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Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by platypus121, Oct 8, 2012.
More of the good stuff, another "daily dose". Yayyy.....Go, Birtles, GO!!
Really digging this. Nice ride and nice write up.
Thanks for the feedback, glad you are enjoying the yarn.
Thanks for the laughs and taking the time to write!
Great ride report, really enjoying it.
Hope the four of your stay safe and well
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"
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.
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 !
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 (Devils Pebbles) is a quiet place, which is understandable. Why drive off the
main road to see a miniature version of the Devils 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 (Devils 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, isnt it?
Sues advice from back home to Be safe and have fun had already swayed me towards
the less rushed option, and Grimpeurs comment outside the Three Ways roadhouse
confirmed the decision to head south -
Swallows are clever little buggers - I couldnt 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 doesnt 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
its 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. Wont 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.
Its 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 thats
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 Devils 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 dont 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 didnt 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.
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, dont 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.
not before being seen by several Grey Nomads who report their sighting.
Soon another clipping appears on Wycliffe Wells 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, its 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.
Id do the same thing if I were in India.
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 everyones idea of a holiday to remember -
as with Bazza back at Barkly I think this guy must have something special.
To be continued
Excellent effort on the RR. You have a great sense of humour - I guess that is an essential requirement if you are doing this trip on a Postie
Great report - love the sense of humour but suspect that would be essential to do this trip on a Postie Did post this comment the other day but is seems to have vanished - sorry if it appears twice
I reckon if there was some way of making a sense of humour part of the driving licence test, there would be a lot fewer accidents on the road.
ACT 12 Alice Springs to Ross River Resort
In which we see ancient and modern art, ride on the Binns Track,
go 4WDing, and get a glimpse of paradise.
Aboriginal stylised paintings of caterpillars.
Red ochre and lime.
The white man leaves art work behind, too
Who could resist a wee fire ?
Trephina Gorge, about eight kilometres off the road.
Difficult to capture its scale with a basic camera.
Ghost Gum - 33 metres.
58 years old when Cook landed at Botany Bay.
Just before the Ross River Resort is a memorial to Terry Gill, aka Fish who
died here on his HD. The Fish Rally had gone through a couple of days before.
Ross River Resort
The set up here is the best yet, huge shady camping ground, grass, great
facilities, welcoming staff, staggering scenery. The main buildings are a little
separated from the camp area, housing a restaurant, bar, and smaller
rooms just for sitting and thinking.
Shane books me in and answers questions about nearby N'Dhala Gorge.
The gorge road passes the entrance to the camp ground and forms part of
the meandering Binns Track that reaches from Mt Dare to Timber Creek.
There are shallow water crossings and dry riverbed crossings, deep sand
and corrugations. Sand is a challenge to Birtles razor blade tyres, but ruts
left by a pushbike, sometimes with footprints alongside where it had been
pushed, make him determined to continue.
Last hurdle is a grid with a deadly approach, over deep ruts filled with large
stones before bumping up onto a metal grid, not a place to need to put a foot down.
Feet up, clutch slipping, Birtles complaining in first gear
and we are over.
Coming back is easier.
The gorge walk passes a few of the more than 6000 petroglyphs in the area
and takes all of the 1.5 hours stated on the guide sign. Many years ago I
needed only half the time allowance shown on these signs, but now I use
all of the suggested time - its good to see that whoever writes them is finally
getting more accurate.
The visitor book shows three visitors for the day, and this was the weekend,
so the gorge is not visited often, something to remember while crossing the
tricky bits on the return trip - especially as I sign the visitor book
"Birtles, Honda CT110 Postiebike, who needs a 4WD?"
Back at camp I let Shane know that The NDhala Gorge is accessible by an
old NZer on a Postiebike. He asks if I would like to join a 4WD tour he is about
to start with two other campers - of course I do.
We branch off the main road and pass the resorts bush camp - tent houses
for those that want to get even further away from it all. The trip is over rugged
4WD tracks from which we see the ranges from a different perspective.
Tomorrow there is a longer 4WD trip, and again I put up my hand.
Shane is manager of Ross River Resort, tour driver, mechanic, and also the chef.
If his cooking is as good as his driving, my bread and water diet can have
a rest tonight. It sure is: the meal is delicious and with mains and dessert
for $20 it is a great deal. For the rest of my stay, this is where I eat.
A rescued joey tucked up outside the door likes it here, too.
He joins in when the mood takes him.
The geology of the area is stunning.
One determined gum !
I stay for three days and would like to stay longer. It is not posh, despite
the resort in its name, but it is completely comfortable - physically, mentally
and socially. Nothing is too much bother. Whatever is needed you only have
to ask and there it is, as I found when I wondered about fossils in the area -
Shane remembers this and next day takes a diversion on the 4WD tour to
a likely site. The thing that really sells the place to me is the trust with which
guests are treated. Throughout my stay I eat, drink, take tours and use all
the facilities, yet am never asked to pay, just told to remember the items and
pay for them when I leave. When I call at the office on the last day and rattle
off the dinners, breakfasts, drinks and tours, my list is accepted without
question, except for the two 4WD tours
they are free, just part of the service !
