Route: Leonora – Menzies – Davyhurst – Ora Banda – Kalgoorlie – Coolgardie
Day 177: 3 August 2019 From few km before Leonora to 12 km before Menzies 105,54 km (Total so far: 8.733,10 km) – Altitude climbed: 287 m Weather: Sunny, strong and moderate tail and side wind
After riding back into town, I first visited Gwalia, an old mining village a few kilometer outside Leonora. The rest of the day was spend on the Goldfields Highway.
Much less busy than f.e. the Stuart Highway, but still too much to make it a pleasant ride. Too much of your time is occupied with watching the rear view mirror and negotiating traffic. Can’t let the mind wander and enjoy.
I find a nice camping spot a bit before Menzies. The spot is nice and although I’m almost 500 meter from the road, the noise of the road trains is too much to call it peaceful.
Tomorrow, back on gravel.
Day 178: 4 August 2019 From 11 km before Menzies to 10 km before Davyhurst 67,44 km (Total so far: 8.800,54 km) – Altitude climbed: 225 m Weather: Sunny, light & strong head and side winds
Menzies, an old mining town, is pretty neatly maintained. Lot’s of tourist signs and information about their past. A hotel, a tourist information, a campground, but no shop (the so called ‘general store’ in the hotel is nothing). I drink a coke at the hotel pub before leaving town, back on gravel. 250 kilometer / 3 days on asphalt since Laverton has been enough.
I take the Evanston-Menzies road going west out of town. A light wind from the northwest works against me. If I would have stayed on the highway, it would have been to my advantage. But this is so much better, even when the wind picks up soon after that.
A perfect gravel road, hardly any corrugation, no loose sand.
Pretty soon, I get taller trees again. Nice to see, as nothing grew much higher as the six meter mulga trees the last months.
On the 27 kilometer stretch to the junction with the Davyhurst Road, I saw two cars. On the 27 km after the junction, on the Davyhurst Road, still on excellent gravel, zero cars.
Cycling heaven, outback cycling as I had imagined it.
Lots of different plants and trees.
The fauna even feels a bit tropical.
Temperatures are more agreeable as in the tropics. 23 degrees in the shade, 33 degrees in the sun. 8 degrees just before sunrise.
A perfect day.
Day 179: 5 August 2019 From 10 km before Davyhurst to few km passed Ora Banda 80,20 km (Total so far: 8.880,74 km) – Altitude climbed: 321 m Weather: Sunny, moderate side and tail wind
Another brilliant day.
First I rode through Davyhurst. At the map and in the tourist information in Leonora and Menzies, they say it’s abandoned. Well, nothing is left. The hotel once standing there its heydays is just a pile of stones. There is apparently a mining office where you should present yourself when continuing on the road to Kalgoorlie, but I didn’t.
This is a national park, this is a road on the map not marked as private, so they have to leave me alone.
The rest of the day cycling towards Ora Banda, the road goes up and down a bit all the time. So much different trees again, it’s fantastic. The first 75 kilometer of the day I see one truck and two motorbike riders, that’s all.
I expected Ora Banda to be deserted as well.
The hotel next to the camp ground burned down recently.
The campground itself is a place for the miners, I think, because mining is what they do here.
A lot !
What I didn’t expect either, was a paved road from Ora Banda. I hoped to be on gravel till rejoining the Goldfields Highway at Broad Arrow.
I pitched the tent a few kilometer southeast of Ora Banda. The night was loud with continuous road trains passing the road a few hundred meters away.
To make this a perfect loop, I think you better continue riding the dirt directly to Coolgardie. I wanted to have a real supermarket again, because I haven’t seen one since Alice Springs, 2.500 kilometer ago. Also want to buy a new bottle of shellite for the stove. Kalgoorlie has a Bunnings. The next one would be in Albany only (although I later found out Esperance has a Bunnings store as well).
Day 180: 6 August 2019 From few km passed Ora Banda to Kalgoorlie 62,76 km (Total so far: 8.943,50 km) – Altitude climbed: 173 m Weather: Sunny, moderate tail and side wind
Rode the paved road towards Broad Arrow, where there’s an ancient pub. I asked the bar tender wether there’s a possibility to follow the dirt track along the railway towards Kalgoorlie (instead of the Goldfields Highway) but both he and the people in the kitchen didn’t have a clue. The pub is right beside the railway.
I took my chances and tried it. First halve, there are a couple of active mines and every time I thought there would be signs that it’s forbidden to enter, but that track along the railway is open all the way down to Kalgoorlie.
No worries about traffic.
Second half, the scenery improves, but the track becomes a bit more sandy and deeper gravel the last 10 km before Kalgoorlie.
Overall, very recommended.
I can stay two night with Shirley and Eddy in Kalgoorlie. Susie, a teacher I met on the GCR arranged it for me.
Day 181: 7 August 2019 Kalgoorlie Weather: Sunny
Eddy takes me out in his car to visit Bunnings and a few of the highlights. The main one of course the Super Pit.
