I ride out of Imanpa and camp next to the Finke River. The Finke River is the longest watercourse of Australia, and it´s almost always dry. To me that´s one of the main features of the Australian outback: the biggest lake of the country is a dry salt lake, the longest bridge of the country is an abandoned rail bridge, the longest watercourse is a dry river of sand!
I make more interesting encounters as I make my way to Alice Springs. I stop at a camel farm, where I learn a bit about how camels got introduced to Australia. I meet Sam, a Japanese man who works at the farm. 15 years ago, he cycled all the way around Australia, a wild ride of over 24,000 kms! Puts my own trip in perspective. Then I talk to a group of backpackers at a roadhouse, and they give me a contact and place to stay in Alice Springs.
In Alice, I drop my luggage and enjoy a weightless ride to Simpson´s Gap, a nearby feature of the McDonnell Ranges, and it feels like Red is flying with nothing loaded up! I spot another cyclist there, carrying maybe heavier luggage than I usually do. He turns out to be French, and has also ridden 24,000 kms, from Portugal to Armenia, from France to Moscow, from Hanoi to Bali, and now on his way from Darwin to Adelaide! for me that´s 48,000kms by 2 people in 2 days. Quite a lot all of a sudden!
The next day I visit CAAMA Music studio, and meet Tim again. The band is here too as they are going to play at the festival the next day. I get to listen to some music in a studio room. For someone unused to it like me, I can tell you it makes quite a difference! I also meet I get some tips and information about the festival, and prepare to get there the next day.
It´s about 90km to ride out to Ross River, to the East of Alice Springs, where the Wide Open Space festival takes place. I make it in time for the opening of the festival, and for my effort I get in for quite a cheap price! I see the band play once again, this time in front of a different type of crowd! But the experience is as good. After that I enjoy the rest of the festival, a happy get-together of all sorts of people, musicians, performers from Australia and overseas.
I think about how my ride is taking me to lots of unexpected places across the centre of Australia. I remember how many times I heard the “there´s nothing between Adelaide and Darwin” version, and I wish I could tell all these people how wrong they are, how many places there are to see, how many people there are to meet, how many causes, big and small, there are to devote yourself to. Australia is big indeed. It´s huge. But it´s not an empty flat country like one could believe at first impression.
But the cause I devote myself to is my journey, and it´s once again time to go. As I ride back to Alice Springs, I can measure how much the wind influences your speed, as it´s a 3 hours effortless ride back, compared with a 4 hours exhausting ride in against the wind! I pack up my bike with food and get started, heavy as ever, on the long stretch North between Alice Springs and Australia´s Top End, the tropical North. As I get to the marker of the tropic of Capricorn, I meet some people from the festival stopping there for the night, and decide to call it a day as well.
From there on, I will little by little get out of the Red Centre and enter the tropical North, hot, green and wet.