Never one to begin a sentence with an excuse but…….my tardiness at updating this section of my blog may best be described as symptomatic of my thoughts and motivation post the epic Cross Australia trip. How could I possibly top that?. Well truth be told I was never going to reach those highs on this section and, on reflection, lesson learnt!. Perth to Sydney south and east about was always going to be a long, sometimes lonely, section, mainly tarmac, with the single aim of hitting Sydney and my reunion with my very (very!) good friends Nic & Neil.
So my apologies in advance if the next few pages isn’t quite as exciting as the last, but sort of understandable ?
Perth 16th – 21st September
Well my stay in Perth could best be describes as ‘uninspiring’. Not to criticise the city in any way. Perth and indeed Freemantle are great cities, full of life and character. But I’ve never been a city person truth be told and my stay was longer than expected given Katie was in need of more TLC than I had planned for. Almost a week went by before we were reunited and hit the road again. In that time I tried the tourist trail with a compulsory river and vineyard trip up the Swan river with a bunch of drunk Aussies on a Sunday afternoon, was a laugh though. Have to say it took a few days to scrub the dirt out, get used to hot showers (twice a day!), a proper loo, and clean clothes, just minor comforts but funny how you adapt when they are not available. I spent a huge amount of time planning the next leg and as my thoughts were turning towards South America and the challenges ahead a lot also went into the ‘what next’. This was especially important given the late notice change in the Dakar schedule, no Peru for the Dakar so I had to think again about my landing point into South America, no rush there then!.
What else can I say about Perth?. Well just a typical modern city. Not particularly unique in any way I found. Nice waterfront, very well presented municipal areas, lots of ‘city types’ around, loads of construction going on, not much else. I was lucky enough to get out to Fremantle one day to meet up with Magnus and Wendy again for a lunch and swap photographs. We had a great lunch at ‘Little Creatures’ (https://littlecreatures.com.au ) restaurant and brewery, great pick Magnus!. I was introduced to the whole Little Creatures brewing theme, oh so good. Freemantle could not have been more different from Perth, loads of history and far more chilled. Bit like an upmarket Blackpool – in a nice way!
Stayed at the Goodearth Hotel (www.goodearthhotel.com.au ) in the city centre. Ok room but just next to a construction site = no good!. Least said about this place the better am afraid. Spent most evenings on a take away or supermarket special hunt. Missing my bush tucker Magnus !.
Flashing the days by and right on queue Dave at KTM West in Perth (www.ktmwest.com.au ) delivered the goods big time on Monday and I checked out and headed on up to be reunited with an immaculate and rejuvenated Katie, oh so happy am I !. The amazing job Dave did on her, the attention to detail, time and forethought was amazing. What a great bunch of guys. Let’s not mention the $$$ but she deserved it given the last two weeks.
Well goodbyes made we hit the road again right into the Perth rush hour heading south on the motorway heading south for the coast. It felt so good to be back on the road again and Katie was loving it, she felt great. Happy days
21st – Perth to Heron Point Camp – 150km
We only managed to hit the road around 1430 so today was always going to be short. Main aim was just to get out of the city and find a camp for the night, I was seriously in need of some camp time by this stage. So 150km done, all tarmac and the light fading fast we hit upon Heron Point camp not far off the highway south. My guardian angels were smiling again with a great find here. Really nice quiet camp next to the shore line just as the sun was setting, spectacular. And yes there were loads of herons about on the sand bars settling down for the night too. Really friendly couple of Overlanders were administering the camp, only $12 for the night, a few $ for some fire wood, prime spot for Katie away from the few RV;s there, and the guy popped me a couple of his personal beers FOC, typical Aussie goodwill, magic !. Pitch up, it felt so good to be back on the road again, fire on with the stars just breaking out overhead. Class.
