My wristwatch alarm begins buzzing at 3:45 AM. Its high pitched insistence startles me from a deep sleep. My muscles ache with exhaustion. 3:45 , I’m sure you will agree, is an ungodly hour to rise.
The Australian bush, where we are camped, is still and silent, the sky above a carpet of stars. The air is cool and crisp, almost autumnal. My sleeping bag is draped casually over my shoulders, shielding me from the early morning chill.
The freshness of the day will fade quickly. Of this I am only too aware. Within a few hours the temperature will climb into the 80’s, then the 90’s. By early afternoon it will surely top 100.
The desert scrub will provide little shelter from the unforgiving sun. By late morning, the winds will most certainly begin to gust. The Big Wet is on its way. The eight month period without rainfall will come to an end. The Western Australia climate is unpredictable this time of year. Headwinds will turn a reasonable 150 kilometer ride on pancake flat terrain into a hellish 10 hours of pedaling.
We will, for a brief moment during the worst heat of the day, contemplate hunkering down under one of the rare acacias. Calling it a day after a mere 80 kilometers. But there is water to worry about and diminishing food supplies to consider.
In the end, we will push on, hopeful that the winds will change. We will be disappointed.
Worth the effort?
A recent blog follower made this comment:
All the bicycle travel diaries online use words like “beautiful” and “breathtaking” a lot, but the photos are anything but beautiful, why would I want to spend weeks and months staring at the pavement?
At times, these accusations about bicycle touring are accurate. Monotonous, dull, boring, repetitive. Those are the words most people would use to describe the 577 kilometers separating Broome from Port Hedland.
But sunrise and sunset are nothing short of magical. They are, without fail, “beautiful” and “breathtaking.”
As the soft hues of first light brighten the horizon, I pedal along in a state of something near elation. My fatigue is forgotten, as are the many kilometers that lie ahead. Dawn and dusk are splendid celebrations of light in this barren and arid part of the world.
Is it reasonable to endure 8 hours pedaling down a sizzling highway in exchange for a few moments of beauty? Perhaps not. But the highs are so sublime I am willing to endure the heat, the fatigue and– yes– the boredom of staring down an endless ribbon of road.
Dawn and dusk in the desert is pay-off plenty for the trying times in between.
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