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Henrik and Mikkel's 70,000km world tour over 50 countries

Alia Parker's picture
Henrik and Mikkel, WorldOnBike, cycling Australia. Cycle Traveller
One Sunday in early April 2011, Henrik and Mikkel loaded their bikes and set off from Denmark on a journey that would take them across six continents and more than 50 countries. They estimated the trip to be about 70,000km over three years. These days they think it may take longer as they take their time to "stop and smell the roses" and get to know the world, its people, their food, their customs and the landscapes in which they live.
Over the past year and a half, Henrik and Mikkel have made their way down continental Europe, through Asia and across Australia. Starting up north in Darwin, they cut down through the Red Centre and down to the coast. Cycle Traveller caught up with Henrik Frederiksen as the two prepared to hit one of the country's most famous roads, The Great Ocean Road, en route from Adelaide to Melbourne.
CT: How far have you travelled since leaving Denmark? Is it correct to assume you are half-way through your three-year journey?
HF: Arriving in Adelaide, we have cycled 26,000km through 24 different countries, spending 18 months on the road. As the entire around-the-world cycling journey is estimated to be 70,000km and 50-odd countries, we are a roughly 40% into the expedition. Guess it might be difficult to keep it to three years, it might take four …
Henrik and Mikkel cycling in Australia, Cycle TravellerCT: Roughly, what route are you taking through Australia?
HF: The Australian route took us from Darwin down the Stuart highway past Katherine, Tenant Creek, Alice Springs, Coober Pedy to Port Augusta and into Adelaide. From Adelaide we will follow the Great Ocean Road to Melbourne, which will likely be our last destination in Australia.
CT: What has been the highlight of your world-wide trip so far?
HF: That is a very common question, but a very difficult one to answer. If we have to answer, it will be The Pamirs of Eastern Tajikistan: Very remote, extremely beautiful, rural, undeveloped, culturally intense and physically very challenging. But INDIA is a gigantic cultural explosion, LAOS is very laid back, serene and fun, INDONESIA is extremely diverse and surreal and AUSTRALIA has been magnificent with its extremely remote outback areas, its endless stretches of bush, weird and exotic wildlife, endless blue skies and red dirt and the outback camping with infinitely quiet nights and star-packed skies.
CT: You're riding through a very remote part of Australia. Are you enjoying it?
HF: Absolutely. It has been an amazing experience (and a highlight, as mentioned above). Cycling through Asia, we were very much constantly the center of attention, being two white guys on a bicycle through undeveloped rural third-world areas, many densely populated areas where local people were always staring at us and asking questions. Arriving in Australia is one of the biggest culture shocks I’ve ever experienced; it was extremely remote and empty, things were regulated, clean, orderly and functioning, we could speak with the locals (English!), there are supermarkets, we (almost) look like the locals so we don’t stand out and people don't constantly stare at you or ask you questions. We’ve experienced many friendly Australian people, great hospitality and you Australians have a wonderful informal, jovial, down-to-earth and direct yet friendly approach to communication (compared to Europeans' more reserved attitude)
Henrik and Mikkel in India, Cycle TravellerCT: How are the road conditions?
HF: Tajikistan, India and East Timor: terrible roads but slow, interesting traffic. Germany and Australia: wonderful roads but very fast, dangerous traffic. Life is a trade-off, isn’t?
CT: Some of these parts are very exposed. Is the wind and heat an issue for you?
HF: Wind is always a game-changer, but more in Central Australia than anywhere else, as the areas are flat and un-urbanized and the roads are consistent in direction. So no buildings to shelter you or winding roads to alter 'your' wind-direction. As the prevailing wind-direction (at least for us) has been from the southeast, we’ve cursed the hell out of the wind, swearing into the dry, nothingness of central Australia, as we are cycling south.
The temperature has been great! Around Darwin you get a little bit of humid, hot weather, but it quickly dropped in humidity and temperature, making it great cycling-weather. Guess our season was good (September). The low-humidity combined with dust, wind and sun was tough, we lost skin on our hands, cut’s wouldn’t heal, and chapstick is essential.
