Bike Odyssey
Around Australia 1999

Home   FAQ   Maps   Photos   Subscribe   Links
Trip Journals
Australia 2004   Europe   America   New Zealand   Australia 2003    |  New Zealand '02  |  Sydney to Darwin '01
Around Australia 2003 Sydney to Darwin 01   Around Australia 99  |  Great North Walk 98   Snowy Mountains 97   Tasmania 96
About Us
David   Linda   Bike Odyssey Pty Ltd
Bike Odysseypty ltd
BODY - The PHP Symbolic Debugger

For a range of cost effective industry standard solutions contact the Systems division of Bike Odyssey Pty Ltd

Sydney - Melbourne - Hobart - Adelaide - Darwin - Perth - Canberra - Sydney

[Overview] [Riding] [Stats] [Towns/Regions] [In Tassie Too Long When ...]
[National Parks][By the Roads] [Wildlife] [Cycling Songs] [Weather]
[Travel Tips] [Road Toll] [Who Does What] [Misadventures]


Mole Creek is a pretty laid back town. Like most small Tasmanian towns (and they are all small) it is stretched out along just one or two streets. On Friday nights outside the town's only pub a bunch of bicycles gather awaiting their owners. They all have an essential attachment that even our bikes haven't got, a stubbie holder.

Darlington on Maria Island (Maria is pronounced Mar-eye-ah, as in Maria Carey) has an interesting European history. After two periods of use as a convict settlement (abandoned because it was considered too soft for the prisoners), a guy called Diago Bernacchi set up a company to develop the island's resources in the boom of the 1890's. Within four years the company was broke. After setting up several other failed companies he had another go in the boom of the 1920s', where punters again lent him the money to set up a cement works on Maria island. As soon as the operation was up and running it was realised the price of cement would need to double for it to ever turn a profit.

In the centre of the Arthur Pieman wilderness is Corinna, a tiny dot on the map. Once a busy logging, sawmilling and gold rush town, the dense local forests have almost completed reclaiming the site. Corinna boasts "the modern convenience of electricity" for 3 hours a day! The "town" is really a few log cabins and a kiosk of sorts, selling Cadbury Chocolate, Pieman River hats, bumper stickers and not much else. The cabins are wood fire heated, and you only have hot water while the fire is burning.

Queenstown has been a mining town on the Tasmanian west coast for more than a hundred years. The surrounding mountains are still almost devoid of trees giving the town an eerie and sometimes beautiful moonscape appearance, courtesy of the original copper smelters. For much of the time the mining operations have been fairly marginal. Government subsidies, relaxation of environmental controls and other assistance have kept operations going, and the town bustling. The towns' only remaining supermarket (the other one burnt down just prior to our arrival) was doing a roaring trade, and apparently I needed to book 2 weeks in advance to get my hair cut there. The optimism of the locals is almost as remarkable as their drawling accents. As our mine tour guide says, "if someone would just put in 'nough money we'll knock the top off 'ere and turn all this low grade ore to copper". If only someone would invest a few hundred million dollars and not get a return, then they can literally move mountains. It doesn't seem so ludicrous when you realise that this summarises Queenstown's entire history.

Flinders Island is just a fabulous place. Situated off the NE corner of Tasmania in Bass Strait, Flinders is about 100k long and 40k wide. It is a magnificent mix of granite peaks, clear unpolluted beaches and flat grazing country. From a cycling perspective the roads are great (even the dirt ones), there is precious little traffic, the scenery is brilliant, and the size of the island is just about perfect to explore on day rides. It can get a bit windy at times, sitting right on the 40'S latitude line. Its also a pain in the bum to get there (as well as expensive), giving Flinders one of its best features: at the height of the holiday season, there are virtually no tourists! Most of the visitors were either visiting relatives (ex pats) or riding bikes like us. The locals are extremely friendly, and there are some great camping spots. Apparently its also a great fishing destination, like I'd know.

