Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Darwin to Broome [5 Aug 2011 - 22 Aug 2011]

Friday 5th August 2011

Bike path out of Darwin

Creek crossing to negotiate (wet shoes) as part of the Darwin bike path "detour"

Heading to Litchfield

130 km to Walker creek in Litchfield National Park. Bike path out of Darwin to some road which led me back onto the Stuart Highway. On the way I checked the map at a shelter that happened to have two gigantic cushions leaning against a pole. Two aboriginal ladies were walking up the bikepath. When they saw me near the cushions, they started yelling No them for us. I rode up to them and one said Excuse me what did you take? I let them know 'It's ok. I didn't touch em. I was just stopping'. 

A little futher on there were some guys doing bikepath roadworks - with no detour sign. Had to ride through a creek as part of their well thought out detour that they yelled instructions to me about. 

Rode on the Stuart highway to berry springs turnoff. Lunch at berry springs store, used tap key to get some tankwater. 

Rode on to litchfield park road. 6 km sealed then a few km dirt roadworks, then 30k of gravel and sand with corrugations. At park entrance itself road is sealed again. There was a short patch of sealed near someone's property but didn't last long. Dogs came out to bark at me. 

You have to push your bike through some rough randy patches although according to a local its worse than usual and I needed to come the day after they graded it when it was nice. Road is like the road between Jabiru and Bark Hut - burnt palms and spear grass but also cycads. Some nice creek crossings today. About 15 kay before the park entrance there is a creek flowing and nice for photos and water. Could possibly camp there- not sure about crocs. 

Just before the park entrance there are some nice hills to look at and a beautiful floodplain vista. 8 km in is the turnoff for Walker Creek. There are 8 walk in camp spots. The walk is apparently only about 1 km on different levels. But the camp spots were full- there is a board there you chalk up your dates to stay plus i like to keep my bike with me so i just slept on one of the day use only picnic tables, which is naughty but i did pay the $3.30 camping fee (breaking the bank, I know). Couldn't eat dinner, something that happens very rarely to me but i can't force it.

Saturday 6th August 2011

Walker Creek. I camped beside this one.

Not sure what this tree is, at Walker Creek

Rode from Walker creek to the Rest area at Coolamine Creek on the Stuart highway (115km). Hills and headwinds plagued me.

Road in Litchfield National Park.

Visited the Litchfield cafe in the morning as its very difficult to ride past food.

Visited Wangi Falls (where you can swim). Then Tolmer Falls. Then Florence Falls. Some more Magnetic termite mounds.

Rode through Batchelor, filled up with water at the BP and also picked up a Remote Travellers Census pack there.

Picked up my "remote travellers census pack". Free pen!

Slept on a table at the Coolamine Creek WWII airstrip; listening to the creek all night.

Sunday 7th August 2011

Coolamine creek to 5k from Emerald Springs behind stack site. Rode 25 to Adelaide River. Egg and lettuce sandwich from service station. Truckie chatted to me about WWII while he ate his dim sim and potato scallops with coke. There is a war cemetery full of white crosses near by. Tiny market on sunday in the park. The public toilets have shower, also a water tap on the wall facing the road. 25k to rest area. Short lunch break; flies at shelter; smelt of sewer. Sunday so road is busy. Shoulder pretty horrible for the most. Road lumpy. 85km mark made it to hayes creek roadhouse. Ate barra burger. Big 4 caravan park likely expensive. Nice hills geologist-boner rocks. Burning off happeningt. Lots of smoke, ash, some flames. Hot hilly. Interesting roadcuttings and rocky cliffs. Filled up one bottle with ashy  water. Aim to ride to emerald springs roadhouse but saw a stack site on the right hand side of the road on the way 5k out. Rode the dirt road out beyond the stacks and took a right to get to a flat gravel area already an old fire pit here so not the first to camp. Sunday night busy with trucks. Camped a little way back from highway so not too bad.

"You can't get any fresher than this" Ah, no?

