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platypus121 10-08-2012 12:36 PM

Birtles vs Australia

( Being an account, presented in many parts with divers characters and scenes, relating a history of Birtles IV and Rider who,
in their forays through the Land, ever sought to espy the elusive Koala and to shun Pastries of Interesting Content )

Major Players, in order of appearance :

Glitch : Facilitator and chronicler of motorcycle tours.
Gudrun : Spouse to Glitch, cook extraordinaire.
Crystal : Seasoned outback traveller.
Birtles : CT110, young at heart and nimble of limb.
Bernard : Foreign traveller, first companion of Birtles.
Grimpeur : Climbing bear, second companion of Birtles.
Peggie : Lucky peg number 96, first advisor to Birtles.
Ringie : French wristband, second advisor to Birtles.
Lyall : Farmer, now retired and resident in Forbes.
Kaye : Spouse to Lyall, and a maker of excellent tea.
Kota : Japanese cyclist, a mighty battler of winds.
Mrs Mac : Baker of Pastries of Interesting Content.
Koala : Mythical beast.


In which Birtles begins a Journey and sees a Castle.

Pete’s done a sterling job. Amongst other things, Birtles now has new wheel and steering head bearings, new tyres
and tubes, forks that are drained and refilled, even his headlamp is polished. He’s looking like he will do the
lap of the continent with ease - and Birtles might make it as well.

Born in 2007 and now with 28,353 on the odometer Birtles is no spring chicken but Pete reckons he sounds sweet, and I agree.
Check out how Pete prepared Birtles at

A few trial runs into the Dandenongs and Birtles performs well until he splutters, looses power and then falls silent
as we are climbing to the summit. He starts again easily but the process repeats every time his nose is pointed up.
Back to base, where the carb is cleaned and the electrics are checked by substitution until the problem seems to go away.
But, maybe it was just water in the tank as later it briefly occurs twice more. When it does, I ask Soichiro’s forgiveness
and decide on a kill or cure approach. Birtles gets the berries (two large punnet’s worth - you know the ones, the ones
with the really big, ripe strawberries on top and the smaller ones sneakily hidden underneath) and that cures the problem.
Perhaps it took a while to purge every bit of moisture?

On go the other fittings. Pack, panniers and racks have come off a CT at home, so they are quick bolt-on jobs.
The front rack is well worth fitting as it’s perfect for the tent, giving easy access to the item that is usually the first
to be unpacked and the last to be packed each day.

Air NZ, or rather one of its pompous employees (aka “that bastard”) at the luggage check-in had given a thumbs down
to the XR250 tank even though there was documentation to show it was prepared to the airline’s requirements.
I flew out, tankless, while Sue investigated getting it on a cargo plane, but at $450 freight and dangerous goods inspections
at both ends ($150 in NZ, Australian charge unknown) it was not an option.

The white tank in this photograph is courtesy of Tim, another person without whom the trip would have
been a slow-starter - thanks Tim!

Positions are found on the over-loaded frame for Birtles’ companion and advisors. Grimpeur is zip-tied to the handle bars,
Peggie is pegged to the speedo cable, and Ringie is stretched around the speedo housing. They are getting vocal
about what lies ahead - “Climb, climb!” urges Grimpeur; “Ride ‘till die” Peggie chants, and “ … …” , a tangible
silence from from Ringie, who refuses to speak unless addressed in French.

While staying with Pete and Goodie I meet Christal, Pete’s mum. She is an inspiration with accounts of her outback travels.
Four times over the Gibb River Road and visits to so many of the places I hope to see. Her enthusiasm is infectious and
I understand why Pete has such a love of travel. With all the help, interest, and good wishes from my hosts, the Melbourne
riders, and those on the AusTouring site, this trip is no longer just a private amble around the continent. I feel like part of a
team in which I happen to be the one tasked with the riding. It’s a pleasant feeling, but one that brings with it the responsibility
of being worthy of all that help.

Christal pipes me off with a German folk song, the same melody that Elvis pillaged for his song “Wooden Heart”.
The original German words are more fitting than those of the crooning King: ”Must I then, must I then, leave the village,
and you, my dear, remain here?”

Yes, I must, I must. How can I ever return if I never depart? Christal’s salute is returned and I quietly hope to be a
fraction as bold as she has been in her travels.

Down the street with one hundred meters safely completed - just a few more to go. By the look of the brake light,
I’m already stopping for lunch.
(Photograph below by Pete)

Pete has suggested a route to take us through some nice areas as we head towards Lake Eildon. Comprehensive directions
are not enough for one who gets lost in a mall, and it’s not long before there’s a wrong turn over the Brisbane Bridge
in the Yarra Ranges.

A helpful local directs me to the Acheron Way where the damp hill roads going towards Mount Donna Buang are a treat.
Birtles is in his element with no other traffic to push him beyond his comfort zone on the twisting, gentle climb.
Cool mists, condensation on the visor, and the buzz of excitement that starting a new trip always brings.
"Climb! Climb!"

Over the top to Marysville through avenues of tall straight trunked eucalypts flanking the way. The kangaroo might
be a common metaphor for this land but the eucalypt would be a better one. Thriving naturally from the alps to the
scorched interior and so common that they go unnoticed, they provide shade and shelter, their wood has built houses,
bridges, railways, furniture, and fuels the weekend barby, their roots hold the hilsides together, their leaves feed the air and
their litter feeds the soil. And, best of all for me right now as I pass between them, they just look so magnificent.

Between Marysville and Buxton the forest gives way to open pasture land with blue skies overhead. Mists evaporate,
temperature rises. At Buxton Birtles gets another occy for his spare tyre which needs extra restraint. I consider one
for my spare tyre as well, but the bum-bag is doing an adequate job so far.

