March 19, 2017 5 min read
For some reason, it felt like a good idea to let two dirtbike riders put Sheba on the solid concrete footpath in front of my roadhouse room last night. Even though she was safely on a patch of hard grass, I thought it was logical to let them push her through mounds of gravel and onto the footpath. I did not think this through. My morning consisted of a sweaty 45 minutes of moving gravel with my boots and trying to push her out of the parking lot. I was alone and she weighed about 220kg with her gear on, including full petrol cans and a full tank. By the end of the ordeal, the temperature had already risen by 15°C and I don't think my grandmother would have approved of the words that came out of my mouth. I followed the ordeal with the saltiest toastie I've ever had in my life. As a result, I left an hour late, smelling like I just ran a kilometre uphill in hockey gear, with my mouth completely dry and tasting like seawater.
I pulled over 20km (15min) into the ride to drink water. Luckily I picked up a 1.5L bottle of water from the roadhouse for $7. And I only did that because of the toastie that tasted like the bottom of a bag of potato chips. This was actually a strong business model. I was impressed.
I didn't stop otherwise until I arrived in Ti Tree for a rude awakening of the petrol prices to come. $1.75/L meant a full tank was nearly $20 and I didn't want to use my spare cans in case Alice is even worse. Interestingly, about 40 army vehicles were also stopped there for petrol and food. I said hi to some of them and carried on my way. The jeeps are huge! Some were towing large machinery and tractor-like equipment.
Almost instantly after Ti Tree, the scenery changed. It stopped being green and bushy, and became more of a soft yellow similar to the prairies of Canada. It looked like wheat fields that span for days. But it was kangaroo grass, an invincible plant thag can withstand anything. They grow in small patches so they don't compete for water. So, you can see the red earth between the patches. Other than that, there were burned trees sparsely located throughout the plain, likely caused by very hot weather or aboriginals burning sections of the countryside to encourage regrowth.
The landscape went completely flat for about 100km before becoming quite rocky and obstructed by hills. It was an enjoyable ride aside from it being so hot. I put up a record of 120km without touching the handlebar other than to reset my cruise control. The Omnicruise is a throttle lock that holds a certain speed in place, however it doesn't work perfectly. My now scalloped (square shaped) tyres held position nicely down the middle, and I took extra care to pack my bags evenly this time. It was a breeze chilling and listening to music as I blasted down the highway, greeting other travelers going by. Vehicles getting closer to Alice greeted me back less often so I gave up.
Coming into Alice, the scenery was red and gold and very arid. I imagined old school Australian cowboy movies to be filmed in the final 30km coming into Alice Springs. Alice has one of the best welcome signs in Aus as it is made of red stone, so I was sure to pull over despite it being 39°C. Alice has two identical Welcome signs; it is located almost exactly 1500km from Adelaide to the south and Darwin to the north. In fact, Darwin has signs pointing to Alice because it's the next big city excluding Katherine or Tennant Creek.
It's like from Melbourne:
Feeling adventurous I opted for a private cabin.
As I pulled into Alice Springs, I was treated to a possible room upgrade for $20 to get my own cabin. This is at a youth hostel. A cabin instead of a 4 bunk dorm for $20? I'll take it!
Turns out the owner missed his roots so he created a Scandinavian ski lodge with plywood. It had its own porch and lamp outside but no light inside. It opened to a garden where other hostel guests, all under 25, sat in the pool or played ring toss. I dropped off all my gear and went for a walk to Alice Springs city centre in search of a grocery store.
Being without a big box grocery store for 4 days put me in a place I didn't realize existed. I ended up filling a shopping basket with 4 bananas, apples, grapes, chocolate chip cookies, ice coffee milk, and then I walked to the water aisle. I've been spoiled by Melbourne and Vancouver water so tank water in the middle of Australia tastes toxic. The price shocked me. $0.80 for 1.5L of water. I paid $7 earlier that morning for the same. I grabbed whatever I could carry then went to the hot food section. I forgot roast chicken comes in bags at supermarkets! So into the basket it went, along with 6 bread rolls that cost $2 instead of 1 roll with a couple slices of bacon for $12.)
Upon checkout I realised that plastic bags are not a thing here. So i ended up hauling the entire load to a nearby bench to figure out how I could carry everything. I had my Ashvault backpack with me which expands, so I put the 6L of water and 2L of ice coffee, along with the fruits and snacks in the bag. It zipped up perfectly. I laughed hysterically to myself and started walking home with the chicken in my hand.
I don't know if you've ever walked in 40°C heat carrying 8L of liquids and a whole chicken but I can tell you I don't think I regretted anything else on this trip as much as the 20min walk to the hostel.
Once there, I proceeded to empty my bag in front of shocked onlookers who stopped eating their pasta to watch Mary Poppins in action. Then I shamelessly used a dull steak knife to pull apart the whole chicken while it was still in the bag, eating as I went along, still standing up. It was savage. I had BBQ sauce smeared on my face and hair. My fingernails were still black from riding. I was drenched from head to toe from walking back. I'm pretty sure I had chicken on my eyebrows. A French hostel guest was standing beside me and I started laughing while continuing to eat. He was a former butcher and was mortified by the hack job that this chicken went through.
"I'm not judging" he said softly.
I made 4 sandwiches with the rolls and chicken meat and went to enjoy my grapes in the ski cabin. Halfway through the grapes, I went into a chicken coma and promptly fell asleep from the heat and protein explosion. My body sucked up the nutrients and tried to heal the 3 weeks of DOMS it was going through.
When I woke up, I came out to find a Finnish, English, American, and Italian guest all doing an hour long 80's-esque aerobics class in the middle of the lawn. Sounds like a classic joke with a cheesey punchline. It was lead by a girl who only spoke Italian but the people were in perfect rhythm anyway. I ended the night sipping ice coffee and watching the sky fade to black. The stars came out and quiet set in, setting the stage for the early start to the legendary Uluru.