11/12 August Darwin airport – Darwin city centre - 14km
We landed in Darwin at 3h00, and by the time we’d cleared immigration and customs, it was 4h00. They sure did scrutinize me, opening bags and bike box and even checking the tent pegs for soil (good thing Ernest cleaned the bikes – although he was shown through without any further checks). Then it was time for Ernest to reassemble the bikes again. As soon as it got light (at around 6h30) we were on our bikes and pedaled into town to look for accommodation. One could immediately tell we were in a first world country. We encountered many early morning joggers, cyclist and people walking their dogs, but none looked up to greet us unless we greeted first!
All seemed frightfully expensive at $30 Aus for a dorm bed. We found room at Chilli’s Backpackers, which seemed fine with a communal kitchen and outside sundeck with 2 small pools.
The conveniently located supermarket, right next door, gave as an indication of prices in Australia. We bought a map of the Stuart Highway together with some other little bits and pieces, and then I had to go to the ATM again!
13 August - Darwin – Adelaide River - 124 km
We left the party town of Darwin, with dry mouths (from too may beers the night before) and with fear in our hearts, due to all the horror stories we had heard. Due to our late night we only hit the road after 10 am, and found ourselves on a bicycle path for about 25 km as far as Paterson. Amazing that the places that need it least have bicycle paths (wouldn’t that have been nice in India or Java!). At last we were on the Stuart Highway - a really good wide road with a hard shoulder. The traffic was light and predictable, what a difference from Indonesia. On this first day there were plenty of water stops, and we passed many campsites along the way. We had a slight headwind, just enough to cool us down and to keep the flies at bay. Where all the flies came from I don’t know, there really is not much around. Just 50km into the day and Ernest had his first puncture in Australia. Not long after that we saw a huge bush fire, blazing away, fortunately the section next to the road was about under control, but still a bit too close for comfort for me. I even spotted my first kangaroo! (Actually it was one of the smaller wallabies). At around 6.00pm, when our shadows had grown long, we rolled into Adelaide River where we stayed at a really nice campsite - excellent showers, a kitchen area and a nice green lawn with shady trees.
14 August - Adelaide River – Pine Creek - 120 km
We were on the road shortly after 10h00. The area is dotted with world war II memorials, from old campsites to cemeteries and air fields. Again, there was more than enough water points and camping along the way. The road was really good and although hot it was a dry heat and very bearable. We stopped at a rest area to fill up with water and found that many rest areas are nice for camping, with toilets and even firewood. We pushed on to Hayes Creek where we filled up with water again. The next stretch to Emerald Springs came with a few hills and a head wind. The head wind is a blessing in disguise, (if not too strong) as it keeps the flies off you and cools you down. We arrived at Pine Creek just after 6 and camped at Lazy Lizard campsite, nice lawn and good showers again. This is definitely the luxury part of the outback. We were starving when we got there (as we had nothing to eat all day). After we’d pitched our tents and had a shower we found that the stove wouldn’t work! The little restaurant and shops had already closed, but the friendly bar lady unlocked the adjoining shop for us (so it was Vegemite and chip sandwiches for supper. I was disappointed as I was looking forward to a nice large plate of pasta. I should not complain as I love Vegemite and at last we’re in a country with decent bread.
15 August - Pine Creek – Katherine - 97 km
For breakfast we had more of the same sandwiches with coffee, and were on the road again. Our rushed departure was mostly due to the flies, better to try and out cycle them. The darn things are really an irritation. The air is extremely dry and already my skin is flaking and my lips cracked and this is only day 3! The road stretched for miles in front of us, with only the occasional uphill to break the monotony. Water breaks along the way are normally very fast as the flies seem to get the better of us. There were no rest stops or camping all day so we pedaled until we reached Katherine, the 3rd largest town in the Northern Territory. We camped at Coco’s Backpackers, which gives discount to cyclists. A very interesting set up with chickens running around, a ramshackle building with various rooms and dorms and a very interesting owner. We stayed the following day, doing as little as possible; at least I did my laundry and fixed my leaking sleeping mat. Ernest fixed tent poles and punctured tubes, and got the stove working again.
