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8 July – 20 August 2015

After about a month’s break with Ray in Margaret River and Perth it was time to begin the last stretch of my Australian journey about 4,500k up to Darwin. I’ve split it into 2 sections where this one covers the 4,000k long stretch of wilderness riding highway 1 up to Katherine via Karratha, Broome and Kununurra while the following section covers the remaining 500k up Darwin and Darwin itself.

As mentioned in the previous section my motivation was very limited not to say very low. Though called a coastal highway the vast majority of it would be inland so the few times I would be able to see the ocean was when I made a detour off the highway (between 12-70k return) to a town to stock up. There are a number of opportunities to venture down side roads to recommended sights but non are paved and I don’t want to chance it on the broken bike (I’m not sure I would have anyway as it was holiday season and allegedly very busy these places). As predicted, the vast majority was dry bush – a mix of low bush/scrub, scattered trees occasionally in bigger groups (but never forest) and only around some of the towns a bit of open farmland. After Broome it became more hilly with many beautiful red rock formations and there were some lovely running rivers and dammed lakes.

Like the Nullarbor, there was very limited wildlife (more livestock) but the temperature was much higher especially as I turned east from Karratha after 1,550k. I had days with heavy rain and strong headwinds up to Karratha but as I turned east the winds got crazy, most days 30-60 k/h from early morning not slowing down until mid afternoon. Even on the flattish stretches my speed was down to depressing 10-12 k/h and 80k per day - with less wind my normal distance before lunch. And the wind itself is just part of the challenge – the consequences of slower progress was having to carry 2-3 times more food and water because there was 500k between most towns and 2-300k between most roadhouses - amounting to 30-35 kilos of extra weight again slowing down progress.

The challenge

Many have asked me why I wanted to do this ride with limited motivation, most likely little to see and not least strong headwind. I asked myself the same question many times before I left Perth. The initial answer was, I don’t quit just because things become a little difficult – around the world is around the world unless there is a really good reason (e.g. safety) to skip a section. I could easily have justified skipping this remote stretch having a broken frame often having to carry around 100 kilos of which 25 liters would be water. But my counter argument was going until the bike broke completely and then hitchhike to the nearest town and take the bus the rest of the way to Darwin.

But what about not experiencing much along the way – it seems like a waste of time? Well, first of all it’s not a holiday but my life, so 6-7 weeks is not a big deal. Second and more importantly, there is usually always some kind of learning out there particularly when least expected - and that was exactly what happened. During my first two weeks north up to Karratha I had an E sidewind in the morning and a strong NE headwind the rest of the day but overall I still made decent progress. However, when I rode E from Karratha I faced a crazy headwind, often 30-40 k/h early morning picking up to 50-60 k/h until mid afternoon. I don’t mind a headwind even for many days, but here I faced the likelihood of battling this wind every day for a month – the challenge was no longer merely physical but mental. It was very difficult for me to accept pushing hard the whole day only doing around 80-85k of which around half would be the last two hours of the day when the wind slowed down. Many thoughts evolving around “unfair” and “unreal” went through my mind, but in the end all useless. It took 5 days out of Karratha before I “consulted” my philosophy of life. Of the 3 universal solutions facing any challenge in life, I had already decided I wouldn’t quit and as I couldn’t change the wind there was only to accept the circumstances. So I reduced my daily ambitions and made some small changes to the things I could influence. 1) I got up earlier providing a fifty-fifty chance of less wind for extra ½-1 hour in the morning 2) Having a 1½-2 hour lunch break out of the hot sun and strong wind 3) And finally, riding as late as possible as the wind late afternoon was less strong. Sometimes I cooked dinner for lunch and only had some bread/cheese for dinner or I would eat dinner in the dark – the latter quite pleasant as it was around 25C evenings and the annoying flies disappeared 20 minutes after sunset.   

