Perth to Sydney – Heading Back East

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’ 

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! 

Cross Australia – Airlie to Ayers Rock

31st – Airlie Beech to Charlie’s Hut

0730 am and Katie and I are all packed up and ready to hit the start line. To say we were a wee bit nervous would be a libellous description of the situation. The evening before Magnus had taken delight at informing us the average success rate for the trip was 50% !!!, including many broken bones, even more broken bikes and the odd start line casualty, and remember – only four of us made it to the start !.
So out we roll heading for a meeting point with the team at Magnus’s house in Airlie Beach. Quick coffee and ditch the panniers etc. the truck (thank god Katie says, I’m fee!) and off we head line astern for the ritual ‘boots in the Pacific ocean’. Only 16 days and nights and 5800km before we reach the Indian Ocean.
First day on the road was pretty uneventful a mixture of tarmac and dirt, or last traffic lights for 15 days and most importantly (and setting the example for days to come) the obligatory pub stop at lunchtime. Not any ordinary pub but our first ‘bush’ pub, The Bowen River Hotel. As iconic an Aussie retreat you could only wish for, magic.
First night in and we are treated to our first genuine ‘bush camp’ at Charlie’s Hut (not so much a hut as some rocks and bushes’ really). Now this is the real deal, just what I signed up for. Genuine Aussie ‘Swags’ (more on that to come), a huge bush fire and what’s more a full on beef roast cooked on the fire – bloody amazing. However, the highlight of the evening had to be the ritual rolling out of our ‘swags’ for the first time, few of us had any real clue and I could see Magnus ready to laugh his socks off and right enough Kevin, the other Brit in the pack, pipes up – “ we’re not sleeping on the ground are we’ !!. “Hell yeah mate” retorts Magnus…. 
Never live that one down Kev…………
So bushwhacked after our first day out we retire around 8pm and gather our energy/thoughts ready for a long day tomorrow.

1st – Charlie’s Hut to Longreach

5am start today, and what will become our ritual ‘up before the flies’ rise in the dark, roll up the swags and a breakfast in silence around the rekindled campfire. Full on cooked breakfast will be the order of the days to come, including filtered coffee, or as I just can’t get out of my cyclist routine, a selection of cereals and fruit and yes in the middle of the outback. You think am kidding you on – I jest not! Holiday Inn eat your heart out!
Breakfast sorted as the sun starts to rise we pull on our gear and fettle the bikes ready for kick off and a long 420km on the dirt west to Longreach.
Hammering on we reach Longreach early, this will be the teams pace for the whole trip as we crack on daily reaching stops well ahead of schedule. Unfortunately the truck has a few issues of its own so Magnus arranges for a local mechanic to fettle it the following morning. Bonus for us is a lie in and a coffee shop breakfast – well civilised!
Longreach looks to me like a bit of a ‘wild west’ town. Its only purpose is to service the local cattle stations in the area. We even get to see a full on ‘wild west’ style horse and carriage trucking tourists up and down the high street, class!

2nd – Longreach to Windorah

So nice lie in this morning (enjoy as it will be the last until Ayres Rock) and coffee sorted we hang loose until the truck is all sorted around lunchtime then hit the dirt again for a fast paced 320km out to Windorha. A brutal cross/headwind that keeps Katie and I entertained on the dirt. A quick stop at the Stonehenge Pub for lunch, yes the original Stonehenge Magnus I know!.
Arriving in Windorah around 5pm we encounter the first serious ‘cultural highlight’ of the trip the annual Windorah ‘Yabbie’ races!. Yes you read it right folks, a ‘Yabbie’ actually turns out to be a freshwater crayfish and every year locals and travellers from miles arrive here in mass to bid for, bet on and race the ‘Yabbies’, oh and have a beer or 64!. The town usually has a population of around 200 now swells to many thousand. Absolutely completely and utterly bizarre…..! But outback culture it is and respect to the townspeople, it’s all in aid of charity.
Trying to get some kip that night in our swags pitched on the edge of the towns campsite was a challenge to say the least, in fact am not sure I got any, the party went on until we rose at 0430am!

3rd –Windorha to Birdsville

Up at 0430 am and this time not just to beat the flies but the mass exodus of ‘travellers’ that will be heading west at speed to secure their campsite at Birdsville in advance of the annual Birdsville Races the coming Saturday. Well all I can say is what ensued over the next 390km and 6h of riding was what can only be described as whacky races on steroids!. Bloody hell, 4×4’s, trailers, trucks and dust, dust, dust….all competing for road space and all trying to avoid one an others dust. It was like ‘Mad Max beyond the thunder dome’ believe me!. In the midst of the chaos Katie started being ‘needy’, a small fuel leak that came and went and the start of my clutch problems that we would struggle with all the way to Perth.
We made it to the iconic Burnsville (the start point for the Simpson Desert crossing) around 4pm and fought off all comers to secure our pitch about a Km out of town. The place was heaving, and this two full days before the races. I’ve never seen so many empty beer cans in my life!. Another night of restless sleep, parties went on, and on, including the usual can kicker at 3am!

