Location: Mount Cavenagh Station to Aputula (Finke), via Kulgera Roadhouse.
Distance: approximately 140kms
Its funny how the universe works, after a few ultra bad nights of Morgan teething, a friend of mine Lloyd connected with us and told us he was working out in an indigenous community in the Northern Territory over the next few weeks.
After miraculously connecting with him via sat phone (there is seriously limited mobile phone service out here and even less wifi), we realized he was coming down the exact road we were on in a few hours and we quickly put in an order for Bonjela (baby numbing teeth gel). Soon enough, Lloyd showed up with lots of baby teeth gel, some treats for all of us and a much needed hug and a offer to pull the cart! What a legend and what are the odds?!
By the time we hit the Kulgera Roadhouse we were all exhausted and Morgan had come down with a bad case of nappie/diaper rash which I think was related to her teething . She was seriously walking like a cowgirl having just dismounted a horse after weeks out on the range and going ‘ooooooohhh’. Sitting in her cart would not be possible until we got this cleared up.
As with anything involving kids, expeditioning not excluded, you have to be flexible. We had originally not intended to stay at Kulgera but given our situation and Morgans discomfort, we decided to count our lucky stars that we could get a place to stay with a hot shower and we bunked up for the night.
After a good night sleep, finally, and a hot meal (and a beer and a wine or two for mom and dad), we were all feeling much better.
Our next expedition leg is about 140kms from Kulgera to Aputula (Finke), a remote and historic Indigenous Australian community in the Northern Territory on the old Central Australian Ghan Railway line. Between these two location there is nothing but beautiful country, red kangaroos, dry river beds and lots of red dirt and stars. With any luck, we were hoping to get there in about 6 days or so.
As we set off on this leg, our bodies were feeling good and we were averaging over 20km’s a day and more importantly all seemed to be really enjoying the walk. The country is beautiful. The colors in the Outback are just brilliant. The red dirt in contrast to the bright blue sky and blonde bush grass never ceases to take my breath away.
However we had lost over a day and a half at Kulgera recuperating and now feeling behind, Justin suggested we take a ‘short cut’ through a cattle station along an old railway line. Sure I thought. Nothing wrong with a bit of bush bashing if it saves us a few kilometres.
Just as we reached the railway line; six elevated metal railway lines neslted in sharp rocks, we realized we would need to cross it and the crossing would not be easy with our carts. Well my Burley Design Cub hopped over it like a champ but Justin’s bigger and much heavier (just recently reloaded) cart took the two of us pulling and pushing with the two fat tires bulging over each elevated metal railway line until we were finally safe and clear along the other side.
Justin and I cheered and we pushed forward stopping under a lovely shady tree a few kilometers down the narrow track.
Just as we packed up lunch and were about to start walking again for the day, Justin looked down and through clenched teeth announced he had a flat tire. If anyone reading this has changed a bike or a car tire in their day you may appreciate that it’s a pain in the butt. But the fat tires on Justin’s cart are basically bike tires on steroids and changing them is not a fun job.
So thanks to our ‘short cut ‘ we now have to unpack the cart, remove and change the tire and load it back up which takes on average about an hour and half. This is precious time we should be walking.
On top of this, when you are on an unassisted expedition and are carrying all of your gear, it’s always a fine balance between taking too much and too little. Justin had planned on taking two spare tubes of which could be repaired and as we had already had a few punctures before that, we were on our last, spare tube (**Note to self, there are no shortcuts in life… if it looks too good to be true, it probably is.). That night we had a very tired and hungry toddler on our hands as we pulled in late to a little clear spot in the bush and set up our tent just as the sun was setting.
The next day got up before dawn, aiming for an early start and trying to make up some time and distance out on the trail. S*it. The other tire was flat. Unbelievable. It turned out that the railway tracks had caused small longitudinal splits on the inners. Most likely caused by us forcing a cart weighing over 240kgs over the steel tracks. Another delay.
Unpack, remove, repair, replace, repack, continue.
That day we salvaged a respectable 18km after a very flat start…
Were we going to be able to coax our two spare tubes through multiple repairs and get to Aputula where another two tube waited for us in our drop??
The following day we had a great morning almost pushing out 15kms before lunch and were treated to a lovely dry creek bed with lots of shade to have a break. I was feeling optimistic. If we can push out a few big days, we might still be on track to hit Aputula this week. Our bodies were feeling stronger and we were ready to keep walking. The afternoon we managed a further 8km, managing our second biggest day of the trip so far. We were back!
With a jubilant mood we settled back into routine. Sunrise the next day saw us packing up to hit the trail for another back to back big day when Justin looked at me with a look of pure frustration and defeat. The recently repaired tire was totally flat.
Remove all emotion. Unpack, remove, repair, replace, repack, continue.
6km down the road, struggling with an abnormally hot day we pulled over for morning tea, struggling desperately to buoy our flagging spirits.
Just as we were about to push off – Another flat. Well, that would be it for us today, we wouldn’t be going any further and would have to set up camp here. Our big day out on the trail had just turned into another day where we missed our target.
The slight longitudinal splits on out inner tubes had turned into ugly, irreparable scars. Our only option was to put on an old, over patched tube with a definite slow leak and roll the dice hoping it will hold out and get us to Aputula and the new inners.
At this stage both Justin and I were beyond frustrated. Amidst all of our effort, we were once again falling behind. If this kept up, we were facing increasing risk that we wouldn’t be able to finish before summer, when the Outback becomes too hot and impassible. I quickly pushed this thought out of my head and focused on tomorrow. The tire would hold, we would make it to Aputula. I just knew it. We hadn’t come this far to stop now.