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RICHARDSON'S RIDE ROUND AUSTRALIA. AN INTERESTING INTERVIEW. NO.I ('"BY PEDAL" ) Whether the cycling feat which Arthur Richardson recently accomplished - that of making a circuit of the continent of Australia - will be of any value to the community is a moot point. The sceptical argue, that beyond furnishing a good ad vertisement for the manufacturers and agents for the make of cycle which carried him through it is fruitful of nothing. There are, however, several other lessons to be learned from the perform- ance of such a ride, and the chief of these -appears to be that it affords a demonstra tion of the utility of the cycle as a rapid means of locomotion in all classes of country, and under any and all conditions, and furnishes an illustration of what an overlanding cyclist can do, and could do should necessity arise. For the cycle and its use by intrepid wheelmen may be fairly claimed a considerable share of pioneering work on the Eastern goldfields of the colony, a tract of country once a desolate waste, but now inhabited by a population numbered by thousands. Once the presence of gold in large quan- tities became known in the deserts, the cycle played the most prominent part in the opening up of new country and, in a large measure, in paving the way in all directions for the spreading of the prospector and the shoals of diggers and others who follow in his train. "The ship of the desert," as the cycle has been called, by the efforts of the cycling over- landers, has been in the foreground in the rapid advancenent of the treasure pro- ducing areas of this vast continent, and future chroniclers of the earlier history of the mining era of the Golden West must acknowledge that to the machine and those who utilised it Western Australia - the world, in fact - owes much gratitude. The Premier recently paid a grateful tribute to the work of the special cyclist and the work of the cycle on the goldfields - an ac- knowledgment long looked for by the wheelmen refered to. THE SUPERIORITY OF THE WHEEL. No greater evidence or testimony as to the superiority of the wheel for pioneering work could have been looked for than that given by Mr Alex Forrest, M.L.A., at the formal reception to Richardson a few days ago. Some of the country traversed by the cylist in the far North had been crossed by Mr Forrest during one of his expeditions, and in referring to this the latter gentleman contrasted the rate of progress made by each of them. The solitary cyclist got through the country ten times as fast as the earlier ex plorer, who with horses had to carry considerable provisions for himself and attendants, because of the comparatively slow, rate of progress. With the cycle as a means of progression 20lb of flour sufficed, where, with horses, provisions carried by several pack horses and suffi- cient to last for weeks were necessary. The acknowledgment, by men who have braved the dangers of early explorations that the cycle has superceded other means of transit is surely sufficient to convince the most pessimistic that, in this particu- lar, Richardson's riding has not been devoid of some value. A MARVELLOUS FEAT. While there are sceptics as to the value of such a journey, there are few, if any, who will gainsay that in its accomplish- ment Richardson has displayed to a more than ordinary extent considerable intre- pidity, pluck, and resource. The other wheelmen who, in their journey round the continent in company, met Richardson in Perth a day after the completion of his ride, refer to his feat as a " marvellous " one. This, we may assume, because of his having traversed the thousands' of miles of solitary Australian, bush and desert country unaccompanied. The other over- landing rides which have placed Australian cyclists before others of the world in such work have certainly been eclipsed by the journey which Richardson concluded a week ago. His daily experiences will doubtless prove entertaining to many when set forth in detail. At present a brief interview with the overlander, which draw forth some picturesque side- lights on the many vicissitudes and experi- ences which he underwent, may prove interesting. PREPARATIONS FOR THE RIDE. An engineer by profession, Richardson had few misgivings as to his being able to repair his machine in the event of a break- down when hundreds of miles away from any human habitations. Inured to bush life, and particularly the dreary sandy deserts, by reason of his eight years' pros- pecting work on the outer fringe of the Eastern goldfields, and versed in "the art of living like a blackfellow," as he himself terms it, the possibility of his failure to "circumcycle" the continent never for a moment entered his mind. " When I bought a machine in 1893 and learned to ride it," he remarked, "and three weeks later expressed my intention of doing what no other cyclist had done before - riding across, via Enola and Port Auguta, to
