Main Image: Caroline Relyea riding in the fading light as she crosses the Simpson Desert (supplied). Listen: Craig and Caroline talk about their journey, the preparation and the opportunity to raise funds through an epic adventure.
For eight years Caroline Relyea had dreamt of crossing the Australian continent on her bicycle, as the ultimate test of endurance and adventure.
The dream had been there before she met her partner Craig Humphrey, but it was Craig who was the first to run with the idea of a transcontinental adventure.
Caroline and Craig have now spent the past 75 days crossing the country, in what they’ve dubbed Ride the Rhumb Line; a navigational reference to a journey with a constant bearing – in this case, due east.
When Caroline’s wheels roll up to the Byron Bay Lighthouse, she will have ridden to the most eastern point in Australia after beginning from Steep Point, the most westerly point on the Australian continent.
Unfortunately Craig dislocated his collar bone in the Northern Territory and has had to complete the journey from the confines of the support crew vehicle.
“I managed to have an accident near King’s Canyon in Central Australia” Craig said. “I landed on the point of my right shoulder so from there on I’ve had to sit and watch; sitting in the car hurts more than the shoulder.”
Despite the mishap Craig said that it’s still been amazing to both be a support to Caroline, and to enjoy the journey.
“I’d much rather be on the bike, but at least I still get to experience the trip and see all the planning and preparation come together.”
With the idea having kicked around in Caroline’s head for many years, the COVID lockdowns and international border closures provided the perfect opportunity to begin seriously training and planning for an Australian crossing.
“Both Craig and I have been undertaking our physical training and ride training for a little over 12 months,” Caroline told 96five. We had a really great team at Body Track Exercise Physiology at Toowong, and they got us prepared to be able to do 100 kilometres per day back to back.
“The biggest part was being mentally ready for spending hours upon hours of being on the bike, and it can be a little lonely out there now that Craig’s not riding with me.”
With any large scale adventure comes the opportunity to support a good cause, and for Craig it was the perfect way to pay tribute to his parents and support cancer research.
“I lost Dad to prostate cancer, and I lost Mum to breast cancer; it’s been a nice ‘in memory’ of them and being able to help two organisations that have connection with them.”
Those groups are the Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia and the Queensland Cancer Council’s Pink Ribbon Initiative.
Caroline said that apart from the fundraising opportunity, they’ve also had the chance to raise awareness during their travels.
“People would wonder why we’re out here, where we’re going and they’d be in absolute awe of why people would be out in the bush or the desert on a pushbike!
“As we crossed the Simpson Desert, cars would pull up for photos; getting them talking about our causes and the fundraising has been fabulous – that’s been an exciting part of the journey.”
As the couple travel through south western Queensland and start to contemplate on the journey’s end, there’s been some reflection on some of the highlights of the trip, despite Craig’s injury.
“For me it was the opportunity to ride around Uluru and see it from a different perspective”, Caroline said. “Doing that on a bike really lets you take in every bit of the environment with all of your senses.
“It really was stunning and the weather out there was beautiful. And obviously getting to spend time with Craig while he was on the bike.”
For Craig it was the remoteness that he’s looked back on fondly.
“Riding through those parts of Australia that aren’t easy to get to are the highlights. Riding a pushbike down the Gunbarrel Highway in Western Australia, an iconic 4WD destination was very cool.
“The bikes were going faster than the crew at times because it’s that rough – we were actually having fun, it was like mountain biking fun!
“And also all those people we’ve run into along the way, who’ve been really interested in not just where we’re going but the reason why we’re doing it, and also appreciating the effort that’s gone into planning it all.”
Caroline and Craig will be arriving at the Bryon Bay Lighthouse this Sunday around lunchtime. To follow the last part of their journey you can keep an eye on the Ride the Rhumb Line blog at Geared Up Ventures, or by following the Geared Up Ventures Facebook page.
You can also help the cause with a donation to the Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia or the Queensland Cancer Council’s Pink Ribbon Initiative.
Listen to the full interview with Craig and Caroline in the audio player at the top of the page.