(Australia) To survive at the outback on a bike!

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Leaving Adelaide, south-central Australia, I was heading to the north, Alice Springs which was located at the center. Always the sandstorm scared me.

 

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I was cycling to a camping site around the sunset.

 

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I could find a free camping site through Camper mate, an Australian app. An Aussie couple from a caravan car asked me if I had dinner. Then they brought a warm dinner on the container. I’ve found Aussie people from caravan cars were kinder at the outback.

 

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The next day, when I was cycling, a car stopped me and told me I must go back because there was the bush fire. And then soon I got a message about evacuating. But the bushfire looked far and it was not on my way. So I went to a near village and asked the police officer who was controlling the traffic. He told me my way to the north would be fine that I could keep cycling.
Although I didn’t go near the bush fire, it was scary to have this experience. (Australia has bush fire every year. But it was not the worst year when I cycled there.)

 

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It looked very peaceful morning, but actually, it was the sandiest night I’ve ever had. There was a very strong wind bringing sand into my tent. When I woke up, all around were covered by very fine brown sand although my tent was closed. I was confused that I slept outside. I could chew sand all morning on the mouse. When I wiped out my face with a wet tissue, the tissues became brown. This kind of sand was called bulldust and it can be found in 2 years even. What a welcoming ceremony from the outback? Luckily I had never had this sandy night again.

 

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Last time I saw 10 dead foxes hung on the fence. But this time there were two dad cats. I heard that wild cats made a big problem in Australia.

 

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I was closer to the outback.

 

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I bought a new chain, cassette, crankset in the big city, Adelaide to prepare to go to the outback. But the rear derailleur didn’t work well that the chain was jumping. The next bicycle shop was in Alice Springs which was 1,800km(1,118mi) far from now. So I must check my bicycle at Melrose, a small town. A mechanic told me I have to buy a new derailleur. It was $69AUD ($50USD) for a new part and $55AUD ($40USD) for installing. I thought there would be no problem now. But once I started cycling at the outback, the chain was jumping again. It made me fall off more often cause the outback road was so bumpy, sandy, and hilly that I must change the gear quickly but then my chain was jumping.
At the end of the outback trip, I talked to the person installing my chain in Adelaide about this problem. He guessed maybe the chain was not closed tightly when installing. So I fixed it after checking youtube. Suddenly it worked well.
At the bicycle shop in Melrose, I did tell the mechanic that I got a new chain and other parts. But maybe it was his first day of working that he didn’t know how to fix, he didn’t know the next bicycle shop was 1,800km(1,118mi) far, and he didn’t know what outback was?

 

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I was so excited to enter into the outback, but at the same time, I was nervous.

 

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I had met a cyclist when I cycled on Great Ocean Road. He had a different speed that I met him sometimes on the way.

 

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It looked like an ostrich. But this was called Emu and it was the largest native bird in Australia. I saw wild emus several times.

 

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I saw this eagle often. It’s called Wedge-tailed eagle. I do admire the bird cause they can fly. Especially I like the eagle cause they fly so high but they looked very stable in the air.

 

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Their name was coming from the shape of their tail.

 

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I heard there was a bicycle trail at Flinders Range which was a popular place. I cycled at the only last part, but it was nearly impossible to cycle with all bags that I felt too often because of too many rocky narrow dry creek like in the picture. Even my phone in the bag was broken and I lost my Gopro4. I had an extra phone which had a half-broken screen. I would use it for GPS until I get to the next city, Alice Springs.

 

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Some parts were so steep that I had to push my bicycle. Jaimi, an English Female solo cyclist, I’ve met in Central Asia, told me she cycled all the way on this track. She was the most hardcore cyclist I’ve met. She told me she cycled Oodtanada tack that I would try to cycle there soon.

 

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There was a refuge. I wanted to sleep here for a night but it was only lunchtime. I couldn’t be relaxed and moving slowly at the outback because I had to calculate how much water left until the next place where I could get water again.

 

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This area reminded me of Utah, USA.

