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Old 10-18-2012, 10:55 PM   #16
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Joined: Apr 2006
Location: AUS
Oddometer: 1,857
Fan-bloody-tastic....what an AWESOME read!
Got the whole home-tribe glued to the screen here, waiting impatiently for updates.

Go, Birtles, Go!!
A Dozen Years Of Adventures
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Old 10-20-2012, 09:04 AM   #17
platypus121 OP
CT.110 NZ
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Joined: Nov 2007
Location: Hamilton, New Zealand
Oddometer: 106
Birtles vs Australia


In which Birtles traverses the DDR, Teddies fail to impress, we visit a House of Horror,
and small Creatures create a big annoyance.

After a disturbed night I wake feeling unrested. Outside the ambos are working
quickly and quietly to remove the bodies of three campers who fell to the Koalas
last night. Next to Birtles’ front wheel the lifeless body of a Koala looks as if it has
had a blow to the head - Grimpeur’s fists are bloody and his usually well groomed
fur is ruffled.

“Fought til die” Peggie proudly explains.
“… !!!!!! …” exclaims Ringie.
Grimpeur is deep in thought - a Koala, even a savage one, is a relation.

We make a quick exit from Springsure to avoid being delayed by police who are
arriving at the scene of the attacks.

The Dawson Development Road starts well enough but quickly degenerates to
a state that has me remembering the tank-cracker track out of Thargomindah
but the scenery more than compensates for the road.

There are bare grasslands and thick clumps of trees, dried riverbeds and flooded
paddocks, and always in the distance are the escarpments and cliffs that never
seem to get any closer. Cores of old volcanoes push up from the plains up like
pimples about to burst, pulling my eyes into the distance. Under our wheels, an
ever-changing surface pulls them back again. We are riding over rock and dirt
and sand and mud, sometimes singly, sometimes in combination, it is always
changing and always trying to deflect Birtles’ wheels from the straight and true.

Major Mitchell passed through here on one of his explorations in 1846. I know
this must be true because between the sign and the road you can see droppings
from his camel. I’ve spotted his camel's droppings all over the place and am
really impressed with how the Major and his camel got to all those places, especially
as there were no roads in those days.

We are riding over what once was the wagon route from Springsure to the
Barcoo, constructed in 1866. Since then (the billboard half way to Tambo
informs me) the road was upgraded in 1874, 1877, and lastly in 1879.
That could explain what we now encounter, the worst surface yet, one that
started its life as soft mud, was rutted by 4WDs while still wet, then dried out
and had the ruts filled by drifting sand - tricky.

Still, there’s nothing that a hearty meal can’t make right. The compacted
bread idea has been extended to raisin bread. Tasty, but goes a bit squishy
when it is being compressed and the slices don’t separate cleanly.

I’m pleased that Wills’ grave is far from the road so that the morbidly curious
will not disturb the peace and drop plastic bags from their raison bread all over
the place. I pass up the side trip and settle instead for imagining what could
be done if I had that ladder.

T 120
Whoo-hoo, halfway there!

More escarpments, still looking as if they are the same distance away from
me as they were a hundred kilometers ago.

Almost in Tambo and the road is getting better all the time.

Attached to the dingo fence ….
“Macropod Harvesting” / “Harvester” …. who are they kidding?

Nine and a half hours after leaving Springsure ….

… and we know what’s in Tambo, don’t we?

Here’s a clue …

A Teddy Bear factory anywhere seems the most unlikely of things. That there
is one in Tambo seems downright improbable, yet all the advertising says it is
there, right on the main street.

I’m looking forward to seeing a room full of clattering, industrial size sewing
machines with skilled operators bent over them, all concentrating on getting
each limb realistically curved, each stomach convincingly stuffed, every growler
securely installed, each pair of expressive eyes stitched on in the anatomically
correct position.

Then there will be the shelves filled with finished bears, all unique, sitting attentively
in rows waiting for that special someone to walk into the factory.

The reality is a small shop with a workbench that doubles as sales counter, a couple
of household sewing machines, a handful of (understandably) un-adopted bears in
unnatural positions, and a distant and disinterested woman who seems to be the
only employee. The last time I felt so disappointed was when I was six and my parents
said I couldn’t have a saxophone for christmas.

To reward Grimpeur after his effort last night, I buy him a bumper sticker:

“When All Else Fails, Hug Your Teddy”.

