Day 27: Mount Isa to Normanton
Temp: 30-37°C + humidity
Kirbie is a little 10 year old Bichon-Maltese cross who becomes a small white fluffball when he sleeps in his circular doggie bed. No matter what his day was like, you could not see a more satisfied expression on anyone's face but his. That was exactly how I felt waking up in a queen sized bed after hopping around from hostel to hostel. As a result of sleeping in and taking a careful shower to not wake the crickets up, I ended up leaving Mount Isa at 10am. I only had a 500km day to Normanton which was a straight, easy, remote road. This was about 6 hours of riding with a few breaks mixed in for a light day.
The ride started off well with a 130km flowy road to Cloncurry. These scenic mountains definitely give your mind and body the alertness it needs to keep on track. I could feel my square tyres' edges making it a bit uneasy to lean into the corners. The chain was a bit clunky and gearing down was an effort. I stayed gingerly on the throttle and clutch and played with the rear brake as smoothly as I could. I knew for a fact that the chain had loosened dramatically since the gravel detour and was further exasperated by the water crossings. But these towns wouldn't have a chain and sprocket set. Instead, they would have farm machinery. I was doubtful I needed an industrial planter anytime soon.
The bustling streets of Normanton.
After a quick fuel in Cloncurry, I was off North to Normanton. The hills flattened immediately and I was left yet again in a desolate grassy wasteland speckled with soulless trees that lived long ago. What I failed to comprehend yesterday was the concept of "single lane highway" as told by the Camooweel local yesterday. Surely he just meant it was harder to overtake people because there's one lane per direction. Alas, Australia once again surprised me - nobody, in the thousands of pieces of advice, ever mentioned it was one lane for BOTH directions and that I would be pitting myself into an extreme game of Chicken.
In an attempt to make these remote areas more accessible but still remain cost efficient, the QLD government apparently laid out narrow strips of pavement over the original dirt road to connect towns that rarely see traffic. As a result, you would have repeated situations where you start on your own lane and the road suddenly narrows into one skinny central lane with no lines. This was not a good quality road. The middle of the road was sometimes unpaved or had gravel from the cars. The sides of the road often had huge chunks missing as though they ran out of asphalt for that section. Parts of the road had large potholes or ridges from floods or hot weather.
I stayed on the right side of the road to avoid the most potholes, then went into full tuck and hugged the shit out of the left edge of the road whenever someone passed by. They would have to straddle the asphalt and dirt to get by me. I omg encountered one road train and luckily it was right at his entrance of the single lane highway so I squeezed by before he began. The straights were fine in the end. It was really the crests and curves that have you guessing. Who needs caffeine when you can elevate your heartrate on the cheap?
After arriving into Normanton, I realized I had no data and I hadn't planned where to stay the night. Thanks to Steph's swift Googling action, I checked in to a campervan park for the night. Gravel will always freak me out but I somehow managed to maneuver through the yard to find my tiny bunk in a shed at the back. Geckos lined the walls and there were a couple of low lying spiderwebs but at least it had air conditioning.
There was one pub in town cakled the Purple Pub. It really was entirely purple on the outside and greets you with a life size model of a croc as soon as you enter the door. "We're having roast tonight!" The lady at the front said. I guess I'm having roast tonight.
It turns out that I think the cook made the roast herself in her house and brought it to the pub to sell at dinnertime. It was actually not half bad but I made a quick exit to get home to shower. The shower was ice cold but I stopped caring, and even washed some laundry while standing there. The frogs in the shower stayed put, thinking I wouldn't notice them. Oh you sneaky shits, I see what you're up to.
Bedtime was either extremely moist from the outside air, or extremely cold and dry from the air conditioning. I opted for the air con while wearing long pants and a hoodie. Nobody warned me that the air conditioner was on a timer and that 4 hours later it would shut off... followed by me waking up kicking clothes off frantically. I felt like a UFC fighter in a sweatsuit but without the muscle tone. Not being able to get back to sleep, I sat on a deck alone in almost zero clothes, inhaling water with every breath, while watching the sky light up with the Queensland sun.