22nd – Heron Point to Beedelup National Park – 380km
Today was always going to be my first big ‘be a tourist for a day’. After all I had 5 weeks to get over to Sydney!. So all chilled out Katie and I upped camp and hit the tarmac again around 6am heading south towards Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse/Cape Naturaliese and the whale watch headland. After a slow pit stop for fuel and a McD breakfast (not great I know!) we made it to the Cape late morning. The routine of pitching up in tourist spots with Katie, looking a bit like Mad Max and all, was going to become a reoccurring theme. Always drew a few looks form the tourist types and Japanese on the buses. Parked up off I head on a trek to the whale watch, still in full riding gear, Alpinestars squeaking away scaring all the natives. A hot 30min later we make it. Looked pretty spectacular but having stood for over 30min and seen not a splash enough was enough, I just haven’t the patience am afraid!. I was convinced I saw a splash on the way back though way off the coast, well who knows but I’ll just tick it off the list anyhow.
Backtracking onto the tourist highway ‘Cave Road’ Route 250, we spent most of the reminder of the day meandering through Wine County. Really delightful rolling hills and green countryside. Over 60km through the Margaret River area with vineyards just about every 1km. Good job I was with Katie otherwise I could have been seriously delayed. Would be an amazing place to spend a few days in am sure.
The day fading away we headed for one of the many National Parks in the area on the lookout for a good pitch for the night. In the process we managed to take in a great, and pretty challenging, dirt track through one of the parks. A ‘forest drive’ as it was advertised but without a 4×4 you would be seriously struggling – fun, fun, fun!. Nice sojourn but no camp so pushing on I decided to kick my inner inhibitions and turned off the main highway into the dense forest on an ungraded forest track. Perseverance and positivity proven yet again we find a nice, very quiet, clearing in the forest just before sunset. Pitch up in super quick time, fire on, beer, chill under the stars, lights out, sorted!
23rd – Bush Camp to Bremmer Bay – 510km
More touristy stuff planned today we upped pitch early again and headed back out of the forest and onto Route 250 around 6am. ‘Cave Road’ as it is known follows a rolling, winding route south and east through some stunning countryside in-dispersed with a vein of deep caves a number of which have been opened to the public. I just had to do one of these on route. Stopping at the first one open, Calgardup Cave, I was duly rewarded. Not the largest of the cave complexes on route but as there was not another soul there I paid my $17 and I had the place to myself for an hour, what a great experience. Reaching the bottom of the complex, lights out and total eerie darkness, all consuming – job done – magic. Back on the road and it was seriously heating up (as it did all the way to Sydney). Next stop ‘The Valley of the Giants’. Not real giants you understand, but big, and I mean HUGE, trees. This whole area was like something out of Jurassic Park. Prehistoric forests, huge trees and ferns everywhere. Usual routine, park Katie up in prime position in the car park I couldn’t believe my eyes. Just across the carpark some guy is getting into a bright orange monster costume! (it’s only 30c by now!). Head thinking, Katie = orange = monster = PHOTOSHOOT !. So I pop over and would you believe it these two are English, OK yes you would!. Having a chat to the guys the guy in the costume is blind and they are on a mission to raise money for charity. So very impressed. Well they were delighted to be invited to my photoshoot, pictures in the gallery, and wouldn’t event accept my offer of a donation – big respect.
So off I head, full gear again sweating like the preverbal (good job these Alpinestars are done for walking) into the Valley of the Giants Tree Top Walk, albeit another $17. Quite a spectacular walk I have to admit. Gantries and bridges slung very high above the trees in this prehistoric forest. Worth the diversion defiantly.
Back on the road and hammering on I passed through Denmark and Albany without a stop, not a great deal to stop for on first impressions. Who know why but my head said I needed to make KM’s and find some dirt. So over 500km later, light fading, plasterd by ‘beasts’ we decided that after a couple of bush camps a bed and a wash were a priority. Bremmer Bay looked a good choice for the night as it was the jumping off point for some dirt/sand trails the following day. Out pops my friendly www.booking.com and as per norm filter on the ratings and up pops the Bremmer Bay B&B (www.bremerbaybedandbreakfast.com.au ), booked, sorted and now google mapped. We make it around 1830 to be greeted by an amazing venue and even better hosts. What a delightful place to stay, only wish it was for more than a night. Quick pop back into ‘town’ for some rations and we are sorted for a quite night in, shower, clean sheets, bliss !.
