Uluru , Katajuta & the
Marcus Micheaux & Grace Newhaven
2000/ August 13
This fact sheet is intended as an
introductory guide to cycle camping in
Aboriginal place names have been reintroduced recently in certain localities,
so that some places may be known by two names eg Uluru (previously
Ayers Rock) Tnorala (Goss’s Bluff ) Kata Tjuta ( The Olgas). The
The best cycling season is spring (July to September), warm and dry with day time max 32C, night min.0C, no rain. At this time of year, daylight is generally about 12 hours. Winds in August from SE, E & NE. Hot summer season begins in late Sept. Many unsealed clay roads may be impassable after rain. As in other arid areas, rain may be not be entirely predictable. Be prepared for cold nights all year.
Aboriginal history in this area has been dated to 22 000 years. The Ananju Pitjantjatjara people are the traditional owners, now joint managers in some places with the Federal government's "Australian Nature Conservation Agency".
Europeans first explored Central
Australia during the survey of the Overland Telegraph Line in 1871, linking
The population is now over 25 000
with an annual growth rate of nearly 6 per cent. Now recognised as the 'Centre
Map of the
" Bicycle Touring in
HEMA Map of Central Australia covers a wide sweep of the region. Scale 1:2 000 000 ( A$6.95 ) ISBN 1 875992 58 8
"4 X 4 Tracks and Unsealed
The RAA's guide to the region "Outback South Australia & Central Australia" ( Stuart Nicol , 1994) is a comprehensive guide with index & bibliography. 300 pages A5 format paperback. 600gm. ISBN 0 909697 23 X
Australian Geographic Magazine Central Australia Map ( Scale approx 1: 1 210 000 ) Glossy style with highly
detailed historical information. Published in 1991. Useful in conjunction with a more recent map.
NT Dept of Lands & Housing : Topographical Maps
AUSLIG (Australian Survey &
Land Information Group) produces 1:250 000 maps http://www.auslig.gov.au/index.html
Tel 1800 800 173 .
NT Parks & Wildlife Commission manages
the National Parks of the West Mac's & produces a free timetable of useful
explanatory talks presented by Rangers at the different Parks, under the title
"Walks & Talks in Parks ". Contact
Parks Australia is a Federal agency responsible for the management of Uluru and Katajuta. Tel Uluru : 08 8956 2299
Central Land Council ( Aboriginal Lands)
NT Government Tourist Commission PO Box 2532Alice Springs NT 0871 http://www.nttc.com.au/
National Parks Field Guides "Uluru, Kata Tjuta & Wattarka" (1995 Anne Kerle) ISBN 0 86840 055 6 / Dewey A919.4291
Lonely Planet's "Guide to the Australian Outback" has some limited information on bicycle touring.
The OZ Travel site is a good general background to the region http://www.oztravel.com.au/travel_mall/destinations/Red_Centre_and_Central_Au1.html#description
There is an interesting link site
www sites on bike travel in this region will be
listed progressively at the "
Bike shops :
Penny Farthing -
via the Stuart Highway
: 1500. Km / via the
A$135.00 + bike $20.00 at least ( partly disassembled ) http :// www.mccaffertys.com.au. There are sometimes valuable discounts for advance purchase. Be careful to see your bike is stowed carefully.
direct to Alice Springs or Yulara
from most large airports in
Roads & traffic
The main characteristic of the traffic environment here is the small number of vehicles relative to the long distances - there will be plenty of room for most drivers to pass you easily and as a biker you will have the road to yourself for much of the time. Some traffic can be too fast - there is no maximum speed limit in the NT - however only a small minority of drivers drive above 90 km/h .
The main highways are mostly quite safe, traffic relatively light - during the off season at least - and even triple trailer drivers are generally considerate. A mirror will be essential though-- even very large trucks can be hard to hear if coming from downwind. Road shoulders on the highway are generally of adequate width but may sometimes be loose gravel - foreign cyclists particularly may find this road environment unsettling at first. Occasional big tour busses may be less responsible.
There are no caravans west Glen Helen. The roughest track is the detour into Tnorla (Goss's Bluff).
Generally, isolated 4 X 4 tracks like Mereenie Loop are corrugated , stony and sandy ( sometimes all at once ) making bike travel very slow and tiring in some places, with occasional deep sand drifts. In some places, fine sand collects in the corrugations as "bull dust holes", the deepest of which may be up to 150mm (6") deep. These might well wreck a bicycle wheel if you hit one at speed.
If the Meerenie loop is too difficult, it would be easy enough to find a ride with a utility or campervan - the road has considerable traffic, say three or four vehicles an hour during the day.
A recorded message on Central Australian road conditions is available on 08 8952 7111 / 08 8922 3232 or phone Emergency Services during office hours on 08 8952 3833.
See also Northern Territory Department of Transport & Works - http://www.nt.gov.au/dtw
Some tourists, particularly foreigners, are unaware of the different qualities of water available in the region. In short, water in taps usually comes from deep underground " bores" - artificial springs - and is entirely safe to drink, though the slightly salty taste may be difficult at first, something like thin milk. Bore water is usually available freely, at least in cyclist size quantities.
