Poor old Donald Twunt


I had a plan 7 weeks ago and it was simple, arrive in Bali from Australia and head East as far as I could through Indonesia. Bali and its Hindu culture has much for the eyes to enjoy but it also has lots of Toureeests.


Hop on this and you can gently float across too Lombok. It has Indonesia’s second Highest Volcano, then onto Sumbawa and Flores, the home of the Komodo Dragon. its cheap as chips and if you are looking to hang out with Indonesians this is the way. Be prepared to see dolphins and Manta rays and say WOW lots.


Apart from the possibility of a huge climb up Mount Rinjani and this small climb over ‘Monkey Forest’ in the West of Lombok, most of this Island looks relatively flat but the next few Islands have a bit more climbing and the wet season which is hanging on late this year leaves the roads like ice, with a twitchy front wheel and little or no traction on the rear. A few locals on scooters have come unstuck before my eyes and the thought of a busted collar-bone or similar in the remoter parts of Indonesia leaves me with the best ‘tough’ decision in the World.


Its an easy decision. Gili Air (Chilled out) Gili Meno (Romance) and Gili T (Party Island) are three tiny tropical Islands just off the Lombok Coast. 69pence on something similar to this covers the cost of the short Journey to my choice, Gili Air. Get some local weather advice and wait.


Its just about 3 miles to walk around the edge of Gili Air and if you have Strava you can try and beat my very own tropical “king of the Mountain”. Or if you can find the time to leave your hammock, run or swim around the Island.


It gets better, the only transport on the Island are Horse & Cart Taxi’s, Bicycles or on foot. The only sounds are the waves lapping on the shore or boats passing with the sound of the Call to Prayer throughout the day.


Even the Horses get a refreshing evening dip.



Here are my Host’s at Abdi Fantastik Bungalows. Poor old Donald Twunt, if he wasn’t so scared of Muslims he could have an amazing time.


And why not stay if your Neighbours look a bit like this?



So the Komodo Dragon is my goal in Flores, but when this Handsome Fella wanders across the road and past my bungalow, I’m thinking my eyes may already be satisfied. This Monitor lizard is over 3ft long and despite his big Frame can really get a move on if needed.



Its less than Basic and even at £9.50 per night its a bit budget stretching. Its also more than perfect. Hammock – Check. (if you want a bit more luxury its here).



Its deceptive for sure but don’t be fooled, look east at Mt Rinjani. Its the second Highest Volcano in Indonesia at 3726m. Its active as well and as recently as last year kept flights grounded in Bali. Get up early because by  mid morning she will be covered in cloud.


If sunrise over Mt Rinjani gets you excited then pop to the South of Gili Air for a cracking sunset over Bali’s biggest Volcano.


There it is, Mount Agung, Bali’s biggest Volcano at just a sniff over 3000 metres and a rare sight, an Indonesian not smiling. Easily fixed though, a smile is always returned with a smile.



Plenty of coral around here, I guess much if it might be described as bleached but its still beautiful and home to the Snorkelers favourite – Turtles. Add a splash of colour from tropical fish and if you are lucky like me, you may get a look at flying fish and Manta Rays coming close! Oh yes, don’t forget to chuck in more bucket loads of fish with all the colours of the Rainbow.


Its renowned for great Scuba diving and Free Diving.


Here is my tip of the day. If you are hanging around near the Coral, a pair of reef shoes is a must. 3 un-spectacular grazes leave my foot swollen like a balloon, for a while it was looking pretty serious, apparently the bacteria from Coral is not to be messed with.


There is always a silver lining and this is why Indonesia is my favourite country by a whisker. The travellers favourite “Its amazing, the people with the least will give you most” alongside the biggest smiles wins for me. To renew my Visa a flight too Singapore is the best option. It coincided with my foot at its worst. These two have seen me hobbling along the road in serious pain on the way to the airport. They have administered kindness, some pain killers and some Rice. The price? Nothing, except a few selfies.


So Indonesia is slap bang in the Ring of Fire hence the countless Volcanoes. Chuck in (look in the middle of the paper) a Solar eclipse (We needed to be in Sumatra for the full eclipse) add a Lunar eclipse a couple of weeks later and my very first earthquake or maybe a tremor? Apparently it was 4.5 on the richter scale.


Amazing thing is that although Black clouds, Rain and thunder rumbled over Lombok everyday, just a mile or so off the coast the Gili’s just seemed to escape it all. But on the odd day it did arrive the local ladies just carried on working and like the rest of Asia they are not only beautiful, but also super tough. I’m putting those two bags in the two bags of cement category. Incredible stuff.


For me it is all about the people, every step of Indonesia has been rammed with smiles and laughter and this is a great place to experience the ‘luxury’ of a tropical paradise and still feel the village life as it goes on around you.


