Across Australia – Ayers Rock to Freemantle
10th – Ayer’s Rock – Gibson Bush Camp
A cold and early start as we packed up at Ayers Rock. Full on Klim and heated grips for the first few hours am thinking and we head out past Ayers Rock then turn west towards the western Australia state border and our first taste of the Gibson Desert. 80km of tarmac then we are back on the graded dirt road again. Stopped at a memorial to yet another Brit adventurer that perished in the outback in the pursuit of gold, so many I’ve lost count. Usual stop for a cuppa and cake at 10am, 3hours in, and a chance to strip off back to shirt and armour a the pace heats up. We enter Western Australia.
Stopped at Warrakurna Aboriginal station for fuel, desolate and desperate road station at the edge of the Gibson. A short ride out to Giles Weather station and some real heritage whilst we have our staple beer and sarnie lunch. Here we find the remains of a British Blue Streak missile left by the Brits during nuclear testing back in the 50’s. The whole area to the north of us was a British nuclear test ground, until someone saw sense.
From here we head west and join the next huge challenge for the team The Gunbarrell Highway and uniquely the abandoned section. Nerves were at the usual high but to be honest the proper head was on thank god and Katie and I had a real blast on the twisty, sandy and rocky tracks into the Gunbarrell. The technical stuff was right up our street. As the sun started to drop, despite a long hot day I really enjoyed this section, more than any other to date, but camp we had to and Kev found us a magic spot between a couple of dunes and some trees so we stopped and clicked into our routine again – beer – swags – fuel – fire – food – chill – sleep ! Another 10h on the road and 400km done.
11th – Gunbarrell Highway
4am start, big day today.
Today was always going to be a challenge. Probably as tough, if not more so, than the Simpson. We had to make ground of roughly 225km over the Gunbarrell/Gibson all of which was technical sandy/rocky/twisty riding, and oh..…did I mention the corrugations ?, the f…ing, bloody, crappy, horrible, killer corrugations. Hell man if I never see another corrugation again I will die a happy man, honest!.
30min into the ride and relishing the challenge Katie decided that she had not had enough TLC the night before a sprung a huge fuel leak. On inspection we found it was the same leak that we had a few days earlier but this time I wasn’t gong away. So out come the tools and the pit crew spring into action, iPhone in hand with the service manual we pull the tanks and air box off, find the leak (another crap connector on a QR) and fix it. Top pit crew guys!. An hour later we are back on the road and Katie thanks us for our efforts.
This was serious tough. One minuet we would be banging on along a corrugated straight section and then you hit twisty rocks with serious deep ruts, then deep sand and more rock. Concentration had to be 100%, on the pegs all of the time. Katie and I were doing good for a change but the rest of the team had a few ‘challenges’ trying to force the pace., nothing too serious thankfully.
Into the afternoon, more bloody corrugations and this time Katie’s GPS bracket snapped off (despite there being no GPS in the mount). Simple fatigue failure due to the vibrations from the corrugations. Crap design but we will have to get this sorted in Perth.
The guys were really suffering at this point but we had made the Km’s as planned so pulled up for our last Desert bush camp and the delight of homemade meatballs and pasta for dinner
Tomorrow we had another short section of the Gunbarrell before we pull up at Carnegie Station for planned early finish and a deserved shower. Hell this has been hard”!
12th – Gunbarrel to Carnegie Station
Up at 0430 today (WA time folks) and roughly 260km to kill to het us to Carnegie Station. Carnegie is the archetypical cattle service station slap bang in the middle of nothing. The station serves a cattle ranch covering 5 million square acres, yes folks that is 5 million!.
This was the final real challenging section of our route (or so we thought) before Perth. So 2h or so of hard riding before we hit the graded section of the Gunbarrell and we can start to pin it. Usual rocks, tight corners, big rocky ruts etc. but despite a few scares and the odd off (new helmet Trav me thinks!) we all make in with a massive sigh of relief. Hitting the graded section was like arriving on another planet, we even had ‘road works’ to deal with. Well massive grading machines and diggers that I gave so much respect to I decided to ride up the sand banking to avoid!.
We arrived at the end of the Gunbarrell and Carnegie Station at 1330, TFFT !. A half day no less and time to pitch our swags under the tress in front of the station bar, that was a really crap idea Ian (more later).. So a chilled afternoon, only thing to do was drink more beer, watch the footie, along with the ranch hands that had been given the afternoon off specially and wait for tonight’s gastronomic feast – chilli con carnie and tortilla chips, more beer, coffee and oh did I mention the nightly chocolate feast?. Well the boys are working hard!.
Well the ‘footie’ party went on until around midnight when someone pulled the generators plug, everything went dark and the can kickers headed off to their swags. They were due up at 6am for the days cattle roundup (no horses people BTW just ‘yutes’) so had to end sometime right?.
