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Old 05-10-2011, 03:28 PM   #1
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The Happy Goose Birdsville or Bust tour - Day 1

My throat is dry, my nose full of dust...

The sand is tugging at the front wheel and trying to tear the handlebars out of my grasp. Heavily loaded, the KLR is seemingly all over the road as the rear view mirror shows clouds of bull dust that spew out from the back of the rear wheel, and somehow the bike keeps climbing the hill, and amazingly; I am still on board.

What the hell am I doing out here I ask myself over and over in my mind?

It seemed like a good idea at the time. Having coffee with Goosefeather (Gregor) on a ride one day last year I suggested that we should ride to Birdsville. He thought it might be fun and so the “Happy Snapper/Goosefeather Birdsville or Bust Tour” was born.

The idea was simple... Stuff all of our gear on the two bikes and head west. Being a mining engineer, Gregor had a very methodical way of planning route legs and fuel consumption etc on an XL spreadsheet. And his attention to detail on this plus a lot of other bits and pieces paid off. He is a great mate and good company to ride with. And above all he is safe to ride with. You never worry that he will overcook a corner or some other situation and bin his bike while taking you out at the same time.

The two bikes were his DR650 and my KLR650. For me, preparation was a few trips to the dealer to install some new heavy duty parts. I bought a doo hickey upgrade kit for the engine and also new heavy forks springs and rear heavy duty spring and had my dealer install it all. I must give full marks to Team Moto at Bowen Hills. They did a magnificent job on preparing the bike. I also replaced my worn 606 tyres with E07 front and back. These proved to be a great choice and gave me better fuel consumption. On previous trips our two bike had very similar consumption figures, but on the E07 shod KLR I always used a little less fuel than the DR650 running 606.

Fuel consumption was going to be an issue we thought so I added a Rotopax 8 litre tank while Gregor went for a fuel bladder with similar capacity. As it turned out we could have gone without them.. But better to be safe than sorry.

The direction of the trip was to be out west to Innamincka then up through Cordillo Downs to Birdsville. The recent rain put paid to that so it was straight into Birdsville and back.

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We rode out through Leyburn on day one where we bought fuel. The picture above shows the loaded condition of the KLR. It was at maximum take off weight with me and the gear.


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Nearby there is this war memorial featuring the prop from a Liberator I think. It was here that I dropped the bike. I was getting off the bloody thing and it rolled forward and the stand folded up. End result was Big Red on her side and Gregor and a passer by helping me get her on her feet again.

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Stopped here for coffee. About 90 k from Goondiwindi which was to be the first nights stop.


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Camp Happy Goose. We managed to get separated finding the camp ground.. Thank goodness for the UHF radios on both bikes.


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This is my tent and Kermit chair. These chairs are a bit dear but oh so comfortable at the end of a day’s ride.


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We met this retired Victorian motorcycle cop. He was touring on the GSA and it had cruise control, UHF and a digital sound system that played through the headphone speakers. It featured an auto mute to allow for incoming UHF calls.


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Also had this wicked tent/bed combo!


During the night my self inflating mattress deflated. POS from Anaconda. So I slept on rock hard ground... And froze my bum off! So much for day one!
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Old 05-10-2011, 03:41 PM   #2
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The Happy Goose Birdsville or Bust tour - Day 2

Day two dawns and we are late to get going. Really late. We finally leave McDonalds around 10:30 and head up to St George. The air is hot, my back is sore from sleeping on the bed of rocks and I am not enjoying the ride at all.

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We stop along the way to stretch our legs.


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Gregor investigates this cactus bush!


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This is cotton growing area.

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When we reach StGeorge I am stuffed. We refuel the bikes and finish just as the power goes off to the whole area. So we check into a hotel and decide to get an early start tomorrow. We should have looked at a weather report!!!


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A couple from Thailand were touring on this BMW. The hotel owner commented that he had never had 3 bikes there at once before. We also decided at this point to stay in motels from now on. We were losing so much time making/breaking camp and it was so the luxury offered by a motel room was so nice at the end of each day.

So much for day 2......
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Old 05-10-2011, 04:09 PM   #3
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The Happy Goose Birdsville or Bust tour - Day 3

Day 3 dawns and it’s wet.. And looking wetter. There are 2 drug testing cops next door.


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Gregor says that now it really is Birdsville or BUST!!

