Day 26: Devils Marbles to Mount Isa
For the last week or so, the pleasant morning air has made it comfortable to get ride-ready. Unlike in Darwin, putting on gear isn't like trying to squeeze a sweaty hand into a rubber glove. Packing is easy because your hands aren't slippery. Desert air doesn't hold heat at night so your bags don't burn as you fasten them to the bike. All of that is well and good, and my plans to ride to Camooweel were spot on when I left at 8am. I felt well ahead in life. An equally passionate rider I met at the roadhouse jumped in on this leg as well, so I had a ridng buddy for the 130km from Wauchope to Threeways. Then, I'd make the most dramatic right turn ever: to finally head toward Queensland while he continued up to Katherine. I shuddered when I started seeing signs to Katherine, knowing the memories I made there.
As we parted ways, I felt a sense of sadness but the feeling of freedom reappeared. For some reason, my ears started to really hurt from the bad choice in earplugs, yet I didn't want to bother him to stop suddenly. It's nice to go at your own pace and stop whenever you need to without a leash. So I endured 130km of pain just so I didn't need to be socially awkward. After cutting the plugs with a scissor to fit my ears, I happily continued on my way Barkly Homstead, a 200km ride in a completely straight line. Nullarbor memories resurfaced. It was almost as painful as the earplugs pre-customization. The country here is the type that doesn't appear on any Aussie postcard ever. It's the opposite of picturesque and I imagine it's what the British saw when they decided to leave the convicts here, before actually seeing what the West Coast looked like.
It's midday and I realized that I never really experienced heat until now. Going 200km east of the highway to Alice meant you had desert heat ad tropical heat combined. I managed to slide myself off the bike and parked Sheba between two fuel pumps. It was the only shade for miles. Cyclone Debbie is now on the radar and she became more of a threat the further I scrolled through Facebook. As I swiped through the timelines, I got deeper into a cheap meat pie and astoundingly mediocre coffee. Then the news came on with a massive red swirl on a map of Australia. The weatherman was talking inaudibly under the clinking of spoons and forks in the eating area. The jist I got was "don't go to Townsville or you'll die".
There's always the top highway that I was going to take in the first place. The risk is that it's not as well kept and far more remote than the highway that cuts straight across. This top highway requires a 500km ride to Normanton before making any progress. I looked at the time. 130pm. Yikes, I need to get to Camooweel soon - 230km away.
With the click of the killswitch and press of the ignition, Sheba and I started the next leg to the NT/QLD border. A hot wind started picking up despite having a cooling vest on. Evaporative vests don't work when the air is already moist. So, heading into QLD, I knew it was already getting increasingly humid just by how the vest acted. I couldn't be bothered stopping in this heat so we went right to the border while sweating profusely. It was like that time I tried out for the high school talent show and ran off stage mid-performance. It's weird, but when you're alone, you just don't let yourself give up.
We stopped at the border for a quick photoshoot. It was flatter than the Canadian Prairies and was some sort of gloomy overcast mixed with the type of warmth like you are a 7-11 hotdog rolling around in that mini oven for weeks on end. It's hard to stay optimistic when you feel like a piece of salty meat.
Camooweel was a short 17km after the border and had a small servo that tripled as a motel and cafe. The food reminded me of an amusement park, with burgers, chips, hotdogs etc. Everything was the same colour. Fried. After settling on some chicken nuggets stuffed with salt and regret, I made conversation with a local who was also feeling his arteries clog. He said that the top highway is pretty bad because there's messy spots of gravel and single lane highways. 4 nuggets into my very nutritious late lunch, I decided not to stay in Camooweel and press on a further 190km. It was a very spontaneous decision which was spurred on by how bad the food was there. Steph found a place for me in Mount Isa so off we went yet again. I was sore, tired, hungry, and very aware that the sun was setting and that roos like to attack victims at random during this time.
The border between NT and QLD is a little unobstructed for my liking
Coming into Mount Isa was one of the prettiest views so far. It took me off guard because of the huge shift from flat to hilly in only a few k's. The sunset created a pallette of colours not usually am from the city. There was a continuous flow of every assortment of green imaginable, politely interrupted by the curving asphalt. I hardly noticed the last 80km because I had so much fun.
The owner of the hostel was waiting outside for our arrival. "You must be Amanda. I didn't know you were coming by motorbike." we made some quick conversation as I clumsily unclipped my bags and dragged them up the stairs like 3 oversized infants.
"I uh... had the privilege of upgrading your room for ya. You're in a queen single instead of a twin. I guess it works out because ya have all these bags."
I thanked him until he was sick of my voice. There was a kitchen, living room with a tv, and several showers. Once inside, I shared a hot shower with 2 perverted crickets and a peeping cockroach, then drank water until I looked 5 months pregnant. I just sat there, crouched in front of the cooler, drinking water in my underwear. I don't remember much else after that, but I can promise that never in my life had I ever cuddled a waterbottle in bed. Well, I guess I can't say that anymore.
Tomorrow, Normanton is just a quick spurt north for 500km. Easy right?