When planning a long term bike tour there really isn’t much point in doing anything more then outlining a rough route and schedule. There’s simply too many unexpected events that can disrupt the best laid intentions. A broken bike chain, an injury, visa/passport issues can all wreck having with a schedule. However, when I was planning out my tour from Melbourne to Lisbon the last thing I expected was a global pandemic.
The Coronavirus outbreak has, on the surface, thrown my entire trip into disarray, but has also served to highlight some of the amazing and unique advantages of traveling by bike. Especially when the unexpected happens. Compare bike touring to taking a Cruise. The advantages of being free and footloose on a bike over being stuck on a boat with 5,000 other people are obvious. Being on a bike, away from population centers, airports, public transport and big hotels surely lowers the risk of catching a virus, simply by virtue of avoiding contact with other humans. It’s a sort of self imposed quarantine, except instead of being stuck indoors hiding from the neighbors I’ll be out in nature, only visiting small towns to pickup supplies. I’ll be like a doomsday-prepper on wheels.
Furthermore, because school, factories and businesses are shutting down in affected countries there’s less traffic on the roads, and less air pollution. The roads are safer and quieter for cyclists.
Of course there’s considerable downside. Travel bans may make entering certain countries impossible. Even reentering Australia may be problematic. If I do manage to catch coronavirus in a undeveloped country then treatment won’t be covered by travel insurance and mightn’t be up to Australian standards. Worst, I may end up being a unaware spreader, happily riding my bike from place to place like a sort of mobile contamination unit. I could also die, but worrying about that is just silly.
Given all this uncertainty I shall depart as planned and ride through the middle of Australia from Melbourne to Adelaide and onto Darwin. That’ll take a good 6-8 weeks. At that time I’ll assess whether carrying onto Bali makes sense or I should just scuttle back to Melbourne. Either way, just riding across Australia will be an amazing journey and a fantastic achievement. I’ll be outside, in the fresh air, camping under the stars and avoiding the big population centers.
If ever there were a good time to bike tour in Australia then surely it’s now.
Edit 22 March: The South Australia government just closed their borders and the Victorian Government banned non-essential travel. Even just going out for a bike ride has become something of a moral quandary as we should all just be staying indoors. So, this trip will be postponed until the world has settled down a bit.