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Journal Entries By Day

Day 1, Darwin to Acacia Roadhouse: 85 km ..... Day 2, Acacia Roadhouse to bush camp..... Day 3, Bush camp 1 to Pine Creek : 65 km ..... Day 4, Pine Creek to Katherine: 91 km..... Day 5, Katherine to Bush camp2: 65 km...... Day 6, Bush camp 2 (50 km from Mataranka) to Bush camp 3..... Day 7, Bush camp3 to Daly Waters:..... Day 8, Daly Waters to Bush camp 4: 118 km..... Day 9, Bush camp 4 to Renner Springs 96 km.....Day 10, Bush camp 5 to Banka Banka Station: 85 km..... Day 11, Banka Banka to Tennant Creek: 100 km..... Day 12 Tennant Creek to Wauchope Roadhouse: 113 km..... Day 13, Wauchope RH to Barrow Creek: 105 km ..... Day 14, Barrow Creek to Bush camp 6 ( passed Ti Tree) : 115 km..... Day 15, Bush camp 6 to Bush camp7(50 km from AS)..... Day 16, Bush camp 7 to Alice Springs: 54 km..... Day 17, day of rest ( Ayers RockDay 18, Alice Springs to Jim’s Place: 95 km..... Day 19, Jim’s Place to Elrdunda ..... Day 20, Elrdunda to Bush camp 8: 105 km..... Day 21, Bush camp 8 to Marla: 152 km..... Day 22, Marla to Bush camp 9 ( passed Cadney ): 120 km..... Day 23, Bush camp 9 to Coober Pedy: 113 km..... Day 24, Coober Pedy to Bushcamp 10 : 50km...... Day 25, Bush camp 10 to Bush camp 11: 150 kmDay..... Day 26, Bush camp 11 to Pimba: 170 km..... Day 27, Pimba to Bush camp 12: 143 km.....

Day one, Darwin to Acacia Roadhouse: 85 km

Twenty-five kilometers into my trip I started facing headwinds. I shifted to lower gears while I started sweating and puffing heavily; my throat was dry and burning. Meanwhile, small mosquitoes barely noticeable to the eyesight; dove between the crevasses of my helmet and into my wet hair desperately looking for some moisture in order to alleviate themselves from that 40 degree celsius heat and overwhelming humidity. At the same time those little beasts, also did not forget to take a few bites at my bald spot. Things went from bad to worst when a few kilometers later, smoke rose to the horizon. Flames were jumping from tree to tree, destroying everything before it and the bike trail was going right through the inferno. I started coughing and gasping for pure air, as I was getting closer to the burning eucalyptus and palm trees.

This was not the start that I had projected in my journey through Australia.

This was supposed to be my dream trip. For 3 long years, I planned this journey in my head going over every little detail. I was planning to cross the continent from north to south by riding on the historical Stuart Highway.

The highway, also called the Track, was named after John McDougall Stuart who on his third attempt was finally successful in crossing the continent from the south coast to the northern coastline by the Timor Sea. He had left Adelaide in 1862 with an impressive caravan of 71 loaded horses and eleven men. Triumphant but almost dead from thirst and starvation, he received 2000 English pounds for his troubles barely enough to cover his medical expanses.

It had taken him 9 excruciating months to do the historical crossing. I only had 29 days to do the same feat. Rather than horses for transportation, I had my mountain bike and I was the only member of my modest expedition. Thankfully, I had a load more of luxuries that were not available to the famous explorer. Most importantly, I had a paved road and easy access to water. I also did not have the misfortune of having to face antagonistic aboriginals with menacing spears. I started my trip in Darwin by the Timor Sea, also known as the Top End. I was hoping to get to Port Augusta by the Spencer Gulf near the Pacific Ocean a distance that is close to 3000 km on the bitumen highway.

I had arrived in Darwin, the capital of the Northern Territory the previous night on July 7. The tropical heat stunned me. I did not imagine it could be that hot in winter in Australia. I thought the weather could reach 25 Celsius but in my wildest dreams I did not think of 40 degrees. I stayed at the Youth Hostel the first night on Mitchell Road, I was very happy to realize that the air conditioning was working full blast.

I woke up early in the morning to set up my mountain bike. My bike box was all ripped from the beating it had taken through the seven airports before reaching its final destination. A small miracle, there were no pieces missing. The only thing broken was the plastic piece holding my speedometer. A little bit of duck tape and the bike was like new.

After one hour I had put my bike together and packed 85 pounds of equipment on it including 5 liters of water. I had a camera, zoom lenses, a fishing rod, a stove, some pots, a tent, sleeping bag, a mattress, a spare tube, tire and a few more personal items.

After all the loading, packing and sorting, I was soaked like a woman in labor. One major question came to my mind, am I in shape? I was worried about my physical condition. Months of climbing up and down thousands of steps and biking the river valley trails in Edmonton had just created what it seemed to me… a wimp.

Overheating, I decided to take a break and go to the Timor Sea to take a swim in order to cool off before the big take off. This felt, honestly, like being the best few minutes spent in the water in my life. I felt totally rejuvenated. I felt like Lance Armstrong at the beginning of the Tour de France ready to take on the world. I took the traditional take off picture with my bike near the water. I was thrilled and ecstatic because I was finally on my way and living my dream.

The first km was spent in trying to join the Stuart Highway. In the process, I decided to stop at Darwin’s most famous tourist attraction, the Aquascene. For seven ausd (Australian dollars), which is almost the equivalent in Canadian dollars, I got to hand feed with bread almost 10 pound fish such as mullet, catfish, milkfish, bream and barramundi. They were not even afraid to come and nip your fingers, as long as they got their bread. Those fish came to this buffet from all over the ocean to feed in that particular spot when the tide was high. This was a nice experience but after a few minutes I had enough. Poorer, I jumped on my bike.

As you get out of Darwin the first hours are spent on a bike trail, as a result you do not have to worry about the heavy city traffic. I felt privileged and a little bit safer.

My first tourist stop after the bush fire was in Howard Springs Nature Park. I took another very deserved swim in those beautiful jade-color springs surrounded by a monsoon forest while a despicable looking meter long lizard swam by, not the least bothered by my smelly presence. I felt better by getting out of the water and admiring it from the shore.

