Day 6 - Saturday, 13th June 2009 - Dunmarra to Larrimah

Last night for dinner, we had yet another roast. I do enjoy a roast dinner, as I rarely have them at home, but this is about the 5th one we have had in a row. Hopefully we can get something a bit different in the next few nights. We were told that Fiona would be joining us today, she was due to arrive on a bus at about 7:20am, and Phil wanted us to hang around until she arrived.

Because I was with the two Dave's, they got up a bit earlier as they had some organisation that was required for the days riding. It didn't bother me that much as today was a later start due to the shorter distance. Because there was the later get away, I was a bit tardy getting to breakfast, and I nearly missed out on cereal, there wasn't a lot of choice left when I got there, I asked for some of the others that had already been taken, to be advised that that was all there was.

The bus was on time, and so we were all there to greet Fiona. Most of us knew Fiona from past rides, or in Katrina's case, from School. This meant that there were only 2 riders who she hadn't had previous contact with. Fiona wasn't going to ride from the start today, but was hoping to get on the bike later on. So she was in with Phil and Susan for the first leg of the ride.

I set off with Jan, Katrina and Pat, and I ended up riding with them for about an hour, after the distance of yesterday, along with the effort that I had put in to get it done, I wasn't that keen on going flat out from the word go. The morning was still cool enough that I was still persisting with the arm warmers, but I didn't think that I would have them on for long. The sun was still low enough on the horizon, that the trees at the side of the road were giving us shade, but when we were in the sun, it was already starting to warm up.

I was initially on the back with Katrina, and we were quiet happy chatting away. Pat was on the front with Jan, and when the first heavy vehicle went past, we starting going single file. When we reformed, we ensured that Jan and Katrina were to the inside of the lane, so Pat and I were closer to the centre of the road. We weren't riding very fast, and I was enjoying myself, so I wasn't in any rush to push on and cover the distance quicker. Today's Morning Tea was about 50km up the road at Daly Waters, which was about 5km off the main drag.

We passed Dave (physio) at the side of the road, and he was probably waiting for us as the last riders, as we went past, he did a bit of a dance which gave us all something to laugh at. After an hour of riding with Pat and the Girls, I decided to press on, and I quickly took the arm warmers off. I was going to see if I could chase down the other riders before Morning Tea, but as it turned out, they had stopped just up the road in a Truck Parking Area with Phil for their 25km break. I pulled in, and I was able to dump the arm warmers into my luggage as it was accessible from the back of the trailer. I refilled my water bottles, and it wasn't long before the last riders also pulled in.

We set off again, and this time I was riding at my own pace, and I was soon off the front of the other riders. I saw a few signs for Hi Way, which was a service station at the intersection to Daly Waters, as well as signs for Daly Waters itself. Hi Way was also at the intersection of the Carpentaria Highway, which was Highway number 1. This means that it eventually links up with the Pacific Highway going North from Sydney, and the Princess Highway to the South of Sydney. I had also ridden briefly on this in Port Augusta, before turning onto the Stuart Highway to head for Alice Springs.

I stopped to take a picture of some of the road signs as well as two Road Trains which were at the Hi Way Service Station, and I saw a rider behind me on the road, it turned out to be two riders, and I suspected that it was Alex and Pat. I kept riding, and I saw a sign warning that there was no services until Mataranka, so there are obviously no fuel facilities at Larrimah.

While I wanted to ensure that I stayed ahead of the two riders behind me, I quickly decided that my enjoyment was more important, so I took a philosophical view, of If they catch me, they catch me. If they don't, they don't. There was a turn off to Daly Waters, which was a 90 degree turn to the left, this gave me a bit of excitement, as it was the first 90 degree turn which we had had since Alice Springs. The turn off was clear of gravel, so I didn't have any fears in negotiating the turn.

