Monday 23 January 2017

Up North to Alice Springs

Happy to leave the stress of a big city airport behind it was a delight to land at Alice Springs. While waiting for the luggage to come through I asked about the shuttle which was right outside the door.  No problem with the bike. I happened to choose a wonky trolley and the shuttle driver got me a better one, loaded it and took it out to the bus  at the other end he couldn't park at the front door so carried the bike box round the corner for me.  You just don't get that help in big cities.

The downside to Alice Springs is that it is very hot and a long way from anywhere else. The temperature was 40c the day I arrived and felt like being wrapped in a heated duvet. I spent a couple of days cycling around Alice Springs to various museums and cultural centres but it was too hot to be enjoyable. I liked the Aboriginal art that was on display in several galleries and one artist in particular Albert Namatjira who painted landscapes in the rich but muted colours of the local area. Also very attractive is the more traditional paintings composed of dots in multiple colours and complex patterns. 

The delights of Alice Springs ran out pretty quickly and I wanted to go to the Macdonnell range and Uluru (Ayers Rock). It was too far and too hot to 🚴 so I hired a car. I spent a day going out to the West Macdonnells,  on the way I saw a small bush fire, coming back a few hours later it had spread somewhat and no sign of anyone dealing with it. I had no phone signal and was wondering if I should contact the fire brigade when I got back to Alice Springs, then saw heading for the fire were five fire engines,  problem solved.

 The next day was the drive to Uluru from Alice Springs. No Sat Nav needed, outside Alice Springs turn right and continue for 190km, turn right again and continue for 250km and you are there.  On the way the weather changed with heavy rain and thunderstorms.
My plan was to cycle round Uluru but the rain continued and it was impossible the next day. Also dissapointingly a trip to the Field of Light an art installation in the dessert was cancelled due to the bad weather.  Although I had a good look at Uluru driving round and getting out when the rain eased slightly it was too muddy to cycle. I had to drive back to Alice Springs the next day but it started bright and sunny so I decided to try the ride hoping the trail would dry out quickly.  
I started enthusiastically 

but after a couple of km it became impossible to avoid the mud  and it was getting to the point where there would be so much mud between the wheel and the mudguard that I wouldn't even be able to push it so had to make a hasty retreat

I then spent an hour getting enough of the mud off with bottled water so it wouldn't be too messy in the rental car.
The journey back seemed extremely tedious,  go for 250 km turn left,  go for 190km turn left and back at Alice Springs.  There was no radio reception, no CDs, the scenery barely changed, there was no traffic for the first 250km, the road was straight and I had cruise control. Just to have something to do I switched the cruise control off. It's surprisingly difficult to concentrate when there is nothing to do but steer in a straight line. The second half was a bit more entertaining as it's the road that goes from Alice Springs to Adelaide so has a steady supply of road trains. Some are as long as 4 trailers and the advice is to allow a km of clear road ahead before you try to overtake.  I didnt really like the sound of  that. When I got to the junction with that section of road there was one approaching so I got out pretty quickly to get ahead of  it. After about 20km I needed to use one of the road side rest stops and as I got back in the car the road train caught up and passed me so I stayed a bit longer so I wouldn't  catch it up and feel the need to overtake.
On arrival back in Alice Springs it took another 2 hours cleaning the glutinous red mud off the bike to make it clean enough to get through New Zealand customs. An inauspicious end to my Australia visit.

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