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Archive for December, 2010

Hazelwood – Sale – Bairnsdale – Bruthen – Buchan – Snowy Mountains National Park (New Guinea Track)

I didn’t get much sleep last night, with the bogans playing death metal until 1am, (just to make a point)
But in the morning I woke and took the bike to Morwell BMW, where it was booked in for a service. The guys there were excellent, even giving the bike a good wash, so it looks a million bucks again ;-)
So after picking up the bike and packing up my tent, it was almost 3pm and it had turned into a really hot day. Really hot! The hottest I’ve felt on this trip, probably due to the humidity.
So made tracks through Sale & Bairnsdale, picking up supplies.
Craig from Morwell BMW had recommended Jacksons Crossing in the Snowy as a great place to camp and a good ride to get there.
But I had a substandard map, and got lost on the way, instead turning down what I now know is the New Guinea Track. The ride was through beautiful mountain country, but the descent down the dirt track was pretty hard core, very steep snd very slippery rocks. And at one point after a rapid descent that I just couldn’t slow the bike down due to gravity, she decided to have a lay down. I managed to control it, so it was more of a gentle resting on the panniers. A few small dents and some scratches. Took a photo and picked it back up relativity easily due to the slope. At this stage I was still thinking it would all be worth it when I reach this magnificent camp on the river, but I was on the wrong track. And when I reached the bottom, there was no direct access to the Snowy river, but s steep walk down 300m to the edge. I did this to see if I could get the bike down there. I couldn’t.
After climbing back up in the heat, I wasn’t feeling so good, and coughed and threw up the water I had been drinking. Probably heat exhaustion.
I rested for a bit and decided that riding out tonight wasn’t going to happen, as it was 7:30pm already and sunset approaching. So I setup camp here, in the middle of nowhere. It is completely silent of human noise, but plenty of animal sound, which changes every hour. First it was cicadas, then crickets at sunset, and now the noises I don’t even recognise at all.
I had a bucket wash and cooked dinner, now I’m ready to sleep, before the challenges of climbing out of here tomorrow. If it rains, I have no chance and will be here until it dries up. It is just too steep.
So starting the new year from a new and unknown location.

There is no moon tonight, and the stars are amazing. So many and so close. The milky way is right there, could touch it.

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Canunda – Mt Gambier – Port Fairy – Princetown

After leaving Canunda and riding into Mt Gambier, took a look at the renowned Blue Lake and had breakfast.
Then rode onto the border, and took a side road through cultivated pine forest and into Princess Margaret caves. Some great sights underground for a change.

The bulk of today’s ride was through some beautiful countryside. In some ways reminded me of the west coast of Ireland, the combined smell of the sea and the country, cows & grass.

Although had plenty of wind again too, infact for a stretch it seemed as though the entire enviroment had been pushed sideways by the incessant wind off the Southern Ocean. Trees, buildings, fences, powerpoles, all leaning away from the breeze. Shaped that way over time.

Onto the Great Ocean Road, and the magnificent clifftop scenery that is so iconic of the region.

Tonight camped in Princetown, by the river on the hill. Lots of bugs, but soft green grass.

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Meningie – Kingston – Robe – Beachport – Millicent – Canunda National Park

It was really cold again and I departed in full thermals, fleece and hand warmers on. Who would know it is summer!
From Meningie, I headed through the Coorong National Park. At 42 Mile Crossing, I took a side track to have a look at the waterway, but it quickly became very sandy & steep. Before I got too far, I decided I should turn back, but in the process got bogged in the deep soft sand. I was rocking the bike and almost had it free when a guy in a 4WD appeared over the crest and gave me a hand dragging the front around. Saving me working up a sweat.

The first real stop of the day was in Robe. A fabulous little village, with a spectacular turquoise bay, and grand sea cliffs. After lunch I made my way through Beachport, which is where all the bogans in Victoria go for their summer camping holiday.
Moved through quickly.

After riding through the southern hemisphere’s largest windfarm, I made bush camp in the Canunda National Park, right next to the roaring Southern Ocean. It’s very peaceful and a perfect sunset observed after my lamb shank dinner.

