Monday, February 4, 2008

Motorcycling in Australia pt1- To Broken Hill

On a cold, wet, windy Wellington day...... I decided I needed some heat and sun. The idea formed to go for a motorcycle ride....... .to the outback and the red sands of Australia.

40 or so days and 9000kms later, I retell the adventure

(click on map for enlargement)

My school closed for the summer holidays at midday here in Wellington NZ and within 24 hours I was on the train out of Melbourne to Castlemaine to pick up the bike. Australia here we come!

Next day on the road on the trusty XT600 which I obviously named Bluey. First day out saw Bluey and I clock up 625km and a very saddle sore bottom. Hence a purchase of a rather luxurious sheepy seat cover.

First night at Yass, NSW,and my first waking to the chorus of racous squawks and screeches, a real specialty of the Australian parrots and cockatoos. This morning wake up call became a regular occourrance with the up side being I was always able to get out on the road early to beat the heat. But no sleep ins allowed!

Second day took us further through NSW, dropping by at Goulburn and visiting the memorial to the first motorcycle TT and GP racing in Australia, which was here at Goulburn. The first Indian motorcycle being sold here in 1905.

Sydney my destination for the day loomed ahead. Actually Manly which meant a much anticipated ride over the harbour bridge. However to my dismay I missed the turnoff somehow and ended up sandwiched between a car and huge truck in the harbour tunnel. Not alot of fun ...and feeling very vulnerable.

Acouple of days in Manly with friend Lance and his brothers family. Enjoying fine food and wine.
Boxing Day out on the road with Lance accompaning me for afew days on a rented Triumph Speedmaster.

Great to get out of the city. Travelling North along the Pacific Highway, a nice stretch of windy curves along the Ku-Ring Gai Chase National Park. The road overlooking the waters of Broken Bay.

Headed inland past some very little cutsie settlements to where the road followed the Hawksbury River

Again a nice curvey road, tree lined with the beautiful river along side.

Further along we were to encounter the first of, for me anyway, many ferries. Wisemans ferry was quite a novelty, and a nice opportunity to look around and enjoy the river crossing ...and it is free!

The road climbed steeply after the river and then more gradually climbing up into the Blue Mountain National Park at 990m. Here as evening was approaching we started scouting out for a place to stay. Riding through very beautiful curvey roads surrounded with towering gums

Venturing down a small side track off the main road we found a perfect camping spot, high in the Blue Mountains. With the last evening light we set up camp and got dinner going. Wasn't until the following morning that we noticed the very obvious 'no camping' sign. Oh well

Have to say I do not think Lance was very impressed with my cooking efforts. Never the best even in ideal conditions, I tend to prioritise nutritioal value over asthetic value or culinary pleasures. Still he did not have alot of choice! The red wine did help out a little.

Started the following day with a bit of a walk up the mountains to marvel at the fantastic rock sculptures and beautiful australian bush.

Lance jumping for joy at not having to work for afew days. Or was it because we would soon be heading for a cafe for a real coffee?
A short stop at Katoomba and then through some very lovely rolling countryside out towards Bathurst. Perfect horse country and there are sure alot of horses out this way. Really green and fresh here. Awesome riding too with nice long sweeping corners, gentle hills and nice coolish conditions. Actually this day we were cooled by a very short sharp thunder storm shower.

Amazingly steep track and so much fun it must be with a powerful engine to play with. Old Bluey just didnt do it

And on the road again. The speedmaster!

Next stop Parkes, passing through Orange, and a very shabby Wellington. The first of two Wellingtons I was to find. This one was definately not worth stopping.

Parkes the site of the great australian movie " The Dish". Just had to get 'the' photo with me, the bike and the dish. However did involve riding into an area that looked a little like a prohibited area. Ah well.

Dubbo for the night. A beautiful cool calm morn with mist rising.

From Dubbo the landscape began to change dramatically. No more the rolling hills and sweeping corners. Now the introduction to straight, flat roads. The vegetation diminshing and becoming sparse and stunted. Low

native grasses becoming more evident.

