Day 1 Thursday 4th September 2014
The day had finally come after an 18 month wait. Up at 3:30 am and head off to the airport for a 7am flight to Melbourne. Alana, Amanda and Emma came along to say farewell. This is the hardest part of the trip saying good bye to the ones you love the most.
The flight was smooth and arrived in Melbourne bang on time. I had my top box and helmet in a carry bag which was cumbersome to say the least. I jumped in a taxi and went to ACFS Warehouse to pick up my bike. The taxi driver had missed the turn off so I had to walk to the reception area carrying my cumbersome17 kg bag and my back pack fully laden. I crashed through the door where the woman at reception gave me a wry smile. I’ve come to pick up a motorcycle I said. She replied do you have the paperwork, I said I didn’t know I had to have any paperwork; sorry can’t help you she responded. After trying to establish what paperwork I required I rang Cameron at Toll who chased it through and e-mailed it to the person at reception. Once she had the paper work she told me sorry you will have to come back tomorrow as the customs inspector has already been and didn’t check your bike and gear. I asked if she could call them and see if they would come back, she said no she couldn’t and they would not come back. At this point I was wondering if she had ever heard of customer services. I asked her for the phone number and if she had a phone I could use she begrudgingly said yes. After I rang customs and explained I had nowhere to go and this was day one of my trip the woman said let me see what I can do for you and I’ll ring you back within half an hour. After 20 minutes she rang me back and said she would have someone out within in the hour. I thanked here profusely and said goodbye. When I went back into reception the woman looked at me as if to say I told you so. I gave her a wry smile and said they’ll be here within the hour. If only I could have gotten a picture of the look on her face, priceless.
Then it was time to uncrate the bike and be on my way. Chris the warehouse manager helped. This guy was the polar opposite of the woman at reception he couldn’t have been more helpful. He is a fellow biker and has a Suzuki GSXR 1000. He even gave me some good bike routes. After we had uncrated the bike and I’d put the screen, GPS mount and mirrors on we put all the gear back on. I was ready to leave. I jumped on my bike and my back pack hit the roll bag and gravity took its course. Down went the bike. It took three of us to lift it with all the gear on. The right pannier was badly bent. I asked Chris if he had some 4x2 and a hammer. He gave me the hammer and the wood and I bashed it into shape. I was surprised how easily they bent and also how easy they were to get back in shape. That was take one. Take two; get on the bike slowly ensuring the back pack misses the roll bag. Now it was time to leave. I turned the key on, checked that the kill switch was off and pressed the start button. Aaarh I’d forgotten to connect the battery cables. Off the bike, off comes all the gear and Chris and I connect the battery cables to the battery. I was a bit shaky as I hadn’t had anything to drink and eat in 12 hours. So he held them in place while I screwed the bolts into place. Take three, put all the gear back on, slowly get on the bike turn the key on, push the start button the engine turns over but not firing. The little amount of fuel that was in the tank had evaporated so you know the drill by now; take the gear off the bike. Chris kindly takes me to the nearest petrol station and I fill up my Rotopax fuel container. Take four, pour some petrol into the tank, and Turn the key on and push the start button and Winston bursts into life. Put all the gear on and say farewell to Chris.
One of the great things you learn by meeting different people is that the genuine people are the ones that really leave an impression. Chris is one of these people he is a genuine hard worker and gives himself selflessly. Good on ya mate.
I head out of the ware house and find a dodgy campsite for $10 a night. Old caravans in all sorts of disrepair. An eventful first day.
I had to pick up my carnet. Carnet is like a visa for your bike which needs to be stamped when you enter a country and out when you leave. It really is to stop you selling into a country for profit taking. The AA issue it and they require a bond either an indemnity from a bank or a bank transfer into their account. The bond can be up to six times the value of the bike and gear. The carnet is valid for one year. If you don’t get the carnet stamped then you can forfeit your bond.
Cameron from Toll contacted Toll Global Forwarding in Melbourne and organised when I could pick it up. While I was waiting a got a new sim card and food.
Once I had conformation when and where to pick up the carnet I headed over. Finally I have the stamped carnet in my hands and so the adventure can finally begin. I headed out of Melbourne and stayed the night at the start of the Great Ocean Road.
A big thank you to Mark Garmey and his team Cameron and Natalie at Toll Global Forwarding NZ for shipping my bike. if you want to move items across the Tasman these are your guys.
