Monday, August 21, 2017

Riding the August Moon - Day 2

I like the idea of giving my bikes a name. Sometimes they are quite unimaginative. After my first day on the road I found the more energy I put into going forward the more I felt myself being dragged backwards. I soon arrived at an appropriate name for this particular rig. Henceforth the bike/trailer combo was known as  'Pushmi-Pullyu'. Thanks to 'Dr Do Little' movie.

47 YO child's impression of the pushmi-pullyu rig in full costume dress....  
(artistic critiques will be summarily rejected/deleted)

The ride continues!

I figured about 3:30pm would be a good time to re-commence my journey.  The Gods smiled upon me, with a glint in their eye and a half cough of a chuckle and at 3:30 pm exactly I had my kit packed and bike adjusted perfectly. Wind and sun were losing their sting, the rider was on his way.

Uphill grade, quiet rode, good conditions, approximately 5.5 hours duration

The planned distance for this ride according to Google maps was 67km. Google's estimated time for travel 3 hours and 27 minutes. I have found that with my load and allowing for rest and repair stops my average speed has been reduced to just over 10kmh, I have to double the estimated time. It was going to take me about 6-7 hours. The Sun would set at 6:40pm giving me about 3 hours cycling on a remote* road by the light of the moon. This is the reason I timed my trip to coincide with the full moon, this is the ride I've been looking forward to!

Starting out

I felt an amazing sense of freedom and power to be continuing my journey only 24 hours after I thought I'd decided to quit. Pacing myself I settled into the slow ride around Dorat Rd. (Which apparently is an acronym for Darwin Overland Road Authorities Transport department. Road.)

I had been advised by friends not to ride this way, it is notorious for being a narrow goat track, which should be re-classified as a one way road. I have driven it in my car and found it bumpy, with potential for the car to bottom out in low areas where the road crosses creeks and streams, there are also a few blind corners and crests which leave drivers vulnerable to head on collisions. Mining trucks, and tourist vehicles have been known to appear as if from nowhere at the worst possible time. However, on a bicycle this road is quite a different experience. The slower pace reduces the risk of all these hazards, vehicles can be heard from a distance and there's enough room to get off the road if necessary. The bitumen merges with the dirt in a gentle grade, no drop off, there is infinitely less traffic and cyclists have access to the full road most of the time. In my experience, on this particular day, Dorat Rd is an excellent road for cycling!

George Creek, crystal clear pools
  After about an hour on the road I arrived at Robin Falls. Took a break and cooled off in the crystal clear water of George creek. As the saying goes, Water Is Life! Prior to this ride I had attended and made a submission to the NT fracking Inquiry, my argument was in defence of fresh water. One incentive for this road trip was to experience a conscious dependence on water, to observe water sources along the way and to pay attention to people's relationship to water. George creek was a welcome rest stop featuring a glorious example of a top end fresh water stream. At the slow pace of a bicycle I was able to observe several streams along Dorat Rd, most of them had clear fresh water flowing though them.

Had to get off and walk a couple of these
From here on the riding got serious, a mostly uphill grade, blind corners, crests... the lot! What I hadn't counted on was the exhilaration of actually getting to coast down a few hills.

Coasting downhill toward another stream

Along Dorat Rd there are several properties, I was surprised to see that most gates displayed Yellow Anti Fracking posters, some were quite  faded so I left some shiny new replacements by the gates of those I thought would use them.

Buckled rim prevented the bead of tyre from holding. I encountered several of these blow outs but managed to sort it out by releasing some tyre pressure. This situation caused some delay.

Great views along Dorat road.
After three hours of steady cycling (and a few unscheduled stops to re-fit the trailer tyre which managed to blow out twice in half an hour!) the Daly River turn off appeared. By now shadows were stretching long across the road and the sky had taken an orange tinge... soon it would be getting dark. A lot of wallabies had  begun to venture out of the scrub, but I sensed danger when some wild pigs and a feral dog scamper off in the dusk. Of course they were running away from me but I've had very little experience with these animals and didn't want to take any unnecessary risks so rather than stop there for my break I kept on rolling on. There was also quite a lot of Brahman cattle grazing in un-fenced land beside the road. I hadn't counted on a potential confrontation with a bull! They all held their ground as I cruised past thankfully I  wasn't deemed a threat to the herd!

With a half hour gap between sunset and moon rise there was a magical period of twilight and darkness fell for the briefest moment before a brilliant enormous and silver moon breached the cloak of the horizon! It's hard to describe the feeling of being alone on a fairly remote road at night, there were moments when I felt a bit jittery, but mostly a sense of freedom and belonging! As I became accustomed to the night, my whole sense of progress changed, I  felt a new energy and rhythm had developed with the rising of the moon. The cool air that sits in dips along creeks and gullies invigorated me, my pace started to increase and the whole experience changed! 

Only a couple of cars passed me after dark on Dorat Rd, I sensed them coming well in advance and simply stopped by the side of the road, averting my eyes as they passed so I could retain my night vision.  I had flashing lights on the rear of the trailer so I could be seen, I made it look as obvious as possible that I didn't require any help. Nobody stopped and I was left to continue my ride in peace!

By the end of Dorat Rd my bike computer indicated that I'd done about 80km. Further than I expected but I did make a few little detours along the way and I suppose they add up. It was a great ride but it was time for a rest. Not long after rejoining the Stuart Highway, the lights of Hayes Creek tavern appeared. I'd made it!

I rolled into Hayes Creek at about 9pm expecting the place to be closed, but was greeted by the exuberant owner who welcomed me warmly and set me up with a delicious meal of a home baked pie (re-heated due to the lateness of the hour), chips and salad. When I'd eaten she directed me to the camp ground, where I set my camp and drifted peacefully off to sleep. What an awesome way to end the day!

 * Official definition of 'remote' for the purposes of this blog post = No street lights, no milk bar, no toasted cheese with ham and tomato for at least 50km.

(Sorry no photos during the dusk and night hours)
(Story will continue with Day three... Hayes Creek to Pine Creek)

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