week 7...
beyond the black stump

Into the N.T.

What does this sign mean? Nothing ahead? Don't do anything? The point of no return?

Actually, all of these are pretty appropriate when you're talking about the Northern Territory. We're leaving behind the comfort (ha) of Queensland, going into the even emptier, even more vast Northern Territory. We've got 265km before we even reach a petrol station, and nearly 500km before we approach something that comes close to resembling a town. It's our scariest stretch yet.

Luckily there's no speed limit to hold us back...
going the distance...
Every country has its vice. In Germany, it's beer. In Canada, it's beer. In Australia, besides beer, this country is crazy about gambling. One of the largest casinos in the world resides in Victoria and generates something close to 15% of the state income. With horse racing, Australians combine their natural love of sport with their thirst for gambling. When you wrap all of this up in a social event that would make Ascot look like a day at the park, you've got The Race That Stops The Nation: The Melbourne Cup.

The streets are empty, the stores area closed. Some schools even wheel a TV into the classrooms, because the teachers certainly aren't going to miss it. Don't try to catch anyone's attention because they're not looking at you, they're looking at the closest television set that is broadcasting the final moments before the race begins. And if they happen to not be looking at a television set, they're most certainly busy lining up to place a bet on this race of races.

It seems natural then that on this day of days, that we found ourselves in a pub, drinking a pot of Guinness, having just placed a bet on our spur-of-the-moment choices, eagerly awaiting our first Melbourne Cup Experience.

Kevin:
Aimee:
Scott:
Karen:
Cyclades ($2)
Pentastic ($1)
Beekeeper ($5)
Media Puzzle ($2-win)
Thong Classic
Helene Vitality
Mr Prudent ($1-place)
Luckily, we were with two Cup Experts... Scott and Karen. We woulda been lost without 'em.

Now remember, horse racing is BIG in Australia. There's a cable channel dedicated to it. Every big city has a track, and almost every local bar has betting stubs. If you've got a spare dollar, and a gut feeling (or in David's case, you know there's a horse with your daughter's name in it), going the distance isn't that hard at all.


Fishin' for Answers:
Bait: Prawns
Lure: Golden Bomber
Target: Barramundi
Caught: Nothing

Solution:
Tropical Fish & Chips
Caught:
4 Barra (& Chips)
Price: $23.00


Scott and Karen were going to Normanton, so they dropped off a 10L of water at the turnoff for us. That's 10kg we didn't have to carry to Camooweal! Thanks guys!
meet scott and karen
Another happily travelling couple... just like us! Except they're in a car. What's their story?

What's your story? For the first time since we've been married, we're both jobless, so we've decided to spend the next two months travelling around the state of Queensland!

What did you do before this? [Scott] worked for Telstra, doing technical network installation, but recently got laid off (we got a redundancy package out of it, though). [Karen] ran a beauty and nail salon for years near Burleigh Heads, and when she found out about Telstra, she sold it so we could travel!

That's pretty gutsy... what are you doing for jobs when you get back? You know, my parents keep saying the same thing. I hate it when people ask that.

Me too. I only asked to bug you. No, I don't have anything lined up.

Good for you guys. Fly by the seat of your pants! Yeah! It's fun!

Why didn't you give Scott a job at the beauty salon? Ha ha... he wanted one. He wanted to do bikini waxes. Of course, then I told him about some bikini waxing horror stories.

Oh? You don't want to know. Let's just say, not everyone is a size 8, and not everyone is as attentive with the soap.

Eww. Yeah.
these are the people in our neighbourhood...

Michael
When Michael Cahill from the Queensland coast has a few days to kill, what does he do? He goes to Darwin! In a few days! What a crazy man! Michael was so excited to see us, he fell off his fancy BMW bike. He blamed it on his trick knee, but I think he was star struck from meeting world famous travellers.
Paul
"Excuse me, I've just gotta feed my kangaroo," said Paul. We thought he was talking about his dog. Now, Mate (the dog) was definitely an Aussie dog, but he wasn't a kangaroo. Maybe it was some kind of Aussie slang...? But no! He had a real live baby kangaroo! Read all about it on Sunday!
There were others...
Like Patrina from the North Star News, or the crazy Germans. We could have told you about the guy who owned the fish & chip shop, or the fat man washing his car in his skimpy little undies. Or the Mini Guy; saw him a few times in various cities. But, alas, those camera troubles. Technology... will we ever learn?
wally's amazin' facts!
You wonder how a little Outback library can get such great books? Wonder no more! The Queensland library system takes books from the Brisbane Library, and passes them around to all the little towns! Since the books keep rotating, there's always something new to read!

This Week's Amazin' Fact: Did you know that the Mount Isa Mine is 1.8 kilometres deep? Man, that's super deep! Not only that, but it has an underground hospital, an underground processing plant, and over 500 km of tunnels below the surface! That's more action underground than Camooweal has up top!

