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--- News and reports ---

 

Nr.VI: Australia II

23.03.2008 (Melbourne) - 19.06.2008 (Katherine)

 

19.06.2008, Katherine (Northern Territory): It is a relatively short ride from Mt. Isa to the border between Queensland and the Northern Territory - from open grassland into the big nothing. No fruits, no nuts and no animals are allowed to be transported across the border, due to the strict quarantine laws applying. We try like crazy to get rid of the hundreds of flies, wich are buzzing around our heads, before we cross the line - not to get in conflict with the law. Impossible! But it seems that the bringing-in of flies is accepted - they stay with us and nobody wants to take them away. The country looks flat and boring. No trees, no shrubs, only dry grassland as far as the eye can see. Cows are staring at us with price-winning faces and start jogging along with us on the other side of the fence. At least there is something happening along those never ending really boring kilometers. At Three Ways (a roadhouse) we get to the Steward Highway and change direction from going west to going north. It is a fast change in vegetation from almost nothing to more and more dense bush- and treeland along the straight road. As soon as we have left the farmland behind, the flies are gone. A miracle! After days with permanently having the fly-net on, we can finally cycle and eat without it. There is only one village on our way: Elliott. It is an aboriginal settlement that looks a bit run down. We have no other chance but buying food in the far too expensive shop, where we pay up to 10 times more for a product than in a supermarket! The children are waving and people are friendly. We are talking about our trip. In comparison to the "gray nomads" (see previous entry) who, after they have asked "Where from?", "Where to?" and "How many punctures?", don't know what to talk with us, talking with the indigenos Australians is more exciting for both sides. We get asked about camping in the bush, how we get rid of the flies and the problem of getting water. In return we get to know where we will find the next water, how far it is to the next places and what we should take care about when we are bush camping. Those people can obviously understand our way of travelling much better than grandpa and grandma in their monster-caravan, for whom we are only "little green aliens". We meet a Belgian cycling couple along the way, who are riding from China to New Zealand (see bikers we met) - against the wind. We still have a more or less good tailwind every day on our way north. Although it is winter, temperatures are high (around 30) and the sun is trying to burn us off the saddle. The UV-radiation is extremely aggressive. Up to three times a day we put sunscreen factor 30+ on, but still the sun is too much. We decide to buy something to wear with long sleeves when we get the next chance. In Mataranka we stop and take a long swim in the warm springs - a creek, whose warm, clear water is slowly floating through a lush-green oasis. It is fantastic! On the next day we are riding to Katherine, where we are warmly welcomed by Claire and Marc. A fantastic day we spend in and around Katherine gorge, where we are hiking to waterholes with waterfalls, cross the river a couple of times by swimming (where we can see crocodiles – freshwater ones, so they shouldn’t be a problem) and finally do a boat tour in the afternoon. Philipp's bicycle needs some more attention again and the spokes of the back wheel have to be fixed. We fill our panniers up with food for the next part and discuss our future-steps in Australia and the rest of the world...

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

04.06.2008, Mt. Isa (Queensland): We are leaving the east coast at Rockhampton and turn west towards the Outback. Since a long time we meet other cyclists on the way (see bikers we met). The country looks dry and burnt from the sun. It is flat and boring. A strong breeze is blowing from southeast and is pushing us along. There are days where we have already 100 kilometers in our legs at lunchtime and in the evening our kilometer-counter shows 180. Also our averages are always high (see superlatives). At the coast, which we have just left behind, there are storms and floods. Here in the dry inland we experiance the leftovers of this and on three days we are riding for hours in drizzling rain. Roadhouses and small villages (where we can get water) are sometimes more than 150 km apart. On huge properties, fenced off and without trees, we see cattle and sheep standing in the dry grass - staring at us. There are no hidden campspots for us to find. We have to overnight together with numerous Campervans and Caravans on dusty free-camping spots or on the rip-off campsites of  roadhouses. For the first time we really get in contact with the culture of the "gray nomads". Retired couples are buying caravans or campervans as big as possible (the size of a regular public overland-bus), put a boat on top of it, a car in thow and drive it with 60 km/h around Australia. And usually they come in groups. There are many we meet again every evening. It is amusing to see that we are as fast as them on our bicycles. But in contrast to us, the "gray nomades" are checking out every attraction along the way: the pub in Winton, where "Waltzing Matilda" was played for the first time, the museum of the best sheep-sheerer and cattle-herder in Longreach and for lunch they stop at the pub where a scene of "Crocodile Dundee" was shot. Besides these "historic highlights" it is a boring ride. But two days before we reach Mt. Isa,  bushland starts, termite-humps are raising from the ground and it finally gets hilly and exciting. kangaroos are hopping across the road, a dingo is running in the bushes, a family of wild pigs is standing beside the road and an Echidna is wobbling around us, when we have a break. After long kilometers we get to Mt. Isa, the largest village of outback-Australia. We stop before we continue peddling northwest...

