Sunday, July 26, 2015

The Top End! Darwin

Darwin - known officially as The Top End - is a typical Australian tourist mecca. It has a fashionable esplanade with classy hotels, a central mall, a restaurant/cafe area and a central backpackers.
We spent the morning scrubbing the tent, pegs and trailer bags, shoes etc and removing all signs of red dust and seeds. We know that MAF will pounce on us when we get back to NZ.

Walked to the mall for lunch and, on our return to the motel, found the fire alarm going full blast and fire engines arriving.

Could only happen to us! Turned out to be a false alarm.

Spent the weekend packing the trailers then, on Monday, collected two empty bike boxes from the local bike shop. We were now seriously in business! Del broke the bikes down and packed them, then it was off to the travel agent to organise our flight home.
After much needed haircuts, we spent our last day taking in the sights of Darwin.

The beach is very tidal (the tide rising as much as 8 metres) and the beautiful sunsets are renowned.

Some statistics re the trip:
  • Distance cycled -: 3041kms
  • Number of cycle days - 43
  • Number of rest days - 7
  • Longest daily ride - 152kms (tail wind assisted)
  • Shortest daily ride - 40kms (gale force head wind)
  • Daily average - approx. 80kms
  • Trailer punctures - 4 (all Del's)
  • Bike punctures - 1 blow out (Del)
  • Average speed - 15.6 kms per hr
  • Accidents - 0
  • Near misses - Quite a few!
  • Bike malfunctions - 2 (gears and computer sensor - all Del's!)
We'll be spending the next few days organising our trip back to NZ.
Mission accomplished.

Signing off now.
Del and Cindy
NB: For our other cycle tours in Australia, check out :
*Perth to Adelaide -
*Adelaide to Gold Coast -


Saturday, July 25, 2015

We Made It! Noonamah to Darwin

Today, the Stuart Highway was no longer a single lane highway linking remote settlements. It is now a very busy dual carriageway running through light industrial outer suburbs of Darwin.

We set off soon after 7.00am and had a smooth ride for about 20kms.
We'd just negotiated major roadworks when there was an almighty bang.
Del had blown the tube in his back tyre. The pressure actually shredded the tube and blew the tyre off the rim! Not a problem to Del. He had the tube replaced lickety-split.

Soon afterwards, we discovered a dedicated cycle path that took us away from the traffic and all the way, 25kms, to the city centre.

Our motel is right in the centre.

It's Saturday - half day closing! Tomorrow, Sunday, most of the shops are closed!
On Monday we'll chase some bike boxes. Meanwhile we'll relax and celebrate getting here - and in one piece!

It still feels like just another cycle day. It'll dawn on us soon that the job's done.
Tomorrow I'll post some pics and statistics about our ride from Adelaide to Darwin.

Did 43kms today - the final day of our ride.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Almost There! Adelaide River to Noonamah

Woke to another day in paradise - that is until we discovered that some ratbags had let the air out of a tyre on each of our bikes!

Our Marathon Plus Tour tyres are virtually puncture proof so we guessed that they had been tampered with and just pumped them up again.

Left Adelaide River as the sun burst over the horizon. A thick, fog/smog hung over the countryside, and had burnt off by 10.00am.

Boy! Was it hot! We took on water every 10kms and sweated it off almost instantly.

The highway is getting busier the closer we get to Darwin and drivers seem intent on getting places at top speed.

Arrived at Noonamah Caravan Park at midday. It's a public holiday for the Darwin Show so accommodation is in demand everywhere but we managed to get an old motel room at the park which suits us nicely.

Lush tropical plants everywhere in the grounds, but it's so hot - 33 degrees C - that everyone's inside in the air conditioning!

A microwave meal tonight and a relaxing evening - checking up on the Tour de France!

Tomorrow is our last day of cycling and the finishing post is in our sights! Did 71kms today.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Hot 'n' Sweaty! Hayes Creek to Adelaide River

We left Hayes Creek at 7.30am serenaded by a flock of noisy white cockatoos in the valley below.

20 degrees C, a clear blue sky and a tail wind - can hardly believe our luck!

The day heated up quickly. Yesterday it reached 33 degrees. Same expected today. We feel relatively comfortable when cycling, but get very hot and sweat profusely when we stop for breaks.

It was another shortish ride again today with long gradual climbs and several nice downhills along the edge of the Lichfield National Park.

