Safe to camp in the outback?

BobtheBuilder
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Re: Safe to camp in the outback?

Postby BobtheBuilder » Thu May 17, 2018 7:23 am

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


It can be very dangerous, but is very common and rarely is dangerous. Light small fires, with an area around well-cleared, and avoid doing so during windy weather. Perhaps the most important thing is put it out! Many fires are started by people leaving fires that seem to be out, but smoulder for hours or even days then reignite. Douse with water (if you have enough) and cover with sand, dirt, whatever (but nothing that contains leaves, wood, etc.!) and just be totally sure it's out!


zivojan wrote: Is there cell phone coverage if you stay on the main road?

Jan


No. There will be long sections without coverage.

zivojan wrote: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.


Regarding leaving Darwin in September, I would strongly discourage you from riding in the North between October and March as a minimum, unless you are a masochist or used to very hot and humid weather. Even September is very hot and if you're heading into WA, the Kimberly is even hotter than the Top End of NT. Daytime temperatures up to 45 are not uncommon and it will rarely drop below 35 degrees.

Look at this table for typical October weather (September may be cooler, may be the same, depending on the year) - http://www.bom.gov.au/climate/dwo/20171 ... 1710.shtml

Coldest day 34.5, most days around 40. Most importantly, coldest night 22.4, most nights 25 - 27 - it'll be over 30 well past midnight for much of the month, as well as humid and little wind.
Coastal areas will be slightly cooler, and have more wind, but also more humid.

Give serious consideration to how this weather will affect you day after day for weeks on end! I live here and I wouldn't even consider doing it at that time of year. You'll land in the heat and start riding and it'll just get hotter and hotter and more humid for months.

An alternative, if you're landing in Darwin, would be to ride directly south to Adelaide via Alice Springs. As you head south and inland the weather at that time of year is still fairly mild, so you'll be out of the hot weather within a week or two.
Alice can still have hot days at that time of year, but lots of cool ones and, more importantly, the nights cool down - http://www.bom.gov.au/climate/dwo/20171 ... 1710.shtml

This is all said without looking into the prevailing winds, which are fairly predictable and constant, so make sure you look that up as well!

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Re: Safe to camp in the outback?

Postby Tequestra » Thu May 17, 2018 8:34 am

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

Good thinking, Jan. A camp-fire is romantic, and there are times and places when it might be worth gathering the wood and enjoying the nostalgia of the olden days for the evening, knowing that the fire will be out before you leave in the morning. I reckon it's a rare treat because it is so cumbersome compared to a quick-n-easy twenty dollar 1-burner gas stove with a five dollar canister which should last a few days or more between refills. Instant cooking heat, no smoke, no bushfires, no hassles. Also no smoke-signals to passing traffic.
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BobtheBuilder
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Re: Safe to camp in the outback?

Postby BobtheBuilder » Thu May 17, 2018 9:31 am

One of the many advantages of fires is that snakes don't like smoke and will keep away. I would light them in areas where it's safe and appropriate (for instance, they're banned in many national parks) to do so - just learn how to do it safely!

And they are only as heavy to pack as a packet of matches!

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Re: Safe to camp in the outback?

Postby uart » Thu May 17, 2018 12:44 pm

BobtheBuilder wrote:One of the many advantages of fires is that snakes don't like smoke and will keep away.

And don't forget mosquitoes too. A small fire makes it way more pleasant if there are mozzies around.

And one final thing. The smoke smell gets right through your hair and cloths, and is really good at masking "BO" if you've had to rough it and haven't had a shower few days. ;)

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RonK
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Re: Safe to camp in the outback?

Postby RonK » Thu May 17, 2018 1:13 pm

You will be safe (and well looked after) if you camp where the grey nomads camp. Where To Camp.

And download the WikiCamps app to your phone.

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Re: Safe to camp in the outback?

Postby find_bruce » Thu May 17, 2018 4:53 pm

Exactly Ron - yes there are venomous snakes & spiders, but the risks are low: 2-3 deaths per year from snake bite, 70% male, 20% trying to pick up or kill the snake. The most recent death due to spider bite was 1979. No reported deaths from magpie strike, but its not from want of trying :wink:

There are real threats that you need to be prepared for, mostly around heat, sunburn, water & the isolation of the area. You will be riding through some gorgeous parts of Australia that many Australians have never seen

Many Europeans have difficulty in getting their head around the vast distances involved. Darwin to Perth is 4,000 km - roughly the same distance as Madrid to Moscow. Much of what you are traveling through has a population density of less than 1 person per 100 sq km.

