Y2K Off Centre Run Part 8

Thursday 21st September. A beautifully clear night listening to the waves crash but there was a heavy dew. Took over an hour to dry the tent, then head off for Esperance again to check out the coastline and the pink lake. Esperance is the site of the first (or one of the first) wind farms in Australia, with the 16 metre diameter blades generating about 12% of the electricity grid requirements for the town. The coastline drive is just beautiful, with plenty of places to stop and admire the scenery. Late afternoon I headed for the Esperance caravan park (the one I refused to stay at a couple of nights ago as it was too dear) rode around the boom-gate and set up my tent next to Geoff's van. A beaut home cooked meal, few beers and good conversation with my fellow travelers.

Friday 22nd September. Up early and left Esperance about 7:15. Stopped at Salmon Gums, then onto Norseman for fuel - nothing much else here. When leaving Norseman I picked up a bloke on an XJR1300 and we rode together to Coolgardie. You normally don't get to talk to other riders but we ended up with 2 opportunities - once at a level crossing we were stopped by a huge ore train, and a second time by roadwork just short of Coolgardie. He had just come across the Nullabor and gave me the drum on the cops and road conditions etc.

By now the heat had exceeded my expectations, and the jumper and jacket liner had to go. Kalgoorlie has a population of over 30,000 and is a real mining town. This is a blokey town - big boy's toys, fast cars and bikes, heaps of pubs and of course the skimpy's. Far too much testosterone and too few women, hence the flourishing brothels in Hay street, the location of the Golddust backpackers where I was staying. I had a few hours kip as all the late nights and travelling in the heat was starting to catch up with me, then headed up town to see what happens on a Friday night. This is a tough but entertaining place with no shortage of things to do, although it is a little strange to be accosted by the bimbo's on your way home with a few travelers.

Saturday 23rd September. Took a trip out to the super-pit, the home of KCGM (Kalgoorlie Co-op Gold Mine. The best way to describe this is Ayers Rock in reverse - an enormous pit where the 217 tonne payload trucks look like matchbox cars - takes a while to absorb properly. Explored the rest of this big mining town then another afternoon siesta.

Sunday 24th September. Up early and packed, but I had to wait for 8am to get my key deposit back, so off to Macca's for breakfast, then fuel and check the bike. Straight on to Norseman via Kambalda, then onto Balledonia for fuel and a break. While I stopped for a smoke, a bloke was walking purposefully up to me - turned out it was Bruce from Queensland (R80GS). We had met at the Off-Centre (another one - seems to be a trend!). I thought he was aiming for Karratha for some work but there was none, so he headed down the west coast too, seeing some of the people I had seen.

Anything else I should look out for? Not as boring as the Hay plains!

Just as he had pulled into Balledonia (three days earlier) his engine started making animal noises, then wouldn't start. Further inspection revealed a shot barrel and piston. He had a spare motor at home, and had asked a mate to ship the parts with new filters etc to him at Balledonia, so he would be stranded there until next Tuesday at least. I was unable to help Bruce, but it was nice to see him and I was glad the situation was under control.

From here the weather worsened, heavy cloud and strong headwind even though it was a westerly this morning, therefore hopefully a tailwind but not to be. Drizzly rain set in and the endless stream of semis and road trains coming the other way made it difficult to see. The 90 mile straight was not as boring as you might think as there was plenty of undulation and interesting vegetation. Through Caiguna for fuel at Cocklebiddy ($1.33 cpl) then onto Madura for a late lunch. Out here they can seemingly charge what they like, and this sucker paid $8.75 for a hamburger and chips - but I was very hungry and a long way to the next shop!

I wasn't aware there was a different time zone out here - from Caiguna to the WA/SA border is Central Western time, being half way between WA and SA or 45 minutes difference from standard time.

Regardless of this time difference, I was losing time riding against the earth's rotation, and the failing light and light drizzle saw me pull into Mundrabilla where I got a really basic room for $13.20. Turned out I had made a wise decision here, as it howled with wind and rain during the night.

Monday 25th September. Woke around 6am to a heavy fog, so I needed to wait until 7:30 before heading off. First Eucla, then Border Village (site of the Border run) with a stop off at the old telegraph station. From here on there were several spots to see the great southern ocean and the huge cliffs (you see very little of the coast in WA). The treeless plain that is the Nullabor is much smaller than I thought, but it did give me the opportunity to open the taps on the GS. 195 on the clock was all it could do, but not bad being fully laden. Nullabor roadhouse and Penong for fuel before arriving in Ceduna about 3:30pm. Looked like a nice town and with a caravan park next to the pub I had found my spot for the night. Camping here is $11 a night, with a free beer ticket - good value.

As a point of interest, fuel on the Nullabor is all about $1.34 cpl, but fuel at Esperance is $1.01 and $1.05 at Ceduna. It pays to plan when you fill up.

