After recovering from the early signs of flu in Tom Price, I took off early morning towards Nanutarra RH (roadhouse). The winds have been blowing hard the last couple of days and on departure day it wasn’t any different. At least they were light and south-easterly most of the morning before, without any warning and in a split second, shifting west around midday. Before I could realize, those winds reduced my pace between 13 and 14km/h which will be the average speed for the next couple of weeks.
The landscape towards Nanutarra was memorable and very enjoyable riding despite the consistent winds. Undulating slopes of rocks high in iron ore content gave intense maroon dominant colour, dotted with the light green spinifex, white bark of the gum trees contrasting and popping out in the vivid colours. Around every corner, mountains were coming into view, forming curves on the horizon which my eyes haven’t seen for a long time. It was great cycling, time passed by really quickly despite the slow progress. On the 3rd day I was glad to finally reach Nanutarra RH, probably the most expensive place I’ve encountered so far; I paid $15.50 for a toasted egg and bacon sandwich. Ignoring the hefty price tag, I treated myself regardless; I deserved it. After pushing in the winds during the last 3 days under temperatures reaching 40 degrees, there wasn’t much reasoning.
After resting the afternoon at Nanutarra RH, 3 brothers and sisters from Tassie with Ukrainian background invited me for a bite; dinner number 1. We spent the evening playing Yangtze, lots of fun and a good change. I took off early the next morning hoping for lighter winds. I was woken up by a wind gust. Fortunately, they were south-easterlies which will remain until around lunch time. This meant head/cross-winds rather than blowing straight in my face. I made good progress in the morning, covering about 60kms before relaxing for lunch at a stopping bay along the road. While putting my helmet back on, the mob I played Yangtze showed up. This meant lunch #2; tea, cold drink and fruits were offered. Thanks again guys!
I camped at a poorly maintained rest area that night. It was advertised with picnic tables and shades, but was disappointed when I didn’t see either. Only the information bay roof provided a small and decrepit shelter from the fierce winds and sun. It was more than enough to spend the night there and felt into a heap after a hard day in the winds. The next day I was on the road at daybreak. Rolling in at Giralia station, about 45kms up the road, a thorn got straight through my back tire; I collected my third puncture. At least I could top up my water. Bullara, the next station where I intended to spend the night, didn’t show tap water availability. It was another hard 30kms in the winds – they had switch to westerlies, the direction I was going – before reaching my final destination for the day. Bullara is a cool station with few horses freely roaming around the camp site, an old shed for shearing sheep and a donkey making funny noises. My favorite item was an open air bathroom with hot water coming from a donkey tank.
The first 4kms of the next ride marked the end of my journey towards the western edge of this huge landmass that is Australia. From then on it was direction south, south-east and south-west with the occasional detour directly towards the coast. This also meant that the winds were now blowing straight in my face most of the time; winds are mostly southerly during this time of the year. That day, gusts were sometimes registered at 50kms/h. I was glad to get to Coral Bay where I stayed for 2 days; the bed in the backpacker providing for a much needed rest. Relaxing and sleeping on the beach, occasional dip in the ocean, snorkeling (which was absolutely amazing) and walking on the beach was a good change.
I was vitalized by the light winds when I took off from Coral Bay. That lasted 10 minutes. By the time I hit the main road junction, I was punished once again. That day, it averaged 25km/h, mostly southerly. It was 80kms before Minilya roadhouse and I knew it was going to be a long and tough day. I set my mind to a pace of maximum 15km/h and pushed on with a high cadence (I’m trying to keep it between 85 and 95 rpm), trying to keep my mind busy as it’s always the first to quit, not the body.
At roughly 30mks into the ride I was stopped by a Swiss couple named Georges and Marie. An avid cycling himself, Georges has cycled from Sydney to Switzerland back in 2006, when the tender age of 62. He’s also circumvented Australia on a previous trip, rode the length of South America, worked for Mavic and was one of the first to be involved with BMC, owned his own bike shop and acted as a mechanic for 10 Tour de France and various World Championships around the globe for most of his live. This encountered gave me an extreme boost. I felt weak and useless when he told me he faced 80 to 100km/h winds in Patagonia. Those pathetic 30km/h winds ridiculed me. I was fortunate to stumble upon them once arriving at the caravan park in Carnarvon where we all spent an afternoon and the evening together.
I arrived at Minilya RH in the middle of the afternoon, tired. The southerly wind kept blowing hard throughout the night. For the first time in this journey, I struggled to mount my tent as the wind easily blew it away. I took my time the next morning before departing and ate a good brekky (well, the usual oats, nuts, honey and cinnamon), took a coffee and watched the news on TV inside the roadhouse. I decided to split the remaining 140kms to Carnarvon in 2 rides. Only 55kms was to be covered to get to a rest area that day. By midday, I was laying down on the table at the rest area, relaxing and reading for the whole arvo, the wind blowing sand everywhere. A couple arriving just before dinner told me the southerlies have reached 60km/h that day.
I was rolling out of the rest area by 6am the next morning. The winds were lighter, but luckily enough were more easterly that morning. I covered the remaining 90kms to Carnarvon with relative ease. By 1pm I had consumed a rice and beef stir-fry take-away, was halfway through a packet of Timtams and drinking my second iced coffee, sitting on the shopping centre floor in front of the Asian take away shop.