A Travellerspoint blog

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Day 5: Charleville – Longreach. Monday 3rd May 2010

Today was a big day so we got started early, leaving the campsite around 7:30am. It is still cold in the morning so I have to layer up. I was a bit lost in my thoughts once we got on the road. I think riding is rather like life. It is very much about the journey – not just the destination. Anyway, riding provides a great opportunity to think and ponder the meaning of life. The roadside was lined with soft lush grass and in the morning sun it was bright pink. At times the road is paved with red asphalt, and with the blue sky and the green vegetation it is just beautiful.

A long, straight road

A long, straight, red road

We had morning tea in Tambo and it was already 26 degrees at 10am.
Now the terrain was changing and the vegetation becoming more sparse. We rode through the Eyre basin catchment area. Here there were hardly any trees, but lots of grass. For some time the road was covered with basketball sized tumbleweeds gently bouncing across the surface.

We were making good time, arriving at Barcaldine at 12:30pm. Only 100km to go from here to Longreach, so we were looking forward to a swim and relaxing for a few hours. We filled up with fuel and went to find some lunch. It was a public holiday in Queensland so the only place open was a small bakery (and they only opened because someone warned them we were coming.)
Doug had pulled up a bit before the rest of us and was about a hundred metres down the road. He finally came over and told us his bike had stopped and he couldn’t get it started. It was turning over but stalled straight away.
He started taking gear off the bike then taking bits apart. There was much discussion about fuel injectors and blocked fuel pumps, or dirty fuel. The ride organiser was called and the support/recovery vehicle looked like being an option. The RACT roadside assist is a wonderful service and when called from Queensland it goes to the RACQ. They sent someone out who arrived about half an hour later and quickly diagnosed the problem. He had just filled up before the bike stopped – with diesel.

The jokes started immediately. Diesel Doug had just become infamous, and it will be a long time before he lives this down. With the help of the RACQ guy they drained all the fuel out, flushed it and refilled. Doug was getting the bunny ears tonight for sure.

Doug had to remove all his gear…

Draining all the diesel out

Now a push to the servo to fill up with the right fuel

So we finally arrived at Longreach at 4:30pm, about 3 hours later than expected. It was 30 degrees when we got here. We had a swim, went to the Longreach Club for dinner then to the organised function (which was a karaoke night.) The place erupted when Doug walked in, and he was awarded the bunny ears straight away.

Hand over of the bunny ears

Today’s distance: 517km

Posted by Jo vanEmmerik 21:26 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Day 6: Longreach – Winton. Tuesday 4th May 2010

Today was a “rest” day with only 175km to ride!!

I went for a walk along the main shopping strip in Longreach. This must have been a very wealthy town, with a huge council building and elaborate water tower. I found a coffee shop and had my first cup in several days. It was already 25 degrees in the shade.

The water tower at Longreach

With time to do some sightseeing, I went to the Stockman’s’ Hall of Fame. This was well worth the visit. It gave a real insight into outback history and the people who were fundamental to exploring our country. What struck me was how hard it must have been. I have found it a long way to ride – it just goes on and on and on – but the original explorers did much of it on foot! And the Aboriginal people, who seemed to have the land worked out, were an invaluable part of the explorers’ successes. There was so much to see and I could have spent hours there. Unfortunately I only had a couple of hours and no time at all to visit the Qantas museum.

When I arrived at the Stockman’s’ Hall of Fame I secured my tank bag on the ground in the shade beside my bike, and put my helmet on top of it. When I came back there were ants crawling all over them... I didn’t fancy putting my helmet on and then feeling ants crawling on my face as I rode, so I spent some time making sure they were completely gone, all the while standing in the sun getting hotter and hotter. Wearing all the gear in the heat is very unpleasant. I wear Kevlar lined jeans, which are quite thick, and knee-high riding boots. Once I put on a jacket and helmet and gloves...

After a quick lunch in Longreach we set off on the short ride to Winton, with Doug sporting the bunny ears taped to his helmet.

Doug had to wear the bunny ears all day

Before long we could see storms in the distance. You could see areas where it was raining. We passed close to the edge of a storm but only had a few big splatters on our visors.
One of the groups that arrived in Winton a little later had to ride through drenching rain and a couple of inches of water on the road!

The rain storm we just missed

In Winton after setting up we had a camp dinner and entertainment by a bush poet named Gloria who told yarns and jokes. She was fantastic and very funny – Australiana type humour – none of which I can repeat here!

Now that’s a grasshopper!

Today’s distance: 186km

Posted by Jo vanEmmerik 21:35 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Day 7: Winton – Mt Isa. Wednesday 5th May 2010

The change in the terrain was very noticeable today. There is less green now as it gets drier, and there is more red in the landscape. The roadsides were dotted with pointy red ant hills and I spent some time trying to work out if they were all facing the same way.

