1000 Miles of Outback Australia by Pushbike

September 16, Laverton, WA

Finished The Great Central Road (and some add on) 1834 kilometers, something over 1,000 miles, not sure how much, most of it sand and rock. Twenty-three wonderful bush camps. We’re knackered,

I Respect You

Claire went into the Laverton store for some much needed food, we had run out the last morning. I leaned against the wall with the bikes zoning out from a hard headwind corrugated day. Not for long:
The young Aboriginal woman walked up to me and stared into my eyes, “What ta fuck you doin’ here.” Tall, but slightly staggered, she stood inches in front of me. Her eyelids were slightly low, face passive.
It was a good question. White fella flew halfway around the world to ride a push-bike across her land; a whim, a silly challenge, a show of wealth? Maybe it was an affront to her culture’s long time struggles, an affront to her personal struggles. “You don’t know what is happnin’ down here in the South.” Her eyes still locked with mine, trying to tell me, something, something important for the foreign white fella to know. “It’s hard,” she said. “Hard.”
“Yes, I know. It’s hard,” I said. Then I heard myself. She’s heard it too many times before, “No, I don’t know. I can’t know.”
Her eyes softened, “It hurts.”
“I wish I could make it better. I can’t.”
“Nobody asked you to.” She just wanted me to listen. I listened. It was difficult to understand her, but pain was wrapped in the words. Pain and dissapointment, anger. As late as the 1930s they were hunting Aboriginies like animals; leaving them to rot. Some people today want to, “Put them back where they belong.”
I listened and looked in her eyes, not something she gets from most white fellas. “I respect you,” she said, as two other women gently guided her away. “Leave him alone. He’s come a long hard way,” one said.
“I respect you,” I said to her back. It sounded hollow.

Respect is a loaded word with the races here. The Aborigines, with their tens of thousands of years old continuous culture, think they deserve it, white fellas want them to learn to be like white fellas first, then respect. It’s hard. For both.

They wandered back later. and she turned toward me. “Leave them alone.” Claire was with me. She stood in front of me again. Eyes soft this time, and tried to say something several times.
Then came the tears. Glistening down her black cheeks. Streaks of tears, trying to tell us something. Something. White fella not have good ears for tears. I touched her arm, then held her hand, Claire reached out to gently hold her other. We stood there, in front of the Laverton store, learning to listen to tears.
Her friends called her away. “I respect you,” she said. “I respect you,” we each said. As she walked away, she turned to look at us, for a long time. I will never forget that look.

We knew the last section would be long and hard, and hoped to find someone willing to do three water caches, a lot to ask. But Des and Shona came just when we needed them, with a can-do, willing-to attitude. They were headed back to Warburton, where they hold services for an Aboriginal church, and promised to stop on their way back to Laverton, pick up our water, and make three stops to cache them. Not only did they do a perfect job, each was easy to find, and just the right distance since they know the Great Central so well, but each held surprise treats: bananas, mandarins, and crackers and cheese. What a delight!
Not only that, but Des found us coming into town and offered us a spare house for a few days recovery! Since they own the grocery and petrol station in town, I suspect word will get out that we need a ride south any day. Things work out, because people take care of us.
Many Sleeps

One fun aspect of our trip was seeing people’s eyes glaze over when we said it would take four or five days to get someplace they could drive to in an afternoon.
Early on, a motorcyclists assured us we’d be bored to tears as we approached the easier riding of Western Australia. I secretly worried that he meant the landscape could get boring. Far from it, we love the slow pace and the subtle scenery, the light always changing. We were lucky enough to have 23 bush camps during our five week outing. We slept under a full moon, then a new moon and finally under a full moon again. We were both a little sad on our last night out. Maybe we’ll find a few other opportunities.


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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