We were a little confused by the change in the time zones and hence the change in the time of sunrise, but nevertheless managed to rise a little before first light to prepare for the day’s ride. Tea and the usual breakfast before taking off in the crisp, clear and bitingly cold weather. In the crystal clear sky, we wouldn’t see a cloud all day.
It took nearly seven kilometres to pass through Broken Hill and back onto the Barrier Highway, where a sign boldly declared that we were 2800 km from Perth. After ten days of cycling we were still 2800 km from Perth. And the end of our journey was some way further than Perth. Instant depression!
The creeks that we crossed in this part of the country, all of which were dry and looked as though they hadn’t seen water for years, have names that are sometimes appropriate and sometimes almost cynically inappropriate. The Dismal Bridge is truly dull, dreary and depressing. Pine Tree Creek and Black Oak Creek, by contrast, wind their way through areas totally devoid of trees. Any trees, let alone pine trees and black oaks. Well, let’s be generous, maybe there are pines and black oaks further downstream.
Fifty kilometres of cycling brought me to Cockburn and the border between NSW and South Australia. Something of an anti-climax, really, as I entered the second state of the trip. No fanfare, just a board welcoming us, as it did all other travellers, to the new state. We stopped to take a few photographs and to savour the moment, then it was on with the ride.
The next village that we expected to pass through was Mingary. A reasonable expectation, I would have thought, as it was clearly marked on our usually reliable map, but it failed to appear in reality. We saw a Mingary Creek, but no Mingary town or Mingary village. Instead, after about one hundred and twenty kilometres, we came to the settlement of Olary. Just a tiny place, with, as appears to be so common in Australia, the Hotel being the centre of attraction.
- On the road again.
We toyed with the idea of staying in the hotel only to find that its licence had been suspended indefinitely and they were therefore supplying no accommodation, food or liquor. After a brief consultation and a short break we decided to push on to Yunta, a further forty-five kilometres down the Barrier Highway. I climbed back onto the bike and pedalled away.
Yunta was a greatly welcome sight when it finally hoved into view. Its presence signalled the end of the first two hundred kilometres plus day of the tour and the longest ride of my career. A long day in the office, but I felt satisfied with the effort and quite pleased with my physical condition. Of course I was tired, but the more important point was that I was free of any niggling injury. No stretched tendons, inflamed joints or seriously chafed patches of skin.
Yunta turned out to be home to the most basic of caravan parks. There were three or four powered caravan sites up against the fence behind the petrol pumps near the roadhouse, in an area devoid of grass. But mosquitoes there were aplenty. Vicious, buzzing, biting, constantly irritating mosquitoes. They found their way into the campervan in spite of closed doors and screened windows, settling and biting, defying with superb reflexes our repeated attempts to swot them.
We had supper in the restaurant that formed part of the roadhouse complex and presumably catered more for drivers of road trains than passing cyclists or tourists of any other persuasion. Overhearing that I was quite hungry, the proprietor recommended that I try the rump steak. This turned out to be not much short of a side of beef and could have fed a small African state for several days!