Close by is Fanny’s Rest Stop, run, as often seems to be the case in country towns,
by a backpacker, and in this instance an Irish one. Coffee and various home-mades
are consumed to test Fanny’s advertised claim, but it is impossible to draw a conclusion
as the raisin bread from earlier may have been interfering with the experiment.

Scientific investigation over, we ride off into the sunset.

And spend the night at Tambo Caravan Park where we meet Lyall and Kaye,
caravanners from Forbes, at a campfire get-together organized by the park manager.
Not really my thing, discussing caravan hitching, annex erection, and reversing
techniques, but the manager was friendly and I go along for a few minutes just
to prove willing.


Birtles has fuel for about 400 kilometres, but we top up whenever we can. At Blackall,
home of that other black stump and just 100 km from Tambo, we meet Clive who is
heading west for a tour on his HD. His load of camping gear is mostly well aft of the
rear wheel, held on by some very small occy straps and some very big luck. Clive heads
off before me with that eardrum shattering thrumble beloved of HD riders and
despised by the rest of the planet.

Birtles putters out of the serviced area a few minutes later, after stopping for a
pigeon who didn’t hear us coming.

This guy, Larry I think, watches us go by from the top of his post, so we go
back and return the compliment.

Man-made sculpture : Eagle and nest / metal.

Nature-made sculpture : Dead tree / wood.

Isisford has turned its disused shops into displays.
The grocery is fine, no problem at all, nothing scary here.

But, avoid the bakery if you are of nervous disposition, it is definitely in the Twilight Zone.
Baskets of realistic loaves in the window invite you into a dim world where oven doors
hang hungrily open, old baking tools look like they intend a lot more mischief than
turning a loaf, and mannequins watch your every move, moving slightly in the corner
of the eye then freezing when you look directly at them. Dust on the mannequins would
show that they are just displays, but these guys are clean of anything that suggests immobility.

This place has me looking over my shoulder - it’s enough to make a screaming child quiet
and a quiet child scream.

Ma is sharpening something out the back, she’ll be back soon.
Meanwhile, meet the Baker Boys and their Sister …

Spot the odd-one-out ?

Isisford river-side camping area.
The number of people at free campsites always surprises. Would they be here,
spending money in town, if there were no campsite - I wouldn’t. A small town
without a free camping area is really loosing out. Free-campers are the scrooges
of the nomad world, but they still have to eat, drink, refuel, and buy the latest
Woman’s Weekly to catch up on what Camilla is up to.

Allen and Judy, Taswegians, doing the mainland.
They invite me to breakfast - two cups of coffee don’t bode well for mid-morning.

Not your typical country person … (most have their fridges inside)


Crikey! What a hard luck story, this guy is really down on his luck, poor bugger.
I feel so sorry for him (especially the empty fride bit) that I go in to give him a
helping hand or at least a consoling word or two, and find that there is at least
one good thing left in his life - his dogs are alive and can run really, really fast.

At Ilfracombe the "mechanical mile" display of old machinery and farm implements
along the main road is not a mile long - “mechanical kilometer” just doesn’t have the
same ring to it - but it is well worth wandering along if you like heavy metal.

The head winds are at work, doing their best to slow Birtles. I worked out a way
to estimate frontal wind speed using ear sensitivity. My helmet needs me to put
in ear plugs at about 70kph in calm weather: today they were called for at about
45kph, so frontal wind = 25kph. (patent pending)

Burn-off crews are taking advantage of the wind, firing the strip between the road
and the railway line, using the road as a fire-break.

“Summer-time, when the livin’ is easy”
Kites, circling through the smoke and watching for anything escaping the flames.

Into Longreach from the east, the first things to come into sight are the town’s
two trademarks - the Stockman's Hall of Fame and the Qantas Museum.
Saw both from the outside only, but that was enough.

But I did look long and hard at the sculpture of the cowboy outside the Stockmans
Hall of Fame, especially at that arm holding the saddle over his shoulder.

It is 36 degrees, I’m down to the bare minimum of protective gear …. and …
my hair changed today. I started the trip with hair short enough that a haircut
on the road would not be needed so there has been a lot of head shaking and
twisting to stop hair bristling against the helmet. Today there was none of this.
Has there been a sudden spurt of hair growth - was it Allan's breakfast?
Has the heat made my hair limp and flexible - or expanded the helmet?

There was a down-side to this new found comfort - I now sport helmet hair,
long enough that, after a morning of manipulation by the helmet lining, it forms
eye-catching, though never appealing, shapes.

