Posts Tagged ‘Bush’


It was getting darker and darker as the clouds loomed heavy above me. The wind was blowing a gale from behind, the first spots of rain had started and it was cold. I was in the middle of a bleak moon landscape – flat, covered in pebbles and no vegetation other than the odd blade of grass. I was 100km from Oodnadatta and 100km from Coober Pedy. Clement was way behind and Alex and Alaine were nowhere to be seen. I was alone and it was about to piss down and make the clay road impassable. I rode on. Stopping would not get me out of this now.

Moonscape campspot

Moonscape campspot

I looked behind and in the distance I saw some headlights. I stopped as the car approached. It was Alex and Alaine.
‘When do you want to stop?’ Alex asked.
‘Right now, it’s about to start – the rain.’
They drove to the top of a slight rise and we set up camp. We were in the middle of absolutely nothing. The rain started just as the caravan and side tent were completed. Clement arrived drenched with the clay clogging his wheels.

It rained and rained and blew and blew all evening and night. We got out of bed several times during the night to rearrange the side panels of the verandah to prevent them from taking off in the wind. The rain has made this spot our home for the next few days.

We had left early in the morning. The road was firm once more and the tailwind was strong, but the dark clouds were gathering and even looking threatening when we left. We didn’t have long, and we wanted to cover as many kilometres as possible before the rain made us prisoner in this flat expanse of exposed nothingness. On went the music and the kilometres flew by as the weather closed in.

Road to Coober Pedy

Road to Coober Pedy

Huddled in the campervan house we talked and listened to the wind and rain as we played games until late into the night.


We made it 100 metres past the bitumen – first cycling, then pushing, then dragging. And then we stopped. It was 6:30 in the morning after one whole day of waiting in Oodnadatta, and now we were returning, backtracking the bespoke 100 metres. I dragged my bike and set clay clogging my wheels the 100 metres back. Clement took off and walked the luggage back before carrying the bike with wheels locked solid over the road of damp clay. We were stuck in Oodna-bloody-datta.

Clement carrying the bike over the mud

Clement carrying the bike over the mud

Stuck in the little outback town – a collection of houses lost in the middle of endless flat nothingness – the people that would normally only greet each other briefly actually conversed. All the roads were closed, and we were locked in to this small grid of bitumen streets. There was a pub. There was a school. There was a museum and there was the Pink Roadhouse – the outback icon with all its violent pink décor and parafanalia.
Everyone was so lovely to us – the wacky cyclists. We were fed a breakfast of bacon and bread. We were given spending money. People were all keen to help and give advice on what to do with my newly broken stand that had snapped that morning as the fully loaded bike sank into the clay. Should I try to get it welded? Araldyte? Find a stick to prop up the bike instead? We became a family of the trapped as we stood in the lovely warm sun in front of the Pink Roadhouse, watching the ‘road closed’ sign and discussing what to do next.

Meet Alex and Alaine – our new travelling companions in the campervan. On the way to Williams Creek (like us), they have been wandering around Australia with their campervan and have now taken on the role of being our guardian angels. They were there as we tried to leave the bitumen road of Oodnadatta town and returned after one metre in the mud on the first morning. They provided us with the hose fittings to help remove the infinite amount of caked-on clay after our second attempt to leave Oodnadatta on day two. They were there with good conversation, good advice and many cups of tea as we sat contemplating our next steps.

It rained a lot during our first night in Oodnadatta with Clement and I snug and dry in the cabin paid my Alex and Alaine. The road (a mudbath in the morning) was almost dry in the afternoon of the first day after a beautiful sunny day – just wonderful for cycling. There was mist the second night which turned the road into sticky clay which foiled our attempt at leaving early in the morning. Reliable rumours were out that the road to Coober Pedy would open, and probably remain open until a big downpour one day later. Our new guardian angels offered to follow us, camp with us, and sit it out being stuck somewhere if needed. Apart from being great company, this removed our fears of running out of food or water if we got stuck.

Alex and Alaine

Alex and Alaine

With no realistic prospect of the direct road to Williams Creek being open in the next week, we waited a bit for the road to dry and left around lunchtime – heading for Coober Pedy.

The road was spectacular – flat, wide absolute nothingness.

Road closed

Road closed

Oodnadatta

Oodnadatta

Camping spot

Camping spot

The road was still soft from the water and the going was tough as the wheels sank into the clay. There were regular mudbaths that clogged up everything, and eventually the clay dried between my wheels and mudguards to make it almost impossible to move forward. Clement had wisely already removed his mudguards before departing. We stopped where Alex and Alaine were waiting and took off my mudguards which helped a lot.

We had a wonderful evening chatting about everything with Alex and Alaine in the absolute middle of nowhere. Tomorrow the rain is coming and we will be stuck somewhere. Let’s see where, and what the universe has in store. This time yesterday I didn’t expect to be here. The universe it like that sometimes.


So many stories from so many people. Today was footy day at Ernabella and the whole town was there. We are in the APY aboriginal lands in South Australia, staying with a teacher at the local school. This is such a different world to Uluru just down the road, and so so different to city Australia.

Red road

Red road

Standing on the side of the footy field watching the game between Ernabella and another community we spoke to several teachers and to a social worker. The clash of aboriginal and western cultures leaves the head spinning. In aboriginal culture there is no sense of ownership – everything that is yours is mine. People have to give money to people that ask for it meaning there is no incentive to work, and so most do not.

