When Dan Marsh started dreaming of going on a solo bike journey, he initially planned to ride from Melbourne, Victoria to Lake Eyre, South Australia – a journey of more than 1000 kilometres (620 miles) into Australia’s harsh desert centre – to photograph the sun-cracked salt plains of the usually dry lake. But after months of dreaming and planning, he thought to himself: why stop at Lake Eyre?
Dan left Melbourne with everything he’d need strapped to the back of his bike. He headed south along the surfers’ coastal route towards Adelaide, then left the beach behind to ride up through the centre of Australia and, eventually, across to Queensland’s tropical north. It was six months of adventure, a solo ride characterised by the generosity of the people he met along the way and the grandeur of the landscapes he passed through.
I daydreamed for three years about riding my bike alone through Australia, along the coast and up through the Red Centre. I wanted to travel without time constraints, just camping, surfing, connecting with people, shooting photos and living a footloose existence.
Whenever I told anyone my plans, they’d give me a weird look or say that it didn’t really sound like much of a holiday. But I loved camping and riding, and I was obsessed with the idea of this adventure.
It wasn’t until a few weeks before I left that I actually started to have fears; before that, I’d romanticised about the adventure rather than actually thinking about what I was getting myself into.
The day I rode out of Melbourne, it hit me like a tonne of bricks: everything I’d dreamed about for so long was happening, and it scared the shit out of me. It was overwhelming and surreal riding off with no real thought of when I’d be back, leaving behind a lover and everything else to chase some kind of fantasy, loaded up on a bike so heavy that I could hardly ride it down the street let alone halfway around Australia. What was I thinking?
I definitely wasn’t fit or prepared for the experience, but I don’t think that I could ever have really prepared my body or mind for what I was about to put it through. I really struggled in the first couple of weeks; my body hurt, the riding was tough, and sleeping on the hard ground in my freezing tent took its toll on me.
But then something kind of clicked. I realised I was holding on to the struggles – and I just had to let everything go. After that pivotal moment, everything became easier. My mind relaxed and all the relentless chatter about how hard everything was seemed to fall away. I became more present with every kilometre, and each day was a joy.
It was funny – once I’d gotten into the rhythm of my new life, it became my everyday reality. From the outside it seemed crazy and wild, but to me it was just … my life. I was entrenched in it, loving every single day. I felt a beautiful sense of freedom that I’d never really experienced before. I was often alone in isolated places, but I never felt lonely; just to sit by myself out in the wild was a special experience.
And I met so many people on the road who helped me out in some way, with beds, meals, showers and rides. Their outright generosity was so heartwarming.
As much as riding thousands of kilometres was about riding a bike and pushing my physical limits, it was also about so much more than that. The road taught me so much about myself, and life in general. I was content living in the dirt, smelly and filthy a lot of the time, but not really caring. Being limited to only what I could carry, I discovered that I loved the simplicity of having very little. Fears come and go, but they’re only fears; they’re not facts.
I learnt that once I pushed past them, anything was possible. I’m stoked with what I was able to achieve, particularly with the support of my partner, who understood my dreams and desires. When I finally made it to Far North Queensland, she took up the challenge and joined me on the road. We rode down the east coast together, planning to end up in Melbourne … but we made it as far as Byron Bay, New South Wales, and haven’t quite left. One day we’ll finish the journey. But life’s pretty good where we are right now.