“After cycling for 15 months, for some strange reason, Tim and Linda decided they would ditch their perfectly functional bicycles and ride a tandem around Australia. They arranged to have the tandem shipped to Darwin and we collected it and stored it until they arrived”, our Warmshowers host in Darwin wrote about us in his reference. We had indeed decided to try something different, had bought a used tandem, would give our perfectly functional bicycles a break and shipped them ahead of us to Sydney. The idea for this endeavour had been birthed a few months prior when we had first looked into cycling through the middle of Australia, the only country that is also a continent, from north to south, realised that we would be riding into, rather than with, the prevailing winds for the whole way, and joked that we could tie Linda’s bike to the back of Tim’s, as she tends to struggle with headwinds much more than he does. Offsetting this imbalance, making us more efficient on the long, monotonous stretches and good old “mixing things up a bit” had eventually led us to buy the tandem, which its previous owners had named Nepal after where they had toured on it, and had it sent to Darwin to take it on its next big adventure.
13th August – 22nd September 2019
We landed in Darwin and expected our luggage to come under a fair bit of scrutiny, given the outdoorsy nature of some of the items we were bringing in and Australia’s cautiousness with regards to things that may present any sort of quarantine risk, but to our surprise didn’t even have to open the bike boxes after assuring the airport security officer that we had thoroughly cleaned the bikes and they were definitely road bikes, not mountain bikes. A taxi journey through early-morning quiet suburbia later, we arrived at our Warmshowers hosts Derek and Liz’s place. Our time in the Northern Territory’s capital was mostly spent reorganizing our luggage to fit on the tandem – the panniers were luckily not a major problem as we normally ride with rear panniers only and so were able to put two of them on Nepal’s front rack and two on the back, but having space for only one rack top bag, one handlebar bag and fewer bottles on the frame still required a fair bit of tweaking and deciding which items we could spare temporarily and send to Sydney with our normal bikes. We did our first unloaded rides up and down the street, then into town to buy some supplies and enjoyed the relative anonymity that our return to the Western world entailed – sure, we were on a tandem, which was fairly unusual, but other than that, we were just two among millions of white people that inhabit and visit Australia; barely an eyelid was batted about our presence when we were riding, and none at all when we were not. Soon our starts were coordinated enough to be reasonably sure we wouldn’t fall over and everything we were taking had found its place. So two days after our arrival, we set off on Nepal, fully-loaded – at first as wobbly as a baby giraffe, but we quickly got better: Tim at the front, as the “captain”, at keeping the beast straight while also being responsible for steering, braking and changing gears, Linda at the back, as the “stoker”, at pedalling, refraining from the impulse to steer and navigating.
We had been recommended and convinced to take a detour through Litchfield National Park, south-west of Darwin, before hitting the main road leading south. The area’s rolling hills made for a sweaty first few days, but the park’s waterholes surrounded by monsoon forests provided a welcome refreshment from the heat and exertion, while enormous termite mounds strewn across the landscape inspired us to calculate whether the tallest of the termite structures were higher in termite-terms than the tallest man-made structure in man-terms (termite length ≈ 0.5 cm, mound height ≈ 300 cm ⇒ mound ≈ 600 termites: man length ≈ 1.75 m, Burj Khalifa height ≈ 830 m ⇒ Burj Khalifa ≈ 474 men; conclusion: yes). Apart from so-called cathedral mounds, we also came across edifices built by magnetic termites, wedge-shaped and aligned to the earth’s magnetic field with their thinner edges facing north and south. This technique, the use of which means that all of the magnetic termite mounds face the same direction, giving a cluster of them the appearance of tombstones in a graveyard, ensures a relatively stable temperature throughout the day, as the eastern and western sides of the mound are warmed up in the morning and evening, while less surface is exposed to the sun at midday when the nest would otherwise overheat. Other wildlife we came across in the national park was an incredible variety of birds like ibis, cockatoos and kingfishers, as well as – very excitingly – our first kangaroos (or rather, they may have been wallabies, smaller species of the same family). Most of Australia’s flora and fauna is found nowhere else in the world.
