In March 2009, Peter set off on a “half-way-around” tour of Australia. The plan was to leave his home in Adelaide and ride clockwise around the Eastern side of the country, then down the middle back to Adelaide. It turned out to be a very enjoyable, but also quite eventful trip. The main event, apart from the experience of the trip itself, was a change of bike about half way through the trip, when his Yamaha XJR1300 developed a broken frame. Knowing that I owned a similar bike, Peter wrote to me to with the story as a warning not to overload the bike. I mentioned this in the Feedback section. But the story of his trip is a very interesting one anyway; quite apart from the problem with the bike. While he was on the trip he kept an on-line Blog of his travels. It’s a great day-by-day read of the trip. You can read it by clicking here. That takes you to the first page of the story. Scroll down to the bottom of the page, then follow the story up the page. Each page begins at the bottom and progresses up the page. When you get to the top, you’ll see a menu to access the next month’s installment on the left. I’ve written a more brief summary of the trip here, quoting from the blog, and focusing particularly on that “main event”. But the story of the trip is here, so it's still an interesting read. But check out the blog for the full day-by-day story. In company with three friends, who would be accompanying him for part of the trip, he set off in rainy weather. The first overnight stop was at Mt. Gambier, and then it was on to Apollo Bay. The rain continued as they traveled the Great Ocean Road. They ferried the bikes across the bay to by-pass Melbourne and rode on to Wonthaggi, for their first night of camping. Next stop was at Bairnsdale, after finally scoring a day of fine weather. The following day they rode to Mt. Beauty. Peter describes the ride. “Today was stunning; 197km of twisting, winding roads with the most stunning of mountain scenery. Drag out your maps and have a look! We took it quite steady and had lots of photo stops, and met with another motorcyclist doing the run was well. The last 30 km leg from Bright to Mt Beauty was across the Tawonga Gap, and we gave it a bit of stick through there, as the road was just crying out to be ridden with "vigour". Our camp at Mt Beauty was on the banks of a river, with the tents just ten feet from the water, and we were serenaded all night by the gurgling stream.” The next day was another great ride, to Jindabyne. “Another stunning ride, but this time across the Snowy Mountains. This trip just keeps on getting better. Massive mountains, ferny gullies and exciting twisting roads. We needed to stop at Albury so Steve could get some advice on a miss that his bike has developed. He has got some new plugs and instructions on how to reset the computer, so that will be his job for tomorrow. Again we are near the water on sites overlooking Lake Jindabyne. It's been a glorious day with bright sun and mild riding conditions.” After a rest day (and his companion fixing his bike) they rode to Batemans Bay. Some good roads here too. “These roads were stunning, and much like the Ottway ranges, as they wound down the mountain and through spectacular forests.” From there it was on to Wollongong, where one of the group had to leave for home. To avoid Sydney they rode west and headed up through the Blue Mountains and on to Singleton. This route includes the Putty Road, another well-loved biking road. “One of the best motorcycle roads in NSW. It lived up to its reputation and was a great 180 km ride.” The following day was to see more great riding as they traveled to Armidale. “We have arrived at Armidale at about 6.00 after a most beautiful ride for 180km along a valley stretching from Maitland to Armidale and known at Buckets Way and Thunderbolts Way.” It wasn’t all good news though, as one of this companions had a problem with the left switch-block. A problem that involved smoke pouring from it! Parts were purchased and appropriate temporary repairs were made. The smoke stopped, but the headlight wasn’t working. Armidale to Casino saw some more good riding, followed the next day by reaching Australia’s most Easterly point at Byron Bay. Then came a detour to catch up with family at Peak Crossing. From there their route took them to the Gold Coast, where an auto-electrician was able to fix the errant electrics in his companion’s bike. After some time off the bike, the trip resumed and went to Noosa. Along the way visiting the Ettamogah Pub, made famous originally in cartoon form. From this iconic tourist spot they accepted the offer from some Harley