Tuesday, June 30, 2015

A Long Haul! Erldunda to Stuarts Well Roadhouse

Erldunda is crow heaven. When they all take off, it's reminiscent of Alfred Hitchcock's "The Birds".

It's also a starting point for the trip to Uluru, Ayres Rock. It's a 400+kms round trip so we decided to give it a miss, do our washing and book a motel room in Alice Springs ready for our arrival.

This morning we left Erldunda Tourist Resort at 7.30am as day was breaking. Overcast but warm to start and we were soon stripping off our jackets.

The highway snaked around a rocky range of hills, the James Ranges.

Rode over numerous bone dry river and creek beds. Floodway warnings everywhere indicated that the area could experience up to 2 metres of floodwater in the rainy season.

Arrived at Stuarts Well soon after 3.00pm. A small Roadhouse, it has little in the way of stores and no mobile coverage but does have a pub and restaurant.

It does have a well/spring however, which explains why it is humming with bird life. The trees are alive with screeching cockatoos, galahs and other parrot species.

We settled into a cabin then visited the Camel farm next door and watched as a couple set off on a camel ride.

Shouted ourselves to a wine and early dinner followed by a hot shower and early bed.

We have another big ride tomorrow - to Alice Springs  - or a bush camp if the going gets too tough.

Did 106kms today.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Desert Oasis! Kulgera to Erldunda

A warm, sunny morning and no wind as we began our ride. Enjoyed a relatively easy run leaving trees behind and the landscape returning to bare desert again.

Reached Erldunda by lunch time. We were surprised to discover a holiday resort more than a Roadhouse - prices to match, too!

Both of us are developing tans and pale "owl eyes" where our sunglasses have been!

Today we're relaxing, doing our washing and stocking up on our stores that have run low. We've got a big run tomorrow and may have to camp out if it gets too much. Depends on that wind!

Did 73kms today.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Dingo on the Prowl! Agnes Creek Rest Area to Kulgera

What a night!

We'd settled down to sleep in the tent when a nearby camper yelled out that a dingo had ripped his tent foraging for food. He then took off in a hurry in his car.

We spotted the silhouette of it prowling round our tent. To discourage a similar attack, we took our food away from the side of the tent and put it between us. Seemed to work but there were lots of paw prints around the tent when we woke this morning.

We headed off at 7.30am. 5kms north of camp, we were surprised to see the dingo padding along behind us. Eventually it gave up and took off into the bush.

The terrain changed as we crossed the border into the Northern Territory - rocky outcrops, more varied vegetation and constant uphills! Unlike NZ hills, the road slowly rises for endless kms. Today we powered up 92kms of uphill!

Took a cabin at the friendly Kulgera Roadhouse. No stores available so we bought hard boiled eggs and sandwiches for breakfast.

Dozens of cockatoos are roosting in a tree nearby.

After the excitement of last night, I think we'll sleep through anything!
Did 92kms today.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

No Flies on Us! Marla to Agnes Creek Rest Area

Got away before 8.00am. Fingers and toes were frozen for a while.

Lots more vegetation along the way now - from grasses and shrubs to small trees.

At last we've seen cattle - half a dozen steers - feeding by the roadside. Nice to see live ones as, until now, most of the roadkill has been cattle.

We've seen lots of bird life today, too - flocks of white cockatoos, galahs, and other small birds as well as the usual crows.

Del had yet another puncture in his trailer tyre - his 4th so far!

A couple flagged us down to say that they had done the same trip a couple of years ago and yesterday we met a young couple doing the trip (sponsored) in reverse. They were on flash road bikes, carried no luggage and had a support vehicle with a caravan following them. Easy Peasy!

Arrived at Agnes Creek Rest Area by mid afternoon. A lovely setting if it wasn't for the flies! Quickly put on our fly nets while the varmints stuck to our clothes in swarms!

Not many campers here tonight. Should be a lovely, peaceful stay.Did 84kms today.
Total so far is 1178kms!