 

 

  


 

22.05.2008, Rockhampton (Queensland): It is a long ride, through jammed traffic, from Cleveland (a southern suburb of Brisbane) across the metropolis, until we are leaving the spread-out city towards north. On the way we get to know Merylene and the Brisbane Bicycle Touring Assoc. (www.bbta.org) - and we contribute to their monthly meeting by talking about our travels. The behaviour of many car- and truck-drivers in the densely populated areas of Queensland towards cyclists is a katastrophy. We get cut-off on purpose, "uuups - not noticed", people shout words, which we cannot and we better not understand, out of their cars and we get overtaken with just a centimeter in between. Nowhere on the world we have experienced something like that (with that intensity) before. Also on the political side bicyclists are not accepted, but seen as a Hindernis?? In traffic. No wonder that we almost never see anybody cycling. In the rural areas life on the road is much more relaxed and most of the time traffic is not too bad. Mostly on big roads (there are no alternatives) we are following more or less the coastline north and via the websites www.hospitalityclub.org, www.couchsurfing.org und www.warmshowers.org we again get to know many interesting, nice and hospitable people. Slowly we are getting into the tropics again. Ananas, mangos, bananas and macadania-nuts are growing beside the roads. We buy lots of fruit along the way at small farm-stalls, yummi! The grass stands high and is still green from the summer-rains. The more we get north, the drier it becomes. No rain and every day is cloudless bright. Since we are moving towards winter, temperatures are nice and the thermometer never gets above 25 degrees - ideal! We reach the town Rockhampton, where we again stay with friendly people. The bicycles have to be maintained and checked, because we will start heading west, into the Outback...

 

 

 

 

 


 

08.05.2008, Cleveland (Queensland): It is still rainy when we are heading north from Sydney. One shower after the other is coming in from the sea. Finally, after the fourth day on the bike, the weather changes, and our future is sunny, clear and warm. We follow the coastline and find nice spots to camp in forests that get more and more tropical. Views of the coast are stunning. Long sandy beaches and turquoise water. But unfortunately the road is most of the time further inland, where it is unexciting and lots of traffic is annoying us. So we take the next chance to escape and turn off the highway at Grafton and wheel into the hills. The traffic immediatly stops and we can hear the Cockatus screaming in the sky, the wind blowing through the trees and us, breathing hard while pushing the bikes up some steep slopes. We want to spend the night in Nimbin, an (aged-) Hippie-village. We had read it should be a small, sleepy place, with a colourful, flowery dreadlock-flair. As we arrive after a long and exhausting ride the (two) streets of the village are bursting with people and music in the park. The folks in the information center reply to our question - if this is a normal day in Nimbin? - with a broad smile: "We are celebrating the Mardie Grass Festival! Happy Mardie Grass!" As tired as we are, we couldn't have had more bad luck than this. No vacant accomodation and on the camping-lawns tents are almost sitting above each other. It is too late to roll on and search for a good spot in the forests, so we are forced to camp in the crowd. The party-guests of this hamp-festival are coming from all over Australia to intensively celebrate. There are mainly young people, spending time on drinking and especially smoking. The later it gets, the more it becomes clear that this is going to be a very noisy night, because we seem to be the only ones today, who came to Nimbin to sleep. The overwhelming techno-beat is hammering until dusk. With earplugs in our ears we are lying annoyed on our mattresses, trying to forget our surroundings and to fall asleep. We feel run over by a truck and tired as anything when we are chewing on our muesli at seven o'clock in the morning. That was the worst night of the trip so far. Not even the loudest Ethiopian places can compete with this. We are wandering through the village, walking our bikes. The first people are already (or still) awake. They look like us: like run over by a truck - but must likely the reason for that is different. The village seems sleepy, cosy, slow and peaceful. We are cycling on. The following night we are invited at friends in the small town of Murwillumbah. It is heavenly quiet and we get a good sleep this time. Along the Gold Coast we are wheeling through Palm Beach and Surfers Paradise. Fantastic beaches, ugly skyscraper-apartements and way too much traffic. The last half of the day we ride along - hard to believe - a signed out bicycle route parallel to the four-lane motorway. We reach Cleveland, a southern suburb of Brisbane, where we are guests of relatives of Valeska at an awesome location at a small peninsula. (see Map and GoogleEarth).