Extensive swamps and exotic birds surrounded me. In the riverine area I had my first sight of aboriginal children playing, having fun and swearing, without any restraint at each other. Even with this cacophony, serenity and tranquility were still present in this almost ideal place.

Later on I passed the Arnhem highway that led to Kakadu National Park One of the most sought-after parks in the country. I felt terrible that I did not have enough time for a visit. This was the domain of Crocodile Dundee; many of his movie scenes were filmed in this location.

Few kilometers later, the same thing happened when I passed the road to the famous Litchfield National Park, well known for its splendid waterfalls, I was not able to stop. I knew I could not see everything, but deep inside I knew that I would get my fair share of grandiose natural encounters.

I decided to sleep at the next roadhouse which was called Acacia. Roadhouses are a type of rest stop. They are an all inclusive; a campground, a pub, a restaurant, a gas station some even have small museums depicting the history of the area. They provide sometimes the only rest of the day for cyclists, as they are often 100 or more kilometers apart.

I set up my tent between broken RV’S in the dark after paying only 4 AUD. I was not expecting too much services for that price. I was surprised the next day to find fully operational hot showers. The fact they were covered with living spider webs did not diminish my sense of well being felt by the water massaging my tired body after a humid 85 km riding day.

This was my first day away from the city; I was a little bit green regarding the Australian ways. The owners of the roadhouse would not stop rolling their eyes at what they perceived as stupid questions. After pouring myself some water from the coffee maker, I notice that my water had no coffee in it. “You have to add instant coffee.” He looked at his wife like if he was asking her,”Where is this guy from”. Before filling my bottles, I asked if the water from the outside tap was good to drink, the lady shouted aloud “ of course”. They found my last question also weird. I was looking for a highway tourist map in his store. The owner, I figured that he was the woman’s husband, told me; “Why do you need a map? Don’t you know that there is only one way to go”? After that treatment, I was careful to ask any more questions. I was now determined to learn the ways of the outback by observing not by questioning.

Day 2, Acacia Roadhouse to bush camp 1 (7 km from Haynes Creek) 100 km

My second day, I biked almost 100 km. I had my first bush camp experience. I was trying to get to Haynes Creek Roadhouse but I had underestimated the distance. I did not want to be caught in the dark so I had to set camp behind a hill, 7 km short of my destination. This was highly frustrating for me because I was dreaming of a great supper and a nice swimming pool. I had to settle for some dry snacks, fruits and lukewarm drinking water. In disgust, I threw my helmet and broke it partially. As I was setting up my tent I also broke a piece of my tent pole. This was not a good start in the wild. During the night I also heard animals roaming that made me feel slightly uneasy.

If I seem that I am complaining since the beginning of this trip, don’t take me seriously. There is nowhere else on this earth that I would rather be. Sometimes I look around at the tropical forests and just like the famous Swedish adventurer Goran Kropp I was in awe of my surroundings. He stood on top of Everest and said, “ it’s so beautiful here, oh boy oh boy. “ Ye, …oh boy, oh boy.

Day 3, Bush camp 1 to Pine Creek : 65 km

The next day, I made my way to the picturesque Haynes Creek Roadhouse. I had a huge breakfast for $ 9.00. There was a lot of bacon and ham on it. The breakfast was so big that I could not finish it. I learned that meals in the outback were quite a bit bigger than the ones at home and also greasier. Later on, I used the Internet to check my e-mail and update my web page, so people could follow my activities while I was traveling.

While eating, an older gentleman came to ask me some questions. He was the first genuinely nice Australian that I had met in this trip. He asked me all the traditional stuff that I will hear hundreds of time during this journey. He was also very curious about all aspects of Canadian life. After awhile he asked me, “Do you think your bike is going to make it”, like if it was a horse. “ I think so, it’s a tough bike.” I tell him this bike has made it across the Artic Circle in my last trip; there is a good chance it will make it to Port Augusta. He was shaking his head and repeating: the Artic Circle. After that he kept staring at the bike if it was a sacred object. After visiting this spectacular roadhouse on top of the valley, and meeting some good mates, my moral was soaring.

On my way to the next town, I was astonished to see so many dead Kangaroos and dead wallabies on the road. I had to close my nose sometimes to protect myself from the overwhelming stench. I even saw a dead python all butchered in pieces and driven over, which made a perfect meal for the ravens and other scavengers.

The next town was Adelaide River, 114 km away from Darwin. At the first gas station in town, I had the privilege of trying some grilled Barramundi. Apparently it is one of the best tasting fish in the world. I was not disappointed; the fish was succulent.

After lunch I made my way to the river to look for crocodiles. My guidebook had assured me that I would see some. The restaurant owner had told me that I would be lucky if I would see any. She told me that it was not the season. She was right, this was the dry season and the salt crocodiles, one of the most dangerous species of the world, were nowhere to be seen.

My last tourist attraction was the war cemetery. This was my first visit to such a sight; I was deeply touched by the well-maintained cemetery and all the tombs of all the people who had sacrificed their lives. There was also a plot of deceased post office workers from Darwin who had died when the Japanese bombed their place of work during the Second World War. In fact Northern Australia had quite a war history. Along the Stuart highway you can see old airports, camps, many Second World War museums and aviation landmarks.

On the road again, I was thankful that so many cars were waving and honking to cheer me on. Caravaners, cars and stoners in their dilapidated Volkswagens were all trying to encourage me. At the beginning I waved back but after awhile I just nodded. It became a safety issue, I did not want to take one hand off of the bike every time to wave at somebody and lose control. This support was obviously good for the moral; I appreciated the hundreds of people who gave me any form of positive encouragement during my trip.

Sometimes I was not too sure if they were honking because they were cheering or they wanted me out of the road. Were they saying “Hey? We love what your doing or were they saying Hey! Freaking lunatic get out of the highway or I’ll run you over?” A few times, I was not too sure.

There is no speed limit on the Stuart; it was scary to see people drive sometimes at close to 150-200 km per hour. Sometimes cars passed me so close that I could almost smell the drivers breath. I could control what was in front of me but not what came rushing from behind. In those circumstances I could only ask God for protection. People who slowed down when they saw me, made me feel safer. For some reason, as I went further south, I noticed that people were driving slower.

