Monday, May 19, 2008

DAY 207: Rest area to Tennant Creek

96 km @ 15.7 km/hr
Sun 18th May 2008
Sunny, 24 deg C
Elevation of destination 248 m
Distance to date 12612 km (7882 miles)

I didn’t care at all for the rest area to camp in last night and the spot I’d chosen rather hurriedly turned out to a very windy place. Unusually, the wind was not only present but strong too, and since the pegs hadn’t gone into the hard ground properly the tent walls were flexing and wobbling somewhat. It was a very cold night - little more than 6 deg C I’d guess - although with socks and clothes on I was warm enough, but once I got out of the sleeping bag I felt very cold indeed. I felt obliged to go and eat with Gil on the rest area table rather than still in the sleeping bag, as I would have done otherwise, and suffered for it. I can expect more of this since it is winter of course.
I was off asap then in order to get warmed up, at around 0815, but it was only after about 20km I started to thaw.
After just 10km a guy on a Harley slopped down to chat for a minute and asked to take my photo, and he went ahead and waited to snap me, whereupon I asked him to do the same with my camera. Some people appear genuinely amazed to see anyone cycling out here.
I enjoyed a decent tailwind for the first 40km, then as the road bent to the left into the wind things slowed down somewhat, but the last 20km to Threeways (the junction with the north-south Stuart Highway) were also fast.
I had some quickly forgettable lunch at the Threeways Roadhouse and saw the Harley man again, and it turned out that his bike broke down after getting fuel here, what a bummer! I think he was a long way from home too.
From Threeways I turned south for Tennant Creek, which is another 24km. I will come back up this way but just wanted to have a look at the place. Things slowed down as I ploughed against the strong SE-erly but it was still quite early and I'm in no hurry. Halfway to TC I had a look at the Tennant Creek Telegraph Station - this used to be a key station on the Australia to UK telephone line - in the early 1900’s it took 7 hours to transmit between the 2 countries but it was the world’s fastest telephone link at the time. From here on the scenery gets more interesting with weird-shaped ironstone hills appearing everywhere to replace the flat scrub of the last few hundred km.
Tennant Creek was established during the last Australian gold rush in the 1930’s and now has a population of some 3000 including a large indigenous population. The crime rate has been very high here for a while but a recent crackdown is said to have improved things. Unemployment is very high indeed among blacks.
I checked in at the rather dusty Outback CP ($12/nt for 1 person)where they have a nightly show / talk by Billy the bush tucker man, which I’m looking forward to. I needed to get some shopping in but was worried about a lot of people that were hanging around outside the (only) supermarket, so I took the bike inside and chained it up where I could see it near the tills - no-one said a word! Food is very expensive here too, but what can you do?
After a huge dinner of noodle carbonara I was just in time for Jimmy, and he was very entertaining with his Outback / bush stories. He had made a big pot of bush lemon grass tea (delicious), and a huge loaf in the campfire (damper) which we had with honey, and which of course I managed to get all over me and sticky.
I like it here, it’s quite a vibrant little town, but I don’t like leaving my stuff in the tent whilst I’m away from it, knowing the reputation of the place. I put all my valuable stuff in a pannier and took it with me to the show, just in case. Maybe I’m being paranoid, but it makes me feel more relaxed to go out.
I’m looking forward to a day off tomorrow to get washing and other stuff done, including lots to do at the internet place, then explore Tennant Creek.

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