At Alexandra we head back into the hills via the Maintongoon and Sonnberg Roads, on winding gravel leading to Lake Eildon
and Bonnie Doon. The end of the Maintongoon Road has a familiar little cottage right next to the high tension lines.
I check to see if the Kerrigans are there, looking up contentedly at the lines and revelling in the tranquility, but the place is
empty - they must be back in Melbourne at their other Castle.

Lake Eildon is just across the road and over the water floats the soothing sound of an outboard motor at full throttle.

The old railway has been converted into a rail-trail paralleling the road bridge over the now brimming lake. Birtles can’t
resist a quick squirt along it when no-one is about.

Last time I saw the “lake” there were 4WD tracks and trees over its bed and the locals were mumbling about the evils of irrigation.
That’s the same road bridge in the distance.



The thong-tree is new - amazing how quickly they grow. Those red ones look like they are ready.

I don’t even look for a tent site at Bonnie Doon. By four o’clock the sun has lost all warmth, the clouds have thickened, and a
get-under-cover-asap instinct drives me to a cabin for the night. Later, when rain lashes the windows, and the temperature
falls to minus 2, I stop chastising myself for taking the easy option so early in the trip.

There are many ways to amuse yourself in a cabin. One of my favourites is called “Boomph” in which players take turns
plugging in ever more appliances to the same outlet - you’re out if your turn blows the fuses. Someone's started a game already.

It’s been a slow day to start the trip off, just 185 kilometres, but they have been varied and interesting. I am starting to see
why the southern Victoria roads are held in such high regard by motorcyclists.

... To be continued ...

platypus121 10-08-2012 01:10 PM

In which Birtles reaches Corowa

Melbourne to Corowa : (interactive)

Day two starts wet and cold, through Mansfield and onto the Old Tolmie Road, a must-do on Pete’s route.

Then, the Tolmie to Tatong Road which is a must-do from my own list. It has Kelly connections as it passes close by Stringybark Creek where
Ned promoted himself from likeable larrikin to half-hearted criminal. The Kelly Tree that saw the deed stands near the spot where Lonigan, Scanlon
and Kennedy were discomforted by Ned and his lads. I reach out and touch a bit of living history, until a plaque spoils the ambiance. This is a mere
replacement, the original witness was chopped down. Now, who would do such a thing? Mrs Kelly would be jolly annoyed, I can tell you!

Even without the original tree it’s thought provoking to be standing close to where Ned’s life path took a turn that provided the country with one of its
first and probably most widely know characters. As I wander about I run my hand over some of the older trunks and wonder if Ned sat under or leaned
against these very trees while planning his rebellions.

Out of the damp forests and into the cleared land, through Molyullah and Greta South.
More Kelly country, all looking very green and pleasant.

Guess where this guy is from.

Quickly through the built-up areas around Wangaratta as we are aiming to end today at Corowa after a loop through Peechelba, Yarrawonga and
Mulwala, seeing both sides of the lake that forms the border. Sad to see the remains of trees drowned when the lake was filled - a few good men
with Stihls would be appreciated today by the boaties that have to weave between the dead trunks.

Dinner in Corowa with David and Helen has been arranged by Nev and Jo who have ridden up from Melbourne. David and Helen are Ulysses members who
have ridden widely, including tours in India. A great meal followed by much bike talk, during which it is revealed that Nev and Jo did the Postiebike Challenge
back in 2004 …. is no-one is safe from the attractions of high exhausts, red plastic and a powerful engine?

Hey Jo, look what I found on the interweb. Bet you wish you still had the Little Red Machine rather than that silly old BMW.

To be continued ....


jmcg 10-08-2012 04:35 PM

Great stuff!



platypus121 10-08-2012 10:17 PM

Birtles vs Australia


In which we muse on dangers, escape dangers, go thirsty,
learn to be safe in the kitchen, and meet a very nice horse.

Google Map - interactive

North of Corowa it is time to practise taking photographs of
converging lines as there will be a lot of them shortly.
It’s hard to do much photographically with a straight road - and
with 7hp the motorcycling options are also limited.

Caution … musings ahead …

No worries with limitations, though, for in Australia there is never a
dull moment. Bubbling away at the back of the mind are dozens of
fearful warnings about potential dangers lying in wait for any who
make a single false step. Dare to veer off the officially approved course
by just a few meters and you’re a gonna for sure. Yes, even on this
well engineered, straight, sealed road north of Corowa there is an
arsenal in readiness, waiting for the call-up.

Just some of what could happen out here …
1) get bored by the long road / fall asleep / roll into grass / bitten by snake
2) wombat wanders onto the road / hit wombat / fall off / bitten by snake
3) white line flashing by is hypnotic … fall asleep / hit wombat / etc.
4) two large Cokes from the last roadhouse want to abandon ship / stop /
walk a modest distance from the road / bitten by snake / fall asleep
5) stop at lay-by for a rest to avoid falling asleep / hitting wombat / etc, and …
(fill in your worst nightmare - someone at some time has been warned about it for sure).

My dread is of being abducted by Swedish hitch-hikers.

There is a bottomless well of advice and it’s bucketed out by anyone
who knows the country (and even by those that don’t) to warn of the
dangers of the land and of what to be wary. Warnings start with the
obvious and sensible - heat, distances, road trains, Barrow Creek,
Australians. Then they move on to a list of creatures whose names
are traditionally paired to the word “deadly”. It is a really long list, but
we must skip over it for there is something so much worse: the “Most-Deadly” list.

The M-D includes snakes, sharks, octopuses, crocodiles,
fish, and spiders, in fact, any living thing can qualify for M-D status
if it meets either of these criteria :
1) has the ability to kill, paralyse, and / or permanently disfigure
anything that makes physical contact
2) has received so much imaginatively bad press that just its
sighting sparks eradication campaigns.

M-Ds are hardly ever seen, but their mind-control control over visitor
and native alike dictates the what, where, how and when of all activities,
from using a toilet (Red-back!) to swimming (Stingers! Sharks! Rays!
Stonefish!) and everything in between.