There will be places where it is hard to find enough wood to boil a billy & you can be days between drinking water, even in areas you think are less remote, eg Carnarvon to Geraldton.

I don't want to discourage you - what you are proposing is doable & there are people on these forums who have ridden tougher routes - I tip my hat to anyone who has ridden through the Gibson desert - but you need to be prepared & self-sufficient

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Re: Safe to camp in the outback?

Postby Jmuzz » Thu May 17, 2018 7:02 pm

Just beware of how isolated and big it is, Europeans can't comprehend unless they have been to other big empty places.
It is hard to grasp that there is literally nothing for the size of entire European countries, just one roadhouse with 5 people passing through.
Not like Europe where there is some nice village and mountain and river every few hours. Its a long way between attractions, you have to be into solitude.

It's not unsafe.
But if someone bad is out there then you are very vulnerable solo on a bike, which is the case anywhere isolated in the world.

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

Postby fat and old » Fri May 18, 2018 8:37 am

Just on the weather....herd BobtheBuilders words. It’s getting hot by September and only gets hotter. And “milder” is relative. To a Dutchman his milder is possibly your stifling hot.

Last time I drove the Great Central from Kal to Ayers Rock Quantas was on strike. Came across a French couple who’d been caught out and decided to hire a troopy and drive Perth - Darwin, inland style. They were freaked at the distances lol

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Re: Safe to camp in the outback?

Postby Comedian » Fri May 18, 2018 7:14 pm

RonK wrote:Well, you could ask the Cycling Dutch Girl.


That's a very cool blog.. thanks :)

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Re: Safe to camp in the outback?

Postby Duck! » Sat May 19, 2018 1:46 pm

fat and old wrote:Just on the weather....herd BobtheBuilders words. It’s getting hot by September and only gets hotter. And “milder” is relative. To a Dutchman his milder is possibly your stifling hot.

+ Another to this. You want to be finishing the trip around September, not starting it. In the far north deep in the tropical zone, there isn't a huge variation in temperature throughout the year; it's always pretty warm. However the Australian winter is the dry season, so the lack of humidity makes it a lot more bearable. During the summer wet season, you'll just about be drowning in the humidity, and many roads can become impassable due to heavy rains. It's also cyclone season, and the north-west is frequently hit by these vicious storms.

Even as you go further south, out of the tropics, winter in Western Australia is warmer, milder and drier than the south-eastern corner of the continent. so much more pleasant for extended riding. Plus, if you end your trip as spring begins, you'll be there to see Western Australia's world-renowned wildflowers at their best.
I had a thought, but it got run over as it crossed my mind.

BobtheBuilder
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Re: Safe to camp in the outback?

Postby BobtheBuilder » Sat May 19, 2018 4:51 pm

Duck! wrote: In the far north deep in the tropical zone, there isn't a huge variation in temperature throughout the year


I have to disagree, living in inland northern NT. This is somewhat true of coastal areas, but there are still significant variations.

The days in the build-up (the hot and increasingly humid period before the Wet season proper) and much of the Wet are over ten degrees hotter than during the Dry (= southern winter).
More important though, are the night-time temperatures, which allow some relief and time for recovery from the heat of the day. There can be a variation of 25 degrees between seasons, though on average it's more like 10 - 15 degrees. From October (see the linked charts in my comments a few days ago) nights rarely drop below 25 degrees - that's 25 degrees at the coldest part of the night, just before dawn. Midnight is commonly 30 degrees, windless and humid - not fun except in the most light mozzie (mosquito) net and not fun if you get some rain and need to put a cover on. In the Dry (roughly, but very variably) from April to August, nights will be below 20 degrees away from the coastal areas and close to five degrees at times, as they have been over the last week in Katherine.

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Re: Safe to camp in the outback?

Postby Scintilla » Sun May 20, 2018 7:27 pm

zivojan wrote:Hello,
My name is Jan and i am from the Netherlands

Welcome on here, and to Australia Jan.

