The Idea

Well… the Trip has been and long gone now. There will be other crazy ideas at some point, but this is the Trip that was. Read on, and compare the plan to the story of how it all came together…


The basic plan is for a small group to ride dual-sport bikes from Melbourne to Nhulunbuy and back, and visit friends who work in the Aboriginal communities up there. The original plan was to go via Darwin and across the very top, then come back via Katherine. From the initial research I’ve done, it’s almost impossible to get permits to take bikes any further north than the Central Arnhem Road, which means we may not make it to Darwin (or at least may not need to) at all.

If you’ve read this page before, you’ll know that this whole scheme started off as pretty non-committal, and a bit of a dream. In the months since it has become an impending reality, and there’s now a number of people involved in the project in various ways. And while it’s a bike trip for me, it’s a 4WD trip for them.

We also have actual dates now, so I’ve added them to the route, which I guess makes it an itinerary now. Thanks to hard work from Mandy, we have suggested accommodation for each night. We’re hoping the rough it as many nights as not, but it’s great to have a plan B for each night, just in case.

The Route/Itinerary (as Final as it’s gonna get, as of August 2009)
I’m trying to limit us to around 500km per day on bitumen, and trust whatever reasonable guidance I can get on how far we can get down any given off-road track in a day. I’m assuming that (in most circumstances) the bikes will make better time that 4WDs on the same tracks, however in most cases the fuel stops and accommodation will dictate the day’s travel. There’s also a limit to what a rider can do in a day. Unless the bikes can realistically make the next fuel stop or camp-site, we might as well trust the best info we can get, and not over-reach. We’ve also decided to sell out and trailer the bikes (since there’s only a couple of them) on some of the long, straight sections of tarmac. This will allow us to cover more kays in a day, and will give the riders a rest from what is pretty pretty dull riding.

It seems that Google Maps don’t embed into WordPress pages all that easily, so you’ll have to follow the links to see the maps.

Saturday 5 September 2009 : Mt Evelyn to Peterborough, (900-odd km)
The first day has changed a few times over the past couple of weeks. We’ve now decided to do a long haul on the first day to buy ourselves some time later in the week. We’ll leave at 5:00am, and meet with the rest of the convoy at Ararat for McBreakfast at 8:00am (go on, you know you want to join us there!). We’ll most likely trailer the bikes from Ararat… I know… we’re selling out on the first day. Oh the shame…

It will be long day, with less to see than on the days to come, so to make it a “transit day” is not such a bad thing.

We’ll work our way up through Keith, Murray Bridge and Nuriootpa, then on to Burra. I remember Burra was an interesting old town, so I hope we have time to explore it a bit while we’re there. We’ll head from there to Peterborough.

Accommodation: Peterborough Caravan Park. Site $8.00 with free power and camp kitchen
And extra 40km ride to Pekina will take us to Carinya Escapes for bush camping.

Sunday 6/09/2009: Peterborough to Marree (416km) > map
From Peterborough there are two ways we can go. We’ll stay east of Lake Torrens, heading toward the Oodnadatta Track. The track itself will take a couple of days, so we’ll get as close to the end of the tarmac as we can on this day.

The riders might also want to change tires that night. The next morning we need to be ready for off-road riding.

Accommodation: Marree Drovers Rest Tourist Park. Sites $8.00 per person, unpowered
If we make it further (or less the next day), Coward Springs Campground is 134km away

Monday 7/09/2009: Marree to William Creek (207km) > map
So begins the Oodnadatta Track. This is where the adventure begins – or at least where the next stage of it begins. This will be our shortest day on the Oodnadatta Track trek. The roads are well graded, and even the bikes should be able to pull good distances at good speeds. The shorter distance this day should allow us to get used to the dirt road, and we should have plenty of time to take in the scenery along the way. There are some springs along the way which might also be interesting.

Accommodation: William Creek Store and Campground from $13.00
William Creek Hotel: Bunkhouse rooms  $14.00 per person

Tuesday 8/09/2009: Lake Eyre Day Trip > area map
Lake Eyre comes in two flavours: wet, and dry. I’m told it’s beautiful either way, for wildly different reasons. We’ll stay for two nights in William Creek, and use the day in the middle to visit Lake Eyre. This will be a rest day for those who want it, and anyone who want to see Lake Eyre but doesn’t want to ride can pile into whatever 4WDs we have with us.