Free camp for the night

Monday 8th August 2011

125km to a free camp on the Katherine bike path. About 2 k out from Katherine, on a lay away off from the path, hiding behind some spear grass. Rode 5 km from stack site freecamp to hayes creek roadhouse for some raisin toast for breakfast, wash my clothes and face and fill a water bottle. Saw another cycle tourist there but didn't talk to him. He just had rear rack with panniers and stuff piled on top. He left before i was finished eating. Another 20- something k to Pine Creek. I just used the toilet and filled up water bottles and ate something at the cafe. I wanted to ride to Edith Falls but its 20 km both ways for the side trip and i was hot and bothered and the Stuart Highway was shitting me so I kept riding, heading for Katherine.

Tuesday 9th August 2011

Katherine to ... 95 k out of Katherine on the Victoria Highway. 

Caught up with John from Jabiru in Katherine for breakfast. Macdonalds hotcakes. Visited woolworths. Washed my shirt in the shopping centre restroom - classy. Internet at the library. Couldn't get metho in Katherine except from a hardware which I didn't bother to go to.  Filled up water bottles at tap in park toilets- needed tap key. Wacked on my wet shirt - sooo nice. 

Left Katherine around 11am. Highway a lot more quiet than the Stuart. Mostly cattle country. Shoulder not great but not as much traffic so not a problem. Tanks at two rest areas on the way. Quite hot so wet my hat when possible, and my water bottles are wearing wet socks for the evaporative cooling effect (so you don't drink hot, plastic tasting water more than usual). Camped near one of the property gates on the firebreak road. 

Hiding behind some trees and spear grass. Waiting until dark. Cooked some pasta. Finally finished sewing up my bivvy- sewing the headnet flyscreen in with zippers. 

Listened to radionational which is about all I can pick up. Did the census form, which is a lot of fun. Current residence (GPS location). Usual residence. Nil. Residence 12 months ago. Nil. Income. None. Income 12 months ago. None.

Wednesday 10 August 2011

Rode to Victoria River. $7.50 to camp at roadhouse.

Thursday 11th August 2011

Friday 12th August 2011

Boab, edible insides.

Saturday 13th August 2011

Sunday 14th August 2011

Woke up around 5.30 western australia time around first light. They don't let you sleep in on the west coast. Cooked some oats and packed up. Two sticky beck old blokes tried to harass me. One I walked away from. The other I did the same but he was standing by my bike still when I wandered back. He asked me where I was riding to and I told him Sorry I don't speak english, in my Australian accent and he said Ah and walked off with me giggling behind his back. Headed off around 630 and I'm now on the great northern highway heading south. After 60 km of mostly stunning scenery with escarpments and interesting geology, I make it Doon Doon roadhouse around 11. I order a burger and buy a 1.25 litre solo lemon and lime persuasion and i'm hit up for $17. Sheesh. Have to stop eating. While I'm trying to pay for my burger some rude lady corners me and says to me twice We have passed you many times. I respond to neither as a) this i find a stupid statement as its not fucking surprising as I'm riding a pushie and there ain't many roads out here. And b) i'm still trying to pay for my order without being rude to the chick serving me. She says sorry which i thought maybe was to me but it was actually because in her haste to tell me something stupid she had knocked another customer. She then says one of the mostest stupidest questions I've heard so far. Sometimes when we pass you you are stopped. Is that because you stop to let cars pass. I respond with I don't know. And she walks off. I don't know if when you were passing me it is when a roadtrain is coming one way and a fat winnebago the other. How the fucking hell would I know what I was doing when you passed me. You're just another petrol sucking may as well be watching Tv cager to me. One of fifty or 100 who pass me everyday. Just a blip in my rear view. Just a vehicle I have to watch for a few seconds to make sure you're giving room, sharing the road, aren't swaying drunk. I don't remember car details, number plates, and especially not what your face looks like if I could even tell through the glass. Mostly I don't know just means I don't know how you can ask such a stupid fucking question. Do you never think before opening your trap? Like think hmm maybe there are other reasons someone riding a loaded pushbike in heat up hills all day long in the outback might stop? But then I remember these people have probably never moved their fat bodies around without motorised assistance. You don't get that you need to occasionally drink, eat, pee, take a photo, pause to enjoy the view, add sunscreen, check the map, rest, take some notes...

