Day 20

tim

Maria Lagoon to Borolloola

We woke this morning to find that the cows had wandered through the middle of the camp during the night. They’d browsed through the rubbish, scratched themselves on the trailer, and (to Marco’s surprise) refrained from knocking over the Aprilia that they seemed so fond of the night before.

Those of us that didn’t find or brave the showers last night checked them out this morning. Cold showers have never felt so good as they did this morning. The shower I used was a salmon pink corrugated iron shed with a single shower head and no door, and no hot tap. the plug-hole was blocked, so the water simply ran out the door. Compared to the past few days, it was heaven.

We packed up, and a few minutes before we left, I ducked back into the shower for another go. Just as we were leaving I thought I might try my luck again, but the generator that had been running all night had finally stopped, as had the water pressure.

Today’s drive was a breeze compared to what we’d experienced over the past few days. We kept the speed down, and most of the time the bikes ran between the two four-wheel-drives. There wasn’t much breeze, and the dust from the vehicles hung in the air, making our little convoy about 3km long at times.

We stopped at the Southern Lost City, a beautiful rock formation with huge and improbable columns of rock which looked ready to topple over if the breeze ever picked up. We wandered, marvelled and photographed, then returned to the vehicles for some lunch.

I travelled in the front vehicle today (Bingo is his name-o), with Brad at the wheel. at About 4:00pm we had a series of events which were a little more exciting that any of us wanted. First, we had a couple of brumbies come out of the bush, one behind and the other in front of us. The one in front crossed the road within about six feet of our bullbar, and galloped off into the bush. Beautiful and exhilarating, but potentially disastrous. Thankfully Brad steered us through without any trouble. About a kilometre later, we hit a bulldust patch which looked about the same as any other sand or dust patch we’d seen. We’d approached it, reducing speed, hoping that we could cruise through it on the momentum we had. We soon found that it was rougher than we had expected. Brad slowed us down, but we hit a large bump and were thrown sideways. Despite leaning heavily to the passenger side, we came t rest without rolling, and without hitting any trees.

We were concerned that in the cloud of dust we’s created we were invisible to the other vehicles, We radio’d back a warning, and started to get out of the car, partly for our own safety, and partly to flag down the rest of the team.

At that point we found out that the left tyre on the bike trailer (now carrying food and fuel) had blown out… we estimate about 3 or more kilometres back. The tyre was all but gone, and the rim was almost square. Not good.

Soon we had everyone together, Jordy taking the other vehicle through a safe side-track (which we’d missed) right around the bulldust patch. It wan’t long before we had the wheel changed and the tyre pressure sorted, and we could be on our way.

This is as good a time as any to praise Andy for all the things he does in the group. He’s been riding my bike for the past couple of days, plus he’s the leader of the entire trip in every practical sense. He keeps the group together and informed of what’s going on, deals with group dynamics and politics where he has to, works like a trooper to set up and pack up, and keeps a smile and a cool head throughout. Today he had the tyre changed and ready to go in no time, with no fuss or panic.

We stopped in Borolloola, about 30km down the road, for fuel and iced coffee. We were meant to make Robonson River tonight, but the thought of a caravan park with showers and washing machines, not to mention a pub meal, was too much for us all, and we decided to stay.

As I write this, the rest of the crew are asleep, content after a good meal and a few beers. It’s been a good day, and we’re grateful to be clean, fed, safe and alive all at the same time. Tomorrow we’ll pass through Robinson River and head for Adele’s Grove, where we hope to spend the following morning paddling canoes though the gorge, before pressing on to Mt Isa.

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