Hobart is Tasmania's premier city. On my first visit after flying straight from Sydney, Hobart looked like a modest town. After two months in Tassie Hobart looked like a thriving metropolis. The traffic certainly seemed commensurate with a major city. Hobart has it's shops, malls, restaurants (yes!) and supermarkets, but not too many tall office buildings. In fact it has very few new buildings of any description. On our day of departure we rode for 3k from the dead centre of town before we hit the bush. Those naming the roads had a bit of fun with the main freeway to Hobart's south. Hobart may be a fine lady, but I had no intention of riding up her Southern Outlet.

In Melbourne Linda and I got to test out their elaborate public transport system. As Linda's tram disappeared out of view, I headed off by bike. I made the 12k trip back to our motel a full half hour before Linda. The tram network provides some interesting cycling opportunities. A not uncommon method Melbourne cyclists use to turn right is to cross to the oncoming tram tracks, peddle headlong towards an oncoming tram while waiting for a break in the oncoming traffic. There is only ever going to be one winner when playing chicken with a tram.

We arriving at Victor Harbour just south of Adelaide on a Sunday and there were people crawling all over the place. We must have been overtaken by forty jet-skis on the approach roads. Even on the following Monday there were lots of day trippers from Adelaide wandering about the Norfolk Island pines and around the horse drawn tram to Granite Island. The tram's a modern fake, and the vegetation on the island bears little resemblance to what was there before European settlement. Still, that doesn't stop the tourists, and it doesn't make the blue ocean scenery any less relaxing. The town water tastes and smells like it's just come from an indoor swimming pool. Next to the bridge crossing the town's main creek is an indicator board:

Nutrients: Low
Bacteria: Very High
Fecal Coliform: Off the scale.

I guess the "No Swimming" sign wasn't working.

The first sight we had of Quorn was it's cemetery. Soon after the town proper came into view. It didn't look much different. Quorn looks like my idea of an outback town. Broad dusty deserted streets, three or four pubs, a couple of tiny shops, a few old houses all under a baking sun. The magnificent old sandstone railway station is by far the towns' most impressive structure. Now supporting a tourist railway, at first glance it seems like a train ride to nowhere. The brilliant scenery through Pitchi Richi pass changed that perception very quickly. It's stunningly beautiful, by train or bike.

Port Augusta has the feel of a frontier town. "The Crossroads of Australia" didn't seem to have too much else to offer. The CBD was a bit ramshackle, with a fair few seedy looking businesses, and not many others. Lots of aborigines loitering about the streets, some drunk, but many waiting outside the courthouse. Gangs of school aged kids wander in and out of the local shops on a school day. Very few other people can be seen around town. Port Augusta is trying to promote itself as a tourist destination with ads on local radio, TV and in various publications. They're fighting an uphill battle. The slogan they came up with "why not?" is all too self explanatory. I filled in their survey form:

Q: Why did you choose to visit Port Augusta?
A: En-Route to somewhere else. No way around.
Q: Which attractions of Port Augusta did you visit?
A: The post office? (There are no other attractions)
Q: Would you recommend a holiday in Port Augusta to anyone else?
A: Sorry, No.
Q: Is there anything you could suggest that would make Port Augusta a better holiday destination?
A: Ummm

It's not that bad a place, but the only reason to go there is because you are going somewhere else.

Riding into Coober Pedy it looked like the film set from Star Wars or Mad Max. Turns out it *is* the film set from Mad Max. Coober Pedy is a very rough looking town. It seems no-one ever thinks they'll be there for very long, so they don't get too carried away with setting up a livable home. It doesn't help that grass can't grow in the area (no water), and places you'd expect to see lawn are just red dust. Almost everything in town looks pretty run down and ramshackle, though the absence of any grass exaggerates this a bit. A lot of the commercial buildings have limited tenancies. The bakery is closed and it's building for lease and sale. Cyclists don't perceive this as a hallmark of a civilisation.