And yet, despite all the fear and loathing, despite all the well-meant,
extravagant advice …. there was no warning about the real and
present threat on the horizon.

No-one. No individual, no club, no regional body, no travel agent,
no government service, no tourist organisation …..
Nobody warned me of the terrible dangers lurking in Urana … …

... the Giant Silo Spider !

… and the Carnivorous Power Line Pigeons !

Keeping a safe distance from both hazards and increasing our
speed a notch or two, we escaped to the flooded areas north of
Urana where spiders and pigeons were
unlikely to be living in great numbers.
Where are the sun bleached bones and dry riverbeds?

Not at Merriwagga, 70 km north of Griffith, that’s for sure.
The “Old School Caravan Park” is run by Mel whose sideline is
converting pushies to electric power.
Great facilities and friendly reception here.

Neither Mel’s pushies nor his park are what put Merriwagga on the map.
The pub does that with a bar so high that a mounted stockman may
collect his beer without leaving the saddle.

The tallest bar in Australia, they do say, though disbelievers from
Queensland question that claim and have been known to arrive with tape measures
to prove the matter one way or ‘tuther …. and then leave, disappointed.

All evening the struggle goes on to order an orange juice, but all is not
lost as there is a plethora of other things to do in Merriwagga.

Those who are too short to reach their drinks, or lack a horse, can feast
on Rosalie’s range of exceptionally good (check the label) pickles and jams ….

… or stand outside to watch the sun set over the silos, keeping a
watchful eye for spiders … and pigeons ...

… or, if there were still light enough, they could view the second of
Merriwagga’s contentious claims to fame. Forget Blackall as the home of
the Black Stump. What is Blackall’s stump anyway? Just a big lump of
wood the surveyors used for steadying their instruments.

Now, Merriwagga’s Black Stump is much, much more interesting,
being the remains of a woman whose clothes caught fire while she
was cooking Hubbie’s dinner over an open fire.
Hubbie returns home after a hard day’s graft, fully expecting to see a
tasty lamb roast and three veg on the table. Instead, he finds the Missus
reduced to “a black stump” by one of history’s more unusual cases of
spontaneous combustion. Her remains stand dutifully before the lamb
roast as if checking its progress, but by now the once juicy joint is little more
than a tragically overcooked crisp, well beyond salvation for the table
and hardly worth giving to the dog. Luckily, though, some of the vegetables
are still edible, if a little on the crunchy side, and serve as a light snack for
Hubbie as he contemplates the scene before him.

Throughout the inquest Hubbie stuck to his story and swore that if he
ever remarried the second Missus would have a proper stove to cook on.
It would be worth it, after all, no point in wasting a second perfectly good lamb roast.

The late Mrs Carbon is no longer on display, but her memorials - a steel
sculpture and a picnic area - are there outside the pub, reminders to us
all of the terrible dangers of failing to maintaining sound health and safety practices in the kitchen.

There is also a really efficient barbeque for those who just won’t be warned.

Didn’t we say there was never a dull moment in Australia?
Still, we are a bit peeved that this business of catching fire was
another danger that we were not warned about.

On a happier note and for animal lovers … this is a Merriwagga horse.
Name, age, and gender unknown, but it’s very friendly and Birtles
thinks the sun shines from his rear.

(Mentioning the horse in case anyone who is passing through
wants a drink at the pub but has forgotten to bring a step ladder).

Life on the road isn’t all beer and skittles, sometimes it’s just bread and water.
To pack down small, this bread has had its volume reduced: take a fresh
sliced loaf, divide it in two, rewrap the halves and compress them.
On the spot jogging with one half under each foot is the most efficient method.
The loaf reduces to about a fifth of purchased size and
with few air pockets left it stays fresh for ages. Individual slices can be
peeled off like pages of a book. Just add some warm water and there it is,
a quick lunch for the busy tourer.

A previous trip with AusTouring members brought home the importance
of food to the bike tourer, with meals being photographed as enthusiastically
as was any scene. In this report we will try to satisfy the food-lover with
photographs, such as this, of the trip comestibles.

Camera numbering puts this mine between Merriwagga and Cobar.
There are so many mines that memory fails as to exactly where it is, but it
did impress as being really rather large.

Cobar Information Center advises that, yes, there is plenty of
accommodation in the town, but, no, there’s no point trying any of them
as they will all be full. The logic is unassailable - they are full because
they are always full! Every cabin, room, hall, bus shelter, woodshed and
Wendy-house overflows with miners who in turn fill every
parking space with their Troopies and Cruisers. But, there is a huge
empty field of unpowered tent sites, each one up for grabs, so I hastily
hand over $27 and rush to peg a spot before the one other tenter claims it.

Memory is pin sharp on that Cobar tent site. Two thermals on top,
thermal leggings, sleeping bag with thermal liner, riding jacket over it
all … and still a wee bit nippy despite huddling around the LED tent
lights powered by Birtles battery. No, camping is definitely not popular
in Cobar - I’m guessing that if the price fails to deter campers, the weather
at this time of year certainly will.

To be continued ...


Brainflex 10-08-2012 11:41 PM

Looks like you had an awesome trip. Looking forward to the rest of the report.

platypus121 10-10-2012 01:49 AM


Originally Posted by Brainflex (Post 19778202)
Looks like you had an awesome trip. Looking forward to the rest of the report.

Thanks, David.
It was an adventure, that's for sure !
We'll have to get together to do the East Cape once the weather's improved.


platypus121 10-10-2012 02:31 AM

Birtles vs Australia

In which the roads are long but not winding, Birtles is plagued by wind most foul,
and an old art form is observed.

Cobar to Cunnamulla ....

That's not much to look at, is it? Here it is again in satellite view ...

Service roads run alongside the highway south of Bourke. Good enough to ride on at
Birtles’ speed, but always a risk of punctures from the occasional glass and metal debris.

