River swims, golden tans, sleeping under the stars, perfect 28 degree weather and card games into the evening. Sounds glorious, doesn’t it? I forgot to mention one thing: the 7,231km of cycling across dry, arid terrain that takes place in-between.
Australia Big Ride is a huge cycling trip from Broome to Sydney which is happening right now to raise money for Bible Society Australia’s ‘Bike For Bibles’. The pack left Broome on June 30, and has been at Coral Bay for the last 36 hours, having passed through Port Hedland and Karratha. Their next big stop is Carnavon on Saturday.
Allan Melmoth, a 59-year-old farmer from New South Wales who’s been riding with Bike for Bibles for five years says the first week went smoothly, with tailwinds giving them a week of easy riding through a flat landscape towards Karratha, where they stopped on Friday.
Unfortunately though, the ride hasn’t been all smooth sailing. A small incident at the front of the pack caused two riders to fall off their bikes on Sunday, with one breaking his collar bone and having to retire from the ride.
“He spent the night in hospital and he’s had to abandon the tour, to be flown back to Sydney. So that’s just a shame. But that’s part of the sport,” Allan says.
The other rider suffered cuts to the leg and bruised ribs, but has continued riding despite the soreness. Allan says the incident provoked a deep discussion about God and suffering around the campfire that night.
Since then, the riders have faced strong cross-winds, making the journey more difficult, and the ground is starting to undulate.
Now in Coral Bay, the riders have rested for a day and a half before taking off again today, riding without an extended break for 10 days in order to reach Perth by July 22. There the group will be joined by a number of other riders including Allan’s wife, while others will finish their journey.
The youngest in the group is five-year-old Jemima Adams, one of four children in the Adams family joining Mum Janet, and Dad Richard on the ride. On the first leg of the journey from Broome to Karratha, the Adams family took turns riding with their Dad. Each of the four kids would have a turn riding a tandem bike with him, before getting back on the bus which rides with the group the whole way. The family will rejoin the ride from Perth to Angaston later in the month.
Speaking to me after lunch, Allan says the group’s been staying in some interesting places, including a sheep station.
“It was out in the middle of nowhere and it was all very nice. We sat around on the verandah there and it was a catered place, fully licensed and they cooked for us and we didn’t have to do the dishes or anything!”
The rest of the time they camp by the side of the road, making do in cold conditions. When the group passed through Port Hedland they ate at the local mining complex dining hall, an experience which Allan described on his blog:
“Imagine being in a large shopping mall food court, restaurant quality food, all you can eat from any stall and unlimited seconds and thirds (and for some fourths). Never seen so many grown men and women (all B4B riders) walking around with grins on their faces.”
All the money raised by the riders will go towards Bible-based literacy programmes run by Bible Society around the world. Allan says he loves the opportunity to turn his passion into a helping hand for other people.
“I enjoy riding and I really enjoy going on Bike for Bible rides. This is probably the 12th or 13th one I’ve been on. And it’s always been good fun. It keeps me fit and feeling young and then also we raise a fair bit of money for the Bible Society. It’s going to a good cause.”