When cycle touring, it’s essential that every piece of kit you carry has a purpose and pulls its weight. Experience on numerous cycling adventures has helped refine my equipment list. I had an old HESTA cooler bag, a practical piece of merchandise, courtesy of my days as a representative of the company, which I always take on tour.
Cycle touring in Tasmania, through Europe and along the West Coast of America, it had become my custom to clip the HESTA cooler bag to the rear pannier with a lunch of fresh fruit , sandwiches and cool drinks. I always kept it close at hand.
The purple HESTA cooler bag was once again pressed into service on our latest cycling odyssey around Australia, however a rookie mistake at Mt Isa in Queensland saw me leave the cooler bag in the camp kitchen at the Discovery Park. Thankfully we always carry extra food, but we were upset we had left it behind.
We were already 40 kilometres out of Mt Isa, with fading phone reception, when I managed to call the Caravan Park: “Would you put a note on the fridge please asking any traveller heading our way to drop off our lunch? It will take us two days to cover the 190 kilometres to Camooweal and they are sure to pass us on the road.”
“Yeah sure” the receptionist said, but sounded doubtful.
So for the next couple of days anytime a caravan slowed, tooted or waved enthusiastically, I thought for sure our lunch was being delivered, but regrettably that didn’t come to pass.
A week later and some 450 kilometres away in the Northern Territory at Barkly Homestead Roadhouse, I got talking to a couple of friendly Grey Nomads Dave and John. They asked about the food we eat and what we carry and I told them about the lost cooler bag.
“I’m heading to The Isa on my way back to Townsville” said Dave, “I’m actually staying at Discovery Park, so I will look for it and if it’s there I will pass it on to a nomad headed your way.”
Two days later I received a text message: Found the cooler bag gave it to Rick who is driving a burnt orange twin cab towing a New Age caravan, he’s headed your way.
A further week passed and no sign of New Age Rick. We joked “those sandwiches must be a little ripe by now!”
Every New Age van that passed us brought the hope of reuniting with the HESTA bag. But none stopped!
Then a text message from Rick: I’m in Katherine, have the cooler bag, where are you?
I tried calling but Rick was out of range. I texted him: We are in Mataranka only 100 kms away, perhaps you could leave it at the visitor information centre?
Three days passed before Rick responded: Left the cooler bag at Hidden Valley Caravan Park in Kununurra Western Australia.
We were on our way to Darwin so it would be 3 weeks before we would arrive in Kununurra.
So 2500 kilometres, more than a month later and after 3 full days on the road in the heat without a shower, we cycled into Hidden Valley Caravan Park. The wonderful Clare handed us our cooler bag, along with a note from Dave and John that read:
Nick & Therese
Monday night Threeways,
Tuesday night Banka Banka
Daly Waters – Mataranka Homestead
Red and yellow saddlebags
Cheers John & Dave
While the Cooler Bag itself isn’t important, the fact that complete strangers, inspired by human kindness and using the bush telegraph would take it upon themselves to help us and participate in our journey is the real story!