1000 Miles of Outback Australia by Pushbike

Claire: Big Weather

When we realized we would get to Docker River just as the store was closing on Saturday, and that we’d have to stay an extra day to wait for opening on Monday, we decided to take our time and stay out a few kilometers Sunday night. P1010944bThe clouds that day sprinkled very little through the day and they started clearing for a gorgeous sunset that night. We thought that would be all the weather we would see, but sometime after midnight it started raining and didn’t stop until 4:00 Monday afternoon. That meant packing up a wet muddy tent in the rain and attempting to pedal on a very sloppy, mucky road. We were getting low on food and water and worried that the road would close entirely. One Aborigine man confirmed for us when we rolled up to the Docker River Store: “Big Weather.”P1010952b


Saddle Sores

So the pressure sore that’s been bothering me for a few days isn’t getting better and without going into too much detail, the bump the size of a pumkin seed felt more like a sycamore seed in my shorts. I’d just wanted some antibiotic ointment, but that can’t be bought here, so I went to the health clinic on the advice of the store manager. I ended up getting an examination, an antibiotic, skin disinfectant, and a warning of how what is essentially a boil could get worse. The concern of the nurse practitioner was that we’re going to an even more remote area for three more weeks of riding, so we’re staying here a day to rest and see if the antibiotic is working.

Bob here:
We were told by a caravaner, who’d never stopped here, “Keep your bike locked. Docker River is a tough town.” It’s also an Aboriginal community. So far all of them we have met have been a bit shy, and if not friendly, certainly not threatening. All the houses seem to have high fences around them, but most of the gates are not locked. So, mixed signals. I do notice that most of the infrastructure, store, clinic, shire office, take out, are run by white fellas. I wonder if some of these operations were set up by the government with the purpose of teaching the people how to work like a white fella. Most of them don’t seem to want to; reminds me of Fiji where the British imported Indians when the natives refused the back-breaking work of cutting sugar cane. The two cultures didn’t get along, and disaster ensued involving the severing of limbs with machete. No violence here, and all the white fellas seem to have the black fellas best interests at heart; but it’s much more complicated than that. Much.

Bike report:

Sheared lug bolt. Hard road mate!

Sheared lug bolt. Hard road mate!

loose spokes to tighten, one pin half out of Claire’s chain, which I managed to reinsert. Most of the bolts are holding better now; it must be the dust they got on them when they loosened. Maybe dust is better than Lock-Tite. We were preparing to use chewing gum. I had a nasty surprise one morning when I hit a bigger than usual bump and my handlebar hoods were pointing to the ground. All four of the binder bolts on the stem had loosened. Fortunately none came out, as I’m not sure I could match them in my Zip Lock of spares. I am concerned about the chain; the rollers are loose after only 900k with another 1000 to go on dirt, and more on bitumen. I use Tri-flow wax and it keeps the chain quiet, and reasonably free of sand, but the chain wears way too quickly. I wasn’t so sure ten speed equipment would be up to the task of outback Australia, and I may have been right. However eight speed is difficult to find. I wish someone would make a modern eight speed for hard touring. Actually I don’t care all that much. I see very lightly loaded touring, or even credit card touring, in our future, and no epics if you please. (Claire’s note: You should have been there to see John Morris stifle a snort when Bob suggested this tour was our new “adventure touring, lite”.)(Bob’s note: He also said, “So after the Himilayas you decide to go easy and do the Australian outback!” He did stifle a snort.


1000 Miles of Outback Australia by Pushbike — 5 Comments

  1. Thank you Bob and Claire for writing this beautiful blog.
    We’re about to start riding (on bikes) the Great Central Road – from Laverton (Perth) to Yulara and then on towards Townsville on the Plenty Highway. Not easy as you’ve described but so much looking forward. Your stories make me want to leave tomorrow instead of mid April..

  2. We loved the Plenty on our year long trip around and into the middle of Australia. You’ll find that here also. We started in Cairns and got on to the Plenty via the Urendangi cutoff. You should find the Plenty much easier than the Great Central, but still very remote feeling. You might want to read that section of our year also though we were going the opposite direction and it was like 19 years ago! Oz has changed a lot since that first trip, but we’re still besotted. Will you be posting?

  3. Thanks Bob! We’ll be using Twitter for infrequent updates of our trip: @zwerffietser
    That means wandering cyclist in Dutch :-).

  4. Hi Claire and Bob. Thank you for sharing! I loved the pictures and descriptions. Your interaction with the young woman in Laverton was both heart-wrenching and uplifting. We camped next to you in Wetmore CG during the eclipse. I hope all is well with you both. Do you have an adventure planned for this year?

  5. I had a total knee replacement seven weeks ago. Not knowing how that would go we didn’t plan anything. Its going extremely well, I’m able to bike, even up to 3,000 ft. elevation gain yesterday, and 103 miles a couple of weeks ago. I have cataract surgery in two days, and may do another medical check up later since we are in Tucson at least through July. After that we’re not sure, maybe some motorhome travel in the Four Corners, with bikes of course. You probably remember Mark and Sandy Doumas who shared our campground. We biked with them Saturday. Hope all is well with you.

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