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The Red Centre

OtherJames Hipkiss

Since our Indonesian adventure a few years ago, where we had toyed with the idea of cycling home back through Australia, the Red Centre of Australia's outback has always intrigued me. A baron land of red sand and soaring temperatures.

With a handful of explorers braving this last frontier in the 1800's, not many people have challenged or tested themselves in what is widely considered one of the harshest environments on Earth. During our New Zealand ride of the South Island last year I started to discuss with Dylan the idea of cycling the Red Centre. Unaware and somewhat naive to how big Australia was I needed to focus on a particular route and give myself a time frame. The distance ridden on a fully loaded touring bike varies to each terrain and trip. Having researched several famous and iconic adventures in Australia I turned my efforts towards a classic Australian adventure with massive historical reference whilst undergoing one hell of a challenge at the same time The Oodnadatta Track. The Oodnadatta Track is 620 kilometers of legendary outback track that takes travelers on a journey of discovery, exploration and imagination. It offers an alternative route to the Stuart Highway which is the highway between Adelaide and Darwin.

Think of it as a detour, a deviation off the highway for a few hundred kilometres through Australia's stunning outback. The track follows a traditional Aboriginal trading route. It provides travellers with stunning semi-desert scenery. Along the Track are numerous springs feeding water from the Great Artesian Basin, the most accessible examples being the mound springs found in Wabma Kadarbu Mound Springs Conservation Park near Coward Springs. Because of the availability of water, the route was chosen for the steam-train powered Central Australian Railway, the original route of The Ghan, also the route taken by the explorer John McDouall Stuarton his third expedition in 1859. Remnants of the many railway sidings and bridges, the ruins of railway buildings, and Overland Telegraph repeater stations are located along the track some of the best preserved are theCoward Springs Campground complete with natural artisan spa and Curdimurka. Today, the Oodnadatta Track roughly follows the former railway line as far north as Oodnadatta, and then turns to the West, meeting the sealed Stuart Highway at Marla.

The roads surface is rough, with plenty of bone-jarring corrugations, especially on the stretch of road between William Creek and Oodnadatta. My journey however is only incorporating this track as part of a larger adventure, as I will actually be starting in Adelaide and finishing in Ayers Rock. The total distance expected is around 1700kms, give or take. As I leave Adelaide I will head straight for Port Augusta before turning east towards the start of the track. 620kms later will see me once again reconnect with the Stuart Highway. I will then finish this epic adventure on bitumen heading north crossing from South Australia into the Northern Territory and then finally taking a sharp left onto the Lasseter Highway bound directly for Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park (Ayers Rock). Uluru is one of Australias most recognisable natural landmarks. The sandstone formation stands 348m (1,142ft) high (rising 863m/2,831ft above sea level), with most of its bulk lying underground, and has a total circumference of 9.4km. Uluru is notable for appearing to change colour at different times of the day and year, most notably glowing red at dawn and sunset. Uluru will be a fitting end to my Red Centre Adventure having cycled such a distance in what is sure to be an amazing and beautiful setting. Being self-sufficient will be the biggest test with food and more importantly water, being quite scarce. I will be testing some methods and looking at storage and emergency options in the lead up prep to my departure.

Essentially the trip will see me riding by myself for the entire time with nights spent in my trusty tent and sleeping bag, I will be living off tuna and rice for most meals, a some what satisfying meal after a day of riding. With a healthy appetite for adventure and getting outside my comfort zone from a day to day routine, the Red Centre Adventure will be testing and satisfying at the same time.