Bourke was closed … no tennis today, thank you.

… and definitely no pole-dancing.

Leaving Bourke.

Since crossing into NSW the wind has been against us, literally. When it’s
full-frontal our speed is reduced to a wide-open-throttle 50kph. Birtles struggles
to make progress, then when it changes to the side he shows off his dancing
skills by waltzing left and right in time with the gusts, cutting a dapper sine-wave
path down the road. The big test is to remain on our half of the road when passing
shelter belts of trees as the alternating gusts and lulls force Birtles into an even more
vigorous dance - possibly a two-step.

Crossing into Queensland at Barringun the wind becomes a relentless gale and we stop
frequently to take a break from it - and to laugh at the fences and sheep being blown over.

In amongst it all there are calm spots where it would be hard to keep a kite up, and
the temperature is rising.

After the last food-related post there was a veritable flood of requests
for more in the same vein, so here it is. Compressed bread is nice, but when it comes
to fine food I have to confess to being a true gourmet. Below is another handy road food
tip, a bit more upmarket this time - Sandwich Thins. In packets of six and resembling
thin buns, they are lightweight, cheap, and last well. Their main advantage is that each
thin is pre-sliced, thus saving an awful lot of time when it comes to adding a filling.
Peanut butter improves them …. anything improves them!

I like Cunnamulla. Hard to say why - perhaps it’s the music in the name.

“Dream with ya heart and not ya head”
Good sentiment - pity about the spelling
Sounds like one of those sayings that we thought would change the world, way
back when we were seventeen - remember?

- “If you love something, set it free”
- “You are a child of the universe”
- “Never trust anyone over thirty”

In the back blocks, people make their own fun, and it’s great to see that
the ancient art / sport of stone stacking is alive and well out here. Starting in 17th
century Scotland as “stane stook” it became more popular than tossing the caber or
even haggis hurling, but lost popularity in the 20th century when radio broadcasts started.
This one is just a beginner’s attempt. We hope to see better examples as we move
into more remote areas.

Another NZer ?

Whatever the attraction of Cunnamulla, this guy likes it enough to stay

Us? We’re off to Eulo and points West …..

To be continued ……

Brainflex 10-10-2012 10:45 PM

Yep. a run around the cape would be good fun. Something I want to do this summer. I wonder if we can rope in some other mugs errr keep folk on tiddlers.

platypus121 10-11-2012 10:14 PM

Birtles vs Australia

In which there are Sparkling Jewels, a Town’s Tourist Industry is put in danger,
there are two welcome Finds, and Birtles suffers a sorry Mishap.

Cunnamulla to Quilpi
A: Cunnamulla B: Thargomindah C: Toompine
D: Quilpi

Go 66 kilometers west of Cunnamulla and you’ll find yourself in Eulo where the
processing of opals from the Yowah fields is the lifeblood of the town.
This miner’s house doubles as his processing plant and shop.

I wander around the opal exhibits and have a coffee. Lesson for the day is that
Yowah opals are formed differently from Lightning Ridge or Coober Pedy opals.
They are geological oddities with amazing colour displays - but not enough for
me to join those who spend big money on them.

“A carat of good opal is worth more than a carat of good diamond,” I’m told.
I buy a very small one from the hundreds being sorted.

With no middle-men it is just $5, tiny yet perfectly formed, with a display that puts
a diamond to shame … … maybe I could fall in love with opals after all.

The four images below are from the Yowah Opals website : At the lower right is opalised wood.

Lake Bindegolly, between Eulo and Thargomindah where there
are good riding tracks around the lake.

Plenty of pelicans about, too. I’d like to see Jack Sparrow ditch his budgie and
get one of these babies up onto his shoulder - that would make him a real pirate in my book.

Before Thargomindah there is a reserve for a string of mud springs called, very
sensibly, Mud Springs Reserve. The springs once served as release valves for
pressure build-up in the Great Artesian Basin. Irrigation bores now replace this
function. Each spring has created around itself a dough-nut shaped mound
3-4 meters high.

In front of this mound is a more advanced example of stane-stook. This one appears
to be a Grade III attempt - good enough for competitions at regional fairs and exhibitions.

Emus are great fun. They add yet another element of uncertainty to travel in the
outback. Here, a couple on the right side of the road look across to two more on
the left side of the road. They are waiting until we get level with them before they
start playing their favourite game. It’s called -

“Hey, Let’s all run to this side of the road! No, that side! No, this side! No, that side!”

Peggie shouts encouragement to them - “Run ‘til die! Run ‘til die!”

Thargomindah is great fun too, once you learn how to spell it. Birtles reckons it is
even better than Cunnamulla and, although I’m still undecided, he may be right.

It is a tidy town that has everything you would need or want for a comfortable,
if quiet, life in the country. We can’t figure out why it’s not over-run with Grey Nomads
and retirees - perhaps it’s too far from their usual North/South migration routes.
The shire operates the caravan park, so good service comes before profit and this
really shows. It is well maintained, spotless, and run by friendly and helpful people.
The $40 cabin that lures me away from the tent for the night would have
cost $100 in most other areas.

When I hear the manageress talking about London, Paris and Thargomindah as
if there is a close link between them, I ask her to please explain. The local claim,
a foundation stone in the town’s tourist drive, is that these were the first three cities
to have electric lighting. Hmmm … she speaks with an Irish accent, she has red hair,
she probably can handle it … so I tell her about Reefton, a NZ town that also claims
to be first town with electric lighting.

In Thargomindah this is heresy, I might as well say that the Earth goes around the Sun.
Will she summon the Inquisition, set me alight over Birtles’ fuel tank? No, she has
heard foolishness like this before, takes it calmly, and looks at me with quiet tolerance and pity.

“I’ll check that on the internet” her mouth says.

Her eyes are much more eloquent - “ Woe, for Truth is not upon this man. I must
redeem him from his blasphemy. I must Search, Search the Word of Google Almighty
and bring the misguided one back into the Light of the One Truth!”

