Friday, 19 December 2014
Today we decided to try hitchhike to Katherine in order to save ourselves time, money and the possibility of dying in the hot weather. I had a bit of an argument with Davi in the morning as I was eager to keep cycling, however Davi believed that I was in too bad of a state to keep going. I said I know my body and what I can do and that I'm confident to keep going, however he believed I didn't look too good and that we shouldn't keep going. I don't know how much of it was him not wanting to go and how much of it was genuine. Admittedly I was vomiting two days before and I was on the edge of dropping off the bike the day before so I do appreciate his opinion, however I'm well aware of my limits. I realised he was going to continue arguing black and blue that he's fine and right to go but out of worry for me he wouldn't go, so I just realised he didn't want to cycle and the only option was getting a lift further up north. I realised the only way forward was to hitchhike or if we had no luck then to get the bus, which we were informed leaves 6am each morning stopping all towns on the way to Darwin. It costs $100 so we were determined all day to hitchhike instead.
As we sat around the roadhouse we started asking all people pulling in if we could get a ride up north. Many of the people had no room or they were heading south. Davi and I joked around that they all must of been freaking out, seeing two bearded up zombie looking guys wander up and ask for a lift. Having the bikes with all our gear certainly made our chances a bit hard too.
So we waited at the BP roadhouse all day, from early morning and then we ended up sleeping at the front of it during the night. This was a very interesting experience, as Thursday is payday for the community out here. On top of it there was a funeral in the community so it was pretty busy earlier in the morning. We got to meet nearly the whole community throughout the day as they seemed to come back to the roadhouse about 9 or 10 times throughout the day. This roadhouse has the second food store for the town, with there being one other a km away. It's more or less the same price as the other one in town but I'm pretty sure the other one does not sell alcohol.
It was interesting talking to everyone and also seeing the progression of soberness to drunkness throughout the day/evening. I thought to my self it would be a good program to watch on television with the time throughout the day being fast forwarded, so you could see everyone come in, the type of rubbish they buy, conversations we've/they've had and then the way the community finish u in the night. The roadhouse has a limit of one six pack per person and in order to keep record they write each persons name down (photo attached). You can imagine how hard this is, with the whole community coming in at once buying alcohol, having to write down each name and try serve customers at the same time. This measure I do believe is a valuable one and something I think is better to have in place, even how unconventional it sounds. I was informed by one of the fellas today that payday, coming in once a week on Thursdays, is $1000 clear. A lot of government money indeed, but one must still remember how much government money is wasted in emergency wards, paramedics and social welfare across the whole country for Caucasian drug addicts alone.
I had at least 7 people ask me to buy a six pack for them, as they'd already purchased their one for the day. I had one lady desperately asking and almost crying when I kept refusing. I told most of the people that I'd already bought a six pack for the day so unfortunately couldn't buy another. One of the guys nearly caught me out and had asked me to go to the hotel a hundred metres down the road and buy some there, and I responded by saying I'd bought a few Jack Daniels earlier on and the guy working wrote my name down. The same lady who was desperate had also offered me money to buy some for her. Although I love an opportunity to make money there was no chance I could partake in doing that. The lady appeared pretty intoxicated already so she must of really been trying to wipe her self out. As Davi was standing with me trying to answer in a polite way that he couldn't buy drinks either, I asked him quietly "Do you think if this lady was pregnant she'd stop drinking?" Davi looked a bit bewildered by the comment and responded by simply saying "I don't know". This was a rather poignant moment as I'd had a few discussions with him previously about the state of outback communities and the fact alcohol destroys lives. He was previously under the opinion Aboriginal people should be able to buy as much alcohol as they want, the same view with many other progressive people living in big a city, disconnected from the reality of rural communities. Yes I believe it's a racist policy saying one race can't buy and another can. No I don't think Aboriginal shouldn't be banned from drinking and white people not. It makes me even more angry seeing white guys walk in and buy beer than it does watching Aboriginal people. The reality is, close to 1 in 2 children from communities in North West Australia had alcohol foetal syndrome in 2012 alone. This illness is around for life- in reality it should be a severe criminal charge as the child will be disadvantaged for their entire life. I certainly wonder if a progressive humanitarian person from a big city would still argue for open drinking laws when they see these statistics and the impact on communities first hand.
