Australia Prt 11, NT: Sandover Hwy, Plenty Hwy, East-MacDonnels loop

Route: Alice Springs – Arlparra – Mount Swan – Aititjere – Arltunga – Trephina Gorge – Alice Springs

Day 122: 9 June 2019
From Alice Springs to Yambah junction
64,86 km (Total so far: 5671,28 km) – Altitude climbed: 278 m
Weather: Sunny, strong head wind

One last day (hopefully) on the dreadful Stuart Highway.
As always it takes a bit longer to get packed and organized when leaving on a new stage. By the time I went to the bakery and leave town, it’s noon.
There is again a strong head wind. It has been blowing from the east since days, but today it is from the north, the direction I’m traveling.
Slowly I climb from 500 meter to 730 meter above sea level, the highest point on the highway between Adelaide in the south and Darwin in the north.
A few kilometer further on I cross the Tropic of Capricorn and I’m back in the tropics for the first time since leaving them in June last year in Ecuador.

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Bizar, again a tennis ball on my route.
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Highest Point of the Stuart hwy.
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Crossing the Tropic of Capricorn.

Again at least a handful off brain deaths on the road that would have ridden right over me wouldn’t I have been looking my mirror.

Due to the late start and the strong head wind, I don’t get far and have to stop ten kilometer before the junction with the Plenty highway.

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Day 123: 10 June 2019
From Yambah junction to 14 km before junction to Ti Tree
103,30 km (Total so far: 5774,48 km) – Altitude climbed: 18 m
Weather: Sunny, light head wind

(Info: The Stuart and Barkly Highway are paved highways with a lot of traffic – to be avoided.  The Sandover and Plenty Highways are unsealed outback roads and on my wishlist.)

Big surprise at the junction of the Stuart and Plenty Highways.
The big information sign says the Sandover Highway is closed after Ammaroo Station. When I checked the road closures the day before yesterday in Alice Springs, it was open.
Even when someone would have made a mistake and the wrong sign is still on, this would mean there’s likely not going to be any through traffic on the Sandover Highway. Which is good, because even less traffic, but it also means, if I can get through beyond Ammaroo Station, I am probably out there completely on my own. 325 kilometer to the next settlement.
That’s a lot of water to carry, probably too much, and if something goes wrong, well….
We’ll see.
I turn off anyway and will check what the situation is once at Ammaroo, 250 kilometer from here.

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The Plenty Highway is open for 4WD to Boulia, but I don’t want to be on that Outback Road now for two reasons: That desert race is finishing today, and part of the participants and spectators from the East Coast will return home via this road, and I don’t want to be in that traffic. Also, if I take the Plenty Highway now, and the Sandover is indeed closed, and remains closed, that means I have to come back the same way over the Plenty Highway, which is not fun (doing the same thing twice), or turn back to Alice via the Barkly Highway and the Stuart Highway, which is no option at all.

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The Plenty Highway is still paved at the beginning, although only one lane for both directions.
After 28 kilometer I turn off the Plenty on to the Sandover Highway. Red Sand. A true Outback Road. Let the fun begin, I think.
Soon, sections with deep, unrideable sandy section appear. Some doubts, but I carry on. As it turns out, 95% of todays section is actually excellent riding and I make very good progress. Almost no wind today. One has to be concentrated all the time as sometimes a small section with deep sand appears and your front wheel skids away but mainly it is pure joy being in the outback again. A clear blue sky, some white little clouds, low green trees and hundreds, no thousands and thousands of termite hills everywhere.
Only one negative: the bush flies are out as bad as ever again.
Alice Springs is maybe only 150 kilometer south from here but since crossing that imaginable Tropic of Capricorn, the temperatures have indeed gone up a lot, also at night, which means they just keep breeding.
All in all, about 10 cars pass me on the Sandover today. Only the last one of the day stops. A Swiss man and a woman from Fiji. They offer me water and don’t stop giving after one container, but insist on filling up all.
Very kind.

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Some pics of the different, fairly good road conditions.

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Day 124: 11 June 2019
From 14 km before junction to Ti Tree to 20 km before Arlparra
72,84 km (Total so far: 5847,32 km) – Altitude climbed: 74 m
Weather: Sunny, strong and light head wind

For the first time since ages I didn’t sleep well in the tent.
As a test, I tried drinking a little less during the day to see where this would bring me.
Well, I still drank five liter and was so thirsty that within half an hour after pitching the tent, I drank another two liter.  And I remained thirsty all night long.  Add some cooking, dishes, a little body wash and brushing teeth and I really need ten liter per day in this dry, warm environment.

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The quality of the track is much less then yesterday. I spoke to a few of the people passing me, but none were riding beyond Ammaroo Station.

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Flies

Day 125: 12 June 2019
From 20 km before Arlparra to 6 km before Redgum Store
52,64 km (Total so far: 5899,96 km) – Altitude climbed: 50 m
Weather: Sunny, light head and side wind

The road got even worse than yesterday. Just before noon time, I reach the Aboriginal settlement of Alparra. There is a decent general store which closes between 12:00 & 14:00 hrs.
I talk a bit to the local Aboriginals and also with a Kiwi lady who runs the community centre here. I’m invited to wash my clothes and myself there.
She tells me how today, for the first time ever, there is a court hearing in the village itself.
In the past, people had to travel to Alice Springs, today the judge and the lawyers came over. They plan to do this now four times a year.
I later spoke with one of the police officers who said it was kind of an honor to him this happened to him and his colleague. Everybody seemed happy with this new situation.
Even the lawyers that came over from Alice Springs were happy.  They came out yesterday and slept in the community centre.
I didn’t speak to the judge haha.

There seems to be no thru traffic on the Sandover whatsoever and I don’t get a clear answer on the exact state of the track further on. I can’t take the risk to go on and get blocked by a mud field at the border with Queensland. That would be a ride of  500 – 600 kilometer (go & come back) to water sources. It’s not worth the risk.
So I go for plan B, connecting the Sandover and Plenty highways via small backroads.

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The flies waiting me eagerly from early morning.
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From now on, I have to make sure I have all the food I need for dinner and breakfast in the tent, so I can prepare and eat it without leaving the tent. Also all the clothes for next day are already inside. Toilet visits must be done during night time.
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Sandover Highway.

After a late morning start, a late afternoon start with all this talking and washing.
Soon after the turn-off towards Kurrajong, I cross the dry Sandover River. It doesn’t happen often this thing has water in it, but when it does, it must be wild. It’s a wide, sandy river bed.
After the landfill, the track becomes deep sandy corrugated bull dust. Maybe just rideable with a fat bike, but definitely not on a loaded touring bike with 2.0 inch tires.
Fifteen kilometer of bike pushing through deep sand, dust eating, no progress, sunset getting ever nearer and realizing you won’t leave this section of the track anymore today..
And those flies….. aaaaghhhhrrrr.

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I was told this friendly guy was hit by a car. But no veterinary around here.
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Crossing the dry riverbed of the Sandover River.
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The road towards Redgum store.
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Towards Redgum Store.

I pitch the tent a bit before Redgum Store.
I hardly see any animals since leaving Alice Springs. Not one kangaroo, only one wedge tailed eagle, a few small birds, not many.
Yesterday in the distance something ran over the track, the size of a possum, but definitely something else. And a few cows, that’s all.

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Day 126: 13 June 2019
From 6 km before Redgum Store to Tower Rock
46,91 km (Total so far: 5946,87 km) – Altitude climbed: 156 m
Weather: Strong and light head wind

It remained warm last night. At 22:30 hrs, it was still above 20 degrees and some flies were still out. At 3 am the wind suddenly picked up considerably. Good I had decided to pitch the tent here, between some smallish trees. Closer to Redgum Store, as I could see later this morning, it was just spinifex grass and thousands of termite hills, but no protection from the wind.

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Redgum Store is a small, typical outback general store. The owner looked with big eyes to me when I rolled up. “You are the first person ever to arrive with a pushbike here”, he says, and asks whether he can make a picture of me.
I am offered an egg and bacon sandwich and a coffee for the occasion.
Aboriginals come and go in their old cars. A female Korean and male Brazilian backpacker work in the shop.
Acquiring with the boss about the road ahead, he offers me an alternative from the road on the map, or even the gps via Tower Rock towards Mount Swan. It’s 60 km instead of 45 kilometer he says.
He draws a map for me and his brother takes his scooter out to show me the correct route the first kilometer or so, as my paths branch off. The brother tells me their parents owned the place already.
That claim of being the first ever to arrive here on a bicycle may hold some truth then, as they surely should know.

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The wind is blowing straight in the face. I don’t understand it anymore. Traveling west on the Oodnadatta, straight in the face, north on the Stuart, likewise, east or northeast on the Sandover, same again, after a sharp turn riding south, the wind follows me. What are the chances ?
There’s a big low front south of the continent, one of the owners told me, and it will remain a southerly for a while.
Good, because I am traveling that direction the next days and am used to it now.

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And anyways, after the hardship of the 15 kilometer bull dust yesterday, I feel I have nothing to complain about. Nothing at all.
No, this here is exactly what I wanted. I am on a narrow track, no traffic at all, no corrugations, pretty hard packed sand on a track not even known by the gps. Temperatures in the mid twenties, a landscape with some variation. Sometimes low scrub, then spinifex grasses, even a part with green weed and trees, the dry river bed of the Bundey River, a low hill range to my left, towering about eighty meters above the landscape, …
I can look around, listen to the wind, the sounds my bike and luggage make on the track, some music or a podcast, I can think, and I don’t have to pay any attention to that rear view mirror nor do I hear the horribly loud noise of off-road tires on asphalt roads approaching you with terrifying high speed.
AND, I have a destination for the day: ‘Mac & Rose Chalmers Conservation Reserve’ with the ‘Tower Rock’.
“Something like the Devils Marbles”, the owner had said.

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Outback toilet 🙂

Due to many picture stops and me wanting to go slow, I arrived 1,5 hour before sunset.
The big, rocky hills, red in themself already, were glowing in the late afternoon sun.

“There’s phone reception at the top”, the owner had assured me.
That really didn’t work out, as I worked my way to the top off the hill. But it isn’t important.
Days without phone reception, without 3, 4 or whatever number of G’s they like to fry our brain with, are the best.

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Tower Rock

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These south winds also have a huge advantage.
It cools down in the evening. Even less flies, but still, till midnight some of them are out.
Just about a perfect day in the outback.

Day 127: 14 June 2019
From Tower Rock to near Mount Swan
35,79 km (Total so far: 5982,66 km) – Altitude climbed: 152 m
Weather: Light head wind

Just before the (spectacular) sunrise, my thermometer showed 13 degrees.
Nice.
I linger a bit in the tent, reading long, take my time for a long breakfast. Three coffees.
I climb back to the top of Tower Rock.
Although it towers less than hundred meter above the surrounding landscape, the 360 degrees views are amazing. In the distance, to the south, I clearly see the MacDonnell Ranges and a bit to the left the Harts Range. To the west, the Dulcie Range is clearly visible, but mainly, it is flat land. The Simpson desert behind that. Not one antenna, no powerlines, no buildings, only the tiny, red dirt track leading to this place. No other human interference in sight. Nothing.
Not a sound of a car, a truck or an airplane.
Just the wind.

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The map drawn for me at Redgum Store

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Look at those endless views.

Two kangaroos hopping by at the base of the hill. Not many of them around.
I’ve heard the locals kill everything to eat.
A shame, but less so than when they become stinking road kill on the highways.
After an hour on the top, I go back down to the bike. It’s about 25 kilometer to Mount Swan, the next station with a little shop.
At the junction with the ‘main’ road between the Plenty Highway and the Redgum Store I turn right, as this was how the map was drawn. It should be approximately one kilometer to Mount Swan.
After four kilometer I passed the airstrip, but nothing else in side, so I retrace my steps, back to the junction, going straight now.
Soon I reach the buildings of the Mount Swan Station.

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Mount Swan general store.

Two English girls are operating the store. They expect two more temporary workers next week to help repair fence lines.
Here too, the first reaction was that never somebody arrived here on a bike. But the girls only worked here since six weeks, so not sure how valid that claim is.
I bought extra water, an expired bottle of coke, a six months expired package of custard, a bag of chips with an unreadable expire date, took some extra water from an outside water hose for doing dishes and washing the self later on but washed my hair already at the water hose.
So far, on this driest continent, I’ve been able to wash myself every evening, and my hair at least every 3rd day.
Not so bad.

Day 128: 15 June 2019
Near Mount Swan

A rest day during which I finish a Herman Brusselmans novel and start reading Robyn Davidsons’ book ‘Tracks’ about her journey with camels from Alice Springs to the west coast.

Day 129: 16 June 2019
From near Mount Swan to near Atitjere
68,42 km (Total so far: 6051,08 km) – Altitude climbed: 169 m
Weather: Sunny, strong head, side & tail wind

It rained a bit last night. I expected the flies to be out real early for that, but it took them some time. My track is deserted all the way except for two cars. The last fifteen kilometer before the junction with the Plenty Highway is, just like at the other side, pretty bad. Lots of bull dust and heavy corrugations. So this 140 kilometer connection between the Sandover and Plenty Highways is in good quality for 110 kilometer and bad for 30 kilometer.

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Slowly getting nearer to the Harts Range.

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Crossing the dry river bed of the Plenty River.

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The dirt road connecting the Plenty Hwy to Mount Swan.

The Plenty Highway is also very sandy and corrugated. But it is so good to be looking at hills again, the Harts Range.
Road works are in progress for seven kilometer east of Atitjere where they’re now asphalting the highway.

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The Plenty Highway. very wide, but lots of corrugations and sand.
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Riding towards the Harts Range.

Day 130: 17 June 2019
From near Atitjere to near Mount Palmer
14,51 km (Total so far: 6065,59 km) – Altitude climbed: 176 m
Weather: Sunny, moderate side wind

Packed my stuff in the morning and rode the few kilometer to the Aboriginal settlement Atitjere. About two hundred people (and as many friendly dogs) live here. The local general store has all supplies you need.
I stayed the morning in town to recharge some devices and to wash some clothes.
Then rode south on the dirt track towards the Spotted Tiger campground. Had a word with the friendly owners but I wasn’t going to stay. There’s a very rough track leading into the mountains towards Mount Palmer.

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It’s pushing your bike here. The scenery is wonderful.
Just before a little pass, I leave the bike to the side of the track and hike further. From the pass, I look down to a very beautiful, deserted valley, more mountains behind it. Contrary to the info I got, the track seems to go down, and not to the top of Mount Palmer (although in hindsight, I think it really does, going around the backside.). I hang around a bit, enjoying the beautiful colors of the late afternoon sun before returning to the bike and make camp.
A pretty windy place but with incredible views tonight and again tomorrow morning.
The full moon rises minuted after the sun has set.
I’m afraid I’m not gonna find this peace in the MacDonnell Ranges.

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The rough but beautiful track towards Mount Palmer. This is the stuff I like.

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Just some more illustrations about the fly problem.
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Flies everywhere.  Even on the straps, on my saddle, …

 

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Flies on my arm.

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Day 131: 18 June 2019
From near Mount Palmer to 5 km passed Mount Riddock
44,70 km (Total so far: 44,70 km) – Altitude climbed: 123 m
Weather: Moderate tail, side and head wind

Enjoying the morning in the hills, I rolled (or more accurately pushed) my way back down to Atitjere.
A big 4WD with a boat on top of his roof worked his way up.
He stopped and enquired “why the hell are you driving a pushbike out here ?”.
I bit my lip and didn’t ask why he was dragging a boat up a mountain in the desert, but seriously… such a question from somebody who’s doing that, uhm.
But they were super friendly people.

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I heard the shop at the Gem Tree Caravan Park is a one meter wide affair in some sort of coffee shop at the park, so I loaded up on provisions for a week here in Atitjere.
The Plenty Highway is very quiet, good cycling on this paved stretch, only 4 cars in 30 kilometer.
Finished the book ‘Tracks’. Didn’t like it too much.

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Day 132: 19 June 2019
From 5 km passed Mount Riddock to 3 km before end of Pinnacles Road
75,59 km (Total so far: 6185,88 km) – Altitude climbed: 289 m
Weather: Sunny, moderate side and head wind

I continued another 39 kilometer on the Plenty Highway. At the turn-off stands a bore with a wind-mill. The water is pumped up by a solar system though and is inaccessible. No worries, just checked if I could take a liter for doing the dishes and washing tonight.
This 40 kilometer long track connecting the Plenty Highway with ‘The Garden’ Road is in reasonably good condition. The scenery is top, riding through the Utnalanama Range. Slowly, slowly the tracks climbs higher.

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A nicely paved Plenty Highway.
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Also a nicely paved Plenty Highway.

Good camping spots everywhere.  I had a flat rear tire after pushing the bike off the track.
Not something to look forward to in the morning.
Flies are bad again. I’m swaying my arms, my legs, brushing the flies of my hair, more swaying of the limbs, then dive in the tent and try to close it, all in two seconds… it must be quite a sight haha.

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I believe this are ‘Major Mitchell’s Cockatoos’.

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‘Red-Tailed Black-Cockatoos’. They were very shy.

Day 133: 20 June 2019
From 3 km before end of Pinnacles Road to Junction old road to Ambalindum
67,51 km (Total so far: 6253,39 km) – Altitude climbed: 304
Weather: Sunny, moderate head wind

A good thing I had put the outer tent back on last night. It got pretty cold, just below zero. The tent and panniers a bit white. Sleeping in only the inner tent wouldn’t be a problem for the cold, but my sleeping bag would be damp in the morning from the dew. We don’t want that.

