Day 10 - Wednesday, 17th June 2009 - Katherine to Pine Creek

Late yesterday afternoon, I had to apply more chain lubrication to my chain, it had been making a bit of noise on the way into Katherine, so I knew that it was starting to dry out a bit. It was only a quick job as I normally keep my chain clean, and we haven't had any wet days (or anything even threatening to look like rain) so it didn't take me long.

Pat and Alex had visited the supermarket and stocked up on some luxury food items as well some some beer and wine to drink. I joined them for about 30 minutes or so before joining Alan, John, Sam, George, Rob and Ken for dinner at the Katherine Country Club. It was a about a 15 minute walk away from the Hotel, and while it took us past several of the local Aboriginals, I never felt threatened by them. There are lot of very decent people up this way, but living in the Southern States, I only see what the media shows to me, and that is usually the bad side of it. There are problems, but from what I saw, it was more an exception rather than the rule. When you talk to people, the Intervention has made a difference, but like a lot of Government Policy, it wasn't well thought out in some areas.

The meal at the Country Club was very nice, I had a Curry that was really enjoyable, and it was good value for what you got. The discussion was a lot about cycling, as you would expect, but it was a good round table discussion about various techniques and advantages and disadvantages of them. In the end, we could have been there a lot longer, but I had promised to call my Parents, so I had to leave early, the rest of them came back with me.

Pat and Alex were still sitting outside their rooms enjoying the evening with their Wine and Fine Food, but the rest of us were pretty much spent from the day. My efforts at the Gorge where certainly making themselves known. After the phone call, I repacked my bag putting all of my winter gear at the bottom. I think that a lot of it is going to be sent home when I am in Darwin, I can't see any reason to keep it for the Darwin to Broome ride given that we will be experiencing similar temperatures to what we have been having currently. I might keep hold of the arm warmers, but everything else can probably go.

Today was listed as a 91km day, but Phil had a not on the map, that there was a 19km diversion to Edith Falls, and that distance was each way. So the total expected distance was going to be 128km. You had the option of using the bus along those sections, but I felt that it wasn't a lot of riding, so I would cover it on the bike. Most of the riders felt the same way.

We had breakfast at 7am, and while I only had cereal, many of the others went with a Hot Breakfast as well. The Chef asked those who did what they thought of the sausages. He said that they were different, and I first guessed Kangaroo, No, Emu, No, Camel, Yes. The general consensus was that they were nice sausages. We were expected to get away at 7:45am, but some riders went out a bit earlier. I was the last away at about 7:40am, and while it first felt good to be back on the bike, the muscles that had been abused yesterday walking quickly advised me of the fact. I knew that it would be a while before I had warmed up properly.

We crossed over the Katherine River, and the railway bridge has depth markers on it for the height of the river. They don't stuff around with 1 or 2 metres here, but they go right to the underside of the bridge at 18 metres. I remembered back to the photos at Katherine Gorge yesterday, and they had had two floods in the last 15 years, so I can well believe that height markers like that are needed.

Despite the slight ache in my legs from walking I was riding well, and enjoying being back on the bike. I didn't know how far it was to the other riders, but I wasn't going to kill myself catching up to them. There was a reasonable amount of traffic flowing in both directions this early in the morning, but it was usually very polite and they gave me sufficient room to overtake.

I slowly caught up to the other riders, and even this early in the day, a slight ESE wind was starting to pick up, this meant that it was pretty well behind us, so the pace was quite quick. I did notice that there was quite a lot of rocks around in the surrounding country side, especially when compared to the ground we had been covering prior to Katherine. There was even one area, where they looked almost Devil Marbilish. They were a steel grey colour as opposed to the red of the real ones, but they did have a similar sort of layout and set up.

I slowly caught up to and passed riders, until I came to the front group which contained John, George, Alex and Ken. Alex was on the back, and he had pinned his badge (each All Trails Rider is given a name badge), onto his saddle bag. It had come undone and as a result it was vibrating and making a reasonable amount of noise. In the end I got a bit sick of it, and I asked Alex to move out to the right, and I was going to come up beside him and try and do it up. I said at the time that it was either going to work, or end badly. Luckily, I was able to do the badge up with no incident at all.

I stayed in the bunch as they slowly rotated through until I was given a chance on the front. I had only just got there, when George said that "Dad's Army wanted a break", we found a good stopping point just at the top of a hill, and pulled in for a small break. We were in the front, so most of the other riders soon caught up to us, and we only had a quick break before rolling out again. There was only a total distance of about 40km to Morning Tea, so we didn't have far to go. I deliberately pushed my way back to the front of the pack, as I wanted to have a good turn there. The terrain was starting to get a bit rolling, and while hills take more energy to ride, it was a nice change from the flat that we had been having for days on end.

