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Old 10-23-2010, 04:38 AM   #1
Nathan OP
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Nathan and Elena's Aussie Ride-About

“May you live in interesting times” is (supposedly) an old Chinese proverb. Whether it is a curse or a blessing is dependent on the situation, I think. Here are my interesting times.

First, let me introduce the cast.

My name is Nathan. This is me:




I’m riding Elena through and around Australia.




Elena and I left White Cliffs in the early afternoon today heading towards Paroo-Darling National Park, then south to Wilcannia.




After a few days of blasting along outback roads, I was feeling cocky. So when we reached this sign, I didn’t worry about the other signs right next to it. I had been dealing with “road maintenance” signs for a few days now, and they didn’t seem to mean anything.




Elena and I set off towards Wilcannia. The detour alternative was back tracking on bitumen, and I wasn’t keen to repeat a boring road. A few kilometers down the road, we came across the first water crossing. Now, water on the road is fairly common in the outback—especially with a wet year like this one—so I wasn’t too fussed by it. A quick check on foot showed that the water was fairly shallow with a slightly soft bottom. Elena and I made it across easy.




Not far down the road, we came across another crossing. This one was a lot bigger, but after a quick wade, I thought we could get across Bunker Creek. We made it through the first section, water splashing everywhere, but everything was fine—except there were more sections.




As I rode through the largest of the crossings, Elena suddenly cutout. I had drowned her in water barely over the footpegs. On top of that, the wind was picking up, and there were dark, ominous-looking clouds on the horizon.

I pushed Elena out of the water, which was about 100 meters, then pulled the luggage off her and set to work. At this point I was thinking “This road is closed. No one will find me on it for a very long time.” I had to get myself out of there.




After checking the air filter (soaked in water), draining the carb , and pulling the fuel tank off to remove a spark plug and pump the water out of the engine, Elena finally started. The wind was getting really strong now, blowing red grit through all my gear. I put Elena back together as quickly as I could, loaded her up again and we set off as the first drops of rain struck the dry dust of the road.





The road ahead looked dry, so I figured the water crossings were all behind me now. It was just a race against the rain. Elena quickly got into her stride and was running quite well considering the circumstances. I rounded a corner doing 100kph when a gray kangaroo on the side of the road suddenly jumped out on a collision course with me. I slammed on the brakes as hard as I dared in the dirt and scrubbed off just enough speed for the ‘roo to pass in front of me by centimeters. As I flew past, Elena’s bashplate and footpeg clipped his leg. In the mirror, I saw him limp off the road, but I didn’t have time to stop. I had to get off this track before the rain turned it to mud.

I kept barreling along until I saw another big water crossing. I couldn’t believe it. I was now stuck between water crossings with a thunderstorm bearing down on me. It was a damned if you do, damned if you don’t situation, so I decided to keep going. The crossing was deep. I wanted to go slowly to keep the engine dry with my feet paddling for balance, but the drag was too much. I put my feet on the footpegs and slogged on. The water was up to my shins and I was worried I would drown the bike again. With lots of clutch slipping to control our speed, we got through.

On dry ground again, I gave Elena some throttle. She wasn’t happy. More water in her engine, but she kept running. A few hundred metres down the road we came upon yet another water crossing. This one was deep. The marker showed it was at least 80cm of water. There was no way I could get Elena through that.

With the wind howling and the rain steadily getting stronger, I knew I had to turn around and ride back the way I had come. To make matters worse, removing the fuel tank and draining the carb had wasted a lot of my fuel.

Somehow I made it through all the water crossings a second time, abusing the clutch to keep me moving slowly forward without stalling. The wind was now at my back as I hammered along the road, dodging pieces of fencing wire, cattle, and nasty washouts. The rain had died down as I outpaced the storm clouds.

I reached the “road closed” intersection and turned left towards White Cliffs. Twenty kilometers out from town, Elena gave two sad little backfires then died. I rolled to a stop, switched the petcocks to reserve and fired her up again. Safari tanks have useless reserves due to the bottom of the tank being below the carb, so I crossed my fingers and gently got Elena up to speed. The wind was now slicing in from my left, making holding a line in the wheel ruts difficult and the rain was catching me again.

I rolled into White Cliffs just as the rain caught me, clomped into the local pub covered in mud and got a room for the night.

Is living in interesting times a curse of a blessing? That depends on if you survive the interesting times. Today I did, but I got a hell of a lot of stupid knocked out of me in the process.