I have met some people who have been coming here for years and the last few years have seen an explosion of restaurants and bars to cater for our western tastes, but the Local Warungs (a kind of semi-permanent pop-up restaurant) provide (in my opinion and most others) an experience which proves the most un-western looking eateries are not only the most delicious and great Value. I’ll have a Nasi Goreng Please. (fried rice with chicken and a fried egg chucked on top).


And here are the Gado-Gado Queens. Its basically a load of vegetables with a kind of peanut sauce on top. Flipping delicious and all served up with large portions of smiling!


Yep, welcome too a little slice of Indonesian paradise.

7 weeks of doing less than nothing has been great but the party is over it looks like wet season is over. Tomorrow I should collect my new Visa extension. All I have to do is decide to head East or West (or back too Gili Air).



Poor Old Donald Twunt














Chewed up and Spat out.

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Getting beaten is one thing BUT paying to escape is another.

I never imagined I would be sad leaving Australia but I am. I’m ready for a change though.
It was always going to be touch and go if I could make Darwin from Katherine. Pine Creek was the decider, in fact my body and the sensible part of my brain knew before I rolled or limped into town. Dizzy spells and exhaustion from a good couple of relentless summer months mean that although I still ‘could’ I definitely shouldn’t. By 2pm not one passing vehicle has been anything but local traffic. I’ve been saved by Greyhound Australia and no glorious arrival in Darwin for me, just the knowledge I had a fair go and the outback has spat me out, the final 140 miles have beaten me. Darwin is awesome. Its half empty because its rainy season. The storms that occasionally arrive in town are refreshing and impressive but best viewed from a distance.


I can’t take the glory for this incredible picture, but its the perfect idea of what hangs about around Darwin.

They call it “‘Australia’s Storm Capital’ and its a fair title. Every night after dark just watching what in my eyes looks like Super Cells lurking offshore, is possibly the most awe inspiring image of my entire trip.
Its the NT/Outback signature, lightning storms in every direction but rarely close enough to hear the thunder.
When the Suns out its still hot but not quite outback hot and humidity is extreme, it tropical after all.
Strange thing is, it doesn’t feel that Australian. Its not a particularly memorable CBD in terms of stuff for your eyes but its mix of Asians and Backpackers means plenty of Asian food and cheap as well. Chuck in the local Aussie population and Aboriginals and it makes for an easy going colorful City.
Like the outback its not bothered by labels and designer stuff and it all feels that just surviving the Wet Season is all that matters. Everything happens kinda slowly, it still feels efficient but its like the pressure of modern life never really took hold. Its Awesome.
10.5 stone is probably as light as I’ve been in a while. I’m extremely pleased to give all of my remaining pasta, sauces and western food away and gorge on Vietnamese, Thai and any number of Asian dishes. Chuck a few Kebabs in the mix and maybe I’ve put a bit of weight back on.


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Heading North into the Outback in summertime was far tougher than I expected, BUT just as awesome as I expected.

Tomorrow I’ll be back in Asia.
It looks like its going to be similar weather.
Maybe just a month or two of gentle riding, plenty of lazing around on beaches with a few Volcanoes’ thrown in the mix.
If you want a mind blowing adventure and love the idea of nothingness, I would highly recommend a bike ride through the Australian Outback (just do it in winter and NOT summer) and in fact anywhere in Aussie, the locals are great, the scenery is just something else and although at some point it felt that Kangaroo’s were just some crazy Idea dreamt up by marketing men, when two or three bounce across the highway its everything you need to complete your Aussie dream.
Thanks Aussie, its been Awesome!
Just for the record, my Busch & Mueller E-Werk has given up again.


Back on It.


In theory, just 3 days to Darwin and no more Aussie mileage and I’m glad, its beyond any pleasure now and if a lift appears there will be no hesitation. If its riding its like this, 56 miles from Katherine to Pine Creek, nothing in between (accomplished – although the rumoured 43c today seems pretty believable).

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Tomorrow, 70 miles to Adelaide river with two early roadhouses’… Perfect. Then one more 70 miler to Darwin with a couple of Roadhouse’s towards the finish.
Its not all about griping though, for last 5 days its all about doing nothing in Katherine or more specifically doing nothing at Coco’s.