The cold, and the prospect that I had to fix that rear tire got me slow going this morning, but by 11:00 am I was good to go.
Soon I reach ‘The Garden Road’, named after the cattle station a bit further on. Although the overall profile of the day is more or less downhill, I climb more meters than yesterday. That combined with the head wind, makes it feel like an uphill battle.
But no complaints, the scenery is great. To my right are the East MacDonnell Ranges and to my left I can now see the other side of the Harts Range.

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Good quality gravel, ‘The Garden’.

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One of the few cars I see today stops while I was taking some pictures. After the usual questions of ‘from where’ and ’where to’ he asks me where I camped last night and whether I saw or heard any dingos and how careful I had to be with them.

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Looks like a tree growing in a tree, but it’s not like that.

People seem to live in constant fear of everything around them here in Australia. All the time they try to project their own fears onto me. If it is not the dingo’s, it’s the snakes, the spiders, hell, I had several people warning me for the danger of kangaroos !
Do you think they ever ask “Were you passed too close by a speeding car today ?”.

I have still 10 liter of water on the bike from Atitjere and take another 1,5 liter from Ambalindum. One can’t have enough and it makes life more relaxed and comfortable.
The friendly lady from Ambalindum offers me to take the short-cut over the old road which in theory is closed now.
While I’m not looking to shorten the ride (it’s 9 km shorter), it sounds good to take it.
Near the end, there is a branch to an older part of the old road, which I take.

I pitch the tent just before the junction with again The Garden Road.

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Day 134: 21 June 2019
From Junction old road to Ambalindum to along Arltunga Road
33,01 km (Total so far: 6286,40 km) – Altitude climbed: 309 m
Weather: Sunny, moderate side wind

Cold, cold again last night.
So strange that difference in temperature here, compared to 150 km further north.
I’m still about three kilometer north of the Tropic Of Capricorn.
The biggest disadvantage of that cold is that my Nutella is frozen in the jar in the morning.
I do it relaxedly calm this morning and first finish another Herman Brusselmans book.

A few kilometer into my ride, I can take a left turn towards the Joker Gorge and Joker Mine.
Just as I arrive, a car arrives with people I spoke to at Oodnadatta as well. Together we hike to the top of the hill where there are some holes in the ground where they used to search for gold. Nothing too impressive, but the views from the hill top are nice, with the Harts Range in the distance.
The gorge is a nice little thing, but nothing compared with the gorges coming up a bit further down the road.

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Next was the Arltunga Historical Reserve.
A bit of a disappointment. Few buildings of hundred years old with a new corrugated iron roof.
Nothing historical or impressive from a European point of view.

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I bumped further along. The road from where I started this morning all the way to Alice Springs sees more traffic and as a consequence is messed up by them. Nothing but corrugations and deep gravel or sand.

Day 135: 22 June 2019
From along Arltunga Road to Trephina Gorge NP
36,09 km (Total so far: 6322,49 km) – Altitude climbed: 215 m
Weather: Sunny, moderate tail wind

More bumpy road but the scenery is fantastic. Deep red mountains to my left, more greenish to the right. The color of the spinifex grass is changing depending on the slight differences of humidity of the ground it grows on. And also depending on the angle of light it catches from the sun.
Reaching the Ross Highway, I’m back on pavement.
The entrance of Trephina Gorge National Park is eight kilometer from the main road.
I hike the ‘Trephine Gorge Walk’ and the ‘Panorama Walk’. Both fairly easy, but again very rewarding scenery. If you would do just one of them, choose the Panorama Walk.

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Reaching the Ross Highway, start of the pavement, 76 km from Alice Springs.

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The largest Ghost Gum Tree in Australia, 33 meter tall, estimated to be over 300 years old.
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Fantastic overview of the ‘East-Macs’.
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Trephina Gorge.

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Day 136: 23 June 2019
From Trephina Gorge NP to somewhere along Ross Highway
52,10 km (Total so far: 6374,59 km) – Altitude climbed: 203 m
Weather: Sunny, moderate side wind

I was camped in a dry creekbed last night. I don’t know what happened. Is it still humid underneath ? Anyways, for the first time ever I got really cold from the ground.
I have a Therm-a-Rest Z-Lite with the Therm-a-rest NeoAir on top of it. The Z-Lite gives extra protection against punctures and probobly extra insulation as well. It worked well, even with -15°C in the andes. but last night, my mattress was freezing cold.

I also had one or two dingo’s around the tent. I first tried to get rid of them in a friendly way, but eventually I had to use my loud grizzly growl.
The only times I have had issues with dingos so far was in Wilpena Pound, and now here.
In other words, in national parks with many people around. They must be too used to people who are sloppy with there food and/or garbage.

I first ride the very rough track towards ‘John Hayes Rockhole’, where I hike the ‘Chain of Ponds’ walk.

The walk starts by climbing up the hill. You can see the gorge where you’ll walk through on your return first from above now.
All pretty spectacular, especially with these deep red colors.

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I guess a ‘Splendid Fairy-wren’ ?

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Spinifex

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The Ross Highway

Day 137: 24 June 2019
From somewhere along Ross Highway to Alice Springs
54,89 km (Total so far: 6429,48 km) – Altitude climbed: 157 m
Weather: Sunny, light side wind

Ride back to Alice Springs with visits to Jessy Gap and Emilie Gap.

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Day 138: 25 June 2019
Alice Springs

Laundry, blog updates, arranged permits, bike maintenance, etc, etc….

 

Below a map of the route.  The  gpx-track can be downloaded from Wikiloc.

Australia Prt 10, NT: Marree to Alice Springs

Route: Marree – Oodnadatta – Marla – Alice Springs

Day 103: 21 May 2019
From Marree to about 7 km before junction with Borefield Road
64,07 km (Total so far: 4534,96 km) – Altitude climbed: 225 m
Weather: Sunny, light and moderate head and side wind

At nine o’clock, I went to the police station again. This time, contact with Birdsville was made.
They seemed to be very happy with all the water on the other side of the line, while the local police here was complaining they didn’t get any here (although I did make it rain for a while yesterday – another ‘2 year drought broken’ after I appeared).
So, it’s final now, Birdsville cannot be reached by the Birdsville track, also not by pushbike.
There’s a stretch of 4 kilometer still completely under water.
It won’t open in the next three weeks, according to the Birdsville officials.
They only way open would be to ride 80 km back to Lyndhurst and take the Strzelecki Track to Innamincka and then the Arrabury road. From there I could ride into Birdsville, but not north from there, as those roads are closed due to floodings as well.
I go to the Oasis Pub, order a coke and stare at my maps.
What to do ?
The Oodnadatta Track, with all its grey nomads riding around with their caravans to see a wet lake ?
The Strzelecki?
Definitely the quieter option.
It would be hard. It is a long, long way from Lyndhurst to Innamincka (475 km) without any chance to buy provisions or get water.
And from Innamincka to Windorah, it’s another 450 km with nothing.
From Windorah I would have to go closer to the coast, towards Longreach, …. but that’s country where I don’t want to be (more densely populated).
I decide on the Oodnadatta Track.
The positive thing of starting so late, is that most grey nomads have disappeared already, and I have a reasonably quiet day.

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The Rohloff leaked some oil again. Due to higher temperatures ? (It stopped leaking and never caused problems.)
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Ready for the ride.

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Bridge of the old ‘Ghan-Railway’ line which will accompany me for a while.

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Another old Ghan Railway bridge.

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‘We got the power to win’.

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Wedge-tailed eagle

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Day 104: 22 May 2019
From 7 km before junction with Borefield Road to near Kewson Hill
77,38 km (Total so far: 4612,34 km) – Altitude climbed: 177 m
Weather: Sunny, light and moderate head wind

Got up early again.
I hoped to beat the terrible bush flies which swarmed me yesterday all day. At least 500 of them.
It is terrible.
Unlivable !
And they stayed up till after sunset. But then they were joined by the mosquito’s and the moths. Also in swarms.
When I went out for a pee at 2:30 am, there were still a few bush flies up.
And before sunrise, they were all waiting already to greet and attack me.

More traffic on the Oodnadatta Track as yesterday.
A few very friendly people.
First, a Jeep with two girls stopped and offered me an ice cold bottle of water.
Further on, a father and his daughter stopped for a chat. They filled up all my bottles, cause they were gonna get to Leigh Creek for lunch and could fill up again over there (damn, lunch is in a few hours, and Leigh Creek is a four day ride for me haha). The daughter also gave me an apple and a croissant 🙂

The view point over Lake Eyre South is not so special. It’s pretty far from the (dry lake).

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Lake Eyre

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The quality of the track is very bad. When I searched accounts of other cyclists who rode here, they all seem to write they were lucky, because ‘the grader must have passed only a few days ago’.
Well, I think the grader has a sabbatical, because this road hasn’t seen any maintenance in a long time.
Heavy corrugations, with lines of deep gravel in between. At times almost unrideable.

Anyways, still good fun if you can neglect the bush flies.
Another car stopped. A young couple from Luxemburg, on a two year trip around the world, offered me some water as well.
All is good. I’ve got enough now and don’t have to go to Cowards Spring campsite, which would guarantee a sleepless night, like I had twice in Marree.
People chatting, slamming doors, shining their cars’ head lights in your tent until well after midnight. The first ones up again before 5 am (really !), stopping their car in front of your tent and running the engine stationary for 1,5 hour.
I hate campsites.

But here I am, at a fabulous wild camping spot.
Pitched the inner tent, dived in, killed 12 flies that joined me in that 2 second action, blew up the mattress and the pillow.
Brilliant. I can lay here forever staring at the sky through the mesh inner tent.
As I ride north, it’s heating up.
Well over 30 degrees.
Good.

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Again, suddenly a tennis ball on the road.

Day 105: 23 May 2019
From near Kewson Hill to just before William Creek (in the creek)
71,26 km (Total so far: 4683,60 km) – Altitude climbed: 199 m
Weather: Sunny, moderate side and head wind

Kept bumping forward on the Oodnadatta. The track is again really bad in some places. Corrugations that make your eyeballs fall out, deep gravel, big stones. All of it. The material suffers. One of these bottle bags I have on the handle bar breaks under the weight of a liter of water in it, and all the bumping. It’s probably around 1200 bumps per kilometer on these corrugations, so that’s close to a 100.000 bumps and bangs your material and your back gets each day.
As long as I last longer as my material, it’s ok.

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Flies, flies, flies
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everywhere flies

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People were friendly again.
Ted and Maria offered me water yesterday already, but I didn’t need anymore then. Today, I gladly accept. We stand on the side of the road, chatting (and desperately trying to keep the bush flies off). They are on an eight month road trip with their two sons. No caravan. They do tent camping, or the occasional hotel. They too were swarmed by the bush flies at camp and attacked by the midges.
Yes apart from the flies, the moths, the midges have arrived as well now. And unlike the flies, they do bite.

I have been told now by two separate sources this is the worst bush fly season in 30 years !

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Some cyclist had a real problem here. I don’t know where you’re gonna find your nearest bike shop. Alice Springs, about 850 kilometer from here, I guess.
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Ted and Maria.

Two motor bikers stopped for a chat. They went up and down from Marree to William Creek (200 km) and can’t get their head around it that somebody on a ‘pushbike’ would go the whole 620 kilometer on the Oodnadatta. When I explain them that, during hard times, one just has to think about that chair in the office, that computer, that airco, all the over time hours, and you’re good to go again no matter what, they laugh and say they want to have a job like me.
I assure them they really don’t haha.

From a couple of grey nomads, who kindly stop as well, I top off some more water. Now I have sufficient until tomorrow morning, so no need to roll into William Creek tonight. Can sleep happily on my lonesome in a nice place, instead of suffering with the crowds.
Because crowds is what’s out there. The Aussies arrive in their thousands to make the ‘scenic flight’ over Lake Eyre, which is supposedly filled for 60% now.
I camp just before William Creek (pop. abt. 10), in the creek bed itself.
The small airplanes keep taking off until well after sunset. It’s pitch dark, they won’t see a thing.
But I guess the pilots are happy to keep flying out.
The people are waiting in line, eager to get rid off their money just to be able to say they flew over it.
Golden times for the pilots.

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Not only bike wheels brake, the caravans seem to collapse as well. But who on earth leaves a naked, beheaded doll next to his old wheel on the Oodnadatta Track ?? Curious whether I will find that head somewhere later on.

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This is what the land I’m traveling through looks like from the sky.  Isn’t that insane ?

 

Day 106: 24 May 2019
From William Creek to 55 km after William Creek
58,78 km (Total so far: 4742,38 km) – Altitude climbed: 252 m
Weather: Cloudy, moderate head wind

When I opened my eyes this morning, I witnessed a superb sunrise through the mesh of my inner tent. Jumped out of it for a few pictures and heated up water for a coffee.
How nice to be doing this, walking around without all the flies around and on you. Eating is in the tent, with all the zippers closed, because soon they ‘re all out again.

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I usually never get up before sunrise, but when nature offers you this….

The flights to see the lake were taking off from sunrise again.
The landing strip of William Creek crosses the Oodnadatta Track. You have to keep your own eyes open. No one to stop you from cycling under the wheels of a plane. But you’d have to be real stupid to do that of course.
Went in the pub from the hotel for a coke I was dying for since a few days.
Don’t count on resupplies here. Apart from a Mars bar, you’re not gonna find anything.
Speaking to a couple from Alice Springs at the bar, the man told me he was a park ranger over there. Flies haven’t been as bad as now since 20 years, he says. And it gets worse as you’re heading north.
Worse ???
How is that possible ?
Haven’t I reached the limits yet ?
Imagine you stick your head in a wasp nest. That’s how I am riding around here, except these flies don’t sting of course.
They have the midges for that.

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Entering William Creek.

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Inside the William Creek Hotel Bar.

Anyways, with 15 liter of water I leave the tiny settlement.
A few kilometer out of town is the junction towards Coober Pedy and the Stuart Highway. Everybody seems to take that option, so the Oodnadatta is death quiet from here.
Riding from below sea level to a somewhat higher plateau through what is the driest region of the driest continent, with the ever lasting head wind is hard. How I wish for a few days of tail wind.
But it’s a super nice experience to be riding on your own here.
I start listening to the ‘Serial’ podcast season 2 which is sitting on my music player since ages. No better place then here, away from all distractions to follow the story. It’s about an American soldier who walked of his post in Afghanistan, got captured by the Taliban and was released after five years after Obama made a deal, …

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Not a bad landscape eh.

The routine now is to find a camping spot about half an hour before sunset (17:30). You can’t take your head net of or enter your tent as long as the flies are out.

The nights here are complete dead silent. Pitch dark, big sky full of stars and the Milky Way.
It is brilliant.

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For the first time since long I make a campfire.

Day 107: 25 May 2019
From 55 km after William Creek to Algebuckina ((Neales River)
94,25 km (Total so far: 4836,63 km) – Altitude climbed: 285 m
Weather: Sunny, moderate tail wind

So, apparently I just have to ask for it ?
About the best day on the Oodnadatta so far with the hills of the Davenport Range and the Denison Range to my right.
I had tail wind (!) and the scenery between Warrina and Peake Creek was marvelous, very colorful. Also the quality of the track, at times really bad, became much better after Warrina. That combined with the tail wind means I was flying over the track at times at 30 km/hr.

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I could have cycled much farther today, were it not for all the encounters. Traffic is sparse, but it seems I know everybody out here by now.
Only 4,5 km into my ride today, an old, white Toyota van pulls over. Out comes the man I talked to outside the William Creek pub. His self made old electrical mtb on the rear rack of the van. But the battery is broken, and so are the rear lights of his bicycle rack, and the wires going to that rack and ….
He is divorced since a while, doesn’t see his family anymore, retired and is happily traveling around the country since.
My water bottles are topped up.
After a chat of more than half an hour, we resume our trip.

Not much later, the guys in the white VW stop for a chat.
Then, a couple stops. They tell me a French couple on bicycles is behind me. They stopped to offer them water as well, somewhere between Farina and Marree. Apparently they each had less than a liter but still refused, claiming there would be enough opportunities. They are riding very narrow tires. ‘That’s gonna be hard on this track’, I tell them.

A bit later a 4WD stops. The man behind the wheels jumps out declaring, I have to have a word with a fellow cyclist. I lower my bandana and take off my sunglasses.
‘Koen !’, he says.
It was Stan and his wife with whom I stayed in Kettering, Tasmania.
What are the chances !

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Flat, stony desert.

Further on, another guy with a caravan stops.
‘I’ve seen you riding yesterday. You’ve come a good way already. Where are you from ?’.
‘Belgium’, I reply.
He tells me how hot it gets here in summer and soon he goes on in a frenzy, ‘these Germans they come out here in the middle of summer, then take take one of these side tracks and try to walk out. Of course they fail and then they die’.
When we talking about the remainder of my trip and the regions further north and me asking about the crocodile situation, he tells me not to worry, ‘it’s those Germans when they’re out there, they get caught and …..’.

‘What’s his problem ?’, I’m thinking. I find my German neighbors among the friendliest and most helpful people, it’s a beautiful country and they make damn good quality stuff.

The last 2,5 hours of the day I see nobody anymore and make such good progression I end up at the Algebuckina bridge by 4 pm.
This railway bridge was built between 1878 and 1891 and made up of nineteen 30,9 meter spans. With a length of about 600 meter, it is the largest single bridge in South-Australia.
I could ‘ve taken advantage of the tail wind and continue for an hour, but the camping possibilities next to the Neales River are just too good to foresake. Apart from a few leftover puddles, the river is dry.