17 August - Katharine – Mataranka - 115 km
We were as slow as ever to leave, and got on the road at 10.30. Approximately 28km south of Katherine we turned off to the Cutta Cutta Caves, ate our pasta sandwiches which Ernest made from the previous nights leftover food and then we were off again. About 50km south of Katherine was a rather nice rest stop with camping, water and toilets, but as it was still very early we just ate our jelly sweet in the shade of some trees and headed on to Mataranka. The scenery had been unchanged (except for an occasional World War 2 site) since we left Darwin. We reached Mataranka (population 420) and headed for Bitter Springs campsite, where we arrived shortly before dark.
18 August - Mataranka - Larrimah - 81 km
We were up early and strolled down the road to the hot springs – which flows along a clear stream surrounded by the natural bush. We swam for a while before having breakfast and making some leftover pasta sandwiches for the road. We also scored some pasta and tins which other campers had left in the camp kitchen for take-away. The road was once again very good with little traffic, mostly caravans and mobile homes - not your ordinary mobile homes, they are fantastic contraptions and larger than many apartments. Everyone seems to be in a holiday spirit and will give a little toot and a wave as they go past. We either had a tailwind or it was down hill (or maybe it was the pasta sandwiches) but we rolled into Larrimah (population of 200) before 15h00. We camped at the Larrimah Hotel with it’s legendary Pink Panther bar. Before we even paid our camp fee we knew the town’s entire history. Ernest was keen to service his bike's front hub, which had been making alarming noises. In typical Northern Territory style I sat in the shade of a huge tree watching him.
19 August - Larrimah – Daly Waters - 104 km
There were no water stops or rest areas between Larrimah and Daly Waters so we pushed on, stopping at each and every “interesting” spot or memorial along the way -even the occasional road sign is getting us all excited. We popped in at the legendary Daly Waters pub for a (rater expensive) beer and sat talking to other travelers for a while. It claims to be the oldest Pub in the Territory as its liquor license has been in continuous use since 1893. The interesting part is that in the early 1930,s Qantas airlines used Daly Waters as a refueling stop for the Singapore leg of its Sydney – London run. It must have been a big attraction when a plane landed! We camped just a few km down the road at Hi-Way Inn. I must admit I have never camped amongst wallabies and parrots before. We once again met some friendly travelers at the campsite. We were invited for beer, crab and interesting snacks at their very fancy camper. These people truly live in style.
20 August - Daly Waters – Newcastle Waters - 127 km
We woke up to the raucus sounds of parrots and cockatoos outside our tents - not a bad way to greet a new day. Birds of all colors surrounded us. We managed to get on the road at a decent time and headed towards Newcastle Waters rest stop - our next water point. Newcastle Waters used to be a droving town, but is only a ghost town today. Road transport started in the early 1960’s and was the death of this little town, today only the old store and hotel is left. We saw little along the way, only a lonely memorial cairn and two dirt roads turning off to nowhere. Sleeping at the Rest Stops is rather interesting, as it is free, but comes with water and toilets, so there is always a number of campervans overnight there. The people seem friendlier here, and we chatted until late with other travelers, both foreign and local.
21 August - Newcastle Waters – Renner Springs - 118 km
After about 45km we reached Dunmara where we filled up with water and chatted to some guys on motorbikes, and that was about the excitement for the day. The wind picked up in the night and we feared that it was going to be a long haul into the wind. Fortunately the wind was mostly from the side, so it was not a bad day on the road. The tarmac lay stretched out in front of us, while we amused ourselves with picking up all kinds of things along the road and renaming the birds of Australia. We saw even less today, two roads turning off, one repeater station and two cattle grids, and that was the sum total of our entertainment!
