Day 25: Alice Springs to Wauchope (Devils Marbles)
The thing with mental toughness is preparation. Knowing that I was going to do this route beforehand helped me a lot. I had planned the entire Aus route 4 weeks before I started it, softly shifting the route and timing to accommodate everything from weather patterns to locals' recommendations. I knew it would be impossible to see or do everything in Australia. Some Aussies spend a lifetime here without doing the things in their state, much like I've never been surfing, riding a sand buggy in the desert, or mountain climbing in British Columbia (yes, you can do all of these). I wish I had infinite funds and no timeline so that I could experience evey corner of this country.
Knowing what the desert conditions were like also helped in this quest. I knew to keep every portion of skin covered to keep my skin temperature down. I learned to bury bottles of water under things in my saddlebags so they don't get hot, because scalding liquids don't feel good going down. *Side note, if you want to make tea, you can strap a bottle of water on the top of your cargo and wait an hour. It will literally be hot enough to steep tea. You can't pour this water on your skin as it will burn you.*
Australia is a country of a hundred hidden gems. It may take days or weeks to see the treasures of this country and I knew that going in. People have asked why I'm doing this trip if I plan to stay on the highway. If I had an answer, I'd tell you, but I do know that this isn't a sightseeing trip. This is a personal growth trip and I'm here to meet the person I've been ignoring my whole life. Myself.
One thing that isn't as hidden is Australian culture. This isn't a comparison to other countries, but I can tell you that you need not wait long before an Aussie will volunteer themselves to help you out. They are an open book, if they don't like you, you'll know. But if they do, you are let into their world with open arms and they only ask you to pay it forward. Aussie culture is to stop and ask if you need a hand. In a nutshell, "I got an extra one of those things, here have it, I have heaps more".
As I left Alice Springs I finally felt like I could see a tiny light at the end of a very long tunnel. The extreme heat, constant insomnia, and putrid smells of roadkill all became part of bikelife as Sheba and I trucked through the desert. It's only been 2 weeks in the outback but I can see why people live out here. If you don't see anyone, nobody can hurt you.
I stopped at Ti Tree again and the owner recognized me, asking why and how I'm already back here and heading the other way. I told him about the ride. He let me eat a chicken sandwich out back while I walked around amongst the sprinklers in his paddock. Now soaking wet, I went out to hop on the bike. A police car had stopped for lunch and they gave me the strangest look. Perhaps there was chicken on my eyebrows again but I made no eye contact and jetted up toward Barrow Creek.
Barrow Creek is a very sleepy little servo that also operates as a mechanical garage. Spiders collected on the roof of the pump area and along the edges of the pumps themselves. It was very hot out so I pulled in for a quick sip before heading out. Prices were $1.92/L so I planned to wait until Wycleff Well ($1.29/L!!) I snapped a couple shots of the place and hopped back on Sheba, just before being stopped by the owner.
I'm not sure why I expected to get in trouble for some reason. Preparing to explain myself, he called out "I noticed you taking some shots! You should come in 'ere and take more!". So I left my bike as-is and slowly entered the small door on the side of the decrepit building.
It was a typical outback bar but every surface of all the walls were covered in money from all over the world. Pretty much every country was represented from Canada to Iceland to Africa. The bar area was filled with little ornaments that people left behind during their travels. He pulled out a small cardboard box and proceeded to line the whole bar with (including Australian translation): Loonies ($1 coin), Toonies ($2 coin), Canadian Tire money (Bunnings giftcards), Tim Hortons memorabilia (Coffee Club stuff), moose jerky, keychains, pins, bananas, and a small Canadian flag. There was also a stack of half-A4's where people taped their drivers licenses and other gifts along with a note. I left a Flying Solo Gear Co sticker and a keychain along with a link to this blog. I even got to put a sticker right on the centre of his front door!
He then said "you won't be able to do this in Melbourne"...
A lady came in during our shenanigans wanting to pay for petrol. He asked where she's from and she responded with "Canada, why?" so he took the cardboard box out again and started to show her some items. Uninterested, she dismissed him and insisted she wanted to pay for petrol and leave.
I said, "Isn't it funny, we are both Canadian and in Barrow Creek NT!"
She quietly scoffed and said "It's not that funny, I actually thought you were Indian."
"... I have dark skin. I'm Chinese Canadian."
"Well I didn't mean from India, I mean like the Eskimos"
"You mean the Inuit."
"Whatever Canadian aboriginals are called."
"You mean First Nations?"
(Changing the subject) "Is that your bike out there? In my day it was too difficult for a woman to go off on her own. You're very lucky it's so easy now"
I then thought... there is no chance in hell that this woman lived in Canada for longer than 5 years. As she drove off in her SUV, Michael, the owner, muttered something quiet yet polite under his breath. Something like "I guess she's just in a hurry..."
I bid him goodbye and Sheba and I continued on in the heat, stopping every 50km for water. When we finally arrived in Devils Marbles (Wauchope) I was greeted by the same friendly staff and given a key to the same set of rooms. There's no reception here so I tested out my satphone for fun. The night was spent in a lasagna food coma and gazing up at the stars. I think I can finally come to terms with being so far from the familiar, because after this point, every bed will be new again.