Australia - South to North

It is over 40 degrees C, the bike is buried to the axles in soft sand and there are millions of flies trying to get in your eyes, nose, ears and mouth.  And you still have 2,500 KMS to go.  Welcome to cycling through the Australian outback.

Ever since my earlier expedition in 2012, I had always want to revisit Australia and especially the centre with Alice Springs and Uluru.  When in the fall of 2016, 2 friends suggested that we go, the expedition was on!

We did lots of research and decided to follow the track of the first European to complete the trek from Adelaide to Darwin through the outback, even starting at the same house he did in 1862.  His name………….John McDouall Stuart, and he completed the journey after 5 previous attempts.  Inspired by the book “Mr. Stuart’s Track”, we plotted our route up the Oodnadatta track through legendary places such as William Creek, Coober Pedy and Alice Springs.

I love Australia.  With its few main cities, numerous small communities and roadhouses and then absolutely nothing else.  Frequently we would leave a place and once past the town line, saw nothing at all apart from sand, scrub and the odd dead kangaroo for over 100 KMS.  Camping on the side of the road, we carried our own water and looked for more at bore holes and streams that John Stuart had found.  We had leaking water containers, usually from bikes falling on a hard rocky surface, spent time unsuccessfully looking for bore holes and camped thirsty and dirty.  Some days we covered 160 KMS and some as little as 25.  But the distances are misleading, every day had its challenges and rewards.  One day at a time, one kilometer at a time we progressed.

We were called “Courageous and heroic”, but usually just plan “Mad”.  We were given free beer, water and food.  We cursed the rutted, boulder strewn roads filled with sand traps.  We cringed when our loaded bikes hit an unseen boulder and we were scared by the 4-trailer road trains hurtling by on the Stuart Highway.  Despite everything, we laughed when each day was over.  What else could we do.

When we reached Darwin, we had crossed the continent.  We and our bikes had survived.  But I could not stop thinking about John Stuart and those 5 expeditions when he did not lose a man.  What did he think when he reached the Timor Sea at the promontory he named Point Stuart?

Read Ian's "Trip Journal" here!