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  1. #1
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    Cold beer and crocadiles

    Just finished reading Cold beer and crocadiles by roff smith a fascinating bike journey around oz sleeping in the open in a bivvy or invited to stay with people he met along the way. I really wonder if all these encounters really happened or were they invented to make a good story!
    Anyway I am requesting a bit of advice on a cycling trip I'm planning from Melbourne to Darwin for charity.
    Firstly, I will be preparing food packages to be posted ahead of me to remote parts of the journey. Could I have some suggestions on what to put in the packages and if anyone knows the route where would I post them to.
    Secondly, which is the best route from Melbourne to Port Augusta? I would liked to have done the Great Ocean Road but it would add a lot more miles. I am thinking now of following the route in the book up through Hamilton to Murraybridge and the Barossa Valley to get around Adelaide. Getting from Melbourne Airport on to this route looks difficult. Any suggestions welcome
    www.justgiving.com/bikeoz

  2. #2
    Senior Member classic1's Avatar
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    A bloke I work with rode Darwin-Melbourne a couple of years ago. I'm sure he'd be happy to offer some advice, though of course I'd have to ask him first. PM me if you want details.

  3. #3
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    Brendan,

    It's Machka, actually.

    Getting out of Tullamarine Airport is not that difficult by bike. Turn left at the traffic lights if you are heading west or northward. Even the ride through the burbs to the Melbourne city centre isn't too bad.

    The Western Highway is the main route between Melbourne and Adelaide, but while the shoulders are OK (littered with debris and narrow over some of the bridges) you will need to be ultra-tolerant of fast-moving heavy transport and even fast-moving car traffic.

    To get to the Western Highway, turn left out of the airport at the traffic lights, and continue on the remainder of the Tullamarine Highway (after 500 metres it become the Sunbury Rd), then continue much further until the turn left at the junction for Diggers Rest. At Diggers Rest, cross the Calder Highway, and continue on the Diggers Rest-Colmadal Rd to the Gisbourne Rd where you turn left towards Bacchus Marsh. You'll join the Western Freeway before you actually get into Bacchus Marsh. You'll have some... interesting... climbs out of there.

    The Western Highway continues on past Ballarat, and north-west of there, you have the option of continuing on the Western Highway, or turning right and northward on the Sunraysia Highway. The latter should be quieter, and you can head north until either the Borung Highway that will take you back on to a (hopefully) quieter Western Highway much further to the west; or you can keep going until Ouyen, then turn left on to the Mallee Highway to Adelaide.

    I notice that your original intention was to go through to Mildura, which is entirely possible. I haven't been on the highway between Mildura and Adelaide (I likely will do this fruit-picking season), but as I just said, this is fruit country with lots of orchards, so things aren't quite so desolate.

    Reference www.mappoint.com to see what I am talking about with the routes.

    You could possibly take the Calder Highway, but it is a more circuitous route to Ouyen, and it gets a bit hairy.

    Personally, I would take the coastal route to Mt Gambier, but I also like riding up through the mid-west towards Ouyen and on to Mildura. The Mallee Country has something really appealing about it, but it's not for everyone.

    Anyway, the western and mid-north-west sections of Victoria have been through some uber-drought. Expect there to be long stretches of straight, flat, seemingly boring roads. The winds are predominantly from the north-west through west to south-west. You will need to pack enough water for up to six hours riding -- the "towns" marked on the map may be single-house settlements with no services.

    The people through here are good, honest country folk who would do anything for you. I am not sure they will identify with an English charity they've never heard of, though, so don't expect to raise too much on the way from them.

    I think north of Port Augusta, things change a little bit. Port Augusta 10 years was my least favourite town when I did my Perth-Adelaide crossing. The roadhouses are oasese, and you should not have to send ahead food packages for any part of your trip. You can do it -- I think Australia Post has send-and-hold services. But really, you would be spending as much as it would cost to buy food along the way, even at inflated prices. You might have offbeat eating habits, however, and frankly, vegetarian is not someting they cater to that well. You can still survive, though.

    Your trip from Adelaide to Darwin is not unique, and there are others who have done it. The most recent journal I have read is on www.crazyguyonabike.com, and was done by an American. He had no trouble finding what he needed the roadhouses along the way, even if it was not always to his standard. He pulled a BoB trailer for his gear. An English friend did the trip two years ago, too, and his general comment was: Watch out for the roadtrains -- get off the road, because they don't move aside, and the dust-storm they leave in their wake is pretty thick.

    I know that headwinds on the south-north route can be an issue in Central Australia. Certainly, make sure you have enough water capacity to sustain you for several DAYS. And it can get mighty cold at night in Central Australia despite its heat-and-desert reputation -- lows of 0 deg C aren't that unusual. Plus you'll need to pick the timing of your trip around the northern monsoonal season. If that bulldust gets wet, it will stick like pooh to a blanket and when it dries, it is like cement. Don't go off the main highway unless it is obvious that your destination is well marked and well trafficked.

