After two months in Australia cycling and traveling in endless buses through the West and the Center of the country, I think we have forever changed our near-far concept. Here, 200km can be near, and 5000, far. That is by car, because everything is more than double by bicycle. These distances and the uninhabited West and Central Australia make it an ideal place for cycling, of course, if you carry enough food and water supplies.
We arrived in Perth, the city with one million of population more isolated of the planet Earth, on the 5th of August, and spent a few days with Jaime and Nigel, members of Warm Showers, acclimatizing to the new country and taking energies with the delicious meals Jaime cooked.
From the first day we could feel the great power of the sky here, protagonist during the 24 hours of the day… Looks like here there´s more sky than anywhere we’ve been.
Everywhere you can see these posters telling you the probability of a fire. We were on the second month of winter, we could be relax.
After Thailand we felt we wanted to cycle in an easy place, and Australia was a very good option. Maria had been cycling here 8 years ago and she knew it would be comfortable to move forward. At bedtime we haven´t had any problems, here is easy to camp anywhere or in the 24 hours free camping rest areas.
In addition the locals have always helped us when asking for a place for our tent.
Skies that you cannot get to watch in all their magnitude during the day, but in the evening become a spectacle of shapes and colors… hypnotist.
We wanted to see different wild animals and Australia is a paradise for that. 83% of mammals, 89% of reptiles, 90% of fish and insects and 93% of amphibians that inhabit Australia are endemic to this land, cannot be found elsewhere. Moreover, most of the areas we´ve crossed are uninhabited, what helps to get in touch with nature.
Parrots, Emus, Kangaroos, Bluetongue Lizards, Thorny dragons and lots of birds, insects and fish of many colors.
Australia is also known cause termites. Artists in the nest construction, they also draw elegant forms on trees and are involved in the manufacture of didjeridu, aboriginal musical instrument, by eating the center of the trunks.
We visited the Pinnacles Natural Park between Perth and Geraldton. It was nice to arrive and hear that we didn´t have to pay the entrance because we arrived by pushbike. Benefits of cycling in this vast distances land.
This day a table was reserved for us on the seafront.
Australia is full with resting areas where you can cook on gas barbecues, usually as clean as a whistle. We´ve used them for cooking the famous Caracola´s chapatis.
We didn´t lost in the streets of Cervantes.
Any shadow is good to eat something and rest.
Since we left Perth Maria was remembering Hellen, a teacher who eight years ago invited them to sleep at his home in Leeman. They didn´t keep in touch, but it was very easy to find her in the school. We enjoyed their company, laughter and good food.
One of the reasons we decided to fly to Perth and cycling in the West heading North was the wind. In this part of Australia and by this time, the South wind is the predominate and as you well know Eolo can be one of the best friends or one of the worst enemies of the cyclist.
What we tested in our bodies.
In Geraldton we were at Tim and Barbara´s home. Once again the of Warm Showers community gave us a beautiful gifts that cannot be forgotten. We recovered the lost energies, because the first week we noticed in our bodies the months we were without putting the bum in the seat… bike doesn´t forgive, friends!
Another reason to start in the West, was the unlikely rain. Winter in the West is much drier than in the South or East, although it may rain. We have had great luck, it rained two hours in a month… it´s not bad… although farmers were worried because the unusual dry winter.
Lots of grass and smalls ups and downs to create nice roads to advance quietly.
After Geraldton we were warned that we would begin to see the famous “Road Trains”, trucks that can reach up to 53.5 meters, what equates to a trailer with three more trailers, four in total.
The Central West Australia area is full of iron mines, which makes these trucks are often seen.
Although Australia is the driest country in the world, always has gifts to offer. In the West are well known the wild flowers, painting in colors the desert and making it a tourist attraction. Some of them retain their color and beauty up to two years after cutting. For us it has been a pleasure to enjoy these colors and shapes in such a dry place.
They are known as Grey Nomads (for their hair color). Many Australians, when they retire, buy a caravan or motorhome and travel around the island. Looking always for the good weather, they can live a peaceful nomadic life. Some people sell the house and start living unhurried, but spending a lot of money, because most of them always sleep in campsites and their budget is usually very high. For us they´ve been our fellow travelers and we´ve enjoyed their company and help… good people.
There are4 persons persquare kilometerliving in Australia,but we estimatethere are400flies persquare kilometer.
We have cycled very quietly, enjoying the little traffic.
Traveling in uninhabited sites gives you the possibility to put the tent anywhere at the end of the day. Australia is a paradise to enjoy the night in the middle of the” nothingness“, for some people, or the “whole”, for others.
But beware when you get through the bush, you have to keep an eye on balls that seem small medieval weapons and are camouflaged in the sand… you can win a flat tire or lose your inflatable mat in a heartbeat.
Distances… long distances… lots of kilometers to arrive anywhere.
The big problem to cycle through these lands is the lack of water, either potable or non-potable. In the West you can ride for days without finding water points, which forces you to carry a lot of liters, what means kilos, or ask for it to Grey Nomads when you need it, we opted for the second option. In the Center most of the rest areas have a tank, which gives you more peace of mind and makes you easier the camping.
If there is something known and important in Australia are the Roadhouses. Petrol stations in the main and secondary roads of the desert, essentials for all people who live or cross these lands. Gasoline, food, water and rest, basic things not so easy to find around here.
Australians are very good traveling with the caravan or camping trailer. There are models specificly prepared for the most inhospitable roads with 4×4. True professionals in driving in the middle of Australia and enjoying the solitude that this land offers.
We have not encountered many cyclist, this australian with maltese origins, came from the North running away from the heat and fed up with the headwinds. Everyone told us that the North was getting warm and encouraged us to not cycle there.