I got to Pine Creek an old gold mining town that is also an aboriginal village. First thing I did when I got there was to throw myself in the creek. I stopped by the park surrounded by old mining equipment and I met my first cyclist, an Aussie from Sydney. We took the time to exchange information about road conditions and other tips. Some other tourists were standing nearby; they were quite shocked by my sunburned back. I told them that I would be putting a t-shirt on as soon as I would wash my laundry. An older Australian gentleman did not want me to wait that long and he offered me one of his shirts. I was quite embarrassed and humbled by his goodness. He told me that if I was not going to do anything about it, I was going to end up at the hospital. I could not afford to spend some time in an Aussie hospital. I accepted his shirt and slathered myself with Vaseline.

I started enjoying life too much in this small town and after 65 km, I called it a day. Obviously, I was short of my minimum average of 100 km a day. My moral was getting low and I did not feel like spending another night bush camping .I had to treat myself. I went to the restaurant and the special was some kind of brain meal. I asked the waitress what kind of brains were those and she answered, lamb of course. How the heck do I know that? I guess I was caught asking another “stupid” question again.

I settled for chicken and prawns and I took a backpacker room for $24.00 dollars. The next day with a new jolt of energy from all the pampering I was more than happy to hit the road.

Day 4, Pine Creek to Katherine: 91 km

On my way to town, I finally had my first sighting of a live and majestic Kangaroo. I was on the bridge crossing the Ferguson River when I happened to look on my right and I saw that brown roo gracefully running away. This was a great encounter; this was the reason I had come to this continent, to see nature in its purest form.

I loved to stop over river bridges and watch down below for wildlife. Exotic birds will be often seen drinking water. Once I saw small croc swimming around. Another time, I saw a perfect wing of a heron floating by. I could only imagine the heron a few minutes before being preyed upon by a hungry salty.

The next major town was Katherine, an important tourist destination. Katherine is famous for its deep gorge. I did not have enough time to see it so I settled for the hot springs, some of the best I had ever visited and they were absolutely free. They covered almost one hundred feet among a lush tropical forest of paperback trees. There were falls where you could let the water shower you. The water formed a large pool where you could also swim in the thermal waters, which stayed at very comfortable 32 degrees. People from all over the world could not believe their luck of being in such a place.

Night was coming quickly, I was the only person left except for another gentleman. The Aussie started taking his swimsuit on and off. He tells me that he liked coming at night when he could strip with nobody else around. I felt a little bit uneasy. I told him that I had to leave and I probably would be back tomorrow. He tells me, “Why don’t you stay a little bit longer…” This was definitely a disadvantage of traveling by yourself; you were a magnet for loners of different sexual orientation. I was happy to leave and go to the restaurant to indulge myself in another great plate of barramundi.

I woke up early and went back to the springs for another great swim …hopefully I would be by myself this time.

Day 5, Katherine to Bush camp2: 65 km

On my way out of town my bike started doing wild squeequy noises. I feared the worst but it was only the break pads rubbing on steel and I fixed it. The incident reminded me of how much you depend on your bike to get you through your trip successfully. The bike stores are few and far between. I had the tools to fix most problems but in case of a major breakdown, I could require parts that I didn’t have. It could take days before getting any parts from a store.

After a few hours I decided to quit and let the strong winds die down. I also waited for the cool of the evening in order to save water. While I was lying down on my mattress by the road and listening to the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) on my radio some German girls stopped to ask me if I was fine. They left me with an extra litter of water. Later on I went to visit the Cutta Cutta caves only a few km off the highway.

The limestone caves had quite an interesting habitat; they had a harmless brown tree snake, 5 kinds of bats and 2 types of blind shrimps. The non-poisonous snake hangs on ceiling ledges and they prey on the bats that fly by. I kept staring at the ceiling but I did not see any.

Bored soldiers had used the cave for shooting practice; some damage still could be seen. Although, I still felt, it was worth the 14-dollar admission. It was time to leave, after spending some time to the surreal world of the cave surrounded by stalactites and stalagmites, the Stuart felt like coming to another planet.

The heat had not let go. Everyday there was not a single cloud in the sky. There was nowhere to hide in the shade while you were riding your bike on the highway. If you wanted some shade, you had to stop and go under a tree. In fact, it took over two weeks of riding south before I saw anything that resembled a cloud.

All through that area we could see water meter level sticks by the road. I could not conceive that some areas that look as dry as the Sahara could have torrential rains and flashfloods that could overflow the highway by few meters. In fact the dry season, which include the months of July and August are few of the months suitable to go biking across the continent.

I finished the day with only 65 kms of riding. This was my second lousy day in row. I started having serious doubts about my chances of completing my trip in time. I only had 24 days and I still had close to 2600 km to do. You add it up. I was tempted to phone Quanta, the airplane company, and ask for an extra week. More resolved than ever, I just decided to wake up earlier everyday, around 7 am at the latest and bike steadily in good weather or in strong winds.

My idea of traveling at night was a real failure. I was constantly blinded by the high beams of the road trains, among others. The giant trucks, which have 3 or 4 trailers and can measure up to 53.5 meters, which is more than half a football field. When you see or hear them coming, either direction, you have to move from the tiny shoulder that is never more than a foot and move a few feet away in the bumpy rocks.

I also found difficult to see in front of me without a headlight in my bike. I was not planning to bike at night so I had not brought one. There were no light posts it was truly black. I worried that I could hit a dead Kangaroo and go flying headfirst on the pavement.

Day 6, Bush camp 2 (50 km from Mataranka) to Bush camp 3: 100 km

After I slept in the bush one more night, I made my way to Mataranka. Before reaching town, I saw a dark animal surrounded by trees by the road. I had to get closer to identify the dark creature. As I got nearer, I realized it was a wild boar. Respectfully, I retrieved to the safety of my speedy bike. Somebody told me that they export the dark and fat bacons to Germany. I was slightly surprised to see one but in Australia they have a lot of wild domesticated beasts: wild bulls, wild cats, wild dogs, wild buffalos and many more.

A few days earlier a wild bull had chased a senior with a tour group. Running away, she got separated from the group. Lost for a few days, she had to spend few nightsin the outback in near freezing temperatures. The news outlets found her extremely lucky to have survived in such “cold” weather. I found the story slightly amusing.

