(Above Shadow of his Former Self, Nullarbor Plain, South Australia, October 1995. © Patrick Maslen)
The Quest - Australia
Ride to the edge of town and keep on riding.
In 1995, I undertook a Quest: to ride around Australia on a bicycle. After two brief training runs around Melbourne, Australia, my friend Richard and I cycled from Melbourne to Sydney (via the coast) to Brisbane to Cairns - the east coast of Australia. We left in January (Australian summer) and the 6,000km east coast part of the journey took us about three and a half months (including rest-stops etc.)
We rested and worked through winter (Jun-Aug) in luxurious Port Douglas in northern Queensland. During this time, my friend found a girlfriend, and the two of them flitted off to New Zealand, leaving me all on my lonesome.
Rather than give up, I jumped on a plane with my trusty bicycle Edgar and flew across the dry land to Perth. The Quest continued. I cycled alone through empty Western Australia. When I came to the dreaded Nullarbor Plain, thirteen-hundred kilometres of arid, treeless desert, I just kept on going.
The Nullarbor run took me two weeks. It was hot and unpleasant cycling. I faced fierce winds, storms and flies. Many times I wished I was elsewhere, but it finally finished and I was in South Australia. (Actually - apologies to South Australians - I still wished I was elsewhere :-)
Hugging the coast all the way, I wended my weary way past Adelaide, back to my home town of Melbourne, determined not to give up, having come so far. Finally, after eleven months and twelve-thousand kilometres on the roads around Australia, I was home.
After a year of study, I finally made my way to Tasmania, Australia's southernmost state, to complete the Quest. It was cold and hilly, but quite beautiful. I returned to Melbourne on the 29th of November, 1996, exactly one year after cycling around the mainland. Quest complete? I'm not so sure.
(Above: Wheels in Motion, October 1995. © Patrick Maslen)
Quest 2 - Canada
Five years passed before the urge to go Questing once more finally became impossible to ignore. In the southern winter of 2000 (July) I teamed up with my old friend Richard, and our trusty bikes Ed and Horace, and we journeyed to Canada to cross the North American continent.
We travelled from Vancouver on the west coast through British Columbia, up and over the beautiful Rocky Mountains. Nearly every bend in the road, every mountain lake was like a postcard. On the other side of Crow's Nest Pass we came to Alberta and the beginning of the Prairies.
The Prairies were hot and dry and flat; they were reminiscent of the flatlands of South Australia. We didn't enjoy cycling them, and we also had the wind against us. Time was not on our side on this Quest, so after Lethbridge we traversed the central provinces of Saskatchewan and Manitoba by bus, stopping in the plains cities of Regina and Winnipeg.
By mid-August we were back on our bikes at Thunder Bay on the north shore of Lake Superior, a body of water vast like an inland sea. We cycled through the endless-seeming hills, lakes and forests of desolate northern Ontario. The weather was by now turning nasty, and we experienced cold snaps and storms on our way. Ontario is a huge province, much larger than we had imagined, so we were forced to skip another stretch on the bus (Wawa - Montréal). After breakfast in the national capital Ottawa, we were in Quebec.
The St. Lawrence River flows through Quebec, widening as it reaches the Atlantic Ocean. We cycled along its length, then travelled through the provinces of New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia. As we travelled on the weather grew ever colder. In mid-October we reached Halifax, on the east coast. We had reached our goal and completed another Quest.
Above: Quest Continues, October 1995)