It's all been said above and on other forums but I'd like to add a belated congratulations. It was fascinating to watch this ride unfold. Along with others, I'm looking forward to hearing a little more about your experience.
Thanks Ox - I enjoyed very much watching your spot which caused me too much lost sleep. I was calculating from around Broome to see if I could get away from work for a south coast intercept and escort through Sydney (maybe in the forlorn hope that some of your stamina might rub off on me ) - I thought it might be possible for a while, but it became clear that your transit up the south coast and through Sydney was not compatible with me work situation - a shame - I was jealous of those that could share parts of the ride with you.
A fantastic ride to witness and I cant wait to read your ride report. Congratulations on such an achievement.
I’d been following the thread of Wingman and Freddo as they made their way around Oz on Highway 1. The Iron Butt Association has this listed as an official ride to be completed in under 9 days ( http://www.ironbutt.com/themerides/aroundthepaddock/). So far only TJ Evans has managed to complete the ‘Lap’ in that fashion and it looked like the boys were about to do the same. As they weren’t running a SPOT tracker it was hard to tell just where they were, but Michael ‘Fatman’ Morris had been keeping in touch and posting up their progress along the way ( https://forum.ironbutt.org/index.php?threads/ride-around-the-big-paddock.1288/ ). I felt a bit ashamed that on the last day they had started at Grafton on the north coast of NSW aiming to reach Melbourne about 02:30am the next morning, so had ridden past me here in Newcastle but I didn’t know when to ride out to meet them. As it turned out that final leg saw them ‘time-barred’ from the IBA 9 day point of view – bugger - but nonetheless they completed a fantastic ride.
I was inspired. Before they even reached home I ran a mental check on what I might need. I had all the gear on hand from a ride a few days beforehand. I had a spare FJR1300 with lots of lights, an auxiliary fuel tank, fresh tyres and only about 100km of use since its last service. I was familiar with the route having checked occasionally as Freddo and Wingman progressed against the route notes in the rules for the ride.
I made a plan. Easy really, as the 17 key locations are set out in the rules. Basically, with about 15000km ahead of me I didn’t have time to sit down and plan it to the minute. All I wanted to do was miss the horrible Brisbane commuter traffic in the morning – tomorrow morning. I decided a 20:30hr leave time would serve me well. At 1845hr I called my mate TigerBill and ran it past him. A little while on Google Maps and I had the skeleton of a plan, laminated a spreadsheet version for the tank bag, brushed my teeth and hit the road.
The ‘old’ Highway 1 carries various names in Australia. Sometimes a particular name like the Pacific Highway or the Carpentaria Way, but can be followed by using the M1 and A1 road signs for most of the way and a short section where the B1 takes over in South Australia. I headed out to the west of Newcastle, filled both tanks and grabbed a start docket from Beresfield at 20:26hr Wednesday, 73465km on the FJR odo and 0km on the Garmin 590 GPS and headed north on the M1 into the night.
This is very familiar territory and made for a cruisy start. I’d put on a few layers for warmth later on and settled in to get a good start. A top up at Grafton (01:52hr Thursday, 461km, 24.68L) followed by a 40 minute nap at the appropriately named Sleepy Hollow rest area (03:33hr, 639km) and I was ready for the early morning traffic. The A1 doesn’t go through Brisbane CBD – bonus - so I slogged my way through the heavy Hilux tradie traffic until I took the shortest possible detour off the route to get a mandatory ‘Brisbane’ docket at Brisbane International Airport.
Back on the way north I soon came upon FarRiders boss ‘Ghostrider’ who’d seen me coming on SPOTWALLA and came out to say hello. It is always such a treat to be met by a fellow rider like this on the side of the road. Ghosty was well aware that I was on-the-clock so we just had a brief chat including him warning me about some of the roads I was planning to travel. “They are road train roads”. “Road trains” are trucks that can be up to 53.5 metres or 175 feet in length in Australia, stop for nothing and nobody and have four trailers at the rear and that last one can weave several feet left and right as they make their way down the road. They are a sight to behold and demand respect when passing.
A handshake and I was off. I pulled in not far north at Gympie for a freshen up, then a cool drink in the shade at Gin Gin, QLD (11:21hr, 1150km, 34.21L). It was already hot up here. Soon after I came to the recently flood devastated Rockhampton (15:04hr, 1421km) took a pic of the Tropic of Capricorn and had a quick chat to home.
