Bicycle Network: Ride On magazine
While cycling in Central Australia, Larry Moore was chased for 4kms by a pack of aggressive dogs
We only have a short drive to Alice Springs (200 km) so I decide to do a bike ride before we leave. I set off down the Stuart Highway, see a dirt road heading towards a station (17 km) and head down that. I pass an aboriginal camp about 200 metres off the main road and a group of dogs start barking. They then stream out of the camp and head towards me. As I ride on there are 10 dogs around me and I don't feel at all comfortable. I talk to them gently at first and then loudly, trying to get them to go away, but no luck. I keep riding.
They settle into what seems to be a hunting formation. A large black dog is at the front and runs just in front of the bike. You always seem to be about to hit it, but you never do. I feel it is a tactic designed to slow the prey to give the rest of the pack a better opportunity to attack. After a while, I assume it will keep out of the way and ride as if it isn't there. At the right side is a big yellow dog that looks mean and menacing as well as about four other smaller dogs. On the left are another four smaller dogs. I am really worried now. This is life and death. I try kicking out at them, but it just unbalances me and makes me more vulnerable. The small dogs are biting at my heels all the time. After about 2km all the dogs are still chasing and I am fearing for my life. I am also in the middle of nowhere with no-one who could help me in sight. I have no doubt what will happen if I stop. The dogs are a pack after their prey.
I am really worried that they can go on like this as long, if not longer, than me. My mind is racing, trying to think of alternatives that can resolve this safely. Finally I can see only one way out. I have been riding fast, but I could ride faster for a short while and use up all my energy. I have to hope the dogs tire before I do. So I take a big breath, grip the handlebars and start pedalling furiously.
The big yellow dog sinks its fangs into my calf. I decide, despite the risk, to kick out just at this dog. It works - it drops off. I am still riding, literally for my life. One by one the smaller dogs drop off until just the black dog remains. Then I see it is frothing at the mouth. It takes one last look at me and then it is gone. I am alone. I keep riding and 100 metres down the road I encounter a sandy part that really slows me down and I shudder to think what would have happened if the dogs were still there. It is now I realise how stuffed I am. The dogs chased me for 4 to 5km. All I can do is ride at walking pace.
Now I have a dilemma: the only way back to the caravan park is past the same camp and those dogs. I decide to ride on to the station and ask for help. A red ute comes along from the direction of the station. I hail it down. It is a man and a woman. I explain the situation and ask for a ride, but he is not interested in helping. At one point he suggested I go back past the dogs and they wouldn't chase me any more. Yeah, right! He did finally suggest I wait for the school bus and that they would give me a lift. I decide to keep riding while looking out for the bus. I finally reach an aboriginal community where I was expecting a cattle station. There are more dogs, lots of dogs, and some are barking. For some strange reason I am nervous about dogs and decide the lonely road away from them is the place for me.
Eventually, the bus arrives. It stops and, after a short discussion, the driver says they will pick me up after the bus picks up the kids. Ten minutes later it returns and on I get. The driver is very nice and sympathetic about what happened. "The buggers," she says. I discover she is only a fill-in driver and doesn't get paid. She is really the secondary school teacher at the high school and she is quite proud of how some of the kids in this remote community have achieved the best results ever for indigenous students. She drops me off where she hopes I won't be seen, as I am not legally allowed on the bus. I am very grateful.
I now have to tell Sue, my wife, what happened. She is shaken, but also angry at my putting myself at risk. Until today I had no idea of the risk, but have since heard many horror stories about outback dogs. Apart from the bite, which is deep and will take six weeks to heal, my lungs and recently broken hand are feeling the effects of my extreme ride. My lungs have developed a decent cough due to the over-exertion and takes days to revert to normal. It is like a chest infection. I also gripped so hard with my hands that the still-healing hand is very sore.
I stop off at the police station before I leave town and the constable taking the details is most interested to know I've been bitten. He says he will do something about the dogs, if that is okay with me. I have no hesitation in giving my approval.