4th – Birdsville – Simpson Day 1

A 5am start and the nerves really were kicking in now as we headed out to the start line for the first big challenge of the trip and our 3 days crossing the Simpson Desert. In truth, I was crapping myself but trying hard to stay positive. This was only 2 weeks or so into what I am hoping will be a 6 month trip and I’d signed up for one of the toughest 3 days of biking I will probably do in the whole trip already!. Good planning Ian!.

20km out of Birdsville the road ended and the desert began. True to form Magnus had us ride the infamous ‘Big Red’, the largest dune in the Simpson, before we even started. Only one thing for it I thought, pin the throttle and see what happens, sand is soft after all?. Well three attempts later I finally made it over and TFFT echoed over the dune!. If that was designed as a confidence booster not quite sure Katie and I got it!.
Well onward and upward, we headed out for our first full day in the sand. The whole desert is a series of parallel dunes that run north south and are dispersed about 2-300m apart, until the mid-point when they all just seem to flow together. The sand is pretty soft and a reddish colour, full of iron ore am guessing. The route/or track I guess you could call it runs straight up and over the dunes in the first section and then roughly parallel and over the dunes in the second. Because it is frequented by 4×4’s mainly the ‘track’ is a series of soft ruts that can be useful going up but hell over the top and coming down as ruts intersect and create even softer sand areas. First half day Katie and I are down as much a up and become experts in pickups and restarts!, albeit it seriously takes the energy out of me as the day progresses. By mid-afternoon I am starting to get the hang of things and enjoying it more. The heat and the constant effort in picking the bike up is seriously draining, exactly as Magnus and Darren had told me it would be.
Thankfully we make it to the French Line and a short respite as we run along a salt flat parallel with the dunes as we head for Poeppells Corner, the site where three of Australia’s states all meet and three time zones collide. A bit underwhelmed by Poeppells post in the ground (Aussies really need to make more of an effort in the monument stakes!) we head out to our camp for the night and a well-deserved rest. Lesson learnt today, don’t follow John!, his sense of direction is crap and Travis and I follow him for another couple of km in deep sand in the wrong direction, double crap!. Eventually realising the sun does actually set in the west we turn around and struggle back to the camp to find Kev and Magnus into the beer already feet up. Cheers guys!
Day one in the desert done, 130km of sand, am done in and looking forward to tonight’s gastronomic delight beer and pasta!. By 7:30pm we are all ready to crash and Magnus makes sure we will sleep satisfied in the knowledge that tomorrow will be AN EVEN HADER DAY when we head into ‘The Mincer’ !, cheers mate!

5th – Simpson Day 2

4:30am start, loaded up on as much cereal as I could possibly cope with in one sitting we head off as the sun rises into ‘The Mincer’ for 40km of sheer hell. I honestly really struggled up to lunchtime, confidence was low and having to pick up Katie again and again energy was draining from me. To boot Katie’s clutch was showing signs of stress and I could smell the plates burning on every dune. We were struggling. In a short but bizarre break in the full on routine we passed a modified Model A Ford Car, the only other vehicle we had seen so far, that was crossing west to east with a full film crew and support vehicles in tow making a documentary – he was broken down at the side of the track – nuf said.
The clutch issue really started to get to my head, despite Magnus and I backing the Rekluse out as much as we dared, it was still slipping under power. Finally, late afternoon as I was struggling over another dune Magnus stops Travis and I, here’s me thinking he’s about to pull my plug for me and he is waving from the bottom of the dune for us to come back down to the truck. I was crapping myself, please no. So Travis and I head back down only to find that the truck had shredded a tyre and Magnus was needing some help to change the wheel, thank fuck for that!. I was seriously was so relieved, despite us sweating our backsides off for 30min whilst changing the wheel.
Wheel sorted we headed back out over the dune again. True to recent form I stopped a few meters short of the top frustrated and tired. So Magnus, also frustrated am thinking, walk’s up the dune and says he will ride Katie to the top. Off he goes, all shorts, thongs and smiles and makes it look like kids work. Katie at the top I head up and passing Magnus coming down he says to me in full on Aussie twang “Ian mate, I know I make it look easy, but that’s because it IS mate”….FFS Magnus !
Well that was it for me that day, 5pm, knackered, low on confidence and energy and with a bike showing signs of distress I decided to pull a majority of one and pitch camp. Tomorrow is another day and we will be better and brighter. I will ride like a god and Katie will ride like a dream….!
So we pitch camp, all shattered but full of chat the beer and dehydration takes charge. Oh thank god for cold beer, oh and yes a serious curry feast in the Simpson Desert under the Milky Way…just bloody perfect. Goodnight!