For this we’ll need a Desert Parks Pass, which Andy has sorted for each of the vehicles.

Wednesday 9/09/2009: William Creek to Cadney Homestead, via the Painted Desert (378km) > map
We’ll continue to head west, and finally make it to Oodnadatta, the home of the pink roadhouse. The track follows the route of the old Ghan railway, which means there’s a number of ruins, old sidings and bridges to be seen along the way. I’m a sucker for that sort of stuff… evidence of what once was.

This leg was originally expected to take two days, but I’ve since been told that the track is sufficiently well maintained for us to cover the 400-odd kays in a day. It will be a long one, though. Funny how every time we have a rest day we make up for it with an enormous day right after…

We were originally planning to take the The Oodnadatta track all the way to Marla. The western section of the Oodnadatta track was made in the 1980s to replace the old Granite Downs track, which joins the Stuart Hwy further north. On the advice of Jeff, we’ll take neither of these tracks, but head from Oodnadatta to the Painted Desert, and reach the Stuart Hwy at Cadney Homestead. This will mean we’ll have a little more bitumen riding to do the next day… but by then that might be a relief!

We should also assume that we’ll be putting road tires back on, if we took them off at Marree. Details of where we might be staying that night to follow.

Thursday 10/09/2009: Cadney Station to Yulara (581km) > map
Back on the bitumen! This will put is within spitting distance of Uluru. It will be a long haul, and we’ll have a hard time avoiding the tourist trade on these roads. The plan is to get there in time to see the sunset on the Rock. Yulara is mostly a resort town (I gleaned that nugget of information from the images in Google Earth, so I could be talking rubbish), so it will make a good “civilisation” stop.

Probably the last place we’ll visit that has a dress code, too.

Friday 11/09/2009: Yulara to King’s Canyon, via Uluru (316km) > map
We’ll get up before dawn and head out to the Rock to see the sun come up. From what I’ve read, the dawn tourist plague is almost instantaneous. That should be fun. Out of respect to the traditional owners, I won’t be climbing the Rock, and I’m told that seeing the sunset and the sunrise are the best bits… so we’ll clear out fairly quickly.

We’ll cut a circuit of the Rock, then follow Petermann Rd until it joins back up with Lasseter Hwy. We’ll make our way north to King’s Canyon. We were going to head straight through to Alice Springs, but the distance is too much, and King’s Canyon is just too good. This will give us the late afternoon and the early morning to explore… and get us back on the road for the hotter part of the day.

We’re expecting a couple people to fly into Alice Springs and join us there. Tiger has cheap flights to Alice on the 12th, but not the 13th.

Saturday 12/09/2009: King’s Canyon to Alice Springs (360km) > map
It’s possible we might do some of this day’s riding the day before, and camp somewhere in the West Macdonnell National Park. Those meeting us in Alice Springs will arrive on this day, so once we’ve seen the Canyon, we’ll get to Alice as quickly as possible.

Sunday 13/09/2009
The rest day is back! We lost it for a little while there, but we’ve got it back. It will also give us a chance to restock, maintain the bikes, and prepare our backsides for the road ahead.

Monday 14/09/2009: Alice Springs to Daly Waters (912km) > map
This will be one of those highway days (which we’ve really been remarkably free of so far). We won’t turn a corner for hours. Yay for us. Doesn’t really warrant a map, does it? We were originally going to ride this, and go only as far as Tennant Creek, but we’ve decided to trailer the bikes, share the driving, and get as close as we can to the end of the bitumen.

Tuesday 15/09/2009: Daly Waters to Flying Fox (400km) > map
This will be our last ride day as we approach Aborigial land (where we can’t ride). This will be a pretty big ride, but it will also be our last for a while. Whatever distance we don’t make this day will no doubt be added to the next.

