last updated
11-Oct-2001 02:24
01-Mar-1999 18:00 Montréal 1km
Refer to the preparations log for information prior to departure. click here to get the log.
16-Mar-1999 07:59 Dorval Airport (YUL) 9km
Left 15 minutes late but managed to catch up due to tail winds, bright sunshine and mostly clean and dry roads. After packaging bike and luggage, there was no lineup and even had a choice of check in agent !

All went smoothly and I had a bit of spare time before boarding aircraft. A good start for this trip.

16-Mar-1999 18:16 Vancouver 74km
An idylic day in the sun. Temp about +10, clear blue sky, warm sun. Did my usual routine which consists of cycling Marine drive around UB, then through Kitsilano Beach, onto my annual pilgrimage to the Mountain Equipment Coop store,onto the "La Bicicletta bike shop and then down to Iona Beach and the 4km long jetty that extends into the ocean just behind the airport, and a quick ride back to airport to board the 19:15 flight to Honololu. Only problem is that some of the computers were down (link to QF) and the delay forced me to forego my visit to the lounge for shower, drinks and a snack before boarding. All and all, a great start for this trip.
17-Mar-1999 00:05 Honolulu 74km
Just as they closed the door for the flight, I realised I could not find my GPS. Panick set in and I concluded I must have forgotten it at the security check. But it was too late to go back -(. The staff on the aircraft were very good and sent a message back to YVR to have someone check into it. Then, captain announces that there has been a minor incident and that the departure runway was going to be closed for quite some time until they removed the offending aircraft. I figured the good luck with weather and all the greenlights at Vancouver had ended and now all the mishaps were going to happen.

After an initial state of shock over the loss of my GPS (and how I would have to buy a new one or cancel this trip, I fell asleep.

Just prior to landing, I check my bag again, and found my GPS hidden inside a cycling shoe. What a releif, but I felt guilty for all the trouble the Canadian Airlines staff went through to have someone check for my GPS.

The "south pacific" area is again busy and alive, with AC & NZ now using adjacent gates to the CP/QF/FJ gates. And they now let us outside on the sidewalk of that part of the terminal(where I am typing this message).

Flight to Sydney is now on an older 747-200 instead of scheduled 747-400, and I am way back at 62K, but I did keep my window seat.

18-Mar-1999 09:07 Sydney airport 74.0km
Quick note: only phones near gate 27 at HNL are good enough for data, phones at 28,29,30 are in poor quality and can't use for data.

Second note: Lots of construction at SYD. QF domestic transfer lounge is closed, for pax expecting to use it, make sure your connections are not too tight.

OK, flight from Honolulu to Sydney was quite pleasant. Slept about 7 hours. GPS tracked the flight for most of it. Max spee reached 1005km/h, but we still landed a few minutes late. One big bump just before landing made it feel like a roller coaster ride with all pax going "ohhhhhhhhhhh" :-)

Due to the construction, we exited the 747-200 from stairs onto the tarmac. Always is impressive to see a 747 from the ground.

Now, I am off to another 747 to Perth.

19-Mar-1999 08:53 Perth 98km
4 hour flight to sydney was quite short and I had a very good bulkhead .seat (23K, first row of coach on QF 747-300). Unfortunatly, Perth was quite rainy and a measly 23 degrees.

I met with the Aboriginal Affairs Dept to get my second permit which I had not yet received. At the tourist office, I got lucky and got a travel consultant who had ridden his bike on the warburton road a few years ago, and this was his last day until a 3 month sabbatical. He confirmed much of the information I had obtained before.

It is now Friday morning, still cool and raining. Will stay in Perth for another day before setting out.

20-Mar-1999 17:12 Rottness Island 127km
Travelled from Perth to Freemantle where I boarded a ferry to Rottness Island, some 18km away from the mainland in the Indian Ocean. Managed book a tent site. Accomodation at this island reserve is very restricted. There are no cars and all roads around the island are basically bike paths. On Sunday, I will cicrle the island and will go scuba diving.

This mini-vacation has one important purpose: equipment shakedown. Make sure things work and that I have not forgotten anything important.

22-Mar-1999 07:31 Rottness Island 155km
Today was my vacation day. Went Scuba diving in the Indian Ocean. Sea life this far south was not as abondant as it is nearer to the equator, but it was still fun. I also went around the island by bike and this is a wonderful road reserved to cyclists with breathtaking views of the ocean.
22-Mar-1999 07:38 Start of real trip. 155km
In less than an hour, I board the ferry to the mainland and will begin the true trip. It is sunny, relatively cool (up to about 27c) but strong headwinds.

But before, I must rebuild my computer who decided to lose its RAM drive which contained all of my volative/dynamic data and messages. Much of the data can be remotely recovered from my server, but other stuff is either gone or stored on my mac which is, of course, not accessible remotely. This is the first time this has happened to me during regular use. Quite frustrating. My fear is that it will happen again.

22-Mar-1999 19:02 Bakers Hill (70km NE of Perth) 248km
Morning started with the awfull sound of my pocket organiser doing a hard reset, indicating I had lost all files in the ram disk. I have never had this happen during a trip. My fear is that it will happen again. I should be able to continue to function since programs are on a flash disk, and my data can be downloaded from my server.

After the ferry ride from Rottness, my trip officially began as I left the docks at Freemantle and quickly lost sight of the Indian Ocean. The next large body of water I can expect to see is the Arafura Sea, at Darwin at the end of this journey.

Vance is here. It is a category 5 cyclone packing winds of 290km/h. The cyclone I experienced back in '96 was Olivia, a "mere" cat-4 with winds of 250. Vance hit hard in the Exmouth area and there were reports of serious damage. While I am in no danger, it is expected that the remnants of Vance will make their way towards me and give me plenty of rain and wind. I just hope they will be tail winds :-)

Anyhow, after a lonmg climb out of Perth, I am now at about 350m altitude, and enteriung the sheep farming area which will be followed by the wheatbelt and the Goldfields.

Temperature reached 29, but it was quite comfortable since the skies were mostly cloudy.

23-Mar-1999 15:58 Meckering 308km

Cyclone Vance has cause considerable damage. It is now located inland, some 400km north west of Kargoorlie. I am about 500km east of Kalgoorlie. It is now down to a category 1, but when you consider how far inland it is, it shows how much energy it had.

The road is closed at Southern Cross as of 15:00. It is flooded already. But where I am, it is nice warm and sunny. As long as I do not go too fast, I won't catch up. Had I been a day or two ealier, I would have been affected.

24-Mar-1999 08:02 Cunderdin 334.0km
It is now Wednesdsay morning. Except for a couple of hours of wind overnight, Vance did not affect me. It is now battering the coast of the Great Australian Bight in the south with 90 km/h winds after having crossed a vast expanse of land between the northwest corner (Exmouth) and the Bight. Vance retained cyclone status well into the land.

Although it is now somewhat cloudy, I did not get rained on and I expect to have a nice sunny day today. Winds seem to have died down.

I hope to have completed the rebuilding of my PDA's data by the end of today. Resettting the messages on my server to become "unread" remotely has been a trial and error exercise with an attempt submitted in one town, and results checked when I get to the next town. (And so on...)

24-Mar-1999 19:03 Merredin 441km
Vance is now history. I did not get any of its rain, although 100km up the road, they did. Roads are now re-opened. But in the northwest, towns such as Exmouth have suffered severe damage. Vance was the strongest cyclone to hit Australia in history.

I am now right smack in the middle of the wheat belt. Fairly flat terrain. Towns similar to those of the Capricorn highway in Queensland. There is a pipeline that carries water all the way to Kalgoorlie from just outside of Perth. It follows the road and crosses under it many many times.

Weather has been cold today with temps barely reaching 26c. Am hoping for warmer weather. (28-32 is ideal for me)

I have finally caught up with all my emails which I have managed to get back from my home server, so now I can start to reply to them. it took a lot of time to get going due to some technical issues in file formats of command procedures I was downloading. They did not generate errror messages, but also did not run properly.

Kalgoorlie is in sight. Thursday, I should make it to Southern Cross, and either Friday or more likely Saturday into Kalgoorlie.

Since I didn't manage to get my dynamic map onto the website, you can see where I am by using the "Place names" option on the left and entering my location there (you can specify the state of western australia to narrow the search, and eventually, you'll get a map with a cross showing my location.

