Sunday, March 04, 2007

Cox Peninsular Rd in monsoon

A quick ride to Mandorah pub

The rout
Map of route

Google Map

I can't remember exactly when or how the thought came to me but about two weeks ago I decided I wanted to ride around to Mandorah in one day. I suppose it's because I've been doing a lot of extra miles lately and thought I could manage the trip or maybe is was the influence of what I've been reading about endurance cycling, I can't remember. When the thought came to me I decided to ask my friend Martin if he'd like to come and somehow we worked out that this Sunday would be a good day for the trip.
As the week wore on a low developed out in the Timor sea and by Wednesday or Thursday Darwin finally began to receive some of the monsoonal weather we'd missed out on over the past two months. It hasn't really stopped raining since then!
Unfortunately Martin became unwell through the week and was not fit enough to make the trip. By Friday the weather bureau announced that a cyclone was forming and warned of worsening weather conditions. For some reason I felt compelled to attempt my ride regardless of all impediments! I was on a mission! This would be the longest I've ever ridden in one day and although monsoonal weather can be a bit nasty, I'd actually managed to convince Sam that I could do it and preferred to take my chances with the weather than to wait for another opportunity to escape my domestic duties as a father and husband. I became determined to make this ride no matter what! It was on!
On Saturday Sam and I took a load of sheets to the laundromat to put through the dryer. It's been so wet that we haven't been able to dry our clothes. After loading the dryer we went for a walk down to the Nightcliff foreshore. The water was extremely rough as the wind blew waves in every direction, about 30 surfers were out there trying to surf on waves that followed no pattern and would surge one after the other, smashing into each other and grinding at the sand and rocks on the shore. We went to the jetty and it was being absolutely pummeled as waves pushed through it to boom against the claystone cliffs. This was some kind of tempest, it was as if I was being taunted and urged to give up my crazy plan to ride further than I'd ever ridden in the midst of near cyclonic weather! I would not be deterred.

After very little sleep (again) I woke this morning at 4:30 to the sound of the rain still falling on our tin roof, there appeared to be no wind. Still that voice inside me said, 'go back to bed.' 'No one would blame you for not riding today'. But I'd decided I would do this no matter what! So I had my breakfast, gathered all the stuff that I should have prepared last night, packed the the camera and mobile phone into water proof clippie bags then crammed everything into my water proof pannier bag. The bag was full and quite heavy, as it was raining I took a full, rather heavy, thermos of coffee for comfort. I was out the door by 5:45 am.

The first leg of my ride was along the same route I use to get to Palmerston. It was dark but for some reason it was much easier riding in the early morning than at night. As I passed Knucky lagoons I realized that the rain had done a good job of filling up the wetlands and the huge drainage channels on the side of the road had actually filled to become a network of lakes whose surface was almost level with that of the road.
As the dawn approached the lbeam of my headlamp began to dim and by Coolalinga the sky was bright enough to do away with my lamp altogether. I put some air in my rear tire ate a couple of olives and cashews and got back on the road, rolling much faster with a bit of extra pressure in the rear tire!
As I rode I noticed a smell that reminded me a bit of fish bait it wasn't overpowering but there was a constant odour. There was a detour just before the Elizabeth river bridge and the river was breaching the out-bound lanes so I stopped to take a photo. It's amazing to see so much water flowing over our only road link to the rest of the country. Before they widened the road and built the second bridge a couple of years ago, this flood would have cut all traffic along the Stuart Highway! As I was putting the camera away I realized that I had picked up some snotty looking stuff off the road! What the hell is this stuff?

Stuart Hwy cut
Flooded River cutting bridge over Stuart Hwy(+ raindrop caught by flash)

It wasn't too much longer before I realized what the smell was. Scanning the road surface I notices lots of white smudges that looked a bit like pelican shit. They were in fact all that remained of 100's of Cane toads smudged across the road surface by the cars and trucks traveling along the highway! The white smudges continued all the way to Cox Peninsular road where lighter traffic meant that the toads weren't yet squashed into undefinable smudges. As I headed for Berry Springs the scenery was dominated by the corpses of Cane Toads, bloated and crushed along the roadside, the remains of their last meal spewing out of their mouths and guts. Their squashed amphibians resembled a macabre cornucopia of native bush tucker! So much biodiversity caught in the guts of a Cane Toad and delivered to the road as an offering, I imagined it an ironic testimony to the wastefulness and imbalance of man! But then I do get a little melodramatic when I have time to think.

I reached Berry Springs within two hours, with only a few brief showers of rain and no wind what so ever! From here on there would be no phones or other services for about another 70 km. I peddled on looking forward to the freedom of an open road and virtually no traffic.
Just a couple of km from Tumbling waters I came to my first flooded causeway. I rode through about a foot and a half of water and it splashed up all over my panniers, this would be a great test for my gear!

floodway crossing
Creek crossing

I began to feel a bit weary after another hour of riding so my time slowed quite a bit. The bike computer threw a bit of a fit so I couldn't match it's accuracy to the distance stated on the map. The further I got from the Stuart Hwy the less traffic I encountered and by the time I'd reached the Dundee beach turnoff I hadn't been passed by a car in at least half an hour! After the old Bynoe Rd I really began to feel the strain of this ride, my muscles were becoming fatigued and I had a fair bit of discomfort/pain in the groin. I stopped fairly regularly for coffee and snacks which gave me a bit of energy every time. There were quite a few creek crossings but all were quite manageable. Along the way I noticed quite a few Northern Rosellas, they are beutifull birds and I've never seen this many so close to a road, there must be some good feed for them out here. O and I also came across a kind of sad looking waterlogged snake trying to extract some warmth from the road, I think it was a keel back, I tried to take a photo but could only snap a couple of shots quickly as my camera was becoming wet very quickly!

I have to admit when I finally rolled onto the Mandorah pier at 11:00 am I was quite relieved to have achieved my objective! As it turned out I probably had the best conditions imaginable! It didn't get hot at all and there was no wind. These two factors would have made the trip a lot more difficult! As the ferry had just left I wandered/limped over to the pub and enjoyed a 600ml bottle of cola while scoffing down my remaining food. At 12:00 I boarded the ferry, leaned my bike over on the deck and headed up to the roof top seating where I could view isolated storms breaking out all around the harbour. I felt victorious and elated! I had achieved a personal milestone and had a great little adventure. What amazed my was that it only took up half of the day! However I spent the rest of the day resting and discovered I had earned myself some serious chaffing on the upper thy area, I reckon I'll be walking bow legged for a while!


My place to Mandorah - 131 km
Darwin to home - 14 km
Total including ride from Darwin to home 145 km

Departure - 5:45 am
Arrival @ Mandorah - 11:00 am

Distance - 131 km
Total time - 5 hrs 15 min

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