riders to have them lead the way into Noosa. Peter says, “So began a 30 km charge to keep up. These guys rode fast!” From there it was highway running to Bundaberg. “The roads have been quite busy with trucks and holiday makers, and the CB radios continue to be a blessing in coordinating passing moves, both to get vehicles to pass us, and to pass vehicles.” From there it was on to Rockhampton, where his remaining companions were due to leave for home. From here on Peter was traveling on his own. The following day’s ride saw 790km roll under the Yamaha’s wheels; the longest day’s ride of the trip so far. The next day was a comparatively short run to Cairns. “This was a beautiful ride for most of the way with mountains to the left and right, and the roads lined with banana palms and sugar cane. The scenery was just fantastic. As has become usual, the weather was in the 30's and humid. I made good time, and had my first stop at Tully after about 200km in the saddle.” The next day was when it all went wrong for Peter. “The day started well, and I decided to ride to the Daintree. The Captain Cook Highway heading north from Cairns rivals the Great Ocean Road. It is simply beautiful, with the road winding around the coast where the rainforest meets the ocean. I stopped at Rex Lookout for a photo opportunity and to watch hang gliders just a few meters overhead, swirling back and forth on the uplifts. I continued on to the Daintree River. On my return to Cairns I stopped for fuel and noticed that the whole back of the bike behind the seat had dropped about 50mm. The ducktail and all my luggage mounts were just flopping up and down. I rode slowly back to camp, and pulled the back of the bike to bits. The frame had completely snapped just behind the shock absorber mounts, and everything was held in place with only the plastic mudguard. The back half of the seat, the tail lights, and all of my luggage carrying frames were in danger of falling off. Clearly it was caused by overloading, which just broke the frame, which was never designed to support the loads that I was carrying. So, now I can no longer carry any luggage and the back half of the bike threatens to fall off! A couple of Dutch guys ran me up to some shops to get some washers that I needed for a temporary repair. I rang Laurie Miller from the local Ulysses Branch, who directed me to Hank Engineering, a local bike builder and welder. It was truly lucky that this happened at Cairns, where there is good support and an engineer who could help. If this had happened in some isolated part of the outback, the problem would have been far more difficult to deal with.” The bike was repaired, but it left Peter with a decision to make. “The adventure is at a turning point and I must consider quitting and returning home by the quickest route (with hardly any luggage), or finding a way to continue.” Peter had a commitment in Adelaide he had to fly home for, but while he was doing this, a decision was made. “After a couple of sleepless nights and lots of discussions and some reservations, I have decided to sell the now not so trusty steed, and replace it with a Honda ST1300, which would allow me to continue the journey, rather than racing 3,500km straight home with almost no luggage, and on a bike with a repaired frame. I got a quote from the Honda dealer before returning home to Adelaide, who was prepared to trade the Yamaha after the frame had been repaired by Hanks Engineering. Hank's work is well known in Cairns. It was a good deal on a low mileage demo bike, and I must admit that getting a good price for the Yamaha with a welded up frame would have been difficult back home.” While back in Adelaide Peter said he “made friends with his local bank manager” to arrange the necessary funds to purchase the Honda. “While heavier than the Yamaha XJR1300, the Honda ST1300 seems lighter as the weight is much lower. It's powered by a V4 engine mounted lengthways along the frame and has a shaft final drive. It is a dedicated touring bike and is designed to carry two people in comfort with all the trimmings. Luggage carrying is via two large 35 litre panniers and a top box big enough to hold two full face helmets. It will be more than adequate for the remainder of the trip, and is designed to carry the amount of load that I am carrying without compromising the structure of the bike. This bike just eats up the distance and is very, very comfortable. The electrically adjustable windscreen makes a huge difference, and at full height I hardly need to wear wet weather gear.” Peter had posted some of his gear, which he wouldn’t be using, back home before