Adelaide - those who heard of it called me foolhardy and, after vainly endeavouring to dissuade me from making the attempt, predicted that I would not succeed. Suc- ceed I did, however, and to show that the feat was not an impossible one, but merely one which required to be done to be emulated, witness the dozens of wheel- men who now bowl across the deserts abounding between this colony and the East without giving the slightest thought to any danger or possibility of perishing from hunger or thirst. There were the same prophets of disaster to the fore when it be came known that I was starting for a ride round the continent, who looked upon the undertaking as a foolhardy one. Though I had not the slightest desire to provide a sweet morsel for the cannibal blacks which, we are told, roam over the unknown regions of the far-north, or to become a victim of the tropical heat and the decep- tive mirage. I had made up my mind to lead the way in riding round Australia on the wheel. Even the Dunlop Tyre Company, who have been so helpful to wheelmen in the accomplishment of over- land journeys, at first declined to encour- age or assist me. However, I managed to overcome their scruples, and having finally arranged with Mr. Armstrong as to machine, outfit, etc., was ready to start." OBJECT OF THE JOURNEY. Asked as to his object in undertaking the journey, Richardson acknowledged that a love of adventure and pioneering work were the main reasons which prompted him. " Besides" he said, "during my life on the goldfields I had met several men who had roughed it in Western Queensland and an the Kimberley, and I always had a yearning to see the country, which, to the vast majority, even in Australia, is still as a closed book., I had, during 1897, been across to the South Australian border from the Coolgardie fields, and I wanted to traverse the continent higher up. In addition, monetary considerations and the offers made me should I succeed in getting round were a further inducement." HEAVY TRAVELLING TO ROEBOURNE., " What caused you to go north at the outset instead of south and east ?" was a question put to the overlander, to which he replied. "Because from inquiries which I had prosecuted I was of opinion that I would get through what might be termed the 'bad' country under the most favour- able weather conditions of the year. Taking the rainfall and astronomical conditions of the past few years as a guide, by starting in June and going north through the Mur- chison, the tropical rains would be over, the most temperate weather would be prevalent about the time that I expected to be crossing from Derby to Queensland, and water would then also be more easily obtainable than at any other time of the year." "Did you find these conditions fall as you expected?"
"In the main my anticipations were realised. Had I waited another month before setting out I would undoubtedly have fared much better, for from the day subsequent to my departure from Perth, right up as far as Roebourne, I experienced terribly severe wintry weather. The rivers and creeks in the Murchison, Gascoyne, Ashburton, and West Pilbarra districts were all in high flood, and the country for miles upon miles was a perfect quagmire, rendering riding at times an impossibility. Night after night I was compelled to camp out in the drenching rain, and at times without shelter. The boggy nature of the country from the Murchison northwards often forced me to tramp for miles through the mud, and so heavy was the going that occasionally the chain became so clogged that I was forced to take it off the machine altogether. At all the stations I met with most hospitable treatment. The marshy country and the swollen rivers necessi- tated wading through with the machine above my head on many occasions. It was in the hilly country that the fastest progress was made, though I would not have cared to have been seen by either the manufacturers of my machine or the makers of the tyres dashing down through some of the rocky gorges, with the machine leaping and bounding in all directions over rocks and across ruts. Though such treatment was unfair to the machine, it was the only way to get over the ground. You had to let your machine go down the hills to make up time and counteract the continual tramp, tramp, through the boggy country. At. Bangemall, an almost deserted mining centre on the Lyons River, I rode down a gorge which the miners told me was con- sidered even dangerous for pack horses. On all of the stations through this Nor'- West country I found that the cycle had to a large extent superseded the horse, and machines are to be found at nearly all of the homesteads." ALONG THE NOR'-WEST COAST. "'Once beyond Roebourne however," continued Richardson, "the rains ceased, and the weather conditions altered alto- gether. Along the Nor-West coast, through Wallal and La Grange Bay to Derby, I had to traverse some long and weary stretches of loose sand. To get through comfortably and lessen the weight of my machine by