I’ve done it again – I’ve crossed a continent, this time travelling from Darwin on the northern coast of Australia to Port Augusta, on the southern coast. Nearly four weeks, and a little under 3,000km of riding across some of the most inhospitable country yet. The distances between places have been long – and then the dots on the map were just roadhouses. You could say that I was somewhat relieved to see the sea once more, and enter an area crowded with proper dots on the map.
But I will miss the desert. There is an incredible sense of vastness to it, when you can see empty plains stretching off to the horizon in every direction, with the road the only sign of human influence. The night skies, when you are camped out, with no moon, are of course sublime.
I do have to admit starting the last long leg with somewhat of a hangover. My trip to the Italian club in Coober Pedy, as mentioned last time, turned out rather successfully. Indeed it was probably the best night out that I’ve had at a ‘club’ in Australia. When I went in the place was dead, but it slowly filled up with an odd cast of characters – the cop, the dog catcher, the meter-reader, the Greek millionaire, the hard old woman “educating” the twenty year old guy…they were all there. Everyone was very friendly and made me feel more than welcome. They all wanted me to stay until Thursday night, payday, and the biggest night of the week apparently. I was seriously considering it, but when I woke up the wind was blowing from the north. The wind never seems to blow from the north in this country, so I took it as a sign. I practically flew down 180km that day, which was what I needed since I had to make inroads into the 252km to Glendambo. You can enjoy dull scenery when you’ve got a tailwind. The scenery later picked up some more when I started going through an area of dried up salt lakes.
I didn’t see any rockets being fired at Woomera, nor did I come across any unexploded ordinance. Probably just as well. Instead I cranked out the distance to Port Augusta, the crossroads of Australia, and the end of the Stuart Highway. From here it’s just three easy days to Adelaide, and another rest.
It’s quite a nice town here, with a lovely waterfront area of grass, seating and walking/cycling paths. Yet at 6:00 on Saturday night, it was like the Village of the Damned – completely deserted. Perhaps the alcohol restrictions in place had something to do with that. There weren’t many bars in town, but eventually people started showing up. I am seriously considering buying a pair of shoes though, as I’m not quite sure how I managed to get into the Flinders with jandals on. Plus it’s getting cold now. Of course, wearing shoes again would be a big step back towards normality. Best not hurry it.
In other news, I’ve been devoting time to trying to watch and understand Aussie Rules. A typical newspaper here will have 46 pages
on AFL, and only a token page or two on other sports, so it’s hard to avoid. TV coverage is pretty much wall to wall AFL. The thing is that I’m actually starting to quite like it. The players tend to be taller and leaner than rugby players too, more like my build. Perhaps if I’d grown up here, I would have played it, and/or been one of the 76,000 people at the MCG yesterday for a regular game.