I never did start that new blog. The past two months have gone by so quickly. Life has taken on a new rhythm. A natural flow of physical training, work and home. I like it for now in a way I didn’t expect. Priorities have shifted from me to family and from absence to presence. Here’s some photos of the joys of the past two months:
It’s been a crazy five days that has culminated in my accepting a position as a family lawyer with a new men’s legal service back in my home city. As quickly as I started what I guess can be best described as a sabbatical, I am hanging up my traveling clothes in favour of a suit and tie. Where for the past two years I’ve spent hours in airports, the next adventure in my life journey will see me spending hours in court rooms and client conferences. Instead of travel guides my nose will be tucked into legal precedents and legislation. It’s an exciting opportunity to do something incredibly meaningful, challenging and fulfilling.
I’m so ready for it too. 9-5 doesn’t scare me. 4 weeks recreation leave will take some getting used to again but I’ll be so busy with the job, my Masters of Applied Law (Family Law) and enjoying a balanced home life with Paul that time will fly.
I will still adventure because I need to. The adventures will be micro adventures rather than macro journeys. If you want to join me on them, come check out my new blog: Mister Microadventure
The damage to my touring bike amounted to $275 after flying off the back of my car at 100kph (62mph). So that’s better than it might have been. The bike is now at the shop for a week getting repaired so I can get back out riding once I’m back from my road trip to Bathurst. It’s good news.
We booked a room at the Karratha Pub for the night that Paul picked me up from Oman Ama. When I booked the lady said she would cook for us. But, unfortunately, all she did was heat up some (probably tinned) pea soup and some (probably packaged) pasta with bacon. This isn’t even something you’d find on the menu at any pub in the country. So we drive over to Leyburn Pub for a fantastic chicken schnitzel, chips and a yarn with the lady behind the bar.
The next day we load the bike onto the car rack for what should be a delightful four hour scenic drive back home. Unfortunately, the rack straps (which are quite new) broke. We noticed the bike was missing and retraced our steps to find it but to no avail. It did turn up the next day because someone had found it on the side of the highway and waited until the next day to call the police in case we came back for it. The bike is now at a bike shop being assessed for insurance purposes. The shop is going to do some frame measurements to check the bike is not bent or twisted, and will also check components and wheels for damage. I’ll know more tomorrow when they should email me the quote for repairs or write-off. I can’t change what happened so now just have to wait until the bike shop tells me the damage to the bike so I can decide my next step in the insurance / pay myself balance.
All I do know is that I will be out cycle touring again … The past 16 days were amazing.
Until the next adventure.
I’d been warned by the permanent campers last night that I would freeze overnight in my bivy. Fortunately, they underestimated the warmth the Outdoor Research bivy combined with a good sleeping bag and thermal liner provide. I was toasty and warm all night. So much so that I slept in until almost 6am. Not a huge problem given that I was only meant to cycle to Texas today. A nice steady 70km to meet Paul who was picking me up. Let’s just say plans are made for changing.
I packed, ate and left before anyone at camp stirred. The sun was already warming the world (though my fingers did freeze on every downhill for the first 10km of my ride) and the day was perfect for riding. I cruised along, taking in my last morning on the bike. The final rolling hills. The final dumb cattle running away from me. The last of the windmills creaking as they spun. And the last of the tiny townships. Bonshaw was 40km from camp and my first stop for the day. The one shop town provided me with a chance to enjoy one last chocolate milk (something I try to avoid at home due to the excess sugar and calories). There was even a conveniently placed petrol pump so that I could take a selfie using the timer on my camera. Hello🙂
Old mate at the shop also pointed me to a delightful alternative route to Texas. I have come to enjoy gravel roads this trip so was happy to take this route instead of the main road. The only traffic were a couple of farm utes and tractors heading out to the fields. Other than that I enjoyed the scrunching of my tyres and the screaching of cockatoos. I must do some more gravel rides because they are just that bit nicer than the roads.
And then the NSW leg of my NSW Loop (which wasn’t quite a loop) was over as I crossed the Dumesque River back into Queensland. Back to the state where you don’t pay extra for gravy with your pub meal.
It’s barely past 10:30am when I roll into Texas with 70km under my belt. I doubt Paul has even left home yet to pick me up. Largely because I told him not to bother rushing. And I’m correct. He’s just had a haircut and is packing a bag. I tell him to meet me up the road at Oman Ama, 60km (37 miles) away from me. It’s a 280km (174 miles) drive for him. Google Maps tells me that he will take a little over 3 hours to reach me. The race is on. Who will reach the tiny township that is home to a sole petrol station first.
I hardly take any photos now. I am on a mission. I might have biked 70km this morning but I am determined to get to Oman Ama first. I don’t know why. There’s no prizes and nothing to prove. But I can be like that from time to time. I smash out the kilometers retracing my pedal strokes from the first day of this trip. It’s hot under the midday sun but still I push the pedals. I don’t take any real rest breaks for the next three hours. Just a few quick snack breaks to grab museli bars from the lunch box bag and eat while I pedal. Paul calls me from Oman Ama petrol station just as I reach the highway. I come second by just 2km (1.5 miles). I let him come pick me up because I’m out of water and he has a cold bottle of orange juice for me. Resistence is futile.
