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In my early days of riding, I took a day of Annual Leave to do some Mountain biking in the Nong’s. I drove up to Sherbrooke Road & the plan was to do a loop around Sherbrooke Forest………
I didn’t know the Dandy’s well, and thought I was near the car. Somehow I came off the trails onto a main road that turned out to be at the top of Belgrave Fernee Creek Road (Terry’s Avenue). I honestly thought that the car was parked down the hill so rolled down Terry’s. When I stopped at the base of Terry’s, and looked down upon Belgrave (which I didn’t recognise at the time), and wondered where the hell I was. I didn’t have a mobile, or wallet so it was useless going down into the town. I had no idea where I was, but knew if I backtracked that I could find my way back (I hoped). So I turned around, and went up Terry’s Avenue, and of course it started to pour rain.
I got soaked, and being inexperienced and going up the monster all I could do was walk my bike up the hill, and boy did that hurt!
My back was screaming in pain the whole way. This was the start of a hate, hate relationship I have with Terry’s Avenue. That walk back up was hell and seemed to take forever. Quite a few cars passed me. They must of thought me the biggest idiot walking up the ridiculous steep hill in the rain.
With a 50/50 choice and of course I got it wrong.
I turned left and went down the Tourist Road, and within a k, realised that I was going the wrong way. The Petrol station turned out to be shut down, and my back-up plan was ruined. I was now further away from my car, on dead legs with no money and no phone. Of course it started to rain harder. What had I gotten myself in for?
$25 later I was back in my car, and could only shake my head at what a disaster the day turned out to be. It would be nice to lock this one away in the vault, but it’s good to look back and laugh at where you come from.
This ride didn’t deter me from my riding thankfully, and was the start of many adventures.
I started out riding on a Mountain bike. To be honest I was never any good at doing single tracks, and still feel the same way now. I can get fast speeds, but always have issues with going downhills due to my light frame. Honestly aren’t that great with my handling & braking. I know I’m probably better than I give myself credit for. And could possibly develop into a semi-decent Mountain biker. But I only touch the thing once a month and just don’t have the consistency to be good.
When I started to ride I tried to get down to the Wednesday night Trailmix rides at Lysterfield Lake. These started at the Trailmix Cafe at 6:30 pm. Usually we would do between 20 – 30 km’s for the ride. I really enjoyed them as you could smash yourself. Then you would get a large rest as you waited for the last rider to catch up. No one was ever left behind.
You could spend the night chatting away, or you could smash yourself silly, or do both.
They usually split the groups into the slower groups, or the fast group. I tried doing the fast group several time, and really felt embarrassed. I could match the speed & power easily enough. But couldn’t ride for shit, and was always out the back. I felt like a spaz and didn’t feel comfortable. So I ended up joining the slow group which I had far too much power, speed & endurance. Sadly I wasn’t getting much of a workout. But didn’t feel so much as a spaz, and knew I was likely not to hurt myself (only two crashes from memory). But there were always better bike handlers than me.
I hadn’t found my niche in cycling at this stage.
What I was finding that whenever we hit a hill I would fly off. Always loved to get to the top so easily. Waiting for everyone to catch up out gasping for breath.
I stopped going when I discovered Road riding. Finding that if I rode to work would be getting 60 – 100 m’s in around my work day. Whereas would only be doing a short one if went MTBing. I returned several times when I was recovering from an injury or illness. Always enjoying riding there, and wish I could do it some more. I was introduced to night riding at Lysterfield Lake with them. Which is totally insane. Flying through single trail in pitch black at 30 km/h. Dodging obstacles, bunny hopping roots, keeping an eye out for Kangaroo’s is dangerous but exhilarating.
One of the main reasons why I stopped riding with the fast group is they took us up one of the double diamond sections at night. Which I had done once during the day and had shat myself on. At night, I shat myself more. It wasn’t a matter of not embarrassing myself, but of pure survival. When you do a jump at night time, you can’t see the ground. It gives new meaning to the word flying….