Day 182: 8 August 2019 From Kalgoorlie to the forest a few km outside Kalgoorlie 13,39 km (Total so far: 8.956,89 km) – Altitude climbed: 150 m Weather: Sunny
Shirley and Eddy left town for a couple of days. As I don’t want to go too far south too soon (it’s still winter), I chose to take a few rest days in that forest outside of town. Just load up some good food and enjoy the quietness.
Day 183-185: 9-11 August 2019 Forest, 8 km outside Kalgoorlie
Day 186: 12 August 2019 From forest, 8 km outside Kalgoorlie to 6 km passed Coolgardie 59,97 km (Total so far: 9.016,86 km) – Altitude climbed: 347 m Weather: Sunny
Rode back into Kalgoorlie.
Lunch at MacDonalds and shopping at Coles.
As I found a good road to ride into Kalgoorlie along the railway line, there is also a good option to avoid the highway between Kalgoorlie and Coolgardie.
Studying the map, I saw there was a (water)pipeline running between the two towns, and a maintenance track alongside it.
It is good riding almost all the time.
Most of the time, I stayed south of the pipeline. There is a track north of the pipeline as well, but less scenic.
Once the track south of the pipeline joins the main highway, it is only a few hundred meters before the pipeline goes underground for a bit and you can cross to ride along the track north of the pipeline, away from the highway.
If riding the opposite direction, towards Kalgoorlie, there’s a small hill to tackle just outside Coolgardie. Don’t be discouraged by it, the rest of the road is only slightly undulating and in much better shape.
Coolgardie is a historical mining town. The highway runs through it.
Hope to visit the museum when I come back in a few days to buy provisions.
Rain is forecasted for the day after tomorrow, and I don’t want to be in the middle of the dirt track between Coolgardie and Norseman, so I will pitch the tent outside town and wait it out.
There is a campground in Coolgardie, but it is right next to the main road. That will be awfully loud.
Day 187-189: 13 – 15 August 2019 6 km passed Coolgardie
Quite a lot of rain was predicted for Wednesday 14th August. The 13th was still a nice sunny day with blue skies, and what’s more, a pretty strong wind from the north. That would be a tail wind, if I were to ride today. But I didn’t want to be caught up in the bad weather somewhere in the middle between Coolgardie and Norseman on these dirt roads, so I decided to take some more rest days.
14th of August brought indeed a lot of rain.
Around sunset, I heard a thunderstorm coming from my left and another one from my right. Of course, they met each other right above my head.
Hundreds of lightnings, immediately followed by loud thunders, strong wind gusts, rain and hail.
The whole area flooded, my tent standing in two centimeters of water.
Too much to worry about, especially those lightnings above my head, so I decided to distract myself and prepare a nice meal. Cutting broccoli, peppers, carrots, onion to prepare a delicious vegetable curry with couscous.
I heard the water flooding under my tent but I stayed perfectly dry inside.
By the time I started eating, there was some time already between the lightnings and the thunder and by the time I finished my meal the worst was over.
Contrary to the predictions, the 15th was also a rainy day, so I stayed put another day.
Route: Great Central Road: Docker River – Warburton – Leonora
Day 160: 17 July 2019 From 25 km before Docker River to junction GCR & Tjukuria Road 57,44 km (Total so far: 7600,24 km) – Altitude climbed: 88 m Weather: Sunny, moderate tail wind
Started of today with a section of 3,5 km which was pretty good before getting stuck in the sand again. More bike pushing.
The road is paved a few kilometer before and after Docker River.
I rode into the aboriginal community of which I was warned it was a rough place. “Rough” meaning potentially dangerous, as it was brought.
I didn’t think it was rough at all.
But it is a sad, depressing place where I wouldn’t want to live.
Poverty and a lot of rubbish and garbage everywhere, as in most aboriginal places I’ve seen so far, despite plenty of garbage bins provided.
Apart from the small garbage, also the smashed-up, often burned-out car wrecks are everywhere. It is not allowed to make pictures in the Aboriginal Communities.
All people will tell you “The Great Central Road (GCR) will get better from the border with Western-Australia”. It is something they hear, and what is just being repeated.
It does not get better.
The first 27 km I have done now on Australia’s biggest state, Western-Australia, are aweful.
By the way, as I wrote in my first post about Australia, it is the worlds sixth biggest country. If Western Australia would be a country in itself, it would still be among the ten biggest countries on earth.
Day 161: 18 July 2019 From junction GCR & Tjukuria Road to 25 km before Warakurna 55,43 km (Total so far: 7655,67 km) – Altitude climbed: 134 m Weather: Sunny, moderate tail, side and head wind
Started the day with pushing the bike through several kilometer of deep, corrugated sand. After 33 km, a better section follows, but not for too long. During the better section, I ride through an area with the Australian pine trees. Very picturesque. The needles these trees drop prevent the spinifex from growing and would be nice places to pitch the tent.