22 August - Renner Springs Road House – Tennant Creek - 166 km
This section of the Stuart Highway is like a tourist trap, prices of things are totally ridiculous (and the country in general is very expensive for us). I guess these shopkeepers know that travelers have little choice but to buy at the prices they charge - or go without it! Even the Australians are complaining about it! Had to pay $5 for a loaf of bread! It was a fairly easy day, an almost flat road and various opportunities to fill up with water. 62km south of Renner Springs we found Banka Banka campsite. The lady of the campsite seemed to think she was doing us a favor by letting us fill our water bottles! She then proceeded to tell us we may sit in the shade of her tree and eat our sandwiches as long as we do not walk around! Gosh, walk around!? Where to? It’s only a tiny campsite. Hot and sweaty we arrived (50km down the road) at a rest area, with toilets and water. We’d hardly stopped and – wait for this - an Australian couple camping at the rest area, came out with two ice-cream cones!! It sure was the most delicious ice cream cone I’ve ever had! Back on the bikes we picked up a nice tail wind, and ran with it. Three Ways junction was just 50km down the road, and once there we decided to go all the way to Tennant Creek (4th largest town in the Northern Territory) which was only another 25 km. We arrived at the camp site in Tennant Creek just before 6pm, and we settled in as we knew the next day would be a rest day.
23 August - Tennant Creek
We had a rather busy day as we each did our internet business, uploaded photos, and went shopping. We stocked up with foodstuff for the next few days as the town Supermarket was a hell of a lot cheaper than the Roadhouse shops along the way.
We did our long overdue laundry and fiddled with the bikes and tents. I was wondering if I’d ever fit all that shopping into my panniers the next morning.
24 August - Tennant Creek – Wauchope - 120km
We were rather reluctant to pack up us the wind picked up in the night and it looked like we were going to have a strong head wind. We only left after 10am. The wind was not as bad as expected (or maybe it was just because I was sitting in Ernest’s slip stream all day). The road lay black and endless in front us, forming a mirage on the horizon. We were pleasantly surprised towards the end of the day, as suddenly the scenery changed (at last) as we reached Devil’s Marbles. Huge rocks stacked upon one another covered the area, a stunning site at sunset. There we met an Italian - Antonio, cycling around Australia. After chatting to him for a long time it was already sunset, and we decided to camp at the nearby National Parks camping site. We put the required fee in the box at the gate, and I was already pitching my tent when Ernest pointed out that there was no water there. We weren’t carrying enough water for cooking, etc., so we packed up and cycled another 10 k’s or so to Wauchope Roadhouse.
The sun had already set in a flaming Western sky, and a huge full moon came up on our left as we cycled to Wauchope. We even spotted our first dingo trotting towards us in the road, probably on this way to scavenge at the campsite which we’d just left. He, however, gave as a wide berth and we carried on down the road.
25 August - Wauchope – Wycliffe Well - 18km
It became real cold during the night; it was the first time in nearly a year that I felt cold. I was in no mood for cycling as we woke to a howling wind. We packed up and headed down the road to Wycliffe Well.
Wycliffe Well is said to be located on a cross section of key lines or energy lines. This may also be the reason why Wycliffe Well has had its fair share of UFO sightings. We stopped at the pub to read all the paper clippings about UFO sightings in the area and decided to camp right there in the nice grassy camp site. I also wanted to see a UFO!! (I wonder if the sightings have anything to do with the large selection of beer they sell in the pub???)
26 August - Wycliffe Well
We woke to a howling wind and rain pattering down on the tent. I pulled the sleeping bag over my head and announced loudly that I’m going nowhere that day. It was not all that hard to convince Ernest and we stayed put. The Roadhouse not only made good chips but also had internet so we drank their bottomless coffee and did more internet updates. In the process we met another cyclist going north and low and be hold would he not be from South Africa. We convinced him (Clyde from Pietermaritzburg) to stay for the night and we had a good old chat.
27 August - Wycliffe Well – Barrow Creek - 94km
We were rather slow to emerge from our tents as outside it was bitterly cold. We had some coffee and toast (made on the fire) and then said good bye to Clyde. He continued on his way north and we headed south. First stop was Taylor Creek Rest Area where we filled up our water bottles and had a sandwich.
We cycled into a bit of a head wind and once we reached Barrow Creek we called it a day. Barrow Creek is a bit of a Godforsaken place with hardly a campsite at all, but a welcoming pub. Although we had plenty of time to carry on we set up camp as it was already getting cold. Ernest cooked his usual delicious pasta and we were off to bed rather early.
28 August - Barrow Creek – Ti Tree - 93km
We were on the road by 9h00 (early for us), soon we reached a rest area where we filled up our water bottles and headed off to Ti Tree. We reached Ti Tree very early but all the talk about a potato salad along the way made us shop for some potatoes, salad veg, and mayonnaise at the little store.