Was the wind really that much of a problem? Well, if you’re a keen bicyclists you know how influential the wind can be, but you still have no idea about touring pushing a 100 kilo bike where sitting much more upright and big panniers work (negatively) as a sail. If you’re not a bicyclist the best I can suggest is leaning out the car window going 50-60 k/h – just 5-10 minutes to get the feeling while imagining you’re pushing a 100 kilo bike plus yourself 8 hours a day for a month on rough, bumpy hilly roads being closely overtaken by 53.5 meter roadtrains. Then you start getting a feeling of my life the last months…

Why do I write all these petty details about my trip? Well, I hope it can be an inspiration; not the changes themselves but the mindset. I know many people think of my trip as a holiday but it’s not; it’s a way of life – my job if you like - not very different from everybody else’s with lots of routines, etc. I can of course decide not to go if I don’t want to, but it doesn’t work like that - like a job it’s a commitment even if it’s to myself. Also my body doesn’t like to stop-go – it’s much easier to ride every day once I set out. I have been working with personal development and constant reflection for over a decade and still I got caught up in reality on the road – maybe because I’ve been worriless and very happy not facing adversity for a very long time. Fortunately, I had my mental toolbox to address the challenge though I’m still surprised it took me 5-6 long days to realise it. So of course, I fully understand how most people get caught up in reality especially when not being used to facing/addressing personal life challenges. If you want some inspiration and haven’t already read it, go to my philosophy of life – it’s all about taking responsibility for my own life and actions through prioritising decision making.

Besides the above learning, I personally don’t find this stretch very interesting but if you’re keen to go on I have – as always - written some relevant topics. The pictures shown are in line with the trip timeline however, they are not representative for the journey because I took more pictures in good weather and because the nature didn’t change much along the way. Riding into the sun most of the way, I often had to take pictures in the direction I came from and since I couldn’t look back without stopping (never pleasant with heavy bike, strong winds and close-passing traffic) I took less pictures than usual (and as you’ll see bush looks like bush on pictures so many pictures look very similar).

Description of itinerary

It took a couple of weeks biking the 1,550k north to Karratha – especially the first 400k to Geraldton was nice often along the coast with a number of views while the rest was mostly inland through farmland and lots of bush (especially the last 650k after Carnarvon). There were less than a handful towns on the actual highway and only a few more off the highway. I only went off the highway every 400-500k in Geraldton and Carnarvon to stock up for the next leg.

From Karratha the highway turned east pretty much the remaining 2,500k to Katherine. First 850k past South Hedland to Broome – lots of bush and straight into the strong/fierce headwind so not much fun. In Broome I took a break for 5 days before the last stretch to Darwin. I biked around town doing a lot of practicalities and visited some of the sights outside town e.g. famous Cable Beach. It’s a very popular place with thousands of grey nomads in their caravans, so it wasn’t really for me but it was okay to relax and recuperate for a few days especially because I camped in the bush at the outskirts of town.

After Broome, I continued 1,600k east on highway 1 to Kununurra and Katherine still facing crazy headwinds most of the time. There was still a lot of bush but now also some lovely stretches with (flowing) rivers, dammed lakes and beautiful red rock formations – more hilly and strenuous but a much appreciated change in the scenery.

Weather

It rained a lot in Perth so I waited 5 extra days for the front to finally change providing a S tailwind and mostly sunny weather – as it later turned out the only tailwind I got to Darwin. The remaining 1,420k to Karratha offered an E sidewind in the morning turning into a strong NE/N headwind late morning/noon sometimes slowing down late afternoon. From Karratha it was a strong/fierce E/SE headwind turning N/NE the last days to Broome when I headed NE. From the highway it was a 35k detour W to Broome and the last 20k in had a SW headwind (!) – I thought this was prevalent due to the ocean but some days later the wind again turned E/SE. When I continued the wind was more often a strong NE so when I went SE to Fitzroy Crossing it was a pleasant sidewind becoming a nasty headwind when the road turned NE to Kununurra and later Katherine. I’d been looking at the forecast for months before riding up here, so I knew it would be windy but not this crazy – the forecast is only for towns while the wind in the wilderness in between is very different.