I was a bit apprehensive riding into Alice Springs. We listened to ABC radio's forum program where the alcohol & crime problem in Alice was discussed. All very politically correct. They went right out of their way to avoid saying they were all aborigines, almost to the point of not mentioning it. As forecast, we rode into a town littered with empty wine casks. Most properties along the main street are surrounded by either cyclone fencing or high (unclimbable) pool fencing. Plenty have "beware of the dog" signs that are no idle threat. The hospital car park is particularly well fortified. Alice's CBD is booming. Lots of prosperous looking people buying lots of things in thriving businesses. Lots of tourist shops, backpackers and the like as well. But these aren’t the only thriving businesses, everything else seemed to be cooking too.

Approaching Darwin from Kakadu the traffic gets steadily heavier on the Arnhem Highway. Through painstaking research (asking at the Humpty Doo takeaway) we discovered a back route to Howard Springs avoiding the Stuart Highway. There is a lattice of very good sealed roads criss-crossing the bush surrounding Howard Springs and Humpty Doo, about 30k south of Darwin. These roads look very strange in that they don't seem to go anywhere, just straight through virgin bush. As 5:00pm rolled around the traffic stream heading from Darwin steadily increased, and by 5:30 it resembled a suburban access road during rush hour. A few strips of manicured lawn strewn with palms and the occasional real estate agents' signs reveal the whole area has been subdivided into very small acre holdings. Just big enough to build a suburban house in the scrub so it isn't visible from the road or your neighbours' place. Sort of a suburb for people who don't want to live in a suburb.

Timber Creek on the western fringe of the Northern Territory is little more than a police station these days. In fact, it has never been much more than a police station. For 50 years prior to World War II Timber Creek was the limit of navigable shipping on the Victoria River. It was an important supply line to the local homesteaders, who felt constantly under threat from "wild blacks". Their fears were probably well founded, as this is magnificent country and not something anyone would give up without a fight. The police station was installed primarily to "tame the blacks". Some unkind souls might suggest it's still here for the same reason. Other than the Police station Timber Creek has a 24 hour bar/pub that seems most profitable on pension day.

Halls Creek certainly threatened to live up to it's reputation as a rough mining town and a hot spot for racial tension. Riding into a town covered with litter along unguttered streets with little grass and lots of red dirt and dust does not present an image of a town with much civic pride. There must have been three or four hundred aborigines squatting around burning refuse piles on the outskirts of town. Enough to have a makeshift football game on the town oval. The caravan park is opposite the pub, and the sounds of the local aborigines' mostly verbal confrontations filled the air day and night. The local police periodically show up to rudely (and ineffectively) bark a few orders before driving off. The most repulsive aspect was the group of white caravaners standing at the gates watching as if it were staged for their entertainment.

Broome was once a small pearling port. Now it's a bustling tourist town bursting at the seams with caravaners and four wheel drives. While pearl boats still operate around Broome, they avoid coming into town. We managed to meet a pearl boat worker (not involved in the tourist industry) who hates the place. He prefers Derby for it's better sense of community. Broome is renowned for it's cultural diversity. This is true. You can meet caravaners from Sydney, Perth, Brisbane and Melbourne. Every building in the old Chinatown district is now a retail outlet selling western tourist trinkets. For all this Broome is a beautiful place. Swimming in the turquoise waters of Roebuck bay is magnificent, like floating in liquid pearls. It's even a beautiful turquoise colour when viewed underwater. Cable beach is also beautiful, even if it does have more than three people on it. A lot of tropical beaches can be mud flats at low tide. Here the gentle surf curls in over clear white sand all day long, as the sea birds skim the updrafts of the waves.

The coast at Kalbarri 600km north of Perth is fabulous, with towering cliffs and huge waves crashing into the local beaches. Surfing these beaches is not for the faint hearted. In fine weather the waves average a good 3 metres. If you get dumped by one, it's not a soft beach sand you're thumped into, but solid rock. Still, surfing was extremely popular, and the quality of the surfing was just incredible. Pipelines, 360s, S maneuvers, surfing the top of the wave, back down the face to do it all again. This was the first ride we saw, and was not at all untypical. Maybe one ride in twenty ended in a wipeout. These surfers take the understandable precaution of wearing helmets, but some of these kids rely on nothing but their skill and their blond locks for protection. They'd sit and watch the small three to four metre waves roll past waiting for something suitable.