Tuesday 26th September. After breakfast at the Ceduna bakery, took off for Port Lincoln. It was only 400km in a straight line but I wanted to stop in at most of the coastal towns along the way, such as Smoky bay, Haslam & Streaky bay. The overcast conditions made these idyllic locations look a little less beautiful than they really were but it was good riding weather. When I got to Elliston for fuel and food, the media circus was in town with the local copper being interviewed. Turned out a surfer had been taken by a white pointer shark about 5km north of here, about a day after another had been taken at Cactus beach a little further west. This certainly ruled out swimming, although the weather had already done this.

Dropped into Coffin Bay (crook name, beautiful place) then onto Port Lincoln about 4pm. Managed to snag a great campsite at the Kurtin Point park with a beautiful view over the port. I was tired again, so after 12 hours sleep I kept up the slow pace with a little housekeeping - washing. Spent the afternoon exploring this town - I don't know why but it is far prettier than I had expected, a beautiful fishing town and port. Had a few beers with Malcolm and Chris, travelling Australia for 6 months from Gladstone QLD on an R100S and trailer. Nice to catch up with other motorcycle tourers.

Thursday 28th September. Left Port Lincoln around 9am to head to Port Pirie. Stopped in at the holiday/fishing villages of Tumby Bay (good bakery & coffee), Port Neill, Arno bay and Cowell where once again I ran into Geoff and Maryanne, so I had a cup of tea with them. From here the temperature soared and off came the jumper and liner for the run to Whyalla where the town is painted red, courtesy of the smelter. From here back to Port Augusta to cross my path from some eight weeks before. Dropped into Port Germain en route to Port Pirie. I had organised to stay with PJ here, but as he didn't finish work until 5pm I had some time to check my e-mail etc. After work we went up to the local pub for a top feed of King George whiting and a few beers. PJ was working on a new chassis for his sidecar and spent some time explaining the benefits. Got me thinking that one day I should give this sidecar action a go!

Friday 29th September. Left PJ at 8:30 when he went to work, then headed for Macca's for a feed. There were 2 Harley riders in the carpark there who actually talked to me. They asked where I was headed and suggested a scenic route to Adelaide which turned out to be a good option. Before heading off I had a look at the clubhouse for Flinders Touring MC club at Warnertown, just south of Port Pirie where PJ is a member. It is an ex-football club hall with an oval that went broke. It contains a kitchen and a bar as well as a huge open area for an annual rent of $200, and they have applied for a bar licence for 4 days a week (Thurs - Sunday) for under $400pa. Excellent arrangement which you would not find in Sydney.

Went through Gladstone and Yacka on the way to Clare which is wine country and very pretty. I wanted to go to the National Motor Museum at Birdwood and asked for directions at the Clare information centre. From here down to Tarlee, across to Kapunda, down to Greenock & Nuriootpa, then through Angaston & Eden Valley on the way to Birdwood. It was very windy from the south west but the road was great with some top corners. Spent an hour and a half at the NMM which at $9 entry was well worth it, with plenty of rare cars and bikes to check out.

There was only 1 Beemer (R60/2) but there were heaps of other bikes, some of which I had never heard of. From Birdwood down to Tea Tree valley was the best piece of road I had seen since leaving Sydney, then I joined the suburban crawl into Adelaide, then onto Colin & Adrian's place near Noarlunga. A good meal at the local pub, and plenty of talk about bikes and rallies over a few beers. We planned to do a bit of a day ride tomorrow, but with the dawn came gale force winds and freezing conditions. We didn't even leave the house. In fact, this was the first day I had worn my thermals since leaving Sydney (at least the trip for them wasn't entirely wasted!) and I wasn't even on the bike!

Sunday 1st October. Left Colin & Adrian's around 9am and found my way through the hills coming out at Sterling near the SE freeway. On to Murray Bridge for morning tea to decide which way I would go. The wind was very strong again from the SW so I decided to go from Tailem Bend across to Ouyen (enough of headwinds for this little black duck!). At Manangatang went south to Chinkapook then to Nyah and Swan Hill. Seemed Swan Hill was closed for business - couldn't get a pub room to save myself, so I moved on to Kerang where I got a good room and full breakfast for $27. I'm not sure if it was a good idea or not but I got chatting with the publican (Tony - Commercial Hotel) and the publican's son from the Exchange Hotel (Robbie), and after the Olympics closing ceremony I was suddenly part of "staffies" at closing time. We played pool and drank like fish, seemingly wiping out the night's takings. I eventually left the hard cases playing pool around 5:30.

Monday 2nd October. I'm getting too old for this. I got up at 9:30 and although I hadn't had enough sleep I headed downstairs to see if I could get my breakfast, only to find the hard cases still at it - serious stuff. I had my breakfast and went back to bed, safe in the knowledge the publican wouldn't kick me out by 10am as I has a good excuse. I managed to leave by 1pm with the destination of Corowa in mind less than 300km away. I was glad for an easy day. Echuca for lunch, then through Barham and directly east towards Cobram then onto Yarrawongah. Across the border for an easy run to Corowa to meet up with Henning & Maureen Jorgensen (of Alpine Rally fame) for a lovely meal. This will be the site of the Grape and Graze in November so at least I'll know where to go then. Fine hospitality!