Would highly recommend to go down and join them one Wednesday if you get the chance. They’re a great bunch of guys, and encourage riders of all abilities to join. I’ve bumped into some of the guys since then and happy that they’ve remembered me. The pretend Mountain biker.
Our first stop-off was Kings Canyon. Our tour guide dropped us off at the carpark. I got out & stretched my leg which was stiff & was looking around for the walking track. I had to do a double take when I discovered that the track went straight up the side of this cliff. The stairs were carved into the rocks & it looked very steep. I was not only one of the oldest on the tour, but with my Achilles strained.
This 10 km hike was going to be a major challenge.
Kings Canyon is part of the Watarrka National Park in the Northern Territory. Sitting at the western end of the George Gill Range, and 323 km southwest of Alice Springs. The walls of Kings Canyon are over 100 metres high, with Kings Creek at the bottom. Part of the gorge is a sacred Aboriginal site and visitors are discouraged from walking off the walking tracks. The views were amazing, and I was willing to risk it to get a chance to experience this amazing place.
We walked though jagged rocks, and the monkey in me wished that I could climb. With the state of my health I knew that was impossible. I started to limp and had to pace myself. We came upon a cliff face, and there was no safety fence and well over a 70 metre drop. Our tour guide suggested that we don’t go too close to the edge. The paper work to fill out in the event that someone falls over is quite a lot of work. Which he’d rather not do.
We came to this rock pool where you could swim. It looked an amazing spot so I at least tried. I bombed in & almost leaped out of the water straight away. I could not believe how cold the water felt. Our guide said that it was a constant 10 degrees, but it felt like water that you had just taken the water out of a fridge. I tried to look macho and stay in for a whole 30 seconds before getting out. The warmth of the rocks was quite pleasant compared with that water.
We still had close to 4km’s to walk and I started to struggle. My Achilles got sorer and sorer. They took us to the edge of this cliff where we had our photos taken. It looks more dangerous on the photos than it seemed.
Sadly last year someone fell over the edge & died, and having stood on the same spot got me thinking, and a very sad story for that person’s family & friends.
Funnily enough the last 700 metres, even though it was downhill almost killed me. I couldn’t put any weight on my leg & my Achilles was on fire. It was all downhill, but I had to pull over and rest quite a few times just to get down. I tried to hop on my strong leg at times, but was exhausted and could only hop limited distances. It was an amazing but frustrating experience hiking around Kings Canyon. I was fuming at the fact that I was a cripple. Under normal circumstances would be running circles around everyone there.
Instead I was hobbling at the back of the group with everyone having to wait up for me. Unsure of whether I could make just the final section. It was a very humbling experience. At that time I worried that this may be the only walk that I would be able to do on this tour. My leg was on fire, and I was panicking that my Achilles would snap off again.
I got back to the Van and collapsed, and grabbed ice from one of the Eskis & it was heaven having that ice cool down my poor injury.
We camped in the middle of nowhere that night, and slept in Swagman’s around a massive bonfire, and cooked up damper. It was only 5 degrees overnight, but surprisingly I had one of the best sleeps in that Swagman. You put your shoes under the Swagman to act as a pillow. I was nice & warm inside. Serena didn’t enjoy it though & was quite cold throughout the night. It was a highlight lying in the Swagman, staring up at a million stars overhead. I barely survived today. I was curious how my leg would pull up for tomorrow’s slog around the Ulga’s.
We were touring Litchfield National Park. Which is a National Park in the Northern Territory which is about 1,500 square km in distance. We had rented 4WD which was spotless when we got it with only 6km on the clock. Part of the fine print stated that the vehicle wouldn’t be insured if it were taken off road. Which I cheekily did to visit the Lost city, and amazing rock formation at Litchfield.
We saw the most impressive waterfalls throughout the park, and when we stopped at the Wangi Falls the skies opened up. The Wangi Falls have an impressive 50 metre waterfall. When we saw a walking track to the top even though it was raining couldn’t help ourselves.
Serena brought her umbrella and I just got soaked.
