Australia East-West Crossing
A couple of years ago, over a beer while interstate, a mate from work and I were talking about a fella he knew from his RAAF days who rode an XR600 from Melbourne to Darwin. We were discussing all manner of tips and tricks he had employed to keep weight low, including taking no clothes with him, screwing spare nuts and bolts through his plastics, wrapping lockwire around his frame and putting strips of gaffa tape on his front mud guard to save taking a full roll... As often happens when amber liquid is involved, we said we should do something similar and made a deal to do it before we hit 40. Fortunately the next morning, we both remembers and continued to share the enthusiasm and vowed to make it happen. Well, last night I got home after we rode from Byron Bay to Steep Point traveling through some of the most breathtaking locations the world has to offer and ticking off a large number of “bucket list” items along the way.
Day 1 started at Byron Bay at sunrise before we headed out on tarmac to go as far west as we could. Coincidentally, there was a large group of riders leaving that same morning, heading the same way, known as The Great Australian Ride. We were a little concerned at first by their motley crew and being semi-supported, even including a Suzuki Boulevard... that one had us worried for them until we met its rider who seemed a real nice guy and only had an expectation of going as far as he could... Knowing he would pull the pin if needed gave us some comfort. Anyway, we left those guys to their barbie at the lighthouse and headed out through Ballina and into the twisties before giving the bikes a drink at Tenterfield then heading south west through Inverell and Warialda before topping off the tanks again, with a servo pie, at Moree heading further west. With the roos starting to pop out and the temperature plummeting, we stopped off in Walgett for the night, a little distressed that the whole town was boarded up and we got locked inside the hotel... We ventured to the RSL for a decent feed and the cheapest beer in NSW. Walking back to the gated and locked up motel, we noticed the old bank vault where the bank used to be... I thought robbing the bank went the other way around???
Day 2 saw us on the road before the sun, with the -2’ being felt acutely. Unfortunately Gav on the GSA had to leave at this point to return, so we pushed onto Bourke for bacon and eggs, and more boarded up shop fronts. On noticing one of the small screws holding my solstice LED light on had vibrated out, and out of the myriad of spares, we had nothing so small, the waitress kindly offered her husbands shed to rummage through. We headed out, after topping off the tanks, and met her husband and the local copper, who were lovely fellas and could not help enough and had my little screw problem sorted in no time - the last mechanical issue for my little Tenere for the whole trip! On leaving Bourke, we turned left onto the Bourke-Hawker Gate South road, headed through Wanaaring and onto Tibooburra. Being day 2 and having the early ride confidence, we breezed through Wanaaring without topping off confident we could make Tibooburra on the fuel in the tanks... Mr Garmin started to play up for us and as we hit reserve fuel, which by experience is around 120km left, our trusty Zumo 660’s indicated Tibooburra was 190km down the road... Left with the prospect of both of us being marooned on day 2, we siphoned all the fuel into one tank for a dash to the servo. After this task, we rounded a bend with a signpost indicating Tibooburra was not quite as far as Mr Garmin advised, only 53km away, giving us some confidence in our map reading as we had been scratching our heads wondering how we got it so wrong - the answer is, we didnt! Anyway, with my bike adequately fueled and Links a bit dubious now that we had drained it, we rode as far as we could. Not having enough time to re-siphon the fuel as the servo would be closed, I did the dash for fuel, much to the amusement and confusion of those at home watching our spot trackers. From this point on, we always over estimated our fuel requirements, which was no drama and left no distraction of “do I have enough?”. After no fuss at all, we were both back on the road and into the Family Inn at Tibooburra where we had a great meal, clean facilities and cold beer. Infact, it took us 2 hours to get our bags off the seats at the front of the pub.
Day 3 started with Bacon and eggs, which became a morning staple, as we headed through the Sturt National Park and into Cameron Corner for morning tea and top off the tanks. With the APC having been just ahead of us, the publican was a little over motorbikers as some of the APC guys had rubbed him the wrong way. After assuring him we were just two mates on our own, he warmed up and was hard to leave. We did the obligatory money on the roof toss and played a hole of golf before heading off into SA and the awesome rollercoaster road to the yellow bus. The dirt roads were in awesome condition and was an absolute hoot to ride. Not long behind us, only a day or two by now, one of the TGAR guys had a fall and required the RFDS to evacuate him. I was glad that any fundraising we did was for such a worthy cause, we raised over three grand for them! Anyway, we headed north up the old Strzelecki as the Bore track was closed, which again was not as expected... it was a very easy road. Into Innaminka for lunch, we stocked up on a bottle or two of red and on the advice of the shopkeeper, took the scenic north route to the Dig Tree campsite. What a wonderful campsite by the river, full of pelicans. We set up camp for the night and drained both bottles of wine under a trillion stars.