continuing. Peter did a bit of day-tripping around the Cairns area to get familiar with the bike. This was mostly good, apart from getting stung by a bee, and dropping his new pride and joy while doing a U-turn. Thankfully very little damage was sustained by the big Honda. Peter then resumed his trip, going to Charters Towers and then Cloncurry. The next stage of the trip was to Three Ways; a road that Peter had been concerned about. “I had read some horror stories of this road, described as narrow and pot-holed, with crumbling edges and alive with dangerous road trains. Nothing could have been further from the truth. The road was in good condition and quite wide. There was plenty of room for passing road trains, and no danger posed with those travelling in the opposite direction. This was a long hot day on quite uninspiring and flat country, and I rolled into Threeways at 4.30pm having covered nearly 800km. The fuel range of the Honda is an impressive 500 kilometres or more, and fuel availability was not an issue on this lonely stretch.” From there it was on to Katherine and then Darwin. At Darwin he was joined by his wife, Chris, who’d flown up to spend a few days with him mid-trip. After Darwin, he headed south, on the “homeward” leg of the journey. The first stop was at Edith Falls. “Edith Falls is a real find, about 20 km off the highway and on the northern end of the Katherine Gorge area. There is a large rock pool about 150m in diameter, which is fed from a waterfall. The pool is safe for swimming and only the freshwater crocs live in it!!! The camp ground is well grassed and there is a small kiosk selling takeaway food and some supplies. This is a "must see" for visitors heading up this way.” Next it was on to Tennant Creek and then through Alice Springs and on to Glenn Helen. Along the way he passed through Wycliffe Wells. Wycliffe Wells is apparently claimed to be famous for UFO sightings. He said, “Hmm. Very odd people at Wycliffe Wells, and I'm not surprised that they are seeing UFOs. They probably see a whole lot of other stuff too!” He said that this was the first day in a bout four weeks that the temperature had dropped to less than 35 degrees! He then rode to Alice Springs. “I had a slow easy ride to Alice Springs through the beautiful West Mac Ranges, which are so reminiscent of the Flinders Ranges. Ancient and beautiful.” He then spent an interesting time around the Alice Springs area, including a stay at Yulara, the place to stay when visiting Uluru. “I saddled up and paid the $25 required to get into the National Park (excessive) and spent the day snooping about Uluru, Kata Juta and the Cultural Centre. I was unable to do any walking as I had no suitable shoes, and my riding boots make my feet hurt if I spend too much time walking in them. Instead I sat and just soaked up the impressive surroundings. It’s no surprise that it holds such an important place in the culture of the traditional owners.” From there it was on to Coober Pedy then Melrose. “The first 200kms south from Coober Pedy is quite flat and uninteresting, and probably the most boring road on the whole trip. Through Port Augusta and into the spectacular Horrocks Pass, on the way to Melrose. This is the most corners that I have seen all in one place since leaving Cairns so long ago, and the Honda tyres have a nasty flat patch across the middle from so much straight riding. Horrocks Pass was a good chance to stretch the Honda and explore it’s capabilities through the great 12 kilometers of twisties. I nearly went back down to do it again!” The next day saw Peter ride the final leg to his home. He’d enjoyed the trip, but missed family and friends. I'll quote again from his blog, as he sums up the trip. “Riding highlights were probably the mountain roads in northern NSW and southern QLD, and I would love to return and further explore those areas. Australia is a huge country, and it was a privilege to experience so much of it, all be it just on the sealed roads. The Honda was the perfect bike for the job, but I certainly miss the old fashioned and gutsy style of the big Yamaha.
Days Away: 51
Distance Covered: 16,314 kilometers
Fuel Used: 794 litres
Most Expensive Fuel: $1.85 per litre at Barkly Homestead
Nights in my Tent: 34 - Other nights were in cabins and pubs, or with friends & relatives.
Cheapest Camp: $7.50 per night at Melrose
Most Expensive Camp: $31 per night at Alice Springs”
Great story, Peter! As I mentioned, there is a lot more detail (and more pics!) in his Blog, so if you want to read about the trip in full, go to there. It’s worth the read!
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