Once we bagged all the ingredients we headed for the campsite. We had just pitched our tents and made some coffee when a friendly lady camping close by brought us some fruit cake. Needless to say it went down very well. The people are just so friendly here.
It was still fairly early, so we sat in the sun while Ernest started to prepare the much anticipated meal. We were in no hurry to get to Alice Springs, as what we understood form other travellers was that there was not a campsite to be had in Alice due to a trucking show in the town.
28 August - Ti Tree – Aileron - 63km
We waited for the sun to warm our tents before packing up. A short ride outside Ti Tree we spotted some vineyards and a sign for wine tasting. Not wanting to miss the experience we turned off the road to explore. We even splashed out on a bottle of port. About 40km from the start we found a rest area where we filled up with water and ate some potato salad sandwiches. From the rest area it was only another 20km to Aileron through Prowse gap, so we were in Aileron fairly early. It was time to sample that port!!
It was a freezing cold night so Ernest made vetkoek and soup which went down extremely well with the port. He has now been declared the undisputed “Vetkoek King of the Outback”!! A zillion stars lit the sky while we sat all wrapped up in our sleeping bags. Life was good!!
29 August - Aileron – Tropic of Capricorn Rest Area - 105km
We only left Aileron at around 10.30 and headed into the wind for the rest of the day. Ernest was strong and led the way whilst I sat in his slip stream (men can be sooo handy at times!) We only stopped now and again to refill our water bottles and then were back on the road, battling the wind again.
We arrived at the Tropic of Capricorn Rest Area in good time and pitched our tents right on the line for the night. We also met a guy from Germany on a motorbike, who has been riding all the way from Germany and who has followed most of our route since about Turkey.
31 August - Tropic of Capricorn Rest Area – Alice Springs - 36km
We were up rather early as we camped next to the Tropic of Capricorn monument and people arrived early to take pictures. They will just have to Photoshop us out of their pics (although many travellers along the way have taken photo’s of us – even from their car windows).
We blitzed the last few k’s into Alice Springs – mostly downhill. We passed the marker for the highest point on the road between Darwin and Adelaide (a mere 740m according to Ernest’s GPS) and then rolled into Alice (our halfway point on the Stewart Highway). We checked out a few rooms but camping was still way cheaper. I was in serious need of a shower, and had to see a dentist ASAP!!
The day was nice and warm, even hot, for a change, so it was time for doing laundry and airing farty sleeping bags!
1 - 3 September - Alice Springs
It was time to face the facts and see the dentist. I have had a loose crown since Indonesia and it was causing BIG problems, the gory details of which I will spare you. Off to the dentist I went and came back minus $180 and the tooth!! I will now have to cycle around with a missing tooth until I can get back home one day to have an implant or whatever it takes to fill that gap. Never in my life did I think that I’ll be walking around with a gaping grin!! From now on I will just have to keep my mount shut (something I think Ernest will be happy about). Ok, ok it’s not that bad, at least it’s not one of the front incisors.
I’m a little disappointed in the Australian Barbie, “Savaloys (looks like a vienna on steroids), onion and potato slices on a gas-fired plate – not even a grid?? (How do I braai my sami’s now?). At least Ernest is happy, grid or no grid, it’s our first real meat-eating country since we left South Africa (besides insects, dog, and the occasional chicken or goat – and, of course, pork in China).
The following day we spent shopping for foodstuff for the next few days. Ernest bought a new tyre and pedals from the local bike shop and I splashed out on a new bike computer. The weather report predicted heavy storms and we batoned down our tents and waited out the weather. Not much came of the storms, just a sudden downpour towards evening.
We were planning to leave on the morning of the 3rd, but we awoke to rain and we were reluctant to leave the tents – I’m such a baby!! The reception/shop at the camp had a small selection of books to swap and I found a nice easy to read book and crawled back into my sleeping bag. However, it was tempting to carry on cycling as the sun came out every now and then – and the wind was in our favour.
4 September - Alice Springs - Stuart’s Well - 95km
We woke to the sound of singing birds and a perfectly blue sky. Time to pack up and start the long haul south. Once again I was surprised at the large amount of colourful birds along the way. Parrots, cockatoos, and large flocks of bright green budgies! Stunning.