Until Geraldton it was 16-17C during the day and the warm sun was offset by the cool winds – at night it was just above freezing and I had to get into my sleeping bag (otherwise only used as a duvet) a couple of cold mornings. After Geraldton, the temperature increased to 20-25C implying lots of flies and occasionally mosquitoes. The latter were easy to keep at bay with repellent but the flies were resilient – not moving unless I killed them or flicked them away. Worst of all was one evening camping just outside Carnarvon were I got eaten by vicious sand flies – big red, itchy bites taking a week to stop itching and a month to finally disappear. After Geraldton the weather was 50-50 sunny and overcast and I even had some all day rain. The first time was just out of Geraldton raining 18 hours straight – it began very early morning and just kept going until late evening. I took a rest day and my only meal was mid afternoon when the rained slowed down for ½ hour. I had to dig trenches around the tent and when I continued the next morning there were many flooded areas along the road – one place I even had to navigate a 50 meters stretch of road with 15-20 cm deep water. The second time, I was riding – it began raining just as I rode out at 9 and increased during the day. The visibility was down to 50 meters and the road construction workers pulled out because it was too dangerous (union talk!?). It was a busy stretch with many roadtrains and often no shoulder, so I had a couple of close calls until a road worker gave me an orange west to wear; he’d had a number of truck drivers reporting they couldn’t see me in my black rain jacket and he might have saved my life. The heavy showers continued all next day but I managed to stay clear of all but one late afternoon. All my everyday stuff was of course soaking wet but more annoying it was muddy as the red sand turned into a thick clay paste. With more overcast days it took several days to get everything dry and in Karratha the locals told me it was extremely unusual, as it never rains this time of year. 

From Karratha to Katherine the temperature went up to around 32-35C during the day – warmest from 13-15 where some days offered around 40C in the shade of which there was very little. In the blazing sun the temperature I faced was much higher but fortunately the strong winds helped cool me down. The nights were still fairly cool – unpleasant 25C early evening when I went into the tent but later it would go down to around 20C. I can’t remove the rain cover from the tent but I left the flies open to get the most out of the limited breeze.

Road quality, drivers and bike riders

The 3,400k from Perth to Kununurra (all Western Australia) the road quality changed a lot and often. About 25% was rough stony road, 25% rough and washing board, 25% mediocre and 25% pretty good (for Australia but not compared to other parts of the world). The 600k stretch from South Hedland to Broome was one of the worst I’ve biked in Australia being very rough except 50k about halfway. The shoulder was more often terrible or non-existent so I rode the road except for the busiest stretches were it was too dangerous because I couldn’t hear the approaching traffic in the howling winds. As I crossed into the Northern Territory, the roads got even worse – the big problem was that almost no stretches had a proper foundation, which meant bumpy and washing board despite some stretches having a decent surface – very tough on the bike and my butt and had motion sickness come easy to me, I would have vomited the whole way. Again, the newly stoned stretches were the worst with big stones (2-3 cm) not driven down or 25-33% of the stones already missing after 3-6 months. Some people might see a new road, but I see negligence, incompetence and possibly corruption – I have difficulties believing anybody would be so irresponsible to approve something like this without a kickback. When talking to Aussies’ about it, they always have their all-explaining excuse ready - “it’s such a big country”. Anything worth doing is worth doing well, and unlike other countries, this is only one road – it’s a question of priority and attitude. The same excuse goes for many other things like power, water and not least internet.      

