Friday 18th November, 2011 – 1.40pm
Elke's Backpackers, Mitchell Street, Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia
Total distance: Approx 310km
Even staying put until well after 2pm, the cycle to Batchelor was punishing. Rain came once, but briefly, and for the rest of the afternoon the sun scorched us as we slowly pedalled our way out of the National park along the gradually inclined road. It was sealed though, and we were very grateful for that!
|A kangaroo with a little joey poking ou-|
WAIT A MINUTE THAT ISN'T A JOEY!
You might very well wonder why on earth we are putting ourselves through this ordeal. Cycling through tropical heat, what on earth for!? It's not easy to sum up in any quick formula, and I think it's true to say that if you genuinely don't understand why we would want to do something like this, you probably never will, not really anyway. But I will try to make sense of it:
Taking yourself out of your home and making yourself cycle from one place to another, supporting yourself
|Vegetarianism went right out the window.|
I suppose this idea of having the basics held at a bit of distance can account for much of the appeal that we find in touring. Sleep lands heavy on you after a long day, it's irresistible, and feels enormously refreshing. Water, even when it's warm from being baked in a plastic bottle all day, feels amazing – cold beverages from a fridge are absolutely mind blowing. And the places we visit too, even at popular tourist attractions like Termite Mounds, feel like we've earned them, so we're closer to them than if we'd just arrived by bus after an hours drive.
But I think the best thing about it all, the one that will linger the longest, is the feeling of really being a part of the places we travel through. For better or worse we experienced what Litchfield was like. We felt the heat, the rain, the insects as they nibbled on us. We heard all the noises, in day and at night, and felt the ground beneath us as we slept. And we saw the places between the places, where people don't usually go and that connect the places together and therefore allow us to make more sense of an area – all with 360 degree panoramic views, and the wind in our faces. Although yes, this time that wind was hot, and it knocked us around a bit. It was still really great, and felt like we had gone through enough of a mission to prepare us for the imminent Indo tour.
|Cane toads are everywhere|
in the NT.
Miraculously the mozzies left us alone that night, and we woke early to catch the cool early hours. Our laundry was still damp, but I was sure we could quickly dry that out during our siesta. Cheese liquefyingly hot days have their advantages.
We reached Bachelor within an hour. It was a small town, and it had that nice friendly small town vibe. It had a model castle on the road into town, and a billboard proudly announced that it had been voted tidiest town in the territory in 82, 86 and 99. Oh yes. We sniffed out the general store and went a bit mad buying food to make up for our poor diet of the days previous, and also making the most of the shop's air conditioning. We stopped for a few minutes on a bench outside to eat some cheese and crackers – because they wouldn't last long on the road – and got chatting to a local about Obama's visit to Darwin, which the local paper announced was happening today. He was friendly, although sceptical about the visit. “Just us kissing arse to the yanks.” he said, “We don't need to. The American system is fucked, it's just about war now. We've got valuable minerals in the ground that we're digging up, although who's making money out of all our wealth I don't know. We certainly ain't.” It was 7:50am, and he explained he had just finished all the work he had to do for the day – a spot of welding, nothing more. He had a prosthetic leg, and I wandered about asking him about his experiences in the area. But we wanted to cover some k's before the sun picked up, so I settled on a single question, “Hey, do you know any way of stopping these dam flies from buzzing in your face all day?” He laughed, “Not unless you want to get one of them hats with corks dangling off um.” So that's what they're for. Liv already knew this, but it was a revelation to me.
View Larger Map
We left Bachelor and headed along the road that linked to the Highway, Darwin was about 100km away, so based on previous day's distances we should make it by the end of the next day. But as we approached the highway we noticed deep grey clouds looming ahead. So thick and low were they, that I had to check my map to make sure we weren't looking at the sea. A storm was on its way, the wind picked up and whipped about us as we stopped to snap a dramatic “cycling into the storm” photo.
The rain came just before we hit the highway, and it came pretty hard outright. Since the only dry t-shirt I had left was the one I was wearing I put my waterproof jacket on, and wished I had brought waterproof gaters because my shoes were going to get rinsed. Sure enough, as we joined the highway the heavens opened and for about two hours the rain rattled down. It was amazing. After three days of blistering heat here we were at 11am tearing down the highway at 30kmph, cool and full of energy. The downside was that, compared to the previous days' riding the road wasn't so exciting, but it had it's moments. Flocks of large birds rising from the fields beside us, hundreds of baby toads hopping to clear a path as we pedalled through their patch of puddled road, and road trains – great big lorries three or four carriages long - thundering past us every few minutes sending clouds of water vapour up at our faces, and shaking our bikes so we have to hold on tightly to avoid wobbling off and falling under them. Liv's not a big fan of these noisy stretches of road, but I think they can be pretty exhilarating. We both agreed though that it was good to be covering ground so quickly. By midday we had covered more than 60km, and it looked like we would make Darwin by the end of the afternoon.
One can be quick to judge though, as it must take quite a bit to get people drinking before midday on a Thursday. However, we were only there for an hour or so, so I have to be quick to judge. It's before midday on a Thursday, gentlemen, you shouldn't be drinking.
|Obama was in town, but he wasn't making any public appearances.|
After a much needed shower we searched for an Italian restaurant, and enjoyed pizza and pasta, and got quite drunk off a little bottle of white. Climbing into bed that night was the most comfortable feeling imaginable, and I slept soundly – and had a lucid dream about going to the dentists. It's nice when life is vastly more exciting that the dream's you're having.
Today we have picked up a few odds and ends from town, and pigged out on a lunch of cheeses, dips and olive bread. We met some nice people in the kitchen in the morning who we might join for a drink tonight, and when we were shopping in town we met Rob – the guy on his way to Iceland who gave us water on the dusty hot road – who might join us too. Now I'm going to try to get all of these blog entries loaded up, so I can concentrate on doing absolutely nothing at all for the next few hours. Tomorrow we pack the bikes up. The day after, we get on a plane to Indonesia, and the adventure really begins.