Out There and Back
In 2004-05 I completed the Great Australian Cycle Expedition (GRACE Expedition), a 25,000km journey through Australia, and published my first book, Out There and Back about my experiences and the very grounded perspective I gained from over the handlebars. While this was a comprehensive exploration of Australia, there is still much more to explore of this enormous continent by bike.
Since 2005 I have completed many more journeys, including the first west to east bicycle crossing of the African continent, Breaking the Cycle in Africa, from Senegal to Somalia. Then, on my quest to cycle across Antarctica via the South Pole, I have completed smaller expeditions on every continent (except Antarctica).
Using a custom-made all-wheel drive fatbike, designed for pedalling over soft and rugged terrain (such as snow, sand and loose stones), has helped me to bend ideas of what’s possible on a bicycle. It has enabled me to pedal where there are no roads at all, such as in the Arctic, down Namibia’s entire coastline, (the Skeleton Coast) and following the course of central Australia’s Finke River – all completely unique expeditions that had never been attempted before.
Back Out There – Breaking the Cycle Across Australia
Beginning at Cape Byron, (NSW) Australia’s most easterly point, this 7500km fatbike journey will take me across the continent’s sunburnt interior to its most westerly tip, Steep Point, (WA). I will cross the tracks of several intrepid pioneers and explorers while coming face to face with the cultures and nature that survive in some of the world’s most remote deserts.
Every journey changes me a little and I hope to be able to explore my country with new eyes, delving deeper into places not normally accessible by bicycle.
Start: 1st May 2021 (forced to postpone due to a broken collarbone on Day 17; expedition will restart in May 2023
Time: 17 Days done in 2021; 12 weeks (approximately) to do in 2023
Distance/week: 500km – 600km
Conditions: Approximately 1000km of bitumen roads, 5500km of gravel and tracks with corrugations and gibber (small stones), 1000km of sand.
This will be new territory for me as I will only intersect my 2004 route three times – at the start, at Wiluna, and then Shark Bay near the finish. I will also connect with my Following the Finke River expedition at the town of Finke/Aputula, where I ended the 2018 ride, as I attempt to complete the final 500km of the course of the world’s oldest river, the Finke or Larapinta.
Starting in 2021 at Cape Byron, Australia’s most easterly point, I crossed the Great Dividing Range, continuing through the far north of NSW to Moree, Bourke and on to Tibooburra before my accident in the Strzelecki Desert/Corner Country. (see map below)
In 2022 I will resume the journey from where I stopped, following the Old Strzlelecki and Birdsville tracks to Birdsville, then crossing the Simpson Desert via Madigan’s Line (600+ sand dunes) to Old Andado Station and Finke/Aputula. Recent rains have caused the Simpson Desert and normally dry Finke River to flood, so I expect to see this land refreshed, teeming with wildlife and tinged with green new growth as I pedal through the region.
I hope to gain permissions to follow the Finke River to where it dissipates into the Simpson Desert, then where it flows underground, all the way to Lake Eyre. From there it will be west to Coober Pedy, then through central South Australia along the 1300km-long, heavily corrugated Anne Beadell Highway to Laverton in Western Australia.
From there it will be north to Wiluna, initially along the Canning Stock Route to Frere Range to rediscover some of the roots of my Great Uncle, William Snell, who reconditioned two thirds of the CSR in 1929 and had several pastoral leases in the region. The plan is to cross over to do a section of the Rabbit Proof Fence through the Little Sandy Desert to Jigalong, William Snell was known to drove his cattle using a bicycle rather than a horse between his pastoral leases; Bridleface lease on the CSR and Governor in the Opthalmia Range (near Newman). In the spirit of Snell, I plan to pedal the same landscapes almost a century after him.
From Opthalmia Range, the route will pick up a part of the De Grey – Mullewa Stock Route, taking in Mount Augustus (the world’s biggest monocline), the Kennedy Range (time permitting), Jack Hills (contains evidence of the world’s oldest rocks – zircons), Wooleen Station, Mullewa, Kalbarri NP and eventually to Shark Bay and Steep Point.
During the expedition I aim to seed the journey with stories about sustainability, indigenous culture (knowledge mapping of the Simpson Desert), of past explorers and pioneering characters.
Following the success of Diamonds in the Sand (global TV series and feature film about the Skeleton Coast expedition), the aim is to film the journey to a high level. The journey is supported so we can capture it effectively on video and stills, so I can run the education programme. Heading up the support are experienced outback specialists, Neil Cocks, Martin Bailey and Rick Hunter.
Education partner Belouga will be transforming the content we produce during the journey – blogs and regular short videos – into a series of lessons. To find out more and to access the lessons (educators only), go to https://www.breakingthecycle.education/belouga/
Videos from the 2021 journey
Part 1 (Week 1)