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Algebuckina bridge

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Day 108: 26 May 2019
From Algebuckina ((Neales River) to Oodnadatta
63,79 km (Total so far: 4900,42 km) – Altitude climbed: 327 m
Weather: Sunny, moderate side wind

Another nice ride. Nice hills both sides of the track. Very colorful desert scenery. I arrived in Oodnadatta (pop. 180) and ate an Oodnadatta Burger in its famous Pink Roadhouse. There’s paid camping at a dusty piece of land behind the roadhouse, or free camping behind the hotel or just opposite the road. I cycled a kilometer out of town for a quieter night. Heard the dogs barking in the distance

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The world famous Pink Roadhouse, Oodnadatta.  The interior is pink as well.
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Oodnadatta Burger.

Day 109: 27 May 2019
From Oodnadatta to Wooldridge Creek
68,72 km (Total so far: 4969,14 km) – Altitude climbed: 137 m
Weather: Sunny, light side wind

I rode back into ‘town’ for breakfast and to use the general stores’ wifi. Yesterday was election day in Belgium and I wanted to check whether the good guys had won, and also check on e-mails quickly. Did some laundry at the water tap at the roadhouse, some more grocery shopping, entertained other travellers and by 11 am I was good to go.

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Many places in South-Australia you find these water containers.  4 AUD will get you 20 ltr of drinking water.  Excellent !

At the junction with the Finke Road I stopped, still in doubt which option to take. The Finke Road means I could stay a bit longer on the dirt tracks, but I saw most of the 4WD’s and ‘off-road caravan’ traffic was going that way, to the Dalhousie Springs and Mount Dare. Also, this desert race that’s coming up attracts some traffic. So, I just continue on the Oodnadatta Track towards Marla.
Good decision, only two more cars for the rest of the day (one fool coming from the other side at 140 km/hr).
I camped in the Wooldridge Creek, which is a few kilometer wide, has some bushes and low trees. Very scenic as a camping spot.

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Day 110: 28 May 2019
From Wooldridge Creek to abt. 64 km before Marla
82,37 km (Total so far: 5051,51 km) – Altitude climbed: 282 m
Weather: Sunny, moderate side and head wind

Day 110 was a hard one.
The track was heavily corrugated all the time. Closer to the side the corrugations were a bit less, but there was a layer of sand a few centimeter deep, which made progress very hard. A reasonably strong wind coming from the wrong side, the flies that were out as never before, making eating even impossible…. I suffered and hated the Oodnadatta Track today.

The region north of the track is the Pedirka Desert, the one to the south the Painted Desert, so I get two deserts for the price of one.

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Late afternoon, as I start to look for a place to pitch the tent, I am in a stony region, no trees giving shelter for possible winds overnight. I continue and continue. To my frustration, the lamentable track starts to climb. Only between 1 and 3%, but given the conditions I had, and the hunger creeping in, I was exhausted by the time I reached the ‘summit’, where I found, behind a ‘tree’ a small piece of land free of stones.
A very picturesque setting, very ‘Aussie’ for a very death cyclist.

I rounded the 5.000 km unnoticed today.

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Day 111: 29 May 2019
From abt. 65 km before Marla to 4 km before Marla
64,28 km (Total so far: 5115,79 km) – Altitude climbed: 202 m
Weather: Sunny, strong head wind

More of the same as yesterday, but throw in a strong head wind now.
About 20 kilometer before Marla, the track starts to improve somewhat.

A few cars pass me, all racing by at high speed, leaving me in a cloud of dust.
Then a car stops, offers me some water. And a beer !
They tell me the two French cyclists have been rescued not far out of Marree and shuttled out by car towards Coober Pedy.

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In the Australian interior, in the most unlikely of places, you find the most unlikely of crashes on straight roads. Do you understand why I am never at ease with cars ?

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While I’m searching for a suitable place to camp (hard, because it seems the whole region had flooded recently), another car stops.
This time two beers are offered, no water anymore.
Good I’m near the end of the track, because who knows where this would be going haha.

So I’m sitting in my tent. Two ice cold cans of ‘XXX Gold’ beers (Full Flavoured Australian Lager, 99% sugar free – no preservatives) are empty. Very light beer, 3,5% only.
The can of ‘TED (The Clean Crisp Taste – 4,4%, also 99% sugar free and 30% less carbs than regular beer !) is for later on.
I wonder who gives about all those details when buying beer. You ‘d think you just want a good beer, no ?
It remains very windy all night.

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Day 112: 30 May 2019
From 4 km before Marla to De Rose Hill Airport
116,89 km (Total so far: 5232,68 km) – Altitude climbed: 209 m
Weather: Sunny, moderate and strong tail and side wind

Arrived at the Stuart Highway, the (only) main road crossing the continent away from the coast in a north / south direction. East / west, no main (paved) road is crossing the continent away from the coast.
I wanted to avoid this road at all costs, riding up via Birdsville, Boulia and Mount Isa, the much lesser travelled option, but alas, circumstances decided otherwise.

The roadhouse at marla has a decent selection to stock up. In a side street, there’s again a drinkwater station container from the government where one can refill, 4 AUD for 20 ltr.

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452 km of highway. Sigh.

I’ve got a good tail wind for a while, but as the wind starts to pick up during the afternoon, it also starts to turn a bit to the east, while I’m heading north, direction Alice Springs.
For 20 kilometer, there’s a good shoulder, otherwise, there’s none. Unless you’d call that 25 cm of crumbled, worn bit off asphalt beside the white line a shoulder.
Very good progress today, my shoulders and backbone are happy to see some asphalt again, my eyes, my ears and my brain aren’t, because the better travelled road means being (much) more cautious to stay alive, much more garbage along the road, the re-appearance of roadkill (kangaroos, cows, a horse (!), birds,…) and traffic noise throughout the night.

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Of the 450 kilometer highway to Alice Springs, about 20 km or good, with this nice, wide shoulder.  The other 430 km, you better watch your mirror.  Every 3 seconds.  They approach fast.

Day 113: 31 May 2019
From De Rose Hill Airport to near Kulgera
76,30 km (Total so far: 5308,98 km) – Altitude climbed: 185 m
Weather: Sunny, strong side and head wind

I entered the Northern Territories today, Australia’s third largest state (well, actually not a state but a territory).
Cycling along this asphalt road, I feel there’s not much to mention.
Very slowly the road climbs higher and higher, so I’m now above 500 meter.
Had to wear a jacket all day due to the cold wind. Daytime temperatures are about 18 degrees, night time around zero. It was +4°C in the tent, but the outer tent was frozen, some vegetation a bit white.
Kulgera Roadhouse has a pub, but the shop has almost nothing apart from drinks, chocolate and chips. Water must be bought in bottles. The campground looks horrible, in between the highway and the gas station.
I rode in the Finke Road for two kilometer where there’s ample space for a nice, calm night in the wild.
Oh, and the plus of the colder night temperatures, less flies, and those who survive tend to come out much later in the morning.

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Border between South-Australia and Northern Territory.

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Day 114: 1 June 2019
From near Kulgera to 4 km passed Erldunda
85,00 km (Total so far: 5393,98 km) – Altitude climbed: 111 m
Weather: Sunny, strong side and tail wind

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Day 115: 2 June 2019
From 4 km passed Erldunda to Chandler Range
81,57 km (Total so far: 5475,55 km) – Altitude climbed: 203 ù
Weather: Sunny, strong tail and side wind

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Suddenly I wondered whether I had a picture already of this most Aussie of signs. Look at the very generous shoulder.

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Day 116: 3 June 2019
From Chandler Range to 43 km before Alice Springs
77,00 km (Total so far: 5552,55 km) – Altitude climbed: 324 m
Weather: Sunny, strong side wind

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Zebra Finch after an encounter with a car.
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This desert race is causing a lot of trouble for me; messing up the Finke Road and many hundreds of extra cars traveling the Stuart Highway from South-Australia to see the race.

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Encounter with an Italian cyclist.

Day 117: 4 June 2019
From 43 km before Alice Springs to Alice Springs
53,87 km (Total so far: 5606,42 km) – Altitude climbed: 156 m
Weather: Sunny, moderate side and head wind

I haven’t written anything anymore the last days because frankly speaking, I hated it.
People who say the Stuart Highway has a shoulder and who claim ‘you can camp anywhere’…. don’t believe them.
They lie.
Unless you want to camp 15 meter from the road of course.
All land is fenced off. Sometimes at 15 meter from the road, sometimes 40 meter, but never further so you have to search for unlocked fences or the occasional side track. Traffic is horrible and the behaviour of the drivers on this road is third world standard.
Occasionally you may have a few minutes between cars, but then the whole lot comes again, one after the other. As long as there’s no traffic from the other side, you could be fine. If there is traffic from the other side…. your life is worth nothing.

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My first 5.000 km in Australia were very good, the last 500 were big shit.
And still…. this is where I meet more cyclists as during the first 5.000 km.
Incomprehensible.
Listen to me, avoid this road.

Day 118-121: 5 – 8 June
Alice Springs

I stay a couple of days in Alice Springs, kindly hosted by Sophie. Got a lot of things to do like shopping for provisions, shellite, bike maintenance, haircut,….

Some figures about the Australia trip so far:
Total distance cycled so far: 5.606,42 km
Average km per cycling day: 54,43 km
Total altimeter: 45.683 meter

Shortest cycling day: 5,52 km (Gog Range)
Longest cycling day: 116,89 km (on the Stuart Highway)
Highest maximum speed: 69,75 km/hr (on Cradle Mountain Development Road)

Most altimeter in one day: 1167 m (towards Cradle Mountain)
Highest point: 959 m (on Cradle Mountain Development Road)
Longest day in the saddle: 7 hrs 3 minutes (‘Outback Highway’ between Lyndhurst and Marree)
Total time in the saddle: 412 hours 52 minutes

Nights slept inside: 18
Nights on board ship: 2
Nights slept outside: 101 (of which 94 wild camping & 7 on official campgrounds)

Flat tires: 12

Below, the map from my route on from Melbourne to Alice Springs, visiting the states of Victoria, New South Wales, South-Australia and Northern Territory.
The gpx track can be downloaded from Wikiloc

Australia Prt 9, Laura to Marree

Route: Laura – Quorn – Hawker – Wilpena – Blinman – Parachilna – Leigh Creek – Marree

Below you’ll find part 2 of my experiences on the Mawson Trail, and the route further on from Blinman to Marree.

Day 87: 5 May 2019
From Laura to Melrose
59,10 km (Total so far: 3846,72 km) – Altitude climbed: 926 m
Weather: Sunny, Light side and tail wind

Upon leaving the supermarket in Laura, another cyclist arrives.
“Are you the Belgian guy ?”, she asks.
It is Kristina, a Lithuanian cyclist and will be hosted by Dylan in Melrose, just like me.
Kristina started her trip in Sydney and rode via Melbourne and Adelaide up here.
I just finished breakfast, but she needed a lunch before we could ride on, so with a small delay, we continued on the Mawson.
It’s a bit a hillier section through the Wirrabara Forest (plenty of good wild camping opportunities) and I realize soon we won’t make it during daylight hours.
We are further delayed when in some muddy section, this deep, red mud got caked up and stuck in between my wheels and fenders, blocking any possible progression. Nothing to do but to unload the bike, take the wheels off and clean it all out before I could continue.

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Kristina, Lithuanian cyclist.

Rather than delaying our appointment with Dylan, we push on a bit and arrive at his place around 7 pm in a pitch dark Melrose but are still warmly welcomed by Dylan who had a pot full of food ready on his stove to please two hungry cyclists.

Day 88: 6 May 2019
Melrose
Weather: Sunny

We stay an extra day in Melrose. Together with Kristina, I hike to the top of the 995 meter high Mount Remarkable, the highest bump in the landscape.
It’s a 14 kilometer return hike with good views from the surroundings, all the way to the coast of Fitzgerald Bay. On the way down we spot the remnants of a light airplane which crashed into the mountain in 1980.
No survivors.

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View from Mount Remarkable to the surrounding lowlands.

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Day 89: 7 May 2019
From Melrose to 15 km passed Wilmington
47,57 km (Total so far: 3894,29 km) – Altitude climbed: 348 m
Weather: Sunny, very strong head wind

There are two options to cycle from Melrose to Wilmington. The recently upgraded rail trail, or the Mawson Trail. We chose the Mawson.
Let’s say we ride right into the storm.
Half a sand storm. The dust is flying at high speed over the land.
We push along at speeds of 9 km/hr on the flats.
A bit before Wilmington we switch to the rail trail. Not faster, definitely not on that loose gravel surface, but a bit shorter.

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The sandstorm, making life hard.
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Mount Remarkable.

Mount Remarkable, with its limited altitude hardly a giant, is still making its own weather. Dark grey clouds are forming around it. Luckily, no rain falls.

We are still in quite barren country. A forested area shows up just in time, providing a nicely sheltered spot for the night.

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Day 90: 8 May 2019
From 15 km passed Wilmington to near Mount Arden Mine
58,34 km (Total so far: 3952,63 km) – Altitude climbed: 578 m
Weather: Sunny, moderate side wind

After an hours ride today we meet Paul, a cyclist from the north of England, now living in Melbourne. He’s riding the Mawson north to south. He was happy with the winds. “As a hand that was pushing him forward”, he said.
“Yeah, we have like five hands pushing us back”.
But today is not so bad, so no reasons to complain. And we have blue skies again.
The climb over Richmans Gap is a bit rougher and steeper and some pushing is involved.
No worries.

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Paul
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The descent from Richmans Gap
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This must be either the ‘Dutmans Stern’ or the ‘Devils Peak’, I’m not sure.

Quorn has the last Iga supermarket for quite some time, so we both stock up pretty well.
Kristina decides to follow the railway line towards Hawker, or the asphalt if that railway line wouldn’t be possible. I’m in doubt.
The forecast for the next days is bad. A lot of rain, a lot of wind.
Still, I would regret it later not to have ridden these sections through the Flinders Ranges, so here we split. I just hope the rain will not make the tracks unrideable.

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There’s a short steep section over Yarrah Vale Gorge before cruising down towards Warren Gorge, which I don’t visit.
Sunset is in less than an hour. There are camping possibilities at the gorge, but I don’t want to take the risk being stuck there for maybe two nights with all the sound and light show from other campers, slamming their doors and trunks hundreds of times, switching on and off those huge head lights they have here.
Instead, I find a nice spot, a bit further on alongside a dry Mount Arden Creek, shelter by a rock face on one side, some trees on the other sides.

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Day 91: 9 May 2019
Near Mount Arden Mine
Weather: Rain, strong winds

I woke up rather early, at 7 am.
Still dry. But very cloudy.
Even after breakfast at 8 am, it was still dry.
What to do ?
Pack up a dry tent and go ?
But then surely ride all day in the rain.
Or sit it out in the tent ?
Option 2 🙂
There’s enough work to be done.
I hadn’t written down anything the last days and badly needed to make a back up from my pictures as well, put new podcasts on the music player, and also wanted to prepare a bit an alternative route for when this Birdsville Track would remain closed.
It never rains here, but I seem (again) to attract this non-existing situation wherever I go.

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Campsite for two nights, well sheltered from the wind, well drained.
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Spending the time in luxury. Apart from chocolate milk and coffee a divers selection of tea at hand 😛

Day 92: 10 May 2019
From near Mount Arden Mine to Kanyaka Creek
48,06 km (Total so far: 4000,69 km) – Altitude climbed: 220 m
Weather: Sunny, moderate tail, side and head winds

7:30 am, unzip the tent. Some clouds, but also some patches of blue sky.
8:00 am, totally grey sky
8:15 am, rain

Well, the forecast was like that. Rain in the morning, dry in the afternoon.
But it all improves rather quickly.
After breakfast, a bit after 9 am, I repair my front tyre. Got a puncture from pushing the bike into this place the day before yesterday.
I was all packed up (including a wet tent) and got going by 11:00 am.
Good.

At first the gravel track is surprisingly good. Nice views to the Ragles Range to my right, other hills to the left.
After passing the Wilochra Creek and Simmonston Ruins, it gets muddier again. The tires pick up quite a bit of mud, but never so much it stops progression.
The way this Mawson Trail is established, I have to ride south sometimes to get north. So I get winds from all directions today.
Two 4WD’s, stopping for a chat, give me some extra water. A man and, I guess, mother and daughter in the other car. Enquiring about my route they are very impressed. “All on those skinny legs he…” haha.

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Reaching the paved Flinders Ranges Way, I chose to follow it towards Hawker i.o. the Mawson Trail that goes on dirt via the other side of the hills. There are more creeks to pass there, and I see it has rained here severely as well.
The forecast back in Quorn was for dryer weather north of Hawker, so I have good hopes I can rejoin the trail from there.
I pitch the tent in the Kanyaka Creek.

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Kanyaka Creek

 

Day 93: 11 May 2019
From Kanyaka Creek to down Mernmerna Hill
39,34 km (Total so far: 4040,03 km) – Altitude climbed: 185 m
Weather: Sunny, moderate tail wind

An easy roll into Hawker.
The gas station might have a bigger selection of groceries than the convenience store.
Despite the sun and despite the tail wind I would have, I force myself to take the time for some urgent tasks. Apart from groceries, I wash my clothes and spend a couple of hours in the post office / coffee shop / bottle shop / grocery store (annex) to reply to mails that have been sitting there far too long, download some podcasts and update the website.
There’s also an ATM to stock up on more cash.
I see the Birdsville Track is still closed.
I get nervous now.

They sell Shellite in the gas station. I buy a liter. Fuel is lighter than water, right ?
I still had 3/4 liter, so now I think I can burn happily away for about six weeks.

Late afternoon, loaded up with 13 liter of water I ride out of town.
As it is that late, I cheat a bit and take the ‘Outback Highway’ the first kilometer i.o. the Mawson Trail which makes a little loop east of that.

