Broome to Sandfire Roadhouse
Heading south from Broome we face a long stretch of about 600k down to Port Hedland. Travellers advice ringing in our ears “there’s nothing to see on this stretch” , and they were right.
Riding fast we zoom along. We are fairly parched and about 150k south of Broome we approach signs spaced along the road every 100 metres “fresh fruit”, “Melons”, ” Cold Drinks”, “Tea & Coffee”. We are filled with anticipation as we turn into the Shamrock Fruit Stall…it’s closed!. We walk over to the shelter and look at a fridge with a sign on it “Rock melon with ice cream $3.00”, the fridge is empty. We let out a quiet sob. Food is a strong driving force for us.
Next day we ride 175k to Sandfire Roadhouse. We’re pretty stuffed when we get there. For the last 40k I’ve been focused on the bottle of Coke I’m going to have. I walk past a group of bus travellers avoiding their questioning looks. Coming out of the roadhouse with my prized Coke I can’t avoid them..
the interrogation starts:-
- How far have you ridden? (amazed look)
- Where have you come from? (amazed look)
- How long have you been on the road (amazed look)
- How many punctures have you had?
- How many tires have you worn out?
- Did you make those trailers?
Observations from them generally are:-
- Geez you must be keen
- Geez you must be fit
- Geez you must be mad
- Geez you must have a sore arse
I usually intervene and ask them about their trip. I don’t really give a stuff but it usually stops the questions. To be fair though, most people are very nice and we have some great conversations. But I’ve had enough of the one sided interview style conversation, especially when just getting off the bike.
Sandfire Roadhouse to Karratha
Along this long stretch we stop off at 80 mile beach. We enjoy some contemplative ambling along the sand. The tides are amazing with the water vanishing to the horizon at low tide requiring a twenty minute walk out to find the water’s edge. Soon we roll into Pt Hedland. The tedium of the featureless landscape is replaced with massive industrial activity related to iron ore mining. The long iron ore trains glide across the landscape with a smooth swishing noise. The rails are continuous so there is no clickety clack. We are on the edge of the Hammersley Ranges and the hills are a relief from the flat landscape we have been through.
Soon we are in Karratha, a great regional town with lots of supplies and probably the best bike shop between Darwin and Perth. A couple of days here restocking and repairing gear. I rebuild my rear wheel (Christie Cycles sent me a new hub to replace the failing old one). Just about everything we own seems to be failing or held together with string and glue. Sandal sewn together with fishing line, reading glasses held together with wire and tape, pedals with a few ball bearings missing, cleats wearing out, suspension pivots graunching, a cracked rear rim being nursed along, a cracked seat post reinforced with high strength tape, Bob bag handles sewn back on , rear derailleurs sticking, jockey wheels seizing up, cable sheath rusting, seats sagging as foam collapses (reinforced with cut up pieces of thong), camelbaks – faded to pastel colours with stitching coming undone, buckles broken, seized zips, leaking valves, leaking bladders and runaway mould growing in them. Helmet visors glued on umpteen times, sunglasses glued together, tent patched using duct tape. Amazingly everything still works pretty well.
Karratha to Karajini
We head south for Karajini National Park in the Hammersley Ranges. Down the Hammersley Iron company road, permit required but it’s too dangerous for bikes they say. We suspect this is just another capitalist/socialist/totalitarian plot to keep the down trodden masses in their place, especially cyclists. We ride it anyway expecting the armed helicopters to swoop in and apprehend us at any moment. No one gives a stuff in the end.
Great views as we head into the Hammersley Ranges. In Millstream/Chichester NP we are treated to fantastic views of rugged ranges and vast plains. Brilliant colours of red/brown rock contrasting against the pale green spinifex, white trunked gums and carpets of Sturts Desert pea along the roadside.
We have to do some climbing but the views are worth it. We spend a couple of days in Millstream NP. Lovely swimming and shady camping. A virtual oasis in this dry country. This area sits on a huge aquifier and water is pumped from bores supplying Karratha and Pt Hedland via long pipelines. The taps placed regularly along these pipelines are a good water source for cyclists too.
We forge onto Karajini into a stiff headwind. This combined with the gravel road has us down to 12 kph. We stop at Mt Florence Station a welcome respite. Shared the camp area with a drilling gang putting more water bores on the property. Had a chat around the BBQ that night. A young bloke with them is on his first trip. He’s a bit lost and not sure how he’ll cope working and living with this knockabout group of blokes. He wants to get a trade but this is all the work he can find “This is the first time I’ve been away from home” he says. He’s enjoying the chance to talk to someone else for a change.
Nearing Karajini our food is running low. Even cardboard bread with mayonnaise is considered a delicacy. We just imagine the tomato, lettuce, cheese, beetroot filling is there. We burn up mega calories each day and our thoughts are never far from food. We go to bed dreaming of breakfast, finish breakfast and dream of the munchies and lunch during the day, and finally of the coffee and damper when we get into camp. We dream of food generally, cappuccino and donuts, tubs of ice cream or yoghurt, bacon and eggs, or my favourite, a big slab of steak washed down with a cold beer at the local pub. When we get to town we are like a pack of hungry hyenas around a carcass. It’s not a pretty sight. Karajini at last and we are enraptured by the lovely gorges we find. The symmetrical rock strata produces waterfalls that would suit a japanese garden. One walk is aptly named “Journey to the centre of the earth” with it’s narrow closed in passageways opening out to beautiful clear pools. Lots of rock climbing and gymnastics but a great few days spent here.
We leave Karajini covered in red dust heading for Tom Price dreaming of a shower and more food. We met Mark Polley here with his bike and Bob trailer. He has been riding down from Darwin and joins us for the next few weeks. We head west for the coast again. Camping at a rest area we meet some nice grey nomads(Maree and Barry) who shared a chilled bottle of chardonnay with us. Had a nice evening around the campfire. They described their holiday as a SKI holiday. “Spending the Kids Inheritance”. A substantial percentage of the retired population are buzzing around Australia doing the same. We love ’em as they tend to adopt us.
5 days and 600k later we arrive at Exmouth and the lovely Ningaloo reef. Immediately we jump into the water with snorkel etc and see amazing coral and colourful fish just 10 metres off the shore. We explore this area for a week or so enjoying the beach lifestyle.
Coral Bay a bit further south has even better snorkelling but is very busy with school holiday crowds. As we leave this beautiful area we know we will be back. So many places we have visited we have said “next time, we’ll bring canoes”, ” next time we’ll hike that peak”, next time, next time. It never finishes.