Safe to camp in the outback?

zivojan
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Safe to camp in the outback?

Postby zivojan » Wed May 16, 2018 1:43 am

Hello,
My name is Jan and i am from the Netherlands. I am thinking of cycling in Australia. From Darwin to Perth. I have cycle and camped before in Europe, where i camped at official campgrounds only . However i have seen that the distance in the Northern Territory and Western Australia are to big for 1 day cycle. Like between halls creek and Fitzroy crossing. So i need to camp in the outback.

My questions is how safe is it? can you just go off the road for like 50 meters or so and put up your tent for the night? Is this allowed? and what about animals like dingo's? Are they a tread or harmless?

I have never camp in the wild before so any advice would be welcome.

Jan

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RonK
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Re: Safe to camp in the outback?

Postby RonK » Wed May 16, 2018 7:04 am

Well, you could ask the Cycling Dutch Girl.
Cycle touring blog and tour journals: whispering wheels...

hunch
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Re: Safe to camp in the outback?

Postby hunch » Wed May 16, 2018 7:21 am

Jan, you can camp just about anywhere out there up top, rest stops, etc, other than where it is signposted otherwise. You'd probably want to stop at caravan parks where it is built up however, even just for the showers after a sweaty day, Kununurra, Broome, etc.

Back in the day, I just used a swag, not much chance of rain in the dry season assuming that's when you're travelling up north, down south the tent will come in handy. I'd pack a mosquito net if you get near any watercourse and decide to camp using just a bag, e.g Derby - worst place on earth short of Siberian Tundra for mozzies! If you go too far from the coast, it can get fairly chilly at night in the low single digits C.

Wouldn't worry about dingos, maybe crocs if foolish enough to camp near salt water on beaches or rivers - you'll be more concerned about bored drivers and road trains blowing you off the road at 100kph. Carry a bit of water though in the sparsely populated legs....long stretches of nothing.

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Re: Safe to camp in the outback?

Postby bychosis » Wed May 16, 2018 9:05 am

Don't camp near trees. Drop bears.
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Tequestra
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Re: Safe to camp in the outback?

Postby Tequestra » Wed May 16, 2018 9:38 am

zivojan wrote:My questions is how safe is it? can you just go off the road for like 50 meters or so and put up your tent for the night? Is this allowed? and what about animals like dingo's? Are they a tread or harmless?

Hello Jan. What a fantastic trip that must be. I have chronic dreams of riding from Perth to Darwin myself, so it is much the same kind of questions albeit in reverse.

I have done the ride from Perth - Augusta - Albany around the coast in 2001, and then Perth - Bridgetown - Albany in 2002. One difference between the Darwin - Perth and the Perth - Albany rides is the distance between towns, as you have calculated. In the South-West (PER-ALB) there seems an average of around 25-30km, whereas Up North (DRW-PER) I would guess, having never been north of Geraldton, that it is around ten times that distance bwtween towns.

I found it most practical over that first trip of forty-two days and the second trip of four(4) days to spend every second night in The Bush, with a little gas burner and a pan to cook my canned meals, and every other night in a caravan park, to take a couple of showers on arrival and departure, and get a good counter meal at the local pub to build up the calories and vitamins.

I was not in any rush the first trip, so only averaged around 50km per day. From Darwin to Perth you will need to push it to make a town every second night, and likely be camping in The Bush for a few nights in a row. As Hunch mentioned, you'll be needing a good lot of water between towns. A 10l container bolted to the rear of the frame with a little tap on the back is what I used for water, and you might want to question whether 10l is enough for your itinery. Maybe two water tanks, one either side of the back wheel to carry 20 litres would be necessary. I have not travelled that route so maybe there are lots of road stations dotted along the highway and water is easier to obtain than I imagine. Must check this one and make sure you've got a good tank for elegant sufficiency.

