|"I took my push-bike and water bag and made for some higher country".|
|Blakeley, Dream Millions 21. 27/07/30. East of Dashwood Creek.|
From Hell's Airport, E. H. Coote. 36. Blakeley in the photo, note his bicycle leaning against the tree.
Blakeley had considerable experience in using bicycles as a means of outback transport, in 1908 he and two mates, Jim and Dick O'Neill made a remarkable journey on push-bikes from White Cliffs in New South Wales to Darwin. Blakeley wrote an account of this epic trek nearly thirty years after the event and shortly after completing the manuscript to Dream Millions. His second book titled 'Hard Liberty' deservedly became a minor classic in outback adventure.
Bicycles were a common enough form of transport in the appropriate terrain, particularly on the Western Australian goldfields where bicycle messengers earned a name for reliable and speedy relay of mail and telegrams. In his excellent book, 'Camels and the Outback', H. M. Barker notes that bicycles were, "much used - especially by the drifting sections of the community", Barker mentions that camels pads were preferred by bicyclists as the camels soon swept the stones from the track and compressed the sand, "firm enough for bicycles". But bicycles had limitations as transport, generally being restricted to hard level ground, and one cannot imagine a more inappropriate form of transport on any part of the journey from Alice Springs to Illbilla, through the foothills of the MacDonnell Ranges, or the loose drifting sand between Warren Creek and the Ehrenbergs. Nevertheless room was made aboard the Thornycroft for Blakeley's bicycle.
Blakeley found two occasions to use his bike, once about eight miles east of Dashwood Creek when he and Colson went searching for water in trackless country, later the bike was used as a runabout at Illbilla between the airstrip and the camp. In any event one wonders what sort of terrain Blakeley expected to justify the inclusion of a bicycle on the already overloaded Thornycroft.
© R.Ross. 1999-2006
|Fred Blakeley, Dream Millions. 21,127 & Hard Liberty. Barker H. M. Camels in the Outback. 96.|