6th – Simpson Day 3 – Dalhousie Springs

Despite being shattered I fretted all night about Katie’s clutch and the 100km or so left of the Simpson before we make the graded gravel tracks again. On the plus side we had another ½ days riding out of the dunes and we are heading for Dalhousie Hot Springs and our first wash for a week, now that’s motivation.
Early start again and I had my head is on this time. The morning’s dunes were more flowing and twisty than before and having found Magnus’s ‘secret technique’ the day before I thought fuck it, crash or bust and at last things started to flow…Katie and I were actually killing it. Kev in front, we led the pace and made it out to the end of the Simpson just before lunchtime, high bloody fives all around! Relieved or elated am not sure which but hell the feeling was good 
The afternoon ride back on graded gravel roads to Dalhousie Hot Springs was uneventful and we pulled up at Dalhousie around 4pm. Stripped and in need of a beer and a good wash we followed Magnus down to the spring. Absolute bloody bliss…..floating in hot water in the outback beer in hand and Simpson down, hell does life get better?. Thoughts of the next big challenge of the Gibson and Gunbarrell were so far off no one cared.
Can’t miss a chance to have a cold shower and do some laundry in the ‘basic’ pubic showers, wish I hadn’t, was bitten to the point of death by mossies and suffered for days afterwards. Another lesson learnt!.
Gastronomic highpoint number ???, Chile-con-Carne and Tortilla chips, stars, lights out, sleep.

7th – Dalhousie Springs– Lambert Centre

Bit of a transit day today, all dirt but mainly graded gravel as we make distance west to Lambert Centre, the geographic centre of Australia and the halfway point of the trip. A cold start had the jackets and neck warmers on first thing. We headed out for a short cultural tour of some local ruins from the first British settlers in this region, hell they must have been hard, what a windswept bleak landscape.
Fast rough graded sand and gravel tracks followed before our breakfast stop at Mount Dare Hotel. Archetypical outback road station but it was nice to sit down at a table and use a real loo for a change.
Back on the road we headed out to Finke and our sojourn at the Fink Desert Race Track. Well the video and pictures tells most of the story on this one but in essence – good idea, badly executed!. A desert race track for which one lap lasts 220km !!!. Well heading back out, at the head of the team, I hit a patch of bull dust at about 70kph, crap crap crap!!!. Went down big time, head first. Helmet full if bull dust up I pop, badly winded and pick Katie up. Once the dust starts to settle all I can see is Magnus with his camera out….can’t write the words people!. Thank him later though as the pics were epic! That bull dust will stay with Katie and I all the way to Perth. At least we look the part now!
Arrived at Lambert Centre around 3pm after a tricky 11km of windy sandy road for an early finish.
Point of note, after the Finke incident Katie and I did not put another foot down all the way to Freemantle – Go Katie!
The centre of Australia they tell me, mmmm. Another monument opportunity missed Australia. Crappy steel structure and tatty flag – come on guys!
Anyway, highlight of the evening was the ritual sacrifice to the hair gods!. I pulled my shears out and got my own back on Magnus, lopping his hair to within a mm of its existence…job done!

8th – Lambert Centre – Ayers Rock

One more days riding before our first day off!. Have to ride the tricky 11km out of Lambert Centre back out onto the graded gravel then we hit the accelerator and pin it out to Ayres Rock,s can’t wait!. Long day in the saddle today, over 430km, but true to form the pace is relentless and we hit Yulara at 1530, plenty of time to secure a great pitch at the very plush campsite, have a shower and get ready for ‘beer o’clock’ time.
Was a hard last 100km along some serious corrugations and sandy roads. Highlight has to be the mass camel stampede caused by John (well that’s my excuse, all happened behind me gov!).
Shower sorted we head into ‘town’ for a few more beers, pizza and pool – Brits rule again – sorry Magnus!. By 9pm we are all flagging and head back to the pitch for a deserved kip and semi lie in before our day off tomorrow.

9th – Day off Ayer’s Rock

Day off today but Travis, Kev and I had already decided we wanted to head out to Ayers Rock before dawn to try and get that iconic photo opportunity, you just can’t miss it really. Well best laid plans and all that. It was bloody freezing and clouding over. Trav and Kev in shorts, at least Katie was keeping me happy with the heated grips. We rode the 20km out, missed the shot, got frozen in the process and decided that a 1km hike was enough for our bike friendly legs, grabbed a couple of tourist pics and headed back to camp. Hey ho!.
Next we took a walk into the metropolis that is the tourist centre of Yulara, to get a civilised coffee, breakfast and some internet access. I camped down in the local coffee shop to sort my blog and website for the afternoon whilst the guys took a wander. Later pm Kev and I headed back out to the Rock, little warmer this time, to get a photo opportunity only to be stymied this time by the mobs of tourist’s. The outback really is the better for me. Evening grub was an uninspiring burger at the local bar followed by a Australia v UK pool match with the locals, only made up Northern Territory rules prevented us from mincing the locals!
Back to camp by 10pm and thoughts already turning to stage two and the Gunbarrell.