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I loved Coco’s on the way down and Coco loves Cyclists so not only can you swap stories and learn great stuff from a man who savours and Hoovers up stories of Cyclist who pass through you’ll get a cyclist discount. 25 Aussie Dollars gets an air-con 4 bed dorm and because only lunatics and a few backpackers and Aussie Outback travellers are up this way in the silly season, its deliciously relaxing and quiet. My brain needs emptying and apart from a few Q&A sessions, I still can’t resist letting a little information in even if it enters one ear and exits the other immediately, the brief moment it passes through – Awesome.
A bit like learning that just recently an average Joe sorta local passed away in an almost unremarkable sorta way when its discovered this fella was Russian Royalty and 3rd in line to the throne, until that is, the revolution came along and Australia was where he ended up. Attracted initially by Peanut growing in the region, then spending many years as just another man on the street working for the water companies. In all this time he never even mentioned who he was. His latter years found him in Katherine, the story goes, as he passed through Katherine many moons ago, someone stole his car and he never left the place. No-one quite knows the whole story, but if you ask me, like me, he surely must of just fallen in love with the nothing. Its easy, really it is.
Anyway, Cocos is a must stop for the budget Conscious Traveller in Katherine, but for now, 5 days of Mac’ds means I’m happy (I think) to make the leap to the End of Aussie.

Got me a lift again. 48 Outback Hours



Here is the Python from Larrimah, he is an Olive Python.




Its the road to trying to stay awake for 24hrs… Its the cool moment, probably something like 28c, its about 6-30am in this picture.




These are Paper Bark, they have adapted to survive fire, its highly likely this started from a lighting strike.




Warlock Ponds. 7 months ago heading south this was bone dry. Now water stretches either way as far as the eye can see. Its not for swimming though, the water brings Saltwater Crocodiles. I didn’t get to see any, night time with a powerful light is best. You can see the eyes of the Crocs, they appear orange/yellow.




Todays Goal is Mataranka, its only about 46 miles, a relatively short hop but the next life is another 65 miles. Its too far for one leap in this environment. Like the Local Aboriginals, staying out of the heat is all you can do. 




And just watching… In this case the traffic is light and the majority of what you will see is the 4wd or Utes.




But if you are not driving anywhere, getting out of the heat is the rule. You can’t avoid humidity but getting out of the sun is essential.




The plan is to rest up today, maybe get some sleep and ride towards Life tonight. Its too hot for sleeping and anyway I have some new mates. The three white Fellas are on a road trip from NSW in a now busted 20 Year Old Land Rover Discovery. The Black Fella (its what people call each other here) also has a busted Ute. The Nearest replacement parts are 400 km North in Darwin. Mataranka is the home of the Never Never. It implies many things such as you “Never Never leave without water” or the Never Never ending landscape of the Bush. I’m waiting for dark, my new mates are waiting for parts.



And if its not 4wd’s or Utes, its road Trains. You can hear them approaching from miles away, they make a deep throaty roar.  Wanna buy a Prime Mover (tractor unit) of your own?Expect these specs. A 600bhp 15 litre Cummins Engine. It can tow up to 260 tonnes and weighs about 14 tonnes. If you want a new one expect to part with something in the Region of 600000 Aus Dollars.




Keep an eye on the late afternoon clouds, bubbling up for rain, maybe. It will cool things initially but then the Humidity will creep even higher. The humidity generally sits around 80-90%




Even if you live here it doesn’t seem you ever get used to the Summer Heat. Everyone including us, paces and drinks and paces.



Personally I am on my 12th bottle of Coke, Water or PowerAid. Its an expensive hobby at about 5 Aus Dollars a go. Not everyone shares the soft drink taste though. The Aussie Discovery drivers are quaffing large amounts of Grog. Same for this fella.



The Busted Ute. is that the biggest Bull-bar on a Ute EVER?




Things get a bit lively as the sun goes down and the beers start flowing, it time to grab a few hours sleep before tonight’s night ride.




Mataranka is famous for its Hot Springs. This is Bitter Springs, its not the main attraction.




But its going to be as perfect as it gets for camping. “Not so many Mosquitoes here” I’m told.



Its hot as hell, but the pleasure of never wearing anything more than shorts & t-shirt 24hr hours a day is a great feeling. Especially for the POM.


I managed a few hours sleep, it was never going to be enough. 12.40am is my start time, its not even cool but the Goal of the first Town in maybe 1200km is a great carrot.

I never made the 65 miles. At about 6-30am with the heat of the day about to start again, flagging down a ute for the last 20 miles is my only option. A midnight breakfast of cold bake beans and a tin of pears means I’ve bonked big time.

The Golden Arches have never looked so good. Time for a few days off at Coco’s. Just about 200 miles to Darwin now. I am going to eat as much Macdonald’s as I fancy!

Its my Everest


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A great Picture that Sums about some of the best outback moments, incredible Sunsets and a Fire (in the winter anyway).

It might be a bit of an exaggeration, maybe its not but really there is little to love about heading North, extreme heat, extreme humidity and even todays 57 miles feels almost too long. Im completely over Pasta and Muesli and Muesli Bars, maybe the heat doesn’t help but almost 9 months of this stuff, leaves me cold. I just cant get it down.

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Its like an English Breakfast with a big lump of steak chucked in!