Nathan screwed with this post 10-23-2010 at 04:59 AM
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Old 10-23-2010, 05:03 AM   #2
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To all the DR650 experts out there:

I'm taking Elena to Broken Hill for a service tomorrow. Is there anything special I should be doing to prevent damage from ingesting water?
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Old 10-23-2010, 05:57 AM   #3
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Looks like a wet ride about

Have a look at the Thumpers forum for DR specific questions and answers.
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Old 10-23-2010, 06:25 AM   #4
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12/10/2010 - 17/10/2010, Getting Started

Let's go back to the start. I flew into Melbourne on the 12th of October. Saintell of ADVRider fame had agreed to sell me his 2008 DR650 with only 3500 kms on the clock. It had a lot of farkles already, so I jumped at the deal. Saintell was decent enough to hold onto to Elena for over month while I got things organised. So, on the 13th, I took the train out to Dandenong and met Saintell and my new bike. Here they both are:



I decided to call her Elena after the lead character in a bad fantasy book I read. Elena was a witch whose hands would glow red when she was ripe with her witchy power. The red handguards reminded me of the story, and now that I'm used to them, I actually quite like the red. :)

I took Elena back to Melbourne and added some more farkles to her. Note the fancy packaging on the Safari tank so the airline wouldn't charge me an oversize fee. I was quite worried Air New Zealand wouldn't take my tank because it had been used, so I got it professionally cleaned. I was pretty sure I had all my bases covered when I checked in, but the check-in guy threw me a real curve ball.

Me: Here's an invoice for getting the tank professionally cleaned.

Check-in guy: How I can tell this invoice is for this tank?

Me: What?

Maybe the Taliban have a nefarious scheme for checking in fuel tanks that haven't been cleaned.




And ready to hit the road.


Nathan screwed with this post 10-31-2010 at 06:54 PM
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Old 10-23-2010, 06:35 AM   #5
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18/10/2010, Leaving Melbourne

Unfortunately, when I got back to Melbourne I got sick and at the same time it started raining a lot. I finally left Melbourne on the 18th and headed to Werribee to get my Victorian driver's licence.

I saw this sign in Port Henry. Those Alcoa guys are so cool.




Licence all sorted, I headed towards Grampians National Park. I ran out of daylight on the way, so I turned down a side road and found a place to camp.





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Old 10-23-2010, 01:37 PM   #6
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19/10/2010, Grampians National Park

The next morning I continued heading towards Grampians. On the way, I tried to take a detour through Mount Bangalor State Park, but the road was closed.




Not much further down the road I came across these bug fellas. I worked for a small wind turbine manufacturer briefly, and I'm still a huge wind turbine nut.




I made it to Ararat and decided to check out the small Ararat Regional Park nearby. The view from the hill was pretty sweet. Victoria is really green right now.




It turned out the park had a network of 4WD tracks, so I decided to give them a go. This one scared the crap out of me. Elena had a very road-orientated Trailwing front paired with a dirt-orientated Kenda Trakmaster at the rear. It was an okay combo for going up hill, but when I hit this nasty downhill I was packing myself. The front had no grip, so I was sliding down the hill with the rear doing all the braking work.

The standard "It was steeper than it looks" applies here. (How do you make photos show incline accurately?)




I got the Grampians and spent the afternoon blasting around on the deserted gravel roads in the park's interior. There were tons of people on the paved roads, but no wanted to go on the dirts roads.




I did a wee walk to check out some Aboriginal rock art. The walk ended up being longer than I though and I was super hot in my riding gear when I finally got the rock with the pictures. Most of them were really hard to make out, but there were some neat hand prints.




And what Australian tour would be complete without a roadkill shot?





The day was ending and the 'roos were out in force, so I started looking for a place to camp.


Nathan screwed with this post 10-31-2010 at 06:55 PM
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Old 10-23-2010, 02:02 PM   #7
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20/10/2010, Nhill Murrayville Track

I found this spot to camp. The noise from all the wildlife was crazy.




I continued up to Horsham, then on to Mt. Arapiles. I think this was when I finally got a feel for just how big Australia is. The view from the top was incredible.




Next up was Little Desert National Park. I was cruising along the nice road through the centre of the park when I decided to try some of the 4WD tracks. Man, was that a bad idea.




The front tyre was useless in the sand. I found it easiest to stay going vaguely straight if I kept in second gear at about 50kph. The corners were impossible at that speed, but I slogged on. The heat was brutal wrestling Elena through deep sand in full riding gear. Here's me pondering the hot sun.






I eventually made it out of the sandy 4WD tracks. I took this picture of a green field just because it was such a nice change after the sand.




At this point, I was totally off course, so I just rode around guessing which roads to take for a while. In the middle of my wandering, I came across this cool lake.




I eventually made it to Nimboola and stopped to take a picture of this train. At the time, I didn't even notice it, but my bashplate was hanging on for dear life.




A guy at the local hardware store assessed my bashplate and called it a "homemade jigger". He then found a replacement bolt, cut it to length and locktited it in for me. Good to go! He didn't want his picture taken, but didn't complain when I did anyway.




Being a typical Aussie bloke, he goaded me into doing the Nhill Murrayville road. He said it would be easy on my "chookchaser" and it turned out to be a great ride.




I found a spot to camp about two thirds of the way down the road and pitched my tent on sand that was as hard concrete. Here's a cool windmill that was nearby.