Arrived at Adelaide River around 11.30am and took a budget room at the historic Adelaide River Inn complex. A platoon of white ants (termites) are scurrying around the perimeter of the ceiling!

The Adelaide River area played an important part during WW2 and has an impressive war cemetery.

Walked to the river which was running quite low. Large, shady trees everywhere.

Having a salad at the inn's bistro tonight. The pub has a stuffed buffalo called Charlie in the bar area. Apparently it featured in the movie "Crocodile Dundee".

Rang a couple of motels in Darwin and eventually made a booking for Saturday.
Can hardly believe that we're almost there!

Did 57 kms today.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

US Army on the Move! Pine Creek to Hayes Creek Roadhouse

Had a restful stay at the Lazy Lizard and woke to another glorious day.

To avoid the heat of the afternoon, we decided on another short trip today and headed for Hayes Creek Roadhouse.

Burnt bush was evident all along the way. Del thinks that it was probably controlled burn off but it often covered large areas.

Sometimes, as in the picture, only the termite mounds remained standing.

We called into Emerald Springs Roadhouse for a coffee and muffin. The place was humming as a bus load of tourists had just arrived for breakfast.

Turned out to be the best coffee we've had since Adelaide! The deck was decorated with impressive bull skulls.

Soon after we got going again, a US army convoy passed us heading north. The soldiers were in full combat dress on armed personnel carriers. It felt like an invasion!

When we arrived at Hayes Creek Roadhouse, the soldiers were all inside in various stages of buying lunch.

Took a budget cabin for the night. No food supplies available so it looks like another takeaway meal tonight.
Did 55kms today.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Lazy Lizard! Katherine to Pine Creek

We got away at 7.00am after a disturbed night with loud movies from next door, followed by high jinx from late night revellers.

Had a roller coaster ride with demanding uphills followed by lovely downhills - probably the most demanding section we've had, especially in the heat.

There were signs of recent bush fires all along the route, in spite of the many fire warning signs and the distant hills were draped in a smoky haze.

Passed a large flock of noisy, black cockatoos.

A large convoy of army vehicles passed us going north. Also several oversized vehicles, each preceded by a warning vehicle, caused us to get off the road smartly.

We arrived at Pine Creek around 1.00pm and were glad to get out of the heat.

Pine Creek is a small township just off the highway.

Took a lovely cabin at The Lazy Lizard Caravan Park - a delightful park with grassy sites, a minimart, a Bottle-O, a swimming pool and pretty treed grounds full of fascinating bird life. We've spotted sulphur crested cockatoos, rosellas, galahs, bower birds and so many others.

After doing our daily washing, spent much of the afternoon relaxing in the shade on the deck of our cabin.
This is the life! Would much have preferred this to a rest day in Katherine.  Heaven!
Did 91kms today.

Monday, July 20, 2015

A Look See! Rest Day in Katherine

Had a brief sleep in and breakfast before checking out the town.

Katherine's main street is about a kilometre long, with a line of lovely trees along the centre.

There's Woolworths, Target and even The Coffee Club here which is as close to civilisation as we've been since Adelaide! There are groups of aboriginal families sitting under trees, on the island in the middle of the road and on street corners. Three policemen were checking credentials at the entrance to the Bottle-O.

Behind the motel, at the bat tree, the bats were airing their wings and squeaking loudly. They have a pungent smell and cover the ground with their droppings.

The temperatures today were 9 (low) and 29 (high). We retired to the cool of our motel room by 2.00pm. Del was keen to catch up with developments in the Tour de France on tv.

Tomorrow 32 degrees are expected! Phew! In that heat, energy is sapped quickly and there is major risk of burning exposed skin.

We're both raring to get going tomorrow. Just 330+kms to Darwin.
The end is in sight!

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Hot, Hot, Hotter! Mataranka to Katherine

Left our cabin at daybreak and pedaled into another perfect day. As usual, we stopped every 10kms for a break, water and a snack.

Innumerable "dressed" termite mounds line the roadside all along the Stuart Highway. Many are very clever and entertaining, like a "bride" we saw today - complete with veil and flowers! Someone from Charles Darwin University is doing a thesis on them apparently!

Passed a military convoy heading south after an Australian/ American exercise in Darwin. More soldiers in Katherine, too.

The days are getting hotter and we're taking on lots of water. We try to get to our destination as soon as we can to avoid the intense afternoon sun.

