Perth to Hobart
September 8 - October 9 2003
by Graeme Best
What a ride! What a fantastic experience! 4,284.66kms of awesome adventure! It is very difficult to describe such a trip in a few words but here is a small snapshot of what the team experienced for 32 great days together.
The team: Our team consisted of a total number of 39 riders and 8 roadies although the most on the road at any one time was 36 riders. 6 riders joined the ride in Adelaide. Our team organiser was Rodney Olsen, W.A. Bike for Bibles Co-ordinator. Riders varied in age from 16 to 68 and came from many different denominations, backgrounds and states. (W.A., S.A., Vic., N.S.W. and Tasmania.) We had housewives, computer programmers, electricians, students, pastors, farmers, builders, nurses, lecturers, teachers …. . Riders also varied considerably in their riding experience and ability. Some were Bike for Bibles veterans and others very new to marathon riding. The team was split into two groups throughout the trip. The ‘Mavericks’ led by David Pascoe from Perth which was the faster of the two teams (averaging 25 – 31km per hour for each days riding, depending on the conditions) and the ‘Y Team’ led by myself (averaging 20-26 km per hour for each days riding). It was called the ‘Y Team’ because the question was often asked, “Why are we doing this?” However collectively we were also known as the ‘Wise Team’ because we had great fun with lots of chat, saw much more and looked after our knees considerably better. Riders often moved from team to team during the ride. We praise God, that in spite of our varied backgrounds, riding abilities and the formation of two teams, we generally experienced wonderful team harmony throughout the ride. Only God could have produced such unity over such a period of time, especially in light of some of the stress and conditions we experienced.
The weather: We had it all throughout the ride. We left Perth in showers, which persisted for a few days. We rode into Adelaide in the rain. Had a heavy shower coming out of Tailem Bend and a few other sprinkles along the way including coming into Hobart. However the worst weather of the trip was from Horsham to Melbourne in Victoria. (Victoria lived up to its reputation!) Two days of pouring rain, freezing cold and very strong head and cross winds. Some riders could no longer continue due to the conditions though everyone gave their all. At times it was dangerous as bikes and riders were blown about. Most of the trip however was much more pleasant with cool to warm, dry conditions. Some days we had tailwinds and other days crosswinds or headwinds making for tough riding conditions. Some days saw a mixture of all three. The tailwind we had coming into Ceduna resulted in Tour de France speeds - a real buzz. This was particularly appreciated as this was our hottest day, around 40 degrees. Our last few days were the exact opposite. Very cold with even some light hail showers. It snowed on Mt Wellington the day we finished and some of the team had a great time having snow-fights on the mountain the following day.
The accommodation: Accommodation included billets, recreation centres, bars at local sports clubs, youth hostels, motels, churches, a campsite, a bible college and the School of the Air facilities in Port Augusta. It was always great to be billeted and get to know local Christians as well as get washing and drying done, but it was also good to be able to stay together as a team on many occasions. I personally was surprised and impressed with the quality of the accommodation, food and water across the Nullarbor. It was of very high standard considering the remoteness. (Toilet stops on the Nullarbor off course were a very different thing. Some of those bushes are very spiky!)
The food: Our wonderful roadies not only kept us safe on the road but also did a great job keeping us well fed. They provided breakfast, morning and afternoon teas and lunch on many days with local churches and motels providing many of our evening meals. (Our roadies did provide some dinners and they were excellent!) The Sanitarium Company were again of great assistance (providing us with breakfast cereal, muesli bars and Up And Go!) as indeed we EIG-Ansvar Insurance who supported the ride financially. We truly were blessed by the hospitality of many Christians and local churches who provided many amazing meals for us. We trust we were a blessing to them as well as them to us, even though we may have appeared at times like a team of locusts who flew into town for a few minutes, ate all their food and disappeared again. Huge amounts of food including large numbers of bananas, muesli bars and such were consumed by a constantly hungry team and yet, most riders lost several kilos over the 32 days. The challenge will be to keep them off.
The hills: We had only gone 20kms before we hit our first hill, Greenmount, which lies east if Perth. Riders from the eastern states had been told what a challenging hill it was however the Western Australian riders are now willing to change the name to Greenbump or similar after comparing it with hills such as Green Hill out of Adelaide or some of the climbs in Tasmania such as ‘Break-me-neck’ and ‘Bust-me-Gall’. There isn’t much flat ground in Tasmania as we found out. A few steep climbs around Ballarat also provided a challenge to the team. However the Nullarbor again provided the surprise. The Nullarbor Plain itself is flat and treeless but it is only 30kms wide on the road. The rest of the Nullarbor has lots of bushes and trees and is quite undulating with some long climbs.