Rode the great Ocean road. This is the coast road that goes from Melbourne to Adelaide. Lots of traffic and 60 and 80km speed zones at the beginning then it opens up with lots of twisties and nice scenery. It actually reminds me of the Coramandel loop which most North Island kiwi bikers would have ridden. I arrived at the world famous 12 apostles to notice some of the twelve were missing; maybe they were on their lunch break. Apparently not all 12 can be seen from the viewing platform. It is a pretty spectacular view. From there I rode to Mahoney's Road and pitched my tent for the night. I was surprised the temperature had dropped to 3 degrees Celsius. I fell asleep listening to the peaceful symphony of the cane toads. They were probably complaining about the cold.
It was a long day’s ride as i had fallen behind schedule due to the delays in Melbourne. Lots of straight roads. I did get really excited at one point I spotted a corner in the distance but it didn’t live up to my needy expectations. I had been battling really strong crosswinds all day and was feeling pretty tired when I arrived at Lake Albert Caravan Park. It was nice to watch the squadron of pelicans majestically fly low over the lake as I walked back from my revitalising shower.
I headed for Adelaide and called into DC Motorcycles for a new front tire. Don the owner had especially got me in a Heidenau K60 Scout. By all accounts these tyres perform well and last for more km than most makes of tyres. I needed something with a more aggressive tyre pattern for the dirt roads I will be heading for through the Flinders ranges. From Adelaide I headed for Redhill on the way to port Augusta.
The Northerly winds have been ferocious and pitching the tent was more like paragliding. The Hilleburg 4 season tent is fantastic in these conditions. I read on a blog many years ago that you should spend as much as you can on a good tent as it is the adventure riders abode. I would certainly agree with that. After I pitched the tent the winds died down. I walked over to the newly fitted electric BBQ’s. I can’t tell you how good it was to have BBQ chicken burgers. While there I spoke to an old Aussie guy who was telling me he and his wife spend many months travelling the country in their 4x4 toeing a pretty impressive caravan. Lots of Aussies do that this time of the year to get away from the colder weather in the southern part of the country. The weather in these parts is around 25 to 28 degrees Celsius.
I went back to the tent and the heavens opened with torrential rain followed by thunder and lightning. You can get a sense of the size of Australia when the thunder seems to echo forever.
Headed towards Port Augusta and diverted to a quaint old colonial town called Quorn. Their centre piece is their vintage railway station museum.
I stopped for lunch before heading off to the Flinders Ranges. I did the Bunyeroo track which was a beautiful ride on pretty smooth gravel with lots of rolling hills and magnificent views. This track is about 19 km long. I then headed down another track and the gravel then turned into rocks and before long I realised this was really a four wheel drive track. The scenery was fantastic with cliff faces layered over millions of years. In the flowing twisties I was really starting to feel I was on dirt bike and at other times in the slow tight sections I soon realised I was on a fully laden adventure bike. I came to this large puddle that was the width of the tack. There were lots of boulders around this section and I was mindful how deep the water would be and how many of these large boulders sat within the pool unseen. The last thing I wanted was to drop the bike in the middle of this water. I got off the bike and threw a stone into to the middle of the puddle. This confirmed it was way too deep to go through the middle. The only answer was to try and skirt around the edge. Gingerly I edged the bike around the side, all the time the front wheel was being pushed up by rocks. About a third of the way across I decided to gun it. It would only be a matter of time before I dropped the bike trying to inch around. I was on my own and I knew it would take three people to lift it. What a sense e of relief when I was on the other side.
I headed off to Leigh Creek camping ground. It was late in the day, I was tired and just wanted to get my head down for the night. The guy who ran the place told me to pitch the tent behind the trees and not on the grass in essence on a dirt floor that was rock hard. The wind was blowing hard and created a huge dust storm, soon everything was covered in dirt dust including me.
That night I met Richard and Justin from Melbourne. Richard has a BMW GS 1150 and Justin a Yamaha 1200 Tenere. As it turned out they were doing pretty much the same root as I had planned so we decided to ride together.
Today we headed to Marree to ride the Oodnadatta track. This track is a mix of gravel, dirt, pebble and sand and is over 400km long. On the way we stopped and viewed Lake Eyre South. This is a salt water lake and was dry when we viewed it. It must have been disappointing for the early pioneers to find these lakes and not be able to drink the water. It’s a pretty harsh environment. From there it was to William creek. There is really only a pub and petrol here. The pub is a real icon of the old Aussie pioneering days and is interesting to read the walls as there have been many comments from travellers. I put one of my Steve rides the world stickers on the door as a memento. Just a note, a can of coke is AU$4.50 and a microwave Meat pie AU$10. You need to be really hungry and thirsty for that. We filled the bikes up with petrol and setoff to get to Oodnadatta for the night.
The track was testing in places and the sun was beginning to fade so we pulled off the road and made camp for the night under a clear and starry night. There were no sounds to be heard, we were literally in the middle of nowhere.
We packed away our tents and headed off to Oodnadatta. We went to the famous Oodnadatta pink road house.
