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A Free Guide To Cycling Across Australia’s Nullarbor

Posted October 16th, 2013

If you want to cross Australia on a bicycle, chances are you’ll find yourself riding across the Nullarbor plain. It’s a hot, long and dusty ride.

Nullarbor Desert
Push-biking it across the Nullarbor. Photo by Mike Boles.

To make things easier, download this set of notes. Our free guide was written by cyclist Mike Boles and laid out by us here at TravellingTwo HQ.

free guide to cycling the nullarbor

Inside the PDF, you’ll find Mike’s story of pedalling across the Nullarbor and day-by-day notes for the entire trip. He tells you where to find campgrounds, hotels, wild camping spots and − most importantly − water. Mike even gives tips for sightseeing along the way!

We hope you enjoy the notes. Download them. Share them. Let us know what you think.

If you have updates or further advice about cycling across the Nullarbor, please leave a comment below.

Interview With Roff Smith: Bike Tourist & Author

Posted March 16th, 2012

In 1996, author Roff Smith embarked on a 10,000 mile solo trek around Australia.

It was, he says, “the toughest thing I have ever done, and the best”.

Roff Smith
Roff Smith, going up Old Putty Road in the Blue Mountains. Photo by Medford Taylor.

Roff finished that trip nearly penniless but launched back into the workforce when National Geographic agreed to publish a series of articles and a book about his journey, Cold Beer & Crocodiles. He’s been writing for that illustrious magazine ever since.

Over the years, he’s cycled on every continent, and he recently took the time to answer a few questions about his bike trip around Australia.

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1. Was your 1996 trip around Australia your first bicycle tour? In other words, how did you discover bicycle touring and what appealed to you about it?

No, many years earlier in the autumn of 1980, when I was 22, I cycled most of the way across the United States. I started in Laramie Wyoming, where I had spent the summer working as a field archaeologist. My bicycle was a lightweight Trek I’d bought earlier that summer at a shop in Boulder, Colorado, I set off for my family home in New Hampshire.

Although I loved it, that jaunt turned out to be the last for a long while – until I set out from Sydney on that big bicycle journey around Australia.

Roff Smith
Roff Smith, leaving Sydney on his bicycle tour around Australia. Photo by Medford Taylor.

I had in the meantime though cycled a lot as a commuter for work and cycling had always appealed to me as a means of exploring the world, even if I hadn’t acted on that as much as I would have liked. Circumstances kind of prevented that. But when I quit my job in 1996 and money was tight, cycling had some very definite advantages!

2. When you began your trip around Australia, what do you remember about the feelings and emotions of that decision, and those initial days on the road?

Funnily enough, it wasn’t nerve wracking at all.

Throughout my life and career I’ve always been willing to take risks, and odd though it seems now neither the career, financial nor physical risks of taking off on a journey like that troubled me in the least. That said, the first few days on the road, while I settled into this new life, were mentally trying.

I was still in too much of a hurry, hadn’t slowed the pace of my life and thoughts to match that of my bicycle. I was expecting too much, trying too hard. That took about 400 kilometres to dissipate.

It was in Grafton, a pretty town in northern New South Wales, about four days out of Sydney that everything just clicked, and from then on the ride was the single most rewarding thing I have ever done.

3. Australia is currently a very popular place to tour but it can also seem intimidating. Vast distances. Searing temperatures. Not much water. What was the biggest challenge you faced?

People are right to be intimidated to a degree by the vastness and the hostility of the Australian outback. It’s not an issue at all if you are just cycling along the fertile and populated east coast, from Sydney, say, to Cairns; or riding along the southeast from Adelaide or Melbourne to Sydney.

But once you head inland, over the ranges, into the wide sun-bronzed bush, your degree of difficulty goes up exponentially and if you are coming down the west coast from Darwin to Perth or exploring the Kimberley, it can be very tough indeed. On some of the lonelier stretches I was carrying as much as 23 litres of water on the bike, and needing it all.

Roff Smith
A long, desolate road through the Australian outback. Photo by Roff Smith.