We camped at the grassless red earth campsite at Stuart’s Well, but can’t complain as it was free and we were rewarded with the most stunning sunset and a clear night sky, complete with shooting stars and all. However, we had to be careful not to put anything near the fence as the horses around the perimeter apparently have an appetite for such things as towels, tents, and bicycle saddles (recently the seat of a Harley was chewed up!).
5 September - Stuart’s Well – Erldunda - 111km
There were two rest stops with water along the way so there was no need for carrying lots of water. Both looked rather inviting, but we carried on south. The trees that we had all along the way since Darwin gave way to shrubs and grassland. We cycled past the meteorite conservation area and coasted in to Erldunda Roadhouse, with a restaurant/pub, campsite and pre-fab motel rooms. It was also the turn off for Uluru (Ayers Rock), so we set up camp for the night before heading off in a westerly direction (a rather long detour of 500 km there and back) too go and see “the rock”. The area is not called the red centre for no reason, the soil colour was a deep red, especially stunning at sunset but not always so good for camping as all our gear takes on a reddish tint. Even the lone Dingo we spotted along the way had a rather red back. Interestingly enough I also spotted a sign on a fence warning that poisoned bait had been put out for “wild dogs”. Well I suppose “wild dog” sounds more acceptable than “Dingo”!
6 September - Erldunda – Rest Area - 135km
I waited for the sun to defrost me and chatted to the other campers before packing up. Our slow start did not affect us too much as we picked up a rather good tail wind and headed in a Westerly direction to Uluru. That rock better be worth it! Once again we found 2 really nice Rest Stops with water along the way. We pulled into the first one to fill our water bottles and were entertained at their caravan by Daryl and Gloria, what a nice treat. After chatting to them for a while, drinking their coffee and eating all their fruit cake we headed on to the next rest area (can’t waste a tail wind).
7 September - Rest Area – Curtin Springs - 28km
We awoke to a rather miserable day, as it threatened to rain and the wind picked up during the night, making the tent flaps roar like a Boeing in the process of taking off. We were still having our coffee when another cyclist pulled in. It was Carson from Taiwan, of whom we have heard from various people along the way. He was a day or two ahead of us and on his way back from Uluru to the Stewart Highway. We chatted for a long time while it rained a bit and we were all reluctant to leave the rest area as the wind seemed to gather strength. Eventually we had to move on, and before long we were cycling into a cold rain.
Fortunately Curtin Springs was just down the road where we pulled in for a hot cup of coffee. We were cold, wet and windswept so it did not take much to convince us to pitch our tents and crawl inside for the rest of the day. Only once I ventured out to get a loaf of bread from the roadhouse shop and at Aus $7 it must be the most expensive bread in the world!!
8 September - Curtin Springs – Yulara - 88km
The weather seemed to have cleared during the night and we were rewarded with a huge rainbow across the sky. The dreaded Emu from the previous day was back, inspecting everything and pecking on our tents. It must have been time to wake up. We watched as dark clouds gathered and disappeared. By 11.30 the weather gave us a break and we quickly packed up and were on our bikes for the last stretch to Yulara.
Wow, what a hard day on the road it was. A gale force wind blew all day as we battled on to Yulara. Not much was said between us, as we had our heads down battling the wind. Eventually we arrived in Yulara Resort camp and caught our first glimpse of Uluru in the distance. By the time we pitched our tents there was not a drop of wind and the cold weather seemed to have dissipated. We could even sit outside and talk to other travellers. Typical!
9 September - Uluru - In Nat Park viewing the rock – 37 km
We woke at leisure and did the normal rest day chores. Eventually we got on our bikes and cycled to Uluru. I was surprised at the size of Uluru; somehow I expected it to be much smaller. It’s quite a dramatic site as it rises 350m out of the desert floor and measures 9.4 km around its base. The sun did not want to play along and did not want to come out properly to light up the rock for us. We snapped a few pic’s and then went back to the campsite.
In a way it is quite sad, that such a sacred site to the local Aboriginal people is trampled by tourists who climb the rock. They also ask that people should not climb up to the top but still many people find this a kind of a pilgrimage.