After eating I use the facilities to do my usual washing of clothes in the basin and cleaning the dirt off my face that i've probably had on their since lunch time the day before, and then I fill up a couple of water bottles with the tap out the front of the roadhouse. Leaving the roadhouse around 12 local time, I'm almost immediately confronted by the kind of hill you don't like at the middle of the day. The hills settle down and its back to moderate ups downs and flats with a moderate headwind. 30 km later its 2pm or so and I'm hiding behind a telstra pad with buildings and solar panels, sitting in the shade resting, looking at the glorious scenery and colours of the east kimberleys, while listening to the local voice of the east kimberleys radio station which pretty much only plays 80s and mid 90s rock like pearl jam and nirvana. Every now and then they have a voice saying something like Hi i'm sally from rio tinto and you're listening to blah am the voice of the east kimberleys or steve from east kimberleys computers or john a kiwi travelling through the east kimberleys playing his guitar and enjoying listening to the voice of the east kimberleys. I watch the sunset, cook a potato, eat some melted chocolate with a spoon, watch an orange moon rise and i can also see and smell the line of fires burning up the ridge to the left throughout the night. I camp behind an aircon' ed box of a building with solar panels on its roof. The moon is too bright for a decent better than the city spread of stars.

Monday 15th August 2011

Woke up at 5am first light and packed up cooked breakfast oats. The sky looked great to the east with boab sillouettes set against the outback gradients of first light until sunrise colours of yellow through to blue over to the east. The west was blues and purples with the full moon was it still there watching sunrise too. The morning was cool and a hawk and a few other birds were perched in the trees around me all looking east for the sun and its warmth. I was just another bird watching for sunrise. Got away about 10 minutes after sunrise.

The road was amazing in the morning with the spear grass shining in the golden light. The scenery was draped in the light smokey haze from the prescribed burning on the ridge to the west yesterday and last night. And most importantly, no caravans and winnebagos on the road yet. There were a few long roadtrains about heading to and from the Argyle diamond mine - apparently the largest diamond mine in the world. I was enjoying the coolth of the morning and willing my body to absorb it for later on around midday but I don't think it worked. There were a few hills to ride over which warmed me up earlier than I hoped.

At the 30km mark just after crossing the Bow River causeway and climbing back up, I stop for snacks which has lately been one muesli bar, a few jelly snakes, pitted dates and half a handful of salted cashews and pepitas. The road immediately starts getting busy with caravans. Curses.

After 60 km I make it to Warrum / Turkey Creek roadhouse. Its only 11am so I get a packet of barbecue chips and a kirks creaming soda for its high energy content. And I also buy a 1.25 litre soft drink, three mars bars and a packet of snakes. The american guy working behind the counter is impressed by my purchases and says that should get me a few more kilometres. He has no idea that i'm riding a bike so doesn't really know why i smile at this. It has to get me 167 km. Ok so i eat other proper food also.

I fill up all my water bottles so i'm carrying 8 litres. I head on. At 12.45 i get off the road to one of mabel downs property gates as i spot some shady gums. I eat some lunch- wholemeal biscuits with peanut butter and vegemite spread on with sugar sprinkled on top because hell why not. I guzzle some water. It's dehydration weather out here.

I head on and straight away- this is about 25 k from the roadhouse now- i have to climb violet hill which is about 1 km of steady uphill. Why i keep finding hills in the middle of the day i don't know. Just lucky like that, i guess.

Anyway i make it over and appreciate the flatter bits with a new wheel spinning gusto. Around 4 pm i get to the turnoff for bungle bungle range. I thought the road was just unsealed gravel but its actually 4wd track with all its fun and river crossings to boot. It runs through a property for a bit so can't just freecamp here.

I read the tour pamphlet on the gate and decide that if i can get a seat on the 4wd bus tomorrow, i'll spend the money on the tour just so i can see the bungle bungles.