25-Mar-1999 17:41 Yellowdyne 585km
Am now about 200km west of Kalgoorlie. Weather is cool (about 24c) but sunny. Winds favourable. Long gentle hills. Coming out of Southern Cross, there is a 15km climb. Area is an interesting mixture of agriculture, sheeps and gold mining. Australia is entering a constitutionnal debate with an upcoming referendum on Australia becoming a republic independant of the Queen of England. Going has been easy so far, and I am wondering how long it will remain this way. In 2 days, I get off the main road and head for Laverton, the start of the Warburton road. Already, there is ample evidence of the passage of Vance with lots of water near the road. And as I'll get closer to Kalgoorlie, it will get worse. I am hoping that by the time I get to Laverton, the Warburton road will have dried out. So far, I have not had to carry more than a single bottle of water as there have been plenty of roadhouses (abot 20km apart).
26-Mar-1999 18:16 Coolgardie 741.0km
Had a very average start of day at the Yellowdine roadhouse. Breakfast consisted of steak, bacon, egg, cheese, onions, ham, bread, pinaple, lettuce, tomato etc. It is called a "hamburger with the lot". While eating it on the terrace of the roadhouse, I was chatting with truck drivers and a cop. You see, they were hauling the nose of a submarine from Adelaide to Perth. Seems one aussie submarine broke its nose when it hit a whale so they needed a new one :-). The cone is made of kevlar and houses a lot of the instruments. IT IS HUGE. The cop is required to clear the road up ahead because that part takes up the whole width of the road.

A pretty average day on the road in the middle of nowhere...

I am now in Coolgardie, less than 40km from Kalgoorlie, the gold mining capital of Australia. I gave been overtaken by many trucks carrying sodium cyanide. Dr Kevorkian would be happy here. Seems that stuff is used to extract the gold.

28-Mar-1999 10:00 Kalgoorlie 812km
Kalgoorlie is an interesting gold mining town. Many small mines in the area, but some mega mines right next to town. One such mine has obliterated many smaller underground mines by digging a mega open pit. On the walls of the pit, you can still see some of the shafts of the now defunct mines.

Weather is darn right cold. Only about +16c. The Great Central Road (formerly called the Warburton road) hs just reopened following the floods brought in by Vance. I can't leave Kalgoorlie yet because most stores are closed an this is the last major town until Alice Springs so I have to ensure I have all necessary supplies with me. Am 3 cycling days away from Laverton, the small town at the start of the Central Road. So today (Sunday), I will take it easy and catch up on paper/computer work.

There is a pub on the main street that has a large mural depicting a blue-dress wearing lady seated on a desk and a Clinton looking mate sporting a big grin... Amazing that this story made it to even remote mining towns on thre other side of the planet.

And in keeping with the spirit of a gold mining town, there is a very obvious red-light district, complete with red light above each stall with a cladly dressed prostitute standing in each doorway luring customers. Seems it is tolerated by the police because it is "contained"...

29-Mar-1999 17:55 Menzies 961.0km
Prior to departure from Kalgoorlie, I loaded the bike up with a ton of food (mostly pasta, sauces, dried fruits, flavoured drink powder etc). Am now at Menzies, some 200km from the start of the Great Central Road. Traffic is light, but I did see a 4 trailer road train. (longest I have seen so far). There are plenty of gold mines in this area.

Weather is darn right cold, with temps barely reaching 23 during day and dropping down to about 13 at night. At thoise temperatures, while not pleasant because I have to dress up more, water should not be a problem at all on the great central road.

30-Mar-1999 18:40 Leonora 1065.0km
Met some interesting folks. Bumped into some friends I had met in Kalgoorlie, into a retired couple who do some gold prospecting for fun (and showed their collectipon of gold nuggets) as well as young prospectors on their way to a remote site some 400km north. There is a lot of gold around. The area being mined/searched is vast. So far on this trip, I have been away from the tourist traps and have met mostly aussies intead of german or british tourists. Folks treat me (as a cyclist) very differently here. There is a certain amount of respect because they realise that by being on this road, it means that I will be traversing a long outback road.

Tomorrow is my last day on a sealed road until I get to Ayers Rock. Temperatures are cold (in morning only +16, and rises to maybe 20 during day). Am hoping for warmer weather even if it requires stricter water rationning.

01-Apr-1999 08:00 Laverton 1197.0km
Arrived yesterday night at 21:00 after a very long and arduous ride against fierce headwinds that didn't let up after sunset. There was a good bright full moon to light things up.

Today is the big day. Once I prepped the bike, bought the last supplies, talked to police about road conditions, I will be off on the Warburton Road (otherwise knownm as Great Central Road).

Winds are fiercer today. I am hoping that the front which passed overnight will have changhed the wind's direction, otherwise, I might consider waiting a day before setting out on THE road. Nights are still cold (down to about +15, but days are a tad warmer at +22. (well below normal)

Yesterday, I saw evidence of a fibre optic cable near the road (a solar powered repeater station). I am hoping that it will continue all the way to Yulara thus raising the odds that the phones at the communities/roadhouses along the road will have good enough quality for me to send reports.

It is now noon. Will leave tomorrow. Fierce winds continuing. Still cool. Got my big tires from post office. Checked in with police station. They did not send me directly to the psychiatric ward of the hospital :-) Road in good condition with some dsandy patches and corrugated sections.

02-Apr-1999 17:36 Cosmo Newberry+23.4 ( 109 ) 1315.0km
DAY 1: The first day on the great central road could not have been better. Totally blue sky (finally!) and lessening wind. The road surface was very good. The tyres handles exceptionnaly well even in the few bad spots. Looking forards to testing them in the true sandy stretches (I may regret saying this ! :-).

It is still quite green with some wildflowers, as a result of the rain from cyclone Vance. But as I move east, it should dry up. On saturday, I hope to make 120km to Peagull Waterhole. The second windmill after Cosmo which I had planned to use to refil water was dismantled recently. I am still OK with water though, but can't waste some for a shower in case Peagull is dry or unusable.

It is still cool enough to carry chocolate (breakfast will be a huge Milo bar for the next 2 mornings), but that will be the end of me carrying chocolates if it continues to warm up). (Which means I'll revert to stuff that doesn't melt such as granola bars).

13 cars today. Including a police paddy wagon which pulled up next to me almost right after I took a picture of a sign indicating the entrance to an secret army base. It was a coincidence, of course, and the cops knew me and asked how I was going. They did point out it was a super secret radar facility with stealth technology and over-the-horizon radar and that it was extremely high-tech asutralian technology. Their pride did go down when I pointed out to them that the main contractor (Marconi) was a Canadian firm :-) :-) If it were that secret, why have a sign on the road ???

03-Apr-1999 17:39 Peagull Waterhole (225.2) 1433km
DAY 2: After a cloudy evening with a bit of rain, the skies quickly cleared up. Temperature also rose back to a more normal 28. Road was not as good as yesterday, especially for a 30km stretch where there had been considerable water damage and lots of sand. 15 cars. All but 2 going east. I got to my goal (Peagull waterhole and caves) just after sunset, and was very disapointed in not immediately finding a huge pool of water at the base of a rock outcrop. Instead, I did find 3 small puddles of water on top of the rocky hill. The first 2 were quite green, but the last (smallest) one was clear and sustained life (large tadpoles). Filled up my water bags and went back to camp (next to a cave) where I started dinner and heated water. While the pasta was cooking, I took a nice hot shower and washed the dust, sand and sun block lotion off my body. After dinner, I spent about and hour pumping all that water through my filter and filling up my water storage on the bike. Did 117 km today, and tomorrow, it will be a short day, only 80km to the Tjukayirla roadhouse where the cops highly recommend their burger :-)

I have not seen any telecom infrastructure from the road, but have seen a few small posts next to tracks indicating there is something "out there". I wonder if phone quality at the next roadhouse will be good enough for my modem.

Although my fan club is always with me during the day, they have not really been much of a problem so far, mostly due to the fact that I have had a slight headwind so they stay put in my back while I ride my bike. But as it gets sunnier and warmer, I suspect that they will become more excited and will litterally bug me whenever I stop or slow down. (For those of you not familiar with my australian fan club, they are bush flies. as soon as one spots me, it sends a message through the BFAWI (Bush Fly Australia-Wide Intranet) and all of the australian bush flies then congregate towards me to keep me company. They do not bite, they just bug you and they are very good at it :-) )

About 15 cars.

04-Apr-1999 15:47 Tjukayirla Roadhouse (305) 1513.0km
DAY 3 Summer is here at last. Temperature reached 30 today, bright sunshine, little wind. My fan club is getting very excited, especially when I slow down in difficult road conditions (when you least want to be distracted by the bush flies tickling the most sensitive parts of your face.

