‘Hold on tight Hopey.’ I yell with eyes fixed ahead.
The green raincoat presses against my chest and the loose fabric on the arms flaps with an insistent whir. The extra wide brim attached to the helmet flips up wildly as I lift my chin too high and it catches the wind. I fight it back down. Those words of caution are whipped away as our speed increases.
I don’t hear Hope’s reply. Likely as not she hasn’t said anything at all. But I trust she has both hands on the grips and is ready. The road is cut down into the dolerite and dips even more steeply ahead. As we emerge I can see the long sweeping corner at the bottom of the hill and the gentle incline that follows.
With no oncoming traffic I let the brakes off fully. Our combined weight sits heavily on the 2 inch tyres until gravity lets us rip. The surface of the bitumen isn’t so smooth that you can take your eyes off it for long. One last glance at the speedo shows we’re well over 60 km/hr. The wind hits suddenly from the right flank and we lean into it. Every muscle is tensed, hands gripping, toes clawing, knees locked and shoulders tense. For a wild moment we are going too fast.
Under a bared teeth grimace I let out a long, low whistling, ‘shiiiiiiiiiit’. The cold summer wind draws out tears that go not downwards but backwards to my ears. The descent finally levels out and we begin to slow. 50, 40, 30. Our momentum is enough to take us up the oncoming hill without pedalling. ‘Whoah, that was a fast one dad.’ Hope calls out with enthusiasm. ‘That’s as close as we’ll get to being a jet plane little matey.’ I reply.
“Our journey finished where it began, on our driveway in the rural hamlet of Flowerpot, Tasmania,” Andrew says. “In the intervening 12 months we pedalled some of Australia’s toughest outback roads with our three- and five-year-old children. The spirit of the country and its people seeped into our tired bones as we encountered generosity and hardship in equal measure.”