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South Aussie Outback

02 September 2019

Words and Images Jimmy Ashby

The South Australian Outback: A true blue, fair dinkum, ripper part of the world – to translate, it's a place like no other. I never thought I could fall in love with such emptiness and vast horizons, roads that go hundreds of kilometres in a straight line and towns that sound so silly they just don't seem real, but for me the South Aussie outback is the definition of big sky country and that's the true magic of the place and why I love it, 360 degree views of the sky and then when the stars come out, well that's just something else.

Jimmy Ashby (left) Chad Freak (right) at Mount Eba Station

This beauty and hidden gem of South Australia is exactly what two fools on bicycles went out looking for, Chad Freak and myself, Jimmy. We didn't want to do it the easy way either, through some kind of wizardry Chad plotted a 2000km dirt route though this vast country, not taking main roads or roads in general but backcountry tracks that crossed remote stations and desolate sand dune terrain, we didn't hit out first resupply point until 550km, every farmer or station owner we met called us crazy, which may be true although we liked to think we're the good kind of crazy… right?

Chad and I at Kingoonya Hotel

Chad cycling though Big Sky Country

With our bikes loaded up to the max (literally, I only just had room for my toothbrush…) we got a ride out to Port Augusta from Adelaide and began our first pedal strokes, straight into a headwind and then that headwind continued and continued and continued for days on end, taunting us with constant gusts but not once did it break our spirits. Kingoonya Pub was our first watering hole of the trip at kilometre 550 and it's a town so small that when we stayed the night we nearly doubled their population, they had cold beer though and hot chips for dinner, not much more we could ask for.

The true remoteness then began from there, for once we left Kingoonya we had a 300km stretch across station country, we had pre posted a parcel of 10,000 calories to Mount Eba Station (our halfway mark), and knowing there was fresh peanut butter, dried fruit and cliff bars waiting we powered on. That entire 300km stretch we saw only a single car - the station owner - and again our sanity was questioned. He even asked if we knew that motorbikes had been invented… of course, they're just less fun.

The magic sunsets of the outback

We hit Roxby Downs at the end of that 300km stretch and with that being our first and only major town of the trip we may have gone a bit over the top at the supermarket, in total I think we both went in and out four times continually buying more and more and more.

We had no trouble with carrying enough water at any point except for the next 200km stretch to Marree and the Oodnadatta Track. Now I take full responsibility for this situation because I may have gotten a bit distracted with downloading ‘Abba's Greatest Hits Album' and didn't fill my bottles up… and although I only had 2.5L that day I did have some of the Swedish bands best tunes; Mumma Mia, SOS and Dancing Queen. I regret nothing.

Now that we were through Marree things became a bit tamer, well they were suppose to at least. We entered the top of the Flinders Rangers in the Gammon Ranges National Park and then followed our own version of the Mawson Trail back to Adelaide, still jamming along to Abba we passed though the remote Aboriginal communities of Nepabunna & Iga Warta and into the Nantawirrina Indigenous Protected Reserve. As quickly as we entered big sky county we left it. Chad and I couldn’t believe how fast the scenery changed; it went from pure emptiness to the cliffs of Wilpena Pound to then the farmland, vineyards and valleys of the Adelaide Hills. The huts of the Heysen Trail gave us some relief from the unbelievably crisp mornings, and once we entered into the Barossa Valley, well that's where the good beer and wine began!

Chad with Wilpena Pound behind him (Northern Flinders Rangers)

Chad and I spent two weeks on the road and covered just over 2000km, we can both confidently say that there wasn't a single bad kilometre on the route, just a few annoying ones.

The South Australian Outback, put it on your list to explore but do be sure you have a little bit of crazy in you, that always makes it a bit more fun…