Not eating is clearly not a option either and a monster fry up for breakfast doesn’t help in terms at leaving at sensible O’clock . It means stupidly I’ve missed the cool early hours by the time I’m moving at 8-30 am (Idiot). You fight all night to sleep and grabble mosquitoes AND the sweat leaves my mat like a greasy pole and the stench, god the smell of stuff that’s not dried properly cos it never does in the humidity is pushing my limit of tolerance. Its kind of a complaint but its more of a fact AND I chose this ridiculous time of year and I don’t actually hate it as much as fear it. Despite the tricky emotions you can add another, the short lived but nonetheless indescribably and all encompassing Joy you feel as that long straight and almost virtually flat road welcomes you first thing in the morning. Bag that feeling and sell it and you would be an overnight billionaire.

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Find a layby with a truck in it, dive into the shade of the road train for brief respite and clamber up the side of the cab and without fail the Truckie will give you gold.. Cold Water. They know your nuts, I know I’m nuts and still they support you.
Every 10 or so miles diving under a tree is essential, twice the light traffic has provided me with ice cold Pepsi. People really do keep you going and that feeling is not to be underestimated.

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Of course there is a reason for fighting on and tonight its Larrimah, constantly voted amongst Australia’s top 10 roadhouse’s. Initially you might wonder why, the half collapsed petrol station canopy opposite shows this place has been forgotten by time. Population, I’m guessing maybe 20?
Some of the bigger roadhouse’s are manned by backpackers, nice people and all that BUT they ain’t locals. In Larrimah they are AND that’s the gift, this is the price worth paying. Barry & Larry are two 85 year old truckie mates from back in the day.
Back in the day when Larrimah was bustling as the train left here for Darwin. There is no train here anymore and its less than bustling. The sign that points to the WW2 hospital points to thick undergrowth, but the airstrip is still used sporadically by light aircraft. Trying to imagine the 700 or so GI’s who were stationed here is an interesting thought.
“30 years ago this place was a great place to experience” Barry tells me and Larry furiously nods in agreement.

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The legendary Outback Story Tellers…

“Travellers in Swags or backpackers were laid out everywhere, it was a real party place”
I can’t repeat many of their colourful stories but I can tell you with every tinnie these old fellas quaff the better they get.

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Its worth every pedal to hear these story tellers.

After about 3 hrs of drinking with the fellas arguing about who bought the last round and the speech getting a little slurred I’ve had to make a point.
“You said this was your last beer maybe 7 rounds ago and you had to head home?”
“Aaah yes, home is that Caravan just over there”
They have left me with a great fact.
I’ve noticed especially in the outback if you ask “how far is something” the answer is always in time, not in distance. Makes perfect sense really and with not a roundabout or set of traffic lights or any meaningful traffic to slow you down for maybe 3 weeks its the perfect description.
“Back in the day” Larry slurs, “It was unheard of to drive Sober (possibly an exaggeration?) and distance was counted in the amount of stubbies it took to drink to get to your destination”
Its very wrong of course these days to measure in such a fashion but I’ve had it confirmed, yes this was almost officially the way! Outback Brilliance I tell ya!
Or how about the very homemade zoo? Realistically I can’t stand the idea of Zoo’s but this is the outback and the wallabies, countless colourful birds and Emu’s which relatively have ‘good’ space are just incredible. I’ve missed loads but the blind (born with no eyes) Saltwater Croc is easily my favorite and although Loved may not be the correct word, I mean, can you love a Croc? He is clearly being well looked after and respected. And its all in that amazing outback ‘this is how we do it” fashion with no mind overloading OTT health and safety signage. It just works right!
And learning that the Northern Territory has experienced the most rain in years which explains the gorgeous foliage, miles of water AND thrilling news. Maybe 40k up the road I’ll cross a bridge which is likely to give me a rare view of Crocs in the wild. Tales of flooded unsealed roads and caravans and 4wd vehicles being washed away is open mouth stuff. No rain forecast for the foreseeable future though. And it gets better, my diet of Monster Burgers and Fry ups has been kicked into touch. The staff are having a roast with actual Beef and its as tender as you can imagine… Pasta…its just a hazy distant nightmare. And it gets more exciting, Barry the owner has just stumbled across a Python, he’s wandered round to show us. Its just a one metre tiddler but what a looker!
“He’ll get to maybe 4 metres” he tells me as he pops it into a cloth sack for the night.
Tomorrow when I head 80 km into town, ill drop him off into the wild”
“Isn’t that a bit harsh?” I’ve asked him.
“Not at all, he will be fine but if I drop him any closer he will be straight back and I have a lot of animals to take care of here”.

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The Larrimah Hotel, if you pass its definitely worth stopping, in fact its a must.