While this was happening we were still trying to hitch a ride. It reminded me of the State election that just went by, as I was approaching every person pulling in with a smile as a tried to think of a catch phrase to rope them in. A common one I was using, "G'day how are ya? I have two questions- are you heading north? And can I get a lift?". I realised that as the community were becoming drunk they were hanging out with us even more, any passers by would of assumed we were all together. The fact Davi and I looked pretty scruffy, and also that half the town were yelling out to us as a we'd be talking to a driver it looked a bit suspicious that we were trying to hitch rides.
On occasion as a car would pull in to fill up I'd be competing with a local, as I'd ask for a lift and the local would ask for a six pack. In the end we had no luck and realised our best bet was to wait to the morning and get the bus up north. Although the bus cost around $100 I feel that we will save a $100 in drinks and food from the expensive road houses over the next few days. Catching a bus to Katherine will mean we cut 4 days off from cycling.
Davi and I decided not to set up the tent in the same place as last night, as seeing it was payday today there would be a lot of drunk people walking around and perhaps might make an uncomfortable sleep. We didn't want to pay for setting up the tent, with BP charging $30 and the other camp ground that is $10 being a km away from the bus pick up. We decided to sit at the park bench in front of the roadhouse and hopefully doze off and be up an ready for the bus at 6am. It was pretty funny as late in the afternoon as the day was winding up two white fellas pulled up in a ute with a flat tyre. As all the locals were around in full flight, yelling and screaming I'm assuming asking the two white fellas for a six pack too, me and Davi just laughed. The desperation from the white fellas to change their tyre and get out was unbelievable, I'd never seen anyone move so quickly. They must of surely been too nervous to hang around or any bit of time. Davi and I had a good laugh as we sat down on the bench while the whole town walked off drinking.
We cooked some lentils up an had our friend Darryl come over to say G'day for maybe the 5th time today. He's an interesting fella and I've enjoyed chatting to him. I was surprised when I asked how old he was, as I would of assumed 60 odd, but was informed he was in his 40s. A common surprise I've had in many aboriginal communities, not sure what fast tracks this ageing process so much, but my only guess can be alcohol, sugar drinks, junk food, cigarettes and perhaps sun.
Fingers crossed we have no trouble over night!
Weather: 41 (very humid)
Time: 6 hours
Today was another challenge. I feel that the heat and humidity has taken everything out of my body. We packed up our gear in the morning and stayed in the roadhouse till around 11 to try wait for the strong wind in the morning to die down. We are faced with midday heat or strong morning head winds, for me the heat is probably better and I think Davi agrees. This was also a good opportunity to watch the cricket in the roadhouse, as I'm always very glad to see a television with good reception for the cricket out here.
The tap water was also surprisingly very good at this roadhouse so we loaded up on that before we shot off for the day.
We made some good time for the morning, having done 45km in around 2 and a half hours. We stayed under a tree for a break, with about another 45km or half the distance to go. The humidity just kept building and building and by the end of the day my whole body was just covered in a thick layer of sticky water, I'm assuming it was sweat. We stopped into a store as we came in and bought a few cold drinks. The man in the store seemed like a bit of a creep, so I was pretty keen to keep moving. He said they have a camp area for $10 but I decided to keep moving and have a look elsewhere. We went a km up the road to the BP and was told that a camp spot there was $30. At this point it didn't look good for us. I decided to not pay for either and take our risk on the street. The man at BP was not so friendly, so I waited for the young Irish lady working to ask her what the town was like, if it was safe etc. She was saying that she thought it was payday today for the community and assumed it would be pretty noisy and perhaps not so safe, but the fact no one came into buy alcohol she believed it would be alright to sleep at the back of the servo in a park area. I had a look and it seemed ok to me. Davi was freaking out a bit, as I think he was worried we didn't have a place to stay. I actually thought he was crying at one point. I tried to explain to him not to worry, and to look at these situations with confidence. Ideally this is a situation that you want to thrive in, a situation where only your self is in control and you can't depend on anyone else to help you. I tried to explain that you need to switch into a survival type mode and realise that you have to accept the worst possible outcome straight up and be prepared for anything. Once you accept this than you have no trouble.
