Nathan and Elena's Aussie Ride-About

Discussion in 'Epic Rides' started by Nathan, Oct 23, 2010.

  1. Nathan

    Nathan Why I laugh?

    Joined:
    Feb 23, 2004
    Oddometer:
    566
    Location:
    Christchurch, New Zealand
    “May you live in interesting times” is (supposedly) an old Chinese proverb. Whether it is a curse or a blessing is dependent on the situation, I think. Here are my interesting times.

    First, let me introduce the cast.

    My name is Nathan. This is me:

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    I’m riding Elena through and around Australia.

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    Elena and I left White Cliffs in the early afternoon today heading towards Paroo-Darling National Park, then south to Wilcannia.

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    After a few days of blasting along outback roads, I was feeling cocky. So when we reached this sign, I didn’t worry about the other signs right next to it. I had been dealing with “road maintenance” signs for a few days now, and they didn’t seem to mean anything.

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    Elena and I set off towards Wilcannia. The detour alternative was back tracking on bitumen, and I wasn’t keen to repeat a boring road. A few kilometers down the road, we came across the first water crossing. Now, water on the road is fairly common in the outback—especially with a wet year like this one—so I wasn’t too fussed by it. A quick check on foot showed that the water was fairly shallow with a slightly soft bottom. Elena and I made it across easy.

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    Not far down the road, we came across another crossing. This one was a lot bigger, but after a quick wade, I thought we could get across Bunker Creek. We made it through the first section, water splashing everywhere, but everything was fine—except there were more sections.

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    As I rode through the largest of the crossings, Elena suddenly cutout. I had drowned her in water barely over the footpegs. On top of that, the wind was picking up, and there were dark, ominous-looking clouds on the horizon.

    I pushed Elena out of the water, which was about 100 meters, then pulled the luggage off her and set to work. At this point I was thinking “This road is closed. No one will find me on it for a very long time.” I had to get myself out of there.

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    After checking the air filter (soaked in water), draining the carb , and pulling the fuel tank off to remove a spark plug and pump the water out of the engine, Elena finally started. The wind was getting really strong now, blowing red grit through all my gear. I put Elena back together as quickly as I could, loaded her up again and we set off as the first drops of rain struck the dry dust of the road.

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    The road ahead looked dry, so I figured the water crossings were all behind me now. It was just a race against the rain. Elena quickly got into her stride and was running quite well considering the circumstances. I rounded a corner doing 100kph when a gray kangaroo on the side of the road suddenly jumped out on a collision course with me. I slammed on the brakes as hard as I dared in the dirt and scrubbed off just enough speed for the ‘roo to pass in front of me by centimeters. As I flew past, Elena’s bashplate and footpeg clipped his leg. In the mirror, I saw him limp off the road, but I didn’t have time to stop. I had to get off this track before the rain turned it to mud.

    I kept barreling along until I saw another big water crossing. I couldn’t believe it. I was now stuck between water crossings with a thunderstorm bearing down on me. It was a damned if you do, damned if you don’t situation, so I decided to keep going. The crossing was deep. I wanted to go slowly to keep the engine dry with my feet paddling for balance, but the drag was too much. I put my feet on the footpegs and slogged on. The water was up to my shins and I was worried I would drown the bike again. With lots of clutch slipping to control our speed, we got through.

    On dry ground again, I gave Elena some throttle. She wasn’t happy. More water in her engine, but she kept running. A few hundred metres down the road we came upon yet another water crossing. This one was deep. The marker showed it was at least 80cm of water. There was no way I could get Elena through that.

    With the wind howling and the rain steadily getting stronger, I knew I had to turn around and ride back the way I had come. To make matters worse, removing the fuel tank and draining the carb had wasted a lot of my fuel.

    Somehow I made it through all the water crossings a second time, abusing the clutch to keep me moving slowly forward without stalling. The wind was now at my back as I hammered along the road, dodging pieces of fencing wire, cattle, and nasty washouts. The rain had died down as I outpaced the storm clouds.