We ride out of town under leaden grey skies at 7:30 with headlights on high beam trying to see where we are going. The rain gets heavier. I am wearing a plastic poncho over the top of my jacket. On one long stretch of road it blows up and covers my helmet. In about 1 second I have ripped the bloody thing to pieces so I can see where I am going. The original plan was to ride to Bollon the night before and camp. When we actually arrive at Bollon it is a really pretty little town. But we are frozen to the bone and spy a cafe.


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Seeing as it is named after my wife... We head in for a hot chocolate!


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Warmed us up!


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Gregor feeling the serenity!


The plan today is to get to Thargomindah. So off we go. The sun comes out, the road dries out.. And out backs give out!


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Gregor having a stretch!


On the way into Cunnamulla we come across some of the biggest Emus I have ever seen!


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Of course, my Yoshimura let’s them know we are coming and they POQ when I want to take a picture of them.


Because my self inflating mat is stuffed.. I need a new one in case we camp out again. In Cunnamulla it is hard to find any camping gear. Finally I find this...


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Tied on the back for safe transport!


It’s lunch time.. So another cafe stop here at Cunnamulla.


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Nice toasted sandwich too!


Our next stop is Eulo (I think that this is right) where we look at some opal jewellery for the girls back home.

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The Opal shop and art gallery.


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Gregor doing his bit of cash transference to the local community!


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We park our bikes in front of the cop shop for safe keeping!


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I make friends with one of the owner’s dogs. It amazes us that the further west you go the smaller the dogs that people own. Mexican Mouse Hounds everywhere!


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Sample for sale!


As we leave the owner yells out.... “Get out of here bikie trash.” His idea of a joke. We take it all in good humour... But Gregor yells back.... “Yeah.. You say that as we’re leaving.”


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Just out of town we come across this place... Opened the gate and went in but couldn’t really find anything of interest.


Next stop is Thargo-bloody-mindah as one local called it.


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Our digs for the night!

We went for a walk around town. Small place but a few things of interest.


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Yes I know.. It’s distorted!


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Does this look better?

A good feed at the motel dining room on the night, a couple of beers and off to bed. Well at least for me.. Gregor had his own personal mouse plague to deal with.

Day 3 done and dusted!
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Old 05-10-2011, 04:53 PM   #4
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The Happy Goose Birdsville or Bust tour - Day 4

Day 4 dawns and we head out of town headed to Windorah. The night before the shire engineer tells us that the quickest way up to Quilpie is by 40 k of dirt and then bitumen for the rest of the trip. He assures us that the road is in good nick.

Yeah.. Right!

On the way out of town Gregor detours and takes us to see the local bore water station. The whole town uses this artesian supply for everything. But boy, does it stink!


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We finally head out of town towards Quilpie. The dirt road turns out to be corrogated and covered in ball bearing size marbles. A few k down the road and my only failure for the trip occurs. My Gramin GPS leaps out of its mount. All that holds it there is the power loom. I am concerned it will jam the steering. So.. Super quick stop and I discover that the little button on the back has unscrewed itself and gone bush. A quick call on the RT and Gregor comes back and helps me secure the thing back into its bracket with cable ties. Soon we’re on the road again.

Then we cross into the next shire.. And instantly the road turns to bitumen as you cross the boundary.


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Where we have come from.


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Another shot showing the contrast in road surfaces.



Along the road we go.. Gregor has a large Mulga snake loom up at him from the road.. I take a wide berth around it as I am terrified of the bastards... Wish I had a shotgun with me! Then we come to the Toompine Pub. A real pub in the middle of nowhere with a lot of donkeys and dogs running around. Gregor orders a Lemon Lime and Bitters.... And gets a pre-made one in a bottle and I settle on a $2 coffee. I think that’s a bit cheap so offer $3.

Some Toompine pub photos follow... notice the Fordson tractor on the pole. I guess that’s rural pole dancing???


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Then it’s back onto the road for the haul into Quilpie for lunch then on to Windorah.

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Note the fuel figures. The KLR was always more fuel efficient. Gregor thinks it is the difference in the rolling resistance between the 606 on the DR650 and the E07 on the KLR.


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Gregor taking his Big Lunch!


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This is road train country. Very narrow bitumen strip. So when you see one coming you just get off the road!


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The road just goes on forever!


Finally after many stretch breaks you get to Coopers Creek.


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“Gone a droving down the Cooper”.... Clancy of the Overflow Country.


Our cabins for the night.

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Although a frog hiding in the toilet scared the Bejeesus out of me by jumping onto my private parts during my visit here!!!

The final push to Birdsville required more fuel for a safety margin. Here Gregor is loading his fuel bladder on and I have gone the Rotopax option.


