I usually plan my routes with maps. After a while you get a good feeling of what roads are like that you see on maps. So I try to put together a route with secondary roads that lead through national parks and the more curves they have the better anyway. I seem to have made a very good choice again. From Melbourne I start into the 'high country'. Only 2 days out of town and I cycle along the remote Big River Road through deep forest and don't see any human for 2 days.
'Australian Alps' it says on my map, quite a promise - off we go there. If it is anywhere mountainous in Australia then it's here. I cycle up to some skiing resorts and cross some nice passes.
The view from Mt Hotham where you see the wide forest on the rolling hills is particularly beautiful. The Eucalyptus trees here have a almost white trunk giving the forest that silvery shine, something like a 'George Clooney-effect'
On the way to the Snowy Mountains it is one more time very hot. I cycle through a beautiful valley along the Snowy River. To prevent my body from overheating I jump into the river for a swim every couple of kilometers. If it only always was that easy...
I can really let the steam off in some long climbs and the dirt roads I have all for myself.
Rain for days on end is not really the weather that you associate with the Australian summer. But that is exactly what awaits me south of Sydney. For days I have heard about the heavy rain further north and when the forecast predicts the same for my region I decide to leave the mountains and go down to the main road. This region has been in a drought for many years and now all the water seems to come down at once. For three days I cycle in the never stopping rain until everything is wet to the core. Then I take refuge in a Backpacker. But now it really starts to rain and the heavens open their floodgates. Soon everything is flooded and roads are blocked. I can't do anything else but wait but I am more than happy to be in a dry place.
The last night before Sydney I spend in the Royal National Park. I really like it, that you can still camp in the bush just outside this large city. On the way to the center I look out for a cycle path. Finally I see a big sign. When I realize that it is just a circle around a grassy field I seriously look out for the hidden camera. The next 2 signs lead me to a backyard where it ends. I start to realize that Sydney and bicycles matches about as well as dogs and cyclists. This town is not made for cyclists. Once I have parked the bike, the town get more and more attractive. I stay for more than a week and visit many friends who have invited me. Just outside the town you can swim, surf, snorkel, mountain biking and much more which is just fantastic.
It is the longest break I have made on that journey and I enjoy having a home with friends for some days.
Sydney is something like a turning point for my Australian trip. From here I turn back to the west to later continue to the center. So for one more time I cycle through the mountains of Victoria and New South Wales. They are not particularly high but other than in most mountain ranges where there are big rivers that have formed valleys which the road follows, those big rivers simply don't exist here and so everything is a wild up and down. That added with the obvious dislike of Australian road builders for any kind of curves makes for some tough cycling. But I am not complaining, not at all. Now in autumn it is great to travel here, hardly anyone else is on the road and it will soon be the last mountains for some time to come.
After all the rain everything is green and the farmers tell me with joy that they have never seen such gras before. I follow the Murray River for some days then across the Goldfields where there was a true gold rush in the 1850s.
Mt. Arapiles is the most popular rock climbing venue in Australia and a great place even though I am only watching. After having cycled mostly through mountains and farmland recently it is going to be outback again from here on. The view from the top towards the north where I will go from here is very impressive: endless flat bushland. And if I didn't know it better, I would have been sure to see Darwin already on the horizon...
Quite some people have warned me already about the dirt road through the Big Desert Park. All the more I am curious what it's like. As expected it is very sandy but always just as much so I can still get through. It is another great ride through a semi desert landscape. Halfway I see a huge cloud of smoke, a bush fire? The last thing I want is being surprised by a fire here. My route seems to pass by on the side but wind can change quickly and you can certainly not get away from a following fire. Nervously I continue. When I am yet closer to the fire I meet a group of park rangers. At first they are quite surprised to see me here but then they inform me that it is 'only' a controlled fire and that I can continue.
One more time I am amazed how quickly the temperatures change. In Victorias mountains it was very pleasant and in the morning I often waited a little bit longer as it was quite chilly. Just when I cross the border back to South Australia the heat is back and how! Since then I am on the road before sunset as it is almost unbearable there in the afternoon.
By the way I have a new 'companion' since Sydney. It's a trailer that I am cycling with now. Dave, whom I visited there, lent it to me (thanks again mate). In the next weeks I want to travel to the center and there I will need to transport a lot of water again and will be happy about the additional capacity.
Before I meet the Mawson Trail in Melrose where I had started it 4 month ago, I head down to the coast for one last swim in the sea before I start the long trip through the dry center.
With every kilometer north it is now getting more remote. The trail follows dusty, hardly used tracks often zig zaging all across the countryside. That is fantastic but I better shouldn't check the map to much: when I crossed the main road today after 80km on rough, sandy tracks, the sign read 23km back to where I had started...
The ride through the Flinders Ranges is the highlight of the entire Mawson Trail. The scenery is simply breathtaking with the low, light forrest and the big red rock walls in the background. But best of all is the trail itself. It is the crowning of this 900km long mountain bike trail as it winds its way on narrow paths through the forrest, crossing many dry creeks. Most beautiful it is always in the early morning when the colours are most intense, it is still not too hot yet and the countless animals are most active.
For the first time I have a flat tyre on the trailer. The tube is fixed quickly but when I want to pump the wheel the trouble starts. I had tried to get tubes with french valves that I also use on the bike but they seem to be unavailable here. No problem I thought, I can use my pump with both valves. But I did not test it and now that I need it, the pump doesn't work. Out of a sudden I am looking really stupid here along that remote route.
In the middle of the night I have the saving idea: why not take one of the spare tubes from the bicycle. They are of course 26'' instead of 16'' but I just squeeze it in and pump. Does it work? Well I am still going with the wheel like that...!