When I next see her there is a neat pile of printouts on her desk. They bear out Reefton's
leadership in the electric lighting matter and expose Thargo’s claims as a mere fantasy,
a fragile house of cards on fraudulent foundations.

As the one who has seen a local town deprived of its glory, the chance to set the
record straight, to elevate Reefton to its rightful place, is offered to me - I must take
the printouts to the electricity exhibition and prove the displays wrong.

Maybe I’m a lazy bugger, but it would take interest, energy and misguided patriotism
to undermine the town’s claim to fame and I just can’t be bothered. Thargomindians
have a lot invested in the lighting story - all those displays, pamphlets, exhibits - and
they are happy with it. Let sleeping dogmas lie, I say.

Or not. The way those printouts are being straightened and filed, the locals may soon
hear the sound of cards crashing down.

Our best find in Thargo … Thargomindah Caravan Park cabins.
I don’t know if these are the best value in cabins Australia, but it would be hard to better them.

Our second best find in Thargo … Marmite !!!
There were 12 x 250g jars stacked here, a couple of cartons of them out the
back of the IGA. They are sitting on a small fortune!

Marmite is a NZ product that has a dedicated following. It is the type of spread that
you either love or hate, but if you love it, you love it with a passion. My brother lives
in the US and he gets it sent over from NZ - $7 for the big jar, $35 for the postage - that’s
how people feel about Marmite. So, when the only factory that made the stuff burnt down
last year, production stopped and what was on supermarket shelves disappeared overnight.

Some of it is reappearing on Trade-Me and sells at quite a mark-up. At the time of
writing there are 214 lots of Marmite for sale - two typical ones below.
Buy at $2.75, sell at $34 - pretty good profit. The wise ones are hanging on to their
stocks for a year or two until 250g jars of Marmite have reached $200 a jar.

In an attempt to boost the local economy, I do some calculations on how much
profit there could be for the shopkeeper if she ships her supply to NZ, but she is
unimpressed - she’s probably been talking to the caravan park manager.

It is fortunate that the body is so well prepared by nutritious foods such as Marnite,
as today Birtles faces dirt roads. We could get to Quilpi on sealed roads past
Nocundra and through Eromanga, but that is 389 kilometres compared with
195 kilometres, 91 of them dirt, if we go on the direct route over the Dowling Track.

Track (noun)
1. A rough path or minor road.
2. Australia only - Unsealed road ranging from freshly graded dirt highways as
smooth as a new motorway, to goat tracks able to be traversed only in dry weather
by 4WDs with winches and sand ladders. Note that the term ‘track’ does not automatically
imply suitability for vehicular traffic of any type.

We consult the boys. “Climb, climb” urges Grimpeur, pulling forward against his
zip-tie restraints; “Ride ‘til die” shrieks Peggie, gripping the speedo cable more
tightly in anticipation; “… …” agrees Ringie through tightly closed lips.

That settles it - the Dowling Track it is.

My photographs of the Dowling are deceptive. They show what looks like a
typical dirt road, but this one has a surface like cracked glaze and is rock hard.
The area must have been flooded and when it dried the surface cracked open
similar to drying mud on a lake bed. The cracks are big enough to get Birtles’
forks pumping as if he is on corrugations. Unlike corrugations there is no magic
speed at which they smooth out and we progress at 50kph or less, stopping
every few kilometres to give hands a rest from the hammer blows coming
through the handlebars …

… and to pull the front mudflap off the wheel. Quite alarming the first time
it jammed, the screech it makes sounds much more serious than just a rubbing flap.
No matter how many times it happens, when that noise erupts the immediate
response is clutch in, engine off and stop asap.

Towards the end of the ninety-one unsealed kilometres we strike something completely
different … a pair of traffic lights. The second one is about two hundred metres further
on at the other end of a short strip of new sealing.

There has not been another vehicle for more than an hour and I can see the whole
of the controlled area. We stop and wait for the red to change anyway as we are in
Queensland now - there could be a surveillance helicopter hovering about just waiting
to catch a naughty rider. A bit of a smell wafts up into the helmet as we wait and
I assume it is the new wet tar.

Wrong ! At a pub between Thargo and Quilpi we pull over and park outside the
entrance door. As I get off, I see petrol running from the tank area and over the engine.
There is a bit of bubbling on the cylinder head but no flames. Birtles gets short shrift
and at a run is pushed away from buildings and cars. First thought is that the tap has failed.
That would have been preferable to what it really is, a split down the left side of the tank.

By the time the tank is off birtles, there is only a litre of petrol left. It holds eight litres and
the 120 kilometres to Toompine would have used about four of those, so three litres has
gone over the engine. Birtles remains calm and points out that we should be thankful,
first, for the split being on the left - if on the right petrol would have gone over the plug,
and second, for the tank under the seat - it is full and will easily get us to Quilpi.

Top: The split cleaned out, area around split roughened up.
Middle: Knead-It plastic steel forced into the split.
Bottom: Layer of Knead-It over whole area.

Patching and testing the tank took a bit of time, so no photographs of the rest of the day.
Tomorrow we fill the tank - how good is Knead It ?

To be continued …….


platypus121 10-14-2012 02:26 PM

Birtles vs Australia

In which Birtles’ troubles continue, there is a change of direction, and help comes from afar.

Quilpi to Brisbane:

Overnight the Knead-It has become rock-hard hard, but from the front end of yesterday’s repair the split has grown
a further couple of inches. Looks like the vibration has created a weak area running along the length of the tank.

Time to re-think how to proceed. The plan had been to head west from Quilpi then north on the Diamantina Development
Road and through Jundah to Winton. About 680 kilometres of remote roads where losing the contents of the main tank
again would be a wee bit of a nuisance as distances between refuelling points are beyond the range of the under-seat tank.