I got to Mataranka made famous for the town where the action of the novel “We of the Never Never ” had taken place and also written. In the center of town we can see the highest termite mount in the world. I put my bike beside it to take a picture and it looked quite small. The mount looked at least 15 feet high. The town is also famous for its hot springs. A lot of tourist had told me to avoid them because this was the time of the year where a bat colony moves in the area. They dirty the water and a bad smell comes out of it. Some tourists I had met told me to go instead to Bitter Springs, which are a few kilometers from town. I was not disappointed, the waters were cooler than the hot springs but they felt really good in this tropical heat. The springs were in a magical setting of a lush tropical forest. There were a lot of tourists, attesting of the popularity of the waters.

At the store I bought some frozen pork shops to cook the same night. I let them thaw while I was riding and when I was ready to set camp, I cooked them still cold. This culinary art form was one of my inventions. I spread the word around to every biker.

I noticed that the dirt and sand started to turn into a crimson color a mix of purple and pink with a hint of red. A color which is slightly similar to the sand of Prince Edward Island, a color that you never get tired of looking at. Eventually, this color will turn to total red after the Devil Marbles. This region is known as the Red Center.

Day 7, Bush camp3 to Daly Waters:

After another day of bush camping I made my way to Daly Waters. It was out few kilometers from the Stuart so I decided to stay at the Wayside Inn. Exhausted, I ordered an Australian version of a hamburger all loaded as they say. There was everything that you expect from an American burger and more such as an egg, sliced carrots and also betteraves. I was hungry and it felt great but few days later while riding with a full stomach, the thought of the strange overloaded burger came to mind and made me feel nauseated.

After setting my tent and having a shower, I made my way to Daly Waters. The pub was 7 kilometers away; I had to hurry so I would not be caught in the dark. Daly Waters is the most famous pub in the Outback. There are mementos and memorabilia left by visitors from all around the world. We can find pictures, flags, and money. Although, The place is much more than a pub. There is also a caravan park with a swimming pool and a gas station. The bartender at the pub even uses binoculars to check the total amount of gas purchased by costumers since the antique gas pumps stand the other side of the street. After observing him, I thought he was just pretending but actually he was really serious.

The night I was there an awesome bush singer was entertaining the crowd and everybody was having a great time. We should say that the quality of the food and the great beer helped in making the evening memorable.

It was dark when I headed to my campground. I could not see much; I came to an intersection and followed the road. Moments later, I saw a sign for Darwin. I realized I was going north when I should have been going south. This could have been slightly tragic if I had not seen the sign.

Day 8, Daly Waters to Bush camp 4: 118 km

By now, I had been biking for a challenging seven days. My first week was my training camp, my-get-into-shape-quickly pre-season. Now I was ready for the real show. Everyday, I tried to increase my traveled distance. I started with days of 65 to 85 Km, now I felt acclimatized to the weight of my rig and to the workload. On day 8, I was hoping to get close to 120 km., Which, I did successfully. For the first time, I knew that I was in great shape.

I did not need to take as many breaks. For lunch, I only took a 15-minute to 30-minute break under a tree by the road. I usually had some granola bars, some fresh fruits tangerines, kiwis or apples and some Portuguese Santa Maria sardines from by birth country. Through the day, I also had many short water breaks but I liked to get going quickly.

I had my first stop of the day at the Dunmarra Roadhouse. I had another great meal and I skipped the wild game meat. My real last chance to try it. I regretted it later of missing on kangaroo and croc.

Day 9, Bush camp 4 to Bush camp 5 (Before Renner Springs Roadhouse) 96 km

The next day, I realized more than ever that I was in cattle country. There were many cattle gates, which they were a pain to ride over. The sign “Unfenced Road Beware Wandering Cattle” would be part of the rest of my trip as much as the dead bulls and lambs.

As you biked along you saw signs welcoming you to different stations. Newcastle station for example, I was a bit incredulous at first, mentioned its size as 500 000 square km. I realized later it was probably hectares. The actual size is around 10 000 square kilometers with around 50 000 heads. Many times I had no choice but to set my tent in cattle country. Slightly concerned about being charged for trespassing, I always tried to pick a spot where I would not be seen from the road. I will leave quickly as soon as the sun will show its light.

As I got further south, I had to face another enemy, the cold. I was happy that the excessive heat was finally going slowly away. Cooler days were making the riding more enjoyable and I did not have to drink so much water. In contrast the nights were quite a bit colder nearing the freezing point. I just slept in my spandex and my fleece. I had a few nights that I found a white-frosted tent in the morning. By Elliott, I even started to wear a toque under my helmet especially during the early morning riding.

Day 10, Bush camp 5 to Banka Banka Station: 85 km

One of my next stops was at the station Banka Banka. I was quite excited to stop there because this was my first camping at a cattle station. One of the attractions of this station, as advertised, is green grass in the desert, something rare in this area. The managers of the station were really friendly. People gathered around the pub sitting on benches made of giant tractor gears while emus walk through the camping. There are also kangaroos and wallabies that are fenced up.

At night we sat by the fire listening to a storyteller telling jokes. We also had a slide presentation of how the station was run. I also had the privilege of meeting a fellow cyclist called Paul Shannon who was going around the world. Overall it was a really enjoyable evening. The only setback it was that there was no restaurant so I had to eat some of my can stew.

Day 11, Banka Banka to Tennant Creek: 100 km

All night I heard the roar of the wind and the shaking of the trees. I feared the worse when I woke up. I had no choice, I had to bike my average 100 km. This was the strongest the wind had been. Locals had told me it was close to 100 km an hour. My motto for the day was it’s better to move a little that not at all. Each kilometer that I did is one less to do the next day and one kilometer closer to my final destination. When the wind got really strong, I just walked it. All around me there were broken highway reflector signs.

Towards the evening the wind let go a little bit. I was able to sprint for 2 hours. I was able to reach Tennant Creek. This was a milestone for me, if I could bike 100 km in these conditions, I could do it anywhere and anytime; at least that’s how I felt.