24th m- Bremmer Bay to Esperence – 435km
Really wanted to get off the tarmac today and into Fitzgerald National ark. Best laid plans and all that!. Well route out of Bremmer Bay east was a definite no according to the locals, 3’ deep ruts and water. Oh well, headed back west for a stint and then north onto 100-150km of long and boring graded gravel tracks. Took in Point Ann on route, which was nice but not spectacular. Kept stressing about tyre pressures as the TKC80’s were well squirrely and the rear was not holding up too well. Backtracked onto Route One, main highway through Jerramungup and then straight east. Well boring!.
So sticking to the tarmac by now and the huge stretches of open tarmac I head for Esperance and a likely motel for the night. Arrived late (again) and ‘rewarded’ with yet another 1960’s motel room, clean but well old. OK, 430 hot kms so Pizza on order. Wish I hadn’t, double yuk. Where’s the ‘bottle’o ?
Friday 25th – Esperence to Iserlite Bay (200km)
Late 0830 start by time packed and into IGA to sort rations for my hopeful night camped up.
Planned a short day route out via Fisherman’s Road to Israelite Bay, Cape Arid. Well got out to the Israelite bay track and did the first couple of km’s in deep, soft rutted sand and am thinking, WTF, no way am I going to do this for 40kms with the bike fully loaded and right enough clipped a bush with my left pannier and pulled the bike down into the deep sand. So here am on the deck on a really narrow sand track and think, no valour Ian, so start pulling the front wheel around trying to get me pointing back up the track. Sweating like a pig I get there after 15min and get the bike upright. So 2km back out and back track onto the grave again. Lesson learnt
Re-think my plan and locate a couple of options for an early pitch down on the coast. So I head off towards Seal Point and find a great pitch just at the back of the dunes where a few 4×4 RV’s are already pitched up. Sorted I head off across the dunes and t my huge delight find THE most amazing beach of pure white silica sand, and not a soul insight – nirvana!
I spent the best part of the whole afternoon exploring the beach, the rocky outcrop, had a swim (albeit in VVV cold southern ocean water), brief lunch with my last beer, before heading back to camp and try and get some respite from the incessant flies. I hid in the tent until sunset before venturing out to sort dinner on the stove, uninspiring!. Well didn’t hide long enough because I got attacked by the mossies’ and suffered for days afterwards. Lesson no; ??.
Saturday 26th – Seal Creek to Mundura Road Station – 610km (10,000 km in Oz)
Plan today was to make ground east. Early start, up at 5am and on road at 6am. Low cloud was hanging on coast making for a mystical first couple of hours out on the winding gravel tracks. Had my proper head on for a change and Katie and I were flowing. Was amazing to see all the Roo’s and Emus on the trial heading out in the early morning.
X-crossed back gravel roads looking for Balledonia Highway and did not see a soul for hours.
I headed north again to find the ungraded, and pretty wild, Balledonia track. Over 120km of rough, track, rocky, rutted with serious corrugations. Really hard and hot riding but good fun given all the tarmac of the previous days. Quite a serious track, definably only 4×4 and it must be really bad in the wet as you could see by the really deep ruts every hundred meters or so. We eventually made it out at the end onto the main Route One tarmac heading east. Quite surreal, from nothing to civilisation (if only in part!). Made it out by 1030 to Balledonia Road station.
Quick breakfast and up tire pressures, fill all four tanks, hit tarmac for longest straight in Oz the 90mile straight and the longest straight rad in Australia zzzzzzz. Nothing to see but low scrub vegetation 4×4 travellers and huge road trains.
Really strong side winds made the long tarmac starches even more tiresome but we eventually made it to Mundura Road Station for night at around 6pm. Yet another seriously dated motel, good food but really crap service. The woman service was so rude I was beginning to think it was me !!. Never mind, the Aussie footie semis were on TV so I settled into a Barramundi and beer at the bar and chilled!.
Early night. Lots of anti-bite cream.
Sunday 27th – Mundura – Ceduna – 676km
Planned for a big tarmac day to cross the Nullabore in one day. Another lazy start out of motel by 10am but set a good steady 100kph speed into the crosswind that prevailed throughout the crossing. Despite this we were still getting a good 24km/lt. A long long day saw us cross 2 time zones and made it into South Australia (for the second time)!. Heading into the start of Nullabore we saw spectacular beaches, low scrub and not much else. As the road meandered away from coast there was not a lot to visually stimulate and with nothing to distract attention my bones started to ache, especially the numb hands/finger. Just yet more road trains and travellers. After the Nullabore the scenery started to open out into huge grassy arable plains.