 

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I arrived at Leigh Creek, a small town, but it had a little big supermarket. It was really important although it didn’t have many things and it was expensive compared to the supermarket in the big city because the next big supermarket would be after 1,200km~1,400km (745mi~870mi)
By the way, every a few hundreds of kilometers, there would be a small roadhouse where I could buy bread and pasta.
I loved Australian seasoned tuna can. I had it usually for lunch. Also, I bought energy bars. Tissues and wet tissues were very important!! I bought two beef; One for making jerky and the other for the past next night. It’s difficult to carry a slice bread lot. I found a special bread. It was not tasty but it was really easy to carry cause it was small and it was not squeezed and it was heavy enough to feel full. When the next town was far, I used to buy it in Australia.
It was too heavy and expensive to buy more things that this was my best.

 

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I stayed at the local people’s house for two nights and they had a dehydrator. So I made the beef jerky for the first time. The knife was really dull that it was so hard to slice thinly and I put garlic too much that it turned to garlicky beef jerky. Sweet potatoes were so soft rather than dry that I had to finish it quickly in a few days. Anyway I was ready to hit the road

 

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Finally, I was hitting the outback road. I really loved the wide landscape.

 

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The first desert I experienced was the Mojave Desert in the U.S. At the top of the hill, I could see a wide-open desert and I was so touched. Since seeing it, I always loved empty big wide space. I could see nothing so I could see everything in the desert

 

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On the next day, I arrived in Maree, a small village having a paved road that it was suddenly a good feeling to cycle on it.

 

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Before entering into Oodnadatta Track, there was a warning sign.
The most important thing was not to leave your vehicle when it’s broken. Almost every year people died in the outback of Australia. One big reason was that they got lost, dehydrated, and died during finding a way to get help. But actually, the best thing was to stay on the trail until the next car finds you in a few days.
So I would try to stay near the trail and not go far away from my tent or bicycle.

 

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There was only one small grocery store but the water was so expensive. I went to a local clinic to ask water but they told me they also bought the box of water. And the staff advised I should never drink tap water here cause it was bore water having too many minerals which can make me sick badly. This water looked very clean and transparent but it tasted like a bit of milk and very slippery. As soon as tasting, I felt vomit and this water was not even safe after using a portable filter.
So there was no choice that I paid expensive money for the water.

 

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I’ve never had a plan to cycle at the outback before. When I was cycling in Asia, Jaimi was cycling at the outback and I told her “You are crazy. Why cycle at that difficult place? I will choose an easy road if I go to Australia”
But as soon as landing Australia, I couldn’t stop thinking of going outback. Outback was calling me every day. Once I cycled at the outback, I had realized why outback brought me here. I loved this empty desert, silence, peace, endless stars…

 

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Sometimes it was not easy to find a camping spot because of fence in Australia. But this was an open place that I could pitch my tent anywhere. As soon as setting a tent, the first thing I did was counting how much water left so that I could plan how much water I would use this night and then how much water would be left for tomorrow and how far to the next water point.
There were many beautiful things at the outback. The best thing was that I could see the sun goes up and down from the horizon, which was difficult to experience in other places because of the cloud, mountains, and buildings.
The black dots on the top of my tent were flies. But after the dark, all flies ware gone suddenly. If there were no wind, flies, and cars, I couldn’t hear anything. I did love silence. I experienced total silence in the salt desert in Bolivia and here I had it again.
Usually, there were only ten cars during the week and there was no car passing at all after the dark that I did love it so much!!!

 

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At the next day, I talked to people traveling by caravan. Their tow was broken that they were waiting to get help, which would arrive the next day from a big city that they had to stay overnight there. They gave me the beer and I thanked them so much for the best beer in my life!

 

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The road became very bumpy with Corrugation. I kept moving from left to right to center to find a better road condition. So I dropped water bottles from time to time. I didn’t want to buy a big water bag for only this trail though.

 

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There was a big salt lake. Every a few kilometers had a different landscape here. The terrain and the color of the sand kept changed. This was one weird thing. The scenery on the main highway to Alice Springs was not much changed while here things were changed at every corner.

 

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I was wondering where the truck coming and going. On a small road, we became all friends that we must great to each other.

 

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But in return, I got a sand storm. But I still liked them cause we were a good friend.

 

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The funny thing was if I sit next to the road, they stopped and asked I was okay. If I just squatted for a short break, then the car must stop and ask “ARE YOU OKAY?”. So I just learned how to stop a car at the outback.

 

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This was the best road so far in Australia. I do recommend if you love adventure and cycle. But just make sure you must be very careful.