Got to Tjukayirla early but the roadhouse was closing due to it being easter. Didn't get the Tjukayirla burger the police had so highly recommended :-( :-(. The public telephone operates via a satellite link from the roadhouse and my modem was not able to work. Since this payphone didn't take the prepaid cards, I had to use Canada Direct, and at $5.00 for the first minute, I have learned to avoid it like the plague. Am told that from Warburton onwards, they are on a microwave link from Uluru.

I had been told that the folks at the roadhouse were extremely nice. But I found them to be very cool. Perhaps it is because they were to close at 15:00 but stayed open until I got there at 15:45, or perhaps they are just like this. (The lady did point out that the Rabbit Flats roadhouse on the Tanami Road is opened only 3 days a week, so for an outback roadhouse, they were quite good to have been opened on easter sunday until 15:00)

There was nobody else in the camping area. So it was just me camping, and the couple who run the roadhouse and nobody else for hundreds of kilometres. Yet, we barely spoke.

The roadhouse is very new (5years) and the facilities very clean and seem unused.

The roadhouse is owned by aboriginals, but operated by a white couple. With so few cars passing each day, one must wonder how they can make a living.

I assume the aboriginal community views this as a long term investment for when the road becomes a sealed highway and traffic increases significantly.

The next 2 days will be difficult for water. I will try to make Warburton (255km) in two days. There is no water in between (except for a water hole just a few km past my stating point). So I will leave here fully laden with water to last 2 days and one night. The 128km I need to do each day is feasable *if* road conditions are good enough. Since the first day, I have found that about 50% of the road is in poor shape (to various degrees) and the rest is in excellent shape.

Today, there were only 4 cars, including a road train (yes, here too !) and a small truck who stoppped to ask ME information about the road. The chap was delivering a transmission to Alice Springs from Perth and had never taken that road before and was not even sure is was open all the way :-)

05-Apr-1999 17:34 Tjukayirla+127 ( 432 ) 1640km
While the road was generally very good, it was a very hard ans slow day today due to the many hills and the fact that I was carrying so much water combined with a definite headwind. The headwind, while tough on the legs does have the advantage of forcing my fan club to stay quiet behind me all day. They are getting very excited. I even had to kill a few (easier at night when they run out of energy).

I was told that dropping bush flies over a city would be illegal as it would be considered biological warfare :-)

I did make it far enough before sunset that I am confident I will make it to Warburton tomorrow. This is becoming more and more like the desert. Hot, and lots of spinifex, few trees. There are however some strange alien bulbs growing on the sides of the road.

MY GOD ! IT'S FULL OF STARS ! With the moon now rising late in the night, I can finally see the great australian night skies in their full desert glory. An awsome sight.

However, this reminds me how alone I am withith absolutely nothing for over 120km around me. Not a sound, not a light.

Today there were only 4 cars, 2 of which were road trains. Nowhere near the traffic levels I had been told to expect.

06-Apr-1999 18:21 Warburton 1763.0km
DAY 5 Nobody said it would be easy, except that lady at the Tjukayirla roadhouse who swore the road was in excellent condition all the way to Warburton without any construction or bad stretches...

Most of the road may have been ok for cars, but it was over-maintained with tons of loose gravel formind a carpet over the sand. This, in itself is negotiable on a bike, but combine this with the many hills and a head wind, and it makes for difficult riding conditions. But just when you think you're going to make it, there is a 15km stretch of road construction. They are straightening the road you see, so the old road bed isn't maintained anymore, you get heavy trucks on it, and it criss-crosses the new "straight" roadbed. Hell when you're 35km away from town, 1.5 hours to go before sunset and best you can hope is a 15km/h speed whenever the construction zone ends.

I made it to Warburton all-right. But the last half hour was in darkness. Of course, the road house was already closed. And I had been told many negative stories about that roadhouse and its fenced-in camping area with aborigines trying to steal petrol from tourists.

Interesting how I had been told many good stories about Tjukayirla, but it ended up being a real dud. But here, the manager saw me, told me "no worries", opened the shop for me, gave me the keys to washrooms etc. The camping area was much nicer that at Tjukayirla. And while it is true that there is a fence, it is around the whole compound which also includes individual bungalows (motel rooms) etc etc. So there isn't that fenced in feeling. And there were no abos trying to steal stuff either. Interesting how the road is setup to avoid contact between aboriginals and whites.

Wednesday morning: There is radio here. Heard on the news that Gwenda is 400km fro Karatha. It is another category 5 cyclone. The radio here broadcasts to remote area of western australia, so in Warburton you get the same cyclone warnings as on the northwest coast. It is very strange to hear these warnings again as they are the same as in '96 when Karatha was hit by Olivia when I was there. The further I move north-east, the farther I get from the path of cyclones once they hit the land (they tend to move south midway and then south east to the southern coast and then east). However, being on a dirt road, any rain is of major concern as I could get stranded for a couple of days.

There are 2 mining road trains parked at the roadhouse.

I was told that road conditions deteriorate from now on. I will try to make Warakurna (Giles) in 2 days (115km each day), but must be ready for 3 days (water/food wise). This is the second difficult stretch with water points being far apart. From Giles to Yulara, water is easier to get.

Even though I am only halfway across the Great Central Road, and even though they keep telling me the worse road conditions are yet to come, I feel that the worse is over. Perhaps it is because there are more features along the road from now on and I am getting closer to Yulara. I have to start planning distances so that I make it to about 40km from Yulara on the last day so that on the following day, I can be a tourist and visit the Olgas and Ayers Rock and come nightfall, get to the small town.

If I can send from Warburton, it probably means that I will be able to send from Warakurna as well, and possible from Docker River. I expect it will be at least 6 days before I get to Yulara.

Saw camel tracks on the road, but no camels yet. (there are wild camels here).

07-Apr-1999 18:50 Warburton+71 (640) 1835.0km
DAY 6 Perhaps, I hope, the worse day of this trip, but I fear that the worse is yet to come. The 10km of roadworks leaving town were a piece of cake compared to what was to come. Corrugation and sand were the surface of the day. For the first time this trip I had to really walk the bike through beach sand. And when back on firmer ground, I had to contend with deep corrugations/washboard that never ended while the bush flies were having a field day with me and I was unable to use mt hands to push them away since I was too busy riding the bike at a speed rarely exceeding 10km/h. This wa like torture, with my hands tied to my handlebars, and hundreds of bush flies tickling every part of my face, including some that got under my sunglasses.

And I thought that bush flies would be quiet on a cloudy day. And then the rain started...

Finally, the corrugations ended, but that is because I had entered and area currently geing graded. While the surface was smooth, it was not hard, and with the rain was starting to be muddy. I had to stop after 70km of very unpleasant riding.

Even though I am a few hundred km away from the northern territory, I have moved my clocks ahead 1.5 hours since this is the time used by locals from here to the border.

I have now resigned myself to worse case scenario of doing 80km per day. The cold,cloudy and rainy weather has the advantage of reducing water consumption so I should be ok doing the Warburton-Warakurna bit (230km) in 3 days instead of 2

ADDENDUM: During the night, it rained constantly and I worried the road would be impassable the next day. But now, it is morning and I saw the grater and a car go by. Ny tent has been invaded by an amry of ants overnight. It will take me longer to find the hole than it took them to find it :-(

08-Apr-1999 18:18 Warburton+157 (726) 1921.0km
Still cloudy with periods of showers. Met with the chasp who drivesthe grater. Told me a few things about the road and about waterholes near it. Just having been grated, the road was much better than yesterday's disaster, but as I progressed, road condition deteriorated somewhat. I was quite happy when I got to the "large gum tree on the left side of the road, you can't miss it" since it meant that there was a small side track leading to a hand-operated pump. I had barely consumed water that day but the availability of water meant I could wash and carry more water the next day. Problem is that it was too cold to take shower outdoors so I had to improvise :-)

Halfway during the day, the clouds got too dark and GPS drew the last electrons out of the batteries so it started to drew on its on (reserve) power. After 3 days of clouds (2 with rain), I had used up all the stored power. No more music until I get a really nice sunny day.

Made 86km today with second lowest average speed (14km/h) but am now less than 80km from Warakurna/Giles.

Ants are still getting into the tent.

09-Apr-1999 16:15 Warakurna (798) 1994.0km
Civilisation at last. Phone line is now adequate enough for data:-) :-). The roadhouse does not serve meals and didn't have anything hot, seems it is not yet the tourist season on this road. The young couple that runs the establishement just came back from a 6 week holiday that included climbing to 6000m in Nepal. (Everest and K2 are 8000+m). Her attitudes towards aboriginals was quite different from Warburton. She knew them by name, played with the mischeavious kids who came in and had a very positive attitude towards them.