In some places, rain water is collected from the roofs of buildings, and is also quite safe ( this surprises many northern hemisphere visitors, who fear atmospheric or chemical pollution). Rain water has a pleasantly neutral flavour. As it is a rare commodity in a desert, be grateful if it is available, and use it very sparingly.
On the Stuart Hwy and the other main roads, bore water of drinking quality is trucked in to storage tanks at "roadside stops", not predictably sited but on average about 150 Km apart, and marked on the RAA map( eg on the Luritja Road, near Angus Downs HS, connecting to King's Canyon Road.) These are generally reliable, but not 100 % - some caravanners see fit to fill their 100 litre-plus containers here, rather than in more appropriate sites, and the tanks may be dry when you arrive on your bike !
At most TPCC camp
sites, bore water is provided on tap. There are also permanent
waterholes at Ormiston Gorge,
Elsewhere, windpowered pumps provide a slightly salty but drinkable water from below ground, but are not completely reliable, and not recommended. There may be some cattle dam water near Tnorla, but this is not reliable in summer.
In places, no water is available for up to 150 km, eg the gravel-and-dirt Mereenie Loop. A waterbag may be useful.
Rehydration fluids are generally available at stores in the region, and are recommended. Note that Puritabs and iodine are not effective with water affected by algal blooms.
The cyclist needs to be quite
flexible here, and plan well in advance - or eat a lot of junk food ! Limited and basic grocery supplies are sometimes
available at widely separated roadhouses and other settlements (below), which
also sell high fat fast foods , usually expensive and
of poor nutritional value. You might also consider a food
In an emergency, you could try Aboriginal settlements, but these are generally off limits to non-Aboriginal people. The longest distance between food supplies would be between Glen Helen and King' s Canyon.
In many places, restrictions on
"take away" alcohol mean you may have to pay expensive bar prices,
with only beer in bottles or cans available. An alternative is a bottle of
sherry brought from
Free camping is both possible and necessary at many places in this region, and is quite easy - simply wheel your bike off the road at a likely looking site. In most places, the bush only five metres from the road will be clean and pleasant as a campsite. You should ensure it is the same when you leave - bury any waste you can't take with you. Some car-based travellers are amazingly indifferent to the mess they leave behind, and most "used" campsites are at least unpleasant and often disgusting.
Be wary of thorns, (look for the " Crown of Thorns" type) and do not attempt to ride your bike through any vegetation or risk multiple punctures. ( Be sure to use good quality tyres & tubes and pack a good number of patches !)
There is free camping also at Curtin Springs roadhouse, but it's dusty and dirty, as are most of the "rest areas".
PWC maintains pleasantly low key
camp sites in
There are commercial camping
grounds at Yulara, King's Canyon Resort, and
However, in some places, eg National Parks, Aboriginal land, roadside rest areas
etc, camping is expressly prohibited for environmental or cultural reasons. Due
perhaps to the excessive environmental and cultural impact of motorised tourism
in the region, camping is not permitted at Uluru ,Tnorla,
Katajuta or inside King's Canyon . Camping – even for
bicycle travellers, unfortunately - is also not allowed on
Pitjantjatjara and Lurlitja lands. Camping is
prohibited also on the Mereenee Loop - meaning the
cyclist needs to complete the 130 km unsealed section of the
Three * camp site ( $12.00 pp , grass, fridges & free gas BBQ ). Full
supermarket & shopping centre.
nil, no camping
Kata Tjuta (The Olgas)
nil. Emergency rain water tank, ingeniously designed!
resort, campsite $12/pp , cheaper second night. Basic, expensive grocery, EFTPOS , bar etc. Be sure to take the canyon map from the resort, as there are none distributed at the site.
King's Creek Station
no groceries. Hot foods, dusty camp site, camels & helicopter rides. Ask for bore water, perhaps offer a small donation, as water is quite limited here.
roadhouse, limited groceries, camp site
Roadhouse/pub, free campsite ( dust & dog shit). Meals, very limited supplies. Friendly. Named ,by a socialist pioneer, for the Prime Minister of WW 2.
dusty camping, roadhouse, no groceries, pub, restaurant, cabin accomodation. Friendly enough. Help yourself to water tap.
roadhouse, very limited groceries ( look in both shops), swimming pool, pleasant grassy camp site ( $6.00 /pp). Not otherwise helpful.
store, police, no camping
National Parks HQ & camping site ( $6.00 / pp). Rainwater tank, no food. Dingoes howl at night.
tourist supplies, accomodation
This fact sheet was produced by grassroots cyclists, using published advertisements and direct enquiries. No responsibility can be accepted for changes or errors. Printing this document.
Users should always confirm details by telephone wherever possible. Services may have been closed or withdrawn since publication.
Other Bicycle Camping Fact Sheets in this series include