We made Ceduna just after sunset after the longest day of the trip so far, very tired and more than a bit sore. Katie was brilliant but the rear tyre staring to show real signs of wear. Just riding into Ceduna we road straight through quarantine check (didn’t see) and had to turn around for a serious lecture by some quarantine agents!. Despite being threatened with a $450 fine (must have been a slow day for them) we blagged our way past and on to the motel
Made the motel, nice friendly staff but usual dated clean room. Thanks god though for a shower, been a long, hot, hard day. Yet more junk food later I collapsed into bed thinking of a maintenance day tomorrow for both Katie and I.
Monday 28th – Ceduna – Day off – Maintenance Day
After a week on the road and big KM’s done we took the day off to clean Katie up, sort her oil, a nut and bolt check and re-pack. Got my washing done and did some shopping for a few bits. Spent the remainder of the day sorting an outline plan for following week to Sydney.
Quite a surreal town Ceduna. On the edge of an Aboriginal area, it’s very dated and quite tired with nothing of immediate note to attract anyone other than it’s the last town before the Nulabore.
All maintenanced out I settled for a crappy Shepard’s pie from the road station, a beer and an early night.
Tuesday 29th – Ceduna – Gawler Ranges – Bush Camp – 430km
Lazy start, no rush. Away about 10am planning to head east into the Gawler Ranges and some scenery. Picked up a few km’s off tarmac and then onto the dirt again at last. Really nice lazy and very quiet gravel trails into Gawler Ranges (http://www.environment.sa.gov.au/parks/Find_a_Park/Browse_by_region/Eyre_Peninsula/Gawler_Ranges_National_Park ). Rolling hills and rocky outcrops. Found really fun technical 4×4 trail into Organ Stacks rock formation. Climbed rock formation for a few shots. Not that spectacular but a change of scenery and pace from the day before. Carried on along quiet gravel trails passing Mount Ive station and the infamous part buried mini submarine!
With the sun starting to drop and after days of crappy motels we needed a bush camp. So heading off onto a unused trail heading north for a few km and we found nice pitch in a valley just off the main Mount Ive track. Pitch up and fire on just as sun set. Magic!. Stars out then a full moon rose from the east, just like daylight – amazing. Can it get any better!. Stayed up to late watching and listening to silence bliss……..
Wednesday 30th Sept – Gawler Rages to Flinders Ranges – 430km
Plan was for more sightseeing today and onto the Flinders Ranges and as much dirt as possible.
Early camp start as per routine, 0515 up and on road just after 6am. Cool start heading out onto the trail, extra T shirt order of the day. Nice easy gravel trails in cool sunshine and not a soul for hours and hours. Eventually we hit tarmac at Iron Knob (yes I know) mid-morning and looking for breakfast/fuel stop.
Stopped at small road station for fuel, coffee and toasted sarnie. Bumped into a German cyclist who was traveling light. His aim was to ride through 200 countries and he had been on the road for years, respect. Shared some road stories and had a laugh together for a good hour. As strange as it seems from that moment I genuinely started to feel like a real traveller, although still on a very steep learning curve!
The few hours of tarmac after I reflected hard on everyone being so friendly and helpful. Loads of people stopping at fuel stops asking about bike, travels etc., attracted by UK plate. People are what make journeys like this special.
We arrived in Port Augusta just after midday. Another nondescript port town. Quite busy but not a lot to see. Big commercial area. Made decision to get shopping in and to bush camp in Flinders that night. Headed off for lunch first and found ‘Australia Arid Lands Botanic Gardens’ garden centre. Cracking café, good lunch looking although I was like a refugee!. Back into town for shopping and I got side tracked by couple of overlanders outside Woolworths who chatted for ages, in serious heat, needed to get away!.