I was really excited to get to town. I found a campground right at the entrance of town. Later on, I walked around town at night but I had the creeps; there were too many teens roaming the streets in gangs and staring at you. I did not feel safe so I retrieved to the campground looking over my shoulder every second waiting for a knife attack. Especially, after I had stopped at the bank and I had pockets full of cash. I felt relieved when I finally got to my camping.

This is another gold town. You can go pan for the precious metal or have a tour of the mines. It was late and those activities were out of reach for the time being.

Day 12 Tennant Creek to Wauchope Roadhouse: 113 km

Next day I did not feel like playing tourist, I looked for a place where I could buy supplies because this was one of the last towns before getting to Alice Springs. The Mobil station was the only place open. Warily the girl asked me to move my bike closer to the window if I did not want somebody to snatch it. I was probably justified to be afraid the night before.

On the road a few km from town, I helped 2 Germans girls who were having problems with their radiator. I pulled some aluminum and wire and help them fix the problem. I felt good that I was able to help.

I raced towards the world famous Devil Marbles hoping to get there before the night fell. The conservation reserve covers 1828 hectares of egg-shaped boulders as big as 5 meters. I was not disappointed the marbles were enormous and they were everywhere. According to an aboriginal legend those were the eggs laid by the rainbow serpent. This was a place that I wanted definitively to take some pictures. I did not carry any flash so I needed the light of day.

Few more km and I wwould beat the Wauchoppe Roadhouse among really friendly staff eating an excellent meal stew. On the wall there was a picture of a horse that had been attacked by a croc. His back thigh, just like raw hamburger, was all chewed up but the poor creature with a pitiful look was still trotting around. He was probably begging to shoot him. The heading of the story was “ This is what happen when we mess with a crocodile”. I don’t know whom they were trying to scare but they surely got my attention.

Day 13, Wauchope Roadhouse to Barrow Creek: 105 km

It was nice to stay at the campground that night. I made my way to Wycliffe Well the capital of UFO sightings in Australia; the roadhouse is almost a small museum. Among jarred snakes, aboriginal art, we can find on the throne some sort of stuffed King Kong who seems to keeps an eye over the place. Newspapers clips of UFO sightings occupy almost a full room. There are a lot of articles of reputable people who claim to have seen UFO and aliens. One of the funniest clips was “ Aliens seen holidaying in Alice “. Too bad they did not show up while I was climbing Ayers Rock that could have been fun meeting some.

On my way to Barrow Creek the scenery became more desert like. The treeless hills reminded me of Arizona. At 10.2 km from the Roadhouse, I had the chills; this section of the highway was the scene of one of the longest manhunt in Australian history. Peter Falconio and his girlfriend Joanne Lees, two backpackers driving in a van, were waved by a supposedly stranded automobilist. Like anybody would have done, they stopped to help him out. Few minutes later, he shot the British gentleman Falconio in the head and he raped his girlfriend. Later on, luckily the girl was able to escape. He chased her for hours through spinflex bushes and fences in a snake-infested area. All bloodied, she waved a truck driver and got away from the grasp of the merciless killer. That night, people stopped feeling safe on the Stuart.

The story does not end there. The locals did not think a person of this area could have committed such a murder. “ Crimes like these do not happen around here”, they said. According to peple the girl had faked the whole thing and executed her boyfriend. I met the landowner of the station where the crime had been committed. He told me the story in a somber tone. He said this is the place where the truck driver brought the girl after he found her bleeding in the highway. This is also the place where he stopped for a beer, his last one, before being murdered.

While I waited for my chicken supper impatiently after a hard day of biking, I chatted with a French couple who were riding a tandem bicycle through northern Australia. They did not have any camping gear; they had booked all those hotels along the Stuart. They were worried about a distance of 160km between hotels. They wished me good night. They had to wake up really early.

Without asking the waitress filled me up a glass of red wine. The old fireplace was warming up this modest historical roadhouse. There were mementos and pictures of people all around the world, autographed flags, even a Canadian. This was indeed a special place.

After having my nice supper, I was even forgetting that I was camping between bits and pieces as the lady told me when I registered. The bits and pieces she was talking about were wrecked cars and abandoned mobile homes. I could not have been picky. You cannot ask for too much when you are paying only 3 dollars per night. I had no choice anyway the next campground was more than 100km away. The nice part is that I had the entire campground for myself. Later on in the evening, as I was getting ready to go to bed, another camper finally showed up.

The night at the roadhouse was heating up. We were only about ten of us. The station owners and their son, a big operator as they called him. There was also a highway worker and few Australian tourists. They all knew each other.

In some ways, I was the center of attraction. I was facing an array of questions. They could not believe that I was crossing this no-mans land. According to them, you had to be mental to do such a thing. One of their favorite questions was “what are you trying to prove by doing this”. I admire what you are doing but It does not change the fact that I think you are a bit cuckoo.

The highway worker asked me a lot of questions about Canada especially bears. I had told him that in my lifetime I had worked in the bush and seen many. In fact, I told him I had survived a bear attack. Right away he starts yelling through the pub “ Hey mates we have a polar bear hunter among us”. I was going to tell him that there were not too many polar bears walking near Edmonton. I did not want to enter in a long explanation of the bio-geographical differences in Canada so I let him believe whatever he wanted…it felt good anyway.

The jukebox was blasting country music from Willie Neilson to Shania Twain. Patrons were dancing everybody had to be wearing wigs. I picked a yellow one, which looked like an old mop.

After listening to too much Shania Twain, the verse “I feel like a woman” was constantly in my mind and my lips. Once I sang it out loud, the truck driver just took a step backward. I guess it was time to call it a night and go back to the cold junkyard and my cold small palace. It was difficult to leave the comfort of the pub and its fireplace. Goodbye mates I will always remember you, this was a memorable night.

Day 14, Barrow Creek to Bush camp 6 ( passed Ti Tree) : 115 km

Next day I woke up hearing the winds blowing strong. I was worried. I waited for the cook to show up to make breakfast but she did not. I asked the gentleman working at the pub if he could make me some toasts since nobody was there to cook. He did and when it was time to pay he did not even bother to charge me. Another great encounter.

