Day 8, or the first day of the second week of the Around Australia Ride began, believe it or not, by waking up at 6am. Because I felt like an early start to Mataranka I was packed and out the door at 6:30, not too long after sunrise. And what a great decision it was. The morning, while a little warm, still had that early crisp feel to it like freshly laundered sheets. The sky was clear and the road wide open.
Now you’ll have to forgive me as I am going to wax lyrical for a moment here. With the sun low on the horizon to my right and my shadow long across the landscape to my left I found myself zoning out, becoming almost meditative on the road. It was peaceful, and thanks to my earplugs the wind was only white noise and the deep rumble of my Road Star like a long continuous peal of distant thunder. The road wandered this way and that, cutting through red earth, scrubby bushes and small escarpments. Occasionally I would be chasing my shadow, watching the front wheel pulse up and down over the road while the bike stayed a steady course. Sometimes my shadow would be chasing me and I felt totally alone. But it was best when my shadow was my wing-man, riding at my side and enjoying this part of the world. We covered some kilometres my shadow and I, and we shared something special on that long stretch of morning road as we travelled through ancient landscape and timeless wonder.
Enough of that now. I spent most of the day riding outside groups just finding my own way up the highway. Fuel is expensive in this part of the world and at Elliot (I think it was there) I paid $1.98 a litre. They really have you over a barrel in these parts and we were a bit dissapointed to find petrol at 20c a litre cheaper not too far down the road. I think the dry dusty cry of crows heard at this petrol station was just their glee at finding yet another wallet lying in the dirt totally devoid of cash after a tank full of fuel, just like roadkill is devoid of life.
Thanks to the early start and a full day of 130kmh zones I reached Mataranka around 2pm. We were staying at Mataranka Homestead, which is just a fancy way of saying caravan park. The local attraction though is the hot springs. I’d heard of these and people who knew of Mataranka encouraged, nay insisted that I have a long soak. The springs were only a short five minute walk from the park and I was surprised to see a bat colony overhead. I didn’t think the “meaty” smell that hung in the air – only way I can describe it – was attributed to the bats, maybe it was just rotting vegetation as it was quite hot and humid.
The water of the springs were crystal clear and quite a few people were already in residence, but there was still plenty of room. I don’t really know what I was expecting, but I thought the springs would be hot, they weren’t. Closer to tepid would be the best description and the waters were truely rejuvinating. By the end of a long soak for an hour or so my left shoulder, which has been paining me, felt quite a lot better. Don’t worry, I’m not claiming a miracle cure, but it was certainly a lot better getting out than getting in.
Around half a dozen people didn’t stay at the caravan park (sorry Homestead) choosing either to go back into town or on to Katherine. This was due to some of the accomodation not having air conditioning and I would have to say if there wasn’t an air con in my cabin I would probably have had more empathy for them. Tomorrow is a rest day here in Mataranka and some people are talking about riding to Katherine Gorge which is around a 300km round trip. Not sure if I will go or stay, but I am told the gorge is quite special, and being in the area and all…