Rob 'n BOB on the BNT

Monday, 20 October 2003

Oliver, BC.... Prologue

I have been granted a leave of absence from my regular job as administrator of the wine shop and tasting room at Tinhorn Creek to fulfill a dream I've been harbouring for years. In the next six months I am hoping to ride the Bicentennial National Trail (BNT) in Australia in its entirety - top to bottom - on my mountain bike. I'll be pulling a little trailer made by BOB Trailers (BOB stands for Beast of Burden), so my little expedition could be referred to as "Rob 'n' BOB on the BNT". I will be his only companion, no one else to interfere with what, no doubt, will become an intense bond - me depending on him for hauling most of my gear, he on me for getting ahead. The trail starts/finishes in Cooktown, northern Queensland, and ends/begins in Healesville, Victoria, not far from Melbourne. I have actually bicycled short sections of the trail before when my wife Gwen and I travelled in Australia in 1998. At that time I made the unwise decision to equip my metal stallion with some so-called bombproof wheels so I would never have to replace any broken spokes because, well, they just couldn't break. Ha! Instead, when on a particularly brutal section of the trail one of the "unbreakable" carbon filaments snapped, I was stuck! No repair possible. I learned from that experience, and this time I am travelling with equipment that I fully know and understand. Even if it means that I'll have to replace spokes - often a pain since they invariably break on the freewheel side of the rear wheel.

I leave my comfortable living and working environment a week after the Okanagan Fall Wine Festival and will return just before the 2004 Spring Wine Festival. For the wine shop this is a quieter part of the year and our experienced tasting room staff will be quite capable of running the show on their own. Hey, they may like it so much they won't want me back!

This is what
            it will look likeThe trail until 1988 was known as the National Horse Trail and when Australia celebrated her bicentennial anniversary it was renamed and is now known as the BNT. Many Australians have never heard of it, just like many Canadians don't know about our own Trans Canada Trail. Actually the two trails are not unsimilar - they both follow little used country roads, old stock routes, four wheel drive tracks and other pathways and trails. The BNT follows the dividing range, the chain of mountains in Australia that runs from north to south, sort of following the contours of the east coast, but up to 200 kilometers inland. It only touches the coast in the most northern part. The horse trail origin of the trail is still very recognisable in some sections that are so incredibly steep and rough that "horse trail" really is a euphemism and goat track would be a fairer description. In other areas there is no trail at all - you make you own way along a creek, river, or through a valley, picking out cattle tracks where available. These are often the most remote sections of trail, where one can travel for a week or longer without seeing another human being. The landscape and countryside are often just plain awesome.

BOB will be carrying one change of clothes, raingear, tiny tent, lightweight sleeping bag, multi-fuel stove (burns white gas, automobile gas, kerosene, aviation fuel, diesel, you name it), maps and trail guides, first aid and bicycle repair equipment, but mostly food and water. Food occasionally for up to 10 days and water for at least 24 hours. Theoretically horses need water at least as often, so generally water of some description will be available daily. I may be sucking mud, but, when desperate enough, I guess it's better than nothing. Food and spare equipment I am mailing ahead to various locations along the route where supplies are difficult to come by. All kinds of yummy freeze-dried meals, "fit to serve the queen"! I have worked on my equipment list for months to try to keep my total weight manageable and to a minimum. Very few luxury items, but my binoculars and Australian bird guide are a definite. Also my camera, and some reading material. I am taking some twenty volumes of books - old favourites, Charles Dickens and such, nice fat ones that will take me a good long time to read! These are neatly tucked away in my PDA - now hoping I can recharge the battery once in a while! My cell phone will come, although I'll be mostly out of reach, as well as a GPS in case I get lost, or rather, want to avoid getting lost, and I'll carry a PLB (personal location beacon).

After my mechanical breakdown in 1998 I promised myself that one day I would be back to do it all over again. That time has now arrived, so BNT here I come! I'll try to irregularly send updates of my whereabouts and my progress along the trail.

So, Hooroo Mates!

Robert


PS - Anyone interested in reading more about the BNT can visit their website at:
http://www.bicentennialnationaltrail.com.au/

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