Expedition Dust day 56-63
The sky was glowing a beautiful pink colour and the wind was whistling though the valleys behind where I had put my tent. I clambered out into the cold and looked around. I said aloud “ Brando you are in one of the most beautiful places in the world doing what you love”. I was excited to set off and ride through the national park to Yulara. I could hear the first of the buses beginning to show up in the car park that was 100m to my north, I had made the decision to talk to one of the bus drivers and see if they could take my trailer into town as it was in no state to be towed behind my bike. The first guy i spoke to told me he didn't have any room and that i should wait for a bus called the hop on hop off. I went and sat down with a few of the older tourists who didn't want to commit to trying to walk up the track. I asked them how their day was and started sharing my story with them, after half an hour i got sick of waiting for the bus and asked the next person who looked like they had space in there truck, the kind man driving said he lived in Yulara and that he would be more than happy to help me out and he would drop the trailer to the post office for me to pick up when i got to town. I was totally relieved to not have to worry about that anymore and set off up the walkway on foot to see Kata Tjuta up close.
I actually don't even have the right words to describe how this place makes me feel, i was in total awe and felt as if i was being drawn in. As i made my way into one of the valleys the size of this ancient river formation was such a powerful reminder of how insignificant humans really are compared to nature. I just stood at the head of the valley watching tourist after tourist experiencing this place through the lens of a camera only spotting one family who was just looking. This was a place where I had a very beautiful connection with the land.
It was quite late in the day and i thought i ought to start making my way to Yulara. To make my load light I had tipped out most of my extra water and was only carrying what i needed to get me into town plus 1.5L extra, just in case i had to spend the night. Without the 20kg of water i normally carry and the trailer i was able to move much faster than usual. I left the car park and headed back up the road where i had come the night before. Just as i came around a corner i spotted another guy on a bike headed towards me, i had to stop and say hello. I rode up the road and crossed to meet him before he turned off towards the valley of the winds. He was clean shaven, had a helmet on his head, a bright red shirt and didn’t smell like, well, um, me. He was just about the head off down the great central road. I think he thought i was totally mad, covered in dirt and wearing nothing on my feet. Before we went our separate ways we shared a few stories and I snapped a photo of us both together. It was pretty cool to see someone else on a journey.
As i rode off up the road towards where i had turned off the night before i had a look at my map and could see an old track that traveled along the base of Kata Tjuta and decided that it was going to be way more enjoyable to ride along that track than it would be to follow the road, not to mention a lot safer! I peeled off the road and and into the bush, zig-zagging my way through the trees. The sun peeked over the top of the goliath rocks to my left warming my skin. I made my way along the track slower than usual because i wanted to make sure i appreciated this creation of nature. As i rode my bike up a small rise i spotted Uluru for the first time, i felt as though a spiritual wave of energy had manifestd itself in the form of wind and was blowing over the open landscape between the rock and I, trying to communicate with me in some way. I sat on the hill enjoying a handful of dates and peanut butter, this has become my favourite expedition snack!I had become so lost in the distractions around me that I had run out of time to get into Yulara before the sunset. I put my headphones on and went into that place in my head where nothing is impossible and pushed hard to make sure i made it into town. Without my trailer and with all my water bags emptied i was able to move fast. To save myself 5km of distantce i took a risk and headed off track across the remains of an old forest that had been decimated by a fire in the past. It paid off and before i knew it i could see the cars all headed out of Yulara to watch the setting sun light up Uluru. I didn't want to ride on the road so started weaving between the spinafex grasses, getting closer to my halfway point. I was bouncing my way alongside the road feeling amazing and overwhelmed that i had actually done it, i had reached the red center.
The sun was just starting to sink below the horizon when suddenly i was flying through the air over my handlebars. As i hit the ground i rolled and sprung back up onto my feet completely confused about what had happened. I looked back towards by bike and started swearing because my first thought was my trip was over, the rack was hanging off the back of the bike. As i went over one of the bumps the force ripped the steel mounts off the bike leaving two large holes in my frame. I was caught totally off guard and my ADHD brain overreacted! I just sat there and began to convince myself it was completely fucked. I started trying to come up with what i was going to have to say to the next expedition partner who was already on his way. I was going to have to send him home in order to finish this journey. After a few minutes i had managed to calm myself down enough to think clearly. I needed to get into town before anything else so i pulled the volle straps off the front of my bike and strapped the rack to the back of the seat post and began pushing the last 1.7km into town. I felt so silly pushing my bike but it wasn't worth taking the risk of riding in case my frame completely snapped. As i was walking into town a kind guy i had met the night before at the sunset viewing spot west of Kata Tjuta approached me with a beer and a packet of biscuits, it was just what i needed to snap me out of my bad head space and celebrate the fact i had just crossed half of Australia.