The one drawback of the operators having just returned from a trek to the top of a mountain in Nepal is that their store was out of stock on food items I needed to restock my galley for the remaining 4 days in the outback. Because I was not ablke to get a single hot meal from the 3 roadhouses I went through, I used up 3 more meals than expected.

Road conditions were better than expected but headwinds compensated so I was still moving slowly. I do not plan on doing much more than 80km per day until I get back to the bitumen.

There won't be a phone until I reach Yulara (the village near Ayers Rock) so don't expect an update for another 4-5 days.

While, as a tourist, my contacts with aboriginals is quite restricted, I was able to see that Warakurna is quite different. They do not have a petrol sniffing problem here (but still only sell avgas to aboriginals and keeps petrol pumps in locked cages) as they do in Warburton. As I arrived a large part of town was about to leave for a football tournament in another community in the outback.

The day was still cloudy with headwinds, but there was enough light to run the GPS of the solar panel. There are LOTS of ants here. Sent some time pluging miniature holes in the tent floor, but also have to put a kleenex where the zippers end because that is where most them were coming in.

10-Apr-1999 18:41 Len Bedel's Tree+1 (868) 2067.0km
The sun finally came back. Day started with a visit of the Giles Weather station, a picture of which being partly responsible for this trip. The actual station setting was quite different from the picture though. The area is near a mountain range (Rawlinson) and is somewhat hilly.

This weather station, as well as many of the roads in the area were built in the late 50's to recover missiles and rockets launched from the Woomera site (at the base of the Stuart highway, 170km north of Port Augusta). There are remnants of a recovered rocket on display. There is also the original grater used by Len Bedell and his crews to build the roads, including the Gunbarrel Highway which is now a popular 4wd outback road. (Interestingly, not passable for those driving a Subaru Outback :-).

After a last fill-up of chocolate milk, I set out for the final stretch fo this road with Yulara beng the next point of civilisation. The road was better than expected but did have some badly corrugated sections.

I am now close enough to the park that I can start planning distances so that on the last day, I have time to visit the Olgas (Kata Tutja) and Ayers Rock (Uluru) before arriving at Yulara just after sunset for a reasl meal !

The scenery since Warakurna is quite different. The area is now flat with mountains poking out as oppossed to being rolling country (sand dunes). Very pretty at the end of the day as the reddish sun strikes the red stone faces of the mountains.

11-Apr-1999 18:20 Lasseter's Cave (Tjunti) ( 932 ) 2139.0km
I though this would have been a relativly easy day. Road was rough and rocky to the border of the Northern Territory, and then it became, for a few KM a beach and it was apparent that the grater had been here recently. My guess is that the grater purposefully pushed the sand back onto the road to make the later higher. It was hell. Following the aboriginal community of Docker River, the road got beter. My standards have gone way down since Warburton. Before, if I could do 20km/h, I would consider it good. Now, I consider good anything where I can do 12 km/h and stay seated for at least 300m before the next set of currogation or sand.

Aboriginals seem friendlier here, they wave at me as they pass by, and I even spoke to a few. But in the Northern Territory, this friendliness is in sharp contrast to all that "white man can't" signs. There is a

13-Apr-1999 19:16 Yulara 2353.0km
The Great Central Road was not about to let me go easily. All of the last 38km were in sand dunes and was either sandy or corugated. But at 12:45, I reached the bitumen after nearly 1200km of dirt/sand road. I quickly proceeded to kiss the bitumen. 32km esarlier I had started to see the Olgas (Kata Tjuta) tower in front of me.

After a visit to the Olgas, I then bicycled the remaining 45km to Uluru and arrived in time for sunset.

As I stood looking at the world's largest monolith, something happened:
Then, in a giant flash with flying stars and swirls of light, I was transformed from the object of pictures from the few passing motorists on the Central Road into just another tourist at Uluru.

Since my arrival in Perth, I had seen few foreign tourists and my contacts were mostly with locals or Australians travelling. But now, I was amongst a sea of foreigners all tourists wishing to take pictures of Ayers Rock as the sun sets.

Most people here do not know about the existence of this road. They just know about Ayers Rock and the olgas.

Once the picture taking was done, I raced to Yulara (the village) and checked into the backpacker resort. I was now just another backpacker amongst a sea of folks travelling by bus or rental cars whith no clue as to what I ad gone through.

It had been 13 days since I had had a real meal with fresh vegetables and meat. So I was very much looking forwards to the barbeque at the resort, but there, I was but a single customer and nobody could understand the value that this meal had. Nobody could understand the value of having clean hands, something you rarely have when you ride on a dirt road and camp on sand. And tourists think that having one or two bush flies around is hell; But having sustaned hundreds of millions of them around me, this is heaven here !

Another aspect which struck me was the sight of shiny compact cars. During the last 2 weeks, I had seen nothing but utes (utility trucks), 4wd land cruisers and the 1970's beaten up cars driven by aboriginals. All of a sudden all this changed and there were, of course, plenty of luxury buses ferrying the tourists from placeto place. It had never expected to notice such a change. The contrast between aboriginal lands that are quiet with very few cars and the Ayers Rock park rig next to it, one of the world's biggest touris attractions swarming with tourists could not be greater.

I will stay here another day to get a better look at the rock but most importantly get ready for the next phase of the trip that should take me to Kings Canyon and onwards to Alice Springs.

On the way back from the sunset viewing area, I reached 35km/h and that felt like I was going supersonic compared to the slow pace of about 12km/h I ha gotten acustomed to on the dirt road.

Now I can say it: NO PUNCTURES SINCE PERTH ! The tyres I got for the dirt road may have cost a lot, but they did a tremendous job. In the end, I ended waking the bike across deep sand far less than expected.

14-Apr-1999 19:10 Uluru 2406.0km
Today was a "tourist" day. But it seems I was truly not meant to take pictures of Ayers Rock. In '95, a lens element came loose inside my lens just as I arrived at Uluru. This year, the lens held up, but I probably lost all sunset pictures when I changed film and found out I had not completely rewound the film before removing it :-( -(. Nevertheless I took many pictures around the rock and while going up the steep 300m to an altitude of 865m.

Am getting used to being back in civilsation. Went to the supermarket to restock my galley for the 600km trip to Alice Springs via Kings Canyon. And I took advantage of the barbecue at the lodge once more. All and all an easy day in the sun.

15-Apr-1999 20:01 Curtin Springs 2495.0km
Spent the morning and early afternoon preparing for the next stretch. Picked up packages at the post office, changed tyres back to narrower bitumen tyres and sent stuff I wouldn't used by post onwards to Darwin.

It is good to again have access to a wide variety of fruit juices. (One of the more interesting flavours discovered this year is banana mango juice). But no WEIS bars yet.

The bad news is that to see Kings Canyon without backtracking, I will have to do about 200 of unsealed roads. Will enquired as to their conditions (I have a choice of 2 roads).

Am now a mere 85km from Yulara at a homestead called Curtin Springs and they also serve as a road-house. I am again back in the land of the mega-stations with cattle spread over hundreds of square kilometres and counted in tens of thousands.

Instead of riding 160km straight to Erldunda on the Stuart Highway (and 200km north to Alice), I will now head north to Kings Canyon and then east to Alice.

16-Apr-1999 20:56 Kings Creek Homestead 2675.0km
Today was a day of firsts. Met first cycliust on a bike. He was Japanese and going all around Australia with a detour to Uluru. He, too, was high tech with a palmtop and a web site. His site is at In true asian fashion, we exchanged our business cards :-)

It was also my first long ride of this trip (180km). And it had to happen: first puncture. (Not bad: 2600km without a flat.)

And I saw my first Kangooroos (wild) for this trip. Two of them hopped in front of me for a while before disapearing into the bush. After a very long ride with the last 2 hours in the starry night, and after I was done with dinner, I had to spend about an hour on the phone sorting out banking and business issues before the end of the business week in europe and north america.

Needless to say, I slept well.

17-Apr-1999 17:39 Kings Canyon Resort 2723.0km
The campground at Kings Creek was very quiet. But as I got tom the shop to get a bit of a snack, a parade of tour busses started to arrive, one after the other with about half of the tourist finding me and the bike more interesting than the camels and kangooroos in a fenced off area. Silly questions and pictures taken of me. Now I understand why aboriginals made up that cultural ban on whites taking pictures of them. I left before I was finished and finished my snack a few hundred metres later away from the buses.