On the last evening at Ross River Resort I walk part of the gorge road.
Returning to the tent as the sun is setting, I understand why Shane says
that even if he won the lottery, he couldn't find a better place to work.
He loves all his roles at the resort and is happiest when he is helping
guests enjoy their stay - that really is paradise
. but I have to leave.
To be continued
Great read, thanks for sharing birtles adventures
Ross River to Glen Helen
In which we see gaps, moan about changes, find a life-saving ring, pass
through fires and under cliffs.
A quick back-track to Alice starts the day. Fuel up, through the town, and
onto Namatjira Drive, heading west.
with its hard-to-spot rock wallabies.
A walkway has sprouted, there for visitors to follow. And follow they do,
taking the same path to, the same path back, and in between taking the
same photographs from the same positions.
The Gap has stood for hundreds of thousands of years through heat, cold,
drought and flood; people have passed through it for tens of thousands of
years: I am sure my footprints do not pose an environmental risk.
In defiance of forces that want to channel our every move along officially
approved paths, I walk down the middle of the riverbed. Oh, Im such a rebel !
Standley Chasm, where the walls glow bright red at mid-day.
The Chasm is even more developed, now it's a business. It was once a
wild clamber up the creek bed, over fallen trees and rocks to the chasm.
Now there are tracks, not quite wheelchair friendly yet, that let you know
this is no longer Outback, it is an attraction".
Pay to get in / follow the path / buy an ice cream at the kiosk. I cant find
the man giving donkey rides or the one running the merry-go-round -
they must be away at an administration meeting, deciding where to
put the candy-floss machine.
Splashes of colours, other than red, in pools at the foot of the chasm.
As I leave Standley Chasm a pall of smoke is spreading over the western
horizon. A controlled burn-off extends for about sixty kilometres - looks like
this one has made a bid for freedom.
Serpentine Gorge and Ormiston Gorge are passed by - I am all gorged-out.
The ochre pits also get a miss. It is not a long ride today, though the heat has
been tiring. My face tingles as sun over-powers sunscreen, and smoke
makes my eyes itch.
Even so, I cant resist an interesting place name, and Ellery Creek Big Hole
intrigues me - I want to know how big is big.
The fun police have beaten me here.
No diving ! No swinging from trees !
No fun please, keep to the path, no laughing !
Just a few meters from the no swinging sign
Im relieved to see it. So long as authority is told where it can stick its signs
and its granny-state instructions, there is still hope.
The tenacity with which plants cling to life out here is astonishing.
Gnarled roots and trunk seem to be hundreds of years old: fresh leaves
sprout from the branches. What caused such twisted growth, what will
it look in a hundred years?
Closing in on Glen Helen and the burn-off continues.
Glen Helen is impressive, set against a backdrop of sheer cliffs that are
pierced by a gorge just a few hundred metres from the resort.
There are three ways out of Glen Helen.
1. Back track to Alice on the sealed Namatjira Drive.
2. Continue west on dirt roads, then loop back to Alice via Hermannsburg
where the seal starts again on the Larapinta Drive.
3. The Mereenie Loop Road to Kings Canyon - 225 km, unsealed, sign-posted
4WD, and my maps show it as Permit required.
Should be an easy choice.
To be continued
Enjoy reading your report, hope to explore Australia some day.
Glen Helen to Kings Canyon
In which we lift-um-foot, see tennis balls the size of tennis balls (and a dingo
the size of a dingo), then make to the top the easy way.
Unilaterally, without discussing the options with Grimpeur, Ringie or
Peggie, a decision is made ..... The Mereenie Loop Road
How bad can it be? It’s twenty kilometers shorter than the Dawson Development
Road - that has to be a plus.
I’m up early to walk down the river to the gorge mouth for shots of the sunrise.
Charlie and John come by when I am back and packing up. They are NZers on
a longer trip than mine, planning to visit Hermansburg then take the Mereenie
Loop Road to Kings Canyon. This is the clincher to my decision. If I get away a
bit before them and skip Hermansburg, they will catch up with me about halfway
through the MLR and will be backup if I have trouble or fail to appear at camp
later in the day.
They do not have permits for the MLR, and know nothing about needing them.
Maybe my maps are out of date, maybe the requirement has changed - either way,
I’m not going to check. Ignorance is bliss … and easier. The last thing I want is a
concerned official listing reasons not to use the MLR.
Mount Sonder, just past Glen Helen
It wouldn’t be the MLR without a “Lift-um-foot” photograph.
Birtles needs it translated : “Un-twist-um-wrist”.
