Marla to Kulgera
Up = 485m - Down = 299m - Highest Point = 535m
MARLA TO KULGERA - 28th August 2017
Today is the biggie!!! A lot of kilometres and trending uphill all day!! Hope against hope was that the wind would be kind to us today because if it wasn’t this would be the day from hell and "B" plans would have to be drawn on.
We were all up and ready before 7:00 am – so rolled out from the Marla Roadhouse bang on 7:00. I talked with Liz and Annie and said how we really need to average 20 kph today – that would mean 9 hours on the bike. If comfortable to go faster then that would be great. I also wanted to have efficient shorter breaks as this is where a lot of time can be lost.
Our first “stop” was after 53 kms and while we were going uphill it was just long gradual stuff. We would have caravans pass us and it was ages before they would go out of sight. About 20 kms north of Marla we saw a young chap alongside a car on the side of the road. The car wasn't in good shape and looked like it must have run into a bull or something. We asked if he needed help – but he said he had a tow-truck on its way. We didn’t know until we were all in Kulgera that night, that the tow-truck actually pulled up in front of where Pat was waiting behind us and thought she was the vehicle that had called for rescue!!
Again we saw a Greyhound bus – this time travelling south – not too long after 8:00 am. Perhaps there were more people on it than the one heading north the previous day – it did have a baggage trailer in tow!! I also got quite excited when I saw quite someway to our left the Ghan heading north. Lots of carriages – but hard to catch on the camera. At one point we crossed the railway line – shame the Ghan wasn’t going through then!
We had been sharing the lead – 5 kms at a time – but with the constant gradual uphill Liz was finding the going tough. Annie and I alternated the lead trying to protect Liz in the middle, and we tried to wait back. While you would think riding hills at a slower speed would be easier, to get out of your actual hill climbing rhythm makes it very difficult. We knew Pat is always playing tail-end Charlie and wouldn’t pass Liz, so we rode on at our natural speed and knew we would see Liz at the first stop.
There was a bit of “pressure” on today to cover the big distance – so waiting behind was going to make things really tough to complete the day in daylight hours. Sadly for Liz she pulled the plug and hopped into the van for the next stint we did. We met up at the 85 km mark, had snack foods and then all rode on to 120 kms where we had our lunch stop at the Marryat – which we jokingly called the Marriott.
Liz started feeling the pinch again after the Marryat stop, and despite Annie and I hanging back - we eventually decided to press on to “the top of the hill”. These hills went on forever – I think this one was at least 20 kms long. Our aim for this section of the ride was to get to the border – so again, knowing that Pat was at the back acting as sweeper, Annie and I rode our natural pace – and were warmly welcomed to the rest area on the border by Betty, Barry and Des.
There was also a contingent of South Koreans – happily motor homing around Australia. They were a great bunch and wanted to ensure we were all in our pictures so they happily snapped away with our cameras and theirs so we have some terrific pics of this.
The terrain changed immediately upon crossing the line – as did the speed limit – 110 kph unless signposted otherwise – 50 metres further the signpost said 130 kph. This is going to be interesting!!
Despite all the hassles of the day – the wind had really been unbelievably good. Sure at times it was a head wind, and more often a side wind – but basically it was just this lazy breeze that didn’t hinder progress. Thank goodness the weather was kind to us today. For Annie, I think this was her longest daily ride. We had a 169 day from Indio to Blythe on our USA trip which had 700m of climbing in it so that was probably just as tough, if not tougher as I recall the extreme heat that day!! I did a 206 km day from Eucla to Nullarbor - pretty much flat and a slight tail wind so it went pretty well - I was also 7 years younger and 10 kgs lighter!!
There were some fast downhill sections from the border to Kulgera – and we lobbed into camp, tired, sore but elated that the BIG day was done. Very disappointing that no internet or phone service tho.
Bette and Barry had promised to cook us all dinner as reward – so it was great to sit around between the vans and have a beautiful hot stew cooked in a wonderpot – with yummy mashed potatoes. Top that off with a couple of glasses of Toi Toi – perfect evening!!
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