Day 30 (24th May) – We slept in!! With no riding today, there was no need to be making coffee and porridge in the dark (our normal start to the day)! But as always, there’s things to be done and Craig started with re-planning the leg after we leave Alice Springs to avoid as much as possible the Finke desert race. Our original plan had us through and gone before the race, but the delayed start to the trip because of Covid border restrictions and a cyclone has us clashing. With safety in mind, there are sections of our preferred route we need to avoid. That concluded, it was on with a pantry stocktake and preparing a shopping list to restock for next couple weeks after Yulara. The wind kept up its intensity all day, with a fair dinkum dust storm ripping through, which sent us all scurrying to secure awnings and add extra ropes and pegs.
Once confident about our camp robustness, we walked to the Yulara town center for a coffee and some lunch. A package of extra bike tubes had not arrived at the post office yet and the grocery shelves were somewhat bare, with the next truck due tomorrow, so we returned to camp to relax for a while. With the wind still roaring we had to get creative to keep the stove alight and the table became a windshield! We called it a night early and curled under the doonah with the wind rattling zippers and pushing the walls of the camper and tent around.
Day 31 – Let’s say today was a relaxed start… not too early, not too late… and we headed south for a lap of Uluru. A 50km return trip gave us time to soak up a little of the atmosphere of this amazing place, though we need to come back to truly take it all in – the culture, the history, nature and how it all fits together with the dreamtime stories. We don’t think the whirring of fleets of Segway’s really fit in…. the crunch of walking boots or bike tyres seems so much more in harmony with the sounds of nature.
Back at camp for lunch we collected the much appreciated package (thanks bro) from the PO before venturing to the IGA again to see if the supplies we needed were on the shelf yet. With some recipe improvisation required, we managed to round up our load and headed back to refill the freezer, fridge and pantry in the trailer/car. The remainder of the day spent finishing some chores and preparing to head off again tomorrow.
Day 32 saw us leaving Yulara on an overcast windy day – it was COLD!! An extra layer added to the clothing this morning as we tackled the Lasseter Highway, pushing 50km non-stop to lunch. Caroline decided to sit in the warm car and promptly went to sleep while I was wrapped in blankets in the sun out of the wind behind the trailer. The sun eventually came through and made the afternoon’s 37km to Curtin Springs Station a little more pleasant – though still quite cold!! Luckily we had booked ahead for rooms at Curtin Springs, as there were no powered sites available; and with a load of new food in our freezer and not much sun to charge batteries during the day, we really needed to be able to plug in to mains power overnight. We chatted with some other travelers over drinks and were humbled by their on the spot donations to the PCFA and QCC charities. The aviaries of native birds were an interesting interlude before dinner, where Caroline made friends scratching the Corella before we tucked in to hot soup, t-bone and mac’n’cheese for dinner.
Day 33 – ‘Twas a bit hard getting up and out of a warm room, but a hot breaky with hot coffee got us going and soon enough we rolled out of Curtin springs in a bitterly cold headwind… again… but at least the sun was out. With just a quick stop at the Mt. Connor lookout we continued on the Lasseter highway for 52km to the turn onto Luritja Road where the crew had our lunch ready in no time and jackets and blankets to keep us warm.
While we were there an old Cruiser pulled up in a rush across the road with steam pouring out. With three young ladies standing around pondering next steps, Tony wandered over to see if assistance was required. With the situation in hand, we set off again, now heading more north and with very little headwind – yay! Caroline set a good pace for the first 25km, then I took over for the next 25km to finish a 103km day at a lovely roadside rest area early enough to enjoy a snack and a cuppa before a warm bath. The roadside rest areas (many which are signed for 24hr stopovers) are more popular out here than earlier in the trip and it’s normal to have half a dozen or more other vehicles sharing the spaces each night. Another delicious hot dinner cooked up by Annie and we were all escaping the cold and heading for an early night.
Day 34 started out as usual, though had a VERY different ending. With breaky done, a flat tire had materialised overnight which had to fixed before we could get going. Seems a grain of sand had snuck in during one of our earlier roadside repairs and gradually embedded itself in the tube to create a slow leak. Patch complete, we left our pleasant camp among the desert oaks and red sandhills towards Kings Canyon. With the road turning more NW after the Earnest Giles Road intersection, we had more of a tailwind and the riding became a lot easier. With the first 30km done, we set off for another 30km to our lunch stop and the promise of an early finish with speeds up to 35kph!
Then it happened…
An extra gust of wind and I (riding behind Caroline) suddenly surged, clipped Caroline’s back wheel and veered left onto the sloping, loose gravel shoulder. The front wheel skated out on the gravel and over the handlebars I went, landing on my right shoulder as I rolled. Lying on the ground, a quick review and it seemed I was ok except I knew instantly there was a problem with the shoulder. I sat up as Caroline raced back to me and grabbed OWFAHK from the bike and found a triangle bandage to secure my right arm. So very glad the support vehicle was not far behind us. Within minutes Tony and Annie were there to assist and I was able to have some pain killers from the medical kit. Once I was in the car, I made a satphone call to 000 to work out best plan of attack. We were directed towards Kings Creek Station. An off-duty paramedic came to check on me while I spoke to the 000 operator again to see what they had worked out while we were driving. The operator had alerted the Kings Canyon Clinic that we were on the way and so 40km later, I was in the clinic with the lovely husband and wife nurses checking me over.
One day, I can share the many details, but after consultation with the medical support team at the hospital in Alice Springs, it was determined my shoulder deformity was not the ‘standard’ dislocation and needed to be scanned and checked in hospital. The Emergency department was advised and we set off on the 5-hour drive to Alice Springs, stopping briefly at Erldunda for fuel, some dinner and a driver change. Arriving at hospital near 10pm, I was quickly seen by staff and sent for x-ray, which confirmed a dislocation of my clavicle (grade 3 AC joint rupture). Whilst I had already shed tears fearing the end of my ride and what it meant for our trip, the doctor’s summary of the situation brought the harsh reality that I would not be riding again for many weeks. While the doctor was finishing up with me, Caroline nearly fainted and our hospital visit reversed with me sitting alongside her bed while we waited for her blood pressure to come back up and the results of some other tests to come back. As expected, it was just the result of a very long stressful, under hydrated and exhausting day and she was soon discharged.
Meanwhile, Tony and Annie had found the key kindly left out by the only place we could find accommodation in Alice Spings and were waiting for us at our cabin in the Big4 Holiday Park when the taxi dropped us off at 1am.
Day 35 – So, after a dramatic, emotional and tiring day yesterday, where are we at? I’m devastated I will not be able to continue to ride with Caroline, while at the same time determined to find ways for her to continue with her dream to ride across the country. We’re grateful to have the satphone technology in our kit, that we were only 70km from medical help – considering where we have been over the last month, grateful for our support crew and all they’ve done for us, and thankful that my injury is not worse. Last but not least, so grateful for the family, friends and colleagues who have and continue to support and encourage us through this adventure.
I’ve lost track of the number of times we’ve adjusted and adapted our original plan for this trip, but today in Alice we are doing it again. We will adjust some of the timing and route to try and make up for today’s ‘lost’ day, we will adjust our daily routine around Caroline’s safety as a solo rider and we’ll need to pack the car a bit differently to fit me in the backseat! But we are continuing. While our endeavours in no way equate to the struggles of someone facing prostate or breast cancer, we take inspiration from the way those folks carry on, overcome, find positives, new motivation and not give up. Thanks Neil and Val.