The nothingness of Nullarbor

Australia - Posted On

Sebastien writes, Olivier translates:

It’s my first desert I ever cross. Desert is defined by the fact that there is no Human being, not the fact there is no life. In the Nullarbor, wild life is spread out and of an extreme beauty for the one who takes time of seeing it. Only this waterless and treeless area does not welcome human. Maybe it does explain why it changes so much human behaviour for it best. Here the usual western suspicious well known from hitchhikers disappears to the profit of the friendly carefulness. Are we looking a bit lost or tired? A car stops: “- hey do you need help? Cold beer maybe?”

We had ahead of us 1200kms with neither shops nor any houses. Information gathered on the Internet tell us it’s not easy to get water from roadhouses on the way. 

About the food supply, Olivier thought about organizing some drop foods after having met Andrew, a cyclist who had a puncture on the side of the road some weeks earlier. His wife was actually going to cross the Nullarbor just before us. Why not giving her some bags of food so that she could drop them on the way in the different roadhouses? That’s what we did and we managed that with complete success and therefore had not to worry at all to get our stomach full every day out there, beautiful!

About the water, everyone met before on the way professed that we would go into real trouble out there! Extreme high temperature, and super dry conditions… Quite worried, we load our bikes with 14L each in the beginning. How deceiving! We only got 40°C+ once or twice, had tailwind all along and water was nothing but easy to get, from the cars passing or even better from all the ‘grey nomads’, those people having retired and enjoy their time with their caravan travelling all around the country. Very often we get ‘extra’ as a cold beer, or a bit of fresh food, veges, straight out from the fridge, it’s delicious and we get to meet the people who are worth a nice story as well!

Olivier writes:

Since ages we had talked about the crazy idea to use a kite to pull our bikes through the desert. Having now tried it on the beach of Torquay, with some NASA wings kindly made and offered by Porcher Sport / Gavin Mulvay, NZ, it’s now time to try for real. 

However the huge road trains are not joking when they pass 100+km/h just nearby us. And the traffic is much heavier than expected. It’s a busy road! This tends to scare Seb who decides not to risk his neck into this. Having more experience and determination on the matter, I still decide to take it out… A few sessions validate the idea, even though I quickly see the limit of such design for the wings. They don’t ‘fly’ enough to really go on a good angle against the wind and the best I take out of it is a 20 knots wind 80° angle from facing us. This means sideway wind a little bit front. And here only the kite actually give me extra speed and easiness for a good 40kms that day, leaving Seb quite behind, meaning the kite is helping for real, epic!

With tailwind it becomes pointless: the wing collapses with lack of wind in it and a tailwind makes it so easy on the bike that a kite isn’t necessary anymore, unless going uphill for a long time.

This is also the best part of the trip with the pair of us, as there isn’t much else to do but keep on pedalling all day. This helps to flatten down the arguments coming between us. And we really enjoy the company of each other at that time, which is very much positive.

Not only did we got out kites out, but also did we use our paraglides on the hills close by Eucla, where the Bight’s cliffs get back inland. We have a few flights but the wind tends to force a bit and when I lift up the wing once more, it takes me back, right toward the (busy and dangerous) road. I collapse urgently the wing but still I find myself in a huge bush, the wing flapping desperate on the road. I see an immediate danger as there are many big vehicles passing fast, and if any catch my wing, I’m in serious trouble! A couple a curious stopped to watch, this is time for them to help and I got the thing out of danger quite quickly. This was a good lesson of humility against the wind strength. 

When we get to Esperance, after 2200kms made in 21 days, we know we accomplished something great, worth the try. It’s then quite relieving to take some days completely off the bike, resting and FLYING!