Passed Wonoka Hill I rejoin the trail.
It is quite muddy, this spongy stuff, just dry enough not to stick to the tires, but slowing down progress a lot.
No worries. I’m good. Away from traffic and camping opportunities will arise.
The Mawson Trail suddenly takes a side track of this already unused dirt track.
A short, steep push up.

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I can see other cyclists must have struggled here the previous days. Deep tracks in the mud from their tires and shoes. It must have been terrible.
I can’t ride either. The bike would pick up too much mud and get jammed after just a few meters. But pushing it, so lighter weight, I can just continue.

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The scenery is really beautiful in this late afternoon sun.
A very steep downhill over a rocky section, where, just before sun set, I see a good place to camp. I clear the sones and all the sharp twigs. Perfectly sheltered in this U-shape of mountains, I hear the wind howling around the hill tops, but I am remarkably wind free in the tent.
Excellent spot.

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The ‘Elder Range’ in the distance.
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This rocky downhill would be very hard work if riding the trail N to S.
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You can spot the tent.

Day 94: 12 May 2019
From down Mernmerna Hill to Moralana Scenic Drive
56,90 km (Total so far: 4096,93 km) – Altitude climbed: 536 m
Weather: Sunny, Light tail, side and head wind

A flat front tyre again. I had unloaded the bike and carried all in yesterday. I guess I must have punctured it whilst riding or pushing the bike late afternoon yesterday. The hard winds had blown a lot of branches and sharp stuff unto the trail.

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Where I’m going to today.
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And where I came from yesterday.

Down at Mount Little Station, I consider returning to the main road again, as it is still all a bit muddy. But I just can’t.  I don’t want to miss out on too much of the Mawson, so I ride down towards Mayo Gorge, cross Hookina Creek and ride in some kind of desert like landscape along the impressive Elder Range. A light wind from the north west doesn’t cause too much trouble, but with strong winds, this would be a hard stretch.

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Lunch time. Admiring the view toward the ‘Elder Range’.
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Riding away from the ‘Elder Range’.
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Emu’s running for cover after something (me) scared them.

After a short stretch on the Outback Highway, I take a right turn to the Moralana Scenic Drive. Moralana Creek has cut her way here between the Elder Range and the Bunbinyunna Range and the Wilpena Pound Range behind that. With the sun slowly setting towards the west, I have excellent views of this red rocks. All very nice.
As mentioned on the maps of the Mawson Trail, this Moralana Road is regularly used by ‘adventure 4WD’-ers and as a result there are a lot of continuous corrugations.

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The ‘Bunbinyunna Range’.

They should make this track accessible in one way only for cars and divide the current track in 2/3 for the cars and 1/3 for the cyclists (separated from the cars so they can’t mess it up). That would be fantastic for everybody, but I guess that won’t happen in 4WD-crazy Australia.

As the Mawson Trail goes, I am now riding south again, admiring the other side of the Elder Range to the west and Wilpena Pound Range to the east.

I find again an excellent wild camping place after pushing the bike over a hill, into a dry creek, lined with red gum trees, kangaroos hopping around, Cockatoo’s, Galahs and parrots flying around.

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Day 95: 13 May 2019
From Morlana Scenic Drive to few km before Wilpena Pound
40,88 km (Total so far: 4137,81 km) – Altitude climbed: 373 m
Weather: Sunny, light head and side wind

I wake up early (7:30 am).
Man, it’s cold outside. I brew a cup of tea and remain in my tent, merino shirt, a fleece, my down jacket and my down sleeping bag over me. Nice and snug.
After the sun has warmed it up a bit, I climb to the nearest hill top to get good views of the Wilpena Pound Range on one side and the Elder Range on the other.
How nice, to stand on this non-official, non-touristic view point.
On my way back to the tent, I walk a bit through the dry creek. How magnificent are these red gum trees.

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With all this walking around, it’s of course almost 11:00 am before I roll out of my camping spot.
No Problem.
Soon I join the paved Flinders Ranges Way. Time between cars is never too long. Not nice
Life is a big joy again when I get off that main road and take the Telegraph Track, which runs close to the Wilpena Pound Range. Beautiful, beautiful hills, blue skies, wallabies and kangaroos hopping in front of my wheels, oops, avoiding that blue tongue lizard bathing in the sun on the trail, look some lorikeets there, and there, an echidna ….. life is sooooo much better without traffic.

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Wilpena Pound Range.

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Blue Tongue Lizard warming up on the trail.

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Mount Ohlssen-Bagge to the right.

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I ride into Wilpena Pound, recharge my devices at the tourist information, take a 4 AUD shower at the camp ground, wash my clothes, do some shopping (package of pasta now three times as expensive as further south, and only frozen bread on offer), then ride back to the Telegraph Track to pitch the tent between the trees.
Tomorrow, I want to hike Mount Ohlssen-Bagge.

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Excellent camping spot in the forest along the Telegraph Track where I would pitch the tent two nights.  Wide open space, but well sheltered from the wind.

Day 96: 14 May 2019
Wilpena Pound
24,89 km (Total so far: 4162,70 km) – Altitude climbed: 789 m
Weather: Sunny

I had a brilliant day again.
Woke up early with a layer of ice on the tent and the branches on the ground frozen white.
I went out of my little forest to watch the sun illuminate the hills of Willpena Pound. Lluka Peak, Tumburru Peak, Binya Peak and Mount Ohlssen-Bagge, all in an orange glow.
The latter one is my goal for the day.

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The morning sun illuminating Wilpena Pound Range.

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‘Outback Bread’ from the ‘Bush Oven’…..

The dingo’s have been howling all night and the place is teeming with kangaroos, so one would be stupid not to break down the tent and pack up everything. You must pay 10 AUD in the visitor centre for a day pass. A visitor centre which is far from very efficient, I must say.

The hike to Mount Ohlssen-Bagge is a 6,4 km return trip and qualified as ‘difficult’.
There are indeed some steeper parts where you have to clamber over rocky inclines, but I would say, in a normal world, moderate difficulty would be more accurate.
In the shape of the current world, maybe ‘difficult’, yes.

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I see people struggling with their nordic walking sticks, trying to use them to climb over rocks. This is of course not the place to use stuff like that, but they bought it, so I guess they want to use it.

The views up there are spec-ta-cu-lar !
Into the Wilpena Pound, the Wilpena Pound Range all around it, the Elder Range behind that, the lowlands on the other side.
Really worth the effort.
The inside of the pound is now forested but at the end of the 19th century, it was a completely barren place.
People drove 120.000 sheep into the pound and destroyed the place in a decade.
Like they brought the whales around Tasmania to extinction in a couple of years.
Like we’re still doing now, ruining places in record tempo.

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The circle of hills of the ‘Wilpena Pund Range’.
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A view into the pound. Full with trees again nowadays.

Anyways, I enjoyed the views for a while, hiked down and hiked towards the ‘Hill’s Homestead’ (ranked as ‘easy’). I am now inside the Wilpena Pound and this is the house of the family that leased the place end of the 19th century and brought all those sheep inside.

From Hill’s Homestead, I hike a short way up to the ‘Wangarra Lookouts’ (ranked moderate).
More views into the Wilpena Pound.

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A very productive day off the bike.
Do these hikes when you’re here. It would be a shame to just drive by the hills and not see more of it.

Day 97: 15 May 2019
From few km before Wilpena Pound to a bit before Middlesight Water Hut
37,52 km (Total so far: 4200,22 km) – Altitude climbed: 500
Weather: Sunny, light head wind

This can’t go on forever, can it ?
Another splendid day.
The Mawson Trail is working its way further north along Wilcolo Creek. To my west are the colorful peaks of the Wilpena Pound Range, with the highest one, St. Mary Peak, always in sight. To the east is the lower ‘ABC Range’.
At first I’m on pure single track, later the track becomes wider, but is forbidden for motorized traffic.
I see only three other cyclist out for a day trip from the campground.
Cycling heaven !

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St. Mary Peak

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There is a short stretch along a dirt road open for cars, Bunyeroo Road.
It is brutal. I have to push the bike up inclines of 18 to 20% over the Razorback Ridge. Brilliant last views towards the Wilpena Pound and in the Bunyeroo Valley.
Soon, I’m gonna have to miss all this things when I’m further north in the desert.

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Too steep to ride a loaded bike. Pushing required.

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The Mawson Trail veers off the Bunyeroo Road. This Yayanna Track is an excellent dirt road, closed to all traffic. Sometimes a dry creek to cross, but otherwise excellent. It flattens out a bit.
Magnificent big, fat red river gum trees in the creek beds, deep red sand, hills in the distant, a few bush flies…. I’m in Australia ! 🙂

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When I arrive at the Middlesight Water Hut, there is already a girl who’s walking the Heysen Trail. I’ll leave her on her own and ride back a few hundred meter to camp under the trees.
The tent had to dry out anyway from all the condens it has every morning now, with this huge temperature differences between day & night and the somewhat humid soil from the recent rains.

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Day 98: 16 May 2019
From a bit before Middlesight Water Hut to Parachilan Gorge, near Heysen Trail trailhead
60,40 km (Total so far: 4260,60 km) – Altitude climbed: 849
Weather: Sunny, light head wind

I’ve made it into a habit to climb the nearest hill to my campsite in the morning, to have an overview of the area. Today’s hill especially gave me some spectacular views. To my west lay the ABC Range (the range I crossed yesterday via the Bunyeroo Creek and the steep Razorback Ridge). Behind the ABC the higher Heysen Range. Hans Heysen, an Australian born in Germany, was an artist who became famous for his images of the typical gum trees and the landscapes of the Flinders Ranges..
The 1.200 km long hiking trail between Cape Jervis and Parachilna is named after him, and also this mountain range.

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View from a hill. What better way to start your day ?
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ABC-Range (left) and Heysen Range (right).

Heading north over the Trezona Track is hard work. Always steep up, a bit down, more up, a bit down. No worries, the views around are great. The steepest part is through Bulls Gap, crossing the Trezona Range. Here I leave the dirt and it’s another 22 kilometer or so via the bitumen of the Flinders Range Way towards Blinman.

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River Red Gums.
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The harder part through Bulls Gap.
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Near the end of the gravel, looking back to an awesome ride on the Mawson Trail.

One great highlight along that way: The Great Wall Of China (another one, after I visited another ‘Great Wall of China’ in Mungo National Park). It’s worth the effort to ride the dirt road up towards the viewpoint.

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‘ The Great Wall Of China’
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‘ The Great Wall Of China’
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Would this guy be dangerous ?

Blinman is the end of the asphalt road, the end of the Mawson Trail and it’s also the highest village in the State of South-Australia (we’re about 620 m asl).
According to the girl in the bakery, there are 18 people living here. She’s one of them.
The bakery has some of the best bread I’ve found so far in Australia. The home made bread of Hans and Claudia remains by far the best I’ve had here though.
The bakery doubles as convenience store as well, but it’s quite limited. Some tinned fish & pasta, etc… Do your shopping in Wilpena or Leigh Creek.

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From Blinman I take the Parachilna Gorge Road, unpaved, washboard, into the gorge of the same name. I pitch the tent near the end of the gorge, near the trailhead of the Heysen Trail.

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Day 99: 17 May 2019
From Parachilna Gorge, near Heysen Trail trailhead to 25 km before Leigh Creek
58,27 km (Total so far: 4318,89 km) – Altitude climbed: 158 m
Weather: Sunny, moderate tail and head wind

I am leaving the Flinders Ranges behind and descent the last altimeters towards Parachilna at the Outback Highway. For a brief moment, winds do what winds have to do, ‘fall off the mountain’ and push me in the back.

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Heysen Range
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Heysen Range
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On the gravel towards Parachilna. Heysen Range in the background.

I stop at the famous Prairie Hotel in Parachilna to eat one of their outback burgers, i.e. kangaroo, emu, goat or camel burger. As I’ve seen the three first ones for myself since I’m here and I don’t want to eat them, I choose the camel burger.
I would suggest all cyclists to boycot these premises though. If you eat a full meal for 31 AUD, I think you can fill a couple of bottles with tap water for a cyclist.
They wouldn’t and send me off to the toilet building next to the road.
When I ask if that’s drinkable water, I get a plain answer ‘it’s from the government and their responsability.’
Pfffffff.

Making a 90 degree right turn northwards, I expected a side wind, but during my early lunch break, the wind gods must have noticed, to their horror, I’ve had a bit of a tail wind, so they shifted their machine and it blows full in the face again.
I put the head down, listen to some podcasts ‘The Move’ and ‘Cycling Podcast’ reg. the Giro d’Italia.
To my east, I stil have the hills of the Northern Flinders Range.
I camp at a reasonably good spot, next to a dry creek. Very, very windy night.

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My route, close to the ‘Old Ghan Railway’.

Day 100: 18 May 2019
From 25 km before Leigh Creek to 1 km passed Lyndhurst
67,77 km (Total so far: 4386,66 km) – Altitude climbed: 245 m
Weather: Cloudy, strong head wind

Day hundred in Australia.
You would think the gods would have a little mercy on me this day.
They had not.
Not at all.
At times, I struggled to get the speed up in the double digits on the flat.
It’s been a very, very hard day. One of the least enjoyable.
The bush flies are around in masses. They swarmed me whilst packing up this morning, they did likewise when pitching the tent and stayed around till after the mosquitos came out.

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I’m back in civilization.

I stopped in Leigh Creek to shop. This will probably be my last supermarket until Alice Springs, more than a thousand kilometer away.
If you cycle this way, note that the shop closes at 12:30 on Saturdays and won’t open again till Monday.

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Just try to imagine the head wind.
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I start to see the real road trains, upto 53 meters long, 65 ton, 62 wheels on the ground.

Today was election day in Australia.
I saw eight wedge-tailed eagles today. Also, I passed the juction with the famous Strzelecki Track.

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Did I mention I get some nice sunsets from time to time ?

Day 101: 19 May 2019
From 1 km passed Lyndhurst to Marree
84,23 km (Total so far: 4470,89 km) – Altitude climbed: 127 m
Weather: Cloudy, strong head wind

I got up real early. The wind is still blowing against me, but I’d like to make it to Marree today.
Almost pancake flat, but still this was one of the toughest days here in Australia. A hard battle against that wind, the Outback Highway which turned in a gravel road, minor undulations.

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Suddenly…. a tennis ball. How did that end up here ?

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On the entrance of Marree, which is the terminus of the ‘Outback Highway’, and the start of the Birdsville Track. A sign says it’s closed.

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Day 102: 20 May 2019
Marree, rest day

A rest day during which I had a lot of work. For a start I went to the police, to enquire about the situation on the Birdsville Track. They only open their shop at 9 am, so I have a chat with the Flying Doctors next door first. They reckon I won’t get through on the Birdsville.
They also say their fellow Australians are crazy. They are all here because Lake Eyre is filling up, which happens only once every few years, but at both lookout points, the lake is still dry according to them.
Me, I don’t understand the fuzz about a lake with water. Isn’t that just a lake ?
I would say it’s much more special when it’s a dry salt lake, more colorful. But, they reply, it’s because it doesn’t happen often it has water. Still, they don’t come over to see it when it’s dry.
Weird.

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The police is super friendly and helpful. I was afraid I would be dismissed immediately, because it would be ‘dangerous’ and ‘officially this and that’ and blablabla.
But no, she phoned around, to a station that sits in the middle. They weren’t sure. She phoned to her colleague in Birdsville, but he didn’t answer the phone, she phoned someone else, …
I came back in the afternoon while she kept trying to reach her colleague, but also then no reply. Maybe he had a day off.

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Old Ghan Railway locomotive.
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Inside the bar of the Marree Hotel.

Cleaned my bike thoroughly, oiled and tightened the chain, checked whether all bolts were still tight, ….
Late afternoon, Ruth arrives, a 70 year old German lady I saw already on the top of Mount Ohlssen Bagge. She is traveling around Australia in a Toyota Jeep since four years and is incredibly fit and full of good tips about the country.

Next up: The Oodnadatta Track !

Australia Prt 8, SA: Renmark to Laura

Route: Renmark – Morgan – Swan Reach – Angaston – Kapunda – Burra – Laura

In this report will appear the first part of my experiences on the Mawson Trail, but first the description off getting there from Renmark.

Day 71 & 72: 19 & 20 April 2019
Renmark Rest days

I enjoyed two very pleasant days of at Renmark where I cleaned the bike, changed the chain and my clothes got a good machine wash.
It may seem my active life consists solely of cycling and the occasional hiking, but here in Renmark I picked up a whole new sport. Ian took me to the local golf Club and introduced me to the sport. We played a couple of holes.
I guess I had a good start on my first hole, which should be done in five kicks (I am sure you’re not supposed to say ‘kicks’, but I don’t know the correct term), and I did it in ten.
The second hole, I only was four above par. But then I got worse and worse.
It being Good Friday, luckily hardly anybody was around to judge my performance (except some kangaroos).

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Shannon, Keryn and Ian.

After transferring my pictures from the memory card to the laptop, I saw there was again some dust on the sensor. I bought the equipment when I was in Belgium to clean it myself, but never had actually done it before, but is worked perfectly.
When I check online, it seems the Birdsville Track, which I have planned to ride in a month or so, is closed for the moment, due to the flood waters arriving through Coopers Creek from Queensland. Hopefully it will be solved by the time I’m there.

Day 73: 21 April 2019
From Renmark to Overland Corner
52,73 km (Total so far: 3142,12 km) – Altitude climbed: 191 m
Weather: Cloudy, light head, side & tail wind

DSC06677After being well fed during my stay with Ian and Keryn, Keryn also prepared a nice lunchbox for me on my day of departure which I ate at Lake Bonney. This may be a nice place to pitch a tent most of the year, but not on Easter Sunday. The place was packed.
I rode on towards the Overland Corner Hotel, a place from the late 19th century where I had a coke. Pitched the tent a bit further on in the forest.
Which is my new tent. I was seriously in doubt whether to buy a new Hilleberg, or this Marmot Tungsten 2P.