Of the hikes I’ve done, this is probably the one that I regret most. The first half went well, but as we neared the top the rain hit monsoon type rain. It was a warm day so there was no dramas about being cold. But I had never been so saturated and my clothes were weighing me down. We got to the top and there was no view which was a bit of a letdown. The rain got worse and as we hit the descent the path was all wet & muddy. I had no problems negotiating the track, but my poor wife is a little more delicate than me.
Paranoid about slipping and was going at a snails pace which meant that the idiot with no umbrella was getting drowned.
Normally I’d be happy to wait around to make sure that she was safe, but she had the umbrella and I was standing around for long minutes. Stopping every 50 metres or so to stop to help her descend a tricky section of track. I was drowned, tired, hungry and wishing I had never ever attempted this walk.
It was a major relief to get back to the car to get a change of clothes. We probably ruined the interior being as soaked as we were. It had been raining for an hour at that stage, and we had two options to get back. 200 km’s to backtrack down the road we came. Or there was a dirt road that was only 130 km’s.
For the second time that day I made a decision that I wished I hadn’t.
The 4WD was not insured when we hit the dirt road and it was raining quite heavily. Thankfull I’m really good at driving in the wet. Visibility was poor and I could barely see in front of the 4WD but I had no dramas. The road started to fill with potholes from the crazy rain we were driving in. I had to start dodging and weaving these holes and parts of the road were under water. About 25 km there was a river in the middle of the road.
It was about 5 metres wide and not overly deep, and I did have a 4WD after all. But the funny thing was this was the first time that I had ever driven a 4WD so had no idea what the hell they could do. I had two options to drive back what now would have to be 225 km or I could ford the river and keep going.
How I wish I could go back in time & tell my idiotic self to turn that 4WD around.
We got across the river ok, but the rain crazily enough picked up worse than before. More & more of the road was underwater. I was getting alarm bells when I noticed signs to the side of the road to measure flood levels with most of the signs going to 3 metres in height.
I couldn’t avoid several deep potholes and the 4WD would suddenly crash a foot or so and I hoped not to bog the car in. There was no option to turn back now and we were screwed. I realised that we were in the middle of a flood, and also in Crocodile territory. Silently I was crapping myself and I didn’t want to worry Serena. Casually mentioning that maybe she should write in our diary which she did. It took her eyes off the road, and thankfully couldn’t see the dangers. It was incredibly dark outside and I could barely see anything over the front of the bonnet.
Since I could barely see, in the conditions I should have been driving at 20 km/h, but had to get out of this hell and was pushing 60.
Water and mud were flying everywhere and this brand new 4WD was not so new anymore.
I was wondering how I was going to come up with the money to pay for the damages that I was surely doing to this 4WD. I forded two more rivers, and on either side of the road was seeing a river appear. We were f@#d if we couldn’t get out of here. If we got trapped we could be stuck here for quite awhile (with Crocodiles around). I knew that a number of drivers die up here in floods every year.
I had been driving ¾ hour into this hell when we came to a small metal bridge. The water was probably 10 cm from the base of the bridge and the river was about to burst its banks. I had a vision of flood waters washing us over as we tried to cross, and really just sucked it up. If we had come to this bridge minutes later I would have haphazard that it would have been underwater.
We would have been trapped on the wrong side.
It was a relief to get over the bridge, and as suddenly as the storm started the storm stopped. We kept driving for awhile till we were out of the danger zone, and notice that the road dried up pretty quickly. We got out of the 4WD and I was freaked to see it covered from head to toe in mud. Worse was that we had to drop it off overnight so couldn’t do a change-over. Clearly we had taken it off road and wouldn’t know if the company was going to penalise me. We found a Safeway car wash on the way back and sprayed off the car as best as we could. Which calmed me down a little, but it still had a layer of dirt on it. I had a really restless night that night.
I was really expecting to get a call over the next couple of days.
The day could have gotten worse as when I went to fill up the 4WD without thinking I put Unleaded into it. Thankfully Serena yelled out “it takes Diesel doesn’t it?”. Luckily only about half a litre went in. I’ve done some classic things with rental cars but this took the cake. I’ve had my sense of adventures over the years, and we did some amazing things today, but I’ve never been so thankful that nothing went wrong.
