Day 3 - Wednesday, 10th June 2009 - Wycliffe Well to Tennant Creek

Last night, briefing was postponed until after dinner because of the time that some of the riders came in. The general consensus from those who did The Rock Ride last year, was that although it was about 16km shorter yesterday, it was the harder of the two days cycling. The wind and the condition of the road did not make it an easy day in the saddle.

For dinner, we had a Chinese meal, the chef at the restaurant is Chinese, which was surprising, I this isn't an area where you would expect to encounter a large number of immigrants. It was certainly a very welcome meal after such a long day in the saddle.

Today was thankfully a lot shorter, only 130km, but considering that we were backing up from 240km yesterday, and the wind was still likely to be around, I didn't foresee that it would be an easy day. We had a later start as well, 7:45am 8am departure, and in the end, Pat and I were the last to leave at about 7:50am. We had about 30km to cover to Morning Tea, which today was longer (90 minutes) as it was at the Devil's Marbles. Initially, Pat and I just rode side by side and just talked, slowly closing down the distance to the riders who were ahead of us on the road. To me at least, it was significantly warmer as I had only bothered with the arm warmers for the day. Obviously we started over an hour later compared to yesterday, but yesterday morning was a very cold start in comparison.

It took us quite a while to catch up to some of the other riders, and we caught Rob, Jan and Katrina first, we kept on past them, and continued to chase the other riders on the road. When we caught up to them, I pressed on as George was still ahead of us. He had left ahead of the other riders so that he could go at a slower pace in an attempt to try and rest his knee. The wind by this stage was starting to pick up, and it was again on our right shoulder, not strong this early, but it did promise to strengthen later on. The road surface wasn't terrible, but it could have been a lot better as well.

I saw a few signs for the Devil's Marbles on the approach and then I was able to see them, It was surprising that they were so close to the main road, probably one of the few attractions in the area that you don't have to travel far off the beaten track to see. I turned in a few minutes behind George at about 8:50am. I was told that Morning Tea would be at 10am, so we had plenty of time to have a look around. I had put my walking shoes into my Day Bag so I was able to walk around in some comfort rather than in my cycling shoes.

The Marbles are pretty amazing, they were formed over a long period of time, and it all started about 1,700 million years ago when volcanic forces pushed a granite layer close to the surface. The ground in general was slowly worn down, and when the granite was exposed, it was then weathered into the shapes that we see now. There are giant boulders around, and they are in some places stacked one on top of the other. It is almost impossible to imagine that these were created entirely by nature.

I did climb to the top of some of them but some of the riders managed to get right up to the top of one of the highest piles. Even on the one that I was up, you could feel the strength of the wind, so I dread to imagine what it would have been like even higher up. It was also incredible just how large an area they covered. When you first walked amongst them, you kept seeing more further away. When I climbed up some of them, you could see even more in the distance. All up, they probably cover about a square kilometre at least. I found it really interesting that this is a culturally significant area to some of the local Aboriginal Tribes, yet compared to some of the other areas it seems to have open access to it. It seems that you are quite free to walk all over them.

I rolled out towards the back of the pack, and I rode with Rob until we rejoined the highway. Once there, I quickly increased my pace to what I was more used to, and then set of chasing the riders ahead of me. This seemed to be becoming modus operandi for me at this stage on the ride. Initially, the wind was a lot more behind me, so I was able to put down a pretty reasonable pace. It took me a while, but I did eventually catch sight of some riders up ahead. I first sighted and passed Alan, but he was happy riding at his own pace, so I pressed on. Ken was next up, and he was trying to close the gap to the next bunch, but didn't quite have the legs to get there. I offered to try and tow him in, but I think that he had already pushed too hard trying to do it by himself.

I finally caught up to the rest of the riders, and decided to stay with them for a bit. We had to cover 65km from Morning Tea to Lunch, and we had a reasonable amount of time in which to do so. The group had George who was trying to rest his knee as much as possible, and also Sam, who was pushing himself pretty well to stay with them. The group decided to have a 5 minute rest break, and as a result, Ken and then Alan were able to catch up to us.

Phil pulled up, and tried to prove that we had a decent tailwind by throwing grass up into the air, it was pretty amusing watching him try to put a positive spin on the way that it was pretty much plummeting straight to the ground. We rolled out again, and I was riding beside George, the pace was pretty easy as those on the front were trying to ensure that those behind would all stay on. Alex had started to move slowly away from the group, and after about 20 minutes, I wanted to stop off for a duck into the bushes. I again set off chasing afterwards, and when I caught them, I just decided to keep riding and see if I could chase Alex down. He was only just a speck on the horizon at this stage, and I didn't have a good idea of how far away lunch was, so I had no idea if I would stand a reasonable chance of getting there.