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Lake Bonney
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Lake Bonney
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Inside the Overland Corner pub.

The Hilleberg is top of course, but a full mesh inner is a separate extra again and I am afraid after a year in the Australian deserts, any tent will be ruined, so I delayed that
investment a bit.
But, this Marmot seems at first view excellent. Large, free standing mesh inner, two entrances and two vestibules, a larger and a smaller one.

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Day 74: 22 April 2019
From Overland Corner to 3 km passed Waikerie
42,00 km (Total so far: 3184,12 km) – Altitude climbed: 127 m
Weather: Sunny, moderate & strong head and side wind

I was happy to be of the Goyder Highway which was way too busy (people traveling home after their holidays ?) Via Devlins pound Road, I arrived back at the Murray River and took the ferry to the other side, Waikerie. Camped a bit out of town between the Murray and Hart Lagoon.

Day 75: 23 April 2019
From passed Waikerie to Morgan
49,24 km (Total so far: 3233,36 km) – Altitude climbed: 311 m
Weather: Sunny, Moderate and strong head and side winds

Undulating, asphalt, head winds.
Another ferry across the Murray River into Morgan which lies at a 90 degree bend in the river. From now it starts flowing south i.o. west.

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I discovered I had forgotten my adapter plug when I recharged my phone a bit in the tourist information in Waikerie while I went to the supermarket. thanks to some wonderful help from some staff of the Mid-Murray council, who knew people who would travel tonight from Waikerie to Morgan, I did not have to ride back myself.
So, a short day which I used to look around the beautiful little town, their railway history and the conservation park at the other side of the river, with some nice beaches.

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Day 76: 24 April 2019
From Morgan to Swan Reach Conservation Park
82,26 km (Total so far: 3315,62 km) – Altitude climbed: 341 m
Weather: Sunny, moderate and strong head winds

There are two options to travel downstream from Morgan, a paved option along the left bank or a dirt option on the right bank.
I chose the first, as there will be enough sand coming up the next weeks. The river floats here at 10 meter asl, I ride atop the cliffs at 50 meter asl. Some spectacular views of the river along the way and very light traffic make this a beautiful ride (despite the hard head winds).

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One of the big bends in the Murray River, seen from the cliffs, about 40 meters above the water.

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Near Blanchetown, I have to ride 2,5 km on the busy Sturt Highway, before taking the road to Swan Reach.
In Swan Reach I take another ferry across the river. There is a free camping area but it is too busy with caravans, so I say farewell for good to the Murray and push on a bit towards the Swan Reach Conservation Park, ten kilometer or so further on where I can camp happily on my lonesome in the nature.

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Day 77: 25 April 2019
From Swan Reach Conservation Park to Mengler Hill
66,65 km (Total so far: 3382,27 km) – Altitude climbed: 857 m
Weather: Sunny, moderate and strong head winds

Last full day on asphalt for a while. The head wind remains a constant of the last weeks where I was traveling mainly west or south.
As from tomorrow, my wheels turn north. Curious whether I will finally have some tail winds.
I ride through Sedan, which is named after the French Sedan. The local Iga shop is closed in the morning as today is Anzac day.
Sedan is the start (or finish) of the ‘Murray plains Cycle Trek’. I don’t ride it, as it goes in the opposite direction I want to go.
Since yesterday, I have been looking in the far distance towards the Mount Lofty Ranges and now is the time to cross them.
In Sedan, one is already at about hundred meter asl, the top of the ranges is at 450 meter, so nothing too dramatic.
Climbing goes at a steady 7%.
Brilliant views back to the Murray plains.

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Angaston is a neat touristic place, with a well stocked Foodland Supermarket.
Back in Morgan, I spoke to an alder guy riding a 1936 Chrysler. He said “you will probably forget it by the time you are there, but when we are in Angaston, we always take people to the Menglers Hill Lookout from where you have a view over the whole Barossa Valley”.
I am not somebody who forgets tips like that, so instead of taking the Barossa Trail directly towards Nuriootpa, I found myself climbing the Barossa Rango to a maximum altitude of 500 meter, and then coasting down to the viewpoint.
It seems many people had the same idea and I suspect it’s a popular sunset watching point.
I rode back up the hill to pitch the tent in some bushes, as down in the valley, it seems all vineyards.

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Angaston
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Angaston
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Another huge performance 😀

Day 78: 26 April 2019
From Mengler Hill to The Pines Recreation Reserve
50,22 km (Total so far: 3432,49 km) – Altitude climbed: 422 m
Weather: Cloudy, sunny, moderate tail wind

Some rain in the morning and not having written anything down since leaving Renmark, I catch up with that in the morning before rolling back down to Menglers Lookout (no-one around this time) and further down into Tanunda where I pick up the Mawson Trail.
The Mawson Trail is an off-road track, starting just outside Adelaide and goes north towards Blinman, crossing the wine regions of the Barossa and the Clare Valley, then visiting the Flinders Ranges.
Tanunda was a busy affair on this day with a small market in front of the tourist information where you could buy second hand stuff that you would throw away if it was in your own attic.

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View from Menglers Hill over the Barossa Valley.

Via a bike path along the busy Barossa Valley Road, I ride into Nuriootpa, just a few kilometer further on. Not the same charm as Tanunda.

After crossing the Sturt Highway (again) the off-road fun begins. Good, solid dirt roads bring me from hill to hill, never steep.

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Kapunda, Australia’s oldest mining town has a huge Catholic Churge.
I pitch the tent in The Pines Recreation Reserve, outside Kapunda.

Temperatures today did not climb over 17 degrees. And quite a bit of rain is predicted as from next Tuesday, which is bad news as it would make many of the tracks unrideable.
Hopefully the forecast will change as I head further north i the coming days.
First impressions of the Mawson: Splendid.

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The too big Catholic church for such a small place in Kapunda.

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Day 79: 27 April 2019
From The Pines Recreation Reserve to 7 km passed Riverton
51,65 km (Total so far: 3484,14 km) – Altitude climbed: 493 m
Weather: Sunny, moderate tail wind

Via really nice and very rideable dirt roads, I worked my way up and over the North Mount Lofty Ranges and back down into Riverton. On my first day after Renmark, I picked up a thick tube, I think from a motorbike, which I wanted to use as a ‘liner’ in my rear wheel to avoid more punctures. I was getting tired of that dirty thing sitting on the back of my bike (you will always see, I had no punctures since), so finally at Riverton I took the time to put in the the rear tyre, whilst charging my electrical devices from a public plug.

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Typical Mawson Trail scenery/

Outside of Riverton, I chose to follow the Ratler Trail i.o. of the Mawson trail to the next town, Auburn.
I found a good spot to pitch the tent next to the rail trail, in between a big tree to protect me from the wind, and a field with cows.
Having erected the tent, prepared and eaten dinner and ready to lay down on the mattress and read a bit after sunset, suddenly a big bull came my way. And was he making a show of it !
Loud moooowing and trying to impress me by throwing dust over himself with his front legs and with his head. It went on and on.
I thought he would give up after a while, but he only came closer, until he was at two meter from the tent.
I got out to chase him away, but made just little impression on him.
Like creating an extra meter, but he continued giving his show and making noises that could be heard kilometers away.
After 45 minutes I gave up. This could continue all night.
I wanted to retreat to another place I saw a kilometer back or so, but the beast just followed me on his side of the fence, continuing to make loud complains.
This wouldn’t work either.
I rode back to collect, and deflate the mattress I had left at the first place.
The bull followed me, but I could see he was getting tired a bit.
Anyways, I rode back to another possible camping spot I saw six kilometer back towards Riverton.
Not a good place, close to the busy Horrocks Road (where are all these people going to and coming from at night ? No large cities nearby).

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Day 80: 28 April 2019
From 7 km passed Riverton to Camels Hump Range
47,33 km (Total so far: 3531,47 km) – Altitude climbed: 475 m
Weather: Sunny, moderate tail & side wind

The ride continues along the rail trail, back passed my friend the bull.
When I whistle, he recognizes me and instantly starts furiously throwing dust al over the place haha.
After Auburn, the rail trail is named ‘Riesling Trail’, as that is the grape the Clare Valley is most famous for. Easy cycling, climbing 1 upto 1,5% towards Clare.

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Gentle inclines on the rail trail
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The vineyards don’t look too spectacular.

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I must say, most of the vineyards, whether it was in the Barossa Valley or here, look pretty sad and dry. As does all the farmland. We’re in autumn here, so probably it’s normal all is a little brown this time of year, but I heard several stories already how it practically hasn’t rained here in two years, how farmers commit suicide because they don’t see a way out anymore.
I spoke today with a lady who is working in one of the vineyards. She said even the bores are dry in some places now.
I can only guess that is one of the reasons why I see so many farms and even vineyards on sale.
I’m not from here, so I can’t say I SEE climate change, but still, it probably is right in your face here.

I finished the two giant books I was reading of Herman Brusselmans and the Burke & Wills book and now started reading David Wallace-Wells’ book ‘The Uninhabitable Earth’, about how we turned this place in a complete mess since WWII.
And all we do is giving extra gas towards hitting the wall.

After Clare, I continue riding the rail trail for a few more kilometers before taking a right turn on the Angus Court Road.
The Old Burra road, a deep red clay track, starts climbing into the hills.
how beautiful it is out here.
Solitude.
I pitch the tent just before I reach the ridge of the ‘Camels Hump Range’. One of these unforgettable places to arrive for a night.
I climb to the hill tops for superb views all round.

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This is what I’m doing it all for, this kind of camping spots, evenings in such places.

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Day 81: 29 April 2019
From Camels Hump Range to Mokota Conservation Park
49,57 km (Total so far: 3581,04 km) – Altitude climbed: 614 m
Weather: Sunny, moderate head wind

I woke up to a very misty morning. The bike, the tent, all was soaking wet.
Good, the perfect excuse for a slow, late start. As always, I take ample time for breakfast, than I hike to the top of two of the camel humps. Standing on the the top, it is quite a remarkable sights, this long line of humps going towards the horizon.

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This is what I woke up to in the Camels Hump Range

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YESSSSSS

After two / three days, the Wind Gods have realized I changed direction drastically and riding north now. They do likewise with the wind. The off-road terrain is just as nice and relatively easy as the previous days, but this change in wind direction makes my progress much slower and harder.

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By late afternoon I arrive in the town of Burra, once the second biggest in the South-Australia. It’s an old mining town, in which I wished to spend a few more hours, but that would mean I had to stay the night in town as well. After shopping and charging the phone a bit in the local tourist information, I push on.
A steepish climb out of town. On the map, I had seen there was the Mokota Conservation Park 22 kilometer after Burra. A bit too far this late in the day, but I hoped to find a nice camping spot before that.
Impossible.
All land is fenced off.
It’s after sunset when I finally reach the conservation park.
At least two dozens emu’s and even more kangaroos around.
I pitch the tent in the twilight.
All is good.

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Burra
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Burra

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Day 82: 30 April 2019
From Mokota Conservation Park to Hallet
66,73 km (Total so far: 3647,77 km ) – Altitude climbed: 961 m
Weather: Cloudy, very strong head wind, rain in the evening and night.

The wind really picked up early morning at my unprotected camp site.
So much the inner tent blew away while I was breaking down the tent.
No need to say these strong winds were of course blowing from where I was riding to, the north.
Beautiful ride, climbing up the Sugar Loaf Range.
I was listening to some episodes of the Cycling Podcast, to have a break from that howling wind in my ears.

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It was on of these days where you put on and off your jacket dozens of times. Off when you’re climbing, back on again on the descents and flats.
Since a few days, temperatures are not rising above 20 degrees anymore. More like 17°C or so. And this cold wind doesn’t make it very agreeable.
So strange people say you shouldn’t ride the Mawson trail, or along the Murray River for that matter, before May, as it is too hot.
I’d like it 10 degrees warmer during the day time.
The nights are fine, between 5 & 10°C.

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Along Dust Hole Creek, I’m almost blown back towards Adelaide.
It’s a flat track, good quality. I manage a mere 7 or 8 km/hr.
Push, push, push.
At the junction with Dares Hill Summit Road, I stop for a brief moment. I can take a left turn towards the Old Mount Byran East School, which is open for cyclists along the Mawson Trail or hikers along the Heysen Trail for the night, or I could take a right turn, following the official route via Dares Hill Summit and a big loop taking an extra fifteen kilometer towards Hallett.

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It is passed 3 pm. The sun will set in less than three hours. I am still 37 kilometer from Hallett via that official route and with these winds, my odo-meter shows an average speed of 9,81 km/hr for the day. That’s when I’m moving.
You lose more time making pictures, or having a bite.

But, do I wish this Mawson Trail to be shorter ?
No, I love it. I’d like it longer even, so I follow the official route and will see where the ship arrives today.
After a few hundred meter, a hiker comes from a side track. He’s carrying a heavy load and hiking the Heysen Trail. I had seen footsteps already in places where both routes intersect, so am happy to see the face behind them. It’s an older guy, American origin but living in Queensland now. He looks quite battered. He is asking for directions, not sure which way to go.
The bush flies are swarming him.
This is definitely harder then riding the Mawson.
I point him towards the old school house. Just 3,5 km to go, I tell him.

From Dares Summit, I have beautiful view towards the low lands to the east.
Five kilometer after the summit, the route turns almost complete the opposite direction and, for a short while with the wind in my back, I make good progress.

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Views from Dares Hill

Peppermint Gully would be a good place to pitch a tent. Some smaller trees to give you a break from the wind.
But, as the barometer, which was at a steady 1025 – 1031 hectopascal range the last days is plummeting down, towards 1010, and falling, I expect foul weather and ride on.
I feel I can easily make it towards the small town of Hallett, where cyclists and hikers can stay the night in the old railway station which is turned into a hut.
On my way into Hallett, after 59 kilometers today, I saw the first car. I told you this trail is a good one.

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Reading the logbook with entries dating back to 2009, I see that most people, both hikers and cyclists, struggle with ferocious winds in this region. That’s probably why the hills or full with wind mills. Many are complaining about the cold nights.
That’s their own fault.
Take a decent sleeping bag and mattress. They have temperature ranges for a reason.
But most people just look at lightest weight and then have cold nights.

The Hallett Train Station is a wonderful place for the night. It is nicely renovated and has a new sink and a nice pot belly stove which I got going. Very comfy and warm inside.
Checking the Outback Road Warnings, it appears the Birdsville Track is still closed 😦

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Day 83: 1 May 2019
Hallett: rest day
Weather: Sunny, cloudy, rain, strong winds

So, everybody keeps telling me how it has hardly rained in the last two years, how green this area normally is, but here I am, and for the second day in a row it has been raining for a couple of hours in the evening.
Wonder what that will do to the track tomorrow.

Have been cleaning the bike a bit, tightened the chain, sat in the sun, behind the strain station, out of the wind. A deserved rest day. It’s been ten days in the saddle since leaving Renmark.
And on the first of May, everybody should take a rest 😉

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Cozy days in the Hallett Train Station

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Outside pic from the station.

Day 84: 2 May 2019
From Hallett to Before Bundaleer Reservoir
60,70 km (Total so far: 3708,47 km) – Altitude climbed: 506 m
Weather: Sunny, very strong head wind

Don’t want to moan (because I enjoy this fantastic trail immensely) but it was again the wind that created the biggest difficulty today. That, combined with the trail which has become a bit spongy in parts from the rain. And one biggish climb over Brown Hill Range. But all of that would be nothing, if it weren’t for that constant hard head wind pushing you back to where you came from.

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Windmills all around probably means it’s never really quite here.

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By the time I reach the highest point, we are well in the afternoon and I start to doubt whether I’ll make it beyond Spalding today.
But now the trail is downhill for most of the day, down to Hurricane Ridge (!?) and to the beginning of the Bundaleer (irrigation) Channels.
Lots of gates to be opened and closed.
There are a few possibilities to pitch your tent before Spalding, well sheltered from the wind, but I decide to go on a bit.

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Spalding has a convenience store, friendly owner.
Just beyond Spalding, more possibilities to pitch your tent along the channels.
I stop for the day a bit before the Bundaleer Reservoir at a nice spot with a few trees in this otherwise barren landscape.
Again, clouds appear near sunset, very dark clouds, but only a few drops of rain.

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Day 85: 3 May 2019
From before Bundaleer Reservoir to just before Bundaleer Forest
29,86 km (Total so far: 3738,33 ) – Altitude climbed: 505
Weather: Sunny, cloudy, drizzle, rain, very strong head wind

A small stretch over the Goyder Highway. Hey, isn’t that that same highway I rode on upon leaving Renmark ?
But soon enough I’m back on dirt into the North Mount Lofty Ranges.
Slowly, very slowly for the same reasons as the previous days.
At the turn-off near Washpool, I find a sheltered place behind a large tree for lunch.
Temperatures won’t go above 14°C today.
“Don’t ride the Mawson Trail before May. It’s too hot”, they tell you.
Don’t believe it.
April might be just ideal.

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Aquaduct

A steep climb into the ‘Never Never Range’.
It’s not ‘never never wind’, or ‘never never rain’, or never never ugly grey clouds’ because I get all of that.
Also not ‘never never steep’, because I even get to push some part.
But despite all that, it’s still nice. I get to see lama’s, deer and above all, a nice track.

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On the southern edge of the Bundaleer Forest, a small piece of greenery in this vast, brown, barren, hilly land, is the Curnow’s Hut. When you make reservation, you could sleep there.
I had no such intentions, but I reckoned on filling up my water bottles there.
The track towards the hut is closed by a gate, locked with a padlock. Well, forget it, I’m not gonna clamber over that. Have enough water if I’m a bit careful.

