The Birdsville Track by Bike

January 2001


We started the tour in Adelaide.The main challenge of our tour was the Birdsville Track. It is a historically interesting old stock route between the towns of Marree (South Australia) and Birdsville (Queensland). It is gravel road and leads through parts of the Tirari-Desert, the Sturt Stony Desert and the Simpson Desert:

Water sources on the way are (hot) artesian springs. The water is cooled down and used to feed the cattle.

Mungerannie is a small roadhouse with services (somewhat in the middle of the 520 km track).

The landscape is nearly flat, the only "hills" are a few sand dunes.

Temperatures in the region can reach up to 50°C in summer.

From Birdsville we cycled east to Windorah and continued to the Ppacific Ocean via Quilpie, Charleville, Roma, Injune to Gladstone.

Short summary

A bike tour through the desert for several weeks? No problem - we have experienced tougher things. But in summer? And the Birdsville Track? Andy's brother in Sydney sent us an e-mail with serious warnings: heat, water shortage, extremely bad tracks, poisonous snakes, no people around to help us out. He finished with the statement: "No Australian would do this!".

Upon arrival in Adelaide we were welcomed with a cool breeze. Luckily we could acclimatize for a few days. However, when we reached the Flinders Ranges, the temperatures went up to above 47°C. Cycling then becomes very tough, because even the wind won't cool anymore. We enjoyed the diverse vegetation of the flinders ranges, since we had to cover a few 100 km through boring agricultural landscape. The hills were tough though, and we were equipped for a desert trip, not mountains. In order to be able to store large amounts of water (for up to three days) and food, we carried BOB-Yak trailers on our bikes. Upon start of the trip in Adelaide, we carried a total of 110 kg per person, including food for three weeks. And that had to be moved forward.

In Lyndhurst, we left the bitumen road - from now on to Windorah it's gravel tracks. And the temperatures reach the 50s at midday. In addition, we start to be faced with some other problems: Thunderstorms in the desert. "It's the rainiest season since 50 years", is what we hear from farmers along the famous track from Marree to Birdsville and on to Windorah. As soon as the rain hits the track it becomes so boggy that no further movement is possible. The fine dust of the track turned into sticky mud. The wheels were stuck. We were prepared for everything - but not for being stuck in the mud. "Biking impossible" - as Andy's brother told us. But for completely different reasons. What to do? We had to wait for four to five hours for the track to dry. Of course it is very difficult if another storm approaches within that time. In these soft, and muddy parts of the track, we were extremely happy to be equipped with the new Rohloff Speedhub 14/500 gear box - resistant to mud and sand.

Despite the extremely strenuous days between Adelaide and Gladstone, this was our year's vacation trip. Physical exhaustion to the limit - how can that be called a holiday? The wide landscape, plants and animals, and the experiences of the country - even tough ones - allowed us to relax the mind. Especially the Outback people with their hospitality and humor towards us were a wonderful experience we don't want to miss. Without the fun and the talks to the people of the Outback we would miss a great and important component of Outback experience.

2700 km in 31 days - four of them being resting days, one flat tire and four broken spokes sum up our trip in numbers.

Australia 2001 on a bigger map