More car wrecks along the road, all upside down and burned out.
Maybe it’s a traditional thing ?
I stop early. Could have pushed on till sunset and reach Warakurna, but I was tired, had enough water for an extra night out and this way I can make another short day tomorrow and have time to do laundry at the roadhouse in Warakurna and camp there.
Average speed today: 9,88 km/hr.
And even more telling; maximum speed I had today: 17,15 km/hr.
Yes, it’s a hard road, the Great Central Road.
Oh, and as I entered Western-Australia, the clock is turned back 1,5 hour.
So I am now only 6 hrs away from C.E.T. (Central European Time) at home. When I started in Tasmania, the difference was 11 hrs (opposite winter/summer times also made 2 hr difference by now).
I didn’t turn my clock back 1,5 hour. That would mean I wake up at 6:30 am and be on the road at 8:30 am.
Way too early. That WA time might be convenient for Perth, but that’s a few thousand kilometer away. For the time being, I remain on the same time as the Northern Territory.
All this messing with clocks is good for nothing. From now on, I will live on M.C.T.: Most Convenient Time.
With M.C.T., the sun will rise around 7:30 am.
In Warburton, a few hundred kilometer further west, I will turn back the clock 30 minutes, and then I will review again in Leonora whether I change it another 30 or 60 minutes as I head further west and as spring days get longer.
Day 162: 19 July 2019 From 25 km before Warakurna to Warakurna 22,67 km (Total so far: 7.678,34 km) – Altitude climbed: 63 m Weather: Sunny, moderate head wind
Another hard remaining 25 kilometer into Warakurna with a few short push-a-bike sections. The rest was deep gravel or sand, hard to make progress.
I will stay the night at the camp grounds behind Warakurna Roadhouse.
Clean facilities and a washing machine.
But the night is as expected to be bad, with cars driving around till midnight (must be from the community a bit further down the road), humming generators and dogs and dingo’s and smashing doors,…
But, me and the clothes are clean and the devices are recharged.
Day 163: 20 July 2019 From Warakurna to 70 km passed Warakurna 71,34 km (Total so far: 7.750,00 km) – Altitude climbed: 190 m Weather: Sunny, cloudy, very strong head wind
Leaving Warakurna, it is 230 kilometer to Warburton, the next settlement along the GCR.
Riding the 1,6 km from the Roadhouse back to the actual road, I saw the grader must have passed.
For 3,5 kilometer, I had a smooth, hard packed gravel road.
Then followed a section with deep, loose gravel.
The corrugations where graded away, but what remained was unrideable.
After about 20 kilometer, I passed the grader. The guy told me they are on a 4 week on, 2 week off schedule. Working 7 days a week. They are a team of two man, and have two twenty foot containers on a truck in which they live.
The track improves a lot now.
But alas, an easy day is never to be had, it seems.
Where I had nice tail winds the last days but still could hardly get my average speed above 10 km/hr due to the devastating quality of the track, now I have Patagonian style head and cross winds with some harder wind gusts from time to time almost knocking you off the bike.
It was again very, very hard going.
But I had to make 70 km in order to reach Warburton in three days.
I made that, fifteen minutes before sunset and was totally exhausted and sore everywhere. The knees, my pulses, my back. Everything hurt.
Average speed on a smooth Great Central Road: 10,1 km/hr.
I am now 50 km past the grader, so he must have been here a few days ago and the track is already getting destroyed again by the people who feel they have to race over it at 130 km/hr, so I have no illusions it will be good for much longer.
A note about wild life. In my seven weeks in the Northern Territory, I saw two kangaroos, hardly any birds or other wild life.
On the Mereenie loop some horses and here on the Great Central Road (GCR) a few camels.
When I read other reports like that of G.J. Coop who seemed to have been surrounded by Cockatoo’s at so many of his campsites, I have hardly none of that.
This is one gigantic dead region. No emu’s, no kangaroos, no wallaby’s, hardly any birds.
His tour was ten years ago, so I wonder whether the wildlife is dying out that rapidly….
Traffic on the GCR: at least 50 cars a day.
Today was quieter for the first time, about 25 cars.
Day 164: 21 July 2019 From 70 km passed Warakurna to abt 75 km before Warburton 84,18 km (Total so far: 7.834,18 km) – Altitude climbed: 201 m Weather: Moderate side, tail and head wind
Today is our National holiday and it was the best day so far on the Great Central Road. I still had the advantage in many places of a recently graded road (although less and less, the further I ride west). The area is mostly flat. Few low inclines, but it’s rather tough going up with the winds, the sand and the weight off the bike.
This must still be the Gibson Desert. The map doesn’t show an exact line, but I guess after Warburton it will be the Great Victoria Desert.
Traffic was ok today. A bit in the morning, none for about three hours early afternoon, then quite a bit late afternoon. All in all about 25 / 30 vehicles.
Average speed for the day: a very satisfying 13,47 km/hr.