Next proper stop was when I came into Mackay (19:32hr, 1748km, 31.66L). I’d seen the ocean briefly at Clairview a while back and it felt weird to be up here on the coast of Queensland ‘already’. I had a chat to another rider at the pumps. A local, he’d recently bought his Honda CBR600R from Newcastle of all places. He wished me well on the ride, but was glad he wasn’t joining me.
Day one complete: 1748km Newcastle, NSW to Mackay, QLD.
This one started with a rest. I found a great rest stop at Mt Gordon near Bowen and had a 80 minutes off the bike (22:03hr, 1934km). A table to lie on, toilet block nearby, parking under cover…. It was quite windy but warm enough up here in the north. But then the rain started soon after. On through Ayr, Townsville and on to Ingham (03:41hr, 2249km, 11.3L) for a shower and ready for a big day. Things fined up nicely by Cairns. A mandatory stop here to log the route (07:07hr, 2484km, 12.08L) before a fun run up through the twisties of Kuranda to trace the A1’s northeasterly corner, then back south in rain again to Atherton (08:44hr, 2583km, 5.57l) for a docket. From here it would get remote. Leaving the busy town behind I made my way down the Kennedy Highway to the south and west. I propped in Mt Surprise for a pic:
Then on through hot and dry country out to Georgetown on the Gulf Development Road with it’s gorge landscape (12:22hr, 2892km, 14.6L) and sparse traffic. I know some following my SPOT track questioned my stops. I was making regular stops and topping up my 42 litre fuel capacity regularly. This is not a sprint. I can go 700km on a fill. I also don’t want any surprises like ‘No fuel until tommorrow’ at these outback towns. I carried a 3 litre camel bak on the rear of the bike, drank diluted Gatorade from bottles on board, had emergency-only water in a pannier and had enough food (almonds and dried pineapple) for the whole trip if needed. So I just made my little stops on the way, sought road intel from the service stations and kept tracing green flags on the orange-dotted SPOT map as I went.
Hot, hot Normanton next (16:07hr, 3195km, 14.2L) where I was glad to be wearing my evaporative cooling vest. This was a real corner stop. The little town sits on the A1 with the Gulf of Carpentaria just out of view. The ‘rules’ dictate a deviation here. The road due west is not suitable for a roadbike. The debate about the detour includes river crossings, mud and washouts and high lift 4x4s and crocodiles. I’m not interested in that. I head south.
I was dreading this bit of road to Cloncurry. I’m well used to kangaroos on the roads as are all Aussie long distance riders. They are a major concern. So far I’d seen just a couple and none very close. But I’ve heard horror tales of these roads up here. Instead I found it to be a lovely way to spend the evening, slowly meandering down the Burke development Road (Rt 83) all alone. Cloncurry (20:25hr, 3577km, 15.56L into the rear tank). I took the time to phone home and Michelle booked me a room up ahead in Mt Isa.
I also chatted to Michael ‘Fatman’ Morris who’d seen my SPOT stop. He had a special guest with him and put him on the phone. It was none other than ‘Wingman’ Des who’d inspired this trip. Des chatted for a bit, but really needed to tell me about a part of the road ‘tomorrow’. He and Freddo had encountered a bad patch of road a week before. Under knee deep flood water and graded minutes before they had a tough time crossing and were lucky to keep their Goldwings upright in the chaos. I thanked Des for the warning and he added “Its about 200 metres”.
Looking forward to a break, I joined the steady traffic, spotted a handful of roos and found my way to my Hotel in dusty Mt Isa (22:20hr Friday, 3702km) did some laundry, showered up and went to sleep.
Day 2 plus a couple of hours 1954km Mackay, QLD to Mt Isa, QLD.
After a great sleep I was ready for more. Fuelled up at 06:02hr Saturday, 3706km, 27.02L and joined the miners on their way to work, sun rising behind me. Not long after I passed through the little town of Camooweal, the start and finish point for Ian ‘Tabledrain’ McPhee’s legendary 3000km+ dayride a few years back. From there its farewell to Queensland as I enter the Northern Territory.