It was high summer when I was coming down the west coast and temperatures were soaring to over 120°F in the shade, there were dust, flies and baking headwinds and long, long stretches of nothing. Towns out there can be over 500 kilometres apart! I had to carry everything I needed between places and very much be aware of the dangers and risk averse.

4. And the nicest moment – one truly memorable experience that stands out for you?

There were so many – and in so many different ways.

The people and the hospitality I experienced out there in the bush was beyond anything I could have hoped for.

In my nine months on the road I stayed on vast sheep stations, and million acre cattle properties, mining towns and Aboriginal communities – people opened their hearts and their homes and I was privileged to see life as it is really lived in the bush. As for specifics – where do I start?

Photo by Roff Smith
Giggling girls – just a few of the many friendly faces Roff met on his trip. Photo by Roff Smith.

The young Queensland policeman who was about to get married and invited me along on fishing trip with his uncles and best man-to-be in the wild Gulf Country? I later went to his wedding as well!

Or crossing the Great Sandy Desert – 555 supposedly hostile empty kilometres from Broome to Port Hedland – and having so many invitations from people on remote cattle stations along the way that it took me over two weeks to reach Port Hedland, by which time I’d gained ten pounds and gotten out of shape?

Or the incredibly kind and open family in Warnambool, on Victoria’s storm-lashed coast, who took me in when I got sick much later on in my journey, nursed me through and set me on my way?

There were so many kind people that to name a few makes me feel guilty for the ones I’ve left out, and to list them all would take all day. On the purely personal front, my nights of camping all alone on the vast spinifex plains, a hundred miles from anyone else, and looking up at the immensity of stars overhead – that was simply magical.

5. What advice would you give other cyclists who are contemplating a trip around Australia?

Do it. Allow plenty of time. Bring plenty of water. And open yourself to the experiences the bush has to offer. You’ll never regret it.

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Learn more about Roff, and read his bicycle musings on his blog: My Bicycle and I

The Cost Of Bike Touring: Australia & New Zealand

Posted February 14th, 2012

How much will an independent bike tour cost?

In Australia and New Zealand, as with many developed countries, it’s easy to spend as much as you want but there are also plenty of options for sticking to a budget.

Scroll down to read about bike tourists who’ve recently been there, and their experiences.

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The Cyclist & The Trip: Guy & Freddie cycled from the UK to Australia. They arrived in Australia in 2011, and cycled a total of 5,000km there at the end of their journey.

Frederike & Guy

The Cost: Around $23 Australian dollars per person, per day.

Australia is generally very expensive but as we cycled mostly through the Outback we were able to wild camp a lot. Most of our money as spent on food (we like to eat well) and camping fees. We camped for 3 months straight as hotels are unaffordable. On average we probably wild camped 1/3 and stayed at campsites 2/3 of the time.

Tips: “If you are happy to eat only very simple food and wild camp all the time you could get by on less money. Some of the roadhouses have shower facilities, saving on campsite fees.”

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The Cyclist & The Trip: Andy lives in Australia and frequently bike tours around his home country.

Andy Jennings

The Cost: Around $20 Australian dollars per person, per day.

I tour quite a lot around Australia and very rarely stay in a hotel but I do like caravan parks rather than free camping. I’m a sucker for a shower at the end of the day’s riding. My budget is about $15 Australian dollars per day for a campsite (up to $30 if it is on the coast or in a popular place). I only spend about $10 per day for food.

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Can You Help?
Keeping these sections up-to-date and adding new sections relies on the community. That’s you!

If you’ve recently been on tour and can tell us about your daily budget, please Get In Touch and share your answers to these 3 basic questions:

1. What did you spend per person, per day on average? This is for daily expenses like food, hotels, public transport within a country but not exceptional extras like bike repair, flights to/from the country.

2. Can you briefly describe your style of travel? Are you ultra low budget (e.g. a devoted wild camper, cook all your own food) or more medium budget (e.g. will occasionally splash out on a hotel, meal in restaurant)?

