2015 was our first official Gibb Challenge, it was a ride that had been talked about over 12 months, and we were lured in with the amazing stories we heard about this particular challenge.
680km from Derby to El Questro on mountain bike, team are made up of soloists, dualists and teams of 3 or more, for us it was a dualist team, with just myself and my husband challenging the dusty road with our two wheels and our strong will.
We had a perfect training ground as at that stage we lived in Kalamunda (the hills) in Perth, so plenty of hill training on offer. We were riding around 100km a week, with one big ride a week around 45km return. We felt ready....pumped and excited for one of the biggest challenges of our life.
The drive up was amazing but long, we took 3 days to get to Broome and was our first experience of the Kimberley scenery ever. After 2 days on the road we were met with the unfortunate sight of a busted up bike frame. The Bike rack we had put in had left a bit of movement of the bikes as we travelled. Over 1500km of the frame bashing against the trailer meant many a dent and a big hole in the frame itself and a completed distorted and busted up tyre. That meant a trip to the bike shop in Broome to see what we could do.
We left the bike for the afternoon while they worked their magic, working the bike back into a ridable shape before we left the following day to Derby.....the first of a series of Gibb Road Sagas that would unfold daily.....
The first day was the biggest 240km to make it into Imnitji Community. Although it is not a race there is a deadline, to be in by 4pm otherwise you have to load up your bikes and drive the remaining way.
With the excitement of the day, and the loneliness of the ride and drive we spent a little too much time transitioning each time, using about 30 minutes each time to chat and talk about the space between transitions.....the dust we just ate, that car that overtook too quickly and flicked up rocks, the amount of cyclists overtaking us ..... so we missed the cut off by about 40km, having to drive the last bit in.
The remaining 4 days were between 68km and 140km a day, much more achievable and we made it in each day.
Day 2 saw a huge hiccup for us, with our aircon not seeming that cold, we sourced out a mate who had experience with it and were given the unfortunate news that the hose which held the gas for the aircon had been busted open by rubbing on the new bulbar, meaning no air-conditioning for the rest of the ride! Driving at such slow speeds (15 - 20km / hr) meant no breeze through the window, so we resorted to wet towels on the head as we came off our individual rides, to try to cool ourselves down.
The ride as a dualist and soloist really is a battle of the mind, especially when you are out there on your own, fighting those voices in your head telling you to just throw it all in. Day 3 was a tough one, many huge hills to climb, no reprieve from the heat as the aircon had had the bomb, our water was warm and the day was hot......all meant at the end of the day I was suffering from dehydration, regardless of the fact I had drunk through about 7 L water during the day....tightness in my shoulders, a headache, weakness in my arms and aching all over. The day was tough and there were many a time during the day the body was hurting so bad I had tears rolling down my cheeks as I battled another hill. My saving grace was my riding partner, my husband, who was so encouraging even in times I thought I was letting us down as my riding had really slowed.
The highlight day was Day 4, it marked officially a move towards the end of the ride, but was one of the hardest days of the ride, there were hills that went on forever, winding around and climbing higher that seemed like they would never end.....legs burnt , joints ached and it seemed like it would be impossible to get on the bike again the next day....but the lure of an amazing roast dinner, hot showers and only a short ride the next day made it all worthwhile.
The pivotal moment was the hill just before Home Valley, its like something out of the Lion King and marked the hardest part of the ride was over.....it is also the first official mobile reception you get and the phone beeped like mad with messages.....
"Hey mum I have found this puppy, its what I have always wanted"
"I promise I will look after it myself"
"Nan said she will take me to get it"
"Look here are some photos, isn't she cute"
plus about 50 more...... essentially it ended up with the last message
"The pet shop rang and she is the last one left, Nan bought her for me , meet charlie...." So between Derby and Home Valley we had inherited a new fur baby to the family.....
The hot showers , the first in 3 days were an absolute luxury at Home Valley, its amazing what you miss along the way! We ate like kings that night, celebrating with a cold bevvie and had a fairly early night ready for the last day.
Day 5 is filled with as much excitement and electric energy as Day 1, its the final day, people have stories to tell, everyone is happy and at only 68km its a walk in the park compared to the 600+km completed over the past 4 days. Some teams dress up, unfortunately we missed the memo on that one, but all in all the day brings with it a real sense of achievement. As we left Home Valley, one of the vollies said he noticed a rattle in the tyre of our trailer, and maybe check it out when we get to El Questro.
Day 5 also marks the crossing of the mighty Pentecost, where cyclists challenge themselves to cross on bike through the water....lets just say we ended up with some wet shoes on this one.... we got into EQ in around 3 hours. We had made it, relatively unscathed from the hiccups that occurred, and feeling mighty proud to have achieved what we had. We had one more hurdle to come on the return home, but that would rear its head later on.
We spent 2 days recovering at the beautiful El Questro, enjoying a horseride at sunset, many an amazing dinner with live music in the evening and some walks to the waterfalls.
Pack up day was a bit of an anticlimax , all the prep , all the hard work and it was now time to head home. Its no wonder people come back year and year again for this ride, the sense of community is sensational and the experience is life changing.
The drive home was a long one , heading all the way back to Perth some 2300km drive. We made it to Halls Creek (we would visit this again eerily the next year, stay tuned for next post), before hubby noticed smoke coming out of the trailer wheel.
After taking the cap off and taking the wheel off, he realised the rattling sound that had been noticed a few days before was the cap on the bearings that holds the grease in, the cap itself had come loose and the bearing was bone dry and melted down to nothing. It needed replacing, luckily for us we had a spare bearing , however the cap was distorted and didn't fit on as well, Dan used his magyver skills to makeshift it into place, hoping it would hold and we were back on the road in an hour.
We got almost to Karratha when my husband noticed smoke coming out of the tyres again on our trailer. We stopped at the side of the road to find the cap had come off, was mangled in pieces and the new bearing had also disintegrated. After about 6 phone calls (being the end of the day) we finally found a mechanic who came and and told us it was shot and they had no parts for our make of trailer (MDC doesn't issue parts, you have to have repaired at their centre only), we had to bunker down in Karratha and organise for the trailer to be put on a truck back to Perth.
Luckily it happened at the end of the ride.
It was an eventful ride to say the least, but we had signed up to do it all again in 2016......... stay tuned for the next episode of the Gibb Challenge Saga......