I took a pic and took the time to chat to Crackaz on the phone as we reminded ourselves of some of our early rides through remote places like this. On-the-clock, though so back to it. Next corner point was the remarkably busy Barkly Homestead Roadhouse (09:50hr local time Saturday, 4156km 26.85L). Cars, trucks and tourist minibuses all over the place. I kept my head down, ignoring the interest in the bike being shown by onlookers and turned due north onto the marvel that is the Tablelands Highway. This 378km stretch of road seems to have been built by 50 teams of roadbuilders each with their own idea of how to do it and stitched up as an afterthought. Some parts wide and well marked, some parts barely a couple of metres of rough bitumen and other parts little more than a pair of truck tyre furrows indented into the blacktop for as far as you can see. The bucking and bouncing and jolting along here makes for a very entertaining ride.
That and the birds. I was on the horn constantly to shoo them away. With a slight breeze from my right thousands of mixed birds perched themselves on the center hump of the road all facing right. As I approached it was a few flaps to take off then a curved arc to fly left. Non-stop for km after km. Then rounding a left hand sweeper I saw there were none. From 11:24hr I didn’t see another one. Weird.
At the Heartbreak Hotel I rejoined Highway 1. With such wide open spaces out here the 112km to my next stop seems nothing at all. A dead end on this ride, Borroloola (15:07hr local, 4648km, 28.48L) is a tired town, and the other end of the ‘detour’. I’d seen the signs heading into town advertising a 24 hour fuel station (though it was daytime) so I headed there first. Greeted of sorts by a pack of howling dogs straining to get through the side fence of that unmanned fuel station, I backed off. Rolled a km back to the BP and filled up there instead. The girl on the desk said “a bloke phoned about you” as I entered the store. “the road should be clear”.
The section in question lies between the Heartbreak Hotel and the Stuart Highway at Daly Waters due west 240km. After Wingman’s phone call last night I considered that I may need to ride past the Heartbreak Hotel to the ‘roadblock’, take a pic, retrace my steps to Barkly Homestead, head west to Three Ways, north to Daly Waters, east to the ‘roadblock’, take a pic, then turn around and retrace to Daly Waters. That’s a 1200km detour.
I turned around from the mandatory dead end at Borroloola and headed for the ‘roadblock’. I’d had 22 hours to consider what I’d find. I imagined a few 4x4s at either end planning routes through, the grader still in place patching up the slush and me arriving unsure of how to proceed. It was nothing like that. I had a great ride along here. The road still pretty dodgy, but I had it almost completely to myself. The sun was setting in my eyes, but pretty enough. After about 140km I crested to see a deep, dry floodway with very busted up and lumpy bitumen. “This must be it” I thought. No problem, all good. Then soon after I crested again. “Oh, no. THIS is it”. With the sun straight in front of me I came upon an expanse of road, surrounded by water on both sides. As I squinted I could see that the very right edge was dry, with progressively longer and longer waterfilled wheel ruts spreading into the water on the left. With that 30cm track on the right I thought “Sweet, this will be ok”.
Then the shit hit the fan. I was riding at about 90km/h when it felt like I’d just reached forward and grabbed a pair of jackhammer handles and pulled the triggers. The bars instantly, violently started shaking back and forth. I heard a noise start in my helmet. Just a little “aa AA” at first. Then in the melee it went to full bore screamed “aa AA aa AAA aa AAAGH aa AAAAAGH aa AAAAGGHHHHH!!!” as the bike slipped and slid and shook its way forward. I looked down and saw paint. The centerline… Someone had put tonnes and tonnes of loose egg sized gravel on top of the bitumen. I couldn’t believe I was still upright on that stuff, and I couldn’t see before I hit it because of the sun. Shaken and stirred I slowed but there was no point stopping, I was still in the mess. I thought “I’ll aim for the dry line over to the right”. Then I rethought that, imagining sliding off the road into the water, and the last thing I’d see would be the bike’s tyres slowly spinning as it went under, those Pilot Road 4 sipes flicking water away from the tread, just like in the ads…
From nowhere I heard a different noise. The pinging and clanging of egg sized gravel bouncing off every part of the rear of the FJR. I’d half pulled the clutch and channeling Wombattle, cracked on the throttle and spun up the rear – a rooster tailing FJR – and kept it spinning and the rear fishtailing as the front just smoothly and calmly sashayed its way through tonnes more gravel as I made my way out. As I was sashaying like this another weird thing was happening. Up ahead on the road, not far from the gravel I saw a jogger. A jogger! Its 100km from the nearest cross road. I haven’t seen another soul for an hour, no other vehicles about. A jogger. Not one of those hi-viz shoes and lycra-clad joggers. A bloke in a black singlet, work shorts and a pair of old sneakers was calmly jogging down the road toward me. As I exited the chaos, I took a look at his hairy man arm hanging out of the singlet and thought “He’d have been able to help me out”. But I didn’t need any help. I tapped it up a gear, we gave each other a nod and a wave, and I continued west on my way, leaving him to jog to who knows where.