The riding today is a challenge, more trying than the Dawson Development Road,
which I thought was tough going at the time. For most of the way there is a choice
between corrugations which shake Birtles almost to bits, or sand that threatens
to upturn us at every second. For short stretches there are sections of grooved
rock, rough but preferable to the other two surfaces. We stop only at the observation
point for Gosse's Bluff and when the sand forces us to a standstill. I’m trying to
get as far along as possible before Charlie and John catch up.
Ever wonder where all the old tennis balls go ?
Birtles gets his end of day check at the Kings Canyon camp ground. He has done
well, no damage, just a couple of loose nuts - exactly how I feel after all the hammering.
John and Charlie have not appeared, but a bouncy lady does. She invites me,
and everyone else she passes, to the cafe later where she and her partner
are performing rock music. "It will be the only free thing you will get around here,"
she tells me. I hear them later in the evening, too far away to tell whether they
are in tune or not. Like bagpipes on a distant hill, it’s probably best that way.
Towards twilight, a dingo wanders into camp. A Large Man, looking pink
around the edges, emerges from the showers, sees it and yells
"There's a dingo in the camp! There's a dingo in the camp!"
So excited is Large Man that his voice breaks into a falsetto for the second
sentence; so excited are near-by children that they squeal and run in random
directions. Anxious parents chase after their children, catching them up into the
air out of harms way while Large Man struts, proud to have saved so many
from certain death, or worse. The dingo looks puzzled and walks into the bushes.
Later that night Mr Dingo returns to nose the area. He walks by my tent, looks
at me and passes within a couple of meters, not frightened or aggressive,
just cautious. Then, there is a call in the distance, he stops and listens, lifts
his head and returns the call with three long howls. It is a magnificent sound,
spine chilling in a wonderful way. I want hear it again, but he has orders from
mum - come home now - and he trots purposefully away.
Too late for a second dose of glory, Large Man reappears brandishing a torch,
sweeping it around the camp and, for some reason, into the lower branches
of trees. He moves in circles, flashing this way, that way, and up, eager to
save even more campers from the lurking terror. Eventually he returns to
his tent, resigning himself to a single act of heroism for the day… and what
an act - it will be recounted to children, grandchildren and any who will listen:
“Did I tell you how I saved a whole camp full of people from a savage dingo?”
“Yes, Grampa, lots of times.”
“Well, it was like this…”
Two-legged dingo? Slow shutter speed has blurred his right legs.
Dawn is starting to lighten the sky and the canyon is free of busses when
I arrive, though there are a few other individual early birds. The short and easy
River Walk is too short and easy, but gives views of sunrise from the
bottom of the canyon.
The longer Rim Walk starts with a very steep climb, almost a staircase up the
left hand canyon wall. I have come across several park tracks that start with a
difficult section, maybe deliberately to weed out any who may have problems
should the difficult section occur later on the trail.
Grimpeur would love it, though you don’t always have to punish yourself to
enjoy the scenery. There is a third track, the 22km Giles, going to Kathleen
Springs and starting on the right hand side of the canyon mouth. It is heavily
signposted as being for “Giles Track Walkers Only” which seems a bit redundant
since being able to read the sign means you are on the Giles track and therefore
you are a Giles Track walker. Anyway, it is nice to have confirmation of who and
what you are, and this now confirmed Giles Track walker does the first couple of
kilometers. They also happen to be last section of the rim walk - an easier way
of seeing the canyon from the top without having to climb a gut-buster staircase.
The scale is deceptive. To get a perspective, there are two people on the rim,
top right to the left of the tree.
Sandstone domes along the top of the rim. Look a bit like small versions
of the Bungle Bungle formations.
Mr Lizard’s living is easy, warming in the sun and picking off a trail of ants
that passes under his nose. No matter how many he licks up, they keep
climbing out of the trenches and marching forward.
They have their orders - “Take and hold rock 217”
No big wet sticky thing coming out of the sky will stop them.
To be continued ……………………
I never realised you were such a mentalist....
Awesome report Bernard. Love the way you interact with stuff. Makes me want to come ride with you.
Thanks Nathan, I really appreciate your feedback.
When I tell Birtles that Dot's partner has emailed, he will have an oil leak - he's so very much in love with Dot.
Yes, at CT-speed you're almost a permanent feature of the environment so it's possible to get on personal
terms with what's out there (and usually missed at +100kph). It was easy to stop quickly to rescue
sunbathing lizards and other creatures from off the road - I love the CT for that.
The offer of a CT in NZ is still open if you're down this way.
Also, Birtles hates retirement and longs to feel once more the gentle impact of flies on his headlamp and to
hear the whistle of his spokes as he speeds downhill. He has offered to take me around Tasmania
(either Feb or Apr, not finalised yet) so that's another ride you are welcome to join.
PS Grimpeur, Ringie and Peggie all send their regards. (Peggie #096 is the only one who
knows you personally but he has told the others about Dot's adventures).