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By the Roads:
There is some interesting traffic
ploughing the Stuart Highway to the Olympic Dam mine (in South
Australia, not Sydney). We were overtaken by a pair of mining
trucks each the size of a small house. Soon after we were passed
by two small houses.
The highway to Ayres Rock tends to
go up and over the sand dunes and carries a fair bit of traffic.
Mostly hire cars being driven at break neck speed by
inexperienced city drivers reveling in the absence of speed
limits. The NT police made short work of this lot, booking most
of them as they belted through the 60 zones around the
roadhouses. Most of the non-hire cars were loaded to the hilt
with every piece of holiday gear you can think of. Some even
carried that most essential of items for a central Australian
holiday, a surf board.
The further north we rode in NT
the taller the termite mounds grew. They can have some strange
shapes, and after a few hours in the saddle your mind can start
playing tricks. One looked like Mother Teresa, another like
Elvis, Sly Stalone etc. One even looked like another cycle
tourist riding towards us. Turned out it was another cycle
tourist riding towards us, the first we'd seen in weeks.
While sitting in the park outside
the Katherine visitors' centre talking to some locals, a group of
very solemn looking aboriginals walked past dragging tree
branches behind them. The group I was with went respectfully
quiet as they passed, and after seeing my bemused look my new
friends explained to me one of their relatives had recently
passed away and they needed to sweep away the footprints of their
deceased to prevent being haunted by his spirit. I asked how long
they would keep doing this. "Till they've covered everywhere
he'd been." Tragically, they weren't kidding when they added
"they have to go around to all the local pubs".
Pulling into a lookout a few
kilometers east of Timber Creek we saw a fellow cyclist racing
out to greet us. We'd been hearing stories of a lone Japanese
cyclist all across NT, and we finally met. It turns out this was
Sekiji who we first met in Tasmania 5 months previously. Sekiji
arrived in Perth, bought a bike from K-Mart and set off around
Oz. His first bike didn't make it past Albany, but Sekiji had
ridden across the Nullarbor, around Tasmania right up the east
coast and across the top for our paths to cross paths near the
NT/WA border. We met him again on the outskirts of Broome, even
though we both took very different routes. People talk about all
the Japanese cyclists in Australia, but is seems to me most of
them are the same person.
150km south of Broome on the
longest and possibly hottest stretch between civilisation on
highway one we past a few very eye-catching signs.
"Watermelon". Then "Rockmelon". Some bastard
was playing a very cruel joke. Sure enough 1km down the road was
the Shamrock Melon Stall. In the middle of the great sandy desert
the Shamrock farm grows fruit in the sand, fertilised via the
bore water irrigation system. All sorts of melons, fruits and
fresh vegetables are grown and sold by the road during the
We met a roadside grass cutter
near Monkey Mia, this one working for the local council.
"It's my job to cut down all the wildflowers by the
roads." It's the first year he's had this task. "They
guy who did it last year won't do it anymore. The tourists kept
Just north of Geraldton a wildly
driven tour bus flew past us in the opposite direction, it's tour
company name plastered across it's sides. "Once in a
All along the Eyre highway across
the Nullarbor there are drink bottles partially filled with a
lemon cordial coloured yellow liquid. Clearly truckies making the
dash across the continent can't afford to stop just to go to the
loo. The truck traffic on Mondays and Fridays is particularly
light. The truckies drive all weekend, spend Mondays with their
family in the west, then drive back to spend Friday with their
other family in the east.
In the small NSW town of Khancoban a bunch of school
kids were hanging out on the corner before school as school kids do. A bit odd
given it was NSW school holidays and a NSW public holiday, but these kids are
educated in the nearby Victorian town of Corryong. A tour bus turned up to take
them south of the border. The tour company's name was "Whitehead Tours".
Dolphins surfing with humans (Wollongong), tame kangaroos
(Pebbly Beach), black snakes (almost trodden on).
Echidnas, a flock of Emus, Grazing Wombats.
