The Bruce Highway, which I’ve been bumbling up for hundreds of miles now, is quite possibly the dullest road in the world. It’s so tedious that there are ‘amusing’ signs posted along the roadside to keep drivers awake.
I thought I was bored in the mid-west of the US, with its slow alternations of sweetcorn and soya beans. And nothing else. But the scenery along the highway here is pretty much entirely unchanging for thousands of kilometres.
Just a billion trees. Seemingly endless bush. And lots of trucks.
It was Day 183, which the mathematically gifted amongst you will note is half a year since I left London. A day of great significance, then. You would hope.
I left Marlborough resigned to another long day of heat and bush. Ahead of me was the emptiest stretch of road I’ve encountered since my run across the Californian desert. In fact, I’d been warned by locals that there was ‘nothing’ between Marlborough and my destination campsite at Clairview.
Actually, there were three man-made things (not counting the road and a couple of burned-out cars) in 66 miles. Which is not much, I admit. But it’s not quite ‘nothing’ either. After tanking up early on at a petrol station, I was pretty happy that I’d make it to the large rest stop, about 30 miles up the road, with no bother.
The wind had other ideas, swinging around to face me, decreasing speed and increasing sweating and water consumption alarmingly. I was a sorry mess when I got to the rest stop; time was ticking on, and I still had over 20 miles to go. I was down to a couple of mouthfuls of water. And there was nothing to drink at the rest stop. Just one cafe (closed), and a nice toilet block with ‘non-potable’ signs on every tap. Risk the undrinkable water, or maybe peg out from thirst? Decisions, decisions…
This was a low point. What an awful day!
As I sat moping in the shade, a car turned up with Anton and his family in it. And things got rapidly better. They were heading home after a holiday down south. They had carried 10 litres of water (nicely chilled by the car air-con) there and back for no apparent reason, and I was welcome to as much as I liked. And there’s a free shower, meal and bed awaiting me a bit north of Mackay, too! More lovely people! I trundled out of the rest stop in significantly better spirits.
It was getting close to sunset as I approached the campsite. About five kms out, a head suddenly shot up out of the long grass by the side of the road, maybe 10 metres away. The head was followed quickly by the rest of a startled grey kangaroo, which bounced off pretty rapidly into the fields. I stopped, but it was long gone before I could get a picture. Shame. But as I scanned the field, I saw another three kangaroos. From long range, admittedly, but that’s four wild kangaroos. I arrived at the campsite with a big grin on my face.
This was a high point. What a good day! Amazing how quick things can change on the bike…
Yesterday morning (Tuesday), I woke up by the seaside. And the bush finally started to fade into sugar cane plantations as I headed north again. There was time for one more (thankfully half-hearted) Aussie magpie attack, though without any physical contact this time. And then I broke out into open farmland on the approach to Sarina. Hooray!
So, six months and a little over 11000 km (or a little under 7000 miles) done. And I’ve finally seen a kangaroo or two! And after a few tough, hot days lately, I should be able to get closer to the ocean, and maybe to the Barrier Reef, as I head further up Queensland.
Hopefully. Let’s not forget, there’s: