Day One: Second Leg

Posted: October 1, 2010 in The Journey

Things didn’t go according to plan.

Strapped in at the rest stop, we were behind the crowd leaving at 13:30. Normally when trying to find your way on the path, you can follow other riders or the neon orange arrows sprayed onto rocks, signs and anything that can let you know you’re on the right path.

A change of route meant that we were avoiding an area of forest that was a fire risk. Everyone told us to drive 13km on the tar road and follow signs from there.

We took the wrong road. Instead of following the normal route, we missed the turnoff and headed along the wrong road for 13km. Coincidentally at 13km there was an orange arrow – only it was for the backup drivers, not us.

Unaware that we were completely lost, we drove around the area of the sign looking for more arrows. We drove a few kilometres up the road, drove back after seeing nothing. We also took a nice tour of a local charcoal factory to the bewilderment of the local workers.

At this point Phil was really struggling. As he describes it, when the day begins, it is as if he has 100 “nervous system credits”. As the day goes on, those credits are depleted. If they ever reach zero, all sorts of complications arise. After a half day of quad biking the credits were half gone. By getting lost we’d inadvertently used up more credits than expected and sitting on the side of the road inside the coal factory in over thirty degree heat, we needed to decide what to do.

Plan one was to go back and follow the road hoping to end up in the right place. Plan two was to return to the rest stop and give up. A call to the emergency number didn’t help, as they assumed we had started the normal route and lost our way along there.

Phil decided to try driving another 10km up the road and if we found nothing turn back and take the backup vehicle to the finish in Weenan.

After 10km we were in Dalton, surrounded by local shops, taxis and crowds of people. Now certain that we were completely lost, the only option was to return to the rest stop and give up.

We were both frustrated at being thwarted by such a stupid mistake. When we arrived back we found Brendon who had been trying to find us for the hour we were gone (cellphone signal was next to nonexistent). Everyone cheerfully told us what we had done wrong, not seeming to understand what the mistake had cost Phil.

Nobody wanted Phil to give up. With the help of one of the organizers, we managed to arrange a shorter version of the second leg that ended at a dam 40km from the finish.

Putting the mistake behind us, we drove the next leg following closely behind Brendon, who had the expert navigation skills of Cowboy, a quads 4 quads veteran that was on his 6th trip.

Phil cheered up along the way, mostly a scenic route through pine forests. At the dam Brendon and Andre took the Polaris, while we drove the backup vehicle the long way to the rest stop (40km directly on a quad ended up being 160km on tar roads).

It was a disheartening day. But Phil put it behind him, resting up for Day 2, the longest leg in the trip.

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