How much more will the split spread?
Will I enjoy it if another split starts on the spark-plug side?

I decide the safe thing to do is replace the tank. Using the-state-by-state listing of Australian motorcycle dealers that
back home I had downloaded onto the tablet, the few bike shops “nearest” to Quilpi are phoned, hoping to find someone who
can point me in the right direction. I also call Pete back in Melbourne to let him know that progress might be stalled for a bit.

Nearest is in quote marks because there really is nothing close to Quilpi if what you are looking for is a tank from a twenty
year old motorcycle, and the number of wreckers in outback Queensland who may have a tank is small.

With no good news from the bike shops, the only sure place of getting a tank seems to be Brisbane where if all else fails
I can get a small one from 1-10 in Caboolture. Joe can supply a five litre bolt-on tank - not big enough by itself, but by
also squeezing a five litre can in the pack it would do the trick.

There’s a call from Pete, he has located an XR tank, and do I want him to send it? My view of cellular communication
devices changes momentarily from strongly negative to mildly tolerant and by the afternoon the tank will be on its way to
the Brisbane address I give Pete.

In my mind at this point, shooting across to Brissie for the tank seems no big deal - Quilpi is in Queensland / Brisbane
is in Queensland - and there is a pretty much straight line route through Charleville, Miles, Dalby and Yarraman.

When I look at maps of Australia, I have to keep reminding myself of how much bigger it is than New Zealand. Something
like this helps to make it clear that Australia really is “A BIG C<” …. and that Quilpi to Brisbane is 973 kilometres,
not an overnighter on a Postie.

Another Knead-It job is done on the new split. The Postie tank alone does not have enough capacity, so at least part of
the XR tank’s capacity is required. It will not be fully filled to lower stress on the repairs - if it can carry four litres that
should be enough to get between petrol stations.

While the filler is hardening the rear tank mounts are made more shock absorbent. The lady at the Quilpi hardware
shop helps with this. I explain what is needed - some high density foam or rubber strip to create a cushion between
the tank and its mounts - and she becomes really involved, scouring the shelves for anything that might work. She comes
up with a number of items ranging from large plumbing washers to a doormat. The doormat is the one - it
has a rubber backing and when strips of it are wrapped around the tank mounts and held with zip-ties they form shock absorbing cushions.

We top off the Postie tank and put four litres in the XR tank and gingerly set off for Brisbane. Five kilometres out of Quilpi
and the repair is holding.

Stopped by a billabong, under a shady tree. No jumbucks here, though.

When Q provides long-drops at rest stops, they mean what they say! Those last few steps could make all the difference
if you were desperate - after a couple of Mrs Mac’s products, for example.

The motorcycling routine of checking both mirrors every minute or so has to be speeded up on Birtles. At 65kph other
vehicles catch up quickly so the checking is done at least every thirty seconds - just a quick glance - and it’s still surprising
how quickly the view in the mirrors can go from showing an empty road to a close-up of Kenilworth grille. To this ritual we
now add a tank inspection, running a hand over the split area and checking the glove for petrol. Each time the glove
comes up dry We become more confident that the Knead-It will hold and over the trip to Brisbane the check list becomes a mantra -

“Right mirror, Left mirror, Tank checking, Glove,
“Right mirror, Left mirror, Tank checking, Glove,
Hari Krishna, Hari Krishna, ….”

About Australian place names I have learned this: however I say them, it will be wrong.

Shep-ee, She-pee, She-pie, Chep-ee, Kep-ee, all possibilites . Sometimes the local pronunciation is so far removed
from the rules of phonetics that I wouldn’t be surprised if the locals probably call this place Cheeps … or Westminister.
I’ll never know, as in the rush east there is no time to explore Cheepie, or even catch a glimpse of it as it’s set far off
the road, but the sign does give me something to wonder about - what is there, apart from the name, that makes Westminister
Simply Unique ?

A little further on we did find something unique, a roadside pub without its walls covered with items discarded by passers-by.

Instead, it had artwork, all done on old tools, and pretty good it was, too.
The saw was too big to fit in the pack, and Birtles hates just strapping things to the outside as this ruins his aerodynamics,
so we left it there and just bought a coffee instead….

… which we drank at a table covered with a painted circular saw blade - see the table cloth through the centre hole?

Nice campsite at Mitchell

Making up alternative meanings for road signs is helping pass the long hours at low speeds.
This one’s easy - Emergency Ladder on Side Road.

This one says it all:

The loads on trucks in the Roma / Miles area have me puzzled until I see all the waste cotton along the sides of the road.

Reflections on Myall Creek at Dalby

Kaimkillenbun sign inspires Birtles to put on a burst of speed as we approach Brisbane.

Home of a disappointed farmer -

The crest of the Great Dividing Range before the slow descent towards the east coast.

For several kilometres over the twisting roads we avoid black spillage on the road, thinking it is effluent from stock trucks.
Just before Kilcoy, the spillage stops and there is a large truck stopped at the side of the road. The driver is inspecting
the fuel tank from which a last few drops are dribbling out. He really needs some Knead-It, but the little I have left will not be
enough for his huge tank, so we pass by, giving him a sympathetic wave. We lost only a few litres - this guy has made a
significant contribution to OPEC.

At Kilcoy the Yowie has its own park. When I photograph a statue of the local equivalent of the Yeti, Birtles
insists on modesty and covers the Yowie’s intimate items with a mirror.

Who can pass a windmill without admiring its elegant simplicity ?

She still hasn't quit ?

We head towards 1-10 so Birtles can see his mates and so I can check the tank Joe has just in case the one on its way
from Melbourne is not a goer. At lights in Caboolture a HD pulls alongside and the rider starts asking questions. When
I tell him we are going to 1-10 he says “Follow me”, and edges in front. At the green, he heads off slowly so Birtles
can keep up and pilots us all the way there. That is a nice gesture - even though I knew the way already. I make Birtles
promise to stop bullying HD’s.