Two days after leaving Darwin, we exited the national park and reached the Stuart Highway, the road we would – bar another detour – follow south for over 2,600 kilometres to Port Augusta on the south coast’s Spencer Gulf. We had done our main grocery shopping in Darwin at Woolworths (and after more than half a year in Southeast Asia had been shocked by the prices of literally everything), one of the two chains of supermarkets in Australia that account for about 80 % of the market, the other one being Coles. Between Darwin and Port Augusta, there are all of two towns that have a Woolies or Coles: Katherine, which we would reach on our third day on the Stuart Highway, and Alice Springs, roughly in Australia’s geographic centre. Everywhere else, we would have to make do with what we could buy from even-more-expensive independently-owned IGA supermarkets, present in a further three towns en-route, and small shops at roadhouses, sitting at the top of the price-for-food chain at usually about double to triple the price of Woolies. The going rate for a loaf of sliced bread at a roadhouse was A$5-6.50 (3-4 €). A constant source of annoyance was that most shelves at roadhouse shops didn’t have price labels, meaning a budget-conscious person would have to enquire about each and every item one was considering buying. Mostly, we would therefore avoid having to buy anything other than bread from roadhouses and rather opt to buy as much food as we could find space for on the tandem from the rare supermarkets along the way.
Along the Stuart Highway, there are frequent rest areas, at many of which it is allowed to camp or park overnight for free. A very useful smartphone app showing all of these, as well as paid campsites and many other categories of relevance for camping, is called WikiCamps Australia, and is no secret among the owners of the hundreds of thousands of campervans and caravans being driven around the continent at any one point, often for journeys lasting several months to years. As many of these long-term independent travellers are senior generations, a popular term for them is “grey nomads”.
Considering how much less, compared to previous months, our money could suddenly buy, unexpected gifts from kind strangers were naturally highly appreciated. At the first rest area on the Stuart Highway that we camped at, one of our neighbours – an elderly man travelling with his wife – brought us two cold cans of beer while we were cooking our dinner. One morning, a battered-looking van went past us and pulled over a couple hundred metres ahead of us, the driver, a man in his sixties, got out and waved at us to stop, holding something up in his hands which, as we approached, we recognised as two bottles of iced coffee. We stopped and soon learnt that the man, whose face and demeanour spoke of past adventures, was called Neil, and that he used to cycle around Australia with all of his belongings, spending winters in the NT and summers in the south; now he does the same living out of his van. Our roadside chat soon turned into a session of playing the guitar and singing songs, which must have created a strange scene for those passing by. We met Neil again a few times after that, as his van’s motor needed to cool down every so often, so he didn’t cover much more distance per day than us in the hot north, but eventually, he overtook us for good.
On several more occasions over the coming weeks, we would be offered beer or juice after our arrival at a rest area and coffee in the morning, sometimes we were also invited to stay with people once we would get to where they lived; often people asked if we had enough water. The couple from the very first rest area had been travelling in the opposite direction to us and told us they would head back south after a few days in Darwin, so they passed us again a week or so later – and made sure to stop, have a chat and give us two big bags of almonds. These interactions were emblematic for how we were met by most Australians: people would always approach us for a cheerful conversation and seemed genuinely interested in our journey; they were so affable that it took the better part of two months until the disappearance of the language barrier, which had kept us from having in-depth conversations with locals for most of our time in Asia, lost its effect and we started growing tired of having variations of the same conversation (and hearing the same joke about Linda not pedalling) over and over again.
Apart from caravans and campervans, the other main type of vehicles that we shared the Stuart Highway with was road trains – trucks pulling up to three trailers, taking their maximum total length to 53.5 metres. It could be a little nerve-racking hearing one of these giants approach from behind, but most of the time, there was no other vehicle in close proximity in either lane while a road train would overtake us, and we experienced the drivers as being very considerate, giving us as much space as possible by moving all the way over to the right lane. When there wasn’t space for a road train to move into the other lane due to an oncoming vehicle, we would go into the gravel by the side of the road. The only instances in which this was dangerous was during times of strong westerly side winds, as the wind would be suddenly cut off while being overtaken by the road train, sucking us closer to it, then resume after its passing, making it difficult for Tim to keep our own little road train straight. Luckily, the combination of these conditions didn’t occur too often.