It was then off to see the Painted Desert along a similar road to the Oodnadatta track. In many parts of this road as with the Oodnadatta track there are lots of corrugations. This gets pretty testing going into corners as you basically have very little ability to steer. On one part of the track we experienced this. I was ahead of Richard and Justin having got into to a good cornering rhythm I came into a rutted corner and into a dry creek bed. Most of these are small and no problem, this one was a hundred meters long, with deep sand and pebbles. I entered this at about 90km/h the bike snake left and right and finally came to a rest up a bank. I got off the bike to wait for the guys and try and wave them down before the same thing happened to them. I managed to slow them down put they dropped their bikes. Three strikes, good if you play bowls but not if you’re on bikes. The benefit of riding in a group is that you can help each other out of tricky situations.
After this we were a bit more cautious with the creek crossings. The Painted Desert was impressive and well worth the ride. We headed to Cadney homestead for lunch. There Richard and Justin met the two other guys they were riding with previously and we went our separate ways. Richard is Welsh and Justin an Aussie. Great guys. It was Richards’s first dirt / gravel ride and a real baptism of fire, well done mate.
I headed off to Coober Pedy which is an Opal mining down. I stopped at the Breakaways which are just before the town. This was an 11km dirt road. I was in two minds whether to bother as it had been a long day and I was feeling a bit over these roads and the dust. I’m glad I did as these were probably the most spectacular views to date.
I left Coober Pedy at 10 am a bit of a late start as I had to do some errands. It was a long day of straight roads and not much variation in scenery. The temperature got up to 27 degrees Celsius and the long droning roads begin to tire you after a while. I have e a blue tooth headset which plays all my favourite tunes from my phone so this helps to while away the hours. After staring at these straight roads for long enough you get the perception that they are going uphill, what’s worse is the mirage at the end looks like water. If you were stranded and thirsty this could drive you mad. Going through the vastness of the outback there is no apparent life out there except for the odd bird. Do all the kangaroos snooze during the day and come out and party at night? they must do as occasionally you will see one flat out on the side of the road.
I set up camp at Erldunda about 285 km from Ayers rock. Thats where I’m heading tomorrow.
The rear tyre is wearing quickly so I’m hoping it will last to Alice Springs which is over 600km away.
The speed limit in most of Australia is 110 km/h but as soon as you cross into the Northern Territory it’s up to 130km/h
Today was a 450km day with temperatures up to 30.4 degrees Celsius. The roads are straight and the scenery is fairly baron. It did change towards Ayers rock, there were many more trees. Plants and bushes are what make up most of the scenery along with the red dirt.
On my journey through Australia I have seen several types of wild life from lizards, Emus, the usual cows, sheep and horses. No Kangaroos to date. Plenty of road kill. Today I saw a camel dead on the side of the road. Apparently wild herds of camel cruise the Australian outback.
To see Ayers rock you need to pay AU$25; this gives you a three day pass to the national park. From there you’re free to head off and explore the goodies within. Ayer’s rock is an icon to Australia and it didn’t disappoint, it was well worth seeing. While I was in the area I headed off to Kata Tjuta which is 40km west. This is another great rock formation and is also impressive.
I headed east to Curtin Springs for the night. Tomorrow, Alice Springs.
During the night at Curtin Springs there was a commotion going on. The next day I heard a Chinese tourist had hit a cow and badly damaged the campervan to the point it couldn't be driven. As for the cow he has now moved on to the land of long thick grass and no such place as the freezing works.
The 385km ride to Alice Springs was hot and uninteresting except for the view of Mount Connor. I arrived at G’Day mate caravan park more expensive than I have paid so far at AU$30 a night but they have wifi and a pool. The swim in the pool was worth every sent after the days heat.
A cruisy day today. Sorted some banking issues and have the rear Heidenau K60 scout being sent by my old mate Don at DC Motorcycles in Adelaide. This will come by bus to Alice Springs. This could take about a week so I’m chilling out in until I get it fitted.
Had a look around Alice Springs, it’s much more modern than I thought it would be. There are a lot of Aborigines hanging around town and a lot of them look like they could do with a good bath.
I visited Simpsons Gap and Standley Chasm. They are about 20 and 40 km respectively west of Alice Springs. They are located in the West Macdonnell National Park
I've just chased up my tyre to find out it arrived on Wednesday at the Greyhound depot and has been there since. Its ironic as the bike shop that will fit it is only three doors down the street.
I will be here in Alice spring until Monday. That makes a full eight days. Its given me plenty of time to relax but I am chomping at the bit to get going.
I went up to ANZAC hill to a view Alice. The lookout is a remembrance for all the fallen ANZAC soldiers in all wars.
You get a great view of Alice Springs from here.