Barkly Homestead, NT, Australia
Woke up this morning not having decided if I was going to start on my trek to the Pacific or if I was going to have a rest day. But the lack of any functioning wi-fi made the decision easy.
I really need to update the blog, but it will just have to wait until I get access to a connection that is not as slow as molasses..
That also meant that Mattia and I would be splitting up.
We had a breakfast of bacon and egg sandwiches and coffee at the BP stationed then it was time to go. A few shots of the carts facing in different directions, words of goodbye and off we went. He south and me north, at least until I reached Three Ways and could turn east.
The Mule was heavy, loaded with food for at least a week and about 25 liters of water. But the road is flat and it rolls easily once it gets started.
Walking back the way I had come felt wrong, but at the same time I was glad to be on my way and finally getting to start my eastward journey, even if I would not be turning east until later in the afternoon.
10 km on I stopped and had a rest at the Tennant Creek crossing. There was water dripping from the Mule..
One of my water bags had started leaking! It’s just a cheap inner liner from a 10-liter box of water I bought in Katherine that I have been reusing. It’s a great bag but intended for one use and I am probably on my 5th refill and am using it without any protective cover. It’s a wonder it has lasted this long!
I managed to ”fix” it with some duct tape. What a wonderful product that is, don’t know how anyone could survive without it. It still leaks just a tiny little bit, but I am now being much more careful with it and will empty it first so everything should work out just fine.
I arrived at Three Ways a bit before 1 pm and had a very expensive steak sandwich with chips. Everything here in Australia is expensive! Money just seems to disappear almost as quickly as I can get it out of the ATM.
I bought a large bottle of coke for tomorrow and a small bottle of cold Solo for now and it was finally time to head east.
It felt great. Well rested, taking my time and enjoying it.
It’s 188 km to Barkly Homestead which is the first place I will be able to get water. Should not be a problem as I have been using about 5 liters a day and have almost 25 on the Mule, plus 2 liters of Coke.
It was hot heading out on the Barkly Hwy but not oppressive. Not like Texas last summer.
I walked along, had a few drink breaks, moved well out of the way of the Road Trains and by the time it was getting close to 6 pm I was next to a gravel pit that my WikiCamp app suggested was a great spot to stop for the night.
I walked down the road and came upon two large campervans already parked there. They belonged to two elderly couples from Tasmania who were also heading east. I stopped for a chat and answered the usual questions. A very kind gentleman offered me a cold beer and I gratefully accepted.
Then it was time to pitch the tent. The sky was clear and I hope to have seen the last of the rain but put the fly on the inner tent anyway. It makes the tent warmer and that is needed as the nights have been cold. Down to 9 degrees some nights and my sleeping bag is rated at 15 degrees. So I end up wearing my woolen long johns….
Spent most of the day listening to The Martian and when that finished I started on Dune again. Both titles feel like they are just right for the scenery.
I am not having any dinner tonight, just some snacks while I type this. I’m still full from both a large breakfast and lunch.
It’s starting to get properly dark now and I and going to finish, put the computer away and spend some time looking at the stars. There really is nothing like the star sky out here in the Outback, it totally blows you away.
Then I will crawl into my tiny tent, get some sleep and be ready to start walking again as soon as it’s light again tomorrow.
The morning started cool but beautiful. Nice sunrise and a fresh, slightly cold atmosphere, perfect to start walking in.
I packed quickly and headed off, I like to start quickly and stop for breakfast after a little while when I have woken up properly.
15 km down the road, I stopped at a repeater tower for breakfast. Muesli and canned fruit. Then onwards…
The roads are straight and it is just a matter of taking one step at a time and slowly making progress.
First lunch was at a water pump set up just slightly off the road. Tuna and crisp bread.
The day was starting to get really hot, but there was a wind blowing that helped keep the temperature down. The only problem was that it was more or less blowing straight against me. Don’t know which is worse, the heat without the wind or the head wind.
Another 10 km and it was time to stop for lunch number 2. This time I went for spaghetti, with extra cheese!
As I sat eating, a small truck pulled up and asked if I wanted a lift. I explained and thank for the offer. The guy asked if I was heading past Barkly Homestead and warned me that there were some ”pretty bad people” hanging around in the bush about 20 km past Barkly. Apparently they had been robbing people and I should be careful.
As I started walking again, the wind changed direction and I found myself with a nice cooling tailwind as the temperature dropped during the afternoon. Nice!
45 km felt like enough for the day and when I reached a gravel pit opposite a repeater tower I decided to call it a day.