As expected, we were pedalling into a more or less constant headwind for much of our time in the Northern Territory. As we left the “Top End”, the northernmost part of the NT, the rolling hills disappeared and the scenery got redder and drier. We saw a couple of dingoes, birds of prey looking for roadkill were frequently circling in the big, cloudless sky above us in the daytime, after dark replaced with the desert’s bright starry canopy; the Southern Cross, the constellation also featuring on the Australian flag, always easy to spot, and always roughly in the direction we would be heading again the next morning, when we would continue our perpetual chase of an illusory downhill in the distance created by a mirage making the road blend into the sky.
We took our first rest day since leaving Darwin in the town of Tennant Creek, where we stayed with Couchsurfing host Tanith and her adorable doggo Bill. The combination of having access to a freezer, the presence of an IGA in town, and by far the best value for money often being large quantities of things, resulted in a binge on a four-litre tub of Neapolitan ice-cream. We had cycled over 1,100 kilometres in the previous 11 days – we had earned it. To give you an inkling of the vastness and population-sparseness of the part of the world we were currently cycling through, consider that the catchment zone for students attending the local school in Tennant Creek, at which Tanith teaches a class of about six children, is something like the size of Belgium. South of Tennant Creek, we visited one of the few sites along the Stuart Highway that can realistically be called an attraction, known as “Karlu Karlu / Devils Marbles”. The area is characterised by large boulders of spiritual significance to the local Aboriginal people, the English name of which originates in a Scottish explorer’s quote: “This is the Devil’s country; he’s even emptied his bag of marbles around the place!”, while the Aboriginal term simply translates as “round boulders”. Some of the boulders are naturally balanced atop one another; they form the exposed and eroded top layer of a mostly underground granite formation. As the dual name reflects, the site is jointly managed by the Parks and Wildlife Service and the Traditional Owners, after ownership was passed back to the local Aboriginal people in 2008.
The issues surrounding and state of the relationship between Indigenous Australians and descendants of the European settlers that invaded the continent from the 18th century are a complicated matter that for us, as outsiders, it has been difficult to gain a thorough understanding of. After James Cook declared the land he called New South Wales to be the property of King George III, the early colonists introduced unsustainable practices of fishing and hunting, as well as diseases that the Aboriginal people had no resistance against, devastating and decimating an ancient people that had occupied the land for tens of thousands of years prior to the arrival of the Europeans. Over the course of the following 200 years, Aborigines would be, by the colonists, predicted to go extinct, regarded and treated as inferior and primitive, and didn’t gain full voting rights until the 1960s. In the following decades, things seem to have begun to take a turn for the better, starting with the passing of laws such as the Aboriginal Land Rights Act and Anti-Discrimination Act in the 70s, to apologies for the mistreatment of Indigenous Australians being delivered by then-Prime Ministers Paul Keating in 1992 and Kevin Rudd in 2008, and, in May of this year, the promise of a referendum on recognising indigenous people in the nation’s constitution, given by Ken Wyatt, Minister for Indigenous Australians, and the first Aboriginal Australian to hold this position. Yet, there is much disparity between Indigenous and Non-Indigenous Australians in terms of health, education and employment; passing through towns revealed what appeared to us like a level of racial segregation we hadn’t encountered anywhere else, and a persistent sense of white guilt kept us from approaching any Aboriginal Australians and have longer conversations with them. The short interactions we did have, however, were incredibly friendly: Aboriginal people gregariously waving at us in passing, an Aboriginal man stopping his car in the middle of nowhere to give us some oranges and boiled eggs, a short chat in a town with another Aboriginal man who asked us about our bike and was surprised that we hadn’t had any punctures since leaving Darwin.
