Day 20: Daly Waters to Devils Marbles
Temp: somewhat unbearable
For some reason, part of me forgot that I was going from tropical weather to dry desert heat, and that the difference between the two is substantial. And listening to some advice from a few Australian locals, I left a bit later so that I have less of a chance hitting a roo...even if it meant that I would be riding under direct sunlight.
So, finally dressing Sheba by 9am and having a very salty toastie, we were off and heading further down toward the centre of Australia. The thick humidity slowly eased away with every hour I ventured south, only to be replaced by a hot, still air with sun that pierces fabric.
I'm not a complete stranger to heat. I've been to Japan in August (up to 40°C), Macau in July (up to 45°C with humidity), and Los Angeles where I actually suffered heat stroke and nearly passed out in a restaurant. Having been to various hot places of the world (including Vegas and the Amazon rainforest) it seemed like Australia would be a sweaty walk in the park.
Mind you, this experience may be different if you're having 41°C and in a coastal region - a sea breeze will shift the air around you. And if you're in a car with AC, all the power to you. But when dressed in black straddling a high revving engine going through a desert with no water sources for thousands of kilometres... you begin to wonder why you're here in the first place. The air is at a standstill but on a motorbike you're cutting through it, and it feels like the air is being pushed through every seam of your jacket and helmet, forcing itself into your skin.
For every area of Australia leading up to Darwin, the amount of heat was painful yet tolerable because the air moved around and is cooled by the ocean. I can tell you now, desert heat is a different beast altogether. No amount of "stay hydrated" advice could get me past how uncomfortable I was in the last 200km. I did everything I could, and actually found it a lot cooler being in full tuck because the heat wasn't hitting me square in the chest.
Tennant Creek was my original overnight stay until I started hearing some very creepy things that happen there. I decided to fill all my spare petrol cans and completely blow past it without stopping. I'm glad I did, because it made Halls Creek look like Melbourne. Windows were barred up and shattered, lots of people roaming the streets aimlessly, and the area gave me a very uneasy feeling as I passed through. The car I was following abruptly stopped in the middle of the street and my spidey senses tingles. NOPE! I squeezed between their right side and the curb and braaaaapped to safety.
I tucked into Devil's Marbles park to see what it was about, and was actually astounded by the unique and plentiful rock formations that look like large boulders balanced on top of each other. There was a small, kind of open sandy spot where I did mini circles to get the feeling of turning a bike again. After almost dropping it 6 times I decided to stop putting us in these situations and carried on toward Devils Marbles roadhouse (30km away).
I resumed the tuck position to avoid the unforgiving heat with 30km left to go. If you've ever been on a motorbike, you'll know that being in a tuck position automatically makes you pull more throttle. Especially if it's a straight and you can see about 10 minutes of road in front of you. It was difficult to film the speedometer whilst making a break for it, as most people would if given the circumstances. Mostly, I just wanted to get out of the heat.
As soon as I got to the roadhouse, I consumed a Coke faster than anyone has ever seen, then rode my bike into the secure parking area for the guests of the roadhouse. It was all mounds of loose gravel. Lovely. Laundry was done by hand and left fluttering in the wind for the public eye to see. The heat had finally started to settle but there was absolutely no reception of any sort out here. But the stars were so bright you didn't need a light to see, and a belly full of lasagna meant I'd sleep well tonight.
Day 21: Entering the rabbit hole to meet Alice (Springs).