I set the tent up and got some dinner cooking for Davi. I've noticed he's been eating biscuits for dinner the last few nights so he needs to eat something proper. As we were sitting down a police car drive down and Davi freaked out a bit saying "we're going to have to go" I just explained don't worry mate, there's going to be no issues. In the end of the night everything was all good and we managed to get to sleep alright with no issues. Tomorrow we're going to look into getting a ride up north a few hundred km's, in order to make sure we get into Darwin with time for our flight.
Wednesday, 17 December 2014
Hours: 9 1/2
Weather: 44 (very hot all day)
Today we left around 7am to get to a roadhouse around 140 km away. Again the weather was unbearable and I had immense difficulty getting through it. We stopped half way at a rest area called "Attack Creek" and had a rest for about one hour. We sat down at a park bench and put our heads in our arms as we both tried to sleep for a bit to get through the midday heat. There was a water tank at the rest area and some information on the history of Attack Creek. It spoke about the early settlers and how one of the Whites was attacked and killed by an Aboriginal man from the local Warrangamu clan, the same mob that the fella's from who I spoke to the other day. Perhaps if I spoke to that man he'd give a different story to the one that's narrated at the rest area.
After this we kept going. It was very very hard but we somehow managed to get through it. At the end of the day we pulled into the roadhouse and both loaded up on a cold drink straight away. We then sat down and started laughing, something we've been doing with each-other the last few days. We both must be thinking the exact same thing- a) we both can't believe we made it b) we're crazy for doing this c) we're both in excruciating pain and there's nothing that's going to make it better but just laugh at our situation.
As per usual everything in the roadhouse cost a fortune. In order to save my self more pain I explained first to the girl working that we were both very tight on money and if they had any leftovers, discounts or free food/drinks that we would be wrapped to take it. She gave us an old loaf of white bread made at the roadhouse and a tray full of corned beef (covered in plenty of fat). These two foods I would never normally eat, however on this occasion I didn't want to throw it back in her face for providing a kind gesture and for us looking too greedy, but I was also desperate for the food.
As I was sitting down a few people at the roadhouse were asking us about the ride. They asked if we were supporting a cause and I said yeah, we're supporting an organisation based in Alice Springs that works with Aboriginal youth. This generated some interesting responses, with the first coming from a middle aged White man working on the gas fields "don't come here and tell me shit about aboriginals" "I had ten of those cun$$$ chase me down the road when I was young". I listened to the man, as I realise everybody have there opinions for a reason. He explained that a lot of people from the city's, particularly Melbourne, have an ideal image of how life should be in the N.T but without ever coming up to experience it they are completely disconnected from the reality. This is something I strongly agree with, as I know the political party I represent has a group of fanatic supporters who fit that description perfectly. I can understand the frustration from White people in the area, however racist opinions and views hold little ground when given through discussion. I think this is a good trait I have, where I'll listen to a view no matter how racist or ill informed as I recognise they have these views for a reason. I'd also like to think I can identify a valid coherent point compared with a view based on hate or racism (particularly if they are not individually motivated and more from external influence). I felt more aligned to the second of these views, having picked up a number of racist views from the conversation. I feel the white community out here have a strong and long history of racism and it is more evident today than any other.
The second persons that I spoke with were a more affluent white couple from the outer regions of Darwin. They were more open and interested in the organisation, however the man in the relationship had a stronger view. I would suppose his opinion holds a little more ground, namely his view that Aboriginal people can not be babied. I seconded that view and explained that we need to recognise the complex cultural worlds that they're caught up in, most particularly the more traditional communities in N.T.
As we were talking a man wrote his name on the wall, as the roadhouse encourages visitors who have gone through to write there name down. His name was "Chainsaw Freak" and he was pointing his finger to it, looking at me, while another person took the photo. I laughed a bit but was also a little bit concerned and after telling Davi I think he was too. I explained that we just need to be confident and not look vulnerable to these sick bastards. I also realised tonight that I should be careful telling white country bogans that we're supporting an Aboriginal organisation, as it certainly generates strong views!
We have an area at the front of the road house where we can sleep for free. We'll get a good night rest and try to tackle another 95km tomorrow!
