|08-08-2012, 03:13 AM||#1|
the desert ninja
Joined: Sep 2011
Location: Darwin, Australia
3 days in the Top end National parks on a KTM 990
Its another long weekend in the N.T and its time to go riding again! I was planning a route to take in Litchfield National park and Kakadu National park sticking to the dirt as much as possable riding my KTM 990 solo though the Australian outback. The route was down though Litchfield National park from top to bottom which is mainly all off road including the Reynolds river track then across to Kakadu national park via the mount Bonnie mine area (all dirt roads) then slab it out to Kakadu to camp at Gunlom falls then though old Jim Jim road turning off at South Alligator river and heading up to Red Lilly Billabong then home to Darwin. It was a route designed to do as much off road as possable, ride some knarly tracks and see some country I hadnt seen before. As usual there was plenty of thrills and spills and the sort of adventure you can only get by riding solo though the Australian outback.
Saturday morning was a sleep in as its the weekend and I've never been one for schedules or clock watching so about 2pm the bike was all packed up and I was ready to leave (plus the hangover had subsided)
I had been away the previous weekend so was pretty confident that everything was packed and it was only about 200km to my first camping spot with about 100km off road.
The bike all loaded up at the first fuel stop and still looking shiney
It was about 70km of blacktop untill I got to the Litchfield park turn off and onto the dirt. I had ridden this part of the road a number of times and was just enjoying the ride with the sun on my back and the knowledge that I was away in the outback for the next 3 days with the ability to camp anywhere and only a loose plan. The first 70kms of dirt where uneventfull but great fun just getting used to the bike again in the dirt all loaded up and checking out the scenery, plus I was in that euphoric mode you always get at the start of a trip. You know, before shit gets real.
There are termite mounds everywhere up here and the outback scenery is always spectacular. I hadnt been on the Reynolds river track long when it started to get alot tighter and the track was looking awesum. Up here they build humps on the tracks to slow all the 4wdrivers down that are always around, while they may work for 4wd's on a 100hp dirt bike they make the best jumps and are great fun at the right time (not fully loaded up with gear for a 3day camping trip). The first couple where fairly small then I saw one in the distance that looked allright and it was all on! I lined it up perfectly and the road was straight enough but as I flew over it I realised it was a bit bigger than expected and I flew 25 ft off the top of it and landed slightly crossed up with a massive bottoming of the suspension and some loud noises that followed. I pulled over to check the bike and see what happened, my left pannier had torn open about a 25cm hole along the seam and the brake light had snapped off and there was a massive mark on the top of the rear mud guard where the trye had taken a big gouge out of it.
I made some roadside repairs to the pannier with some gaffer tape and bungee cord and it sealed it up pretty good then went back to find my brake light which was on the track not far from my landing spot. When I paced out the jump from the top to the landing it was a good 25 ft which I was pretty happy with but not the best way to start a trip lol.
Once the pannier was repaired and I lightened its load it was back on the track as I needed to get to the camping spot before it got too dark! Next time I will use straps around the pannier to give it a bit more support.
N.B If you dont already its always a good idea to ride with a roll of gaffer tape, spare bungees and cable ties as its amazing what you can fix with them.
Reynolds river track
The track was awesum and I was having so much fun blasted along in the sun with the techno cranking on the ipod, I had to slow down alot for the jumps as I didnt want to damage the pannier more but it was a great track with lots of tight gum forest pieces then opening up to dried floodplains where the track was fairly fast. In no time I was at Sandy creek falls so I headed down the track for a look but I wasnt planning on camping here. As I rode into the campground there where some people on the track walking along and I as I got closer it was a mate from volleyball and his family walking down to check out the falls so I stopped for a quick chat and to exchange routes. I told him I was planning to camp at suprise falls the night and he said "I better get moving then" to which I replied " Dont worry mate I get along alright" and took off in a cloud of dust.
I still had 30kms of hard off road riding to get to suprise falls and the Reynolds river to cross which I heard was pretty knarly and still quite deep NB. this track had only just opened up a couple of weeks ago as most dirt tracks are completly closed during the wet season as the rivers and creeks are impassable.
Outback floodplains in the dry season
I arrived at the Reynolds river to find 3 big 4wd's parked up and checking out the river from the bank so I thought it wise to park the bike up and check it out too. There was a steep rutted drop into the river which I walked down and said gday to the 4wdrivers and splashed into the river to check out the depth ( I was gunna get wet anyway) it was deep! with a soft sandy bottom but i thought it would be better to ride around the side and stay out of the deepest parts (which sometimes works lol) With an audience of about 10 people I dropped down into the creek (which wasnt easy) and started to ride through, it just got deeper and deeper and the bike was starting to bog down a bit. I was revving it heaps and slipping the clutch (these things are too high geared for this shit!) and then had to paddle just to get to the bank and up the other side then the bike decided to stall so I gave it a little while, fired it up and reved the crap out of it but it wasnt reving out properly and had picked up some water. Unfortunately i was only on a sand bar 3/4 of the way across the river and still had another hole to cross which looked quite deep so without walking it I gave the bike heaps and headed in, as I sometimes do I skirted around the side of the hole as its always deepest where the 4wd tracks are and they've been driving though spinning the wheels. Towards the end I was running out of room to stay out of the tracks and the rear slipped into a big rut putting me off balance and the bike and I promptly fell into the river. I was crapping myself as I looked down at the bike almost completely underwater and I reached down to turn it off but just as i touched the keys it stalled, no time to waste I bent down and with all my strenght lifted the fully loaded wet bike onto 2 wheels then pushed it to the other side which was only 3 m away. I put it on the stand and started jumping around and swearing I was so pissed off about dropping it then turned around to see the 4wd family still watching me from the other side about 50m away, I wonder what they where thinking?
