A LOVE LETTER FROM THE HUMBLE BACKPACKERS
In previous years one thing has always been certain – we’d run into Nick outside Treadly just hours before the Peoples Choice Classic. Little did we know that despite riding from Melbourne to Adelaide every year for the Tour Down Under, upon his arrival he’s packed his shit up and flown straight back to Melbourne. For the first time he was able to experience the Tour Down Under in all of its splendour, roadtripping across to Adelaide with Liz via the Great Ocean Road for a surf, and a visit to Mount Gambier. He writes nostalgically, longingly from the bed of a 1 star backpackers in the middle of the Adelaide CBD.
Descending down through the Adelaide Hills, seeing those lone towers of the Adelaide CBD bring forth a sense of great completion and satisfaction. Whether it be by car, plane, or bike for that matter, you know when the dusty and dry grass flows into the tall trees of Vic Park, the oasis of cold drinks, food and god bless, air-conditioned comfort is only a hot minute away.
You wipe the sweat from your brow and imagine laying down relaxing, knowing you’ve earned your rest from the long commute. The Getz could use a break too, with its total Kw output comparable to Marcel Kittel in his prime, needing 4000rpm at 60kmph to suffer up the same climbs we would on the bike days later. A collective sigh of relief comes over us, knowing that we did in fact make it, and didn’t finish up with a car that was completely covered in bugs from the last 850km.
I: TWO FEET LANDING
As gracefully as possible a bike was balanced in one hand, backpack on my back and messenger bag in the other hand, right as the tour, MY tour was about to commence. There is a run down of where everything is, and theres a reading out of the rules where one in particular leaves me shuddering and dying a little inside when it emphatically comes from the lips of the attendant:
“No bikes inside.”
II: THE SETUP
Deep down you always cling to the slim chances you’ll get the whole room to yourself. The crushing moment arrives soon after however when you walk nervously into the room, gripping your pillow and making just enough eye contact with the people you may very well be spending the next week with.
There’s the feeling of being 9 and it’s the first camp at Cub Scouts, you don’t have any friends yet and it seems like there’s a joke everyone is in on, but you can’t put your finger on it just yet.
Instantly as I had put my stuff down, a guy sitting on the top bunk immediately hit me with a barrage of questions. They were friendly questions like where I was from and what was I doing in Adelaide, but they caught me nonetheless with how abrupt he was. As I stammered through my answers, he was explaining to me how he was picking up a car from his ex-girlfriend. I thought briefly in my head how that situation came about, and entertained the thought of asking him, but I felt like I was falling for a trap.
After all I had supplies to procure.
Wandering aimlessly around an Adelaide in the middle of a scorching Tuesday afternoon I slowly fell into my own spellbound trap anyway. Despite the stifling heat I did manage to sort a big chain (needed), a big padlock (also needed) and a big vegan cookie (wanted more than needed). I felt like I had enough artillery to lock the bike in my room, and sleep soundly that I would at the very least have something to ride for the rest of the week.
III: FIRST LIGHT
Squinting into my phone at 5.45am like the many I’m sure were staying in much nicer digs, I couldn’t contain my excitement that the first day of this Faux Holiday had finally come. The years of missing out, and having serious FOMO of riding the world famous hills, drinking and eating with friends would finally come to a close. I’d finally made it to the Tour Down Under.
With the overnight heat keeping the concrete nice and toasty, and the lack of air-conditioning, using the hostel provided sheets were not a consideration. Of course when in a room with 3 others, if your alarm goes off you need to be quick on that snooze button to shut it off, but for me that was no trouble. Having finally gotten time off during such a hard time of the year in my industry (the construction industry), I was all too eager to get out the door.
Much like the Cub Scouts, I had laid out my kit the night before – to be less of an inconvenience to others more than anything. The routine before the dawn was akin to a soldier going to war. Pulling on the bibs (completely forgetting the chamois creme of course), dramatically looping both arms into the jersey, and making it to the kettle for a quick brew.
What beans on the menu I hear you ask? Hostel Industry Standard: Instant Coffee. Fresh Blend 43 straight out of the jungles of South America. The breakfast of champions. Unlimited milk giving this Hostel its official 1 Star rating, providing you use it for coffee only, and not for swigging it from the carton a la Kieran Perkins.
IV: A MIRAGE
Coming back late in the afternoon, covered in sweat and sunscreen I came across a man at the front counter who clearly wanted a room for the night, and was arguing with the concierge about not having vacancy. I’m sure with the way he was acting, the concierge knew this guy was going to be in trouble, and when the man started to demand the staffers name, Josh, as it read on the name tag sitting proudly on his chest blurted out:
Wanting to get the fuck out of there I scampered up the stairs in road shoes, bike still in hand. I had been fed and was keen for a shower, only to find that the water pressure had been completely cut. Freaking out that I was going to be stuck in a shower-less situation, I was thankful to soon find that they were carrying out some routine works and that the water would be back on in a few minutes. I cranked the hot tap and couldn’t work out why the water was ice cold, but it didn’t matter. The effects of a day in the mid 40’s pushed me to my limits that I was happy slumping into a virtual Rapha Ice Bath.
Many of the hostel guests were migrant workers. I was chatting to a few English and French guys who laboured on a local building site. They would live off bread and cereal, scrimping and saving the best they could to keep the dream of travelling around going.
That was apart from the retired Frenchman staying in the bunk above. He was clearly here to party. It was a shame to see no other guests there to see the tour, I guess it really it a holiday for people, and the little treat of coming back to a nice, possibly made bed every night is too hard to pass up. Considering location location location, sure the Hilton is across the road from the Tour Village, but I had a plethora of Bubble Tea options really close by, equally as important on those warm nights where you just need a cup of sugar water.
Book a hostel again? No.
The last thing you’d want to do after pulling bulk kilometres in temperatures touching 40ºC is to dodge around strangers, and forgo any kind of privacy and solitude.
Leave a non 5-star review? No.
It would take too much negative energy to rag on a place to others. I think the experience is what gives the place character. Even if that’s the character you want killed off on your favourite TV show.
Come back to TDU next year?
I’ve already booked the annual leave for it.