Raid Ochre - Alice Springs / Darwin 1511km


Nowhere else in the world is there such a massively long first grade road with so little traffic. The road has a wide verge ideal cycling for most of the trip.

Traffic can be split into the following categories:
  • International travellers driving campervans and motor homes
  • Japanese motorcyclists who will madly wave to you
  • Backpackers lapping Australia in 1970 Holden Kingswoods or their like
  • Grey Nomads (retired Australians) pulling caravans around the country, some on their 3rd loop
  • Trucks, Coaches and local traffic
  • Roadtrains. Yes, they are huge, some towing up to five trailers, but they generally take an embarrassing wide berth when passing. However, be warned: If another vehicle is coming in the opposite direction, it is impossible for a road train or truck to move over or stop, so you must get off the road; a mirror on your bicycle is a handy gadget for watching the traffic approaching from the rear, just in case you are deaf.

The prevailing wind at the time of the year that the Raid is available is from the South West or South East. North winds may be experienced near Darwin but generally anyone attempting this ride from North to South will be in for a hard time. You have been warned!!

There are basically 3 types of camping that you will experience on this Raid.

Official Camping: This consists of camping grounds with full amenities, some including swimming pools and laundry facilities. They exist in all of the major towns along the route and are often found attached to hotels and roadhouses in the smaller localities. They usually charge a flat camping fee of around $12.

Semi-official Camping: Along the route there are rest areas provided by the road authorities. They have water, toilet facilities and usually shade & picnic facilities, Camping is allowed and there is usually a 48hr limit on your stay (highly unlikely you will want to stay that long). They are the domain of international travellers and grey nomads, and cyclists are usually welcomed by the inhabitants with the usual bike related questions, plus they probably have seen you along the route. Safety in numbers and security for the more timid traveller is one attraction with this form of camping. Most of the motorised travellers are towing caravans or driving motor homes and are normally up and on the road at day break.

Wild Camping: This consists of finding a spot on the roadside and pitching your tent. Sounds easy enough, but unless you are experienced in this art it's best not to try this on your first night on the road. Some things that need to be considered are:

  • Do you wish to camp in view of the road or out of view.
  •  Are you entering private or tribal land if you decide to leave the immediate road area? 
  • Are you ready for the noises of the night? Or more importantly the lack of noise.
  • Do you have enough water and provisions to carry you to the next town?
  • The first commandant of wild camping is not to start looking after dark, you should have established from your first day on the road what time it gets dark, and work back from that time, giving yourself ample time to start looking for a suitable spot, setting up camp, cooking and washing etc all before it's dark.
  • Keep in mind that the further north you travel the lesser degree of twilight exist and by the time you reach Katherine, there is maybe only 30mins between sunset and complete darkness.
Some Wild Camping tips:
  • The following is not meant to scare or discourage you, but to help prepare you. It would be virtually impossible to ride this raid with out some wild camping.
  • Have a good strong torch, maybe a cateye bike light as this could double as a bike headlight if you get caught short of your daily target and wish to push on to a town.
  • Put all food and cooking utensils away, as they may attract unwanted guests during the night.
  • Place your footwear inside a bag overnight and never place your feet into your shoes in the morning before may have a visitor.
  • If nature calls during the night, carry a torch, wear footwear, watch where you tread and bury your waste.
  • Be prepared for the noises of the night, even the dry grass settling under your tent can startle you at first.
  • Before dark take stock of your surroundings. Once its dark it's too late to start working out in which direct was the fence or road
  • Don't camp under large trees.
  • Always extinguish your campfire. It may be cold at night, but most of this part of Australia has a year round Bush Fire warning.

Tent: You definitely need a tent, if only to keep the bugs away at night. A tent with a fly covering is handy as you can sleep with the fly off when it gets too warm. Ground sheets are handy to stop sharp pieces of grass piercing your tent floor and keeping in clean. Heavy duty shade cloth is also very good light weight ground cover and good for sitting on during breaks.

Sleeping Bag: You need at least a three-season sleeping bag. During the night there is generally no cloud cover in the desert areas and it allows the heat to escape leaving behind a frozen ground temperature. Incredibly cold nights will persist to at least Katherine.

Camp Stoves: A trangia or multi-fuel stove is the best type of camping stove to consider for this trip. The Gaz type stove is inadequate, and supplies of gas are not always available.
Note: Metho (Methylated Spirits) is normally not available on supermarket shelves, you need to ask, as it usually can be located at the cigarette counter. Don't look too surprised - it's purple!

You are not going to die from dehydration on this trip, even though it can get hot. You can always stop a passing vehicle and ask for water, but don't make a habit of this; it just reinforces what some travellers think about touring cyclist in the outback, they're a nuisance. Water in all the major towns is drinkable, and in South Australia you can collect water from the many Artesian Bores but be warned this water is pretty foul and should be used for washing andcooking. Some travellers have had success by mixing cordial with the water to make it palatable. Lastly, you can always buy water at Roadhouses and shops. While the price can be a bit upsetting at times, it's probably best to factor water into your budget and enjoy it. You probably need to consider carrying 2 full bidons, maybe a hydration pack and one small front pannier with 2-3 litres of water (1.5 litre softdrink or juice bottles are good for this purpose).