Hit road again at last and north to Flinders. After all delays unfortunately arrived at Brachina Gorge Geological Trail (http://uk.southaustralia.com/info.aspx?id=9000472 ) a bit late in the day, and head was thinking toward a camp pitch. But we hit the dirt with some daylight to spare. Rode v slowly through rough rocky trails into the Flinders spectacular gorges. Over 500 million years old. Rode slowly on, some other 4×4’x looking for camp sites. Patience pays off again – rode just off the trail over small hill and found great pitch just above a creek. Nice spot of sand for the pitch plus wood for the fire and someone had been here before and left a nice rock camp fire. Loads more animals and noise around, spectacular. Really nice quite night watching the sun go down. Baked potato and beans on the fire, mm mmmm!
Great night’s kip.
Thursday 1st Oct – Flinders Ranges – 510km
Camp up and on the road by 7am, beautiful sunrise and amazing light rising into the gorge. Headed out east along the trail planning to find as much dirt as I could heading ESE. Picked up some nice quiet graded gravel tracks through amazing geological formations through Bunkers Conservation Reserve (https://www.google.co.uk/maps/place/Bunkers+Conservation+Reserve/@-31.4014088,138.8296806,9z/data=!4m2!3m1!1s0x0:0x1c38a42c796bc46c ).
Turned south after Erudina Station onto worst section of gravel for days. Serious corrugations all way south (100km) onto the main highway, and much needed fuel stop. This was genuine hell on earth! We resorted to riding in side ditch to get a break. Had to get a rest so pulled off onto a goat trail as I saw what looked like a nice small hill for a photo shoot. Found abandoned gold mine and workings. Great shots and bit of technical riding later popped out back onto the corrugations for the last leg to the road station at Mingary. Thank god for that.
Fuelled up, light lunch, tyre pressures sorted and a detour later back onto tarmac for 200km to Broken Hill and the next night stop.
Getting real worried about rear tyre wear now. Made it to Broken Hill not too late and yet another very dated motel room but friendly staff. What a weird place dominated by the local iron ore mine and the home of the largest mining company in the world I’m told, BHP Billiton. Really felt like it too. Never mind, chose to grasp the atmosphere and have dinner at the bar again with a good mix of locals and contractors from the mine. Surprisingly they were all but gone by 9pm !. Barramundi again
Oh and crossed into NSW just west of Broke Hill and it has its own time zone, WTF?.
Friday 2nd Oct – Broken Hill – Lake Menindie – 220km
At fuel station back in Mingray I got chatting with a guy about the bike and my trip. He insisted that if I was passing through Broken Hill I must go to Silverton to see the Mad Max 2 museum. So off I headed the next morning 20km north of Broken Hill.
Silverton is a very small bush town preserved from the original settlement. Used as base for countless movies, Mad Max 2 and Pricilla Queen of the Desert were but two of the high profile movies made there. Apparently the light is very good there.
The Mad Max 2 museum is owned and run by couple who emigrated from Bradford just to set this up. Started from scratch some 6 years ago. An amazing spectacle in the middle of nowhere. Got a shot with Katie parked up next to the MM2 Dodge Viper, she always hogs the limelight!
It was defiantly getting warmer, well over 30c today.
So we started heading back towards BH but decided to make a call to get our rear tyre sorted. Google my friend suggested ‘Robs Dirt Bike Repair’ (https://www.facebook.com/robsdirtbikerepair).
Great guys, very helpful and great crack. Found a Mitas Dakar in the right size so we went for it. Took ages to break bead, v stiff. All sorted we headed off for supplies at Woollies’ then out onto road again and south towards Lake Menindie, yet another dry lake bed.
A little perseverance later we found nice pitch at Copie Hollow, a man-made lake with real water!. Gathered what wood there was and used load of mossie killer and spent another quite night by the camp fire this time with tinned chilli beef and a bottle of red. Mmmm!
Saturday 3rd Oct – Lake Menindie – Hilston – 385km
Not a great night sleep so up early at 5am. Fire on, coffee and left overs for breakfast. On the road just after 6am. Cool start but it’s going to heat up. We took the gravel road out of Menindie heading east through the stock farms out towards Ivanhoe. Long hot sandy/gravel road, bit tricky in places. Temp well over 30c. Pit stop at Ivanhoe, sarnie and iced tea. Still loads of fuel so back onto the tarmac now and head for Hilston and a shower. Called an early day as the temperature rose well over 35c. Found a really nice motel at Hilston. Had a very quiet night, managed to avoid an invite by a group of mineworkers who were obviously bent on a serious night, as the Aussie AFL final was on TV so takeaway and beer was the order of the day. Must be getting old Ian?