 

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I arrived in William Creek after three days of cycling. I thought it had a grocery store. But it had only a bar and restaurant. Thankfully the restaurant sold the frozen bread. But the water was crazy expensive that 500m water was like $7AUD ($5USD). I needed at least 12L but it would cost $140AUD ($120USD). This was too much to pay. So, I just went to a caravan park near and explained the situation and asked water if they carried extra. In the last car, they were about to leave tomorrow to the big city that I could get 10 L from them. I felt so thankful to them.

 

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I saw a dingo that I zoomed in maximum. This was different from a dog that a dingo was Australia’s apex predator. They can hunt Kangaroos and chew bones. They didn’t bark but howl and they were thin. But it’s not dangerous to humans usually. When I was about to cycle after taking the picture, the dingo ran away.

 

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It became dark with clouds.

 

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I was really scared when it rained cause I didn’t know how heavy it would be.

 

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There were so many dry creeks that could be flooded. I remembered some story that one cyclist threw away his bicycle and kept walking because of too much mud after heavy rain.

 

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I didn’t see even any single car after 2 pm. The sand storm blew so strong that I had to push my bicycle at some part. Then there was heavy rain. I wore rain jacket. The only thing I could do was to keep cycling.

 

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There were abandoned cars on the road. I was thinking about sleeping there. But I thought it was not a good idea that I just kept moving.

 

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Around sunset, the rain was about to stop, and then suddenly I could see the light from the sky. I must say I felt like I just entered heaven because of the amazing strong light.

 

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And then there was a beautiful rainbow behind. Seeing the rainbow, I knew the rain stopped and I was safe. I would remember it as amazing sunlight for a while in my life. Later I heard from people that they didn’t have rain for two years in this region. I felt like officially I (or Lucky, (my bicycle name)) have the power to bring the rain.

 

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I usually set up my tent a bit far from the track. But this time I just pitched my tent just right next to the road cause I didn’t see any car since the afternoon and the next car would be 8am or 9am in the morning. So I felt so safe although I was right next to the road.

 

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In the next morning, I could see beautiful land covered by the fog reflecting the sun.

 

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I would arrive soon at Oodnadatta village after four days riding from William Creek.

 

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There were wild horses running near the village.

 

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I was so happy to arrive finally here.

 

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Pink house was a roadhouse. It was well decorated with all pink to welcome outback travelers.

 

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I arrived early morning that it was almost empty. So, I went to a toilet and wash my clothes and dried all wet camping gear. There was an aboriginal worker playing guitar. I had a chat with him but because of his accent, I could not understand his English much. But anyway it was good to have a morning chat.

 

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There was a grocery store in Pink house that I bought a few things. The apple was so expensive that 1 kg was $11.4AUD($8USD). I didn’t buy much but I had already spent $49AUD ($35).
I heard there was a water station which was on a cargo container but I couldn’t find it. I went to a bar near and asked. But she said she didn’t know where it was and said I could buy water instead. I just went out and tried to look for it again. It was a bit inside of the road. Maybe it was her first day working that she didn’t know anything about outback like the mechanic in Melrose’s bicycle shop. I hoped they could survive from this harsh outback.
If I put a coin, the water coming out from the top. It was cheaper that I had much water. I felt so rich to have 14L water but pedaling would be a bit harder.

 

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I took the picture with the guy I had chat in the morning before leaving.

 

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Tonight would be so relaxed as I had plenty of water. And I could enjoy the best moment of the outback, sunset on the horizon.

 

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Another best moment was the night sky. Sometimes I got shocked when I went out to a toilet because of too many stars on the night sky. This universe was unbelievable.
By the way, when I went out of my tent for taking the picture or going to a toilet, I kept looking back to check my tent to not get lost. The reflection on the wheel was really helpful in the night.

 

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The beautiful scenery kept going.

 

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There were sandy roads as well. I fell off sometimes and pushed at some part. The most difficult part was the dry creek. It was like the picture on Flinders Range I took. Suddenly it went downhill and then uphill. I had to change the gear quickly on the uphill at the dry creek but the chain was jumping and the road was very sandy, rocky, and bumpy, so I fell off from my bicycle sometimes.

 

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It was sad to see “Until we meet again” next to the track.

 

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I rode between April and May which was Autumn in Australia that it was not that hot. If I had cycled in the summer, maybe I had to carry 20L water.

 

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I had to wear the net when I ate something because of too many flies. Even the flies came into between. So I had to keep taking it off and wearing it again.

