17.11.11 - Geraldton, Australia
Western Australia – this is pure nature! Apparently, in endless dimensions at that! Not only because of the incredible distances but also for the complete lack of any civilisation. It’s possible to drive two, three hundred kilometres through this quiet emptiness without seeing a single hut nor a lone telephone mast. Arid bush land, tracks, deserted highways, infinite beaches and a deep blue ocean. Bottom line: breath taking!
We slowly meandered from Cape Leveque (Broome respectively) southwards to Geraldton and did not miss out on any of the inviting national parks along the way – each and every one so diverse and distinctive from each other – we would never had imagined: The colourful layered rocks of Karijini NP led into deep shady gorges with refreshing natural rock pools welcoming us at every end. At Cape Range NP we got surrounded by dozens of kangaroos, who stuck out their ears from behind the bushes after sunset. Not to mention the orgy of hundreds of turtles on Ningaloo Marine Park beaches or the innumerable sharks and eagle rays which roamed about the clear shallow water – so close, we comfortably observed them from the shore. We literally flowed from one highlight to the other!
If we were to list all those magic moments, like when we bottle-fed some kangaroo babies at the animal hospital or when dolphins ate fish out of our hands and, and, and... there are so many more unforgettable experiences that the extend of this telegram would burst at the seams and yet – make the heart skip a beat!
And finally dimensions tend to be shrinking now: Distances between townships are slowly but surely decreasing, the landscape is turning greener and fields pop up here and there. Even kangaroos seem to be replaced by sheep around here. Welcome back to civilisation.
Well, it’s not all that bad an idea after all, as our monster car is experiencing a series of hiccups which need some attention. All the driving in sand, gravel and along bad corrugation does not go unnoticed, unfortunately. Luckily, Brö is slowly turning out to be a crafty car mechanic too, but proper spare parts are only found in towns with more than thousand inhabitants – and honestly, we have not passed many of those during the last, let’s say... ten thousand kilometres!
Sending out big buckets of sunshine to our friends in the misty-grey-gloomy northern hemisphere. Hope this helps keeping your numb limbs warm :-)
08.10.11 - Derby, Australia
Fast forward through the last two months: Sitting under the veranda of our new cosy home and overlooking the sea.
... and this is what happened meanwhile: As we were forced to wait far too long for a spare part to arrive in Alice Springs, we decided to rent out a van and explore the heart of the continent. Mind you, not that we wouldn’t have enjoyed the comfort of staying on that comfy and shady campground with its cute wallabies who were all but shy and ate straight out of your hands - cuddling included :-).
Suddenly, we found ourselves at the foot of the mystic Ayers Rock glowing majestically in deep red colours, rising hundreds of meters above the flat plain. The view of and from that gigantic monolith was ab-so-lu-tely stunning and the walks through the Olgas and the Kings Canyon were no less spectacular. We really can’t get enough of the Outback – it’s mind-boggling!
Hence, we were really looking forward to cycling the next stretch up north. The new hub on the freshly built wheel did not actually add to the joy on our way from Alice Springs to Darwin though. No less than NINE broken spokes in 1’500 kilometres – now that certainly sets a new record! Not only technical obstacles turned that journey in a hard one but also the innumerable bush fires along the road, which left the land black and barren in its wake. The endless band of asphalt (Stuart Highway) with far too many speeding cars, enormous caravans and huge road trains on it did not help to lift our spirits neither. If only we had listened to our inner voice telling us to take the desert track through the Tanami... The Outback feels simply more real when being out there alone with nature. Hearing the lonely hauls of straying dingoes instead of the roaring motors of 50m long road trains. Camping isolated behind a bush instead of sharing the cramped rest areas with dozens of monstrous caravans... Well, you always know better in hindsight and luckily we reached Darwin in less than 2 weeks! Our final destination – namely. This is where our Tandem received another well deserved break, beside a repeated change of wheel and a Spa-treatment at the aluminium welder’s workshop. More than 5’000km in 3 months is definitely slightly over our usual average mileage! ;-)
We felt like trying out something new and went on purchasing a Monster Car for ourselves. You know, one of those cars that would give lots to moan about back home. 2.5-tons-six-cylinder-petrol-gulper with an extra sturdy bull bar, mind you. Cool, right? But in contrary to teeny tiny Switzerland where every inch is plastered with tarmac here on Australia’s roads such a vehicle is really practical. We invested more than a week into a total makeover ‘til we got ready to zoom off in our new cosy home.
Soon enough did we start to gain our first offroad-experience. At Litchfield NP we didn’t want to run the risk of lack of exercise. Therefore, we did each and every walk possible and were always rewarded with a wonderfully refreshing dip in one of the pools at the end of the track – without exceptions. After those first baby steps on rough road we were ready to hit the famous Gibb-River-Road, which crosses through the heart of the „wild“ Kimberley. We swallowed a good mouthful of that red dust which followed our Holden Jackaroo relentlessly. We torn up the road and rattled down that badly corrugated dusty track at 80km/h. Off the beaten track conditions turned harsher but meanwhile we were in control of how daring we could be on our chassis and our spines :-)
While driving in the Kimberley we took every opportunity to stop, marvel at the landscape and stretch our legs. Even if at first glance the area seemed arid and deserted, hidden away in deep gorges we would always find abundant vegetation and wonderful spots to have a reviving fresh dip. We enjoyed our villa on wheels tremendously: bedroom, open-air bathroom, swivelling and folding kitchenette with lounge, veranda and daily changing views. Maybe we did get a little influenced by the „Grey Nomads’“ setups :-) We love it!