Echidnas, Eastern Grey Kangaroos, Bennett's Wallabies,
Pademelons, Black Cockatoos, Wombat (with a lion's mane
coat), Huge (10kg, 3m wing span) Wedgetail Eagles,
<This word has ben removed automatically to comply
with the Australian Internet Censorship Act 1999>ing
Like many well used camp sites in Tasmania, Freycinet
N.P. has resident pademelons (a short plonky looking
wallaby). They usually show up around dinner time, and
one gingerly crept towards our camp site, twitching and
sniffing and generally trying to look as cute as
possible. As it reached what looked enticingly like an
open food container, with great anticipation stuck it's
nose in. In horror it bolted away, as the prospect of a
meal turned out to be a pungent sand shoe.
Red kanagaroo, birds of prey, flocks of galahs.
- Arid NT:
Black footed rock wallabies (they look like startled
muppets), goannas, Wedgetail Eagles, Kites, Zebra
Finches, Corellas, Cockatoos (White Sulpha, Crested, Pink
Crested, Black, White & Red tailed), Galahs, Spinifex
(tiger) Pigeons and plenty of others.
Strolling around Uluru we came across a Thorny Devil.
These lizards grow about six inches long and are covered
in short stumpy thorns and desert camouflage colours.
Apparently the thorns are just for show, but they sure
looked sharp enough to me. Their most interesting feature
is behavioral. When they sense danger they gently rock
back and forth like a leaf in the wind. Only when the
wind gusts do they scamper a few paces toward cover. This
is not a very effective strategy when confronted with a
- Top End:
Black Kytes, Whistling Kytes, Wedgetail Eagles, Galahs,
Rosellas, parrots, Blue winged kingfisher, Blue eyed
honey eaters (or dinner eaters), Pheasant Coucal, Egrets,
Straw necked Ibis, Rainbow Bee Eater, White Bellied Sea
Eagle, "Jesus Bird" (it walks on water) or Comb
Crested Jacana, Plumed whistling ducks, Whistling Kite,
Black Kite, Burdiken Ducks (Rajah Shellducks), Jabirus,
Brolgas, Black striped grunters, Sooty Grunters,
Saratogas, Barramundi, Fragile Wallabies (oops - accident
prone Agile wallabies), Dingos (loitering around Jabiru
camp ground), Bats, Wallaroos, Goannas, Water Snake,
tortoise and Salt Water Crocs.
- Kimberly (& west
Black Kytes, Whistling Kytes, Wedgetail Eagles, Galahs,
Red tailed Black Cockatoos, Water Buffalo, Wallabies,
Jabiru !!, Brolgas, Darters, Little Black, Cormorants.
Brown Pigeons, Spinifex Pigeons, Tawny Frogmouth Owls,
Albatross (I think - soaring on the updrafts of the Cable
Beach surf), Correllas (Windjana Gorge - squawking into
hollow logs to make a wind instrument sound), Python,
Black Kites, Whistling Kites, Swallows, Ibis, Egrets,
Pelicans, Camels, Feral Cats, Wedgetail Eagles, Emus, Red
Kangaroos, Grey Kangaroos, Sturts Desert Pea
- WA: Ningaloo Reef:
Reef fish, Parrot Fish, Snapper, A lot of others I didn't
recognise because I don't normally eat them.
- WA: Monkey Mia:
Dolphins, Dugongs & pelicans
- WA: Mid West:
Black Cockatoos, White Cockatoos, Pelican (gliding
gracefully into lagoon at Gilderton), Grey Kangaroos,
Just south of Overlander Roadhouse an emu ran across the
road in front of us. It knew the road crossing was
dangerous. That's why it took the precaution of ducking
- WA: Rottnest Is:
- WA: Rockingham bay:
Seabirds, Humans and Dolphins hunting fish in Rockingham
bay. Seagulls pestered all the successful fishermen.
- WA: (South West:)
Black Cockatoos (flying beside us trying to
"escape"), a kamikaze turtle (I carried him off
the road), kamikaze blue-tongues (they growl at the
passing cars rather than run from them), dive bombing
magpies and a mob of *live* kangaroos.
- Nullarbor Crossing:
Emu (running from us taking his chicks with him), Camels,
Small falcon like bird of Prey, Wedgetail eagles.
