The last week has been spent getting acquainted to the remoteness of Australia’s Northern Territory. I pedal on roads that quickly change from asphalt, to dirt, to gravel and then back again and watch passing cars slowly fade away into the distance. There are very few mountains here and at night the headlights of the highway can be seen from miles away. The journey however has been a struggle against time and the elements, as I try to arrive in the southern state of New South Wales before my flight back to the states late July.
I have chosen a rather difficult route, which travels on 800 km of rough sandy roads, with towns spread at large distances. The upshot is that it saves me over 600 km on a busy highway, giving me more time to observe Australia’s Northern Coast.
I have quickly noticed that labor is difficult to find in these remote areas and I have already been asked several times for work. The minimum wage for a receptionist or bar maid starts at $25 an hour including accommodation and food! Most of the time however employers are looking to trade food and a place to sleep for 3-4 hours of work! The food is usually oatmeal and biscuits and sleep is dirty comfortable bed, my simple cooking and tent are far superior.
It is peak caravan season and I have met many friendly retire couples traveling about in RV’s, trailers and vans. At rest stops, (which sometimes have water) I am almost always offered a cup of coffee from these friendly travelers and after a bit of conversation usually a sandwich and cookies are thrown in! This hospitality surely makes up for the continual coldness of the locals in road houses where a few days ago I was declined tap water!
Winter began last Friday and the evenings have been getting quite cold. The days are hot though and distances pedaling into the wind leaves me exhausted after 100 km. On a few occasions I would set up camp to find myself too tired to cook, only to awake at midnight with an empty stomach keeping me from sleep.
I am at the start of a 500 km section of extremely difficult riding, Borroloola to Burketown on the Northern Hwy 1. I will touch base again when I can!