The wind was quite strong, and on one stretch the fence running along both sides of the road had collected the dry grass at the top of every post so that it looked like rows of lollypops.
I find myself doing all types of calculations while I’m riding – like if I’m riding at 120km/h that’s 2 kms a minute, so in 10 minutes I should cover 20km, and then I watch the clock to see how close I get. Or, if we ride at 120km/h and one rider stops for 5 mins, maybe to take a photo or something, and then that rider travels 10km faster (130km/h) it will be half an hour before they catch up! Did I mention the roads are very straight and very much the same?

We had lunch at Cloncurry which has the highest recorded temperature on record of 53.1 degrees.

The road to Mt Isa was gently winding through hills – the most interesting riding in a while.
The campsite had almost no shade and was very hot. After a cold shower I rode into town in shorts and t-shirt – something I had always vowed never to do...

Mt Isa

A visit to the lookout gave a good view of the city. Sadly, the mine is something of an eyesore.

We walked around some of the city and found an ice cream shop :-)

We had dinner at The Overlander ($7.95 for a huge rump steak!) with Guy, a friend of Scott’s who works in the mine. It was fascinating to hear about his job. He works as charger – setting the explosives, which are detonated at ten minutes to eight every morning and evening. Apparently the resulting tremors can often be felt through Mt Isa but we couldn’t detect anything at that time. Guy works 1.2 km underground in constant 42 degree heat with 100% humidity.

Today’s distance: 475km

Posted by Jo vanEmmerik 21:41 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Day 8: Mt Isa – Three Ways. Thursday 6th May 2010

It was very windy during the night and I didn’t sleep well. Then I slept through my alarm and had to rush to be ready to leave at 7am. I was feeling tired and irritable, and with a long day ahead it wasn’t a good way to start. I was also feeling homesick and missing my kids and partner. To top it off I had no phone reception so I couldn’t even talk to them.

Today we tried out a new system of taking turns in front. Every 20km the rider at the front would slow and move to the left of the lane to let the others past. It worked quite well and gave us something to think about and count down to.

It was very cold to begin with, and by the time we reached Camooweal I was shivering. Still no phone reception.

Entering the Northern Territory

The next leg, into the Northern Territory, was to be the longest without fuel or places to stop – 265km. We rode without stopping for just over 200km. After a short break at a rest spot the guys took off before I was ready and by the time I pulled out onto the road they were out of sight. This left me with the choice between speeding to catch up with them, or riding on my own to the next stop. I chose the latter and by the time I reached the stop I was fuming and I made sure they knew it. :-( Finally I had phone reception and a call home made me feel better.

This was the longest day so far. My perspective on distance has changed. 200km before morning tea, and another 200km before lunch seems normal, when that distance would usually be a whole day’s riding. The landscape gradually changed - it had been mostly grass for a long time, then it changed to scrub.

Three Ways is located at the intersection of the Barkly and Stuart Highways. It consists of a roadhouse and caravan park.
I was asleep by 8:00pm. Tomorrow will be even longer.

Today’s distance: 640km

Posted by Jo vanEmmerik 21:44 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Day 9: Three Ways – Katherine. Friday 7th May 2010

I have packing up down to a fine art now. We set up as soon as we arrive at a campsite and usually get up around 5:30am with the intention of departing around 7am. If you don’t pack things in the right order you end up going backwards a few times.

There was a beautiful sunrise this morning, and as we left at about 6:40am we saw it from the road.
I was shivering by the first stop again, but soon afterwards it got really hot. We stopped in Mataranka and eventually found some food. There was no fuel. Not overly impressed with this stop though it apparently has a good camping area.

It is getting more humid now and this makes the heat harder to bear. We followed the same process of sharing the lead today but a 4th rider joined in. We have encountered a lot of road trains on this trip. They can be up to 53.5 metres long. When they are coming towards you, you often get a blast of wind pressure which can be disconcerting. Overtaking them requires a bit more planning than usual. Lucky the roads are so long and straight, and visibility is very good.

The next stop was the Daly Waters pub which has an amazing collection of, well, everything – cards, photos, currency, stickers, clothing items, hats, flags, bottles, number plates, tools.... bric a brac left by people passing through, covering every inch of the walls. We spent ages looking through it. Quite an amazing place!

Inside the Daly Waters pub

Riders who have gone before us

Sleepiness is still a big problem. As soon as the heat sets in it starts. I’ve found several ways to fight it off. The best is to get thinking about something interesting. If I let myself zone out, which is easy to do when the roads are straight and nothing around me changes, it becomes rather dangerous. When I am riding behind someone it is easy to just focus on them. I have followed Doug a lot and the image of his red fuel container on the back of his bike will now be etched in my memory forever...

Tonight at Katherine the riders from all states have met up. There was an official dinner and a meeting where everyone was welcomed and the details of tomorrow’s ride into Darwin were conveyed. Everyone is staying at Knott’s Crossing Resort, whether camping or hard walls. There must be about 300 bikes here.

Today’s distance: 660km

Posted by Jo vanEmmerik 21:49 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

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