Daly Waters was only 5km off the main drag, so it wasn't long before I was there. I did pass two signs on the way though, one for a WWII Airfield, and one for Stuart's Tree. I got a bit worried past the second sign, as I was unsure if one of those turn off's was also to Daly Waters. As it turned out, I was still on the right road and Daly Waters soon appeared for me. There was a house on the outskirts of town which was for sale, it had the sign simply graffitied on the side of the building with a phone number. As it turned out, it was Pat and Sam who were behind me. Sam is a much stronger cyclist compared to his form last year. I am very impressed with the effort that he has been putting in day after day this year.

We had a longer break for Morning Tea as we were encouraged to have a look around the Pub at Daly Waters. I had packed my walking shoes in my Day Pack. It wasn't strictly necessary, but it did make it more comfortable to walk around. Morning Tea was provided by the Pub, and it was a hot or cold drink, and a toasted sandwich, not my normal choice for cycling food, but it was still a nice snack. The Pub itself was pretty amazing, it had all sorts of paraphernalia hanging from the walls and ceiling. There were flags, stubbie holders, and even underwear, it turned out that one of the rules for pool, was if you lost by 7 balls (i.e. you didn't sink anything), then you had to donate your underwear to the Pub. It was pretty funny seeing all of the bra's and undies hanging around. Many of them had been signed by the people who had to donate them.

There were also several tea towels which had been covered in badges from multiple organisations, so there was one which was dedicated to the Police Force. It didn't just have Australian Police badges on it though, there were some from various countries around the world. There was also one for the Ambulance Service, SES, and even military forces. The military forces ones were interesting, as people had donated their pips, which shows their ranks, as well as some who had donated their name badges from their uniforms.

There were also multiple tea towels which had peoples name badges from all sorts of different companies. If I had know that I would have brought one of my old work badges in to be added to the collection.

Despite Daly Waters being off the beaten track, it is well worth a look if you are ever passing up this way, it might only take 30 minutes before you have seen enough, but it is an interesting experience.

Fiona was putting her bike together here, so she was going to join us on the road from here to Larrimah. We had a group photo at the front, and then we rolled out. We found out that the road to Stuart's Tree also went past the Airfield, and then rejoined the road that we came in on. So we were encouraged to take that route on our way back to the Highway. Stuart's Tree was basically just a stump by this stage, and according to the plaque that was next to it, it's history is also somewhat dubious. Stuart discovered Daly Waters on one of his expeditions, and one of his men carved an S in a tree nearby, it wasn't mentioned in Stuart's official journal of the trip, and only in one man's record. In either case, Stuart did pass through that area, and he did discover Daly Waters, so it is a good story. I briefly pulled into the airfield and took a picture of what I assumed was a hanger. There was signs to indicate that there was more to see than just the buildings, but I didn't have time to investigate further. It was interesting that there was an airfield, this far south of Darwin, but it may have been there as it allowed aircraft to get to Darwin to protect it, but they were out of the range of the Japanese Air Force.

I turned back onto the Main Highway, and I noticed that it had changed it's number, it was now Highway 1, so it is now part of the orbital highway that goes all the way around Australia. As I had been the last to leave, I had a few minutes of chasing ahead of me, and it wasn't long before I was up the front again. Dave (physio) had pulled over again, and as I neared him, he quickly rushed back to his vehicle and grabbed a water bottle, pretending to be someone from a Pro Team passing a water bottle onto a rider. Again it gave me a laugh as I went past.

The road along here usually had forest on either side, not super thick, but some of the thickest that we had seen so far this trip. Even so, at times it did thin out into grassland, but the forest was always in sight. The sun was certainly starting to warm up by this stage, and I could feel the heat from it. The air was pretty dry, so despite it only being 50km or so to lunch, I knew that I was very nearly going to finish my two bidons before I got there. The sun was also pretty much straight ahead of me, so I wasn't getting any shade from the trees at the side of the road. Even if the sun was off to one side, I don't think that they would have provided me with any shelter as they were still quiet a way back from the roadside.

