Day 71: Australindia

Had to do a little shopping run in town after my obligatory bacon, egg and cheese roll in the petrol station by the motel, and then I was on my way. The main point of interest today was the farmer who had decided that the grass really was greener on the other side, so had his large herd of cows eating the grass along the road rather than in the fields on both sides. It was like being back in India where all the trucks stop for the cows! Combine that with the flock of Pelicans I saw in a field miles from water (?!) and it’s been a strange animal day!

  
Watching the last remnants of a red sunset as I sat by my tent, hot cup of coffee in hand, I felt sad that this journey is slowly coming to an end. Most of me wants to finish, but that part of me which loves the solitude and the adventure knows it will miss it, stinky clothes and all. I guess I should spend the remaining days planning the next one! Answers on a postcard… 🙂

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Days 69 and 70: Darth Vader Appears…

Yesterday I was up early and out on the road, and what a lovely day it was; warm, sunny and no wind. Very nice indeed to be out running, at least for the first 20 miles or so before things started hurting. I ended up camping at a roadside stop which are now infinitely more frequent than they were in Western or South Australia. This was fortunate when my camping stove sprayed gasoline everywhere. I didn’t get it on my tent but eating surrounded by the fumes wasn’t super appetizing. I guess I won’t be eating hot meals for the last 2 weeks of camping.

The run of liquid mishaps continued when I woke up and realized that one of my bottles had leaked over the floor of my tent. It was the bottle you really don’t want to leak; the mountaineers and hardcore campers among you will know what I’m talking about. Ah, the challenges of camping. No harm done though and after a mop up I was eventually on my way. The wind was strong and it was partially cloudy, but otherwise OK until I turned around after 2 hours and looked behind me. Armageddon had arrived. A black roll cloud, the first I’ve ever seen, was coming from behind, and when it passed overhead it was like that scene at the beginning of Star Wars where the battle cruiser spaceship goes across the top of the screen. It reminded me of surfing in big Northern California swells when you get caught and look up at the dark mass about to land on you. It’s pretty scary, in this case for the epic drenching I was about to get.

 

Amazing cloud coming!

 
 

Overtaken by a Star Destroyer

 
Fortunately this cloud didn’t rain, but the clouds behind it did. I was soaked to the bone but oddly still in good spirits, which were further lifted when the storm front passed and the sun emerged. After a tiring 2 days and 84 miles / 133km I ran at sunset into the town of Hay for a well deserved bed and shower. Success!

Days 65 to 68: Calm before the Storm

It has been an improving few days weather-wise, and I’ve had a relaxing day off today. It’s my last one until the finish i think, so making the most of it. The motel people at the excellent Club Motel in balranald have been incredibly nice, and best of all one of the people I’ve got to know from Strava drove to the small town I’m in to say hello, along with his wonderful wife. What great people, it was such a kind gesture – especially as they drove 3 1/2 hours EACH WAY! One of the best things to happen on my trip without a doubt.

So not much to report from the last few days otherwise. A couple of nice sunsets and being woken up by kookaburra calls are about it. I was getting very drained both physically and emotionally, and suffering from bruising on my Achilles/hell; another pair of shoes are almost done (these now have approx 1,100km on them). But the day off to refocus on the final leg was helpful. I’m in New South Wales and the sign says 853km to Sydney. Can I do it in 13 days? We shall find out.
Onwards!

Days 63, 64: 44C to 4C. I love Australia.

Long is the road to success, as they say, and this road feels REALLY long. Finally made it to the town of Mildura and frankly it is wonderful to be back in civilization. I do enjoy being out in the open and camping and all that, but I think my subconscious has had enough and I need to cajole it along. It was 4C this morning and windy, which is zero fun in shorts. Maybe that’s why. Perhaps this is the hard work in the background while no-one is looking which is the mark of a champion. Except of course you are looking – which certainly does help my motivation!

The highlight yesterday was the all-you-can-eat breakfast at the general store in a tiny place called Cullulleraine. It was only AUD 12.50 and was GOOD, AND it included unlimited latte (I drank 2 pints). Although to prove there can be too much of a good thing, as I had this for lunch I spent most of the afternoon trying (successfully) to stop myself from throwing up as I ran. Not so fun.
Passed the Sydney 1,000km sign so getting there. Having my first pint of Victoria Bitter in Victoria now and entering New South Wales tomorrow. On the home leg now. 

Day 62: Victory to Victoria

Slow start to the day as I had to go food shopping but at 10am I was underway. Felt OK for the first 11 miles and the took a break; it was only when I started again and rounded the next corner that I saw the last gas station on this stretch – and it had a cafe. Rest #2! The chap who worked there was very nice, and even gave me a ‘Where the hell is Yamba?’ sticker for my buggy. Good question!

Shortly after I reached the edge of South Australia and the start of the state of Victoria! Woo! I admit I was quite excited; it felt like I was now getting somewhere. Even the wind dropped and the sun briefly appeared. I even enjoyed it! The feeling ended quickly though as the sun set and the fence was up to the road for 5km more until it was fully dark when I pulled into a lay by. Doing things in a hurry I then over-pressurized my camping stove and created a fireball which started to burn the fuel bottle and melt the control value. Oops! Lucky I put it out with minimal harm done. By the way, that’s why you never cook INSIDE a tent…
Long day tomorrow but I’m feeling more positive. 

