Following the Finke River

Jun 10

Polly Corner - Maynards Bore - Finke and the FINISH!

Published at 14:28
Dispatch created from email
9th and 10th June

Total Distance - 524km

Day 12

From Polly Corner, the plan was to backtrack for 6km, almost to where we
turned on to that track (towards Horseshoe Bend) and then head south
along a station track to Cliff Bore on the river. Just as we set off we
were met individually by Tanya from Lilla Creek Station, the person whom
I had been introduced to through the Alice Springs School of the Air. I
had hoped we would have time to drop in to the station, the homestead
about 30km off our route.

Tanya however, had been sent to see who was camping on their land (her
uncle had spotted our fire the previous evening). When she realised who
it was, all was fine. Her daughter (year 4) was very keen to see my bike
and asked a few good questions.

Turning south, the track bisected a few red sand dunes before we joined
a more major track, with a firmer surface. The way to Cliff Bore looked
not to have been used for a very long time and I took the decision to
continue on the track, that ran roughly parallel to the river and no
more than a few kilometres away. It was further in distance, but
significantly faster.

Just after our lunch break, near Clough Bore, a station hand, out
checking waters stopped by to see if we were OK. Obviously the word had
got around that we were there, thanks to Tanya, so they were just
keeping an eye on us to ensure we didn’t get into trouble (much

The last few days have been pretty warm, with varying degrees of stormy-
looking cloud cover. The flies were out in force too. It was thirsty
work passing along some of the tracks, especially as I approached John’s
Well on Lilla Creek. The creek area was incredibly soft and blanketed
with a thick layer of powdery bulldust. Lille Creek was a substantial
waterway, about 150m wide at the crossing. The sand was much coarser
than the Finke’s, I guess because it does not have to travel so far.

On the far bank, a huge river gum had fallen across the track. Bob
decided to give the station a hand and removed the obstacle, cutting the
trunk it into pieces with his chainsaw.

We continued across the vast, open landscape (I love the openness)
eventually to Maynards Bore. The diesel powered bore, beside the Finke,
had excellent water, with a small hose and tap, so we took it in turns
to have much needed wash.

I had made up such good progress that reaching Finke a day ahead of
schedule was going to be very achievable. I was sore and tired, but
excited about my pending arrival the next day. 57km done.

Day 13

I was pretty excited to reach the final day. The chill in the air has
long gone and it is warm enough to just wear my cycle kit first thing in
the morning. After the obligatory team photo, I set off in the sand,
away from Maynards Bore, then turning east.

The first few kilometres were fine, but then the track veered away from
the river and into some horribly sandy country; deep sand, bulldust and
corrugations with little option but to stay on the tracks. Mixed in was
some spectacular breakaway country. I tried not to think just yet about
the finish because there is always a sting in the tail. Quite a lot of
the route was worse than the riverbed to cycle on!

I had a small break after 13km at Clough’s Bore, where the old
telephone line posts still stood. The next 15km took an eternity to
reach Beer Street Bore, back beside the river bank. After one final
interview by Brian, I set off along the river for the final five
kilometres to the Old Ghan crossing, which is what we decided would be
a suitable finish point.

I was expecting the usual struggle, but the surface of the riverbed was
the best it has been for the whole journey! For most of the way a layer
of undisturbed clay (no hoofs or vehicle tracks) covered the sand,
allowing me to ride the final kilometres relatively easily.

Bob drew a line in the sand and waved the finishing flag - one of his
checked shirts on a stick! It was a great moment and a fitting way to
end such a special journey.

Just ahead of us, the annual Finke Race was in progress, with motorbikes
virtually flying from one bank to the other. I then had to pedal past
all the race-goers for the four kilometres into town. I waved to quite a
few bemused looks! The air was absolutely thick with dust. The mayhem
was quite surreal after the remote, peaceful journey we had just
completed down the mighty Finke River.

We didn’t hang around the town of Finke as there was nowhere to stay and
a shower and clean place to stay was in order. We packed the bike and
gear into the Land Cruiser and drove for two hours across to Kulgera on
the Stuart Highway. Tomorrow we start the long journey driving south.

There may be one more post when I have time to sum things up. 38km done.

Check out the tracking map:

Images courtesy of Brian


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