Some of the roadside up here was also burnt out, but in some places it had happened longer ago, as there was some grass growing up through the ashes. Yet in other areas, again, I could smell the ash in the air which meant that it was pretty recent. The road was also starting to get some more bends in it, it still had some very long straight sections, but it was noticeably twisting a lot more at times. There were even places where we (Shock! Horror!) had a slight left corner, followed by a right. At one point I had an interesting experience on my way to lunch, I had a Road Train going in the opposite direction, and he flicked a stone up as he went past, he hit me on my bottom lip, and then hit one of my teeth, it hit me hard enough that I then made sure that I still had all of my teeth at the end of it. I would hate to think what would have happened if it had hit me in the eye, especially if I wasn't wearing glasses.

I only knew the rough distance to Lunch, but I did know the name of the Rest Area that it was at, because it was named, I was hoping that it would be signed in case I got there ahead of Phil and Susan. I had made a decision that if I got to about 105km from Dunmarra then I would just stop, this meant that it was unlikely that there was any rest stop within 110km from Dunmarra as I would have expected to see a sign showing a Rest Area in 5km. The k's were ticking past nicely, and I had plenty of scenery to look at, despite only being able to see maybe 100m to either side of the road. The number of termite mounds was staggering, with them all looking like stalagmites. Even though I couldn't see the soil directly, they did allow me to see the colour of the soil, at times it was brown, and red at others. I also sighted a telegraph pole, prior to this, I had only seen them at memorial sights. I wasn't sure if it was there for a reason, or simply there because it hadn't been removed.

I sighted a sign showing the Lunch Spot in 5km, and I got there before my cut off point, so I knew that I was fine. I stopped to take a picture of a termite mound that was using a white marker post as a structural support, and when I stopped it was surprising how quiet it was. There was virtually no wind today, and so there was no noise from it. Because the road was so quiet, I didn't have any traffic noise either. The only noise was from some birds in the trees. They weren't visible, but I could certainly hear them. I heard a vehicle approach, and it turned out to be Phil and Susan, I gave them a big wave so that they knew I was fine, and I then jumped back on the bike to finish to distance to Lunch.

Lunch was at the Dr Andrew Forrest Memorial, which was at a point that he reached the Overland Telegraph Line on an expedition. While I was there, another vehicle pulled up, and the driver got out, and a 30 second look, said G'Day to me, and then shot through again. To me that isn't touring. It was interesting that I did look at Forrest's trip a bit condescendingly, he had done his trip knowing that he would be able to reach the Telegraph Line, while people like Stuart really went into the unknown.

The other riders started to appear, and so Lunch was served. I had queried Sue if it was Sandwiches again, but she told me that it was traditional cyclists fair, I then asked if it was a Power Bar. It turned out to be either a cold pasta dish, or a cold rice dish. Despite my hankering for pasta for the energy, I opted for the rice as it was likely to be a lighter meal. More than anything else, I was after fluids more than anything else. It wasn't as hot as yesterday on the bike, but it was still causing us to drink a lot of water when riding.

Phil had set up the stools for lunch in the shade of his vehicle, and it was very welcome, especially given that there was no other shelter at the Rest Stop. It was certainly at a premium, as when I got up to get something else to eat, despite leaving my water bottle on the stool, it got taken before I could get back.

I ended up having close to an hour for lunch before I rolled out again as last rider. We only had about 40km to cover, and I was hoping to get it done by about 3pm. As much as I like the challenge of long days, it is nice to have some spare time at the end of the day. I quickly closed down the lead riders, and I caught up to Alan briefly, he had mentioned at Lunch that his computer was giving incorrect distances, usually a symptom of having the wrong wheel size programmed in. I had made a change at lunch, so I was comparing my speed to what he was now showing. It seemed to be right, but the real test would be to see what he had at the end of the day.

Today especially, we saw a lot more road kill, and some of it was pretty fresh. Sometimes you could only smell it, and a lot of the time you could see it on the side of the road. Unlike The Rock Ride, most of it was only young kangaroos, possibly they came down here with their mothers to graze, and they weren't as quick at getting away from the vehicles. Some of the fresh stuff was pretty rank on the nose.

