Monday, June 25, 2012

Out West - Advice for riding in West Australia - Part 1

Here's my first instalment in a series of posts about cycle touring in west Australia (Western Australia and NT)

A good investment is a brass tap key which you can get from hardware stores. This allows you to turn on taps that have had the handle removed. I used it at a bunch of places such as taps in toilet blocks, although you do have to be careful that the water is actually drinkable.

If you are using a metho fuel stove, you’ll need to specifically ask for Metho or go hunt for a hardware store as they have restrictions on its sale in NT due to some of the locals drinking the stuff (bad idea by the way). You won’t find it just sitting on shelves.

Suggested route

(Starting at Katherine)
Katherine to Pine Creek to Jabiru (Arnhem Land / Kakadu National Park) to Humpty Doo to Darwin to Litchfield National Park to Katherine to Victoria River to Broome to Port Hedland to Canarvon to Geraldton to Perth to Albany to Esperance

Places to stay

Katherine - Cocos House 21 First St (next to the Art and Didjs” shed, just walk in the gate. $11 pn. shared kitchen facilities, camp at the back of the house, shared shower and toilet. Ask about the “cyclists advice” folder of information. Apparently you can dumpster dive at the nearby Woolworths in the early morning hours. I camped one night next to the bike path north out of Katherine where there are all these boulders nearby, although you will probably be woken up by cattle moving around on the other side of the highway like I was. Make sure you stock up on food and water at Katherine. Note there is no bike shop in Katherine.

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Pine Creek caravan park -13.82541,131.83557 $15 unpowered - or free camp nearby somewhere is possible either near the highway or on the road to Kakadu (Kakadu Highway)

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( pay Kakadu access fee at the roadhouse once you get into Kakadu )

Camp site in Kakadu at -13.29089,132.33571, try to get a table before the grey nomads and wicked vans. 

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Jabiru. I stayed with friends here so not sure about accommodation options. If you can get a lift with someone out to Ubur and back, do it. Watching sunset there is magic but remember the bug spray.

When exploring the wetlands, be mindful of crocs.

1 days ride out of Jabiru - Bark Hut roadhouse -12.899633,131.675724 - showers, pub fare, plenty of space to sit in the eating area, plenty of dirt to camp on. $10?

Darwin YHA backpackers is probably your best bet here. I did see some people camping about 10 km out of the CBD in view of the bike path, although whether they’d let you join them I’m not sure.

Litchfield National Park, via the dirt road and sand road from the turn off out of Darwin. The dirt road is ok, it might even be sealed now - they were doing road works when I was there - but there is a section once you get into Litchfield National Park itself where you have to go over a bridge and then it is all sand for a while and horrible. I found I couldn’t ride in it. Do stop to look at the Magnetic Termite mounds though. They’re very eerie looking in the green grass like tombstones. Eventually you will get to a turn off, where you can camp on a table in the day area (you’re not supposed to) for $3.30 a night next to Walkers creek. -13.07843,130.6987

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Stop off at all the falls on your way out of Litchfield. Stock up on water at Bachelor and then ride back onto the Stuart Highway to the airstrip rest area and sleep on a table next to the Coomalie creek. -13.01445,131.12289

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Stop off at Hayes Creek for water and lunch and then head on another 23 km to a quiet spot off the road at -13.6321,131.58368 (right hand side of the road in the direction you’re travelling). You’ll see a stack site there but keep riding a bit futher off the road and you’ll see a spot where people have had fire pits and camped before you.

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Stop off at Pine Creek if you need some water.

Back into Katherine (I camped 5 km out next to the bike path) but there's also Coco's House. Stock up on food and water at Katherine before you leave. Take the Victoria Highway turn off out of Katherine, heading kind-of West now!

95 k out of Katherine there is a dirt road of some kind at -15.08464,131.731 which I camped near.

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Next camp is the Victoria River roadhouse $5 a night unpowered and you can go up the back to get away from the people and noise. You must go down to the bridge to see the river. -15.61589,131.12785 There is a tap to fill up your bottles in front of the roadhouse.

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The next place I camped was a firetrack parallel with the highway at -15.6866,130.16791, about 5 km from the Baines rest area. I tended to camp about 5 km from rest areas to get away from the grey nomads and wicked vans but still be able to use the toilets if there was one, and have a quick wash and fill up water bottles from the water tank... in the morning not long after packing up. I think this rest area didn’t have toilet but did have water tank. If you get to the 5 km away rest area early enough you can actually get there before the other people have even woken up and not have to talk to anyone - Bliss!

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Collect some Boab nuts on your way to the next camp spot. The white pulp tastes a little like powdered milk and is very nutritious.

Turn down Duncan road and camp up against a fence near the corner, just past the gate on the left hand side there. -16.06032,129.09125 Don’t be afraid of the cars that pull up near by - they’re just getting their grog delivered. If you have a radio, tune into the local radio for indigenous music.

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