Tag Archives: outback

Outback Adventure

Renting a 4×4 in Coober Pedy and driving it into the outback is as easy as this:

Ask for a car, pack it, find some partner to come along with you, set your alarm clock, go to bed, get up at 3:30am and drive into the desert …

However, getting out of the desert can be much more adventurous and difficult, when the unexpected happened. But one thing after the other.  Coober Pedy, our rest day location, should be the starting point for a trip to the Painted Desert and other locations around the opal mining town. Mike and I wanted to go there for sunrise the next morning. 24-DSC_0618All we needed was a car to drive around, because there was no tour offered, which covered our plans.  So I stopped at the Mud Hut Hotel on arrival in town, and made a reservation. A nice and shiny looking Toyota Patrol 4×4 was the only choice. Credit card and drivers license was quickly exchanged and the baby was ours for a day. A brief introduction on how to use the 4×4 and off we went for grocery shopping. Back in camp we found Mary, Ursula and Rae who wanted to join us for the trip. 01-DSC_0532All seats were now occupied for an early morning start at 4am, as the drive into the painted desert is about 170km on gravel and sand. At 4am we started into our adventure. Mike drove the car into the black darkness. Mile per mile ticked down on the odometer getting us closer to the Painted Desert. Mike did a good job driving the car in this environment. It was a perfect timing, just when we03-DSC_0562arrived at the lookout the sun showed up in the horizon, starting to cover the desert, which was up to now dark and 08-DSC_0575grey, in a carpet of colors. Everyone was taking photos of this spectacular event or simply enjoyed the moment. The nearby mountains and plains changed their colors almost every minute, as the sun rose higher and higher. We were the only ones in the desert, besides some cattle. Soon ‘the show’ was 12-20141114_064716over and it was time to return to the car. Mike, Rae and Ursula went ahead, to find it in a different condition than when we left it. the16-DSC_0595 left rear wheel was totally deflated. So they started to get the tools ready to change it with one of the 2 available spare tires. Their faces showed great disappointment when I arrived and they told me, that there was no jack in the car. They had searched all corners and started to lift the floor cover to see underneath. I found the toolset in a compartment in the rear door, but the other compartment, which looked as if it was used to store a jack, was empty, confirming their search result. So what to do? No car around, no phone signal, the UHF radio also not receiving anything. Wait? The GPS indicated a homestead with campsite, ‘only’ 12 km away. Walk there? All rules say ‘never leave the car’ … so we decided to drive slowly to the homestead on the flat tire. However we only came about 5km further down the road, when we recognized that the flat tire will not last much longer on the rough road. So we had to 17-DSC_0604come up with another solution. Having 5 intelligent persons around it took not long and we setup the car on the raised edge of the gravel road, such that we could dig out the flat tire and replace it with the spare one. Collecting wood and rocks to secure the car and dig we worked a good 60 minutes before the 2 wheels changed their position and we could continue with our trip. Having only one spare tire 22-DSC_0612left and no jack, we decided to take the shortest way out of the desert to the Stuart Highway, where changes are much better to get help, if we happen to run into more problems. This said we headed west towards Cadney Homestead, where we camped 2 days ago. Still 70 km to go on gravel and sand, through a beautiful desert. 31-DSC_0638Remembering the good fries at the pub we pulled in for an early lunch stop. It felt so good to have made it back to civilization. Our enthusiasm didn’t last very long. When we returned to the car we found, that the right rear tire was running low on air. What the f… is going on here? We got air at the gas station, pumped it up and hurried down the 160 km to Coober Pedy to return the car as soon as possible. There was no way to visit the other locations which were on our tour list, with this car and the luck we seemed to have today. Mike dropped Ursula, Mary and Rae at the campsite and we returned the car, prepared to complain about sending us into the desert without the right tools. The owner couldn’t believe what we reported. 2 flat35-DSC_0651s on a single trip has never happened before. And a missing jack, absolutely impossible. The car was checked before and it was there. So we went to the car and he opened a small compartment behind the left rear lights and pointed into a dark corner. Guess what we found hidden behind a string of electric wires?? A small hydraulic jack! Which has replaced the one, which was provided with the car by the manufacturer. We were so pissed. Why didn’t they tell us when we rented it? Why is there no label in the old compartment saying ‘Jack was here before, now he is elsewhere’! So, all for nothing, but a nice adventure and good teamwork to rescue ourselves from the outback. And finally the highest one day car rental bill ever and a good story for the bush camp nights ahead of us.