Day 4 had us rising to a beautiful campsite, and surprisingly no red wine hangover and we had a look around the Dig Tree site. I was surprised at how little I actually knew of Burke and Wills and that the image I had of hero explorers was a little skewed as all the literature had them pegged as having the arrogance and ineptitude of European explorers with no appreciation or respect for the harshness of the land. I guess, however, they did contribute to the eventual total exploration of this great land, and for that they deserve credit, as they gave their lives for it. More reading to do for me! We slipped up the very well graded Adventurers Way, up the QLD side of the border to Arrabury where, against the advice of a fella who had just come down in his Kombi, we took the Cordillo Downs road north. Not long into it, we came across the Cordillo Downs homestead and old Wool Shed where many shearing records were established - hard men in those days. Continuing north through the gibber plains, the road was very rough... very rough. Net result of the Cordillo Downs road is that its very long so you cant go too slow but its very rough, so if you go at a pace to get anywhere, you will have dramas... We were running the Mitas E09 Dakar tires and they were superb... the stories about stock Tenere rims being a little soft, however became evident when we stopped. I am pretty sure you are not meant to be able to see the bead while the tyre is on the rim... As we motored along with a decent dust gap between us, we were surprised to be overtaken out of the blue by an APC rider all alone... Once we exited the Cordillo Downs road and onto the Birdsville Develpmental road, we were home and hosed. This road may have well had a toll booth on it, it was wide, flat and fast... Made for easy entry to Birdsville. We got to Birdsville and had the obligatory photo out the front and a Birdsville Lager, before sorting accommodation. After seeing a group of fellas who were starting out in the morning on a Simpson crossing on quads (complete with filming ultra lights...) we decided to pop out for a look at the infamous Big Red. It was getting on a little late and riding into the sun was a pain, but we got our first real taste of Sand on the detour road to Big Red. Once there, we decided we needed a photo from the top, but old mate with me was having a minor clutch issue so I decided to tackle it myself... After reaching the top with my feet on the pegs, I was wondering what the fuss was about. We took some pictures and rode back in the dark, elated that we had entered the Simpson. With family who know the area watching on Spotwalla, my phone rang as soon as my helmet came off. The conversation went like this:
Brother: “What are you doing?”
Me: “I just got back from riding up Big Red!”
Me: “Jut now.”
Brother: (laughing)”No you didn’t”
Me: “Yeah I did, kept my feet on the pegs too!”
Brother: “No, you rode up little red, Big red is another kilometer to the left after you ride over that little hill...”
Me: “Shit - oh well, not going back now...”
So there you have it, I am proud to say I rode up the little hill before you get to Big Red!
After having a shower and walking up to the pub, we ordered a beer each - wow, $2 change from a $20 - a little different to the 3 for 12 at Walget the night before... As the kitchen was overwhelmed, we had to wait 45 minutes before they would accept an order so we chose the T-bone... no T-bone left, we’ll have the rump thanks! Atmosphere was great and we forked out for another beer (or 2) before heading back to catch some zzzzz’s. Bucket list item - Tick.
Day 5 had us up and ready early and, embarrassingly, trying to top off the tanks at the servo that was still closed... Off to the other servo, we topped off the tanks and our jerry cans (I carried 2x 10lt jerry cans, Link had 2x 7lt Rotopax) for our journey down the Birdsville Track. After a pie and coffee at the Bakery, as you NEED to do, we set off for pictures at the racetrack then down the track. Like the developmental road, the Birdsville Track is well maintained and more of a highway than a track - a hint of disappointment... Nothing much happened on the track, plenty of LARGE Eagles and the odd Dingo and lots of gibber stones. We stopped off just before Mungerannie as, in the middle of nowhere there was a pristine RFDS aircraft. As any support we were receiving was going straight to the RFDS (hopefully not as a down payment for services to be rendered...) we stopped for a looksee... There, conducting an interview of opportunity with the pilot were two characters filming a TV show about gourmet cooking in the outback - Gourmet Greg. They were going to reproduce the famous Mungerannie burger using local ingredients, and to be poached in a local hot spring. When told they were using goat, they volunteered that they catch said goat on their motorbikes. I asked how you catch a goat on a motorcycle, expecting a tale of high speed pursuit and a flying tackle, followed by some first aid... the actual description went a little more like this “nah, ya just chase them till they get tired and sit down, then throw them over the tank”. Not very exciting.
Into Mungerannie and a look at the Kruse trucks, we were salivating over a burger. Unfortunately, and what was becoming a tendency, was “you with that rally?” - again with a little friction. When we told our story, the guards were dropped and the laughs flowed. Unfortunately for us, the APC crews had eaten them out of all their rolls, and they were not expecting more for 2 days... I will tell you though, the burger on bread was awesome! After applying our sticker next to the OBT one, we topped off the tanks and said our farewells, heading further south.
