Nullarbor Plain – Week II
If you haven´t had the opportunity to read “Week I”, you can do it through the following link:
Day 8 :
From the moment my eyes opened, I could audibly listen to the drops falling against the tents’ walls. Rain had poured all night and didn’t show any signs of stopping. We had breakfast under the cover of a roof and our long, weary faces expressed our little will to continue. We then decided to wait. A short while turned into hours, and suddenly, we had spent all day in. We read, we wrote and sometimes we sat by the fire to discuss and connect. Around 2 pm some of us thought it wise to go to a gas station. They believed last days episode had probably been the product of a bad day and went with the idea of drinking some beers together. I chose to remain alone in the camp and enjoy my solitude. I pondered on astronauts lives and how they spend whole months in small, isolated cubicles. I thought about their dinners and the stability they need to have. Not one hour had gone by and the boys had returned. Something inexplicable had happened. They weren’t allowed to drink it inside and had to buy some and drink it outside. Drops were falling without mercy and without any type of beer, they furiously returned to the camp. We ate rice with cans and decided that we definitely had to continue moving the next day. As dessert we had some chocolate cookies and with their sweetness came a change in character. We went to sleep motivated.
Day 9 :
The beginning of the journey was, for lack of a better word, epic. Determination.That was what we had. As we devoured our oatmeal, we pumped up ourselves to leave. It was still raining. We undid everything at an incredible speed. The closest gas station was 66 km away.
Pedalling was thrilling: we were all pleased, all wet, everything was wet. The rain ceased and thanks to the last 10 km we were able to arrive safe and dry.
We were ridden with excitement. We had made it. In order to celebrate the sun’s appearance, our riding and our attitude, Daniel bought the four of us a beer and ordered a plate of fries. As he waited for his fries to arrive, Daniel recounted the last days situations to the man who was serving us.The man showed tremendous interest and he even wrote down our complaints. Once he was finished he shared his dislike for the couple who ran the place we were in. Finally, when the food was done, he came up with two plates instead of one. With a smug wink he left us happily swallowing our fries. The price of water here was much more reasonable: 2 dollars for 2 litres. We charged our computers and batteries and around 4 pm we resumed our journey. We rode 20km as the sun set. We settled down and ate pasta with tomato sauce. The famine generated by such exhaustive exercise adds an extra flavour to any food we eat. For dessert we all had some piece of chocolate and we agreed upon a new goal: 70 km. Our rhythm had been good and the last few days had been an emotional rollercoaster. As I laid down I reflected upon the beauty of it: Determination.
Day 10 :
We were almost about to leave when a puncture added on 30 minutes. The sky was cloudy and the morale was high. We were all looking forward to pedalling. We began at about 8 am and without any stop we reached our first goal: 70 km.
We ate some couscous we were able to cook thanks to some hot free water they offered us at a gas station. The team was almost absurdly hungry. The woman in the gas station was very generous, she gave us access to the bathrooms and showering was beautiful. We packed all the equipment and then went on to wait for the food and the sun to go down. Working within a bathroom sure was unprecedented and seemed funny and amazing to us.
Before starting up again we loaded some gas for the kitchen and while doing so I remembered we were out of salt. In searching for the kitchen I bumped into a piano and was unable to resist the urge of playing. We then bought some eggs and some bread, and with a load of salt in hand, we entered the route again. We achieved a feat: our first 100 km. The wind did not tumble our state of mind; we were delighted, energized and the sun was looking down on us. The arrival was magical. Before I was even able to get down from my bike, I noticed a man who lived there had left a bottle of bourbon and 4 cokes out for us. We were overjoyed and rather emotional.
It wasn’t merely the gifts they gave us but rather the notion of the sacrifice and effort that is needed for those to even exist. They offered us whiskey as well as unlimited water, paper towels, rice, and many other delicious foods. For dinner we had rice and for dessert some chocolate they gifted us. We slept thoroughly and spiritually complete.
Breakfast was different this day. We had some eggs left from the previous day and we decided to fry two for each of us. Last nights dinner had been more that we had bargained for and nonetheless we found ourselves hungry for even more. We had some bread and butter and we were ready to face the trail, our objective this time was 80 km.