It was in the early stages and a quick trim would nip it in the bud, but that would
mean a return of the bristling. No, better to stay comfortable, let it grow and live with
the consequences - which really weren’t so bad. So what if people look you in the
hair and not the eye? So what if after looking you in the hair they smile to themselves,
turn to their friend, and then they both look you in the hair and laugh? Strange really -
if I were a punk rocker with a nose ring and “Johnny Dole and the Scabs” tattooed on
my forehead they wouldn’t bat an eyelid.

Reckon they must be envious of my carefree life on the road.




Further off road

Just how Mick the caravan park manager at Winton, who otherwise appears to be a
decent bloke, can say this is a full caravan site without laughing beats me but it is a
good learning experience - I discover the joys of pitching a tent over an ants’ nest.

Birtles gets new oil, chain adjusted, and a nuts and bolts inspection. Battery voltage
is next to zero under the lightest load, maybe charged to death by the long distance runs.
No wonder my 12V charging systems don't work. Nothing in Winton, ditto Boulia tomorrow
for sure. Birtles will have to wait until Mount Isa the day after tomorrow for a new battery.

The ants invade, the tent is covered. They are unable to get through the insect mesh -
unless I want to get in or out. They post guards at the zip so that every time I touch it
they signal the troops and hundreds dash in as I dash in. Sometimes, for a change,
hundreds dash in as I dash out, however, any combination of movements involving
ants dashing out seems to be against their philosophy.

As the light fades, Ringie and Peggie, convinced of Grimpeur’s power after the Koala
incident, and impressed by his still bloody fist, stay close to him for protection as ants
make their way over Birtles.

To be continued ……

BigZoner #096 (English Chapter)
"Keep brotherhood till die"

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Old 10-22-2012, 03:08 PM   #18
platypus121 OP
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Location: Hamilton, New Zealand
Oddometer: 106
Birtles vs Australia


ACT 10 : Winton to Three Ways Road House

In which we survive the Min Min Lights, enjoy a hotel meal, see floating hills and
two big chimneys, agree with Brian, and there is a decision.

Been a bit remiss with maps. Here is the route to the end of Act 10.

( Melbourne to Corowa has been generalized a bit: for the exact route
of this section, see )


The wind blows the ants off Birtles, and all that is moving with him, as we start
along the Kennedy Development Way towards the Hamilton Hotel ruins, 78 kilometres
before Boulia. (Development Ways must be further up the roading ladder than
Development Roads as this way is sealed, albeit in single lanes in places).

This is a road of many names. As well as being the KDW, it is also Highway 62,
and most excitingly …… The Min Min Way …….

Yes indeed, it’s a strange road, a mysterious and surreal road, a path to be trod
only by the bravest and most foolhardy, a road that haunts any who take it lightly.
Oh yes, the Min Min Way, where unearthly balls of light are said to …….. well, anyway,
just read the sign below ….

Allen, back at breakfast in Isisford, told me about this road, this strange road … etc.
He said he had expected at any moment to see John Wayne riding by as the middle
section was so like the scenery in Western movies. Now, seeing John Wayne out here -
that would be surreal.

Before we are able to meet Mr Wayne, we pass “The Grove”. I had to wonder … did
the farmer name it as an act of defiance, a rebellion against nature’s miserliness with
trees in this area?

Then, just like that, 168 km from Winton we are upon the Middleton Hotel, a welcome
sight after so much empty space.

Last night I had phoned to see if there was fuel at Middleton. There is, but only in
amounts that can be hand pumped into a jerry can and then transferred to the vehicle
as the electric pump was broken. Birtles is topped up using this method and I am
asked how much I think it was - we agree that it was more than four, but less than
five litres. Such is the slow and easy-going approach to life here. Cost per litre is the
same as at Winton, so no price gouging here.

Opposite the hotel another old building is jokingly labeled "Hilton Hotel". Maybe they
haven’t heard of the Hilton chain’s tendency to sue over the use of the “H” word, or
more likely they have, but are not bothered being so far from anyone or anything else.
Even after just an hour I have a feeling of being separate from the rest of the world, that
Middleton is real and everything else is so distant that it has no importance any more.

That could be the heat as today the helmet has been getting warm inside, what with
the extra hair. As a precaution there is an increase of calorie intake with a counter lunch.
Very nice it was, too.

Do I chance it and head off the road to this Point of Interest?
How far away it is, or even what it is were never discovered.