Next stop was the HiWay Inn at Daly Waters (19:44hr local, 5030km, 31.29L) on the main Stuart Highway. I had an enforced 20 minute stop here as I waited in line to pay for fuel and an apple juice. As with most ‘Roadhouses’ this place sells fuel and has a shop, but also has a restaurant of sorts and has accommodation for travellers. This place seems to only have one cash register. I was second in line behind a family of four. Their dinner orders were taken, food and drinks gathered and served, taking three trips to the bar by the cashier, checked in to their accommodation, and even a second drink for the dad before it was my turn. I paid up and left them to their mad system, a dozen patrons still in line.
North from here in the 130km/h zone, just a 600km commute to Darwin. Nothing much to report, just droning along. I pulled up for a leak at Adelaide River and noted it had a great IBA Motel I’ll come back to.
In to Darwin (02:07hr local Sunday, 5622km) and down to Doctors Gully for a pic. Then a quick chat to ‘TJ’ Evans who’d been watching SPOT. I found park with a table in town to nap on and fell asleep for 90 minutes or so.
Up again in the dark I filled in town (03:47hr local Sunday, 5622km, 33.19L) for the run south straight to Adelaide River Rest Area. I kicked a few cane toads out, had a shower there, washed out some gear and got set for the run west. Katherine (07:41hr local, 5940km, 18.46L) is the start of the Victoria Highway, one of my favourite parts of the trip. The spectacular views of the ranges go on for ages, there’s lots of elevation changes and sections of sweepers and twisties to keep you amused for hours. I paused at Victoria River where a Ride to Eat had been planned for the day, but nobody showed.
I crossed into Western Australia at Kununurra (11:40hr local, 6457km, 29.35L). Australia is a big place. Cold down south I found myself seeking shade here with temperatures in the high 30s. I rested, drank heaps and called home. Michelle arranged accommodation at Roebuck near Broome and I hopped back on. Its all lovely out here too. The road surface is good, there’s bits and pieces to see and the travelling is easy. The afternoon went in a flash. Halls Creek (15:28hr local, 6816km, 18.45L) for a quick break.
Riding into the sunset I grabbed a 10 minute nap on the side of the road to avoid going blind and remounted once the sun was down. I’d had clear skies and hot temps all day. Now I could just see in the distance two enormous cloud columns forming. I tried to pick my path ahead using the GPS ‘map’ to see if I’d run into them. As the night closed in the lightning started. Not the usual white flashes across the sky, these columns had lightning inside them, flashing red/orange with the dust and maybe smoke? It made for an entertaining evening watching these two Chinese lanterns do their thing in the middle of nowhere. Some strong winds picked up after dark and the traffic increased until I reached Fitzroy Crossing. What a dump. A dreary place, the servo so thick with bugs and dogs and busted 4x4s I couldn’t wait to get away.
Then I got tired. This was a slow section of almost solo riding. I don’t recall overtaking anyone and there was just a few roadtrains to break the monotony and every now and then I needed to pull over for a short break. I guess it was after midnight ‘my time’, I’d been on the road for nearly 7500km in a bit over 4 days and I needed a rest. Roebuck Roadhouse appeared…. (23:21hr local Sunday, 7476km). I had spoken to the owners and they’d left the door of the demountable ‘donger’ room unlocked for me. I carefully parked on the gravel driveway, went inside, showered and went to sleep. As is one of my napping techniques, I put my feet and legs straight up the wall and nodded off, expecting to stir in 30 minutes or so. Instead, about 3 hours in I woke up still with my legs in the air, the pair of them now feeling like noodles. I must have been tired. Hopped into bed and grabbed some more hours. Gold.
