1000 Miles of Outback Australia by Pushbike

Yulara to Docker River

Kata Tjuta

On our last bit of bitumen before The Great Central proper, we realized that at by the time we reached Kata Tjuta (The Olgas) late in the day, the few overlanders and locals would be long gone toward Docker River. It was essential we have a water drop in the middle of what would become a four-bush-camp, nearly five day push. At Kata Tjuta we filled up with our maximum three days of water and fifteen liters more that we hoped to find someone to spot in the middle. We bush camped just outside Uluru National Park, with a great view of Kata Tjuta, more interesting than Uluru, I think

Dunlop Hill on the Great Central Road

The next morning Claire dashed to the road from our camp and waved down, with great luck, the principal of the college (schools) at Docker River, Kevin O’Keefe. P1010892bHe gladly agreed and told us he would stash the water at Dunlop Hill–a pile of tyres; decorated with our name on fluorescent pink surveyor’s tape; Claire thinks of everything.P1010877b




The first two days of the road were even harder than we expected, riding at seven kilometers per hour for an hour at a time, being jarred, bum and hands, for more than five hours each day. 

P1010888bClaire discovered an infected pressure sore at bush camp that she still suffers with in Docker River. This is turning out to be much tougher than we expected. When rocks turned to sand we were able to make some better time, with less pounding, but more effort. It was soon clear we would take half a day more than expected, and we gladly accepted offers of a couple of liters of water. We adapt.P1010900b

The Milky Way from the Australian Outback

We had some specky camps, surrounded by wildflowers, bright green clumps of spinifex grass, decorative termite mounds and always the bright band of the Milky Way, so wordlessly glorious, in arguably the darkest region on Earth. It amazed us sixteen years ago, on The Plenty Highway, and now we get to experience it again on The Great Central, this time for even more weeks of bush camps. Quite a reward for the effort.P1010926bP1010935b
P1010908bLasseter’s Cave

We met some interesting Australians along the way: At Lasseter’s Cave, we met John and his son Jayden. John was interested in hearing about our bicycle travels.

The Manali/Leh Highway

You see, John once motorcycled from London to Australia, and had a particularly strong memory of a certain part of northern India, “Have you ever heard of the Manali/Leh Highway?” We had a hearty laugh. Of course we know of it, we bicycled it two years ago. https://newbohemians.net/2014-india-trip 

He was floored. He says he has been asking, out of curiosity, every touring bicyclist he meets if they know of the road and Khardung La, the world’s highest motorable road at 5600 metres, since 2003 when he rode it on his motorcycle. That makes us soul brothers/sister in my book.

Outback Truckie

Not more than a kilometer after Lasseter’s Cave, we met a roadtrain driver who lumbered to a stop just past us, his two dogs, heavily loaded with mining equipment. He’s been driving road trains for 27 years, and like most Aussie truckies, “Wouldn’t do anythin’ else.” He’s driven all the outback roads possible, and always stops to talk to push-bikers and offer water if they appear to need it. He’s living his dream and is one of the legends of outback Australia, the roadtrain jockey.

Claire here:
The bush camping is as delightful as we remember it. Beautiful sunsets, quiet nights and waking to birdsong. We try to keep a clean camp and so far, we haven’t been bothered by critters at night, though I wouldn’t mind at least seeing a small nocturnal marsupial or two. We keep a few regular habits to avoid surprises. P1010919bI try to brush out our tracks running into the bush to avoid being discovered, we keep the tent door zipped to avoid flies in the tent, beat the spinifex with a stick when we gather wood or wander for a photo, and we always stuff our shoes with our socks to avoid someone from invading. The photos show the variety of critter homes that surround our camps. If one of these mysterious creatures should mistakenly take up residence in my boot after a long night of carousing, we’d both be in for a nasty surprise in the morning.


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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