Thursday, January 11, 2018

Return to Australia

Well, I thought the last bicycle tour in Australia would be my last, but I've changed my mind, and decided to escape part of the Wisconsin winter once more.  This trip will be about 11 weeks, starting in late February.  It will again begin in Melbourne and end in Brisbane, though I'll take a train out of Melbourne, and a bus into Brisbane from somewhere.  In 2015, I rode as far as the end of the commuter rail line into Brisbane, but the traffic the last few days was beyond my comfort zone.

Traveling from south to north this time of year allows me to follow the seasonal change from summer to autumn, and maximizes the chance of comfortable temperatures.  Brisbane is about the latitude of Orlando, and I'll be arriving there in early May, equivalent to early November in the northern hemisphere.  It should only get slightly cooler as I make my way north.  By the time I fly home, it should be spring in Wisconsin.

2015 Australia Bike Tour Blog

I will follow much of the same route as in 2015, as well.  I know that the coastal areas have way too much traffic for my tastes, so that means riding inland of the Great Dividing Range, which more or less runs parallel to the east coast all the way up to north of Brisbane.  I call it the "edge of the outback".  It's mostly farming country, sometimes quite optimistically so designated, with good, low-traffic roads and towns generally less than a day's ride apart.  Some of the most pleasant cycling is in western Victoria, northwest of Melbourne, so I'll likely spend quite a lot of time there, as long as the weather is decent.  Since I'm starting 5 weeks later than I did in 2015, I won't be wandering around western Victory quite as much as I did then.  Once I leave Victoria, I'll be moving steadily north.  There aren't many possible routes, and the one I did last time was quite good, so I'll probably be making only a few changes.  There were some really nice spots on that route, which I'd like to visit again.  Also a few not so nice ones I'll avoid.

Instead of riding to the suburbs of Brisbane, I plan to continue north, perhaps as far as Roma, which is a 6 hour bus ride from Brisbane.  That could always change, but the one sure thing is that I won't be riding in that heavy traffic approaching Brisbane!

Although I already know much of the route, navigating by bicycle in Australia has gotten more difficult due to lack of good maps.  With the advent of electronic navigation, the quality of printed maps has greatly declined, and no navigation device or app allows a cyclist to identify good routes reliably.  Online and other digital maps are practically useless, as they show very little detail until one zooms in to a very small area.  Where the maps available in 2001 used color codes to indicate traffic density, clearly showed minor roads, and usually indicated whether they were sealed or gravel, the current maps don't even show a lot of those roads.  Alas, I didn't think of scanning those old maps before they disintegrated.  I have all sorts of digital maps on my phone, but none are nearly as good as those old printed maps.  The one improvement is that Google Streetview sometimes shows whether a minor road is sealed or not but, of course, that only works with an internet connection.  I should have a working phone this time, but there won't be coverage where I'll be much of the time.

The equipment will be almost exactly the same as last time.  I thought about taking some ham radio gear, but it would add a couple more kilograms, and I really had all I wanted to carry in 2015.  One difference is that this time I'll take a decent camping stove.  I used a tiny alcohol stove last time, but it is such a pain to cook with that I just didn't use it much.  One reason I didn't take the white gas (petrol/Shellite) stove last time is that the airlines can be very fussy about them, even if they're purged of fuel.  The post office, however, seems more reasonable.  I thoroughly purged the stove with alcohol and water, baked it out in the oven at 80 C for a couple hours, and mailed it of to a friend near Melbourne.  It was expensive to ship, but I'll get that back if I can just skip a couple pub meals.

It looks like I'll spend a few days riding around the goldfields at the beginning of the trip, then drive to near Colac with a ham radio friend.  From there, I'll probably take a train to Terang, then ride on to the northwest.  (The red lines on the map indicate non-bicycle transportation.)

Here's the link to the proposed route map:

Map of Proposed Route

(The link above takes you to the Google map, which allow you to zoom in, etc.  Below is just an image of it.)