CT: What sort of gear are you travelling with?
HF: Two rear panniers, two front panniers and a dryback for a tent and sleeping bag. We are packing clothes for every season on the planet; board-shorts for the white palm-fringed beaches of Malaysia and woolen underwear for the -15ºC (minus!) nights in the Himalayas. Cycling around with your home does require a bit of everything, including a laptop, some cameras and some books…
WorldOnBike in Australia, Cycle TravellerCT: I see you had a 700km trip between supermarkets. What do you eat while riding and how much water do you carry? Does it make your load heavy?
HF: We stock up on food in the towns across central Australia (the four towns in 2,700km from Darwin to Port Augusta, that is…). Water can be a challenge, but we can carry up to 12 liters each, and there is usually a rest-area for every 100km with water access, although a sign tells you not to drink it. Guess we’ve been drinking rain-water for quite some time then. We are probably carrying an extra 10kg of food each plus the water, which varies during the day. As Australia is flat, it isn’t as bad as it sounds (fully-loaded on steep winding mountain roads would be a different story). Many other sections of this around-the-world tour are densely populated and we cycle with little or no food.
CT: What sort of advice would you give to someone planning to cycle through these remote parts of Australia?
HF: Main advice would be to just go ahead and do it, and don’t listen to people who tell you that you can't, because you can! Once the “you cant, its too dangerous” hindrance is overcome:
1) Watch the traffic, get a rear-mirror for your handlebar and get off the road if two roadtrains are passing each other;
2) A map, so you can assess distances between water and towns (if you want to play-it-safe, get the Camper-book that indicates all the rest-areas);
3) Chapstick and maybe body-lotion;
4) Go ahead, have a campfire at night, but be serious and fire-smart and watch the wind, you don’t want to start a bushfire. And don’t get burned, help is far, far away.
5) Bring a star-book or star-app;
6) In the day-time, there is a car at least every 15 minutes, so you CAN get help/water if you get in trouble. Nighttime is a different story, so be aware of snakes/spiders as help can be very, very far away (we didn’t see any snakes);
7) Ride in the night, at least for some hours, it’s a magic experience with stars or full moon. You can hear/see the trucks well in advance, so stay safe and just get off the road;
8) Remember that the good times wouldn’t be so amazing without the bad times, so cope with it when everything is against you.
WorldOnBike in Australia, Cycle TravellerCT: Would you recommend the route you have taken to someone else? Are there any places you have seen that you would recommend?
HF: Yeah, we would recommend it, though it is definitely a remote ride, compared with many other routes in the world. Keywords for the route would be: remote, lonely, wind, roadkills, dry, monotony, serene beauty, quiet, red-neck, shooting-stars, red dirt, green bush, blue sky, expensive but characteristic roadhouses, cattle, unbelievable sunsets, stars, wildlife, accomplishment.
Good places would include: Beautiful Bitter Springs in Mataranka with wallabies jumping around you as you drift in the crystal clear warm waters, the occasional expensive but wonderful burger and cold coke at a roadhouse, spectacular Devils Marbles, the ever-so-friendly hordes of grey nomads who asks the same wonderfully ignorant bicycle questions and graciously give you a cold beer, cute Alice Springs, huge and impressive road-trains, some serious red-necky towns, but very friendly people, end-of-the-world Coober Pedy, and arriving in Port Augusta and being back in civilization. We rented a car for four days and looped around to Uluru, Kata Tjuta and Kings Canyon from Alice Springs – highly recommended. You could also cycle this loop from Erldunda if you throw in another 800km = 10-12 days including time to see the sights (in case you feel that 3,000km of nothingness is too short and would rather increase it to 3,800km! Alice Springs is half-way across the continent and a great base for doing a little off-the-bike activity to the world-famous, beautiful Rock before jumping on your bicycle again.
Keep track of Henrik and Mikkel's world-wide journey on their website, World On Bike.
All images courtesy of Henrik and Mikkel, World On Bike.

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