Aleix shot forward like never before, he was excited to meet the goal. The rest of us decided to keep a slower pace and at one point we decided to stop and observe an abandoned car. As soon as we started up again, rain started pouring like we’d never seen before. We had to act quickly and so we covered everything we could as fast as we could.
From time to time the sun mocked us from the cracks in the clouds and then some drops poured again. During the last 10 km the wind blew against us and grew to become rather violent. We were now extremely tired and hungry. We reached our goal at around 2 pm having pedaled for around 4 and a half hours. Whilst I was cooking up some ‘polenta’, two cars approached our improvised campsite. One of them belonged to a young German couple and the other to an Australian man whose job partly consisted of taking this van to whichever city he was going to. Before even striking up a conversation, the man took out four ice cold beers from his trunk: a beautiful welcome. As we drank and cheered, we realized our day was over. After 15 more minutes of interesting conversation, they decided to go and left behind a kilo of rice and some bread.
In the afternoon we collected some wood and at night we lighted our first fire.
We all sat around and contemplated the crackling of the flaming wood and understood the moments uniqueness. As we absorbed the beauty of it, we ate some rice with canned champignons (not that tasty by the way). We then proceeded to sleep happily and full.
The sky was still dark as we awoke. We could sense the day ahead would be extremely hot and with little to no shade. After having breakfast, we decided to take some shots, some angles, we wrote for a while and we started the journey. We found a tank of water 8 km into the road and roadhouse 10 km in.
As soon as we hit the road we felt a sort of unforgiving wind against us. After loading up with water, we headed towards a gas station. Our only intention behind going there was to take a little break. As we got near our first goal, a sympathetic man stopped us and after some questions asked for a photograph. Thrilled by our accounts, he gave us some food and we continued onwards. These types of encounters are morally enriching and provide us with an inexplicable gratitude.
Due to my mental and physical exhaustion and little will to pedal that day, I arrived last. Upon arrival, Daniel tried to motivate us with some homemade cookies and inspiring words. Nonetheless, the group’s unwillingness to continue grew stronger and spread like a virus.
I suddenly remembered: we needed oats. We had fallen short of them and we still had 8 days to go. At first, the shop’s personnel told us they didn’t sell any. I must have gone to the counter about 4 or 5 times without meaning to buy anything. I talked to the two women who were standing behind it and to the fellow in the kitchen. I told them about my lack of enthusiasm to continue with that days journey and about the project. As I talked to these people, a growing desire to stay there developed in me. Each time I went out again I said goodbye and we all laughed together. Finally, the last time I went in I gifted them a sticker. Then I noticed they were holding two great bags of oats. A smile appeared on my face. We haven’t had any kind of problems with stock yet. I didn’t want to leave the shop… I was at ease, calm. The conversation continued and the idea of staying to play some songs in the bar at night rose to our encounter. No one opposed this idea, we all knew it was a good option. The locals let us use the installations and camp there. I had the keys to the showers and bathrooms and also to electricity.
We had moved 10 km and as with everything in life, the issue on whether those kilometres were a lot or very few is relative to the perspective one decides to take. I believe it’s worth noting that all this happened before 10 AM. Once we were settled, we decided to gift ourselves the beauty of a warm shower. In this time, we decided to trade traveled distance for hours of editing and material selection. After some well deserved leisure time, we got together and organized the tasks. This is where Matthew, a Liverpool native, enters the narrative. He was a boy scout or something of the sort. In any case, a born adventurer. He had been working some periods in national parks and had been around the world climbing mountains, kayaking and observing birds. He had a thick and luscious mustache.
He paid close attention to our conversation and meanwhile swallowed a bag of homemade chips and a litre of cold milk. He had come to Australia with a partner in order to walk around the whole country. This partner, after suffering from a stroke when he was 27 years old, decided to invest himself in the cause. He decided to raise funds for research. Matthew then explained how the relationship between his partner and himself had become too strained due to differences in personalities and ethical issues and had to part ways. Without getting into much more detail, he then revealed to us that once he changed paths with his partner he decided to meet up with his sister in Perth, 3000 km from where he was now. He had been able to find most of his equipment for free basically and with a bike from the supermarket he sat in front of us placidly enjoying his chips. After a while, the guy felt as part of the crew and we all shared some couscous.
