Greetings from Katherine

Hey all,

Just thought I’d write a quick one. Quick because internet access out here costs a bomb and an update because I’ve had a bit of a change of plan.

I left Singapore on the 16th, last Monday night, and arrived in Darwin the early hours of Tuesday morning. When I was in Malaysia I met up with a couple of Aussie lads who’d told me that the humidity in Darwin was much worse than Malaysia but it isn’t true. Don’t get me wrong, it is humid, it just isn’t as humid as SE Asia. With this in mind I felt pretty confident about the cycling aspect of things.

View from the Darwin Esplanade

I stayed in a backpacker hostel in Darwin for 2 days because I needed some serious preparation time. Oz is just a different level of cycling to everywhere else. The distances between civilisation or even water can be pretty enormous and this changes the complexion of everything. I started off carrying around 10 litres of water and 4 days of food but I’m starting to question if that’s enough. I have sterilisation tablets for up to 25 litres so could resort to the water in storage tanks if need be.

I left Darwin on the Thursday morning around 9ish which was my first mistake. I planned to bang in a 100 miles by the evening but by midday, with the heat, cycling was bordering on impossible, if not outright dangerous. I started off all breezy and light, averaging 13 miles an hour but by 12 I was struggling to maintain 8 miles an hour as I toiled and grovelled up the slightest of hills. I kept going and dragged myself into Adelaide River by 5ish and I wasn’t feeling too great. I’d used pretty much all my water which didn’t bode well for the bigger distances. I think I was suffering from a degree of heat exhaustion but I spent about half an hour lying on the grass amongst the sprinklers which helped no end. The same water sprinklers woke me up soaked at 3am so the love affair was short lived.

Adelaide River

The following day I set off earlier at 8 but it didn’t make a great deal of difference. By 10 o’clock it was just too hot to cycle. I struggled on till 11 and then found a closed cafe and spent 4 hours sitting, reading and waiting the heat out. I set out again at 3ish but even at that time it’s impossible to average more than 10 miles an hour and water is still being consumed at a rate of knots. On top of that I’ve noticed a beauty little headwind always seems to kick up at around 3ish so then it’s heat and headwind to contend with. I managed about 70 miles for the whole day and managed to get to Pine Creek but in reality I wasn’t in a much better state than the day before.

Yesterday I tried to get up even earlier and was on the road by 6:30. I managed 40 miles by 10 o’clock and then found a drainage pipe under the road and sat the heat out till 5ish. I’d laid my bike along the road which meant that cars kept on stopping to see if I was alright. This is pretty reassuring as they all asked me if I needed water so it means that if push comes to shove, I’ll always be in a position to get myself out of any trouble.

I set off again at 5 but although it was cooler that damned headwind just wasn’t letting up. I couldn’t believe how tough it was and I’m not ashamed to admit I’m having serious doubts whether I have what it takes to cycle in Oz. If you have any doubts, any insecurities, any questions, anything, then cycling through this place just takes you to the cleaners. It really is the toughest challenge I’ve ever faced and the scary thing is that it’s going to get tougher.

I was making my way to Katherine when in the distance I saw two cyclists coming towards me. Seriously I thought the heat had finally got to me. Turned out to be two Aussie guys at the end up their tour from Adelaide, which is around 4000 miles. We sat talking for a while but it was me doing most of the talking as I was just pumping them for information. A lot of it I already knew but it was good to hear it confirmed. No one is cycling NT during the daytime. They’d found a German guy suffering from heat exhaustion because he’d been cycling during the day. These guys had been getting up at 3 in the morning, getting in 50 miles before it started to get hot and then sat out the heat until just before dark and then put in another 30 miles. I asked about how they were coping with the road trains but they just pulled over or even crossed onto the other side of the road so they had that sorted as well.

They also asked me about my route and I said I was heading down to Perth and then across to Sydney. They reckoned that doing the Nullabor in December would be bordering on suicide as there’s nowhere for shade and it’s the height of summer. They’d come up the East Coast and recommended I took that route as there’s more civilisation and just more to see and do. It was great to get some first hand knowledge and tips from guys that had actually cycling through Oz. I need to serioiusly modify when I cycle and have a think about my route. Even getting up at 5 isn’t good enough and I need to look at doing a lot more cycling in the dark. I have enough lights to make me visible for miles so it definitely seems the way to go and I don’t think I have much choice. By the time I left them to head for Katherine it was about 7 and the sun was going down and with this the wind also calmed down. I was back to doing 13-14 miles an hour and feeling pretty good. Maybe it was just the pleasure of meeting other people and getting some good information but it definitely confirmed riding at night will get me some valuable miles. That’s the tough thing about Oz. You can’t just say you’ll do 30 miles a day because you’ll run out of water and you can’t do big miles during the day because you’ll also run out of water. The key is obviously to cycle at night when you aren’t consuming as much water and then try to sleep during the day.

I stopped off in Katherine last night as my last real point of civilisation before I decided to go East Coast or West Coast. I’m pretty sure I’m going to go down the East Coast for a number of reasons. The first is that if Aussie cyclists are telling me that a particular route at a certain time of year is suicide then I should listen. The second is that my visa is 3 months and while it would get me round whichever way I go, the East Coast gives me more options in terms of airports if my visa runs out. Also I’ll just get to see more of Oz. I don’t want to have to cycle 6000 miles in 3 months. I want the option to stop and chill if and when it’s possible.

Anyways best go as like I said, everything here is stupidly expensive. I’m going to sleep in Katerine tonight and then set off fully watered and lit up like a Christmas tree tomorrow evening.

Lots of Love,

Craig.

XXX

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