I decided to not even think about the bike anymore until tomorrow and went to one of the local hotels to eat. As i walked into the busy outdoor eating area, the restaurant went almost silent. I could feel the eyes of almost everyone as i wheeled my bike through to find a seat, i laughed to myself because i know i look like i have been in the desert for 60 days, which of course i have!
I ended up sleeping in a bunk room at the same hotel i ate at but didn't end up having a very good sleep. The person next to me was snoring very loudly and it sounded like a cat that was about to have a fight, it was so full on. When i got out of bed in the morning i was quite restless. I had a pizza for breakfast and then headed out to find someone to help fix the bike. I knew there was a mechanic half an hour out of town so i started making my way there hoping they could weld my rack on and some patches over the holes. When i arrived the guy that i wanted to see wasn't around so i got talking to some unfortunate 4x4 drivers whose car had broken down during a crossing of the Simpson desert. They had traveled from China to complete the adventure and were very impressed i was about to do it on my bike.
Kurt from the mechanics camera back from his job and followed me to my bike. He took a quick look at the damage and said he couldn't do the job because the steel was too thin but there was a guy down the road called frenchy who was a boiler maker and he might be able to help. Still felling hopeful and with some very abstract directions of how to find this guy i wheeled my bike off down the road. I walked 100m until i spotted steam coming out of the roof on the left, then as directed I made my way past the graveyard of washing machines and into the complex where i met Thomas (frenchy). He hung the bike up and said he could temporarily fix the problem. But he said if I'm planing on riding on more corrugations it is only a matter of time until it breaks again because of how much the bike shakes.
As all this was going on my next expedition partner, Calumn Hockey had landed at the Yulara airport and was on route to meet up with me. He arrived with a friend called Kara who kindly picked him up from the airport and had offered for us to stay for as long as we needed in her caravan that was 2 minutes walk from where i was getting the work done on the bike. Before I left Thomas I asked if he would be able to weld aluminium as i wanted to strengthen the new trailer yokes my sponsor Burley Designs had sent to replace the ones that had become damaged. He wasn't sure but said he would give it a go in a few days time.
I was kinda excited because for the first time on the journey I was almost free to just relax for a day… if you have been reading my posts you know that relaxing is something I'm not too good at. For the rest of the day i hung out with Calumn and Kara, we went into town for a beer and dinner before heading out to the caravan to sleep for the night. The next day was exiting because by the afternoon the Expedition Dust film crew should have arrived. Kara who worked at the cultural centre, invited Calumn and i to attend a dot painting workshop that was being run in town. After breakfast we both went and spent a few hours painting stories. I painted my adventure up to this point, starting on the west coast in the sea i made my way off into the desert through the sand dunes, bush, under the sun, clouds, stars and rain.After we had finished we went to the post office to collect the yokes and all the mail that had been sent from different places. The mail man had been such a great help, every time something had broke over the last two weeks i had it dropped it to him in Yulara. Now that i had arrived he had quite the collection of my stuff. He had two trailers, one bike plus full kit that Dylan had left, two new trailer wheels and two new trailer yokes. There was also a small box from my dad with a few parts. I was so thankful that he had looked after it until I arrived.
I got a message from film crew saying they were in town. I told them where I was and that I needed their help to take all the gear from the post office out to where we were staying. Ain and Ben are the two legends who are helping to turn all the footage I have been shooting into a beautiful and powerful documentary about the importance of mental health and having a relationship with nature. It was great to see them again and over the next few days I rode around doing lots of filming with them, capturing the red center in a way i couldn't do alone. The crew was only around for 3 days before they had to leave again but i know they got some amazing footage and we will have Ben following Calumn and i as we cross the Simpson desert in roughly 12 days time. During my time here in Yulara i have seen the field of lights, eaten crazy amounts of food and had the trailers reinforced by Thomas. I have also had some beautiful conversations with some lovely humans. It has been so nice to spend a bit of time in one place, but i can say for sure i am looking forward to getting back onto the road tomorrow. From here in Yulara the plan is to make our way north east on the highway into kings cannon then to Alice springs where a new frame has been sent by the by Surly bikes to replace the broken one. I am in a very good place mentally and feel totally in sync with the earth and at peace with myself. I'm excited to get to know Calumn a bit better over the next 20 days as we make our way together, through the middle of Central Australia.