    I reached the “road closed” intersection and turned left towards White Cliffs. Twenty kilometers out from town, Elena gave two sad little backfires then died. I rolled to a stop, switched the petcocks to reserve and fired her up again. Safari tanks have useless reserves due to the bottom of the tank being below the carb, so I crossed my fingers and gently got Elena up to speed. The wind was now slicing in from my left, making holding a line in the wheel ruts difficult and the rain was catching me again.

    I rolled into White Cliffs just as the rain caught me, clomped into the local pub covered in mud and got a room for the night.

    Is living in interesting times a curse of a blessing? That depends on if you survive the interesting times. Today I did, but I got a hell of a lot of stupid knocked out of me in the process.
    #1
  2. Nathan

    Nathan Why I laugh?

    Joined:
    Feb 23, 2004
    Oddometer:
    566
    Location:
    Christchurch, New Zealand
    To all the DR650 experts out there:

    I'm taking Elena to Broken Hill for a service tomorrow. Is there anything special I should be doing to prevent damage from ingesting water? :ear
    #2
  3. GB

    GB . Administrator

    Joined:
    Aug 16, 2002
    Oddometer:
    57,308
    Location:
    Toronto
    Looks like a wet ride about :lol2

    Have a look at the Thumpers forum for DR specific questions and answers.
    #3
  4. Nathan

    Nathan Why I laugh?

    Joined:
    Feb 23, 2004
    Oddometer:
    566
    Location:
    Christchurch, New Zealand
    12/10/2010 - 17/10/2010, Getting Started

    Let's go back to the start. I flew into Melbourne on the 12th of October. Saintell of ADVRider fame had agreed to sell me his 2008 DR650 with only 3500 kms on the clock. It had a lot of farkles already, so I jumped at the deal. Saintell was decent enough to hold onto to Elena for over month while I got things organised. So, on the 13th, I took the train out to Dandenong and met Saintell and my new bike. Here they both are:

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    I decided to call her Elena after the lead character in a bad fantasy book I read. Elena was a witch whose hands would glow red when she was ripe with her witchy power. The red handguards reminded me of the story, and now that I'm used to them, I actually quite like the red. :)

    I took Elena back to Melbourne and added some more farkles to her. Note the fancy packaging on the Safari tank so the airline wouldn't charge me an oversize fee. I was quite worried Air New Zealand wouldn't take my tank because it had been used, so I got it professionally cleaned. I was pretty sure I had all my bases covered when I checked in, but the check-in guy threw me a real curve ball.

    Me: Here's an invoice for getting the tank professionally cleaned.

    Check-in guy: How I can tell this invoice is for this tank?

    Me: What?

    Maybe the Taliban have a nefarious scheme for checking in fuel tanks that haven't been cleaned. :rofl

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    And ready to hit the road.

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    #4
  5. Nathan

    Nathan Why I laugh?

    Joined:
    Feb 23, 2004
    Oddometer:
    566
    Location:
    Christchurch, New Zealand
    18/10/2010, Leaving Melbourne

    Unfortunately, when I got back to Melbourne I got sick and at the same time it started raining a lot. I finally left Melbourne on the 18th and headed to Werribee to get my Victorian driver's licence.

    I saw this sign in Port Henry. Those Alcoa guys are so cool. :rofl

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    Licence all sorted, I headed towards Grampians National Park. I ran out of daylight on the way, so I turned down a side road and found a place to camp.

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    #5
  6. Nathan

    Nathan Why I laugh?

    Joined:
    Feb 23, 2004
    Oddometer:
    566
    Location:
    Christchurch, New Zealand
    19/10/2010, Grampians National Park

    The next morning I continued heading towards Grampians. On the way, I tried to take a detour through Mount Bangalor State Park, but the road was closed.

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    Not much further down the road I came across these bug fellas. I worked for a small wind turbine manufacturer briefly, and I'm still a huge wind turbine nut.

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    I made it to Ararat and decided to check out the small Ararat Regional Park nearby. The view from the hill was pretty sweet. Victoria is really green right now.

