Or more accurately, the Indian Pacific Wheel Ride – IPWR 2022.
File this one under ‘stark raving mad’.
For anyone who has never heard of it, Indipac (Indian – Pacific) was once a trans-Australian ‘race’. Now it’s a ‘ride’. A Challenge (capital C). An Adventure.
It’s a ride across Australia on a set route, from Perth to Sydney, and passing through all the capital cities (so it is NOT the shortest route).
There are some ‘rules’, or rather ‘guidelines’ that everyone follows, including signing up with a satellite tracker, and everyone departing Fremantle Lighthouse at 6.22am on the third Saturday in March.
It is officially and traditionally ‘unsupported’, yet wholly supported by a community of avid ‘dot-watchers’ who follow the progress of the participants across the continent via Maprogress and a Facebook group.
Marc has been into the ‘dot-watching’ for a few years, while I had only a passing interest. It was only last year that I succumbed, checked out the route tracking map (Maprogress)… and the Facebook group… and got hooked.
He’s been talking about doing it for a couple of years, and I was adamantly opposed. ‘Nope, you’re not doing it, and WE’RE not doing it either. It’s next level madness.” It’s not the type of touring I really want to do. And I’m also not (and have never been) very good at sitting on the sidelines. (Call it a mix of FOMO, and also not being able to cope with the anxiety of watching and worrying.)
I have many, many reservations about the route. There are sections of highways I would normally not even remotely consider when planning our usual tours. The route skirts by places I would like to check out while I’m nearby, but there will be no time for side-trips, or to stop and smell the roses. You’re not ‘supposed’ to plan and book accommodation well in advance (as I like to do when there’s a risk of being accommodation-less) – you’re ‘supposed’ to, apparently, go with the flow. And we’ll run into school holiday periods which I always usually avoid.
However, in a moment of weakness last year, I capitulated and agreed to give it a crack on the tandem.
It was in no small part due to seeing one participant, ‘Tour Clown Under’, last year doing slightly more relatable distances (as he enthusiastically embraced his role – after Adelaide – as the Lanterne Rouge).
We didn’t tell many people because it still felt pie-in-the-sky, and, to be honest, one or two ‘you’re mad’ comments might well have derailed me.
So it’s been about 8 months of gradually acquiring gear. Ditching the panniers for bespoke frame bags. Lighter stuff. Camp out gear, just in case. Paring down the packing list. Weighing everything and looking for lighter alternatives. (Me freaking out about what I’m not allowed to take to feel remotely comfortable off the bike.)
Covid restrictions kept messing with plans to do a shakedown tour. In October we saw there were some pretty cheap flights to Perth, so we took the plunge and booked them on the basis that we would also accept that if the borders didn’t open we would be ok with paying another $99 each to change the flights. to some time within the next 12 months. We booked an Airbnb in Fremantle with a late free cancellation.
Then (as I pretty much predicted/feared), Christmas, and the summer heat, hampered any sort of adequate training – other than our two-day Yamba return trip in early December.
THEN the anticipated Feb 5 WA border opening was delayed, and to be honest, I would have happily cancelled it all there and then, but he talked me into waiting. In early February I pinned him down to a cut-off date (after which we wouldn’t have time to get organised.) We compromised on the 19th Feb, and wouldn’t you know it, the announcement was made on the 18th. (Thanks a lot Mark McGowan?) The decision was then effectively made for us – because otherwise, why were we waiting till the 19th?
It then became apparent that we effectively had only 3 weeks to get organised, rather than the ‘month’ that it felt like. ARRRRRGGGGGHHHHHHH!
On top of the actual preparation/packing, there’s the whole Covid thing. Do I really want to sit in a plane of potential covid soup for 5 hours? Answer- no. (Five hours of high anxiety.) Is it even the right thing to be doing right now? I don’t want to accidentally bring Covid into WA – especially just as the idiots in charge of NSW have removed mask mandates. And perversely, I’ve been in the shops more in the past two weeks than I have for the past two years.
The weekend after the border-opening announcement we booked a campsite on the Clarence River to do an overnighter to test out our tarp/groundsheet/sleeping gear (and get in another couple of +100k days), but then the big rains came and we cancelled that. Oh well. We’ve slept out before – many, many years ago, we’ll figure it out if we need to. (That campsite would have ended up well and truly under water a few days later….)
So anyway, the last three weeks have been a little crazy. Many lists. Lots to do. We’re completely underdone with the training, so it’s going to have to be ‘Train on Day 1 for Day 2’ and so on.
We’ve done a test pack, and we seem to have fitted in everything.
Non-bikepackers will probably say ‘wow, that’s not much’, and seasoned bike-packers will say ‘OMG you have so much!’ It’s a compromise, as we’ll be taking a lot longer than most, and, on top of tools and electronics, we like to be prepared for wet weather and cold weather.
I know I will be too exhausted each day to blog as I usually try to do, so I’ll come back to this and ‘chronicle’ it afterwards. We’ll use a facebook page to throw up photos on the go, and I’ll try and update a day by day route map, and we can be followed, along with the other riders, on the Maprogress site.
I’ll put all those links in the next post.