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craig_foster

Australia (Katherine) (13)

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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.

 

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 Oz 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.

 

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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