Kings Canyon proved to be a very good stop. The vast majority of tourists on thoise buses don't do the complete walk around the canyon, so it was very quiet. There ois an absolutely georgous rockhole midway in the walk. It is called "Garden of Eden" and deserves its name. In a very narrow section of the canyon wich is ver dry and rocky, there are luxurious trees an plants and a large body of water from the rains. Because the wasteris deep in a gorge, the sun doen't get to evaporate it quickly so it stays for a long time. The downside is that it is cold :-(. It was my first time swimming since I left Rottness Island off the cost of Perth. There was even a duck in the rockhole :-)

Now comes the bad news. Camping is absolutely not allowed anywhere on the direct road to Alice Springs which has a 200km section that is unsealed and supposedly in bad condition. And because the central lands council office is close (it is weekend), I can only obtain the standard tourist permit across the aboriginal reserve and hope I don't get caught (which I was informally told is highly unlilkely).

May not be able to report until Alice Springs (or from prison if I get caught!)

18-Apr-1999 18:00 Kings Canyon Resort 2723.0km
Ended up staying an extra day at the campground. Met up with a group travelling on 4wd vehicles, two of hich had done the Connie Sue Highway (from the Eyre Highway the southern coast, goes straight north and joins up with the Great Central Road at Warburton) and were stranded at the campground because of a broken axle. The Connie Sue is a true outback road with no maintenance and very few travellers. It was built by Len Beadell's Gunbarrel crews and is named after Len Beadell's daughter.

The wheel was already taken off and axle taken apart and they were going to go to Alice Springs the next day to get the spare parts and fix it themselves (they have the tools and maintenance manuals for their vehicle).

Luxury: these guys rigged up a hot water heater in the engine and with a 12v water pump they take hot showers with a real shower head clamped to the roof rack of their 4wd.

They were now going to do a few more tracks and finish off by crossing the Simpson desert.

Surprisingly, I was not able to connect as the phone lines were not good enough. Considering this is a big resort, I was quite surprised. They still had old card phones for which pre-paid cards are no longer sold. (Australia switched to smart cards a couple of years ago).

Old phones perhaps, but the shop had WEIS bars. !!! FINALLY, I get a really good treat. (they are frozen cream bars with about 20% fruit content. WEIS bars are addictive. For some reason, they are unavailable in Western Australia, and not that easy to find elsewhere.

19-Apr-1999 18:39 Meereenie Loop Road 2805.0km
Another 200km of dirt road. :-(

The road surface was rough and bumpy but almost all hard (not much sand). This road goes through an oil field which is probably the real reason camping is not allowed.

While there are quite a few tourist cars and buses during the day, I was awakened a few times by large trucks travlelling in the middle of the night. Having folks with cars parked on the side of the road would definitely hinder those large trucks.

Am now about 120km from Hermannsburg where the bitumen starts. This small community has a bad reputation as either a bad aboriginal community or some community of extra religious people.

Met up with the 4wd guys returning back to the campgound from Alice (what will take me 3 days to do, they did in half a day :-( They got the parts to fix the car and were going to change the axle that night and hopefully leave the next morning. As their spouses (who remained in the campground) said: Boys with toys. These toys are not cheap. In Australia, a real 4wd vehicle costs about $60,000. (Shower not included!)

When you tag on all the other equipment, (radios, camping gear etc, it comes up to about $80,000).

20-Apr-1999 20:06 Hermannsburg 2926.0km
Hell probably best describes this road. By far in worse condition than any stretch of the great central road. Rocks unevenly thrown over a cobbletone surface probably describes it. It is a miracle that my bicycle survived. It is most ironic that the worse stretch is the very one that we pay a toll for a permit. There are no aboriginal communities on that stretch. When between aboriginal communities, the road is in much better shape. Considering the amount of tourists that use this road and considering that it serves an oil field, I cannot understand why this road would be in such a sad shape.

I got to Hermannsburg well after dark. It is a much bigger community than I had expected, but there was no caravan park and the store an petrol station was closed. Itis an aboriginal community. There was a football game going on. I found some very helpful kids who showed me to some water and confirmed that there was no campground. I find it interesting that my little experience in that town was quite positive while I had heard many negative comments.

I ended up camping on the side of the road a few kilometres past the community. At last I was back on the bitumen.

Interestingly, I was awakened in the middlew of the night by a group of horses wandering near my tent.

21-Apr-1999 19:03 Alice Springs 3051.0km
Horrors of horrors, one of the connector pins on my GPS broke. So, I took out my soldering kit which consists of as spare spoke and my portable stove and proceeded to try to improvise a new pin. Used the leg of a LED as the pin and soldered it onto the base of the broken pin. Soldering consists of putting the tip of the spoke in the hottest section of the flame, wait for it to get red, and then get about 2 seconds worth of heat when you touch the part you need to solder. It is time consuming (an consumes lots of fuel too).

Set out, back on bitumen tyres, on the 122km that remained to Alice Springs. Bad headwinds and lots of long rolling hills. For about 40km, the road was just one lane, like a bicycle path in the middle of the desert.

Once I crossed the MacDonnell Ranges about 40km from Alice, the going got a bit easier. But entry into Alice was quite different and not as dramatic as when you enter from the south and go through a narrow gorge with the railway very near the road and all of a sudden you're in Alice. This time, it is a slow buildup, going through residential suburbs etc.

At 18:59, I reached the Stuart Highway, connecting this trip to other trips. It was also my first traffic light since Kalgoorlie (over 2000km). Alas, the youth hostel was full :-( So I settled for another (bigger and noisier) backpacker.

First order of business was restocking the galley. Alice has 3 large supermarkets opened until midnight. To someone who has been inb the bush for a few weeks, this is "civilisation" :-).

Again, I am lost in a sea of tourists.

Once some of the remaining items are procured and some logistics settled, I will head north on the Stuart Highway to do the remaining 1500km to Darwin.

22-Apr-1999 19:20 Aileron 3189.0km
After a burger with the lot, I left Alice Springs with a fully stocked galley. With the kilos of pasta and sauce mixes, I have 1.5 kilos of banana chips, 1 kilo of Berri ISO sports drink powder (hard to find, even though it is an Australian product, it is overwhelmed by the shit produced by Coke under the name Powerade which wastes shelf space -:).

Bitumen and tail wind. What else could I ask ? It was a quick trip to Aileron.

Passed the tropic of capricorn. This is the imaginary line south of the equator over which the sun is directly over on December 21. (The sun is over the tropic of cancer on June 21 and over equator on March and September 21st).

Had to fix punctures in my inflatable friend on whom sleep every night (mattress). Also had to isolate and fix a broken wire in the main power bus between the solar panel and the equipment up-front. My improvised soldering iron was once again used (and lots of fuel for the stove).

Am now about 1400km from Darwin. Today was quite cool with a max of only 23 nd it got down to 8 during the night. Can't wait for warmer weather

23-Apr-1999 20:06 Barrow Creek 3338.0km
Morning was spent fixing things as well as doing logistical preparations after I get to Darwin.

Telstra is spending $1.5 million to bring fiber optic to the Aileron Roadhouse (the closest repeater station is 5km away) because the existing microwave link is too sensitive to sun spots (well, that is what I was told). Along the Stuart Highway, the fiber optic repeater stations are quite visible every 40-60 km apart. They have large solar panels high up to power the electronics inside a bunker. The cable itself is burried a mere 15cm below ground which makes the laying of cables very cheap in this area. (except when crossing rivers/creeks).

At night, I got to my favorite road-house on the stuart highway: Barrow Creek. It is by far the most "rustic" and least developpedand it is primarily an old pub with a petrol station (as opposed to a petrol station with a pub). But this year, it was very quiet. Last year was the owner's 10th anniversary of managing this place and he threw a large party (people in the area still talk about it, and 2 recognized me from last year's party). Les, the owner, is a colourful person. Last year, he wass wesaring nothing but a large diaper and was having quite a bit of fun.

But now it is back to the quiet roadhouse with style and some interesting people.

24-Apr-1999 17:50 Bonney Well 3475.0km
From now on, I won't have any serious easterly component on the road as it now heads north and later north west. Winds are from the east, so this is good news.

Weather is also changing. Nights, which used to be quite cold, are now warmer (only down to 15, instead of down to +8 near Alice Springs. There are also a few clouds to the north which indicates that weather now comes from the warmer north instead of coming from the frigid southern ocean.

