Day 16: Kununurra to Katherine
I decided to let the sun wake me up today. I plugged in some ear plugs and turned off all my alarms. Afterall, it would be a pretty straight forward run to Katherine and I wasn't in a hurry. Technically, the sun did wake me up, but it wasn't the light as much as the humidity. My (upgraded) room was positioned amongst palm trees so it was sheltered. But I woke up thinking I was in Hong Kong, stuck to the sheets and in complete disbelief of how I'm not drowning. It was 7am and 30°C/96% humidity outside - the type of humidity a budget air conditioner can't keep out.
I dressed Sheba up, looked at her, and almost went back to nap. I don't take heat very well but I knew this going into the trip. But wow it was something else. My morning usually consists of a coffee hunt so I asked Google and ended up on the outskirts of town at a sports club (where there is a field to play rugby, football etc). There was a hip older gentleman in a tiny cove that may or may not have been the cleaners closet. His tiny joint offered up delicious turkey toasties and coffees. He was the owner and when he learned I had ridden the "scenic route" from Melbourne, he bumped up the size of the coffee and said he used to work on Lonsdale St. His wife is Canadian and he picked out my accent right away. Cool!
After a decent amount of time spent there I decided I should really get a move on and thanked him for the company. 30 minutes later, I found myself at the NT/WA Border.
As soon as I entered Northern Territory, the mountains became even taller and the road twistier. At the border, you're also greeted by a sign that reads "Northern Territory Speed Limit 110kph unless otherwise stated" followed immediately by another separate sign that reads "130kph". I thought it was great! I sped up to my usual speed without having to worry about cops pointing a radar at me. I realized the speed limit is higher not because there aren't things to crash into (the roads here are probably the most closes in roads since leaving Melbourne) but rather, the roads aren't filled with stupid people. Every single person I saw on the road to Katherine were either locals or road trains - people who aren't joyriding. It's so far off the beaten path from any city that there are no escapists needing some throttle therapy. It was fantastic.
Until I saw a massive pothole, as long as Sheba, right in front of me. The roads just past the NT/WA border are not kept for motorcycles. They have been damaged by the recent floods and quickly fixed up using mounds of GRAVEL. It works for the four-wheeled travelers but for the two-wheeled type, we are forced to play some sort of game called Dodge Or Die. The roads are also warped from the heat and the weight of the vehicles that use them. My 130kph spree was short lived until it started clearing up - about 250km into the ride.
A tiny version of the big mountains near the NT/WA border. This pic doesn't do it justice at all.
Even though I haven't trained in 20 days, my riding stamina has been getting better every day. I felt quite tired after Day 1, the Detour Day, and the Water Crossing Day, but other than that I was physically capable to do my planned distances with energy to spare. The humidity was thick and evaporation doesn't work well, so I made sure to pull over every 100km (45min) to drink some water. It's also nicer to refuel on the side of the road instead of a roadhouse for some reason. Lately I've been feeling like just being alone. No problem doing that here.
I was lost in thought for most of the ride and didn't think too much about social media or taking photos for the blog. I really just spent 8 hours traveling without ever knowing how I got there. By the time I reached the outskirts of Katherine, I hadn't noticed my music had run out of battery. It wasn't that I was dosing off. But riding gives me such a calm state of mind that is really the only time I have true clarity.
Gday don't mind me I'm just sitting on your toilet paper just being a frog.
Katherine is a small town that people stay in when they are on their way to somewhere else. The address to the place I stayed in was "corner of..." so Google took me to that corner and congratulated me on arriving. Arriving where? I circled the block a few times and found out they were half a block away tucked in a bit. Thanks! It's only as humid as doing Tae Bo in a small living room with five of your friends. No big deal.
As soon as I arrived, a topless older gentleman came downt o greet me. He was friendly and said they're very excited to have a girl come and stay with them. He grabbed my arm to read my tattoo and by instinct I almoat karate chopped him in the throat but the Canadian politeness took over. I guess personal space is different here.
I passed a pool on the way to reception and thought of how good it must be to be underwater in the shade. The owner of the hostel was friendly and said she doesn't have a lot of girls stay with them, so I have the 4-bed room to myself. Sweet!
After unloading my bags into a room that looked like Saw was filmed there, I put every article of clothing I had into a plastic bag and went to the laundry area. Then, in broad daylight in front of foot traffic, I stripped down to my last bits and tossed everything in the wash with a cup of industrial powdered detergent. It wouldn't start so the owner came out, slammed the machine with her first, and the light clicked on. Magic.
The Olympic records show that Usain Bolt is the fastest sprinter in the world. Unofficial records say I was right up there with him on the way to the pool. I didn't care that it was covered in leaves and dead insects. I've been covered in dead insects for 2 weeks. The chlorine will also void any smell of the minimal clothes I was wearing. Double win! I walked over to my room as I was, and lay in my bed under the ceiling fan until I no longer felt like I was in a New York subway station.
Katherine isn't exactly a great place to enjoy nightlife. After hanging my laundry I set out on an adventure to the nearest restaurant 10 minutes away by foot. It was an Asian restaurant with a very generic name, one of those that sell every type of Asian under the sun. Maybe it's because I'm now so close to Asia, or maybe because I was so hungry, but that laksa was one of the best I ever had. And I'm in Katherine, Northern Territory, Australia. It's probably because I've been eating Australian food for 2 weeks and my ethnic soul was deprived.
After getting slightly lost I finally made my way back to the hostel, I grabbed my damp laundry from the hangers and went to my room. The light flickered on and the air was dusty and dead. I laid out all my clothes and set up my gear for tomorrow, prepacked and fully charged. Sitting in a lifeless and moldy room does something to your spirit. I sat across the room from my clothes and looked at them, remembering where I bought each article of clothing. These socks were from Melbourne, this tee from Vancouver, these pants from Sydney, etc. I've been wearing the exact same thing for two weeks. I looked around the hostile space I had to spend the night in. The shelving was rusted metal and the beds were caved in. No good memories have been made here in years.
I laid in the bottom bunk and stared at the slats of the bed above. Personal growth hurts like a bitch, and I'm copping every punch and kick it has in store for me. The pace of this trip couldn't be more perfect for what I was after, but regardless of anything happening externally, some people go through phases on a weekly or monthly basis that make them feel like all hope is lost. It's temporary, but at the time, it feels like there is only one way out of the very physical pain felt by the victim. I'm one of those people, and have had it since I was a young teen. It doesn't get better, you just learn how to cope with it.
I felt empty, and I needed to feel loved, at least for a few minutes. There's currently no cure for depression, but love does seem to sooth it faster. At that moment, I felt nothing.
After 6 defeating hours in still darkness, I finally managed to cry myself to sleep, my brain finally shutting off and letting go. 2 more precious hours later, I had to start getting ready for another journey to Darwin.