That whole forest seemed to be fenced of by barb wire.
And for the next kilometers, it’s only young pine trees, neatly planted in rows.
Maybe future commercial value, but no natural value whatsoever.
And worthless terrain to camp.
It starts raining hard now and I decide to ride 2,5 kilometer back to a place I saw just before the turn-off to te Curnow’s Hut.
I sit under my groundsheet for a while, hoping to sit out the rain and pitch the tent when it’s dry again, but of course you cool off rapidly like that.
In the end, I pitch the tent in the downpour and dry it out afterwards with my kitchen towel.

Day 86: 4 May 2019
From just before Bundaleer Forest to Laura
49,29 km (Total so far: 3787,62 km) – Altitude climbed: 380 m
Weather: Cloudy, rain, cold, strong head wind

8 am.
Drizzle.
Opening the tent door just a little bit, I see nothing but dark grey skies.
Doesn’t look very appealing and I contemplate staying here for the day.
Always enough food to be found in the dark corners of my panniers. And when I put my cooking pot outside in the rain yesterday, I gathered a liter of water in just half an hour.
Dry country.
No rain in two years.
Ha !

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Cold May days on South-Australia.

It stops raining later in the morning and I decide to leavy the muddy camp spot.
Further on in the Bundaleer Forest are bigger trees again and more opportunities for camping.
Tha Manatoo Road is muddy and sucks the tires in like a sponge. Luckily it is downhill and I can keep the train moving.
Here, I’m leaving the North Mount Lofty Ranges behind and am slowly entering the South Flinders Ranges
I arrive in Laura between 3 & 4 pm. The local Iga closed at 2 pm.
Pitch the tent behind the sport stadium.

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Part 2 off the Mawson Trail to follow soon.

Australia Prt 7, Nsw & Vic: Swan Hill to Renmark

Route: Swan Hill – Balranald – Mungo NP – Mildura – Wentworth – Lake Victoria – Renmark

Day 61: 9 April 2019
From 12 km before Swan Hill to 12 km before Balranald
97,93 km (Total so far: 2487,54 km) – Altitude climbed: 182 m
Weather: Sunny, strong head and tail wind

It was a very windy night. A cold wind. I had pitched only the inner tent so it blew right through. Except for my nose, I was warm enough, but it all made a bit too much noise. I was camped in a bend of the little Murray River, so it came in right from the water.

After little under an hour cycling, I reached Swan Hill, on the 10th day after leaving Melbourne. It is here the expedition of Burke & Wills reached the Murray River, 18 days after leaving Melbourne. That actually puts my performance to shame, beating them with only 8 days. Some may think I’m heavily loaded, but I carry, food and water included maybe 50 kg.
The Burke & Wills expedition was carrying 20 tons !
But they didn’t have bikes to transport it. They did it with wagons, horses and camels.
Thus, once again, it is proven the bicycle is a superior mode of transport.

The Murray River floats through Swan Hill at an elevation of still 70 meter asl, 30 meter lost since Echuca. I buy provisions, new cycling gloves and go for lunch in a Vietnamese restaurant in town.

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Before the historical bridge over the Murray is a small memorial for Charley Gray, an important member of the Burke & Wills expedition. Oh, maybe I haven’t explained that yet, for the non-Aussies, this expedition was all about trying to be the first to cross Australia south to north and happened in 1860.
Burke & Wills were on their way for the state of Victoria, whilst John McDouall Stuart, a much more experienced explorer, was aiming the same for the state of South Australia.

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While I was having my lunch in the Vietnamese restaurant, the wind must have shifted a
bit, and I also changed direction a bit, going north west towards Balranald and Mungo National Park.
A strong wind was blowing in my back now, and at times I was pushed forward at 30 km/hr.
That’s too much fun to continue for too long.
Another flat tyre.
In the back, of course.
Probably a thorn I picked up when the sandy bike lane ended a few kilometer outside off Swan Hill.
I decide to pump it, and see how much longer I can go.
Twenty kilometer, that was.
Good enough. I stop at the junction with a sandy path to pump it again, when suddenly a guy appears out of nowhere.
“Hi, don’t be scared. I brought nothing with me not to scare you”, he says.
“I wasn’t scared”, I think and say “hello”, while pumping my tyre.
“I’m a bushman” he says, “I lived here all my life, from when I was this little (holding his hands low to the ground) until now”.
I was a bit disappointed at this.

My first bushman, and he looks like one of these beggars in front of the supermarket or the bottle shop, a completely worn jeans, double the size he needed, hair that hasn’t been washed yet in 2019, filthy hands,….
I was hoping for something more Crocodile Dundee style.
At least, he could make sure he had a hat like Mick Dundee, don’t you think ?

Mick DundeeHe went on to tell I had to be careful, for other guys in the bush who where using amphetamines and other drugs.
Did I want him to bring me to Balranald, he asked.
I declined, explaining him I wanted to cycle.
Now, and I swear I don’t make this up, he started to tell me about a Japanese cyclist he once met, and that guy didn’t carry anything, “not a drop of oil and hardly any water. They had to rescue him and …..”

Many people know about the famous G.J. Coop who published two diaries about his cycling adventures in Australia, ‘Heading West’ and ‘zzOz (zig zag across Australia)’. His trips must be more than ten years ago now, and people were always warning him, because ‘there was this Japanese cyclist and ….’.
I thought I was gonna piss my pants when this guy started to tell me the exact same story.

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Not a hill in sight 🙂

Joining the Yanga Highway, I’m on a busier road.
There would be an opportunity to leave it again after crossing the Wakool river and ride via Weimby Kyalite and the Windomal Roads towards Balranald but I chose to stay on the highway for once.
The road I came off was gradually turning more and more towards the west and at the end I was almost battling against the wind again. After turning 90 degrees on this highway, that strong wind is blowing right in my back again, so I want to make the most of that.

I’m now riding through ‘Mallee country’, harsh scrub, low growing mallee eucalyptus.

Despite my long break in Swan Hill, I still have the longest distance since arriving in Australia, 97,93 km. I didn’t go over the 100 km mark, just because I saw an ok place to camp, 12 km before Balranald.

I could identify two birds again today: the Black-Faced Cuckoo-Shrike and the Crested Pigeon, two very common birds.
And more emu’s as well.

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Day 62: 10 April 2019
From 12 km before Balranald to along Marma Box Creek Road
85,37 km (Total so far: 2572,91 km) – Altitude climbed: 109 m
Weather: Sunny, moderate tail and side wind

The Yanga Highway seemed bussier then yesterday. Or maybe my progress was just slower due to a much reduced tail wind.
For five kilometer I rode on the Sturt Highway, then crossing the Murrumbidgee River and entering Balranald, another stop on the Burke & Wills expedition as well.
There are two supermarkets (Iga & Foodworks), a bakery and a pizza thing for all your needs.
As I won’t see any shops until I arrive in Mildura, 320 kilometers further on, I buy food for six days and load the bicycle with about 16 liters of water (which I hope to replenish at Mungo National Park).

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On this scale, a ‘high’ fire danger still seems pretty good.
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I am in…

I continued cycling north over the Ivanhoe Road and had three nice encounters.  First a ute stopped. He had a bike rack with a shiny black bike, the Australian brand which name I forgot now. This guy hopes to ride the Birdsville track five weeks from now.
Then a ute coming from the other direction stopped for a chatting, curious where I was going to.
At the junction with the Ivanhoe Road and the Marma Box Creek Road (the road towards Mungo), another car stopped. An Estonian couple, already 1,5 year here, working on vinyards and factories, said ‘You really don’t want to go that way’.
Well, that’s exactly the way I plan to go.
A lot of corrugation is awaiting me and even in the car they went very slow, they said.
And the part between Mildura and the park is even worse.
We chat a bit longer before we go our own ways.
At least I know what’s coming up.
I stop a bit earlier as planned. Suddenly both sides of the dirt track were fenced off.
And as fences can go for 30 kilometer or more here, I call it a day.

Oh, btw, at the junction of Ivanhoe & Marma Box Creek Road, there’s a small concrete tank with a tap from which you can take water.
It looked good to me. I used it for cooking.

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The camping is fantastic here. Far away from any town, there is no light pollution. The stars, the Milky Way….. at nighttime, there is often no wind …. complete and perfect silence.
You hear nothing at all.
Perfect.

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Day 63: 11 April 2019
From along Marma Box Creek Road to alongside Lake Mungo
73,85 km (Total so far: 2646,76 km) – Altitude climbed: 247 m
Weather: Sunny, light tail wind

The fence for which I made an earlier as planned stop yesterday only lasted for a little while, so nothing to worry there.
I ride through a landscape that really starts to feal as ‘The Outback’, although those really remote areas still have to come, where I am many, many hundreds of kilometers away from a village or town, instead of the 150 km I go out now.
But the sand is red, sometimes plains with just scrub, sometimes these low Eucalyptus Trees that grow a maximum of about 7 meters high only. I think these are the Mallee, but I still need to get to know the exact names of the flora here.
Everything is so different from ‘home’. The differences between kangaroos, wallaby’s, pademelons, every colored bird we would name a parrot, could be a cockatoo or a parakeet as well.
All these trees we don’t have, gum trees, box trees, coolabah trees, eucalyptus trees….
But all in all, the landscape reminds me at times to Southern Patagonia, bare the color of the sand.

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At the junction of Marma Box Creek Road and Balranald Road (not sure of this name), there is another concrete water tank where I refresh myself a bit. I still carry enough water, so don’t refill here.
Not a lot of traffic, I think I saw seven cars today.
Three assholes who pass at full speed throwing stones from under their wheels and a big cloud of dust, the other four slowing down, two of them stop for a little chat.

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Again, I stop early, a few kilometer before the official Lake Mungo campground from the national park. I prefer a quiet night on my own, and that’s exactly what I get.
I take a small side track towards the dry Lake Mungo. Careful not to push the bike over thorns towards a nice spot I enjoy the late afternoon with a view over this flat desert land.

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How good do your campsites have to become ?  Looking out at the dry Mungo Lake, the Walls of China in the far distance.

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Day 64: 12 April 2019
From Alongside Lake Mungo to near Mungo Lookout
72,55 km (Total so far: 2719,31 km) – Altitude climbed: 200 m
Weather: Sunny, light head, side and tail wind

DSC06321A full day in Mungo National Park. The loop road through the park has to be ridden anti-clockwise, it’s a one way track.
First to the most famous part of the park, the ‘Walls of China’, a long dune, consisting of clay on this side, white sand on the other side. Erosion has made nice shape in the hard packed clay.
But, you are not allowed to go on the dune without a guide and a guided tour is 50 AUD (1282 Belgian Francs or 32 Euro) which I find too much to walk around a dune a bit.
And honestly, I have seen much higher and more impressive things like this in Argentina.

Anyways, this Mungo area was inhabited by Aboriginals 40.000 years ago and makes it the oldest place in Australia where they have found traces of their culture.

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Red Top Lookout offers a more close-up view of the erosion.
Until here, one could retrace his steps, if you continue, it’s the one way loop all the way back to the park head quarters (60 km).

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Honk, honk, honk….honk, honk….
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“What on earth is that ?  Is that a red Kangaroo, sitting at that table ?  Oh no, it’s one of these crazy people riding a pushbike through these sandy, hot lands…”
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“Let’s be a bit charming, maybe he is naive enough to give me some food ?”
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“No food, but at least he helped me get to some water. Everything is so dry here.”
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“Thank you, crazy man.”

The track deteriorates a lot. Very corrugated and large stretches with loose sand where I have to push the bike.
By the end of the day I’m really tired of all the pushing and the washboard corrugations hurt my shoulders.
Luckily, there are hot showers at the visitor centre.

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The dry Lake Leaghur.

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Day 65: 13 April 2019
From near Mungo Lookout to 50 km before Mildura
58,67 kmkm (Total so far: 2777,98 km) – Altitude climbed: 123 m
Weather: Sunny, moderate head wind

Three flat tyres !
Yes, three.
And only after 250 meter into my trip today. That must be a personal record.
Must have happened while pushing the bike out of my camping spot, although I was very careful not to ride over any potential thorn or sharp thing.
Both the front and the rear tyre were losing air, and I still had the punctured tube with me from when I had that puncture between Swan Hill and Balranald. Couldn’t find the hole back then.

The Mungo Lookout has a water tap, so I filled that red bag on the back of my bike with water and started to work.
The three tubes patched, rear and front tyre exchanged (the wear on the back was already clearly visible after less then 3.000 km on rough roads) and the chain tightened, I could finally start, with 1,5 hour delay.

And the road from the park towards Mildura is bad.
Heavily corrugated and a lot of deep loose sand where I have to push the bike.
Throw some moderate head wind in and the going was tough and slow. Hard on the bike and the rider. Pulses, arms, shoulders and my back taking a beating.
Real Outback travel, that’s what I’m here for 🙂
The landscape is flat, light undulations with the lowest point at 55 meter asl and the highest 120 meter asl.

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Still 2,5 hours before sunset I was spent.
Off-loaded the bike and brought the bags one by one into the bush a bit off the road, then carried the bike to that place.
Not taking my chances anymore to have flats tomorrow morning.

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Day 66: 14 April 2019
From 50 km before Mildura to passed Mildura
79,69 km (Total so far: 2857,67 km) – Altitude climbed: 224 m
Weather: Sunny, light head wind

After a bit over twenty kilometer I was back on asphalt. But these first twenty kilometer were stil quite hard with a lot of loose sand and pushing the bike.
But these ordeals are the only way to make me appreciate asphalt.

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I didn’t like Mildura. I cycled around a bit in the place and there’s truly nothing to like about the place. Big city, + 50.000 inhabitants, a lot of noisy traffic a few bike lanes to which exactly one car driver paid attention. All the others come from the side streets, over the bike lane to the edge of the road without looking for a cyclist. For them, you are like a kangaroo, better dead than alive.

Even on a Sunday, supermarkets are open from 6 am till midnight.
Why ?
Do people really need to be able to buy a broccoli, a wooden spoon or a bag of tea at 11 pm on a Sunday ?
Can’t people think ahead anymore ?
Plan ahead ?
Just a few hours ?
Ridiculous.
The Bunnings warehouse lies five kilometer out of town. On the wrong side of course, but I need to go for a new bottle of shellite for the stove.
At least, Mildura’s library is a nice place to sit for an hour to do some necessary things online and recharge batteries.
The sun is setting by the time I reach the Murray, west of the town for a place to camp.
The river floats here at 35 meter asl, and still has a long way to go to the ocean.
Many people here and I retread a bit away from the river to find a quiet place and not pitch my tent between the river and the dusty dirt road where people ride up and down till midnight, of course without any regards to other people and the dust they are creating.
Time to go to a less populated place along the big river tomorrow, if that is possible during these Easter holidays.

Day 67: 15 April 2019
From passed Mildura to 10 km passed Wentworth
44,46 km (Total so far: 2902,13 km) – Altitude climbed: 85 m
Weather: Sunny, moderate head wind

As I was close to the city yesterday, I had good phone reception and managed to watch Paris-Roubaix on the laptop. On SBS with Robbie McEwen.
Excellent race.

I left my camping spot late morning and kept riding along the south side of the Murray River via the Redgum Track. Ample possibilities for people with caravans and campervans to come camping, which means the whole area is littered. Empty beer bottles and cans, cardboard, empty jerry cans, broken camping furniture, etc, etc….

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The Red Gum Track
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A lone fisherman on the Murray.

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A few kilometer east of Wentworth, I crossed the Murray again and rode for the third time from Victoria state into New South Wales.
Wentworth is the confluence of Australia’s two biggest rivers, the Murray and the Darling River, bringing waters from Queensland and northern New South Wales all the way down to the bottom of Australia.
The Murray-Darling basin covers 1.06 million sq km, the size of France and Spain, and covers 14 percent of Australia’s landmass.

They’ve built a small watch tower to have a better overview. On clear days, you’re supposed to see the different (green and brown) colors of both rivers, but is was a bit cloudy when I was there.

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Confluence of Murray and Darling Rivers.  Not the most spectacular under a grey sky.

A few kilometer west of town, I visited the Perry Sand hills, dating back from a previous ice ago some 40.000 years ago.
Pitched the tent a few kilometer further near a dry creek bed. The only place with a bit of trees and bushes in this otherwise wide open, flat landscape

Today, I saw a small Willy Wagtail attacking (or destracting) a much bigger Australian Magpie.  Good on you, I’m with you eh, Willy Wagtail.

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Hurray ! Hurray !

Day 68: 16 April 2019
From 10 km passed Wentworth to Lake Victoria / Rufus River
60,15 km (Total so far: 2962,28 km) – Altitude climbed: 59 m
Weather: Sunny, moderate head wind

About six kilometer from last nights camping spot, I arrive at the ten mile bridge, crossing the Great Anabranch of the Darling River. This 480 km natural watercourse is actually the original course of the Darling River, which has cut a new course further to the east about 10.000 years ago.
The Anabranch leaves the Darling River further north from here and enters in the Murray a bit south from here, after it’s confluence with the Darling River.

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My landscape for the time being. No complaints.
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Red Gum Trees

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The wind blows from the north west. That’s straight from the desert. And does it get hot today.
35 degrees in the shade. That’s well above 40°C in the sun. We’re going towards winter now, so I can imagine what it can be like here in summer.

I leave the Renmark Road for the gravel Rufus Road.
Not much traffic around here, but when a car or truck does go by, I move to the wrong (right) side of the road, just to stay out of the dust with this north westerly.
A truck driver stops for a little chat and to enquire where I’m heading.