As the temperature rises, so do the hills on the horizon - or at least they appear to
do so, becoming separated from the ground by the same refraction that causes
mirages and the Min Min lights.

It’s a lonely delivery route for a postie out here.

Cawnpore Lookout.
We waited for at least 40 minutes, but Mr Wayne did not ride by.

Hamilton Hotel ruins rest stop. Plans to stop here overnight were scuppered by
the wind. It was so strong that even behind the shelter I couldn’t get the tent up,
so it’s on to Boulia.

Old machinery parts recycled as a station name stand. Without these markers
we would pass farm entry tracks without even noticing. Giving instructions on
how to get to a station with a marker like this must be simple and clear -
“215 kilometers past Winton, turn right at the 1948 Chevy driveshaft that’s
holding up a bifurcated nangler bobbin, then down the track for 267 kilometres”.

Sun-bathing lizards want to play chicken with Birtles. Both are moved to safety
at the side of the road but I suspect they return as soon as we leave.

Boulia water tank and windmill

I have a mission in Boulia - to find a Wadi tree. Way back in Corowa when we
had dinner with David and Helen I learned of their interest in rare Australian trees.
The rarest of these is the Wadi. Boulia school is meant to have a specimen in its
grounds. We find the school, we find the school grounds, we find the trees:
which one is the Wadi we cannot say. But, since we have seen all the trees,
we must have seen a Wadi.

Excellent ! That’s one more to tick off my bucket list.

Boulia Emergency Services, ready for the next flood.

Dajarra, half way between Boulia and Mount Isa, another place I thought to stay at,
where neither the windswept camping area nor the tiny green corrugated iron
rooms at the Dajarra Road House ($90) are inviting.

When I filled up at Boulia this morning, I asked whether there was much at Dajarra.
The reply was - “Haaa!”. As replies go, this one displayed an economy of words,
but it did paint a clear picture of what was to be expected at Dajarra.

A longer reply might have gone: “Well hi there, stranger, in the heyday of the
railroads, Dajarra shipped more cattle than any other town in the world.
Then the road trains killed all that off and now there’s not much there, just a
road house and a school.”

But what a school! 42 pupils, 2 teachers, 5 teachers aides, 1 administration officer,
1 cleaner, 1 grounds person, and 1 principal - one employee for every 3.8 pupils.
Were all those ex-cattle wranglers from the good old days re-employed in the education field?

Birtles insists on riding on the Donohue. We do about a kilometre of it so he
can cross that off his bucket list.

Gibber plains occur every so often. Their polished stones glittering in the sun
like fields of glass chips do terrible things to the camera’s metering system.
Definitely Ray Ban territory.

That’s better, F11 at 1/250

We buy a new battery for Birtles at Bike and rider in Mount Isa where there is a HD
being loaded into the back of a people carrier. It is Clive from Blackall who has has
punctured his rear tyre. No-one in Isa had a tyre for it so he flew back to Brisbane,
drove his van to Isa, and will finish his tour with the HD in the back. Not sure why he
didn't fly back with a new tyre.

Mount Isa from the town lookout.
Sometimes a single structure represents a city. The Eiffel Tower for Paris,
the Opera House for Sydney, and for Mount Isa it’s these two huge chimney
stacks at the mine’s processing plants.

Overhead whistling kites circle in the updrafts. Dozens of attempts to finally
get one in frame and in focus.

Crows wait on the lamp stands until a bird beneath finds a tasty morsel, then they
dive on it and steal the food. This one is starting his attack.

Mount Isa caravan park has many permanent residents and one tells me he has
been there for 27 years, during which time two wives and four children have all left
to live elsewhere. Got to be a moral in there somewhere.

This one’s set up for the long haul, too, by the look of those potted plants.

Three days is just a blink of an eye to the long-termers, but that is what I book in for.
Long enough to do what I want to do in “The Isa” - look for these fellows, trilobite fossils.

About 30 kilometres into the back blocks west of Mount Isa on the Mays Downs
road is the Templeton River. Anyone with a hammer, a cold chisel and a bit of patience,
can find fossils of trilobites along the dry river bed.
The photo above is of trilobites I collected on two previous visits to the Templeton.
It’s a huge thrill to split a rock to reveal a fossil laid down at least 250 million years
ago, and I want more of it.

