Shirl and I victorious at Adelaide GPO!
Mission accomplished!!! This morning, with almost 3,500kms showing on my speedo’s odo, Shirley and I reached the end point of our adventure – Adelaide GPO. The sun even put his hat on to cheer us in. The wind of yesterday had eased a bit but not much. But it’d swung more north easterly, so we were almost swept the 50kms from Gawler, which was an awesome way to end the trip.
Forget 35m-long road trains, gale force winds, torrential rain and wild camping. This morning’s ride was the most treacherous of the whole trip! To be fair to Adelaide, due to not knowing the roads I think I chose a ‘not exactly ideal’ route in. But either way, I was nearly knocked off by an old lady who literally cut right in front of me at a junction and the other drivers in general really just didn’t seem to want me to make it to the city centre in one piece! But I did make it and that’s all that matters.
Due to the ridiculously cold weather, my magnum intake has taken a bit of a hammering these last couple of weeks. With the promise of a warm hotel room with A BATH (thanks Dad!), I celebrated with one last magnum (number 14…..disappointingly low, especially given my impressive start), despite the midday temp only just making it to double digits. A lady asked me how I wasn’t cold, eating icecream and wearing shorts? I just grinned inanely at her like a madwoman, with chocolate all round my mouth, and she soon scuttled off 🙂
Upon finishing what I set out to do, I have to admit my feelings are mixed. I’ve had the most awesome adventure and I’m actually quite sad that it’s over. But I’m also ecstatic to have made it safely to Radelaide and know how lucky I am. I’ve had no punctures, mechanically Shirley has held up superbly and my own body has come through with no aches or pains at all. Not even any chaffing (I put this down to my old faithful cycling shorts which unfortunately after this trip have now pretty much disintegrated. Definitely time for a new pair)!
I’ve certainly had my ups and downs and good weather and bad weather, but there wasn’t one morning that I didn’t want to get on my bike.
To anyone who’s reading this blog and debating crossing the Nullarbor on a bike…DO IT! Yes, it’s a lot of straight, flat road. I’ve never driven it, but I can imagine it’d be boring as hell in a car. But it’s not on a bike. In countryside so vast and broadly monotonous, you need to be able to experience the details to appreciate it. You don’t get this in a car, but you do on a bike. Yes, the winds can be obnoxious, especially when they’re howling in your face all day. But sooner or later they’ll be blowing on your back and the glass will be overflowing!
Also, the people of the Nullarbor, both resident and passing through, really make the trip incredible. Even though I was riding solo I was never lonely. Everyone I met was exceptionally kind and so friendly. They really made the trip for me. In fact, if you really like your own space (which is kind of a prerequisite for doing this ride solo), they can sometimes be slightly overwhelming. I’m a ‘people person’, but I have to admit that once or twice I really looked forward to my secret overnight bushcamps. The constant questioning of your sanity/safety, although totally understandable, can get a little tiresome occasionally. Maybe this was exaggerated by me being a solo female.
Regarding this, not once did I feel unsafe during the trip. You soon get used to animals scratching around outside your tent at night and learn just to ignore them. Funnily enough, Norseman was probably the least safe of all the places I stayed. Didn’t feel massively comfortable walking round after dark, but nothing major. Just something to be aware of. All the roadhouse owners/workers warned me about Yalata, but the roadhouse there is now closed and I didn’t feel any less safe cycling through the area compared to the other settlements along the way.
Anyone can do this ride. Physically it’s easy. You can just ride 40 or 50kms a day if you so please. It’ll just take you a bit longer and you’ll need to carry more water. I averaged about 130km a day, but as my fitness improved I found the short, winter daylight hours to be much more limiting than my body or mind. The latter of which is the clincher. The Nullarbor is more of a mental challenge than a physical one. As I said, anyone that can ride a bike can cycle across the Nullarbor, but you have to really want to do it, as there will be a number of times when you’re riding into a stonking headwind along a relentlessly flat road with no end in sight and you’ll start to question your reasons for wanting to carry on/sanity. If your ambition and want at the start of the ride is strong enough, that’s what will carry you to the end. Not your legs. But obviously being more than a little bit insane to start with helps enormously as well 🙂
Gear wise, I’m super happy with everything I’ve dragged along with me. Aside from one less pair of socks (underestimated the awesomeness of icebreaker socks…worth every penny), there’s nothing that I packed that I wouldn’t pack again. Especially given the temps of the last week. The only additional thing I’d include would be a mug. I’ve just got a small bowl that I use for everything, but having tea and hot oatmeal in the morning takes twice the amount of time when you’ve on got one receptacle 🙂
I had the capacity to carry 8 litres of water but as it’s winter I only needed this much a few times. I never got caught out, but there were a couple of days in WA, when the weather was warmer, that I needed every drop of my 8 litres. Obviously doing this ride in the summer would completely change all of this. Unless you want to rely on grey nomads (which apparently a lot of riders do. Not something I’m comfortable with, but each to their own), I reckon 10 litres would be the minimum you could get away with.
On this note, I’m not sure why you would chose to ride across the Nullarbor during summer, unless you had no other choice. Yes, winter means limited daylight hours and some rain and colder temps in southwest WA and SA, but I’d take those any day of the week and twice on Sunday over 50 degrees and relentless sun!! Even though it was mid-winter and I got caught up in a couple of storms, I was very happy with the conditions I encountered, given the distance travelled.
Having said this, I’m now off to sunny Darwin (on a plane) for a bit more cycle touring and some HEAT! After the last couple of weeks of frosty camping, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t bloody excited about overnight minimum temps of 22 degrees! BRING IT ON! 🙂 I won’t be keeping a daily blog, but I will write a post about my tropical adventure. Until then, thanks for reading my ramblings 🙂