Kata Tjuta aka “The Olga’s”
My Achilles pulled up tight, but I could put weight on it and was able to walk. Today’s hike around the Ulga’s was going to be another really tough one at 10 km’s.
Kata Tjuta are a group of large domed rock formations. Located about 365 km southwest of Alice Springs and is about 25 km from Ayers Rock. The 36 domes that make up Kata Tjuta cover an area of 21.68 km2. I knew that I was risking so much walking but wanted to give it a shot. I really had to pace myself better today. And was always out the back of the group. The scenery was amazing. I probably didn’t enjoy myself as much as at King’s Canyon, as I had to focus so hard on my leg. The whole walk was dominated by my walking. Keeping as much weight off my bad leg as possible.
I still managed to get some decent snaps along the way. With regular rest stops felt confident in getting through this walk. You could argue that I was being both brave & stupid risking so much to do these walks. But this was my only opportunity to ever experience this. Serena was tremendous in helping me along the walk. Letting me put some of my weight on her at times to help support me walk.
These past two days had been such a painful experience for me. It almost bought a tear to my eye that I did them. I have been a cripple for such a long-time. Having ruptured my Achilles had robbed me of so much. To have the strength to get out there and say “screw you. I’m no longer let myself be down!”.
On to Ayers Rock
We headed on towards Ayers Rock and witnessed a magnificent sunset. We also got a call from my brother letting us know that they had baby number 2 on the way. What an amazing way to end the day. Unfortunately the tour guide took us to buy Alcohol today, & the party was in full swing. I managed to head straight to sleep mainly due to my exhaustion. Getting woken at 1:00am in the morning to a drunk Irish lout dancing and singing at the top of his lungs. I managed to get straight back to bed, and wondered how my leg would stand. Could I do round three and pull off the improbable and be able to do another massive walk around Ayers Rock?
We awoke before 5am. For all those who stayed up drinking till the wee hours of the morning I had no sympathy. The sunrise was amazing, and like the day before my leg felt sore but stronger. I knew like the past two days that it wasn’t a smart move, but I was going to try walking around Ayers Rock. The one thing that really nagged at me was that there was a climb you could do to the top of Ayers Rock. I knew eventually this would be shut down. Climbing is a love of mine and this would easily have gone down as one of my all-time experiences.
My sore Achilles had other ideas, and it really pained me that I couldn’t do it. I vowed that one day if I could get over all this pain, and lack of fitness that one day I’d get my fitness back and be strong once again. It was a dream.
Unlike the past two days this walk was 100% flat which was welcome news for my leg. I needed to stop at every single bench that we came upon, and was thankful that Serena was so patient with me keeping up with her.
Ayers Rock was amazing to see so close up.
All you see in the photos are the rock itself. Close up there are all these amazing rock formations surrounding it, and caves and fissures. You feel so small walking around it, and you can sense the spirits of old in the air. I was walking so slow today but I didn’t care. It was all about enjoying the moment. I was doing one of the most amazing walks in the country. Proud to have endured all of the pain that I had gone through. It felt as if I had lost everything rupturing my Achilles Tendon, and everything that I did since was a bonus.
We got to the tourist centre & I needed a lengthy rest there before we headed off for the last part of the walk. This was the shortest and easiest of the 3 walks, but I felt most drained afterwards. We headed back to Alice Springs and arrived just as the sun was setting. We didn’t really talk with anyone else on the tour, but I thoroughly enjoyed spending the time with Serena. And very thankful that she helped me throughout my troubles.
This trip to the Territory was one of the most amazing experiences that we had ever done. One that I would highly recommend to any adventure seeker. The warmth & hospitality of the locals has been amazing and we would definitely come back here in a heartbeat.
We did The Rock Tour 14 months after my Achilles Tendon had snapped off. I had only been off the crutches 5 months at this stage. I was lacking strength and was still limping regularly. I found this 3 day tour out to Ayers Rock which was only $270 for three days. This included transport, breakfast & dinner & guided tours of 3 amazing hikes:
- Kings Canyon
- The Olgas
- Ayers Rock
The Rock Tour
For the price this was an absolute bargain. This tour attracted young backpackers, and Serena & I were amongst the oldest in the group. We all loaded onto a tightly packed small tour bus, and there were people from all around the globe. Serena & I were the odd ones out as we were the only Australians on the tour.