There is a hitch - although mining companies do have ways of getting their thrills,
they don’t include fossil hunting and have placed a manned barricade across the
start of the Mays Down Road. The road is a public one, but the area has become
of interest to the mine, and entry is by written permission of the company.
An application can be lodged, says the guard, might get a reply in a couple of
weeks, might be lucky.

How much ore do they think I can smuggle out on Birtles?

High on my list of camping principles is never to stay longer than necessary at any
place that restricts my fossil hunting, so back at camp I donate the new hammer and
cold chisel to a guy at the next site and shorten my stay. The mining company’s
autocratic behaviour has brassed me off so much that purchasing the latest Australian
Woman’s Weekly is delayed until the next town.

In the early hours of the morning the new owner of a hammer and cold chisel arrives
back at his tent, noisily packs up and leaves, but not before informing any awake
(or woken) at that hour “Not staying in this bloody hole!” Something must have
really brassed him off too - though he didn’t look like a fossil hunting type.

Having got equipped and primed for the hunt then not being able to go ahead
with it is frustrating, so I put the thwarted hunting skills to work at the rest stops
on the way to Camooweal.

This shelter is new, so my quarry was not to be found here. Older shelters on the
other hand provide a rich hunting ground for what I am looking for - the best
graffito I can find.

There are walls, roofs and posts full of the usual stuff -
“Jacko loves Amy”, “Bing and the boys were here”, “Amy loves Bing”.

Some give hard-won advice -
“Don’t break down here it’s a mother of a hot place”.

Most are short and to the point, a few are more descriptive -
“Cracko, Cilla, Phil and Tessy heading to Brissie in the bangwagon”.

None, though, sum up the unspoken doctrine behind every road trip
better than Brian does …

Probably weeds … look nice anyway.

State #4 falls to the power of Birtles.

As we enter the Northern Territory our usual speed is now exactly half the speed limit.

Took a while to work out what the SH stood for. As the long straight roads drag on
we decide what it really means … “Sh*t, still 400 km to go!”

At Barkly Roadhouse we met Bazza who is riding around Australia on a pushbike.
Birtles' motor stalls in disbelief, I fall at his feet and tell him he is a Hero.
Anyone who can average 100 kilometers a day on a pushie for months on end,
through heat and rain and flies and road trains is a Hero with a capital letter.

Back at Mount Isa I met Lyall and Kaye for the second time. The third encounter
at Barkly RH calls for a photo. It takes precise timing to release the shutter at the
exact moment both are blinking !

The BRH camp area has shade and concrete pads for caravans, so it is an ideal
place to fit the fresh back tyre that until now has been a passenger, and to give
Birtles a good going over.

A slow start the next morning. Bazza is already heading for the gate while I load Birtles,
and even a busload of touring couples are ready to go, queuing along the side of their
coach, and inching forward as two-by-two they climb aboard. The wives look happy,
the husbands look like they would rather be back home mucking around in the garage
with the Black and Decker.

Low cost cattle grid.

Broken brain-like structures litter the sides of the road. They are the smashed remains
of termite nests, knocked down when the verges are mowed.

A few kilometers from BRH the tour coach overtakes. Before the rumble of its diesel
motor at the rear drowns it out I hear singing and imagine the scene inside.
Happy wives are in the aisle seats, leaning inwards to get a better view of Damien,
the effeminate (but really rather sweet) tour guide who is leading them through
“Roll out the Barrel” for the second time. In the window seats silent husbands lean
forward, fixing their eyes on the road ahead in the hope of getting a glimpse of any
hitch hikers Brian may have overlooked. On the straight road the bus remains in view
for several minutes, but as it eventually winks out into the heat haze I catch the distant
lilting strains of “We’ll Meet Again”.

Much further down the road than expected, Bazza appears as a day-glo green blob
floating above the asphalt. A quick chat and I leave him to his work - he should be at
Three Ways by the close of play tomorrow.

Birtles and I are there now, at Three Ways, a busy yet lonely place at the junction
of the Barkly and Stuart Highways where the walls display bumper stickers asking
“Where the F##k is Three Ways?” Birtles doesn’t want another sticker. He already
has a Tallest Bar one from Merriwagga and “When All Else Fails, Hug Your Teddie”
from Tambo.

The reward for running these outposts is a monopoly on passing trade - which means
the trade from every person who passes by, as few pass 3W without stopping. It’s the
only game in town and there are vehicles to top up, bladders to empty, and stomachs to
fill with food that has yet to receive a tick of approval from the Healthy Heart Foundation.

