Mission Outback: Successfully Completed

We postponed our departure from Alice Springs to coincide with two days of strong tailwinds. We were rather pleased we did as that first day back on the road we absolutely flew through the Outback, passing the highest point on the Stuart Highway, cycling through the Tropic of Capricorn and doing a personal best of 196 kilometres. We arrived at a grotty little caravan park in a place called Ti Tree completely exhausted but seriously chuffed with ourselves.

The highest point on the Stuart Highway - although no where near as high as roads in New Zealand!

Preparing to go 'tropo'

After turning in for an early night to rest our over-used leg muscles, I woke at 10pm to go to the bathroom. Just as I neared the toilet block I suddenly heard something creeping up towards me from behind. Before I registered the growl, a massive dog had sunk its teeth deep into my outer thigh, below my bum. Steve had mentioned earlier in the day that there were two massive fighting-looking dogs with huge muscly heads that had scared the s**t out of him but they had been tied up. It seemed not anymore and I could see the outline of the second dog’s head moving and was terrified that I was going to be attacked by both at once. I froze with fear not knowing what to do. I was scared that by running away I would encourage them to chase me so I just screamed into the still night air, ‘SOMEONE PLEASE HELP ME’.  A few moments passed and nothing happened so I quickly ran into a toilet cubicle. In a matter of minutes, I heard the terror in Steve’s voice as he asked if everything was ok. As I stood there with blood pouring down my leg, Steve tried not to panic and cleaned out the deep puncture wounds whilst the guy who owned the dogs turned up.

He was a shifty sort of character with a bandaged leg. He said that his dogs were used to being out in the open and they were just protecting him after he was beaten up recently. He sort of apologised although it looked like he was more sorry for himself at the possibility that his dog could be destroyed and told me that he warned people on the campsite about his dogs. I couldn’t believe what he was saying and I kept asking what I was meant to have done differently – I had just walked to the toilet block and his dog wasn’t tied up on a leash. He said that if it made me feel better, the dog knew it shouldn’t have bitten me as if it had really meant to it would have ripped my leg off. Unsurprisingly that didn’t make me feel any better but it did make me angrier that if his dogs were so dangerous they shouldn’t be at a campsite.

Luckily Ti Tree had a small medical centre which served the local indigenous community. I was picked up in a 4×4 ambulance by a lovely nurse who had worked in London many years ago and whose son currently lives in Ilford. Chatting to her soon put us at ease and took our minds off the incident. At first we were the only people at the medical centre but it soon started to get busier as the police brought in two aboriginal ladies who had been the victims of domestic violence. One of the perpetrators was left outside in the police car after being injured when one of the ladies had fought back. We really could have done without being at the medical centre but we tried to recognise that we were seeing a different side of the work done in the Outback that we may not have done otherwise.

After being bandaged up and issued with antibiotics the nurse recommended that we stay at least a couple of days so that they could keep an eye on the wound. The first thing I said to Steve was ‘Oh no! That means we are going to lose our tailwind!’ The caravan park agreed to give us a cabin free of charge but it wasn’t an atmosphere conducive to recuperation with bed sheets stinking of old cigarettes and car fresheners hung on the air conditioner. To be honest I would much rather have been in our tent. In the early morning hours we could hear the guy with the dogs sneaking off to avoid any potential trouble. It did make me think how easy it must be for people to simply disappear in the vast emptiness of the Outback, although the police told us that they had his car registration and they would be contacting him.

We went back to the medical centre the next day to have the wound checked which seemed to be ok. For my own sanity, there was no way I could stay another night at Ti Tree so I insisted that I wanted to push on. Very kindly the medical centre gave us plenty of advice and a whole bag of medical supplies for free to keep my wound in tip top condition. We did laugh that this would be added to my already substantial sum of lotions and potions for various ailments from hayfever to prickly heat and I’d probably need my own pannier for it all. Steve really excelled at being my personal nurse as he tended and bandaged my wounds for the next few days. Thank you also to our friend back home, Dr Joe, for reassuring us.

What a way to freshen up one's home!

Now that's what I call a first aid kit and please notice the luxurious surroundings.

