16 September, 2015

Central Australia and beyond.

Well the ride through the Vic High Country in my previous post was really a shakedown run for a planned journey on the Sertao to Darwin and then on to Indonesia.

As a result of my leg injury I postponed the journey for a few months and decided to split it into two parts -

1. A return ride to Darwin which I have now completed, and will detail below.

2. A ride to Indonesia in November/December this year in which I plan to rent or purchase a local small bike to travel between West Timor and Bali/Java.

To Darwin.

Well, I determined that I would retire from the workforce on the 30th of June so I could start the new Financial Year as a man of Leisure. I am now officially a retiree but have not fully managed to escape the clutches of the health care community and am currently working as a casual staff member one day a week.

However, back to my story. On the 1st of July , at 6:30am on a cold and wet Melbourne morning I headed West and North on the first leg of my journey to Renmark and a night in the old Shearers cottages at Chowilla Station on the banks of the Murray. The plan for the ride was to spend as much time as possible off-road rather than the bitumen highways and I am pleased to report I achieved this ,

From Renmark it was North through the Dangalli National Park to Yunta, continuing to Arkaroola and then West again to the Oodnadatta track up to Mt Dare before heading West again to Finke and Alice Springs. The nights were cold and many times I rose in the morning to be greeted by frost on my tent and a frozen bike seat.

After a days rest in Alice to fit a new rear tyre, it was off through the West MacDonnell ranges to Hermannsburg, Kings Canyon and Uluru before hitting the Great Central Road which took me to Kalgoorlie via a number of remote indigenous settlements. At Kalgoorlie it was time for a front tyre change before heading North to Broome via Wiluna, Newman and Marble Bar.

At Broome things finally started to warm up and I sent a relaxing day at Cable Beach in preparation for the Gibb River Road which would take me from Derby to Kununurra. The Gibb River area was spectacular and well worth the jolts from the very corrugated roads.

From Kununurra it was another quickish run to Darwin where the Sertao received its 20,000km service and I was able to enjoy the gracious hospitality of Dave, a HUBB member who hosts many riders travelling through the North.

Sadly, I could only stay a couple of days and headed back down the highway to Katherine before heading South to Top Springs then across the Buntine Highway to Halls Creek where  I would wend my way back to Alice Springs via the Wolfe Creek meteor crater and the Tanami Track. This route was particular challenging with lots of loose sand and the need to carry extra fuel as it was close to 700kms between fuelling stops.

This time I only passed through Alice Springs before taking the Plenty and Donohue Highways to Boulia in Queensland followed by a quick run down to Birdsville - sad to say, but between Boulia and Birdsville there is less than 100km of gravel with the remaining 300km a ribbon of bitumen.

Leaving Birdsville the next morning I headed south down the Birdsville track before heading East to Innamincka along the Walkers Crossing track. At Innamincka I elected to head to Tibooburra via Omicron Station and Warri Gate, and here I experienced the only low point of my trip when I managed to throw the bike chain and had to wait overnight for a vehicle to arrive with appropriate tools to remove the Sertao's front sprocket.

From here it was a fairly uneventful journey back to Melbourne via  Broken Hill and Mildura, but taken very easily as the sprockets were badly worn from all of the sand/gravel riding and I didn't want a repetition of the problems with the chain.

So to sum up, 15,000kms in 6 weeks of which half was on gravel, before being safely tucked up in bed again after quite a number of cold nights (and days) on the road.

....... To be continued......

Adventures in the Vic High Country and beyond.

Two days after Xmas 2014 I had the opportunity to take the Sertao out exploring in the High country of Victoria with an intention to cross the Murray River at Tom Groggin into New South Wales before heading North into northern New South Wales.

After an exciting ride on Day 1 through the Toolangi State Forest, across the top of Lake Mountain and up Mount Terrible and down into the Howqua Valley (where I camped for the evening), I headed up to Mt Stirling for the descent into the King Valley via Lake Cobbler. The route from there would be up to Abbeyard and on to Bright for the evening.

Well, I made it to Bright, but not quite in the way I intended. Coming down the Lake Cobbler track I managed to lock my front brake on a slow steep descent with a drop off to my left. Unfortunately, the Sertao is a VERY tall bike and when I went to put my foot down the ground just wasn't there and I ended up laying the Sertao down gently on top of my leg. As I swivelled to dismount I twisted my leg, felt a pain in my ankle and knew something was amiss but wasn't too perturbed as the pain wasn't too great and there wasn't even a scratch on the bike.  I continued the journey to Bright but next day had to call the journey off and return to Melbourne as my ankle was swelling badly. As it turned out I had exacerbated an old ankle injury and fractured my left fibula so that was the end of the journey for a couple of months before I could complete the NSW trip to Menindee in March .

They say that every cloud has a silver lining and the good that came out of this incident is that I grudgingly accepted that the Sertao was way too tall for me, and subsequently installed a set of lowering links which made a WORLD of difference to my ability to manage the bike.

21 January, 2015

Pining for the Philippines

In October/November 2014, Kimie and I were fortunate to be able to spend 2.5 weeks in the Philippines riding around the Northern island of Luzon. We rented a small 125cm Suzuki Hayate scooter in Angeles City and were able to travel all the way up North along the West coast before returning South and heading inland (and uphill to the capital of Baguio) and then south through Manila to Pasangan.

I have to admit that riding through Manila was one of the greatest motoring challenges I have experienced since riding through China, and I'm still not entirely sure how we managed to navigate, whilst simultaneously dodging the scores of Jeepneys, trucks, buses, cars, tricycle taxis and other vehicles. Suffice to say, it is not something either of us look forward to repeating.

The final leg of our tour included a ride 3/4 of the way up Mt Pinatubu - the Philippines notorious volcano.

To be continued......

12 June, 2014

Thailand and Laos - February 2014.

As a follow up to our Indo-China Cambodia and Vietnam ride in late 2011, Kimie and I elected to head to Laos this time. Tried and true little scooters took us up hill, and down dale during the times when we weren't travelling by train or river boat, and a great time was had by all - particularly in Northern Laos which is a beautiful country and fortunately little changed from when I first visited there 40 years ago. More to come.........

A further addition to the family - as one door closes, another one opens.

Well, in November 2013 with the summer coming up it was time to reconsider my riding options again. As much as I enjoyed the KiLleR it had its failings - namely atrocious brakes, not a whole lot of power and it was big, heavy and bulky for a mid-range off-road bike. After reviewing the options and vacillating whether to upgrade to a DL650 Wee Strom, I took the plunge and went European. A white and blue brand new Sertao now sits in my garage and has been off on a few adventures of its own as well, which I will hopefully get to tell you all about in the near future. More to come........