Have noticed that everything takes longer to dry now. In the desert you could wash and be dry in a few minutes. Now things stay damp by the sea ;-)

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Wilpena – Clare – Barossa – Murray Bridge – Meningie

Left Wilpena nice and early in the cool, and had to dodge numerous kangaroos who were playing chicken with the bike.
Riding into the Clare Valley, the grasshopper pelting began again and I was covered again. Plastered with the little foul smelling jumpers.
This time there were many direct hits, and they really sting when they hit the chest or even worse the neck.
They mostly eased off by the time I reached Murray Bridge, but the temperature had dropped significantly and I had to stop to put on thermals. It was cold! The heated grips also were put to use, even on the highest setting!
The tempurature was a massive change from the hot desert days & nights, and I’m not really prepared for these sort of temperatures.
Tonight in Meningie sees me camped by the lake, but it’s very windy and cold. I’m in the sleeping bag for the first time since leaving Sydney.

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Marree – Leigh Creek – Blinman – Wilpena

Set off from Marree to head south and out of the arid regions, without a fixed destination. The landscape progressively becoming more green and lush as the further south i progressed.
Being Christmas Eve, alot of the roadhouses were shut, and this dictated the outcome of my day.
After stopping in Leigh Creek for provisions and phonecalls (I should have filled the bike too) I set out, but found the next 2 fuel stops were closed, which limited my options for headed further remote, as there would be no fuel out there either.
So I headed for Wilpena in the Flinders Ranges, as they were open and had fuel. On arrival setup camp, had a swim and dinner with the Dutchies that I’d previously met at William Creek. After a couple of beers, it was time for bed, but I had not bought my torch (I didn’t expect to be out so late) and I couldn’t find my tent in the bush. Fortunately the Dutchie were able to find their camper using the light from my mobile phone, then we used their torch to find my tent. :-)
Christmas day I joined the staff Christmas lunch, so ate very well.
Dinner I joined the BBQ with a Belgian family, Remy & Magda, which was really nice. (who live in Sydney)
They are great people and we had a good laugh and chat over dinner & wine.
I’ll catch up again with them in Sydney.

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William Creek – Coward Springs – Marree

Early in the morning I took a flight from William Creek, out over Lake Eyre. It was simply stunning to see. So much salt, and then also so many birds in the areas with water.
The colours of the water were also amazing. We flew over Anna Creek Station, the largest cattle station in the world, which is larger than Belgium!
2hrs later we were back on the ground and hit the road.

The trip out from William Creek was good, fast roads, although lots of stops to take photos.
About 70km out, I stopped at Coward Springs. This is a freshwater spring in the middle of the desert. It unbelivable.
So a dip was definitely in order, given that I was sweating in the heat. The cool water of the spring was a joy. Had I known it was so close to William Creek, I’d have camped here, rather than at William Creek. It was such a brilliant spot, with shade and a great waterhole.

Not much later I stopped again at the mound springs, another amazing sight in the desert, to see water flowing up in a small area, so much life around it, and then quickly evaporated back into the desert.
Lots of further stops and ruins, etc, and finally into Marree for camp, and to see The Ghan engines.

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Marla – Oodnadatta – Peake – William Creek

A mammoth day in the saddle today, 450km of dirt on the Oodnadatta track, from Marla, to Oodnadatta and camp in William Creek.
The road was generally in really good condition, fast and smooth dirt.

Although some stoney sections, and alot of red gibber plains were passed through today.
There was some deep sand at the creek crossings, and I really don’t like sand. I’ve figured that it needs to be taken at about 40kmh, keeping momentum and try to steer straight though. Although if I get thrown sideways then I inevitatably slow and stop, then it is an effort to push the bike out of the bog sand. Not much fun in the heat.

I took a sidetrip to Peake Hill & ruins, which was 30km of very rough singletrack, very remote. The signs said to be careful, as no one would pass that way. It was true too.
For the entire day of 450km I didn’t see another vehicle.
On arrival at William Creek, they were a bit critical in the pub, saying I shouldn’t be travelling alone this time of year, etc etc
Otherwise the publican was friendly enough and nothing more was said of this once I sat down and ordered beer and food. The lamb cutlets were good.

Now ensconsed in tent, although the ground is still radiating heat through my sleeping mat. It is very warm to touch the floor of the tent, even at 10pm

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Alice Springs – Kulgera – Indulkana Community – Marla

Uneventful day, aside from leaving late due to Australia Post inability to do “post” Useless. Now they have no idea where the parcel is that contains my fastway pegs.

Arrived in Marla early, setup tent, had swim and a massive steak and chips. Vegetables are non existent and it’s starting to wear thin after 2 weeks. I’ve got a few apples, but try ordering anything green in a pub…. Doesn’t exist.

