In his 1966 book, The Tyranny of Distance, Geoffrey Blainey explains how Australia’s  destiny has been shaped by its remoteness from Britain and Europe. The book’s name is now liberally applied to describe the vast distances between almost anywhere in this colossal landmass. 

Heading “out west” from Brisbane the suburban sprawl and  satellite  towns  peter out quite rapidly. Farming and other land management activities congregate around road  intersections, and a  rail track runs alongside the road for  a while.


" Waltzing Matilda, Waltzing Matilda
You'll come a-Waltzing Matilda, with me.
He sang as he watched and waited 'til his billy boiled,
you'll come a-Waltzing Matilda, with me."

The long-legged, stocky and well fleeced Merino sheep are the breed of choice here, with the larger  stations being dominated by beef cattle; Brangus and Charbray cross breeds.  Seven years of drought has evidently taken its toll. But it was the sheep shearers strike, and hard times that followed, which inspired Banjo Paterson to write  “Waltzing  Matilda” out here in Winton in 1895. It’s lyrics are sad, and end in death, but that has not stopped  it  becoming Australia’s unofficial national anthem.

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Kangaroos line the roads in the dry season to lick early  morning moisture from the bitumen. The unfortunate  consequence, when startled by traffic, is  that  they leap  in any direction and frequently in  to oncoming traffic. Local vehicles all have kangaroo  bars fitted, but  motorcyclists  are given stern warnings. Some sections are heavily littered  with carcasses - it’s kangaroo carnage!   Emus, and  wandering cattle pose a similar danger, but all make a welcome feast for the birds. Buzzards take the first pickings, then  Crows, Thornbills and Spinifex pigeons follow. Further along, dead possums, wombats, boar  and  the odd   koala add to my fascination for road-kill.


Road Trains are  53 metres long.

Road Trains pull three articulated trailers. They  seem to carry anything and  everything needed  for  life in the  outback, as  well as sheep and cattle to abattoirs.  They weren’t the unstoppable menace that I had been warned about. Overtaking  was easy enough as the roads  had so little traffic. 

Ficus Platypoda, or Wild  Fig.  Aboriginees call them ILI.

Ficus Platypoda, or Wild  Fig.  Aboriginees call them ILI.

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It is taller than the Eiffel Tower.

Il est plus grand quest la Tour Eiffel.

The Red Centre of Australia spans four states. It is  an ancient landscape  whose soil has  worn fine, but supports diverse  fauna. In an engaging conversation with an  Anangu Aborigine named  Leroy, I  learnt to source  and selects fruits  such as wild  fig and  bush plum, as well as bake with wattleseed. I  also leant how to source water from small pools at the base of trees with roots in cracks in the rock, as signposted by birds circling above. Handy tip.

Visiting Uluru, also known as Ayres Rock, named  after  a British Chief Secretary of South Australia, was the prime motivation for my journey through the Outback. It’s  a  very big sandstone rock, and looks  very red  at sunrise and sunset.  It is also an important feature of the creation according to  the Anangu, traditional owners of the region.

Walking up Uluru is now officially discouraged.

Half  way around  my world.

Half  way around  my world.

With so  few people in the  outback I found that many welcomed the  opportunity of conversation. One  lady who I met briefly with a smile at  a fuel station, later stopped down the  road in  a lay-by. When explaining to each other  why we  were out here, she told me that after a  long and happy marriage her husband  passed  away. She  described it as “very inconvenient of him”. We both cried together. 

At another stop I met a small group who were on an overland trip by bus from London to Sydney. There were two Chelsea Football Club supporters amongst them! I  also met a newly arrived young lady from Maryland, USA, who had just left home to travel Australia and ended up in  Coober  Pedy. This is Australia’s Opal mining town, but also the most remote and  bizarre location on my route. Her self confidence was  remarkable.

This  might be  a map, but  I didn't  dare try to  follow it.

This  might be  a map, but  I didn't  dare try to  follow it.


On  the  southern edge  of the outback I rode  through South Australia’s vast wineries. Each one felt like grape farming on a massive scale, far surpassing the size of anything  in Europe.


Don’t let anyone tell you that the outback is  empty. It couldn’t be further from the truth, and I cant wait to go back one day. The  prospect of becoming a so-called  ‘Grey Nomad” is very appealing……