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Old 08-18-2009, 03:00 AM   #1
OzBen OP
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8,000kms (mostly dirt) in Australia - Part I

Part I - Perth to Innamincka

17 days - 8,000kms on an F800GS (just under 500kms/day). Firstly, I apologise for the initial 2,000kms of the ride being mostly on sealed road - I know that’s not a ‘real’ adventure but it got me to where I needed to be to start almost 5,000kms of dirt. From Perth, Western Australia (WA) I rode east across the Nullarbor to South Australia (SA), then onto dirt heading north to Queensland (QLD), west to the Northern Territory (NT) and further west back to WA. The route included a section of the Oodnadatta track, the Strzelecki track, the Plenty Highway, and the Great Central Rd. It traversed the Strzelecki and the Sturt Stony deserts and passed through Roxby Downs, Cameron Corner, Innamincka, Birdsville, Ayres Rock and Warburton. Most of the ride was done solo, but the first 2,000kms coincided with the annual ‘Border Run’ to the WA/SA border, so there were a number of bikes on the road. Also, riding mates of mine joined me for the last 2 days.

Meet the skunk. It was aptly named by Robin, a friend of mine who assured me the name was in no way connected to the smell of the rider. It's derived from the light stripe across the bike’s back (it’s a more comfortable Rallye seat, not the standard torture chair). A BMW F800GS with a Rotax engine. I think the ‘F’ stands for ‘fake’, as all BMW’s with boxer engines and drive shafts start with an ‘R’ for ‘real’. For a BMW, the skunk is a relatively simple and functional unit - no ABS, no linked brakes, no traction control, no telelever, no paralever, no electronic suspension, no tyre pressure monitors, no 'you-beaut' aluminum panniers or any of those unnecessary frills. It’s the base model and has reliable, tried and tested components like a double swing arm, chain drive, conventional spokes, tube tyres and cable operated controls - all the good stuff. Accessories it does have are a smaller 650GS screen, BMW bash plate, Hepco & Becker headlight grille, Barkbuster hand guards, Touratech brake reservoir guards, a Rallye seat and SW-Motech luggage racks and crash bars. An extremely valuable addition is the Ralle-Moto steering dampener, which vastly improves the handling, especially when traveling with luggage at speed. That’s enough talk – let’s get to the pictures.

Day 1 – 230kms east of Perth is Corrigin, with its dog cemetery.



Lunch with the 'pigs’ at Hyden Bakery - 340km east of Perth.

300km dirt stretch between Hyden and Norseman.

100kms along the dirt is Breakaways...

...where we met more riders on their way to the Border Run. 5 'pigs' and one F800 - the jewel in the crown...

Robin towing in a tree for firewood...





The forecast was minus 2 degrees and after a big social evening we woke up on day 2 with frost on our tents and bikes.



Next stop at McDermid Rock for a look-see...











The dark cloud on the horizon is pollution from the Kalgoorlie Nickel Smelter (about 250kms away).

Lake Cowan, just before getting to Norseman.



The Nullarbor run is 1,200km along the Eyre Highway between Norseman in the west and Ceduna in the east. It runs along the Great Australian Bight on the southern shores (cliffs) of the continent. We met more riders when we stopped for fuel and coffee at Balladonia road house - 200kms east of Norseman.



30kms east of Balladonia is the start of the 90 mile straight.

That’s as good a place as any to camp and we had a huge social evening.



550kms east on day 3 to the WA/SA Border.



Border Village Motel - 1,450kms east of Perth.
Bikers from all over the country meet here on the 1st Saturday of August every year for the Border Run.



After another big social evening I set off along the Great Australian Bight on day 4.

Bunda cliffs

The Nullarbor run gets its name from the Nullarbor plain, which you traverse along the way.
The name is derived from 2 Latin words being nulla meaning 'nil' and arbor meaning 'tree'.

True to it’s name, not a tree to be seen.

Breakfast at the Nullarbor road house - 950kms east of Norseman and 1,600kms east of Perth.

Travelling by car takes a long time when you live this remote so a plane comes in handy.

I passed through Ceduna and the skunk earned its first badge for the ride.

At Wirrula - 90kms east of Ceduna and 2,000kms from Perth - I turned north off the Eyre Highway onto dirt (at last). It’s a scenic 4wd road that runs between Lake Gairdner and Lake Everard to Kingoonya. If it has been raining it can be impassable. As far as I’m concerned, my trip starts here (sealed roads don’t do much for me). Although I’ll be forced to do a few short sealed sections, I’ll now be predominantly on dirt for the next 5,000kms – yes please!

