Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Monsoon ride around Darwin Harbour

In Darwin, at some time in December or January the monsoon arrives from the north bringing on the true rainy season.
While we were in Bali, two weeks ago, the monsoon arrived in Northern Australia. It's been raining fairly consistently since then.

Cycling through a monsoonal downpour might not sound like the ideal way to spend your time during the Christmas break but to me it's about the best time of year to get out on my bike. Here in Darwin the sun can really wear you down. It's hot most of the time and if you're on the road for hours dehydration is a serious problem. The other issue, particularly during the dry season is wind. Cycling against the wind can seriously inhibit progress and uses up heaps more energy.

Cycling at night (when the moon is bright) or during monsoonal weather, when the sun is obscured by clouds, the air temperature is several degrees lower than usual and there's plenty of water around, are my favourite times to cycle the Cox Peninsula Rd.

Yesterday I did my solo ride around Darwin Harbour again. The road around Darwin harbour is basically a big jagged circle, lately I've  preferred to travel counter clockwise, this gets the remote part of the ride (about 50km without any services or phone reception) out of the way at the beginning when my water and food supplies are full and I've got enough energy to make it to the half way mark, and civilization.

I had intended to catch the first ferry at 05:45 but arrived at the jetty about 3 minutes after the ferry left! Had to wait till the next boat at 6:30... a slight delay.

It was a beautiful morning, the moon was high and peeking through gaps in the clouds. I love it when the moon is with me on a ride, even at the dawn, once I've seen her in the sky I know she'll be with me, somewhere up there for most of the day. I pray the burning rays of brutal sun are obscured and diffused by this precious monsoonal shield. 

I was surprised to discover that I had fallen desperately out of condition while lulling about in Bali eating food fortified with gula (sugar) and palm oil! A week at home on the couch eating fruit mince pies and watching all three seasons of 'Please Like Me' on iview didn't help much either. I wondered if I would actually make the 140km distance this time.

The ferry ride is always a treat, Darwin shrinks into the distance as the sturdy twin hulled vessel crosses the harbour. A fifteen minute ride delivers passengers to a considerably more remote and wild Cox Peninsular. (It's a whole other culture over there, freedom seekers get the best of both worlds!)

Legs were already a bit heavy and stiff before I'd even reached Belyuen community, just 12 km from the Mandorah jetty! No rain, and the sun was beginning to rise! I was slightly worried about the wisdom of doing this ride.

If you've ridden Cox Peninsula road during the dry season you will be very aware how little shade there is. If you think it's an ugly ride I urge you to try it during the wet season... preferably during monsoonal weather. It's like riding through an ancient forest of cycads and sand palms, all the larger trees are lush with brilliant green foliage, lilies and other wetland flowers spread across saturated lowlands. You would find yourself in a very different environment to what you'd expect, it's like a beautiful tropical garden! I startled a flock of Northern Rosella's and Red-winged parrots, the flew to a tree top not far ahead and waited for me to pass.

As my weak muscles struggled with the distance I shifted my focus from the road ahead to the beauty around me, set my music player to random and lowered the pace so that I continued moving forward, without care for speed. Stopped a couple of times for water but generally pressed on. At the back of my mind was the Blackmore river, about half way round, it's my regular rest stop. 

After about 40km, there had been no rain, I had a pain in my groin which was making it hard to peddle, I was seriously worried I wouldn't even make it half way around! Finally about 7km from the Blackmore River I felt the rush of cold air! Soon I could feel a precious mist of cool gentle rain, before long it was pelting down and the drains and creeks started flowing. Exhausted I sat in the rain and ate a Vegemite roll. Bliss!

Maybe I had overestimated my ability to cycle this kind of distance? My physical condition is pitiful, I've done no riding in about a month! I headed for the refuge of Tumbling Waters holiday park. Fully expecting to leave my bike there and call home for a mercy evacuation! Ride Over! Having made a decision, my spirits lifted considerably. I rolled down toward the camp feeling glad that I wouldn't have to go any further today! When I arrived at the gate there was a sign.


"WOW" What to do? "OK, No problem, I'll just ride a few more k's to Berry Springs and leave the bike somewhere there".

Still committed to quitting I had another sandwich and watched the Blackmore river, swelling and swirling from the heavy rain that had set in, I watched water flow off the land around me and join the river, muddy water mixing with clear, pushing eddies into the bridge and the banks... So much energy! Instead of riding back to the  road, I walked about 300 meters. Stood contentedly beside the bridge in the rain for a while, then tentatively got back on the bike for a few last kilometres. Oddly, the 15 or 20 minutes I spent off the bike and possibly the walking left me feeling much better. The rain now was pelting down, the hair on my arms collecting droplets, my skin felt clean and cool, sweat had been washed away, it was like I was starting the ride fresh! 

The rest of the ride was a breeze! I just took my time, relished the cool air and water on my skin. No dramas along Stuart Highway, The Howard Springs cycle path is glorious in the wet! Easy riding the rest of the way home! I'd made it! Did the whole thing.... didn't quit! Many thanks to the rain and my companion the moon.

(Couple of interesting points to the ride.... Much of this ride is along a remote road with a 110 km speed limit. Although most drivers are quite considerate, there is still a serious likelihood that over the course of 7 hours over 140 km of NT roads you will come across several idiots who enjoy scaring or threatening cyclists. On about 5 occasions I was passed quite closely by speeding drivers, the rain and  dangerous conditions only seem to excite them more. If you do this ride you must find a way to steady your nerves and ignore the idiots. Water splashing up from the wheels of a speeding car is not pleasant but thankfully not lethal. 
The Cox Peninsula Rd and Stuart Highway are strewn with the rotting carcasses of 1,000s of dead cane toads that have been hit by cars repeatedly, they form a slippery pulp on the roadside.... sometimes it stinks.... sometimes when cars pass closely in the rain they flick the pulp up into your face.... Don't eat it!)


D.Baxstar said...

Cool novel but I didn't bother reading the rest (because it's soooooo long)

P.s. It's as long as a book

GreenComotion said...

Beautiful drawing and lovely report, David.
What's one more sandwich if you can pedal the calories off, eh?

Happy New Year David - Have a Healthy & Happy 2016!

Peace :)

David J said...

Thanks Chandra. Hey a Happy and Healthy 2016 to you too.


David J said...

Diana. Thank you for your appraisal. I agree, the mark of a good writer is the ability to convey a message using few words... My tendency is to stagger about, spraying words all over the page in the desperate hope that some will reach their mark and the reader might get some gist of the message, if there even is one...

I hope you can master this art. If you start writing now, and learn from good writers you will become a great story teller. Go for it!

I look forward to reading your work in 2016

Kate Fern said...

Hi David I love your darwing and the story of your ride, even the stinky cane toads!

David J said...

Thanks Kate,
Ha! I'm glad you like the drawings, you know they're naive scribble but that seriously doesn't matter does it? Better to do it than not. ;) I like your drawings, particularly the birds.