The concept of money is also different to the western attitude – it is like a river – it flows in and it flows out. In this community there is fresh food, but, going to the shop after the footy match, the whole community had descended to buy chips, hot dogs and coke. The people working at the shop were white. The teachers and social workers were white. There are aboriginal helpers at the school but they often don’t turn up. There are so many facts and so many questions I don’t know what more to write.

Footy

Footy

The APY Lands are beautiful. Red red earth and a sandy road passing through a land void of people. It is such a peaceful place – you feel like you are the only person on the planet.

Skid marks

Skid marks

Shadow

Shadow

We had half a day of headwinds and half a day of tailwinds – and many fewer flies compared to yesterday. Thanks, Pat, for your great hospitality and conversation. I’m looking forward to seeing more of the area!


We sat in front of the fire under the starry heavens listening to the crackle of the wood as it disappeared in flames. Beneath the sound of the fire silence reigned. We were miles from absolutely anywhere in the middle of the Australian desert. Then the white ute with the floodlight headlights passed our fire, music blaring from the windows. The car stopped, reversed, and turned into our little side-path, and out jumped Quentin.

The sand was soft

The sand was soft

A big black fella with a beard and jovial face lumbered up to us and lit a cigarette. His massive dog jumped out of the ute and sniffed around. Quentin was from another community and was driving to Ernabella for the footy. He works there herding camels with the ute and helicopter. He had his wife and kids in the car.
A high-pitched stream of unintelligible syllables streamed out from the car window.
‘Me wife,’ chuckled Quentin.
She tooted the horn.
‘We might see you in Ernabella.’ I said as he returned to his car.
The floodlights were on, and the music thumping car reversed, returned to the road, and drove off into the night.

Not many cars ply this road. A red, sandy road that heads south into endless nothingness. The country is green from the recent rains and very beautiful.

Mt Connor

Mt Connor

Wreck

Wreck

Mt Connor

Mt Connor

Flowers

Flowers

And the flies were bad today. They can keep up with me while I am cycling, and are dreadful when passing through deep sandy stretches. Both hands are required on the handle-bars as I slide and wobble through the sand. One extra hand is needed to shoo away the flies. The lack of a hand has led to stacking the bike on several occasions.

Flies

Flies

We were passed by several people that mostly stopped to chat. A couple from Ernabella, and also the teacher from there. We are cordially invited to drop past for a cup of tea. I’m looking forward to Ernabella.


And there he stood, in a handstand, on the edge of the massive cliff at Kings Canyon. The people on the cliff-face opposite clapped, and then stopped when they saw what he was doing. There was a gasp of apprehension. What would his mother say? I know he can do it, and a lot more.I did the worrying for his mother.

Handstand at Kings Canyon

Handstand at Kings Canyon

Today was a lot cooler and cloudy. No troubles with water today. We made it past the last kilometres of corrugated dusty road to the bitumen before Kings Canyon. The canyon is spectacular – two massive cliffs facing each other with a beautiful green valley below. We walked amongst the beehive-like rock formations, and sat on the edge of the clifffaces breathing in the spirit of the landscape. This place is millions of years old – the remains of an eternity of erosion. It is hard to comprehend the scale of time that has passed to create this place. It will be here, in all its awe long after we are all gone.

Kings Canyon

Kings Canyon

Kings Canyon

Kings Canyon

Kings Canyon

Kings Canyon


‘Have you got any water?’
I wanted to do it without flagging a car down, but that was not to be. The people were lovely and filled up our bottles and let us guzzle more water down before leaving. Bad road cycling in Australia.

On the road to Kings Canyon

On the road to Kings Canyon

When I was 20 I had my nose broken when practicing Tae Kwon Do. Since then I have not been able to breathe properly through my nose. I have never got around to getting it fixed. It was quite annoying today. My mouth was constantly dry, and I had to keep it open. This is a big source of evapouration. I can’t do much about the amount I sweat (which is not much in the not so hot, dry desert), but, a nose operation would help with this problem. I had drunken 10 litres of water since our last water stop at Glen Helen. Clement had drunken 2.

On the road to Kings Canyon

On the road to Kings Canyon

The road continued past a line of rocky hills. It was all amazingly green, and didn’t really feel like a desert at all. It wasn’t possible to look around much, though. Full concentration was required on the road to navigate the path of fewest bumps. Rocks and corrigations made for a slow and bumpy ride, and despite cycling for over 7 hours, we only made it 75km. Tomorrow Kings Canyon.


This is beautiful country. Rocky ridges which are lines of exposed red rock, and then flat plains with red rocks jutting up to the heavens, visible for miles and miles around. And there is not a soul here. When you stop, you just hear.. nothing. This is the Australian outback.

Glen Helen Gorge

Glen Helen Gorge

We had a little walk this morning to the top of the ridge behind Glen Helen station. It was a fun scramble up to the top of the cliff face with a spectacular view over the plains and ridges of mountains. After talking with a cycling couple and Julie – the cyclist from France – we only ended up leaving around 11.

Glen Helen Gorge

Glen Helen Gorge

View from Glen Helen Gorge

View from Glen Helen Gorge

Lunch was at the top of a mini-pass with the most amazing view out over the plains and Gosse Bluff – a rock formation formed from a meteor strike and then millions of years of erosion – two kilometres of erosion. It’s hard to comprehend such time scales.

Gosse Bluff

Gosse Bluff

We are now on the 150km of dirt road to King’s Canyon, and I am sitting in front of a lovely warm fire at the top of a little crest in the road. The sunset over the endless plains spread out before us. There is not a cloud in the sky, and not a breath of wind. And not a sound. Beautiful.