I continue on the highway to find a wildcamp. The rest area was full full full of caravans etc and that's too many people for my liking i'd rather sleep precariously amongst the spinifex which i did about another 2 km on. I hid behind a clump of spinifex until the sun went down, boiled a diced potato, ate it with salt pepper and parmesan, ate some chocolate and got into my swag.


Tuesday 16th August 2011

Woke at 430 am and packed up, headed back to the road to Bungle Bungles to see if I could get a seat on the tour bus. Was on the road at 530, only had 4 km to ride but needed to tidy up beforehand and also the last 750 metres to the tour operators is sandy four wheel drive track.

Got changed and had a quick wash at the information area inside the Mabel Downs property gate. I read on the info sheet at the gate that the tour leaves at 630am sharp but this is a lie. The office tent was closed so had to bail up the driver. He said he believed the bus was fully booked but I'd have to check with the office lady. I asked when she is around and he said she usually opens up just as he's leaving. Ah.

Anyway another 15 minutes of waiting around and the driver says he's checked and it's fully booked but I could go tomorrow instead. I didn't want to hang around another day so I headed back to the gate.

Just inside the gate a bloke with a sedan was asking me whether you could do the track without a four wheel drive. I said I didn't believe so as it was many kilometres of 4wd track with sandy bits and range climbs and river crossings and the sign says you need to have decent clearance. I wasn't game to do it on my loaded touring bike. Maybe if you j mountainbike, assuming you could carry enough water. I'll save it for another trip.

So we get to talking about our respective trips and turns out he is Greg from Robinvale and he's travelling to Broome, living in his car. He is an Aboriginal man who's done a bit of work in native title and the like. We end up chatting for ages about the state of things, how people need to live more simply, about indigenous knowledge and culture and bushtucker. He gave me 1.5 litres of water.

In terms of seeing the Bungle Bungles I've decided my next big tour will be a ride to South Australia (possibly along the Murray), up the Mawson Trail to the Flinders Ranges, up the middle to Uluru, and the Tanami Highway to the Bungle Bungles / Wolfe Creek crater, etc. Can't wait! This might be on a mountain bike instead of the tourer. Who's in?

At about 11am I head off and the road is hot and hilly. I stop at Spring Creek to fill up some water bottles with water I'd have to filter at some stage before drinking. I wash clothes and dunked my hat and the shirt I was wearing into the running stream also, which involves me being lazy and standing around in a sports bra in public, but I have no shame. I don't carry around shame. It doesn't fit in my panniers. Putting the wet shirt back on was so nice. It's just a heat that gets to you after a while.

After 20km I find a shady tree and have some lunch. The Mabel Downs chopper flies over me kind of low turns around and flies over again. Mustering cyclists? Well it didn't work. I had my shady tree to sit under and come hell or helicopter I wasn't moving til I was ready to.

Eventually I get back to riding. Everytime I look down at my speedometer it is saying 8km/h. Stupid long climb. after about 50k for the day the sun is thinking about going down and I find a firebreak to ride down, a bush to hide behind up against the barbed wire of another property. I filter about 1.5 litres of water by pumping my MSR Miniworks while the sun goes down and sets. Then I cook some pasta.

Eventually the light leaves the sky and the moon is not yet up so I'm presented with the bright heavens for about an hour before the moon shows up while I'm laying in my bivvy star gazing and moon gazing. It's another bright orange moon as it rises. The stars fade and so do I.

Wednesday 17th August 2011

View from my free camp of last night, in the morning

Notice board at Fitzroy Crossing

Oh please cheers up Alice!

My shadow. Channeling ET shadows.


View from my freecamp for the night. FULL OF BEAUTIFUL.


Off to a slow start this morning I don't head off until around 8 am. I ride the 65 k to Fitzroy Crossing with an annoying headwind so it seems every time I sneak a glance at my speedometer it only says 8.

At Fitzroy Crossing I grab some roadhouse lunch, then check my bike is still where I left it. I've parked it against the fence in the shade where two local aborigines are sitting. I trust the locals. I don't trust the ute- wielding tourists.