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    It turned out the park had a network of 4WD tracks, so I decided to give them a go. This one scared the crap out of me. Elena had a very road-orientated Trailwing front paired with a dirt-orientated Kenda Trakmaster at the rear. It was an okay combo for going up hill, but when I hit this nasty downhill I was packing myself. The front had no grip, so I was sliding down the hill with the rear doing all the braking work.

    The standard "It was steeper than it looks" applies here. (How do you make photos show incline accurately?)

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    I got the Grampians and spent the afternoon blasting around on the deserted gravel roads in the park's interior. There were tons of people on the paved roads, but no wanted to go on the dirts roads. :huh

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    I did a wee walk to check out some Aboriginal rock art. The walk ended up being longer than I though and I was super hot in my riding gear when I finally got the rock with the pictures. Most of them were really hard to make out, but there were some neat hand prints.

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    And what Australian tour would be complete without a roadkill shot? :deal


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    The day was ending and the 'roos were out in force, so I started looking for a place to camp.

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    #6
  7. Nathan

    Nathan Why I laugh?

    Joined:
    Feb 23, 2004
    Oddometer:
    566
    Location:
    Christchurch, New Zealand
    20/10/2010, Nhill Murrayville Track

    I found this spot to camp. The noise from all the wildlife was crazy. :eek1

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    I continued up to Horsham, then on to Mt. Arapiles. I think this was when I finally got a feel for just how big Australia is. The view from the top was incredible.

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    Next up was Little Desert National Park. I was cruising along the nice road through the centre of the park when I decided to try some of the 4WD tracks. Man, was that a bad idea. :lol3

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    The front tyre was useless in the sand. I found it easiest to stay going vaguely straight if I kept in second gear at about 50kph. The corners were impossible at that speed, but I slogged on. The heat was brutal wrestling Elena through deep sand in full riding gear. Here's me pondering the hot sun.

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    I eventually made it out of the sandy 4WD tracks. I took this picture of a green field just because it was such a nice change after the sand.

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    At this point, I was totally off course, so I just rode around guessing which roads to take for a while. In the middle of my wandering, I came across this cool lake.

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    I eventually made it to Nimboola and stopped to take a picture of this train. At the time, I didn't even notice it, but my bashplate was hanging on for dear life. :eek1

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    A guy at the local hardware store assessed my bashplate and called it a "homemade jigger". He then found a replacement bolt, cut it to length and locktited it in for me. Good to go! He didn't want his picture taken, but didn't complain when I did anyway. :lol3

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    Being a typical Aussie bloke, he goaded me into doing the Nhill Murrayville road. He said it would be easy on my "chookchaser" and it turned out to be a great ride. :thumb

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    I found a spot to camp about two thirds of the way down the road and pitched my tent on sand that was as hard concrete. Here's a cool windmill that was nearby.

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    #7
  8. Nathan

    Nathan Why I laugh?

    Joined:
    Feb 23, 2004
    Oddometer:
    566
    Location:
    Christchurch, New Zealand
    21/10/2010, Pink Lakes

    I finished off the Nhill Murrayville road in no time the next morning. At this point I was sick of the Deathwing front tyre. The front was killing me on gravel, dirt, and sand, and the back was hopeless on the bitumen. I felt like I couldn't ride anything comfortably, so I headed towards Mildura hoping to new front tyre. On the way, I checked out the Pink Lakes. They're salt lakes and are 800 times more salty than sea water. Only one type of amoeba thingy can survive in the lakes, and it produces lots of beta carotene, which gives the lakes their beautiful pink lustre.

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    People used to mine salt out there. I guess they stopped when they realised salt is everywhere and you can get it from other places without borking a beautiful natural phenomenon. :lol3

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    I was having a rest and drinking in some small town when Graham the truck driver walked over and asked I would help him move the heavy-ass tailgate on his truck. We had to push it from the front of the deck to the back and slot it in place. It was pretty heavy, so I'm not surprised he asked for help.

