If life is a journey then it’s time to travel.

Some Conclusions

Conclusions

Why did I ride 1800kms from Buderim to Shepparton?   Was it a dare or challenge? I don’t think it was either, but whatever the reason I do know that it helped close my 8 year Balranald chapter and in hindsight probably helped set me up at an experiential level for the last day of my sustainability course subject on Friday 3 June.   

My 3 night stop at Lightning Ridge was one highlight.  I felt very comfortable and it was a pleasure to be in the company of Gale and Roger Collins and in the Black Queen environment and to stay at the Opal Caravan Park.  I know a little about running good tourism product and the Black Queen and Opal Caravan Park are top class.

The 800 or so kilometre part of the ride along the Kidman Way helped me reflect on that very enjoyable part of my career in tourism working for Carrathool Shire Council and catching up with good folk from that time at Cobar, Hillston, Goolgowi and Jerilderie.  I suppose this part of the ride was also my way of paying homage to the Kidman Way. 

Would I take another job at Carrathool Shire Council or promoting the Kidman Way if it was offered (I’ve thought about that a bit along the way)?  I would take a position like that if it was a job where I worked locally one week out of two and could base the rest of my working time in Melbourne.

Would I do the ride again?  With a little more planning and good company, yes I would.

I also know that the ride was a ‘rite of passage’, as Karl Jung would have said, that has given me new energy and self-confidence for the next chapter of my life that I want to ensure I share with Jenny.

My arrival at the Opal Caravan Park Lightning Ridge at 8.45pm after riding 229kms from St George Qld.

Day 20 and 21 on the Road

The 30km ride to Finley included being passed by dozens of trucks at times where the side of the road was pretty rough, although there were some good stretches of road verge where I had good seal under me approximately 1.4m wide.

 

Tidy Town wins are treasured in Country Towns.

However, I recall one truckie giving me a warning blast with his horn as he had to pass me whilst facing a truck heading towards us.  I very quickly moved the trike right off the bitumen, but he still managed to pass me with a good safety margin.  I repeated this sudden move to my left into rough grass for necessity just before Finley where I think I might have punctured my left front tyre.  This was a relatively slow leak that had the tyre almost flat by the time I rode into the BP Service Station.

My repair procedure was very simple.  I used the valve tool to remove the valve stem and poured approximately 50ml of Tyre Shield ® into the tyre, re-inserted the valve stem, rotated the wheel slowly a couple of times to redistribute the sealant and then pumped the tyre up again to 65psi and rotated the wheel some more.  I then added more air as the tyre pressure had dropped to less than 30psi within a couple of minutes and rotated the wheel some more.  The tyre has held its pressure for the several days since.  That’s fixing a tyre with this new sealant Tyre Shield ®.

Decided to have lunch in a Finley park to ensure that my left front tyre did not need any more air and sat down to my prepared mixed grain rolls with spread cheese and pre-packed coleslaw.  A local car drove into the car park near me and a local gentleman introduced himself as one of the volunteers distributing free coffee, tea and biscuits at the Finley Fire Station.  He had met me on my early May ride north, after my first tyre puncture just south of Finley and  I recalled our earlier conversation.  He wanted to wish me well on my continuing ride.

From Finley I tried to book into a motel at Katamatite but it had closed so I used Call Connect to find me a Numurkah motel and had to extend my ride for this day by another twenty or so kilometres.

As I continued on my way south through Tocumwal I found the local public toilets clean.  I also had the pleasure of riding up a short hill, onto the bridge over the Murray and I was back in Victoria.  The next three or four kilometres of highway across the Murray floodplain are a bit hazardous, but it is fortunately signposted at 8okms per hour.  However, there are narrow stretches of road between even narrower bridges and  I peddled furiously to be on the bridges for the shortest period of time and  managed to get through without creating any traffic jam or worse still ‘Hank jam’ (squashed Hank), hence I had reasons to smile.