Until next time, I'll leave you with this woofer: The Australian Cattle Dog is bred from four different dogs: Dalmatian, Bull Terrier, Kelpi... and one other. Can you guess it?

You won't find Wally anywhere this week.
His photo got eaten with the others.


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Distance this week: 302kmDistance since Day 1: 2751km

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Day 44: Always Greener
Distance Travelled: 5.9km Temperature: 38
Time on Trikes: 1.0h Water Left: 8.0L
Terrain: Down into town
End Location: Caravan Park, Mount Isa
what water shortage?
In case you live on the other side of the world and don't hear much about the national Australian news, this country is going through a major drought. It's more than a major drought, it's a record-breaking, government-assistance-required, send-money-to-save-the-outback kind of drought. The farmers don't have enough water to keep their cattle alive. It's so dry out here that every single river we've passed in the previous 900 kilometres has been bone dry, and all just about every creek is changing its name to "Gully". It would be difficult to exaggerate the need for water in this country right now.
   This said, it appears that the residents of Mount Isa haven't read their own national papers or driven outside of their city since last years's wet season. Our caravan park, in particular, was shocking. Shocking because they constantly had water being sprayed somewhere at every single moment of the day. I'm a fairly reasonable person and I understand how appealing green grass can be to a weary traveller, but Sunset Caravan Park went waaaay overboard:
  • I watched a man water the concrete of the swimming pool for two hours.
  • I was told to remove my laundry from the line because the sprinklers were turning on in a minute. It was concrete below the clothesline.
  • A man walked around with a hose and watered an already sprinkler-equipped lawn. The lawn was splotchy mud.
  • Instead of using a rake, they hosed the leaves off of the grass using a high-powered water hose.
FarmAid, I think we've found the culprits.

"Can't we just hang out in the frozen food section all afternoon?"
- Kevin.
Day 45: Damn You Exxon!
Distance Travelled: None Temperature: 36
Time on Trikes: None Water Left: 4.0L
End Location: Mount Isa
off the beaten track
"We're just heading down to the local dam for a bit of fishing and maybe a swim... care to join us?" Our new friends Scott and Karen made space in the back of their 4x4 for an extra passenger. A swim in a freshwater lake? Kevin was in.
   When we're riding the bikes, plenty of people say, "Wow, you must be seeing a lot of the country." We sure are. We're seeing every square centimetre of it, very slowly. The only problem: we're seeing every square centimetre of a very narrow strip.
   We can't leave the highway! When we see a sign that reads "Something Interesting: 4km on Left", we have to ask ourselves if the side trip is worth it. Four in, four back, possibly a bad road, that could take up to an hour if it's unpaved. So, when Scott and Karen wanted to visit the dam, 15km off the main road, Kevin couldn't sit still. They could have been going to the rubbish tip and he would have enjoyed it.
   And after looking at the quality of the water, they might as well have.

"Are you eating the bait?"
- Karen.
Day 46: No Photo Available
Distance Travelled: 39.9km Temperature: 39
Time on Trikes: 4.5h Water Left: 11L
Terrain: Reasonable
End Location: Waggaboonyah Range
not another puncture!
See that nasty croc eating our camera? Well, I'm going to let you in on a little secret: our camera didn't really get eaten by a croc. I know you were worried, but it's just a cartoon. Kev drew it.
   The sad part of the story is that there really was a problem with our camera. We popped in a new CD to record the photos for the rest of the week, without realizing there was a tiny little hole scratched out of the foil. Snap snap snap went the camera, until it hit the hole on Saturday, and which point it stopped going snap snap snap and started going grrgrrgrrgrrgrr.
   Long story short, we've lost about 100 photos. We may be able to get them back someday, but hey, at least it happened on the most boring, unpopulated stretch of highway to date. You're not missing much.

"I was thinking... a mosquito net is $8, but think of what it'll save me in wrinkle cream later in life."
- Aimee.
Day 47: No Photo Available
Distance Travelled: 65.1km Temperature: 43
Time on Trikes: 7.5h Water Left: 12L
Terrain: Rolling Hills
End Location: Yelvertoft Station Rd
a gutsy adventure
Blech. Kevin is sick. Really sick. He's got the moanin' groans and the loopy poops. Luckily for him, I've got enough pedal power to keep us both moving... as long as we're going downhill and the wind isn't against us.
   Being sick at any stage isn't fun. Being sick on a bike is less fun. Being sick on a bike when you've just left civilization for 187km of nothingness is one of the worst things that can happen. You know there's no way out except under your own power. Just when you thought crap week is over.

