Leaving Mt Garnet on Day 3 we ventured out further west into real Gulf country. This day was when I hit my mojo but, alas, it wasn't the only thing I hit. Much of today's riding was on long dirt back roads, but were well graded, so it was fast. As an ex-road rider pretending to be a mountain biker, I enjoyed the speed on the long straight stretches.
Even Pierre, my bike (a French La Pierre mountain bike) managed to survive the day. Pierre and I have been struggling along. The truth is, he's not really cut out for the sort of off road riding we're doing, but then neither am I so we make a good team.
The ubiquitous Australian road trains operate out in the rural and remote Outback roads. Road trains are big semi-trailer trucks, sometimes pulling three large trailers at a time, hauling freight and livestock around the country. They’re great to see, but they generate a whole lot of dust when they fly past you on dusty back roads.
We were also entering cattle country. Many of the remote cattle stations out here run for thousands and thousands of acres. Often the cattle will be left to run in paddocks of 50,000 acres, essentially living as semi-wild cattle until the time comes to round them up for sale. We encountered many herds of cattle, as we had been given special permission to ride through the stations.
At times, riding alongside a large herd of cattle can be slightly unnerving, because if they’re startled or start to panic, they start to run. When they do there's a risk that they will suddenly swerve in panic and start to run straight at you, so you need to keep an eye on them. We had one or two instances where such cattle did, in fact, change course and run in front of a rider.
We also met some of the kids living on St Ronans Station who rely on the remote educational services the C2K ride was supporting for their schooling. It was fascinating listening how they have been doing remote learning all their schooling lives, something that many city kids have now more recently experienced during COVID-19 lockdown. Again, it was a great reminder why Shawview Consulting supports this ride.
I was doing really well on day 3, climbing hills, riding faster leading the pack. All the good things.
Right up until I flew down a steep descent on to a causeway crossing a creek. I thought I was managing it well, following the line of the person in front of me. However, I misjudged how much water was flowing across the causeway, but more importantly I hadn't seen the slime covering the entire causeway about 5cm under the water.
Needless to say I hit the causeway in the creek crossing at high speed determined to get a good run up the next hill, but only managed to completely lose control of the bike. In the blink of an eye, the bike just slipped and spun out from under me, dumping me to slide right across the causeway through the water on my rear end and my elbow.
Amazingly, save for a couple of scrapes on my elbow and a bruised ego, I was fine. Helpfully there was a sign on the other opposite side of the creek warning road users of the slippery surface which I saw afterwards. A lunch stop at a beautiful river crossing a bit later gave me the chance to wash my elbow and recover my dignity.
For the rest of the day, the roads were long, fast and there were often cattle near the roads. They often just roam in open unfenced paddocks across the road, and we had a great lunch stop by a river that was great place for a swim.
Day 4 from Mt Surprise to Georgetown was hard.
So many bloody corrugations.
Kilometres, kilometres and endless kilometres of corrugated dirt roads that shook the living spine out of Pierre and I. Pierre finished with an increasingly remarkable and disturbing collection of rattles and squeaks.
As did I. My cheap, old hard tail mountain bike was no match for the preponderance of high-end, dual suspension mountain bikes the other riders were using. It was a lesson in how bike technology has evolved that most of the group on dual suspension bikes could maintain their speed and control while riding along corrugated dirt roads, whereas I could maintain either.
Or maybe it was just because I'm not a very good rider.
All I could maintain was a sore rear end.
Day 4 was the day where for me physical and mental limits were reached due to the heat, the dirt and the constant bumps and need to slow down whenever I hit a bad patch of road. It was really hot and you needed to be constantly drinking plenty of water. I spent the day wondering what was going to fall off first, my arse or my arms from all the jarring and shaking.
To my astonishment, I did discover that my mountain biking skills are improving. I can now actually negotiate rocky terrain, handle dusty single track trails, while still enjoying it. I guess out of necessity after days of just having to ride through it and learn from others, I started getting better.
After a long, hard, but rewarding day, we finally arrived in Georgetown for a well-earned shower and a cold beer.