I am Brando Yelavich, New Zealand born Explorer. Over the last 50 days, I have been crossing Australia on my pushbike through the red centre. I am travelling from the most westerly point to the most easterly and have currently covered 1800km. Iʼm doing this to empower people to look after their mental health by living life on purpose. I want to encourage others to reconnect with nature to learn about themselves because the limitless possibilities of life start when you open your eyes.
The first 30 days of this adventure were an absolute rollercoaster, my first expedition partner pulled out because of how tough it was. I carried on, away from the west coast and into the outback alone. My new expedition partner joined me in a small outback town called Meekatharra. His name is Dylan Joss and like me, he has struggled with his mental health in the past. After a few days recovering from my first 30 days on the bike, I was excited to get back out into the wild and to share this experience with Dylan. The body was feeling pretty good after a rest but the bike and some of the gear was starting to show signs of wear and tear. After 4 days with the safety of a road I decided it was time we went bush and into the wild. We turned off the road at the next corner and started following an old fence line east towards the Gibson desert. We travelled through the bush going from water point to water point for about one week. After that, we followed some outback tracks for a few days to the start of the Gunbarrel Highway. This was a part of the adventure that I had been looking forward to a lot.
Last year, my soon to be wife, Ngaio, was riding camels with her mum in the Sahara desert. The way she described the vast dry hot landscape seemingly untouched was beautiful and it inspired me to want to experience that kind of desert. And now here I was at the edge of a desert! I had heard and read a lot about the Gunbarrel highway. When I was planning my route across Australia and was told not to be mistaken, its called a highway but it doesnʼt really live up to its name. Itʼs actually a 4x4 track through the southern part of the Gibson Desert and at times has been referred to as demonic because of its isolation and utter ruggedness. The last point of civilisation before the desert was Carnegie station. I was happy to find they had a small shop! This was lucky as disaster had struck earlier and I had run out of peanut butter. After doing some washing and refilling our water, Dylan and I left the station homestead along the Gunbarrel Highway. The trees started to thin and open up to a vast red landscape that seemed to go on forever! The first day we rode into the night, it was a new moon so the light in the sky was from the stars alone. The road was straight so with my eyes glued to the sky watching the stars I rode into pure darkness. It was as if time stopped, my soul was full with an overwhelming feeling of joy! I turned and looked back to Dylan who was behind and yelled “wooooooooooohooo this is what life is about!”
The next morning as I was doing my daily gear check I found a small crack in the trailer mount. It wasnʼt too bad so I squashed some putty that goes as hard as a rock over the damaged part and it was good to go again. I made sure that night I called on the satellite phone and got a replacement part sent to the next town but at this point, it was still 12 days from our location.
We quickly developed a routine. Usually, we would be riding by 0900 hours, stop at about 1300 for lunch, as itʼs the hottest part of the day and then be done and making dinner by 1730. I expected out there in the desert I would find nothing, but to tell the truth, I found everything I didnʼt know I was missing. Itʼs the loudest silent place I have ever been. I allowed my mind to go to places itʼs never been and became quite aware of the places that it goes.
The beginning of the track was actually quite nice compared to most of the bush I had been riding through! After about 2 days we reached a turn off that went north to an aboriginal out camp where they harvest sandalwood. After continuing east past that turnoff it became one of the toughest roads Iʼve ever ridden a bicycle on! Progress from this point forward was painfully slow, pushing through deep sand and riding over so many corrugations that by the end of each day my head, wrists and ass were aching from all the shaking.
The days are short because itʼs winter so at best we were travelling 50km a day. I would love to say our bodies got used to it but they didnʼt. Even though the track was hard work itʼs one of the most beautiful places Iʼve been, itʼs just so isolated! Thereʼs nothing but you and Nature. Eventually and unfortunately, the corrugations killed the trailer but with some kiwi ingenuity and a few straps, it was turned into a sleigh to get it to the next town where the spare parts are. Without a trailer and my bike being very unbalanced what I had thought was hard before had now become borderline impossible. It was tough but Iʼm out here for a challenge so I enjoyed every bit of it.
Once the Gibson desert was behind me the next challenge was getting to the middle. I used the great central highway that took me into the heart of Australia. The road was very bumpy. Dylan had to return to work so he left a few days before I actually reached the middle. I couldnʼt believe how amazing coming over the top of a sand dune and looking out towards one of the biggest freestanding rocks I had ever seen. It is such a special place. It has often be referred to as the spiritual heart of Australia and the timing couldnʼt have been more perfect to make this seem true. As I rolled up to my halfway point, the full moon rose just as the sun was setting. The next morning when I clambered out of my tent there was a lunar eclipse. I feel so wonderful about making it to this point and canʼt wait for the next part of my journey.