Some time ago, I ventured on a bicycle tour through part of the Australian Outback. I had been bicycle touring before, but never where water was scarce. I planned my journey, but as often happens, and making camping an adventure, plans often don’t work in reality.
When I travel by bike, I load the bike with front and rear panniers, and a handlebar bar. The rear panniers, carry my cooking equipment, a small gas stove with an additional gas cartridge, and my spare clothing. You just can’t live in cycling shorts and tops.
My front panniers carry my food, a mix of dehydrated packet meals, dried spaghetti, powdered milk and coffee. I usually also carry a few extra canned meals. The handlebar bar, carries things I want access to frequently: My money, camera, mixed dried fruit and nuts, and maps or information.
I then add my two person tent, a sleep pad, and a good quality sleeping bag, onto the top of the rear rack. For this trip, I tied on an old backpack, so that I could carry extra water.
After being a tourist in Broken Hill, an outback city 1150 km from Sydney, NSW, for a few days, I checked out of the youth hostel and got on my bike. I headed for the Silver City Highway, a sealed road heading south, about 250km to Wentworth.
As Broken Hill had received about a quarter of their annual rainfall the previous day, I only carried a minimal amount of water. My planning told me that their was a water tank about 50 km down the road where I could refill my water bottles before continuing. When I arrived at the tank, a thirsty and tired cyclist, the tank was dry.
One of the good things about camping and cycle touring, is that people will usually help each other out. Thanks to some tourists, pulling a caravan, they allowed me to refill my water bottles, with enough water to get me to the Coombah Roadhouse.A fuel and supply shop in the middle of nowhere, where I was able to fill all my water bottles.
In the middle of the NSW outback, there aren’t any hotels or caravan parks, the side of the highway was where I slept. I would get far enough off the road, so that my tent wouldn’t be blown over, or hit by any of the countless road trains which roared down the highway at night.
Then I would pitch my tent, cook something eat, and sleep. It was often interesting the next morning, to actually see where I pitched my tent. Waking up next to a very large bull, will usually motivate me to get back on the road fairly quickly.
The next morning, it would be breakfast, packing up the tent, then back on the road. During the day, I would stop and eat oranges by the side of the highway. Occasionally people would stop their cars, or fast moving motor cycles, and have a chat with me, and would often give me fruit, biscuits or a variety of drinks, to help me along. It’s one of the best parts of cycle touring is meeting people who admire cyclist’s who are travelling under their steam.
As the land is flat, and sparse, there is not a great deal to look at, so the days are mostly spent pedalling. As the countless miles role by, they are replaced by a growing sense of accomplishment.
The Camping trip itself took three days, and two nights. By the time I arrived in Wentworth, I was ready for a rest. I always look forward to a hot shower after long distance bike rides, then collapsing on a soft bed, often in a caravan park.