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Day 4 ends with one of the best steaks I have ever eaten at the dining room at these cabins washed down with a couple of beers.

There is no mobile phone service in Windorah so I break out the SatPhone to call home and let my Debra know I am still alive and well.

Tomorrow.....Birdsville awaits!
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Old 05-10-2011, 05:34 PM   #5
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The Happy Goose Birdsville or Bust tour - Day 5

Day 5 dawns bright and sunny though really cold. I am wishing I hadn’t left my jacket’s lining at home. We head off towards Birdsville. I am really worried about the road conditions ahead of us.....

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Leaving Windorah!


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First rest stop.


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Detour off road to see the ruins of the JC Hotel. Not much left!


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Along the way we come to these aboriginal wells... I wouldn’t care much for the water in them. They look more like a waste water facility!


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At this stage we are still on bitumen. So off we go and find these two great looking formations.


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They look really great out here. The place is so vast and the grass that grows here is natural. No clearing has occurred. No wonder it is a great place to graze cattle.


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This is looking back towards the previous picture.. And this is what you see...


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A hole in the formation!


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Time to top up the main tank as the rear rack was already loaded over maximum weight capacity. Bloody savage sun out here!

And then the dirt started! And as Gregor said at the time... It varies so much. At one point I was doing 90+ and at others 20K. When the locals pass you they slow right down to around 20 k to minimise any dust. Not the tourists though. They fly past towing their campers at 100K and shower you with crap. You just choke on the dust.

And in the middle of all this you come across a bitumen runway for the RFDS.. A couple of k of super surface.. Hit 140 on one of these and then it runs to crap again.

A few “road” pictures follow....


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We ride up onto a lookout that is so windy... I make us a cup of coffee.


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The wind knocks over the shield which knocks over the stove and the coffee is gone. Had to do it all over again.


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The view is good though!

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Another angle.


From here we reach Betoota. I am stuffed at this stage and there is another 100+ K of rugged dirt to go.


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Betoota is abandoned now. Snake city I reckon!


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They put these rest areas along the way.. I really want to lie down and give my back a rest... But look at all that crap!


And now we get to the part where I started this ride report. Around 80 odd k from Birdsville the road is closed. The detour takes us into a property and a road made of loose sand and bulldust. We’re both stuffed at this point and I just cannot get the KLR to go where I want it to. It wants to lie down... I know that if it does we will need to remove the load to get her on her wheels again.. We’re both stuffed. And then the steep climb... I am hanging on like grim death! Finally I change down a gear lean back on the pegs and give her the beans up the hill. We crest the hill with the front wheel a little airborn and at this point I want to stop for a rest. The trouble is that the sand on the down side of the hill is deeper. Jesus.. What am I doing out here. A man of 58 should have more sense. I am thinking that the bike is going to topple at any minute... but then I realise that we are still moving forwards. So.. give her more beans and race to the bottom of the hill at breakneck speed. Thank goodness the road turns to hard packed dirt at the bottom and we’re back on the main road again.

I am physically, emotionally and mentally stuffed. I need to get off this bloody thing and get into a helicopter. After all Mick Doohan once said they were the ultimate off road vehicle! So we both stop to gather ourselves together.


Back on the bikes and then.... Birdsville. Cannot believe it.

Up the main street we go and then a U turn to park outside the pub for that iconic photo that all who head to Birdsville want!

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And this is our moment!

Gregor cons a guy working across the road to be our photographer and the following images are recorded for us...

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Grande Rouge has earned her stripes!


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We make for our cabin we have rented at the Van park and then a shower and the pub!

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Day 5 ends with a steak at the pub and a really good nights sleep. And... a sleep in the next morning!
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Old 05-10-2011, 06:01 PM   #6
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The Happy Goose Birdsville or Bust tour - Day 6

Day 6 dawns. Off to Dusty’s Bakery for breakfast. Dusty himself is an icon out here. I plan to have a bike free day. My back needs a rest. The road to big red is closed because of flooding... but Gregor wants to ride to the SA border for a gander later in the day. We go visit the museum... what a place that is. And the owner... what a character. It’s for sale too if you want a tree change. We go find the local cop. What a top bloke he is. He tells us that Dusty has a big feed around the fire on Friday nights... tonight will be the first for the season. We agree to catch up with him at the bakery that night.

I have some bike maintenance to do. I had presoaked some chux in RP7 and wound them around the air filter element to act as pre cleaners. It worked well too. Also needed to do some washing as well.