(WARNING: NEXT PICTURE IS DISGUSTING!! SCROLL FAST IF YOU DON’T WANT TO SEE)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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You couldn’t be lazy at the outback that you had to keep moving. If not, then all flies sitting on you. It was good to meet people at the empty outback sometimes. But to be honest, it was a disgusting moment because we had to see hundreds of flies sitting on each other. Flies liked the face and the back.
The number of flies on the clothes could depend on the race as our genes were different.
There was one weird thing that the flies ware not much at the village. But when there were no people and houses, then all files came suddenly from the middle of nowhere literally.

 

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I liked the mirage cause it was like the scene of the movie.

 

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People who drove this place would remember as it was a flat road. But in reality, it was long uphill and downhill endlessly. The road was so bumpy that my right shoulder was so stiff.

 

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It had been 7 days since I cycled on the Oodnadatta track. Tomorrow this track would meet the main highway and I would see a fancy roadhouse in a small town.

 

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I made the fire very often since I entered into the outback cause there were dry woods everywhere and I didn’t need to worry about burn the forest as it was a big empty bush. For me, to see the fire was like to look at Aurora Borealis. It was just like watching the dance of the light.

 

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I went to bed after watching my lovely stars.

 

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I got a new habit at the outback when I saw the sun from the horizon because I hardly see them coming from the horizon.
When the sun went down, I shouted out like “THANK YOU SO MUCH TODAY!! SEE YOU TOMORROW!”
When the sun went up, “THANK YOU SO MUCH TO COME OUT AGAIN!!!!! LET’S HAVE AN AMAZING DAY AGAIN!!”
The sun was the biggest sponsor of my trip.

 

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Last few days I saw more often kangaroos.

 

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I could feel that the track was about to end as the road condition was good. I was so excited to survive here.

 

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I had the biggest freedom in my life here! The reason was that there was no phone signal for around 9 days. It meant that I didn’t have the internet at all!! I must say to travel without the internet was the best time of my life. Finally, I was focusing more on the present with what I have.
I have found most people have a problem when they travel. They want to connect with friends and family or watch smartphones all the time more than enjoy the place where they travel. It’s a typical problem these days that smartphone blocks people to live now. But at the dirt road outback, there was no signal that I could be more connected to the present.
New lesson; Real freedom comes only if there is no internet signal.
Maybe the outback would be a good place for honeymoon cause then people will focus on each other only. And it would be time to test their true love after seeing all disgusting flies on each other.

 

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Finally, I was at the junction.

 

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As soon as finishing the road, just right near, there was a big gas station in a small town. I washed my bicycle and got full of water from the water station just like one in Oodnadatta

 

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After finishing the dirt road, I cycled on asphalt road. Surprisingly I couldn’t believe how I cycled on this kind of road before cause it was stressful to cycle with cars on asphalt road. Actually, there were not many cars as it was the outback highway. But compared to the dirt road, it was too much suddenly. It took a couple of days to get used to it. However, still, this was outback. I had a beautiful place to camp everywhere here.

 

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There was a gas station at the junction to head to Uluru. To buy a box of bottles were cheaper than to buy 1.5L water. I had to move all water into big bottles. I felt like water was more expensive than gold at the outback.
There was one free camping site in the middle of the road to Uluru. I could hear some howling at the midnight. I thought of a wolf, but there was no wolf in Australia. Then I thought there were maybe dogs near the farm. But actually, there was no farm near?? In the next day, the guy from the caravan car asked me “Did you hear dingo’s howling last night?”. Wow! It was DINGO!

 

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When I arrived in Australia, I was asked “Will you go to Uluru?”. Then I checked the picture on the internet. It looked boring, just one big rock. So I didn’t have a plan to go there. But now I was on my way to Uluru cause it was kind of my way. Actually, it needed a huge detour. But anyway why not stop there to check it out.

 

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It had been really long time that I had the star trail picture.

 

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Wish your dream at a shooting star.

 

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There was a fancy town before heading to Uluru, which was called Yulara. It had a modern information center, restaurant, bars, a nice supermarket, camping sites, and accommodation. I was so happy to see a big supermarket. I decided to do a big shopping after visiting Uluru. On the way to Uluru, I could see it from far away. It was totally different from the picture I saw that I was so surprised at this unique scenery.

 

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Even it was more stunning when I arrived there. It was not just stone!

 

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Every face had all different shapes. I felt like I was visiting a canyon.