Peppermint Grove is a leafy Perth suburb comprised almost entirely of million dollar mansions and private girls schools. Overlooking the beaches and marinas on the Swan river, I guess it is no surprise this is such an affluent suburb. You have to ride very carefully here, as Audi's have right of way.

Port Lincoln is a beautiful port town on the tip of the Eyre Peninsula. The streets are lined with Norfolk pines, the houses dot the hills overlooking Boston Bay and the offshore islands. It's just such a beautiful place, you can't help but wonder why they thought a large green grain loader would be an aesthetic enhancement. Grain storage and export is one of the town's main industries, the other being tuna fishing. Just south of the main town is a burgeoning canal development. Lots of new "luxury" houses crammed next to each other around the canals on flat reclaimed land. It's mostly for wealthy Adelaiders to cruise across the Spencer Gulf for the weekend in Paradise. 700km is a bit too far to drive but 200km is a practical sailing distance. The marina facilities are excellent. So good in fact that moorings which should be crammed with cabin cruisers and luxury yachts are filled with every vessel of Port Lincoln's sizable fleet of fishing trawlers.

We reached the River Murray at Morgan in South Australia. Its a sleepy village with nice parks and a string of houseboats. Like most South Australian towns at the wrong end of the Murray, the drinking water looks and tastes terrible. Sort or browny, muddy and very heavily chlorinated. Every now and again green algae spots form in the bottom of our water bottles. We usually need to clean them out with bleach. The two spots growing in my spare bottle disappeared without trace on contact with the Morgan tap water.

Canberra always strikes me as a strange sort of place. As a planned city built by and for the needs of government it has a lot of curious design features. There are lots of large elaborate buildings, lawned areas and parkland gardens, strangely laid out circular streets and a certain undefinable blandness. The whole city is like a university campus. The design of Canberra make it almost impossible to find anything. For starters, there are no convenience stores, at least none in a convenient location. We stayed in the northern suburb of Dickson, which was where some bureaucrat in the dark ages of the white Australia policy decided all the ethnic food restaurants should go. There are now over 30 restaurants serving Thai, Malaysian, Indonesian, Japanese, Vietnamese, Korean, Chinese (all of which serve Laksa), Italian, Polish, American (KFC), English (Fish & Chips) and Australian cuisine. Just to walk in this district after dark and smell the wonderfully spicy aromas is a culinary thrill.

Sydney can be a fabulously beautiful city. Sometimes human endeavours like the Sydney Opera House can enhance the natural aesthetics. Most of the time though they turn out like the Redfern housing commission towers. Maybe I'm just disappointed the trip is over but Sydney seems to represent the worst of modern urban life. The traffic, the selfishness, the greed, the opulent housing, the envy and the shopping malls. I could imagine myself living in every other Australian city we visited, even Melbourne, but not Sydney. The thing that struck me most here is that everyone seems to be angry about something pretty much all the time. I guess in a few weeks I won't notice it. By then I'll be as mad as everyone else.


You've been in Tasmania to Long when:

  • A few cars pottering about town seem like heavy city traffic.
  • Broccoli that looks vaguely green seems nice.
  • Three people on the beach seems crowded.
  • You start to crave fresh crunchy vegetables.
  • The sun going down before 9:30pm seems like winter.
  • The pace of life in Anglesea (a "quiet" holiday town on the Great Ocean Road) seems frenetic.
  • A business suit looks ridiculous.
  • Everyone sounds like they are speaking too quick.


National Parks:

Wilson's Promontory in southern Victoria is without question the best place we've seen in Victoria. It is mountainous, rugged and had superb coastal scenery, beaches, rainforest, lowland forests, buttongrass planes and best of all extensive hiking trails. We spent three days hiking, camping and washing (ie a brief swim in the icy surf) in this spectacular country, that resembles a cross between Hinchinbrook Island and the Wilds of Tasmania. For those who know, this is high praise. The only downside was the rain, which the local mountains seem to bring on all too easily. There is something strangely therapeutic about hiking in the rain.