Airlie Beach – Tourist for a Day – 30th August

Katie all sorted for the big off on Monday morning, kit ready and head in the right place hopefully!) I just couldn’t leave the Great Barrier Reef without doing something ‘touristy’, so how best to tick the boxes?. My friend Google pops to the rescue again with a ‘GBR tour’ and up pops exactly my cup of tea, a one hour flight over the reef (got to be some photo opportunities in that one me thinks) and the rest of the day out on the water exploring the Whitsunday Islands by a boat with a big engine…..where do I sign up!. Sorted.
So new pink and blue board shorts in hand (seriously the only pair I could get in a 30” honest!) and new ‘thongs’ fitted (best left to Aussies to explain that one) off I head for a classic day.
Collected by the usual mega friendly Oz mini bus driver from my digs early doors we arrive at the airstrip around 8am. Quick briefing and familiarisation with our 6 seater plane and we are in the air heading out over the Whitsundays. Snap happy Ian is clicking away at anything that might look ‘arty’, more in hope than considered skill if am honest. Well as the pictures (and Adobe Photoshop) proves, take a 100 and one must surely be ok?. Seriously though, seeing the sheer beauty of the reef, islands and pristine white sand from the air was pure class. Good call that one and many thanks indeed to http://gslaviation.com.au/ seriously professional, class act.
Post flight off we are packed for the rest of the day in a RIB with big motors, appropriately entitled ‘Wild Thing’. So me, a dozen backpackers (a message there?) and a few oldies, yes me as well despite the cool Quicksilver Board Shorts!, head off for a day in the sun. The two kids (must have been all of 12!) driving the rib were seriously good fun, archetypical Australian I every way, Baywatch eat your heart out. After hammering out for an hour we drop the pick next to one of the islands for our reef snorkel. What a laugh watching all sizes and shapes pulling on our wetsuits, did I say there were a few backpackers?, mmmmm!. So here’s me, ex professional Mine Countermeasures Clearance Diver, ex Falkland’s veteran thinking this is MY bag. Well 30min later with 1” thick Vaseline pasted over my face I still couldn’t get a seal on my facemask and at risk of drowning for the sake of looking cool I decided sunbathing may be a better option !. Never mind, seen one reef seen them all. Next on the stop list was a hike (well a short walk up and over a miniscule island to get some phots) on one of the Whitsunday islands. Lunchtime now and surely there is a beer somewhere? Well true to form we are dropped off on what was described as the world’s most pure coral sand beach at Whitehaven. Simply amazing……I’ve been on a few beaches but that one defiantly lived up to the billing and to top it all YES beer (albeit at $5 a pop) and a surprisingly good picnic lunch served up by the crew. I now know why there were so many backpackers….free lunch time! Shit it was like a bunch of seagulls at Blackpool!.
All chilled out we then hammered back to Airlie Beach and my date with Magnus and the team for our pre trip beers.
Arrived at Magnums Bar Airlie Beach that evening for a couple (got to be on my best behaviour) and introductions to my teammates for the next two weeks. Having met Magnus a couple of day’s before and hit it off with the guy straight away it is always good to see a familiar face in the bar and even better to meet another Brit, Magnus’s lovely wife Wendy. So beers sorted in drifts the team, Kevin another Brit (albeit from Cheshire, will excuse that one mate), Travis (no not Pastrana) from WA and John (thank god there is someone older than me) from NZ. The footnote was classic. The 5th member of the team, another Aus from Darwin, was nowhere to be seen so mid second beer Magnus starts to get a wee bit concerned and calls the guy. No answer but up pops a text. ‘Sorry mate but can’t make it, not been on bike for a while, too busy playing compute games’….WTF ! . Well down goes our first casualty.
Just one beer later with everyone thinking what the hell have I let myself in for we head off with heads thinking tomorrow will be a big day, oh yes !.

A week meandering up to Airlie

Yes I know it’s been a while coming but internet troubles aside I really have been a tad busy….honest. Thought I had better post a short update on the past week before we head off into the wilderness on Monday (hopefully to pop out the other side in 16 days time!)

Day 2

Warwick – Killarney – The Falls Road – Darlington Park Camp

After the trials and tribulations of my first day on the road day two could only improve, well couldn’t it? Day started a bit later than planned, I really need to work on the unpack/pack thing, it’s taking forever. Rough plan was to head back east and hopefully meet up with a new Facebook friend of mine, Darren Wilson, who lives on the Gold Coast. Sounds great doesn’t it, where do you live….err Grangemouth…oh well I’m from the Gold Coast!. Aussies have something right at least.

