After leaving the showgrounds this morning, I pay a visit to the Sunday market near the pub. My drunken friends from yesterday are there. Not looking drunk or hungover except for one who is still sleeping. I don’t find any fruit or fresh food at the market, so I head off out of town, heading north. On the way out I take a look at some of the museum artefacts exhibited outside. At the moment, the mines are still active and they are extracting gold. At any point in time there could be up to 120 people working on the site. There would be about 4 shifts: day, night, beginning of the week, end of the week. I’m surprised there isn’t a big supermarket in town with so many people passing through. Though I have heard that miners are fed quite well, apparently everybody puts on weight.
The BNT is following the same bitumen road until the highway. A few kilometers before the highway crossing at Mingela, I stop at a rodeo show. The show has been going since yesterday and this morning the kids are playing some games with ponies and adults are competing in finals, mustering the cattle. The kids are playing musical chairs, as soon as the music stops they get off the pony and jump on a chair.
The adults have to do a figure eight with their horse and a cow. It’s high precision and really fast. Very talented. Though I wonder how the cows feel, they are all panicked and running away, being chased by a superstar horse.
After only a few kilometers, I’m at Mingela. There is a pub there and it is packed with what looks like a motorbike function. I look from far away and don’t get too close. I’m not feeling in the mood to chat. There used to be a grocery shop but it has closed. It’s a sad looking town overall.
After crossing the highway the BNT follows what soon becomes a dirt road. It’s pretty easy going and mostly flat. I feel quite relaxed. Recently I’ve been having a lot of flashback memories of other sections of the trail. I’m not far from the end and I can’t help but think about all the things that have happened.
I’m also looking for two girls who are hiking the BNT on foot coming from the North. I would love to stop for a chat or share a campsite.
Soon I have something to worry about. The road is fenced on each side and the signs on the fence indicate that I’m going through the army’s live firing range. They do some training here. I hope the BNT does not force me to go in there as I clearly should not trespass. Fortunately it’s possible to remain on the main dirt road which is safe. I try to call the army coordinator once again but nobody answers. It’s Sunday afternoon so I’m not sure whether anyone is working.
I keep following the dirt road, looking for the two girls. Nothing. There aren’t many camping options as each side of the road is fenced. There is enough grass for camping but the route notes stipulate that one should get instructions from the army for camping.
Further up the road, I see some smoke coming from the bed of a dry creek. I head there, surely it would be the girls I’m looking for. Unfortunately it’s not. It’s just a bunch of friends camping. They are not too concerned about the army firing range as they explain to me they can’t fire next to the road. I don’t feel to welcome here. I mention I might have to camp here and the bloke just says that it’s government land so I can do what I want. In other words, they’d rather stay between Friends and I should camp somewhere else. It’s pretty obvious when I’m welcome to stay. They would offer a cup of tea or something. Not interested, I keep going. Only one hour before it’s dark and 15km of dirt road to go before the Hervey Range Development road. It’s getting harder and harder to progress. The fact is that it is a slow climb up, gaining more than 100m elevation finishing on a congregated surface. I can’t believe I haven’t seen the girls. I have ridden 110km today and most of it on a fenced road. I can’t have missed them unless they are hiding or they are so slow that they are not even here yet.
Just before dark I spot a dingo, but I quickly forget and cook dinner right next to my tent. Common sense says I should cook dinner far away from the tent when in an area inhabited by dingos. Well they might trouble me but they don’t scare me anymore.
This campsite is a Junction between a dirt and a bitumen road. It’s covered with litter and I’m setting up the camp in the dark. At least I’m not too far from the ZigZag station where I’ve been invited to stay. I plan to recover from the 110km ride by resting in the afternoon.