Wild animals? Hunch mentioned crocodiles, and I'll add snakes to that warning. In the South-West, there are two main venomous snakes: dugites and tiger-snakes. Dugites are not aggressive and I have found that just making a lot of noise and talking loudly to myself whenever I head off the highway seems to have been enough to warn the dugites to shither off. Dugites are wary of us humans. Tiger snakes are not. They have been known to attack without deliberate provocation, although I have stepped over a couple down along the south coast on cooler days and not been attacked. Lucky I guess.

The snakes Up North are different species. I don't know them very well, but the King Brown is famous, and is a big long black snake like a giant dugite, apparently quite nasty. What seems to be a reasonable rule of thumb for camping in The Bush when there are snakes is to make sure to camp well away from water. This is especially true for tiger snakes, because tiger snakes like frogs, and frogs like water. If you can hear frogs croaking at night where you are camped, then you camped too close to a swamp or some water source. Look for high ground to camp, because water flows to the valleys, and frogs like water, and snakes like frogs.

The last thing which I feel obliged to warn you of without discouraging you from this magnificent endeavour is the most dangerous biological hazard known to man - man. Firfty metres from the highway is a good place to camp, especially if it is behind a grove of trees or a hill. I noticed this quite regularly at night in The Bush in 2001 and people are a lot more angry and dangerous in 2018 than they were when we were young, Jan. When one is camped in middle of nowhere, possible out of mobile range, without a motor-vehicle and without a firearm, one is a sitting duck. Whenever I camped in The Bush in 2001, I made sure to get far enough away from the highway to be completely out of sight from that highway. It helped me sleep at night, and even then, there were occasional friendly disturbances. Lucky again.

Make sure to tell trusted people where you are as much as possible, and a CDMA phone (if that is still the correct acronym) to keep in contact with civilisation at all times would be a wise idea. Most Australians are friendly and helpful in the country, but take some precautions where you camp, so that you can be as invisible to passers by as possible when you are sleeping.

I look forward to viewing the photos throughout this expedition. Good Luck!
Viva le Tour Electrique' !!!

AdelaidePeter
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Re: Safe to camp in the outback?

Postby AdelaidePeter » Wed May 16, 2018 9:57 am

The drop bear comment is a joke, by the way. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drop_bear

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bychosis
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Re: Safe to camp in the outback?

Postby bychosis » Wed May 16, 2018 10:23 am

AdelaidePeter wrote:The drop bear comment is a joke, by the way. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drop_bear

Yes, a good one though for unwary tourists. :lol: I'll just hop back on my kangaroo and head off to work now.....

Although, camping under large gum trees isn't advised. They are sometimes referred to as 'widow makers' because they can, and do, drop large limbs without warning.
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Re: Safe to camp in the outback?

Postby Caelum » Wed May 16, 2018 10:48 am

Also be aware that in some areas you need a permit from the local aboriginal organisations to be allowed to stay on their land. It's normally a rubber-stamping affair, but you will need to be aware that some areas are absolutely off-limits - but that's unlikely to be near roads.

https://nt.gov.au/property/land/aborigi ... nd-permits

https://www.nlc.org.au/visiting-aboriginal-land

https://www.daa.wa.gov.au/land/entry-permits/

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Re: Safe to camp in the outback?

Postby AdelaidePeter » Wed May 16, 2018 10:49 am

bychosis wrote:
AdelaidePeter wrote:The drop bear comment is a joke, by the way. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drop_bear

Yes, a good one though for unwary tourists. :lol: I'll just hop back on my kangaroo and head off to work now.....

Although, camping under large gum trees isn't advised. They are sometimes referred to as 'widow makers' because they can, and do, drop large limbs without warning.


Yeah I like a drop bear joke as much as the next person in real life (my daughter once had some overseas students completely fooled and had to eventually explain it), but I was worried that on the internet, Jan would miss the joke completely. I agree with you about gum trees though (again for Jan, that's what Australians call Eucalyptus trees) - a friend of mine got a broken leg camping under one.
Last edited by AdelaidePeter on Wed May 16, 2018 10:52 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Safe to camp in the outback?