Well thanks to Darren, I got some pointers and headed off into the rolling hills of Killarney and the Falls Road. Nope it isn’t Belfast, couldn’t have been any more different. What an amazing twisty winding hilly route. Just suited to Katie. She deserved it after yesterday. The decent was like something you would expect to see in the Pyrenees. Darren had also suggested a wee section of ‘moderate’ off-road so off I headed. Looked ok at the bottom of the climb but time was ticking on and I was low on fuel so discretion and valour Ian, only day two after all, and decided to head back to the nearest town for fuel and supplies before backtracking to find a campsite I had spotted earlier. Had a wee detour to find a ‘bottle O’, don’t ask!. Arrived at the campsite and was well pleased. What an amazing site and what has been the norm to date the people were really friendly and helpful. Katie got the pick of the site up on the hill and we retired for a quite night. Well sort of, sitting in the pitch black admiring the stars I see what looks like another motorbike heading up the hill in the distance. Getting closer and closer, am thinking I could really do without the hassle as I need sleep, the thing then heads directly at me, am thinking he can’t see me and am going to get run over so I make a dive for my head torch!. At the last moment he stops. It’s the owner on his quad. Off he pops and says, we thought you would like a hot sausage roll! Hell yeah! Honestly made my day J.

Day 3

Duck Creek Road – O’Reileys – Canugra – Nerang – Darren’s

Awoke to a still morning with low mist clinging to the trees across the valley. Determined today to make it across to meet Darren before I have to head north. So with more than a little trepidation I headed out towards Duck Creek Road again. It looked ok in the dry yesterday but I wasn’t filled with confidence when the camp owner shook her head at the prospect!. Well got to the gate at the bottom of the climb and hopped off for a drink and open the gate for a group of riders who had just descended, on BM’s. Well that was it, my head said. If a bloody BM can do this then Katie will fly it, of course had not accounted for the fact that they were on the downward leg, it was wet and getting wetter. Also didn’t help my confidence when pulling away from the gate my front wheel slipped on some camel crap and I dropped the bike on its side into it! . Crap…literally!.

Well filled with adrenalin now off we headed and thankfully we were both rewarded with a brilliant, if a tad slippery, rocky, twisty ascent into what looked like a tropical rainforest at the top. The pictures could not do it justice. Great confidence booster. Well out we popped onto the road at the top and it was well damp so we decided to drop back down off the hill and find the nearest coffee shop. Lucky us, we came across a Lama farm…that I’ll do!. Plenty of time on our hands now and the main job done off we headed for the Gold Coast and Darren’s.

I can see now why they named it the Gold Coast, really classy place. Well Garmin did its job and we pulled up outside Darren’s pad. Have to remember I have never met or even spoken to Darren in my life. I could best describe the next 24 hours as like a reunion with a best mate I’d not met in years. The greeting and the amazing hospitality shown by Darren, his lovely wife Mandy, their two amazing girls and of course the obligatory dog left me feeling completely in awe. I can’t thank them enough for welcoming me into their home, me a complete stranger, and only hope that at some time in the future, on their planned travels abroad, I can return the favour.

I came away the following day feeling totally overwhelmed by my stay, and to boot with a with a load of spares provided by Darren, more advice that I could possibly remember, a great plan for a route back from Perth to Sydney, a unique insight into Darren’s new business venture https://www.facebook.com/HARDkitsRR and a chance to drool over some genuine Dakar history in his garage. Chuffed…hell yes!

Day 4

North – Frenivle – Esk – Camp Somerset Dam

Armed with a rough plan of attack we headed off the following day to get some distance north towards Airlie. One nugget of advice from Darren was to look for the brown roads on the map, dirt! Well at last we found some and spent a good part of the day exploring Km after Km of hot dusty gravel roads linking short sections of tarmac. Hard for a UK rider to understand but these ‘dirt’ roads are main highways for the locals linking the numerous remote farms, settlements and schools and they are equally as well signposted as the main roads. You can go on for hours and not see a soul.

After a great day we spotted another nice campsite, almost deserted, near Somerset Dam. So Katie got the prime pick again and we spread out under the trees for another quite night. The only rations available was at a petrol station across the road. Yet again my luck held out and the proprietor, who had only just taken on the business and was trying to make a real go of a store, small restaurant and petrol station was so glad to see a customer I got the full treatment, including two of the old man’s beers free (despite the lack of a liquor licence!). Result!

Day 5

Next day is better off forgotten. Lots of tarmac Km’s trying to make distance north and a crappy motel room to boot. Can’t win em all!. Only highlight to mention was the spinning parrots!. Honestly, check out the phot gallery.