 

 

  

 

  


22.04.2008, Sydney (New South Wales): Everyday Sydney, the city's inhabitants, cars, dogs, cats and us experience an uncountable amount of showers. We stay and wait, check out the museums, get to the cinemas for the first time since months and meet people. In between we take a look outside. Pooring rain. We wanted to start the day before yesterday, we wanted to start yesterday, we wanted to start today, we will see what will be tomorrow...

 


17.04.2008, Sydney (New South Wales): We are leaving Melbourne northwards into the hills. Beautiful forests, lakes and lots of ups and downs. We pedal a detour around Lake Eildon to visit Simon and Solveiga, who have been cycling a lot in South America, and on the other side of the lake Ross and Christine, Africa-cyclists, who just came back from their trip recently (www.biking4bikes.blogspot.com). After weeks of temperatures permanently above 35 degrees, the weather is suddenly changing significantly. Night temperatures get down to freezing point as we get closer to Australia’s highest peak Mt. Kosciuszko and also during the days it stays chilly. The leaves of the introduced trees (oaks, willows…) start to get yellow and orange - autumn is coming. After a never-ending-day across hundreds of hills and in the evening again an exhausting climb of 20 kilometres up to 1580 meters we reach Thredbo Village on the foot of Mt. Kosciuszko in darkness and freezing temperatures. We stay at our friend Brian, warm up, eat and sleep well and climb the Australian “giant” (2228m!) the next day in perfect sunshine and a cover of fresh snow. The trees stop and the landscape above 2000 meters reminds us of the Scandinavian fjell. Rounded granite-hills, covered with high-alpine tundra vegetation and snow patches, while small lakes are sitting in the cirques. We enjoy the great views and the first (and most likely the last) snow for us in Australia. The only disturbing thing is the iron foot-path (a two meter wide grid on pillars) that is meandering across the tundra for kilometres, leading even the un-sportiest couch-potatoes to the summit. Crazy! Once leaving the iron walkway we are alone. Making our way through the snow (almost too much, since we are wearing sandals – the only pair of shoes we carry with us) and hike for two days based in Thredbo. A good ride of two and a half days of downhill (new speed record!!! See superlatives) follows, which leads us back to the coast and warmer temperatures. Small National Parks, lots of nice forest, many hills and good views over the beaches. We meet up with Stefan and Christine (see old posts, 17.03.2008 and 15.02.2007, at bikers we met) for the last time, since they are on their way home, and head north towards Sydney. National Parks and forests stop and we ride mainly in populated and industrial areas on big roads. Cycling-paths and -lanes are completely absent in almost all of Australia. Most of the time there is not much traffic anyway, but if there is, then the unwritten law of "the stronger one has more rights" is often well in practice, and cars tend to overtake us with just a centimetre in between. This makes us stick to our right that half of the left lane is ours - which blocks the traffic, because everyone overtaking us needs a clear right lane to pull out. Anyway, miracles happen and all of a sudden there is a bike-trail - usually along a beach or sometimes even in cities. A perfect trail, just the ups and downs when crossing a road are not really made for bicycles and you almost have to stop because of the big dip - and of course vehicles don't need to stop when you want to cross. Besides that no trail is signed. Usually we do not know if we are on the right way and have to ask several people. At crossings it splits in three directions without any sign telling where the track goes. And of course then there is nobody around to ask. That can drive you crazy, believe us! Anyhow, usually bike trails (if you manage to stay on them until the end) finally "end" or simply "dissolve" in the urban mass of cars, leaving us on places where we never wanted to get to or having us mislead so much that we lost directions and have no idea where we are. The only place where "bike trails" are working well is on the freeway, where (funny but true) it is allowed to ride your bicycle! All over the world freeways have an emergency stopping lane and here those lanes are marked as bike trails! There are even bicycle-sketches sprayed on the asphalt. Perfect! You can't loose your way either, since it is well defined where to go :-) But then the freeway stops and the road is narrow again - which means the emergency lane also stops. Suddenly there is no space for bicycles anymore. Most of the time not even a proper shoulder to ride on. We definitely know why we never see people riding their bikes - not even around universities ore in city-centres. However, we fight our way through the traffic-jungle until we reach Sydney, where we stop for some days and enjoy seeing it rain outside, while we stay dry and warm inside. Perfect weather to catch up with some old and new friends, sitting in a cafe…