Upon coming into the lake territory, the first lake we could see with the sun in the right position was Lake Harry. Next to Lake Harry was a spring mound that we suggested would be a great viewing platform, it was about 70 feet high - and had a trail up it! We should go op for a picture was quickly decided and with zero reconnoissance we decided it would be a cake walk. It was quickly established that nothing good follows this phrase “I’ll go first Link, you film this?” Well, without going into details the road was steeper, rutted and rougher than anticipated and exceeded both of our talent levels... My last words over the Scala were “NO LINK, DONT FOLLOW ME!”. Fast forward 30 seconds, I was staggering up and realising after taking a fall 10 foot down onto a rocky ledge, I was uninjured. If anyone ever tells you to take the armour out of your Badlands jacket, disregard them, I reckon the chest protector saved me. Link, who followed me... peeled off to the righ and had a soft injury to his leg but, without crash bars - and I will have more to say about bike and equipment set up later - had a rock push the side plastic into his radiator overflow (cracking it) and pulling the fitting out of the radiator (and bending the radiator). Some selley’s need it and we were back on track, passing through Maree and stopping for a luke warm bath at Coward Springs. Two blokes in the 6 foot by 4 foot spring there is a little cosy... Very windy that night... more on that...
Day 6 I awoke with a bit of a sore throat and a cough... upon surveying the interior of my tent, I could not ascertain why everything in there was brown. The strong wind all night had blown the sandy bulldust under my fly and my inner tent acted like a sieve and sifted a very fine powder all over me and everything else in the tent, my lungs and nose included. None the less, it was a cracker of a sunrise so I brewed up a cup of tea (quick and easy to do and no cleanup unlike old mate who had fancy cappuccino packets...) which was becoming my cold morning staple. Packing up as the sun rose over lake Eyre, we were on the road for a big of a lazy day, but looking forward to a big breakfast at William Creek. During the packup, the sun glinted on our bikes and we observed the carnage that one particular cattle grid had given old mates bike. Rims are meant to be round? Anyway, no flats or wobbles, so good to go. We got to William Creek and organised a joy flight for 10am over Lake Eyre and the Painted Hills then headed over to the roadhouse for our brekkie. On entering the pub, salivating, we were greeted with an abrupt “kitchens shut” from the old fella. Politely asking if there was anything to eat and eyeing a mouthwatering menu, he advised again in his gruff manner, “kitchen shut at 9am”. It was now 0908. We were later to find out that from the price of fuel and bottled water, they were not in need of the $40 or so we would have spent there - reckon he had a Rolls out the back. Off to the flight centre for a breakfast of redbull and a cherry ripe.
Our pilot arrived promptly and given her body mass could have been the equivalent of my left leg - below the knee - old mate and I were happy that that meant one thing... leg room. Having been in aviation for 20 years, both of us were only too happy to give the spare front seat to another passenger and we had the next row to ourselves. Our pilot proved to be skillful, informative and quite funny as she guided us over Anna Creek Station - the largest in the world and owned by the Kidmans - to the Painted Hills. I did not know anything about them, but they are this oasis of richly colored hills with zero access, apart from by air, and we were treated to a birds eye view. Moving back over Anna Creek, the Dingo Fence and the Old Ghan railroad, we moved toward the lake proper. It is a massive sea, running around 30% surface area. It only needs to rise a couple of inches and that figure can change dramatically the land is so flat. We had a near miss with a Hawk, saw Sir Donald Campbell’s track (well, the area of it anyway) and some anecdotes about how they tested for crust hardness then moved to the North where waters were still entering the lake. Certainly is a big sucker.
After our flight, and checking out the rocket memorabilia in the front yard, we tried the pub again, making sure to not upset anyone by entering only during kitchen open hours. I can say that the steak sandwich was good, old mates toasted sandwich was not and god help you if you ask how much a coke is when you scrutinise the bill... almost got run out of town for that one. We topped off the tanks, at $2.30 a liter and bought some more bottled water (ironically cost $10 a liter...) and headed up the Oodnadatta track. Again, the surface was good for speed running, but a little uneventful until about 30km south of Oodnatta, on a simple straight and graded road, I felt it was getting difficult to steer... Flat front tyre. For some reason, the valve had pulled out of the tube... no evidence of slippage and the rim lock was in tact, just a shit happens moment. Anyway, new tube in and away we went for some cheaper water at the Pink Roadhouse before we rode into the fading light. Giving ourselves enough time to set up camp in the light, we pulled off the road some 500m (to avoid any errant road trains) and set up camp near a riverbank. We had to dodge rabbit warrens on the way in and I freaked old mate out a little when I confirmed I had seen a brown snake on the roadside earlier that day and that they were nocturnal - and ate rabbits... He was zipped up that night. It was a perfect starry night - again.
Day 7 saw us up before the sun, which presented a great opportunity to photograph the silhouettes of our bikes to the sunrise backdrop before we broke camp and continued up the Oodnadatta track. We took a turn at Hamilton to head out to Dalhousie Springs. The road from Hamilton to Dalhousie was the worst of the trip and made Cordillo seem like a tollway. It transitioned from hard pack to rock to hard pack with rocks to sandy river beds. The sand was quite course however which gave it great draining abilities, but also meant it was not very nice to negotiate. After getting quite a bit of practice on sand, I was spending a little time day dreaming about the virtues of a steering damper vs not having one and happily came to the conclusion that I had figured sand out and was pretty lucky to have saved 6 or 7 hundred bucks... Seriously within 10 minutes of this mind segway, I came into a river bed that had a decent right hander in it. It started off as pretty firm, however at the bend it got real tight, real soft, real quick. I had a good body position on the pegs and powered through, however my front caught the middle rise and, in an effort to break the traction I gassed it up more. It should have worked - unfortunately, the result was I just went into a tank slapper faster. Once again I found myself lying on the ground, this time a good 10 feet in front of my bike, doing that slow pat down that most of us know... wondering where the nearest emergency airstrip is... before I realised I was actually unhurt - again, although the shoulder I landed on was a little tender and as I cartwheeled over I smacked my foot on the ground. So, relatively unhurt was a surprise as those that know me will appreciate that this is not often the case. So, pick the bike up, unscathed as well, and ride on.