Time: 4 1/2 hours
Temperature: 43 degrees (Very Humid)
Today we were taking it easy all morning. After the massive day we had yesterday we were both buggered. I'm not sure if I mentioned it in my blog entry yesterday, however the humidity had become a lot more intense about 40km before Tennant Creek. It felt like we had been slapped in the face, as our body's were already suffering in the heat and this just made it worse. There is no room at all for the sweat to escape.
The caravan park where we have stayed in Tennant Creek has a pool and we took full advantage of that this morning, having used it on two different occasions. I also used the foam roller to do a lot of stretches, however I'm still in a lot of pain. I believe right now it's not the physical toll but more the heat and humidity.
On the way to Tennant Creek yesterday we saw a Blue Tongue lizard, a completely different looking specie to the one we have in Victoria. It had been hit by a car, and it had about five baby's still inside her. Her stomach had exploded from when the car hit her and you could see all the babies inside. All babies except one had died. It was a real miracle because the mum had been ran over, every baby had been ran over and there was one on the edge of the stomach that had just survived. This lizard looked completely lost though, and must of been waiting for his mum to help him. We took him out of the stomach and let him close to his mum, and he just licked the skin and attempted to walk close to her. I'm not sure how far of giving birth she was, but I assume she must of been very close to it. We decided to take the baby with us in the hope to find a animal shelter for it. Davi, doing veterinarian studies, became particularly attached to it. Since being in Tennant Creek we have had no luck finding an animal shelter and most people have just told us to let it go near a river. We decided to let him go next to the pool today. When Davi put it down he walked back to us and laid next to us, licking our arms and resting against us. It must of thought we were its carers, it was a beautiful site indeed. We just hope it's alright!
We left Tennant Creek around 3pm in the hope to do about 75 km. About 7-8 km out Davis tyre had exploded due to the heat. At this moment I, and I imagine Davi too, thought the trip was over. I didn't thing we'd be able to find a tyre until Darwin. I jumped on my phone quickly, and fortunately having Internet reception I searched for a sports store in Tennant Creek. I found one, have them a call and was informed they had bigger tyres for more hybrid bikes. Davi's bike is more a road bike but I thought it was worth having a look. We changed a tube on Davi's bike but it soon after burst again. After this I told Davi to walk with the bike towards town and I would cycle there to make it before they closed. When I arrived and had a chat to the man in the shop, he said he'd drive back to pick Davi up. Seemed like a nice guy. It was funny though, as when he returned to the shop an aboriginal lady had walked in to have a look. He said to her "bugger off, we don't sell any water" she responded by saying "I'm not after water, I support North Melbourne and wanna have a look at that jumper" he then said to her "well have a look then get out". It was an awkward moment, as I could tell his actions were racially motivated. I stayed out of it, but have the lady a smile as if I was on her side, she did seem pretty thick skinned though so she must had it before. It is interesting these moments though, as to an average out-of-towner you don't understand the pretext for these types of incidences. One things for sure though, the way white people go about there business out here isn't the right way, and the way aboriginal people maintain themselves isn't the right way either.
Sunday, 14 December 2014
Weather: 41 degrees (entering humid country)
Time: 10hours 25minutes
Probably the hardest day I've had in my life since the last ride going up the north west coast past Canarvon. My body seems to be in shock to this weather, and doesn't seem to be adapting any time quick.
We left the camp area just after 8am, I was ready to go at about 7:30 however Davi was still getting his things together. I wanted to help get all his gear ready but on the bike you pack everything the way you like so that you know where to access everything. Due to this I sat around, as the air got even hotter and the sun started to set in. I was annoyed to do nothing as I was desperate to take off. As the wind built into a solid headwind against us and Davi was ready than we left. I was a fair bit in front of Davi at the start, and there was one point where I could no longer see him behind me. I waited for a bit, turned around to have a look and managed to see him in a distance. When I could see he was on his way I kept going.
There was a roadhouse about 50km past where we camped, so we were eager to get there by midday, to sit back a bit and get something cold. The name of it was Wycliffe Well, an interesting roadhouse covered in alien and UFO paraphernalia. When we got there the people working claimed to have seen UFOs in the area, a thought you would actually not consider insane if you saw how crystal clear the night sky is out here. We put our bottles in the ice cream freezer of the roadhouse, joking that we would of melted everything in the freezer as our bottles would of been close to 50degrees in heat. We knew however, that as soon as we took the bottles out they would heat up with in a few minutes anyway.
