Monday, 24 April 2017
Sunday, 23 April 2017
Quite a bit to post today. The target was Kandos in the Bylong Valley, a town I had stopped in in 2011 riding back from Maroochydore on the K1100LT. Staying on the New England Highway to Tamworth, the Powerhouse Motorcycle Collection was a must- stop and I had the run of the place for an hour with the Duty Curator. 100% bike heaven.
The next bit went west a bit due to poor navigation skills. I picked a road different to the recommended route, and which changed from seal to gravel half way up a mountain range. It was the classic 'investment' decision - turn back and waste 50km or press on. I pressed on at 25 km/h, passed by locals in 4WDs. A glimmer of hope as the road reverted to back to seal was dashed by gravel again. A warning sign of water over the road (it was blazing sunshine) turned out to be an actual creek washout over the road with about 10m of muddy water of indeterminate depth.
There is nothing less suitable for a stream crossing than a Triumph Trophy, and with my heart in my mouth I sized up the problem. Some 4WDs had made a single track to the side of the waterhole and remembering the saying 'Look where you want to go and the bike will follow', I headed for the single track paddling like a duck. I bucked and wove through to other side and thought I was going to throw up. Captain Obvious later observed that I should have stripped the bike and carried the luggage over first.
When I got to seal proper, I almost cried. There was the double indignity of finding out that I came out 30km past where in needed to enter the Bylong Valley anyway.
Bylong to Kandos didn't disappoint and I stopped at the Anglican Church. The Church Is still consecrated and they had had a service that day. Two cousins were cleaning up the grave sites of long lost relatives and had a key and I got a tour inside the tiny chapel.
The stained glass windows commemorated both the Gospel and young men of the Parish who had died in WWI and WWII.
The valley will soon be opened up to open cut coal mining - it will be interesting to come back again in fives years time. I made Kandos and splurged on motel. Washing is done, pub is next door and the MotoGP is on TV at 5am tomorrow. Riding to Gunning tomorrow to meet Alex and a night in Canberra.
The Antipodean Mariner
Saturday, 22 April 2017
Friday, 21 April 2017
After 20 days on the road together and almost 8,000 km, Bruce and I went our separate ways at Goomeri, Queensland. Bruce is taking a coastline loop to catch up with friends and to be back in Melbourne on Thursday, and I'm staying in the countryside to Canberra. Big man-hugs on the roadside and I don't think either of us wanted to make eye contact at that moment. A very emotional parting after such a fantastic and unique shared experience.
Thursday, 20 April 2017
The Grey Nomad season ticks along all year, but really picks up in May after the end of the 'wet season' and cooler temperatures in the Outback and Queensland. To give you an idea of the relative numbers of Nomads, here's the powered van site area in Emerald...
Wednesday, 19 April 2017
Over the last two days, we have been working our way south from Atherton, through Innisfail, Townsville, Charters Towers and tonight in Emerald. The Bruce Highway was narrow, congested and slow, and we took the first opportunity to head back inland to the Central Queensland Tablelands. We are living well again now that we are back in the reach of supermarkets, and have a well oiled routine of one setting up camp while the other buys in the night's meal and wine. Last night was Greek chicken, potato salad and beetroot with a Sauvignon Blanc - we finished the last of the Johnny Walker with coffee.
Tuesday, 18 April 2017
Monday, 17 April 2017
Saturday, 15 April 2017
We have moved from Nevada-like desert dry to tropical wet in just two days. After a quick pack and the morning at the Mt Isa Experience, we didn't hit the highway until about 11:00 and made Cloncurry about 12:30. The local Woolies provided with us with a healthy lunch of Caesar salad, cabinosi and orange juice in the local park.
The temperatures on the road have been a steady 34C and we are taking water stops every hour or so to stretch. Heading north from Cloncurry, we had to keep a weather eye out for Brahman cattle, wallabies and the occasional lizard on the lightly trafficed Developmntal Road to Normanton.
We got in just on sunset, and had a slow setup talking bikes with a fellow traveller who had ridden around South America over a year. Normanton has thousands of small (baby) cane toads clustered around any light source, all competing for a meal of the flying bugs.
They threw us out of the Purple Pub at 8pm closing, and we came back and had a swim in the dark - the perfect end to a long, hot day on the road. I had to throw the tent fly off in the middle of the night to get some breeze through and it was 29C at dawn this morning.
We'll skip through Karumba and then pick up the Savanah Way to Georgetown. Two weeks today since we rode out from Melbourne.
The Antipodean Mariners
Yesterday's run from Barkly Roadhouse to the Queensland border was the first time that I have used the term 'boring'.
The lush, high grass and trees of the Barkly Tableland abruptly stopped at the Soudan Well, giving way to kilometres of open, brown grasslands. A road sign proclaimed that this was the beginning of the catchment for Lake Eyre in SA, and it was hard to tell whether the country changed or whether this was as a result of the bush being cleared for cattle grazing.