Day 6

Bundaberg – Deepwater NP – Agnes Water

Late start today as I wandered around Hervey Bay trying to find a few spares, all to no avail. Key objective was to collect my new Helinox camp chair from Australia Post in Bunddaberg. I was still really keen to find a beech camp site before we head west so spotted what looked like a prime choice in Deepwater National Park near Agnes. Well left myself too much to do again and arrived at the entrance track late. Rushing before the sun went down I headed in and made a big mistake. 7km to the site and the first km was deep soft sand all rutted up by 4×4’s, great!. Fully loaded and on road tyres Katie and I went down twice in the space of a hundred yards. Bad decision so off I jump and start dragging/digging Katie (did I mention the fully loaded bit?) around out of the sand so we could head out back to the main road. Sweating my socks off we eventually made it out just as the sun was going down. Another lesson learnt and the second is to have a plan B. So stuff it off I head into town and get the first vacant room I can, and as my luck still seemed to be holding a nice room it was too. The receptionist even took pity on me, given what I must have looked like at that stage, and gave me an upgrade and a discount to boot. Result again!.

Day 7

Minam Vale – Boyne Valley – Diglum – Rockhamption – Byfield – Camp Red Rock

Lesson learnt from yesterday. Don’t leave camp too late in day. Well given the plush bed and room 10am ain’t that bad?

Plan today, more miles north and please just a little dirt. Given the flexi card got a bashing last night too we MUST camp. So banging the miles in off we head again and manage to find another 50km’s or so of dirt between the longer stretches of tarmac as we head further north, and yes it’s defiantly getting hotter and dryer. We turn west to get off the main A1 route north and find a really nice quiet section of tarmac that ribbons its way through the Boyne Valley towards Rockhampton. Stop by a bizarre monument in the middle of nowhere commemorating the 1956 Olympic torch relay. Reminded me of Gordon who was born in 1956, taking his turn to care for Mam and Dad now, god bless him.

Arrive at the planned camp site in Byfield State Forest with time to spare tonight and throw the tent up in time for a pie and a beer before the sun goes down, classy!. What I’d not accounted for was the ants that proceeded to have their evening meal courtesy of me. Crap, and I am still suffering for it two days later!

Day 8

All tarmac today and a long 460km’s….zzzzzzzz. At least the plan came together today with a nicely reconnoitred stay at a wee motel at Seaforth Bay. Usual amazingly friendly greeting, Katie certainly draws a crowd!, followed by the best room the guy had to offer and prime parking for Katie. Nice find Seaforth a lovely quiet beech village.

Day 9

All things come to he who waits!. A nice short 160km up the road to Airlie Beech today for the weekend and a rest before the big off on Monday. Importantly also I met up with Magnus the owner of http://outbackadventuretreks.com.au/ the company supporting the expedition across Australia. What a character Magnus is, to say the least!. We had a great chat while Manus helped (instructed) me on how to fit tyres the correct way> I learned more in 30mins there on hints and tips with bike maintenance than I have in years. Had a great chat about bikes and stuff, as you do and the trip to come. Was a little perturbed by Magnus telling me that of the last few cross Oz trips they have only had 50% of the group made it to the end!. Well don’t care if am Mr sensible for the next two weeks but there is no option B for me, this is just the start not the end!.

After a nice cuppa, new boots for Katie and a deserved wash down we headed off across to our digs for the next three nights in Airlie Beech. Serious yacht city this place, with a touch of Blckpool mixed in, bit weird. Found the digs…….agghhha. Dumpsville!. What followed was another lesson learnt in perseverance and how to make the most of your situation, accent and the lone traveller. I was given a real dump to stay in and nowhere near Katie. So after some thought popped back to reception to woo the ladies into giving me a nicer pad. Guess what…..result, three in a row…feel am on a roll now!. We were upgraded to a ‘luxury’ villa. I say ‘luxury’ tongue in cheek as life is relative as we all know. At least Katie is parked right outside under cover.

Day 10

Airlie Beech R&R

Two days R&R before we head west so today I spent half a day shopping for ‘stuff’, probably more than I need, and the rest of the day fettling Katie and rationalising my kit before Monday.

So now I actually have a day off on Sunday and a chance for some ’touristy’ stuff before meeting up with the tour crew and the other guys on the trip tomorrow night for a light ale or two.

Might have to wait a couple of weeks for my next full update once we arrive in Perth but will keep you posted via Facebook and you can follow our progress via the ‘Location’ page of the website

Better off now and give my old bones a rest!