My point on the steering damper, which I again reflected on a little later when doing 140km of soft sand along the Fink track, was that if I could speak to myself back before the trip, I would be ordering myself to fit a damper. Now that this ride is under my belt, I probably wont bother but I now understand their virtue and appreciate the recommendation of others to put on on the Tenere.
Up the road we came across the Old Peak telegraph station, an 1870 settlement surrounded by springs. Well worth the visit. There, we ran into two fellas (one on a DR the other a Tenere) and one of them had a limp... seems that the same river bank had caught the Tenere rider out not 20 minutes before I cam hurtling through, he was a little worse off than I, but still walking so he too had a successful off. After leaving the Peak, we headed to our goal destination for the morning, Dalhousie Springs. As my mate said, sometimes mother nature bites you, other times she soothes you. Dalhousie springs is simply awesome. If Coward Springs was a little intimate and a little cool, Dalhousie was hard to coprehend for other reasons. The camp ground looked great, but the spring is a fairly significant lake which has steps into it and a bunch of swimming pool “noodles” for you to float around on. The water is a glorious 42’ and it has little fish that nibble away at you. Floating around was the group of quad riders we had seen in Birdsville who had just completed their Simpson crossing and were recuperating before their return the following day. Old mate on the Tenere and DR turned up for some therapeutic healing in the 2 million year old water - thats a pretty inefficient water heater and it had me wondering if we were actually swimming in dinosaur piss - and we all had a good catch up in the pond. Dragging ourselves out, we were keen to get to Mount Dare as we had skipped brekkie and were famished. The road from Dalhousie to Mt Dare was much better than the other side, so it was a pretty easy ride. Unfortunately Mt Dare close their kitchen during the day, so another microwave pie was the breakfast and lunch of choice. We topped off the tanks again and headed over the border to NT, turning left just short of Fink to head to Lamberts post, the geographical centre of Australia. We had a 14km soft sand and pretty technical road into Lamberts centre which had me puckered up for the ride in after my dalliance earlier in the day. Apart from some slow paddling sections, the ride in was uneventful and, while it was a little early in the day, we decided it was an apt place to camp for the night. We were not used to being first into a campsite and were pretty pleased to have the place to ourselves, being out of the way and all that, but as the afternoon rolled on, the 4wd’s kept coming. We decided to have our first camp fire that night, as mostly we get into camp, set up the tent, check over the bikes, oil the chain, boil some water, eat a dehydrated meal and collapse into bed. Having time, we skirted around and picked up some dead wood (twigs) for our camp fire. We were careful to only take what would not have any impact, even though it would burn out quickly. We were interested, however, to see the army of grey haired explorers in their fancy 4wd’s roll into camp. Their firewood collection consisted of driving over a still erect tree, tying a rope to it and dragging it to a clearing before setting the whole thing alight. Seemed a little wasteful to us and the irony was not lost on us that a single woman in a Disco rolled into the campsite as we were setting up and later admitted that when she saw us “bikers” in the camp ground, she was going to leave. Then when others started arriving she felt safe again, only to come to the realisation that the rowdy bunch were the whit haired tree burners. During the arvo a 990 and GS800 rolled into camp and we had a brew chatting to those fellas that night as our twigs flared nice and bright (warm) for a couple of minutes then faded... We should have gone over to the tree bonfire. Getting into bed, the 4wders cracked out the guitar and it actually was quite a nice way to go to sleep, being serenaded.
Day 8 had us leaving Lamberts and heading into Finke for some water. We had plenty of fuel and didnt need any extra weight for what came next, the Fink track. We left fink, another microwave pie in belly, and headed to the finish line to start our way back up the track. To be clear, we rode the service road next to the track which used to be the service road for the Ghan rail line, which is now the service road for the race track - make sense? In any event, we rode at a fair clip for two reasons, one it was a long way to go to Alice Springs and two, it was mostly soft sand. It was time to get over soft sand finally. Point of advice, if you do not like soft sand, either learn to love it or dont do Finke. We set our feet on the pegs, weight over the back and went 140km in one stretch with the bikes waggling like a skateboader with the death wobbles, but we got used to it. Again, I told myself if I could go back in time, I would get the damper. When I could focus away from what I was doing, I would look 5m to my left and look at the race track. All I can say is those guys are insane/awesome/talented/crazy as they go twice as fast as us on a loopy track. Up the Fink service road, you have to dodge railway spikes the whole way as it seems when they pulled up the rail line, they left the spikes - I do regret now not souvernering one... I probably would not have been able to get going again. When we were in Alice that night, we spoke to a mate who was asking how Fink was... We told him the only reason we did not shit ourselves was that our ballon knots were puckered up so tight, nothing could escape. Glad to have done Fink, I didnt want to do it but would now do it again.