Days 59, 60, 61: Running in an English Summer

It’s been a difficult three days, I won’t lie. I think more than anything it’s the weather, the endless grey skies and cold wind threatening rain at any time (and delivering it at regular intervals). I feel so long since I have been warm and dry that I’ve almost forgotten what that is like. The same as being in England during winter! Mix in some fairly barren camping (including in the middle of a town!) and a return to flat near-monotonous scenery and my mental state has dropped pretty low. The running has been draining and I’ve had to struggle to put in strong distances. In any case, I am now taking a deserved (I think) half day and sitting by the fire drinking beer while the washing machine attempts to coerce the grime from EVERY piece of clothing I have with me. Probably terrible for tomorrow’s performance but at this point I just don’t care.

There were a couple of interesting things on the trip; the bakery in Morgan which also sold fresh worms as fishing bait. I also passed ‘The World’s End Highway’ and ran by a water tank which would not be approved by structural engineers. Will post when I get a good connection!

On another plus side I have managed to get a few decent photos during the brief flashes of sunshine. Those moments certainly help, although I do find them hard to appreciate as the wind is chilling me. I’m sure I will be appreciative of them later when I look back. The sheep and the wheat fields do make a nice backdrop; I have to remind myself I’m in Australia and not Nebraska.

Tomorrow I cross into the State of Victoria. South Australia is almost DONE! Google says I have less than 1,200km / 750 miles to go, which is surprising and encouraging. I hope this weather passes and I can get back to enjoying what I am doing again.

Until then!

James

Days 57, 58: Tempest

Long days again, and cold, which just makes it more challenging as I can’t really stop as otherwise I start seizing up. But no matter. It does make it harder though and I have recently found myself listening to motivational songs more as I run. But staying positive is key.

Both days started well and ended with my struggling to find energy; the first night was OK though because I arrived in civilization. The hotel was right out of a Wild West film, with a balcony and everything. Watching darkness approach while having a beer there was a good moment. Soon though I was cold (only have shorts and t-shirts as casual clothes at the moment) so went and had dinner at the bar. At 7pm I was really cold so I went to my room and just got into bed for a few minutes to warm up. At 4am I woke up suddenly, still fully clothed and with the light on. Guess the body said no!

Day 55: What it feels like Part 2

Very windy and rainy day. BUT the leg doesn’t hurt much when I run so I’m back in action; hopefully it will finish healing while I go. Fingers crossed. I’ve now reached the bakery in Jamestown – that’s ME!!! :o)

Now I have a bit of time let me answer a few questions I’ve received about the inner workings of my trip.
What equipment did I bring. So for running I brought 4 pairs of shoes, 3 of which are Brooks Pureflow 3. To be honest I didn’t like them all that much before I went but it was too late and risky to change. VERY fortunately they have been great. I have some cushioned insoles in them and I think those have made ALL the difference in the world. They are highly recommended. For socks I am using Hilly monoskins, which I brought 12 pairs to make sure I could get laundry done without reusing pairs (same with underwear!). Again I barely tried them before coming (very bad idea of course) but they have been brilliant, virtually no blisters at all. Best piece of kit I have (and they were very reasonably priced!).
For the rest of my running gear I just used fairly cheap stuff or even non- running stuff. I run in surfing board shorts for example. A lot of that running stuff is hype, although I must say the under armor running t-shirts and saucony long sleeve shirts are very good. The dhb shirts not so much, at least for me. I don’t have a waterproof layer, as you end up sweating and wet under it when it’s raining anyway, but I do have a fleece which keeps the worst off. That’s about it. Other very useful things are a buff and hat for the sun. 
As for the other equipment it’s just normal camping stuff. I have a 2 person tent just because I can put all my stuff in it at night to prevent the locals from borrowing it (or it getting wet), that’s more just a heuristic from my cycling in South America than anything else. Heavy but I am willing to make the trade off for the comfort and security at night. I have a MSR camping stove – just because I happened to have it – and the rest of my stuff is pretty ordinary.
Oh and the buggy is a Thule, it cost a fortune but it’s holding up better than expected so far. Which is good, having it explode half way across the Nullarbor would have been bad!
That’s about it. I’ve never been the guy to shave every last ounce off (like cut the handle off the toothbrush) and then just be totally miserable, plus I also think that ‘OK’ stuff gets you 99% of the way there for most things (like the shorts). It’s only the critical items like the shoes, socks and buggy I really worried about. 
Hope that answers a few questions!

Day 54: There may be trouble ahead… (But while there’s moonlight.. Etc)

had noticed something was wrong with my leg when I was putting my luggage upstairs in the hotel last night when my left thigh wouldn’t support much weight. It was feeling beyond the normal tiredness I might expect from the long steep hill I had just dragged my buggy over, but it was only the next morning that I realised something was definitely wrong. It was agony to run after the first few miles. I must have pulled a quad muscle or something similar, so I was forced into a limping / shuffling / hobbling gait to make any progress; and that merely reduced rather than removed the pain. It was a shame as the morning was quite wonderful, like springtime in Northern California. It was warm, green and the kookaburras were laughing all around this time probably at me.

Eventually I made it to the town of Melrose and had a nice coffee and muffin at the cute cafe there, again reminiscent of the Californian wine country, and I was most sorry to have to leave. I was aiming for 41 miles that day to break 250 for the week but it didn’t happen. With just the news feed of the Big Fight to keep me distracted I surrendered an hour before sunset in the town of Wirrabara. The hotel was in the pub and it was nice, if old school. I was told the pub was shutting at 6 so I got one cheeky beer as the sun set and then went to get food. The town was utterly deserted, and that included the hotel when I went back. I’ve never stayed in a hotel where I was the only person in the whole building, including staff! Strange! Luckily I dug some food out of my bag and went to bed. After 240 miles this week, and 10 straight days totaling 365 miles / 580km I think a day of rest to recover is on the cards.