Y2K Off Centre Run Part 4

Thursday 10th August saw us up before 6 with the sun , and had a good breakfast to give us enough energy to get through the grueling day. We headed for the Tablelands homestead 3km down the road. The station was originally built by the current owners of Mornington, but these days is owned by traditional aboriginal owners and is extremely run down. The 5 aboriginals here were an advance party to tidy the place up and build a chook shed etc. At present the chooks were laying eggs all over the place and the roosters started crowing at about 4am - in fact we could hear them from our campsite 3km down the road. The locals told us that the road from here to the first main river was washed out but passable, then graded from there. They also said that if we left now (8am) that we would be in Mornington Station early.

Two observations; 1. These guys had not driven to here, they were dropped by plane (I didn't find this out until much later from Kevin), so they weren't familiar with the actual road conditions and 2. Time and distance are not functions that relate to aboriginals in terms of any perceived accuracy. I was concerned that we would have a steep decline from the Tableland property, much like the heartbreak hill we encountered on the way up which claimed both my right footpegs.

Fortunately it was only a steadily declining gradient over about 30km, but on the other hand there were more sand, rocks, river crossings and fallen bikes than we had seen for some time. Much of the time we were following dry watercourses at very low speed, or riverbanks in deep sand at even slower speeds. By the time we got to the first main river it was after 11 and it was far too deep and long to pass, but Kevin found a crossing a little upstream and we attempted that.

When I had almost made it to the other side the bike dug in on top of a sand dune and upside down she went. I was starting to get the shits with myself, not so much for falling, but for being a burden on the rest of the crew. The bike needed to be totally unloaded before righting it, then a swim was in order to calm us all physically and mentally. The temperature was very high and required a good deal of water to be consumed which was not always possible due to short supply.

From here the road was supposed to be graded but not so - more of the same until the mighty Hann River. First impressions of this beauty made it look impassible, until we realised there was the remnants of a weir which was reasonably shallow but with many large slippery rocks and the current was very strong. We took 3 people per bike to walk them across the river, then time for another swim - at least we were feeling cool! Just prior to the Hann river I had run out of fuel and emptied my 5 litre container into the main tank. After setting out from the Hann river the road did indeed improve and we were able to get into better than 3rd gear for a change, although I was in economy mode to save fuel as I didn't think would make Mornington. The first sign of life was a gate to the Mount House property - we had a sniff of our destination but were very short of fuel.

Hann River crossing Mornington Station - mission accomplished!

Another 20km down the road we saw the signs to Mornington and I ran out of fuel again, so I used my half litre of fuel treatment to get going. At the main Mornington gate, I ran out again, but managed to get going again with 2 litres from Kevin's bike. Ken had also run out and was making do with borrowed fuel. We now had only 40km to go and I hoped we all would make it from here. Unfortunately there were still many deep river crossings, sand and rocks which did not help economy. 3km from camp I ran out again - another litre from Kenny's bike and the oasis of Mornington became a reality. There were already a fair swag of bikes here, but they had come in from the Gibb River Road which was easier by comparison. The famous 5 had their photo taken with their mounts - mission accomplished!!

Although all were dangerously low on fuel (not at all helped by me sucking them dry!), we had all got there in one piece. Our first beer was like mother's milk! We had arrived at 4:30 and after our beer be set up camp, showered, clean clothes and headed for dinner. Our $20 meal was a great steak with jacket potato, salads, followed by apple pie & cream & tea. The atmosphere around the table in the Bull-Bar was a buzz with our stories flooding the others. We ended the night with a few more beers & ports and gladly hit the sack exhausted by about 10:30. Great day - great to be here!

Friday 11th August - nice to know you don't have to ride anywhere today. I headed down for bacon & eggs, cereal, toast & coffee. About 10 of our team were heading down to the gorge to go canoeing on Diamond Gorge, but I was happy to sit and do nothing. Mike the proprietor had shipped in a 200l drum of fuel, so we headed over en-masse to fill up. I took 24 litres including my 5 litre container, and it was nice to once again see some bars on the fuel gauge! Like everything else here, the fuel just went on the tab. It became a cleaning morning, washing clothes and the bike. I knew there was little point cleaning the bike, but it was the best way to check for damage. I reconnected both front indicators with tape (weakness with the R1100GS), then checked and tightened what I could. The footpeg will wait until tomorrow. By lunchtime Kenny G and I headed back to the bar , had a beaut lunch of corned beef and salad, then settled into a few quiet beers. I had forgotten to tell the cook I wanted to book in for dinner, and since there was a group of 20 solicitors/barristers which had flown in for a 2 night stay, there were no free spots at the table, so back to the bar. A quiet day - just what the doctor ordered.

Saturday 12th August - Another good night's sleep and the bruising on my legs is starting to become less painful, but this was the only bodily damage to show for all the mishaps of the past couple of weeks. Today became maintenance day and there were bikes in bits everywhere. I went over to the workshop and found some steel, bolts, hacksaw and drill and made up a plate to hold the two halves of my footpeg plate together. 2 hours later it was a goer, very strong and so nice to have a back brake again.

Another beaut lunch (I had missed out on dinner and breakfast). More bikes are starting to roll in now - tonight should be a blast. Got a beer and headed down to the swimming hole - great way to start beer o'clock! Headed back to the bar as a few more bikes rolled in. We were all getting hungry and looking forward to dinner, but they served the fly in tourists first so we had to sink a few more beers while we waited for the second sitting after 8.30. Although I was hanging around the bar after that, I didn't hear any discussion about the location of the next Off Centre rally, until someone said we would be going to Urandangi in Qld. Who chose it? - Not sure. One more port to finish me off then off to the fart sack.