Tuesday 3rd October. Today I was heading for Hume Dam to stay with Lumpy, less than 100km away, but I had some people to meet up with before I got there. I first headed to Millawa via Wangaratta to catch up with Dave and Marlene at the general store. From here through Beechworth towards Albury. I needed to catch up with Rhonda whose husband (my cousin) had died in early July aged 54. Prior to this they lived in Darwin and my original plan was to meet up with them in Darwin, but Geoff's condition (tongue cancer and yet never a smoker!) saw him return to Albury where he died just prior to my trip. Although a very sad situation, it is this sort of thing which makes you realise that you need to do things today - don't wait for retirement. I arrived at Hume dam around 4pm, where Lumpy is a water manager, living onsite with a view over the dam. Again it was great to catch up with a club member and talk bikes and travel. Another great night of hospitality.

Wednesday 4th October. Left Lumpy's around 10:30 and headed for Albury to pay some bills (they don't stop when you're on holidays!). From here up the Olympic way up to Wagga. Caught up with Bruce & Vivian who used to run the Prince of Wales motel, but are now opening up a coffee shop and were busy preparing for the grand opening less than a week away. Off to Jim & Anna's in Young for the night from here via Cootamundra. I was only planning to stay a night, but they persuaded me to stay two, so I tried to help by filling the water tank and chopping wood, then plenty of reading for a relaxing Thursday. More great hospitality. Thanks again!

Friday 6th October. Getting close now, but I was not in a hurry to get home. My plan before leaving home was to attend the Thunder Rally at Nundle, with a ploy of taking out longest distance male. Left Jimmy's at 8am, through Cowra, Canowindra, Cudal, Molong, Wellington, Gulgong, Coolah, Premer, Quirindi, Wallabadah and Nundle. Went out to the campsite at Sheba dams and put up my tent (for tomorrow night), then rode back into town to stay at the pub. I had arranged to meet up with Kevin Barber and Bruce Richards, and they arrived around 6pm. It was particularly good to catch up with Kevin, as he had his photos from the trip and we had plenty of good stories to share.

Saturday 7th October. Good breakfast, then out to the campsite waiting for the rest of the rallyists to roll in. There certainly was a good roll-up from our club (we ended up with largest club attendance) and it was good to catch up with so many of them. Lots of talking and beer drinking. It'll be a shame for this holiday to end!

Sunday 8th October. I'll actually be home today, all things being equal. I did indeed take out the award for longest distance male with 18,494km. Left around 9:30, back down to Muswellbrook and then down the Putty road. I don't know whether the bike knew it was its last day or not, but the bike started to play up just out of Muswellbrook, with the right pot dropping in and out intermittently, the first hiccup I had since leaving home. I assumed it was probably a plug and simply kept going - I was indeed looking forward to getting home. My last stop was Colo to take photos of my bike before heading back to the metropolis. Mission accomplished!

She aint what she used to be!

Fuel total $1,291 over 76 days.

Average $17 per day or 6.8cents per km.

I have never had such a long break, nor have I traveled so far in one break, so it was a learning experience. I found it took me about 2 weeks to slow down from Sydney speed and really appreciate where I was. If you've read the story right through, firstly you deserve a medal. I have never written so much in my life without being forced. I hope it may inspire you to do something similar.

If you have read the story, you may have noticed that the first four weeks were adventure (and character building!), whereas from Broome onwards it was more of a cultural event. I certainly enjoy traveling by myself but I appreciate the company of other people, especially other riders. One thing that made this possible was the hospitality listing in our magazine.

One word of warning - please don't use the list as a method of freeloading on your fellow club members. Don't overstay your welcome and make an effort to fit in, bring some grog or food to their house. I would like to thank the following people for their hospitality;

Ray "Chick" Dimmick - Broome WA

Chris Parker - Ballajura, WA

Kenny Gawenda - Manning Park, WA

Gunner Glaessner - Perth WA

Colin Richardson - Denmark, WA

John Bamfort - Denmark WA

Lanny Bleakley - Bremer Bay WA

Peter Jenkins - Port Pirie SA

Adrian Selwyn-Smith - Adelaide SA

Colin Matthews - Adelaide SA

Henning & Maureen Jorgensen - Corowa NSW

Graeme "Lumpy" & Rowena Hind - Hume Dam, NSW

Anna & Jim Dyer - Young NSW

The following list are the people I owe a vote of thanks for their friendship when the going got tough:

Frank "Skeletor" Warner,

Kevin Barber,

Rob Popplewell,

Ken Hamilton &

Kenny Gawenda.

I couldn't have done this trip without you.

And of course a special thank you to the two ladies of my life who have

a sensational sense of humour;

My darling daughter, Abbey, and

My special lady Lyn.

Thanks for waiting for me.

I told you I'd come back,

but I will go again!