 

Saint Mary MacKillop's good influence stretched far and wide including places like Numurkah.

 

It was just before 5.00pm by the time I reached the centre of Numurkah and I was happy to check into the comfortable El Toro Motel and get under a hot shower on Wednesday night.  A good steak (only $15 for a 400gm rump) followed at the Numurkah Hotel.

In the morning it was just going to be a short 40km ride into Shepparton and I was planning on wearing my ‘day’ clothes including long pants for wearing on the train to Melbourne.

What a nice surcharge!

  

If I had an extra Day I would have continued my ride to at least Seymour and probably Melbourne after an overnight stop at Nagambie.

Bike path into Shepparton. I should have mentioned earlier that both Bourke and Hillston also had good bike paths.

As it happened I allowed nearly four hours to cover the distance to Shepparton and suspect that this last day’s slow ride was probably the busiest in terms of traffic on the road I had encountered anywhere.  Arriving at the Shepparton railway station at around 11.50am I bought my ticket and made a phone call to the only person I knew to be in Shepparton and invited Brian, from Express Car & Truck Rentals in Shepparton that I had utilised during my abandoned ride north, to have a celebratory coffee at the conclusion of my 1800km ride.

Back, at Southern Cross Station.

Day 19 to Jerilderie

Once more an early start saw me leaving in the dark. The weather forecast suggested a fine day with temperatures in the range of 7 – 18 degrees.  So I dressed accordingly, but realised it was colder and I discovered, by the time I reached Darlington Point that the minimum was 1 degree and it took me approximately an hour in Darlington Point to warm up again.

It was still dark when I rode past the Griffith VIC. Not surprisingly the Griffith VIC was closed.

 Local traffic before sunrise was busy in the Griffith area and I was encouraged to move off  road onto the road verge on a couple of occasions when I saw traffic come up behind me as head on traffic was passing.

I have wondered for a number of years what this building I reached around sunrise is all about.  There is no business name on it but the gates appear to have the initial ‘N’.  I think the sides of the building are plain bessa block grey or concrete walls.

Given its prime location some 30kms south of Griffith, on the Murrumbidgee and on the intersection of the Sturt Highway and Kidman Way it is a wonder that Darlington Point has not benefitted more from its location.  It appears that any development/expansion of Darlington Point within the Murrumbidgee Shire over the past 10 years or so has happened because individuals have taken the initiative. 

I also don’t understand why the unique local sculptor and artist Ron Clark does not have a higher local profile.  Not only did this man create the Kidman Way statue north of Griffith and the Memorial to Pioneer Women at Merriwagga, he is also responsible for the amazingly detailed Iroquois Helicopter silhouette on the side wall of the entrance to the Leeton Ex-Servicemen’s Club as well as a number of other prominent works.  On a previous visit to the Leeton Club I was able to have a close look at this metal sculpture and noted the increasing amount of detail within it that I was able to discern as I stepped back from the wall it was hanging on.  Ron Clarke’s work is amazing and worth having a close look at where ever you can find it.

Just before the Coleambally turn off.

 

Taken by Kerri

Had planned to have an early lunch at Coleambally and who should be waiting, standing next to her car at the entrance to Coleambally, but Kerri Weymouth editor of the local paper.  Kerri and I shared contact details and various bits of information about the region and the Kidman Way.  I dare say that we will be in touch again in the not too distant future.

19kms past Coleambally I passed another flat tyre stop from my previous ride north on the Kidman Way a month earlier and still no flat tyres on this tour south.

I had a long way to ride, with the last 15 or so kilometres on the Newell Highway, but managed to get to Jerilderie before 5.00pm and stopped at Ian Sneddon’s business, an upholstery and canvas workshop, opposite the Jerilderie Council offices.  As a past Mayor of Jerilderie I first met Ian on the Kidman Way Promotion Committee and then more recently at the Melbourne Caravan & Camping Shows where he would volunteer at the Kidman Way stand.

