Red Roads Begin

Day 4 saw us leaving Hamlin Outback Station and heading east to the highway for a quick stint north and then a right turn onto the first of the red dirt roads. Glad to be on gravel bikes, we enjoyed the enthusiastic waves and ‘beep beep’s from passing travelers. We even had a truckie singing ‘Sweet Caroline’ after overhearing one of our radio chats. We carry UHF 2-way radios for comms to our support vehicle and to be able to chat to truck drivers. With 70k’s done we stopped for our break to avoid the 37degree heat before finishing another 37km in the late afternoon. The flies really partied at lunchtime though were not as bad at our evening camp in a roadside clearing.

Day 5 was our second 100+km day and it was a new type of concentration as the changes from rock to sand or gravel in the red dirt were sometimes tricky to see. While we saw many animal tracks we saw no animals till Craig called to “watch out for the caterpillar crossing the road” – which we deftly avoided! Again we napped under a shady tree in the heat of the day before enjoying some freshly graded road in the afternoon and some varied scenery near Ballythunna station. Passing a small lake with swans and ducks we stopped to enjoy the late afternoon light before arriving at our camp on Yarra Yarra creek. The creek water was clean enough to enjoy a basin bath before some bike maintenance was interrupted by a large centipede crawling through. Dinner was demolished and we all enjoyed the huge full moon rising.

Day 6 was memorable for a few reasons – brutal headwinds brought cooler temps, but made us work hard for our distance, our first flat tyre from the dreaded Doublegee (aka. Three cornered jack) thorns, the Lion King rock, a Coffee sign (what the!) and a lovely camp by the Murchison River where we could do some washing. Some of that needs further explanation… In a generally flat and featureless landscape a rock sticking up really stands out and as we approached one of these rocks, Caroline said it reminded her of the rock in the Lion King. Well sure enough she wasn’t the first and a cutout of a lion in steel plate stood proudly on the ledge above. Heat does strange things to people – including Caroline – who as we approached an intersection with a small A-frame sign says “is that for Coffee”. It was actually a sign directing people to a drilling rig. She’s recovered now! Haha!

Day 7 started with another beautiful outback sunrise over the trees lining the Murchison River. We got off to a good start, but the pesky headwinds persisted. The ruins and homestead of Milly Milly Station was a good reason to pause and take a few pics before we turned onto some smaller tracks. Multiple punctures had us fixing tyres and bit late to lunch. We changed to the mountain bikes with more robust tyres for both the thorns and the rougher track, donned our fly nets – so hard to see with the little rotters crawling all over your face – and set off on a narrow sandy track. The 4WD got a little bogged in a creek bed and Caroline jumped up on the roof to unload the Maxtrax for a speedy recovery effort. Yet again the maps were wrong and the track just stopped at a bore. We even put the drone up to search for the continued path, but no go and somewhat dejected we had to backtrack 20km as the sun set to a camp near a lovely waterhole on Whela Creek.