It was hot - 34 to 35C most of the day - and we met a cyclist riding from Townsville to Perth at one of the roadside rest stops. He was looking for shelter for the night, and we gave him the bad news that there was not a tree in sight for next 100km. We were drenching down our tees and jeans wherever we could find a water tank, the evaporative cooling at 120km/h nice for about the 40 or so minutes it took to be completely dry again.
We crossed into Queenland just before 15:00 and took the obligatory border photo. Passing through Camooweal, the country got hilly and the roads got windy just out of Mt Isa, and we rolled into the mining town just before 17:00. Good Friday, and everywhere was shut. Took our first (unplanned) 'alchohol free' day and had to make do with two chicken curry and rice ration packs in the caravan park.
The weather is changing, with the cold, dry desert mornings giving way to milder and slightly more humid dawns. Today heading to Cloncurry and then north to Normanton and Karumba, a port town on the Gulf of Carpentaria. The burramundi are running, and the fishermen are flocking there to get up in to the mangrove tributaries.
We have been on the road for two weeks now - chronologically half way. Yesterday's run 450km, 4,936km behind us as we ride out for Cloncurry.
The Antipodean Mariners
Thursday, 13 April 2017
Yesterday was another day of big kilometres and high speeds as we try to claw back some days after Uluru and Kings Canyon. We have made the decision to abandon the Tablelands Highway from Cape Crawford to Barky Station, and have instead turned right at Threeways NT and are eastbound for Queensland.
We stopped yesterday at the Rev. John Flynn Memorial at Threeways NT. John Flynn was the founder of the Inland Mission Service and the Royal Flying Doctor Service. John Flynn's life was biographically researched and published by my late father-in-law, Dr Scott McPheat, and Flynn's life was a big part of Ali's family's history as well.
We met a fascinating character at Barkly Roadhouse in Peter, an Aussie living in London and reconnecting with the land of his birth by circumnavigation of the continent on a Honda CB125. Starting in Perth and crossing the Nullabor, he is now heading north to Darwin at a steady 65 km/h and will ride through the Pilbara back to the start point. Proof that you can see a lot with very little in the way of equipment and possessions.
The Roadhouse is an oasis of grass and shelter trees, and has been one of the best stops on the road trip. Today's target is Mt Isa, about 520 km.
The Antipodean Mariners
Wednesday, 12 April 2017
Not much to blog today. We had a late start from Erldunda Roadhouse, and groceries to buy in Alice Springs before the larger towns dry up in the NT. Alice was well stocked and we were only stopped for about an hour. The roads are soooo straight that we resorted to slow slaloms along the centreline. Speed limit is 130km/h and we were overtaken a few times by even quicker locals.
We skipped lunch and the next road house at Aileron appeared on the horizon at 16:00 as the shadows were getting longer. Two other riders heading south were stopped for the night and told us that the next two towns north were pretty rough.
We have set up shop in a nice grassy spot, made a cuppa and set out for Tennant Creek for tomorrow.
The Antipodean Mariners
Tuesday, 11 April 2017
We've taken an unscheduled day in Kings Canyon, north of Uluru, based on recommendation from a couple of other bikers whose route we are paralleling.
The road in was surreal - sinuous tarmac and wide bends through everchanging landscape. My preconceptions before doing the road trip were that central Australia was a sandy desert. Uluru and Kings Canyon were a sea of green and gold. We splurged yesterday and took a helicopter flight over the Canyon. Our Pilot said they had experienced four times the annual rainfall this Wet Season, and had a whole year's rain in one day after Christmas - the spent centre of a tropical cyclone.
As the sun set on the Carmichael Ranges, the full Moon rose in perfect unison.
Sunday, 9 April 2017
We have spent a layday at Uluru, taking in the vast monolith which dominates the landscape from every angle. Plenty has been written about Uluru - when you're standing in its shadow it is truly breathtaking.
We had an easy ride from Erldunda Roadhouse via Curtin Springs (the Owner wanted to call the Station Stalin Springs - he was a big fan of Joe's - and was persuaded by his sons to go for something a little less controversial), and arrived in Yulara, the Uluru resort town, early afternoon. Peak season has yet to start but the place is packed. Bruce and I got up at 5am to get a quiet spot for the sunrise on Uluru, and were rewarded (through not following the road directions) in having a quiet layby to ourselves.
In the pre-dawn, we could identify the planets Mercury and Venus, with Mars setting in the west. The sunrise was spectacular - one more ticked off the Bucket List. We walked right around Uluru, 10.8km in the morning cool. I rode out to Kala Tjulu (The Olgas) this afternoon and walked up one of the canyons. Totally different geology from Uluru. I did a really short detour on to the dirt road to West Australia, beating a hasty retreat back to tarseal lest I end up with 310kg of road bike on its side in the bulldust.
Tomorrow we will break camp and ride to Kings Gorge for the night - the days picked up riding up from SA are coming in handy now.
The Antipodean Mariners