Without roadhouses like this, whole tribes of nomads would be hungry, bursting, and static.
They hold all the cards and, through price tags that startle the unwary, let you know that they
know it (and don’t give a damn if you know that they know that you know).

They may be essential, even offering cunningly worded bumper stickers and seven
varieties of fatty food, but no traveler stays for long. With vessels full or empty according
to need, he moves on, escaping heat, flies, and boredom. Backpackers are the
exception, working towards their next stopping point, dreaming of the day they can
afford to make it to Brisbane, Uluru, Darwin, or to fly home. They all but run the
roadhouses, which is fine by me …. “Pump three - six dollars fifty, please” in a
Swedish accent makes three hundred kilometers of corrugated road bearable
and proves Brian had the right idea.

I stay longer than needed. My warm Burger-With-It-All becomes a cold
Burger-Without-It-All when the contents spill out, four ways, but there is something
more important than eating to do here. For days, I have been trying to reach a
decision: logic, emotion, and meditation have searched for the answer and failed.
Now there is only one thing left to do, I go outside to where Birtles is waiting.

“If all else fails …”

In full view of the KTM riders in colour-coded gear, and the diners looking up
from their Burgers-With-(or possibly Without)-It-All, I lean over Birtles’ handle bars and …

… Hug my Teddy.

To be continued …………..

BigZoner #096 (English Chapter)
"Keep brotherhood till die"

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Old 10-22-2012, 04:52 PM   #19
Be aware
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Location: Los Alamitos, CA
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You are a wordsmith Sir. Thank you for the smiles & giggles.
Interesting photos too.
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Old 10-22-2012, 05:03 PM   #20
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Location: Rotoiti, New Zealand
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Go Birtle, go!

Your prose & illustrations are most entertaining & I eagerly await the next installment!

'03 KTM 640 LC4 Enduro

The wilderness, the desert - why are they not crowded
.................................................. .....with pilgrims?
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Old 10-22-2012, 09:45 PM   #21
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More of the good stuff, another "daily dose". Yayyy.....Go, Birtles, GO!!
A Dozen Years Of Adventures
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Old 10-23-2012, 12:02 AM   #22
Gnarly Adventurer
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Really digging this. Nice ride and nice write up.
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Old 10-23-2012, 03:34 AM   #23
platypus121 OP
CT.110 NZ
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Location: Hamilton, New Zealand
Oddometer: 106

Thanks for the feedback, glad you are enjoying the yarn.

BigZoner #096 (English Chapter)
"Keep brotherhood till die"
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Old 10-23-2012, 06:00 AM   #24
Malcolm Van Hilten
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Thanks for the laughs and taking the time to write!
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Old 10-23-2012, 08:48 AM   #25
David Lee
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Great ride report, really enjoying it.

Hope the four of your stay safe and well
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Old 10-24-2012, 07:42 AM   #26
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Now I know how Victorian England must have felt waiting for the next installment of the Pickwick Papers or Little Dorritt. Birtles... come back
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Old 10-24-2012, 12:21 PM   #27
platypus121 OP
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Originally Posted by Owlseye View Post
Now I know how Victorian England must have felt waiting for the next installment of the Pickwick Papers or Little Dorritt. Birtles... come back

Why Sir, you make me blush.
Next you'll say that I play the bagpipes as well as Mozart !

Not Pickwick or Dorrit ... I think you meant "A Tale of Two Sissies"

BigZoner #096 (English Chapter)
"Keep brotherhood till die"
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Old 10-24-2012, 06:02 PM   #28
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Location: Montville
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Hey Bernard,
Great report.
FYI those birds you photo'd aren't Wedge Tail Eagles but Whistling Kites. Eagles are about 5 times as big but I'm sure you saw some of those too along the way.

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Old 10-24-2012, 08:31 PM   #29
platypus121 OP
CT.110 NZ
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Location: Hamilton, New Zealand
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Originally Posted by 456eec View Post
Hey Bernard,
Great report.
FYI those birds you photo'd aren't Wedge Tail Eagles but Whistling Kites. Eagles are about 5 times as big but I'm sure you saw some of those too along the way.

Hi Justin,

The kites are what wedge tails look like in my mind - got the wrong idea years ago and haven't been able to shake it.
I'm writing up the next section in which I meet some real wedge tails and you are so right ... they are huge !