Up before dawn and feeling good. I fuelled up at the 24 hour card machine fuel bowsers at the roadhouse (05:06hr local Monday, 7476km, 19.23km) and headed south. This is a very empty strip. Port Hedland is 600km away and there’s really just a couple of roadhouses in between.
Port Hedland is no beauty either. Red dust and cloverleaf freeways to nowhere is how it appears on the way through on Highway 1. I stopped for fuel and drinks (11:09hr local, 8037km, 31.99L) and moved on. South from here is pretty though. Lots of variation in the landscape and the road is good. I stopped at a few roadhouses through the day at Karratha (13:44hr, 8275km, 13.64L), and Nanutarra (16:20hr, 8534km), through a little bit of rain, paused for a sundown pic as I crossed the tropic of Capricorn:
Then on to Minilya (19:13hr, 8762km, 28.19L) and Carnarvon for a mandatory docket stop (20:59hr local, 8897km) and later at Billabong Homestead (23:36hr, 9139km, 9.13L) where I discovered some movement of the rear auxiliary fuel cell. In the dark it was hard to see the exact cause, so I just filled the front and rode on.
Aiming to rest up ahead at the large town Geraldton, I filled the front again (02:48hr Tuesday, 9369km, 12.14L) and asked at the servo about an IBA Motel. I said I was after a covered table, toilet block, a bit of grass or trees, that sort of thing. The two guys discussed it and suggested I’d find that on the southern edge of town, on Highway 1. Checking as I went, I only found truck parking spaces with nowhere for me to lie down. I’d been psyched for hours to sleep here and was very disappointed to find myself tired, 20km out of town and very unwilling to turn back. I pushed on through a couple of little villages with nothing to offer until I finally 70km later I reached the town of Dongara (03:58hr, 9440km). With a lap of the main street I found a carpark under a tree, parked the bike and went to sleep on the ground. I carry a small pouch with a combination poncho/groundsheet. By putting a T-shirt or such into the pouch it makes a pillow and wrapped in the sheet in full bike clobber I was warm and comfy and slept well, albeit annoyed at myself for overrunning my rest stop.
After 2 hours of sleep, I rolled out of Dongara onto the Brand Highway and into light fog for a while, but wasn’t feeling the best. I felt rested but just a bit nauseated. No appetite – not that I’d eaten much anyway – and sluggish. I stopped at Cataby Caltex to warm up in the sun, freshen up and consider the run through Perth in a couple of hours. Back on the bike I hadn’t gone far when I saw the familiar sight of Gus parked on the side of the road. What a lift. He waved me on, having tracked my poor performance on SPOT, caught up, then took the lead for the tangled Highway 1 run skirting Perth. Perth is a large and spread out city, so even though the CBD is avoided we were in traffic for a long time. Fuelled up in an inner suburb of Como (11:17hr local Tuesday, 9801km, 20.23L)
Back in to the traffic I thanked Gus for the escort and suggested he get himself out of the gridlock. He stayed with me though, until I was pointed properly south and with a wave he was off. A slow old trip followed though Mandurah and Bunbury with holiday traffic galore before I stopped for fuel at Manjimup (15:53hr, 10100km, 14.8L) and rechecked the aux tank. I strapped the rear of the tank down with cam buckles straps as best I could and decided to only use it when necessary. I concluded that it couldn’t break free, but empty was less likely to bounce around. I’d had a fuel transfer problem the day before so hadn’t been relying on the aux anyway. In hindsight I think it was just a vapour lock, not unusual with gravity systems on hot days.
Most of the traffic soon disappeared as I followed the A1 into the karri forest roads toward Walpole. The speed limit on the highway was 110km/h, but in the wet conditions with those towering trees right on the edge of the road I was a bit more conservative. Even so I had a great ride through here, pulling up briefly in the town of Walpole to phone home just before sundown. Again Michelle got to finding me accommodation. I would have liked to make it all the way to Esperance tonight, but wasn’t looking forward to another 600km. We decided on the town of Ravensthorpe another 400km instead. A text later on and I’d have a bed. Albany came up soon enough (19:28hr, 10339km, 14.38L) and a guy in Walpole I spoke to told me that the road opened up even more from Albany, so I expected I’d be there soon enough.