A ‘bobtail’ or shingleback lizard inspects my Heidenhau K60 rear tire. It had done 2,500kms when I started the ride so will have done about 4,500kms by now.



The track is a bit sandy, but mostly dry.

Passing between the lakes.

A wombat hole. They are nocturnal herbivores weighing between 40kg and 50kg and can do a bit of damage to a vehicle.

Holes everywhere, big enough for a man to fit into - this must be ‘wombat city’.

I had to stand guard as the skunk just wanted to get in...

Gawler Ranges in the background...

Found a nice creek to camp.

Fog on the morning of day 5.

Lake Everard.

Kangaroo tracks.

The road improved somewhat...

Sturt Desert Peas.



Last view of the lake.

Entering Kingoonya.

Kingoonya Hotel.

On to Glendambo for lunch.

I met 2 riders that were travelling on the sealed Stuart Highway from Adelaide on the south coast, to Darwin on the north coast.

On to the Stuart Highway for a 200km sealed stretch to Roxby Downs.

Eucola creek.

Island lagoon.

Woomera rocket range. It came into existence as a consequence of Britain's defense requirements for a remote area to test new weapons following World War 2. Australia was keen to be part of the nuclear weapons development process that would be a key part of the Cold War, and offered the Woomera area as a joint facility. For 30 years Woomera functioned as the base for the largest overland rocket range in the western world. It was a joint Australian/British venture. In 1958 NASA completed its first space tracking station at Woomera. It served as a vital communications link for Apollo XI as Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the moon in 1969. More recently, Woomera's role changed to a joint United States/Australian defense facility and ground station for a global strategic satellite surveillance system to detect the launch of missiles and above ground nuclear detonations. It closed in 2000. International and national aeronautic and space research and development continues at Woomera today.

It was until recently also the location of a remote detention centre for asylum seekers, and those who were seeking refugee status. Many were held at Woomera while their claims were processed and investigated. The detention centre was closed in 2003.

A room at Roxby Downs caravan park for a night of luxury.

On to the Borefield road on day 6 to link up with the Oodnadatta track.

Just visible on the horizon is the smoking stack of the Olympic Dam mine site. It is the site of an extremely large deposit producing copper, uranium, gold and silver. The site hosts an underground mine as well as a metallurgical processing plant. It is the fourth largest copper deposit and the largest known single deposit of uranium in the world.

The vegetation rapidly decreases...

...the remaining shrubs get smaller...

On the Oodnadatta track, there’s no vegetation left - welcome to South Australia, the ‘not-so-green’ state of Australia.
The 1985 Mad Max movie 'Thunderdome' (Mel Gibson & Tina Turner) was filmed in South Australia on a section of the Oodnadatta track called the 'moon plains'.

But wait, there’s a tree…that warrant’s a photograph.

A railway bridge on the old disused Ghan railway. It was named after the Afghan cameleers who did so much to open up Central Australia. For many years camel teams supplied the telegraph, railways and pastoral stations with supplies, no matter how isolated or far away they were. When the northern railway was finished it soon became known as the Ghan. The railway went through some of Australia's most desolate and flood prone country, often suffering wash-outs with passengers marooned for several days. The Central Australian Railway never lived up to the many promises made, or the financial success which had been envisaged. Unfortunately, flash floods and the extreme climate made the line unreliable. It ran for the last time in 1980 when the new line via Tarcoola was completed.

Lyndhurst, the start of the Strzelecki track.

Lunch at the local hotel.

On to the 750km stretch across the Strzelecki desert to Innamincka . No fuel for 450km but with my 12 litre fuel bladder I have a range of 550-600kms . The fuel bladder lives in a bottom pannier.

100kms into the Strzelecki track is the dog fence. It’s the longest fence in the world and has a length almost twice that of the Great Wall of China. It was constructed to keep the wild dingo dogs to the north of the fence separated from the sheep areas to the south. It stretches from Western Australia up into Central Queensland.

More of the same - if you don't see anything, it’s because there isn't anything, for many, many, many miles…

Montecollina Bore – a popular place for campers, and there’s some drinking water in a tank…sometimes.

Water tank in the background (but no water).

Time to refuel from the fuel bladder at the turnoff. Cameron Corner is a beacon 120km off the Strzelecki track where the borders of three states meet (New South Wales, South Australia and Queensland).

