Day 26-27-28 : Roxby Downs to William Creek
There it starts. This morning, I cross the Olympic Dam village, the mining camp next to Roxby Downs, and I hit the first dirt of the tracks. I feel a bit anxious about how it’s gonna be. How fast will I be able to go? How far? Will my bike hold it? Will I make it? Will I have enough water?
This detour will take me on the Oodnadatta track, a track rich of history that used to be a traditional route for aboriginal people, following natural springs that allowed for survival in this region, known as the driest and hottest of the country! Later on, the same route was followed by explorers such as Stuart, and the Ghan railway line, the first communication line between Adelaide and the north, was built along it. Today the track is mostly travelled by tourists in 4×4, to get off the main roads and get into Australia’s red, hot, dry, wild outback.
But first I have to ride along some 120km of the Borefield road, a dirt road that links Roxby Downs to the Oodnadatta track. There is indeed not much in this area, although I enjoy its feeling of remoteness. As I pedal my first kms of dirt road, I get acquainted with the stones, the slippery sands, and the bumpy corrugations of the track (imagine something like sitting on a piledriver. . .) that are gonna be my daily menu for the days to come. As I try to gauge how fast and far I’m able to go on such a road, I bear in mind that I’m in a very remote place, and it can be hours before a car drives by. On the first day I try to save on my water supply and count my sips.
On the second day I hit the proper track, and turn West towards the first landmark, Lake Eyre. The biggest lake of Australia is almost always dry and is nothing else than a vast white plain of salt, stretching as far as the eye can see, blurring away in the horizon under the hot sun. Although I carry enough water to keep me going for a few days if I save it, my dry throat eventually gets me to start pulling out my empty bottle every time a car drives by. Tourists on the track are, it seems, mostly Australians having driven their 4×4 a long way from home, taking the Oodnadatta track within a longer road trip across the country. Acquainted to the harshness of their country, they carry big tanks of water and all of them are happy to stop for a chat with a crazy guy riding his push-bike in these dry areas, while filling up a couple of his bottles!
Talking to friendly and helpful people and a couple extra liters of water not only quench my thirst but cheer me up and help me pushing forth through the rough parts of the track as I work my way North-West.
I stop often to rest, drink, eat, take a nap under the occasional tree or shady spot (there are not many, but more than none!), and I take my time to go and have a look at old railway stations, bridges, and surprising water springs in the middle of the dry and desolate land.
I eventually reach William Creek, a most surprising place in the middle of the outback, with a population of about 10 people (the staff of the pub and roadhouse). There is not much for me there as they will not even refill my drinking water, being themselves on a limited supply. But my food rations can keep going for a while and I can treat myself to the bliss of an ice cold lemonade, drops of heaven down my throat after 3 days of riding in the desert.