The next day I was glad to put Ti Tree behind us and was looking forward to our next stop. I shouldn’t have got my hopes up. Although the views were amazing, we arrived at Barrow Creek which purported to have a caravan park but turned out to be a way-overpriced piece of dusty land littered with rubbish which dogs scavenged through for most of the day. I wasn’t happy. I was even more unhappy when in reply to my polite question about whether there was a plug we could use to charge our GPS, one of the guys who ran the place said that my request was a rude one. He told us the extortionate fee of $15 that they charged us didn’t cover anything even though they had their massive flood lights on all night wasting masses of electricity. On top of this the other guy who ran the place refused to give us any drinking water and told us we could drink the bore water but it was contaminated with uranium. Luckily we were carrying spare water to get us to the next rest area where we could top up but those guys sure lacked any customer service skills and it didn’t surprise me that they found themselves in the middle of nowhere.

View from Barrow Creek

The start of millions and millions of termite mounds

How can they call that a caravan park?

The past few days had taken its toll and we were feeling a bit worn out with cycling through the Outback but it didn’t take long before its beauty won us over again. Out of the flat barren land arose massive boulders strewn across the landscape, some very precariously balanced on top of each other. These are known as the Devil’s Marbles which have great spiritual significance to many aboriginal groups. There are apparently many ‘dreaming’ stories (creation stories which pass on important knowledge, cultural values and belief systems to younger generations) about this place but only a handful can be shared with the uninitiated tourist. It is said that the boulders are the fossilised eggs of the mythical Rainbow Serpent, a common character in aboriginal mythology.

We were able to camp at the Devil’s Marbles so we could witness how the setting sun changed and deepened the colours of the rocks. It felt like a very special place and it was easy to see why this spot is so sacred to the aboriginal people. That night whilst we made our dinner we also saw a wild dingo saunter past – he looked much healthier and happier than Dinky the Singing Dingo.

The Devil's Marbles

This one must have hatched

Sunset at the Devil's Marbles

Now that's what I call a good camp spot

In order to beat the heat, we started to get up earlier and earlier. Eventually we were in the routine of waking up at 3.30am to get a few hours of night cycling under our belts. Despite knowing I was being silly, it did take me a while to convince myself not to get creeped out about the darkness and what lay beyond it. However, this wasn’t helped one very early morning when we were deep in the bush and an aboriginal guy started shouting at us in his own tongue from the pitch black. We looked but we couldn’t see him. We are sure we both surprised each other but in case he was grumpy due to us interupting his sleep, we didn’t want to stick around.

We also had to be aware of kangaroos as they are are most active around dawn and dusk.  I would be on kangaroo watch and would have to shout alerts if any looked like they were going to collide with us as they hopped across the road. Despite knowing that Steve was secretly wishing we had a collision with a kangaroo as it would ‘be great for the blog’ a collision could have serious consequences. One morning we met a guy who was having to hitch hike as the front of his ute was completely smashed in following a collision with a kangaroo.

Another morning we saw an eerie glow in the distance. We thought it might have been the headlights of a road train but as we got closer we realised it was a series of bush fires along the side of the road. We could feel the heat from them but we hoped they were controlled fires.

Bush fires

Whilst I was always slightly relieved when the sun would come up, it was always magical to be cycling through a night sky of shooting stars and to feel like you were the only person to be watching the huge red sun rise, quickly warming up the earth.

An early morning start

A brand new day

Getting up so early, most days we would be at our destination by lunchtime so we could spend the rest of the day chilling out, even sometimes having what we felt was a well-deserved beer. Other days we would find a spot to rest between 11am and 3pm before cycling through the late afternoon.

I've found something that I can do but Steve can't - float on water


Catching up on sleep during the hottest part of the day. I can sleep anywhere!

Filling up with water at a rest area

Being so grubby and sweaty was something I was finding difficult to get used to. Any girl wants to ensure she looks her best but in the Outback there really was no chance of being able to do that. Sometimes when we would camp in the bush with no promise of a shower, I would sneak into the tent just to have a sniff of my travel-size Pantene bottle to remember how it felt to be clean. When I would wonder why some people gave me strange looks, Steve would remind me it was because I looked so feral and that they probably wanted to poke me with a stick to see if I would bite.

Steve thinks I'm taking in the view. Really I am imagining my next shower.

No leading brand of wash-powder will restore the whiteness to this shirt

We cycled past the turn off to the cattle station that Steve worked on more than 12 years ago. I can’t say his tales of his miserable existence there -stuck in the middle of nowhere with only one tape cassette between them (Sting and the Police), no books, a man with half a face missing, meals made up of cattle tongue and drinking rotten bore water – inspire me to want to be a cow-girl.