The Strzelecki Creek, after which the track is named.

A good place to camp with lots of fire wood.

Up at first light on day 7 to get to Cameron Corner for breakfast.

A friendly magpie keeps me company while I put on my boots.

More 'nothing' on the way to Cameron Corner.

A 4wd club admiring the Cameron Corner beacon (white bollard in the background).



Me at the beacon.



Cameron Corner Store

Inside for a cooked breakfast and a chin-wag with a local roo-shooter.

The skunk proudly earned another sticker.

120kms back to the Strzelecki track – crossing the creek once again.

A pretty little bull dust hole on top of a rise that caught me unaware - by the time I saw it, it was too late. 'When in doubt - flat out' so up on the pegs, gear down and accelerate to transfer weight to the rear wheel. At more than 100km/h the front wheel went in deep... for a moment I thought the bike was going to over-end, but it held on. After a brief display of motorcycle rodeo skills I landed, front wheel first, with the wheels unaligned. The bike snapped back into place hard and fast, almost bucking me off... but I somehow managed to stay upright. After having spent this quality air-time with the skunk, I stopped and waited for my heartbeat to settle before turning back for this photo, when I noticed the warning flag...

I dented my front rim but have tube tires so it doesn’t really matter...

...back on the Strzelecki track and 140km to go to Innamincka.

Moomba mine site. It is located on a low-lying plain amongst sand dunes at very little height above sea level. To the southwest is Lake Eyre which is in fact below sea level. Moomba was established in the 1960s after the discovery of gas. An explosion occurred at the plant in 2004 which made national headlines and caused a costly temporary gas shortage. A liquefied gas pipeline runs 832 kilometers to deliver natural gas from Moomba to Adelaide. This same pipeline is also used to deliver gas from Queensland. A separate 659 kilometer pipeline runs southwest to Port Bonython, South Australia for overseas export. A similar gas pipeline runs to Sydney, stretching over 1,160 kilometers, with an ethane pipeline along the same route. Significant oil deposits were discovered in 1970 and 1978. These are similarly extracted and supplied via pipelines to sales outlets.

Innamincka (that’s the whole town).



Cooper Creek, where Innamincka gets it’s water. That’s a pelican on the creek - who would expect a pelican in the Strzelecki desert in the middle of Australia?

4wd campers on the banks of Cooper Creek.

I opted for the comfort of the hotel.

The backpacker style accommodation looks like a bomb shelter from outside...

...but inside it’s air-conditioned and very pleasant...

...a kettle, fridge, and TV...

...and an outdoor movie screen for evening entertainment.

I had a few drinks with Kim (the owner of the hotel) at the pub that night and a cooked breakfast in the morning. The people in the photo were on a 4wd adventure tour and very interested in where I had come from, where I was going and what supplies I carried.

The skunk earned another sticker.


CONTINUED FURTHER DOWN THIS PAGE - Part II

OzBen screwed with this post 07-11-2010 at 06:02 AM
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Old 08-18-2009, 04:09 AM   #2
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Thanks mate, enjoyed reading that, look forward to more!

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Old 08-18-2009, 04:17 AM   #3
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Loving your story Ben, though only getting half your pics. I'll try again later
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Old 08-18-2009, 04:21 AM   #4
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Wow,a few of those places look familiar .Nice report.

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Old 08-18-2009, 04:23 AM   #5
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thanks, looks like riding on the moon
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Old 08-18-2009, 04:23 AM   #6
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Loving your story Ben, though only getting half your pics. I'll try again later
Hit your refresh button Scott.It usually brings the rest up or right click on the icon and hit show picture.

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Old 08-18-2009, 04:35 AM   #7
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We're heading off in a couple of days from Sydney to see some of that lovely South Australian nothiness. Not as full on a journey as you, but here's hoping we earn some stickers too.

Thanks for the story
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Old 08-18-2009, 05:19 AM   #8
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Great report......

Great report so far Ben...enjoying it.

I will have to find the tiem in the coming years to do that one.