Day 165: 22 July 2019 From abt 75 km before Warburton to abt 10 km before Warburton 69,28 km (Total so far: 7.903,46 km) – Altitude climbed: 143 m Weather: Sunny, moderate head wind
State of the road today: 70% good, 30% bad.
I’m happy with that and would sign for it to be all the way like that to Laverton.
Wind was again working against me today. Saw quite a few camels.
Abt. 30 kilometer before Warburton is a bore with a windmill. Plenty of water and I took the opportunity to wash myself and the clothes of the last days.
I camped about 10 km before Warburton to stay out of the nightly sound and light show that comes with a settlement like that.
Day 166: 23 July 2019 From abt 10 km before Warburton to abt 50 km after Warburton 64,51 km (Total so far: 7967,97 km) – Altitude climbed: 255 m Weather: Sunny, moderate head and side wind
A rough ten kilometer into Warburton. The place itself is like other communities full of garbage. The general store is pretty good. Big iron gates to secure the store, just like they do at the gas station. Crime must be something here.
I heard from a local the army was brought in during the Christmas Holidays. houses tend to be broken in almost guaranteed if people are away.
So, Warburton is a good opportunity to resupply, although a bit expensive.
From here, it’s 245 kilometer to the next resupply point, Tjukayirla Roadhouse.
I had heard a lot of stories about paved sections of road after Warburton, but as ever, the stories varied immensely.
The first people to tell me about it were a couple of grey nomads at Warakurna. When I asked them how long these stretches were, after debating among each other, they agreed that it was one section of about 30 kilometer.
I asked the graders outside Warakurna about it. A section of 20 kilometer and a section of 50 kilometer, they said.
Some other grey nomads said it were only a few short sections.
The man behind the counter at Warburton Roadhouse said it was one longer section just outside town and then a few short stretches.
A couple in the general store told me “You’re gonna fly to the the next roadhouse over the asphalt”.
I met my first other cyclists on the GCR, a couple from Queensland. They confirmed I was on the 20 kilometer section of asphalt, and there’s a longer one at the next roadhouse.
So far, I can tell the asphalt starts about 10 kilometer outside of Warburton, and the stretch is 27 kilometer long.
Good camping tonight between the mulga trees.
Day 167: 24 July 2019 From abt. 50 km passed Warburton to abt. 80 km bf Tjukayirla Roadhouse 123,11 km (Total so far: 8.091,08 km) – Altitude climbed: 355 m Weather: Sunny, cloudy, strong and moderate tail wind
So just like a couple of months ago, it seems I ‘ve just got to moan about never having favorable road and wind conditions and hupsakee, within 48 hrs they are delivered. Today I got what I wanted.
Left the camping spot at 10:00 hrs (MCT). The wind was blowing pretty hard from the south-west, so working against, but it turned and turned all day. From south-west to south, to east to north and ending north-west. So most of the time pretty much in the back and by the time it came from the north, it blew much less strong.
The road surface: smooth gravel for the first 65 kilometer.
Then the second asphalt section started. From what I understood that was only to come tomorrow.
It last for exactly 51 kilometer.
So it starts about 110 kilometer after Warburton, or about 85 kilometer after Tjukayirla if coming from the other side.
Never expected to ride 100 kilometers in a day on the GCR, let alone 123 !
It is my biggest distance in a day so far in Australia.
Average speed of the day: 17,40 km/hr.
Late afternoon it got very cloudy. Seemed like rain but it remained dry.
Temperatures rose to 38 degrees in the sun. Nights are getting warmer us well, around 12 degrees.
Coldest night so far on the GCR was 0 degrees, and that’s mid winter.
Still not much wild life. No camels today, kangaroos are a thing from a distant past, no cockatoos, no parrots, no birds of prey, not even those damned crows anymore.
Three swallows, that’s all I saw.
Day 168: 25 July 2019 From abt. 80 km bf Tjukayirla Roadhouse to abt. 6 km bf Tjukayirla Roadhouse 73,21 km (Total so far: 8.164,29 km) – Altitude climbed: 220 m Weather: Cloudy (few rain drops !), strong head and side wind
Amai, even though I rode 50 kilometer less than yesterday, it felt much, much harder. Excellent conditions can last for maximum one day only of course.
The track was still smoothly graded, best so far apart from the asphalt.
As so often, the problem was that strong head wind. If it is right in front of you, it doesn’t tend to turn around, like yesterdays tail wind.
Nothing to do than to push forward, slowly, and listen to some podcasts. I run out of Tour de France episodes today, and there’s no Telstra coverage in Tjukayirla. I’ll have to download the episodes of the last week in Laverton.
Spoke with the grader driver about 15 kilometer before the road house. A very friendly guy, French origin. He wondered whether those cars were slowing down for me.
Negative, I said.
They won’t for him either, but he refuses to make space for them in his grader. “20 tons of steel, not much they can do to me”.
I pitch the tent a few kilometer before the roadhouse.
Wildlife sightings today: flies.
