Missed our outback adventure? Bicycle Network General Manager, Public Affairs Anthea Hargreaves recaps the first Great Outback Escape.
Stunning remoteness and enchanting vastness. A mesmerizing curved landscape that has been shaped by the wind for centuries. Wild brumbies and camels charging their way through the thick red dust. Dead straight roads dragging you towards horizons hosting the most remarkable sunrises and sunsets you’ve ever seen.
Welcome to the Great Outback Escape, our first premium ride through the NT.
What strikes you most about Central Australia is the light. With an almost spiritual pull, it works its magic on you at the start and end of the day. As it moves through the sky, the sun throws out hues of blue, purple, orange and pink, altering the shade of the landscape every couple of minutes.
The light and landscapes didn’t go unnoticed by the 125 tight-knit group of Great Outback Escape riders who had the privilege of seeing, feeling, tasting, hearing and sharing this experience all from the unique perspective of a bike.
The Great Outback Escape is unlike any ride Bicycle Network has hosted before. Staying in three to five-star accommodation, we were afforded with all the luxuries and support needed to enjoy Central Australia both on and off the bike.
We began our pilgrimage to the red centre with a night at the Mercure Alice Springs, a home base that we’d return to after a loop out to Glen Helen.
At our first (chilly) dinner under the desert sky, we received a traditional welcome to country from a local Aborignal elder Kumalie who encouraged all riders to connect with the land as a mark of respect. In the days that followed, it wasn’t unusual to hear people introducing themselves to the land, trees and sky, thanking our beautiful country for hosting our journey.
There was no time to ease into the riding, with the first day serving up 116km from the historic pioneer settlement of Hermannsberg to the remote resort of Glen Helen.
The lunch stop was worth the only real major ascent for the whole trip, with a rewarding 360-degree view over the West MacDonnell Ranges which has been home to the Western Aranda people for tens of thousands of years.
Our second evening was spent soaking up a quintessentially outback experience, sleeping under the stars or in outback rooms, a stones throw from Glen Helen Gorge. A highlight was being woken by the sounds of dingoes howling in the early hours.
Coming as a surprise to many, the recently sealed, quiet outback roads served for a smooth, trouble-free journey each day. The headwinds and tailwinds, matched with flies and dust, chilly mornings and sunny days served up both their challenges and triumphs. It also meant that sunscreen, a buff or fly net had to always be within reach.
Our special tour of the sacred Standley Chasm ANGKERLE (Angkerle Atwatye) on day three only served to strengthen our connection to the country that we travelled through. As we looped our way back to Alice Springs, we were also treated with a 30 kilometre pedal along an off-road sealed path, winding its way back into town, traversing dried riverbeds.
For the rest day, we were ferried by bus to Kings Canyon Resort for off-the-bike activities and relaxation. In this remote bush setting, we took the opportunity to experience the outback from new perspectives with helicopter rides, quad biking and walks along the canyon rim. With no reception, we were freed from the chains of our phones, allowing for plenty of time to share stories and get to know each other.
The buzz, anticipation and excitement from the group was palpable to everyone at the sunset drinks. New friendships and connections quick formed as we shared this once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Our second 100km ride day from Kings Canyon in Watarrka National Park to Ernest Giles Road, was arguably our toughest. After starting the day with a morning tea at Curtin Springs, challenging headwinds, plague-proportion flies and mind-numbing, ever-inclining straight roads battered the group and tested the resolve of riders and team member alike. But it wasn't without it's rewards - a cold can of drink at the finish line and a new found appreciation for the remote vastness of this untamed land.
After putting a tough 100 kilometres into our legs, arriving at Yulara in the foothills of Uluru and Kata Tjuta was a welcome relief. Yulara would also serve as our base for three nights. We were spoilt with luxurious pools at Sails and The Lost Camel before we were treated within another star-lit dinner on the lawn.
The next morning, there were no complaints as we dragged people out of bed early for a true highlight of the trip – the Field of Light at Uluru.
Words fail to do justice to the critically acclaimed and immersive art installation by Bruce Munro. The unworldly, gentle rhythm of illuminated bulbs gives the impression that the landscape is breathing in the stillness. It was a privilege to share the experience with the Great Outback Escape group and one we all won’t soon forget.
After watching the sunrise dance over Uluru, it was time for the riders to get up close and personal with the impressive and sacred monolithic rock. Textured with layers of spirituality, history and beauty, we all made sure we took the time to soak in the light and shadows from all angles.
Our final day of riding wasn’t to be outdone. Over 100 kilometres, we were gifted with views of Kata Tjuta in the morning and Uluru on our way back. It's a sight you never tire of.
That evening as sun faded for the final time on our trip, The Sounds of Silence dinner provided the perfect backdrop to reflect on our remarkable journey through the outback and enjoy our final moments celebrating together as a group.
With a lightening storm clapping around us, the heavens opened providing the perfect symbol to mark the end of our rugged outback adventure.
Together, we journeyed more than 438 kilometres through townships, resorts and past sacred sites. On our way, we experienced firsthand the magic of Australia’s heartland, discovered a new appreciation for its untamed wilderness and created memories and friendships that will no doubt last a lifetime.
Bicycle Network would like to thank to say a special thanks to everyone who supported and came along for the Great Outback Escape – the community of Hermannsberg, Mercure Alice Springs, Glen Helen Resort, Standley Chasm ANGKERLE, Kungas Can Cook, Ballarat Coach Lines, Kings Canyon Resort, Voyages and Yulara, Uluru – Kata Tjuta National Park.
We (and we’re sure our riders) would also like to say a very special thank you to our tireless mechanic Troy, from Pedal Power Garage who fixed countless bikes, mechanicals and flat tyres with patience and humour all while battling flies and trying outback conditions.
To wrap up, from the whole Great Outback Escape team - Caitlin, Bec, Anthea, Crossy, Ethan, Kahlia, Jaimie, Lauren, Sarah, Mark, Troy - thanks for an awesome and unforgettable adventure. Catch you in New Zealand :)
Special thanks to Mike Farnan for cutting together this quick video. We'd love to see your pics and videos from the Great Outback Escape. Please send any through to email@example.com.
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