Off The Bitumen
We left Glen Helen Homestead loaded with three days of water and food. The bitumen soon faded into the distance behind us, and we began what would be an unexpectedly horrible road. Good thing Claire found a nice Aussie who would spot 15 L of bore water 100 k down the road, just in case.
We managed 77k the first day, due mostly to the bitumen, 53, 50 and 47 subsequent days, not three days, but four, you will notice. We found our first water stash, and since we didn’t need it all decided to ask someone to spot it further on. Three young backpackers in a rental cheerfully agreed, and we trudged on.
The road varied from standard corrugations, with smooth bits now and then, The fist sized, sharp-edged rocks embedded in hardened clay, to deep red sand. As soon as we were just about to give up on one torture, gloriously, some new form arrived under our wheels. The change, though often worse than the last seemed a relief. Suffering can be interesting – in retrospect.
Twist-ties to the Rescue
One of Claire’s rack bolts came all the way out on day three, not a good omen, and two of our water containers sprung leaks, one repairable with a twist tie, and the other transferred to an empty milk jug offered by a passing motorist. Lots of people offer help, which we hope we won’t need, but is reassuring. We finally realized that the many thumbs up we were getting were meant as a question, “Doing alright mate?” not a “Good on ya!” and required a returned thumbs up. However, removing one hand from a death grip on the handlebar and risking a nasty crash wasn’t always advisable, even at the riotous speed of 7 kilometers per hour; those rocks were hard and sharp.
My water worries were mostly unfounded, thanks to Claire’s planning, as usual, and we ended up dumping five L of bore (bad tasting, stomach rumbling) water before Kings Canyon.
We will be more relaxed about water on this touristy section to Uluru, since people seem eager to help hapless, inept, even stupid push-bikers. We’ll be happy to make anyone feel superior for a liter of water.
In the Kings Canyon resort campground, one middle-aged man traveling with his son, said I was a living legend! I think that has something to do with being old, and still being a hapless, inept push-biker.
Lethal snakes in Australia
As we spoke his son noticed that we were almost straddling what might have been the most lethal (quick death at least) snakes in Australia. I took photos from what I thought was a respectful distance, until I remembered that Australian snakes are not slow like our snakes, and that they are aggressive. He easily outran the official summoned for such crises, and found a new hole. I am writing this a few feet from his hole. I hope he comes out to sun again. He was a very pretty snake.
We have rediscovered (we learned this 16 years ago about distances) that the maps don’t agree with the road signs, the road signs don’t agree with each other and none of them agree with our cycle computers. This is uncomfortable when the difference exceeds available water.
I nearly fell over with shock when we saw the snake because I had mistakenly assumed that the deadly snakes we were watching out for were the same general sizes of our dangerous snakes in the U.S. Bob and I both have been bush bashing and reaching into small clumps of grasses for fire starter, thinking that no poisonous snakes could hide in them. This little killer was the size of a garter snake. When I asked how their tiny mouths could even make a bite, our neighbors assured us that the jaws open very wide. Didn’t sleep real well that night.
I’d wanted to justify our extra effort and expense of mailing ourselves food to remote locations, knowing that the prices out here are typically quite exorbitant. Armed with my packing list and receipts, I added up a comparison of the few items from our food satchels that are even available here (11 of 24). Those groceries, in Alice Springs, cost us $43.44; here the same sizes and weights would have cost $116.25. The $17 postage was worth it. To celebrate we splurged on 2L of ice cream, $10.