Day 169: 26 July 2019 From abt. 6 km bf Tjukayirla Roadhouse to abt. 70 km after Tjukayirla Roadhouse 76,12 km (Total so far: 8.240,41 km) – Altitude climbed: 124 m Weather: Sunny, moderate head and side wind
It’s been a very windy night. Wind from the south-southwest and it increases in force early morning. I consider taking a rest day but I’m not too pleased with my camping spot to stay a full day, so pack up anyway and ride towards the roadhouse.
It’s the usual setup, a gas station, with the pumps completely locked in iron cages to prevent theft, some greasy, unhealthy breakfast, sausages and burgers on offer and a small, very expensive store. Only frozen, white, spongy factory bread.
There’s tap water so a good opportunity to do some laundry.
Also, there’s a small paved section of road, 7 kilometer, at the roadhouse.
Stocked up with Three breads, enough cheese, Nutella, pasta, some vegetables and fruit all the way to the next roadhouse, Cosmo Newberry, 220 kilometer from here.
I have 21 liter of water on board.
The GCR is not as smooth as on the other side of Tjukayirla, much more corrugated, sandy sections, sections with big stones, but stil far, far better than anything east of Warakurna. All is rideable.
The wind has eased off considerably as well.
Twenty kilometer on the road, a friendly couple from Melbourne stops for a chat and offers me some small, frozen water bottles. They had recently done an organized bicycle trip from Geelong to Canberra and ask how the traffic behaves towards me, whether they give me some space and slow down a bit.
I tell them the truth.
They had similar experiences, even riding in a group with a support car, other traffic zipped passed them at 40 or 50 cm at high speeds. They were going for a next bike trip in Europe.
Only minutes after we said our goodbyes, a fool passed me at half a meter a full speed.
The road is 14 meter wide here.
You don’t do this by accident.
You even don’t do this by stupidity.
A monkey could do it better.
You do this on purpose, catapulting gravel on me and having me eating dust.
These brain deaths never take my invitation to stop, don’t have the guts for it I guess.
I always call upon all the known gods they will have a breakdown in the next few minutes.
Six months on the road in Australia, I must have had many hundreds of these XXXXXX, in all my cycling career surely more than ten thousand and one day, one day the gods will give me what I want and I will catch that vehicle. I can assure that no flying doctor, nor any other doctor will have to be called upon for him anymore. Or her.
I need to ride 70 kilometer a day in order to reach Cosmo Newberry in three days. In theory, every day gets easier as the bike gets lighter going through the water and food.
But there are of course other factors, like wind and road quality as well.
All looks good and it starts to feel I’m nearing the end of this little off-road adventure. Only 235 kilometer to go to Laverton and the asphalt, 355 kilometer and I’m in Leonora at the junction of the GCR and the Goldfields Highway.
Day 170: 27 July 2019 From abt. 70 km after Tjukayirla Roadhouse to abt. 75 km bf Cosmo Newberry 76,34 km (Total so far: 8.316,75 km) – Altitude climbed: 104 m Weather: Cloudy, very light head wind
Continuing my long, long way through Australias centre. After 5 pm, just as I am ready to leave the road, a car stops for a chat. They have just gone, and another car approaches. I wait a bit to leave the road, as I prefer nobody sees where I go to sleep. It’s the same driver from a pilot car for heavy transport who stopped already a couple of days ago.
He tells me how he has just returned from an organized trip to Italy to follow the Giro. It’s all very pleasant, but with all this talking the sun is almost behind the horizon and I am still standing on the road..
Luckily, almost anywhere is a good place to camp (as long as you have some wind protection), so just before it’s pitch dark the tent is erected and I can start preparing my evening meal. Still cooking in the tent. The number of flies is much, much less as a few weeks ago, but they are still around.
And it rains.
A steady rain for several hours.Doesn’t happen to often over here, I reckon.
I worry a bit what that will do to the track tomorrow. This red dust can surely be turned into sticky mud that stops all progress.
Day 171: 28 July 2019 From abt. 75 km bf Cosmo Newberry to abt. 8 km bf Cosmo Newberry 70,34 km (Total so far: 8.387,09 km) – Altitude climbed: 140 m Weather: Sunny, light head & tail wind
The rain doesn’t seem to have affected the road too much. It’s still mostly dust. The quality is again a bit worse than yesterday, some bike pushing. Although the days are still warm, and the nights are getting warmer as well, I can feel in the air I am slowly entering a different climate zone. Not that dryness anymore. Feels like spring is in the air.
Also, for the first time since long, condensation on the inside of the tent in the morning (wetter ground).
Day 172: 29 July 2019 From abt. 8 km bf Cosmo Newberry to abt. 18 km bf Laverton 84,09 km (Total so far: 8.471,18 km) – Altitude climbed: 256 m Weather: Sunny, strong tail wind
The shop in Cosmo Newberry settlement only opens at 11:00 am. I just needed water, which was available at a tap.
