- Emmdale (A) to Wilcannia (B)
Would you believe that, in Emmdale, they lock the toilets at night and don’t give the sole caravanners a key? What did they think that we were going to do? Steal the paper? There was a public toilet fairly close by, with a mind-crippling odour wafting out in all directions and we were obliged to make use of this in the early morning gloom. Probably just as well that we couldn’t see anything very clearly; the place may have looked as bad as it smelt.
I set off from Emmdale in cool, clear weather and with few regrets. Emmdale was not added to my list of places to which I would love to return. I wore a long sleeved top, as was becoming customary on these chilly mornings, and kept it on for the first one hundred kilometres. As on previous few days the road was fairly flat, the uphills not presenting much of a challenge and the downhills presenting little opportunity for breakneck speeds.
A brisk wind came up during the course of the morning, but was from the side for most of the time, and even from behind on occasion. Not, therefore, much of a hindrance. The cross winds do seem to exaggerate the buffeting one experiences on being passed by a road train, though. The long road trains really test the nerves and when a pair are riding nose to tail in tandem, increasing the practical length of the vehicles to somewhere near eighty feet, it is really mind jolting. It takes concentration to maintain station at the edge of the road in the buffeting wind that their passage generates.
The first fifty kilometres that I cycled were an absolute dream. I saw a kangaroo sitting in the road within five hundred metres of setting out, and it looked quizzically in my direction until I was just a few metres away from it before taking off lazily into the bush. Okay, maybe the look wasn’t quizzical, maybe it was bored, or puzzled, or just plain unconcerned. Marsupial indifference. A little further on a fox trotted across the road in front of me, as unconcerned as the kangaroo. I don’t think that they recognised someone on a bicycle as any kind of threat at all, in which surmise they were perfectly correct.
The early dawn is certainly the time to see animals. Ten or fifteen kilometres into the morning I rode up to where Jane was parked on the side of the road and was filming four foxes feeding on a large kangaroo that had been flattened during the night. We watched them for several minutes before a road train approaching from the direction of Wilcannia scared them away. Later in the day we were to see that foxes themselves are not exempt from the heavy toll payable by those who use the Highway when we saw two dead foxes just a metre apart.
The volume of road kill along this stretch of Highway was staggering. I counted eight kangaroos within ten kilometres and during the course of the morning we also saw four foxes that had fallen victim to the merciless wheels. Can this possibly be the toll night after night?
At one hundred kilometres we reached Wilcannia and had a quick lunch before I pushed on down the Barrier Highway towards Broken Hill. The road continued to be fairly flat and the cycling not too difficult, and much to our relief there were significantly less carcases on the road than there had been earlier. Perhaps they had already been cleared away, but I like to think that we were out of the death zone.
I stopped riding after covering about fifty kilometres after leaving Wilcannia and we bussed the bike back. We booked into the delightful Victory Park caravan park on the banks of the Darling River, set amongst the most ancient-looking of Red River Gum trees.