Some road trains, notably yhe BP fuel trains are up to 4 trailers. Most of the freight is now carried by rail from the south to Alice and then by truck to Darwin. Road train traffic is dictated by the arrival of a freight train into Alice, roughly every second day. The project of extending the rail all the way to Darwin is supposedly moving forwards. No evidence seen from road yet. Such a railway would have a profound influence on maritime traffic to Australia as Darwin is a perfect location close to the asian shipping lines without requiring a lenghty detour to the southern ports of Sydney or Adelaide.

I was hoping to be able to change the stopping pointsalong the road to sample other places (Notably the Daly Waters pub which I have been told is quite colourful) but it seems thatI am stuck in pretty much the same pattern as last year.

The roadhouse at Wycliffe Well repainted their building since I was last there. They claim to be the landing site for UFOs, so now their building is painted black (hot in the desert sun) with all sorts of alien designs and drawings of aliens on the walls). There are also 2 green aliens standing guard in front of an alien craft. (You'd think that the owner would ask then to move to the caravan park if they are going to stay there for long :-). I always felt that Someone should show up there dressed as a ferengi (StarTrek) and ask the female attendant to caress his ears :-)

It is intereting to see changes along the road over the years. The locality of Ti-Tree (pronounced Tee-Tree) seems to be growing. There are a couple of aboriginal communities, there is a fruit and vegetable farm (yes, in the desert!) where they grow mangoes, and next to the roadhouse is now an aboriginal arts store nd general store.

Every year, I seem to have some sort of a spill in my "cosmetics" bag. Crest tubes always seem to split open at the end spilling toothpaste everywhere (so I use Colgate for trips), then once, a deet insect repellant bottle sprang a leak, melting most of the stuff in the bag (toothbrush was fused to a comb !). This year, it was a newly pourchased gel sun block whose cap decided to break... Amazing what vibration can do.

Found an interesting desert: Dip banana chips in Nutella. Sort of a poor man's chocolate fondue !

Bonney Well has a water tank, so I had plenty of water and it was warm enough outside for me to take a comfortable shower before dinner.

25-Apr-1999 20:13 Attack Creek 3635.0km
This place used to be called "Stuart Memorial" because of ther memoria*l plaque for Johnb McDouall Stuart, an explorer who opened up this route. There is a waer tank here, so it makes for very luxurious camping (by my standards !).

Met a dutch cyclist on the road and we exchanged lots of stories. When I got to Tennant Creek, I went to the food store and bought dried pinaple slices to create a more complete chocolate fondue (dip fruit (pinaple and banana slices in Nutella) :-)

This morning, I followed an eagle for over 15km as he was patrolling the road to look for breakfast ('roos killed by road trains overnight). When he takes off it looks so hard and slow, but once n the air, it is so majestic, especially when he circles in an updraft to effortlessly gain altitude. Unfortunatly, the road trains didn't kill any animals on that section overnight so that eagle didn't get breakfast nearby.

Am now in the final stretch. Less than 1000km to Darwin. Daily targets established, and now planning food quantities for the numbers of meals leftto prepare.

Darwin is roughly at -12.5 lat, 130 long.

Nights are definitely getting warmer so it is easier to get up in morning. Distances between roadhouses are quite manageable so I need not carry much water anymore (make bike much lighter).

At Tennant Crek, I consumed 1.2 litres of chocolate milk, 600ml of a Carribean Crush fruit juice (yummy!) and, of course, a WEIS frozen fruit bar (Mango). At 3ways, 25km later, I consumed an extra 600ml of chocolate milk.

On such a journey, especially for the remaining sretches, weight loss can be a problem so I must ensure I have an adequate intake of sugar/carbos and food.

26-Apr-1999 18:34 Elliott 3815.0km
Saw a bit of water in a creek. The creek was not flowing, but there was a puddle of water in it. Water at roadhouses tastes better as well. (South, the water is more mineralised (much of it undrinkable by humans). Also saw some green shrubs (really green!). I am in the transition between the central deserts and the monsoonal forests of the top end where water, during the "wet" is overabundant. Luckily, it is now te start of the "dry" so I should get good weather.

Met an australian couple who took a year's leave from work to cycle around australia. They've already done 6 months and still going strong. I seem to be the only cyclist not going around Australia in a single trip ! (I have gone around, but in separate trips).

Today was the first truly warm day. Went up to at least 34 degrees. After sunset, the temp was still 30. In the morning, is was a nice 21.

27-Apr-1999 18:19 Daly Waters 3968.0km
Not quite what I had expected, but I ended up sampling the pub I had been told had to be sampled. I am about 90km behind my target; the wind today just wasn't good enough compared to last year and there was no way I could have done the 240km, so I settlewd for an early stop at Daly Waters, hoping that tomorrow I can make up at least half of the diference.

The pub here is interesting. I managed to meet up with aussies, but most of the folks are bloody tourists and that removes from the atmosphere of a real aussie pub.

28-Apr-1999 21:42 Katherine 4242.0km
Back in business ! Made my longest ride in Australia so far, 273km. In the end, did stay at Daly Waters pub *and* kept to my schedule. It was a lomg day, but my body seems to have held up quite well.

The business jet I saw parked near the road in the middle of nowhere a couple of days ago belongs to Mr Packer, on of the richest man in Australia who happens to own a lot of stations/land in the Northern Territory and was visiting *his* small town of Newcastle Waters.

Am now in the last stretch between Katherine and Darwin via Kakadu Natl Park. The direct route via Adelaide River is 325km, but the route via Kakadu is at least 475km.

29-Apr-1999 18:31 Harriett Creek 4361.0km
Didn't make Kakadu National park (yet). Ater a slow start, I met a british cyclist going south. He had cycled all the way from England with a short plane hop from Bali to Darwin and he was going to Adelaide. He said the two most memorable places he cycled through were Iran and Nepal.

I made camp next to a lovely creek with water that was actually running. Wow ! While I was bit scared of crocs, there were no signs warning about them so I indulged and bathed in it (not deep enough to swim). This was a lovely spot to camp in the bush with nobody else around. The bush flies have given way to the grizzly mosquitoes (although they are not bad YET). These mosquitoes land with their body vertical. I guess it is so that they can drill with more force. I wonder if they get blood out of crocs :-)

Every year, to prevent uncontrollable bush fires, they do controlled burns of the undergrowth before it gets too dry. And the time is just after the wet season which means: NOW. As a result, some areas are smoked in, while in others, the road goes through a smoldering bush fire. This year, it hasn't been bad yet, but last year, near Pine Creek, visibility in the smoke was so low that I was worried that a road train would not see me in time to avoid me. Interestinmgly enough, most trees survive the burn nd regrow leaves. Their bark widhstands the heat it seems (though most trees are black at the base). Some areas look like autumn with leaves yellow,brown and reddish.

A sign announcing the next services has some graffitti that says it all: "DON'T GO, VERY BAD PLACE" next to Mary River Roadhouse. Last year, I did not pay much attention, and I experienced the full brunt of this old sour couple that run the place. Saw the lady jump over the counter to put her foot in the doorway of the toilets to prevent someone from closing it: "LADY, YOU CAN'T USE THE TOILETS BEFORE YOU'VE BOUGHT SOMETHING". I was thrown out by the husband because he suspected I was cheating *his* pay phone because he saw me make many phone calls withouth putting coins in *his* phone. (they were free-calls (800 numbers). When I got to the Kakadu park entrance, I asked for some water, and the reply wads "did they throw you out at Mary River Roadhouse ?". Seems that what I experienced is fairly common at that roadhouse. Colourful to say the least.

I am nw about to enter Kakadu National Park. This year, I am hoping to get to a more remote wild camping area that is next to a waterfall and "plunge pool" (swimming hole). It all depends on which roads have re-opened already (many are closed during the wet due to flooding).

There are mature/tall trees here and lots of vegetation. Birds are also different from those further south. Very interesting transition.

30-Apr-1999 16:49 Gunlom (Watercreek falls) 4442.0km
After a great morning, washing in a beautiful creek, all alone in the quiet bush with only the sounds of the water and birds, I set out towards Kakadu National Park. I had been looking forwards to going to Gunlom waterfall, and it was opened. But his means 40km of unsealed road in and out of Gunlom. The road wasn'tall that bad.

Very nice waterfall over a cliff, filling a rather large and deep plunge pool. Interesting that swimming is not discouraged, but we are told to stay away from the freshwater crocodiles (there are 4 or 5 in there, as well as many large fish).

For a place so near to the equator, it is interesting to find cool water. It is also interesting to see temperatures still dip to below 15 at night.