On the road at last – Day One

What a day!. Epic it was not. I should have expected as much after being up until 2am trying to sort my mobile data connection with the less than useful people at Telstra on line chat, then only less than 3 hours kip. What followed was a day chasing my tail. Learnt two lessons, 1. Don’t believe in google maps and 2. Don’t skimp for the sake of a few $. Having been advised that I could walk from a local train station to the cargo depot south of Brisbane I really should have called a Taxi. I headed off lugging all my riding gear, plus rucksack and tech stuff – 1 1/2h later wandering lost around a park unable to find an entrance into this huge cargo area (aka Mangrove Swamp) some locals took pity on me and called a taxi. Sweated my ass off!. Arrived at Interport Cargo Services to find Katie safe and sound huddled in a corner all alone – she needed some love!. Am sure she smiled at me J. Unfortunately for us though Oz Border control in their infinite wisdom had taken apart everything they could and decamped all my luggage onto a pallet, crap!. Sweaty, tired and frustrated with the clock ticking away I made my third bad decision and started packing everything up again and loading the luggage on the bike ‘without’ checking it would start (more on that later). An old soul driving a fork lift took pity on me and tried vainly to help, even filled my water bottles, good on him. So an hour or so later everything loaded up, kit on and ready for the big off, turned the ignition and….nowt,,,aggggh!. Ok, so off comes the luggage again and the old bloke pops back with a set of jump leads and a battery that would kick start a Saturn V rocket. He then proceeds to test them jump cables by bridging the two cables, shit…sparks everywhere and he jumps back 10 feet. Ok so I have to take charge now and ask him to key the bike while I ‘lightly’ apply the cables and….success!. Katie fires into life and thanks me profusely. Right, now the trick is to keep the bike running while I exit this maze of a cargo facility and get to a petrol station (engine running while I fill up), remember only have 1lt in the tank Ian!. So off we potter, petrol sorted and now on the road, ok motorway…so excited to be free I head in the wrong direction completely, double crap!. Never mind, next junction circle back around and decide to head south and west to get out of the city ASAP. No idea where I am heading, but enjoying the reunion nevertheless, I eventually find myself heading out towards Ipswich (that’s not in the Norfolk Broads btw) then south towards some hills I spot in the distance. We’re starting to rock and roll!. Ok so realising I had had no water or food since 6am, its now about 3pm, I pull over for some water and a protein bar in the middle of nowhere. Hop off the bike and look down to see fuel peeing out of a connector between my rear tanks and the fuel pump f…ing great!. Never mind, that’s what tool kits are for, er…so where did I pack it? Yep you guessed it, at the bottom of the panniers, triple crap!. Ok so out come all the luggage again and I eventually find my amazingly well equipped tool kit and set to work. I tighten the connections and have a wiggle and no hope, won’t stop. So I pull the quick release apart, good. However, will it go back together again, will it hell, no way mate, not happening? Quatro crap, now have no fuel supply AT ALL !. Again a friendly Oz pitches up and offers a world of head shakes and asks if I’d like a cup of tea??? !. Ok clock ticking towards 1630 now so out pops google (yes I forgive you) and using the 4G service (yes Brits in the middle of the bush) I manage to find a garage about 30kms away. Quick call and they are willing to lend a hand but I need to get the bike to them. So I bite the bullet, strip the connector off the fuel line to apply some  brute force, fuel running everywhere now and I manage to get it loosely connected although still leaking badly. Right, we are off – hammer down road at 100kph half expecting the bike to burst into flames at any moment but thankfully make it to Boonah Auto Services 5mins before closing time. The guys were bloody great, really helpful and a great laugh. So while the young guy replaces the QR connector with a joint the owner takes me through his life history as a racer. Great stuff. So Katie all sorted we head off into what then really was the sunset and the hills of Main Range National Park. Fortunately the only good decision I made all day was to book a motel room earlier in the day in the off chance I would be in the area, lucky me. So getting well dark now we start the climb over the hills and it starts to rain. With the roads so dry and dusty and completely oversubscribed with huge lorries touching any white line the bike started to slide like hell on every corner, I really don’t need this god (or something like that you could hear inside my helmet). Well we eventually tottered to the top and over the other side into the valley it started to dry up, albeit pretty chilly. So in the pitch dark now, surrounded by these huge lorrie’s giving no quarter we eventually arrive in Warwick and the Alexander Motel. Bizarrely there was some kind of women’s convention on and the place was mobbed, to see me pitch up with Katie, so I made a dash for the room and locked the door waiting for room serviceJ. Just as I was unpacking Katie (again!), dinner arrives with a platter that looked designed for a small family and two bottles of VB, on personal recommendation of Neil Aldridge (nice one mate!). Could not do it justice and fell asleep writing this post…….what a day, roll on tomorrow!

[i1]

Start of a journey

Where the heck do you start on day one of a 6+ month journey that will see me circumnavigate the globe, explore in depth two of the world’s continents, cross deserts, high mountains and endless plains…..

Maybe best to start yesterday with the best of my last 24 hours with Tricia and Jazz. A very emotional day in glorious weather at Dunbar beech. The scenery was just a wee Scottish reminder of how good we have it at home already. Jazz for one had a fantastic day doing what she loves best, swimming, diving and chasing balls. I am sorely going to miss them both……….