"I don't feel better, but at least I feel lighter."
- Kevin.
Day 48: No Photo Available
Distance Travelled: 61.0km Temperature: 45
Time on Trikes: 7.0h Water Left: 14L
Terrain: Fairly flat
End Location: 20km E of Camooweal
sudden stop
We attract a lot of attention on our fancy schmancy super-trikes. Most of this attention is good and ends with us receiving produce or liquid of various sorts. We always welcome this kind of attention and we love talking with other people travelling this deserted highway. There's just one minor exception to this friendly rule: when one of us has their pants around their ankles and they're crouching in the woods because they're still not feeling well. At the exactly wrong moment a van of people inevitably pull up so that the non-indisposed one of us needs to start making big "look at me, not at him' movements with their hands. It's the equivalent of George Bush reading a copy of the budget on the Presidential toilet and having a White House tour group come through. There isn't much you can do except try to gracefully recover and not shake hands. An awkward situation, one that they don't teach you in the old etiquette classes.
French lady: "My husband wants to take your picture."
Kevin: "Well, I guess I should put some pants on."
Day 49: Pedals to the Metal
Distance Travelled: 76.7km Temperature: 43
Time on Trikes: 9.0h Water Left: 7.5L
Terrain: Smooth
End Location: Just inside NT!
out of the frying pan...
Today is gonna be the day that we're really gonna leave the Q. By now, you shoulda somehow realized what we're gonna do.
   You can't possibly know the joy we're feeling today. Do you know what it's like to pedal and pedal and pedal at 10km an hour, across 2700 km of NOTHING, and to finally approach a line on the road (okay, it's really a cattle grid) that says "You are now leaving Queensland." Could you possibly ever understand what we're feeling? Is there any way you can grasp what's coursing through our weary brains at this very moment?
   NEVER! YOU ARE PUNY FOOLS AND WE WILL CRUSH YOU ALL! INFIDELS!
   There's something to be said for an accomplishment like this. However, there's also something to be said for shouting INFIDELS! at the top of your lungs with no one but Aimee around to hear.

"Where's that 'Wall Drug South Dakota' bumper sticker?"
- Kevin.
Day 50: She Likes Tummy Rubs!
Distance Travelled: 53.9km Temperature: 44
Time on Trikes: 6.5h Water Left: 10L
Terrain: Slow uphill
End Location: Nowhere (mid.)
hidden treasure
A baby kangaroo! Eee hee hee! It's only a BABY! She's so FUNNY!
   Lee lee lee! I just want to play with her all day long! What's that, baby? You need your bottle? Um num num there you go little baby. Look! She's drinking it! Ha ha, little baby roo.

It's actually a wallaby. When Paul brought out his baby wallaby, we had to know where we could get one too! It was then that Paul told us this story...
   A few months ago, Paul was driving through Western Australia when WHAM! -- he hit a wallaby with his truck and sent it careening into the bush. SCREECH! went Paul's brakes, as he got out of the car to examine the mess. He found the wallaby, and thought, rather than let it just sit on the side of the road and stink, like most wallabies do (believe me, we know), he'd carve some of the fresh meat for his dog, Mate. YUM! said Mate.
   As he was carving, he noticed, something was moving around inside! It was a baby wallaby, in the pouch! GADZOOKS! said Paul. He felt bad for hitting a wallaby mum, so as pennance, he took it upon himself to care for the joey. He bought some baby formula, and a bottle, and a fuzzy sack for the baby to hang around in while he's driving, just like a pouch.
   What a great story! Aw, you're not still upset about him cutting up Mama for dogmeat are you? It's not like he's the guy who shot Bambi's mother. That's right. Awww, what a cutie.

"The people back at the pub are talking about you..."
- Rest Area Visitor.
the black stump: "...this side of the black stump" is akin to the American expression "...in the West." Fastest gun, toughest bloke, best chicken sandwich, on this side. But the other side? One can only assume nothing on that side of the black stump is worth a second glance.


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day 44
day 45
day 46
day 47, 48, 49
day 50
We've got mail...
Dear Aimee and Kevin
My husband and I are the managers of the Sunset Caravan Park in Mt. Isa, and we have been following your trip with great interest. I can't tell you how very disappointed we were in your commemts about the park. Before coming to Mt. Isa, we were farmers, and graziers for 30 years, and have experienced some horrid droughts in that time. A lot of our travellers are from the same backgrounds, and after living in nothing but a dust bowl due to the drought, these same people really appreciate the site of green grass. They will tell you that they are so sick of nothing but dirt, that it is great to see somewhere that is green. We work hard to keep the park looking good for out visitors, and the only way to keep it looking that way is to water the lawns. Also, if we do not get some grass growing now, come tourist season it will be nothing but a dust bowl here. Tourists do complain bitterly if the sites they are allocated are nothing but dust. They all want a well grassed site.

We wish you well on your trip, and hope you enjoy this great country of ours.
- Sunset Caravan Park, Mt. Isa NT

Week 7: Great reading thanks! You are doing a fine report. We look forward each week to the news. Can't believe that the drinking water is 45 degrees. Yuk!
- Suzanne & Brian, Parts Unknown

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© 2002 Kevin Beimers & Aimee Lingman. You hear that, Johannes? INVINCIBLE!!!