Sam, Jack & Andrew’s Trip North, September 2012.
6th September, 6. 00 Am., grey and cloudy the three of us set out on our almost 9000 kilometre journey to go up the centre to Katherine and return via Queensland and N.S.W. Bikes are BMW 1200RT, BMW1200GS and Honda NT700v, all shaft drive, the only way to travel when big distances are involved.
First day took us to Morgan, S.A., through cold damp weather. After getting a cabin for the night our chef, Jack, whipped up our tea, and repeated this again the next morning with bacon and eggs. We intended to get to Coober Pedy on this day, just over 800k. and get away from the crap Victorian weather. The morning was woeful, 8 degrees, windy and showers but by the time we arrived in Pt. Augusta it was all sunshine. Late afternoon got us to Coober Pedy. Tea was a very large shared pizza made by a local motorcyclist who enjoyed sitting down and yapping with us. Day 3, on again for Ayers Rock. Nearing Marla a police roadblock, due to an early morning fatality, kicked us onto 14 k of rubbish dirt and sand alongside the railway track. This was pretty treacherous but we made it through, the alternative being to wait until 3.00 pm for the highway to open again. We could not have timed it better, arriving at Ayers Rock just prior to sunset.
Cameras came out, everyone trying to get those great colour change shots. After pitching our tents, Jack did a fine barbecue. Next morning was stroll around the Rock. Climbing was out due to the wind. You get the impression they don’t want people climbing up, and I’m thankful that I managed to do the climb some years ago. King’s Canyon came next. We now had cloudless skies and 30 + temperatures. A word of advice – fuel on the highway is about $1.90, off the highway $2.40. At King’s we donned walking gear and made the climb to the top of the canyon. Great views, worth doing but have comfortable shoes as Sam’s big toe blistered badly before reaching the top. Sam just gritted his teeth and continued on. Alice Springs was next, only half a days riding before some sightseeing. Daly Waters Pub is real Australian and you do need a beer when you arrive – mid 30s temperature now. Any trip north should include a stop here. We attempted to help a Frenchman with a bomb car. Nice chap but it appeared the alternator was cactus. A pub room was ours for the night. One of our best meals was had here and reasonably priced compared to some other places. Interestingly as we noted on the trip, most places were staffed by young Europeans out here on working visas. Australians just don’t want to work inland.
Bitter Springs, at Mataranka, was a perfect spot for a swim. 32 degree water, crystal clear with no crowding. Beautiful. It would be a sensation down south. We arrived late and hot at Katherine’s Gorge but were fitted into a boat cruise up the river. It sure beats paddling. These waters are full of fish so bring a rod. Our evening meal was at the Katherine Golf Club, and excellent. Jack did get nights off from his chef duties but every morning he was up and providing good breakfasts to start the day. How else could we keep banging in 800-900k. days. This was our turnaround point, going back to Three Ways and left to Barkly Homestead, then entering Queensland. On the wall at Barkly they have an old Rudge motorcycle. Camooweal is the first town we come to in Queensland. Bananas here were $8.50/kg. I don’t know how the locals afford to eat. Winton was our stop, arriving to find crab racing happening at the pub we selected for tea. Next morning found us out at the dinosaur fossils, seeing Banjo, Australia’s fiercest predator. With a bit of dirt on the way in and out, it was an opportunity for Sam to enjoy some of the qualities of his Gs1200. Longreach, home of Qantas, came next and we enjoyed the Qantas Museum and the Stockman’s Museum. Entering Longreach we did get stopped for a Police Roadblock check. They were very friendly, though I did get a look when I said we had a policeman chasing us all the way, and then to explain, pointed to Jack’s bike. Longreach to Cunnamulla was our last full day in Queensland. This is a small place; beer is as good as any where though. Chicken was the only thing on the menu as it was the pub’s cook night off. Again we met a lovely group of European working girls. They were bored with the social life in the small town; however the young lad with them, I felt, had a very contented smile on his face.
Travelling through N.S.W. we had a change in wildlife. Now we had emus, kangaroos and feral goats to avoid plus some dead pigs. We had intended to stop at Hay, but I mucked up, so we made Griffith instead. Griffith is booming and Sam and Jack selected the Comfort Inn for our stay. It is as its name implies. A meal in the best Lygon street tradition was had – this is a very strong Italian community centre – then back to our room. I discovered a sock in my bed and after discussions with the management a nice discount for us all was obtained. The last day welcomed us back into Melbourne weather from the moment we left Griffith. Very sobering it was. Martin Bastock had arranged to meet up with us in Echuca, which we did at the Macdonald’s. All through the trip we had only poured fuel into our tanks with no problems happening. Jack’s RT1200 developed a slow leak in the back tyre after leaving Griffith. Nothing being visible in it, we solved the problem by stopping a few times and blowing it up. On getting back in Melbourne and examining the only explanation seems some side wall bead issue. This has been fixed by the fitment of a new tyre. Jack started out with 2 new tyres, Sam with a used front and a new rear, and I with used front and used rear. All made it around.
It was a very enjoyable trip, Jack and Sam were terrific companions, and all three bikes were fine choices. All we really did was oil change and filter before leaving, made sure we had good tyres to complete the trip, avoided taking too much, and thanks to Sam’s GPS we didn’t get lost.