Sunday, December 13, 2009

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Journey Completed! Pooncarie to Wentworth - 118km

    • I departed Pooncarie about 9:30am excited about reaching my destination, and enjoyed the sealed road. However, a mighty headwind was also straining my legs. I got hot and nauseous with about 40 kilometres to go, and after lying down for an hour under a shady tree, rose to find my rear tyre was flat. With no brand new tubes left, I checked the flat tube for a hole but could not find one or hear one in the obstinate, hurtling wind. I simply pumped up the tube and it stayed firm. I rode on for another 10 kilometres until the tube suddenly went flat again.

    • Sick and hot, I sat down on the side of the road and pulled out an old spare tube to inspect it. I thought this old tube had gone flat because of valve failure, so I darkly thought I would need a lift. Luckily, I found a tiny hole, only because it was right near the valve and was blowing on my face as I pumped up the tube! I patched this hole up and was away again at dusk.

    • I rode into Wentworth singing some of my favourite 80's songs of triumph such as 'Gold' by Spandau Ballet and 'Final Countdown'. I also thought about the cross-eyed gorillas in the bar of the Mulga Creek Hotel who muttered I was 'F'n Mad!' with pure contempt.
    • As I rolled into the caravan park in Wentworth, a feeling of final exhaustion quietly phased into a teeming elation and later a serene resolve, invincible against anything.

    Bindara Station to Pooncarie - 90km

    • Bindara Station is a really peaceful place to camp, distant from civilisation and independent from the power grid through electricity generating windmills and solar panels. About 11,000 acres now, the station was once a million acres, the caretaker told me. I camped in the backyard of the old main farmhouse, surrounded by the bank of the river and the orchard and vegetable patch. Very nice place.
    • The road to Pooncarie was in a better condition, though rocky and sandy in parts. It is also slightly menacing as the road splinters without signs, so I had to choose the widest road with the slimmest angle. There is no Pooncarie sign until 28 km to go. The country, however, is very pretty with a fine pink sand covering the road sometimes.
    • In Pooncarie, I had a fantastic burger at a cafe near the river and camped on a table in an overnight camping area just north of the town.

    Menindee to Bindara Station - 87km

    • The route along the Western side of the Darling River is spectacular but 60 kilometres more than the Eastern. The first part of the route is through Kinchega National Park where I took the longer 'River Drive' along which you can peer into the canyon of gray dirt while stomping the pedals through the silty road beneath some casual and spacious river gums.

    • After the River Drive I reached a former sheep station that lies on the edge of a dried lake, a now murky plain of gray shrubs and salt and pepper coloured sand. Drinking water and showers and accommodation were available at the old shearer's quarters near the lake and the old shearing shed.

    • After the old station, however, the road carries on through the South-western corner of the National Park that is desolate, sandy land with shrubbery only a foot high. I had trouble riding the sandy parts of the road, and the rocky parts hammered the bike.

    Tuesday, December 8, 2009

    Mork and Menindee

    • Left Broken Hill on Monday evening for some riding after a day in the high thirties Centigrade. Rode about 20 km before camping at the site of a demolished building on the remaining flat concrete flooring.

    • Woke up after a great night sleep with no ants or mossies (the flies stopped after nightfall) to a strong tailwind, very unusual for this time of year. I had very easy riding for most of the day, until the last 15 km when a brutal galeforce headwind took over. This last 15 km took well over an hour. The flying dust from the windswept flat country was also abrading my face and eyes.

    • Trying to work out a new wave technique for the passing motorists, most of whom wave to me on my bike. The standard lift and shake from side to side is getting tedious. This happened last tour as well. I've thought about a Mork style 'Nanu nanu', splitting the fingers between the second and third fingers and opening and closing. My touring friend Maike also had a great idea of the Vulcan salute from Star Trek.

    • Menindee is a nice little town with a takeaway joint, a supermarket, and a rural transaction centre with inexpensive internet. Stayed on the Darling River at a run-down Caravan Park that was somehow charmingly simple and relaxing as if the neglect homogenized the Park with the surrounding nature. Perfect place, but nobody else was staying there.

    Sunday, December 6, 2009


    • Rode out 26km to Silverton Friday only to find the camping ground closed. This was great as I could camp outside the deserted park for free.

    • Toured the old buildings that feature in a lot of movies. The best was the Silverton gaol, a museum both with the friendliest staff and some amazing artefacts of daily life in the early 1900's. I noticed in the old photographs how well people dressed and I wondered how this great age of progress of ours has led us all to be wearing paper-thin rags that guarantee a skin cancer or two on your back.

    • Perhaps the impact of the gaol caused me to interpret the typically strange noises of the bush at night strangely. A ghost of a prisoner heaving his ball and chain in the darkness outside my tent was really just a stray dog dragging a broken chain along and having a sniff of my bags for food.

    • Saw the country where Mad Max 2 was filmed, brilliant riding through it.