Friday, June 26, 2015

Heavy Legs! Cadney Homestead to Marla

Another good cycling day today, though, after yesterday's marathon, the long, slow inclines with constant, energy sapping pedalling, slowed us down.

We negotiated 10 cattle grids today, though we haven't spotted any stock - or kangaroos - for the last 2 weeks!

Had lunch at the small rest area in the photo - typical of the ones we have been camping in - no grass, just dry, red, stony soil.

Sign spotting helps to encourage us along. The sign "M10" was greeted enthusiastically today - 10kms to Marla and relief for our rears!

Marla is a 4 star Roadhouse in comparison to others. It has a petrol station, minimart, takeaway, restaurant, motel and camping facilities. Most of all it has GRASS - specially planted and regularly watered - a lovely sight in such a barren area!
A long ride and a bush camp out tomorrow. My next post will be from over the border on Saturday.
Did 80kms today.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Heaps of Heaps! Coober Pedy to Cadney Homestead

Woke to a grey, overcast sky and a chilly southerly - a tail wind! Yay!

We set off at 7.45am. Coober Pedy was quiet and deserted.
We zipped along at a great rate of knots, passing through a lunar landscape of conical mounds of tailings for as far as the eye could see. They petered out after 35kms and the scenery returned to untouched desert.

Progress was so good that we'd reached our planned destination, Pootnoura Rest Area - a 78kms ride - by lunch time. It had no vegetation or wind protection.

We decided that we should take advantage of the tail wind and aim for our next stopover, Cadney Homestead, another 74kms away.

By afternoon the clouds had been replaced by a clear, blue, sunny sky.

Long, slow climbs slowed us down and, as we became more tired, we needed more frequent rest stops. We finally arrived at Cadney Homestead at 5.00pm, tired and hungry. Shouted ourselves to a motel unit for a hot shower and a well earned sleep.

Broke all records! Did an amazing 152kms today!

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Opal HQ! Rest Day at Coober Pedy

What a unique town - set in a dust bowl, surrounded by 5000 sq miles of opal mines and their conical heaps of tailings!

It even has an 18 hole golf course that doesn't have a single blade of grass!

Opals were discovered in 1915, and the town evolved. It now supplies 85% of the world's opals!

The name Coober Pedy comes from the aboriginal, kupa piti, or "white man in a hole".
We visited the Old Timers' Mine, wandered through the tunnels, visited the mine's museum and an underground house. Many of the local buildings are part or completely underground and keep a steady temperature of around 25 degrees C year round.

Feeling relaxed - and clean at last. Ready for the next long haul to Alice!
PS. Collected 18 mozzies bites at our last bush camp!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

We made it! Small Rest Area to Coober Pedy

Had a great night's sleep. Woke to a tail wind! Yay!

Packed enthusiastically and got away at 7.45am. What a joy it was to be cycling effortlessly again.

We passed kms of iron mines and then opal mines punctuated with endless railing mounds.

Arrived in quirky Coober Pedy before 11.00am and took a budget cabin at the Oasis Caravan Park. The park and the whole town is bustling with tourists.

Both of us resembling gypsies after 4 days in the outback. Can't wait for a hot shower and some fresh fruit and vegies! We'll stay 2 nights here and investigate Coober Pedy tomorrow.

Now ritually shaking our shoes and clothes for spiders as we've come across a few. Did 50kms today.

PS Have done 862kms altogether already!

Monday, June 22, 2015

More Headwind! Ingomar Rest Area to Small Rest Area

The wind grew stronger during the night and the tent flapping upset our sleep.

By daylight, the wind was so strong and gusty that we thought we might be blown off the road so we considered staying another night and walked to the road to check the conditions. When we got back, the wind had entirely flattened the tent, so we had no other choice than to move on.

We were determined to cut at least 40kms off the trip to Coober Pedy. It took us all day to do it - a hard slog all the way. We were exhausted when we came across a small Rest Area and managed to put up the tent in a cold, howling wind.

A caravan pulled in later. I called on them to ask for a cup of hot water for our emergency dried dinner. Imagine our delight when the lovely Chinese wife delivered not only a kettle full of boiling water, but also a plate full of hot fresh veges. What a treat!