I have a real problem with my left arm/shoulder. I think it is just overuse/over-exertion, but the pain in my shoulder blade is really bad, but only when I lie down. On the bike it is fine. Hope it doesn’t become any worse, because it makes sleeping painful.

Tomorrow begins the Oodnadatta Track

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Kings Canyon – Merrinee – Ormiston Gorge – Glen Helen – Simpsons Gap – Alice Springs

It rained a massive thunderstorm last night, which didn’t bode well for the 250km of red dirt I had to ride in order to get up to the West MacDonnell Ranges, but I was up and awake at 5:30am, ready for the walk around Kings Canyon. I was (wisely) advised to do the climb early to avoid the heat of the day, and it was good advice.
The views from the top of Kings Canyon were unbelievable, and it is an absolute must do destination.
Due to the extensive (and unseasonal rain) the rivers and waterfalls were flowing, and the last river crossing required wading across through refreshing cool water.

After returning to the resort and packing the bike, I set off on the Merrinee loop road for Alice Springs. I had checked the conditions with everyone I should have, but the only real advice was just to “give it a try, no one has done it on a bike before. You need a 4WD”
The first 50km were shocking, and I thought about turning around more than a few times.

The wet red dust had turned into a slip and slide after the downpour, and a few times after a hairy moment I’d look back at my tracks to find the front and rear wheels had taking different tracks.
There were a number of swollen creeks to cross, and the third one I came up against was about 500mm deep and flowing pretty fast with a mud bottom that couldn’t be seen. After a pause I headed in and the front wheel slipped out mid creek, I threw both feet down and managed to save the bike from going over, but wasn’t fast enough to get the clutch in also, and the bike stalled. How I didn’t fall in/off is beyond me. The bike was right over 45 degrees with the water pushing it down. I managed to get it upright and started again, exiting the muddy creek with 2 boots now full of muddy water, and another 230km to ride.
After numerous other close calls, including getting bogged at a washout, the road eventually rose into the ranges and the views made it all worth it. The road dried out and the speed was able to pickup. At one point there was a snake on the road, which I couldn’t swerve away from. I didn’t hit it, but I saw his head rear up and mouth open as I went past. I don’t know what he was going to bite, but was glad for the boots just in case.

Wild brumbies were a regular sight on the road and they would stare at you intently until the last moment before racing off. Lots a beautiful small finches too, that seem to like playing with the bike, deliberately flying close and darting off in the pressure wave created by the bike. Although one got too close and collided with the handguards, spraying me with bird blood. When I stopped about 20km later, I found an eagle was circling directly above me, quite close. He must have smelt the blood and homed in. It was only then that I noticed I had been sprayed with blood and the splatter on the bike.

I powered on to stop a Glen Helen for fuel, where I misplaced my key, which had me panicked for a few minutes, until I found it in my helmet.

After Glen Helen, I made regular stops due to the frequent sights and gorges to see. At Ormiston Gorge, there was a beautiful waterholes and I went in for a very refreshing swim.

I really twisted the grip on the way into Alice, which hammered the fuel economy, but I was checked into a huge suite at the Crowne Plaza at around 7pm.
It was a great day on the bike, very challenging and plenty of learning.

Tommorrow, maintainence day for bike and body.

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Yulara – Curtin Springs – Kings Canyon

Today was a short day in the saddle. Just a 300km hop from Yulara up to Kings Canyon via Curtin Springs cattle station.

Last night there was a decent downpour which meant that the road was often covered with water and/or sand. The water is fine, only 20cm deep, but the wet sand is a hassle to navigate, trying to snap the wheel out from me and throwing the bike around.

About half way I was starting to feel tired, although it was only 10:30am (probably lack of sleep due to the storm last night) so I pulled over and had a 40 min nap by the side of the road in a rest area. Brilliant. It was so quiet, just listen to the bush. And it was cool. Had all my riding gear on and zipped up, so it was like in a sleeping bag. Very comfortable. The aqua pack makes for a perfect pillow too :-)

So after arriving at Kings Canyon, had lunch and a swim, followed by a nap. (again) Holidays can be like that.

Tonight there is a soft rain, lots of thunder and lightening storm going on. Which wont help he 350km of dirt I have to navigate.

Tomorrow I’ll be up early for the walk around Kings Canyon and see if I can add to the blisters after the 26km walks at Uluru.

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