It never ceases to amaze me how many Australians will readily travel to places like Fiji and Bali. Yet so few have traveled to the Red centre. This was going to be an epic journey for me, and I will be testing my physical limitations with a dodgy Achilles, and trying to keep Serena happy. This tour was my cup of tea, but Serena wasn’t so enthusiastic.
Click here for link to the Rock Tour Website:
Serena & I visited the Red centre. We camped under the stars, helped to cook up some Damper and did some amazing hikes. We also found out that we had a niece on the way. The whole experience was quite surreal, and a struggle & a triumph for me to have done what I did. I had been a cripple for such a long time, and to finally do something as big as we did gave me some hope that I could get my life back, and not have my life controlled by my ruptured Achilles Tendon.
We stopped off at a Camel farm on the way back.
We weren’t expecting for them to race us down the track. Serena found this quite interesting
And she met a new friend
We arrived back in Alice Springs just as the sun was setting. Its amazing to think that we had only been gone 3 days, but it felt a lifetime. We were very tired, & had one last night to spend in Alice Springs. We felt a bit guilty as all the other travelers were heading back to backpackers whilst we were off to this very comfortable B&B. The guilt didn’t last that long 🙂
Mungo National Park
Serena & I visited the Mungo National Park in N.S.W. Lake Mungo is an ancient dried up river 875 km west of Sydney. We were surrounded by desert, and we wanted to go for a decent hike. We went to the visitor information centre & asked the manager to suggest a hike. He was able to point out a 6 km round loop. I thought it would pay to be cautious and asked him “are there any dangerous animals that we should be aware of?”. He replied “yes, we have about 10 species of snake at the National Park”. Reassuring. I asked; “are there any venomous ones?”. He listed 5 that were venomous.
My lovely wife Serena was no longer so keen to go out for a walk……..
I took my hiking stick with me. I figured worse case that I could use it to fend off snakes. Given that we saw hundreds of round holes all around the place, I was a bit disappointed not to see any snakes. These would be quite often in the middle of the paths. Am I a nature lover or just a sick puppy to see a snake in the wild. Serena however was freaking out anywhere near one of the many holes that we were constantly jumping over.
It was a nice flat trail and conditions were perfect for us. The weather wasn’t that hot and the scenery was amazing. It was a very surreal experience to be in the middle of nowhere hiking in the desert.
Alas unfortunately we did not see a single snake to my dismay.
It was still an amazing experience, and we were looking forward to heading to the Great Wall of China later on to have watch the sunset. Apparently its a must do if you are ever fortunate enough to visit the Mungo National Park.
In 1998 I bought my first road bike. I was at the Camberwell market and bought a second hand Shogun Katana. I fell in love with it and rode almost 700 km’s on her over the coming six months. The majority of riding was to and from work at Smorgy’s in Burwood. This was a 13 km round trip. I was riding to my lunch shift, and traffic was light on Springvale Road (Glen Waverley). Approaching the intersection at Kingsway I did the usual head check to see if anyone was indicating behind me. No one was so I went to ride through the intersection. Just as I hit the apex of the corner a Ute turned left without indicating less than a meter from me.
Travelling at over 30 km/h and with no where to go, I was about to slam into the side of his car. I veered sharp to the left, and was going to crash into the gutter. My only option was to let go of my handlebars, & grabbed onto the side of the Ute. I was dragged along parallel with the Ute for about 25 meters before I let go of the Ute. Going sideways into the nature strip and landed heavily on the grass. My bike was somehow ok, and I only had tiny scratches on me. The deuschbag never stopped. Shaken and stirred, I continued my ride to work.
I said to myself that it was a once off, and that I shouldn’t worry about the accident and tried to brush off the incident. My next trip I punctured and had to walk my bike 6km’s back home.