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    The Murray River.

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    As I continued north, it had been getting steadily hotter and hotter. I was starting to wilt in my riding gear, and I couldn't stop for more than a few seconds without getting drenched in sweat. I made it to Mildura and found a motorcamp to stay at. My first shower in over three days. :clap
    #8
  9. NordieBoy

    NordieBoy Armature speller

    Joined:
    Dec 2, 2006
    Oddometer:
    7,147
    Location:
    Kiwiland
    Well it's a good start.

    When do things get juicy?

    :clap
    #9
  10. raider

    raider Big red dog

    Joined:
    Jan 6, 2005
    Oddometer:
    1,582
    Location:
    Adelaide, South Australia
    Hello Nathan,

    You have a great eye for photos and a perfect bike for touring Australia on. I look forward to reading your report more.

    At risk of sounding a bit churlish, ignoring "road closed" signs and failing to render assistance to wildlife you've hit are both criminal offences in Australia. The former is just downright silly in remote areas (as you yourself acknowledge), and the latter inhumane. The last thing Aussie riders need is more roads closed to public access because the council have to retrieve drowned DR650s or shoot wounded kangaroos left to die by the side of the road.

    If you've already finished your trip, I hope you had a blast and got home safe. If you haven't, please take the above on board to ensure you have the best time you can here, and leave with good memories of us (and vice versa).

    Either way, I love your style so far and look forward to the rest!
    #10
  11. Dakar Dan

    Dakar Dan Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Feb 4, 2007
    Oddometer:
    992
    Location:
    Bendigonia
    G'day Nathan, looks like you've been having some fun riding through my neck of the woods. Your DR drowning problem might be the carb breather hoses getting water in them, as they hang down very low. You might like to think about re-routing them up higher. Not sure how you soaked the air filter, though.
    #11
  12. saintell

    saintell Monarchs #30

    Joined:
    May 6, 2008
    Oddometer:
    389
    Location:
    Pakenham Victoria Australia
    Hi Nathan,nice to read your report and see some pics of my bike doing what it is supposed to,unfortunately I would never have done this trip,maybe mentally but not physically,keep up the good work,BTW I said you had a nice camera,it takes beaut photos and your comments are excellent,cheers Nev:clap:clap
    #12
  13. Nathan

    Nathan Why I laugh?

    Joined:
    Feb 23, 2004
    Oddometer:
    566
    Location:
    Christchurch, New Zealand
    I don't think I could have caught the kangeroo. He was limping a bit, but still moving. It was just a glancing blow.

    The trip is still very much in progress. Don't worry, I'll be listening to the road signs from now on. I can't promise I'll avoid all the 'roos though. Those little bastards have a deathwish sometimes. :deal
    #13
  14. Nathan

    Nathan Why I laugh?

    Joined:
    Feb 23, 2004
    Oddometer:
    566
    Location:
    Christchurch, New Zealand
    There was a lot of water in the airbox when I pulled it open the next day. I'm in Broken Hill right now, so I'll get her serviced and check the hose locations.
    #14
  15. Nathan

    Nathan Why I laugh?

    Joined:
    Feb 23, 2004
    Oddometer:
    566
    Location:
    Christchurch, New Zealand
    Thanks mate. And thank you for your wonderful hospitality. Someone in power should give you a medal for being a top bloke. :lol3
    #15
  16. Nathan

    Nathan Why I laugh?

    Joined:
    Feb 23, 2004
    Oddometer:
    566
    Location:
    Christchurch, New Zealand
    22/10/2010, Mungo National Park

    My accommodation in Mildura. A little old lady lived in the flat in the holiday park full time. At least she had lots of people to talk to.

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    I spent most of the morning in Mildura. I bought some mesh gloves to help with the heat and got a nice Pirrelli MT21 front tyre to replace the Deathwing. Then I hit the road towards Munga National Park. I found NordieBoy's car on the side of the road and added a couple more bullet holes to it. :shoot

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    :shoot And a few more. :shoot Okay, I'm done now.