After I jumped on my bike, I realized I had tailwinds. Was I dreaming? For the first time I actually had the winds helping me. I did 20 km in what seemed to take me only a few minutes. I was not biking I was flying. There were spectacular vistas and beautiful arid hills all around covered with spiky spin flexes. I was having fun. I stopped for a picture and when I got into my bike, I realized there was a flat tire. Here goes my dream of beating my daily biking record. I was even thinking I could do a Lance Armstrong kind of day. Not. I had to unpack everything in the middle of this desert and fix the flat but before doing so you have to find the puncture. I plunged the tube in the water and waited for tiny bubbles to appear. I patched the hole all proud. Few minutes later, I realized I put the patch beside the hole not actually fixing nothing. I was furious. I had to glue another one. I made it to Ti-tree Roadhouse anyway.

The pub seemed as long as the whole town. On the premises I had one of my favorite meals. A plate of Barramundi loaded with French fries. In this part of the world everything comes with fries. I once had the audacity to ask rice with my fish. The waitress replied we only eat rice with prawns. Not me lady!

Nonetheless, this was a classic feast. I was feeling great. I saw a sign warning patrons not to carry any alcohol beverages out of the restaurant. I had to find why. Apparently, I was in an aboriginal town and they did not want them to bring back alcohol to their homes. I was happy to see that some parts of Australia were doing something to stop the problem of alcoholism that plagues many aboriginals.

I left happy and looking for better biking days, the winds were slightly changing directions. While I was riding, I heard a funny noise. It was another flat tire almost in the same place. I was worried. I was running out of patches and I still was about 250km from Alice Springs the closest place to a biking store. I finished the day with 115 km despise all my puncture problems.

Day 15, Bush camp 6 to Bush camp 7 ( 50 km from Alice): 120 km

I bush camped again in the beautiful red desert. A traditional night for me is to stop around 6 pm just when the sun goes down and use the light of dusk to cook my meal and while the food is getting ready I put up the tent and unpack most of the bike. After I finished eating, I go to bed and listen to my radio Walkman. I listened for talk shows, music and news. Amazingly, even If most of the time I was far from a major center I could hear quite clearly a few radio stations. Horse and dog races were on the air almost every night. Australian rugby, which every Aussie adores but which I did not care much for was often playing.

Every night I took some time to look at the myriad of stars and milky constellations of the southern hemisphere. Nights were rarely cloudy; everyday you had quite a magnificent show. If sometimes the land was bare and harsh the skies always offered something to admire.

I also took time to read the bible every night and I was also reading a book about f a family who had moved from England to the coast of Tasmania. Once there they bought their own Island. She was describing all her struggles to make a living from the land. Everyday around nine, tired, I could barely keep my eyes open, I was ready to crash.

Day 16, Bush camp 7 to Alice Springs: 54 km

The next morning I took off and soon after, I had another flat, by then, I was getting really upset. This was tiring to constantly unload everything. I decided to throw away the punctured tube. I put my spare folded tire with its own larger chamber. I was scared because I had never put this kind of tire. I unfolded it, looking at it suspiciously, amazingly it worked. By this same time the son of the Barrow Creek station stopped to offer me a ride to Alice Springs. I really appreciated his kindness. I told him, I had enough parts to fix the problem and he left. No cheating, I was here to bike the whole highway not just part of it.

Off the highway, I stopped at The Aileron Roadhouse. I had another huge breakfast and bought some more groceries and bought some supper, fried chicken all wrapped by the kind owner. I also bought some bananas and my traditional 1.5 liters of pop. Enough to last me 40 to 50km.

Aileron is considered by many to be the central point of the highway. In some ways, I had reached the half-point in my journey my moral was really high. I made my bush camp 50 km away from Alice Spring. The next day, my spirit was soaring as I was getting close to Alice, the tourist mecca. I was dreaming of a motel and a hot tub and some great meals. I was also hoping to visit Ayers Rock and the Olgas. The last 50 km to the town were effortless. I could not get there fast enough.

Day 17, day of rest

While I was in Alice, I had some fun strolling around town. I enjoyed going to their coffee alley. There were tourists all over the place. I took a coach trip for 175 dollars. We went to the famous Ayers rock also known as Uluru. The trip also included a few stops at a salt lake, the Olgas, and at the aboriginal Cultural Center. For the grand finally we had a barbecue and champagne while the sunset was settling over multicolored Ayers Rock.

Day 18, Alice Springs to Jim’s Place: 95 km

After I left Alice Springs, I felt somewhat restored mentally and physically. I felt really strong in about 6 hours, I had covered 125 km. Rejuvenated after 2 days of rest. My next stop was at Jim’s Place. Camping was free. This was July 25 they were having a Christmas in July an annual tradition at this roadhouse. They had balloons everywhere and Christmas decorations. For 30 dollars I could have a turkey meal a la Australian. There was also ham and instead of cranberries they put canned peaches.

The meal was great but for a famished cyclist I was left hungry, I also became very disappointed when I asked for a little bit more and they politely said no. They told me once I’ll get my desert I will be okay but I wasn’t. There was entertainment but it was Scottish Gaelic music. If I wanted to listen to hymns of the old country. I would have gone there. I wanted to listen to real Australian outback music.

The highlight of the day was a presentation of the most famous dog in Australia, the singing Dingo, Dinky. Basically a child from the crowd plays piano while Dinky howling makes a singing rendition while standing on the piano. Dumfounded tourists were in awe of the canine.

Day 19, Jim’s Place to Elrdunda 100km?

The next day, I went to Elrdunda. This roadhouse stands at the intersection of the Stuart and the Lasseter road that leads to Ayers Rock. It’s a new resort. I took a camping spot for 9 dollars, which is expansive for outback standards. For the first time in Australia, I decided to take a swim in the pool. The weather was relatively mild at around 25 Celsius but the pool was standing in the shade. It was a mistake, after I jumped in the pool, I almost had instant hypothermia.

Day 20, Elrdunda to Bush camp 8: 105 km

South Australia was getting close this was on my agenda on day 19. I had been biking through only one territory or a province as we Canadians call it since the start of my trip. I was finally getting close to a new milestone but first I needed to stop at Kulgera. I had another energy meal, amazingly there was a bank machine and I was able to load on cash, made some call home to tell people that crocs had not gobble me yet. I also had the typical barrage of questions from tourists.