0430 start this morning so we can get all the licks, hugs and kisses done (and get the tears out of the way) before a quick stop at Boots in Edinburgh (yes at 0600 in the morning…many thanks indeed to Izabela at Boots for opening up specially for me) to get my last rabies jab before the off. At Edinburgh airport by 0700, again in glorious weather, for a very emotional goodbye to Tricia…..without her none of this would be happening.

Etihad Airways flight departed on time at 0921 heading out over the North Sea for my last view of Scotland for some while…..my head is all over the place!. Next stop Abdu Dhabi before the onward flight to Brisbane. 23 hours economy class….’bliss’.

How did I get to this point?….long long story but worthy of a few words I guess.

Adventure has been in my blood since I could walk. One of my early childhood memories had me rattling down a local hill to my Aunt Marg’s house on my Raleigh Chopper as fast as I could feasibly travel only to lose control and plough head on into a stone wall. First question was, is my bike ok? (to be repeated on numerous occasions into my adult life, as many of my friends will testify to!). Well unfortunately it wasn’t. There started a passion for more adrenalin in life, almost an addiction.

My adventurous spirit saw me lucky enough to be selected for a commission in the Royal Navy and there followed a 16 year career as a general list seaman officer. I served in the Falklands, the Gulf and Adriatic campaigns to name a few on everything from Minehunters to an Aircraft Carrier. I specialised as a Mine Clearance Diving Officer (MCDO) and ultimately a Principal Warfare Officer Underwater (PWO(U)) before leaving the Navy in 1998. Now that was a culture shock!. Took a while to regain my feet but I was lucky enough to gain a foothold in IT with Fujitsu and BT thereafter. After the Navy filling the adrenalin gap was significantly more of a challenge and hence I rekindled my love for two wheels. Therein started an obsession with superbikes and track days. Buying bikes, stripping them, rebuilding, tweaking, racing (and crashing)! filled my appetite for over 10 years. Since childhood I have also loved to keep fit. Immodestly I was acutely a pretty good athlete as a kid and I followed the same lifestyle to this very day, be it running or more lately as an obsessed cyclist, inspired by my good friends Paul Coats and Neil Aldridge. That obsession has seen my train 4-5 times a week for getting on for the last decade and a half. I’ve raced a bit and climbed in the Alps, Pyrenees and Dolomites. I love nothing better that the achievement and buzz at the end of a hard days ride, and topping up the Kcals! Have to say one downside of this trip is 6 months off the push bike, not quite sure how I am going to cope with that one!.

The only real common themes throughout my life has been a real passion for adventure, wide open spaces, challenge and the need for two wheels. From my humble chopper to a full blown superbike I’ve had the good fortune to experience so man, right up until today and my burgeoning relationship with ‘Katie’. We have only just started out yet for at least the next 6 months she will see me through every day and every mile come rain or shine.

So how and why now?. Despite my fortunate health and fitness I am getting no younger and have dreamed for some time of something more epic, a serious challenge and something that would be more than simply the bike, before health became an obstacle. Never having been a believer in fate the stars recently aligned for me in that I was presented with an opportunity to leave BT. A major career decision obviously but a door that could open the way to wider dreams and aspirations. After much deliberation, and soul searching, and with the amazing support of Tricia I took the leap of faith to leave and that kicked off 3 months of planning to get where I am today…..on a flight out to Oz to re-join Katie ! (more of that planning stuff to came because it’s been no easy slog believe me)

So why Oz, why not simply jump on the bike in the garage and head east? Well first and foremost I wanted this adventure to be much more than a dash to the line. More than at a straight A-B. I’d looked hard at others who had done UK to Chia, or UK to Oz etc. and for me, for the time available, there was way too much focus on getting to the end and far too little on the experience in-between. The push for miles and the stress of meeting a schedule was simply not for me. There are also many really good companies out there selling the whole package, but again, after a lot of thought, not for me, just too organised, far too tarmac focused and not the real spirit of adventure. My key drive/focus is to let my curiosity and sense of adventure lead the way. Yes I have a bucket list (one that I’d also love you to join in on) of places to see, things to do and yes I have an outline plan (as you can see in the Trip Planning page of the website) but the essence of this journey will be the experience. The sights, the sounds, the culture, the people, the food and obviously a bit of adrenalin to boot!. All of that lead me to look to Oz as a great jumping off point. English speaking, a world of serious off-road and to boot I could drop in to see my great friends Nic and Neil Aldridge and their two lovely daughters in Sydney during the trip. Having hopefully upped my confidence level and experience with 2-3 months criss crossing the outback I can then ship out to South America for what will most likely be the most challenging and hopefully most rewarding stage of the journey from Columbia in the north to the very southern tip of the continent, with the major objective of being in Lima for the start of the 2016 Dakar, a lifelong ambition of mine.

So in essence that’s the why and when (probably more deep and meaningful tuff laterJ). The how I will return too when I get time to complete the ‘Trip Planning’ section of the website…..a story in itself!