Steve's old cattle station - we weren't tempted to drop-by to say hello

The further north we went the humidity started to increase and the landscape became more lush with forests and the far away horizons were no longer. We also began to meet different wildlife including lots of frogs, meaty cane toads, pigeon-sized bats and SNAKES! Steve had gone to do the washing up one night and saw a snake beside the sink. He informed the guy at the road house just in case it was a dangerous one and when Steve described it, he just said ‘Oh that’s harmless. It’s just a kid’s python’. I guess it was rather apt that it had wrapped itself round a child’s water gun.

I thought these were toy frogs at first; they just looked too frog-like to be real

A well-dressed termite mound. His sunglasses were much better than Steve's broken ones so the termite bloke kindly agreed to a swap

An old favourite - the wedge-tailed eagle

I thought this lizard was enjoying having his picture taken. On reflection I think he might have been dead!

Cane toads - the Aussies hate them but we enjoyed finding dead bugs and seeing how far their tongues could go to get them. Perfect evening entertainment!


A 'harmless' kid's python apparently

A fruit bat feasting on mangoes

A very hungry barra nearly having Steve's hand off

We saw lots of headlines but thankfully none in real-life

At one campsite a guy shared his secret that he and his vet friend were caring for an orphaned baby possum.

Taking a dip in some natural springs

A very different kind of politician

Huge road trains transporting equipment for the booming mining industry. Getting encouraging honks from roadtrains always excited us!

We spent a fun evening in Daly Waters – a place where everybody told us we had to go and it certainly didn’t disappoint. It is a historic pub with a good sense of humour. It is also renowned for its Beef’n’Barra which we decided to indulge ourselves in after eating dried pasta with powdered sauce and two-minute noodles for weeks and weeks. In the past Steve would always avoid salad in order to get maximum meat on his plate but this time we were both so over excited about the salad bar that we were up and down like yo-yos. Salad has never tasted so good.

Steve trying to look excited at yet another night of dried pasta, powdered sauce and noodles

Arriving at Daly Waters

Scenic helicopter tours

The remotest set of traffic lights

Daly Water's famous Beef'n'Barra plus piles of salad

That's where we started

There's alot to take in at Daly Waters - if you should ever go there, see if you can spot our Tandem Turners business card

Next big stop before our final destination was Katherine. Here we spent a lovely couple of days at a campsite which had the most amazing pool which we virtually had to ourselves. It was most welcome after the humidity was becoming nearly unbearable, especially at night. Both of us would be just sweating away in our tent, unable to sleep and getting grumpier and grumpier.

Katherine arrives in Katherine

Our own private pool. Now which lounger should I choose.

Then suddenly we were arriving in Darwin. Before I knew it we could see the sea after six weeks of dust. I turned my back for a second and Steve was diving into a croc-free spot.

The sea at last! Steve described the water as hot soup.

It all took a little while to sink in that we had actually cycled from the south to the north of Australia but even more so we couldn’t believe our luck when friends of friends offered us a bed in Darwin which turned out to be our own granny annex. Thank you so much Pauline and Peter – you cannot believe what a treat it has been for us to play house. Last night Rosie, Pauline and Peter’s daughter, got us free tickets to the Deckchair Cinema where we watched a documentary about Bob Marley under the stairs. Tonight we are off out with Pauline and Peter to watch a band called the Swamp Jockeys; we are sure a great end to our time in Australia. Tomorrow we head off to Bali, the start of a new continent and the beginning of a whole new set of challenges and adventures.

Australia, thank you for having us and taking care of us. We’ve had a blast (and the scars to prove it!).

Sweaty, smelly, grubby, knackered but very happy to have got to Darwin



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15 Responses to Mission Outback: Successfully Completed

  1. Ian Turner says:

    Hey Steve and Kat, I’ve got nothing but respect for you guys making it across the Outback – lots of sweat and tears, but you did it! The blog remains brilliant. I hope you get your batteries recharged for the next leg of the journey. Keep it going!