The less sexy moment while pedaling is when the good weather comes and you change your pants…
In Australia watch the sunset is a national sport, and more in the West. We met people enjoying as children the sunset, because in the other part of Australia they never see the sea eating the sun.
Another national sport is the campfire at night. They collect wood anywhere and easily and sit around the fire enjoying the evening.
And we also have been caught by the incredible sunsets and its colors.
In Exmouth, on the West Coast, there´s a coral reef very close to the shore and we have blown away watching fish of many colors and shapes. We also had the gift of being able to sail in a fishing boat. The owner went to fish squids and encouraged us to try… lucky or not, we caught nothing, but we enjoyed an amazing morning surrounded by crystal clear waters and corals.
We crossed the imaginary line of the Tropic of Capricorn, where the sun rays fall vertically during the December solstice.
Our intention was to arrive in Broome in one month, but in one month we were still in Exmouth, in the middle of the way, and we had to take a bus to complete our journey. There we were with the family of Max and Fleur, Warm Showers members, enjoying their company.
Many Chinese came to Broome for working in the pearls business and that is why there is a large Chinese community. Every year the Shingu Matsuri festival is celebrating and we were invited to participate in the parade held.
The camel is not original from Australia, they were imported in the nineteenth century for transportation, and now aside of being used for tourism, they living in the wild and are becoming a problem, there are already 750,000.
There is always a bit of strength to make a pirouette…
They are all Australians but with an origin and a very different actual situation.
The Chinese community maintain their customs and language.
Those who are losing, or have lost, their customs and languages are the original inhabitants of Australia.
200 years ago the white man came to Australia and decided they were the owner of these lands. They met with an Aboriginal community living in the island for 50,000 years (yes, fifty thousand, we have not misspelled), and that until then had not had any contact with another community. Soon they couldn’t move freely through their land, and many of them were killed, because the white man was not interested in having different people around. We can add that 70 years ago they were living as we lived 3000 years ago in Europe. You can imagine the shock they could feel with that quickly change. And by saying that they lived like 3000 years ago in Europe, we do not mean they lived “backward”, in any way. We believe that their way of life was much more natural than we are experiencing at the moment and they were far more intelligent in many ways. We recommend reading the book “Mutant Message Down Under”, from Marlo Morgan, to feel what we want to convey.
The current situation is hard, very hard. It is a society that is broken and lost in this crazy XXI century. Alcohol, drugs, unemployment, isolation, crimes are in the daily life of this society, that survives for state aid that try to closer them to the values of the white man. Would not be interesting that the white man also gave steps to understand this society? Once again we are faced with a difficult situation.
When you arrive in a new country, pedaling is very easy to get into contact with the different cultures and communities that form it… in Australia is very difficult… as you can see in the poster is banned from entering many areas inhabited by indigenous… protection or isolation?… inside the communities the alcohol and drugs are forbiden, and are governed by its laws, there they try to recover and maintain their culture.
Here’s an example of what we have commenting at first. These paintings you see are made in the thirties of the last century. It´s as if you go to the Altamira caves and see the Paleolithic painting. Time for reflection…
It is not until the white man when they start to paint in more durable materials, previously they only did on earth and bodies.
And then their paintings began to consider patrimony of all australians… Paradoxes of life.
In Alice Spring we enjoyed the company of James and his housemates after another long-long bus to get to the center of Australia. We have to thank them for encouraging us to take the alternative route to Uluru by the MacDonnell Ranges.
We returned to the cyclist life, easy, relaxed and unhurried… a luxury.
The surprise of feel this mountain range in the middle of Australia and look up and not see only the sky, was great.
The second part of the way brought us old memories about corrugated, sandy and dusty roads…
But everything has its prize and were a luxury the camping spots along the way…
… and enjoy one more time the incredible starry nigths in the outback.
The asphalt came back and we arrived in another mountainous area called Kings Canyon.
Here we rest the donkeys and went hiking through the canyon, which showed us his shapes and colors and where our legs told us it was very nice to walk for a while.
That afternoon we met Rodrigo and Raquel. A spanish couple who are working in Sydney and were on holidays visiting the area. They were in an important moment… they were thinking about starting a log trip with the backpack or with the bicycle. And what can be better than find two touring-cyclist to decide. It seems that the meeting took effect … Good luck friends!
We arrived at Yulara where we could enjoy the first day the “red” rock formations of “Kata Tjuta”, many heads in the native language.
The third day we went to say hello to the holy mountain of Uluru. Uluru is one of the largest monoliths in the world and not long ago was a sacred meeting place for Aboriginal tribes, until the white man decided to turn it into a tourist attraction. Today attracts thousands of people from around the world. We doubt if go or not, but in the end we thought it deserves a deep visit. You may feel around Uluru that you are in a different, special place, putting aside the mass tourism. But ultimately, mass or not, we were all there enjoying the place each in its own way, better or worse, different. The climb up was open, but we decided not to do it and respect the aborigines desires, they ask not to do.
… formations that looks like paintings.
Watch the sunset is one of the attractions of Uluru. The red color of the wall gain in intensity until the sun goes down and the shade goes up the wall turning off the rock.
In Uluru we met Manolo, a spanish cyclist who is on the road for 2 years and made almost the same route than us. We were instructed on the concept of “minimal” by our friend.
Again, buses to get to the South. This time we could sleep properly while waiting the last bus.
And in Warrnambool the great reward waiting for us… Jacqui, Pete, William, Maya and Sophia. Again Maria reencountered with wonderful people she met on the previous trip. And here, with them, we have felt the warmth of friendship and family, we have eaten very good, we have been pampered and we have adapted to the new climate that is waiting for us… lower temperatures and possible rain.
Tomorrow we go to Melbourne… the Great Ocean Road and Tasmania ahead…