Erldunda to Stuart's Well
Up = 393m - Down = 329m - Highest Point = 490m
ERLDUNDA TO STUARTS WELL – 31st August 2017
Back on the bike after a rest day is always a strange feeling. I usually think that I am going to feel wonderfully well after a day off the bike – but more than often it is not the case!! So by now – I just take what comes!! I felt happy thinking it was “just” 108 kms – silly that I think that way – that is still a fair distance to cover!! 7:00 am seems to have become our standard starting time, and I think will probably remain so for the rest of the journey. It doesn’t actually get light here until about 6:40 am – and I am not keen to be out on the road in changing light.
We are still on this journey towards the highest point of the trip that we will reach on our first day out of Alice Springs – so we knew there would be more climbs again today and we should get close to 500m above sea-level. I must say that the roads had just a few more curves in today, which to me personally, I found quite good. I was a little tired of seeing long stretches of road ahead of 10 kms or more, wondering when the hell we would get to the end. Achieving getting to the next curve and seeing what was around the corner was somewhat more pleasurable. During the middle section of our day though with each rounded corner seemed to be another uphill!!
There are 3 elements (besides our own physical cycling performance) that have a big effect on how rapidly we progress each day. Wind, uphills and road surfaces!!
The wind today was a north / nor’ wester – so sadly – straight into our faces – a head wind!! Funny thing is that this affected us more on the slight downhill sections compared to the uphill sections when it seemed to shoot straight over our heads. The road surfaces here vary greatly, and there has been quite a bit of coarse stone used on the roads that causes the bikes to shudder and rattle along, and the vibrations through our hands, wrists and upper-arms is not at all pleasant. Frequent shaking out of the arms is necessary.
Our day today was basically divided into thirds due to 2 well-positioned Rest Areas for meet up points. The first was after 32 kms – and I have to say, while a combination of all 3 “nasty elements” had been present at various times, I had found that section a breeze. The middle section was 43 kms – and the 3 nasty’s – got nastier. It was pretty tough going indeed. Annie and I shared the lead and we made it to the Finke River Rest Area about 11:30 am. The river was dry – but what a nice rest area it was. Both rest areas have had toilets at them – top marks to Northern Territory – a pity more of the South Australian ones hadn’t had these!!
I decided to call for an early lunch stop, sensing we were all feeling a bit tired, and seeing from the elevation profile for the day that there was still a big climb ahead of us in the final 34 kms. It takes a while to get the legs going again after a break, and the old body back into the rhythm of pedalling again – but we did. The temperature was getting up – and our good old 3 nasties were back!! Annie and I pressed on – rounding bend after bend in the road only to see uphill after uphill. It is funny – these are not hills like we had in New Zealand that were a much steeper gradient – but they were very draining when combined with the head-wind and road surface. We knew Pat was behind and she would cover Liz who was pressing on at her pace. I think I have also mentioned earlier that I find it hard to do hills at a slower pace than my natural rhythm which was why we pressed on. At around 100 kms, Pat pulled up close behind us, so I took that as a sign that Liz was with her, but tired as we were we pressed on.
We saw a sign for the Cannonball Memorial – so pulled over to read about it and take a break. How fascinating that a charity run had ended in such disaster. It happened in 1994, before I was a resident of Australia and I was unaware of this happening.
We could see buildings not far away which we thought must have been Stuarts Well – but a little way down the road we saw a sign saying we still had 5 kms to go. It seemed a very long 5 kms that is for sure.
We had remarked to each other how busy the road had been today with many vehicles travelling north towards Alice Springs. There weren’t too many big trucks on the road, quite a few campervans and caravans, but lots of “hot” looking cars. Many being driven, many being towed, even big car carriers with several on board. Some looked like what I would call Hot Rods, others looked like classic Holdens and Fords – many with “souped up” sounding engines.
When we pulled in at Stuart Wells several were filling up at the “servo”. I asked some of the youths what was going on – where were they heading – and the reply was – “to the Red Centre Nats mate”. I think they thought everybody knew what this was – but I just smiled blankly!! It seems there are going to be all sorts of car events this weekend in Alice – and thank goodness we have a booking as accommodation is at a premium!!! Annie had thoughts of getting a cabin there – but I think it will be the tent for her!!
We booked into the dusty Stuart Wells campground just after 2:30 pm. It happens to be next to a camel farm, and as well has an emu pen and other ducks and chooks. Bird-life is prolific with wonderful flocks of Galahs zooming around. After showering and settling in, we had a drink outside Des and Liz’s van before going to the Roadhouse for dinner.
We have noticed that (and I think I have commented earlier) the “Gilberts” truck drivers are exceptionally courteous to us cyclists. Tonight we all dined in the roadhouse – on one wall was a fantastic banner spruiking Gilberts 50 years on the road – 1964 to 2014 – well done!! There were also 2 Gilberts drivers having their dinner at the table next to us. As one left – the other said “see you Kiwi” – to which of course my ears pricked up!! “Kiwi” was paying his bill – so I struck up conversation with the Takapuna born man – and especially thanked them for the great care with which they passed us. Kiwi was from Adelaide – and told me that the company had 32 road trains on this Adelaide to Darwin route – so no wonder we are seeing several every day. He said the refrigerated ones were carrying meat – and the others – everything – including the kitchen sink!!
We all enjoyed our meals there – Des’s corned silverside looked especially good (not quite so his overcooked broccoli), and there was nothing wrong with the Moroccan Chicken Skewers I had. I went out to the van to type up daily reports after dinner while Des and Pat watched Bronco’s v Cowboy’s. Good win by the Bronco's!
There is no mobile signal here, so no internet coverage – so unable to do posts - hopefully we'll feel more "in touch" when we get to Alice Springs tomorrow!!