Sunday 4th Oct – Hiltston – Bathurst – 420km
Plan today was to reach the iconic Bathurst. Away again after another lazy 10am start, with the temp already over 30c, we took to some gravel back roads for over 200km through arable land. Onto tarmac for last 200km heading east and scenery changed to lush green fields, cows, horses and a little cloud cover. Just like home!. With traffic building, and not much fun we reached Bathurst at 6pm. Found a really nice, quiet motel. RFL final on TV so yet again Aussie land was on strike. Restaurant meal for a change, expensive!. Looking forward to Mount Panorama.
Monday 5th Oct – Bathurst – Blue Mountains
Tourist day today. Away by 10am to head down to Mount Panorama, just 2km down road. I just had to blag my way onto the track, so finding the security station I popped my head in and commenced action. 5mins later Katie and I head out onto the Mount Panorama pit straight – result !!! . I managed to get Katie parked up on the grid in pole spot for some pics.
An Ausse couple stopped by and insisted on taking some shots for me. We had a great chat, they had been coming to the event for 45 consecutive years, bar one!. We then went on and visited Australian National Motor Museum which was really good. Highlights – Jack Braham’s F1 car, Mick Hailwoods leathers, Wayne Gardeners 500PGP bike.
Back on road 12pm heading for Blue Mountains. We wandered around aimlessly for the afternoon. Wasn’t overwhelmed and there were far too many tourists, with the roads mega busy. After my last few weeks of isolation this just wasn’t fun. To top things off my GPS bracket broke for second time, aggghha!. Highlight that afternoon was finding Anvil Rock near Blackheath, what a great place for a photoshoot, quite spectacular mountains. We made the decision to camp for the last night on road in Australia so stocked up with some food/wine and backtracked it up to Mount Wilson where I had found a nice pitch earlier in the day – good call Ian. Had the place to myself, pitch up on real grass for a change, and found some wood and yet another night of camping bliss (bar the lack of sleep).
Despite the quite night some ‘wildlife’ has a great time during the night rummaging through my stuff and nicked my breakfast, bastards ! Didn’t hear a thing
Tuesday 6th Oct – Blue Mountains – Sydney
Last day on the road in Australia, must get the iconic Sydney phot and arriving at Nic & Neils!
It was getting very hot now. 37c by the time I arrived at N&N.
Up at 6am and we head down the mountain towards Sydney and find a really nice café open early in Bilpin (apple country) for a coffee and bacon roll. Decide to pop into Sutto’s KTM to sort bike service. Good chat with Chris, the boss! and Travis in the service team. Seem to look ok guys. We carry on east and into the big city, motorways, traffic lights, inevitably get lost in city centre and eventually pop out at Mrs Macquarie’s Chair for phot shot, iced tea and ice cream!. Not quite made it though, we need Katie in shot of course!. So off we head back into city and find great spot on Blues Point Reserve. I park Katie up on the dirt and that’s that !!!!. Sit down looking out over the harbour for an hour or so just reflecting on the past 8 weeks. I start getting all teary so I have to put a call into Tricia to tell someone I’ve made it (4am back home) bless her she picks up :) !
All that is left now is a huge reunion at Nic & Niel and of course the very special Charlotte and Heather. Thinking I have ages, I don’t count on the Sydney traffic, Garmin no tolls route and 38c!. I just have to pit stop at a pub then roll on. Inevitably I pull up at wrong house…doh!. Eventually I find Baulkham Hills NSW at last!!!!
Looking like a genuine refugee I pitch up to be greeted by the most amazing welcome. Inevitably all overwhelmed by it all its hard to hold it all in!
So we settle in to our first night in Sydney with real friends, barbie, beer and great company.
13,850km’s done since Brisbane and it’s been a long, at times tough but nevertheless hugely inspiring journey so far and to think this is just the start. My head is already turning towards South America and what will undoubtedly be a whole new experience. Excitement, trepidation and a little nervousness. Just keep thinking ‘it’s all about the journey and the people along the way Ian’