Found a cycle path about 6kms out of Katherine, that took us right into the town.
Took a room at Katherine Motel, handy to the supermarket etc.

Dozens of Wedge Tailed eagles are soaring everywhere - often quite low to the ground - and behind the motel is a tree full of bats!

Del discovered that his trailer tyre was worn down to the canvas in places and replaced it with a new tyre he'd carried with him since Adelaide.

We grabbed some essentials from the supermarket before resting our weary bones back at the motel.

Will take a well deserved rest day here tomorrow.

Did 106kms today.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Never Never Land! Larrimah to Mataranka

Left Larrimah at daybreak in perfect cycling conditions yet again.

The Orewa Express got into top gear, arriving at Mataranka just before 1.00pm.

It's a nice, little town with several caravan parks, a hotel with accommodation and a Roadhouse with comfy, clean cabins.

Most importantly, it has a small supermarket!

We took a small cabin, shouted ourselves to lunch at  a nearby cafe, then stocked up on some essentials at the supermarket.

Looking forward to long, hot showers and a comfortable bed tonight.

We have a long ride to Katherine tomorrow.

Did 73kms today.

Friday, July 17, 2015

The Pink Panther! Hi-Way Inn to Larrimah

Woke at 5.45am to another perfect cycling day. On the road soon after 7.00am.

The road was mainly flat and winding and, as for most of the ride, had no safety shoulder.

All day large, 3 trailer cattle road trains raced past in both directions - empty going south, and packed to the gunnels with cattle heading north to the port in Darwin.

Drivers of these cattle trains are much less considerate of we poor cyclists, and we've learned to get off the road smartly especially when they're behind us!

Arrived at Larrimah at 1.00pm.
It's another character of a place - just an old, tired hotel - the Pink Panther Pub - with a basic caravan park attached plus a messy menagerie of parrots, parakeets and lorikeets in cages, emus, a wallaby and a small, sleepy crocodile.

The pub is run and patronised by a collection of long haired very eccentric folk. We must remember to tell you about Prickles and Fixit, Fran and Morrie, and Dave.

We took a cheap motel room which had two single beds, a kettle, out of date long life milk capsules, a fridge that didn't work, very dodgy shared amenities and numerous, hungry mosquitoes!
We'll forgo a shower tonight, I think!

No food stores available or cooking facilities so it looks like another pub dinner tonight and emergency breakfast of creamed rice.
Did 92kms today.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Daly Waters! Dunmarra Roadhouse to Hi-Way Inn

Decided on a short ride today to the Hi-way Inn (another Roadhouse) with a detour visit to the historic Daly Waters Pub.

Established in 1930, it's full of character with caps, t-shirts, etc - even bras - dangling from the roof. Had a serving of barra bits (barramundi) and chips - the pub's signature dish.

Nearby are old shops covered in hilarious signs, such as "McDonalds Drive In - 278kms".
Love the Hi-Way Inn - lovely staff and lovely motel units. No food stores available but a nice selection of food on the all day menu.

Shouted ourselves to a bottle of red - kept in the chiller as usual - called "Grey Nomad". Must have seen us coming!
Did 65kms today.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

A Long Haul! Elliott to Dunmarra Roadhouse

Left our tatty, little cabin - complete with grass growing through the walls and assorted insects (including a family of very big cockroaches living in a rotting corner) - soon after 7.00am.

Couldn't believe our luck! Tail wind again - four days in a row!

As we go further north, the desert has given way to thick vegetation - rejuvenating grasses, taller shrubs and trees.

Instead of the blue/green colour of the desert plants,  the landscape now is a variety of greens, alive with birdlife. Grass on both sides of the road is kept mown to serve as a fire break.

Until now, the main road kill has been wandering steers, but today, for the first time, we counted at least 10 small wallabies in various stages of decomposition.

Fortunately 2 elderly cyclists managed to avoid being included in the statistics.Twice we were forced off the road when some twit committed himself to overtaking an oncoming caravan at great speed even though we were clearly in opposing lane.

Arrived at Dunmarra Roadhouse in record time, just after 1.00pm and settled into a cabin.

No mobile reception or food stores so it's our emergency tucker or a pub meal again tonight!
On the menu - buffalo, kangaroo, camel and crockodile steaks! I'm a bit concerned for the friendly buffalo that wanders around the campground!

Did 102km today.