Nathan screwed with this post 10-31-2010 at 06:57 PM
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Old 10-23-2010, 02:24 PM   #8
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21/10/2010, Pink Lakes

I finished off the Nhill Murrayville road in no time the next morning. At this point I was sick of the Deathwing front tyre. The front was killing me on gravel, dirt, and sand, and the back was hopeless on the bitumen. I felt like I couldn't ride anything comfortably, so I headed towards Mildura hoping to new front tyre. On the way, I checked out the Pink Lakes. They're salt lakes and are 800 times more salty than sea water. Only one type of amoeba thingy can survive in the lakes, and it produces lots of beta carotene, which gives the lakes their beautiful pink lustre.




People used to mine salt out there. I guess they stopped when they realised salt is everywhere and you can get it from other places without borking a beautiful natural phenomenon.




I was having a rest and drinking in some small town when Graham the truck driver walked over and asked I would help him move the heavy-ass tailgate on his truck. We had to push it from the front of the deck to the back and slot it in place. It was pretty heavy, so I'm not surprised he asked for help.




The Murray River.




As I continued north, it had been getting steadily hotter and hotter. I was starting to wilt in my riding gear, and I couldn't stop for more than a few seconds without getting drenched in sweat. I made it to Mildura and found a motorcamp to stay at. My first shower in over three days.

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Old 10-23-2010, 10:35 PM   #9
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Well it's a good start.

When do things get juicy?

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Old 10-23-2010, 10:52 PM   #10
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Hello Nathan,

You have a great eye for photos and a perfect bike for touring Australia on. I look forward to reading your report more.

At risk of sounding a bit churlish, ignoring "road closed" signs and failing to render assistance to wildlife you've hit are both criminal offences in Australia. The former is just downright silly in remote areas (as you yourself acknowledge), and the latter inhumane. The last thing Aussie riders need is more roads closed to public access because the council have to retrieve drowned DR650s or shoot wounded kangaroos left to die by the side of the road.

If you've already finished your trip, I hope you had a blast and got home safe. If you haven't, please take the above on board to ensure you have the best time you can here, and leave with good memories of us (and vice versa).

Either way, I love your style so far and look forward to the rest!
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Old 10-24-2010, 01:24 AM   #11
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G'day Nathan, looks like you've been having some fun riding through my neck of the woods. Your DR drowning problem might be the carb breather hoses getting water in them, as they hang down very low. You might like to think about re-routing them up higher. Not sure how you soaked the air filter, though.
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Old 10-24-2010, 03:41 AM   #12
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Hi Nathan,nice to read your report and see some pics of my bike doing what it is supposed to,unfortunately I would never have done this trip,maybe mentally but not physically,keep up the good work,BTW I said you had a nice camera,it takes beaut photos and your comments are excellent,cheers Nev
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Old 10-24-2010, 01:17 PM   #13
Nathan OP
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Quote:
Originally Posted by raider
Hello Nathan,

You have a great eye for photos and a perfect bike for touring Australia on. I look forward to reading your report more.

At risk of sounding a bit churlish, ignoring "road closed" signs and failing to render assistance to wildlife you've hit are both criminal offences in Australia. The former is just downright silly in remote areas (as you yourself acknowledge), and the latter inhumane. The last thing Aussie riders need is more roads closed to public access because the council have to retrieve drowned DR650s or shoot wounded kangaroos left to die by the side of the road.

If you've already finished your trip, I hope you had a blast and got home safe. If you haven't, please take the above on board to ensure you have the best time you can here, and leave with good memories of us (and vice versa).

Either way, I love your style so far and look forward to the rest!
I don't think I could have caught the kangeroo. He was limping a bit, but still moving. It was just a glancing blow.

The trip is still very much in progress. Don't worry, I'll be listening to the road signs from now on. I can't promise I'll avoid all the 'roos though. Those little bastards have a deathwish sometimes.
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Old 10-24-2010, 01:19 PM   #14
Nathan OP
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dakar Dan
G'day Nathan, looks like you've been having some fun riding through my neck of the woods. Your DR drowning problem might be the carb breather hoses getting water in them, as they hang down very low. You might like to think about re-routing them up higher. Not sure how you soaked the air filter, though.
There was a lot of water in the airbox when I pulled it open the next day. I'm in Broken Hill right now, so I'll get her serviced and check the hose locations.
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Old 10-24-2010, 01:21 PM   #15
Nathan OP
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Quote:
Originally Posted by saintell
Hi Nathan,nice to read your report and see some pics of my bike doing what it is supposed to,unfortunately I would never have done this trip,maybe mentally but not physically,keep up the good work,BTW I said you had a nice camera,it takes beaut photos and your comments are excellent,cheers Nev
Thanks mate. And thank you for your wonderful hospitality. Someone in power should give you a medal for being a top bloke.
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