One of the biggest mistakes I made during the walk around Australia was to set an itinerary and make bookings for talks and accommodation according to the distances I expected to be able to achieve each day. It was an ambitious itinerary and physically I struggled to meet it everyday which caused equal mental stress of failing to arrive places on time, disappointing the people expecting me, losing booking deposits on camping and accommodation and disappointing myself.
I won’t be repeating this mistake during the ride around Australia.
Although there are events I want to participate in, like the Byron Bay World Naked Bike Ride for the “Can You See Me Now” safety awareness campaign, I am not committing myself to it until I am there. It will be more enjoyable for me to relax and ride with the flow.
The only things, very important things, which will limit this freedom of time are the seasons. If I miss the seasonal windows for safe riding it will be a big buzz kill.
The Tropic of Capricorn, a circle of latitude sitting at approximately 23 degrees and 26 minutes south of the equator or 23°26’S, crosses Australia at Rockhampton on the east coast and near Coral Bay on the west coast.
North of the Tropic of Capricorn you have 2 main seasons, wet and dry. There are other subtle seasons marked by changes in humidity, storm build up, predominant winds, flowers and fruits but wet and dry pretty much split the year for agriculture and tourism.
Wet season, from early October to late April is hot and humid with lots of rain. If you are not acclimated to or raised in the tropics it can feel unbearable and can be fatally dangerous if you go exploring unprepared. The heat alone can vary between 36 to 45 Celsius ambient and the humidity is like a Turkish sauna, relentless. You can’t go swimming in beaches or estuarine rivers because it is saltwater crocodile and box jellyfish seasons. Salties have been known to migrate more than 500kms inland via river systems and waterhole to waterhole in wet season. Roads can be closed by floods for weeks, sometimes months, towns and homesteads marooned. Every evening the sky fills with storms and for a moment everything is violently lit by lightning and cooled by the rain. Unless you have experienced a wet season it is hard to imagine.
An example of how hot is gets is an experience I had in April 2016 during the walk around Australia while attempting to walk south in Northern Territory. I ended up being hospitalised on my first attempt but one day a late afternoon storm passed over dumping about a month of water in 5 minutes. It had been a hot day, 36-38 Celcius but not too much humidity. I walked down the quiet Stuart Highway, the air above the road was about 60C and the road was melting at above 70C. My drinking water inside the barrow insulated by clothes was 40C and the water bottles hanging in the air outside were too hot to drink unless there was a breeze which could cool down the dampened bottle carriers. When the first drops of rain hit the road they hissed and turned to steam! The steam off the road hurt to breath.
Dry season, May to September is completely different, it cools down to a very pleasant 20-30C and the air is dry. At night in the desert it can even drop below 0 degrees Celsius! Salty sightings are generally only further north in the Top End and no deadly stingers in the water.
Everywhere else in Australia you have a general European 4 season pattern. As I ride through different regions I will expand on more traditional Australian seasons used by First Nations for travel and harvest. The European seasonal calendar is basic compared to the seasonal calendars used by both settled and nomadic aboriginal groups throughout Australia.
For this reason I have set a goal of reaching Townsville no later than May 2019 so I can rest for a week and push for Cape York, around the Gulf of Carpentaria then through the true outback to the west coast by September. It will be hot and humid from Brisbane on the east coast heading north and from Broome heading south. It will be uncomfortable sometimes but I will have dodged the worst of it.
The first year of this 2 year ride is designed around that big section across the top. The second year is all about loitering around the southwest exploring walks and rides until summer passes, outback 4WD adventure traffic picks up again and it is safe to set my course through the deserts to arrive at Yulara in winter 2020.
When I say “rough itinerary” I mean week to week and day to day but also season to season. I start in Adelaide Hills on October 18th 2018 riding counter clockwise and hopefully finish in Canberra in November 2020. I will also have tailwinds most of the way!