09-01-2011, 04:54 AM
Joined: Aug 2008
Location: Albany Western Australia
A ride along the old telegraph line to the border
A RIDE ALONG THE OLD TELEGRAPH LINE TO THE BORDER
(Or “placing our jolly dreams on the seat of our motorcycles")*
DR 650 This This renowned performer from the Japanese Suzuki stable should have no problems completing the 2000000 meter track. After a thorough preparation he is ready to ride in group company and after coming to notice as a stayer last campaign a top three placing is virtually assured. Although carrying top weight, maintaining a three-quarter pace and then quickening to complete the last 200000m, we should see some exciting riding. Jockey: Mr. Graeme McBeath
TE610 A A recent European import from the Husqvarna stable, this highly strung but promising youngster carries a proud tradition that owner, trainer and jockey Fred Powell is sure to exploit. He can get a bit revvy and fire up so it is hoped that the trip to Esperance in the float will help settle him down. Most of the jockeys expect TE610 to lead clearly although recent form indicates that though doing all the hard work in front a finish is something that requires a degree of luck. Nevertheless, this top-class juvenile is bound to provide an entertaining ride.
TT350 Not an overly big mare,TT350 was sourced from Japan by an unknown bloodstock agent. Current owner “A”, who usually runs heavier European stock, has found TT350 ably fulfills his brief for a quality stead with nimble handling. A proven wet-tracker and is going to get conditions to suit on the local W.A. coastal track. Though known to throw a shoe and tread on a nail, “A” will saddle up a consistent performer well suited to the variable track conditions of the Border Run Stakes.
Now for a bit of serious stuff: History. In 1877 the Inter-Colonial Telegraph Line linking Western Australia to the rest of the world was completed. This line traversed harsh and remote country that had only been crossed for the first time by early colonial explorers 37 years earlier. In 1840 Edward John Eyre, in the company of several men set off from Adelaide and after many difficulties reached Albany in July 1841. It was a significant journey involving many tribulations that crossed the Nullarbor Plain skirting the edge of the Great Australian Bight. For history buffs it is a story worth reading and plenty of information can be found on the internet- our Twenty-first century telegraph!
Being a bit of an explorer myself, I set out with my brother Fred and mate Graeme to follow some of this country on our trusty mechanical steeds. These came from the famous bloodlines of Yamaha, Suzuki and Husqvarna. Leaving Albany it was, as is expected at this time of the year, rain, rain and more rain. Arriving at our farm in Jerramungup, there was Fred still making his panniers from 20 liter plastic Jerry cans and attaching each with five Nylon cable ties. These and Silastic are the modern day farmers first choice for repairs being the replacement for wire that “old school cockies” of the 20th century would have used.
Eventually we get going and make Esperance for the night. Morning rain sees us donning the wet weather gear and riding out of town in an easterly direction. It eventually dissipates leaving a nice moist sand track out to Israelite Bay with puddles to add interest to the ride. The remains of the Telegraph station stand as a memorial to the hard work and isolation of our communications pioneers.
Crusty Demons anticipating a good ride.
Old Israelite Telegraph Station
I’ve ridden the beach from Israelite Bay to the Baxter Cliffs on a number of previous occasions and it’s always been a bit of a hoot- hard, wide and fun. This time however the tide was up with the waves covering all the sand leaving little in the way of a beach to ride. There was no choice but to follow a winding track parallel to the coast and put up with the tough overhanging bushes that constantly pummel the handlebars, brake, clutch levers and panniers. Eventually the tide dropped enough and we followed the edge of the water ducking in-between seaweed mounds.
Note: for comments marked with an *, please refer to the appendix.
Off course we were flirting with danger with the beach becoming very soft and riding across the seaweed was courting disaster. On several occasions some dark lumps that initially presented as seaweed clumps rematerialized as seals that frantically flipped their way back into the ocean. As we travelled east the primary dunes became larger and it was found to be better to ride near their bases. This was a power sapping exercise and the TT350 was found a little wanting. The boys on their 650’s had enough grunt to get floating over the soft, rough surface and speed was their friend. Eventually it caught up with one of us and Graeme performed a handlebar flyover stunt as his front wheel buried itself axle deep in the sand.
Whilst the front wheel cuts a furrow, the rear gets serious air time. Result: a nicely executed sumersault self scored as a 9.7.
We reached the magnificent Bilbunya dunes at the cusp of sunset so decided to make camp partway up the Wylie Scarp. Some four wheel drivers had left a broken folding table behind so I fixed it up with- you guessed it, cable ties! Luxury for a trio of crusty motorcyclists. The flat surface of the table proved conducive to the placement of a carton of port for the use of. Thank you Mr. Mcbeath.
