I made it to Uluru! Aussies simply refer to it as “the rock”, which has absolutely nothing to do with fancy-pants wrestling and more to do with a tendency to deliberately understate things: Uluru is a mountain-like monolith that juts up from the desert in the most spectacular fashion.
From Darwin, it was about 2,200km of riding through some amazing scenery but in pretty harsh conditions. Temperatures soared during the middle of the day making riding impractical, so I found myself getting up in the wee hours and hitting the road as the sun peaked over the horizon. Luckily, as it was pretty flat terrain, I could knock off 80-130km by lunchtime if the wind was favourable and the coffee and cake kept coming.
It was pretty hard work, but it was well worth it. I love being on the bike and rolling through the countryside. As “they” say, a bad day on the bike beats a good day in the office every time. Besides, having family close by makes the going a lot easier with plenty of coffee, cake, hugs, smiles, a comfy bed and wicked tucker.
Speaking of family, Mum set a new mark for oldies on decrepit bicycles (you could hear the clunking and sqeaking from miles away, and the bike was making a fair amount of noise too…) when she managed over 100km in one day – go Mummy!
So, what is it like riding through the desert? It’s actually pretty grand, and not as boring as you might think.
Even though the desert landscape appears monotonous when you rush through it at >100km/h in a car, the same cannot be said of the perspective you gain as you ride through (at a much slower pace) by bicycle. The grass blurs into a yellow-grey mat with a tinge of green for those in a car, while the cyclist sees the species variation (spinifex, kangaroo grass, saltbush and feather grass to name the ones I’m familiar with) along with the multitude of teeny desert flowers that boldly bloom despite the oppressive heat and dry conditions.
The soil subtly changes hue every few hundred meters from light ochre to the deep blood red that is so closely associated with the Central Australian landscape. There is an amazing collection of wildlife in the Australian desert, that, again, you miss as you zoom by in a car – the presence of multiple species of butterflies was particularly surprising. Unfortunately, sightings of wallabies and kangaroos are even between the two transport modes as the only ones to see during in the day are remaindered as road kill (hoppy-croon! dang, it’s dead… something my Grandfather taught me to say when I was 2 years old, and you get to say it alot travelling through the outback). Reptiles are less frequently spotted, but I was lucky enough to spy a Central Netted Dragon sunning itself on an anthill by the road.
There are birds aplenty, with lots of raptors (kites, falcons and eagles), parrots large and small, the sweet sounding but grisly butcher bird and many others to keep the inner twitcher happy.
It hasn’t all been monotony, bird-watching and cake consumption though. There have been a few breaks to recover and the odd touristy activity.
In other exciting news, I’ve passed the $2,000 mark for fundraising, thanks to the generosity of folks met along the road. I still have a long way to go to reach my target of $50,000 so dig deep and chuck a few dollars at the Cancer Council on my behalf – just click here and you will be instantly transported to the magical world of Philanthropy where wonderous things happen and everyone eats chocolate without putting on weight….
The legends of the outback with carte blanche on the chockie front can be found here. Wanna get on the list? It’s a really good list…
From here, I’ve decided I’ve had enough of desert cycling. It’s getting too hot and if I don’t get a wriggle on the wet season will be on me and Tarquin doesn’t swim so we need to get out of the tropics toot-sweet. So that “T” doesn’t get damp, I’m driving across to Townsville with Dad and will be riding down the coast to Melbourne. It’s only another 4,000km from there, but it should be really lovely riding with plenty of beaches and the odd feed of fish and chips with the seagulls.
I hope this post finds you achieving your goals surrounded by wonderful people who can see how amazing you really are!
For the full time-lapse sunset on Uluru experience… click HERE