Chris embarked on his cycling journey 11 years ago, in May 2010. For the majority of the last decade, he travelled the world by bicycle and boat – traversing the world not once but twice. On his adventure, Chris visited about 90 countries, finally settling in Denmark. If you would like to read more about Chris’ world travels, the first book in his trilogy is ‘No Wrong Turns: Cycling the World, Part One: Paris to Sydney.’ His adventures and explorations are documented on his website https://chrispountneyadventures.com/.
Previously, Chris recounted his journey to Canada, where he found himself face to face with a bear, and his trip to Kazakhstan where he discovered the physical dangers of cycling the hard way; this was reiterated during his experience getting trapped in piranha-infested waters in Peru. This time, we journey to Australia to hear more of his adventures.
On the 22nd of June, my sixteenth morning in Australia, I finally woke up to a tailwind. This was most welcome after two weeks of torturous headwinds as I battled my way across the dusty red outback, the most vast, empty landscape I'd ever experienced. But it was not just any old tailwind. It was a tailwind to write home about. A tailwind that should go down in cycle touring folklore. A tailwind that would carry me to a personal best ever distance and a date with destiny.
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I rode and I rode, and almost didn’t stop, not that there was much to stop for in the uninhabited, seemingly endless outback. I just enjoyed being carried along. Setting the tone for this record-breaking day I cycled one hundred kilometres in what was surely my fastest ever time of four hours and fifty-five minutes.
It was a good record, I thought, but it turned out to be one that only stood for four hours and forty-eight minutes. That second century brought the day to a close, and twilight returned to the outback. I saw more kangaroos and noticed how aware they were of me. A few nights earlier I'd been riding after dark, desperate to make up time beneath the most stars I'd ever seen when dozens of the animals had leapt out across the road all around me. It had been surreal and scary as I feared the consequences of a collision, all alone in the middle of nowhere.
But now I realised how silly I was to think that these nocturnal animals, so used to jumping about at night, would ever bump into something as slow-moving as me, and decided it would be fine to cycle at night again. I’d already ridden 200 kilometres, but even as the mighty wind began to dwindle I spied another record. My best ever distance for a day was the 227 kilometres I’d ridden back in Lithuania and Poland, and I was going to smash it.
It was a beautiful, clear night. A blanket of stars once again shone overhead and a crescent moon descended gradually behind me as the hours passed.
There was almost no traffic. There never was at night. Just the occasional road train, a truck with three or four trailers, that I’d hear from a mile off and get out of the road. It would roar past and off into the distance, then silence would return. It was just me and the empty night, and a goal of reaching 250 kilometres.
The last few kilometres rolled by, and I was so buoyed up I even thought about keeping right on going. But it was late, I was tired, and I would still need to get up in the morning and cycle all over again. So as my cycle computer clicked over to 250 I congratulated myself on a job well done (and said a little thanks to the wind gods too) and decided to call it a night. I wheeled along slowly, peering into the darkness at the side of the road, trying to look for a place to camp. By now the moon had set and it was completely dark, and I struggled to see the outline of the trees and bushes to work out if there was space to get in and pitch my tent. I was barely moving at all, just creeping along, trying to see in the dark.
Then I suddenly heard the noise of a large animal shuffling in the shadows. It was very close and seemed panicked by my presence. I had visions of those kangaroos flying around again, and I instinctively shouted out, loudly and aggressively, to warn the animal off. Then, before I knew what was happening, I saw the creature leap out of the darkness and straight towards me. It was as if it were actually trying to hit me.
There was nothing I could do to avoid it. I braced for impact. To say that my life flashed before my eyes would be a lie. If anything flashed before my eyes it was a kangaroo with an extremely poor sense of direction. ‘I can’t believe this is actually going to happen,’ I thought, or at least I would have done if I’d had the time. The kangaroo’s kamikaze leap brought it down directly to my left. Then there was that familiar feeling of being about to bump into somebody, and trying to avoid it, but knowing that you can’t, except in this case it was with a kangaroo, which made it weird.
Then we collided.
At the moment of impact, I leant in towards the animal, then fell into it, and actually rolled right over the top of it on my way to the tarmac. By good fortune this action threw me to safety, clear of beast and bike, and somehow my bicycle fell on top of the kangaroo, trapping it beneath it. I was now prone on the cold road, the smell of animal hide in my nostrils, as my assailant struggled wildly, panic-stricken right next to me. I was in shock. Things had just gone from the surreal to the outright ridiculous. There I was, lying on the road in the dark, taken out by a kangaroo that was now trapped by my own bike. I said a rude word, then had the silly thought that I should perhaps do something to help it out. But before I could do anything the kangaroo kicked itself free, and without stopping to exchange insurance details it was away across the road and off into the night. I remained seated on the road. My bike lay horizontal next to me, wheels spinning, lights flashing. Classic hit-and-run.
This is the final instalment of Chris’ Cycle Series. If you are curious to read more of his adventures, make sure to check out his website and his books!