Not so. Light fog had started by Jerramungup, but by the time I reached Jacup visibility was down to a few metres. I wobbled and ground my way through there at a snail’s pace, eyes torn apart from needing the visor open and periodically being wind blasted by oncoming trucks at full pace in the soup. It was insane. The sky above was clear, the road completely white and the last 80km of that leg took me 100 minutes to pass. Was I glad to see Ravensthorpe….(00:09hr local Wednesday, 10628km).
I’d been running the numbers in my head. I was still 4500km from home with under 3 days to get there. I’d had a lousy riding day, knew there was bad weather ahead and things weren’t looking good. Regardless, I decided I needed 6 hours off the bike, settled in to the hotel room, showered, packed for tomorrow and had a great night sleep.
Feeling great, I rode across the road to the servo and filled up in the dark (06:03hr local Wednesday, 10628km, 16.06L) then headed toward Esperance into the rising sun. I knew this would be bad, so just sucked it up. Fog again, trucks hurtling out of the whiteout with just parking lights on, a 10km dirt section detour for a bridge out or something, and soon enough I was in civilization again at Esperance (08:16hr, 10821km, 10.18L). It was chilly here and I even had something to eat. A vegie pastie seemed bland enough and I ate it while I planned my day.
Next to the servo was a motorbike shop where I hoped to get some new gloves with no luck. My hands were sore from the constant gripping last night and this morning. I’m running an Omni-cruise throttle lock, but not in bad conditions. I brought 3 pairs of gloves with me; a BMW twin compartment gauntlet with waterproof section and ‘grip’ section, a pair of Spidi street gloves and a very light pair of motocross gloves. The motocross gloves have died. My hands are too swollen for the Spidi gloves and feel pretty cumbersome in the gauntlets. No luck here. Its into the BMWs and now heading due north so some relief for the sun.
This section is all new to me, though the terrain is familiar. Fast flowing traffic makes for easy mile munching and soon I’m at Norseman (10:48hr, 11023km, 28.45L of 98 RON into the twin tanks). This is the start of the classic crossing the paddock. The Nullarbor Plain is an iconic strip to ride. I paused at Balladonia to top up on premium fuel (12:36hr, 11213km, 11.1L) and pressed on to the longest straight road:
I paused at Davo Jones’ memorial at the top Madura Pass to reflect on my journey. Then down the hill and along the strange section that is Mundrabilla. This always feels like the sea floor to me.
Up the hill again at Eucla, then a stop at Border Village for a while (19:02 local, 11745km, 33.79L) and onto the Nullarbor Proper. No animals about. Its been like that for the whole trip. I saw only 5 live roos in 3 days of Western Australia and a handful in Queensland. Three dingoes along the way and not a single emu or camel. A bunch of wedge-tailed eagles and a million smaller birds, but the only thing I hit bigger than a bug was a small bat a couple of nights ago.
I had a 10 minute nap somewhere:
Then stopped at the 24 hour servo in Penong. I’ve never stopped here before, but it is a good place. (00:34hr local Thursday, 12153km, 22.66L) then rode in some rain for a while. Needing a rest again I stopped at a sleeper of a rest stop in Wudinna, SA. (04:03hr, 12435km) (GPS -33.0459, 135.4579) There’s a dodgy looking amenities block that is clean inside, a fully covered picnic area with tables and a barbeque, enough parking and light around but it is about 50 metres from the main road and passing traffic lights don’t shine in. I had a lie down and 50 minutes later felt good to go.
Straight through Ceduna and in no time I was at Port Augusta (07:48hr, 12691km, 20.40L) and heading for Adelaide. I find this section dreary. The road is fine, though the traffic is not. I pulled over at a rest stop for a drink and a think. I had about a day and a half to go 2500km. That’s doable. I just have to ride through the middle of Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney on a bun burner 2500K. Doable. The rain had restarted as had the accidents. Approaching Adelaide there were 3 crashes with emergency vehicles in attendance. I was almost rear ended at a merge point, the following driver not having noticed the 5 flashing-light vehicles saying to stop. I proceeded carefully.
