Sunday, August 30, 2015

Moonlight Rode.

I got the timing slightly wrong with the Mandorah ferry on Thursday. "There is no 4pm departure...!" The perplexed deckie told me when I arrived an hour and 10 minutes early!
"No 4 - 0-clock ferry? But you don't understand, I've planned this trip!" (says I, scoffing and ridiculing my own ineptitude while she just huffs and continues loading supplies for the bar)
OK, time to grab some supplies after all. Keen to be moving, legs full of energy I pumped it back up the hill from Cullen Bay and purchase some bubbly caffeinated drinks and a double shot of coffee from the servo. Satisfied I would be properly charged up for the ride I rolled back down the hill at about 4:30 ish for take two of 90% Moonlight Ride.... Whooo hoooo (For reals this time baby!!)

Moon rises over town

Of course by 5pm the ferry was chockers with Mandorahites and Wagait Beach commuters. So I ride at the back of the ferry with the smokers and pet owners beside ventilation pipes for the onboard toilet. Actually despite the woft of whatever the passengers ate last night drifting up past our noses the trip was quite pleasant. They're a different breed over there on the Mandorah side. The atmosphere on the boat was a bit like I imagine Darwin must have been like 30 years ago. From the moment the boat left it's mooring in Cullen bay I felt as though I'd been set free. I could sense from the mood on board that everyone was happy to be leaving the town behind them. Relieved and grateful to be heading back to their own little piece of paradise. Bloody well good on them I reckon!

When we arrived at the Mandorah jetty I could see a young fella struggling to land a decent sized tuna! He was pulling too hard on the line and his rod was bent over on itself, looked like he was trying to muscle the fish right out of the water from the moment it took the bait. I saw the flash of silver in the water and was mesmerized. I wondered if the fish was warn out enough for him to real it all the way from the water to the top of the jetty... Nope! Not this time.

Looking back on Darwin from Mandorah... That's close enough for most people here

Twilight moon at about 90% full.

Although there's quite a few stairs from the boat to the top of the Jetty, it wasn't too hard to lug the long bike up there. Looking back toward town the moon had well and truly risen above the city skyline. I stood and enjoyed the view and a bit of banter with some locals before setting my wheels to the road. Starting out is such a great feeling! One hour before sunset is a magic time to ride.

My main concern about riding at night was the possibility of coming across wild dogs or a pack of camp dogs. It turned out I didn't come across any packs of wild dogs. I did see one dingo while it was still daylight just before I reached Belyuen community. He was a skinny scrawny fella and bolted when he saw me.

Still plenty of light as I passed Belyuen community, where they serve ice cold slushies. Good to know on a hot day.

During the day it's as if there is absolutely no shade and so the scrub looks harsh, but between 5:30 and 7:00pm it's like riding through a magical forest of exotic looking trees and mystical Cycads.  In the light of the setting sun tree trunks are highlighted with horizontal light, an orange tinge gives the whole environment a completely different feel, like a stage lit from below. Birds are going wild the forest is alive! I looked to my left and saw my own shadow growing long in grassy verge beside me.

When the sun sets and moon takes dominance of the night sky all the hues and angles of lighting change again. They don't call it twilight for nothing. You have to be in it to truly appreciate the end of sun and birth of moon. To be 'On the Road' with none of the usual constraints of time or family responsibilities, at this time of day can elevate the imagination and free the spirit! I peddled on for an hour or so after sundown without using my lights. All the traffic was coming towards me. Commuters making the long journey home from work in Darwin.
Another hour on the road passes and the cars were coming from behind me. Time to put the lights on! I need to be seen! For a little while I wondered where they might be going... then I remembered. The Mandorah pub has been demolished. They must be driving to Litchfield pub! For the rest of the journey along Cox Peninsular Road (from about 8:30 - 10:30) a car came from behind me at least every 15 or 20 minutes. Very fast and some a bit too close. I took the message and got off the road whenever I saw one coming. One fella stopped to see if I was OK. he was a friendly bloke, 'just on his way to the pub for more beer...' Good reason for me to be off the road when he and others make their way home again I reckon.

Crossing Blackmore River (Half way mark about 60km) I was flagging and needed a rest. I pulled up under the school lights at Berry Springs and scoffed some food and most of my water. From here on the traffic became far more regular. Another 15 km to Noonamah (getting hard to peddle now).  Every 5 acre allotment has a dog to guard his master's territory... not every 5 acre allotment has fencing to contain said fanged guardians. As the barking grew closer my legs pumped harder. I reviewed my pre-ride bicycle maintenance schedule. Yes I pumped the tyres... No I didn't oil the bloody chain! Now the bloody thing is making so much noise I'm drawing the attention of every dog along the way! After about 90km of constant travel I could feel the resistance of every stubborn link!

Hoons on the road passed too close, one hero leaning out the passenger window of a car thought he'd put the wind up me... he seemed to lean a bit too far, if he fell out my conscience would probably dictate that I stop and help clean up the mess... fortunately it didn't happen. 

Finally reaching the Stuart Highway I felt I had made pretty good time, but my legs were aching, my knees and back were sobbing "Enough!" At Noonamah the servo was closed but the pub was still open. A few Impex workers and locals chatting outside. I slumped againts the servo wall hoed into an orange and guzzled more water. . As I sat there wondering if I would make it home my phone rang. A fellow cycling buddy called to check in on me. Of course Ego jumped in and a sufficient portion of bravado applied to assure him that this ride was a doddle for me. "I'm just cruising. Seriously why would I want you to come out and get me! Are you kidding?"

Another 15km to Coolalinga. I struggled back onto the bike and drank the remainder of my water quickly, my thoughts focused on a frozen coke at the new McDonald's.  (All my life I've shunned the golden arches, but as I progressed past the deadly Coolalinga intersection I felt myself almost praying it would be open.) As I drew close to the store a message appeared before my eyes... 24 hr. YES! 
Frozen coke and apple pie never tasted so good!

I took it easy the rest of the way home. Enjoying the bicycle path from Palmerston. Gamba grass fires had decimated a huge section of bushland along McMillans Road, I wonder what happened to the squatters camps in there. No traffic to bother me now, the moon so bright I could see the contours of every hill and tree, the familiar sound of Curlews and scrub fowl grew stronger as I approached my home the nights are not silent when the moon is so near. Rolled up to the gate at 12:15. Not bad. Ran a hot bath to ease my aching joints. At 1am I took one final look at my companion in the sky and slumped into bed with an immense feeling of gratitude for the freedom I have, satisfied with my effort, physically exhausted and spiritually renewed.  

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Moonlight Ride

Super moon expected on the 30th August...

Plan: Cycle 130 km from shore to shore by the light of the moon, commencing by the sea at moon rise till I reach the sea again 6 or so hours later.

Not sure which bike I'll ride, probably not the one with the skinny tyres.
If I ride solo I'll do most of the trip in silence... But just in case I manage to muster some company I've arranged a bit of a playlist to take along... just need to sort out some amplification...

Will also include my 'Night' play list and the bicycle song and Fat bottomed girls by Queen.