The Grand Aussie Adventure

A century ago, Edward 'Ryko' Reichenbach improvised his way through the Australian Outback.
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Aug 7, 2014 | By Mike Weiss

The year is 1914. The place is Australia. The distance, an incredible 3,000km from Adelaide to Darwin that took a record breaking 28 days 7 minutes and forever changed Edward “Ryko” Reichenback’s life. All of this at the ripe old age of 21.

Not bad, if I don’t say so myself. But let’s take a step back first and appreciate the man that became known as Ryko — a once-living enigma that historians are still trying to figure out today.

 
He seemed to be born with pedals on his feet and a camera in his hand. Ryko was so good at photography at an early age that Kodak used his first photographs for promotional materials when he was just a boy.

Eventually Ryko left school as a child and worked for his uncle’s engineering business, cycling around Victoria delivering parts or fixing machinery. As you might have guessed, he soon started to enter long-distance cycling competitions.

But it was this trip from May 15th to the 11th of June in 1914 where he first made his name. In Australia around the turn of the century, many cyclists attempted to cross the middle of the interior to best the previous record. Usually this required financial backing, unless you’re Ryko.

Through brains and brawn, Ryko was able to best the previous record by more than 15 hours. Some of his ingenious Macgyver hacks included attaching a carbide headlight so he could ride through the night, adopting the modern forward crouch position with lowered padded handlebars and using a cyclometer to measure the distance traveled.

Of the 3,000 photos that he took during the trip, only a few hundred survive. They were one of the first real documentations of aboriginal culture that enriched the world's understanding of these people. His seemingly innate ability to get along with his fellow man, learning their customs and history along the way, is part of the reason why scientists and anthropologists alike have called him one of their own. 

Perhaps that’s the reason why one might expect this story to end — he wasn’t in Darwin for very long. Within a year he had sold his photography store and was back on his bike, exploring the great Northern Territory as no one had really before.

Images ©: Mail UK