carrying few provisions, I kept going day and night between the stages. The road was in parts lonely and deserted. Beyond Condon, and after a heavy day's trudging through the sand, I reached a solitary spot known as Hardy's Well. It was exceedingly lonely, but, as I approached the well, you can imagine how startled I was to hear someone crying and sobbing in a heartbreaking fashion. The lamentations came from an old man who, on his way, to Hall's Creek with horses had lost them, together with his packs, tucker, and clothes. He was quite hysterical and lightheaded; but I stayed the night with him, and left him in a better frame of mind next morning, when he expressed his intention of following my wheel tracks till met by assistance which I had subse- quently sent out to him from the nearest telegraph station. I never heard how he got on, but, as the road is lonely and little frequented, I have no doubt that, had I not found him, the poor old fellow would have wandered aimlessly about in the scrub and have ultimately met with a terrible death." COUNTRY PERFORATED BY RAT HOLES " The experiences and difficulties which are met by a cyclist journeying along the North-West coast are many and varied. Those little stretches of the country that are not sandy are all broken up by rat holes. Possibly they are the same as De Rougemont writes of, for there are millions of them, and they are a great nuisance. If the road is unrideable, and you are forced to walk, your shoes get full of sand from breaking through into these holes. The rats are numerous all over the plains. The rodents are somewhat similar to the com- mon house rat, but they have longer fur and hair on the tail. They are said to be migratory, and overrun different portions of the country. They live in a similar manner to rabbits. Weeks later in. the Northern Territory, well on to the Queens- land border, I saw signs of a visit of the vermin." TRAVELLING BY MOONLIGHT "Fortunately for me the moon was at full when I was travelling through this portion of the country, and this, of course, made night riding less difficult and dangerous. The only tracks which one can follow are horse pads - made by a saddle horse with a pack horse alongside. Travelling along these in the moonlight is rather ticklish work, as all the track you can see is a dark line in the high grass, sometimes as high as the handle bars of the machine. "Sailing along a small dark lane thus formed, seem- ingly riding on and through nothing, and not knowing when or where you will strike a stump or stone or drop into a hole - for the country is cut up with big cracks and holes in the lime- stone - is not the most pleasurable means of travelling. Eventually I reached Derby on the afternoon of Sunday, July 23, having travelled 1,673 miles with scarcely a day's favourable riding." DERBY TO HALL'S CREEK "Derby, as you know, was the most northerly point on the West Australian coast which I touched, and from there I set my face towards the East, following the Fitzroy River up towards its source for a distance of about 200 miles to its junction with the Margaret River where the Fitzroy Crossing Police Station is situated. There are stations all along the river, mostly utilised for sheep breeding, while others run cattle. Fifty miles be-
yond the Fitzroy Crossing, after following the course of the Margaret River in a south-easterly direction along a horse pad, I struck out due east towards Hall's Creek, through country which is moun- tainous and rocky. There were plenty of kangaroos and wild turkey to be seen, but I lived on 'Johnnie' cakes and fish, with which the creeks and rivers are teeming. You can catch sufficient fish in half an hour to provide for 20 people. It is quite possible that De Rougemont caught some of the 'saw fish' of which he writes, for there are plenty of them to be caught, and the blades of some of the fish are over two feet long. The fish do not seem to grow to any size." AT HALL'S CIEEK. "One morning, just before dinner time, I rode into Hall's Creek, the centre of the Kimberley goldfields, of which I had heard so much from men who had been there in the rush three years ago, and where so many men perished. Mr. Green, who is warden, postmaster, telegraph master and registrar of everything in the district, was most kind and courteous. He showed me all there was to see, but I must confess to being disappointed. The place is virtually dead - a goldfield without diggers or miners, and a diminishing population. The country is very different in appearance to that of the Eastern goldfields, being mostly slate, with very little diorite or ironstone. Here ended for me all commu- nication with the civilised world, for the telegraph line terminates there. Before I left Hall's Creek I gave my machine a good overhaul in anticipation of the heavy belt of lonely country I was about to enter, and my shoes having parted with their soles, a sufficiency of leather was found to give them a new pair." (To be continued).