Highlight of the night was the straggler who found his way to his ‘Yute’ and stuck a Bruce Springsteen CD on at max volume, ‘Ghost of Tom Jode’ I think was the track, before he fell out of the truck and crawled off to bed. Class!.
13th – Carnegie Station – Bush Camp
Plan was for a long but hopefully uneventful 550km of graded gravel today as we count down the final days before hitting Freemantle. Up at 0430 and it was cold, just as the ranch hands were stirring, we hit the road by 0545 put the pace on immediately. 550km mentally was always going to be tough. Well as predicted the first hour was easy, fast and cold. Then out of nowhere I see a huge plume of dust about 400m ahead, Kev had hit a section of deep bull dust just ahead of me in the middle of a huge newly graded gravel road. Well thankfully for him he made it through and forewarned (and not needing another Finke incident!) so did I, albeit it wasn’t easy by any means. Thankful for that we cracked on and upped the pace again.
Pulling up at our usual ‘on the hour’ regroup we both thanked god for some good luck and waited for the others. Well 30min later and still no show we start to get concerned and I decided to pull out the UHF radio to check in. Just as I did the Truck barrels over the horizon but no bikes to been seen?. Magnus, calm as ever announces that Travis has had a big off in the bull dust and thinks he has a broken leg…..crap! Stunned we follow the truck back to a creek where I get dumped with the other DRZ whist Kev goes back with the truck to Carnegie where Travis has been removed to. Last words I hear from Magnus as he disappears down the track is “wait here for 2 hours mate, if I’m not back, hide the DRZ over the hill and ride back to Carnegie. You’ve got water right (err yep) you can have a swim in the creek if you like (err nope) and plenty of wood here to make a fire (how bloody long do you think I am planning to stay here for?). Just as the truck disappears I think to myself, err how the heck does he expect me to make a bloody fire, rub two sticks together! I ain’t no Bear Grylls!
Well thankfully the truck returns in a little over 90min, so I have no need to put my desert survival skills into practice and crack out the magnesium striker!. The good news was that Travis was still with us, in the truck but in pain though. We had to drive him to the nearest medical centre at Willuna to get sorted, over 200km away.
Arriving at Willuna around lunchtime we drop Travis at the emergency medical centre (and I loose a bet with Magnus for $10 that the duty nurse would be a munter, I’ve still got the 10 mate). A couple of hours a beer and a sarnie later we pop back to the medical centre to be told that there is no break but possible ACL damage. Good news is that although there is no way he can ride Travis can go in the truck with us to Freemantle. So no moaning, no bad jokes and defiantly no farting mate!.
Still another 200km to do before camp we crack on and arrive at our planned camp near an abandoned gold mine around 5pm. What an amazing site, like a playground designed for KTM’s!. So off I popped for half an hour of self-gratification with Katie .
All ends well, great grub again, just made it past 8pm, stars, sleep and thoughts turn towards Freemantle.
15th – Bush Camp – Lake Mason
Penultimate day on the adventure and another 425km to put in before we camp at Lake Mason, our final camp before the big city and civilisation. Day revolves around easy gravel roads and people getting lost!, forgetting the daily routine with heads tired and thinking of tomorrow am guessing. We must have wasted best part of two hours backtracking for the ‘lost boys’! Never mind we still bang in the KM’s, have a great lunchtime road station burger stop and make it to Lake Mason (still no bloody water in any of these Lakes Magnus!) for our final camp.
Cracking curry with nans for dinner we make big attempts to demolish my VB beer mountain but all to no avail as we only make it to 8:05pm before the lights need to go out and swag time!
16th Lake Mason – Freemantle
Hell last day….! What does that feel like?. Can’t really describe it as emotions were so mixed. Very tired, sore, cold, relieved, accomplished, sad, happy, thoughts of the next leg….list is endless. All I really know is that this is not the end but the beginning for me and I can only thank everyone for all the help, encouragement and words of support along the way. On my worst day (day 2 in the Simpson) I simply remember the texts on my sat phone encouraging me to dig in, I did and now box ticked everything else will be easy (won’t it?).
Well after our meandering 400km or so we hit the big city and the first traffic lights for over two weeks and right on cue John jumps them!. Had to laugh. We arrive at Freemantle south shore around 1330 and overwhelmed by the last two weeks make our way down to the shoreline to dip the boots in the Indian Ocean. Looking as rough as hell I can only guess what the local ‘Baywatch’ types must have been thinking!
Well that was that!. Epic in oh so many ways and an event that will last with me forever. In some ways I can’t believe I am here when you look around and realise how different life is in the city and how little people know and understand of their own back yard. What an amazing place Australia is, in so many ways.
Well ritual done, the team and truck disappears and Katie and I are left on our lonesome to make our way to KTM West for some serious fettling, that’s for Katie by the way, I am heading off for three showers, a sit on a real toilet, a shave, a number of beers and a pizza.
Thanks and good night!