He is a proper, very knowledgeable Bush man.
“So when I lay on my mat in the Bush at night” I’ve asked “Am I in danger from snakes?”. Its important to know because I’ve learnt they are creature of the night.
“Not at all, hey for sure shit happens, but he will sense you and avoid you, even he knows you are tooo big a meal”
This is maybe 5% of the information I’ve learnt tonight, my mind is stretched beyond awesome.
See, I may paint a grim picture of riding in the outback of late but this makes it sooo worth it and anyway if you pick the winter months, insects and hot weather just ain’t around.
As for my challenging rides, only 5 smallish steps remain and the challenge of making it to Darwin will be mine (hopefully) and I may hate the days, but I love the challenge…
Up for it anyone? Its fun down here on Everest.

Insane Humidity


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Want to see a Wallaby or Kangaroo? Get up early!

That will be my last night in the Bush, firstly because roughly every 60 or 70 miles from here to Darwin there is life.
Even if I can ride further Its not a great plan.

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Wild Water Buffalo, in this case just wandering around the Servo at Dunmarra.

The wet season is well and truly here, not that anything other than the pattern of clear Blue Sky’s in the morning followed by clouds bubbling up in the afternoon is likely to change but recent storms mean that on the flood plains water is lying everywhere.
It means the bush is beautifully green, its almost unrecognizable from the dry brown winter landscape when I rode south 8 months ago. The Culverts that were bone dry and made for perfect (I think) camp spots are full of water. The brown grass is now thick and lush.

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Long, straight, flat and very Lush!

Cold nights are replaced by sweltering nights and the humidity which I’d heard would crank up from Katherine which is about 200 miles North has arrived early.
The mosquitoes night shift and fly day shift just blurs into one, avoid the flies by getting in your tent, avoid the mosquitoes by getting out of your tent. And when in the tent sweat like a dog and create puddles of sweat.

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“This is the most Rain we have had in Years”

Heading South not a fly or insect was to be seen. Different times.
The Brahman cattle wander across the road with that typical inquisitive but also nervous look and to add to the mix a few wild water buffalo have appeared, apparently they are wandering in from the cape.

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Its my mate from yesterday, the Naturist. “don’t get out of the vehicle PLEASE”

Both Breeds really are a reminder that Asia is not so far away and getting a lift is still very much a possibility, but trying to avoid this is important, not just because I don’t want to give up but also because Indonesia is going to be just as sticky.

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Tonight’s Road House is at Daly Waters.

And also, as uncomfortable as it is, its kind of just baby steps now. I give myself a 50/50 chance of making Darwin under my own steam.

A night in the Bush


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Guess What, its long almost flat and very straight. Shouldn’t be good but it is!

The plan is still land on road houses or rest areas if its possible, a shower at a rest area and a fridge full of ice cold drinks at the end of the days is welcome respite from the heat and even though the effects of stepping out of a cooling shower doesn’t last long its priceless. Its an expensive pastime, everything is VERY expensive and but if like this morning the army are around then a fry up is the perfect start to the day.

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Its just possible that Saltwater Crocodiles could be hanging around in here.

Tonight though its not really an option and its the craziest night in a long time. Not for the right reasons either. Elliott is todays main town and when I passed through 6 months or so ago it was advised ‘don’t hang around here’. Its an Aboriginal Township and it was my first experience of ‘Dry’ or no alcohol Australia. It doesn’t seem completely dry, a 6 pack can be bought and if you do your name an ID is noted. There are big fines for shop keepers or even me if I buy booze on behalf of others. I’ve been asked 3 times already. Its like a Town the world forgot, rubbish everywhere, the few properties around have high fences around them, tired, neglected dogs shelter from the sun but occasionally jump up and fight with each other. It feels grim here. Lots of problems in these communities usually it seems based around alcohol. Its 57 miles since the last life though and it has a road house and the last tiny supermarket for about 200 miles so with it being the middle of the day, stopping here until the heat dies a little is my choice.

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If the Stuart Highways wasn’t sealed it would probably look a lot like this.

Plenty of happy looking children around, as always a smile gets a smile back. Chattering ladies and lots of shuffling old fellas.
It would be daft to imagine things are less than perfect here but until someone’s proved me wrong I’ll always try and be friendly.
Some old boys who clearly like the Grog (booze) are friendly enough. Shannon Dixon Snr is happy to have a chat and he’s answered my question about “what’s out there in the bush”.
I’ve got a big smile and a run down of what bush tucker I might find.
Wild Banana
Wild Orange
Paw Paw
Bush Turkey
Guana – Walanga (aboriginal word).

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Shannon Dixon Jnr.

It sounds like a feast if you know where to look and he’s a happy, friendly fella but the interaction includes several requests for me to buy him some Grog. Its sad, booze just doesn’t sit well with these communities, until a few hundred years ago it didn’t exist here and the sugar as well causes all sorts of problems. This stuff just was never part of the diet or culture I’m told.
It seems to me a these people are just stuck in a no mans land of the old ways and modern life.

