The red heart of Australia – Outback everywhere!

December 9, 2013 in Australia, On the road

Into the red centreThe red centre of Australia – it is the epitome of the Outback, and the heart of the country. Endless horizons, all the typical outback characteristics, farms that are as big as some countries in Europe, the heat, the red dust – it’s not only a cliché, it is reality in the red centre,

“We have to see the red centre, now that we are in Australia”, we decided. “We have to see the famous Ayers Rock, that giant piece of red stone, that’s lying around there in the middle of nowhere. We have to experience the enormous dimensions of the landscapes.” And it was just a little detour of a few thousand kilometres, anyway ….

But which is the best way to get from Brisbane (where we’ve been to the Horizons Unlimited Meeting) into the centre? Well, we decided to take the direct route, straight to the west – 2500 kilometres, first on sealed roads, which became smaller and smaller, and then the last 1000 kilometres over the dusty and corrugated tracks of the Donohue and Plenty Highways.

Plenty Highway long distances

We had expected that it would be a rather boring trip through the outback, but we have had some fantastic experiences out there, we saw stunning landscapes, we learned a lot, we met wonderful people, and we had quite some fun riding. However, the corrugated roads took their toll on the bikes and us…. and the heat was often extreme.


The typical small outback towns that we crossed on the way were surprisingly fascinating. Some of them were not very old, but they told stories of an interesting history, and of the early settlers that had to struggle with the harsh conditions in these remote areas. We particularly liked the little museums that can be found in most towns, where old machines and vehicles are displayed, and the history of the place is told.

old vehicles in outback museums old general store

Once more we were also overwhelmed by the hospitality of strangers. Right in the middle of nowhere, at a place called Brigalow, which consists only of a few houses, we were invited by Chris and Shane. We were standing there on the road, just having a short break to drink water, when this guy came over from the house next to us, and in the next moment we found ourselves in his yard, we could use the workshop, we got tools, a bed to sleep, a tasty dinner, and, most important!, wonderful company…. and all that from strangers, which we hadn’t known only a few hours ago. One of the unique experiences that make travelling such a wonderful thing!

With Chris and Shane

We could tell lots of stories from our trip through the Queensland outback, from the birthplace of the airline Quantas; about the place where the song “Waltzing Mathilda“ was written; about the enormous flocks of cockatoos that flew over our tent in the evenings, and with deafening screeching; about the longest fence in the world; about gigantic Road Trains, for which you better make place; about water that is so hot when it comes out of the earth that you have to cool it before you can use it; about the farms that are so big that they use helicopters to round up the cattle; about emus, kangaroos, and cows on the roads; about the Royal Flying Doctors (which are not only a TV series); … and so on – but unfortunately there is not enough space and time here. You can say a lot about the outback, but it is definitely not boring!

Where Screech, screech, .... cockatoos everywhere!You better make place when such a road train is coming towards you Emu in townWater hole Apparenty the longest fence in the world

The long stretches of gravel, dust and sand on the corrugated tracks without any real settlements in between, were once more a very special experience. Camping in the middle of the bush – water and fuel are available only from the huge farms (“stations”) every few hundred kilometres, and only for an absolutely crazy price – the constant vibrations from the corrugations tear on the nerves, and are pure stress for the bikes (e.g. one mirror and the mudguard of Heike’s bike simply vibrated off…. – and the enormous heat with temperatures around 40° C was pure torture. We drank litre upon litre of water every day, and in the nights we didn’t have much time to admire the amazing starry sky, we were too tired. Often we simply collapsed into the tent as early as 8 pm. And early the next morning we were awake before sunrise, and back on the road soon after, to escape the heat. A very exhausting but also great experience….

Bush camping dust Red! Dancing on empty roads.... what a view! long, long roads....

We were rather happy, when we finally reached the sealed road, and soon after Alice Springs, the only decent town in the centre – 1600 Kilometres in all directions away from the next big city.

Finally, we have reached the sealed road again.... Hello Alice Springs!

From Alice Springs we of course went to Ayers Rock, the famous piece of red stone in Australia’s centre. We actually hadn’t expected very much from it, but we were positively surprised. From sunrise to sunset we watched the light change constantly on the rock, and we explored it from all sides – also from the top! The climb early in the morning, when the temperatures were still cool, was extremely steep, and quite strenuous, but worth all the effort. The view from the top is amazing, and the whole scenery unique.

Sunset... ... sunrise On top of Ayers Rock Steep climb up Ayers Rock

We’ve also visited the Olgas, another spectacular rock formation, as well as the Western Mac Donell Range, a mountain ridge between Alice Springs and Ayers Rock. On one of the campsites there we met one of the most dangerous spiders of Australia under the picnic table: a fully grown female redback spider – uaaahhhh…..

Scary - a red back spider under the picnic table....

Everything in this area was very touristy, and consequently quite expensive – but we had expected it to be like that. Nevertheless, it was definitely worth the detour!

Exploring some side roads - a bit sandy here.... Ayers Rock - worth the visit!

On the way back to Alice Springs, a rather unpleasant surprise was waiting for us: the rear wheel bearing of Filippo’s bike failed – again. Luckily, we just managed to get back to Alice Springs. We set up our camp at the local caravan park, and waited for one week for spare parts. We used the time for an oil change, to repair some equipment, and to update our blog. After one week we were really happy to be back on the road, we had seen enough of Alice Springs, spent by far too much money, and we were fed up with unfriendly and incompetent mechanics there….

Originally, we had planned to take the Tanami Track across the desert to the west coast, 1000 kilometres of dirt and dust. But the rear wheel bearing was not the only victim of the corrugations – lots of other parts were also threatening to fail. Therefore, we decided not to risk further damage and we avoided the corrugated dirt roads. We took the sealed Stuart Highway up north, which meant a detour of about 1000 kilometres, but it was safer and we also got the chance to see the Devil’s Marbles, a spectacular accumulation of round rocks scattered across the landscape. And the camping right at the bottom of those marbles was fantastic!

Camping at the Devil's Marbles Devil's Marbles

How we continued from there, how we got to the west coast, and how we survived there despite the infernal heat, how we went snorkelling with the sharks, dugongs, and rays, we will tell you in our next blog post….

Tiny Filippo - big road train....