  2. Becky Bushnell says:

    Woo hoo! Another country down and fast approaching 10,000km under your belt. Best keep and eye on Steve’s beard in case it gets any bigger and starts causing extra wind resistance or harbouring wildlife 😉
    You are doing so well!
    Lots of love,
    Becky & James xxx

  3. Chloe M says:

    Blimey, what a dramatic post! Especially the encounters with local animal life of various sorts – Kat, was on the edge of my seat reading about those horrible dogs, thank goodness you managed to get some medical assistance (and it doesn’t look like it dampened your spirits for long either – you’re a trooper!) Loved the bit about sniffing a Pantene bottle too, it’s so resourceful. Huge congrats on reaching the north and your end Australian goal, it’s quite humbling to see on the map how far you’ve cycled. Glad you’ve managed to get some decent rest time in Darwin too. Enjoy the journey over; can’t wait to hear your first impressions of Bali. With love from a rather autumnal UK, Chloe and Kelvin X X

  4. Douglas says:

    Wow- what adventures in your latest blog… feel very humbled. Huge congratulations on traversing Oz… ’twas great to see you at the start in Sydney. Bon voyage… continue to travel safe. Dx

  5. Yanette Hansen says:

    I thoroughly enjoyed reading this, Kat! Your photos really show the beauty of this harsh, harsh inland! Love your way with words. Wish you both all the luck in the world for your next leg of a lifetime journey! Will keep following you all the way. I am so glad we met you guys, it has given our trip just that little bit of extra. We will never forget “the kids”! What an incredible journey.

    Yanette and Rob

    • veronica nickels says:

      thank you for your message to Katherine and Steve or as you call them ‘the kids’ this i found very amusing, it has a ring to it. I could hear calling them from the bus and sorry they missed seeing you. Hope you carry on enjoying your trip and thanks for giving them that attention i am sure they sorely needed. with my very best wishes, Ronnie, Katherines Mum xxx

  6. Sophie says:

    I’m going to hunt down that d-bag with the mauling hounds and bite him hard enough to need medical attention (maybe not near the buttocks). That sounded so much, much worse than what we’d imagined when Joe was doing his Facebook consultation – we clearly need to up the intensity of our nightly Keep-The-Tandem-Turners-Safe-And-Well vibes!

    You guys have cycled across a CONTINENT, learnt rad local lingo like ‘fishos’, and discovered what your future looks like (Big Trev). You are amazing and insane and oh-so much missed.

    All our love and awe and best, best wishes,
    Roll on Bali!

    Joe and Sophie xxx

  7. Alison Baker says:

    Awesome – on so many levels! Think you guys deserve a beer or two!

  8. Janet Mahmud says:

    Well done! Wow, what a leg of the journey – no pun intended… but I felt those fangs in your description, you are one brave lady Kat but then you wouldn’t be doing what you’re doing if you weren’t! Great blog and photos as always – I can’t believe Steve is powering on only on pasta….he was always eating at work.
    Swap your pasta for rice in Bali and enjoy the coconuts.

  9. veronica nickels says:

    only managed to read your blog this morning after being off work for a week, how entertaining, you are as always so brave and i can only admire from afar at what you have achieved, well done and only five weeks and i will be sharing a cocktail/beer on a fine sandy beach in Penang with you both and you can give me even more updates on your travels. all my fondest love Mumxxxx

  10. Debbie Stott says:

    Wow, i am well impressed . What an amazing achievement ! The dog bite episode sounds very scary so well done Kat for being so brave !!!

    Loads of love, can’t wait to read your next blog Deb xxxx

  11. veronica.nickels says:

    managed to go through your blog thoroughly tonight along with my mate Sandra and didnt quite get to grips with dog story until reading this, you poor thing, you didnt tell me it was as bad as that i am sure you are now fully recovered and taking things a little easy in Bali. all my fondest love Mum xxxx

  12. Vanessa says:

    Guys, what an amazing job, so proud of you! You must be so excited to be out of this expensive, dusty country and we hope you’re living like kings in Bali. Sorry to hear the dog bite, I can totally sympathise, as I’ve been bitten in the EXACT same place! And I also had an ass of an owner too.

    Sending lots of internet love
    Vanessa and Luke

  13. Linda Hadden says:

    wow, just catching up with your blog, as been in Cape Town for a month, what an amazing pair you two are. Glad you survived the outback, what horrid people some folks are, just glad you have met some lovely ones as well. God Bless as you continue your journey, hopefully with lots of lovely baths and food on the way! Love and hugs Linda & Pete XX

  14. Rhiannon says:

    Hi guys, just wanted to say hi and let you know i am still avidly checking your blog – you really are doing great and hope you know that we are all still thinking of you and rooting for you xxxxxx

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