Wednesday 16/09/2009 – Flying Fox to Nhulunbuy > map
From here we’ll trailer the bikes and make our way to Nhulunbuy, up the Central Arnhem Road. We’ll pass through or near Lake Evella on the way, where we have friends we plan to catch up with… but we’ll press on the Nhulunbuy, and make our way back to Lake Evella in the days that follow. For a dirt-road leg this one seems a little long, but hopefully the fact that we’re not riding will help.

Thursday 17 – Tuesday 22/09/2009: Nhulunbuy and surrounds
We’d planned to use the time it took us to get from Tennant Creek to Nhulunbuy as a guide, and take the same route back when we left. Since then we’ve been given some advice on the distances we can cover in a day, and have been shown some alternative routes that mean we don’t have to come back the same way. So… all going to plan we’ll have 6 days in Arnhem Land, and nowhere to go.

Wednesday 23 – Thursday 24/09/2009: Nhulunbuy to Roper Bar > map
Earlier efforts to take a more direct route from Nhulunbuy to Mt Isa had not inspired me with confidence, so we had decided to trek back to Tennant Creek, and head east from there. Then two things happened: a friend managed to secure us access through private land between Nhulunbuy and Roper Bar; and another friend showed us a bunch of places we just had to see between Roper Bar and Mt Isa, and could show us how to get there. So, while these two days are still a little vague, that’s the way we’re going – straight down the coast.

Friday 25/09/2009: Roper Bar to Robinson River, via Southern Lost City (507km) > map
I really must thank Jeff for the route between Roper Bar and Mt Isa. He was up that way recently, as was able to point out some great places to see and to stay along the way. There’s two “Lost City” rock formations along the route, but the southern one is closest to our chosen course.

Saturday 26/09/2009: Robinson River to Adele’s Grove (around 400km) > dodgey map
At Robinson River there’s a beautiful gorge that can only be accessed by canoe. We’ll do that early in the day (since they won’t loan out canoes in the heat of the day), then hit the road. Adele’s Grove is adjacent to the Lawn Hill National Park. Google Maps plots a route of nearly 600km, but I have it on good advice that it will be considerably less than that. More detail to follow.

Sunday 27/09/2009: Adele’s Grove to Mt Isa (330km) > map
Compared with some of the roads and distances we will have covered by this stage, Sunday should be fairly light. This should place us in Mt Isa with enough time to see some of the local attractions, and take a bit of a break.

Monday 28/09/2009: Mt Isa to Boulia (290km) > map
Some of  out company will be leaving us at Mt Isa, and flying home. We’ll get a chance to see them off at the airport, before heading on our way. From Mt Isa the rest of us head south to Boulia. I know nothing about the place, other than that it is in the right direction, and about the right distance from our starting point.

Tuesday 29/09/2009: Boulia to Birdsville (382km) > map
I think we’ll completely miss the races, and the big tent fist-fighting competition… but I’ll be OK with that. What we will get to see is Birdsville, which is just one of those places you gotta see.

Wednesday 30/09/2009: Birdsville to Innamincka > fudge map
Ah, the legendary Birdsville Track. This should be a hoot. Google maps won’t let me plot it, probably because it believes there’s no direct route between the two. I know there is, and I’ll find a map that proves it at some point. For now, enjoy the pretty lines and markers and ignore the complete absence of, you know, roads. (I’ve heard that the preferred route through this area has now been reopened… updated map soon)

Thursday 1/10/2009: Innamincka Rest Day
Innamincka has a good river for swimming in, and will make a great place for a do-nothing-go-nowhere day… and I think we’ll be more than ready for that. It will be our last rest day for the trip.

Friday 2/10/2009: Innamincka to Tibooburra (470km) > map
This will be a long one. 11 hours, if Google has its way. This will be the last stretch of dirt for the trip, too. We’ll pass through three states, and stop at Cameron Corner.

Saturday 3/10/2009: Tibooburra to Mildura (634km) > map
The beginning of the end. This will be a big tarmac ride, and may end up being part of the last mad dash for home. We’ll pass though Broken Hill, which will probably be the last serious chance for our possible Sydney-sider companion to part company with us.

Sunday 4/10/2009: Mildura to Mt Evelyn (585km) > map
For the rest of us, this will be the home stretch. Wow… I’m missing the place already. It all seems to have gone so quick! Wanna go back?

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