10 September - Yalara – Curtin Springs - - 88km
Ernest changed his worn tyre and it was 12.30 by the time we left the camp site. It was fortunately a much easier day than anticipated. The wind was not as strong and we reached Curtin Springs shortly after 5. We picked up some wood and made a camp fire. We also met Rudolfo from Argentina who now lives in Melbourne. We sat around the fire, had a few beers and were invited to his house once we get to Melbourne.
11 September - Curtin Springs – Mt Ebenezer - 107km
After our usual slow start we got on our bikes and battled the wind all day long. What a mission it is cycling into a head wind! We waved good bye to our last glimpse of Uluru and headed back to the Stuart High Way. Just after 5 we crawled into Mt Ebenezer with its cheap red earthy campsite. I could not resist the French fries from the roadhouse and before setting up camp I ate a whole 5 dollars worth! Delicious! Then it was off to have a really hot shower. Oh the pleasure of the small things in life!
The next morning we woke at 5.30 with rain pelting down on the tent. The entire campsite turned into a mud bath. We lay cocooned in our tents waiting for the weather to clear. We, however, had no such luck and it rained throughout the day. Later we went to sit in the roadhouse pub/restaurant and sat there playing on the laptop and drinking bottomless coffee until it came out our ears.
13 September - Mt Ebenezer – Kulgera - 135km
We were happy to open our tents and see that the rain had cleared. We were rather quick to pack up before more rain came down. We had an excellent tail wind for the first 60km to the Stuart Highway junction at Erldunda. Then it was back in a Southerly direction, from where the road beat a dead straight track south though the desert.
Another 75km along the Stuart High Way brought us to Kulgera with a good campsite and roadhouse.
14 September - Kulgera – Rest Area - 61km
An icy wind blew as we woke up and we were reluctant to leave. Battling into the wind is one thing but battling into an icy cold wind is another. It was 11 am by the time we finally left our cosy campsite. 22km further south we officially crossed into the state of South Australia. At the border is a good rest area and we bumped into Gloria and Daryl again. Once again we got invited for coffee and cake at their caravan. I wonder if these people realize what luxury that is for us! We chatted for a while and then we were on our way again. 40k’s further we found a good rest area, with water and a nice shelter. We camped for the night as it was already getting late. Another camper at the rest area, invited us to share his camp fire and I was quick to get my billy on for some hot water for coffee. The people are so friendly. That night Ernest made more vetkoek than we could eat.
15 September - Rest Area – Marla - 125km
What was with that weather? As I woke I could hear the unwelcome sound of rain on my tent again. Fortunately we had a perfect shelter, for packing the bags and loading up the bikes. We set off in icy conditions and in a constant drizzle. I was absolutely frozen all day long - I even thought I had hypothermia (I can be such a drama queen).
Ernest had not one but two flat tyres along the way, not something one wants in those conditions. We were, however, lucky to see some wild horses and, yes, a big kangaroo, sitting right in the middle of the road, just looking at us.
I was never more pleased to ride into a camp site. A quick cup of soup with leftover vetkoek and a hot shower was all I needed to be quite happy again.
16 September - Marla – Cadney Homestead - 85km
We did not leave the campsite until after 12h00. Ernest repaired tubes and we did some shopping at the little mini-mart for the next few days. It was another cold and windy day on the road and we did not get into Cadney until after 5.
Money has also become a problem, Australia is incredibly expensive and I will soon have to find myself a job in order to continue my travels. Ernest has run out of money and me having to keeping both of us is proving rather costly.
17 September - Cadney Homestead – Pootnoura Rest Area - 80km
Another short distance that took us the entire day to cycle. It was once again a bleak day with low clouds, and an icy cold wind that blew all day. We also had our fair share of bicycle problems, as Ernest had two blow-outs due to his new back tire tearing at the side-wall.
I stuck the iPod in my ears and battled on, eventually we reached Pootnoura Rest area, which had water and a shelter. I had my tent up in no time as it looked like it was going to rain again. Oi the weather is just not in our favour, not the best of days on the road.
18 September - Pootnoura Rest Area – Coober Pedy - 78km
We struggled to make some coffee in the windy conditions, but eventually got some water boiling for an early morning cuppa. I was not looking forward to another windy day, but we had to move on as our supplies were running out.