As fate would have it, mere minutes after boasting of the lack of flat tyres, the age of flat tyres commenced. We had set off from Darwin with two spare inner tubes, which we deemed plenty considering we had been able to patch the vast majority of punctures we’d had over the course of the trip, meaning we barely ever had to throw a tube away after getting a puncture. What we had neglected to take into account was the fact that the tubes and tyres that the tandem came with had already been used for a considerable amount of time and distance. First, the valve on one of our tubes broke, rendering it irreparable and us down to one spare tube. Not long after, a spoke pierced a hole into the new tube from the inside, as the rim tape separating spokes from the tube had become frail. With the tyres starting to wear out, we got another puncture from a piece of glass. We tried patching the holes but for some reason, our patches wouldn’t stick and we didn’t have any new tubes left. As we desperately tried patch after patch by the side of the road, a couple with a caravan – many of which have bikes strapped to the back of their vehicles – stopped and asked if we needed any help. “Not unless you happen to have any spare 26-inch bike tubes”, we said, and they did! With the new tube they gave us, we hoped to make it to Alice Springs, the biggest town in the Red Centre, where we would be able to buy new tubes and tyres.
Two days later, our rear tyre exploded with a loud pop and hiss – the rubber had worn through so much that the inner tube had protruded out of it and promptly punctured. We were 60 kilometres from Alice Springs, attached an emergency tyre boot to its inside – a strong patch that comes with the advice to “always replace torn tyre as soon as possible” – managed to patch the new puncture in the tube and made it another 10 kilometres before the tyre boot wore through and the tube punctured again, so we admitted defeat and decided to hitch a lift for the remaining 50 kilometres, for the first time since the beginning of the trip. It only took 15 minutes until a couple from New Zealand stopped, we managed to heave Nepal into their campervan and before we knew it flew past the “Tropic of Capricorn Rest Area”, signalling the end of our abode in the tropics spanning the previous eight months and ten countries, and arrived in Alice. As it was a Sunday, all bike shops were closed, and we had been unable to find a Warmshowers or Couchsurfing host, so had to stay at our only paid accommodation on this leg of our journey – an unpowered campsite for a hefty A$35 a night.
We took Nepal clothes shopping for new socks and shoes (i.e. tubes and tyres) the next day, treated ourselves to lots of goodies from Coles and stayed in Alice Springs for another night with a Warmshowers host, who cycled with us for a few kilometres the next morning on his way to work. The age of punctures ended with the new tyres, but we would be troubled with other mechanical failures over the course of the coming weeks: One of the eyelets on the frame, to which the rear pannier rack is attached, broke off, so we had to get a hole drilled into the frame at a roadhouse to create a new point of attachment for the rack to the frame. On the other side of the rack, the bolt snapped, which could luckily be screwed out with pliers and replaced. Luckily, neither of these incidents stranded us as the exploded tyre had and we made do with temporarily strapping the pannier rack to the rail of Linda’s saddle. At some point, we noticed that our rear rim was bulging out in one area on both sides (possibly due to a cattle grid), so the rim brake was catching. With there being no hills to speak of along the Stuart Highway, we wouldn’t let this stop us either, disengaged the back brake and cycled the last several hundred kilometres to Port Augusta with a front brake only. As we would find out in Port Augusta, our rear rim was actually cracked down the middle and we were lucky to have made it there without the wheel collapsing under the weight.
From the Top End to the Red Centre, the scenery had gradually become more sparse, tall trees had given way to tussocky shrubs of varying height and the earth had become redder. We made the acquaintance of some emus and camels – the latter not seen since regular encounters in the deserts of Central Asia. Some of the roadhouses we passed in the middle of nowhere were quite curious sights – collections of bras or baseball caps hanging off the ceilings, one was extraterrestrially-themed and claimed to be the UFO Capital of Australia.
