This trip’s been months, no years in the planning yet even so there’s a flurry of last minute preparations and mad late night bouts of wheel building and packing. Funny to think that at one point or another Joe, Gary and I all seriously considered going… But Joe’s gone and got married and is off on an amazing European honeymoon, Gary is on a world tour with Patti, and sometime between planning and execution I’ve had a baby. Even I can see that the Canning Stock Route with a 3 mth old is in the “too hard & too stupid” basket – it’s a long way between water holes out there. That leaves just Tom and Scott, with myself in the somewhat unlikely role of drop-off and pick-up girl.

Scott arrives a week early and he and I seem to me to spend most of it racing around doing errands for Tom, who as per usual is working his arse off until the 11th hour. I’m a bit out of sorts trying to get my head around various aspects of their trip and my own, and I feel sorry for Scott putting up with my grumpiness, Bryn’s crying and Tom’s absence. Scott is the model house guest: makes coffee, cooks, bakes cookies, even sweeps the floor and if he’s more interested in befriending my cat than my son, that’s just fine with me.

Scott and I decide we should delay our departure by a day to give Tom the chance to catch his breath and get himself organised between finishing work and heading off. When we put it to the man himself he seems relieved rather than reluctant. It turns out to be just as well; instead of spending our day packing/lunching out/test riding bikes on the beach as we had envisioned, we end up chasing about the city to see a pair of Poles about a trailer… Nothing quite like the last minute for completely changing your gear but a big thank you to the Poles (who also recently attempted the CSR) for the loan of theirs.

Then comes the jigsaw puzzle of fitting it all in the car. The contrast between the boys’ gear and my own is marked: fat bikes, lightweight camping gear, panniers, a month’s worth of dehydrated food versus swag with pillow, car camping tent, gas stove, proper coffee, box of books, fancy reclining camping chair. Somehow it all goes in and at last we’re off.

Even to reach the nearer southern end of the CSR is a long drive through the outback; Bryn and I snooze in the back while Tom and Scott take turns at the wheel. Driving on the left for the first time on our “highways” – long straight roads with virtually no one else on them – turns out not to be so daunting after all for Scott. It’s red dirt country, big sky country; Scott’s fascinated. Yep boys this is what you came out here for, a whole lot of nothing. We drive into the night, dodging several roos and an enormous camel before finally making a roadside camp somewhere, anywhere.

The moon’s nearly full. The silence is beautiful. We’re out here.

The morning’s cold but there’s coffee, the last these “essentials only” boys will smell for a while. We drive the final 40km to Wiluna and suddenly it’s there: the Canning Stock Route. Bikes are rapidly assembled and loaded; I envy the remote camping but the pushing that lot up countless sand dunes, not a bit. The bikes are frighteningly heavy (don’t ask me “how heavy”, we never actually weighed them but think 40L water, I’d guess close on 20kg food plus normal spares, tools and camping gear. It crosses my mind that it may be as well I’m not going as I’m not convinced I’d be physically capable of it).

Goodbyes are not prolonged – Bryn wants second breakfast and I’m dragged back from watching them disappear from view by the pressing immediacy of his need. When I’m done feeding, they’re gone, two lads off on a huge adventure and here I am on an adventure of an entirely different kind, somewhere out miles from anywhere with just a three month old for company.

The boys, sparkling clean and ready to take on a bit of red dirt

The boys, sparkling clean and ready to take on a bit of red dirt