I was so exhausted when I arrived in Port Hedland on Sunday evening that I knew I had to do something. I seriously considered abandoning the bike and finding some other way to get to Hall’s Creek. That silly thought was impractical, and was in any case just the product of exhaustion and despair. I paid a whopping $180 for a night in a small cabin (locally known as a donga) and after a very mediocre and very expensive meal at an equally exorbitant price, I returned to my donga and slept as if dead. I breakfasted at 0430 with all the workers who were setting off early for wherever they were going.
In the night I had formulated a plan. I had realised that my jacket was the problem. It was too hot and it was going to kill me.
I should have repaired my summer jacket for the trip. I just had not been thinking.
No point in self-recrimination. I needed something else. I used the gps to search for a motorcycle clothing shop nearby. Nothing.
If the jacket was going to kill me anyway, its protective function was negated. It just had to go. I decided to wait until the shops were open and buy a long sleeved hi-viz shirt of the sort worn by almost every outside worker in Australia. I knew that they are SPF50 and would protect me from sunburn. I also knew it would be a bloody sight cooler than the killer jacket. Balancing the odds of an unlikely crash (I have made it without one so far) against the almost certain chance of heatstroke, I decided that to ride in a shirt was a more sensible option. The hi-viz would not be hindrance either. It pays to be seen.
By the time I had found a shop that sold what I wanted in my size it was well after ten and I had wasted a lot of time riding almost 100 k back and forth around Port Hedland and South Hedland. That was partly because my GPS did not have the latest maps. I must update it.
By the time I was on the road again I realised that I had made a wise decision to switch to a shirt in lieu of a proper summer jacket. I also realised that I was still knackered and badly in need of rest. There are signs are along the highway saying “Don’t Drive Tired!” I knew that was sensible advice. I also knew that I had better follow it. I really was still pretty buggered. So at Pardoo, a mere 122 km out, I stopped, rented another donga for a much more reasonable fee. I closed the curtains and by 1230 was sound asleep in darkened air-conditioned comfort. At 7pm I awoke, ate a very good and reasonably priced meal of garlic prawns and returned to sleep.
Up again at 0430 as the predawn light was growing. A cold can of beans for breakfast and I was on my way. I had a saddlepack full of water. I bought bottled water for drinking as I rode, and I had refilled the used bottles as I went with local bore water from the roadhouses. This I used to pour over myself now and then. It worked well, like riding in an air-conditioned car. Once again I was enjoying the ride.
Tuesday went so well that I covered 820 km and got all the way to Fitzroy Crossing well before evenfall. It was still very very hot though, and by now camping was out of the question. So once again I paid an exorbitant $180 for a bed and a ridiculous $50 for a poncy gourmet meal and a fruit juice. I should have bought a pie and a bottle of orange juice at the roadhouse. Never mind. I was past caring. I was on the last leg, with just 290 km to go. Up early Wednesday, another can of beans, and on the road.
I stopped a few times at shady and scenic spots, to stretch my legs and pour water over myself. By now I was in a more leisurely mode again and even took a few photos with the Nikon and a movie or two with the GoPro. One problem with the latter that I found is that the battery life is not long if you are controlling it by wifi. Very frustrating to come upon a bit of scenery one would like to film, and find the camera dead.
I shall not be able to post the photos and movies I did take until my laptops arrive. I can’t do it through the iPad. I can only post the few I took on the iPad, at the start of the journey.
I learned an important lesson or two about travelling long distances alone. Riding alone is ok, but for really long distances, one should find company if one can. One should prepare properly for the weather conditions. (I was ready for wet, I was ready for cold, but I had not properly thought through the likelihood of heat being such a serious problem. Nonetheless, my GPS recorded that I travelled 3123 km in five and a half days. Considering that on one of those days I travelled only 222 km (though progressed only 122) I guess that is not too bad for a fat old guy with arthritic knees and a partially disabled arm.