My last stop in Jerilderie was the Jerilderie Budget Motel at the southern end of town.  This very neat and tidy motel run by very friendly Jean and her husband was very comfortable and a $70 for a single per night, very reasonable and next door to the BP Roadhouse where I had dinner and my breakfast the following morning.

Give the man...dinner at Jerilderie.

Back to the…Griffith on Day 18

The luxury of another short ride, only 50kms from Goolgowi to Griffith, enabled me to arrive by lunch-time, but before leaving Goolgowi I visited the Carrathool Shire Council Offices where I had worked for three and a half years, for coffee and a chat. 

My Office used to be on the right (with screen door) that was now occupied by the General Manager, one of the best offices I ever had.

  

It was good to catch up with Jenny Campbell again, didn’t have much of a chance to talk with her two nights before at the Hillston Community Centre.  Jenny has a funny sense of humour that can ‘crack up’ her staff and colleagues, but at the same time she is a knowledge bank of information, particularly on the operations of local government, and has given me excellent professional advice on a couple of occasions in the past.  At the time I don’t think I acknowledged how important her advice and perspective had been when she freely provided it.

However, I missed out again on catching up with Jim Ashton, my ‘old’ boss at Carrathool Shire Council.

The ride to Griffith was very familiar as I would have averaged the trip into Griffith twice a week while working in Goolgowi.  But, of course you don’t really appreciate the subtleties of the landscape as much in a car.  Certainly there were hills, the kind you have to change gear for when riding a recumbent trike that I hadn’t noticed before.  I also couldn’t pick the stretch of fence line on the western side of the road that I recall had been almost covered by wind-blown sand that had allowed sheep to easily walk over it during one particular heavy sandstorm in 2002.

   

I always thought that he large roundabout at the intersection of the Mid Western Highway and Kidman Way had potential, for example, to install a solar powered sculpture in the middle.  In any case it was, once again, worthwhile to ride around the roundabout.

I was also very pleased to be able to ride past farm 1763 (I think) where I had my third and last puncture on my previous ride ‘up’ the Kidman way and, because of insurmountable tyre problems, I abandoned my trip north.  I still hadn’t had a puncture riding south thus far because of the better wheels, tyres, tubes and valves and the excellent Tyre Shield ® sealant I had poured in the tyres in Buderim 1,500kms earlier – more about that later.

Correct signage on display at this winery…

   

 In Griffith I checked into the same room at the EconoLodge Griffith Motor Inn on Banna Avenue that I had stayed for three days a month or so earlier.

I attended to some business with my Griffith based accountant and revisited Toms Cycle World to have my ‘unflatenable’ tyres and valves looked at.  I knew that the valves had to be replaced because I had not been able to blow the tyres up with my hand pump since Buderim as the sealant had been too good in blocking the valves.  To use the sealant I suggest you also use the compressor based capacity at service stations to clear the valves of the sealant after you have poured it into the tyres.  The tyres were apparently given new valves and the all clear after I asked for them to be pressurised to 65psi.

To Goolgowi on Day 17

Travelling the 60kms from Hillston to Goolgowi at the junction of the Kidman Way and Mid-Western Highway you have to stop at Merriwagga and the Black Stump Hotel, as I did. 

Both Hillston and Merriwagga as well as Rankins Springs and Carrathool are a very familiar parts of the Carrathool Shire as I had worked for the Carrathool Shire Council and lived in Goolgowi for around three and a half years to March 2003.  From that position I had promoted the Kidman Way at consumer shows such as the Melbourne and Adelaide Caravan & Camping Shows for the same years.

 

One of the very nice little features of the Goolgowi area are the Sturt Desert peas that you come across from time to time and just near the entrance to the Goolgowi township I saw these gorgeous examples.

I stayed at the very pleasant new Goolgowi Motor Inn that night and can recommend it highly.  Very well appointed and comfortable (2 Mid Western Highway, Goolgowi, NSW 2652 Tel: (02) 6965 1138). 

Complimentary tray that was delivered to my room.