    Broken Hill

    • Cycling or walking sets the modern city of Broken Hill in a bamboozling contrast with the surrounding semi-arid wasteland. Instead of the Burb to Burb via tree-lined highway of the East coast, Broken Hill feeds from nowhere but its own mineralised soil. It is astounding. Everything is available in this busy oasis. Very friendly people. Love the place.

    • The houses are either stylish corrugated iron mining shacks that are aging into classic homes or nice art deco rendered smallish houses. Both make you ask what has gone so wrong with modern architecture.

    Thursday, December 3, 2009

    Wilcannia to Broken Hill 196km

    • Rode out of Wilcannia after deciding to take my detour to see where Mad Max 2 was filmed. The road to Broken Hill was exciting red rocky hill country with some green shrubbery and even thin clumps of grass bespeckling the martian landscape. You could see the trucks and cars from a great distance tracking the road and imagine the great Humongous was in treacherous pursuit.

    • Plenty of rest areas with good facilities (one at about 76km from Wilcannia had a water tank, though not sure if drinkable). Camped at a rest area beside the Little Topar roadhouse (77km from Broken Hill) which had reasonable prices for a remote place.

    • A few hills into Broken Hill. 25km out there were signs for Hungry Jacks, KFC and McDonalds! Civilisation at last, but a good thing? Ice is a good thing at least.



    Tilpa to Wilcannia 120km

    • Left the next morning for some very tough riding into a headwind on a poor sandy road with one car or truck passing every few hours. Took the North-western side of the Darling River for a change.

    • Was exhausted after gaining only 50km for the day and I was about to place camp for the night after reassessing my water supply for a possible two night camp. However, then an amazing sunset appeared with diverse clouds shooting off into crazy spirals like the paths of subatomic particles. I set out to ride some more and the wind turned to tailwind right as I passed a sign indicating the Paroo-Darling River National Park and also as the atmosphere changed to some cosmic hues of blue and red. Another 20km of some very enjoyable riding for the night. I woke up to a tailwind and rolled the last 50km into Wilcannia quickly but still exhausted after pushing through and stabilising the bike on the dirt.


    • Rode into Tilpa physically shattered after a galeforce headwind and crappy road surface.

    • Entered the General Store and bought a Coke Zero, some chips and long-life milk. The store lady also cooked me up a hamburger with the lot for a nominal fee (there was no menu). It was delicious and she came outside where I was eating and had a good yarn about her goats and the shearer's dog that attacked one of them.

    • Got a very cheap room at the Tilpa Hotel, a proper motel room with a very classy share bathroom (toilet seat was see-through plastic with barbed wire and a redback spider embedded).

    Wednesday, December 2, 2009

    Louth to Tilpa 92km

    • Rode out from Louth about 2am Saturday morning but after 20 km I felt content with my efforts and rolled out my mat on the sloping bank of the road for a few hours sleep before dawn.

    • The road condition was very difficult for riding. The surface of the road alternated between loose golf ball sized stones on a compacted tiny gravel, and red desert or murky gray river sand with sometimes only a 10 centimetre wide track of firm surface.

    • The wind was also a headwind and only two cars passed in the whole day, but the camp that night was extremely peaceful away from human habitation, about 20 km out from from Tilpa.

    Bourke to Louth 97km

    • Left Bourke Friday morning about 9am instead of the Thursday as storms had closed segments of the dirt road I was going on.

    • Apart from the ubiquitous burrs and the constant headwind, the riverside country was quite pretty, changing every 10 kilometres to a new landscape. I was feeling so refreshed after lazing in Bourke for so long that I rode all through the day during some mild heat, reaching Louth in the mid-afternoon.

    • The Louth pub is a nice old building with a laconic but friendly and unassuming barman. After quickly drinking a can of cool lemonade, I walked across the road to the free shower block where only a donation to the Royal Flying Doctor Service is requested. Returning to the pub, I ordered some 'coke zero' and the barman put some long life milk (fresh unavailable) in the fridge for me.

    • A local drinker came and sat at my table table and put in a great performance of cursing everything about me from my bike to my red hair. I soon realised there was no malice in the venom spraying from his mouth, just a threadbare pursuit of an identity of courageous 'truth talker'. The lack of malice was proved by his later demand that I stay at his place that night or he would 'slit my throat'. I did not, camping in the park across the road, and he forgot about it.


    • Waited in Bourke from Monday until Thursday for a camera that never came to the local post office - it was sent to my home address despite the sender assuring me a few times that he would send it to Bourke instead of the regular address. I think he was one of those fast, dismissive types who believe slow types are never tricky.

    • While in Bourke I camped on the small gravel in the carpark of the Back O Bourke centre, a modern museum/infomation place surrounded by a large flat field. Other camping sites were either prone to prowlers near the town or burrs in the bushland. These hardcore burrs stick into your mat, tyres and skin by the tens. Anyway, the camping was good as the carpark gravel was comfortable and one night the cops turned up just to see if I was okay.

    • Outside the illustrious Bourke supermarket I met someone from the local paper who took my number and the next day 'Johno the Journo' interviewed and photographed me for an article. I could not think of anything interesting to say at all.