Cycling The Australian outback
“Our Nature lies in movement: complete calm is death” – Pascal, Pensees
“He who does not travel does not know the value of men” – Moorish Proverb
Is there anything more precious in the world than water – drinking water that is? If you happen to be a spiritual or perhaps a very religious individual and practice mindfulness, then you are one of the few who may actually think about the act of drinking the life giving compound called water. For the rest of us, it is just water, preferably cold. But come and cycle the Stuart Highway in the Australian Outback and this life giving substance will becomes your main preoccupation.
The Stuart Highway is a 3000 km long paved road that crosses the middle of Australia from Darwin to Adelaide and is one of the most famous roads around the world. In eight days of cycling we have covered one third of it and have seen the vegetation slowly changing each day – becoming sparser and shorter as we head further into the heart of the Australian outback. Besides the change of vegetation and the rare, small places where we stop for the night to camp – meeting iconoclastic locals and their whimsical bars, caravan parks and shops – cycling the outback, especially in this season, is an opportunity to think and to be mindful.
The truth is that when the temperatures hits 40C and above, it is not difficult to be mindful about water. In fact, it becomes your sole point of meditation. Will the next stop have cold drinks? Will it have ice? Will I run out of the water that was icy just 20 minutes ago soon? What if the place is closed for this the hot season? What if our trucks break down and the place is shut and I am out of water? What if my bike breaks down? What if ……
And as these thoughts run through your mind you promise yourself that when you next taste cold water, you will never take it for granted. You will sip it down slowly, appreciating every drop, more mindful than even Tich Na Tan, the famous Buddhist teacher would be. You promise yourself not to waste another drop, at least not until you have reached a cold shower.
By now you, dear reader, must think – is that really the reason to cycle the Stuart Highway? Are these people nuts? Of course, most locals here would agree with you – yes, these cyclists are nuts. But then they do not understand that mindfulness of any kind, is what makes us aware of things. That cycling deserts only manages to highlight the life around us, manages to make us feel tiny and respectful of this large universe. It manages to make us feel much more alive and happy.
We cycle places – often extreme places – such as the Australian Outback – because doing it rewards us for our hard work. Because extreme places are the easiest places to learn the hard lessons. Because more than anywhere else, there we feel more alive. We cycle the Australian Outback because, despite the heat and headwinds, we want to be here at this particular time of our lives.