Flashback – Chasing a Dream
One year ago I stood in front of the Sydney Opera House with my childhood friend Ulrich. We were about to start Around 7 Continents and was very exited to see what the road hold for us. Ricky de Agrela (first man to circumnavigate the world in a Microlight) was making jokes and taking photos as we climbed onto our overloaded bicycles!
This adventure was much more than just traveling the world, seeing new places and meeting new people. I was always wondering on how far I can push myself physically and mentally. My last few years in South Africa has been tough and lived a much different life. As much as I loved being active, I was caught up in my life and struggling to find what I really wanted to do. In five years I did not do what I really liked and had a business which was difficult to go to every day.
Luckily after much struggle I remembered that there was much more that I want to achieve than just making money. I want to go out and live my life, which meant a “new challenge”. This new challenge had to push me further, harder and beyond anything I have done in my life. I always wanted to cycle through Africa (idea that was planted by adventurer Riaan Manser about 10 years ago) and when I made the decision to finally take the step and just do it, the adventure started to grow in size.
So, 30 August 2013, after just 7 months of planning I took the first step, away from The Opera House in Sydney towards Perth, 4 500km away. Australia was the first leg of Around 7 Continents and the first continent of the seven I want to cycle. It was a slow and hard start, but was expected as Ulrich and I did not really train… which almost ended Ulrich’s adventure before it began.
The first 2 000km through Australia, Ulrich was in a huge amount of pain, as his knees gave him endless problems. He did not say much about it, but I could see he was struggling. He told me afterwards that at one point he was thinking he was not going to make it through Australia, but kept pushing and made it to Perth! I also struggled a few times with my achilles tendon, but the pain luckily normally past over a few days.
Australia was great and still one of my favourite destinations on the adventure. Looking back now, it was really flat, but the Australian winds played a big role on the toughness of this huge hostile continent. Cycling from east to west meant we would get more headwinds than cycling the other way around, but we had our reasons on deciding this specific route. There was days we cycled between 5km/h and 8km/h, as the headwinds hit us straight in the face at 60km/h! One day we had no choice to pull off as the wind had the last say by reaching speeds of up to 90km/h! We pitched our tents, but they did not like that kind of winds… poles snapped as the wind took down branches from the trees around us.
Like anything you take on in life, there is always highs and lows, and on an adventure its no different. Ulrich and I knew how to handle each other, when to talk and when to keep quite. If one was in a bad mood it was usually ok, as the other one can cheer the other one up. The though days that was normally the ones where both of us was pushing hard, which was normally on windy days! Struggling for hours on end and not making lots of ground was still something we had to get use to… because its was just going to get tougher going forward. This was why I was doing it… I kept telling myself in the worse situations… working towards a huge goal, step by step, through good times and bad ones!
The winds were not the only challenges we faced on the Australia leg. Flies was one of the most irritating things on a daily basis. Swallowing a few a the thousand flies around you while cycling or eating was became normal. The heat also started to play a role towards the end and one day I got mildly dehydrated when I was cycling on my own.
Breakdowns had a huge say in Australia… First it was Ulrich’s bike that loved punctures and then mine took over and kept breaking one spoke after the other. It was a good time to learn how to replace spokes (as I have never done it in my life) and straighten a wheel. My bike got into a habit af giving problems and broke my first chain after just 2000km which was followed by my bottom bracket that was starting to fall apart. After the bottom bracket my whole crankset decided it was time to go. In Australia I broke 23 spokes, 2 punctures, bottom bracket, chain, crankset, kickstand and mirror.
The crankset problem was a huge setback, financially and on our time frame. We were stuck in Kimba (the halfway mark through Australia) for nine days. We were looking at extending our visa and change our departure date to Ireland, but this option was too expensive. Personally this was a big turning point mentally. I realised again that when you set your mind to something and push as hard as you can, you will always achieve your goals. At that point we were worried that we would not make it to Perth in time, but in the end arrived 10 days earlier!
Australia is a beautiful country! The total nothingness between small town and cities is something I loved. The Nullarbor has been my favourite… it was burning a hole in my bucket list for a long time! Between Sydney and Adelaide we were blessed by lots of agriculture and beautiful green horizons. Esperance had some of the most beautiful beaches I’ve seen and finally got some mountains on the last three days cycling into Perth. Australia has amazing sunsets and also got the chance to see the Bunda Cliffs (on Nullarbor) and lots of wildlife.
Ulrich told me afterwards that it was not sinking in that he cycled though Australia, but I had a different feeling inside me. 500m before the end of Australia, I sat next to the water in Perth and got a feeling I can’t describe! “I just cycled through Australia!!” “I just cycled through Australia!!” … that words kept going through my mind until we climbed onto an airplane towards Ireland, to tackle the next leg of our adventure!!