    I also trust that this is not just a whim thing, and that you do actually have some experience in extended cycle touring, and that your fund-raising is for a reputable organisation. Check the Touring forum here for some sagely advice if you don't have much experience.
    Dream. Dare. Do.

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    Many thanks for the directions from Melbourne Airport; it doesn't look so bad. There are a few options to Port Augusta and I may just stick to the original plan and go to Mildura as there is a distant relative I'd like to see there and I would be out of the worst of the traffic. Heading straight north out of Melbourne there seems to be a small mountain range, hope the climbs aren't too severe. The mappoint website is excellent and very fast.
    Also good to know I could survive the route by buying food in roadhouses and local villages but I still might use the Australian Post service for sending up harder to get products like high energy bars and such
    I know that headwinds on the south-north route can be an issue in Central Australia.
    I surprised about the headwinds as statistics show the prevailing wind to be south east for central and northern parts and any travelogues I have read going north south complain about a headwind

    http://www.bom.gov.au/climate/averag...wrselect.shtml (wind patterns across Australia)
    http://user.chollian.net/~boonstra/aus/page00.htm ( a north south bike journey)
    As regards experience I haven't done any touring for twenty odd years since before I got married but back then I lived on the bike and toured Ireland Scotland and some of Europe, though for no more than a week at a time; nothing on this scale!

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by fearcliste
    Many thanks for the directions from Melbourne Airport; it doesn't look so bad. There are a few options to Port Augusta and I may just stick to the original plan and go to Mildura as there is a distant relative I'd like to see there and I would be out of the worst of the traffic. Heading straight north out of Melbourne there seems to be a small mountain range, hope the climbs aren't too severe. The mappoint website is excellent and very fast.
    Also good to know I could survive the route by buying food in roadhouses and local villages but I still might use the Australian Post service for sending up harder to get products like high energy bars and such
    I surprised about the headwinds as statistics show the prevailing wind to be south east for central and northern parts and any travelogues I have read going north south complain about a headwind

    http://www.bom.gov.au/climate/averag...wrselect.shtml (wind patterns across Australia)
    http://user.chollian.net/~boonstra/aus/page00.htm ( a north south bike journey)
    As regards experience I haven't done any touring for twenty odd years since before I got married but back then I lived on the bike and toured Ireland Scotland and some of Europe, though for no more than a week at a time; nothing on this scale!
    The Macedon Ranges are probably what you are referring to. Yes, the hills are good up through there. The climbs aren't too severe... just be patient and spin away. They aren't hugely long (although I can think of several that are five of so km long, but they are on the other side, to the east).

    As to the winds... yes, I did the research on my Nullarbor ride and everything said tailwinds... until I got there and had more headwinds than not. It's very much luck of the draw, I am afraid. I mean... who would have forecast snow just before Christmas in Australia in mid-summer, but that is how it is. Come prepared for all eventualities.

    As to your experience... great. At least you have inkling of what to expect from a riding point of view.

    Mildura is a nice spot, although I was in the region twice in the past year or so when it wasn't summer -- which means in summer, it gets mighty, mighty hot!

    But I love the Murray River, as being the mightest river in Australia, as well, and at least when you get to Mildura you can sort of follow it into South Australia. As I said in the other post, you'll either love the Mallee or you it will drive you to distraction with boredom. And up through Hopetoun and on to Ouyen is quite a pleasant ride. Oh yes! Keep an eye out for the cricket bat plantation if you decide to go via Swan Hill and Piangil.
    Dream. Dare. Do.

  6. #6
    Senior Member Brian's Avatar
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    Gummy worms, meat pies, and a few snags. That'll get ya through.

  7. #7
    Large Member urodacus's Avatar
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    and don't ride over any snakes. they get a bit pissed off and bite whatever they can. that's what we mean by a snakebite puncture here.

    good luck... remember things here are awfully far apart. i mean, FAR FAR apart. if you have never travelled outside of europe, it will be very disorienting.


    and did someone mention you need to carry lots of water? LOTS of water. when it is hot it is also incredibly dry in the centre. 5 litres a day minimum, plus cooking water. so, that's like 20 kg of water...


    good luck!

    some would say it is far more comfortable though admittedly longer to go melbourne-sydney-brisbane-cooktown-weipa-kakadu-darwin. a mate of mine did just that several years ago and thoroughly enjoyed it.
    05 Giant TCR Composite; 83 Colnago Saronni: 81 San Rensho Katana Super Export track bike, #A116-56; 89 Zunow Pentaglia: SOLD; 85 Tommasini: SOLD; 83 Guerciotti: SOLD

  8. #8
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    In July-August 2006 I rode from Cairns to Darwin via Normanton, Borroloola, Nathan River road, Mataranka, then north. I was totally self supporting with my made-for-my size touring bike (26" wheels @ 48 spokes) and a BOB Ibex trailer. I had too much stuff, but I would always have food for a week - I even brought eggs (oatmeal too)!! Water was at about 4 or 5L a day.