Nothing changed much since earlier stretches - most drivers went well around when there was room but still about 5% came very close despite no oncoming traffic. And every day at least one oncoming vehicle would overtake without seeing me until it was too late never braking and getting back in - when there was no shoulder they would run me off the road but sometimes the driver in the overtaken vehicle was considerate slowing down and pulling left to make room for the reckless overtaker. I often saw caravans stopping completely when passing wildlife or livestock at the side of the road but not for me - few people braked when there was oncoming traffic squeezing by despite no room and interestingly they would rather squeeze me off the road than getting too close to the oncoming vehicle. Everything was made significantly more dangerous the times the strong wind came across the road instead of head on – especially from the roadtrains creating vacuums and massive gusts both making me swerve significantly. Interestingly, all the drivers I talked to said they could feel the wind, but apparently not enough to imagine what it’s like sitting out there on a bike.

One time a roadtrain overtaking me forced an oncoming roadtrain off the road and another time a bus towing a car passed me within few centimeters. When I shortly after confronted the driver at a roadhouse he asked me if I knew how long it would take to get the bus back up to speed if he braked – less than a minute and maybe extra 20 cents for fuel. I personally assessed my life worth more but most people lose perspective driving – it must be a fantastic spot they are going to not to miss a minute a couple of times during their trip. On busy roads, I greet cars braking for oncoming traffic but here I couldn’t get myself to do it, because it’s their own mistake. When they can see at least 0.5-1.0 k ahead, on a straight road, it should be easy to time the overtaking but as previously written, few Aussies’ have that ability. Most of the northern coast is based on mining so there were lots of heavy traffic around the port towns - these places there was no alternative to riding the bad shoulder or just staying as far left on the road as possible hoping for the best. I’ve decided to be immortal until I die which means I don’t fear the traffic – if I did, I would quit immediately as all the joy of riding would be gone.

I occasionally use Google maps (bike icon) for distance and elevation. The first is precise while the latter is hopeless. E.g., the 600k from South Hedland to Broome the altitude should never exceed 50 meters, which it did many times. In addition, it was supposed to be flat until the last 200k where there would be lots of rolling hills. The rolling hills began after 100k and the last part was less hilly. If you blindfold a monkey and have it draw a line, you would probably get a more correct result – embarrassing that one of the most resourceful companies in the world can’t depict something as simple as altitude.

Out of Perth hardly anybody greeted me but as I progressed north to remote areas it became more common though more often riding into the sun it was hard to spot the greetings as it typically is lifting a finger 5 mm from the steering wheel – seriously, if that’s all the energy you can muster don’t bother. It was mostly the travellers greeting me while few locals and truckers bothered probably considering me a nuisance. In the strong winds after Karratha, I was more busy navigating and balancing than greeting people – especially when there were many roadtrains; worst being 80k around South Hedland where I was constantly pounded and often left in a cloud of sand and stones. The countless times I was at the roadside fixing my bike (c.f. “Health and equipment” section below), many drivers honked which annoyed me - if you want to greet me, stop and ask if I’m okay and maybe talk for a few minutes but as expected nobody did.

Considering the number of vehicles and the remoteness of the ride very few people stopped to ask if I was okay or needed anything – until Broome it happened 5 times and onwards to Katherine around 15 times though several times it was the same people who had stopped earlier. People gave me soft drinks, water and/or fruit and then there was the highway angel Shona who gave me 12 liters of water, lots of food, a beer and even money (I didn’t want it but she threw it on the ground and took off). I think she would have given me her car if I hadn’t stopped her – not surprisingly she was Kiwi and not Aussie. Almost everybody who stopped was from Victoria - I don't know if they travel more than other Australians or they if they are just kinder people

Unlike my past experiences (and therefore expectation) many Australians were very anti-social. I’ve mentioned it before when using free campgrounds and the same now occurred at the rest stops – when I had lunch it was interesting to observe how many vehicles pulled in but as soon as they saw me they decided to continue. God forbid you should socialise with a stranger for ½ hour - it could of course be me but other people I met confirmed this experience....