We were in immense pain as we took off. Our bums are very sore from the seat and our arms and shoulders are in extreme pain due to controlling the bikes with all the weight. Last but not least our legs are feeling tight as well. It made me forgot how much pain I endured during the last ride.
The next stop after the roadhouse was Tennant Creek, which was 135km further. Due to the heat and isolation I was very eager to make it there. This was partly due to water but also getting out of the sun. I've been drinking local water along the way, however due to high salt content and to what I was informed yesterday of uranium traces as well, I'm not keen on drinking more of this especially when it's full of BPA from cheap plastic bottles. The problem is it costs 5$ per litre of clean water, and I've been drinking 10litres a day on the bike. It's a hard decision I pay for it when I can get it for free. It's a funny situation though, as back in Melbourne I would never have this type of water or drink from hot BPA plastic bottles, but out here I just switch off and go in survival mode.
I told Davi I was keen to make Tennant Creek. We rode together for a bit and after about 15km he had dropped right back. I rode past a rest area about 90km short of Tennant Creek and I was hoping to god that Davi wouldn't stop in there for a break. It was about 3:30 and we had a slight tailwind. I knew if we kept at that pace we might of got into town by 8pm. As I looked back in the distance I realised I could no longer see Davi. I was about 3 or 4 km ahead, and I became very very frustrated. It was no position to stop and take a break as we needed to take advantage of the wind and get into town. I turned around and rode back, into the head wind now, and saw Davi coming back out of the rest area. I explained to him that there's no issue setting our tent up in the dark and for our own good we need to get into town. I said that if he can't see me in front, just to keep riding and I will meet him at the BP petrol station after I try to find a place to set up the tent. Fortunately however, we both maintained the same pace and pushed each other all the way to the end. I was absolutely buggered and so was Davi. We passed the 400km mark in the morning and 500km in the evening. In total we rode over 10hours in heavy heat and headwinds, only having boiling hot yuck tasting water out of crappy plastic bottles.
We pulled into town around 9:30pm and went straight to a servo for a cold drink. We asked if there was a supermarket but was informed that it already closed. Davi and I were both annoyed with this news, as it meant we would have to spend double on some cold drinks in the servo.
The servo closed up so we decided to sit at the front on the concrete while we had our cold drinks. While we were there an older aboriginal man walked up. I offered him some chips and he sat down next to me. I asked a few questions, such as what the name of Country was where we were sitting. The gentleman informed me that it was "Wirangmu country" or at least that was the way it sounded. He had a strong accent and spoke half of each sentence in his own language. I learnt a few words off him, and he also told me that there were a number of spirits in the area and on the country. It was obvious he was connected to something on a higher level, as he was staring and focusing on things around him. He told me there were "Them women over there" standing in the dark. They were his ancestors and he felt sorry for them because they only come out sometimes and live under the ground. He then looked at me in the face, and then got real close and stared into my eyes and whispered loudly "MungaMungaa". This from what I gathered is the name of the spirits or ancestral women, or women in general. After he said it he had got into a big coughing fit, and responded by saying that the spirits are too powerful and it makes him sick when he engages with them. If I'd never studied traditional culture or dreaming stories than I probably wouldn't blame a person for calling this man schizophrenic, but the knowledge he had was far too great to make that statement. I could see Davi wasn't too comfortable with him sitting there and was eager to get going to the caravan park down the road to set up the tent. Davi left and I stayed back for a minute finishing up our conversation and saying my goodbyes to the Aborigibal man. As I went to take of I fell, along with the bike, on the ground. The man helped me up and then he looked to see where Davi was. Davi was down the road on the bike and the Aboriginal man became angry. He yelled out "NgintaBuka" "Your meant to work as a team, not ride off". I'm pretty certain NgintaBuka meant something in the middle of idiot, dickhead, get lost and maybe another meaning as well. Davi came back and tried to help but the man was not being so friendly to him. I calmed the situation down, but this situation reminded me of something our friend from Red Dust said in Alice Springs. He said to me, once your accepted into a mob, your than a part of that mob and they'll stand up and fight or you no matter what. This man right there was about to get in a fight to make a point for me. This was a good insight into the way certain cultural traits are different, and why Aboriginal communities appear to people in the city to be so backwards. I have learnt to notice that many issues within a community are cultural, and these cultural differences for mesh well with western cultural influences. From what Ive been informed this is also one of the reasons why Liam Jurrah from Melbourne football club went to prison. The man offered to give me some money and I refused to accept.