The injuries: We praise God that all riders made it home safely however it is impossible to expect over 30 riders to ride 4,200kms without incident. Some riders had relatively minor falls with a bit of skin off and bruising. Two riders of note in this regard were Yvonne from Perth who managed to fall twice in 20 metres while crossing tram tracks when riding into Melbourne and Brad who attempted to adjust his computer sensor while riding, only managing to put his hand through his spokes. His forks finished in worse condition than himself. However we did have two serious incidents. Phil Bray from Engadine was hit in the leg by a stone thrown up by a passing road-train just out of Coolgardie. This resulted in 5 stitches and time off the bike. However weeks later when the team reached Melbourne Phil unfortunately had to leave for home as while he could ride with some discomfort, he still could not walk. Please pray for his complete recovery. Another major incident involved a fall by Margaret Radbone, our 68 year old rider who fell heavily on the Nullarbor. She required medical attention but God was good. He sent along the friend of one of the riders in his truck just at the right time, who was able to convey Margaret ahead to Eucla where she received the necessary help. And praise God, after some time off the bike, Margaret was able to continue riding. Some riders also spent some time off their bikes due to sore knees and the like but thankfully these injuries healed and riders were able to continue.
Punctures: The maximum number of punctures by any rider was 8. I personally had 4. A number of riders had no punctures at all.
The fundraising: Each rider and roadie committed themselves to raising a minimum of $4,000 sponsorship which had to be banked before the ride. Along the way we picked up several thousand dollars from motorists, locals and churches. It is estimated the team will raise over $200,000 towards the Bible Society’s literacy work in India. Praise God for the effect this will have in a land so desperately needing literacy skills and God’s word. We were blessed to have Richard Khan from the Bible Society in India ride with us for the first week. He was encouraged by our efforts and we were encouraged by him as he related the opportunities that will come through the finances raised.
The witness: Without a doubt we made an impact on many lives as we moved across Australia. We had some great opportunities to witness both corporately and individually. We were able to place God’s Word into the hands of many and the follow up of many such people will occur. When people ask you for a Bible it warms your heart. The ride in many ways was a short-term mission trip.
The wildlife: Western Australia could be labelled the kangaroo state. We saw and smelt many dead kangaroos as well as many live ones. At one point the ‘Y Team’ had 30 jump alongside them for 5 kms. Western Australia also provided a few emu sightings, plenty of lizards as well as many beautiful wedge-tailed eagles. (Plenty of wildflowers as well) When we moved into South Australia we moved into snake territory. Both live and dead snakes were on the road at times. It is amazing the panic that can set in when an angry snake is rearing back its head in the middle of a bunch of cyclists. Victoria was too wet to see any wildlife apart from water birds however in Tasmania the amount of road kill increased significantly. Most dead things were small and very furry. These included possums, small wallabies and tassie devils.
The welcomes: Our team received wonderful welcomes at times throughout the ride. In Adelaide we were greeted in Rundle Mall by many locals, the Adelaide mayor as well as Bible Society representatives. Our ‘finishing welcome’ in Hobart was similar where we were presented with medals by the mayor of Hobart. In Melbourne we rode into Federation Square to be greeted by Rev Tim Costello. Many smaller communities such as Gawler, St Helens, Swansea, Wudinna, Port Germaine, Stawell, Ceduna to name a few, welcomed us with open arms. However the most amazing welcome came in the S.A. town of Crystal Brook. There were huge banners, balloons, people lining the streets and the whole of the local primary school was outside their school waiting to greet us. They slapped our hands and cheered us on our way.
The big question!: Throughout our trip we met with local churches who often asked questions about our ride. However the question that was always asked (but not in Tasmania) was the one asked of riders countless times before the ride. “How are you getting across Bass Straight?” If all the riders received a dollar every time that question was asked then our sponsorship would have risen significantly. Many different answers were given at times including the addition of aluminium pontoons to our bikes however in reality we enjoyed a leisurely day crossing on the Spirit of Tasmania II. A few got a little seasick but most were able to relax and rest.
The media: Local media became interested in us in a number of places. Many newspapers ran articles on us. Christian and non-Christian radio stations ran regular updates and some television stations reported our presence in their news bulletins. However we had professional television people accompany us all the way and a documentary of the ride is being made. This hopefully will be screened on national television if suitable funding can be finalised.
The personal highlights: Almost too many to name but here are a few:
- Seeing God at work in very real ways over 32 days including in the individual lives of team members.
- The great fun and fellowship shared among team members and the closeness of friendships developed along the way. It was hard to leave such close friends behind.
- Assisting riders in my team achieve goals they never thought achievable.
- Seeing many areas of our country I had never seen before. (God gave us an incredible land. Such contrast.)
- The great support of sponsors and prayer partners. My sponsorship looks like reaching $14,000!!! Amazing!
- Getting fitter and losing around 5kg.
- Gaining a wider picture of the church in Australia.
In conclusion, I was very privileged and blessed to be able to participate in such a Bike for Bibles ride. I rode mainly because I am committed to the cause of getting God’s Word out to those who need it but I was looking to ride with great anticipation for other reasons as well. Without a doubt, the ride exceeded by expectations many times over in every way. Would I do it again? Absolutely!!