Postby Aushiker » Wed May 16, 2018 10:51 am

Image

Until you get relatively close to Perth (south of Northampton) you are riding in station country which means I think I will camp now and you just pull off the road and camp. Not likely to get hassled, not likely to encounter fences etc. My general rule riding in such areas is to ride until around 4:00 PM and then camp, wherever 4:00 PM gets me.

Even in the more developed southern areas if I do not want to or cannot make a town I just keep an eye out for reserves or bushy road reserves down dirt roads and camp there. Never been bothered so far.

You can get a taste of my riding through the Gascoyne here. This was planned to be a Darwin to Perth ride (but chasing dirt) but a month of illness that kicked in when I got to Adelaide River resulted in the shortened ride.

Image

All the best with your ride.

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Leaf T
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Re: Safe to camp in the outback?

Postby Leaf T » Wed May 16, 2018 11:07 am

I recall this journal giving a good description of the area and vast distances.

https://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/?o= ... 6867&v=14a

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biker jk
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Re: Safe to camp in the outback?

Postby biker jk » Wed May 16, 2018 2:27 pm

bychosis wrote:Don't camp near trees. Drop bears.


I hear Wolf Creek is a camping option.

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Re: Safe to camp in the outback?

Postby Neddysmith » Wed May 16, 2018 2:58 pm

zivojan wrote:Hello,
and what about animals like dingo's? Are they a tread or harmless?

Perfectly tame, just ask Azaria Chamberlain

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Death_of_ ... hamberlain

00tones00
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Re: Safe to camp in the outback?

Postby 00tones00 » Wed May 16, 2018 3:44 pm

Tequestra wrote:Make sure to tell trusted people where you are as much as possible, and a CDMA phone (if that is still the correct acronym) to keep in contact with civilisation at all times would be a wise idea.


A quick note that the CDMA network was turned off more than a decade ago and replaced with a WCDMA 850MHz network. Make sure your handset supports this although most will. It's worthwhile looking for a handset that supports 700MHz LTE as well (which most also support now). It's generally accepted that Telstra has the best coverage in these sorts of areas although if you need to make an emergency call (112 on a mobile but 000 should also work in Australia) then the handset is able to connect to whichever network is available. A Sat phone will give you the best coverage but are very expensive.

fat and old
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Re: Safe to camp in the outback?

Postby fat and old » Wed May 16, 2018 7:39 pm

Lots of remote (4wd) touring here, never had an issue with people or wildlife. Others have. Don’t camp down on the banks up north, watch for snakes and bity things. I’d worry more about upsetting a perentie than a dingo, but they freak me out lol. If you want reliable comms, sat phone. You can hire them easy enough. And check the advice on travelling through Indigenous lands re permits and off limit areas.

Actually, thinking about it, Warburton has a whopping big fence around the camp/roadhouse area. For a reason. Steer clear of those off limit communities!

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Re: Safe to camp in the outback?

Postby Trevtassie » Wed May 16, 2018 7:55 pm

Neddysmith wrote:
zivojan wrote:Hello,
and what about animals like dingo's? Are they a tread or harmless?

Perfectly tame, just ask Azaria Chamberlain

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Death_of_ ... hamberlain

Hah, I once saw one jump on the back of a ute (that's a flat tray utility vehicle Jan) at Uluru, open an esky (that's an insulated food cooler to you Jan) by moving the handle to unlock it, it fished out a bag of sandwiches, jumped down and trotted off.

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Re: Safe to camp in the outback?

Postby trailgumby » Wed May 16, 2018 8:32 pm

Another warning about pitching your tent under eucalypt trees

My dad used to warn me about it when I was a member of the Scout movement, stating they dropped branches. I followed his advice, albeit without much conviction.

About 20-25 years ago a schoolteacher friend of mine was out bush camping with his family on holiday one Christmas when one dropped a large branch on his daughter's tent. They were a long way from help. Long story short, she suffered permanent brain injury. She has resumed a relatively normal life, and is now married, but it was a long, arduous battle. She would suffer debilitating headaches among other symptoms, and she still needs psych assistance from time to time.