From Erldunda roadhouse, about 200 kilometres south of Alice, we took a turn off the Stuart Highway for a six-day detour to see Uluru, also known as Ayers Rock – the huge, iconic monolith at the heart of the Red Centre. The ownership of Uluru was returned to the Traditional Owners, to whom the rock formation bears great spiritual significance, in 1985, on the condition that it be leased back to the government for 99 years, and jointly managed between Aboriginal owners and the National Parks and Wildlife agency. The local Aṉangu Aborigines don’t climb Uluru and request that visitors don’t either, however a promise to ban the climb made by the government in the eighties has not been delivered upon until now. Uluru has been a popular tourist destination for decades, but after the decision that the climb would be closed from October this year was made public, thousands of tourists have been flocking to the sacred site to do exactly what the Traditional Owners have been asking people to refrain from: to climb the Rock. When talking to people at rest areas we had stopped at over the previous couple of weeks, they often told us that they had just come from or were heading towards Uluru, some to just see it, but many to make the climb, before you won’t be able to anymore, as if it’s a valid bucket-list activity to blatantly disrespect the explicit wishes of the people from whose ancestors these visitors’ ancestors had taken their land. It was incomprehensible to us how these people, who until then had seemed like normal, decent human beings, could justify this behaviour to themselves, to not see a moral issue with what they had done or were planning on doing. These people weren’t foreigners, who might have plausible deniability with regards to their knowledge of the issue and the debate, but they were Australians, who definitely should have known better: in many cases, they weren’t just planning on climbing the Rock despite finding out that the Aborigines would rather they didn’t, but because of it. Perhaps regrettably, we didn’t feel like questioning them about their justifications, so usually just, if asked, told them we weren’t going to climb it (they wouldn’t ask us why not, they knew exactly why not), wrapped up the conversation and went on our way.
The prevailing winds in this part of the continent blow from the east to the west, meaning that we should have had a tailwind on the way to Uluru, and a headwind on the way back. But, of course, prevailing doesn’t mean guaranteed, and we found ourselves pedalling into a strong headwind as soon as we turned off the Stuart and onto the Lasseter Highway. We decided to make camp early and get up before sunrise the next morning, as the winds are usually weaker overnight. We cycled through the dark for a couple of hours the next morning and made good progress; it was quite pleasant and peaceful riding, with no traffic, the stars and the moon above us, eventually the sunrise starting to light up the scenery from behind us. Since our arrival in Australia, we had been debating whether the 500 kilometre round-trip detour would be worth it, but as soon as we first spotted Uluru from the distance a couple of days later, then started seeing more of its features and getting a sense of its sheer size, we knew that we had made the right decision. We entered the national park, went to a cultural centre to learn about the local Aboriginal community and their ancestral legends surrounding the area, and eventually parked Nepal at one of the starting points of a ten-kilometre base walk. The circular walk through acacia woodlands and grassed claypans revealed the complexity and diversity of the face of the sandstone formation – potholes and fissures, petroglyphs and caves, gorges and waterholes, the smooth section at the foot of which people were walking past signs saying “Please don’t climb” in several languages and having their pictures taken before their ascent or after their descent. Afterwards, we went to a viewpoint a few kilometres away and watched Uluru seemingly change colour from red to brown, then to a rusty shade of orange, as the setting sun played with the hue of the landscape. As the wind had turned in the meantime and was now blowing in the direction that would have been favourable on our way to, but was unfavourable on our way back from Uluru, we once again decided to get some distance in during the less windy hours and cycled back to a rest area 40 kilometres away after sunset. Another couple of days of fairly strong headwinds later, we were back at Erldunda roadhouse and continued our journey south.
A hundred kilometres after rejoining the Stuart Highway, we exited the Australian state we had thus far spent our entire time in – the Northern Territory (an unofficial tourism slogan stickered onto many a car bumper reads CU in the NT), and entered South Australia. Before the state border, signs were informing us that it is illegal to carry fruit and vegetables into SA and that there would be quarantine bins in the first settlement after the border, some 160 kilometres away. When chatting with a family at a rest area at the border, they asked us if we wanted any fruit and veg, as they would otherwise have to throw them; we were planning on camping before the location of the quarantine bins, so we absolutely did. The following lunch, dinner and breakfast were augmented by two avocados, one pepper, four tomatoes, one cob of corn, ten apples and four oranges. We’re not sure what made us happier: this huge bag of healthy goodies or the repeated, puzzling but we’re-not-complaining occurrence of finding beer by the side of the road. It started with a single glass bottle of beer – unscathed, unopened, a little warm but again, we’re not complaining. Then five cans of beer a few days later. Then another can of beer. Then seven cans of beer. Then another single can. We were wondering what our success rate was – out of the few (but still surprisingly many) closed cans and bottles among the multitude of empty ones that were lining the side of the road, what percentage did we spot? How many would we have found on the other side of the road if we had been going the other way? How the fuck did this happen in the first place? Were they falling off people’s car’s roofs? Was a good beer-samaritan scattering them for cyclists in a scavenger hunt we didn’t know we were participating in? We will never know.
