It was all downhill, they explained – yeh right! – but they did not warn me about the prevailing headwind, nor of the unseasonally hot weather. In the circumstances, the distances that I had planned were unrealistic and I had not allowed for rest days, my over confidence stemming from years of outback riding. The Cloncurry NW Star had previously reported on my safe arrival, well ahead of schedule, thanks to the good samaritans who had given me a lift, when I was just about to run out of water. The remainder of my trip had similar outcomes. The following is typical of the problems that were caused by the wind and the heat, and then some. The distance Birdsville to Marre, all gravel and some sand, was 520 km, punctuated by a roadhouse after 300 km. There are stations along the way, but the initial leg was about 200km to Clifton Hills for water. I had ridden from Marree to Birdsville solo three years ago, but from south to north. I was therefore in good spirits, despite my disappointments since leaving Karumba.

I left Birdsville at midnight to avoid the heat and the wind. Soon the tarmac gave way to sand, several inches high, which made progress difficult. The night was warm, the moon showed the way and I was soon bathed in a lather of perspiration, fighting the sand and the incessant warm wind. Despite these hardships, I was in a good frame of mind and progress was satisfactory. Into the night, the sand became a problem and my progress had slowed. I had passed the sign to Pandie Pandie Station and looked forward to a real  effort after daybreak, but after about 5 hours I felt so tired, that I leant the bike against a bush and collapsed onto the sand, not caring about dingoes nor mosquitos, but woke shivering in the cold desert dawn.

After a quick bite to eat, I resumed my fight against the sand and the wind. The tyres that I was using were largish road tyres, but proved inadequate for the conditions. I had chosen them because two-thirds of the total distance from Karumba to Pt Augusta was on sealed roads. At midday, after being almost 12 hours in the saddle, I had covered 90 km, which was very disappointing. I persevered, until I was exhausted and to make matters worse, I had started to chafe and my will to continue was destroyed. Wearily did I scan the horizon for a guardian angel and my prayers were answered in the form of two vehicles, which stopped. Matt and Paul were geophysiciste returning to Adelaide from jobs in the outback for their company, Daishsat. They loaded my bike and gear, gave me food and refreshments, and then we were away, down the track to Marree. I was grateful for having been saved from a fate worse than death, but disappointed that my mission was in tatters, again. I was dropped off in Marree that night, and I met the supported rider group, which had left Pt Augusta a week earlier, for its adventure to Karumba. Several days later, while on the sealed road to Pt Augusta, I lernt that rain had forced the closure of the Birdsville Track and had marooned these riders in Birdsville for nearly a week. I may have been similarly affected, had I not had assistance, and I may have had cause to activate my satelite emergency beacon, and that would have sealed my fate, being a seasoned outback rider, and added further embarrassment.

Several weeks later, as I am writing this account, I have been reminded that armchair planning and pontificating are cheap. Although I have this nagging feeling that  I have failed, I really tried hard. Naturally, I am planning my next ride, somewhat humbled. One consolation is that this adventure has helped me to develop a new concept for seeing the outback; I call it hitch-biking.