I did my best to keep the pace as steady as possible, but after a while, it was only George, Alex, Pat and I. As we approached the Edith Falls turn off, the road also split and became dual carriage way. I was hopeful that it would continue like this all the way to Darwin, it would certainly make our journey a lot easier. We weren't sure if this is where Morning Tea was, as we didn't see any flour on the road, and no sign of Phil and Sue. As a result, we nearly rode past the turn off, but we did see them as the last second, and it was a quick change into the right lane, and then turn right towards Edith Falls. It was fortunate it that the road was quiet.

We all had high average speeds from Katherine which was testament to the tail wind which had been assisting us. We were also comparing our top speeds, as we had also experienced a good downhill which allowed us to really get moving. The other riders weren't far behind us, and even the last rider in was still quick. We sat down and enjoyed our Morning Tea, and we had the option of riding in or taking the bus, but because of limited seating, it wasn't available to everyone. Alan was the only taker, and the rest of us set of riding. Because we had changed direction, the wind was now a crosswind at times, but also a headwind a lot of the time as well. There was a fire in the area as I smelt smoke at one point on the road. Over the last few days there has been an increasing amount of haze in the air, and I suspect that there are a few fires burning up this way.

I was riding solo into Edit Falls, and on the way, I passed a sign that indicated that there was a "Restricted Road", that was all that the sign said, it certainly piqued my interest. Phil had admitted, that he had never done a reconnaissance of this road, so I was taking his 19km with a pinch of salt. I was hoping to cover it in about 45 minutes, but I was genuinely unsure if I could given the wind. I saw no distance markers, but when I saw signs for the National Park, and then signs slowing us up, I knew that I was close. I pulled into the Car Park, and I could see where Phil and Susan where, but I had to go the long way round. I ended up in the Camping Grounds on a dirt road, and so I had to almost bush bash to make my way to them.

It was about 10:20am at this time, and lunch wasn't going to be served until noon, so we had about 90 minutes to burn. Sue had looked at the information board, and it advised that the water was close by, and there was also a walk. I took a wander down to the waters edge, and I could see some falls on the far side of a large pool. I took some pictures, and walked to another vantage point, and when I returned, many of the other riders were there as well.

Pat had been out here yesterday, and he said that he had done a walk all around the top of the ridges, and that it was pretty spectacular. We starting walking back to the information board to see if we could find any details. I was slightly ahead of the others, and I then got very close to some of the wildlife. I looked down, and I suddenly realised that I was about to step on a snake. One thing I will give snakes, they will always make you jump. I swore, and then did a very rapid two step. The snake took fright, and backed up, then reared up, and I then managed to get out of his way, and he continued along to my left and into a leaved area. He was about 1.5m long, but only quite thin, I would say about 2cm wide at the most. Alan was behind me, and said that it was the quickest he had seen me move all trip.

After that excitement, we managed to locate the start of the walk, and 7 of us, Dave (physio), Fiona, Jan, Katrina, George, Sam and I set off to do the trek. We had about an hour fifteen, so it was a fairly solid pace. Dave and I swapped a few snake stories on the way, as well as discussion about how we would deal with a snake bite while on the walk. It is always interesting to think about that, but at the end of the day, when something like that does happen, you always need to think as it is usually unexpected.

We got to the top of the ridge and there were some spectacular views of the falls and the gorge that they were flowing through. We could see something on the horizon, and someone said that there was a Gold Mine up there, that would maybe explain the "Restricted Road" that we saw on the way in. We pressed on, and came back down to water level where there was another swimming spot. We had enough time up our sleeve that we were able to spend about 20 minutes there. The falls were really beautiful and even though we are in the Dry Season, still flowing very well. I didn't have my swimmers but some of the others went in and said that the water was really nice. It isn't uncommon to have Fresh Water Crocodiles in there, but they normally only feed at night, so it is normally safe to swim in them during daylight hours. There was a caveat on the sign though, warning that Salties could get in undetected. There were a lot of other people swimming, so it was probably safe at the moment. Katrina, Dave and Jan went into the water, while the rest of us enjoyed a bit of a sit down and an opportunity to take some great photos.