Some photos follow...

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Our digs in Birdsville.


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The pre filter chux. Worked well.

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Main street of Birdsville... mind the traffic!


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Me catching flies!


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The bakery.


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AKA


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I am surprised (obviously) by my eggs!


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The airport is close to the pub!


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Gregor demonstrating the fine art of... “Hurry up and do nothing!”


Some photos from the museum. The Jeep hanging from the ceiling.. I had one as a kid.

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And the truck.. Had one of those too. In fact I still have it!


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Friday night at the bakery.. Excellent feed and great prices.


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Sharing a beer with Neil the local copper.

Off to bed.. A big day tomorrow. Back to Windorah. Oh.. The thought of that dirt road!!!!
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Old 05-10-2011, 06:35 PM   #7
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The Happy Goose Birdsville or Bust tour - coming home.

So... The trip home.

Day 7 gives us a cold but beautiful morning. I am dreading the dirt. And in fact as soon as I hit it I want to give up. I am tempted to call Gregor on the RT and tell him I am chicken. But he is fast becoming a dot in the distance. I persevere and find that as I am refreshed after a good rest it is easier. Besides, Neil has told us to ignore the bull dust diversion and follow the main road. The water should be down by now!

Well... it wasn’t! We came to the deepest mud ever. Sank up to the ankles in it. So... back track to the bull dust and pretend I am Simon Pavey... I can do this! And I did!

A lot of pictures follow.. The trip home was uneventful except when I got caught in 3 metre deep gravel at one point outside Condamine and had to stop the bike and get it back onto the road. OK... So I exaggerate. It wasn’t 3 metres deep.. just 1 metre deep!


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Sunrise in Birdsville on the day of our departure.


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Met these two guys who were on KLRs and had planned to cross the Simpson Desert. Which is closed! So were heading down the Birdsville Track. Check out the extra fuel supplies!


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Along the way back!


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Betoota phone box became the stove stand for a cuppa on the way back!


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Big Sky country out here!


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Lots of warnings about snakes out here!


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They all want to kill you. There is a mouse plague out here and it attracts the snakes. Copper Neil told us they try and get into your house because they know the mice are in there. You see a lot of mouse baits around!


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Your tax dollars at work or being wasted (pick one) at Windorah. The reflectors are covered in bird crap!


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Cafe in Quilpie.


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Love the sign!


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The only place to get a feed on Mother’s Day in Quilpie!


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Kerosene shed.. Mitchell.


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Another Big Lunch for Gregor.


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Near Roma.


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A cold place for my bum in Chinchilla.


We passed through Dalby so had to go look at the KTMs at Dalby Moto. All the way out I was wishing I was riding a big V twin. (Until I got to the dirt.. wanted to be on my old DT100A Yamaha) .

Still.. got to love those big KTMs. I have a choice to make... new roof on my house or KTM 990 adventure.


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Gregor likes orange!


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I like the white colour myself.

Surprisingly I can flat foot on the KTM and I cannot on the KLR. Food for thought....


Finally home. 10 days in all. 5 days to Birdsville, 1 day there and 4 days coming home. The 400 odd ks from Windorah to Birdsville took us 8 hours going out and 7 coming back. To all those who can ride to Birdsville in a day.. Well you’re a better man than me Gunga Din.


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Total distance.

In summary. Fabulous trip. My thanks to Gregor who was really good company and stepped into the breach when my bank cancelled my Visa Card 3 days into the trip. Apparently some false transactions from Nigeria on the card. I took around a grand in cash (thank goodness) and Gregor paid for accommodation etc along the way. Much appreciated mate. The bank have a replacement card for me.. but couldn’t get it to me because of the time/distance/always on the move problem.

The KLR performed flawlessly (as did the DR650) and we didn’t have even one flat tyre. My E07 tyres will now need replacing having had around 2k on them before we left. I am really stuffed and having a few days off before back into it again. Big Red is in the car port begging for a clean... perhaps this afternoon if I can find my bottle of Aldi Orange Cleaner.

I am sure Gregor will be along with his report and include all the bits I have left out.