It is a risk easily avoided.

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Re: Safe to camp in the outback?

Postby Duck! » Wed May 16, 2018 9:01 pm

Neddysmith wrote:
zivojan wrote:Hello,
and what about animals like dingo's? Are they a tread or harmless?

Perfectly tame, just ask Azaria Chamberlain

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Death_of_ ... hamberlain

Heh, I was going to say if you don't have a baby with you, you'll be fine. :mrgreen:

I was on holiday with my family in Central Australia, and we were at Uluru only a few weeks before Azaria was taken. Coming back to our camp after a bit of exploring around The Rock, there was a dingo lounging oh-so-casually on the front porch of our tent, and with me only being four years old at the time, that was pretty freaky. Having been that up close & personal with a dingo in exactly the same place Azaria was taken from, we were among the very few people at the time who actually believed that it was indeed a dingo.
I had a thought, but it got run over as it crossed my mind.

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Re: Safe to camp in the outback?

Postby uart » Wed May 16, 2018 10:09 pm

Dingos are no threat to adults. They are really quite shy and tend to keep their distance from people. Care needs to be taken with very young children though, they do need to be supervised in areas that have dingos. Actually the problem is really only acute in areas where people interact too much with them and feed them etc. It takes away their natural wariness around humans, so this is generally discouraged.

Personally I have been tent camping in remote areas with lots of dingos and never felt even remotely threatened. I've walked alone at night on sandy trails and beaches, and seen their outlines in the moonlight as they quietly move away when they sense me coming. Always keeping their distance and never displaying even a hint of threatening behavior.

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Re: Safe to camp in the outback?

Postby Ancientflatulence » Wed May 16, 2018 10:28 pm

Trevtassie wrote:
Neddysmith wrote:
zivojan wrote:Hello,
and what about animals like dingo's? Are they a tread or harmless?

Perfectly tame, just ask Azaria Chamberlain

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Death_of_ ... hamberlain

Hah, I once saw one jump on the back of a ute (that's a flat tray utility vehicle Jan) at Uluru, open an esky (that's an insulated food cooler to you Jan) by moving the handle to unlock it, it fished out a bag of sandwiches, jumped down and trotted off.



I thought you were going to tell us it cracked a stubbie to have with its sandwiches .......... :)

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Re: Safe to camp in the outback?

Postby zivojan » Thu May 17, 2018 1:19 am

hunch wrote:Jan, you can camp just about anywhere out there up top, rest stops, etc, other than where it is signposted otherwise. You'd probably want to stop at caravan parks where it is built up however, even just for the showers after a sweaty day, Kununurra, Broome, etc.


Thanks. So if i camp in the bush and the police sees me they wont fine me? Thats good. Yes i plan to stay in caravan parks in towns for the showers and washing too.

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Re: Safe to camp in the outback?

Postby zivojan » Thu May 17, 2018 1:25 am

Thanks so much for the replays. I really appreciate it. I was thinking about leaving in September, that when i have the time to do it. Also i be cycling on the main road and maybe Gibbs river road, but i am not sure.

Is there cell phone coverage if you stay on the main road? i would think probably not, since it has such a low population density. I do more research and be leaving end of August for Darwin. I will keep looking on this forum for more tips and suggestion.

It's a great forum with lots of info.

Jan

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Re: Safe to camp in the outback?

Postby zivojan » Thu May 17, 2018 1:37 am

Tequestra wrote:The last thing which I feel obliged to warn you of without discouraging you from this magnificent endeavour is the most dangerous biological hazard known to man - man. Firfty metres from the highway is a good place to camp, especially if it is behind a grove of trees or a hill. I noticed this quite regularly at night in The Bush in 2001 and people are a lot more angry and dangerous in 2018 than they were when we were young, Jan. When one is camped in middle of nowhere, possible out of mobile range, without a motor-vehicle and without a firearm, one is a sitting duck. Whenever I camped in The Bush in 2001, I made sure to get far enough away from the highway to be completely out of sight from that highway. It helped me sleep at night, and even then, there were occasional friendly disturbances. Lucky again.