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?

Yes. It is generally VERY straightforward, and there is LOTS of space to do this.

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

Much less than in many other parts of the world. We have our share of concerns to be aware of but they are manageable with a bit of local advice and sensible behaviours. Eg.
- swimming in our surf IS one of the most risky things that many people get caught out by. ALWAYS swim between the flags on patrolled beaches, and with extreme care if at an unpatrolled beach. A patrolled beach is one that has surf-lifesavers...... basically only near towns and cities, and often only patrolled on weekends.



- crocodiles: a great danger in the north, particularly relevant for your travels. Do not swim in large estuarine rivers, and beware camping close to these rivers.
- snakes: yes we have some nasty ones. DO NOT get bitten. But they are generally fairly easy to avoid. Most people who get bitten have been tampering with the snake, or attempting to kill it. Walk the other way. If walking through long grass or undergrowth tread heavily, snakes sense vibrations of footsteps and will move away from you.
- stingers: these are a problem in northern seas, but mostly in the Wet. From now through to about November they will be less common.

Dingos are something that is much less of a concern at all. Count yourself lucky if you see one. I did see one out and traipsing along the Gibb River Road in the Kimberley last year.

Happy touring.

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Re: Safe to camp in the outback?

Postby Scintilla » Sun May 20, 2018 7:39 pm

On the Gibb River Road, one of my roadside campsites. One truck went by at about 6pm. The next vehicle was after 8am next day.

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Re: Safe to camp in the outback?

Postby Scintilla » Sun May 20, 2018 7:45 pm

I know you do not plan to travel the Gibb River Road, but here are some scenes from it. The landscape along the Great Northern may be somewhat similar, though with less gorges and it is a sealed highway all the way.

Tony the 'Flying Dutchman' - appeared out of the dust ahead of me. After working in Melbourne for several months he had flown to Broome, bought a $200 bike and some panniers and set out to ride the GRR, having never ridden much more than 15 kms before in his life in the Netherlands. He certainly seemed to be handling it all quite well and was very happy, despite the headwinds he has been pushing into.
Image


The Gibb River Road is often very harsh on car tyres. Our bike tyres handled it all with ease.
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Gibb Range woodland. Hundreds of kilometres with not-very-much-there.
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Road train drivers are generally very friendly. The corrugations less so.
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The Gibb River Road is very hard cycling, but the waterholes and gorges are really rewarding. Go before the July school holidays, in June, to avoid the thousands of 4-wheel-drive tourists, and the corrugations they create.
Image

BobtheBuilder
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Re: Safe to camp in the outback?

Postby BobtheBuilder » Sun May 20, 2018 10:06 pm

Scintilla wrote:- crocodiles: a great danger in the north, particularly relevant for your travels. Do not swim in large estuarine rivers, and beware camping close to these rivers.


This is a common misconception - saltwater crocodiles can be in small creeks or isolated waterholes hundreds of kms from the ocean, in freshwater.
Any water within at least 500km of the coast in the Northern Territory and northern Western Australia can have saltwater crocs - this factsheet is one of many that has sensible advice about crocs (although they say they're only 200km inland - Katherine regularly pulls out crocs, over 300km from the ocean).

http://www.thegibbriverroad.com/be_crocodile_wise

I wouldn't have swum in the water in your pic Scintilla, unless I knew for sure it was croc-free!

Image

https://www.katherinetimes.com.au/story ... from-croc/
This 3.7m croc is the sort that is fairly regularly being pulled from the waters around Katherine - over 300km by water or land from the ocean and lovely, fresh drinking water for at least 200km of that.

Just for background, Jan, saltwater crocodiles in Australia were hunted almost to extinction by the 1970s when a ban on hunting was introduced and since then the population has increased and more places once again have crocs. Places where people have been swimming safely for decades are now unsafe.

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-10-12/w ... ey/9040502

I would be careful crossing any river in the north (many roads will go through the shallow river, rather than having a bridge) and would probably try and get a vehicle to take me across - but that's from living a good while in the Top End and hearing too many croc stories!

Don't be afraid of them, just be sensible and you will have a good time. Same goes for all the other nasties. The small amount of injuries and deaths are caused by foolish or ignorant behaviour - you'll be in much more danger riding your bike to work in a city than in the outback!