    I stopped in at some fancy lodge on the way. The owners were French (I will hold that against them :rofl ) and said that a bunch of bikes had been past a few days ago. It must have been the Aussie hooligan contingent of ADVRider. I missed them due to being sick. :sick

    Mungo National Park is freaking awesome! :wings

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    I did the 50km-ish loop around the park. It was one-way and had these things called "corners." It took me a while to figure it out, but when the road goes all funny like that, you have to lean the bike over. Sliding and falling off are optional.

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    I met an Aussie couple staying in the park for a few days and had a chat with them. Lovely people and I got lots of useful advice like "Don't do 130kph over cattle stops."

    After Mungo, I headed towards the bright lights of Ivanhoe. I was getting the hang of the dirt roads and the new tyre was a huge improvement. Add in a tail wind, and I was flying along (at responsible speeds with an adult accompanying me at all times).

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    It was still stupidly hot. :knary

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    Elena decided to have rest in the shade of the only big tree for miles and miles. While I was lolligagging around a couple of locals turned up in a 4WD. They stopped to check that I was okay. We talked DRs (as you do) and they told me about Asian tourists that ride 125cc bikes and die from lack of water.

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    I arrived at Ivanhoe, made a beeline straight to the RSL where I became honorary (ok, temporary) member and had a couple of beers and some food. The lady at the bar said I could camp at the abandoned holiday park.

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    #16
  17. NordieBoy

    NordieBoy Armature speller

    Joined:
    Dec 2, 2006
    Oddometer:
    7,147
    Location:
    Kiwiland
    "T" the lines with one end going down and the other up into the airbox.
    If one end gets blocked by water it can breath through t'other.


    My car had fatter tyres and was bulletproof :evil
    #17
  18. Shaggie

    Shaggie Unseen University

    Joined:
    Oct 12, 2005
    Oddometer:
    2,660
    Location:
    Christchurch, New Zealand
    Gidday Nath!!!!!


    thanks for the link to this!!!!!


    awsome!


    subscribed right now!

    Keep it coming :clap :clap :clap :clap
    #18
  19. Nathan

    Nathan Why I laugh?

    Joined:
    Feb 23, 2004
    Oddometer:
    566
    Location:
    Christchurch, New Zealand
    Hey Shaggie! New update coming while I eat my BLT.
    #19
  20. Nathan

    Nathan Why I laugh?

    Joined:
    Feb 23, 2004
    Oddometer:
    566
    Location:
    Christchurch, New Zealand
    23/10/2010, Cobb Highway and White Cliffs

    As you can see, Ivanhoe is a bustling metropolis. I would call it the Town of the Future, but Rolleston in New Zealand has already taken that title.

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    I headed north to Wilcannia on the Cobb Highway. This guy was fixing the road.

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    He had the essential supplies on his 4WD: a beer keg. Aussies... :rofl

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    I had a sweet tail wind and made really good time to Wilcannia. The GPS said I had an average speed of 102kph. :wink: Here's a picture of some horses.

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    And some flower things.

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    After reaching Wilcannia, I headed to White Cliffs, an opal mining town that is 50% tourist trap, 50% people with shot guns wanting to me to get off their land, dagnabit, and 50% surface of the moon. It's gets a -50% for being so damn hot, making 100% total. Some guy at the underground hotel (in the touristy 50%) said it was a cold day. Screw him; he should try sitting in the sun in motorcycle gear.

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    The place was riddled with holes. No fences around them, and I have no idea how deep. I didn't want to get too close to this one because of the sloping ground, but I couldn't see the bottom.

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    There were trucks like this all over the place. What do they? :dunno

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    They have a solar farm there, which I think is really neat.

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    After White Cliffs I decided to take the back way to Wilcannia. You might remember this from the first post.

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    After scaring myself silly, I got back to White Cliffs, had a few beers, and threw some coins in the umbrella hanging upside-down from the ceiling for the Flying Doctors. You never know, I might need them some day. :freaky
    #20