It will be at least a week or two before I ride a bike again I can tell you.
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Old 05-10-2011, 07:47 PM   #8
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Great report, love the pics. I'm very envious - hope my time-hungry kids grow up real soon and I can do trips like this
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Old 05-11-2011, 12:15 AM   #9
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Excellent stuff, I havn't been to Birdsville since '96 so thanks for sharing the photo's. Return trip is in the planning for next year!
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Old 05-11-2011, 01:45 AM   #10
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This is one of the best ride reports I have read. Sounds like and looks like you had a fabulous time. Glad you had such a good trip and then shared it with us............
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Old 05-11-2011, 02:52 AM   #11
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Great RR

Great Rr you would love the big KTMs out their, I have been out there on a DR650, XTZ660 and my 950 it is the best and easiest bike to ride in those conditions.. Bugger the roof
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Old 05-11-2011, 03:37 AM   #12
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Great ride report, looks like you both had a great time. Excellent pics. Hope to head out there myself soon.
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Old 05-11-2011, 04:13 AM   #13
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And my two bobs worth . . .

Mark's done an excellent job of putting together this report, with some great photos.

Our travels took us to Birdsville eventually – this shows our daily progress:




And perhaps this shows an animation:

http://i.picasion.com/pic41/837293332e5ea6dd5a17fba067b8d725.gif


Day 1 –


An interesting cutting at Ma Ma Creek:







As Mark said, his KLR got a little horizontal:




Day 2 –

A nature shot – close up of the fruit of Opuntia stricta ( or Pricky Pear to you and me):



Day 5 –

When it became clear that we would be returning from Birdsville to Windorah, I got the cabin managers to hold my top bag for me – left all my camping gear, and made the bike far more manageable for dirt:




Here’s one of the road trains . . . as Mark said, they rule the road:




Lot’s of space:










A great 350 degree view from Deon’s Lookout:








After some 200 k, there was room in the tank to transfer the 8l from my fuel bladder. As Happy Snapper said, we could have cleared the longest fuel free run JUST, with no margin for double backs, or detours. The bladder worked well, but was very fumy – I presume it’s porous to some extent, so was left on the bike overnight and not brought inside or kept in a pannier (even when empty):




Here’s a shot of part of the detour – as always, looks far less challenging in a photo than in reality. With the weight of my bike, it was not TOO bad – hats off to Mark for effort with his full load on:





Day 6 –

While Happy Snapper snoozed, I went for a brief trip. First off to South Australia – a very brief border incursion – I’ve now set foot in all of our States:



Got some fuel back in town . . . wonder who’s been here before? :

.


I wanted to see Big Red (a large sand dune on the edge of the Simpson Desert), but sadly it was not to be. The local constabulary and park ranger gave me some info on the road conditions, so this didn’t stop me:




Or these:





Or this (firm bottom):





But this did (Big Red is about 7km away – probably on the horizon):








So I had to settle for Little Red:



Day 7 –

A rose between two thorns . . .



One of the pair of KLR’s originally headed for the Simpson – 2 x 5l jerries plus a 10 l jerry, plus a folding guitar:




Back to the detour – passed the sign (with constabulary blessing).

This didn’t stop us:




This did! With a group of four or more riders, we probably could have chanced having to manhandle the bikes, but with just the two of us, no way, Jose:



Checked out the cricket pitch condition at Betoota:





Day 8 –

Back to the full load for the DR:



Day 9 –

Time for the DR to have an operator induced lie-down . . . went close to the bowsers to grab some paper cloth to wipe my goggles, forgot about the pannier width, clipped the waste bin, got x% off vertical, where x was too much for my chicken legs to hold:



Day 10 –

Home again. And for the next trip, to help remember what fitted where:

























Tyre Selection –

I went for D606s – I wanted grip in the dirt, at the expense of wear. My last set lasted 9,500 km of city / local dirt riding – not really getting up to 100 kph very often. Also wore reasonably evenly, although I have large chicken strips.

This set copped 3,700 km, of which about 600 km was dirt and the rest sustained 100 kph, so the tyres now look like my last set did at 7,500 km in the middle of the tread, with bugger all side wear. .

New, pre trip –




At Birdsville –




Post Trip –





All in all, an excellent adventure . When’s the next one . . . well, Mark’s mate asked us to the Ruptured Budgie Rally this weekend . . . .

No Way Jose!


Goosefeather screwed with this post 05-11-2011 at 08:15 PM
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Old 05-11-2011, 04:23 AM   #14
Hardhead
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Great RR report Guys.
I'd love to get out there one of these days. A beer at the pub and a pie at the bakery.... 2 ticks on the bucket list....

Rob
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Hardhead screwed with this post 05-12-2011 at 04:40 AM
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Old 05-11-2011, 04:28 AM   #15
2wheeler10
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Great rr Mark. Sounds like it was a great trip. I'll catch up with you guys on your next ride.
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