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Jedda-Jevane Williams and the Barkly Desert Crew, heading to Gigs as far away as Perth.

Jedda-Jevane Williams is a positive story though, he is part of a program using music to help give up the booze and weed.
“Music has changed my life” He has a CD and DVD and I now have my own copy. Thanks Jedda. He and two record producers from Melbourne who devised this program are just heading off to pick up some more aspiring Aboriginal hip hop artists who make up the Barkly desert Culture crew and will be heading as far as Perth to play some gigs.
I’ve learnt a few Basic Aboriginal words but also discovered the language is very local. Currently there are 52 Aboriginal languages in use across Australia.
Its definitely the sort of morning to get the mind working overdrive but I don’t think Aussie needs my pointless travelers opinions.
Im heading for Newcastle Waters Rest Area, it has water and a table to sleep in I’m told, its just too hot for tents.

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A little shade and some Cold water from Road Workers.

If you need something to take your mind off the days questions you’ll find it here, well I did today. A Fella in his converted ex Army Ambulance is having a beer, perched quite happily on a camp chair. He looks friendly and its time for a chat and maybe some company for tonight. But wait, as I get closer it turns out he’s happily stark naked. He’s a nice fella but despite the heat naturism is not my thing and some quick maths tells me if I can squeeze another 15 miles out of my tired legs, tomorrows ride to the legendary Daly Waters Roadhouse will drop from about 75 miles to an easy 60 miler with a roadhouse in between. Its lucky that, because this bit of the Northern Territory is very green and lush with plenty of water lying around. It means that when the sun goes down and the flies have finished there day shift, almost simultaneously the mosquitoes have moved in, clouds of them and I’ve beat a hasty retreat to my swiftly erected tent. The humming is almost deafening, being outside is impossible and cooking dinner is not an option. Just a few muesli bars tonight and small puddles of water from the sweat that drips off me. Its insane. If I need the toilet tonight I’ll be using my water bottle.
It looks like my next food will be 30 miles down the road tomorrow morning and I think I’ll need it.

Northern Territory/Stuart Highway

One of the best things about riding around is that I’m really learning exactly where things are in the world as opposed to just knowing roughly where they are on the map. It turns out that the distance between Australia and Papua New Guinea is something like just 50 miles at its narrowest (no one in the Road House can quite agree, whatever its close) and I’ve gone from thinking Aussie is just stuck out in the middle of nowhere, away from all the worlds worries, tucked away safely RIGHT over there.
It turns out that places like Darwin & Townsville on the coast and even Katherine which is a bit more inland were bombed by the Japanese in World War II and if you draw a line West from Brisbane (that would roughly cut the country in half) the Aussies decided if the Japanese came (and they were close) they would give up the almost uninhabitable dry dusty North and defend from the South.
Seems like a great plan, not a lot of anything around here except my new friends the ‘Wandering stock’. Much of the land around here is not even fenced, beware cattle, just mooching in the road. (This is the Main Route from North to South Aussie).
It still means that when two separate car drivers have stopped and passed me an ice cold beer out of the window and have asked “What on earth are you doing out here” I can confidently reply “I’m not entirely sure cos its bloody hot, but this huge nothing is everything, its AWESOME”.
I’ll still take every day step by step, its 38c today, tomorrow 39c and just keep adding another 1c for the next few days until its reaches 43c.
The only reason I can confidently give it a go is because relatively there is lots of life.
25 miles has a rest area (read table, Shade and a huge tank of Drinkable water), at 50 miles is Banka Banka.
Its an old deserted Cattle Station, all the buildings still stand in that sun battered Northern Territory Style but in season (in about a month) it will be full of Grey Nomads enjoying the Nothing.
Banka Banka has no power (except generators), no internet, no telephone but it does have some delicious bore water. Some bore water is grim and some is just delicious, depends exactly where you are.
“So why do you like it out here?” I’ve asked the owners who are patiently waiting for the new season by just gently lazing out of the Sun under this most typical Aussie Veranda.
“We love the disconnected feeling and when the Grey Nomads come back, we meet loads of different Characters and we love the NOTHING”.
Everyone loves the Nothing, shouldn’t be good but it is.
Its especially good at Banka Banka because it has hundreds of Galahs’ very pretty, very flighty and very noisy.
When I say nothing Banka Banka has a bit of History, it was a WW2 staging post according to a tired, sun beaten sign that’s almost swallowed by the bush. It has a photo of rows and rows of tents and photos of American GI’s who despite the smiles must have wondered what on earth they were doing here. Freezing Winter nights and insane Summer Days. Thats what I have learnt, Aussie ain’t all boardies, surf boards and definitely NO Fosters and a constant threat of extreme weather.
The rumour is in Perth right now (admittedly its over 2000km to the west so not exactly close) its touching 50c and is possibly the hottest place on earth.
Here, the maybe 100 Aussie Defence Force who have turned up at Jenner Springs Roadhouse, just like the POM are scratching around and pacing in the stifling night time heat. The choice, get in your swag and hide from mosquitoes and fry in hell or lay outside and get chomped. Getting Chomped for me I think, I’ve had a DEET bath, stuff the consequences.
So 3 places to top up with water means todays 85 mile route is hardly busy, but memory tells me the Stuart Highway will pretty much follow this pattern and if I can keep the water up, keep smeared in Factor 50 and keep my head covered, enjoying the Nothingness is just about bearable and oh so worth it. In less than a month I’ll be back in the hustle bustle of SE Asia, that’s why Im hanging in and hanging in is the best description. Happily.