I made my way to the border. The guy working at the roadhouse told me that there was a rest stop at the border and I may be able camp there. When I got there I realized the place was not suitable for camping it was too much in the open. There were many picnic tables to eat but no place where I can hide the tent. It felt good to reach this milestone; I had to take a picture by the huge welcome to South Australia sign. I finally went for another 8 km before I found a suitable camping spot.

On my way I saw some eagles feasting on dead kangaroos. Quite a sight. One of those many moments, frozen in time. It makes you feel that every penny spent in that trip was worth it just for the sake of assisting to the power of nature.

I wondered what the meat tasted like. One guy I met told me the only ones who eat kangaroos are the aboriginals.” We Australians do not eat this meat which is full of worms anyway”. We sometimes serve it to tourists though. They like it.

During the night, I heard weird animal noises all night. I was hoping that no cattle would run over my tent.

Day 21, Bush camp 8 ( 20 km passed the border ) to Marla: 152 km

I woke up next morning to find everything frosted. It’s never easy to get out from your warm sleeping bag in the cold. Everyday I had to do the same routine. Sometimes the only thing to entertain you is to count the km signs that were placed every ten km. Sometimes you just put your mind into neutral and you don’t think about nothing; you just admire the small things that the jungle or desert puts as a display; sometimes it’s a rare flower or a exotic bird or a group of wonderful green birds flying in one movement.

Sometimes, you just start thinking about all the people back home who are important to you. You can never let negativism beat you. If you fight winds hour after hour you feel like cursing and yelling but you try not to. This will suck your energy dry and will tire you quickly. In fact it’s better to lie to yourself and pretend that everything is all right, after awhile you’ll believe yourself.

My goal for this day was to make my way to Marla. 152 km away. I did not want to sleep in the wild again. I wanted a real meal and a real campground. I had a great meal of beef stew. I was still hungry so I dished another 8.00 for another meal. I had noticed that prices had gone down since I had got close to South Australia. During the night, I moved my tent for fear of being run over by a caravan. In many campings in Australia they mix tenters with caravaners. Tenters do not stand a chance, especially me with my miniscule dwelling.

Day 22, Marla to Bush camp 9 ( passed Cadney ): 120 km

By accident, I left one of my t-shirts and while I was biking 20 km away from the campground two Australians brought it to me. Once again, I was reminded that there were a lot of great people in those parts of the country.

Next day I made my way to Cadney Homestead. I had a great meal and use the Internet for $3.00 every ten minutes. I was entering opal country. There was a display of jewellery with the precious stone. I liked the prices but I needed more information about the stones. I was also hoping that I could get them cheaper once I got to Coober Pedy the world capital of opals.

Once again I met a lady who asked politely if she could sit with me and talk about my trip. They were a group of artists traveling the outback and making paintings of what the desert had to offer. I told her some people say there is nothing to see around here but if you look carefully the outback has an array of colors like you have never seen in your lifetime.

The girl at Cadney asked me if I wanted to camp at their camping .It was free. I wanted to get to Coober Pedy as fast as possible so I decided to leave and do some more mileage. I slept in the bush and when I woke up everything was frozen again.

Day 23, Bush camp 9 to Coober Pedy: 113 km

I was quite excited to get to Coober Pedy. It’s a major tourist attraction my first one since Alice. This is a very desolate area. As you get close to Coober Pedy, there is very little vegetations and trees and the land is as flat as the prairies. 35 km before town you see a lot of mining activity all the dirt sand and stone has been mined and thrown into mounds. It makes it look like a moonscape. There were also signs warning people not to stop and go to the minefields or risk a fine of a $ 1000. Some people in the past had fallen in the mineshafts trying to retrieve some opals. That made me even worried to stop for a leak.

This is one of the most arid places on the face of the earth and people build caves into the rock to escape the overwhelming heat. In the summer it can reach 60 degree Celsius. As many as 50% of the population live in those “dugouts”.

I arrived in town and found a backpacker hotel in a cave for $17.00. In order to get in; I had to go to a jeweler store to get the pass code to get in. For hours I had that entire place for myself. This town is famous for its opals but also for their underground accommodations. You also can find underground houses, churches, bookstores and restaurants.

I spent a relaxing day buying jewellery. I visited the Catholic Church, which was build into the rock. I spent a very peaceful moment reflecting about my trip and life in general.

Day 24, Coober Pedy to Bushcamp 10 : 50km
Before leaving town, I ate at the only underground restaurant in Australia. I had excellent Bolognese spaghetti.

I left happy and refreshed ready to hit the Stuart again. I got ready for a distance of 250 km without services, the longest in this trip. I had to reload on groceries and water. I had to carry almost 10 liters, a record for me, more than I needed, but it’s always better to carry more. I kind of felt the extra weight that I was carrying. The bike was harder to steer.

Before hitting the road, I ran more errands. I finally left around 2 o’clock pm so this was going to be a short riding day. After 50km, I looked for a camping spot in the bush. Land was so flat it was really hard to find any hill, which you could hide behind. I finally decided to go a kilometer away from the highway. I cooked my best meal in the outback: fresh lamb shops cooked in with white wine, lemon and rosemary… a la Greek.

Day 25, Bush camp 10 to Bush camp 11: 150 km

The winds were getting better. I rode another150km the highlight of the day was when I passed the dog fence a wire barrier of 5300 km long. This feature protects the sheep from the dingoes, Australias wild dog. I also had the chance to spot one of the rarest and most beautiful flowers in Australia, the Sturt Desert Pea. A strikingly beautiful plant black and red, this was my only sighting of this majestic flower, dozens of them were all bunched up by a highway sign. It fully deserves to be the floral emblem of the state of South Australia. Later on, I camped again by the road. I was only 52 km from Glendambo.

Day 26, Bush camp 11 to Pimba: 170 km

I arrived to Glendambo the sign read: Elevation 150 meters, population sheep 22 500, flies 2 000 000 and humans 30. I was happy to see this place after such a long distance without any kind of service. I was happy to get a restaurant meal. I went to the roadhouse furthest to the south. Here I had my worst steak in Australia. It was so flavorless I do not think I would have offered it to my dog. Bought some groceries, the guy working there, the same who cooked my steak did not even give me a bag to put my groceries. This was one of the worst treatments I got in the outback. I was happy to leave and I was upset after spending so much money and receiving so little in return.