Thanks for this advice. Humans might be more dangerous. Yes you right stay away and out of sight. When somebody comes after me i am a sitting duck.

I suppose making a campfire is therefore also to dangerous and should not be done?

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Re: Safe to camp in the outback?

Postby hunch » Thu May 17, 2018 6:25 am

zivojan wrote:
hunch wrote:Jan, you can camp just about anywhere out there up top, rest stops, etc, other than where it is signposted otherwise. You'd probably want to stop at caravan parks where it is built up however, even just for the showers after a sweaty day, Kununurra, Broome, etc.


Thanks. So if i camp in the bush and the police sees me they wont fine me? Thats good. Yes i plan to stay in caravan parks in towns for the showers and washing too.


You'll be lucky to see police, except in the towns, so they won't bother you unless you do something stupid, like drunk and disorderly! :lol:

zivojan wrote:Thanks for this advice. Humans might be more dangerous. Yes you right stay away and out of sight. When somebody comes after me i am a sitting duck.

I suppose making a campfire is therefore also to dangerous and should not be done?


There have been a couple of well publicised cases over the last 20~25 years, but Tequestra is I think overstating it. 99.999% of people up there will bend over backwards to help you, they'll probably stop to offer lifts more often than not, so I'd have no worries with a campfire. You'll have more issues with the occasional dick on the road, having a bit of sport with you to relieve tedium - not sure what it's like now, but not much in the way of shoulders, when I was working up there for a couple of years, before losing my sanity and liver. We resorted to company shirts, so anybody who tempted to close pass knew there would likely be repercussions.

Halls Creek and Fitzroy Crossing, road is uninteresting mostly and unless you're into public intoxication on pension day, that's about the limit of excitement, this was mid/late 80s....and don't think it's changed much since! Gibb River is ok in a 4wd, not sure I'd like to do it on a bike, there's a few river crossings in known croc habitat, but in September, hopefully the water is well down, so you should be half ok. I'd strongly suggest thorn resistant tubes and the best tyres you can get too.

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Re: Safe to camp in the outback?

Postby BobtheBuilder » Thu May 17, 2018 6:48 am

hunch wrote:Jan, you can camp just about anywhere out there up top, rest stops, etc, other than where it is signposted otherwise.

Wouldn't worry about dingos, maybe crocs if foolish enough to camp near salt water on beaches or rivers


hi Jan,

I live in northern NT and host many people doing trips like yours through https://www.warmshowers.org. I'd recommend joining (if you don't know it) - and hosting some people before you leave!

In WA, as far north as Exmouth, many of the councils (local government level) ban "free camping", but in reality, as a cyclist, as long as you're out of sight, no-one's going to notice (and few will care!). In the NT it's not an issue at all. The only thing is not to camp in urban areas.

As far as crocs, "saltwater" crocs are common as far as 500km or more inland, so take them very seriously. They are rarely seen and deadly! But, don't be put off by the many dangerous animals in Australia - just do a little reading and be prepared. Surprisingly few people are seriously harmed by wildlife in Australia. Basic rules include, camp on cleared ground, preferably not under large trees (many Australian trees naturally drop limbs in response to dry periods when they can't provide enough water to the whole organism), don't put your hands where your eyes can't see (esp. in holes!), always use a torch at night and always wear footwear (covered to be safe, though most of us in the north don't, because we get lazy!).

I'd also research the weather and the prevailing winds - it can get very hot and the distances are very big!

The most important thing - carry LOTS of water. You can easily drink 7 litres a day in hot periods.


When planning, the biggest consideration is maybe whether you'll be travelling on dirt roads or sticking to sealed roads. If you're leaving sealed roads, your level of preparation in this part of the world will need to be a lot higher. You'll need very durable gear and the capacity to carry many days food and water supply. If you break down you may only see a few cars a day or even none, so you need to be prepared for a few extra days than planned for.

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