Nullarbor Kangaroos are so stupid. Riding in the early
morning we hear them first, crashing into the roadside
fences as the flee from us. They have so little road
sense. One one morning we chased a mob for 10km at
20km/hr as they tried to outrun us. They never did.
- SA & Nth Vic
& Sth West NSW:
Lincoln Parrots (the St African flag bird), Black Kites,
whistling Whistling Kites, Blue Winged Kookaburras,
Kangaroos, Dive-bombing Magpies (some with payloads!),
Wedgetail Eagles, Echidnas, Unidentified Parrots
(particularly striking markings: purple wings, green and
red backs, yellow breasts and green heads), One duck with
30 (yes 30) ducklings, Raptor (unidentifiable) being
harassed by magpies, Sacred Ibis (mostly white), Non
Sacred Ibis (black Wings), ducks, swifts (nesting in the
bird hide), sleeping Pelicans, Egrets and other water
birds (flourish along the irrigation canals and rice
fields of the riverina).
More Dive-bombing Magpies (At least twelve attacks),
Pelicans, White Cockatoos, all red Rosellas, Feral Cats,
Goanna (chasing bird's eggs), Black Snake (sitting on
road), Rosellas, Emu guarding his chicks, Black
A Blue Tongue Lizard. It ran across the road ahead,
briefly stopped to flash its blue tongue at us, then
NSW, as expected, had mostly nice
weather. On occasions it's rained, but only when we got the tent
out. The Tathra caravan park operators seemed very pleased
claiming the rain was needed it, even though they were fielding
plenty of calls canceling bookings due to the wet weather.
Somewhat incredibly, of the 65
days we spent in Tasmania only 4 were wet. Two of those were the
first two! Another was a memorable boxing day, where I
constructed an elaborate system of Venetian canals which sort of
managed to stop our tent drowning.
The weather in Victoria was
consistently wet. We had rain most days, and if it wasn't raining
we were dodging floods. Just occasionally a fine day would be
forecast. The strange thing is all the TV weathermen continually
suggest a forecast for rain a bad thing, and a long range
forecast for cloud and drizzle (which was invariably the weather
despite the forecast) was proclaimed as good news.
Apart from the drizzle on the day
we landed back in Adelaide, the weather was warm and fine all the
way through South Australia's northern farming region. In fact it
was completely dry until we hit the arid regions north of Port
Augusta. From then on it rained every day in one way or another
until we reached the Northern Territory. You can see the
rainstorms across the deserts often hours before they reach you.
Sometimes they can be refreshingly pleasant. Other times they can
be quite a challenge.
The proprietor of the Pine Creek
caravan park we stayed at told us we'd arrived in the Top End one
week after it had stopped raining, and it was now
"cold". "Cold" is 29 to 32 degrees every day.
Some nights it's been so cold we've considered getting out our
sleeping bags. A few scattered white clouds were seen on three
days of the month we've been here. The wind has been mild to
moderate from the east. The biggest change in the weather is the
phase of the moon. I don't know how the territorians stand the
A shopkeeper in Derby taught us a
new expression. "Kimberly cool" is the temperature of
something that's only been in the fridge ten minutes. It also
describes the worst of the Kimberly dry season weather.
The weather in the Kimberly region
was just blissful. Further south in the Pilbara the weather
remained beautiful, but it was becoming noticeably cool once the
sun disappeared. Our guide book suggested we might see some
"morning glory", long tubular clouds that threaten rain
then disappear. As we crossed the Yannarie River into the
Gascoyne region we saw some long tubular clouds that threatened
rain. They made good their threat. We passed an informative sign.
It read "Tropic of Capricorn". It might as well have
read "You are leaving the 'Dry' season and entering
More than anywhere else, wind is
the major weather factor for cyclists crossing the Nullarbor. A
"High in the Bight" pattern, with a high pressure cell
sitting in the Great Australian Bight can be large, slow moving
and generate strong easterly winds for days or weeks on end.
Mercifully we only had one of these.
As we approached Ceduna the desert
gave way to scrubby forests, and eventually crop fields. With so
little rain this is very marginal farming country. As the storm
fronts blew over us the wind was incredible, and valuable topsoil
from the freshly ploughed fields billowed into huge clouds. Apart
from cutting visibility to dangerously low levels, this dust gets
in everywhere. Eyes, ears, nostrils, teeth, and any other orifice
exposed to the atmosphere.