I can also highly recommend the meal I had that evening at the Royal Mail Hotel next door.

On To Hillston on Day 16

A 9.20am start from Mt Hope on Saturday saw me arrive at the Hillston Motel at 3.15pm.  The 90km ride included crossing the Indian Pacific railway line some 30kms south of Mt Hope.

A little later I encountered Mrs Chris Sobey from Wagga.  Chris, a demure 70+ year old lady was sitting on a low camper chair reading about tenmetres back from the road, just past the Cobar- Carrathool Shire boundary.  When I stopped my trike to find out who it was Chris got up from her chair.  As my relatively silent trike came to a stop we were both just as surprised by each other’s presence and we shook hands.

Chris was on her ex-postie motor bike, apparently riding at 60kms per hour on her way to Bourke to join friends on a bush walking trip, when the motor bike broke down.  Being totally self-contained Chris camped the night and was waiting for her friends who were due to pass this way on the Saturday morning to catch a lift with them on to Bourke.  She intended to come back for the bike later.

                                       On most previous occasions when I travelled on this part of the Kidman Way, I had to stop at Ron Clarke’s Kidman Way statue some 35kms from Hillston.  Hence I made the same stop on the Trike. 

This sculpture was erected to commemorate provision of $20.7 Million to complete the bitumen sealing of the Kidman Way.  The plaque was: Officially Unveiled by Hon. John Anderson MP Minister for Transport & Regional Service [on] 22nd May 1999 at the behest of Cr Athol Roberts Chairman of the Kidman Way Promotional Committee and Mayor of Carrathool Shire Council.

The purpose of my Saturday 28 May arrival in Hillston was to attend the 21st celebrations of the Hillston Community Centre that evening.  At this excellent function I managed to catch up with some of my former Committee of management members including Alison and Paula (not Pauline) and Lois as well as Cr Cashmere and ex-Councillors Strong a Williams and their respective wives and Jenny from the Shire Council. There were probably around 200 other Hillston residents in on the celebrations.

The Hillston Community Centre appears to be one of the success stories for this ‘Can Do’ town of 1400 people.

My stay at the Hillston Motel was very comfortable, even though I managed to lock my key in the room and had to make a very late request to have someone open my room door.

Day Fifteen: 160km from Cobar to Mt Hope

As a result of an early 6.00am start, in near freezing conditions, I cycled passed the Peko Gold Mine in the dark.  All the cars that had passed me during the previous 30 or so minutes must have been the early morning shift at the mine.

My headlight was working again and I appeared to be making good pace.  Although there were hills on the way to Mt Hope the construction engineers seemed to have designed the road for this ‘trikist’.  That is, there were generally slow inclines that enabled me to keep a reasonable speed going up and achieve reasonable down-hill runs.

189 to Hillston for petrol. Not sure why this sign couldn't have been located 60kms earlier at Cobar and read 250 to next petrol?

Once daylight emerged this stretch of road appeared familiar and I recognised particular landscape features and anticipated others, and then there was the Sandy Creek bridge.  I had attended it’s opening and witnessed the smoking ceremony that was part of the occasion.  This stretch, the creek crossing and 100m or so on either approach, was the last stretch of the Kidman Way to be sealed, possibly a year or two after the rest of the highway was sealed in 1999.  Just past the Sandy Creek bridge was this turnoff 36km to Nymagee.  Unfortunately, boys with guns wanted to make their impressions on the sign too.

The Gilgunnia rest stop was as I remembered it, commemorating a small gold mining settlement where gold mining went to 330 feet underground and involved around 1000 miners in its hey day.  

Part of the attraction for me to this stretch of the Kidman Way is the magnificent landscape.  Significant partly forested hills are vertical features that have been grazed.  Some vistas show a clean cut line in the foliage under the trees on top of hills where the under story has been grazed by cattle/sheep and probably wild goats to a consistent height.