See you back in Perth next week.
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Old 08-18-2009, 05:36 AM   #9
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Great stuff Ben

I enjoy reading your reports, looking forward to the second half.
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Old 08-18-2009, 06:00 AM   #10
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Great report with lots of pics. Thanks for sharing and hoping to see more great pics of your trip.
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Old 08-18-2009, 06:18 AM   #11
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Good stuff mate . Inspirational!
Whats with the soft bags an occy straps? convenience? cheap option? Did they give you any trouble?
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Old 08-18-2009, 06:44 AM   #12
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This would be my hell


Great report... can I fly to Aus and borrow your bike for a month or two?
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Old 08-18-2009, 07:39 AM   #13
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G'day Ben...Long live the pigs!!!.....how was the handling with all that weight over the back wheel.....might of helped to minimize the rim damage.
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Old 08-18-2009, 07:40 AM   #14
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WOW.
excellent ride report.
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Old 08-19-2009, 01:49 AM   #15
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8,000kms (mostly dirt) in Australia - Part II

Part II - Innamincka to Kata Tjuta

Leaving Innamincka on day 8, I continued further north into the Strzelecki desert towards Cordillo Downs - miles and miles and miles of nothing…

...and more nothing…

...and more nothing…

Then, to make things interesting the scenery changed and the road became sandy…

100kms of rolling sand hills...

That’s my track on the right and you can just see the rock under the sand that knocked my front wheel around by about 40 degrees. At 90km/h that throws the bike a bit and I was lucky to stay on. Thanks steering dampener, without you I would have been cactus.

I refuelled at the Cordillo Downs turnoff (and I saw another vehicle, for a change)

I now left the Strzelecki desert and skirted the eastern edge of the Sturt Stony desert which was to say the least, stony.

Cordillo Downs shearing shed, no longer in operation, was the largest shearing shed ever built in Australia. 10,000 sheep were run on the property in 1883. In 1900 Cordillo amalgamated with Cadelga and Haddon Downs and the property spread across 102,400 sq kms, shearing 100,000 sheep a year. On the flat gibber plains of the region, wood is very scarce, and a method of construction to minimize the use of roofing timber was a domed, corrugated iron roof structure, supported by buttressed stone walls more than half a meter thick. Up to 88 shearers could shear at once, 4 shearers to a port hole. The sheep were penned down the middle. Other buildings on the station were built in the same style. However, dingo’s and drought took their toll on the sheep and since 1942 Cordillo Downs has run cattle only. It now runs 7,000 head of shorthorn cattle.

Twelve kilometers before the Queensland border the abandoned Cadelga Homestead outstation, established in 1878.
It was used in the 1930's as an observation point for the 'Transit of Venus' by the Royal Geographical Society.

SA/QLD border - why the cattle grid if there’s no fence?

The Sturt Stony desert...

..Moonda lake...

...on to the Birdsville Developmental road...

...an excellent road...

The original Royal Hotel in Birdsville.

The (not so new) new Birdsville Hotel. Kim, the owner of the Innamincka Hotel also owns this one.



Campers on the banks of the Diamantina river.

My humble camp site.

Breakfast at Birdsville Bakery the morning of day 9 - I met 2 riders who were heading south on the Birdsville track.

The skunk earned yet another sticker.

A quick stop at the shoe shop.



The Diamantina Developmental road north to Boulia.

Eyre creek.

Greenery (this is no longer South Australia!)

Burke river.

Boulia Caravan Park.

An airconditioned room with an ensuite.

I met Charlie & Gerard who were coming off the Plenty Highway where I was heading. They were on their way to Birdsville and then continuing south along the Birdsville track.

Months earlier Charlie's 650 tripped up in a bulldust hole on the Plenty Highway and he broke some ribs, a collarbone and punctured his lung. The Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS) was summoned (they're a brilliant and essential service so if ever you see a collection point for them, throw something in - they may save your life one day). Charlie was flown out and the bikes went to Tobermorey station near the QLD/NT border. Gerard and Charlie were now back to fetch their bikes and ride home to the eastern States. I've since been contacted by Charlie and they got home safely with all ribs and shoulders still attached and they live to ride again. He sent me this photo of him having a bit of a lie-down after his fall - nice looking bulldust hole in the background. Good on ya Charlie, getting back on the horse so soon after those injuries - you're a hard man.

On day 10 I headed west on the Donohue Highway (QLD) for 250kms, before crossing the border into the Northern Territory on the Plenty Highway (NT). After 550kms that intersects with the Stuart Highway for 70kms (sealed) down to Alice Springs.



Initially its a rough road...

...but gets a lot better.

Morning tea with some 4wd caravaners.

The scenery changed to grassland...

...then trees again.

The QLD/NT border.

Time to refuel.

The rear tire still looking good after 4,500kms.

The famous NT bush fire warning sign with the frillneck lizard - there's one at every border crossing.

