Beaches, Forests, Cliffs & Plains – Trans-Oceania 2018 Has It All!
During the past two weeks I was lucky enough to be involved in scouting the new route for the first 2 sections of the 2018 Trans-Oceania Expedition. Starting in Perth, Western Australia, the first section – Coastal Wine Country – will take riders from Perth to Esperance. The second section – The Nullarbor Plain – will take the riders from Esperance to Adelaide. Growing up in Tasmania, I have travelled to most parts of Australia but had yet to explore the West Coast and I was curious to see what all the fuss was about. Perth is known for its great climate and laid back beach attitude but I had not heard anything about cycling in WA. Here are some reflections on the drive from Perth to Port Augusta.
Perth is brilliant! Having spent a decent amount of time in all the other Australian state capitals, Perth felt like a big coastal country town. With a population over 1.5 million you would assume it would in some ways feel like Melbourne or Sydney. However, that is not the case. Compared to the big capitals off the east coast, you can easily drive, walk or cycle into the Central Business District. The relaxed vibe and the laid-back friendly locals will make you feel welcome. Perth is the perfect place to get your bearings, explore the city and its many famous beaches, or wine and dine at some of the great restaurants and cafes before commencing your 3 month cycling adventure to Queenstown. I would recommend spending an extra week in Perth to fully appreciate all it has to offer.
There’s plenty to drink in Western Australia. Margaret River is one of the most prominent wine regions in Australia, producing approximately 20% of Australia’s premium wines. This area covers a significant portion of the far west coast and fortunately, the TransOceania route passes right through it. Riders will get to explore some of the Margaret River wines on their first rest day! For beer and spirit drinkers, there has been a rapid growth in quality breweries & distilleries in the region over the past few years so there is something for everyone in Margaret River.
The forests of Western Australia are impressive! Heading south from Margaret River the route passes through numerous National Parks that contain excellent examples of the local tree cover. The region from Margaret River to Walpole will have riders admiring some impressive old-growth Eucalyptus trees like Jarrah, Karri & Tingle Trees! Some of these trees are over 400 years old and there are numerous opportunities for short bush walks throughout the day or at camp each night. There’s even the opportunity to spend a few hours wandering around in the forest canopy at the Tree Top Walk in Walpole. These massive forests provide much needed shade and shelter for the Trans-Oceania riders before they experience the long, hot flat days on the Nullarbor Plain.
Beaches in Western Australia are spectacular! While a lot of WA was a welcome surprise, I was aware of, and expected to see, some stunning beaches and coastlines! Shortly after leaving the South West forests, the route hugs the southern coastline and riders will enjoy spending a number of nights in beautiful, beachside campsites. A rest day in both Albany & Esperance will give the riders an opportunity to relax on the beach, literally a few hundred metres from the hotel. And all within walking distance of excellent cafes and restaurants, featuring some of the best seafood WA has to offer!
Abundant wildlife is also in the mix. Southern Right whales can be seen from numerous points along the Great Australian Bight each year between June & October as they migrate to South Australia to breed and give birth to whale calves. It is common to see whales playing about in the water below the cliffs! There are many viewpoints along the Great Australian Bight where riders will have the opportunity to marvel at the world’s longest line of sea cliffs and,hopefully, see a few whales! But it’s not all about whales. Riders are guaranteed to see kangaroos, emu’s, numerous birds, including the intimidating Wedge- Tailed Eagle (the biggest bird of prey in Australia), and possibly a camel or two lurking along the side of the road. It will be good news for Trans-Oceania riders to learn that I had no trouble with flies or mosquitos during the scout and I was reassured by locals that this will likely be the case in September 2018.
The weather is great in Western Australia! While it was starting to heat up when the scout was done in November, the conditions will be perfect for cycling in spring in September 2018 when the tour comes through. Daytime average temperatures of 15 degrees Celsius and little rainfall will combine to create perfect conditions for admiring the wildflowers that are widespread around this time! Exploring this part of Australia in September avoids the horrendous 30-40C degree days of summer that would make cycling across the Nullarbor almost impossible.
The Nullarbor. Not long after leaving Norseman it was impossible not to notice all the other vehicles waving as they passed. This simple gesture, common in other parts of Australia, signifies that you are now in the remote Outback and that there is some distance between the next coke stop or small town! The Nullarbor, meaning “No trees”, is the famous stretch of straight road from Western Australia to South Australia.
Roughly 1200km of flat, mostly treeless and semi-arid desert will take riders from Norseman, Western Australia to Ceduna, South Australia. While this stretch will be a challenge there is more to see than you might expect! Wildlife, historic sheep and cattle stations, quirky roadhouses, museums, amazing views of the night sky, the great Australian Bight and its impressive cliffs and much, much more. Driving this distance in a couple of days I was actually surprised by the subtle variations in landscape, with the notable exception of the infamous 100 mile straight! Crossing the Nullarbor in a week and a half by bicycle will be, as it always is, a completely different experience.
If the scout is anything to go by, I’d say these two new sections of the Trans-Oceania will be the highlights of the 2018 ride from Perth to Queenstown.