Wednesday – Gibson Desert,Western Australia
Vstrom down today, bugger!
We were up and running early today, it took a bit to add the extra stuff to the bikes, we needed extra fuel and water. I ended up with a 10lt water container on my left pannier and my chair on top of the bags. We headed through town, past the skimpies pub and out to the first stop of the day. This was called Two Up, I had been here before but Derek had not and it was only a short diversion. This was where the miners played two up, the gambling game with two coins and it was only stopped in recent times. The shed needs some attention though.
So, we headed north with a very strong easterly evident from the smoke blowing from a local gold mine. We stopped at Menzies about an hour or so up the road, here was where we could turn left and go see Lake Ballard, but I had seen it and Derek said don’t worry about it at this time. We did stop for a quick snack and took some photos of the signs and the other displays inside, including some nice painted Emu eggs. :)
After this we continued on, it was cool today and looked like rain at all times, considering we were expecting extreme heat, it was weird to be wearing thermal liners up here! One of the constant hazards out this way was eagles on road kill, they take up a lot of room and are slow to react, and they are BIG, nearly the same size as kangaroos if the warning signs are anything to go by!
We stopped in Leonora for fuel, but they also had this impressive shed covering an old stamp mill, but there were no information signs at all. Very funny that, I asked the local council worker looking after the gardens and he said that was Leonora council for you ;) The gear was from the local Gwalia mine, which is owned by a well know Aussie company called Sons of Gwalia.
We did not have time for a mine tour, and anyway, seen one gold mine seen them all eh. We headed on to Laverton which was another 125km north and east, this would be the last pavement we see for quite a few days, so we might as well enjoy it. Remember them eagles, well I grabbed a few photos on the move without running into one.
We got into Laverton after 4 hours riding and this is where the Outback Highway begins, which is too grand a word for what we were about to receive. It is the longest short cut in Australia and it goes through Alice Springs and east to Winton, after that it is a straight run east to my home town of Rockhampton.
This is where I was introduced to Geocaching. Basically there are ‘treasure troves’ scattered around the landscape and the GPS co-ordinates of each one are logged on a website They are mainly small containers with a notebook, some small trinkets that can be taken, if you leave something in exchange and the basic idea is to write your name in the book to say you found it, then log your entry online. Graham had been doing this for a while and at the tourist place, there was a list of all the caches along the Outback Way between here and Winton, around 30 all up. This seemed to be an interesting diversion and would be a good reason to stop and smell the roses, so I figured I would get involved as well :) After finding this one, we hit the dirt section where we let the tyres down and headed east for the start of about 1100km of unsealed and who knows what quality road before finding pavement at the Olgas in the Northern Territory! Our first possible destination was the next fuel stop at Tjukayirla Roadhouse, pronounced Chucka Rilla and the warning signs on this road said it all :)
The 2nd cache was only around 30kms up the road and although we searched we could not find it. It turns out comments on this particular cache show no one has found this for a while, so it was either destroyed or taken.
We headed for the next one, another hour or so away and this was changing with the road conditions and the weather as well. There was a fair bit of corrugation, although they were not deep they were consistent and with the spitty rain and strong wind, it was not the ideal riding conditions, seeing kangaroos in full flight also added to the pulse rate!
A strange thing happened along this road and I am still unsure what it was all about. I saw a beat up old car parked on the side of the road and a large lady standing beside it, so I pulled up and asked if everything was OK, she said, no, there is a girl back there who is crook. By this time I am off the bike and I see a young bloke about 16yo, walk around the car and over to Derek who has also pulled up. The lady said the girl is under the blankets in the back seat, I would have to go around to the passenger side to see her, so I did and looked through the window and all I saw was blankets. The front passenger door was open and the driver was a male around 35 or so and I said what’s up, he said the girl is crook. By now the alarm bells were ringing a warning, so I said, well there is you and that young fella who are both quite healthy, so you look after her, and at that point I got back on the bike and waved Derek to keep moving, which we did. I never saw any girl in the back and I did not feel like getting involved any further, and am confused as to what was going on :?
Anyway, back to the ride. This part of the road was called the Great Central Road and it changed colour and texture all the time, which meant the scenery was a bit wasted as you could not take your eyes off the road for a second, especially with the wind blowing you around as well. You can get an idea of the different road surfaces by the following photos, the first one shows hard packed dark red stuff just to the right of the bike, if you stay on that it can be fast, but when it is covered by red sand, it is very slippery and stay away from the centre berms!
This stuff was quite fast, short shallow corrugations and pea gravel on the surface, cruise around 80kmh. I actually wished for more of this later on as the best alternative!
Hard packed white sandy stuff with a bit of rock mixed in, no worries and high speeds of 100kmh were OK, but keep an eye out of course cos it will not last!
Yucky soft sandy stuff, very slow speeds advisable and the front will always want to wash out, very nerve racking, there was lots of this and this is not a good example because I was usually too busy hanging on to take photos.
And did I mention the rain, well it was enough to mess up the visor and visibility was a constant issue, so when the surface of the clay is wet, it becomes a circus out there!!!!
Yep, I tried to save it but in the end I rode the damm thing down and for some reason it wanted to point back the way we had come :( I was not hurt but I was extremely pissed off that the new pannier mounting system failed and ripped the pannier clean off, this meant no leg protection and it also meant my passenger foot peg mount got bent up as it took a lot of the hit. I will have to have a chat with Happy Trails about this, I am not happy. We stamped down the bent up mount clips on the pannier sides so it could be mounted again, but they are still not straight. But, I survived :)
Once the bike was upright and as it was quite late, we decided to find a spot to camp for the night, the road ahead was just as bad and all we could hope for was the rain to stop and the wind to dry the road out a bit! We found a spot just up the road a bit and I took it easy until I was clear of the slop and we were soon putting up tents and just on dark having a feed :) My helmet took another hit, this time right in the Nolan, but it was only soft mud, so no harm done, although I am going to have to replace it soon. It looks like the foot peg is bent on the sub frame which will be a pain to repair, I will have to remove the sub frame from the bike and the ABS system is down in that area!
After dinner we checked the bikes from the road for reflectivity and covered up the bits that would reflect in head lights. We had been passed already by that car with the ‘crook girl’ but figured we may as well be careful and hopefully we could survive the night. The sunset was great and once the rain had stopped we saw some great skies while we sat around and chatted about this that and the other before crashing out around 9pm or so. It had been a long day and the road was challenging, but we figured if it did not get any worse, we should be fine :)
Day –555 km and 345 miles
Trip –5,867 km and 3,646 miles