We'll see.

Day 5: 146km, Total 820km.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Timber Creek


Victoria hwy has considerably lighter traffic. That is the reason that I saw my first living kangaroos in these couple of days. The other I saw were dead, by the side of the road. Other road kill included some bird of pray, two thick and one thin snake, the famous cane toads (why are they so hated?) and a cat. The road kill can be seen from a distance by a presence of kites on the road. On one such occasion they were just starting a feast on a dead cow which lied by the road. I came close and stopped, hoping for an opportunity to make a photo of a kite in flight. But the kites all flew away, and I came closer to see the body. It was a dead cow with its lower jaw and eyes missing, its belly has been freshly open and inside it was half-fermented grass. A car drove by and I caught a surprising look of a passenger - "admiring a dead cow, that must be the case of necrophiliac sodomism", that's what she may thought.

Day 4: 179 km, Total 647 km.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Victoria river


The third day, the same direction, the same wind. In fact headwind has some advantages: cools you down and keeps the flies away. I stopped at Pine creek for a lunch, then pushed on until sunset when I found a bush camp near a railway line. During the night a car stopped near and two men got off laughing. It seemed they stopped to have a piss and saw my tent in moonlight. They moved on quickly, but I kept awake thinking what I would do if they attacked me. I don't have a proper weapon - even a pedal spanner is cut in half due to weight saving.

Midday next day I was in Katherine enjoying Thai meal and a cold drink. When I turned west into Virginia hwy the wind turned and is now blowing me westward. Sooooo goooood!

Day 3: 160 km, Total 495 km.
Day 2: 142 km, Total 335 km.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Adelaide river


It is supposed to be dry season at this time at yesr. Yet, the skies were cloudy yesterday and this morning and last night I heard rain dropping on my tent for half an hour. I hope I didn't read that travel guide upside down - it would be a disaster. The day started with a school example of not being able to decide. I cycled up to the turn off to Kakadu NP, then after covering 10 km I turned back to Stuart hwy, cycled up to Noonamah, had a beer and a deep thought, decided to go back, cycled again 10 km on the Kakadu hwy, turned back and finaly decided to follow Stuart hwy up to Katherine. And why all this? Because in view of current Australian prices, I have to spare every dollar and not to pay such luxuries as entrances to NPs. The rest of the day went in pedaling against the headwind, up to Adelaide river.

Day 1:153 km, Total 194 km.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Darwin


Day 0 started when I came to the Darwin airport after two and a half days of flying. The bike came with me, which was good as a pilot mentioned something about 10% of the luggage being forgotten in Frankfurt airport. After putting the bike together in airconditioned hall, I stepped out into the heat and humidity and cycled 10 km to Darwin. In the first few kms I got a chewing gum onto my rear tyre and a piece of glass on the front. In Darwin I heard some ridiculously high prices for a single room in a hostel (I am a bit too old for a dorm), so I purred the watter into the bottles and pedaled 40 km to the first campground.


Day 0: 41km, Total 41km.

Monday, June 18, 2007

On the road again !

Last few years I seem to had been obsessed with cycling in the mountains. Kyrgyzstan, Tibet, Himalaya, Andes, Alps, it was always up and down all the time. Even at home I'd chosen some hills to add toughness to my weekend rides. It's high time to change the mindset and to try out the joys of riding on flat ground day after day. At least that's how I expect it to be in Australia.

The smooth tarmac will lead me from sleepy Darwin, through shady Kakadu, across gently undulating Kimberley and along refreshing western Australia's coast down to megalopolis of Perth. I have just a bit more then one month to do it, but since it's all good and flat road I hope it won't be too difficult to average 140 km per day.