    I NEVER had any problem with food/water. If I was short (once only really short on the NR Rd) I flagged down someone.

    People always stopped and asked "You right??" or "Need wattah??" or "Where you goin??" .. Sometimes they asked me to stop for a "boil up" and a chat. Some fellows offered "beeah" and we drank a tin out in the middle of no-where. The route you are taking will have travellers - and out there PEOPLE WILL STOP!! Water and some fuel for cooking will be your real worry. Get dry food stuffs and you will do fine - peanut butter, cheese, flour (for damper) and bread will be easy to carry for fast nourishment. Did I mention dried fruit - raisins, apricots..?

    I was on that trip for 6 weeks but never resisted on stopping at a town/pub for a counter lunch and a beer or 2..

    The north of Queensland and eastern NT are fine for travelling in. I met some folks (especially in Katherine, NT) who went the route you are on and they did not mail food packages ahead - neither did I..

    Enjoy your planning and travel. MAKE SURE you have good tires - carry a spare tire (get Schwalbe Marathons -DON'T skimp on the tires) and a couple of tubes and patches. You WILL need those repairs. Been there dunn dat ;-) Send me a PM if necessary. I don't read this forum very often and it may take some time for a reply.
    Last edited by tmac100; 01-15-08 at 04:49 AM. Reason: spelling mistakess...

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by urodacus View Post
    some would say it is far more comfortable though admittedly longer to go melbourne-sydney-brisbane-cooktown-weipa-kakadu-darwin. a mate of mine did just that several years ago and thoroughly enjoyed it.

    Nope! I disagree. The OP has a proposed route that is basically pavement. Weipa-Kakadu (then to Darwin)might be do-able by boat. OTOH, if that is a road trip there is a HUGE number of km of dirt/gravel between Weipa and Normanton and then Borroloola and.. OTOH, if you go south of Normanton to MT. Isa and west that route is paved...

  10. #10
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    They tell me it's actually closer (from Melbourne to Darwin) to go North first up the Newell highway, then across via Mt Isa, though it wouldn't be if you went as far as Weipa, or Normanton.
    The best revenge is to live well.

  11. #11
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    Hey Guys,
    The trip sounds great! but if you are going to Darwin from Melbourne, Why even consider Weipa? It is 818k north of Cairns along the Peninsula Development road and the road to the west goes through Normanton. Normanton is 678k west of Cairns. I have just spent a week there and the temp was 39 during the day. It is very flat country with low mulga trees and very little shade. In the wet, (March) the rivers become inland seas but dry up during the dry (Nov) You would only come as far as Cairns to say you have been there. It is JUST another city (wannabe Brisbane). The road to Weipa is dirt, corrugations, bulldust, roadtrains, no civilization and causeway creek crossings. Depending on the season it is either impassably flooded, and the road a quagmire or it is so hot and dry only a bush pig can survive. Once in Weipa, You have to return back to Mareeba/Atherton Ravenshoe, Mt Garnet, Georgetown to get to Normanton. N'mant -Borroloola is all gravel, impassable in the wet, dry & remote otherwise. My mate rode unsuported to Bamaga in 20 days, rested for 5 and returned in 25 days. He had a Bob trailer and forwarded parcels to Weipa, and the Hann river roadhouse. He said he underestimated the integrity of his spokes and broke many more than he anticipated. He had to get a dozen spares forwarded. There are NO bike shops up there so you have to take all your tools and spares. He said at times, it was easier to ride off the road where the leaf litter gave the ground surface some integrity. There were stretches of 20km of bulldust! (It puts the push back into pushbike) When you have a trailer, you have two sizes of spoke, tyre and tube to carry and so more weight. It is a long way between taverns and even further between bikeshops! In this country you can supplement your protein with fish. There are plenty of black bream in the streams and lagoons which love salami or cheese or jerky. I caught a huge (250mm) fresh water prawn in the Normanby River which went very well with a continental pasta dish. You HAVE to watch out for crocs of cause! I wouldn't go north of Townsville if I were doing your trip. The road west goes from Townsville to Mt Isa to Tennant Creek, then up to Darwin. You have a choice of coming up the Coast and putting up with 90%of the traffic and development or heading inland and doing one of the alternative routes which will take you through the real Australia with only 50m roadtrains and Grey Nomads to contend with.
    I'm planning a trip from Tully to Sydney in 2010. I reckon I'll go the inland route through Hughenden, Longreach, Charleville, Cunnamulla, Bourke, Nyngan, Dubbo etc. This route is all sealed except for 250k from the gulf Development road to Hughenden. I'm using Google Earth to plan the trip. We planned amd rode to Cooktown and return in 15 days a couple of months ago and I reckon G-Earth is the way to go for planning. It gives you distances, elevations and geographical infomation with the maps.
    I hope these reflections are helpful
    roger

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