Find more pictures of this fabulous adventure in the gallery below.

Nov. 14, 2014

Stage 70: Out of the Outback

Range View Rest Area to  Port Augusta
Date: 11-19-2014 Time: 02:25 h Σ Time: 392:16 h
Distance: 63 km Σ km: 8331 km Temp: 10/30°C
Up: 49 m Σ Up: 73754 m Down: 177 m
Calories: 1207 kcal Σ kcal: 177019 kcal  
Conditions: Tailwind let us fly down the 62 km out of the dry outback to sea level.

Conquered the Outback!

Only 16 riders and the TdA staff had an early morning wakeup call in the bush camp. All others enjoyed a long sleep and a 2nd rest day in Port Augusta, where they already escaped to yesterday afternoon. The bush campers however had a stunning night under the stars and a beautiful sunrise over the clos mountain range. And finally we were awarded with a nice tailwind that pushed us into town. The ride was easy and no rush, but still fast. The landscape changed as we descended to sea level into the Spencer Gulf, where Port Augusta is founded. We are out of the outback, at the entrance to the green coastal belt that we will follow to the east from now on. At 10am everyone was at the new campsite and those who decided to not take a cabin, pitched a tent on green ‘grass’, but no shade. Camp is located in a lagoon and it was said, that dolphins have been seen the night before.

Gerald has a cabin and organized a wine tasting for the late evening. I am busy to prepare a ‘best of’ selection of my photos to show during the tasting tonight …

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Stage 69: South Australia

Woomera to  Range View Rest Area
Date: 11-18-2014 Time: 05:29 h Σ Time: 384:50 h
Distance: 118 km Σ km: 8268 km Temp: 11/35°C
Up: 366 m Σ Up: 73705 m Down: 395 m
Calories: 2436 kcal Σ kcal: 175812 kcal  
Conditions: The somehow expected and feared headwind.

With only 2 more cycling days in the outback, I decided to go on my own again, although the strong headwind would have made riding easier in a peloton. However, chances to see wildlife when riding alone are much higher than riding in a group. I left camp earlier than usual to be ahead of most of the other riders. Right after leaving Woomera I spotted a group of Emus in the morning sun on the road to Pimba. Unfortunately a fast approaching car and a rider, who imitating a scene from the last movie we saw – blowing a whistle when our racers speeded past us – made the emus run into the open field. Turning onto the Stuart Highway the wind was really blowing into the faces, making progress very slow. I continued my pace, although I was invited to join another group, as I was on my mission today. The slower speed made scanning for wildlife a bit easier. Soon I spotted another emu family with 2 adults and 10 kiddies.Approaching another big salt lake opened a fantastic view. It was as if the ocean was already in sight. I decided to walk into the bush field to get a much better view down onto the lake. Coming closer to the edge I saw a movement and a kangaroo disappearing into the valley. Soon there were 4 large red kangaroos on the scene, which I enjoyed to follow and watch until they disappeared in the horizon. The 30 minutes walk into the bushes had paid off with this encounter in front of a stunning lake. It made my day I could could continue to lunch and into camp with more focus on breaking the wind. Camp is at a really nice spot overlooking a range of flat mountains, but also a bit noisy, as there are to cattle grids on the road, and a lot of trucks and cars running over it.

Most of the riders decided to directly continue to Port Augusta, the next rest day location, and just 67 km more to go. They really miss the best part of the tour, the nights in the bush, with fantastic sunsets and night sky. However it is everyone’s right to sign out from the tour and find more comfortable places to sleep.

Tomorrow is the last day in the outback. Just 62 km to reach the southern coastline of Australia and 3 cycling days away from Adelaide.

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Woohoo! Kangaroo!