Joe gets his mechanic to have a tinker with Birtle’s cam chain and I get a new headlight globe as the Dawson has done that in as well.

And then there is no longer any need to create mental diversions - the Bruce Highway provides that well enough as we
head a little south to where the tank is being sent, Sue’s aunt and uncle in Burpengary.

Public holidays in Queensland delay the tank for a couple of days, so there is plenty of time to give Birtles a good going-over,
and to fix a broken wire in the loom where it goes around the triple tree. He gets a wash and looks very smart ….

…. a bit like me in the pair of knitted bootees that replace my riding boots when indoors.
Very comfortable, must get the pattern.

The replacement tank has similar mounts and goes on without a problem.
No leaks, Birtles has full tanks and new oil, it's ....

"Climb, Climb", "Ride til die", "... ...".

Ok, Ok, you lot, I was just about to say ... it's time to take off the booties ...
tomorrow we will start heading inland again.

To be continued ....

platypus121 10-16-2012 05:31 PM

Birtles vs Australia
In which we hear bells in the forest, abuse the faithful, laugh at cemeteries, and meet one tough bastard.

We head inland on the D’Aigular Highway, soon turning off onto
the picturesque Neurum road.

Display of large wood carvings at Goody Park.

Top of Lake Somerset at Villeneuve.

Through Kilcoy again and onto the Jimna Road, heading up into the hills.
Almost no traffic and an easy surface give us time to enjoy the bush
settings, and we stop several times just to listen to the birds singing in the eucalypts.
I think they are Bellbirds: if they are not, they should be - sound
just like little bells, all tinkling away happily.

Being out of my usual environment sharpens the senses. Back home
if I stopped in a forest and the birds were chorusing, it would probably
not even be noticed - here each new sound or new vista rushes into
the senses and stands out fresh and clear.

Tracks head off into the bush every few kilometres with no sign as to
where they might lead. That is too much of a temptation for Birtles, and
one of them has to be explored. As we get further from the road there’s
another temptation, to just sit in the grass (amongst all the MD’s) and
become part of the scene - hard for Birtles with all his day-glow fittings.

Over the Great Dividing Range again and the land opens out into gently
rolling pasture stretching to the line of hills on the horizon. It could be
savannah land anywhere in the world, except for the ever-present eucalypts
and the occasional Kookaburra that brand this area distinctly Australian.

Iconic …. !!

Moronic …. !!

It takes all sorts, and the world would be a poorer place without a variety
of people, but I’d rather be without this looney with his endless supply of
metal rectangles, red paint and limited range of expression. His efforts
have been seen nailed to trees through NSW and Queensland, and at
each one I wished I had a ladder and a claw hammer.

Since I didn’t, a bit of post-trip photo manipulation is the best I can do to
lessen my distaste for the evil tree-mutilator.

Ban Ban Springs, where in the long ago the Rainbow Serpent came to
the surface and created a spring that still runs today. A plaque lists the
further activities of the Rainbow Serpent and the significance of the area
to the original inhabitants.

I usually go all gooey and New Age-y at a site like this, but all I see
here before me is a spring - there is no mystique, no aura, no feeling
of being somewhere special. This may be because I read that, some
years ago, a larrikin levelled the area with a bulldozer and the whole
area was later reconstructed. So now the spring has become like the
Kelly Tree - it marks the spot, but only as an impotent understudy
of the missing original.

Welcome to Trev’s Place, Gayndah.

Urgent corrective podiatry needed at Mundubbera

Road signs for cemeteries really do need a bit of extra thought.
The pairing of a cemetery sign with “Dead End” or “No Exit” is often seen.
Maybe it is deliberate, meant to cheer you up a bit when you visit the graves.

Munduberra carefully avoids the cliché ….

Funny ‘ol things are cemeteries.
In them we are all levelled, literally and figuratively, yet segregated
burial plots strive to ensure the divisions that religion created
in life are not healed in death.

This is the ancient lungfish which gave its name to the nearby locality of
Ceratodus. Once found in local waters but now only on a mural in Munduberra.

Birtles fraternises with the Big Boys who are lounging at the side of the
road, making eyes at every passing Italian car.

Another cemetery, another laugh.

The things you find at the side of the road!

This puffball has found a niche all its own. It grew further off the road
as well, but right on the edge of the tar seal seemed to be the preferred place.
It is so fragile that just a touch with a boot and it will disintegrate, yet it
grows through the stones, pushing them and the tar aside. No doubt it
already has a scientific name, but I called it Globuli Toughbastardus.

Mini volcano created by ants.

Nature studies will only delay us so long.

Tomorrow we head for Theodore, Springsure, and then the Dawson Development Road.
Reports from locals about the DDR are not very encouraging, but, as one admirer of Birtles told me :

"It's a Honda - it will never fail". I think that is what's called blind faith

To be continued .....


jmcg 10-16-2012 09:39 PM


Originally Posted by platypus121 (Post 19833282)
Since I didn’t, a bit of post-trip photo manipulation is the best I can do to
lessen my distaste for the evil tree-mutilator.


platypus121 10-18-2012 02:41 PM


In which we see much underwear (some in parlous condition), encounter an
unhappy Hereford, receive warnings of dangerous beasts, and anticipate the
journey to Tambo.

The road to Cracow

A beaut Cracow tree with the fabled pub on right.

Pub interior resembles a second hand clothes shop. Do patrons arrive with an
old pair of undies or a bra in their back pockets, or do they take off what they
arrive in and depart feeling cooler ?

Whenever I see these displays - walls covered in old clothes, fences with displays
of sneakers, ceilings plastered with currency from around the world -
they get me wondering.

