Today was a big day in the world of solo non-competitive Outback bicycle touring.
I crossed my second border – this time, into the Northern Territory.
The Northern Territory (NT), the third largest but least populated of Australia’s eight states and territories, borders Western Australia (to the west), South Australia (to the south), and Queensland (to the east). The northern coast traces the Timor Sea, the Arafura Sea and the Gulf of Carpentaria.
Only 1,113 more miles (1,791 km) until my destination in Darwin.
And that’s not even counting the 315 mile (508 km) detour to check out that big rock, Uluru (Ayers Rock).
Despite the flatness of the Outback, I’ve been slowly climbing the entire way to the border and my elevation today peaked at 1,759 ft (536 m) – the highest I’ve been since the Adelaide Hills.
I’ve always thought of Tasmania as Australia’s Alaska (aka no people, vast wilderness), but I’m starting to reconsider this comparison as I hear more about the Northern Territory.
Litchfield and Kakadu are two national parks people continue mentioning, and I am considering visits when I get further north. The Katherine Gorge also looks to be worth a visit (although I don’t think I will have time this time around).
Despite most of the Northern Territory being dominated by desert, the climate in the north is tropical. Up there, the wet season brings tropical cyclones and monsoon rains (typically December to March).
And speaking of rain, it’s raining once again (despite it apparently being the middle of dry season).
So begins day number seven of riding in the rain.
I stop at the Kulgera gas station 13 miles (21 km) past the border for a sugar boost and a bit of planning.
The previous two days of riding were my first consecutive 70+ mile (112 km) days, and if I can manage to make it another 83 miles (133 km) today to Erldunda, then I will be able to take shelter in a service station (but more importantly, I will win the use of a flushing toilet). Erldunda also marks the turnoff for Uluru.
I’m feeling good and decide to put in the effort to justify a frothy refreshment and bag of candy at the end of the day.
As I ride through the rain, debating whether or not my sunglasses help of not, my mind wanders to the fact that I can’t remember the last I haven’t gotten a flat since swapping my back tire in Adelaide. Except now that I’m within ten miles (16 km) of my day’s destination (and since it’s raining), I get my first flat in two weeks of riding.
Sitting on the side of the road, being rained on and watching cars pass, grabbing a hitch to finish out the day is tempting. In fact, I’ve already been offered rides by at least three different people.
However, getting in a car would kind of defeat the idea of “biking across Australia”.
With my tire patched I manage to make it to Erldunda just as the sun is setting.
I am happy to find that not only are my anticipated beverage and snackage readily available, but my cyclist friends from Coober Peedy have made it here as well.
We sit inside taking full advantage of the mediocre wifi and outlets before slipping into the caravan park and setting up camp in the dark (because who wants to pay $15 to sleep outside in their own tent?
And yes, it’s still raining.
- START: Marryat Creek, South Australia
- END: Erldunda, Northern Territory
- DAY’S DISTANCE: 83.17 mi / 133.85 km
- TOTAL DISTANCE: 1,340.46 mi / 2,157.26 km