Mt Isa, Queensland, Australia
Camooweal to Mt Isa
I set of refreshed from Camooweal intending to get to Mt Isa in 4 days. That would mean that I would need to do an average of 47 km a day but I felt that that was possible without any major problems. I was lucky to have found a warm showers host , Belinda, in Mt Isa that I could stay with when I arrived.
The Mule was loaded with water again, some fresh food and after a hot breakfast at the BP roadhouse it was time to hit the road.
About 15 km out of Camooweal, I noticed a dark speck slowly getting larger on my side of the road. It slowly resolved into a cyclist. It was Tamara, from Ballarat, who was out on a trip around Australia. We talked for a while about everything from being a minimalist to the possible difficulty of returning to a ”normal” life after being on the road for a long time. She said that she had heard about me from some of the gray nomads traveling along the highway. Apparently I am known as the ”pram man”. Tamara had stayed with Belinda in Mt Isa and told me to say hello, it’s a small world.
The rest of the day passed pretty much as usual, one step after another. As I was having something to eat late in the afternoon under the shade from a windmill, a couple in a 4wd stopped to say hello. They had seen Mattia and me earlier, near Darwin, and had spoken to Tamara at Camooweal, who had told them about what I was doing.
I pushed on into the evening and as the sun was setting, I found a place to camp behind some heaps of gravel and dirt. The tent was set up quickly, with rocks holding the sides down against the wind, and I lay back and enjoyed a brilliant sunset through the tent opening.
I was feeling very lethargic right from the start on day 2, as usual it was probably due to a lack of coffee. In fact, the stretch between Three Ways and Mt Isa is the only part where I have regretted not having my stove with me, just to make coffee if nothing else. I pushed through the breeze, not to bad, and soldier on. At about 11, a car pulled up and asked how I was going. Barbara, Carl and George were on a trip from Broome, where they had been working for a while, to Sydney and had apparently also met Tamara who had told them about me. We chated for a while and they asked if I needed anything. I said I was totally ok, the only thing I missed was a cup of coffee. Turned out that I was in luck, Carl and made some coffee that morning and had a thermos full! He gave me a large cup and all of a sudden the day was that much easier!
I had lunch at a rest area and as I was eating my tuna and crisp bread sandwich, two 4wds loaded with tractor tires pulled up. They were changing drivers and taking the opportunity to get some cold drink from their esky’s and into the cab. They spotted me and wondered if I might want a cold beer. Oh yeah!
I hadn’t gone more than 2 km down the road after my lunch break before another 4wd pulled up beside me and a voice hollered, ”What the hell are you doing?”
It was a jolly bunch of guys from Albury/Wodonga headed up north for a fishing trip. When they saw me they had to turn around and try to find out what I was doing. They were a happy bunch and it was not long before I had a cold beer in my hand and before they left, they made sure I had another one for the road. It was turning out to be a good day!
I wanted to make it all the way to a rest stop that evening and I pushed on into the early evening darkness, arriving about 40 minutes after the sun had set. I set up the hammock under the picnic table roof and settled down for the night. Still not sleeping all that well in the hammock but I am getting more and more used to it.
Another day composed of one step after another with not much else happening. It was hot and there was not much of a wind blowing and it was a long day. Two different couples pulled over to give me oranges, water and a banana and helped me keep my spirits up. The strangest interaction was a 4wd that that slowed down slightly as the passenger leaned out of the window and shouted, ”Do you want some cold water, mate?” He then held out a bottle of water and smacked it into my palm as they rolled past. Then they were off again after a perfect handoff, Tour de France style.
That evening I made it to the WWII memorial rest area north-west of Mt Isa. That would leave me with a long last day, at least 55 km, but as I was heading to a place where I would be able to have a shower and sleep in a bed, that seemed ok. I again set up the hammock and tried to get some sleep..
I woke up with a desperate need to go to the toilet. Not good. Even worse when I did go as I spent a long time sitting on the toilet passing huge amounts of what was essentially just liquid. Not a great start to a day that was going to end up being close to 60 km long…
I took 2 of the wonder pills my sister had supplied me with for just this sort of situation and set of. No breakfast. I struggled on through the day, feeling a bit weak but tried to keep hydrated by constantly sipping water. My whole food intake for the day was limited to an apple and 3 small muesli bars. If I did not know that I was heading towards a warm showers host, I would have made camp after about 20 km and tried to rest, but I wanted to get the distance done and knew I would be able to rest for a few days once I arrived.
About 15 km outside of Mt Isa, a ute pulled over to see if I wanted a lift. I was very tempted but with ”only” 15 km to go I decided to soldier on.
I think I was very fortunate that the airport, 9 km north of town, was open and had a shop. I headed into the departure lounge, parked the Mule and bought some coke and coffee flavored milk. The attendant asked me if that was all and when I tried to say yes, the only thing that came out was a dry squeak. My voice had dried out.
I sat down and slowly sipped the coke, waiting to see how my stomach would react. When that worked, I tried the iced coffee milk. That worked as well and I was starting to feel a bit better. I asked a guy sitting next to me, again in an almost nonexistent, dry voice if he could watch the Mule while I went to the bathroom. Once there I used the toilet, no problem, and walked up to the wash basin to clean up. I looked into the mirror and suddenly wondered that I had not been pulled aside by security. What looked back was a dirty streaked face with tired eyes, dirty unkempt hair and an ”expedition” beard.
I bought 2 more bottles of coke and continued on. I had to stop and rest every 2 or 3 km, but I was moving forward and even though the sun had set and it was getting very dark, I was getting closer and closer.
Walking into Mt Isa in the dark was interesting. It’s a very industrial place with lots of lights and large, strange buildings.
After lots of small rests I finally made to Belinda’s flat, following her very detailed instructions. It had been a very long day, close to 57 km, and I was really tired.
Belinda turned out to be a wonderful warm showers host and had even gone to the trouble to make me a large spaghetti and sauce meal with a big helping of salad. I felt extremely bad when I could only manage to take 2 small bites and then concentrated on trying to drink as much water as possible instead.
I am going to need a few days rest here in Mt Isa, but my stomach already feels totally ok, so I don’t expect any problems. It might prove interesting to do some sightseeing here amongst the mines before it is time to keep walking east.