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Blue-Tongue Lizard

Just as I felt I was getting cooked under the sun, there was a junction to my left and some trees giving shade. And there was more.
Water !
A creek, Frenchman’s Creek.
I pushed to bike to a place in the shade and went for a swim, ignoring the signs saying that it was dangerous and blah blah blah.
Returning to the bike, I saw the rear tyre was flat.
Just being careless for 25 meter pushing aside the track, and you’re punished.
No warning signs for that 😉

Moving on, the road is paved when I came nearer Lake Victoria.
Lots and lots of Pelicans feeding from the inlet. What a sight !
I rode back a few hundred meters to camp under the small eucalyptus trees.
There’s a tap with water at the toilet building and also at the information sign near the inlet.

In the morning, dozens of kangaroos jumping around my tent, all being wary, but also very curious. Brilliant

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Their eyes are so unreal. Like they are from plastic and glued on them.
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Too close for comfort.
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This one just caught a fish.

Day 69: 17 April 2019
From Lake Victoria / Rufus River to Coombool Swamp
72,96 km (Total so far: 3035,24 km) – Altitude climbed: 229 m
Weather: Sunny, strong head wind

A very frustrating day.
When I wake up, I see the rear tyre is flat, despite me bringing all the luggage into camp by hand, then carrying the bike over.
The road is worse than yesterday.
Very bumpy, endless corrugations, a lot of deep, loose sand where I’m required to push the bike, slight uphills, a strong head wind and 35 degrees in the shade.
And there’s always that heavy bike.
And the flies !
Not dozens anymore but hundreds flying and zooming around my head, on my shoulders, my back, my hands, …

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This is nothing compared to my back, which is black of the flies.

Then, there was the Old Wentworth Road I planned to take.
A sign saying ‘Road Closed’ was shoved to the side and car tracks were going in.
I followed my planned route, also because this road was smaller than the wide Rufus Road, which is never charming to ride, and it seemed harder packed sand.
That didn’t last long.
After 2,5 km I arrived at a gate with a sign ‘Shut Gate Please’.
As far as I understand, you’re welcome to enter it in that case.
A bit further there was a sign to ‘Keep Out’ (Talkeetna Station).
Bat that was at the unfenced side of the road.
What’s the interpretation here ?
‘Shut the Gate’, means you can come in.
There are also official road signs along the track like for a grid and these official white poles.
Probably they don’t want you to enter the private land beside the road.
Nobody will put official road signs on his private land, right ?
And the government will not put official road signs on private roads, right ?

I check my large scale map, and even on that one, this track is marked.

Five kilometers further on, another cattle grid. This time leaving no space for interpretation. I had to keep out. But, there was a phone number on the sign to enquire for permission.
Hard, in a region where there’s no phone reception.
I turned back, a 15 km slow, bumpy, windy, sweaty rond trip for nothing.

How are you supposed to plan a trip like that, if tracks on official maps, with all the road signs, end up being private ??
Back on the Rufus Road, I saw I just had finished my 3.000th kilometer for this trip.

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The track became even bumpier and sandier.

Today, I also entered my fourth Australian state, and I keep ticking them off in a nice order, because this one is the fourth smallest, South-Australia.
Quarantine rules require you to dump your fruit and vegetables in a bin at the border. No worries, I had just 1/2 broccoli and half a pepper left.

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All in all, not a good day, not at all.
But that happens on long trips.
Better tomorrow.

Day 70: 18 April 2019
From Coombool Swamp to Renmark
54,15 km (Total so far: 3089,39 km) – Altitude climbed: 154 m
Weather: Sunny, moderate head and side wind

Literally five drops of rain yesterday evening. And a pretty hard wind, which was welcome to cool things down a bit. The road was not as catastrophic as yesterday, but stil quite bumpy. And, as I was turning my wheels south for the day, the wind had shifted from northwest to southwest, so I was still fighting against it. Good thing was, due to this southerly direction, the temperatures dropped by 10 degrees compared to yesterday.
Went to the Toyworld in Renmark for a new tube. Presta is not so common, so that had to be brought in. I had to wait for an hour, which I used to visit the Chinese restaurant for a take away lunch which I ate in the beautiful park between the library and the Murray River.

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I will stay tonight with Ian, Keryn and Shannon. We had a superb diner and a couple of beers in The Club, next to the river and I could sleep in a real bed.
All is good again.
Looking forward to riding my bike in South-Australia, but more about that in the next post.

Australia Prt 6, Vic & Nsw: Melbourne to Swan Hill

Route: Melbourne – Diamond Creek – Seymour – Rusworth – Echuca – Barham – Murrabit – Swan Hill

Day 50 & 51: 29 & 30 March 2019
Melbourne

On arrival in Melbourne, I saw another bicycle on board the Spirit Of Tasmania.
Bianca, living literally a stone’s throw away from the ferry landing, had just cycled a tour around Tasmania as well.
We went for a very delicious breakfast together before I went off, getting supplies in the Coles supermarket.

On my ride into the city centre, I was stopped by an older Asian man on an old bike. He introduced himself as ‘Master Tai’, A 76 year old Chinese Man. He had plenty of houses in Melbourne, told me about how he had had a flourishing business in China, but gave everything to his ex-wife.
He came back to Australia, starting from scratch, and in no time had millions of dollars again.
“I like what you do, I can give you millions”
“I can even turn that stone into gold’, he told me.
“Turn my bike into gold”, I said to him, but he couldn’t live up to his claims.
“Next time I see you, I turn you into a millionaire”, he said again.
I thanked him for his kindness and rode on into town, where I wanted to visit some of the outdoor stores before noon time, when I had to be down at the Princess Bridge to meet up with Paul,a cyclist originally from Adelaide, who makes regularly long trips in Europe and has his own website, https://www.ebiketraveller.site.
The plan was to stay one day only, but bad weather on Saturday decided otherwise.

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Yesss, they’ve got one here as well 🙂

On Saturday, a French couple, Philippe and Marie arrived. They had stayed with Paul before, on their arrival in Australia.

It’s a fine neighborhood here, with some trendy café’s and best of all, a big Asian community, mainly Vietnamese it seems, but also Thai and Chinese, with their own shops and restaurants. Yup, a neighborhood I could live.

Day 52: 31 March 2019
From Melbourne to Wild Dog Creek
63,68 km km (Total so far: 1935,84 km) – Altitude climbed: 827 m
Weather: Cloudy, rain

Also today the weather was still cloudy and some rain was predicted in the afternoon. I was so anxious to start my long trip, crossing the Australian continent south to north, that I couldn’t wait another day.
Paul joined me for the first kilometers.
I had made my route along the Yarra River Trail. Not the shortest route to leave town, but it’s car free and mostly along the green river banks so you’re not even realizing you are leaving such a big town.
All locals along the trail were very outgoing and every time I stopped they approached me enquiring where I was going, etc…
After the Yarra Trail, I took the Diamond Creek Trail. From here, the road starts to climb. Not too serious, but you’ll have to work a bit already.

The Great Dividing Range was covered in clouds and it started raining, so that has to wait another day. Barely 17 degrees today.

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Paul (on the right) and the French cyclists.
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Fairfield Pipe Bridge, Yarra Trail, Melbourne
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Red Crimson Rosella, shaking the water from his head
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Great Dividing Range covered in clouds

Day 53: 1 April 2019
From Wild Dog Creek to King Parrot Creek
49,56 km (Total so far: 1985,40 km) – Altitude climbed: 780 m
Weather: Cloudy, sunny, light tail wind

Steep.
Steep !!
I managed again to chose the steepest way over the range, I think.
That dirt road through the King Lake National Park. I could cycle it, with great efforts, when the gradients were 14 or 15%. Most of the time however, it was steeper and I had to push. Sometimes 18%, after that, I pushed too slow to register the inclination.

Interestingly, I passed some memorials for the big forest fires that raged through this region on 7 February 2009 and killed 14 people in St. Andrews alone, as much as 173 in the whole state of Victoria. The event is now known as Black Saturday.
That day, temperatures were 45,7 °C and winds of 150 km/hr started new fires in instants 20 kilometer away from the previous spot.
The Black Saturday Fires destroyed areas extending some 100 km from west to east.

Today, temperatures were as low as 14 degrees only.

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Very steep climbs into Kinglake National Park
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View back to Melbourne from the Great Dividing Range

At the junction with the paved Whittlesea-Kinglake Road C724, I reached the highest point at 648 meter.
Not impressive, you would think.
Well, try and do it. It was very hard. Luckily, once at the top, finally the sun came out.
Melbourne under a thick layer of clouds at one side, the hinterland bathing in the sun.

There is some sort of unmaintained bike path along the road which keeps me nicely separated from the traffic.
The downhill was very smooth, except from one steeper part, so should be easier coming from the other side.

Today I cycled from ‘Wild Dog Creek’ to ‘King Parrot Creek’.
Sounds nice he 🙂
By the way, yesterday I saw King Parrots. What exceptional beautiful birds.
I also saw many Red Crimson Rosella’s and Eastern Rosella’s.
The Sulphur-crested Cockatoo’s are everywhere in flocks of 20 or 30 birds making lots of noise.
Fantastic.
Lost my tripod today 😦

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Day 54: 2 April 2019
From King Parrot Creek to Northwood Hill
66,62 km (Total so far: 2052,02 km) – Altitude climbed: 441 m
Weather: Sunny, moderate & strong tail & side wind

Along the King Parrot Creek Road, I cycled towards the Great Victorian Rail Trail, which I left again a bit before its end (or beginning) to cycle via the School House Lane towards Seymour.
There is a huge Vietnam War Memorial at this place. Or American War Memorial, as it would be called by the Vietnamese people.

Cycled out of town, then took Northwood Road. All land is fenced off, found a reasonable place in a bend in the road where the fences were a bit further off.
did I see a Whistling Kite today ?
Not sure, so not ticking it off.

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Great Victorian Rail Trail

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Vietnam (American) War Memorial, Seymour

Day 55: 3 April 2019
From Northwood Hill to 5 km bf Rushworth
59,87 km (Total so far: 2111,89 km) – Altitude climbed: 396 m
Weather: Sunny, light head and side wind

Thanks to careful planning in the months before I left to Australia, I ended up riding a few interesting gravel roads like the Weir Road and the tracks through Whroo Nature Consevation Reserve. I ended up in Rushworth, a little town established in 1853 during the gold rush.
One of the nicest little towns I came through so far.
Well maintained old buildings, all friendly people. I cycled out of town with Damian, a fellow local cyclist.

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Rusworth
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Rusworth

Day 56: 4 April 2019
From 5 km bf Rushworth to Yambuna
60,81 km (Total so far: 2172,70 km) – Altitude climbed: 90 m
Weather: Cloudy, sunny, moderate head wind

Flies !!
I was warned about them, and read about them in several blogs from other cyclists and today, as I crossed the C345 (Bendigo – Murchison Road) , going north from Rushworth, they were suddenly there. Not a few. Hundreds !
They sit on your back, on your bags, on your wet laundry, circle around you, try to get into your ears, your nose.
The legionair cap I bought in Melbourne, combined with a bandana and good sunglasses that sit close on your face help a lot, but it is super annoying when you stop, or when you want to eat.
They are persistent.
They don’t bite.

I continued riding straight north.
Flat lands here, irrigation channels, cattle, all land fenced off, just like the previous days.
Uninspiring country, but a nice change after all the climbing on Tasmania.
I pitch the tent about six kilometer north of the Murray Valley Highway in the Allan Corry Roadside Reserve.

Day 57: 5 April 2019
From Yambuna to after Moama
42,92 km (Total so far: 2215,62 km) – Altitude climbed: 77 m
Weather: Sunny, strong head wind

On the fifth day of April, around noon time, I reach the borders of the Murray River …

A strong head wind all day, no matter in which direction I turn the handle bars. You have those days.
But it’s a good day.
I should have ridden a few kilometers longer yesterday, because I see some really good camping spots along the Goulburn River, just before its confluence with the Murray River.
I leave the bumpy Glanville Road for the Bangerang Road, staying as close to the river as possible.

In Echuca I find a new Gorilla Pod in the local camera shop. It’s even cheaper as in Europe.
Echuca is a nice place, some older buildings, a McDonalds I visit and a long visit to the library to recharge all the devices.

From Echuca, I cross the Murray River and enter my third Australian state, New South Wales.
I visited the two smallest ones, Tasmania and Victoria already. New South Wales is the most populous, but also the third smallest of the seven. I know this statement is not entirely correct, because you have states, and territories, and there’s also the Australian Capital Territory and the Jervis Bay Territory, but these are so small, and to keep things simple, I reckon with seven states, because that’s how it looks at the map.

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The single trail tracks along the Murray River, outside Moama.

The Murray River is hundred meter asl here, still more than a thousand kilometer from its mouth.
That will be some slow moving stream. The Murray is also Australia’s longest river and will be my companion for the coming weeks.

Ten kilometer west of Moama is a forest with mtb trails along the Murray and plenty of goods places to pitch a tent.

Day 58: 6 April 2019
From 10 km passed Moama to Koondrook State Forest
60n18 km (Total so far: 2275,80 km) – Altitude climbed: 60 m
Weather: Sunny, moderate head wind / no wind in the forest

What a brilliant ride today.
I left my pitch along the Murray quite late, too occupied with Thai Airways giving me a hard time returning money of my cancelled tickets, and also trying to decide which tent I should order.

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Camping right between the track and the river, and not a soul in sight.

The first ten kilometer of the day along the asphalted Perricoota Road are nothing special, but once I take a left turn into the Perricoota Forest Road, the fun begins.
Asphalt disappears, washboard for a little while, but then a good hard packed sand road through open farm land.
Once I enter Perricoota State Forest, all fences disappear and it’s a very beautiful ride through the forest. The Murray River is very winding here and always appears and disappears.
Camping is possible everywhere.

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I stop along one of the bends in the river to wash out some clothes and have a swim.
The Perricoota Forest becomes the Koondrook State Forest where, after 2270 km into my ride here, I have my first flat tyre.
I pump it a few times until I find a good spot for the night, and patch the tube after pitching the tent.

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Wobble, wobble, wobble.

Saw two groups of four Emu’s today, running alongside me, crossing my path, joinced by kangaroos. It feels like cycling through Jurrasic Park.
Great day.

Day 59: 7 April 2019
From Koondrook State Forest to Campbells Island State Forest
51,18 km (Total so far: 2326,98 km) – Altitude climbed: 28 m
Weather: Sun, moderate head wind

The joy of cycling along the Murray continues, here on the New South Wales Side.
Before reaching the asphalt and riding into the small town of Barham, I saw one car.
When you see more kangaroos than cars, life is good.

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Two supermarkets in Barham, a ‘Foodworks’ and an ‘Iga’.
I chose the Foodworks, because I’ve never entered one. There’s also a Thai restaurant in town (Happy Elephant Thai – it was closed on a Sunday afternoon) and in the small park I found an electrical outlet to charge the phone and laptop. Two poles of my tent are starting to break. I repaired them but that’s not gonna last, and I don’t want to end up in the desert with a collapsed tent, so I ordered a new one.
I was at the point of ordering a Hilleberg Rogen. The tents are so good and so beautiful, but of course you also pay for what you get.
So I changed my mind, and ordered a cheaper Marmot tent, hoping that will last for the remainder of the Australia trip, and save a new Hilleberg for later, when it can be used in the conditions it was built for.
The Marmot has a full free standing mesh inner tent, which will be cool in the desert, and allow me to watch the stars (or be blinded by the moon when I try to sleep).

Leaving Barham, I stay on the NSW side of the river and after two kilometer or so, I am back on the gravel, entering the Campbells Island state Forest.
Until tomorrow morning, when I write this, I saw zero cars.
A new spot right beside the Little Murray River (the river splits in two for a while, a bit after Barham.)
After Barham I entered the Fruit Exclusion Zone, or Pest Free Zone, I don’t know exactly, but I didn’t see any checkpoint for this.

Day 60: 8 april 2019
From Campbells Island State Forest to 12 km before Swan Hill
62,63 km (Total so far: 2389,61 km) – Altitude climbed: 54 m
Weather: Sun, strong head wind

A battle against the wind, that’s what it was today. All was fine as long as I was on the bumpy gravel road at the New South Wales side of the river but after hitting the asphalt and crossing the Murray it was a full on strong wind in the face.
I filled up the water bottles and bladder in Murrabit, a neat little community on the Victoria side which has made a real effort in putting panels everywhere explaining the historic relevance of the place and its railway.
From Murrabit, I was mostly on asphalt, but still my speed often wasn’t above 10 or 11 km/hr because of this wind.

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But hardly any traffic. I was grateful for the good preparation I’ve put in this whole route.
Part of this reparation, I’ve put waypoints in my gps with possible interesting spots to have a look at.
One of these was Lake Tutchewop. I had imagined to see a lake, but what I got was a South-American style dry salt lake. Very surprised and very happy I battled this extra kilometer against the wind to have a look at it.
Highlight of the day.

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On the edge of the salt lake, Lake Tutchewop

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Or was that this huge Australian Pelican that took off ride beside me when I cycled along an irrigation channel.
This bird was huge and it took him so much effort, flying in big circles, to gain altitude as if it were a large Boeing taking off.
What a magnificent animal.
It has the longest bill of any living bird and has a wing span of 2,3 to 2,6 meter. The record bill size is 50 centimeter.
At least as impressive to see as the Andean Condor.

I camped on Pental Island, a piece of land between the Murray and the Little Murray Rivers, about ten kilometer before Swan Hill, not wanting to enter the ‘big town’ tonight.

More about that, enter re-entering New South Wales where I visit Mungo National Park in the next post.