A docket in Adelaide (11:32hr local, 12989km, 14.55L) and straight through the middle of the city. From downtown there is a great twisty climb up and out to the south east that I was looking forward to for hours. Unfortunately, as I started to climb, it was into fog and rain – again. At the top I saw a vision. Perched on the side of the road on a familiar machine I saw one of only two men I know that can make a Super Tenere look small. Jeff the Chef Gebler had come out to greet me! A wave and a nod and he was soon past me leading the way through the downpour and away from the city. Despite the conditions we made good progress along the ‘interstate’ style road all the way out to Tailem Bend, SA. Jeff pulled over here where the Highway 1 route goes from A1 to B1. With a handshake farewell, I turned south and headed down to follow the Coorong – a narrow strip of estuary – for the next 150km or so ending at Kingston SE (15:25hr local, 13291km, 12.22L).
Then it was a continued battle in the rain and poor light with cut throat local traffic afraid to use their headlights. Through the lovely little town of Millicent, via Mt Gambier then into the state of Victoria and into the night. The next section is possibly the worst road conditions I’ve ever encountered. The rain was bucketing down, and with each bathtub of spray from each passing truck I was sloshed sideways completely blinded by the spray inside my visor. The roads through here clearly carry lots of trucks. The trucks make shallow longitudinal trenches that fill with water. As each one passed and I was belted by the wave of water, slid and aquaplaned all over the place. There was nowhere to stop. The towns of Portland (19:54hr, 13559km) and Port Fairy (21:13hr, 13628km, 19.25L) at least provided some shelter. At the servo in Port Fairy, I pulled my helmet apart, dried it all as best I could, Mr Sheened the visor, put my helmet back on and trying not to breathe headed back out again praying not to fog up. I managed to keep it all intact and soon the rain stopped. Blessed relief.
Through Geelong and back on fast roads again, I paused for a leak to the west of Melbourne, then headed into the unknown. I was following my GPS and the A1/M1 signs, but didn’t really know how the passage through Melbourne would go, even at this late hour. I’d mentioned to Fatman that I would stop at a service station just off the freeway where I knew there was an on ramp to get me going again. I didn’t expect company. Pulling into the servo (01:36hr Friday, 13915km, 15.76L) I saw three big dogs there to greet me: IBR vet Derrick Sutton, Philmor and Fatman himself. 3 big dogs out at 1:30 in the morning on a school day – that’s serious.
With the three locals leading me out I relaxed. Threading through the various bits of roadworks and witches hats all I had to do was follow along. Derrick pulled off with a wave once we were out of the city, fatman followed along for a while longer, then Philmor lead me on a very efficient run out to the east passing smoothly and without incident all the way to Traralgon where HACKLE was waiting to join the procession. Waving us on at Rosedale, Philmor left me to follow HACKLE as the M1 became the A1 again. We stopped at Bairnsdale (04:39hr, 14196km, 15.81L) where HACKLE suggested I rest. The night was clear and there was no traffic. I said I wanted to keep going and I planned a sleep at Cann River 165km farther east. It’s a great piece of road out here with lots of elevation changes, little villages and twisty, sweeping roads for much of the way. Its meanders so much it seemed to loop back on itself.
There’d been some smoke along the way and as the sun started rising a magnificent red sky appeared to the east. With that came two dangers. An increase in the chance of wildlife – we’d seen a couple of roos and deer – and for me in particular the danger of target fixation on the lead rider’s tail lights. I think HACKLE wanted me to ride faster, but after 8 days on the road mainly alone, the sun rising in my eyes and me trying to wind down for a nap just up the road I didn’t want to ride any faster. He slowed a couple of times to come back to me, but hand signals in the half light were inadequate to convey that I was happy and knew exactly what I was doing at that pace.
Soon enough we arrived in Cann River for a brief stop. John Negus had ridden down about 700km the day before to escort me home at the end of the ride. Incredible. I said a quick hello, then went across the road to find somewhere to sleep in preparation for the last day. After a brief nap, I downed a quick coffee (my second for the trip?) said goodbye and thanks to HACKLE and JN and I mounted up. What a great day for riding. Fine weather, not too hot, not too cold. Great visibility and a great mix of roads ahead.
First stop was Eden (08:36hr, 14483km, 16.63L). 620 or so kilometres to go and almost 12 hours to do it in. John took the lead and maintained an excellent pace. There was a lot of traffic, but we made the most of the ample overtaking opportunities and made great time down that way. Through lots more small villages like Bega, Tilba Tilba and Narooma, then out of nowhere KiwiMartin Little appeared outside a service station in Moruya (10:42hr, 14653km, 8.84L). We pulled in, said g’day and topped up the tank and the three of us hit the road again. Soon after Martin waved goodbye and rode back to work, having started early just to come and say hello.