In bed by 6.00pm, with full tummies! Only did 42kms today.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Headwind! Bon Bon Rest Area to Ingomar Rest Area

The sunrise was stunning, but the wind that came up during the night intensified by morning and became a strong northerly - not exactly a maiden's dream!

We battled against the head wind for all of 76kms! It was very slow progress.

Sometimes we were down to almost a walking pace and had to take breaks every 5kms or so to recover and ease our behinds. It was like hauling our gear uphill all day.

Arrived at Ingomar Rest Area at about 4.00pm. It's on a barren ridge with absolutely no wind protection.

We put up the tent, prepared our sleeping gear and ate a quick cold meal before we lost the light at 5.30pm. Then we were happy to get some sleep!
Did 76kms today.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

An unexpected hitch! Glendambo to Bon Bon Rest Area

What a fabulous morning! A cloudless, baby blue sky, a tail wind and the quiet, stillness of the outback. We were quite euphoric!

The ride went well until around 30kms away from Bon Bon. Suddenly Del's right hand gear lever operating 9 back cogs went loose and wouldn't change gear. Now, instead of cycling with 27 gears, he has to operate with 3 - bottom, middle and top. Tried to fix it but no luck. The nearest cycle shop is in Alice Springs so he'll just have to struggle with 3 until then!

Several caravans staying the night here, so we'll have company. The tent faces east. The sunrises have been spectacular. Hoping to get a photo in the morning.

Did 86kms today.

Friday, June 19, 2015

First 100! Pimba to Glendambo

We had planned another bush camp tonight, but woke to find perfect conditions for cycling - a fine day and a tail wind - so we decided to go for it and head straight to Glendambo.

The scenery was more varied than usual with a winding road, treeless scrub and passing Lakes Gardner and Hart.

We had our first sign of flies! A few sleepy ones had a free ride on our backs and we had to do the occasional Aussie salute.
Seeing more road kill now. Apart from the usual kangaroo, we saw several cattle that had wandered into the traffic.

Glendambo is basically a pub with a motel/caravan park attached. Our budget cabin cost $99 a night and has no tv, microwave, crockery etc. Basic food items can be bought at the garage next door and are very expensive.

We have 2 nights in the bush coming up. Luckily we've already stocked up for this.

Did 113kms today.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

A Visit to Woomera! Pimba

Decided to spend another night at Spuds Roadhouse and today investigated nearby Woomera on our bikes - minus trailers.

Woomera is a small town, in the middle of nowhere, populated mainly by Australian Airforce Personnel. The desert area was chosen in 1947 as an ideal spot for the development and testing of rockets - a joint English/Australian venture. Local aborigines were moved out and the town was established. Many were later affected by nuclear fallout.

A history museum has an impressive collection of early rockets and planes.The photograph shows the first rocket "Long Tom", fired in 1957 and fueled by kerosene and hydrogen peroxide!
How far we've come since then!

Still cold and unseasonably wet here. Even the locals are complaining!

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Spuds! Bookaloo Rest Area to Pimba

Slept through all the road train roar and the trains rumbling by! The rest area had no facilities so toileting etc was au naturelle. A caravan pulled in just before dark, so it was nice to have company.

Much of the route today was long, slow climbs broken intermittently with cattle grids. The land has low lying scrub with the occasional tree.

Along the wayside there are piles of bleached bones, probably of long deceased kangaroos - or possibly cyclists that didn't make it!!

We arrived at Spuds Roadhouse, Pimba, at 3.00pm and took a budget cabin. Pretty basic!
The place is an oasis surrounded by red mud. We're just glad that we got here in one piece! A hard day's ride - and sore backsides!

Did 90kms today.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

We're Off! Port Augusta to Bookaloo Rest Area

Woke to a grey, gloomy day, but were determined to get going today.

2kms out of town and we were in the outback dodging the showers. Roaming emus wandered through the scrub and across the road.

There was a "no fences - beware of stock" sign peppered with bullet holes.

