The route from Yanchep to Carnarvan follows the coastal highway. The distance between towns is typically 50 to 150 km. Most of these are seaside villages based on tourism with populations of anywhere from 5 to 5,000. Because there are many peninsulas and the coastline is not always straight, it is necessary to turn off the main road, often several hundred kilometers to get to a coastal town.
Yanchep (just outside of Perth) to Leeman
We said goodbye to the kangaroos and koala bears in Yanchep National Park which is a bit inland and headed northwest to the coast.
One of the best parts of cycling in Australia is the wild camping. Because the country has a low population and so much of it is empty, open land, wild camping is not only possible but often a necessity. Sometimes we camp on the edge of the town where we have to find a spot hidden away. Usually, in the outback, all we have to do is pull off to the side of the road and hopefully we can find an area of trees or at least bushes where we can be protected from the wind. The sunrise, the sunset, the stars, and cooking a simple, hearty, well-deserved meal with the little camping stove are the simple pleasures. I am reminded over and over how much I crave wide open space, and moving through different landscapes and cultures. It is this basic beauty and simplicity that I love so much.
Wild Camping Escapade
The first couple nights we wild camped. The first night, in the hills overlooking the sea outside of a small seaside town. The next night was a bit more difficult because there vegetation was quite dense off the main road with few trees and the ground was either extremely sandy or rock hard. The only downside to our ultra lightweight Zpack tent is that it requires pegs (stakes) to stand up. After a bit of searching we found a spot below a parking area—out of sight from the road with a nice view to the sea. However, because it was extremely sandy, we needed to spend a lot of time securing it. Rene is usually really good at securing the tent with a lot of extra rocks. But because this night was so incredibly windy and the ground was so sandy and our tent does not have a base, by 4 AM the tent was nearly blown down. Rene woke me up and said we had to take the tent down. I could not figure out what was going on somehow I had slept through the wind. It is funny how each of us acts and reacts differently in these somewhat stressful moments. As we were taking the tent down Rene said he thought he would ride to Geraldton that day. Geraldton was about 250 km away. I told him that he could go but that it would probably take me two or three days before I would see him there. We usually ride separately so he took off and rode about 45 km to the next town. By the time I had met him there he had calm down and decided to ride at my pace. I think this was a good choice because we had a fantastic journey along the way.
Later that day we arrived in Leeman, a quiet and peaceful town with very little infrastructure. It feels more like a working town than a tourist town (although I know it can become busy in the season). It is an old town, for Australian standards, with a small roadhouse, fish and chips shop, small grocery, caravan park, and post office. It has a fantastic jetty where commercial fisherman come to unload crayfish. Great for fishing and also to jump off for a nice swim and snorkel. There are small islands that are possible to swim to with reefs.
We spent a couple days enjoying the solitude and then made our way to Geraldton. Geraldton Is a larger town of about 40,000 people.We were greeted there with great hospitality. I was interviewed by the local radio station. INTERVIEW and the local newspaper wrote an article about me. ARTICLE
From Geraldton, we cycled to Kalbarri. We got a late start and decided to wild camp half way. When remote bush camping, we usually just pull off and either set up the tent or sleep under the stars on our mats. But as it was getting dark a man and a truck pulled up to Rene and told him that if we were looking for a place to stay there was a place and abandoned building just up ahead. When we got there we realize that it was a historic hospital/prison that was built in 1855. It was such a treat – – especially because it was so incredibly windy that night. We made ourselves cozy in the remains of the old hospital.
The next morning on our way into Kalbarri we detoured to Port Gregory to see the Pink Lake. My bicycle was acting strange and it was here that I realized that my back wheel had at least one broken spoke. The damage was probably initiated on the rugged Munda Biddi track. And then continued along the lake toward Kalbarri—a charming town with the advantage of its location at the mouth of the Murchison River and stunning coastline combined with small channels, lakes, and inland river gorges.
The first night, we slept along the river under the stars. In the morning we try to figure out what to do about my three broken spokes. Unfortunately, when we took the wheel off it was clear that I did not have the proper tools. Kalbarri does not have a bicycle shop and so we were incredibly lucky to meet a kind gentleman who did the repairs for the people in the town. He volunteered to take my wheel to his home where he had the proper tools to fix my spokes. It is the kindness of strangers that can be the most rewarding on this journey. There was not a bicycle shop within hundreds of kilometers so he really saved the day.
Kalbarri to Denham
The ride from Kalbarri to Denham is 400 km of remote, hot, and windy desert with no shade. I left Kalbarri before the sun rose and soon the wind was picking up speed straight at me. Sometimes, in theses moments, I get discouraged. It feels like I will never get anywhere. But I have to constantly remind myself that I am moving even when I feel that I am not going anywhere. Sometimes the wind is blowing fiercely at my face, it is hot, the road conditions are poor, flies cover my entire body and it feels like I am stuck. It may be slow. It may hurt. Although I cannot see it, I am making progress. I have cycled over 17,000 km in Australia. That is how I know that I am moving. It is such a good reminder about life in general. I am learning to accept that sometimes the pace is slow, barely moving. And everything is still okay.
That first day, we cycled 126 km in fierce wind and extreme heat. We found a place to wild camp and then continued to the Billabong Roadhouse where we refueled our bodies and got a good sleep.