Disaster strikes at midnight
Coudn't beleive it. A group arrives late, and the caretaker for the campground tells them it is OK to setup next to me. These inconsiderate people won. After an hour of them making as much noise as possible, shining their car headlights on my tent an walking constantly in between (to make light flash on my tent), I gave up and moved my tent. I didn't bother getting dressed. I was expecting at least an apology from these folks once they realised I was moving, instead I got "bite your own ass". Took me 5 minutes to move camp. But I could still hear them from further away. Would you beleive they started vacuuming their tents (yes, there were many) past midnight ? There is nothing worse than fuming with anger and no being able to do anything. The worse is that they won. They got me to move without asking me and got the picnic table to themselves. They had really setup their camp around mine and parked their vehicles as if I was not there. Seems to me that these folks do this often enough and know how to get their spots and force others to move away.

Needless to say that this has quite tainted my stay at Gunlom falls which is meant to be off the beaten track.

01-May-1999 19:22 Cooinda 4575.0km
I am still fuming over those inconsiderate people. I the morning, they would give me a finger whenever they walked in front of my tent. Maybe these are related to the folks who run the Mary River Roadouse.

I nevertheless did explore the upper section of the waterfall which include additional swimming holes.

What is a ranger station with no ranger in it ? When I got back to the bitumen (Gunlom is 37km of unsealed road away from the main road), I stopped at the ranger station. I *had* to complain about the park attendant wh told these assholes it was ok to setup their camp around my tent in the middle of the night. Alas, my frustration grew because I could not vent my frustrations since there was nobody at the ranger station.

The rest of the day was quite uneventfull. When I got to Cooinda ( a resort ), I was releived to find out that they still had camping spots. The lady at the small shop even recognised me from last year. At last some positive energy after all that anger.

But this was short lived as I spent the night cmmuting between the tent and washroom because my digestive system wasn't working properly. I did manage to get some sleep though (more than the previous night).

There are 2 cycling days left. Tomorrow is a short one (50km to Jabiru) and then the grand 252km finale to Darwin. This is why my digestive problems have me worried because now is the time to load up on food, especially since I have not eaten much since Katherine (ran low on snacks).

I also have to worry about those assholes, as it is likely that they will pass me on monday (it is a long weekend here in NT). With their attitudes, I would not be surprised if they ran me off the road for fun. I don't have their license plate numbers, but one of their trucks was from a company called Power Line Systems (or something similar).

I have entered the dense mosquitoes area. And they are very hungry. There is the drilling rig type (stands vertically to have more drilling power) and then there is the blood tanker that loads up with a huge load of blood. It takes about half an hour to debug the tent initially. There is blood all over the tent (squashing one that has already loaded on your blood resuls in big blood stains on the tent). Tomowwow night will be the same or worse at Jabiru.

02-May-1999 18:23 Jabiru 4634.0km
After a night of commuting between the tent and toilets, my stomach somewhat settled and I had a full breakfast, but about an hour aftr that, problems started again, but not as bad. I was nevertheless able to get going on my bike, but at times it was not comfortable. I was worried about food intake for the next big day. But by the time I reached Jabiru, my stomach seemed to settle down, and that evening, I had a light real meal at the resort and stomach seemed happy. At Jabiru, I met up with that Japanese cyclist I had met near Yulara/Uluru. I stayed in the ($$$) bacpackers, so this sved me the aggravation of the mosquitoes and howling dingoes who were still there (last year, I was kept awake by them in the camping section of that resort. So by the end of the day, things started to look up.
03-May-1999 19:51 Darwin ! 4889.0km
My fears of lack of energy did not materialise. I was able to get enough chocolate milk, Weis bars and soft drinks to get nme through the 255km between Jabiru and Darwin. Although I made better time than last year, I still arrived downtown after sunset so I missed the beatiful susnsets over the esplanade overlooking the Arafura sea.

Road was as pretty as last year, especially at dawn and dusk where the big birds are active. Saw lots of Jabirus this year (but no crocs !).

After 5 trips into Australia, it was finally time for my first encounter with a snake that was alive and on the road. At first, I thought it was just rubbish on the road, but when I approached, I realised what it was, but with my momentum it was too late. The snake did rise and look at me, but did not act. I guess he did not know where to strike (a loaded bicycle looks very big to an animal).

After 4889km, I made it from Perth to Darwin. Tomorrow, I board a flight o Townsville whereI go scuba diving for a couple of days, and then start heading back to Sydney and home.

Am hoping to hit 5000km before this trip is completely over.

04-May-1999 05:23 Darwin Airport 4903.0km
It has been 4 nights with little sleep now. But I had to get up at 04:05 so I could catch the 06:25 flight out of Darwin. The ride to the airport (13km) is quite nice as I ride through nice areas such as Mindle Beach and Fanny Bay before heading inland to the airport. Of course, at this time of the day, all is quiet.

The folks at Ansett were chearfull and, as has been my experience so far, have had a "no worries" attitude towards me and my pushbike. Their rate did double to $20 ($10 last year).

04-May-1999 10:37 Cairns Airport 4903.0km
Flight from Darwin was quite uneventful. A very nice breakfast (omelette in a pastry shell with saussage and cheese) followed by a light snack during the second leg. There is a stop at Groote Eyland in the Gulf of Carpentarria. This airport is very small. It does not even have a payphone, and its outdoors waiting area doesn't even have picnic tables. (Well, technically, it doesn't have an indoors area :-) This is primarly a mining comunity on aboriginal land.

One thing I hjad never seen before,. On the plane, there was a tour group from a certain large country. They applauded for both takeoffs and landings. Found it very strange.

Pilot had no problems with me using my GPS during the flight. So obviousy, last year, when I was denied its use, it did not represent corporate policy. He did ask the FA to ask me where we were :-)

Now, I am off to Townsville on a small puddle jumper.

04-May-1999 17:30 Townsville 4903.0km
Everything went fine until I got to the Mike Ball Dive shop to check in. Seems that between the time I called from Cairns and was told everything was fine, and the time I showed up at their store, they cancelled the whole trip because waves/winds were too strong. What a bummer. After settling the money issue, I had to decide what to do with the time I would have been supposed to be out scuba diving from a boat.

I decided to head back to Cairns in the hopes of having more clement weather and of finding a spot as such last minute on a Cairns-based boat. Didn'thave much time to think if I wanted to catch the buswhich got into Cairns at a reasonnable time.

McCaffertys charges $25.00 fo a bike. But I got on the bus for the 4.5 hour journey to Cairns.

05-May-1999 07:45 Cairns 4903.0km
After a long bus ride (the movie in the bus was "Wild America", I got to Cairns an found a bed at thr Youth Hosel, but they could not book any tours past 22:00. Went to bed. On Thursday mporning at 07:00, the YHA staff founbd me a spot on the Reef Explorer for 1 night 2 days which fit my schedule. Once all the paperwork was done, I had 15 minutes to get myself to the harbour and find the boat (Which wouldnt wait for me since I was not on their passenger manifest printed before I made the booking. But I made it ! Finally, things lookin up.
06-May-1999 20:00 Cairns 4903.0km
The scuba diving experience, booked at very last minute turned out quite OK and very laid back. A total of 6 dives, including a night dive. The dive sites were not too spectacular, but considering the weather, they had to restrict themselves to the motre sheltered reefs of the Great Barrier Reef, but at least I went diving.

I did notice differences in quality and operations between these folks (Reef Encounter) and the folks with whom I had gone before (Mike Ball). Passengers were more fun, but less experienced than those who book with Mike Ball. But overall, it was definitely worth it (and cheaper than with M Ball).

Am now back in (rainy) Cairns for a few hours. And will leave very early tomorrow morning.

07-May-1999 11:29 Sydney 4926.0km
Got to the Cairns airport and an ungoldly early hour to catch the 05:50 flight to Sydney. This is actually an international flight from Nagoya, Japan and in Australia, it is possible for domestic passengers to travel on the domestic leg of such flights.

The good news is that I managed to convinxce the agents to accept my bike in a Canadian Airlines bicycle bag. (Qantas policy is to require bikes to be boxed). But when I pointed out that Qantas is now par of the OneWorld alliance and that as a OneWorld custumer, I am told that same rules and services will apply when I fly on any OneWorld member airline. So they reluctantly agreed to take the bike.

Flight was on a 747-SP. Was about half an hour late leaving with excuses ranging from: "We're waiting for a few extra meals to be loaded", "We have to add a bit more fuel" to "Thereis a bit is Mist in Sydney and we have to wait for Sydney to give us a go ahead before we take off from Cairns".