I met around 15 bicyclists heading the other way following the conventional wisdom travelling anti-clockwise around Australia – everybody very happy about the tailwind and all downplaying its role. Probably because the tailwind only is felt when stopping and it can even feel like a headwind when going slower than the wind (which however was unlikely with the strong winds here). Another more likely reason is that people want to feel a sense of achievement, which is severely diluted when the wind provides a very easy ride. Some hundred kilometres before Broome I caught up with Kevin biking north like me – we talked for some hours over lunch at a roadhouse and then I moved on while he stayed overnight. It would have been nice with some company but I was going faster so it wouldn’t have worked out.

A short comment on visitor centers which overall didn’t impress me. The first qualification for a job like that must be knowing your area in great detail or if you don’t, you immediately go and explore it – more often the staff was ignorant on even the simplest things which made me wonder if they were volunteers. Second qualification must be a friendly, helpful and positive attitude – I often had the feeling that I was there for them and not the other way around and sometimes they were downright rude or arrogant. In Broome some of them left the counter to talk privately to people the knew despite a line of 25 people. Kununurra was the positive experience where the guy was very helpful and even let me borrow his computer for a few minutes to check my mail. The visitor info. concept was also very strange to me with a very commercial attitude that I’ve never encountered anywhere else in the world. Most places they charged for everything – internet, charging devices (AUD 1 per item), 20 cents per liter of town water that I could get free in the public toilets just next to, etc. Coming from Denmark where everything is tax paid it seems very petty. In my experience the administrative cost most likely exceeds the limited revenue and I can’t imagine it’s that much money in the bigger picture of a tourist town. I know it’s to cover some cost but then why not charge people per question or per minute they have with the staff, for sitting at the tables reading brochures, etc. Or even better sack some of the inefficient/rude staff – I’m guessing one salary could make up for all the other cost.

Wildlife

As on the Nullarbor there was very limited wildlife. I saw some emus, foxes and stumbled upon a few kangaroos when camping, but mostly I encountered livestock – sheep and in the remote areas cattle; I never them but they must have a water source somewhere to survive out here. Before Broome there were often no fences so there were quite a lot of roadkills – much more than the kangaroos probably because they are slower getting off the road when a vehicle approaches. Other roadkill were porcupine, a snake, a fox and surprisingly many birds (no roadkill to have distracted them).  

I handful of times I saw wild horses (or so it seemed with no fences) running along with me - not because of curiosity but trying to escape they weren't clever enough to run the other – always a beautiful sight. Besides the ever present crows, countless buzzards/falcons, some eagles and black cockatoos and close to water sources a few pelicans as well as many herons and big groups of the loud white cockatoos.

Camping

As I headed out of Perth, the days were still short and the mornings/evenings cold, so I got up at sunrise and went to bed at sunset. As the days got longer, the temperatures increased and the wind slowed late afternoon I camped closer to sunset often eating in the dark by the moonlight or my head torch – a treasured moment with pleasant 25C, most often few bugs annoying me, and a beautiful view of the fantastic southern night skies.

As mentioned there were few towns along the way so the only challenges occurred when areas were fenced (which happened surprisingly frequent) or there were no trees which was fairly rare for longer than 15-20k at a time. Before Karratha, the trees were for hanging my food in, but after they also became important because the sun became unpleasantly warm shortly after sunrise. With the big roadtrains it was necessary to get kilometres off the road not to hear them which usually wasn’t possible – partly because of the fences but more importantly because of the “double g’s” (looks like goat shit with 5-10 mm long thorns on). Fortunately, there wasn’t much traffic during the evening and nights so camping very close to the road was no problem.

In Karratha, I met Swedish Jörn (living in Australia 40 years) and Aussie Sharon at the visitor information. They were quick to invite me stay at their son’s (shared) house and besides a shower they were kind to take me out for dinner – very generous and lovely people. I tried couchsurfing in Broome but for once it didn’t work out – however, I met up with German Nico who took me to the Sunday market and let me have a shower and charge my batteries. 

