Yulara to Docker River
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.
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. He 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.
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. Claire 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.
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.
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. You see, he 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. ( link ) 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.
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.
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. I 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.