Every 5kms or so there were cattle grids across the road - too dangerous to cycle over so we had to walk.

The weather became warm and sunny by lunch time so we spread the tarpaulin on the ground and took a little time out.

We were making good progress so decided not to stay at Ranges View Rest Area as we'd planned, but to make for Bookaloo Rest Area 20kms further. This would shorten our long ride tomorrow.

No sooner had we arrived, the rain hosed down. We managed to put the tent up partially under the shelter. We're right by the railway line and the road so don't expect much sleep tonight! Did 79kms today.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Good News at Last! Port Augusta

Tonight we're enjoying our last taste of civilization for a while. The rain has cleared, the sun is shining and we're packing ready for an early get away tomorrow. We have unpacked our gear into 3 different cabins since we've been here. Our fault for not booking in advance!

We'll be bush camping tomorrow night. No mobile reception so my next blog will hopefully be on Wednesday - unless we have to spend 2 nights on the road side.

At last, our adventure really begins!

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Cabin Fever! Port Augusta

And still it rains! We've repacked the trailers several times, and walked to the supermarket and around the block in between the showers. Now we're watching the rapidly growing line of winnebagos and motor homes lining up at reception to check in to the camp. All are big, expensive rigs pulled by big grunty 4WDs. One, in the photo, has expanding sides and is towing a two level trailer that transports a car below and a boat on top!

The forecast for tomorrow is for more rain. Much as we're itching to get going, we've decided to be sensible and stay for another night. Hopefully we'll get away on Tuesday before we lose fitness. We've got some long rides a head.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Closed on Saturday! Port Augusta

Port Augusta is a small city that sprawls across the Spencer Gulf - not in the least Majestic as it's name implies. Much of the city centre seemed closed and we managed to find just one cafe!

We spent several hours absorbed in the displays of the Wadlata Outback Centre. They cover the history of the Australian Outback, from its origins pre Godwanaland, to the present day.

The weather forecast is for rain over the next couple of days, so we've decided to wait here an extra day before heading off. Camping will be on red mud otherwise!

Meanwhile we're collecting rations and water supplies for our first two days in the desert.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Outback Outskirts! Port Germein to Port Augusta

A great day for cycling - warm and sunny, wind at our backs and a flat road!

Followed the Flinders Ranges and the railway line all the way. The Ghan raced past us going south, but it had gone by the time we had our cameras ready.

We saw our first dead kangaroo. Up until now, rabbits and beautiful native owls have been the main victims of the traffic.

The scenery quickly changed from farmland to scrub as we neared Port Augusta.

We'll spend a couple of days here sight seeing and preparing for life in the outback. It all starts from here! Did 70kms today.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

A Touch of Frost! Crystal Brook to Port Germein

Woke up to a heavy frost this morning. Had to wait until the fly thawed out before we could pack the tent. Slept warmly but frozen fingers and toes on the bike for a while.

Followed the Flinders Range on a nice flat road with a tail wind and arrived at sleepy Port Germein well before lunch. Took a cabin at the caravan park on the beach. Seems they have no tent sites. Looks as though we're the only guests! No shops so it's soup and a Mrs Macs pie for dinner!

Port Germein is famous for having the longest wooden wharf in Australia and, in the early 1900s was the largest grain exporting port. The wharf is 1.676kms long!

We're enjoying the warmth and comfort of our cabin. We'll be roughing it in the bush very soon.

50kms today.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

A Hard Day's Night! Snowtown to Crystal Brook

With the bells at a nearby rail crossing and the horns of trains rumbling through every hour, with the roar of the road trains on the highway, and a loud "domestic" coming from the caravan next door, we had a broken sleep last night.

Luckily today we left with a strong tail wind that allowed us to make good progress with minimal effort.

Cycled past endless hectares of green farmland, but little sign of stock. The railway followed us on one side and, on the other, a windmill farm stretched out on the hill tops for as far as the eye could see.

Staying the night at pretty Crystal Brook Caravan Park. The railway is still not far away, but after last night I reckon we'll sleep through anything!

50kms today.