The Australian Outback: A Home Coming Ride
Almost one year ago we wobbled out of suburban London with the seemingly ridiculous thought of cycling to Australia through Europe, the Middle East and Asia. 20 countries later and over 13,000km under our wheels we are now in Darwin, Australia. So we made it. Well not quite, our journey is only 3/4 complete: The final 4,000 kilometres are the “home coming ride”, a chance for us to get under the skin of the country we will call home.
To get back home from Darwin we simply point the bikes south on the Stuart Highway and pedal for 3,000km until we reach Adelaide. From there we turn eastward for a further 1,000km along the Great Ocean road to Guy’s parents’ home in Point Lonsdale, a small seaside hamlet 1.5 hours south of Melbourne. We will ride through several different climate zones from the sweltering tropics in the Top End to the sub zero night-time temperatures in central Australia and the windswept shores of southern Australia.
There are just four main “towns” along the Stuart Highway: Katherine (population: 5,850), Alice Springs (26,300), Coober Pedy (3,500) and Port Augusta (13,500). The Stuart Highway is the only paved north-south road through the centre of Australia, and it was only fully paved 25 years ago. Most tracks off the highway are unpaved and only accessible by 4WD. There will be little shade, the winds will be prevailing headwinds, food will be scarce and when available expensive. Water will often be acrid tasting bore water and at times we may need to carry up to 20 litres of water each to cover some of the more remote stretches.
But we won’t be alone, there will be a cast of millions of flies and mosquitoes, accompanied by crocodiles and kangaroos. Though it will be vast and empty we will still have attractions of sorts, well Outback style attractions, things like a singing Dingo, underground opal mines, road trains, a big red rock, a King’s Canyon, the Devils Marbles, a telegraph line and cave paintings that are thousands of years old…
After Alice Springs we are considering the option of turning off the Stuart Highway and onto a more remote parallel road known as the Oodnadatta track. This unpaved road would take us through to Adelaide via the backdoor, through tiny towns where the population can be counted on one hand and road traffic is almost non existent. After 2,000km cycling on the Stuart Highway we are thinking we might be quite keen for a change in scenery but will have to asses the conditions when closer as rains make the road impassable and we may not be up for the extremely remote territory and tough cycling conditions. This would also mean that we would miss out on two of the four towns between Darwin and Adelaide (Coober Pedy and Port Augusta).
As our budget in Oz is low (we can’t even afford a proper meal out due to the rampant Aussie dollar) we will be camping as often as we can and will have to economise wherever possible. The treat budget will be slashed and we are crossing our fingers that our kit will hold out the final 4,000km without any expensive replacements.
All in all it has the hallmarks of an interesting and challenging ride. Our load will be the heaviest we have ever had and the conditions the most demanding, it will push us to new limits both physically and mentally but step by step we will make our way home. ||