Sarah took on a bloody hard remote ride through hot and dry conditions to find out if she really needed to at all. Come for a pedal as she reminisces on dehydration, internal contentedness and kinship with inanimate objects.

What if I really did trust the spiritual gurus and believed that ‘everything I need is already inside me’. Would I still be driven to pack my bicycle up, riding a 35kg rig with the aerodynamics of a drunken donkey, loaded with water, food, my tent, and minimal wardrobe changes?

Would I still head off on my own like this, into brutal outback temperatures and relentless sunshine; on unsurfaced roads; being laughed at by locals? Cowboys wondering what on earth I’m doing; me too sometimes. Barely a human and certainly not a single other bicycle in sight. Well, without too much concern for the ‘why’ (or perhaps in search of it), I headed off in just those conditions. 



When you live on the Sunshine Coast and your friends move to Longreach, the ‘Outback Capital of Queensland’ and you fancy visiting them – but planes, trains and automobiles just don’t seem to cut it, what comes next?

The answer: my self-mapped, self-named and self-supported ‘Sandstone Wilderness 600’. A remote bikepacking adventure, 600km mainly off-road, across the top of Carnarvon National Park (not the well trafficked bit) from Emerald to Blackall. 

I’m a massive fan of self-propelled, solo missions and having had a few failed attempts at longer bikepacking trips amidst broken ankles and lockdowns, I grabbed the opportunity to take a slightly quirky approach to visiting mates in Outback Queensland.

Read more: Can You Ever Really Fail an Adventure?

The Route from Sunshine Coast to Longreach

I had carefully GPX mapped my 600km route prior to departure, using a combination of RideWithGPS, Google searches and admittedly a lot of watching random 4WD dashcam footage on YouTube, to work out road surfaces. Yet, the minute I arrived at my start point, I realised that things needed to change. 

After weeks of drought, electrical storms were rolling around the plains and I didn’t fancy riding an open highway in those conditions, or sheltering from giant hail under a thin layer of canvas. Some quick re-mapping while still in my van bought me a delayed start and a couple of extra days exploring some breathtaking national parks – Blackdown Tableland and Carnarvon Gorge – before I embarked on the real adventure. 



In addition to the physical demands a multi-day adventure places on your body, this mission was instantly a brilliant lesson for me in adaptability and dropping ego, allowing myself to flow within the environment I was presented with. There’s nothing quite like undertaking a fairly arbitrary solo ride across vast landscapes of nothingness, in temperatures reaching the high 30s, amidst a notable absence of shade, to bring you back to ‘why’ you’re there. 

In such hot, dry conditions without any guaranteed water sources, I found that changing plans, practicing water conservation and managing my mind and body across long days in the saddle were huge lessons in themselves. Early on in this mission, the mantra ‘Make good choices; there are no rules’ landed in my head and my heart.

The Kindness of Strangers – and the Onion

The real standout of the route I’d chosen to ride was the vastness of the landscape and the solitude. I could go for hours each day, navigating deep gravel; sand and corrugations, with nobody to converse with other than the odd cow. When I did very occasionally come across another human, they’d inevitably be driving a 4WD and pull up alongside me, questioning if I was okay and asking what on earth I was doing out there alone. 


The most common thing I find about solo adventures is the projection of other people’s fears onto you.

Humans can be a real concern in our human minds. Yet, the reality of being out there in the solitude of the outback was that the only humans I met were incredibly kind. Instead of cruel they were curious and keen for a yarn. 

Gifts of cold, fresh water were absolute bliss to my dusty, dry mouth amidst four days of no resupply in my remotest stretch between Springsure and Tambo. This section required a real need to strategically conserve and carry a bunch of water on my bike. 

There was one gift however that went the extra mile when it came to the strange places your head goes while sun-baked and starved of company. Similar to a mildly sunburnt, most definitely unwashed, and exhausted ‘Baby’ from the film Dirty Dancing (the parallels are quite frankly few and far between) – and in place of carrying a watermelon – I unexpectedly found myself awkwardly carrying an onion.

Read more: Essential Gear for Bikepacking Adventure

New (Inanimate) Friends

I trust that anyone who’s been on a testing, multi-day, solo adventure will understand that it’s not abnormal to begin talking to yourself or to inanimate objects. Typically, I’d have a good old chat with my bicycle (‘Celeste’, borne from Babar the Elephant’s wife, as opposed to any deep astrological meaning). 

However, in this instance, I’d been gifted an onion from an absolutely lovely couple who I bumped into at a remote camp. I returned from a hike and a glorious rare swim in a waterhole (aka, a rest day and a shower) to find they had left me a beautiful letter and a care package of fresh fruit (…heaven) and an onion. The challenge with the onion in particular was that I’d invested my life savings in lightweight dehydrated food since space was at a premium. Forgetting I had a Leatherman knife (in my repair kit) in addition to my snapped plastic spork – what to do with a raw, brown onion? 


As someone who takes the leave no trace principle seriously, I wasn’t about to launch this non-native onion into the bush, so, each morning, whilst strategically packing everything back onto my bike, the onion had to find a place. It wasn’t until I found myself sitting beside a dusty road in the heat of the day, talking to said onion, that I realised things had really turned a corner. Akin to Tom Hanks, and Wilson the volleyball, I’d found my travel companion!

And here is the special thing about these solo adventures: not only do you come home to yourself, you’re also so tired and so stripped of any concerns, of the judgement of others; that you find yourself in the most raw and quite frankly, weirdest, of places.

I confess that the Instagram ‘famous’ onion came to its end in Longreach when I gifted it to my friends whom I’d bikepacked to visit. A trip into the magical Thermomix and it wasn’t long before the onion became a tasty caramelised burger topping.

Before long I was on the train journey back to my van aboard the iconic Spirit of the Outback.

Reflections of an Adventure Cyclist With Sunstroke

Trips like this are often pigeonholed as ‘escapism’. Even if you choose to compartmentalise your everyday life and take on an adventure, I don’t think escapism has to be confined to one – I see it as purely a mindset. For me, these trips are a fierce reminder of the idea that ‘wherever you go, there you are’. 

Escapism needn’t be about a physical change in location, but more so, finding a place of absolute presence and gratitude from within, regardless of where you find yourself. 

There’s no doubt this is a practice and when you’re baking in the sun, alone, for hours on your bike, it’s beautiful to witness how simple life becomes, and how your appreciation for the simple things becomes so great.



Wherever you are in life, there are inevitably highs and lows; successes, challenges and fears, and the opportunity to be so incredibly present. Whether we’re out alone in the outback, fearful of wild dogs howling around our tent; or sitting in our office cubicle with colleagues demanding our attention – the aforementioned spiritual gurus are onto something in reminding us that every single day we get to choose how we show up in the face of everything that comes our way. 

We certainly won’t always nail it; some days maybe we won’t even come close. In fact this is a reminder to myself and to you that it’s okay; life will throw things your way.

The key is remembering that we’re wholly responsible for choosing and creating our own reality. Wherever you are – let go of judgement; find the fun in the tiniest of experiences and make good choices – there are no rules.


More detailed daily updates and images at Sarah’s personal Instagram account @allthegearnaeidea 

Sarah speaks in person before and after the trip on her podcast – Into the Wee Hours podcast, available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify and all of your main podcasting channels.