 

  

  

 


23.03.2008, Melbourne (Victoria): Adelaide is still “baking” in the heat wave (16 days above 40 degrees), when we get on our bikes after relaxing days (in air conditioned rooms). Sweat is dripping down as we climb up into the Adelaide Hills, but the surroundings are green and pleasant. It doesn’t take long and we are back in endless, dry and shade-less farmland. We make a detour to visit friends of friends on their steer-farm and head straight south afterwards. It is permanently windy. After so much headwinds since we started the Australian-lap more than two months ago, we have already given up our hope for tailwinds. But all of a sudden the wind-pattern is somehow changing. It is blowing from left, from right, of course also from the front, but suddenly and unexpected from the back! We can almost not believe it and happily push the pedals. As the head- and side-winds are not blowing the thousands of flies away from our faces, those bastards stay  exactly there and get on our nerves. The Aussies are calling those buzzers “sticky flies” – they are crawling into ears, noses and under our sunglasses. We are waving our arms like mad around our heads (what the Australians call “Australian saluting”), but since those flies are “sticky”, it doesn’t make them stop getting into our ears, eyes and under the sunglasses, until we have hit ourselves or almost punched off our sunglasses. The only thing that keeps us from getting completely crazy is wearing an all-your-head-in-cap made of fly-net. We visit the crater-lakes at Mt. Gambier, reach the coast again at Portland and wheel to Warrnambool. While Valeska is shopping food, I get to know a cyclist-family outside the supermarket. Father and sons have just finished a road-race and invite us to stay overnight. First we stay at one of their friends in Warrnambool and on the next day we are riding a detour of about 70 kilometers (against the wind and lots of flies, which keep up well even with headwinds) to visit our new friends, who are living between crater-lakes in the hills close to Camperdown. Here we get to know the Australian Cyclist-Legend Clyde Sefton – the far most famous biker who we have met so far (see bikers we met). After a fly-saturated ride back to the coast, we follow the “Great Ocean Road” towards Melbourne. The weather is fantastic and landscapes amazing. The road is winding along steep coastal cliffs, long sandy beaches and through fairytale-forests. We see koalas in the trees and meet up with Stefan and Christine, with whom we have been cycling together in Turkey about a year ago (see news and reports: SW-Asia. And bikers we met: old and new posting). They have been traveling in Asia in the last 12 months. Now they are about to finish their big trip in Australia with the luxury of a rental car for one month. It is great to see the two again and exchange stories from different continents. We are doing different routes during daytime, but meet up with them on three evenings in a row, in order to spend the night camping and chatting together. Finally they are heading northwards and we are trying to find our way - along an awfully badly signed bike-trail, which finally ends in the industrial area of Melbourne - into the Metropolis. Via the cyclists-meet-cyclists website www.warmshowers.org we get into contact with Craig and Nycole, where we are “house-sitting” during the Easter-holidays. We start planning our further route and enjoy a quiet and cosy Easter… 

   

 


  

   

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