The first 28 kilometer, the track is still not in the a very god condition. Then, the grader is there. I give the man the thumbs up and thanks to a tail wind, I’m flying towards Laverton.
A bit later, the grader overtakes me and stops. The driver hands me a welcome ice cold coke.
His frist question is how the car driver behave towards me. I tell him the truth, about how they can’t slow down when traffic comes from the opposite direction as well, how some come on purpose ridiculously close to me.
He has the same complaints. He tells me how he then asks them via vhf why on earth they can’t slow down a bit when they pass the grader. Then they answer “why ?”, or “Well, I passed you already now”.
All selfish, stupid idiots.
The other cyclists told me this stretch was still pretty bad when they were here, but I am lucky.
Could have made it to Laverton today if I wanted, but I prefer another night out in the bush.
Day 173: 30 July 2019 From abt. 18 km bf Laverton to Laverton 18,15 km (Total so far: 8.489,33 km) – Altitude climbed: 22 m Weather: Sunny, strong side wind
Rolled into Laverton. With this side wind, it would have been a good idea to continue towards Leonora. that would have become a fine tail wind, but I feel the body and the mind need a rest.
The mind probably more than the body.
Again, thanks to Libby from Outback Parks & Lodges (http://opl.net.au), I get a nice room for free.
Day 174: 31 July 2019 Laverton
Since a few days there are a lot more flies again. Cattle stations have re-appeared.
Day 175: 1 August 2019 From Laverton to Minera Road 86,48 km (Total so far: 8.575,81 km) – Altitude climbed: 230 m Weather: Sunny, strong tail wind
As it goes on days after a rest day, I have a very late start, and the legs seem very poor the first part of the ride. Luckily, I have a strong tail wind, and it’s all asphalt now for a while.
First part of the ride is still nice, but soon the mining traffic picks up.
All land is fenced off as well, both sides of the road.
Fifty km or so after Laverton, I ride through a completely destroyed area. Open mines. There is a stinky cobalt and zinc plant polluting the air. Haven’t seen these dirty chimneys spewing out their poison in a long while.
At the junction with the road to Minera, a gravel road, I take a left turn. No fences anymore and a good place to pitch the tent for the night.
Month of July was a good cycling month with 2.009 km.
That number has to come down next months, it’s way too much.
Day 176: 2 August 2019 From Minera Road to few km before Leonora 51,75 km (Total so far: 8.627,56 km) – Altitude climbed: 118 m Weather: Sunny, moderate tail & side wind
Uneventful day. There was a lookout from a hill about 15 km before Leonora with good views over the flat lands.
I rode into Leonora to do some shopping and pick up water, then rode back out of town to camp.
Route: Alice Springs – West MacDonnell Range – Mereenie Loop – Kings Canyon – Yulara – Kata Tjuta – Docker River
I wanted to take a little brake from writing every day, so this post mainly has a few pictures with a comment here and there. Still the headers with the daily info is there.
Day 139 – 141: 26-28 June 2019
From Alice Springs to passed Emily Gap
22,58 km (Total so far: 6.452,06 lm) – Altitude climbed: 43 m
Weather: Sunny, moderate head wind
Rest days in the tent, away from town.
Day 142 – 143: 29-30 June
From passed Emily Gap to Alice Springs
28,24 km (Total so far: 6.480,30 km) – Altitude climbed: 219 m
I rode back into Alice Springs. Cycling on the bike path along the dry Todd River I was stopped by Libby. She was very interested in my trip and found it so fantastic I was offered a place to sleep in the brand new ‘Alice Village’, a branch of Outback Parks & Lodges, a ten minute bike ride out of the centre. I enjoyed another two rest days.
Day 144: 1 July 2019
From Alice Springs to road towards Standley Chasm
69,32 km (Total so far: 6.549,62 km) – Altitude climbed: 326 m
Weather: Sunny, moderate head wind
Day 145: 2 July 2019
From road towards Standley Chasm to passed Ellery Creek
72,60 km (Total so far: 6.622,22 km) – Altitude climbed: 584 m
Weather: Sunny, moderate tail wind
Day 146: 3 July 2019
From passed Ellery Creek to Pioneer Creek
58,62 km (Total so far: 6.680,84 km) – Altitude climbed: 564 m
Weather: Sunny, moderate tail wind & side wind
Day 147: 4 July 2019
From Pioneer Creek to Redbank Gorge
33,79 km (Total so far: 6.714,63 km) – Altitude climbed: 319 m
Weather: Sunny, strong tail wind
Day 148 – 149: 5-6 July 2019
From passed Redbank Gorge to along Mereenie Loop
107,99 km (Total so far: 6.822,62 km) – Altitude climbed: 610 m
Weather: Sunny, light tail, side & head wind
Day 150: 7 July 2019
From along Mereenie Loop to passed Morris Pass lookout
83,60 km (Total so far: 6.906,22 km) – Altitude climbed: 321 m
Weather: Sunny, all winds
Day 151: 8 July 2019
From passed Morris Pass lookout to between Kings Canyon & Kathleen Creek
53,60 km (Total so far: 6.959,91 km) – Altitude climbed: 128 m
Weather: Sunny, moderate side & head wind
Day 152: 9 July 2019
From between Kings Canyon & Kathleen Creek to 3 km passed Luritja/Ernest Giles Hwy
88,82 km (Total so far: 7/048,73 km) – Altitude climbed: 205 m
Weather: Sunny, strong & moderate head wind
This whole part of the trip was during the three week July school holiday. The roads were EXTREMELY busy, impatient drivers. So far, my trip in Australia has been very good, but these first three weeks of July, the riding was just terrible. Avoid this period (and also Easter holiday). If you happen to be here, hibernate under a stone, because the Australians ALL go out. While they are kind enough to give you space on the road as long as it is suitable to them, you are fine. From the moment traffic comes from the opposite side, they will NOT, I repeat NOT slow down. No one.