We eventually rolled into Alice Springs to be greeted with the first familiar signs of civilsation again, and traffic. I know Alice Springs is not a big traffic blackspot, but after a week on the road, we had to second guess if we can make the gap or wait. We didnt like the traffic lights either. We splashed out that night on a serviced apartment - each - and cleaned up in a very hot and very long shower before donning our one outfit and hitting the town for a cold one and a steak. First beer went to our heads and before we knew it we were in front of a very large piece of beef each and a bottle or red wine - oh oh. Couple of night spots later we headed for the Casino where an accidental misstep our of the Taxi had me refused entry to the casino - I must stress I was far from inebriated (at this time) and it was a genuine slip on the gutter. Anyway, there was a second entrance around the corner and no such gutter issues. The place was pretty dead for a Saturday night, however after surveying the three people on the dance floor, the next door function ended - yep, the Drovers Ball! So, around 20 minutes after we go there, there were 500 people dressed up to the nines. The next part is a little hazy but I do recall I left the casino, walked across the Todd... silly... and woke up at 6am on my couch. That was a waste, I had a king size bed all to myself, so off there I toddled, head spinning and getting the bike wobbles.
Day 9 was a rest day in Alice Springs (read eat KFC and recover from hangover...) and a trip to Wollies and the camp store for some more provisions.
Day 10 we had organised for the local bike shop to order in a new set of E09 Dakar tyres. We had put new ones on when leaving Byron and they had performed flawlessly. These were to be my 4th set and I am a huge advocate. While we had the bikes in the shop at 9am, we were keen to be on the road by middday, should be doable as the wheels were off the bikes by 10 past. Anyway, for some reason the minutes rolled by, as did the hours and our bikes were still being balanced... we decided to go back and pack up our hotel room and bring our kit back to the bike shop but the bikes still were not ready. By 3pm, we had to call it quits - we would be riding at night if we left then so we had to fork out another $380 for the two rooms for the night - yep, accommodation is expensive out there. While we were waiting, the boys from The Great Australian Ride (who left Byron the same day as us) turned up and we had a good catch up. They had had some mechanical retirees, some RFDS retirees and Mark on the Boulevard had wisely pulled the pin after reaching Cameron Corner - a sterling effort indeed. As we were now staying, we could catch up for a beer that night, as the next day was only to Ayres rock, so no need for a sparrows departure.
Day 11 we had a hearty brekkie in the Mall and caught up with the TGAR support crew before we headed off to see the big red rock. The bikes were going great and we were ahead of schedule so we stopped off at km 200 at the Erldunda service centre (the turn off to Ayers rock) for another pie... Something looked wrong with our bikes.
Our brand new tyres had shed some knobs. Not one tyre - both of them. Not one knob, several, right down to the canvas. We simply could not do another 2,500km on them, so we had to ride 200km back to Alice Springs. Not being able to refund directly for the obviously faulty batch (we were lightly loaded, no extra fuel, right pressures and were taking it very easy speed wise given our relaxing day), we had to buy new tyres (the only 17” in stock wer D606’s in 130) and we gave our credit card for the bike shop to reimburse once they got the refund (more on that tom come... Mr Mitas, you may want to check your emails too - every one deserves a chance to get it right...) To speed up the process, we pulled off the wheels in the car park and we had quick turnaround, back on the road in under an hour. 200km later at the Erldunda, which was km 600 for the day so far, the D606’s had no ounce of damage. Happy, we pushed on to Yulara. Heading directly west into the setting sun was a punish, and it got very cold when the sun vanished. Having a tinted visor, I had to ride with the visor open and just clear glasses on which gave my face a fair old frosting. On getting into Yulara (for around 850km that day) we were too tired and cold to pitch our tents so we decided to share a room. How much for a standard room that night - in a low occupancy hotel? $470. We pitched our tent. It was actually a real treat to put your tent on grass too and the campsite facilities were great. We went to the back packers for dinner and got in for last orders, but the food was average. Never mind, I was sleeping on grass, and a fiar share of rabbit shit.
Day 12 was a pre-dawn wakeup and, leaving our kit in our tents, we set off for the spectacle of light illuminating a rock. As we missed the sunset shot of Ayres Rock, we went for the sunrise on the other side. It was a fair chilly morning as we rode out and was a little disappointed that the one way toll on the Lasseter Highway is $25 per person... Note - It is $0 if you come the other way... With the gloves back on after digging out wallets, we followed the tour busses and endless stream of tail lights. My first impression of the rock was actually quite moving. As we approached from the sunset side, the sky was just a little darker where the rock was, giving it a black on black silhouette that was pretty great. We got to the viewing area, with cars all parked in the bike parking (the guy came out as we were brewing up a tea and said “oh, I wondered what the narrow lines were for!”) and meandered up the path to the platform. On the platform were the reason I dislike tourists in groups. Lets just say as they clamored for position and tried to ‘reserve’ more room than they needed, I have not come across a more rude and unfriendly group of people. We headed down to the tracks and while we were not elevated, we could see everything and were not being jostled for position. In all, I was a little sad at how commercialised it was. But, enough on that. It was great to be up close at the Rock and it really is a special place. No, we didnt climb it.