Today, the second to last day in the outback, I had the luck to finally spot a group of big red kangaroos. Riding solo again I had the time and opportunity to deviate from the road, when I wanted to. 1-DSC_0283I had to walk about 1 km into the bushes to find and follow them. I was walking into the fields away from Stuart Highway, to get a better view of the salt lake this morning, when I recognized a movement ahead of me. I just saw a bouncing long tail disappearing into a valley and followed it. I 2-DSC_0292readied my camera and followed the ‘tail’, when I spotted a big ‘rock’ on the other side of the small valley, in front of me. My zoom lens revealed the ‘rock’ was another kangaroo. Soon there where 4 of them ahead of me. I continued to follow them, funny to see them hopping away whenever I moved, then stopping and curiously watching my next step, when I stopped, too.

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This continued for quite a while. I made a step, they jumped ahead. I watched them equally amused as they watched me. Eventually the kangaroos disappeared in the horizon, as if they were diving into the white, salty lake.

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My extra walk and time spent paid off. I had my photos and an awesome experience, no other in the group had, as everyone was just riding into the wind and to next camp.

<placeholder for a video I shot>

Stage 68: South Australia

Glendambo to  Woomera
Date: 11-17-2014 Time: 05:53 h Σ Time: 378:35 h
Distance: 120 km Σ km: 8150 km Temp: 14/36°C
Up: 311 m Σ Up: 73339 m Down: 280 m
Calories: 2165 kcal Σ kcal: 173376 kcal  
Conditions: Still windy, but the wind was not as strong as the days before. Temperatures a climbing again.

Today was an easier day. Wind still not completely favorable, but not as strong as the days before. Temperatures are also rising again. I was riding solo again; thought there might be better photo opportunities going on my own again. Going my own pace and not organizing a peloton, it was also easier for me to scan the fields for wildlife. And I was right. I saw a ‘desert crocodile’ in the morning and some ‘mad’ cows. However before arriving at the lunch stop there was not much more, in a real deserted, vast land, with almost no vegetation. But at lunch the landscape changed again. Snow white lakes appeared out of the red plains. Our lunch stop was at Lake Hart, a stunning salt lake, which invited for an extra tour on the white, flat surface. It was as if cycling on a glacier, but much warmer. With only about 50 km to go after lunch, I was leaving at last, even after the sweep. I was lucky that day. Several Emus crossed my way and I could take good photos. Another big lack appeared later and I walked a few 100m into the fields, to get closer to the edge and a better view. Before getting into Pimba I made a sad encounter of a kangaroo. When I passed it it looked as if it was hiding in the ditch, watching me, even greeting me. I turned around and could not believe my eyes. It looked like a funny setup. But then I was shocked, when I saw a slight movement. The pour animal was breathing and the head turned all of a sudden, to follow a truck, that was approaching and passing us. Then I realized that the kangaroo must  have been recently hit by a car and severely hurt, with broken and dislocated legs and probably a broken spine totally unmovable, except its head. It didn’t show pain, but was so helpless with a facial expression that asked for help or relief. It was so sad to see this, but nothing I could do. During the 4 weeks ride through the outback, we saw so many road kills, more dead than alive animals, however this was the most touching view of a kangaroo that was between life and dead.    

Only 2 more days and one bush camp in the Outback before we hit the coast line of South Australia at Port Augusta. We will soon miss the quiet nights and lonesomeness of the outback.

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Stage 67: South Australia

The Twins Rest Area to  Glendambo
Date: 11-16-2014 Time: 05:53 h Σ Time: 378:35 h
Distance: 126 km Σ km: 8030 km Temp: 8/26°C
Up: 141 m Σ Up: 73028 m Down: 173 m
Calories: 2075 kcal Σ kcal: 171211 kcal  
Conditions: Cool night in the bush camp. Wind still strong and facing us.

Another hard riding day. The wind was so bad, that riding in a group was the best. I was trying to form a peloton, but it wasn’t very well functioning and fell apart soon. Soon I caught up with another group and reorganized it to better work as a team. Somehow the groups seem to be competing. As soon as one appears at the horizon the other is chasing it, until it is caught and passed. Thereafter the just passed group accelerates to overtake the former again, and so on. Even in a peloton there is some competition of a kind ‘I can go faster in the lead than you’, causing the speed to ever increase. Chances to recover are not taken. Instead the easier conditions are used to further increase the speed and get other to their limit. The pack tends to fall apart and one has to do the work to keep the sheep together. After lunch I was alone with 5 women, when the last guy left the peloton and went ahead. But I managed to keep them together and we arrived together at the new campsite.