BigZoner #096 (English Chapter)
"Keep brotherhood till die"
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Old 10-25-2012, 07:53 PM   #30
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Birtles vs Australia

ACT 11 Three Ways to Alice Springs

In which we learn Aboriginal place names, see balancing rocks and aliens, farewell Thermy, and meet Kota.


Kunjarra (Devil’s Pebbles) is a quiet place, which is understandable. Why drive off the
main road to see a miniature version of the Devil’s Marbles when the real thing is just a bit
further on, next to the highway? It lacks the grandeur of the five big attractions of the central area:

Uluru (Ayers Rock),
Kata Tjuta (The Olgas),
Karlu Karlu (Devil’s Marbles),
Watarrka (Kings Canyon),
Tennant Creek YHA (Tennant Creek YHA).

But right now, for me, that is a good thing. When I arrive there is nobody else
here and it stays that way until I leave.

We are at Kunjarra because earlier, at Three Ways, Birtles turned left and headed
south down the Stuart Highway rather than following the original plan and turning
right / north to Katherine and then Western Australia. It is a pity to miss seeing WA,
but with the time lost on the diversion to Brisbane, going around WA would mean a
series of long riding days with little time to spare. The Quilpi to Brisbane stint showed
what back to back 350+ kilometre days would be like: pack up camp / ride for 7 hours /
set up camp. Heading south allows time for the sightseeing that is the purpose of
the trip and for more than one day at locations that appeal. There are locations east
and west of Alice that really appeal, and who knows, the Oodnadatta Track is down
that way, isn’t it?

Sue’s advice from back home to “Be safe and have fun” had already swayed me towards
the less rushed option, and Grimpeur’s comment outside the Three Ways roadhouse
confirmed the decision to head south -

“Climb, Climb! … Climb Uluru…. please?”

Swallows are clever little buggers - I couldn’t make a home out of mud and spit.

It is quiet here in the sense that there is an absence of noise. There are sounds - birds,
insects, wind - in harmony with the environment and non-intrusive, although this
suggests that while the sounds blend in, they are still separate to the visual scene.
They are not. The sounds here are like pieces of a jigsaw - essential to complete the
picture and if missing their absence would be more obvious than their presence.

After walking around the Pebbles, I sit and try to engage with the area, to appreciate
what it meant to the original inhabitants - a place that influenced and enforced customs
and rites that a westerner would label “religious” or “spiritual”, but were in fact as
inseparable from everyday life as the sounds around me are from the scenery.
Surely I can empathise with it?

It doesn’t work. I cannot open a space in my mind big enough for the old to enter.
The comfortable baggage of my life is piled high and resists being pushed aside,
even for a moment.

One thing that can be appreciated is the time it must have taken to decorate
these 44-gallon drums that serve as rubbish bins ….

… and my bushtracking skills are definitely improving.
Once this would have appeared to be just a confused jumble of boot prints,
but now I can interpret the finer detail … it’s a confused jumble of boot prints
and a motorcycle track !

What made these 4, 3, and 2-toed foot prints I do not know.
(Actual footprints, as photographed).

Tennant Creek. Other travelers seemed to see TC as a place to avoid. True, it
does have a presence about it that could be intimidating. People here act in
unexpected ways that the outsider can regard positively (as local ambience)
or negatively (as threatening behaviour).

I go for the local ambience interpretation but still have a struggle to suppress
my reactions to some of what I saw.

Even better decorated bins in TC. Won’t be long before these are being
sold as works of art.

Drumming performance by a school group in TC. They are good. At one
point there seem to be two strands of rhythms at slightly different tempos,
interweaving, now reinforcing, now negating each other.

It’s the Tennant Creek YHA for the night to see if the reviews on the internet
about the place are true. Yes, it is grubby, but it is cheap and friendly and that’s
about all I expect. Eccentric decorations and sculptures fill every nook and cranny.

Just out of TC we stop at a mining museum and Birtles spots just the job
for his next tyre change.

The Devil’s Marbles are unavoidable unless you drive with you eyes closed.
Their reserve abuts the highway and the unenergetic can stay in the car with
the air conditioning on and still be able to say they have been there, seen that.

I turn off Birtles’ air conditioning and wander into the reserve through needle sharp spinifex.

At Wauchope pub-come-roadhouse old meets new in this telescopic-sighted spear.

This is he only four-trailer road train I see. It passes me a couple of kilometers
out of Wauchope, still working its way up through the gears.

