Cosmo Newberry: Getting there slowly, without a helmet... - A treadling Hyohakusha - CycleBlaze

September 21, 2017

Cosmo Newberry: Getting there slowly, without a helmet...

Heading for Cosmo Newberry

21-09-2017 Thursday
91 km
Just Tootling Along

It's more than 200 km to Cosmo Newberry, the next certain water refill site. They also have a small shop and I might also be able to do some food resupply. There may be a well before then, but I'll find out for sure when I get there I guess. Meanwhile I'm packing the full 21 litres, just in case.

It was a cool and wind free early 0630 start to the cycling day. The road conditions leaving TJ were excellent, the best so far on the GCR. I took an early lunch break at 1100 and had completed over 60 km. At around 1230, Bobby and Owen passed me and we leapfrogged each other a few times for the remainder of the day. I retired when I got to 90 km and I think they camped up somewhere just behind me.

This is a Thorny Devil Lizard. It's my first ever encounter with one of these little beauties. You usually only find them in the outback. When threatened, their default is to freeze in place and try to blend in with their surroundings - not such a good strategy when it is the middle of the road...
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Since Uluru, I've noticed that the desert wildflowers are in bloom. You won't find them in profusion everywhere you look as sometimes happens in the outback. But there were pockets of them every day as I rode through the desert, adding delightful splashes of colour to the desert colour palate.

Wildflower One
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Wildflower Two
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Wildflower Three
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Wildflower Four. Unlike the other three photos in this series which were taken from the cockpit, I had to get off the bike and down onto my belly to get this shot.
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The last 15 km today were into a solid headwind, I hope not a portent of tomorrow's conditions.

I camped at an abandoned gravel pit about 100 metres from the road. Set up the camp fire and got the lentils simmering; turned the bike over and started on some much needed repairs. Retaped the rim tape, just re-using what was there already and then adding a layer of electrical tape on top. And I did a cheap and nasty quick fix on the brake cable housing. I also swapped tubes, putting the heavy thornproof tube onto the troublesome back wheel. That rear tyre is still a bit of a worry though. I shouldn't be puncturing on the rim side of the tube. The crank arms are also wobbling side to side and clunking as I pedal: I think that bottom bracket is toast. I'm looking at a major rebuild when I finally limp into Kalgoorlie... good thing I've been ordering parts online as I've been riding.

22-09-2017 Friday
50 km
Now that is windy... Survival mode: Stuck in no-man's land

The road conditions are rapidly deteriorating, reverting back to the dirt track that has given the GCR its reputation: rough corrugations with the odd sandpit thrown in for good measure. The going is hard and the headwind is building from early morning. After battling into big headwinds for 30 km I realise that I've left my helmet behind tied up to a tree; I'm not about to go back for it. I always look down at the ground and check my campsite before I leave, from now on I had better look up, too.

It's now 1630 and I've been sitting under this roadside tree for over five hours now, waiting for this hellish wind to abate, unable to go forward (or back for that matter) for fear of getting blown clean off the track. My guess is it is gusting at well over 100 kmph and a steady 60+. I know Bobby and Owen are behind me somewhere and figure they are stuck sheltering on the roadside much as I am.

1900 hrs: it's fully dark now and the wind is still howling. There has been very little traffic on the road, only 4wds and a few beatup local cars. The heavy trucks have all pulled off and are waiting for the conditions to improve. 2000 hrs: I can't sit here all night and the wind has died down enough to get out there to try and ride/push far enough to find somewhere more sheltered to camp. I wanted to try a night ride on the GCR, but not in these conditions.

What happened?

I survived - you always do. And I've been stuck out in the bush in worse conditions in my past. But it was definitely not something I'd like to repeat anytime soon. I did finally get another 10 km down the road and into a grove of trees and bush and set up camp, just sleeping on top of the tent, not willing to even try to set it up. As I pull off the road I notice that the night sky is lit up from an out of control bush fire. I'm hoping that my campfire from the night before isn't the cause of it. That wind could have easily blown a live coal into the tinder dry bush. A little past midnight, the winds still howling, I fall asleep with a guilty conscience. Next morning I see the fire has burnt itself out, and my conscience is salved.

A few days later when I got into Laverton and met up with Bobby and Owen, they told me they were just behind me and sheltered the night in the same grove of trees.

I have no photos from today, it was pure survival mode and I was concentrating on other things. Not a day I'd like to repeat again any time soon, that's for sure...

23/09/2017 Saturday
53 km
Gold Mines & Dust

I got an early 0645 start hoping to beat the headwinds, but they were up and working the early shift, too. The road continued in its less than glorious state until I reached a turn off to a new gold mine development. There are exploratory drilling rigs off in the distance on both side of the road for several miles before the turn off to the mine site. And once I pass the turnoff, the traffic goes from one or two smaller vehicles every hour to a continuous mix of large road trains, oversize trucks hauling impossibly large loads, mining trucks, 4wds, throw in the odd grey nomad towing a caravan... it's a constant stream of traffic.

There is a lone council grader on the road, trying to maintain it, but it is a hopeless Sysyphusian task. It takes only a few heavily loaded road trains to smash a day's hard work. The grader driver stops and gets out of his grader to have a chat, gives me an apple out of his lunch cooler and tells me he is finishing up here today and won't be back until after Christmas. He says the locals are not happy and no one knows how the mine site was approved without first considering what would happen to the road.

The lone Laverton council grader, valiantly attempting to keep the road open against the onslaught of mine site bound heavy traffic. From Laverton to the mine site beyond Cosmo Newberry, it's just one big sandy/dusty industrial site. But if you're careful, you'll get there in the end...
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Just a few km down the road, the track turns into an ugly corrugated sand pit. Road trains are travelling in convoy in both directions and the dust storm they create has to be experienced to be believed. The wind is blowing right to left across the track, so to avoid as much of the dust as possible I revert to riding the shoulder on the wrong side of the road. If I were to ride on the "proper" side of the road, the first truck would cover and obscure me in dust and the following trucks would unknowingly ride right over the top of me. For once, I begin to appreciate that vicious side wind... and wish I still had my helmet - not that it would make much difference if I get run over by one of those big rigs.

For those cyclists that follow me, there will be no "Outback Experience" on the Great Central Road until you get past that gold mine turnoff about 60 km beyond Cosmo Newberry.

I called it a day at Limestone Well with only 53 km completed, but after the last few days effort I'm acutely aware of my body's message to slow things down. These winds and road conditions are killing me slowly. I ran out of breakfast and lunch food yesterday and have been filling the void with Shortbread cookies and Mars bars. I will soon learn from this mistake that my body does not do hard work on this sort of fuel...

There is no well at Limestone Well, and no water, just a road turnout and some places to camp. I know to camp on the upwind side of the track well away from the road, but as the sun sets, the winds die down and turn the other way with each passing road train coating the bush, me included, in a fine layer of dust. I have about another 25 km tomorrow to get me to Cosmo Newberry.

Not Limestone Well, but this one about 10 km past it and 15 km north of Cosmo Newberry. The water is drinkable, but not always flowing out of the outlet. You can climb up onto a 40 gallon drum and pop off the top of the tank and bucket out the water - just put the top back on the tank when you're finished.
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