South or North?

Not to get all Spanish soap opera on you all but already 2020 was already turning out to be a pretty shit year for us both. Then old mate munched on a bat and the rest is history.

Back before Wuhan Chan and his virus had started to change life as we know it, The Gypsy wandered in one day to the lounge, where I was doing some of my best work on the couch, with her pineapple bobbing from side to side, she then dropped ¨do you want to cycle from Perth to Melbourne?¨ At this stage Annie hadn’t heard of the Nullabor or what something like this actually involved. Her naivety and lack of thought for the finer details of the trip immediately had me sign up for the adventure.

Francis Birtles. The first man to cross the Nullabor in 1905 with his journey from Fremantle to Melbourne.

With everything that is going on it was good to have a little project to focus on and something to look forward to when all this shit is over. Personally I was going that well with life, that when all the restrictions and lockdowns came in it was one of the first times I enjoyed Sydney. No more traffic jams and less wankers around in general. I found it a positive.

¨The Kung Flu¨ has changed our plans since then. Originally the idea was Perth to Melbourne, and the more we looked at the map the bolder our plans got. Instead of riding the Eyre highway across we were going to follow the coast to Esperance and then follow the Old telegraph line past Israelite bay to Bilbunya dunes, up on to the Baxter cliffs and meet the Eyre highway up near Caiguna.

The only problem we had was we couldn’t find any information on people riding this before. I’m sure it has been done, just none have bothered to write about it. The only thing we came across was an old post on a bike forum from back in 2012 asking if anyone wanted to give it a go. I ended up tracking down the author of the post and it turns out they never ended up doing it. Life and all the other stuff that comes with it got in the way for them. Since then I’ve spoke to Al a few times about doing something like this. He has been a wealth of knowledge. It was quite refreshing and comforting having someone back you in and encourage you to give it a crack, instead of the ¨don’t do it you will die ¨sort of encouragement we have had previously. Al keeps things pretty simple and all the tips from years of touring have been much appreciated and like Annie said ¨if we can’t ride our bikes because it is too rough our legs still work ¨. Hopefully the borders open up so we can give it a go.

Having said that it is a pretty remote area and it does need to be respected. If we get into trouble we are on our own. All the 4×4 videos on youtube haven’t had a problem but I think us on our pushy´s with  2” tyres will find it a little tougher. We have switched to tubeless tyres for this trip hopefully that helps with punctures and riding on sand because of the lower pressures we can run. During the trip it’s certain we are going to find out they are called ¨push bikes¨ for a reason!

To help us carry enough food and water to get across that section we bought a bob ibex bike trailer that is now waiting for us at our mates house in Perth (cheers Rich).  The next problem was actually having access to water. We tried desalination ourselves by boiling seawater in a pot but it turns out google makes it sound easier than what it is in reality. That idea got quickly shelved. Al has a Katadyn survivor 35 hand pump desalinator from his years doing kayak trips. They are ex U.S military that are used in their life rafts if they get stuck at sea. Weighing in at 3.2kg and producing about 4.5 litres of water from an hr of pumping. Al suggested getting one and after a few attempts we finally won a bid on eBay. Hopefully, that along with our capacity to carry 26 litres of water between us should solve the water issue.

Next was food, Annie came up with the master plan of buying a dehydrator and shipping a box of food to Esperance for us to collect when we get there. It turns out you can pretty much dehydrate anything. It even looks like Ana has put my head in there. I am looking that rough. It takes a long time to dehydrate stuff, Ana has it running overnight most nights, but we think the effort will be worth it. It really does save a lot of weight. Only problem is we didn’t check with W.A border control first about if we can bring anything over. Turns out we can but will be down to the officer at the border to make the final call if we have dehydrated it properly. Hopefully they are legends and the effort will be worth it.

Thankfully we won’t be going through Kosi in winter now. The gypsy has approved of the decision

But all this is up in the air atm, when we first planned for this we thought for sure the borders will be open by now. Sadly because all you filthy Victorians have been coughing over each other and not washing your hands properly everything is in a little bit of limbo. We are just making it up as we go now. So on Thursday we are going to stuff ourselves with Wan´s breakfast burger from the Zebra cafe in Maroubra, ride past the real estate to hand the keys in and then off to central station to catch a train to Katoomba and the Blue Mountains. It’s going to be freezing at night time but hopefully the scenery will make up for it. Otherwise I will cop an earful from Ana. From there we are going to head south and cut across to the coast past Nowra and follow that down to Merimbula. From there it will depends on if you Mexicans in Victoria have been washing your hands and coughing into your elbows properly. If the virus stuff has died down and there’s been news on a W.A border opening we will head inland and drop into Victoria from either Bombala or Jindabyne. Or if the media is correct and the world is going to end in a fireball of disease and economic destruction we will just keep pedalling west towards South Australia and see what’s happening over there. Fingers crossed all this shit dies down soon. I’m sure all you guys have had a gutful as well. Looking forward to seeing you all at home and catching up over a beer.

Ana & Matt

Its a bit nicer then snow!

P.s If you have made it this far well done. However scrap all that crap I have just written. The plans have changed. Yesterday we decided to head North. We got a transfer car from a rental company in Sydney and we are heading to Cairns. We are going to cycle from Cairns up to Cooktown then do a loop and head back down south. At least it will be a bit warmer and the Gypsy will not give me shit for freezing to death. 

Patagonia

Thanks for joining me!

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Thoughtful

“Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. “— Izaak Walton

“Get around Matt Vagg coz he is a sick c@nt who pedals around other countries”- Isaac Shute (His words not mine.)