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Stage 66: South Australia

Coober Pedy to  The Twins Rest Area
Date: 11-15-2014 Time: 05:53 h Σ Time: 372:18 h
Distance: 130 km Σ km: 7904 km Temp: 12/29°C
Up: 460 m Σ Up: 72887 m Down: 514 m
Calories: 2230 kcal Σ kcal: 169136 kcal  
Conditions: Stormy night and a cold, windy start. Rain and gusty winds until lunch

It wasn’t the expected tailwind out of Coober Pedy. In the contrary, a storm hit our campground the night before and the wind changed directions again. Everyone was busy, securing the tents and flies. The change in wind directions came along with a huge temperature drop. Compared to the previous days, the temperature was down by more than 30°C. I was riding most of the day solo again and enjoyed the first kilometers out  of Coober Pedy, with some photo stops at the mines. But soon the conditions became worse. The wind got very strong and gusty, later rain set in. Luckily I packed my raincoat the night before an got some protection. I rode with Henry and Doug, who had a slow leak and needed to pump up every 15 km. Lunch was still in the heavy wind and with wet clothes I felt real cold. Refreshed with 3 sandwiches and fruits I continued the afternoon part. The weather improved and became sunny and warmer, but still very windy until I arrived in the bush camp. I setup tent in the bushes, well protected from the cold wind. The movie was canceled as the conditions did not allow the setup the equipment and nobody would be sitting and watch in the cold. The night was clear, but cold.

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Stage 65: South Australia

Cadney Homestead to  Coober Pedy
Date: 11-13-2014 Time: 05:53 h Σ Time: 366:24 h
Distance: 155 km Σ km: 7774 km Temp: 19/46°C
Up: 303 m Σ Up: 72427 m Down: 321 m
Calories: 2278 kcal Σ kcal: 166906 kcal  
Conditions: Wind was our friend today. Made it a partially easy but a real hot day.

After my sunset photo I joined a group of 5 riders for a peloton. The first 58 km were quickly mastered with a 10 minute rotation. Then I dropped out of the group to take a 1 in a million chance for a photo I was waiting for, since we were riding the outback. A lizard was sunbathing on the hot tar, when suddenly disturbed by our approaching bicycles. Luckily it only escaped to the the shoulder of the road, where it was perfectly hiding camouflaged between the rocks.  I got off my bike, camera ready, assuming it would run away from me. However it was quite the opposite. The lizard kept posing for me without fear. I really had to ‘touch’ it to make it move and take a video. I spent quite some time with it, and lost contact to any group for the whole day, which meant another 100 km of solo riding. Coober Pedy is the ‘capital’ of the Opal miners. The whole area seems to be turned from bottom to top. The dugout rocks pile up like huge termite mounts, but not as beautiful. We changed camp sites in Coober Pedy, away from the underground camp, closer to town. I rented a 4×4 with Michael Coo to drive to the Painter Desert for the sunrise. This means another 3:30am wakeup on a rest day. And it was said, their might be rain tonight making the drive on the 100km dirt road to the Painted Desert a real fun ride.

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Stage 64: South Australia

Tarcoonyinna Rest Area to  Cadney Homestead
Date: 11-12-2014 Time: 05:12 h Σ Time: 360:31 h
Distance: 135 km Σ km: 7619 km Temp: 15/41°C
Up: 175 m Σ Up: 72124 m Down: 272 m
Calories: 2339 kcal Σ kcal: 164628 kcal  
Conditions: Good for a solo ride as the wind wasn’t giving too much trouble.

Easy going all day. Unfortunately the pool at the roadhouse was a bit filthy, thus no swim after the heated ride. French fries were great at the restaurant. Another movie night, this time in apartment #11, made available by David J.  Thus no flies and other bugs that would spoil the movie experience of ‘The Chef’.

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