Into the Ozzie outback

The flight goes smoothly and together with the Italian and Cayman Islands cricket teams we arrive in Australia. Our bicycles and the rest of our luggage arrive on the carousel, ready to go through customs.

As soon as the customs officers see our bicycle boxes we are taken out of the queue for a special treatment. In Australia they are very careful with mud, food and other dirty things which can enter the country from abroad. Our entire luggages including bicycles are taken through a big scan. Afterwards we are asked to open the boxes in the quarantine zone. When we open the first box we hear: “Oh, that’s very clean, leave the other in the box. Thank you!” And that’s how we pass through customs. Our days of cleaning in Singapore have paid off.

Because it’s 3:00am we stay at the airport until first light. Marlous lies down on the floor to catch some extra sleep and I start to put the bikes together. As soon as the first light arrives we step on our bikes and move of. After 12km we arrive at a campsite. Unfortunately there’s a lot of noise from the big road right beside it. Not a place we like to stay so we move on. A bit further we arrive at a nice campsite with a smooth green field. We pitch the tent and fall asleep.

We stay in Darwin for a couple of days to arrange some things. Water bladders, food, brake pads and bank accounts we’ve got to do the lot. For the rest we enjoy our small talk with the other campers. Australian people like to chat and we don’t mind. It’s hot these days but not as hot and humid as our days in Singapore. We sleep with our tent wide open to get something of a breeze.

Than it’s time to head into the outback. With food for a couple of days and plenty of water we start our trip. We cycle with our helmets on until we pass a sign which explains that you only need to wear a helmet if you’re under 17. The first part of this section is a four lane highway. It’s busy with a lot of holiday makers. The road trains, big trucks with a maximum length of 75m, are threatening us well. We cycle until Batchelor which borders with the Litchfield National Park. We’ve heard great stories about this park and we’re looking forward to camp here a couple of days. The road into the park is nice and lies between the yellow grass and small trees. On some places there are small bushfires to burn away the grasses. This is to control bigger fires in events of the drought. Everywhere we see massive termite mounds. A new thing for us and they look different than the ant nests we’ve seen in Europe.

The first part of the park is nice but as soon as we arrive at the first campsite we’re in for a disappointment. In the forests there is a small patch of sand with a wire fence surrounding it. The sandy area is for camping. We’ve seen enough and cycle to the second campsite further into the park. Unfortunately this isn’t a better spot. We decide to go to the famous Burley Rock pools instead for a refreshing dive in the water. Litchfield is well known for its nice rivers, clear lakes and beautiful waterfalls. Unfortunately we get another impression of the whole lot. When we take a look at the rock pools the only thing we see is a mess of beer drinking Australians who try to sit together in the bit of water between them. Marlous walks away with a big smile on her face: “That won’t make you fresh.” We jump on our bicycles again in the hope to find a campsite with a cold shower and green grass.

Our next days are ones of beautiful cycling on the Stuart Highway, the road which goes from north to south through the whole country. In Adelaide River we meet a special person from the Tsjech Republic. Olde left Adelaide to drive his scooter all the way to Darwin. Only 200 km are left for him to reach his goal. Unfortunately his stomach is upset and he is in pain. I go with him to a store to buy some medication. He doesn’t want to go to a doctor, afraid he will tell him to interrupt his journey. We find some medication and it takes me a while to explain that it won’t be wise to take all the pills in one time.

The distances become larger and there is less food to find in between places. The scenery is dry and flat. The wind becomes stronger and is coming from the front. Cycling behind each other is the best option and I am the motor with Marlous behind me. After a day of though cycling we arrive in Katherine where we meet three other cyclists on the campsite. Andrew and Jenny are heading for Perth. Peter from Sydney is heading north to Darwin, and he’s unlucky because his bicycle has been stolen the night before. In Katherine we take a couple of days of rest before we start cycling to Threeways. This part will be one of less accommodation and possibilities to find food and water. The last night in Katherine we go to a rodeo with Andrew and Jenny. It’s great to see how the cowboys tie their hands to the bulls and try to sit on their backs. The bulls make the show with their big jumps and their wild attacks. The audience cheers loudly and its fun to see how everyone enjoys themselves.

After Katherine the wind blows from the front constantly. The wind is very strong and it’s cold. In Darwin we were used to 28 degrees, here the temperature drops till 8 degrees in the morning. We are wrestling our way against the wind and the cold and we are happy to arrive at the Hot Springs in Mataranka. A beautiful river makes its way through the forest. The water is very clear and 32 degrees, which is wonderful for our muscles after a day of cycling. In the evening we sit in front of our tent and we hear some noises all the time. When we shine our torch we find out we are surrounded by kangaroos.

Our average distances are 100 km these days and the head wind stays. We camp a lot in the bush and we hear dingo’s howl in the night. It’s a beautiful sound while we are watching the stars. The sky is like it is, because we are far away from villages and lights. All the stars are shining brightly and we feel very small while watching the sky. On one of the campsites we ask where we can find the Southern Cross. I knew it had to be somewhere but I couldn’t find it. With the help of 6 people we find the Southern Cross and from now on we can find the South.
The distance between Darwin and Threeways is the same as the length of Great Brittan. It’s a long way and empty. The only side ways are paths to farms. These farms are sometimes more then 120 km inland. Incredible big, this country and after a week from Katherine we arrive at the Threeways Roadhouse. A roadhouse in the middle of nowhere, a place for some rest.

* Darwin & surroundings: 106km
* Darwin – Batchelor: 91km
* Batchelor – trip through Litchfield: 83km
* Litchfield – Adelaide River: 55km
* Adelaide River – Pine Creek: 112km
* Pine Creek – Katherine: 95km
* Katherine – Mataranka: 114km
* Mataranka – Bush: 108km
* Bush – Dunmarra: 110km
* Dunmarra – Elliott: 103km
* Elliott – Renner Springs: 94km
* Renner Springs – Attack Creek: 91km
* Attack Creek – Threeways: 48km



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