1000 Miles of Outback Australia by Pushbike

Off The Bitumen

We left Glen Helen Homestead loaded with three days of water and food. The bitumen soon faded into the distance behind us, and we began what would be an unexpectedly horrible road. Good thing Claire found a nice Aussie who would spot 15 L of bore water 100 k down the road, just in case.
We managed 77k the first day, due mostly to the bitumen, 53, 50 and 47 subsequent days, not three days, but four, you will notice. We found our first water stash, and since we didn’t need it all decided to ask someone to spot it further on. Three young backpackers in a rental cheerfully agreed, and we trudged on.P1010635b
The road varied from standard corrugations, with smooth bits now and then, The fist sized, sharp-edged rocks embedded in hardened clay, to deep red sand. As soon as we were just about to give up on one torture, gloriously, some new form arrived under our wheels. The change, though often worse than the last seemed a relief. Suffering can be interesting – in retrospect.

A good section of road

A good section of road

Twist-ties to the Rescue

One of Claire’s rack bolts came all the way out on day three, not a good omen, and two of our water containers sprung leaks, one repairable with a twist tie, and the other transferred to an empty milk jug offered by a passing motorist. Lots of people offer help, which we hope we won’t need, but is reassuring. We finally realized that the many thumbs up we were getting were meant as a question, “Doing alright mate?” not a “Good on ya!” and required a returned thumbs up. However, removing one hand from a death grip on the handlebar and risking a nasty crash wasn’t always advisable, even at the riotous speed of 7 kilometers per hour; those rocks were hard and sharp.

Where are Claire and Bob? We like stomping little pushbiker's tents.

Where are Claire and Bob? We like stomping little pushbiker’s tents.

My water worries were mostly unfounded, thanks to Claire’s planning, as usual, and we ended up dumping five L of bore (bad tasting, stomach rumbling) water before Kings Canyon.

We will be more relaxed about water on this touristy section to Uluru, since people seem eager to help hapless, inept, even stupid push-bikers. We’ll be happy to make anyone feel superior for a liter of water.

Claire making our first damper

Claire making our first damper

Ever present turmite mounds often prove useful

Ever present termite mounds often prove useful

In the Kings Canyon resort campground, one middle-aged man traveling with his son, said I was a living legend! I think that has something to do with being old, and still being a hapless, inept push-biker.

Lethal snakes in Australia

Deadly visitor

Deadly visitor

As we spoke his son noticed that we were almost straddling what might have been the most lethal (quick death at least) snakes in Australia. I took photos from what I thought was a respectful distance, until I remembered that Australian snakes are not slow like our snakes, and that they are aggressive. He easily outran the official summoned for such crises, and found a new hole. I am writing this a few feet from his hole. I hope he comes out to sun again. He was a very pretty snake.P1010683b
We have rediscovered (we learned this 16 years ago about distances) that the maps don’t agree with the road signs, the road signs don’t agree with each other and none of them agree with our cycle computers. This is uncomfortable when the difference exceeds available water.

I nearly fell over with shock when we saw the snake because I had mistakenly assumed that the deadly snakes we were watching out for were the same general sizes of our dangerous snakes in the U.S. Bob and I both have been bush bashing and reaching into small clumps of grasses for fire starter, thinking that no poisonous snakes could hide in them. This little killer was the size of a garter snake. When I asked how their tiny mouths could even make a bite, our neighbors assured us that the jaws open very wide. Didn’t sleep real well that night.

One fly didn't get away in time; extra protien

One fly didn’t get away in time; extra protein

dinner in the bush

I’d wanted to justify our extra effort and expense of mailing ourselves food to remote locations, knowing that the prices out here are typically quite exorbitant. Armed with my packing list and receipts, I added up a comparison of the few items from our food satchels that are even available here (11 of 24). Those groceries, in Alice Springs, cost us $43.44; here the same sizes and weights would have cost $116.25. The $17 postage was worth it. To celebrate we splurged on 2L of ice cream, $10.


We need more training to finish 2L at one go, but soon.

We need more training to finish 2L at one go, but soon.


1000 Miles of Outback Australia by Pushbike — 5 Comments

  1. Thank you Bob and Claire for writing this beautiful blog.
    We’re about to start riding (on bikes) the Great Central Road – from Laverton (Perth) to Yulara and then on towards Townsville on the Plenty Highway. Not easy as you’ve described but so much looking forward. Your stories make me want to leave tomorrow instead of mid April..

  2. We loved the Plenty on our year long trip around and into the middle of Australia. You’ll find that here also. We started in Cairns and got on to the Plenty via the Urendangi cutoff. You should find the Plenty much easier than the Great Central, but still very remote feeling. You might want to read that section of our year also though we were going the opposite direction and it was like 19 years ago! Oz has changed a lot since that first trip, but we’re still besotted. Will you be posting?

  3. Thanks Bob! We’ll be using Twitter for infrequent updates of our trip: @zwerffietser
    That means wandering cyclist in Dutch :-).

  4. Hi Claire and Bob. Thank you for sharing! I loved the pictures and descriptions. Your interaction with the young woman in Laverton was both heart-wrenching and uplifting. We camped next to you in Wetmore CG during the eclipse. I hope all is well with you both. Do you have an adventure planned for this year?

  5. I had a total knee replacement seven weeks ago. Not knowing how that would go we didn’t plan anything. Its going extremely well, I’m able to bike, even up to 3,000 ft. elevation gain yesterday, and 103 miles a couple of weeks ago. I have cataract surgery in two days, and may do another medical check up later since we are in Tucson at least through July. After that we’re not sure, maybe some motorhome travel in the Four Corners, with bikes of course. You probably remember Mark and Sandy Doumas who shared our campground. We biked with them Saturday. Hope all is well with you.

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