The Walls of Jerusalem are absolutely magnificent!! While a lot of the attraction is no doubt in the naming, the park itself offers some spectacular scenery and great variety of vegetation and landscapes. The park rises from the upper reaches of the Mersey river, covered in dense eucalypt forests that are heavily logged. As you climb into the mountains the trees get steadily smaller and more scraggily. Higher still and the Solomon's Jewels's are reached, a chain of glacial ponds. These are ringed by a smattering of Pencil Pines, a slow growing tree unique to this area. Pencil Pines have a distinctive cone shape, not completely unlike a pencil tip. Across a few alpine meadows and the track climbs again, up to a saddle known as Herrod's Gate. After climbing up and through the gate, another world reveals itself. The country looks magical, like a Tolkein landscape, with glacial lakes, button grasses, mosses, cushion plants (rocks coated with a slow growing moss making all the rocks look like lounge cushions) and strands of Pencil Pines being the only trees surrounded by sheer mountains or "walls". Beyond this amazing world the track climbs further through the Damascus Gate to Dixon's Kingdom - a sloping realm of Pencil Pine forest and grassland, also ringed by wall like mountains. Eventually the track climbs the penultimate Mt Jerusalem, where all the realms, and the thousands of surrounding glacial lakes of Tasmania's high central plateau sparkle in the sun as far as can be seen. As you can tell, I liked it very much.

Mt Field National Park includes some lowland rainforest and waterfalls, which are reasonably impressive in their own right. However, for the benefit of winter sports the park also encompasses a significant highland section as well. In summer the beauty of this area has to be seen to be believed. Crystal clear glacial lakes and tarns, bonsai-like miniature alpine plants, precipitous cliffs, extensive pencil pine and snow gum stands create a spectacular environment. All this is nothing compared with a clear moonless and cloudless night in this high country. There is no electricity, and thus no nearby lights, and very little atmosphere, so the clarity of the stella display is absolutely brilliant.

Kakadu was once described by a former foreign minister as "clapped out buffalo country". It is now a world heritage conservation park, and well worth of such lofty status. The park encompasses just about the entire South Alligator river system, and contains significant samples of all the Top End environments and ecosystems. In the park's south the South Alligator river rises in "the sickness country". Indigenous people believe if you spent too long there you'd get sick. Subsequent mineral exploration revealed extensive natural deposits of copper, uranium, lead, mercury and arsenic. I'm feeling sick already. The Arnhem Land plateau or "stone country" is a sandstone tableland fractured in places by deep gorges. A sheer escarpment separates this spectacular feature from the low woodland and wetlands. During the wet water pours off the escarpment through the famous falls into brilliant plunge pools. It's hard to find an unflattering analogy for this beautiful pandanus lined tropical paradise, but it does remind me of the set from Gilligan's Island.

Windjana Gorge in the Kimberly is one the most spectacular in all the gorges of northern Australia. It cuts right through the Napier range, a 350 million year old limestone reef dividing the Kimberly. The permanent water is teeming with freshwater crocs, the trees filled with squawking corellas and the gorge's sheer walls which literally glow red in the afternoon sun, are lined with stalactites. It's also easily accessible by foot, once you've negotiated the 100km of rocky dirt track to get there.

Just off the western coast of Cape Range National Park sits Ningaloo reef, a brilliant stretch of coral reef extending more than 100km down the coast. The most remarkable thing about this reef is not the spectacular coral (though there's plenty of that), nor the abundance of marine life (heaps of that too), rather the proximity to shore. Turquoise Bay is well named, and I'd have thought this was a beautiful spot if I'd never stuck my head under the water. However, it's best feature lies below the waves. You only need to swim a few metres off shore and you're among the coral and reef marine life. Lovely formations in quite shallow water, ideal for the optically challenged novice snorkeller. Apparently it's also good for those with more experience lying face down in the water.


The Royal National Park just south of Sydney protects a small but significant stretch of bush and eastern coastline. Riding past the coastal cliffs and through thick untouched forests it's hard to believe this park is regularly burned down, currently every four years or so. Maybe I'm being parochial, but after a wet Sydney winter its lush and green making it one of my favourites.