We once again struggled into an icy cold wind (sometimes from the front, sometimes a fierce cross-wind), sometimes struggling to cycle at more than 10km an hour. The gusts from the road trains nearly blew me off my bike a few times. I clung on for dear life to the handlebars and just about managed to stay on the road.
About 40 k’s north of Coober Pedy we crossed the dog fence, a 5500km long fence running across South East Australia to keep the dingoes out, and then it was into opal country. All along the road we spotted holes and piles of dirt littering the country side. Opal mining is alive and well in Coober Pedy, the Opal Capital of the world.
19 September - Coober Pedy
Coober Pedy is a typical small mining town with corrugated iron houses, dirt roads and eccentric looking foreigners seeking their fortune. The town has one more fascinating feature - old worked out mines have become homes. Living underground makes a lot of sense as it gets extremely hot in this part of the world, apparently the temperatures underground never rises above 23C. The surrounding desert has also attracted a number of film makers, and old movie props can still be seen around town. We’re camping at the Opal Inn Caravan Park for a day or two, doing laundry, stocking up with supplies for the road south, and so forth.
21 September - Coober Pedy to Ingomar Rest area - 94km
It was time to leave our lazy life of hanging around the campsite and get back on the road. It was a much better day than expected, at least the sun was out and the wind not too strong. The land was flat and all we could see was miles and miles of nothing (except for the “mole hills” where the optimistic miners were digging for opals).
I tried to draw some money before we left but to no avail. So off we went without any money, at least we not going to need any in the next few days. I had a big fight again with Ernest, so things were not all that wonderful. At least the rest area was (as happens at the free camping places) interesting with the usual bunch of odd people camping there.
22 September - Ingomar Rest Area – Bon Bon Rest Area - 79km
We battled into the wind on a pan flat road with very little change in scenery. On and on we went head down into the wind. I’m close to getting white-line fever. Fortunate it was a short day and once at the rest area we could pitch our tents and get out of the wind a bit. We also met the most interesting people. Jen from Adelaide is a 70-year old lady who drove all the way to Darwin to deposit her late husband’s ashes into the ocean (she is a most remarkable woman with loads of interesting stories - I will definitely visit her in Adelaide).
23 September - Bon Bon Rest Area – Glendambo - 87km
Ernest and I were not close buddies, the wind was relentless and the road pan flat again, I can’t think of anything worse. We battled on in silence; this is just not worth it!! We reached Glendambo early but I was (by then) really fed up with this whole situation and decided to camp right there, get a LARGE bag of French fries, have a shower and drink a LARGE glass of red wine. (My way of solving problems).
At sunset the wind dropped, the flies went to bed, and I felt a whole lot better!
24 September - Glendambo – Woomera - 125km
Thank goodness not all things are constant! We got on the road and picked up a tail wind. Powered by the wind we sped south past vast areas of nothing until we reached Lake Hart. What a sight it was, a salt lake filled with water after the good rains they had in the area. It is such a large pan that it resembled the ocean.
We were like two horses that smelled the stables and would have sped right past Woomera, was it not for me having a flat tyre along the road. Woomera has a bit if a dark history as it was the headquarters for experimental rocket and nuclear tests. Indigenous people apparently suffered greatly from these nuclear fallouts. In the centre of town is a rocket display area, and I was surprised at how small some of these rockets were.
25 September - Woomera- Ranges View Rest Area - 120km
We passed more salt lakes and some dusty rest areas along the way. We even found water at Ironstone Lagoon Rest Area, about 70km south of Pimba (turnoff to Woomera), which was great and we could fill up our bottles. It was not at all necessary as there was water at Ranges View as well (after carrying litres of our own!). We pitched out tents as the wind came up and blew and absolute gale, I truly thought my tent was going to take off with me inside!
26 September - Ranges View Rest Area – Port Augusta - 66km
We were in no hurry to leave and packed up at leisure. It was a beautiful spring day, sun shining, hardly any wind and flowers everywhere. We rolled into Port Augusta early and headed for Shoreline Caravan Park. Although a bit out of town it was cheap and had good facilities. We sat around for a while, chatting to the beer-drinking John, who lives in the caravan park.