The road was generally pretty straight and flat, but it did occasionally go up or down a little bit, and it also changed direction. I found myself approaching any corner trying to work out if it would improve the wind, or make it worse. I was riding pretty well regardless of the wind, and the road surface, which was still changing between average and outright terrible. The vegetation around here was still reasonably dense, you couldn't see very far as the ground was pretty flat, so if it was above my head height on the bike, it was hard to see any distance other than straight along the road, or right behind you (also along the road). Termite mounds were still very common, including one which had used one of the white posts at the side of the road as a bit of extra structural integrity.

Alex was slowly getting closer, but I was only riding at my own pace, I was hoping to catch him, but I wasn't going to bury myself in an attempt to do so. I was enjoying my time on the bike, and despite the way that I pushed myself at the end of yesterday, I wasn't feeling any hard effects on my body. I was getting saddle sore at times, but that is easily alleviated by simply standing up in the pedals for a short period of time.

Lunch today was at about 95km, this meant that there was only about 35km to finish once lunch was over. I slowly managed to get Alex close enough that I finally decided to put the hammer down and just close the final distance, in the end, I caught up to him about 1km short of lunch. Lunch today was at Kelly Creek, which while it sounds really idyllic, it was just a sign, and that was about it. Unless you saw it flowing, it wouldn't even be obvious that there was a waterway here. Alex and I landed at Lunch at about 12:40pm or so, and that ended up being about 20 minutes ahead of the main bunch, and about 30 minutes ahead of the tail runners into the group.

Lunch had been made up at Wycliffe Well, and was a very enjoyable Sandwich and ANZAC Biscuit. I had some fruit to help fill in the gaps on the edges. I was one of the last to leave from lunch again, and it took me about 20 minutes to close down the main group of riders. I asked Alex if he was keen to keep going for another stretch, but he declined.

I worked out that I could make it to Tennant Creek at about 2:40pm, and I was hoping to get some of my chores done when I got there. The road surface had turned to crap again, and the wind was pretty good behind me for most of the way, the road did change at times, so the amount of help that it did give was varied. On the way towards Tennant Creek, I saw a sign indicating the distance back to Ti Tree, where we had Morning Tea the previous day. It showed a distance of 300km. So in the last 2 days we have covered over 300kms, and in the first three days of this ride we have covered roughly a third of the distance to Darwin, or about 500km. The next few days are also long ones with 160km tomorrow, and 190km on Friday, and then another 145km on Saturday. The distances do drop of later in the ride, but it does make it a hard way to start.

I started seeing signs for Tennant Creek from about 20km out, and they slowly got more common the closer I got to town. One was interesting, as it named Tennant Creek the Golden Heart of the Area, it made me wonder if there was a Gold Mining History to the town. Later on up the road, I did see a sign offering gold fossicking tours, so maybe there is something about it. Some of the signs were quite old as well, as I saw one that dated from prior to the area code being added permanently to the front of all phone numbers, and it was still to be updated.

The road took a final nasty turn on the way into town, and it put the wind right on my shoulder, combined with the road surface, it wasn't something which I really wanted. I also was seeing some infrastructure on the way in, including a rail freight terminal and some other light industry. It also seems that there is a small horse industry in the area as well.

I finally made town, and I quickly got my room key and started my stretching routine. We are slightly out of town tonight, and as Phil said, it is because this was a nice Motel to stay at, and some of the areas in town can be quite rough. I also found where the washing machines where, and George, my room mate for the night, Ken and John all put our dirty laundry together and got a load going. It certainly made it interesting trying to sort out who owned which All Trails Jersey at the end of it, as we all had at least one in there.

The end of today was certainly a lot more relaxed compared to yesterday afternoon, which many of us are thankful for. Tomorrow is slightly longer, but we are getting started earlier, and we don't have a long Morning Tea stop, so our arrival time isn't significantly later. Our rest day isn't until Tuesday next week, and I think that by the time that we get there we are going to be really glad of it.

Distance 131.91 km
Average 30.70 km/hr
Time 4:17:45
Maximum 43.13 km/hr


Darwin's closer, but still a long way off. Let's get to Tennant Creek first
The Devil's Marbles
Balancing Rocks. They were formed this way. Eventually it will fall down, but not while we were there.
Find your own Rock! Alex playing King of the Castle.
One of our meal breaks. The ever present Bike Racks, Stools, and plenty of food. What more could a cyclist want...

Click Here for more Photos from Day 3.

Day 4

Day 2
The Territory Tour 2009 - Index Index
Sign the Guest Book/Contact Me
View the Guest Book