We headed back for brekkie but there was not much available except the $38 per head buffet that closed in 20 mins... Oh well, not much in the way of hot meals for a few days so bacon and eggs once again. We went to break camp and use the great facilities in the camp ground and headed back to the toll booth to get our permits to travel through the Aboriginal land on the Great Central Road. Yep, they cannot issue them there, we had to go back to Yulara. We headed back to the tourist office, and were sent on the road again to the tour booking office (or vice versa...) to get our permits. Filled out the forms and had to wait for them to be accepted... Only took an hour or so, but the advice would be to do it before you go, they are free.
We headed back out to the toll plaza, showed our permits and had them stamped before moving onto the Olgas. I would have liked to have spent more time there, they seem more interesting than Ayres Rock. As we would be transiting to dirt from there again, we did a tyre pressure adjustment, lubed the chain and did the usual oils and water checks and top ups. Note, if you over fill the tenere, the residual oil can go in the fins of your radiator which is not great when heading onto dirt... A quick clean up with our chain cleaner and we were off again, with dirt only a km or two down the road.
Our last dirt had been Fink a few days before and I had a small amount of trepidation, thankfully that didnt last long. The road was pretty sandy and pretty corrugated with a dust that just hung in space - causing us to leave some distance between us. The sand was of a consistency that really slowed you down, felt like you had lost engine power but you would then hit a hard patch and get a swift acceleration. There was not much in terms of attractions to see with the exception of the natural amphitheater of the valley which was good as the road did need some concentration. We stopped off at Lasseters cave before crossing the border and meeting some guys coming the other way on Tiger 800’s. As we had now gone into WA, we had gained an hour and a half, leafing us plenty of time to get into Warakurna to top off the tanks. Unfortunately, while our GPS had adjusted the time as we crossed the border, Warakurna ran off central time, so they were closed when we got there - we couldnt even get a camp site or toilet key. Never the less, we set up camp and had a pretty early night as the road house opened at 0800 in the morning (which to us now on Western time was actually 0630).
Day 13 had us up an packed up to get our fuel (and first taste of opal fuel) at 0800 (0630) before heading down the Great Central Road. The fellas we ran into at Lamberts Centre had given us the run down on the GCR, retelling the horror stories of how it took a minimum of 3 days to traverse. We were registering at the Laverton caravan park at teh other end of the GCR at 1630 that afternoon... 3 days is a bit too long. The GCR with some sand and corrugations is not a super highway, but it is not a challenge to get along. Plenty of Roos, Dingos and Emus and traffic, but an easy ride. We did stop off at Tjukayirla road house, just east of an RFDS emergency air strip for another great burger. Not long after, the local coppers rolled up, pleased with a successful recovery of a Laverton tradies ute - we had actually passed it earlier on and should have twigged at 4 persons in a 2 seat ute... Never mind the 4 locals were now sitting in the back of the paddy wagon. Both coppers were real nice fellas and fellow riders, so they were keen to hear about all our travels and bike mods. Reaching Laverton and getting a cabin in the caravan park was a real treat as a two bedder donga was only $120 and the local had cold beer, decent food and a pool table. We ran into a fella on a KLR introducing his wife on a KLX to adventure riding, nice to see the sport expanding and more women getting involved. Slept well that night after a +700km day.
Day 14 we ditched the miners breakfast for $27 (dont you love mining town pricing...) and headed to Leonora to top off the tanks and have a feed. It was an impossibly cold morning on the road and we could not wait for a civilised brekkie and coffee (tea for me). Point in fact, there is not much going on in Leonora. We eventually settled on the mobile food van out the side of the pub for a bacon sanga and the worst cup of coffee I have yet tried. Real nice people however, just hope they get their coffee machine fixed soon. As we had some bitumen in our future for the day, upped the pressure in our tyres and headed for Leinster for lunch and on our way through Mount Magnet with the aim of Murchison for the night. Half way between Leonora and Leinster, on a bitumen highway, I got another flat front... Not sure why this was plaguing me, but on inspection, when my tyres were changed in Alice, they removed my 2 day old Ultra Heavy Duty Tubes and replaced them with standard, paper thin, tubes... Still perplexed by that one... Seemed that it had been snagged on my rim lock and when I upped the Pressure it has torn a hole. Never mind, I had another HD tube to go in. Was getting pretty good at road side tube replacements now. At Mount Magnet, we decided to take the back road to Murchison which turned out to be one of our best moves of the trip. It was one of the best roads of the whole trip. At one stage, I relocated my GoPro to a windscreen mount, however after spending some serious time on the pegs where it was out of my direct line of sight, I was very displeased to get to a turn off, sit down and realise that it had fallen off... I had to go back and have a look, I had to try... My St Christopher medallion that my brother gave me the day before I departed again seemed to be looking after me as I found it in the dirt about 3km down the track. Of all the things, as it was getting on dusk, the camera had turned its self on on impact and I actually saw the red light. Scratched the shit out of the lens however... As it was now getting dark and we were 120km from Murchison, we had to push on. It was not fun riding at that time, visibility due to an eerie dusk mist made it very difficult to see.