Davi and I cycled back to the caravan park set up the tents and went to sleep. We didn't eat dinner or drink too much water, as the tap water tasted pretty bad. We sculled the drinks we bought from the shop so I figured they were enough to get us to sleep. Just before sleep however, I started vomiting and feeling very nauseous. I think, or I suppose I hope, this was a result of fatigue and exhaustion. It reminded me of Jobe Watson after a game of footy and seeing him vomit everywhere. I'm hoping after. Good sleep and some food tomorrow we can recover. Davi seems to be good which is great. I haven't even thought about where we're going tomorrow.
Another hot and long day. We left around 8:30 after having a good chat with our hosts from the mango farm in the morning. It reminded me about my previous trip and how many nice people I'd met and then never saw again. Only difference is this time I have another person to share these experiences with and hopefully we can recap on these experiences in the future.
It felt incredibly hot again today, and I was a little worried I wouldn't do so well after having a bit of trouble yesterday evening. Fortunately I got through alright and Davi did too. We stopped after about 100km at a roadhouse and we both had about 5 superdooper icy poles each. They were 1$ each but were definitely worth it. To my good fortune the final day of the test against India was on the television in the roadhouse. We relaxed a bit and watched Australia win the match and not long after we left again. It still seems like Davi doesn't really get cricket, as he laughed when he realised it was the same match I was watching a day before we left for the trip! "A game goes for five days!?", he said to me.
Now off to sleep as we have found a nice rest area on the side of the road. There's a few German backpackers parked here with there car and there being a bit noisy so hopefully we can get some sleep. A big day with 190km planned tomorrow, and supposedly the weather only getting harder.
Friday, 12 December 2014
Total km: 181km
Ride time: 8hours 52minutes
Today was very hard. It was a reminder of the pain I was going through during the last ride I did, particularly the long hot days up the west coast. The climate feels very similar to the area of Canarvon and Karratha way, the only difference is now my body's not used to it. Today we also passed the Tropic of Capricorn, something I've passed for a second time now. I think I passed the Tropic of Capricorn about 100km north of Canarvon if I can remember, so it would explain why the conditions are pretty similar. Landscape is also a little similar, with the red earth bearing many similarities. The flora differs a bit from the west coast with the species around here more similar to that in South Australia near Iron knob way, probably about 1500km directly south of where we are now. We also saw some big eagles and a few wild bulls.
We pushed it pretty hard, although we started pretty slow. Our average was around 17km or so coming out of Alice Springs and ended up the ride around 35km to have an average of around 23 km for the day. We stopped after about 90km for a few minutes to fill up our water and then we kept going.
Originally we were meant to ride about 130km and we felt pretty good so we kept going to 185 or so for today. Our plans were to ride to the road house "Ti Tree", as here we could load up on water and get a descent sleep. As we got to about 10 km before Ti Tree there was a massive sign saying fresh cold magoes and "Best mango Ice Cream in Australia", I probably wouldn't of had the icecream but I would've love a sorbet smoothie or something! We decided to pull in there to check it out. We walked into the little shop and were a little devastated that there was no fresh mangoes as the season hasn't started yet.
A few seconds later I started feeling dizzy and light headed. I sat down for a bit and then when I tried to get up it felt like I was going to vomit. Davi and I sat outside for about 20 minutes just to recover. Davi was keen to keep going to the Ti Tree road house, as I would've been too else I hadn't been feeling sick.
We were laying on the ground at the front of the little store on the farm. It was actually quite funny as a lot of Aboriginal customers were coming through and one of the lady's said "These fellas passed out! Too much grog!".
The owner of the farm saw we were buggered and offered to put us up at the farm for the night. As I started walking it felt like I was going to vomit, so I had to lay down more. I got up to have a cold shower but the best I could get was coldish/slightly warm due to the hot weather hearing the water. I felt better anyway.