3. Any tips you want to share related to costs in this region? Was something particularly cheap or expensive? How would you recommend others save money?

We’ll add your answers to the relevant page, along with a photo of you on tour and a link to your bike touring blog (if you have one). Thanks!

About that cargo ship….

Posted February 18th, 2009

dsc_6858.jpgWay back when we landed in Napier, we promised you more details about 5 days on board a freighter between Australia and New Zealand. After several unsuccessful attempts at summarizing our journals (even the short version started running to three pages), we decided to stick to the facts.

Name of Ship: CMA-CGM Utrillo
Length:
196 meters (small for a cargo ship)
Made in: China in 1999
Crew:
25 men, made up of mostly Romanian officers and Filipino crew
Our route:
From Melbourne, Australia to  Napier, New Zealand. (The ship was carrying on to Panama, the U.S. and back to Europe)
In our cabin: Double bed. Sofa. Coffee table. Desk and chair. Wardrobe. Bar fridge. Ensuite bathroom.
Facilities: Ping pong table, library, swimming pool (filled with sea water), gym and TV room with a DVD player and plenty of movies.
Our fare: €500 per person
Other passengers:
Christiane, a 72-year-old French woman, going around the world in 80 days.
Best moment: It’s a tie. Was it the evening BBQ on the back deck with the crew, singing with the sailors, dsc_6844.jpgdrinking beer and watching a pod of dolphins swim alongside? Or maybe it was going up to the bridge at 5:30am on our last day to watch the harbour pilot come aboard and guide us into Napier as the sun rose.
Daily routine: Wake up at 6:30am. Breakfast at 7am. Ping pong until 9am. Then relax. Maybe walk around the deck or go up to the bridge to check our position. Eat lunch at noon, followed by more ping pong and relaxing. Evening meal at 7pm. Watch a film or go for a swim. Go to sleep at 11pm.
Typical meal: Hearty and meaty. Potatoes, potatoes, potatoes along with a large serving of meat, followed by desert. Salad, bread and a bottle of wine were always on the table, along with fresh garlic for the Romanians, who enjoy eating whole, raw cloves. For snacking between meals, there was always plenty of coffee, tea, water and fresh fruit.
Seasickness:
None. Not even any queasiness. Our crossing was very smooth.
Fascinating fact:
It currently costs $60,000 a day for the 80 tons of fuel to run a small cargo ship. And that’s with relatively low fuel prices! The overall daily running cost for the ship is about $100,000.
Sobering fact: Be very careful when walking on deck to not fall off. You’re done for if you slip into the water because it’s very unlikely anyone will hear or see you. For this reason, don’t go out in bad weather. This advice was given to us by the first mate.
What we learned:
Sailors are quite gentlemanly, despite our rougher impression before we took this trip. We also were struck by just how much stuff we humans move around the world. Until you watch the volumes going through a port like Melbourne, you can’t quite imagine it.
Next time we’d take: Something to share with the crew.
Rating: We give our trip 9/10 points. The overall experience was far more interesting and relaxing than flying. We could take on as much baggage as we liked (100kg/person is the nominal limit). All the sailors were very polite, helpful and friendly. We found the experience of being at sea relaxing and the days flew by quickly. We only deduct points for the slightly heavy meals and because we realise that if we had encountered rough seas, we could have been fairly miserable. Overall we loved our time on board. Given enough cash and time, we’re not sure we’d ever return to the airport. We far prefer the seaport.

Show 23: Epic trips and cargo ships

Posted February 9th, 2009

DSC_6932.JPGA successful cargo ship voyage (no rough seas and a wonderful crew) brought us to Napier, New Zealand this morning.

There’s so much to tell but as we get our thoughts together, here’s our latest podcast.

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It includes a few reflections on Australia, an interview with Chris Roach as he sets off on a huge bicycle trip. We also have a tip or two on how to travel by cargo ship… if you’re tempted! It’s far less stressful than airport travel, if our first experience is anything to go by.

We’ve put some handy information on travelling by freighter in our Bike Touring Resources section.

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