( The tradition of the Off Centre rally is that it is held on the 2nd weekend of August in even numbered years at a remote location with at least 200km of dirt in any direction, with the destination for the next run to be decided at the bar at around 9pm on the Saturday night at this run - make sense of that? Oh, and you order your rally badge at this run, but you have to get to the next one to pick it up!)

Sunday 13th August - Another rest day. Some riders had started to pull out, and one last flip from Victoria rolled in on an R1100GS with tyres down to the canvas. Some people's preparation amazes me.

(I was later to learn that he had an accident at Mornington after we left, having a stick penetrate his knee, losing a lot of blood and being flown out by the RFDS).

Monday 14th August. We had booked in for a bacon & egg breakfast then settled the bill. Mine was $389 being camping $32, beers $144, port $40, meals $110, fuel $36, t-shirt $25 and stubby holder $8. Seemed like a lot but the last time I spent any money was the previous Monday at Halls Creek, so over the week it was still within my budget. We still had to traverse the creek crossings we had come through on the way in, and Ken Hamilton managed to lay the Kawasaki on its side in the middle of the biggest one, otherwise no problems. The road out to the Gibb River road slowly improved. We met 6 cyclists at one river crossing who had done the Tablelands track with trailers and they seemed in high spirits. Once on the Gibb River road the conditions improved again. Good photo opportunities at the Leopold ranges and Queen Victoria's head. After this the road became beautiful and good speeds were achievable.

After always being at the back of the pack, I cruised past Kevin, then Rob Popplewell, but the best was when I blasted past Ken Hamilton when he wasn't expecting it - he had delighted in passing me so many times in the past and I was sick of eating his dust. I kept up the pace and passed a 4WD that was belching dust then headed for the tar. I didn't quite get there before a three trailer road train came the other way - the great equaliser! As you do, I got off the road and held my breath to stop chewing too much dust. The run into Derby from here is boring but comfortable on the single lane tar road, and about 30km from town the temperature dropped and you can smell the salt air - welcome relief. I was warned that there was not much at Derby, and a ten minute tour seemed to confirm that. (No beaches here, just mud flats!).

I left Kevin, Rob & Ken there as they were expecting a group of touring vintage bikes to turn up in Derby the next day, and they hoped to ride with them down to Broome the following day. The blast to Broome is 220km of uneventful roads after the prison tree and once again after heading back inland it was nice to smell the salt air of the western coast. We headed for the Pistol Club which uses part of its land for camping during the busy season. We had arrived during the Shinju Matsuri Pearl festival, and it was busy, but Chick Dimmick (R100GS/PD), who was on the off-centre run was staying at the pistol club and got us in.

Prison tree - Derby

Tuesday 15th August. After the trials of the past couple of weeks, it was time to really relax and unwind. Kenny Gawenda, Gunner Glaessner and Chris Parker were up early as they needed to be back in Perth fairly quickly, so we saw them off. I got the details of each of these guys so I could catch up with them when I got down south later that month.

Frank Warner and I went into town for a long and leisurely breakfast at an alfresco café, watching the passing parade and taking in the feel that is Broome - a really relaxed atmosphere. We wandered around Chinatown and the other points of interest in the town. This is a big tourist town but still maintains a laid-back approach. Cable beach is about 6km from town and is a beautiful swimming beach. The turquoise water seems to attract white pointers of the two-legged variety, and we spent each day there checking out the various species. We finished this lazy day with several beers, kept cold courtesy of Chick's fridge.

There's not much point itemising what we did for the rest of the week at Broome - one day just ran into another. We did tend to have quite a large group of people from the Off-Centre at our campsite which accommodated good conversation and a party atmosphere. Those that I can remember were Ray "Chick" Dimmick, Paul ???????, Peter & Paul Marvig, Frank Warner, Rob Popplewell, Kevin Barber, Ken Hamilton and Bruce, Russell & Elaine from Queensland.

Wednesday and Sunday nights were BBQ nights, and for $7 you were well fed. Other nights we often went into town to a fair selection of restaurants and pubs. There were plenty of supermarkets (including a Coles 24 hour) where you could buy grog and other supplies reasonably cheaply. Most days would start out with a cup of tea, ride into town in shorts & t-shirt, leisurely breakfast, swim at Cable Beach, perhaps an afternoon siesta and beer o'clock whenever! There were some other special events though such as; Broome museum ($3.00), Stairway to the Moon (too hard to explain - ask me if you really want to know), markets (day and night), Speedway on Friday night (Bikes & cars) and Dragon boat races as part of the Shinju Matsuri festival.

On Sunday (my last day here) there was a 3-way shoot at the pistol club. Chick, our host was involved in the event so I wandered over to see what it was all about. It involved .22 rifles, followed by pistols and then shotguns. The first two were aimed at fixed targets, but the shotgun session was at clay targets. Chick said he had had enough and offered me his spot in the team, but I explained I had never fired a shotgun (or any weapon for that matter) in my life!. He said he had only shot 3 out of 15 targets, so I couldn't be any worse. Beginner's luck or what, but I managed 4 out of 15 - Chick was pissed off with me! Good fun.

After Broome I would be travelling by myself down the west coast, as most of the others were heading for Darwin and the Gulf country before heading home, so I was pleased to have some like minded company for the moment.

Page 5