DAY 6 – KARRATHA TO ROEBURNE
At the end of Day 5 we made it to Karratha and settled into our accommodation. As is now the routine, we find our room, the laundry,pthe Pool, the shower and then head for dinner and the bar!! After all the troops are fed there’s the nightly briefing to recap the day’s events – the good, the bad and the awesome. The KJR Yellow Jersey is awarded and on Day 5, the legendary Lorry, driver of Team Snoopy’s lead car, was presented with one of the jerseys for going above and beyond. Not only does Lorry drive the lead car, he prepares the water, food and sunscreen ate very stop and then works his way through the peloton massaging sore muscles and offering words of encouragement. The second KJR Yellow Jersey was awarded to the Colombian stalwart, the quiet achiever in the ScoobyDoo peloton. He’s ‘Mr Consistent’, just pedaling along, not complaining or making a fuss. These guys looked super in Yellow on Day 6 as I am sure you’ll agree.
For those who’ve read a few blog posts, you’ll be glad to know that the competition between the Pluto and ScoobyDoo teams has escalated. Sick of being told that Pluto is 4-1 up, ScoobyDoo enlisted the help of the UCI (Union Cycliste Internationale) “apparently”. Heading into day 5, Pluto was ahead of ScoobyDoo by 31 minutes for the general classification race. On day 5 ScoobyDoo alleged that Pluto incorrectly used the “Sticky Bidden” manoeuvre to return a rider to the peloton and the UCI’s ruling was instant disqualification; with the final decision being handed to ScoobyDoo and Snoopy for deliberation. The collective decision was to enforce a time penalty rather than disqualification, which saw the leader board re-ordered. Snoopy now holds a 2 minute advantage over ScoobyDoo who are 12 minutes in front of Pluto.
There were no points up for grabs on Day 6; it was a rest day with a light stage of 38kms between Karratha and Roebourne. Instead, today was about community engagement. It gives me great pride to say I was a part of steering the TourXOz strategy towards community engagement. This goes all the way back to 2013 and is the reason this blog started on Day 5!! At the nightly briefing it was acknowledged that the reception created by my fellow YAHS school mates and our Wagga Wagga connections was amazing and my parents were personally thanked for their involvement in the 2013 event. In reality the credit for the event goes to Mel Howard (wife of Joe who passed in early 2013), Joe’s brother Ben Howard, Kelly Grant (school mate of everyone), Tanya Jackson-Friend (sister of Cameron taken by the Black Dog in 2001), Andrew Upton my best mate from school and their extended families, who waited patiently for us by the side of the road for at least 2 hours. I and many of the 2013 riders who are on the 2017 ride will never forget the welcome we received, the conversations we had and the food and drinks they prepared. Our collective legacy led to the 2015 community engagement events in Alice Springs and Tennant Creek, and today, Day 6 of the 2017 tour in Roebourne.
Roebourne is a small but infamous community in outback WA. This article was posted earlier in 2017 and paints a less than ideal picture of a dysfunctional community. We knew today was going to be mentally tough and confronting however the community greeted us openly and Josey (pictured) gave us the Welcome to Country in her native language. She grew up in Roebourne just across from the river where we were meeting. Josey thanked us for coming to visit and investing time in the community and she was touched that we wanted to engage with the community and hear their story. She was strong and confident in her description of the community, acknowledging they had issues, but not that different to any other indigenous or non-indigenouscommunity. She spoke proudly of the multicultural make-up of the community, explaining they were all in it together. Such powerful words.
We enjoyed breakfast with some of the locals before splitting into four different groups. I was lucky enough to be in the group that visited the Roebourne Regional Prison. I’ve never been to prison myself, much less a police station, so I was a little apprehensive, as were many of the riders, however we were put at ease as we entered the prison with just ID’s checked and no cavity searches…!
I am still in awe of Adam Goodes. I’ve been riding shoulder to shoulder with him for the past six days and today he elevated himself again. Nerves were high as we walked through the prison to the dining room. The prison staff had assembled all of the 141 inmates in the dining room to meet us. Talk about the smashing together of two worlds! We were introduced by Vicki, our guide and coordinator of the days outreach activities. She asked if anyone wanted to tell their story and Adam stepped forward delivering an inspirational speech straight from the heart; covering leadership, choices and the need to look after one’s physical and mental health. What a champion. We also had inspirational speeches from the other TourXOz participants; one who has almost succeeded in committing suicide after battling addiction and another who’s girlfriend’s father succeeded in committing suicide. Such moving stories and a day that will be with me forever.
DAY 7 – Port Hedland to Pardoo Roadhouse
We made to the penultimate day. Today’s ride saw us ride from just outside Port Headland to the Pardoo Roadhouse about 110kms up the road. We had a short uplift this morning to get out of the way of the Road Trains. According to the locals there is over 500 three and four-trailer beasts that rumble in and roll out of Port Hedland each day. The Tour organisers have safety as our number one priority and even thought the truckies in WA have been legendary with the support and respect they’ve shown the peloton, we decided to show them some respect in return by minimising our interactions this morning.
Our kick off point felt like the set of an outback western movie. I was anticipating a bunch of cowboys to ride around the hill and ask us “What the hell are y’all all doin’ in these parts?”
The conditions were hot, mostly a tail wind, but that soon abated and switched into a head wind. I started the “off the back” not sure if it was the rest day or the extra glasses of wine I had the night before but I was in the hurt locker for the first 40kms on the road. We set a cracking pace and maybe it was just that I struggled to keep up, either way, by the time we took our first stop at 55km, I had found my legs again. The camera crew found a massive dinosaur cow on the side of the road and brought Pluto a bone! I couldn’t resist when Dave gave it to me, I had to have a taste!
I jumped on the front for the second leg and again found myself in the hurt locker as my first turn on the front I was “on the rivet” and pushing 40kms an hour. When Marcus called the rollover I was so relieved but as it turned out, it was just what my legs needed as I was back and powered through the next 30kms. With one final stop we smashed out the 110km ride in just under three hours! We all agreed it will be a while before we complete another ride like that. Our arrival at the Pardoo Roadhouse was welcomed by the owner who said; “It’s been real quite around here so although it’s stressful, it’s awesome to have you all here!” I suspect, just like our epic ride, it will be a while before a traveling caravan of just under 100 people arrives at the Pardoo Roadhouse again.
Our destination for the night was 80 Mile Beach and by crikey, that is a long beach! We were warned not to “swim” beyond knee depth as there had been sightings of Bull sharks and sting Rays. Fortunately we didn’t actually see any although there were plenty of large objects moving around just a short distance from the shore. We arrived in the early afternoon and spent a large portion of the afternoon “just chilling” in the shade of trailer. One of our neighbours noticed we were short of a few chairs and brought his spare chair over for us to use.
The sunset on 80 Mile Beach was something to behold; I felt like I was in a Star Wars movie with the big red sun slowly sinking down into the ocean. The pictures we took don’t do it justice and I recall thinking “you can actually see the earth rotating from this point.’
For the first time on this trip, we’re camping tonight. I listened with delight to many of our fellow tour pedlars talking about the tents and remembering back to 2013 when we rode from Perth to Sydney, camping every night. At least tonight the tents were already set up, dinner was being cooked for us and really. all we had to do was wash, eat and sleep, which in the scheme of things isn’t too bad. Our caterers had travelled 400kms to provide us with dinner and then breakfast the next morning. They had also provided us with lunch the previous day at the Whim Creek Pub and did a great job! With a full belly, we headed in for an early night.