This is what greets you at Wycliffe Well, but don’t be put off, it gets much better
around the back in the camping area which is brilliant - except for the animal
poo all over the place.

Aliens, Elvis, the Hulk and gangsters are some of the statuary. There is a real
steam locomotive, Brahman cattle and lots of bird life. There are the sad imprisoned
birds but at least the enclosures are large, free birds in the trees above, and a flock
of wandering bantams who find my tent irresistible. There are emus that strut about
and boom, and a tired looking donkey - the author of all that poo.

The shop is staffed by two cheerful Japanese girls who operate as a team,
playing table tennis with my english words until they have a translation that
fits the situation. Making a purchase is slow if you want anything that cannot
be pointed to. White Chocolate Tim Tams are particularly difficult.

While they volley “Tim Tams” back and forth there is time to read the walls.
Not graffiti but decades of newspaper clippings reporting local paranormal happenings.
Hundreds of them. There didn’t seem to be a mention of Min Min, but everything else has
been sighted from saucers and almond shaped eyes through to The King. When I
tear myself away from this imaginative social record the girls are level pegging at deuce.
I make it easy on them and change my order to something that can be pointed to.

The donkey poo, the aliens, the girls playing ping-pong, the icy swimming pool ….
Wycliffe Well is just the thing to break the monotony of the Stuart Highway.

The cooling waters have come too late for Thermy, my Boys’ Own Thermometer
who has cracked up in the heat. We should have seen it coming, his temperature
had been high for days. To give the rest of the party a better chance, we decide
not to carry his body with us but to inter him in a rubbish bin at Wycliffe Well.
Farewell, Thermy.

On the way to Barrow Creek a group of eagles challenge Birtles’ passage.
They observe our approach and stay put, probably judging that since there
are four of them, they can finish off the whole kangaroo well before we get to
them. At fifty metres three lose their nerve and fly off leaving one to clean the
plate. He (no discrimination against female eagles is intended: the bird is being
referred to as “he” simply for convenience, and “he” could just as easily been
“she”, but I had to make a choice as “it” sounds so impersonal, don’t you think?)
is unhappy. He glares at me, Birtles slows to a crawl. At twenty meters he rises
into the wind, doesn't make forward progress from the standing start but rises
high enough to pass over my helmet. There is a brief close-up of long powerful
legs and talons that could take my helmet clean off. I imagine him carrying it high
before dropping it on the road to crack it open for a second course, a little
something for when the kangaroo is all gone. Birtles wobbles off into the bush
with the rest of me still aboard.

But… not before being seen by several Grey Nomads who report their sighting.
Soon another clipping appears on Wycliffe Well’s para-normal display:
"Headless Alien on 2-Wheeled Saucer".

Barrow Creek. Some strange goings on here a few years ago, too. By the number
of cars at the road house, it’s been good for business.

Ti Tree. A troupe of peacocks parade through the camp ground, fluffing up their
tails at anything that moves. Later they fly onto a water tank stand and a windmill
tower. Brian at camp (not the “looking for” Brian, unfortunately) knows about
peacocks and reckons that they came from India and spend their nights on the
highest thing around to avoid predators.

I’d do the same thing if I were in India.

Roadside colour.

That guy on the hill sure has a big spear. Aileron locals have taken the art of
stane-stack a few steps further. In the interests of modesty I avoid a frontal
view of the full-buttocked figure.

The winds are not so modest. South of Aileron they are fully frontal and ferocious.
Birtles struggles at full throttle to reach 55kph, yet Kota Takagi is making headway
into the wind at the rate of 90 kilometres per day.

He is on a long straight about 70kms from Alice when I pass and give him the
thumbs-up, then decide to stop. He quickly catches up, not showing any signs of exertion.

He doesn't need water but is hungry so I dig out my food cache and offer him
cheese and a packet of mixed nuts. Just down the road is a rest stop by the
meridian sculpture so there we have a Spartan lunch and find out about each other.

Kota is a Japanese student taking a 42 day break between his third and fourth
years of study to become a criminal lawyer. After the fourth year he will go straight
into a job. Holidays in Japan are regular but short so this is his one chance for an
overseas adventure. Riding a pushie from Darwin to Adelaide with a schedule of
90 kilometres a day no matter what is not everyone’s idea of a holiday to remember -
as with Bazza back at Barkly I think this guy must have something special.

To be continued ……….

BigZoner #096 (English Chapter)
"Keep brotherhood till die"
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