Given the size of the font “Murchison” was printed in on our map, we understood it to be a significant township, so we plugged Murchison into our GPS and off we went. As our GPS counted down from 10km to go, we were worried that we could not see any lights. At 0km, we reached an intersection indicating we were now entering the Murchison Shire. Those visiting WA will get to know they love their Shires over there, even more it seems than the one I come from - and we have our own TV reality show (although hopefully it will soon be cancelled). I found another Murchison in my GPS and noted we had another 75km to go, in the dark. With a piss stop and missed intersection, we ended up getting separated for the first time on the whole trip, and had to initiate our lost man procedure... As I was the one who stopped for a piss and LInk was the one who missed the intersection, I arrived at Murchison Settlement first. They had the internet there, so I could log onto Spotwolla and see Link was on track to get there, just going the long way. So I organised a room each and some dinner, then rode down the road to meet him. If you are ever in that neck of the woods, I strongly recommend the Murchison Oasis road house. The folk there could not be friendlier and we were the talk of the travellers there intrigued at our ability to satellite track each other. It is not actually a decent size township at all - infact there is no town. The folk of Murchisoin Shire are proud of the fact that they have the only shire in Australia without any town at all. They have a council office, polo field and a road house. We had a great home cooked feed and stayed up for a chin wag before hitting the hay - Steep Point is tomorrow.
Day 15 - End Day. We had a much enjoyed shower with enormous water pressure then another home cooked brekkie. Was kind of sad to leave Murchison Road house, the guys there are doing it tough and were oh so helpful. Plus, any proceed from the fuel we bought went straight to the Shire and the roadhouse made nothing, so we were happy to have eaten their food and stayed in their rooms... we would have given them most of their average weekly income in one night.
We left Murchison and turned left on the Butchers track, which 170km later would bring us out on the highway, right near the Overlander Road house and turn off to Steep Point. This was another cracker road - two of the best adventure bike roads in Australia were right there - and we were soon coming back up on the black top. Unfortunately the Overlander is not licensed, so we turned left and headed South to the Billabong Roadhouse to get some “supplies” for that night at Steep Point. After a roast beef roll, we headed back up the road and turned right onto the road to Steep Point - 180km further along. We had decided that with our new found sand skills, there was no need to leave any of our kit at the Overlander - how hard can it be? Not too long in, we turned off to the left and onto dirt again. The roads are in great nick and speed is not a problem, unlike the dust. The scenery changes and eventually you see the most fantastically colored waters of Shark Bay, forcing you to stop and take photos. After the last photo at the sign post, we started to hit the sand, so we stopped and emptied the jerry cans and buried them in the bush for pickup on the way back, as they were now just weight. About 1 km further on, the soft sand had us dropping the pressure in our tyres... About 1km further on, after a long steep hill that was nothing but dry soft sand, we determined we were doing it too tough and something needed to change, so we unloaded most of our kit and just took our tents, burying the rest in the bush. With our new, light weight bikes, we were pretty fluid on the bikes and picked up the pace dramatically. In fact, if we had persevered for another 2km, I believe we would have been fine, with all our kit. We were both getting back into our sand strides and relishing it. Even at one stage, I was waiting atop one of the dunes for Link, who did his best Jim Craig impression and blew past me down the other side - I could almost hear the stock whip crack as the Man from Snowy River bucked and jinked down the dune without so much of a moments hesitation... Later turned out that the whole maneuver was an accident, but it looked bloody good! After a stint of the road going right along the beach and the sand the softest and deepest we have come across, we eventually came upon the rangers station and paid our fees, realising that the end of our journey was only 10km away, causing both excitement and a little sadness. We re paired our scalas so we could chat for the next 10km, however 1km later I heard “that” sound. I stopped, slowly turned around and saw Link separated from his bike... and his bike upside down. Bit of gaffa tape and some adjustments with a 12mm spanner later, we were on the road again, Link just a little slower now that he had lost some confidence and increased some foot pain... This led to us getting a little separated again and, approaching the light house and getting my first uninterrupted view of the Indian Ocean, I headed out to watch some whales moving up the coast, while I looked for the sign post, which I was sure was there somewhere??? After watching the wales in the glare of the setting sun, I headed back to the lighthouse and took the northern track and soon saw the familiar silhouette of Link and what was unmistakably a sign post. I headed over and finally, on the afternoon of the 15th day, less three days off in Alice Springs, we had reached the western most point of Australia. We had passed through, over or skirted the Sturt Stony Desert, Stzrelecki Desert, Simpson Desert, Gibson Desert, Great Victorian Desert, Little Sandy Desert, The Strzelecki Track, Birdsville Track, Oodnadatta Track, Lasseter Highway, Great Central Road and some of the best tracks in WA. In just under 7,000km we had only 2 decent offs each, no bike damage we could not fix on the trail, no body damage, only nearly ran out of fuel once and did not have a drop of rain the whole way. In fact, we only saw clouds once!