WHY? is easy. The decorator is making his mark by leaving a bit of himself behind
for others to see, like a cat marking its territory, and the more eye-catching the
marking the better. Sounds simple, but there are pitfalls in the marking world -
it is easy to ignore the marking hierarchy. Without a working knowledge of this,
markings will be ineffective and attract little attention. The ranking system can
be related to poker hands :

One Pair : Hankerchief (white, clean)
Two Pair : Hankerchief (dirty, coloured)
Three of a Kind : Socks (dirty, at least two holes)
Straight : T-Shirt (dirty, torn)
Flush: Jocks, Panties (clean)
Full House: Bra (best if very big or very small)
Four of a Kind: Artificial limbs, plaster casts
Straight Flush: Heavily soiled underwear
Royal Flush: Used prophylactics

WHO? is harder. While we may never know which individual started the marking
trend, anthropologists have reconstructed how conversations may have gone at
the first marking. One widely accepted scenario is like this :

“Hey, Davo, after this beer, how bout I strip off me jocks and pin em on the wall?”
“Idea, Philo, idea ! Hey, Cheryl, wanna stick ya bra nex ta Philo’s jocks?”
“Bloody hell, Davo, ya nongo … Ok, just finish me beer. Hey, Denise, wanna … … … “

And so it began.

There are lots of character buildings in Cracow.

It’s a bit flasher in Theodore, where the hotel has a vaguely art-deco look,

… but more importantly, next to the Dawson River there is a pleasant free camping
area provided by the town. Very popular with caravans that fill every space but are
unable to breach a log barrier around the grassed area.
Birtles slips through with ease and has several acres of grass from which to choose a tent site.

Not everyone in Theodore is happy.
What could be upsetting this young Hereford?

Oh, I see his point.

Theodore evening. Warm, still, peaceful - at least until I offer to pin my jocks to the
café wall just above the espresso machine.

From Theodore we take the back road past the Kianga mines, another huge venture
that for 30 kilometres is ripping the guts out of Mother Earth.

Moura and Rolleston roll past - we are pushing hard, west on the Dawson Highway
to Springsure where it will become the Dawson Development Road. Then, a
mere 246 kilometres on the DDR, most of it dirt, and then we will be in Tambo -
we do all know what is in Tambo, don’t we?

But first, some photographs of Springsure, where we take note of warning signs.
Inwardly, we hope to encounter one or more of these dangerous creatures,
if only to prove that they exist.

There are other travellers in town who are aware of the danger. They move
cautiously, freezing in Marcel Marceau poses at doorways and corners until
the way is checked for marauding Koalas. It’s slow, stop-start progress, but i
t’s safe and earns the respect of locals who are gratified that the ever present
killer amongst them is being given due respect.

I adopt exaggerated displays of caution and apprehension, scanning every
tree and bush for the tell-tale signs of Koala - animal carcasses with large
chunks torn from them.

If my caution fails and it goes wrong - Birtles gets mauled by a rogue Koala,
for example - it’s reassuring to know “Alice’s Rough 24 Hr Towing” will be
there to help us get to Tambo.
Rough towing? Is that cheaper than regular towing?

Ahhhh…. Nice.

Drop-in engine / gearbox replacement for Birtles at the outdoor museum.

And electric parts are available too.

Springsure has a display celebrating 100 years of federation. One of the sections
is a series of glazed tiles by young children. Some of the connections with federation
are a little obscure, but there are some charming pieces.

And the winner is …. Rebecca Stone !

Judges interpreted Rebecca’s work to be an insightful metaphor for politics
and politicians.

(The windmill turning endlessly without moving from the spot
represents empty political promises; the chubby pig symbolises the makers of
those promises, happily growing fat on the public purse while trampling and
crapping on the common folk represented by the artist’s name along the bottom;
all the while, the high ideals of federation rise out of reach, blown away by the
stream of empty promises from the windmill and chopped into unintelligible
pieces by its blades).

Rebecca explained it more simply: “ Isa piggy, ana winmill.”

Evening falls on Federated Springsure.

Under the blaze of the LED tent light I check what the DDR involves.
What exactly is a development road anyway? Lots of dirt, maybe sand,
and corrugations for sure - all good tests for the new tank. Whatever it
holds in store, it is the only way to get to Tambo without a huge loop of
more than double the distance of the DDR

…. and we all know why we have to get to Tambo.

Outside the tent there are sounds like bricks falling into deep mud. The Koalas
are dropping from the trees to start their night hunting. There is a little comfort
in the tyre iron next to my pillow - it won’t be much use against a hungry
full grown bull Koala.

There are also muffled murmurings, too quiet to understand but every so often
a word stands out : “ride”, “….”, “die”, “climb”.
I leave them to their debate. By morning they will have come to a decision -
if the Koalas don’t get them.

To be continued …..


Owlseye 10-18-2012 03:14 PM

Can't say enough about how much I'm enjoying the tale of the intrepid Birtles and his battle against every danger. I've long heard that every thing in Australia is poisonous or causes painful paralysis (or both), but nobody ever told me of the danger of the Bull Koala.:eek1
Good luck to you both, and I hope you made it through the night unmolested. (Unless Cheryl and Denise were present to let you know that anthropological question posed earlier)

platypus121 10-18-2012 06:58 PM


Originally Posted by Owlseye (Post 19848710)
Can't say enough about how much I'm enjoying the tale of the intrepid Birtles and his battle against every danger. I've long heard that every thing in Australia is poisonous or causes painful paralysis (or both), but nobody ever told me of the danger of the Bull Koala.:eek1
Good luck to you both, and I hope you made it through the night unmolested. (Unless Cheryl and Denise were present to let you know that anthropological question posed earlier)


Birtles has asked me to convey to you his thanks for your nice comments, and to let you know that, although there are a lot of
dangerous animals in Australia, you only really notice this when you ...

1) run after them
2) grab them
3) attempt to rob their nest/home or kill their young
4) say "Look, look, this is how you pick up a snake!"
5) want to impress others with how brave you must be to live in such a "dangerous" country.

And thanks from me for the feed-back.


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