At 5 PM Maxo and I started playing some songs in the bar. During the first song, a couple of bikers and the personnel looked genuinely happy. Slowly, the bar started filling up and my sobriety started falling down. At one point, we were all singing, or rather, shouting some classics a french guy started playing for us. Seeing and being a part of all this was a beautiful experience. French fries were passed around. The good thing about starting early was that before even reaching 12 AM we were already arranging the bar and getting ready to sleep. We slept soundly and happily.
On this day we woke up late and feeling tremendously lazy. Around 9 am we all finished our breakfast. I had a terrible hangover and the rest of the boys were extremely tired. After a brief meeting, we came to the agreement that we were going to stay put, no one could continue in such poor conditions. We had electricity. During the course of the previous day, due to a variety of reasons, we hadn’t sat down and worked on the material. Giving back the keys of the restrooms marked the last step before resuming the cycling. When we went to return the keys we realized the locals hadn’t noticed we were going to leave. We could tell thanks to the fact that when we gave them back, the manager met my gesture with the gifting of a whole cake. Given the circumstances and the fact that we were allowed to stay one more day in the parking space in exchange for some live music that night, we decided to stay and work while eating carrot cake.
We went to play in the afternoon and the place was rather empty and the staff looked weary from last nights hangover. The gig didn’t last for too long.
Dani and I stayed up arranging the bar once again while Maxo and Tito prepared dinner: some pasta with sauce. Dani brought some banana bread the staff had
Once again, we went to sleep with our bellies full and our hearts at ease. The Western was keeping us at bay in the best way possible. The following day we would have to cross to the southern state of the country.
We woke up hungry for cycling. We had left our bikes ready the night before in order to make the departure as efficient as possible. Breakfast was served. We undid our tents, bid farewell to the personnel and hit the road.
The weather was perfect: a bit of wind hit our backs and some kind clouds hid the sun from hurting us too much. Having rested for almost two full days, we mounted our bikes and with an incredible average speed of 30 km per hour we stopped at 55 km.
We were now facing the reality of having to climb the only ascent and waiting at its end was Eucla: the last station before reaching the frontier. The crew rushed on forward whilst I stayed behind and contemplated the view. When I climbed back on the bike I was faced with a bizarre situation: the back wheel was moving from side to side and bumping into the frame. Luckily, even though the probability was high, I didn’t suffer any blows. Most of the spokes were loose and two of them were broken. I disassembled the saddlebags and I put my finger up. After around 5 minutes give or take, a car stopped and helped me. I went on to load the bike on the roof of the car and they kindly gave me a ride to Eucla where the guys were waiting for me.
We weren’t carrying neither the tools or enough knowledge to be able to fix the situation. This is how I was then left to carry on a new mission which consisted in taking the bike to the nearest Bike Repair Shop. This was located in Port Augusta, 1200 km away. During his new mission, a new character entered the scene: Steve. Steve, an English explorer showed all possible willingness to help but was faced with the reality of lacking the tools. Steve was with a production company. They were filming an episode on caves in the Nullarbor cliffs and Steve was the guide.
Steve the explorerThanks to this encounter the sound engineer of the production gave me a ride up to the frontier (12 km) place in which the trucks tend to park. Since childhood, I’ve always held a strange and profound interest for survival reality shows. This man had been working 20 years for this type of adventures. During conversation revealed to me the following declaration “…they (referring to the “explorers” he worked with) travel in business class and eat better meals than us…you, on the other hand, are real adventurers”. I got out of the car feeling terribly motivated. I found myself standing on the frontier and heading towards an incredible mission.
While talking to every truck driver I encountered looking for a ride, the boys arrived. It took two hours to get the final lift. After a group hug I sat on the truck, excited for the upcoming adventure.
In the next blog, I will write about everything that happened in the 2100 km I made to fix the bike and meet the boys again.
Writen by @francobicicleta