You can frequently see the wild introduced goats on the road ahead.  They appear in good condition and in many combinations of colour.  I understand that they are rounded up from time to time for live  export to the Middle East. 

I knew in advance that the Royal Hotel at Mt Hope had no spare accommodation – occupied by drilling crews working in the surrounding hills – and was prepared to camp the night adjacent to the Hotel and as it happened under a weeping willow.

Given the recent increases in the price of gold it comes as no surprise that these drilling crews have been sent in to help re-evaluate the mineral deposits in the area.

I forgot to include my trike in this picture of the Royal Hotel but if you look closely you will see my breakfast cooking utensils on the table to the left of the hotel entrance for an early breakfast before the hotel was opened by Mick the publican. 

He and his partner run long hours with very limited assistance and who can blame them for not opening before 8.00am on a Saturday morning.

PS.  I had a good meal at the Royal Hotel Mt Hope on Friday night.

Day Thirteen and Fourteen

‘Cobar’ sounds like ‘crowbar’ and the town reminds me of something hard and enduring, even on this, probably my 20th visit to this great Outback NSW town.  Cobar is located  on the cross roads of the North-South Kidman Way and East-West Barrier Highway that takes you west to Wilcannia and Broken Hill and to Nyngan in an easterly direction.  

Mining in Cobar has suffered from the booms and busts associated with the price of minerals, in particular Gold and Copper, in the past.  But apparently the town has had 10 years or more growth to date and is now in a boom phase.  When in Cobar stop at the Great Cobar Heritage Centre – and the accredited Visitor Information Centre located there. The Centre provides some great insights into Cobar’s heritage and the mining industry.

I caught up with the local Tourism Manager, John Martin, at the Centre and had dinner with him that evening.  The Kidman Way is never far from John’s mind and he was about to apply for funding to support the next edition of the Kidman Way brochure, edition 12 or 13.  That’s how long John has been directly involved marketing and promoting this north-south stretch of highway through outback NSW. 

On reflection, I started to recognise being drawn to this part of my cycling route by the power of the Kidman Way promotion that I had been involved in.  “Love the Kidman Way” had been said to me by several different people towing caravans who occasionally use this route to travel to northern Queensland. 

I have heard it said that Sydney Kidman had a butcher shop in Cobar before he started investing in the vast tracks of land he owned. 

“Stretching over 900km from Jerilderie in New South Wales is the Kidman Way – a journey into the vast expanse of lush Riverina countryside, flat tumbleweed plains and rocky ranges.  It is a place where legends were born and adventures can be found at every stretch of the road.”

Anyway I was cycling on the Kidman Way and started to really enjoy doing it the slow way.

A good stretch of the Kidman Way from the previous day.

Day Twelve To Cobar and a Couple of Shakes

Being aware that the westerly from the day before was turning into a south, south westerly during this ride an early start 6.30am saw me leave the comfort of my Darling River Motel where the small room with en-suite had only cost $60 for the night.

Now I was on the Kidman Way proper past the Bourke Cemetery on the left, where Fred Hollows is buried, with the sun rising by the time I reached the 10km post from Bourke and I had another 150kms to go.

 There were still some cotton modules with their familiar blue plastic covers on top, to be seen in daylight in the distance, but I understood that a very good cotton season was over in this region.

The Gundabooka National Park turn off sign reminded me that my nephew was looking for an inland ‘mountain’.   

Gundabooka National Park covers an area of 43,000 hectares. The main feature of the park’s landscape is the Gundabooka Range, which rises to a height of 500 metres at Mount Gundabooka. From the summit of the Gundabooka range there are extensive views of the wide open plains typical of north west New South Wales. The rust coloured rocks that can be seen on the rugged surface of the cliffs, gorges and hills are over 385 million years old. Gundabooka National Park is of great cultural significance to the Ngemba Aboriginal people.  (from:http://www.traveldownunder.com.au/New_South_wales/Outback_NSW/Gundabooka_National_Park.asp)

I was frog-leaped by a line painting crew of 5 vehicles who were painting lines on long stretches of newly resurfaced Kidman Way. I passed them again and they almost caught up again for a second stretch and had several more to do before and after Cobar.  Probably resurfaced by CSR Emoleum, the largest pavement and road surfacing company in Australia, these long  stretches of new aggregate top must have a greater wearing effect on my three Scorcher slicks with its sharp edges but, so far so good.   I will get Tom’s Cycle World in Griffith to check the tyres and tyre pressure.