Huge fields of grains also becoming the norm. No more horses around this area and very little evidence of other stock being present.

From Dubbo to Nyngan, where I really starting to experience straight roads. On to Cobar where we only just managed to stretch the fuel as both bikes going on to reserve tank. However the old XT being more fuel effiecent. About 20km out of Cobar we were met by some of the local riders I had contacted via the Adventure Riders website. A relief considering the fuel situation and a

really nice welcome to this beginning of the outback.

Our host Bill owns a very powerful and deadly KTM. The Paris - Dakar bike. This bike having actually raced in the Paris Dakar along with the big race across the Australian outback. Very amazing machine and so very tall!

Bill having taken a fall from this beast was unable to join us for a ride that evening. However his mate Wilson was kind enough to show us around a bit.

With a 140km ride up to Mt Grenfell Historic Site to take a look at some aboriginal rock art. 60 or so km on the dirt.

Yes I had found my red dirt, which I set out to find.

Fantastic fun riding on this road as the surface was really good and I got more confidence. The larger front wheel and light weight of the XT making it more fun for me.

Only road hazards being the odd sheep, goat or roos and emus. The later being the most unpredictable in my experience. Roos tended to hop directly out of the way whereas old man emu sometimes didn't seem to know where he was at and ducked and dived across the road in all directions. Something to do with the size of its eye being bigger than its brain!

However on this ride only afew roos on the road to dodge

And I found my red sand!! This is what I came here for!

It is such a beautiful colour!

Further up the road yet more red sand .........

And more red sand......

From Cobar the landscape again flattened out and became sparsly treed.

Often the colour of the sand changing from red to white and back agian.
From Cobar the next 'town' is Wilcannia. With a fuel stop roughly half way at Emmdale at a general store where the owner, an elderly gentleman runs the fuel, diner and shop on his own. He wasnt having a good day and grumbled to me about locking it all up and going out back to watch some tele. I am sure glad we got our tanks full of fuel before he actioned this thought.

From Cobar the temperatures are gradually climbing, so this day we were riding in full motorcycle protective gear in heat 42+ degrees. Bit of a change from afew days before I left Wellington, when it was 13C.

So its becoming a real challenge to maintain enough fluid in the body even with a camelbak. The rate of sweat was incredible. Never before have I had sweat running into my eyes travelling at 110km/h.

I tried raising the visor on the helmet hoping to allow some wind chill factor. Unfortunately the heat from the road and engine rushed straight up into my face burning my eyeballs!

So we got to Wilcannia about half way to Broken Hill. Wilcannia is a sad town to me. Once a very busy place,once an important port on the Darling River now the beautiful stone buildings stand empty, gradually becoming sadder and more neglected. Steel bars and barbed wire preventing entry.
The local general store again reinforced with steel bars and grates, being the gathering place for many of the local aboriginal young people. These people seeming to me to be lost souls. Stuck between two cultures and not fitting in either. Evidence of alcohol abuse making for me, this place a very sad one.

As much as I wanted to stop and photograph the buildings here, the heat was getting to me and the desire to keep moving very strong.

More kms of dead straight roads, flat landscape in every direction. Seering heat from all directions and mirages in the distance.
Very easy to understand how one could perish out here within hours, with insufficient water, wandering aimlessly in hope of the mirage being a huge fresh water lake as they seem, instead of a cruel trick to the eye.

This whole area once a huge inland sea, hence the pale coloured silty soil that holds fossils and secrets of the past.

Nearing Broken Hill, rises appeared in the distance being actually low ranges.

The wind picked up and caused many willy willy or whirl winds to spiril towards the sky as they raced across the flat lands, occasionally crossing the road at the moment one is riding past causing a sudden wind change.

Riding into Broken Hill was much relief as the heat was tremendously draining.

But for me making it to Broken Hill was special for more than the promise of a cool swim in the pool. For months now I have been dreaming and imaging being here in the outback, at Broken Hill. A centre for artists due to the astonishing colours and textures, the huge vastness of the landscape and the big skies.

My heart is happy arriving in Broken Hill , here at last and ready to share in some of the secrets of this out of the way place.