I am woken well before dawn by the sound of feet moseying around my bivy. They sound heavy on the rocks that surround my little patch of grass under a pine tree. It’s not what I would expect to hear at 4:30am so I am a little confused at first. It’s too dark to see anything and my solar lantern ran out of charge last night so I fumble around looking for my emergency torch. There’s a horse not 5m (15 feet) from me. Hmm … I hope they can see me in the dark. Of course I have to pat the horse and then his friend who also comes over. It’s so dark that it’s not until I’m packed and leaving camp that I notice the shilhouetts of about 15 horses in total all wandering towards me. It’s as though they’ve seen movement and think there might be a free feed or social chat in it for them. Of course there is a pat and chat but no food.
I want to hit the road early today because I have almost 100km to ride. That’s the plan but a man starts talking with me as I am packing up after breakfast (I moved to another location for breakfast). It’s nice to yarn with him though. He is out here collecting wood and bark samples for his timber work hobby. He shows me photos of his work and I am blown away. He is a master craftsman. As I take my leave he says “Stay safe” and then proceeds to tell me about how this saying comes from the First World War and is what soldiers used to say to each other in the trenches. But it’s his next saying that I really like. He tells me that in a war (he’s forgotten which) the commander used to say to their troops, “Do not look ahead in anger but look behind with love”. I think it’s an utterly beautiful saying and one to remember.
The first 42km (26 miles) to Delungra are a challenge. Essentially it’s a long climb up the range with the emotionally affectiving Myall Creek Massacre Memorial in the middle. While at the memorial I meet a lady who seems to have seen more time alone than in company. She starts by telling me about how annoying cyclists are on the roads (geez thanks luv). She has an “interesting” view on the world and I can only feel a little sad that the world must have been cruel to her. She’s camped at the massacre site last night, which I find totally inappropriate but hey, she’s probably in her early sixties and tells me this is the first time she heard there were massacres in Australia.
I am totally spent by the time I reach Delungra but I need to make it another 50km to Ashford. I scoff down a meat pie and can of Coke while chatting with some grey nomads from Perth. They are a lovely couple traveling in a small bus. The pie does the trick and I think the chat shifts my mind because no sooner do I set off than I feel good again. A little way down the road and the bitumen ends. What a treat.
I enjoy riding down the gravel through the farms with little traffic to disturb the landscape. A few farm vehicles and cars pass during the day but no trucks (yay). This farmer moving hay bales stops to have a yarn (it must be have-a-chat day). He is so excited to see a cyclist and enquires whether I am the bloke who was staying at the Inverell pub. I’m not but it’s the second time in two days I’ve heard about the mystery cyclist about a day ahead of me. The farmer, his wife and a group of friends are traveling to Germany next month to do a barge and cycle tour. So that’s why he was so excited to chat with me. I saw these groups when I was in Hungary and it looked like a fantastic way for people to get a taste of cycle touring with the comfort and luxury of the barge at night.
I cruise along quite happily now. There’s something about being off the beaten path riding the gravel roads that makes me feel relaxed. I resolve to do it more often, whether on day rides or tours. I ride so slowly on the road that the gravel doesn’t even slow me down. I don’t know whether I should admit that or not though because it shows how little speed I acquire on the bike
I make it to Graman. It’s a one-pub town with a cluster of houses. There’s sheep on the road and I am totally taken by the lambs. If my middle sister were here she’d have asked whether we could take one home. Or at least, that’s what she always did when we were kids and saw lambs. Haha. Some of the lambs are tiny moving on impossibly rickety little stilts for legs. I should mention that while this photo makes the sheep look calm, they weren’t.
After lunch and another cold can of Coke (I had restricted myself to one can a day until now but hey … a guy’s gotta do what a guy’s gotta do) I set off on the final 25km to Ashford. I think this derelict house about 5km from the township probably best describes Ashford. It’s almost dead. The main street contains only the government building where people can register for the dole. Even the pub is closed down. There’s a bowling green and a service station come general store come newsagency come take-away off the main street. And there is a lovely little camping ground with lots of permanent residents making the most of the $13 a night charge with power and hot water. The permanents seem nice enough and a young couple I am camped near come to talk with me. I charge everything, upload my photos and update my blog. Tomorrow will be my final day on this tour. Paul is picking me up from Texas, about 70km away.
Today I visited the Myall Creek Massacre Memorial site on my way from Bingara to Ashford. I found the memorial incredibly moving and want to share the story through the words of those who prepared the memorial. I will post about the rest of my day later. For tonight, I want to leave us with this post because I don’t think many people will know about this place nor travel here. I know I never learned about it during my 12 years at school nor my 20 years at university.