A few things changed in South Australia – some abruptly, some gradually. While rest areas in the NT had often had water tanks and they had been filled more often than not, those in SA usually didn’t have them or, in the rare event that they did, they were rainwater tanks and, it being the dry season, were empty. While the days were still warm, evenings, nights and mornings got cooler, mostly in the low double-digits, but one particularly cold morning started with a temperature of 0 degrees. The evening chill called for the first campfires of the trip. While we’d had either a headwind or no wind for most of our time in the NT, in SA we were lucky to have some pretty good tailwind days, good enough that people with motorhomes travelling in the opposite direction would, when talking to us at roadhouses, comment on how much more fuel their vehicles were consuming to cover a given distance in this kind of headwind. While we rarely had to wear our fly nets in the NT – flies in Australia don’t try to eat your food, they try to fly into your eyes, nose, ears and mouth, so after having heard and read several accounts of people constantly being surrounded by a cloud of them, we had bought fly nets that you put over your head and face, and had put them on a handful of times at some rest areas – these situations now occurred more frequently, and occasionally, we even had to wear them while cycling. All things considered though, we still got off lightly, as the flies are a huge bother for many cyclists travelling around Australia at a different time of year, to the point where they put their net on when they get out of the tent in the morning and don’t take it off until they get back in in the evening, inevitably taking a few dozen flies into the tent with them.
Three exciting things happened in a day: we saw solar powered cars being tested for a race from Darwin to Adelaide in October, we passed the Dingo Fence – the longest fence in the world at 5,614 kilometres, built in the 19th century to reduce the loss of sheep farmed in the south-east of the continent to the wild dogs – and shortly after arrived in the “Opal Capital of the World”, Coober Pedy. There are no towns or roadhouses for a stretch of 260 kilometres south of CP, where the Stuart Highway runs through the Woomera Prohibited Area, a huge missile testing range. For a few weeks per year, the Royal Air Force close this stretch of the Stuart Highway for several hours a day for a few days at a time – not a huge inconvenience when you’re driving and you can get through the stretch in under three hours, a bigger problem when you will need at least two, more likely three days to cycle through. As the road closures depend on the weather and are only announced a day in advance, we had to wait in CP until it was reported that the highway would be open the next day and most likely the day after.
Coober Pedy’s main claim to fame is being the largest producer of opal gemstones in the world, settlement in the area having begun after opal was first discovered in 1915, but it’s also renowned for its “dug-outs” bored into hillsides: underground residences, churches, shops and hotels, providing a shrewd way of coping with the extreme temperatures in the desert. Whether referring to the mines, the cave-like dug-outs or both, the town’s name fittingly comes from the Aboriginal phrase kupa piti, meaning “white man in a hole”. Another set of fun facts is that the town’s golf course has no grass – golfers use a piece of artificial grass to tee off – and the club is the only one in the world that has reciprocal playing rights with St. Andrews. Apart from some sightseeing – we visited a catacomb church and the Big Winch, a large replica of a winch used to bring opals to the surface – we developed a routine of going to IGA after breakfast to buy lunch, then up the steep hill to the tourist information to use the WiFi for an hour or two, waving to the locals we would see every day on the way, then have lunch outside the tourist information, then head across the road to the roadhouse to spend the afternoon there, using the WiFi and charging our electronics, as our solar panel – with an absence of cheap accommodation and infrequent Warmshowers or Couchsurfing hosts our main source of electricity – had just broken (we later managed to fix it by soldering a severed cable back together), then back down the hill to our campsite – the carpark of the Old Timers Mine & Museum – for dinner, except on one evening when we treated ourselves to a A$31 pizza to celebrate 500 days on the road and having cycled 30,000 kilometres.