On and on it went, traffic slowly getting thicker as we made our way toward Sydney. JN pulled over somewhere south of Bateman’s Bay and waved me on. We had a rough plan and I thought we’d meet up soon enough. Approaching Nowra I spied a familiar bloke on the side of the road. Frans Van Der Merwe had come out to give me a wave. It gives such a boost to see riding mates drop by to say g’day on these rides. It was missing that opportunity with Wingman and Freddo a bit over a week ago that had partly spurred me on to do this ride.
Getting prepared for the final section I pulled over south of Wollongong, had a breather, a Gatorade and topped up my camel bak for the last time. Into Friday afternoon traffic now, but all flowing nicely on the M1 freeway north toward the city. Just at the end of the freeway I pulled in to fix my visor that had inexplicably come loose on one side. Peter ‘Knave’ Navin was there to greet me and lead me into the city on the A1. It all seemed so very close now. Knave waved me off at Sydney Airport and around there somewhere I saw JN who’d slipped ahead somewhere down south. Into the tollways and tunnels of the CBD, we pulled up at the first available service station to log the stop and get a ‘Sydney’ docket.(15:39hr, 14965km, 15.83L). Taking a little break john and I noticed that there was very little traffic for a Friday afternoon of a long weekend, perhaps we were just ahead of the peak at that hour. A drink a shared sandwich and back on the bikes. A few bends, a few kilometres and it all came to a grinding halt. Gridlock. Traffic as far as the eye could see. Trucks, holiday cars, commuters – the lot. There are a few left lanes that become available along the way, but it is mainly just two lanes and I’m too wide to lanesplit on this road. I slipped the clutch, walked the bike and generally overheated. 12km in one hour and I’m on the clock. Getting to the beginning of the M1 freeway I came upon the cause of the gridlock. The police were there booking a car parked in a ‘No stopping’ zone, blocking thousands of cars trying to get out of the city. Knucklehead.
Finally moving again I soon passed JN on the side of the freeway. Being more maneuverable on his Capanord than me, he even resorted to a couple of kilometres of footpath riding to get out of the jam. He’d done a great job in keeping me company though. Thanks JN.
With just the usual holiday congestion on the freeway to contend with I just bided my time and soon enough made it back to my start point in the Beresfield BP (18:33hr, 15106km, no fuel.) Waiting for me were my wife Michelle and her mother Pat and my great mates Craig ‘Wombattle’ Harcombe and a busted up ‘TigerBill’ Beaton there to perform the witness duties. Despite another long day, I just wanted to hang around the service station and chat for a while so we did just that. What a trip.
An amazing ride and great report...I had wondered if it could be done at a time of so much road damage and flooding...seems adding road report web sites to the planning will be the key next time around.
Now that is an endurance ride Ox. It was a pleasure to speak to you the day before you got to Borroloola, glad the flooded area worked out ok for you. I thought you were going to say the jogger was in fact none other than Wombattle just out for a run in the outback!
It was also an honour to be able to ride with you for a short distance at least, through Melbourne and out the Monash Freeway before seeing you tail light disappear into the distance behind Philmor.
A BIG well done Ox on completing a real tough IBA ride.
A rare Sunday morning off and it has taken me two cups of Nespresso to get through this epic adventure Peter! WOW and DOUBLE WOW ! As others have said, a monumental personal challenge and a wonderful report to describe this magnificent achievement.
Three back to back 12hr nightshifts in the final days off your ride prevented me from playing any rider support role, but I sneaked a few peaks at SPOT during the nights to follow your progress. Awesome on all accounts. You are an inspiration to us all. An enigma on one level .... and a great bloke as well.
I laughed at the jogger story ..... whilst you were thinking "what the hell is he doing out here", I bet the jogger was thinking "what the hell is HE doing out here"
Mentally and physically, I don't think I could manage such a ride. But I am bloody impressed by those who can.
Great read Peter. I'm only halfway thru, I think this report needs to be read like a good book. Read a little, ponder, read a little more. I'm up to the part where you see the hairy man in a singlet jogging in the middle of nowhere. Some people think we're silly...
Great photos too, very clear. What camera do you use? Is that a standard seat under the Air Hawk?