Day 176: Dalyup, WA to East Naernup Nature Reserve - Four Legs on the Slow Road - CycleBlaze

February 18, 2015

Day 176: Dalyup, WA to East Naernup Nature Reserve

It's the perfect time to ride: early morning, cool but not cold, no traffic, a wide shoulder, and a tailwind that's starting to build. And it stays like that for all of three and a half miles. That's when the shoulder disappears and the road trains come out in force and somehow car after car after car has the need to head west from Esperance at an incredible rate. We have less than a hundred miles to go on Highway A1 and we're already to the point that we're counting down every one of them.

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We've now had a long enough streak of warm days in between the last time we did laundry that with each passing day our shirts smell more and more like something died in them. With the wind helping us on, we ride hard due west, as if traveling with enough speed will allow us to outrun and escape from the stink.

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The morning is a seamless procession of wheat fields, cows, old windmills that creak as they turn, and diving off into the rocks and gravel at least once every mile to avoid the pinch of cars and trucks passing in opposite directions at the same time. A few times we fly down into a low gap of land where we cross a river and then climb right back out, but in general the riding is flat, followed by flat, followed by flat.

Until all at once it isn't. We cross some line not marked on any map, and in that instant rolling hills appear and then never go away. It's at about this time that the traffic starts to pick up by a factor of two or three. It's also when the flies show up, not on their own or in small groups but in clouds so thick that it's no stretch to call them swarms. They hover and then land nowhere else but our faces. Our bare legs and arms stay untouched, but our cheeks and necks become covered in little black dots, and every half a second a fly land on our lips or tries to wedge itself into our noses and our ears. It's fucking hell. Forget water boarding or electric shocks; this is a legitimate method of torture. If your arms were bounded so that you couldn't swat the flies away, and your mouth was gagged so that you couldn't try to push them off you with an expelled breath, any secrets you might be holding would be confessed within the hour.

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We try to wait it out, with the hope that if we just keep cranking the awful scene will pass or at least improve. But it never does; it only gets worse. Between the two of us, more than a hundred flies invade the immediate orbit of our heads and we're powerless to make them leave.

Our rest area graffiti.
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Not our rest area graffiti.
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Road trains hauling trailer-loads full of wheat to the port in Esperance, or returning to the west to get more, create massive blasts of wind and grit when they pass, to the point that our helmets are blown halfway back on our heads over and over again. When we have to dive off the road — which is all the fucking time — it's down over the four-inch vertical gap that exists between the highway and the shoulder. And then right on cue, between 10:00 and 11:00, the volume of caravans picks up, as they all make the same drive from where they parked in Esperance last night to some new and equally expensive parking place in Albany for tonight. Soon the tailwind turns into a headwind, because that's just how life on the A1 is falling for us. It all means that there's no joy in cycling out here today. It's all hard work, and a vague feeling of personal danger hangs over everything.

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But when the day brings us down, we have to do what we can to build ourselves back up. Today that means first stopping at the roadhouse in Munglinup and stuffing our faces with sandwiches and sausage rolls and sugary drinks. When that awful 1980s song "Higher Love" comes on the cheap old radio playing in the roadhouse, we lip-sync to it. Then we shake our heads in amazement and sadness at the following text posted on a flyer attached to the local message board, in a place where there isn't a burqa or package of halal food to be found within at least fifty miles:



This peaceful rally is part of the national Reclaim Australia Rally and is being used to show the people of Australia we have had enough of minorities not fitting in and trying to change our Australian cultural identity. This will be a peaceful rally. Neo-Nazi & White Supremacist Banners/Placards will not be tolerated. This is not a supremacist rally, it will simply be true blue patriotic Aussies standing together to stop the minorities changing our country to suit their needs!

What we are about:

To stop any enforcing of Sharia law throughout the whole of Australia. To make Sharia law illegal in every State and Territory.
Keep our traditional values ie. Christmas, Easter, Australia Day, Anzac Day and other beliefs a large number of Australians have grown up with.
Keep our rights and freedom of speech.
Halal certification should be banned and made illegal. (If not banned, then control should be handed over to the government so it isn't a moneymaking scheme for Islam).
Introduce pride in the Australian flag and Anthem at all levels of schooling.
Ban the teaching of Islam in government schools.
Ban the Burqa or any variant thereof.
Ban FGM and introduce mandatory 10 year jail terms for perpetrators and organisers. This includes those who send girls overseas to have FGM carried out outside Australia. Once their jail term has been completed, their citizenship should be cancelled and they be immediately deported back to the country they originated from.
Stop Centrelink recognising polygamy and only recognise the first marriage for benefits.
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Then we ride down the highway a few miles, pull off into a rare patch of scrubland set aside as a nature reserve, and pull out a pair of giant beers we bought back at the roadhouse. If all the road is going to do today is try as break us down, there's no point in fighting it, so we call an early end to the riding and get to work setting up the tent in a narrow break in the bush a few hundred feet off the highway.

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There we pass the afternoon. Whenever the breeze becomes too light to make it through the short little trees that surround us, the air turns still and sweat immediately starts to bead on our foreheads, our temples, our necks, and the hollow formed by the backs of our knees. And when a few moments have passed and the breeze returns again, the feeling of it flowing over our skin creates this kind of relaxed cool, where in the space of that fleeting instant everything is right with the world.

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Soon a light rain begins to fall — so light that we don't have to put the cover on top of the tent. We just lay back on the ground, feel the thicker layer of overcast block out the afternoon heat, and let the cold drops that fall through the mesh and onto our skin with a tiny jolt take us deeper and deeper into a state of peace and calm.

The building and receding of hot and cool, of rain and dryness, continues for hours as we read and write and nap, until at last the sun disappears in a blaze of brilliant pink and pale blue. Then the countryside turns quiet and still, except for the popping of flies against the mesh, the building chorus of cricket calls, and of course the awful howl of road train engines cranking hard up the hill beside us every ten minutes. It's just a little bedtime reminder that we have forty-five miles of A1 waiting for us tomorrow.

Today's ride: 51 miles (82 km)
Total: 6,249 miles (10,057 km)

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