 

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There was a long track going around Uluru.

 

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As passing, I could see all different faces and the color was kept changed by sunlight.

 

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To visit Uluru was really amazing as I didn’t expect anything maybe. On the way back to the road, I bought lots of things from a supermarket. Actually, I would say it was the best international supermarket in this state as it had many Korean things as well.

 

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The next morning I was thinking of going to Kings Canyon or not. Then I decided to go there cause it was like now or never.

 

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On the way to Kings Canyon, I could see dingos more often. But these dingos had a different color.

 

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There was a very famous story about dingos. I had heard it too many times from Aussie. If I start to say “din…, then they will start to say “in 19…” immediately.
So, in 1980, the family went camping near Uluru. Then mom reported her baby missing during the night. The police arrested mom for murdering her daughter. Mom said she heard a dingo at the night that a dingo must take her. But the court declared guilty at her. At the third year of the jail, the police found clothes of the daughter of her at the dingo’s place. Finally, she was released.

 

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Usually, I didn’t check the movie trailer before going to the cinema. And I didn’t check the detail about the tourist place for the same reason. So when I arrived at Kings Canyon, I was surprised cause I didn’t expect this would be so amazing!

 

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Rocks were very unique all around.

 

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There was a 6km(3.7mi) walking trail that it was really good to walk like two to three hours.

 

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It was a beautiful sunset.

 

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Doing my favorite thing at my favorite place.

 

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I watched my favorite thing.

 

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On the way to Alice Springs.

 

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I had a camp every night since I left Leigh Creek. I counted it and it was a total of 20 nights camping!! And even it was all wild camping except one free camping site which was on the way to Uluru where I heard ding’s howling. This was my new record!!
I could take the shower under my tent if I removed the inner tent and it needed only a few hundred ml water. One time I took the shower at the out, but it was so cold because of the wind and I felt more comfortable to take shower under my tent.
Anyway, I was so happy to stay strong. Moreover, I was happy that most of the time I didn’t have an internet signal except when I passed the town or roadhouse.

 

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Today I would arrive in Alice Springs, a small city.
It was really difficult to carry many water bottles. Sometimes the water bottle was broken after falling that I had to change to another bottle. Once I arrived in the city, there would be a big supermarket that I didn’t need it anymore. So I stepped on it with excitement.

 

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Welcome to Alice Springs! Yeah! I survived from the outback!

 

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I drove the line on the map where I cycled from Adelaide to Alice Springs. It took 30 days and I cycled 2,500km (1,553mi). I usually didn’t cycle this much in one month, but this time I moved a bit fast because of limited water.
From Alice Springs, I was not sure where to go. East to Cairns? North to Darwin? West to Perth? or Stop at Alice Springs and work a bit? I would decide when I arrive in Alice Springs.


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12 Comments
  1. Oh, what wonderful photographs! No wonder you had such a great time out there! I will one day ride from Darwin to Adelaide (and on to Melbourne). I can’t wait to go! Next year, it’s Perth to Sydney.

  2. Is this Nowhere or is this Yeswhere !? One of your very best blogs ever (by several lightyears, to my opinion).

  3. What a wonderful post. Your pictures are stunning. I am always amazed when I see long distance cyclist in Outback Australia, it is such a rugged environment but stunningly beautiful. Like you say water is the biggest issue. I have travelled a bit in the Outback and visited most of the places you did but in a couple of years I will do it slowly, with a caravan,, not bicycle! You are an inspiration.

    • I felt a bit lucky to cycle on May. I cannot imagine to cycle in the summer. I think Jaimi, my friend, cycled at the summer. She is crazy. haha

  4. This is a excellent blog with outstanding, beautiful photos. I can see why you loved the Outback so much.

  5. Thankyou so much Jin, loved your photos and stories, I wondered how you take the ‘selfies’!
    Thanks for dropping in to talk with us recently in Hope Island, this was an extra special addition to
    your personal presentation.
    Cheers
    Colin Young

    • Hello Col,
      Thank you for visiting my website after talking!
      I am glad you like my stories 🙂
      Enjoy your day!
      Cheers,
      Jin

  6. Dear Gin, Again a stock of stunning pics. I salute your dare to go inside Australlia all alone. I am awaiting how you conclude your journey. Did you reach Northern territory particularly the Darwin city? and how did you fee over there.

    Thanks for entertaining us through your snaps.

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