This is Lucy's story of the journey:
The outback on a bike!!
It can't get better than this! Last week I was in a swag (sleeping bag) on top of a massive sand dune in the Simpson Desert, hundreds of km's from anywhere, looking up at a plethora of stars after a hard days cycle! Fantastic!
I have just cycled 920km's from Alice Springs to Cooper Pedy in the Australian outback in 11 days. That is the equivalent of cycling from London to Brighton every day for 11 days, or cycling from London to Scotland then half way back again! Yet instead of a nice tarmac road, there was only dirt track, ranging from rocks, gravel, mud and soft sand that I had to either push or carry my bike through!
Was I mad? yes probably, I signed up to the trip on a whim and didn't really think about it too much, I just thought I can do that and jumped on a plane to Alice Springs. I was a little perplexed at the start of the ride when we were followed for the first few hours by a TV crew. After completing it, I now know what they knew. Which was that the trip from Alice Springs to Cooper Pedy had never been cycled before, it would be difficult and most people would never contemplate it!
A typical day - I would wake up in my swag in the pitch black, subtly check that no snakes spiders or other creepy crawlies had crawled into my sleeping bag with me, with no tent it was a free for all for insects.
Next I would pack my stuff and load it into the 4 wheel drive which was carrying our luggage and food on route. Then as soon as a glimmer of light ventured over the horizon I was saddled up and off for another arduous 100km day on dirt track! Those first few peddles always being the worst, legs screaming, bum sore as ... and yet 100km to get through, turning back was never an option.
The emotions I went through during the day were very extreme, from wincing in tears of pain, to elated joy when the landscape changed and springs crept upon you. The scenery was from another planet, at times I would look around me and see nothing, no vegetation, no landscape variation, no wildlife, the only thing was a flat plain of nothing with a dirt track leading to nowhere, eventually it would lead to an aboriginal village or to a house, but often after hours of pounding of the legs I felt like I was going nowhere. Sometimes if I was on my own, I would just stop, close my eyes, take a few deep breaths and listen, nothing! No cars, no engines, no planes, no birds, just nothing.
Thirteen other cyclists were on the trip, all male bar me and one other. Three of the guys were between 65 and 67. When I first met them I thought they would never make it, they were old! I thought I'd be in with a chance of being a front runner! How wrong I was, these guys had stamina, determination and amazing fitness, they were the Gods of cycling!
I managed to hang on in there until Day 6. Then my body gave up on me, I Was shot through, I had no energy left, tears in my eyes for no reason, shear exhaustion. Two guys kept me peddling, bantering between them to keep me going, they had no idea tears were welling up in my sunglasses and I wasn't about to broadcast it! But the two 60+ year old's just put their head down and rocketed past, no question of giving in, they just had amazing determination, the only way they wouldn't complete it would be by being stretchered off!
I learnt so much at my lowest points along the trip, especially day 6, I learnt how to focus the mind to succeed and how to ignore pain if I set myself goals. I shared joy with others and how to help others carry on, because believe me there was no one who wasn't suffering!
It was the most challenging experience of my life so far. It wasn't much of a holiday, it was an emotional and physical excruciating journey. But I have learnt so much.
It was a privilege to have completed the journey, to experience massive highs and crashing lows of physical endurance and how to focus the mind to pull through. I have seen the amazing landscape of the outback, observed animals and wild life at the brink of survival, met aboriginals outside of the normal town environment and learnt to respect their culture and knowledge.
I found and completed my challenge! I am now in Adelaide. Again my only plan is to have no plans, watch this space, my journey continues!