Australia Prt 5, Tasmania: Freycinet NP to Devonport

Route: Freycinet National Park – Avoca – Evandale – Deloraine – Mount Roland – Devonport

Day 38: 17 March 2019
From Passed Apsley River to few km before Coles Bay
45,87 km (Total so far: 1471,45 km) – Altitude climbed: 745 m
Weather: Sunny, strong head / side / tail wind

Again, what a day !
The highlights keep following up.
I was lucky with the weather again. A bit a cloudy morning but the afternoon and evening were brilliant.
The 25 kilometer from my camp spot to Coles Bay were not the most pleasant due to the busy road and too many impatient drivers.
It’s Sunday, no time to waste, I guess.

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First I headed to the Wineglass Bay Lookout.
After the national park visitor centre, the road has a few short steep inclinations.

It’s about 1,5 hour return walk to the lookout where one has to gain an elevation of about two hundred meter. As always, most of my fellow hikers were not in the best of shape and what keeps surprising me, bad equipped in the shoe department. People hike up in flip flops or the most fragile sandals.
A very high percentage of tourists in Australia is Chinese.
And the Chinese must worry.
They are in a much, much worse shape than the already sad state of my fellow western people.
They struggle and I heard some making noises I haven’t heard from humans before.
Smoke some more cigarettes, guys.

The view towards Wineglass Bay is world famous and rightfully so.
It was worth make the detour only for this.

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Richardsons Bay
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Wineglass Bay

But, there’s more.
After hiking down, I went to Honeymoon Bay. Stunning scenery again, the crystal clear waters and the mountain peaks of ‘The Hazards’ behind that.
The four peaks, Mount Amos, Mount Dove, Mount Baudin and Mount Parsons can be climbed, but it is late afternoon and the weather will turn tomorrow.

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Honeymoon Bay

Returning to my bike from the bay, a Pademelon is sniffing my front panniers.He/she is not shy at all.
That means too many tourists.
I take the Cape Tourville Road towards Sleepy Bay, on the other side of the peninsula.
All worthwhile, all very impressive.
I don’t continue to the Cape Tourville lighthouse, as I really need to go shopping before closing time.
I always carry too much food, but that’s all eaten the last days. The initial plan was to ride via Ross and Campbell town, which I skipped, so I was still surviving on food bought in Triabunna.

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pademelon
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Sleepy Bay

For a moment I hesitated to camp in the national park, along Richardsons Bay. It’s a very beautiful location. On my way back I rode along the side and more then half of them were taken, so that will be too loud.
I returned to no-mans-land a few kilometer outside Coles Bay and baked some burgers in front of my tent.
All good.

Day 39: 18 March 2019
From few km before Coles Bay to near Friendly Beaches
29,31 km (Total so far: 1500,76 km) – Altitude climbed: 213 m
Weather: Cloudy, light head wind

A lame day.
After breakfast I did some long overdue back-up’s of my pictures, then cycled back to Coles Bay to buy groceries for the next days.
In Swanwick, I found a public electricity connection and I had decent enough phone reception to make an update for the website whilst charging all my devices.
The plan to cycle all the way back out to the Tasman Highway and then back to Cranbrook where I will take a dirt road is out of the window for today; too late for that. Unless I could find a small boat that could bring me to the other side (Point Bagot) from where a track leads over the peninsula towards Swansea.
I cycled to the pier but there were no boats whatsoever, not even a small dinghy.
No worries, I’ve got food and water enough for an extra night out.

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Friendly beaches looked pretty wild from the lookout at the top of the dunes. And pretty impressive. Untouched beaches, hopefully they will stay that way.
The national park has basic camping facilities down there (which they will upgrade), and I could see too many campervans for my liking, so I turned back, took another side track and found my own private place, with better wind protection for the night.

Day 40: 19 March 2019
From near Friendly Beaches to 7 km into Old Coach Road C301
35,38 km (Total so far: 1536,14 km) – Altitude climbed: 336 m
Weather: Cloudy, rain

The weather forecast for today was bad. On every website I consulted.
A few overnight showers, but dry when I woke up.
Packed the wet tent and I started cycling. If I would lose another day, I would have to ride to Bicheno for provisions, an additional 24 kilometer return trip on the Tasman highway.
The ride back to that Tasman Highway was no fun. Too many people in too much of a hurry giving too little space to cyclists, despite the frequent signs along the road to give minimum 1,5 meter.
Just after the junction, I went back into the ‘Pondering Frog Café’ for a coffee and a vegetable curry pie before taking on the fifteen kilometer on the Tasman Highway, which I dreaded.
Back over Cherry Tree Hill (185 meter), then coasting down towards the Old Coach Road where the joy could start again.

Miraculously, I saw rain showers all around me, but I kept it dry. The hills in front of me send a clear message. I saw the rain pouring down there, so pitched the tent at not the grandest of wild camping places after a short day in the saddle.

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Good, because a couple of days ago, I purchased Peter Fitzsimons’ book ‘Burke & Wills’ on the Kindle. The cover shows an old picture of Australia’s most famous explorers. It’s a recent book (2018). 736 pages and after 75 pages I must say I love it.
And what a coincidence that, very roughly, the first part of my route on Australia’s mainland is not so different as what these men took. With the same aim, reaching the Gulf of Carpentaria, starting from Melbourne.

I still have to read 1/3 of Herman Brusselmans’ book ‘Hij Schreef te Weinig Boeken’ (639 pages) and am also reading Thomas Stevens’ ‘Around the World on a Bicycle – Volume I, From San Francisco to Teheran’, a 998 pages two volumes book about Thomas Stevens bike ride around the world started in …. 1884 !

That’s alternating between three different colossal works, but I love it.

Day 41: 20 March 2019
From 7 km into Old Coach Road to 1 km into Milford road
64,64 km (Total so far: 1600,78 km) – Altitude climbed: 667 m
Weather: Cloudy, sunny, strong tail wind

It hasn’t rained hard, but it did continuously until deep in the night which has made the Old Coach Road into sometimes a muddy affair. When I’m around 350 meter asl, I climb into the clouds.
descending from the Coggle Hills towards the settlement of Royal George, the sun reappears above the valley. While riding in the sun with a good tail wind through the St. Paul’s Plains, the Dickies Ridges to my right and the hills of Snow Hill Forest Reserve to my left, remain covered in clouds, a beautiful sight.
Near Royal George, the pavement started again. This is cycling at its best.

In Avoca I face a dilemma. I planned to go straight ahead here via the Storys Creek Road and a loop around Ben Lomond National Park.
But here too, nothing but thick, grey clouds and rain showers.
Or…. I could turn left, follow the Esk Highway in a westerly direction and continue riding in the sun.
I think it over while drinking a coke in the gas station and decide that riding those hills in that kind of weather would not bring me any fun.
So the highway it is.
Out of Avoca, a reasonable shoulder appears, traffic is light, the wind from the side now, it’s a good ride.
After Llewelyn, a one house settlement, I turn right into the Milford Road.
It says again ‘no through road’, but we’ll see tomorrow about that.
The land is unfenced, and although the wind blows still strong, I pitch the tent on the barren hill enjoying a wonderful, sunny evening. Even Ben Lomond shows its face later in the evening.
On the one side of my tent, I have the red sky of the sunset, while on the opposite side, a bright, gigantic full moon is rising from behind Ben Lomond.
Life indeed is very good again.

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Day 42: 21 March 2019
From1 km into Milford Road to 1,5 km into road C521, Woolmers Road
71,61 km (Total so far: 1672,39 km) – Altitude climbed: 437 m
Weather: Sunny, light head wind, heavy rain in the night

Well, this is indeed a ‘no through road’.
Despite my map and my gps suggesting there’s a bridge here over the South Esk River, the track ended up at a private property. The owner said there was no bridge, which I think we can believe as the river is quite wide here and it seemed unlikely to me there would be a private bridge. Maybe google earth can tell more.

Anyways, I had to turn back, continued on the Esk Highway until the junction with the oh so busy Midland Highway, which I crossed, taking the small backroad towards Conara, thus avoiding the Highway. After Conara remains an 800 meter stretch on the highway before I can turn right on the Glen Esk Road (with a bridge over the South Esk River).
So, after cycling 30 kilometer, I was back at exactly 8 kilometer from where I started this morning.
No worries, the weather is fine, and so is the route.
The Nile Road which I’m following now is still partly gravel.
The amount of rotting road kill here is stunning. A death wallaby, possum, kangaroo always within sight, and definitely within smelling distance. Kilometer after kilometer this disgusting smell of rotting, death meat.
Every day, day after day, thousands and thousands of these animals must be killed on Australian roads and… nobody seems to give a f***.
Very bizar.
Very sad.

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Slalom between the roadkill 😦

Evandale is a ‘historical town’.
A few buildings from the late 19th century, two churches, the St. Andrews Uniting Church and the St. Andrews Anglican Church.
More importantly, Evendale is every year the scene of the national Penny Farthing Cycling Championships, the last weekend of February.

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Leaving town, one could pitch his tent in the park along the South Esk River, but I think it might be the scene of drinking and / or fishing men in the evening, so I pushed on finding a spot in a field, about 1,5 kilometer from the Midland Highway.

Dark grey clouds, terrible rain showers in the distance over Ben Lomond and over Evandale.
It eventually came my way and it rained until deep in the night.
Glad I’m not anywhere near en Lomond where it must have been much more serious. Good decision to skip it.

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Day 43: 22 March 2019
From 1,5 km into road C521 to Along the Tasmanian Trail, off Mole Creek Road
81,22 km (Total so far: 1753,61 km) – Altitude climbed: 739 m
Weather: Sunny, cloudy, moderate head & side wind

To my surprise, and contrary to the weather predictions, I wake up to a blue sky. Still uncomfortable about the trespassing into this field, I pack my stuff and decide to have breakfast later on.
First I cross the Macquarie river again, which I still know from further upstream.
To my left, I have beautiful views to the Great Western Tiers and the Cluan Tiers, half covered in clouds.
In Longford, I stop in the beautiful park to eat something, and lay out the tent to dry completely.
Beautiful Church they have here.
The quiet backroads via Bracknell towards Deloraine are a joy to cycle and almost completely deserted of traffic.  Richie Porte, Tasmania’s most famous cyclist, is from this region, I heard, so he must have been roaming this little roads as well.
Late afternoon, upon leaving Deloraine, the impressive Quamby Bluff (1226 m) shows its face.

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Quamby Bluff

I push on, out of town because a bit further I will rejoin the off-road Tasmanian Trail.
Instantly, I have to dismount and push the bike on an impossible incline, some 30% or more on rough stones.
I loaded the bike up with three days worth of food and eleven liter of water, because I want a rest day. Push with all my power, two steps up, brake to hold the bike, puf puf, regain my composure, two steps up, puf puf puf, brake…..
It’s an insane job, but better than the highway.
Soon, I find a place for the tent.

Day 44: 23 March 2019
From Along the Tasmanian Trail to TT, into the Gog Range, along Lobster Rivulet
5,52 km (Total so far: 1759,13) – Altitude climbed: 105 m
Weather: Cloudy, rain

Again a beautiful moonrise yesterday evening and an all dry night, so I could leave the tent fly unzipped and watch the stars. As the weather looked promising, I decided to ride a bit today and make the best of it, instead of taking a rest day.
Pushing ridiculously steep up again for a short stretch, then almost as steep down.
Just when I was crossing the Lobster Rivulet (no bridge), lightning and instantly a very loud thunder and it started raining.

A perfect place to pitch the tent a few meter above the river, so no hesitation. I pitched the tent and that was it for today, 5,52 km.
We’ll see tomorrow.

Day 45: 25 March 2019
From Along Lobster Rivulet to foot of Mount Roland
35,85 km (Total so far: 1794,98 km) – Altitude climbed: 942 m
Weather: Cloudy, rain, strong head wind

Easy going paths brought me to the borders of the Mersey River. It’s a wide stream here, no bridge. Impossible to bring the fully loaded bike over in one go. I offloaded everything and had to bring it all over in four times. So with going and coming back, I crossed the river seven times. Along the banks, the river was thigh high, but the water not too cold.
At the other side is a large flat piece of grass which would be ideal for camping.
However, this could be reached with 4WD, and seeing the remnants of big fires that have been built here, despite the many signs you shouldn’t do so, I don’t know whether this is always such a quiet place as today.

A steepish climb from the Mersey River back up, up to 12% but on good gravel roads, so all can be cycled.
All day, it looks like it could start raining, as the clouds pack together agains the Gog Mountain. The paths here are really heaven to ride and I don’t see another soul.
Further on, I see this whole track system is closed from this side.
Ideal 🙂

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Mount Roland, hidden in the clouds

Back on the pavement follows a very steep climb on the Paradise Road. Normally, I would have views towards Mount Roland, but it’s all covered in clouds.
I decide to go to the start of one of the two tracks nevertheless and hope for better weather tomorrow to climb it.

Day 46: 25 March 2019
From foot of Mount Roland to along Sheffield to Railton Rail Trail
15,63 km (Total so far: 1810,61 km) – Altitude climbed: 674 m
Weather: Heavy rain, very strong tail & side wind

It has rained a lot all night again. After midnight, the wind picked up and became quite heavy, but I was well sheltered in the forest.
Between the showers, I could pack a half dry tent and pushed to bike to the beginning of the trail to Mount Roland. The wind was still very strong, making lots of noise in the trees.

The path climbs up pretty steep, and often you have to clamber over big rocks.
Upon approaching the tree line, it started to rain heavy. I took shelter under a death tree, but even with my rain jacket and a plastic poncho, you cool down quickly when not moving.
I checked the thermometer. 5.0 degrees C.
Waited some more, but the driving rain didn’t stop. Once out of the forest, in combination with the rain and the slippery rocks, this would only be a dangerous situation and I don’t want to jeopardize the rest of my trip by going to this top by all means.

I descended again, and even that proved to be a rather difficult task over the slippery boulders, needing my hands for support often.
Back half way down, the sun came out again.
I stopped. Should I continue going back, or give it another try. The sun was out now, and I won’t be back here all too soon.
Yes, I went back up.
And soon, the clouds were back, the wind picked up.
Ah, forget it, I go back down.
At the bike, the temperature was up to 8.1 degrees C.

On my way between Mount Roland and Sheffield (about 8 km), I had to get of the road and seek shelter once because the winds became so violent it blew me from the middle of the road back into to the side, the driving rain blinded me, then to mountain was covered in clouds again, back blue sky, back covered in clouds.
I’ve been to many places that claim to have four seasons in one day: Scotland, Iceland, Tierra del Fuego, …. but here, they have four seasons in fifteen minutes.
It was clear the mountain didn’t wan anybody up there today, so you better listen then.

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Mount Roland, 20 minutes after I left it when it was covered in clouds and rain.
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Again Mount Roland, 10 minutes after the previous picture.

I had lunch in Sheffield. Chinese, cashew nut chicken and curry beef with fried rice.
The sun was out when I mounted my bike, but 1,5 kilometer further, I was cycling back in the rain.

Pitched the tent along the rail trail to Railton, with some good wind shelter from the trees.
But it was cold, God…. so cold.
Temperatures dropped a lot today.
For the first time since arriving in Australia, I use the sleeping bag as a bag and not merely as a blanket. And in my bag, it was comfortably warm.

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Day 47: 26 March 2019
From Along Sheffield to Railton Rail Trail to Devonport
30,85 km (Total so far: 1841,46 km) – Altitude climbed: 211 m
Weather: Cloudy, strong head and side wind

Continuing along the rail trail, I was surprised, and disappointed to see so much illegal dumping of garbage.
In Railton, I stopped at the place were Norman Sykes used to live.

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The road from Railton to Latrobe is terrible with more than a few idiots on the road.
From Latrobe to Devonport, I took the River Road along the Mersey River, which was good.
I was again warmly welcomed in Hans and Claudia’s house in Devonport, where I stayed for two nights, having some interesting discussions about future plans with Hans.

Day 48: 27 March 2019
Devonport
Weather: Sunny

Today we drove with the car to Narawntapu National Park where we made a beautiful walk. There’s a lake with a wide variety of birds. The park is dubbed the Serengeti of Tasmania, I read later. And indeed, it feels as if you are watching a typical African safari landscape, although you are here, along the Bass Strait in the roaring 40’s.

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We returned to the car via an almost deserted Baker Beach.
In Europe, there would be 50.000 people on this beach.

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Day 49: 28 March 2019
Ferry from Devonport to Melbourne
Weather: Sunny

After spending another lovely, relaxing day, a haircut and a very good meal, I cycled to the ferry terminal to catch the Spirit of Tasmania. Again the nbr 1 (they’ve got 2).

Some figures about the Australia trip so far:
Total distance cycled on Tasmania: 1846,36 km
Average km per cycling day: 43,96 km
Total altimeter: 25.798 meter

Shortest cycling day: 5,52 km (Gog Range)
Longest cycling day: 81,22 km (northeast Tasmania)
Highest maximum speed: 69,75 km/hr (on Cradle Mountain Development Road)

Most altimeter in one day: 1167 m (towards Cradle Mountain)
Highest point: 959 m (on Cradle Mountain Development Road)
Longest day in the saddle: 6 hrs 23 minutes (Eastern Tears Forest Reserve, Tasmania)
Total time in the saddle: 142 hours 57 minutes

Nights slept inside: 4
Nights slept outside: 43 (of which 38 wild camping & 5 on campgrounds)

Flat tires: 0 (thank you Schwalbe for the Marathon Mondials !)
Other gear issues: punctured Therm-A-rest NeoAir
Number of road kill: estimated 20.000 (that’s if there would be on average only 1 dead animal every 100 meter)

Below, the map from my route on Tasmania, cycled anti-clockwise.
The gpx track can be downloaded from Wikiloc.