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Re: Safe to camp in the outback?

Postby Scintilla » Mon May 21, 2018 11:13 pm

Yeah.... well I was hopeful that I had got a shot of a 'saltie' at Bidoola Falls about 15 kms up a creek from Home Valley Station.

Image

But that's no saltie...... just a big freshie. And I'd defy any saltwater croc (Indo-Pacific Crocodile actually now) to get up that set of falls.

Image

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Re: Safe to camp in the outback?

Postby BobtheBuilder » Mon May 21, 2018 11:44 pm

Scintilla wrote:And I'd defy any saltwater croc (Indo-Pacific Crocodile actually now) to get up that set of falls.


Maybe not up, but around. They are being found in more and more unlikely places these days...

As one croc trapper said to me "If I can't see tiles and smell chlorine, I don't get in"!

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Re: Safe to camp in the outback?

Postby 10speedsemiracer » Tue May 22, 2018 1:29 am

BobtheBuilder wrote:....

As one croc trapper said to me "If I can't see tiles and smell chlorine, I don't get in"!


I've had this attitude since Jaws first screened at the drive-in...(laughs nervously)
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Re: Safe to camp in the outback?

Postby jindydiver » Tue May 22, 2018 8:07 am

uart wrote: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.


Perhaps you shouldn't start with the absolute "Dingos are no threat to adults", because they clearly are in some circumstances.

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Re: Safe to camp in the outback?

Postby RonK » Tue May 22, 2018 8:46 am

jindydiver wrote:
uart wrote: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.


Perhaps you shouldn't start with the absolute "Dingos are no threat to adults", because they clearly are in some circumstances.

Quite so - I have experienced quite threatening behaviour from Fraser Island dingos, as have many others.
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fat and old
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Re: Safe to camp in the outback?

Postby fat and old » Tue May 22, 2018 12:00 pm

Fraser Island dingos are a little different from mainland types, for good reason. Human contact. Not to say that mainland dingos are 100% predictable and safe; just much less inclined to sniff around people.

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Re: Safe to camp in the outback?

Postby duncanm » Tue May 22, 2018 12:58 pm

zivojan wrote:Is there cell phone coverage if you stay on the main road?


Jan,

in Oz, Tesltra has the best outback coverage.

Have a squiz(*) at their coverage map. https://www.telstra.com.au/coverage-net ... r-coverage

Also note the frequencies in use (http://whirlpool.net.au/wiki/mobile_phone_frequencies) if you plan to bring your own phone, as they may be different to your local frequencies.


I strongly suggest you hire or buy an EPIRB if you're travelling alone.

(* - squiz = 'look'. Best to start your education on the local lingo)

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Re: Safe to camp in the outback?

Postby fat and old » Tue May 22, 2018 1:59 pm

Maybe using a Spot tracker if the loved ones at home want to keep an eye on you or travel vicariously through that is an idea. I'm figuring anyone planning this sort of trip has this stuff nailed down tbh.

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Re: Safe to camp in the outback?

Postby Jmuzz » Tue May 22, 2018 5:10 pm

If you want full-time phone coverage then you will need a satellite phone/hotspot.

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Re: Safe to camp in the outback?

Postby hunch » Tue May 22, 2018 7:01 pm

I think Jan has been scared off!

Might be helpful if he does resurface, to know what a typical day's distance is on GRR on a heavily laden touring bike, it's around 500 klicks from memory. 800(?) from Darwin to Kununurra, there's probably a couple of weeks there without much effort, if you're going to do much more than just ride. In Kunna at that time of year, you'll normally see 30C by 9 am. Bungles might be an easier option on the backside, not hundreds of km of gravel to endure.

Interesting about the crocs, often swam in Katherine Gorge....looks like that's off the menu now, hope Mataranka is still safe :lol: . Have seen them at the top of 15m falls on the Mitchell Plateau from choppers with no obvious way up, having said that, amazed at the kids at Kalumburu swimming in river pools there, with sharks and salties.

Couple of long forgotten items too. If there's much walking around, your ankles and lower calves might welcome gaiters up there. We always carried the makings of a still in all air and land based vehicles, which was basically heavy duty plastic and a wide mouth container if things really hit the fan.

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