After leaving Tennant Creek my next main destination was to go and see Uluru. Back in 2011 Finola and I backpacked around the coast of Australia but we never made it to Uluru, When deciding on my route through Australia Uluru was therefore big on my not to miss list. I left Tennant Creek with my panniers full of food and my bike loaded with extra water as I planned on a six day ride to cover the 500km to the turnoff and then another 250km west to reach the big rock. Before reaching Uluru the first highlight was to spend the night at the Devil’s Marbles Campground. The Devils Marbles is a natural rock outcrop rising up out of the desert which due to erosion from the strong southwesterly winds the rocks have been shaped into huge marbles looking like they should just roll away. It was a beautiful cycle ride around the small national park and my arrival into the campsite was greeted by the standard hollers and cheers of a touring cyclist entering the arena of the camper van. It is always fun to cycle into these campsites since everyone is always so friendly and it is great to share stories about life on a bicycle with Australians who have their own version of freedom in their cars.
The Devil’s Marbles campsite is located right in the heart of the park so after setting up I was able to climb and jump up on and around the rocks having a great little time exploring before finding that perfect rock to relax and watch the sunset on. It was great to sit upon these rocks which have been here for thousands of years and reflect upon my tiny imprint in life, it makes you feel very small but very humble as you look out at the power of nature across the vast desert plain.
I awoke in the morning and said my goodbyes to my neighbours before cycling the 400km to the turnoff. The road to Uluru runs westward away from the main highway and my first port of call was to top up on water and fuel at the Kulgera roadhouse. The Kulgera road house is a great little stop to get supplies since it is surprising not too expensive and has wifi and even a happy hour for beer. Result.
The start of the road westwards was a dream since the wind was blowing my way. I was riding steadily at around 20-22km/hour and felt strong and excited as I was approaching Uluru. On my way whilst stopping off at a small roadhouse to collect water I was approached by the tour leader of a large group of tourists being guided by AAT Kings also en-route to Uluru. The tour leader had seen many cyclists but always from the window of her bus so wanted me to give a small talk to the tour group explaining all about the trip and telling a few stories from the road. I spent a good ten minutes giving a little talk, explaining where I had been, what I had seen and the kindness I had received. I really enjoyed this little talk and was happy to answer their questions afterwards. Everyone seemed to enjoy my talk, with even an aboriginal man telling me that I was a good storyteller, an honour coming from a man whose culture is based on story telling. The group then gave me a little bit of money and food to contribute towards my trip and bade me farewell as they drove off into the distance.
Once this trip is over and if given the opportunity I would love to give some more talks at schools and events, and this is something I would not have thought of if I had never met that lovely little group.
The following day I awoke early and climbed out of my sleeping bag into fresh morning air. I always woke up cold in the desert sections of central Australia since although the average daytime temperature is around 20-25 degrees due to the lack of cloud cover the morning temperatures average around 0-5 degrees! I had awoke early and had cycled around 2 hours when I bumped into another cyclist packing up along the road. His name was Matteo from Italy and he was also going to Uluru as part of his around Australia bicycle tour. We quickly decided to cycle together and it was a welcome break to cycle with someone else. The last time I cycled with someone was when I was with Finola back in Malaysia and I forget how good it was to have company. We cycled with the wind behind us, talking about our travels and our future plans. Matteo like me was a cyclist on a big tour and therefore a cyclist on a budget. This was good as we were well matched in our tight spending and free camping ways so it was fun to cycle together, without the pressure of the other person wanting to visit restaurants and hotels. It took us a further 1.5 days to reach Yulara, the touristy township of Uluru. We celebrated with matteo buying a 4 litre tub of ice cream and wolfing down the contents with another german cyclist we had met in the town. Uluru is a bottleneck for cyclists with people either arriving or leaving on the same road so it is in stark contrast with the rest of Australia that I met more cyclists along this road to or from Uluru than I did in the rest of Australia combined!
Uluru is actually made of two rock formations, not just the famous monolith but another called Kata Tjuta, which is located a further 50km away from the Uluru. This poses no challenge for the motoring tourist but since this national park has an enforced no camping policy, it becomes a huge day to cycle 100km and spend time visiting both rock sites. It was here Matteo and I decided we would just continue as we had been throughout Australia and push our bikes into area of thick bush when it gets dark and camp hidden behind the sprawling Aussie shrub-land. I would recommend this idea to anyone who also wants to visit Uluru by bike as it gives you time to explore without being rushed, avoids the $40 Yulara campsite fee and you are able to see the most amazing sunrise over the rocks as day comes to life.
It was great to visit both rock sites but I was more impressed by Uluru than Kata Tjuta, most likely due to its fame and how it seems to rise out of nowhere. I didn’t choose to climb the rock but there were plenty of people who did. My view being that if there needs to be a debate about offending anyone or not it is probably best not to climb. And after watching an especially large lady struggle with the steepness of the climb it was more fun to watch than to climb!
After leaving Uluru, it was time to return to my solitary ways with Matteo trying to get a lift back to Alice Springs and me heading back east and then south towards Coober Pedy and then Adelaide. Australia was coming to an end with only 1200km left before Adelaide, but at least I could now say goodbye to the flies and hello again to the mosquitoes!!
Buy me a beer!! Thank you
This blog follows my cycle ride from Reading, Berkshire to Reading, Pennsylvania.