We set off back to the Car Park, which was about 1km away. The entire loop was about 2.6km, so we had come in the long way. On the way out, there was another lookout, which while scenic, wasn't as good as the one on the other side of the gorge. We made it back to the Car Park and to lunch just before noon. So just in time for lunch. We sat down for our lunch in the shade, and chatted the time away. Just before we got away, it was noticed that there were Green Ants nests in the tree nearby. They were very well constructed out of leaves and what appeared to be a resin of some description. They make them in the trees to ensure that they can survive the Wet Season.

Alan again decided to ride out in the bus, and the rest of us jumped on our bikes. We had the wind a lot more behind us now, so the trip out was easier, and a lot more fun. I was last out, and it didn't take long before I was amongst the other riders. I pulled up beside Rob, and showed him that it was possible to stretch while on the bike. We had discussed this at Lunch. I then pressed on and caught up to the lead group, which Fiona was just starting to lose contact with. I bridged across, and shortly after, Pat asked if Fi was still with us. We eased up, and I dropped back to try and help her back in, but she advised that she was OK, and that I could press on, I never made it back to the lead group before the Highway, but they stopped on the side after rejoining it. There was some discussion about where Afternoon Tea was, and there was two schools of thought, 30km from Pine Creek (100km in), or 20km from Pine Creek (110km in). In the end, we decided to just ride, and find it when we got there.

I wasn't the quickest getting away, and there were a few up the road from me. George must have been feeling good again, as he had put the hammer down, and was off the front. Pat and I closed in on him, and we then started working as a group. The wind and the road was really allowing us to push the big gears, and it was very easy for us to sit in the mid 30's, and with some effort, into the high 30's and low 40's. The road was in excellent condition, and while it was still undulating, they were very slow so it was possible to keep a high pace going up them as well. George did start to flag, so Pat and I were taking turns on the front, but ensuring that George stayed with us.

When we passed a sign for Pine Creek, Pat was incredulous that we had already covered a fair whack of distance from the Edith Falls turn off, you really have to love a day with a tail wind. So far for the day, Phil had been moving the rest stop times forward by 30 minutes. At the rate that we were going, it was likely that he was going to have to move them forward by another 30 minutes. We kept the pace pretty good, and so when we finally got to Afternoon Tea, we were well and truly early, and we had some pretty good averages to boast about.

Phil had advised that Rob had climbed into the bus after riding out of Edith Falls, but he was still going to finish the day from here. We had to wait for the others until Afternoon Tea was served, but I had eaten quite well at lunch, so I just drank a lot of water, and ate some fruit. The day was really starting to warm up, and so all of the stools had been set up in the shade. If you left yours to get some more food, there was no guarantee that it would be unoccupied when you came back.

Rob was keen to get going, but Phil held him back initially as he wanted him to have a support vehicle behind him. I saw that Dave (mechanic) was wiping down Fiona's chain, and I cheekily asked him to do the Cervelo (my bike) when he was done. He was good natured enough to do it, and he inspected the cassette and jockey wheels while he was at it.

We set off at about 2:30pm, which now put as an hour ahead of schedule. We only had 20km to cover to Pine Creek, and we didn't expect it to take long. I rode out with Pat, and we again kept the pace pretty good, but that was because of the road and the tail wind rather than us pushing ourselves.

We caught up to Fiona, and Pat dropped off to stay with her, and I pressed on. I caught up to Rob about 2km out of town, and I stayed with him. I apologised as I felt that I had pressured him to ride out of Edith Falls, but he realised that he shouldn't have ridden in, as that was the harder leg. He was riding well on the way in, and I felt that it would be good for him to get in first. As we made the turn off, I could see some riders coming up behind us and I tried to get him to push on and beat them. He felt that he didn't deserve it as he hadn't ridden the whole day. The other riders, George, Ken, Sam and John, all agreed with me, and as a result we pretty much finished as a group.

I grabbed my room key and I was again lucky enough to stretch out on some grass in the shade. I got cleaned up, and joined some of the others who had brought a case of Crownies in Katherine. I got one off them, and it was a very welcome drink. I wanted to do some washing, but there were no facilities at the Hotel. Rob was also keen to do some washing, and there were laundry facilities up the road. He was good enough to take my washing with him and do a load up there.

All up, today was a really enjoyable day on the road. We had a good surface, and a nice tail wind. I got up close and personal with some wildlife and we saw some spectacular scenery at Edith Falls.

Distance 128.62 km
Average 32.63 km/hr
Time 3:56:29
Maximum 60.39 km/hr


One of the swimming pools at Edith Falls
Looking down over Edith Falls
The top falls, there may have been more further along, but we didn't have time to keep walking
Alex with a new addition to his Helmet
Shade was at a premimum at this stop

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