New Life, New Travelling.

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Its a Road Train, just a different sort of Road Train.

“Are you Awake POM?”
Yes Fellas, by the way its 5-30am”
“Yes we just wanted to be sure you were awake”
The truckies pleasure at waking me early in the Truckies Lounge, which is a battered Porta Cabin with a kettle in the corner, turned out to be the perfect start to my day.
At the pumps a, well I don’t know how to describe it except it contained a family of four, 2 horses, 2 Dogs, 1 Quad Bike, 1 trials bike, and enough possessions to move into a furnished house in the Outback has just rolled up for fuel.

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“Hello Mate, My Name is Big Boy”. Even at 5-30 am you cannot help but smile and know its going to be a fun trip.

Jonno, Tarea (everyone calls me Fred) and the two Children, Big Boy & Emily have not even hesitated when I asked if they had room and they only just do for me and the Black Flash.
They are moving into the outback and by the end of the day will have completed there 2500km journey where Jonno will be head stockman, his wife Fred will run the house and for 2 days a week will join the other Stockmen (ringers) on a 4 1/2 million acre Cattle Farm and manage 60000 head of cattle. The quad bike/motorbike will be used to get around and if its not practical they will use the horses. They are bringing all of this along with them in a tired looking but fully functional Truck and trailer, the rear part of which is like a caravan and the front part holds the 2 magnificent horses and the two dog which are of course a Blue Heeler and a Kelpie Cross (with what we don’t know) which are THE Aussie Cattle dogs.

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Its great being back in the NT – Its Outback Supreme!

Not only is it a new Job its the first time Fred has ever ventured out of Queensland (I am her official guide and she keeps asking what’s it like out here because I have ridden the Stuart highway once already) and today we will cross back into the awesome and very remote Northern Territory via the Barkly Tablelands. This means bar the very first few K’s when we leave the very red and rugged Mt Isa landscape behind its going to be flat, followed by more flat and just a little bit more flat. Its the classic outback case of ‘Nothing is Everything’. In that strange way its very captivating.

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Two Thoughts – I wish I was on my bike more than anything.  I am so Glad I am not on my Bike. If the weather had been kind it would have taken 6 days to cross the Barkly Tablelands. just two Roadhouses along the entire route. Huge, Empty, Flat, Captivating and a touch Daunting.

My lift gets me back on the Stuart Highway at 3 Ways. Im in familiar territory now and compared to the Barkly Table lands, the Stuart Highway between now and Darwin is relatively full of Roadhouses and even one town. It will get hotter before it gets cooler again and when it gets ‘slightly’ cooler it will become very humid again.

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L-R Big Boy, Jonno, Emily & Fred. Off to a new life in the Bush. Top People!

I can carry more water than I need to make it between life now but its pretty obvious to me now that there is no guarantee I wont be looking for another lift. Sods Law meant if I had ridden yesterday and the weather forecast was correct I would have been blown across the tablelands with a perfect tailwind. But now i’m heading North it looks like Northerlies which are the norm for this time of year and 43c temps might be making up my mind for me.

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Defeat Sucks, but when you see this amount of water just lying around its a reminder that the outback is a harsh environment and can bite you on the arse anytime. A few days ago this road was shut through flooding. Lots of water but would it be good for drinking? Opinions are divided.

My new mates have turned left off the Stuart Highway and onto a red unsealed road creating a huge cloud of dust for the final 40 miles towards a new life.
For them now mail will arrive once a week by light aircraft, I guess we must call it a flock of Chicken Hawks are circling just too the left, they either have found a thermal to glide higher or something dead has caught their eye. The huge crows out here are a bit more aggressive, Jonno has told me he has seen cattle stuck in the mud and the bolder crows won’t hesitate to start tucking into trapped livestock before they are dead and he has witnessed the bigger Eagles taking out baby calf’s.
Its true to say there is nothing out here, not even a river to laze by on a day off.
When I asked why they do it the answer is simple “Because we love it and its what we do”.
The children are not quite old enough for school yet but in a year or so when they are, some Home Schooling and a Governess will provide education.
I’m in awe of these people.