Camping was not always as easy as one would imagine. I often spent 15-20 minutes clearing an area for pebbles and double g’s (a vicious little bugger looking like goat shit with a number of 5-10 mm long thorns on it) – sometimes unsuccessful as pushing some to the side would bring others to the surface and I would have to find another spot. Another challenge was the dry hard ground preventing me from getting the pegs in (my tent only has one pole so at least 8 pegs have to get in the ground) – almost all my pegs were broken or severely damaged when I reached Darwin.

Roadside burns never became an issue camping but it was a bit disconcerting. There was a fire ban but every second day I passed an area still burning or very recently burned (I could smell it). Do they check the area for wild campers like me before setting it on fire – I never any people or vehicles nearby which left me wondering if anyone was in control especially with the strong winds. Or maybe the fire weren’t on purpose which made camping even more disconcerting.

Food and water

Foodwise this stretch was much easier than the Nullarbor because I could stock up every 400-600k so more often I only carried 15-20 kg. Waterwise however, it was much more challenging as the distances between roadhouses were longer (200-300k), it was much warmer and my progress was much slower due to the always strong headwind. I used about 12 liters per day and could only carry around 25 liters so at the longest distances between water sources I found people who were kind to leave my water bottles at certain road markers, which worked great. Well, except when crossing into the Northern Territory where I lost my bottles because they changed the markers, so the young couple never left them anywhere (despite my backup system with a pink ribbon to tie to a road marker, pole, etc.). Often I even got a small present like fresh fruit or canned food. Also, I would sometimes get a few liters from kind people passing me but of course nothing I could rely on. Most of the time my bike would be around 100 kilos.

I used about half the water for cooking and the rest for drinking during the day. 12 liters sound like a lot and still I only had enough to drink when necessary and not when thirsty which was pretty much all the time but especially in the extensive early afternoon heat. The water I received from kind people along the way created an opportunity to drink when thirsty always left my body joyous and invigorated.

Health and equipment

This stretch provided more equipment breakdown and challenges. On day 3 my rear rack broke in the other side from the already broken frame – hardly a surprise but it happened much earlier than I had hoped for. As I expected it, I felt no despair – just fix it and get on with the ride. Simultaneously I got big trouble with the double g’s - not a problem on the road itself but whenever I pulled off to camp they went in my tires especially the rear with the most weight. They broke off in my tires and were practically impossible to remove. After many days with lots of flat tires I put gorilla tape inside the tire where I felt the thorns – it might have prevented normal flats but it changed the tire dynamics and instead I had 2 exploding tires within 5k both leaving a 15 cm rip in the tube. I changed to my spare tire and made it to Carnarvon where I got the thickest tubes (so-called thorn proof) I’ve ever seen (they didn’t even sell normal ones) and since then I had no more problems. A great relief as daily problems quickly take the joy out of riding.

When the rear tire explodes, the bike’s immediately on the rim, so it’s about stopping and getting off as quickly as possible not to damage the rim/wheel. In the process, I ripped my long bike shorts and accidently pushed off the odometer without noticing – after looking 1½ hours on the 4k stretch I had done I found it 30 meters further down the road in the ditch crushed by a truck. As it’s the same road all the way to Darwin, the odometer is not crucial, however I’ve gotten used to it for speed and distance. Distance is usually not a big problem as most roads have markers every 5k or 10k and based on that I can calculate speed, but just after Carnarvon there were several hundred kilometres of roadwork where they had removed the markers leaving me clueless. Again not the biggest problem in the world but especially in the strong headwind it’s nice to know I make some progress because it really doesn’t feel like it when riding. 1,700k later in Broome, I was lucky to find a second hand odometer of the same brand – it didn’t fit perfectly with my existing wiring but for AUD 10 I could live with using cable ties (yes, it works for everything). It worked most of the way but a number of times it got shaken out of position on the bumpy, rough Northern Territory roads and I had to spent hours trying to fit it back into the right position.