We waved goodbye to this peculiar town after four nights, the tandem laden with 17 litres, i.e. 17 kg, of water and several more kilos of food for our longest stretch without being able to refill or restock. Our timing was perfect, as a howling tailwind blew us along the highway cutting through varying areas of sparse vegetation, low shrub savanna and grasslands dotted with eucalyptus trees, to Glendambo, 260 kilometres away, in two days of making camp after 130 and 150 kilometres, respectively. While having lunch at a rest area by a salt lake, Lake Hart, we experienced the first rain since our arrival in Australia about five weeks prior; the weather cooled down considerably and it rained on and off until late that night. The roadhouse we camped at for that very wet and windy night, Pimba, was the last one we would pass before reaching the end of the Stuart Highway in Port Augusta.
The views during that last stretch were characterised by patches of tussock grassland and dwarf shrubland, later trees reappeared, the road was undulating over rolling hills and lined with a dead kangaroo at least every 200 metres, endless-seeming trains rumbled past on the nearby railway, some with double-decker containers, and eventually, we were able to see the Flinders Ranges in the distance, the largest mountain range in South Australia, the foothills of which we would cross a few days later.
While approaching Port Augusta, we were reminded of our first encounter with Neil, when a car went past us and pulled over a couple hundred metres ahead of us, the driver got out and waved at us to stop, holding something up in his hands which, as we approached, we recognised as two cans of coke. We stopped and soon learnt that the man was called Andrew, and that he had cycled around the world for a few years, a few years ago. He invited us for lunch in Port Augusta, so we celebrated the end of over 3,000 kilometres of cycling through the Outback in style: with burgers and chips, reliving our adventures in Australia and elsewhere and hearing about Andrew’s, amazed by the generosity we had been shown by so many Australians over the course of the previous forty days. We had ridden from the Top End through the Red Centre to the Spencer Gulf, had seen sun-baked lunar landscapes, stony red deserts, arid spinifex grasslands, tall trees, end- and cloudless blue or star-studded skies, iridescent birds and plenty of other interesting wildlife, and had listened to a lot of podcasts. We were ready for a change of scenery, but we had also thoroughly enjoyed riding through the vastly unfurling scenery, had felt free and untroubled, not having to worry about much other than mundane things like how much food and water to carry and which podcast or album to listen to today. No matter what the rest of the continent would hold for us, we felt that we had seen the real Australia.
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Thanks to our hosts along the Stuart Highway: the Gadds in Darwin, Tanith in Tennent Creek and Jose in Alice Springs.
- We cycled 3,500 km from Darwin to Port Augusta, making a total of 30,900 km for Tim since leaving England and 30,400 km for Linda. Between blog posts, you can check our current total distances on our Stats page which we update a bit more frequently.
- During this stretch, our average distance on cycling days was 103 km, compared to 84 km for the whole trip since Germany.
- During this stretch, our average day-to-day spending was 6.35 € per person per day, compared to 6.41 € for the whole trip since Germany.
- We camped on 35 nights (of which 1 night at a paid campsite) and stayed with 3 Warmshowers/Couchsurfing hosts for 5 nights. From Germany to Port Augusta: 219 nights camping/empty buildings/places of worship, 123 nights WS/CS/friends/family, 122 nights paid accommodation (hotel/hostel/guesthouse/homestay), 18 nights invited into people’s homes/places of work, 7 nights ferry/train/plane.
- Puncture score: 6, all before putting on new tyres in Alice Springs. Total from Germany: Tim 13 – Linda 7 – Nepal 6.
- Bike and equipment problems: As mentioned above. Also, all four clips on Tim’s panniers have started breaking.
- Things we found by the side of the road: a bottle of Sprite, a three-pack of Ferrero Rocher, one bottle and 14 cans of beer, a can of tuna (all of which unopened and sniffed thoroughly before consumption), two onions, a carabiner and a nice scarf.