Crossing the Nullarbor Plain was an experience. Anyone the travels across Australia be it by car, bike or even walking. The most anticipated part is always crossing the Nullarbor. Ceduna to Norseman…. 1200km with 10 roadhouses in between, the largest distance between them is 189km and the shortest 12km on the South Australia/ Western Australia border. Nowadays the roadhouses are pretty well equipped. They offer showers, accommodation, restaurants/bar and a shop with the basic needs. The road is safe and a lot busier than you would expect. Lots of road trains and lots more of caravans. It is very common in Australia when people retire to sell their home, buy a caravan and hit the road.
We met some lovely people along the way, people offering to pay for accommodation, gave us water and food for the road and just lovely conversations. This was the most isolated part of Australia but was the most social. Everyone you meet is coming from somewhere and heading somewhere. It is nice to hear others people future plans and their experiences on the road.
Cycling the road, it can get monotonous. The landscape stays the same for 100’s of km’s. After you leave a roadhouse and had interactions with people it keeps the mind occupied thinking of the conversation for a short while but that doesn’t last long. Then it is just you and your mind, not much to see but always having to keep a close eye on the road. The shoulder is loose gravel so you are cycling on the road. We cycle one behind the other and constantly looking behind for traffic coming. Cars and caravans can overtake us easily once there is no oncoming traffic so we can stay on the road and keep cycling. For road trains, it is not as easy. Some of these trucks can be up to 50 metres long and weigh up to 100 tonnes. Although the truckies were good and almost always went onto the other lane overtaking us, we always got off the bike and wheeled into the hard shoulder. After all, the road was build to transport materials across Australia, not for cyclists. We were also glad off the short break every now and then.
Along the way we met 13 other cyclists and a guy walking from Sydney to Perth. It was a pleasure meeting them and sharing stories of being on the road. There was one or two tough days, where the heat and headwinds were making us work for every pedal and exhaustion kicking in towards the end of the day but overall it was more mentally challenging than physically. We cycled across one of the straightest roads in the world. 90 miles, our second day on the straight and our aim was to reach Baladonia Roadhouse, it is 35km once you come off the straight. This day was hot and very humid with strong headwinds. The headwinds were slowing us down and making us work, when the weather is in our favour 20km per hour is our average speed, when the winds are against us we are down to 8 - 12km per hour and working hard for it. The air this day was dry which meant you constantly sipping water or you mouth gets so dry your throat starts to hurt. Eucalyptus trees with a brown bark lined both sides of the road, they looked like someone has got a tin of varnish and painted every tree. This was the start of The Great Western Woodlands, 16 million hectares of woodland, the size of England, incredible but that was the last thing on our minds. Exhaustion was kicking in, we still had 35km to go, 3 hours! Water was starting to run low so we had to start rationing, we were also in a race with the sun going down. Your mind starts to play tricks, looking for a way out of the discomfort. Even though we had all the camping gear and can stop anywhere and set up camp, because we had no water, stopping wasn’t an option. You got to keep pushing, self talk is important, you got to flip it on it’s head, instead of focusing on how tough it is, how tired I am, I remind myself this is what I am doing it for, discomfort is where the growth happens…. each pedal is building resilience, each pedal is building strength, getting more comfortable in the discomfort. I keep repeating this in my head, grind the teeth together and an inner strength I believe we all have comes out. We reached the roadhouse just after dark, sitting there with a cold bottle of water and an ice cream, contentment, appreciating just sitting there. What a feeling, you sit there and it is the best feeling, euphoric, no where in this world you would rather be, present in that moment. I don’t think it can be explained, it can only be felt!
What is a few hours of discomfort? Is it even discomfort? Maybe discomfort in todays world but certainly not discomfort compared to the past. One thing I have kept thinking about since starting this journey is how tough and resilient people really are and how many people don’t realise what they are really capable of. We stopped in many small towns, some had stories of how the town came to be and the first inhabitants, some only two or three generations ago. Our grandparents! Men and women doing back breaking work to clear the land, women giving birth with no medical care, if they were lucky a neighbour was there to help. These people clearing land to grow crops to feed the ever expanding population. No sanitation, no electricity, no medical care. These are our ancestors, unsung heroes, what we have today is thanks to them.
On the 20th September at 5pm we cycled over a small hill and in front of us was the Indian Ocean. We had cycled across the continent of Australia, when we left on 4th August there was many questions hanging over us. We had answered a few of them by cycling across but one big one still loomed over our heads, The ultramarathons! Are we been too ambitious, can we do it? The cycling left little to no time for running. In the 7 weeks since leaving Sydney we had managed two 5km’s runs. We had 7 days to prepare to run 83km. How to approach this? The last 7 weeks because we were cycling all day and just around camp everyday, our average amount of steps each day was 2,000 - 3,000. We were going to be doing 90,000 steps in 7 days time. Our approach was don’t worry about the running but to up our step count each day to over 20,000. We stayed in Perth with our two childhood friends Chloe and Patrick who we can’t thank enough. They opened their house for us and made for a great week. They live about 7km from Perth city so we walked in and out of the city most days, with a few short runs mixed in. A few bigs days walking and by Wednesday we were both stiff and the muscles were sore. Even more questions were asked about Saturday. Mentally we were preparing for the hardest day of our lives.
Saturday 28th September arrived. At 6am we were at the start line of the WTF 50 miler. Our hydration packs full, our minds ready. What ever it takes! We have learned that when you put yourself at the point if no return you can do things that you didn’t know possible. You keep moving, one foot in front of the other, encouraging each other and everyone else you meet. Our friend Nicci at the aid stations helping us refuel, the first 50km was a dream, we moved well and had even surprised ourselves. A few blisters started to slow us down but we kept plodding away, one foot in front of the other and before we knew it the finish line was in sight. We crossed the line. Another big question had been answered.
We still have a lot of work to do to achieve the goals we have set out to do, but belief is at an all time high. Dreams may seem crazy at first but once you start doing them they are not that crazy at all. I encourage everyone to go for it, go all in with everything you got. “You were born with all that the great have had, with your equipment they began. Get hold of yourself and say I can” - Edgar Guest.
We left Australia on the 30th September and are currently in Ho Chi Minh city in Vietnam. On Monday we will begin our journey through South East Asia, each day getting closer and closer to achieving our goal.
Thank you for reading and for the continued support,