I already had biked 52 km and the next town Pimba was 118 km away. I started biking and felt great after a break. The winds were in my back for a change. More I biked more I thought it possible to reach Pimba before the nightfall. That will make it my best day ever a 170km day. Proud, not bad for an old guy.

I reached Pimba’s roadhouse around 5 pm just before nightfall. As I got closer to the roadhouse a man wearing a dress came rushing towards me. If I can recall he said, “Hi! My name is Kristina I am the one who is riding that bike with 3 trailers”, he calls it his road train. Once in the restaurant, I was waiting for my meal hoping to have a quiet supper when Kristina told me: “ Hey mate why don’t you join me”. I could tell he was very excited to talk to another crazy cyclist. Reluctantly I accepted, the meal was an all you can eat buffet style. It was very tasted. I soaked the whole thing with a few glasses of well-deserved red wine. Kristina was living at the roadhouse doing odd jobs in return he was having free room and board. He asked the manager if I could park my tent beside his for free. I did not see any objections.

We made a fire to warm up. Night was kind of cool. It felt great. Kristina started to tell me her life story. By the time the night was over, I was sure I had met one of the most eccentric, fascinating and somewhat most bizarre persons in my life.

This girl born a man was a son of a Dutch couple. When he became a trany as they call them in Australia, the government did not know what to do with him so they decided to send him to early retirement. Not knowing what to do with himself, he started to bike around Australia. He cycled around the continent 5 or 6 times living from an early pension, working odd jobs and also receiving money from tourists who excitedly ask him to take pictures of himself and of his amazing bicycle, at 2 dollars a shot.

What makes him so unique is that he pulls 3 trailers with 12 wheels and 500 kilos of stuff. Half a ton as he proudly states. His bicycle has motorcycle mirrors and as many light power as a car, enough in fact to high beam anybody that does not switch to his low beams. He has also an emergency ambulance light, a stereo system and 2 car batteries to keep everything running smoothly. When on the road he can wheel himself to a campground and plug in into the RV outlets to avail himself of power and water to make his stove and kitchen sink functional. “What do you need a rake for”, I told him. “To clean my tent spot”, he said. I could not believe it. “ Can’t you just sweep things with your feet like everybody else does?” He also had 3 tents. One of them was very large for longer stays. One time he looked at my small tent with an air of pity.” I could not live in such a miniature tent. I like to live in luxury mate.” He tells me.

He also carries a trailer loaded with about 30 liters of water. With this amount of weight he can reach modest top speeds of 5 km an hour. Days of 40 km are not uncommon. It’s a high price to live such a luxurious life but he is comfortable with it.

He had a lot of stories to tell. He was still bitter that a cop had run over his bike trailer. He was not hurt but he had to spend some time stopped until they fixed his trailer. Few years before he was hit by a roadtrain. Again he escaped, only his trailers were smashed. He was saved by the quick thinking of the driver who turned at the last second to avoid him.

He does not travel alone, he has a dog. One time he had to save his life. While Kristina was relieving himself, or I should say herself, with her pants or her dress still down, she heard her dog barking in agony. A dingo was trying to take her away; Kristina grabbed her knife and stabbed the wild dog right into the heart. Showing me his knife like crocodile Dundee. He said if some young punks stop to give you trouble I will wave the blade by their nose and they will take off. Mate never travel without a knife around here. “Mate one day they will find me by the road dead. I have a letter in my pocket that states that I want my bike to be put into a museum to the closest town where I die.

The next morning he made me some coffee on his bike and I got ready to leave. Some tourists were taking some pictures and he ran to them to ask for his 2 dollars fee for posing. The little Japanese couple were quite surprised by the demand. They emptied their pocket but they could only find 1.00. "That will do", Kristina said.

Another guy videotaped him and he also took some pictures. He gave him 10 dollars. Not bad for a few pictures of his bike. I said to them do you want a picture of myself.” No way you are too ordinary.”I guess I would have to wait another time for my moment of fame.

I took some pictures of Kristina and his bike.” You don’t need to pay for the picture you are a cyclist. You are a brother.” That’s how I felt when I left. I felt he was family. Sadly I waved goodbye.

Day 27, Pimba to Bush camp 12: 143 km

I was 183 km from my final destination, Port Augusta. I could smell victory. I was going through an area where there was a lot of spectacular lakes but they were semi-dry. Excitement and relief was now part of every turn of the wheel. Before I could reach my final destination I still had to overcome a few obstacles.

After I left Pimba, the wind was in my back. I was flying. Maybe I could do the distance in a day but the sky turned black. The first major rainstorm on this trip was due. The wind picked up it was now blowing everywhere it was now a hindrance.

During a break I laid down my gloves and helmet. Few minutes later when I came back, one of my gloves was gone and I had to chase my helmet that was rolling like a bowling ball on the highway.

The very dark clouds got closer and the wind by now was almost of cyclone force. The nearest house or structure was 100 km away. I had nowhere to hide. Tree branches were flying; I hid behind a big tree to protect myself hoping there will be no dangerous lightning.

I was thinking of people in Florida who disappear after hurricanes. I was thinking maybe I will be one of them. For a few moments I was somewhat scared. People were driving by. I could read in their eyes something like this “what the heck is he doing around here”. The storm left as quickly as it came and I was on my way, slightly wet.

I was getting closer to the port city but the wind had slowed me down. I would not make it before the night. Daylight was getting scarce; I was going to bush camp again. This time cattle were replaced by sheep.

Day 28, Bush camp 12 to Port Augusta: 40 km

It was hard to find a clean spot to eat and to lay my tent. I grabbed a stick and golfed some of those big olive size lamb turds as far as I could. Even after I thought I got all rid of them, I still ended up stepping on some. I could not wait to retrieve to my clean tent.

The next day I had only 40 km to go it was raining but I did not care. I was so happy that I was biking my last kilometers. I was getting emotional. So many things were getting through my mind. In the far distance, I could see the magnificent Flinders Range. I could not wait to reach the sign that would say welcome to Port Augusta the cross roads of Australia. When I saw the sign, I pointed towards heaven and I said thank you. This was the end of the Stuart Highway also the end of my journey.

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