EXPLORERS Burke and Wills didn’t need social media. They were huge 144 years* before Facebook. But with the deadline for nominations looming large, organisers of the sixth Cooper creek to Cunnamulla bicycle expedition are trumpeting its attributes to the world.
“How many followers have you got?” Paroo progress association president Karen Ticehurst asked Maranoa MP and federal agriculture minister David Littleproud when he dropped in to announce a big dollop of cash for the association’s railway museum. “About 17,000.” “Good. I’ll send you some photos, so you can help get it out there. We’re running out of time.”
Leesa McCarthy, half the Jarella grazing and butchery business, tagged along with the shire’s delegation for the year-of-outback-tourism launch in the middle of Brisbane during the week. She discovered premier Annastacia Palaszczuk was an avid cyclist and lobbied her to spread the word too.
The ride on 20-25 April has been extended by a stage so that it starts just 17km from the dig tree, the end of the last section of dirt road. That was in response to interest in the site last year, when many checked it out before starting the ride at the Cooper’s eastern channel, near the Naccowlah cattle yards.
The boost in cachet seemed obvious. Burke & Wills or Bust. Dig the Dig Tree Before You Die. Burke & Wills Survivor. Yahdedah. But the year has come around quicker than a 29-inch wheel for the organisers, who are faced with the great unknown while juggling deadlines for jerseys, catering and nominations.
So far, 30 riders have paid their deposits, but Tice hopes to see last year’s record of 45 busted. The limit is 100. A hack from the ABC has even put his arse on the line for the full five days. Those who’ve done the ride before are taking bets on how quickly his happy breakfast voice slips.
The $575 gets a rider a collector’s edition bike shirt, five feeds a day and memories for a lifetime. Some do it on hybrids and mountain bikes, but a road bike with skinny tyres is much easier. At a glance, 536km on a bicycle through the heartbreak corner seems as futile as the much-hyped foray of 1860-61. But there is something about trundling along under leg power under a huge sky, battling through niggling headwinds and tasty friendly flies, pushing through the pain [yes, it must be mentioned], stepping off at a pub every afternoon and chugging three stubbies in as many minutes, and bonding with other masochists, that makes it all worthwhile. Just ask anyone with the surname Higgins.
Nominations need to be fully paid by 22 March. Book a spot by phoning Karen Ticehurst, 0407 785 785, email email@example.com, or find the ride on Facebook, Cooper Creek to Cunnamulla Bike Ride.
* Burke and Wills left Melbourne with 26 camels, 23 horses, six wagons, 20 tons of gear and 19 men for the gulf of Carpentaria on 20 August 1860. Mark Zuckerberg, a 19-year-old Harvard university student, launched Facebook in February 2004.