On reaching Steep Point, we settled on the cliffs at the very edge of the continent, rang home and celebrated with a couple of tasty (warm) bevvies and a cigar. Having left some of our kit in the bushes 30km back up the track, we made camp on the edge of the cliffs (I stupidly left my sleeping mat on the trail, so was an uncomfortable sleep) and cooked up a feed before sitting back and trying to comprehend what we had just done. At no stage of the preparation of the journey itself had we thought it was too much, too far or too hard, but when we got there, we realised we actually had quite an achievement. We didnt have an early night, instead we wanted to savor every moment in the fear that now that this was over and we were great mates who had not one moment on each others nerves, what would we talk about now? Do we actually have anything in common??? I think we will be alright there.
Day 16 We had a nice early morning rising on a glorious morning with Steep Point all to ourselves, or so we thought. There was little in the way of swell, so the sound of the waves on the cliffs was pretty dull, however every now and then, there was a sharp crack. Assuming it was a wave crashing in a cave and catching the air, we disregarded it, until we glanced at the water... About 50m off the cliffs was a nice little family of whales, basking in the morning sun and slapping their flippers on the water. We had ample opportunity to get cameras out as, obligingly, the whales disappeared - for a moment - before they set themselves soaring out of the water for a majestic display of breaching. It was a great experience to have Mr and Mrs Whale and the kids come by and say thanks for visiting, see you later.
I will now be short, as the rest of the trip goes like this. AN uneventful ride out, proudly on the pegs the whole way where we retrieved our kit and I gave my jerry cans to some passing by fishermen (I wanted the space to pack my riding gear when I freighted my bike back). We rode out of Shark Bay, saying goodby to the dirt that had been our friend for so long, distracting us from big mile days, and onto the tarmac, stopping only to put air back in the tyres. Tarmac riding to Geraldton was a killer because it is sooooooo boring. I can easily rack up 750km on dirt and feel great but 400km on a straight tarmac road had me fidgeting and feeling distracted and uncomfortable. I should have rode on the dirt verge to keep me interested - tarmac riding is dangerous. Geraldton on a Sunday night does not have much of a night life to celebrate with, we tried every establishment in town, but it still resulted in an early night.
Day 17 was similar, we had brekkie in Geraldton then bee lined it to Perth, stopping only briefly to splash 5lt of fuel - just to be safe. We rode straight to the freight company (Direct Freight - thanks guys) who are near the airport, changed into our well worn one outfit while the guys packed our bikes into containers and then they dropped us to the airport. From arriving at the freight yard, I was changed and checked in for a flight to Sydney within 2 hours. I made good use of my small amount of Frequent Flyer points for an upgrade and was business class the whole way home - I actually wanted the flight to last longer! On the evening of the 17th day, I arrived home to a poster on the front door fromthe kids, welcoming me home - perfect ending.
There are more photos and videos at:
Great pics and ride report.:clap
Great story, adventure of a life time
Between Bourke and Tibooburra
Innaminka Road House
Bourke and Wills Dig Tree camp site on the Cooper - recommended
Cordillo Downs Wool Shed
Road to Birdsville
Detour to Big Red
Start of the Simpson
Birdsville Race Track
Gibber plains on the Birdsville Track
Went wrong on a hill climb near Lake Harry - 50 or so km shy of Marree
Dust in the tent - Coward Springs
Old Ghan rail line
Rockets at William Creek
Our aircraft for the hour
William Creek Steak Sanga
Old Ghan about 60km short of Oodnadatta
Sunrise about 60km north of Oodnadatta
Old Peak telegraph station
Centre of Asutralia
Chambers Pillar on Finke
Lasseters Cave - couldnt find the reef of gold...
Great Central Road emergency airstrip
Link's biggest off was 8km from the finish line...
Western Most Point
Me at Steep Point
We watched the sun rise over the Pacific, and set under the Indian
We made it!
Last dirt of the trip - the road back out of Shark Bay
Short video of the trip
Nice report and some great photos too.
Awesome choice for bikes - how did you find them?
I had done a fair bit of work to the bike, the single biggest improvements, and a must do if your going on a trip like that, was the suspension - hyperpro progressive on the front and Ohlins on the rear - they changed the bike in a massive way.
Fantastic report and great photo's fella's, that trip is now on my bucket list too
Great report :clap
Thanks for posting
Great report, thanks! Got to luv the fuel economy of the Tenere for those long sections.
This report went straight to the pool room. Nice work!
Great ride and RR. Shame about the inconsistant quality control at Mitas. Great tyres one day, then they disintegrate the next. I've had similar issues with Michelin T63s coming out of the Czecho factory too.
Tenere... what else?? :D
If Yamaha ever brings it here I'll be at the door waiting :evil
Great trip! Thanks for sharing. :rofl
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