I live in a tent. No other way to think about it. It is a comforting realisation as I lie or sit inside my Soulo either in preparation for sleep, to get out of the weather, avoid strangers or a combination of all three plus any other reason too ephemeral to easily define.
It’s an interesting realisation, that I live in a tent. Not the first time. There have been periods of my life where tent-life and travel were my existence. Not a vacation or trip from a well-defined home via various destinations with the intention to return to a well-defined home. Nope. Cast adrift from a location anchor, loose on the wild winds and waters of the road and quite often the sea.
I am again in such a state. And I am content to finally realise that is exactly where I am. I want to be here.
There something inherently euphoric about being mobile, drifting, with no specific place to be, no particular destination and no timeframe within which it must happen.
No denying too there are significant downsides. The million compromises I must make to enjoy this sense of euphoria. A clear and good example is … there is no state which will take any responsibility for me. For I am stateless by definition. I earn no money. Pay no taxes. Are obliged to no government. And will receive no government’s largesse should it all go horribly, horribly wrong.
On more than one occasion in more than one country I have found myself badly in need of largesse, a government’s or anyone’s for it went horribly, horribly wrong. Life changing can such situations be, driving an urge to not repeat the circumstances in which I am alone, vulnerable and in dire need.
Inevitably I shall return to belonging to a state, with an address, some kind of social-service number, and more than likely completely broke. I used to end in such a state more or less every 24 months. It surprised me just how fast I could recover financially, my morale and the desire to risk it all again.
Ultimately I got fed up of being poor, of living in virtual poverty and went out and built a career. But my career choices have always been ephemeral too. Compromises. I don’t want to work. I have to. Give me a million dollars and I’ll never work again. I would occupy my time and energies. And travel, grassroots, simplistic, backpacker-esque travel would be part of such an occupation.
The drive though is hard to let go, that lingering need to accomplish something. Milestones and objectives. It is most manifest in the need to do a certain number of kilometres. The need to wake early break camp and hit the road, or track. Actually I have no need to do any of this. I want to achieve a goal: to ‘do’ the Tanami by bike. Well, I’m not going to achieve this goal if I don’t do a certain number of kilometres, that’s the whole point. ‘Doing’ the Tanami is the culmination of getting up, early or not, breaking camp and doing kilometres, lots of them in fact. But I don’t need to stress too much whether I do these kilometres day after day in a contiguous manner.
I can also simply chill and take it easy for a while and enjoy a different moment.
Living in a tent allows me to do this.
And I love it.
Melrose was an early rise and on the road before 0700. I’m aiming for Mount Brown Conservation Park some 60 km along the Mawson. Nice day, warm not too hot mild tail breeze, easy riding.
I pass an ominous symbol of impending isolation: a memorial to Goyder and His Line. Goyder defined a line through South Australia where below it there’s a reasonable chance of rainfall and therefore agricultural success. And above, not a reasonable chance of rainfall and subsequently less effort at populating the area and developing it. I have now just crossed it.
The small town of Wilmington turns up before 1100. 32 km before 1100. 30-odd kilometres to go. I think I’ll make it.
It’s Sunday so I’m pleasantly surprised the little café is open allowing me to indulge in a Farmer’s Union iced coffee. The large veranda on the building opposite is where I’m going to have to wax the Gates’ belt since The Noise has returned.
Instead Simon and Heather turn up. A lovely cycling couple split between her house in Wilmington and his in Melrose. I’d met them on Thursday in Melrose when they were admiring Dreamer and Ziflex and the whole set up whilst it was parked outside Over the Edge Sports. Heather’s former ‘office’ used to include 500 000 square kilometres of South Australia’s outback where she researched ‘wild dog’ management strategies. The same outback I’m gonna ride through. She has a mass of very important and highly useful intel.
I don’t make it to Mount Brown Conservation Park.
Instead I enjoy a great evening with Simon and Heather and another couple, some great beers and an amazing leg of lamb. Simon even presented me the bone to nibble on. Hard to beat that for hospitality. We joke about my ‘vegetarianism’ as I enjoy the taste and texture. Wonderful.
I get to clean the Gates’ belt. And Heather tries her best to help me understand what I’m up against as I ride north.
One of those ‘where did that come from?’ moments. Heather even works for the Department of Environment. A Greeny. Like me. Simon works for Roxby Downs, a huge copper, uranium and gold mine 400 km north of Port Augusta.
I speculate that the number of coincidences which role across my Path cannot be coincidences. I have an Earth Mother Queen and She quietly provides me opportunities to progress along my Path.
The Mawson north of Wilmington to Quorn had its share of steep bits …
… looong downhills …
… slippeeery dusty sections where some cattle enjoyed my desperate control antics …
… and increasingly spectacular vistas over what’s coming … the North Flinders Ranges and the vast emptiness of the outback.
By 1100 I was in Quorn 41 km north of Wilmington. The last major urban area before, as everyone succinctly puts in I’m “on yer own!” with no telephone connectivity and buggar-all fellow travellers.
The last place for any preparation.
I await here two packets. One a new 2nd hand phone. Telstra recently sent me an sms on my old 2nd hand phone which is less than four weeks in my possession to tell me they will no longer service their 2G network. Upgrade, the warn, or be left in the telecommunications dark.
The other is a steel front end for Ziflex to replace the inadequate alimunium ones of which I am currently on my second set. Going north I truly do not want to have to deal with a broken trailer or failure in any other equipment. I truly thank Mathias and Cyklorama for putting together the steel front end and sending it.
Working out where down the track I can get food and water, which route(s) to take and which to avoid, and if possible what are the track conditions. The Mawson terrain profiles between here and Blinman 300 Mawson Kilometres in the distance are intimidating. Given that the next couple of days will be over 40C as the northerlies sweep in off the desert and I’ll be fully loaded with up to 25 litres of water and the challenging terrain, I am changing plans. My route north to Blinman will be a mix of Mawson and road. Humpin’ ass over 20% inclines was tough enough in winter – think 15-20C – in forested south West Australia with minimal water load. Make that an exposed 40C and it will be murder. I’ll chew through my water supplies. A compromise is needed and I am going to make that compromise.
Tourist information in Quorn have really been helpful. I feel more reassured now. Yes, there is a way to enjoy the iconic landscape that’s to come without putting myself into a risk category I do not really wanna be in.
Quorn, 17 November 2015
4 months + 1 day since I started. Seems a L O T longer than that.