After the first stages on the coast, I’m enjoying the inland. In the morning. Today one of the hardest etaps in Australia: to Clearmont. I get up at 6:00 and get dressed in wet clothes again because it rained all night. I don’t know what awaits me today.
Calling Clermont the nearest town isn’t quite right. Considering the distances to which I am accustomed, it is very remote. And I still have yet to learn that wading will be part of the expedition.
about halfway there is a pump
According to the road sign, a gas station should be about halfway there. The sign had a lovely message: the nearest pump was 196 km away. After a couple of dozen kilometres, where I was not supposed to meet a living soul, only a few cars, I suddenly see a runner in the middle of nowhere. As I approach the tent, I discover that the runner is female. I pull beside her but don’t stop; I slow down so we don’t get off the pace.
I give a few words of encouragement, a photo together, and roll on. Later, at a rest stop, I meet a trucker. He confirms that there is a light at the end of the tunnel and that the pump is working.
It is encouraging.
At the last kilometre, there are problems with water. But not the kind I expected – that I would have a shortage. On the contrary. There is too much water. The road is flooded. That’s why the cars were scarce. They knew the road was closed.
I don’t have much choice. The nearest turnoff was just outside Charter Towers, 100 km back. Either I wade through it or return and take a different route. Besides, that would mean
going a couple of 100 kilometres, I am still determining if the other way will be better.
Wading through water fo Clearmont
I get up and try to wade through it, carefully at first, without the bike. The water doesn’t go up too high, only about 30 cm, but the current is quite strong. It may be slippery. If the stream would pull me down, there’s no one to help me, and they’ll only know I’ve been here by my abandoned bicycle. Fortunately, the fears were more significant and blacker than the reality. I take the bike and walk cautiously to the other side. I’m gaining confidence and the courage to pull out my phone and take a few pictures. When I got over the water, my fears and found myself on the other side, a couple of cars appeared. The locals took the flooded road for granted, boldly and pretended that everything was as it should be. Richer for the intense experience, I continued.
I’m going well until suddenly I’m at a rest stop at kilometre one hundred and ten. I had initially planned to spend the night here. But it’s still only around noon, and since the trucker has confirmed that the pump is working, I decided to drag it onto the campsite at the pump.
The kilometres come slowly and are quite challenging. I remember the first day I was buying bananas at the banana plantation, and the locals told me that I had picked a perfect time because the wind was blowing in a favourable direction for me. I don’t know what they were growing on that plantation, but I have been going against the current for two days. And with that loaded bicycle, it’s tough.
As I approach the two-hundredth kilometre, I find that there is neither a camp nor a pump on the road. I have to continue 15 km off the route. It is getting dark, so I ride for almost an hour in the dark before I reach the campsite. It’s not exactly beautiful; it’s more of a workers’ hostel, but at this point, I don’t care. There are facilities, a restaurant, there are showers. I have two cold beers, fish & chips and go to check-in.
I fall asleep bravely, broken but fine. An unplanned 210 km upwind with a loaded bike will give me a hard time.
I get up in the morning, and my whole body tells me something went wrong yesterday. Everything hurts; my muscles are all over the place. I’m gradually moving it around, even in my arms, as if treading with my hands.
Even though I had the idea to take the day off, after the warm-up, I found that my bike was missing, so I went to get on it. We’ll see how far it goes. I originally planned to do the route in four days. Thanks to yesterday’s 210-kilometre stage, I have a day to spare. I have another 180 km to go, and it would be nice to do it all in one go and then have a day off at the campsite. If that doesn’t work out, I’ll sleep somewhere on the side of the road.
I start an hour later, at seven. It looks like it will be sunny and, of course, banana wind. It takes me longer to get my legs moving and catch my pace. I’m sore all over.
The first sign by the side of the road alerts me that the nearest gas station is 172 kilometres away, and the nearest toilets are 174 kilometres away. It’s going to be deserted. Traffic is almost nonexistent. Since I turned inland, barbed wires are still stretched around the road on one side and the other. A road, a bit of verge (mostly nicely mown) and wires beyond that. Hundreds of kilometres of barbed wire. I’m trapped on the road. There was beautiful countryside all around, and I only have to pedal on hot asphalt. I can’t go down to the meadow and lie under a shade tree. The only seat I found was on my bike. I have to sit on it
Trapped on the road
It goes surprisingly well at first, but he leans into a headwind after a while. Going 14 km/h on the flat, sometimes 17 downhill, and pedalling is quite tiring and incredibly taxing on the psyche—the landscape changes. The trees disappear, and it’s flat to the eye. It doesn’t feel like it. I’m monotonously pedalling on a loaded bike like on a caterpillar track – uphill, downhill, uphill.
The only distractions are the roadies I meet. Jolly fellows. When they saw me approaching them on my bike, they hid behind the car and then, with bottles of water in hand, started cheering me on like they were at the Tour de France. They handed them to me, so I didn’t grin and refilled my supply as I rode. They were greeting me, shouting after me and having fun.A nice change of pace. I was pedalling better straight away. I don’t notice the headwind that much anymore; it’s all about the head. As soon as you focus on the fact that it bothers you and you can’t do anything about it, it knocks you down, you can’t control it, and you can’t do it. I thank the roadies for the water and the lesson and cheerfully move on.
I might make it to Clermont today, but it’s going hard. The main problem is stopping somewhere, having a snack, sitting, and resting. When I do, it’s just by the side of the road, with no shade and standing by the bike. Soon, a swarm of flies is next to me, making me get off the bike and pedal on.
At about kilometre 88, a rest area with a canopy and benches appears out of nowhere. Newly built, it has yet to be marked anywhere. I do not hesitate; I stop. I have to take advantage of this; I need the shade already. In the sun and the headwind, it’s exhausting. I’m finishing today. I won’t risk another 90 km without shadow. Tomorrow is also a day.
After yesterday’s beautiful sunset, I also enjoyed a beautiful sunrise. I set off at 5:00, hoping it would not be windy in the morning. It was.
I arrived in Clermont, gritting my teeth, at noon. After driving 50 km, all I wanted was food, shower and rest. I bought a family pack of some energy pudding (400 g), ate it in the park and started looking for a campsite. I am still thinking about how I came up with that idea, but I suddenly considered pulling into another small town, Capella. That’s right when Capella wins.
I don’t know how it works in the body and the head, but suddenly, I was sitting on the bike, and with relative ease, I drove for the next 59 km.
The campsite I discovered there was an excellent choice indeed. Although older, it is nice and clean, with everything one needs. I had the obligatory two beers with some New Zealanders in the evening. I decided to sit down and learn some English, but it was tough to learn anything from them. But at least I had clues because every other word was f**k. So we sat for a while, and two beers were accompanied by fish & chips. Fish was all over the plate, sitting on it like a cap on the head. I also got the fries in a heap, which cost 10 AUD (about 8 euros).