A hill today, the first significant uphill for at least 1000 km. And it was half way up it at Madura Roadhouse that we meet Neil, from Melbourne. He was on a mission to circumnavigate Aussie. He is riding lots in the night time, including trying to do 400km in 24 hours. He has 2500km to do in 14 days to finish on schedule.......just a little too much for me to contemplate.
Later in the day I met Bill, from Riwaka, near Motueka currently living in Canberra. Bill has recently retired, so decided to go walking near Denmark in WA, then cycle home. Trouble is, his darling wife has booked a week skiing out of Adelaide the last week in July. Bill has his work cut out to get there on time. This morning he woke just after midnight worrying about his schedule. He couldn't sleep, so got up and started riding at 3 am.
I feeling pretty relaxed about my schedule, and am making good milage towards Albany and Juliet. Today I even gained 130 km. For some time I've been confused about signed kms and what it appeared I was doing. I seemed to be doing about 5km short over 100km, clocking 95km, when signage said 100km. Today we checked. I then realized I had my speedo set for my knobbly tires, and not my slicks. 5km for every 100km, over 2000km.....130 km I had cheated myself.....
So I climbed the hill, and the scenery changed yet again. Unless you saw it, you wouldn't believe how different a "desert" can look. Now we have, for the first time, contours, forms in the terrain, instead of the endless flats previously.
I was flagged down by a guy in a transit van. He had stopped and crossed the road to talk to me. Just wanted to check I had enough water, food or needed anything. Interested in where I was coming from, going to, how far I was riding each day, and why the heck I was bothering. I think he was just bored with his own company, and saw me as ripe for a chat. Nice guy. Thanks for the kind thoughts my friend.
The wind is not my friend today, coming from the front quarter, but I'm feeling good, so send the support crew on to find a campsite at about 95km....and then the vegetation changes again..... No longer is the scrub dense and protective from the wind. For the whole last 25km it is sparse and scraggly. I have really challenged Greg to find somewhere comfortable, out of the wind, for the night......but he comes up trumps, erecting a tarp to protect the tents.
Once again today I've dodged huge numbers of decaying roo. You often smell them before you see them. At one spot, there are about 20 crow feasting on a fresh kill, with two Wedgetail Eagle, sitting sated in a nearby tree.
Again today I am stalked by a Wedgetail. It appears out of a roadside tree and flys next to me. These are huge, graceful birds, and a delight to share time with.
Not so delightful are some of Aussies other creatures. Last night's campsite was crawling with ants....everywhere....over everything..... And then the huge furry caterpillars. One was climbing up my shoe and almost to my shin. Greg reckons if they get on your skin they really itch, for some days. This mornings one, on my bike glove, just as I was about to wipe my nose, got a rapid shake off. And then there are the Red Backed spiders. I am being vigilant in checking my shoes each morning.....because I've now seen half a dozen of them. And have I mentioned the flies.......
So all is good. The road and the traffic are not the only challenges. I'm having fun, I'm being challenged, and I'm still excited about what's coming up, this week, next week, next month, next year. Today was a prime example of a true adventure......working hard into a head wind, not knowing where you're going to find somewhere to sleep. A small adventure maybe, but exciting.