A big problem was my air mattress deflating during the night. It had begun just before Margaret River but using Ray’s tub in Perth I couldn’t locate a hole - the same problem I had with my previous mattress in the USA starting to deflate after 1½ years also without a hole. It quickly got worse and soon it deflated in about 3 hours leaving me on the ground. Sleeping is one of my most cherished moments when I bike especially after the tough days fighting the wind, so I wasn’t happy blowing it up 3-4 times every night but unfortunately there was nothing I could do about it.

The new tent I began using a couple of weeks before I reached Adelaide already had problems with the zippers not closing properly – despite using it most nights 3-4 months is way too early. Most places it wasn’t a problem as there were limited bugs but it was very annoying in Broome where there were thousands of midgets (a.k.a. “no see‘ems”) while camping. After Karratha it got more and more difficult to get the pole in – the only explanation possible was that the air was so dry that the tent shrunk. As I pulled hard to attach the pole, the tent cloth attachment broke off – fortunately, it was dry so not a problem here, but I can’t use it anywhere else in the world. Hindsight I should have watered the tent before putting in the pole, but I doubt anybody ever did that before setting up their tent?!

I got a new Panasonic camera in the USA before arriving in Australia and already after 9 months and about 7,000 pictures the zoom is malfunctioning. After riding in the all day in the rain some moist must have entered the camera (even though I hardly took any pictures that day), because the zoom could only be full in or out. When it finally dried 4-5 days later the problem disappeared but then I began having the usual zoom focus problems.

I’ve been very happy with my 10 liter water bladder though it’s already leaking and I can’t find a hole. On the positive side I finally got to use my headnet and mosquito net – not for mosquitoes but for flies. It was rarely a problem camping as they disappeared just after dark but during lunch it was nice to have a break from their resilient and vicious attacks.

My body - and particularly my bad knee - has done well under the circumstances especially fighting the strong winds. A couple of days with shooting pain up and down the leg and occasionally a bit swollen but never creating sleeping problems. My buttocks have suffered but this time I avoided pressure sores using Compeed preventively. Besides the long time broken saddle (where I kept changing the supporting piece of old tire every 1,000k), I think the problem was the rough road surface and having to push hard into the wind as the pain was much bigger under these circumstances than when the wind slowed down late afternoons.

Another small problem was numb fingers. It never happens under normal circumstances but it was immediately a problem every time I stocked up extra 12-13 liter water making the total front rack weight 25 kg. One day I had problems peeing – I felt I had to but when I tried I felt a tension and not much happened. My only guess is the extensive heat though I was careful to drink a lot as well as getting lots of salt and minerals/vitamins.

Other equipment challenges included:

-      My bottom bracket began malfunctioning as I crossed into the Northern Territory. Besides being worn (14,000k) I think the dry air might have impacted it, drying out the little grease left (even though it’s sealed). It got a little tougher riding day by day but not enough to take it apart and re-grease it (which usually doesn’t work anyway) or changing it with my spare.

-      The front rack screw broke which was hardly a surprise with the heavy weight (12 kg) and bumpy roads. It has happened a number of times before so I had the tools to remove the broken screw and an extra screw to replace it.   

-      My gears didn’t shift properly – changing to a lower rear gear I often had to push 2 up and one down. And though it didn’t work well I didn’t want to mess around with it risking it would stop working at all. Allegedly, it’s normal with a used chain and this one has done 11-12,000k and will be replaced after Darwin.

-      The tire I put on just before Carnarvon only lasted less than 3,000k – not worn but a big bump by the rim. I didn’t want to risk another explosion with the weight and bad roads. Somewhat disappointing as they never do less than 5,000k.

-      More broken straps on the panniers was hardly surprising. They have done 60,000k with the bike and will be replaced after Darwin.

-      My sneakers that I glued in Perth will not survive after Darwin and neither will my sandals that are both broken underneath.

-      More broken and lost bungie cords.

-      The cheap reading glasses that I got from my Canadian friend Dan’s father broke. They are a few dollars in the pharmacy so I’m surprised they lasted this long. 

 
 
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