Too fast did we reach the end of the dirt road and suddenly we were standing at the Pier of Derby with wonderful views over the calm sea. Here is where we experienced the change of tides which reaches an astoundingly 12 meters! Time for some relaxation: fisch & chips, a chilled beer and another amazing sunset. No swimming allowed though despite the fact that the sun was scorching at 35°C while sitting in the shade. The cute crocodiles in there might still have liked our crunchy cycling calves for dinner (even though they are slowly turning a bit limp)...
01.08.11 - Alice Springs, Australia
Back to civilisation – right in the middle of the Red Centre: Alice Springs. Though, instead of seeing red we have seen lots of green during the past weeks – mind you, we are not speaking about traffic lights here, cause there aren’t any, fortunately.
It has been absolutely terrific to cycle through the remoteness of the Outback! There were only few cars passing us every day and we were free to set up our night camp wherever we liked – mostly on vast red gibber plains which gave us the feeling of being on the moon. However, the true reason was a) it was such a surrealistic sensation and b) cause for some obvious reasons the rats seemed to prefer bushy surroundings. Those nasty fellows gave us innumerable sleepless nights when grabbing everything out of our vestibule which was not screwed down. At times they were having fun running back and forth over the cupola poles of our inner tent, as if our tent would be a circus manege!
It has been decades since the land of the Outback has been last so green – for that reason many areas of the country are affected by a huge mice and rat plague. The abundant rain has turned the arid desert into flowering land and the usually dry salt lakes are filled with plenty of water. Luckily, the heaviest precipitations were already over and we only got stuck once in the sticky mud. Apart from that we rattled at walking speed over gravel, rubble and corrugated paths, dragged the tandem over a few sandy patches and cheered up at every bit of hard pressed clay track. Interestingly enough, the wind’s biggest task seemed to be to blow always exactly straight at us from the front, no matter which direction we turned...
We rumbled down the legendary Birdsville-Track til Marree and then northwards along the spectacular, but also rough Oodnadatta-Track. Up to the point when our hub was completely wrecked and let us down in the middle of nowhere. Nothing that could not have been fixed with a little amount of snipped tent-pegs, a few meters of cord, some skills and a lot of creativity though. Adding a few broken spokes we muddled ourselves through and managed to pedal the last 200km until the tarmac road started again on the Stuart Highway. The rear wheel had endured enough damage – we flagged down a car and luckily got a lift directly to Alice Springs.
This is where we are now – stretching our legs a little, satisfying our cravings with the profuse variety of foods in the supermarkets and waiting for the spare part to finally arrive. We hope to be soon zooming towards Darwin. Luckily, it’s slowly getting warmer and we hope that the temperatures below zero degrees Celsius at dawn belong to the past :-)
22.06.11 - Mount Isa, Australia
As passionate diver we didn’t want to miss out on the opportunity to immerge ourselves into the waters of the Great Barrier Reef, the longest coral reef on earth. The dive safari brought us to the supposedly bests spots along the reef. Besides the sharks which were omnipresent in ample quantities the rest of the dive sites were not all that impressive. Nonetheless, the journey to the open sea was pleasant and indulging a chilled beer at sunset tuned us nicely into the Australian Way of Life!
While we still waited for our remaining equipment to arrive from New Zealand, we enjoyed some holiday feeling at the campsite in Cairns. We stayed for a whole week before we finally left with a heavily laden tandem. Heading west, we first climbed the Tablelands towards Atherton which insisted to stay steep. In return the air was cool and the surroundings exceptionally green – it almost felt as if we were in Switzerland :-)
Eventually, the vegetation turned dry and arid and the hills became less undulated. In Normanton – a dusty place at the end of the world – we got carried away in the midst of the annual mega event: the local rodeo! For two days did we camp amongst neighing horses, campfires and enormous pickup-trucks. The lasso swinging cowgirls and the fearless cowboys riding the wild bulls filled us with enthusiasm. What a thrilling Outback experience!
We are very excited and curious about what we’ll find next on the deserted path ahead. In any case, we have decided to cycle an additional loop along the dusty tracks southwards... will be offline for a while – catch you later!
15.05.11 - Cairns, Australia
The stretch from Wellington to Auckland was supposed to be a scenic train ride of twelve hours. Unfortunately, we only got to see as far as the dripping train window as it was raining cats and dogs – which also turned to become the trend for the following month.
Luckily, we decided to upgrade our means of transport. Therefore, we parked our tandem in the garage for the upcoming three weeks and zoomed off by campervan - including radio, windscreen wipers and a roof over our heads ;-)
This did not only enable us to travel happily sheltered but also did allow us to visit places which were off the beaten track. Admittedly, it helped us achieving an ample itinerary – traveling by gas pedal felt at times more exhausting than being on the road by muscular strength. We were usually the first ones to hit the road in the morning and literally the last one to check in at night on the camping grounds. New Zealand’s twisty and windy roads do slow four-wheelers substantially down...
Nonetheless, we found some time to do a few hikes besides the speeding by car. We even managed to take out our beach chairs and picnic table twice (o.k. not only because of the packed schedule but mostly because the weather didn’t allow it) – it was a bliss to enjoy a chilled beer with sea view.
Only one week before our New Zealand visa was due to expire were we finally given the “go ahead” from the Australian Ministry of Immigration – and only a couple of days later did we land expectantly on this huge continent. Here we are in tropical-sunny-warm Cairns – bikini, swimming trunks and flip-flops are in. Yeah!