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Isaac Shute

Firstly I will apologise in advance for my poor grammar. The Queen’s English isn’t one of my strong suits, but to make up for it, here is a picture of Smitty and I sporting strong suits.

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Strong Suits

Now, next week I’m off on a 3 month adventure in South America on my pushy. For some that sounds like a pretty shit idea, and to be honest I’ve had a few thoughts of “ why the fuck am i doing this!” myself. But ever since I bumped into a Dutch couple at the airport in Cuba with their bikes  hearing stories about how they travel and after watching the doco “180° South” I have been pretty keen to combine the 2.

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Cracking doco, great soundtrack

With my long service leave just sitting there and my day job consisting of digging holes and putting the dirt back where it came from, it was a pretty easy decision in the end. It’s not like I will be sitting around when I’m older thinking “shit I wish I had worked more”.

So here is the plan!

Next week I’m flying to Santiago de Chile. From there I’m getting another flight roughly 930km South to a town called Osorno. If I walked it, google has informed me it would take 9 days and 15 hrs. Flying was a good choice. Here is a map of me not walking it.

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The map of me not walking it.

From there I’m going to have a couple of days in Osorno to get some supplies, put my bike back together, lay on my hotel bed overthinking everything and stealing all the food from the breakfast buffet. From Osorno I have roughly 3000 kms and 3 months to get to “fin del mundo” (the end of the world) Ushuaia. If I don’t make it to the bottom I’m not too fussed, hopefully that just means I have had heaps of fun along the way and I didn’t have time to pedal.

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I suspect there will be 1 or 2 towns in between that aren’t shown on above map.

I know it’s not going to be all smooth sailing and I must admit I have a few fears. Firstly the infamous Patagonian  wind that I have read about, will no doubt be annoying at times. I hate riding into the wind, and with a head the size of mine it’s going to feel like I have a sail attached to the top of my neck. Secondly ass raping, I’m not making light of the subject, it’s a serious matter. The problem is I haven’t mastered the art of wild camping yet and the first time I’m out in the middle of nowhere on my own and I hear the sound of duelling banjos…. “ yep I’m about to get an ass raping here” is the thought that will be going through my mind.

For the first part of the route I’ll be riding the Carretera Austral. What I know of it courtesy of Google is that its a road built by the Former Chilean leader Pinochet. Not sure if he was a good bloke but by the looks of it he built a pretty sweet road through some nice scenery. The road was completed in the late 90’s early 2000’s when it finished at Villa O’higgins.

From there I’ll be crossing the border into Argentina by foot courtesy of a couple of ferries and pushing my bike through, by the sounds of it, some pretty shitty tracks. Then it’s only another 1100+ km to Ushuaia. One date I will firmly have in the front of my mind is January the 5th when my gypsy amiga Ana will be meeting me at Balmaceda airport  with her bike and joining me for 3 weeks. She is either a bit retarded for signing up to this or more likely a bit retarded for signing up to me.

In the months leading up to this I have done a little bit to hopefully hold me in good stead for the trip. I haven’t had a car for most of the year so the bike riding bit I’ll hopefully have down pat. I completed a basic 10 week Spanish course too, so “no comprendo” will probably get a bit of use and I completed a weekend bike maintenance course as well, which  fingers crossed I won’t have to use because I forgot most of it.

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Abandoned house over looking Elizabeth Island from French Island

Along with that, Ana and I had a little overnighter on French Island to test out some gear and to see if I can pedal with the weight. After the trip I have came to the conclusion I am taking too much shit and I’m going to be pushing my bike up hills.

Seriously though, there is only so much you can read or practice or plan. Eventually you just have to get out there and give it a go. I’m a bit nervous but pretty pumped to get it underway.  People look at me funny when I tell them what I’m doing but I honestly love riding my bike. If I’ve  had a shit day at work by the time I have ridden home I’m in a good mood again. It gives you the chance to have interactions with people and nature that you would never have in a car and it’s fast enough to get somewhere, but slow enough so everything seeps in. Like in those picture books you had as kids were you flicked the pages really fast and the scene gradually changes. It’s how I feel when I’m on my bike. Since I was a little tacker I’ve always considered myself a B.M.X bandit. It’s just a shame the old stack hat does not fit my large melon these days.

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The Stylish Pedlar.

Slightly shitting myself!

26kg of stuff I will be lugging around.
I’m a big fan of staring at paper maps and wondering whats out there.

Well the weekend has gone pretty quick and this time tomorrow I’ll be on the plane to Chile. I was feeling pretty good about the trip until yesterday then all of a sudden the feeling came and I started slightly shitting myself.  I did exactly the opposite of what I said I was going to do over the weekend. I had plans of treating my body like a temple and relaxing but reality was I was kidding myself and I got hammered both nights. That certainly didnt help any anxiety I had about the trip. A quick phone call to Annie and her giving me shit about my pasty white complexion and asking me did I pack any lube because I will probably cop it camping out in the wild helped ease my fears and get me back on track.

Not the bike I am riding.

I’ve tried to be smart the last couple of days and pack items items that can be used for a few different purposes to help keep the weight down. Like this old sea to summit portable hiking vagina for example. I converted into a drinking device for those nights when i get thirsty. Little clever ideas like that hopefully will pay dividends in the long run.

I turned this…..
Into this!!

If i do hear any banjos while camping I’ll throw it at them and hopefully they will leave me alone. I can’t wait now to get the airport bit out of the way  and get stuck into the riding. Next time you will hear from me I’ll be in Chile with my bike in one piece (hopefully). I’ll drop you a line when i get over there.

Wish me luck

The Stylish Pedlar