A little hill to break the monotony...

...around the back...

...and a short ride to the top.

The Plenty Highway.

Arthur creek.

480km to Jervois station for fuel and water...



...and to camp.



The skunk is awarded with another sticker.

Back on the Plenty Highway heading west on day 11.

Marshall creek.

The road got sandy...

...some hills appear in the distance - notice how far apart the corrugations are.

Tried to get water here but it was too saline to drink. Probably OK for livestock - they can stand much more salinity than us.

Gemtree station.

Fuel and a shop.

The East McDonnell ranges in the distance.

A short stretch of single lane bitumen before intersecting with the Stuart Highway.

70kms south on the Stuart Highway to Alice Springs, which is roughly in the centre of Australia.

Crossing the tropic of Capricorn.

‘The Gap’ as you enter or leave Alice Springs.



It was a Sunday and there was an ‘Old Timers Fete’ going on...

...so it was pretty busy (and a bit frightening after having been on my own in the bush for a while).

The Todd River running through Alice Springs (no water of course, just sand).

Further west on Larapinta Drive to the West McDonnell Ranges.

Approaching Simpsons Gap...

..roads move for trees in this part of the world - not the other way round...



Approaching Ellerey's Big Hole...



The West McDonnell Ranges.

Approaching Glen Helen gorge.

Glen Helen campground.

For those who have had enough of corrugations...



Found a camping spot.

I noticed that the quick-lock fitting on my luggage rack had come undone and the securing pin had fallen out. Thousands of kilometers of corrugations had taken their toll – my two canisters of chain lube were packed alongside each other and wore through, so I had to use motor oil to lube the chain; the frame of my reading glasses had disintegrated and the lenses had fallen out; the electronics in the 12 volt connector for my GPS had shattered so I could only run it on batteries... and now the luggage frame. I hope my brain is still intact – time will tell…

I asked nearby campers if I could use their tools for repairing my frame. Not only did they offer their tools, but came over and did the job.

Got the wire from the handle on a 20 liter bucket and I carry an extra set of cam-buckle webbing straps.

View of Gosse Bluff meteorite crater from Tyler lookout on day 12.

On to the Mereenie Loop towards Kings Canyon.

A quick stop for supplies at the general store...

...there was no securing pin for my luggage frame.

The first 50km of the Mereenie loop was sandy...

...after that it varied, from rocky with corrugations…

...to hard and sandy with corrugations (but always corrugations)...



Approaching a sharp bend...

the other side...





Entering Kings Canyon resort.

Fuel stop.

Lunch at the Desert Oaks café.

A quick look at Kings Canyon.

A reward for the skunk.

Then 330kms sealed road to Yulara.

No concentration required so feet on the crash bars and relax and meditate.

First view of Uluru (Ayers Rock).

Camping at 'Yulara' or Ayers Rock Resort. The name means ‘crying’ or ‘weeping’. I’ll have a closer look at Ayers Rock at sunrise tomorrow.

Another sweetener for the skunk, to keep him on his best behaviour.

Day 13 and a nice view of Uluru as the sun rises and illuminates the eastern side. Ayers Rock is the most commonly used name. Uluru is the Aboriginal and official name. It is located in the middle of Australia, in fact very close to the actual geographical centre. Research suggests that Aborigines have lived in the area for at least 10,000 years. It is not the world's largest monolith, that title belongs to Mt Augustus in Western Australia - see my ride report on Mt Augustus at http://www.advrider.com/forums/showthread.php?t=457811.
Uluru is 862.5 meters above sea level, 348 meters (1141 feet) high, 3.6 km long (2.2 miles), 1.9 km wide (1.2 miles), 9.4 km (5.8 miles) around the base, covers 3.33 sq kms (1.29 sq miles), and extends several kms/miles into the ground.

In Australia the main hazards to look out for on the roads are kangaroos and emus...some areas warn against camels...

...others warn against wombats...

...but here in central Australia, they warn against lizards and bicycles. Are the lizards on top of the bicycles or is that just the sign?

50kms from Ayers Rock is Kata Tjuta (the Olgas) – literally meaning ‘many heads’ . Located north west of Uluru and made up of 36 smaller monoliths, the Olgas cover about 35 sq kms (13.5 sq miles), and the circumference is about 22 kms (13.7 miles). The highest monolith, Mount Olga, stands 546 meters tall.




CONTINUED ON PAGE 3 - Part III

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