We had mostly headwinds from Pt
Ausgusta all the way to Sydney. I remember the day to Goulburn as
one of three tailwind days of the leg. We still rode 75km into
the wind before turning and riding 40km with it.
On the western side of the Alps it was still pretty
cool in the mornings. We used our leg and arm warmers (old footy socks with
holes cut through the toes) pretty much all the way to Kiama. We (well one of
us) greatly anticipated seeing and maybe even experiencing snow in the mountains.
It was never really quite that cold, and rain in the week preceding our arrival
heralded the end of the ski season had washed away most of the white stuff from
all but the highest peaks. It wasn't until the final two days we had our first
hint of the approaching Sydney summer. It was warm *and* muggy, a first for
us in nearly twelve months!
Tasmanian Busses. Backpackers in
Tassie joke about "the vaguraties of Tasmanian bus
travel". Everyone seems to know what this means. Put simply,
many Tasmanian busses can't be trusted. If you get the impression
the bus companies don't seem too interested in your trip details
when booking, you are probably right. Regardless of whether or
not you've successfully booked or paid for your bus, if you're
not there when the bus shows up (which could easily be well
before the scheduled pickup time), or not enough other people
take the bus that day, or the driver doesn't feel like stopping,
or its all a bit too much trouble - you won't be getting the bus.
All the guide books suggest it's advisable to book you bus in
advance, particularly in wilderness areas. This is a euphemism
for ensuring you have a fallback plan in the not too unlikely
event you'll be left stranded in the rain or snow somewhere. At
least that's been our experience, and that of many of the people
Tasmanian Hamburgers. In Tasmania
you get 2 types of burgers - plain, and with the lot. "With
the lot" comes with the usual, onion, lettuce, tomato,
beetroot, cheese, pineapple, egg, bacon, sauce and probably a few
other things as well. Plain is well plain. A sausage mince patty,
bread, and nothing else. If you want just a bit of salad, you've
got to order (and pay for) a "with the lot" without
egg, bacon, cheese etc.
Tips for dealing with flies:
- 1) Cook & eat after dark.
The flies seem to hibernate overnight, and half an hour
after dusk they've all gone. It's sort of an Australian
- 2) Face into the wind. The
little buggers avoid being blown away by gusts of wind by
hiding on your leeward side. Facing into the wind (if
it's strong enough) sends them out of your face and onto
your back. Well, it's a slight improvement.
- 3) Ride faster. If you go
quick enough you can blow them off. Very satisfying.
- 4) Stay north of Tennant
Creek. Once we got into the wet tropics they seem to
disappear. You only have to worry about the mozzies then.
(Keep a close eye on your sultana snacks as you're eating
Kakadu mozzies. Local health warnings advise using
a DEET (carcinogenic but "effective") based insect repellant and avoid
being outdoors around dusk. Hardly helpful in our case. If DEET has any effect
on tropical mosquitoes it's to let them know where there is a meal to be had.
Wearing clothes doesn't help either. These huge insects evolved to bleed the
local buffalo, so have no trouble biting through the thickest human clothing.
After Mardugal (in Kakadu) and the Roebuck roadhouse my bottom was covered in
welts where I'd been ravaged (by the mozzies) while preparing dinner. Inside
the tent offered us some protection (once we'd killed the 20 or so that snuck
in with us), though you can hear the swarms outside clinically scouring the
mesh for a path to their next meal. Outside the best strategy seems to be to
keep moving. Mozzies aren't as quick as flies, and use heat and CO2 emissions
to track you down. Avoiding your most recent location can confuse them a bit,
at least for a little while.
Tunes I hum to myself while
- Billy Thorpe: Most people I
know think that I'm crazy.
- Daddy Cool: Eagle Rock
- 10CC: The things we do for
Love ("Like riding in the rain and the snow
- when there's nowhere to go
- Beatles: Here Comes the Sun
(at Dawn usually)
Tunes Linda hums to herself while riding:
- Eurythmics: Here comes the rain again.
- Paul Kelly: It's all downhill here. (It never was).