Next morning Graeme and Fred rode back down to the beach for a look at the Baxter Cliffs whilst I remained and took a more leisurely approach to breaking camp. On their return we headed up the scarp and then followed the telegraph line in an easterly direction above the cliffs. The sandy conditions gave way to a clay and rock based surface. As it had rained recently we were wary of the skid demon that lurks in the grease mud sections. Though “going soothingly”(**), sure enough it eventually claimed a victim with the “Black Piglet” having a little lay down. Undaunted we carried on following the trail blazed by the early pioneers.
Up the scarp we go
Follow that line!
Water can be found in dry times.
Overhanging bushes have no mercy on rider gear.
Into the tucker bag.
Motorcycles propelled by the infernal consumption engine eventually need a drink so we took a 25km northerly diversion to the relative civilization of Caiguna roadhouse situated on the Eyre Highway. After 400km of riding the bikes had become noticeably lighter so the fresh fuel load made its presence felt as we retraced out tracks back to the old telegraph line. It was in the vicinity of Baxter’s memorial that we eventually called it a day and decided to set up camp for the night. Baxter was a companion of Eyre on his expedition but was murdered by two aboriginals in the group who then departed. This left Eyre with only one companion, the faithful Wylie to complete the journey with.
Our second camp site.
It rained overnight so wet tents were rolled up prior to departing. The trees glistened in the morning sun as we followed a now less used telegraph track towards our eventual destination- the South Australia, West Australia border. Only a few of the old timber telegraph poles remain standing so we took the opportunity to stop for a photograph under one. There have been times in the past when I haven’t stopped for photos and later regretted it because those opportunities didn’t appear again. Motorcycling and photography have an uneasy relationship as they seem mutually exclusive when the imperative for me is inevitably to make time.
Eventually the cliffs we had been keeping to the north of turned away from the ocean and headed inland forming a scarp. This meant that once again there would be a beach to ride on. However getting to it was still a matter of quite a few kilometers and these weren’t all easy with some gnarly semi dune country to negotiate and plenty of vegetation to knock the handlebars about.
After some time we came upon an intersection with a relatively well used track heading from the highway down to the beach. We elected to ignore it and carry on following the old telegraph line down the scarp. The track deteriorated to the stage where it would be no longer passable by a 4wd due to overhanging trees and erosion forming a virtual tunnel for us to ride in. Half way along Fred narrowly avoided “entanglement of bird with wheel spokes” (***), a Mallee Hen busily constructing a new nest. These are huge 2-3m diameter structures scratched into the ground incorporating large amounts of vegetative matter used for incubating the eggs as it “composts”.
Once on the beach we continued in an easterly direction being pushed along by a westerly squall until the Eyre Bird Observatory was reached. Its position was marked by the presence of a well beached fishing boat. The bird observatory is a restored telegraph station and has a small museum and interesting collection of marine skeletons. The manager was pleased with our Mallee Hen nest discovery as it was a new find to add to his list of seven active sites.
Some weary old bones.
After lunch we decided to continue along the beach but our progress was impeded by large piles of seaweed. We rode around on a large sand dune and tried to find the old telegraph line again which is some 300 meters inland. Eventually we found it but the track was completely overgrown and impassable. In places the dune had moved further inland and covered the line. There was no other option but to head back to the observatory and then inland on their service track back towards Cocklebiddy. Part way along this track we turned right and rode below the scarp on a nice firm and gently winding path through the scrub. It was fun but as always, all good things come at a cost. In this case a flat rear tyre on the TT350. I was wondering why the other bikes were gradually getting away from me, there I was thinking my skill set had deserted me! Anyway, it was time to call it stumps for the day so the repair site also became our campsite.
We found the wire again!
Camp and tube replacement site.
Honda Safety Rules
Taken from a 1962, Honda Motor Cycle Owner's Manual. Translated by Honda
for the "American Motorcycle Rider"
"If you read this manual fully you will be able to place your jolly dream on the seat of your motorcycle and have a good ride”.
1. At the rise of the hand by Policeman, stop rapidly. Do not pass him by or otherwise disrespect him.
2. When a passenger of the foot, hooves in sight, tootel the horn trumpet
melodiously at first. If he still obstacles your passage, tootel him with
vigor and express by word of mouth, warning Hi, Hi.
3. Beware of the wandering horse that he shall not take fright as you pass
him. Do not explode the exhaust box at him. Go soothingly by.
4. Give big space to the festive dog that makes sport in roadway. Avoid
entanglement of dog with wheel spokes.
5. Go soothingly on the grease mud, as there lurks the skid demon! Press
the brake foot as you roll around the corners, and save the collapse and
To be continued...