On the first day on the Great Ocean Road I spent 2.5 hours in the Tower Hill State Game Reserve, which sits inside an extinct volcano formed some 30,000 years ago, and was declared Victoria’s first National Park in 1892.
I arrived at around 7am and was the only person so far in the park. Undisturbed wildlife welcomed me! Usually when a group of cyclist (or any group) is in the wilderness, there is too much noise and talks, and the animals disappear before even seen by us. So I was lucky to have it all for myself – the kangaroos and emus next to the road, the koalas sleeping in the eucalyptus trees. I had to wait a long time, before they slowly woke up and climbed down from their sleeping branches. What a fun scene to watch them climbing down backwards, leaping from on branch to the other, or walking and running on the ground. These koalas are the most adoring animals I’ve seen so far. They seem to watch me with the same curiosity as I watched them. I was lucky to carry a second 64GB memory card with me, as I quickly run out of disk space. I didn’t want to leave them, but after 2 hours I had to go, and with the first arriving tourists they also climbed higher into the trees, making it more difficult to see them. 2 German students were having breakfast at the rest place, closely monitored by an emu with her kids. There are many hiking trails around the lakes, especially for bird watching. I added time to walk a loop road in the dense forest. Eventually I left my ‘little Australian Ngorngoro’ with a final look over the rim into the crater and the surrounding ocean.
Here is a collection of photos taken in the crater park
The 7epics promotion video, featuring Brett has been published on YouTube.
A nice introduction to the 7epics. the idea behind it, his motivation, by fellow Trans-Oceania cyclist Brett Lanham combined with an assembly of video footage and photos from the current Trans-Oceania tour, past Tour d’Afrique and other TdA epic tours.
Today, the second to last day in the outback, I had the luck to finally spot a group of big red kangaroos. Riding solo again I had the time and opportunity to deviate from the road, when I wanted to. I had to walk about 1 km into the bushes to find and follow them. I was walking into the fields away from Stuart Highway, to get a better view of the salt lake this morning, when I recognized a movement ahead of me. I just saw a bouncing long tail disappearing into a valley and followed it. I readied my camera and followed the ‘tail’, when I spotted a big ‘rock’ on the other side of the small valley, in front of me. My zoom lens revealed the ‘rock’ was another kangaroo. Soon there where 4 of them ahead of me. I continued to follow them, funny to see them hopping away whenever I moved, then stopping and curiously watching my next step, when I stopped, too.
This continued for quite a while. I made a step, they jumped ahead. I watched them equally amused as they watched me. Eventually the kangaroos disappeared in the horizon, as if they were diving into the white, salty lake.
My extra walk and time spent paid off. I had my photos and an awesome experience, no other in the group had, as everyone was just riding into the wind and to next camp.
<placeholder for a video I shot>
Navigation Challenges in the Outback
The Northern Territory Outback introduces some difficult navigation and unforeseen challenges for the riders to get from one camp to the next. Although we are excellently briefed every evening before dinner with the next stage details, it may happen that one gets lost or feels she/he has gotten lost in the vast and hostile outback. One day I was already cruising along for hours, not seeing a human soul. I wasn’t sure whether I still was on the right path and almost considered to u-turn and retrace from the last known correct location, when I eventually spotted a bright shining something on the horizon ahead of me. I accelerated to close up to the still little moving neon spots in the far distance. It took me a while on these long straight roads, which make it hard to estimate a distance. Approaching closer I was so relieved to see that it were 2 cyclists. Shirley and Dan, who were cycling into the same direction as I am, and could confirm, that we were still riding on the correct track and we continued our little ‘odyssey’ through the dessert and eventually reached the lunch stop from where it was easy to get to the next campsite and reunited with the rest of the group.
Find below the short instant interview I had with Shirley and Dan about the navigational challenges and what difference a ‘Navigational Expert’ can make …
and the briefing information on the white board for the day, which caused us some difficulties to remember and follow :
Cycling on the Stuart Highway in the Northern Territory is quite an experience. Not only the heat and wind can make your day and cycling a challenge, but also the so-called Road Trains, some longer as 50 meters and with up to 3 trailers. Definitely not easy to drive and handle. So far most of the drivers were very respectful with us and passed us in a safe distance. Nevertheless, one must be awake all day and listen to the approaching trucks to not be too surprised, of the roaring sound that would take you out of your day dreams.
It is also very important to stay as far left as possible and don’t make unexpected moves, as there is almost no way for the drivers to correct any errors. A too fast change of directions would cause the trailers to swing out wide and bounce for a while, if not completely getting out of control and knocking you and the truck off the road.
Today I was cruising along after lunch, when I heard a bird above me and a shadow flying by low several times. I turned around and saw the bird above me. It was somehow attracted by my helmet and inspecting the little bug zoo I carry since Darwin. I got my GoPro ready just in time to film the bird’s last attempt to checkout the prey. Thereafter he gave up and rested in a branch. Although I turned around to give him another chance, he didn’t return again …
a short video sequence
No more unnecessary stops for the “Gold’s” while riding. TdA has established a new catering and support system for their family and staff members, to ease their cycling day and make the search for proper Coke Stops obsolete. Every day one of the TdA client cyclists is chosen by a ‘lucky draw’ to go ahead and make sure, there is always cold Coke, fruits and/or ice cream passed to them when they need it. No more wasting energy for them to scan for a stable with fridge and the proper goodies. Like for the ‘pros’ in major cycling events, the food is being passed on to them on-the-fly, so they can continue their high speed chase to sweep the other riders.
However there is a little challenge for the 2. Only one item is handed out at a time. So it is always fun to see them racing to get it first. This time Nellie outperformed her uncle Henry and she run away with the treat without sharing – ‘The Winner takes it All’.
The provisional Bamboo bridge closed at Noon for 1 hour or someone told them to reject the German rider from crossing over it. So I had to recall my Doomsday Ride / Central America skills and find an alternative. Piece of cake, it is just water. Shoes off and into it, shouldn’t be a problem. Half way through the water was running fast and deeper., pushing the bike into my legs and almost causing me to totally lose my stand. But I did not really stumble and fall, and made it halfway dry onto the other side.
Thanks to Bob for shooting the photos.
I’ll add a video here, taken with my GoPro, some time later.
Stage 23 was one of the toughest and demanding cycling days so far. Steep, long climbs on loose gravel, big boulders and the need to walk the bike in the ‘almost vertical wall’ Cristiano found for us to conquer, made it another long day on the road. It required full concentration on what was once named a ‘road’ but now looked like a dry river bed to not end in a crash. Therefore the stunning scenery could only be viewed when the bike was not rolling.
Cycling ‘The River Bed’ and ‘The Wall’
The second climb into ‘The Wall’ was another challenge. With full bellies right after the lunch stop it wasn’t easy to ride. Some sections where impossible to ride up at all, due to the steepness of up to 22% and the loose underground. Who never walked a bike in the past was now in the first practice lesson. Well done to all who conquered this beast at last.
Unfortunately the video and photos cannot really depict the steepness of the terrain.
I met these youngster down on a river, when I left the road before the bridge to get closer to the water. The boy carried his catch of the day in his hands. Besides the usual ‘how are you’, ‘what’s your name’ style of questions, a nice little conversation and a language lesson developed …