Two grey nomads are harassing the locals with questions like how come they aren't at work and are their kids in school and great life to be sitting around isn't it? This is of course very rude of them as they are guests travelling through their town but they answer all their questions with complete animosity that I would not be able to muster. They probably get this attitude a lot from people also not doing work due to retirement and also receiving welfare payments, namely the old age pension.

The bloke sees me tinkering with my bike and says where you riding to? I've already figured I don't want to have a conversation with these two so I ignore him. He then comes right up beside me and says Am i travelling by bicycle. I say it does look like it doesn't it. He asks where I'm from and I lie and say Darwin. He says Where am I headed and I say Broome. He says He's from Newcastle and he's heading east now, not that I cared.

He asks Well don't you get afraid with all these blacks around? I say no there is nothing wrong with THEM, mate. He says Oh when they are in a big mob its scary. I say its called having a community and its no different than when a bunch of grey nomads get together. Actually I find the grey nomads happy hour gatherings the stuff nightmares are made of.

He says something about them just holding their hand out for government money. I say I guess there's not much work out here. He says they should all move then. I say this is their country. Would you want to move from Newcastle? He says they should be out tending crops in a field or something. [I think he is getting mixed up with traditional asian rice paddy workers here. We're in the kimberleys. I haven't seen much cropping]

I say I don't want to talk to him anymore. I can feel my brain cells committing suicide by the minute. He says he doesn't want to talk to me anymore anyway as I'm strange. I have a strange way of talking for a white person. All this literally 1 metre away from where two locals were sitting on their land. I hope they found that little interchange amusing for what it was worth. Why do all the stupid people have to talk to me? I needed to find a shower in this town to wash off the simple minded bigotry.

I do a shop at the iga. I then pay $3 at the swimming pool to use their shower. I can't even remember the last time I had a shower while I'm having the shower. Thinking about it now it would have been at Victoria River roadhouse, whenever that was.

I also fill up water bottles and water bag for the 300 km to Fitzroy Crossing. I end up with 17.5 litres of water and a 1.25 bottle of coke, plus the two litres in my main water bottles in the cages. My bike feels very unweildy.

I leave Fitzroy Crossing  around 4pm or even later. On the way out a 10 year old on a bmx does a skid in front of me and asks Where you going? I say Broome. He calls out after me Wait! I'm coming! Not far on a sign informs me its about 700 km to Broome.

I ride around 15 km in the dusk, which is an amazing time in the Kimberleys. All the colours really get turned up a notch and more beautiful and the rocks and ranges get to be breathtakingly stunning.

I find a road to a property gate and duck down it. The gate is wide open and its still light with no where to hide from the cars so I do something I don't normally do and go in and hide behind some tall burr bushes, watching the colours change in the sky and landscape and watching the fireball sun drop down over the tree lined horizon while cooking some dinner.

Thursday 18th August 2011

Lots of interesting rocks.


A dead ford

A lovely little hidden soak

Modern day midden (beer cans in foreground)

Shade be at a premium.

A boring floodplain of flatness.

Mmm algae (pool near Mary River)

145k to Moongardie

Tailwinds. 20- 25k average. Less hill climbing. 50 km by 10am. Stopped at a soak I managed to find hidden off the road. 100k by 1pm. A Fitzroy Crossing local recommended I visit Mary Pool but at the entrance to this five commercial coach- sized winnebagos towing cars behind were also entering so thought oh fuck that. They ruin everything. Went over Mary River bridge and jumped a fence to check out another rock pool. It was full of algae but further up their was lilypads.

Rode another couple of km to find some shade to eat lunch and read a novel for an hour.

Rode another 45 km to Moongardie entrance to community. Camped outside the fence.

Friday 19th August 2011


A firetrail I camped on 15 km out of Fitzroy Crossing, next to Bull Yard.



Fitzroy River

Saturday 20th August 2011

About halfway between Fitzroy Crossing and Willare near Mount Hardman.
Sunday 21st August 2011

Past Willare

Monday 22nd August 2011

10 km out of Broome