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Its proved difficult to capture what the outback means in a picture..

They have also added “We prefer the rolling and greener landscape of the Cape back in Queensland, but the Mitchell Grass out here is more productive for cattle, and the wages are higher, we need to follow the work”.
Its amazing to think that back on the Barkly Tablelands the average Rainfall is just 18 inches a year but now they are in drought for the last 3 years they are getting just 6 inches a year, but yet again large amounts of water from recent storms make it hard to believe, but the eyes are deceived, its just not enough, BUT its wet season now and fingers crossed they get the rain they need.

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For now, I’m putting my tent up at the 3 ways roadhouse and its hard to believe that when I came through here about 6 months ago, night-time temperature hovered around 0c and I slept tucked up in my sleeping bag with my wooly hat on. Now, I’m only putting my tent up because of the mosquitoes and will be laying on just my mat, sweating like a dog.
What an amazing day.

Outback 1 – POM 0

Its been fun morning in Mt Isa and Aussie Outback ‘can do’ has been in full effect. You don’t see so many touring cyclists with trailers and the few I’ve seen have mixed views regarding how useful or practical they are, seems like they polarize opinions. Loosely it seems if you are in a relatively flat environment (like Aussie) its a great plan and that’s why I’m clutching at straws, this would be the perfect solution for carrying enough water for the outback summer. Its dawned on me at 5am that my set up with water is less than secure and far from ideal. I’ve seen billboards for the Local MP and have recognised him as he pulls up in his 4wd. Its a fact if you ask you don’t always get but if you don’t ask the odds of getting are reduced dramatically. It seems a fair bet that the local MP might know who or where to ask about a trailer. He also has an amazing fact. The area he represents is not far from the size of France. He’s made a few unsuccessful Phone Calls but tells me “I’ll keep trying, in the meantime head to my office around the corner, Astrid will help you with the hunt AND its cool AND you can keep hydrated”.

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“Its gonna be hot out there” The locals tell me.

The local sports shop sell bicycles but not trailers “We can get you one ordered in but it will take about a week”. Thats no where near fast enough but they’ve put a request on there Facebook page, maybe just maybe someone has one gathering dust in a Mount Isa shed somewhere. Only two Warm Shower hosts in town, I’ve sent both messages with no luck. The local buy & sell store tells me “I’ve seen a couple over the years but right now I cant help ya”.
Sitting in Maccas, what I have already know but have been trying my hardest to persuade myself I’m wrong about is finally accepted.

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The Mount Isa Cycling Club… Essential Advice…

It seems my MP friend has contacted the local bicycle club several have appeared whilst I’m slurping on a Raspberry Shake “Are you Jason?”.
I love the fact they’ve hunted me down.
“We know you want to ride the world but there is shame in not riding this stretch of Road, in fact we can’t and won’t stop you but really recommend you think about getting a lift, its going to me over 40c out here this week plus big storms are expected and if you don’t have enough water you are going to be in trouble, you MUST keep hydrated”
I’ve promised myself every step I’ll listen to the Locals.

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Learning that sometimes you have to hang around for a while before a lift. Maybe my long face doesn’t help? As the truckers have rightly told me “You are way toooo ugly for starters”

I spent hours last night attempting to secure my water container securely and its just not quite good enough AND once I start emptying it and the water starts sloshing around its not looking sensible. The rear rack will take 45kg, Its just under that figure but running at the limit is likely to break something.
“If you break something or make yourself sick you’ll pay for it down the line the cyclists have reasoned and remember there are very few grey nomads out here at this time of year, its just tooo hot and its all about water”.

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Now if I can blag a lift on something like this I reckon the world will look pretty goddam good again!

You’ll get no arguments from me and its time to accept I’m at my personal limit.
I’ll sulk for a few days then I’ll get over it, but for now there is no time for sulking, the Mt Isa Truck stop is where I’ll be hanging around for that all important lift and you need to be on the ball with the amount of POM baiting going on, no time for sulking.
It won’t be as straightforward as I hoped grabbing that lift on a Road Train.
“Most of us can’t take you, no passengers is usually company policy but hang in and you’ll be lucky”.
And if I needed any reminder its the right call not riding, a big Storm has dumped a load of rain in Mt Isa and the Queensland TV images of Townsville under vast amounts of water reminds me that Aussie in the Summer is pretty extreme from either heat or strangely because I’ve struggled with the whole idea carrying enough water likely to be dangerously wet. If you had suggested this to me 6 months ago I would have definitely looked at you as if you were making this all up.
“A wise man takes advice and that mate is a wise move , it’s not cheating just …… Lateral thinking lol …..”
To my mates in England and Aussie..
I just listened….😊