Tall trees are a feature of the natural landscape along the Kidman Way, including patches of Cyprus or Murray pines that appear to like particular red soil types and this one seems to have the same angle of lean as a result of the headwind as my flag.

And then there were several cattle grids that gave the trike a quick sharp shake at speed.  At least the cross bars in these grids on the Kidman are not quite as far apart and not quite as ‘bone rattling’ for the trike’ 16 inch wheels as others I encountered on the road to Moonie.  That reminds me, Ian (from Greenspeed) we need 20 inch tyres all round if we are going to be serious about touring on trikes in Outback Australia.  That would also help on some of the better dirt roads.

 

With 34kms to get to Cobar I was losing energy and drive and needed food and managed to consume almost a full packet of tropical mix.  At least the lighter headwind I had encountered from before lunch was abating. 

I still ended up riding the last 10kms or so in the dark, with no sign of Cobar lights until the last couple of kilometres and then my dynamo driven headlight started to flicker and turn itself off on the last downhill run well before any street lights.  With practically no visibility forward, but for my flashing helmet light I located my multi-LED headstrap light set and it functioned for the next few kilometres strapped to my helmet, but I had to reduce my speed.

And then there was Robert, the new owner of the Crossroads Motel, who saw the signs of my fatigue and said, after I had filled in the required form: “Don’t worry about the rest I’ll show you to your room.” and proceeded ahead of me with comforting words to turn on the lights and heating in the room.  That was almost as good as in the advert for one of the motel chains where the owner picks up the tired looking guests and their luggage and carries them all to their room.  I stayed there two nights in a very good room (Crossroads Motel, Kidman Way, Cobar NSW 2835 Telephone: 02-6836 2711)

Auspicious Time of Arrival in Bourke

The headwinds of day 10 increased on on day 11 west to Bourke  and the 98kms took almost nine hours to complete.  There were some minor rises in the landscape but they were no obstacle compared to the constant 15-20kms per hour or more westerly that slowed my riding speed to probably less than 15kms per hour.  

The 11kms to go from here still took almost one hour.

The feature of Mt Oxley to the south, about 20kms from Bourke looked familiar and once in Bourke I had no problem finding the Darling River Motel or the local IGA etc.  However, just on the outskirts of Bourke near the electricity substation on my approach on the Kamilaroi Highway from Bree, there were a number of vehicles with various flashing light colours that I caught up to as they were travelling very slowly towards the centre of town.  They were moving so slow that I and a couple of vehicles decided to pass a couple of unmarked vehicles, an ambulance and fire truck and one lonely walker and police vehicle at the head of the convoy.   

Riding past the convoy...

 I tried to take some pictures with my iPhone but almost missed the lot and thought no more of the convoy until I noticed a high ranking policeman at the IGA Supermarket and asked him what the event was coming in convoy into town.  He said: “It was for a guy walking around Australia”. 

Of course until that moment I had been feeling pretty chuffed with my own ride of at least 1000kms by the time I got to Bourke.  Get it in perspective Hank.

This trike was going to be parked the right way at the Darling River Motel.

Anyway, for my purposes at Bourke I was just about at the start of the Kidman Way and about to head south on this very familiar stretch of road that I had helped to promote for several years.  This promotion was supported by Bourke, Cobar, Carrathool, Griffith, Murrumbidgee and Jerilderie Councils and not a skerrick of promotional funding support had come from the state or Federal Governments in more than 12 years since the road was first promoted as the Kidman Way.