Six weeks and nearly 4,000 kilometers and we finally reach our first real Australia city: Perth! To say that distances in the outback are vast is to state the obvious. Never before have we biked a region so remote.
After just a few days in urban surroundings, the lonely highway slicing through the barren land is already becoming a blurry memory of struggle against heat, headwinds and repetition. A steady stream of podcasts was the best antidote against boredom with the bush.
We encountered, of course, places of sublime beauty. Karijini National park with its crystal clear rock pools and beautiful gorges. The rocky outcrops and red earth of the Pilbara region. And eventually the stunning sand dunes and turquoise waters of the Indian Ocean coast.
Daily magic was found at sunrise and sunset. The hours in between were, well, tiresome at times. Thankfully, Australia shows her true beauty at least twice daily.
We crossed paths mostly with truckies (as the drivers of those massive road trains are referred to), grey nomads (Australia’s version of snow birds), fifo’s (those mine workers with massive salaries –even cleaning staff make upwards of $100,000–who fly in and fly out of the region), and backpackers (young people on working holiday visas who drive around in vans and may or may not have a backpack in their possession). All we encountered expressed various degrees of pity ( I don’t know how you can stand the heat) and admiration (hat’s off to you) regarding our outback cycling endeavor.
When it came to our need to top up on water, all were eager to help. At settlements and roadhouses (what I’d call truck stops) we’d weight down the bikes with around 8 liters of water each. With temps soaring up to 100 Fahrenheit (over 40 Celsius) we’d deplete theserations fairly soon. No matter. It sufficed to pull over, lift up an empty water bottle and rest assured the next vehicle came to a screeching halt and replenished our supplies. Sometimes we even scored a cold coke or some snacks.
Most nights we’d even track down somebody with a caravan and a big tank who’d fill up our 10 liter water bladder. That meant I’d get a cold shower under the stars and a chance to wash away the day’s sweat and grime. Bush camping has been one of the great delights of biking through the outback. The silence and simplicity of pitching up next to a sand dune our sneaking off behind a rocky outcrop surrounded by emptiness is something close to sublime.
Pedaling into Perth was cause for celebration: we’d made it through the outback! We’ve spent the last few days being spoiled by Antony (a long-time blog follower) and his lovely family. Ah, the simple joy of a soft bed, a hot shower, a fast internet connection and a full fridge. Not to mention the excellent company.
Next up is Australia’s Southwest , a place of powerful waterfalls, towering forests, and rugged coastline. Then it’ll be back to the big empty as we cross the vast Nullarbor plain before winding down part 1 of our Australia tour in Melbourne.