27/28 September - Port Augusta
The wind picked up and I was happy not to be on the road. Did the normal chores of laundry, internet and stocking up with some foodstuff.
29 September - Port Augusta – Port Germein - 70km
After our night in luxury accommodation we reluctantly packed up and resumed our life on the road. A strong head wind battered us all day long, but we struggled on regardless. In fact it became so strong that it was getting right out dangerous to be on the road. Trucks and busses blew us all over die road. Along the way we chatted to people from this region who we’d met at one of our rest area camps up North a few weeks earlier. By the time we reached the coastal village of Port Germein, I’d given up and settled for a night in the campsite (at the turn-off we met a cyclist, Grant from Perth, cycling home from Sydney in 30 days – at least he was cruising with the wind). The camp site opposite the “longest wooden pier in Australia” wasn’t cheap at $20 but had a well equipped kitchen and good showers.
Port Germein is a rather forlorn looking place with just a few houses, a small hotel and general store, the jetty, and campsite. This is definitely a crabbing area and each and everyone here seems to have a crab net for fishing off the pier.
30 September - Port Germein – Snowtown - 98km
The wind eased a bit and we headed down the highway, the closest and easiest way to Adelaide. I have to get out of this windy area. Judging by the wind-farms and mangled old windmills, this is obviously a notoriously windy area. It was, however, a scenic ride as the fields are green and stretch as far as the eye can see, we passed small quaint towns like Warnetown, Red Hill and Lake View.
We set up camp at Snowtown, a village with a population of 600, 3 churches, a hotel and general grocer. Camping was in the Centenary Park community recreation area, where there was also a perfectly manicured bowling green, tennis court, and of course the football oval (which doubles as a cricket pitch in summer).
1 October - Snowtown – Dublin - 89km
Hallelujah, the wind was with us for a change. We woke to a perfectly blue sky, warm weather, gone was the icy wind! We had an excellent day on the road past deep green wheat fields and yellow canola fields, large salt lakes and interesting small villages the likes of Luchiel, Wild Horse Plain and Windsor.
We reached the tiny Dublin village early but it had such a good rest area that we decided to camp there for the night (only the following morning did we notice the small “no camping” sign).
2/5 October - Dublin – Adelaide - 62km
We rode into Adelaide on 2 October, a breezy but sunny Saturday afternoon. The streets were quiet and it was surely the easiest city we’ve cycled into in a long time. Roads were wide and traffic ever so orderly. No hooting, traffic jams or strange one-way streets, just a plain and easy ride right into the city centre. We camped at Adelaide Caravan Park for the night, again ever so orderly to such an extent that I was wondering if it was plain boring or peaceful???? Located on the banks overlooking the Torrents River, it was however rather peaceful, but with so many camp rules there’s no space for spontaneity and people seem to hide away too scared to talk to you, just in case it’s against the rules. Sigh….., I miss the good old Rest Areas from the Outback with its eccentric travellers.
Nevertheless, Adelaide remains a pleasant, spacious city with loads of parks, river walks and cycling tracks. A very liveable city I would say. Well, I guess with its 750 churches it is sure to put a damper on things. We strolled endlessly down city malls and picturesque river paths, ate pizzas and drank beers at side walk cafes, ate their famous chocolates and in the process totally blew the budget. For such an orderly city it has an amazing amount of eccentric people, even strip clubs and sex shops (just to stir things up a bit). I feel ill suited for city life as my sense of fashion is obviously years behind!
Possums came to visit us in our campsite, black swans floated down the river and parrots woke us in the morning - not a bad place at all!!! Due to the long weekend we waited in Adelaide for the shops to open on Tuesday, when I bought a new rear hub for my bike which Ernest fitted (I did get him a set of really good tyres for his bike as well – he’d been going for the past 900 km on a blown tyre which he’d sewn up with fishing line).
I have finally come to a decision regarding my route for the near further. The plan (which seems to change from day to day) is now to cycle to Melbourne (or Sydney depending on the time) and then fly (via South Africa) to South America in order to start the long road north in summer. I think Ernest has other plans, so I may be on my own there.
This was only my first experience of an Australian city (Darwin and Alice Springs are somewhat smaller), but already I thought that if I ever had to live in Australia it would be Adelaide.