As climbing Uluru will be forbidden as from October 2019, it seems every Australian came down here to climb it now. Out of pure frustration, and self-preservation, I put branches under the bungees of my bike, sticking out a meter to the road, forcing the cars to give me some space. It worked often, but regularly, they just went straight ahead and drove the branches to pieces, flying inches from my legs.
Day 153: 10 July 2019
From 3 km passed Luritja/Ernest Giles Hwy to Along Lasseter Hwy
87,71 km (Total so far: 7.136,44 km) – Altitude climbed: 241 m
Weather: Sunny, strong head wind
No pictures, trying to survive.
Day 154: 11 July 2019
From Along Lasseter Hwy to 22 km bf Yulara
96,20 km (Total so far: 7.232,64 km) – Altitude climbed: 167 m
Weather: Sunny, moderate tail & side wind
Day 155: 12 July 2019
From 22 km bf Yulara to Uluru NP
39,11 km (Total so far: 7.271,75 km) – Altitude climbed: 77 m
Weather: Sunny, moderate side wind
Day 156: 13 July 2019
From Uluru NP to passed the Olga’s
100,15 km (Total so far: 7.371,90 km) – Altitude climbed: 200 m
Weather: Sunny, moderate side, head & tail wind
As you could read from the above, I did not have the best experience coming down to Ayers Rock / Uluru. Due to the insane traffic, there was zero fun and as explained, people have no empathy at all for cyclists.
They will be friendly towards you when they stop, but once in their car…
They will just mow you off the road, but I have to give it to them, they will do it with a smile whilst waving at you.
Between the park entrance (25 AUD) and the rock, I again stopped at a lookout and took some branches to force the drivers to give me some space (by law in Australia they must give you 1,5 meter, but even the police won’t do it, let alone they would enforce that law). I had a brain death going into discussion with me along the Lasseter Highway who claimed they had to give me 50 centimeter if they drove 60 km/hr. first of all, nobody drives that slow there, and second of all, it shows their mentality, just making up stories.
I wonder if I drive at those speeds next to their kids, what they would say (of course, cycling is something for children, and only on the way between their house and the kids’ school. All other roads must be free from cyclists).
I had people saying they don’t slow down because they are on cruise control ! Yeah, setting the cruise-control again is worse then killing a cyclist.
Inside the park, a park ranger forced me of the road into the ditch and in a very arrogant way, almost pushing his ranger pass into my face, behaving ridiculously authorative, he made “a report”. I explained to him it was the only way to survive this madness, as nobody seemed to enforce the 1,5 meter (I would already be more then happy if a meter was given) rule. Then he started to argue I couldn’t bring wood in the park. I told him I just picked it up when I was already in the park. Then he said I couldn’t pick up any wood from the park.
I said “one in three cars passing us here has wood on his trailer for camp fires. You say nothing of that, and you make a problem of my few branches ??”.
It was his business to deal with that, he said.
I had to remove the branches. He took pictures of me for his “report”.
(Speeding cars, people bringing fire wood in the park, people parking cars where there are signs it is forbidden, they are all left alone).
Next day, again past the park entrance and after again a few very close calls with drivers who don’t have a second to lose, I take a branche from the side of the road and put it under my bungee.
Not two kilometer I could ride before another park ranger literally drives me off the road, jumps out of his car and yells at me aggressively how his colleague yesterday had said I could not put a branch on my bike (did they arrange a meeting about this very important point ??).
Then some ‘very impressive’ talking into a walky talky, and like yesterday I was threatened to be thrown out of the park.
“Fine by me, I am on my way out anyway”, I said.
Then he started to warn me I had to be out before 7:30 pm. Nobody allowed in the park later than that.
I rode that night till passed The Olgas, a few meter west of the sign of the park entrance (and made that easily in time, Mr. Park Ranger). I think they came and check whether I really made it, because there were some cars between 7:30 pm and 8:00 pm. (dear park rangers, I heard quite a lot of cars riding in and out your park at night…. but hey, they ain’t cyclists… you got to have your priorities, right ?)