As we get further and further away from the city of Perth the towns are further and further apart from one another. Often they can be several hundred kilometers with only a roadhouse in between. Roadhouses are classic Australian, meant to service travelers and truckies with food, fuel (petrol) and sometimes additional services can include camping, accommodation (everything from a nice motel room or just a plastic box with a bed and shared toilet/shower), post office, grocery items, and full restaurant. There is a pure joy at approaching a roadhouse — after cycling for a day or two or three, I am covered in days of sweat, hundreds of flies are buzzing around me, I am running low in energy, food and water.
The following day we made it to the Hamelin Pools Caravan Park. This was pretty momentous. Nine months earlier (July) , Rene wanted to offload some weight and sent a package from the east coast of Australia the furthest western point in Australia that he could find. The lady could not believe when we walked into the Hamelin station to pick up the package. It had been sitting there for nearly 8 months. And what a perfect place to find it—super remote with a little clothing shop, odds and ends, a restaurant, and even beer and wine.
The next day was even hotter with no shade. We set out for Denham, stopped for a swim after about 60 km, and decided to camp about 20 km before the city. In the morning, we stopped off for an early morning swim in the sea which was super calm and crystal clear and headed off for Denham. Denham is a small tourist beach town with a laid back feeling. We stayed at the Denham Lodge which is right across from there see. It was so lovely to swim and snorkel each day. zone of the days, we decided to snorkel in an inland channel and encountered a turtle that swam with us for quite a while.
Denham to Carnarvan
But school holiday was quickly approaching and we knew that we did not want to be on the road. For this reason, Rene found us a house sitting job watching 3 parrots. We did not have time to cycle all the way from Denham to Carnarvan so we decided to try to find a ride back to the main road. We put an ad in the Shark Bay Facebook Group and again – – kindness of strangers – – a truck he gave us a ride. We agreed on a time and when the truck pulled up we were so surprised to find that it was a woman. It is so seldom that truckies are women. It was such a cool experience to get to know her and hear about what it was like to be on the road. She told us that the truckies left each other know when they see a cyclist on the road. Because there are often this huge Road trains that really gave us a nice piece of mind.
From there, we cycled the 220 km to Carnarvan. It was HOT, 40+ C degrees (100+F) in the shade. But because there is no shade, the temperature was actually 50+ C. The route is through the remote, empty, Outback bush. I tried to use all of my strategies to deal with the heat— I left really early (4am), I stopped cycling midday during the height of the heat, I wet all my clothes before riding, and super hydrated the night before cycling.
Carnarvan is a seaside town of about 5,000 people which serves as a hub for people living up to 500 miles away. Tourist pass through on their way north but most do not stay long. Although west Australia is a very wealthy state (one of the wealthiest in the world), this town has an uncontrolled problem with crime and drugs. According to one local, the drug addict parents send their kids out to break into places to get money. The locals call it an Aboriginal problem but I think it is a community problem. Basically, the aboriginals are a nomadic people and have it only were their souls taken away, they were also treated in a
variety of sub-human ways. And they just simply exist differently in the world with different priorities, etc. there just does not seem to be any way for the entire community to come together because the cultures are simply so different.
We spent 5 days in Carnarvan house sitting for the 3 parrots. When Rene first suggested this I thought it was a horrible idea. But after letting the idea settle in, I agreed and it turned out to be a successful challenge. I love when life surprises me. I think this is why I am not a bucket list person. For me, the greatest moments are those that I do not expect or anticipate.
Morty, Baby, and Kevin each had their own personalities. They took a lot of effort. They are let out of their cages for 2 hours twice a day. And because parrots are like two-year-olds— they get into everything. But unlike two-year-olds they can literally access all the different parts of the room. So for example, Kevin loved to get onto the fan and make it spin. They liked to sharpen their beaks on everything. That included the walls, the TV, the blinds, and sometimes on us. They were sweet but they also liked to nip. They loved to be around us and get our attention. They landed on our heads, shoulders, and sometimes just sit on our arm or hand. Rene figured out that he could sing and get Morty to dance along with him.
We lived with the birds for five days when it became clear that a cyclone was approaching and mass evacuation started. The owners of the house returned and we were forced to find a place to secure ourselves. We found the most special accommodation at Caravan Retreat, an old fishing spot at the end of a peninsula outside of the city. I was in the British Virgin Islands when hurricane Irma struck. Carnarvan definitely got strong winds and rain but it was much much worse to the south of us. The beautiful town of Kalbarri suffered mass destruction.
Next stop—Exmouth—400 km of remote emptiness! We are very excited because there should be world class snorkeling and scuba diving. Stay tuned!
Route and Daily Stages
Yanchep to Leeds Point 72 km
Leeds Point via Lancelin to wild camping 89 km
Wild camping via Jurien Bay to Leeman 96 km
Leeman to Dongara 96km
Dongara to Geraldton 72 km
Geraldton via North Hampton to wild camping at abandoned historic prison/waiting station 89 km
Abandoned historic prison via Port Gregory and pink lake to Kalbarri 79 km
Kalbarri to bush Camp (with a swim in Murchison river because it was so hot) 126km
Bush camp- Billibong Roadhouse 75 km
Billibong Roadhouse via Overlander roadhouse to Hamelin Pool Caravan Park 83 km
Hamelin Pool -Bush camping 86 km
Bush camping —Denham 26 km
Overlander Roadhouse- bush camping 30 km
Bush camping via Wooramel roadhouse to bush camping 91km
Bush camping to Carnarvan 73 km
TOTAL: 1183 km
Questions I am often asked: