Blackall to Longreach
As we rose for the final day and wished each other a good morning, it didn’t seem quite right, as it was still pitch black and the sky full of stars. Our walk to breakfast was lit by moonlight and phone lights. Our early start today was intentional to try and get ahead of the heat and wind that will make the first two legs of the day very challenging. Emotions were high again this morning as knew we were on the home straight, excited to see our loved ones and celebrate the incredible feat of cycling 1,311km in 8 days. However, we knew that we still had one last gruelling 220km day ahead.
Again, we had some of the local community come down to wave us off on the first leg of the final day. It was about 10km outside of Blackall when we got to witness the most stunning rising of the sun over the outback land. The glow of the bright orange sun rising from the ground into the sky was the most magical experience. Our videographer Dakota sent a drone up above the peloton to capture the team riding with the stunning sunrise behind them – stay tuned for all his incredible footage once we are back in Brisbane!
The next treat this morning was a fly over by John Chandler in his light plane.The light plane circled back around and did a couple of loops over the peloton – what a buzz it gives our team when they are so tired and pushing so hard to complete this last day of gruelling cycling. Thanks John!
At morning tea, we had another special birthday to celebrate. Happy birthday beautiful Keely, we are so privileged that we get to share your birthday with you, and we hope you feel a little bit spoilt by us all today. Everyone was pretty darn excited when the ice-cream cake came out the back of the truck and it became a unanimous decision that we simply must bring someone who will be celebrating a birthday on every ride, just so we have an excuse to indulge in ice-cream cake!
The next leg was a ‘quick’ 40km into Barcaldine, where we received another hero’s welcome courtesy of the Chandler Family , Cr Sean Dillon, Chairman of the RFDS Queensland Section, Russell Postle and members of the local Barcie community We took the opportunity to have one last all-in group photo at the Tree of Knowledge Memorial, before heading off to Rob Chandler Park for a few moments of bliss laying in the cool grass in the shade before tucking in to hearty lunch.
The next stretch of the trip was 80km, our longest single leg of the whole 8 days, and most likely was the hottest. The incentive to just keep pushing through this leg and into Ilfracombe was the iconic stop at The Wellshot Hotel for a cheeky 7oz beer. It is here that we started to really see more and more families who have already arrived in Longreach drive down to meet us. The reunions and happy tears were flowing already.
A little after 4pm, a party was being set up in the Edkins Memorial Park in Longreach. Local school kids lined the street with their posters. Families gathered and mingled, champagne and beer put on ice ready to toast the celebratory arrival. The excitement in the park intensified as the spotter vehicle came around the corner and down the main street of Longreach, followed by a police escort and then the triumphant moment of seeing the big RideWest branded truck with 33 cyclists following. The cheering, clapping, streamer waving supporters provided an electric atmosphere for our heroes welcome to Longreach.
The riders were truly exhausted, but also elated. Proud of their incredible achievements, excitement for each other that together they made it through, pushing through ridiculous pain barriers and injuries. By supporting each other, they had all made it!! Tears flowed, hugs were plentiful, and embraces were shared. The pure joy of this moment can not be bottled, but it will forever remain in our hearts and that is the magic of RideWest. It lives within the big, beautiful, giving, hearts of everyone on this team, riders and support crew alike.
As we head out tonight to celebrate these achievements with our loved ones and the Longreach community, we never lose sight of our objective and why we are all here and doing this ride. We are spreading the message that IT IS OK, TO NOT BE OK. Mental health issues are a very real and common part of our society. It will affect more than 50% of the population in our lifetime. We need to keep talking about it to break down the stigma and normalise it so people seek support. We need to continue to raise funds so that we can get more support services to the bush!
We can’t wait to meet with the team at the Royal Flying Doctors service in the coming months and present a cheque to enable them to continue their invaluable work of providing mental health support services to regional Queenslanders.
Please stay tuned over the next couple of weeks as we continue to update you with more images, videos and of course our final fundraising tally!
Thank you to those back home for following our journey and for your support while our team have been out on the road this week – all the messages of love and support have been shared meant the world to our team!