Day 1 – 600km, Melbourne to Tathra
With an invitation to attend the Suzuki 1400 annual MCR (Magic Carpet Ride) meeting in Bathurst it was time to schedule a ride a little farther afield and see a little more of this fair country. Birdsville was one place I had always wanted to visit, and although it was starting to get a little hot in that neck of the woods I figured it was nothing the Burgie couldn’t handle. So the plan was Bathurst, Broken Hill, Birdsville, Marree, Melbourne – and with 11 days in which to do it, why not.
On Thursday the 29th of October I caught up with the 1400 boys in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne before making our way out east along the Princes Highway as far as Sale. We then took a few meandering detours along some of the lesser user backroads before reaching Orbost for lunch at the local bakery. All had been fine to date except for a minor mechanical gremlin to one of the 14s, which was easily fixed.
At this point there were 9 of us, 7 1400s, a lone Fireblade (Honda) and lone Burgman (B1). From Orbost it was North East to Delegate along a fine stretch of over 100kms of twisty road.
Saturday was a day of relaxing and cruising around Bathurst. The day started with a cruise to the local Suzuki dealer, followed by a ride out the Mt Panorama circuit and a number of fastish laps – our lap speeds being tempered by the fact that Mt Panorama is a public road at all times outside of race days and has a posted 60kmh limit. The local constabulary were quite fair in ignoring reasonable breaches of the limit but 200kmh+ down Conrod Straight certainly would attract their eye.
Before leaving the circuit, judging took place for the best and cleanest bikes – taken out by two OCD members who are reputed to have shares in the Meguiars company.
We ended up sharing the circuit with the HONDA CBX (1000cc/6) riders annual convoy and a number of other solo riders.
For lunch we rode to O’Connell and then spent a lazy afternoon exploring the town before re-convening at the Vic hotel on Saturday night for our group dinner and goodbyes as individual groups headed off home in different direction the next morning.
Day 4 – Bathurst to Broken Hill – 1,000km
Today was going to be one of my longest days in the saddle and I was off to a good start leaving bright and early at 7am before the heat of the day could really hit.
Heading west through the rolling hills to Orange and Wellington before stopping for fuel in Dubbo and Nyngan. By Nyngan you definitely know you are on the edge of the outback and vegetation is starting to look pretty sparse.
Reached Cobar for lunch and the temperatures were starting to soar. It was then a leisurely – but very hot and dry ride out along the plains of the Barrier Highway to Wilcannia, with nothing more to entertain oneself than watch the fairly common willy-willies (mini tornadoes) build up speed and start to move across the road. There were a couple I got caught in, apart from the sheer dust and wind force they are not too bad though – it just pays to hold your breath to keep the dust out of your lungs whilst you are passing through one. Fuelled up again in Noona and briefly stopped just as you enter Wilcannia to take a photo of the Burgie atop the old bridge over the Darling river (which was looking like it was also suffering the effects of the heat).
Wilcannia is one of the few towns in Australia that is not a pleasant place to visit. The downtown looks like something out of a Mad Max movie with a lot of damage, vandalism and graffiti. Even the service station has an air of foreboding with mesh grilles around the cashier’s area. As a result I chose not to stop in town and continued west.
I knew that if I didn’t refuel in Wicannia I wasn’t going to make it to Broken Hill but my GPS told me their was a refueling point about halfway between the two and the owner in Noona had corroborated this.
I kept up a reasonable pace of around 110kmh until I got to the point where the GPS told me the servo should be, only to find ……… nothing.
Hmm, bit of a worry, better reduce the rate of knots and see whether I can eke out a bit better fuel consumption … according to my calculations I was going to end up around 50km short of The Yabba (Broken Hill) but with around a litre left in the Burgie tank a fuel stop /motel appeared like an oasis in the desert on my right.
After a brief stop I hit the road again as I was determined that there would be no riding at dusk in this neck of the woods as I knew the risk of unintended contact with large mammals would be pretty high once they started to come out for a feed.
Arriving in Broken Hill just before 6pm I went to my usual campsite only to have them recommend the other campground at the opposite end of town (Adelaide road). Checking in, I had the camping lawn all to myself and set up tent before heading into town to stock up on groceries for that night, and the next few days in the desert.
Day 5 – Broken Hill to Cameron Corner – 450km
Today was the day the real adventure started and my plan was to make Innamincka that night – a distance of around 800km.
It was with la ittle trepidation that I headed North up the Silver City Highway to Tibooburra. The first indication that all may not be what it seems is when I left the caravan park. I got chatting with one of the park attendants who told me that the road to Tibooburra was 50/50 bitumen and gravel - NOT fully bitumen as I had expected. Hmm, maybe I need to revise my travel schedule a little bit.
I fuelled up and headed North 175k to my first stop Packsaddle, which is the only refueling stop before Tibooburra. Around 15kms out of Broken Hill I hit the first short section of dirt at Stephens Creek and this was followed by further sections of bitumen and dirt each of equal length of 10-25kms, providing some initial relief.
Temperatures were starting to soar, however, and the Packsaddle stop was a welcoming sight.