But we landed at SYD almost on time. Setup my bike in then customs area and then speeded through the formalities since I was a domestic pax (the bording cardhas a special stamp). Agriculture dogs to sniff out fruits seems to be becoming more and more prevalent.

Sydney Airport is big construction zone. They are enlarging it and adding train service (subway/metro). I am really hoping that they didn't close the nice outdoor terrace they had at one end, but my hopes are not up on that one.

Am now at the Central Youth Hostel. It is a large building downtown that handles lots and lots of guests. Too big and too nice to have the "youth hostel" feeling since a large proportion of guests are not of the backpacker type. But you can't beat the location.

Am now off to see a few things in Sydney that I have not yet seen and on Sunday, I ride to Sydney airport for the long flight home.

07-May-1999 22:30 Sydney 4926.0km
There is much construction in Sydney (again !). But some things are interesting. Right next to the construction site of a large tower (World Centre) which was abandonned 2 years ago and lays there with just a few stories of its core built and nothing else, are construction sites for 2 new towers. Maybe they should have finished the first one before they started new ones :-)

One of the new attractions at Sydney is climbing the Harbour Bridge. It is costly ($98) but very popular. They get about 600 people per day in groups of 8 to 12. Everything is done to ensure that you cannot drop *anyting* onto cars/trains and that you won't fall. There is even a breath test to ensure you are not under any alchool influence.

One is not allowed to bring *anything*: no camera, no wallet, no watch. One puts on a grey suit with no front zipper and no pockets. Sunglasses must be attached to a hook on the suit. One is then fitted with a harness and a speial hook wich attached to a fixed line along the path. The harness is locked by a staff member to ensure you can't break free. Feels like a prisonner. Everyone is fitted with a radio receiver to listen to the comments from the guide. There is even a small simulator which everyone must try to show that they know how to attach themselves and walk along the line.

Once the group is ready, we go out on the street for a short walk (where we look like Ghostbusters!) and enter a secret door that lets us reach the bridge's structure from below.

There is a metal line that goes all the way around the loop we will walk, and our harness is hooked to that line. If someone slips, they can't go far.

The climb itself is fairly easy and the view is truly incredible. They are currently filming Mission Impossible 2 in Sydney, and we got to see a few accrobatics with a helicopter getting *very* close to the antenna on top of a office tower and dropping someone (with another helicopter filming). Earlier that morning, I was told that they had helicopters chasing a speed boat BELOW the harbour bridge (and they do this quite a few times to make sure they have they right footage). Of course, it is strictly forbidden for any flying object to travel under the bridge, but for Tom Cruise (who lives in Sydney with wife Nicole Kidman), I guess the authorities are willing to bend the rules. So I got to watch some of the helicopter scenes from high atop the bridge.

Where they get you is with pictures. Since you can't bring a camera, they take pictures for you and they then sell them to you at $15.00 per picture once the climb is over. They make mega money. It is operated by a private company who pays a lease to the bridge authority.

click here for more information on the bridge climb

The olympics are getting close (September 2000) and Sydney seems to be on schedule as far as the work is concerned, but they seem to be short of cash. Tickets will go on sale shortly.

The Star Wars movie will open June 3rd here in Sydney. Advance tickets can be purchased.

08-May-1999 21:00 Sydney 4936.0km
Today, I visited Homebush Bay, the site of the next summer Olympics to be held in September 2000. The site is quite advanced and all venues should be ready before the end of this year. The folks here seem a tad paranoid about things that could go wrong (they saw what happened in Atlanta).

Athletes will have a dedicated tunnel between the olympic village and the venues to prevent any of them from being late to their event due to traffic or bad bus drivers. The olympic village will be solar powered, as will many of the lights illuminating the olympic park.

The main stadium is complete. But commercialism has won and while there are many food outlets, there isn't a single water fountain in the stadium. But it is big stadium (110,000 seats).

The train system is ready but many wonder if it can handle then load. It is a 25 minute ride from downtown. Fear of traffc congestion caused the organisers to move the velodrome from Homebush Bay to Bankstown to spread the crowds a bit.

I think that Sydney is going to put on a show that will be hard to beat.

Since Sydney is quite a tourist trap, they already have tours of the olympic facilities. $10.00 to visit the olympc pools, but only $4.50 to go swim in them :-). Contrary to Montreal, the authorities here are pushing for the athletic use of the facilities.

Thois used to be a very seedy part of town. It was so renowned that tourists woulkd go and take a look. In the last few years, Kings Cross has transformed itself into a tourist trap. It is very strange to be there on a saturday night and see families in an outdoor cafe with kids, an next door there is one of the few remining sex shops and you can see a prostitude across the street. The rest of the shops are cafes and shops selling tourist trinkets.

08-May-1999 23:47 Honolulu Airport 4936.0km
Flight from Sydney to Honolulu was quite uneventful. First movie was Patch Adams. Qantas doesn't quite have One World training done quite well, so I was refused checking in atthe business class line even though as a One World Ruby member, I should hve been. Canadian Airlines no longer has its counter and relies on Qantas to check us in. Because Qantas refuses seat pre-selection for its passengers, check in seems very slow. After a long wait, I get to a check in agent and when the expected "We want your bike in a Qantas box", I went ballistic showing a One World brochure and telling her how the same rules should apply etc etc. She said that there was no reason to get excited and that she was only *suggesting* I put in a box and that she woud avecpt it. I the apologized saying I was already mad because as a Ruby member, I was refused check in at the business class line, then she changed tone instantly. After the check in was done she told me to wait there, she went and talked to the chaps who refused to check me in, checked with the rules book and came back with an official apology in the form of a voucher for the business class lounge where I could take a "nicer" shower. I didn't have any time to enjoy the lounge but did take the shower there. But overall, I referred my old "coach" shower next to the observation terrace (outdoors) where I could catch a last breath of fresh air and watch planes.

Anyhow, I made it to HNL and now onto the 9 hour flight to Toronto.

09-May-1999 09:15 Sydney 4936.0km
Am at the Sydney Airport. Jusr finished taking a shower and am about to board the flight to Canada via Honolulu. Will update the site when in Honolulu in about10 hours. Meanwhile, I will be running around for last minute errands and then board the flight in 10 minutes.
09-May-1999 16:40 Toronto Airport 4936.0km
Note: was unable to connect in Honolulu, even from the very same phone I had used on the outbound journey. I don't know what they did to those payphones, but it is funny that I would have problems in the USA calling Canada, but was able to call from some pretty remote places in Australia.

It had to happen eventually. After waiting about an hour, it was agreed that my bicycle had not been aboard the flight from Honolulu to Toronto. I filled out forms and exited the customs area. This was quite a disapointement. The good news is that I was number 9 on the stand-by list for the 17:00 flight, and there were 10 seats left. I had 9 minutes to run from the customs area upstairs , go through security and board the flight.

I was seated next to a Kiwi. She made 2 interesting comments. For one thing she also hated Toronto airport (she had no way to know where to go after customs to board the flight since there are no signs indiating this !

Secondly, she mentioned how silly it was for americans to have a "dime" with absolutely no indication on the coin of what a dime is worth :-) I had nver noticed this, but it is true ! How is one supposed to know that a dime is worth 10 cents ?

09-May-1999 18:30 Dorval Airport 4936.0km
I have now arrived at Dorval Airport.But I cannot get home because I do not have my bicycle. This poses an interesting problem for the airline where the loss of luggage doesn't generally prevent the passenger fom going home. But they were OK and agreed to pay for the taxi back home.

In previous trips, the bike ride to home was always the "official" end of the trip. So this year, there is something missing.

Dorval's domestic arrivals are as poorly designed as before with fences preventing passengers from freely moving int the crowded small area where the luggage belt is located (the rest of the area is now filled with concessions, luggage belts used to take up the whole area).

Somehow, this dosn't feel like home anymore.

10-May-1999 17:30 Trip complete 4936.0km
Canadian Airlines called me to announce that my bik had arrived in Montreal and less than half an hour later it was delivered home. Seems that the luggage handlers put it on the Honolulu-Vancouver flight instead of Honolulu-Toronto.

I must now go through the depressing time when the trip is over, but I must still do lots of maintenance work on the equipment before I store it until it I next needed. It also means I must get back to real work.

Where next ? Not sure.

07-Feb-2001 01:01 Montréal 0km
07-Feb-2001 01:01 Montréal 0km
07-Feb-2001 01:02 Montréal 0km
07-Feb-2001 01:02 Montréal 0km