I was riding well coming out of Lunch, and there were some small rolling hills, I passed Dave (physio) again, and this time, he had opened up the back of his van, and was sitting in the back of it. He looked very relaxed, and I commented that he was just taking the piss now. I was pushing a good speed, but I wasn't trying to set any records, just ride at a pace that was comfortable for me. It was interesting that I noticed the hills on the way up, but on the way down, I couldn't see them unless I looked at the speedo. It was the only way to realise that I must have been going downhill. I had no idea of the profile for today's route, so for all I knew, were were going to be climbing generally for the last section of the ride. I think on the whole, we were generally riding flat, but only if you joined up the crests of the hills.

I passed another WWII Historical point, which was the Number 45 Hospital. Apart from the sign indicating that there was a turn off, there was nothing else obvious that there was anything to see. A bit further up the road, I saw the sign showing that I only had 5 km to go. Depending on how you are feeling, these can either be a curse or a blessing. If you are feeling crap, I actually find them a curse, as they are a reminder of exactly how far you have to go, and how much more suffering you have to go through despite there being an end in sight. When you are feeling good, it is just another sign.

On the way into Larrimah, it looked like there were a lot of signs indicating all of the different facilities that were in town, including a bakery which boasted very nice scones and pies. I was a bit unsure which side road to take, as there were a few, but one was to another airfield, and one was onto a dirt road, I ended up taking the one that indicated that it would lead to the Caravan Park and Pub.

Not all of the riders are staying here tonight, some are going back up the road in one of the Vans to stay at one of the properties in the area in accommodation which is usually used by the Jackaroo's and Jillaroo's. I was supposed to be one of them, but I asked if I could camp instead as I have my camping gear for the next ride. In the end, I am sleeping o the floor in one of the rooms. It is going to be a tight fit for us, and I suspect that I am going to leave my bags outside for the night, but at least I don't have to travel tonight or tomorrow morning for breakfast. For some reason, I have a real aversion to getting into any vehicle for any reason while on these trips.

Just out of town, there was a sign indicating the distances south. Alice Springs is listed as 992km, this means that we have very nearly covered 1,000km in the last 6 days, tomorrow our 7th day in the saddle, we will crack that 1,000km mark. More than a third of our distance down in 7 days. I got into town ahead of Phil and Susan, so I had a brief chance to look around, I didn't suspect that they were far behind me. They have a lot of different animals on display here, all native animals including a lot of native birds and some snakes. After Phil and Susan had arrived and I was moving the bike around, I walked past a cage and something banged against it, I had a look back, and it took me a while, but there was a small Salt Water Crocodile in the enclosure. I was told that he was about 4 years old, but he would have been about 1.5 metres long. I must have got close enough to the cage that he decided that I was suitable to have a chunk taken out of me. The mesh on the cage is fine enough to stop people from sticking their fingers through for the obvious reason that he would take them off. I had a closer look at him, but he wasn't keen on any more sudden movements.

I managed to get some washing done with George and John again, so I will be leaving with clean kit again. As I only have 3 jerseys and 3 pairs of nix, I need to ensure that I keep on top of my washing. I didn't do any yesterday as we got into Dunmarra so late. While I could have gone another day, if I wasn't able to wash tomorrow, the I would be a bit stuck.

Today was the last of our really long days, tomorrow we only have a mere 80km to cover, it seems strange to think of 80km as a short day. That normally for me would be a reasonable sort of ride. It is good to have the bulk of the riding done, and it is nice to know that the next several days are more relaxed, but it has been a hell of an experience.

Distance 144.32 km
Average 29.59 km/hr
Time 4:52:37
Maximum 42.33 km/hr

Images

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Those kilometers are down a lot, but there are still lots to go.
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At Daly Waters, this was across the road from the Pub
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We couldn't keep Fiona off the bike any longer, no sleep last night, and she's still keen to ride.
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Some of the many Service Badges at Daly Waters Pub
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And some of the Underwear hanging up as well
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The Group outside Daly Waters Pub
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One of the Salties at Larrimah Hotel
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Going through briefing, how many drinks are on the table? There are only 16 of us in total...


Click Here for more Photos from Day 6.



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