It was a nice place to camp and the evening was quite and peaceful. I set up camp, cleaned myself a bit and had some snacks. I should really have tried to write something in the journal, but I was not at all in the mood. I sat enjoying the peace and a beautiful sunset then crawled into the tent and tried to read. Didn’t get too many pages before I fell asleep.
I wrote this during my breakfast stop the next morning, feeling that I really had to try to make a habit of journaling, every day if possible. It is something that I have tried to do a few times before during my life but have never really succeeded at. Strange as I have always had a vague notion that I would like to be a writer someday and the only way to practice writing is to write….
Day 3 and 4
I woke on day 3 and was surprised that it was not very cold. I did not even have my woolen underwear on. As I crawled out of the tent I got my answer, the sky was overcast and it remained that way most of the day. Nice for walking as it kept the temperature down.
The first 15 km went easy, up to a rest stop where I could sit at a table and enjoy my muesli and fruit. Not only that, there was plenty of water in the water tank and I was able to fill up my supplies. I have plenty of water to reach Barkly Homestead now, can even ”waste” some on a bit of a wash!
From then on it started to get harder. I just wasn’t feeling that great. A bit lethargic and slow. I think it’s due to the total lack of coffee and it’s probably going to take me a day or two to get over it. I haven’t been drinking a lot of coffee lately but have been able to get at least one cup each day. Now, it’s no cups per day…
The wind also started up and blew against me for the remainder of the morning. I was glad later in the afternoon when it slowly changed directions into a helping breeze instead.
Late in the afternoon a couple in a caravan slowed down, turned around and stopped to check that I was ok. I explained what I was doing and they offered me some nice, cold water. It’s hard to explain just how nice cold water is when you are out walking in the heat all day.
I set off again, but it was a hard day. I had planned to cover at least 45 km but by the time I had gone 40 km I knew that was enough for the day. I found a small access road of the highway and set up the tent, had a wash and gratefully crawled inside to rest my legs.
The morning of day 4 was colder. The sky was clear and I had needed both my woolens and my sleeping bag during the night. I packed and set off quickly, intending to get 10 km done before breakfast. The problem was the wind. Almost straight away a headwind started blowing that made it seem like I was walking uphill all the time. After just 7 km I had had enough and stopped for breakfast. Muesli and fruit….
The rest of the day was a long slog against the wind, a gusty and strong head wind. Surprisingly I have still managed to get some mileage done and as I write this I have walked 34 km and am having lunch no 2 at a rest stop. It’s nice being able to sit at a proper table!
It’s only 3 pm and I should be able to do another 10 km today without major problems. That will leave me with around 45 km left to walk tomorrow to Barkly Homestead.
I’ll have a bit of a rest here for a while and then set off to do the last bit of the day.
I walked almost 16 km before a found a place to pitch the tent on day 4. I had to work my way through some thick grass to find it but managed to find a spot a little ways from the road that was perfect.
The night was a cold again so it was on with the woolies!
I walked about 8 km after packing up in the morning and had breakfast, the last of the muesli and fruit. If I can’t get some more in Barkly then breakfast from now on will have to be peanut butter and jam wraps. I can live with that!
The headwind started again after breakfast and the rest of the day was a matter of one step after another with all of them feeling like they were uphill. Lucky that I only had about 43 km to go.
30 Km from Barkley I caught up to a road train that was parked on the side of the road. A stopped and had a chat and found out that the driver thought the turbo was broken. He had a sudden loss of power and was trying to find the problem. After consulting with people on the phone (the truck had a satellite phone) it was decided that he should try to make it Barkley and wait for help. He was disappointed that the truck had broken down, it should not happen, it was only 18 months old ( but had already got 600,000 km on the clock!)
I continued on, taking it easy but making good time and by 5 pm I was in Barkley. I got a room for 2 nights, having a rest day tomorrow, had a shower and then had my first cooked, warm meal for 4 days.
Surprisingly it was difficult to sleep. The bed was too soft and there was a fair bit of noise from other campers and the bar. Guess I have gotten used to my hard sleeping pad and the quietness of the outback!
So the plan is to have a rest day, do some laundry and check that I have food and water for the next stretch. Barkly to Camooweal is at least 260 km and there is nothing in between. It should take me 6 -7 days and I will be needing to carry at least 30 liters of water. But this is the reason I built the Mule and I have no worries that it won’t be up to the task. This should also be the longest stretch that I walk without being able to get supplies so after this it all just gets easier!