Clearly, a cyclist fending for his life is the biggest worry of the Uluru Park Rangers.
When the ladies at the entrance of the national park asked how my trip was going, I told them about my frustrations and suggested they could make a bicycle path from Yulara (the village about 25 kilometer from the rock where everybody stays) to the rock. They were ready with all sorts of excuses. “We can’t take land from the national park”. “Well, you could take land to make a road, you could take land to make a car park, you could take land to make an overflow car park, you could take land to make a view point for car drivers, you could take land to make a view point for people visiting by bus, for sunrise and sunset areas, for a visitor centre, …. but not for a 1,5 meter bike path ?”.
You would think a national park would encourage its visitors to visit the park in an ecological way, instead of driving in and out three times (a sunrise, a climb later in the morning and a sunset visit) with their heavy 4WD.
Well, not over here.
I have cycled through some national parks in my life, and some had their oddities, but I can, with my hand on my heart, declare that Ulura-Kata Tjuta National Park is the most bicycle unfriendly national park in the world.
Big thumbs down.
Day 157: 14 July 2019
From just passed Olgas to along Tjukaruru Road
55,71 km (Total so far: 7427,61 km) – Altitude climbed: 235 m
Weather: Sunny, strong head and tail wind
Against a very strong head wind I ride back from my camping spot towards the Olgas where I meet Brandon, a cyclist from New Zealand. He is riding a fat bike from west to east in Australia, but mostly just through the desert, away from traffic. Very good idea !
He has a trailer, but it broke on the way in. He gave it to a car that transported it to Yulara for repairs. That promises for the road awaiting me, because his material seems pretty sturdy.
As all other ‘attractions’, the car park at Kata Tjuta is over full. Cars are left behind on the way in already. I walk to the first look-out point and just can’t find the courage to continue in this circus. I turn back to my bike.
I want to get away from these people, these crowds.
That strong head wind is now my companion and blows me west. Fantastic.
Soon the asphalt stops and I’m back on an unpaved road. Sometimes smooth gravel, but mostly very stony, or bull dust sandy with deep corrugations.
Next asphalt will appear again in about 1.000 kilometer in Laverton ! First 160 km of this dirt on Tjukaruru Road to docker River, where the Great Central Road starts.
Just when I push my bike of the road towards a camping spot, I hear what I think is a small branch stuck in my rear wheel.
But no, it is a broke spoke !
I never had a broken spoke on my rear wheel.
And it is a complete new wheel for this trip.
Yes, there is a lot of weight on it, and the road is awfull, but I ride very carefully and slow. (Later I see damage to the rim as well, so I guess the spoke was hit by a big stone).
It could not have happened at a worse place.
Back to Alice Springs is maybe 700 km, and absolutely unthinkable of going back there.
Foreward the next bike shop is…. I don’t know, maybe in Kalgoorlie, 1.500 km away from here.
I do have spare spokes, but I never touched a spoke myself in my life, let alone replaced one.
Sigh, …. will try in the morning.
Day 158: 15 July 2019
From along Tjukaruru Road to along Tjukaruru Road
45,67 km (Total so far: 7473,28 km) – Altitude climbed: 110 m
Weather: Strong tail wind
Forty five kilometer today. And I am exhausted.
First replacing that broken spoke.
Taking the tire of, replacing it, pumping the tire again.
Let’s wait and see whether I did a good job.
By 11:00 am I was on the road.
Average speed of the day: 8,49 km/hr.
I must have pushed the bike half of the distance through deep bull dust. The other half I managed to ride, through less deep bull dust and heavy corrugations.
Very demanding for both the rider and the equipment.
Hope it will improve.
A pity that strong tail wind I finally have is not able to blow me forward as it could on a better track.
Day 159: 16 July 2019
From along Tjukaruru Road to 25 km before Docker River
69,52 km (Total so far: 7542,80 km) – Altitude climbed: 111 m
Weather: Sunny, strong tail wind
A more decent distance after a hard days work. Just under 70 km with an average of 10,50 km/hr. And that’s with a continuous strong tail wind. Still sections where I had to push the bike through the sand, but less then yesterday. The landscape is more interesting as expected with hills both north and south of the road. I think these are the Petermann Ranges.
Tomorrow, I ride into Australia’s biggest state, and I can tell already things will clear up again. The holiday period is over in a few days and cycling will became much finer again in the next post 🙂
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.
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.
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….
I turn off anyway and will check what the situation is once at Ammaroo, 250 kilometer from here.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 ?
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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 !
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.
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.
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.
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.
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, …
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.
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.
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 !
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
With all this walking around, it’s of course almost 11:00 am before I roll out of my camping spot.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 !
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.
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 ! 🙂
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.’
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.
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.
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.
Today was election day in Australia.
I saw eight wedge-tailed eagles today. Also, I passed the juction with the famous Strzelecki Track.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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
After 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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 😦
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 😉
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.
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.