Once I had calmed down abit but still soaking wet I decided to kick the bike over and see if it fired and to my suprise it did but I had to rev the crap out of it and it was running pretty rough but enough to keep moving so I jumped on and headed up the track. It never ceases to amaze me the water crossing abilities of these bikes the crossing was 1 meter deep and both exhausts where under water then I dropped it almost submerging it and the thing still runs!!
I had a few more creek crossings before suprise falls but these ones where alot more managable and after 20 mins the bike was running sweet again
I prefer smaller crossings really, and so does the bike!
It wasnt long before I arrived at Suprise creek falls after riding through some very sandy sections just before the campground. The campground was full with heaps of people camped in the day use area as its a long weenkend and everybody loves camping up here. I do enjoy pulling up to a campground late in the day when everyone else has been set up for ages and riding around on the bike fully loaded up, you get plenty of waves and thumbs up but this time no nice camping spots so I headed to the day use area which was also pretty full but I found a hole in the fence and rode a little way into the bush to find a top camp spot by myself (which is one of the reasons I go into the outback alone). It didnt take too long to set up camp and as usual I was pretty happy to get out of my wet riding gear, once the tent and camp where set up it was time to find some firewood as it can be abit scarce around campsites.
Firewood sorted it was time to head back and get my camp on! My flatmate had given me some tuna pasta from the night before so no need to cook anything I gulped it down while waiting for the water to boil. Last weekend I went out without any grog which was intereting but I wouldn't recomend it to many people so this weekend I brought a small 500ml aluminium camping bottle full of scotch which I was planning to put in my tea with a splash of lemon but unfortunately I left the lemon in the fridge! Anyway the tea was tasting great and sitting around the fire at night in the outback gives you time to think about shit.
I took a small fold up chair (which was excellent) as last weekend I didnt take anything and was sitting on the ground all the time then a big rock on the 2nd night and that combined with long days in the saddle riding over rough ground in very hot conditions ( its 31c everyday up here at the moment) gave me the worst case of monkey butt ever! It was so bad that when I got home I could hardly walk and my ass was bleeding! This time the chair helped alot and I stopped wearing my bike shorts after the first day to get some air flow lol.
I chatted to some young guys who where out camping with their girlfriends and getting on it like you do up in the Territory and they offered me an ice cold beer which is awesum after a hard days riding in the hot sun then retired to my camp site to think about stuff and what tomorrow might hold.
Thats enough typing for now! I will finish this off later
|08-09-2012, 02:41 AM||#2|
the desert ninja
Joined: Sep 2011
Location: Darwin, Australia
Day 2 riding solo through the Australian outback
After a great nights sleep I woke up about 8.30 and just lay in the tent reading my book. Im reading a book about John Stuart (Mr Stuarts Track by John Bailey) who was the first european to cross inland Australia from south to north and saw things that no other white man had seen before, its a great read and quite amazing the sort of things that early exploxers of Australia had to deal with and really puts into perspective our mordern day dramas as we cruise around on our 20k modern adventure bikes with ipods, cellphones, gps trackers, lastest maps etc etc. Those guys where hard core!
N.B If you have trouble sleeping in a tent try an eye mask (keeps the light out) and ear plugs or ipod and you will sleep like a baby, except for the rocks in your back lol
I like to wait for the sun to come up and dry the dew of the tent before it gets packed up so it was a leisurly breakfast of cold pizza while I waited for the water to boil for my cup of tea. About 10.30 it had warmed up enough that it was time to check out the falls and have a swim/wash before hitting the track, its a short 15min walk to the falls which I did barefoot as Im trying to minimise the amount of gear carried on long trips. Suprisingly the water was quite warm and I jumped in straight away.
There where about 3 pools and 2 falls and no crocs so it was a great place to wake up in the morning with a swim. This is a photo looking down from the top pool
I cant carry much water on the bike and you need a fair bit of it ever day with temps in the low 30c's everyday so I fill up the water bottle when ever and use it for tea or cooking and try and keep my freshwater just for drinking.
With the water bottle filled it was a great place for a morning wash then back to pack up the camp site and hit the track. About 11am I rode out of camp and said goodbye to the young guys, they where having a quite day as they got on it last nite and must of finished about 2am, I was a good boy and in bed by 12.30 I think.........
One of the things I like about riding alone is meeting people in campgrounds and along the road and its always suprising what nice people will do for you, Ive had dinners made, offers of camping spots, met some great people and I think its a bit easier when your on your own and more people are likely to come over for a chat.
The track was still very sandy and as alot of you will know riding one of these bikes in deep sand is HARD WORK and I hadnt been riding long when I put my foot out to stabilise myself mid weave and my ankle smashed right into a hidden gum log in the grass. It hurt like hell but I was wearing my full motorcross boots which I always wear when riding and they protected my ankle from any major damage. The amount of times these boots have saved my lower legs from major damage is suprising and I would never consider riding in lighter adventure boots now.
I had one more big river crossing and when I got there another 4wd family had gathered to spectate! At this one I didnt hop of for a look and plowed straight in, it was deep and fairly short and I made it through no worries with smiles all round on the spectators faces. No time to stop as I had a few miles to do and blasted off down the track, there were a few 4wd's coming in over the morning and must of passed about 10 before coming to the end of the track. Most of them got out of the way and waved but one old git in a brand new VW Tureg just stopped in the middle of the track as I looked at him, probally didnt want to scracth his brand new yuppie wagon or frighten grandma in the back so I shot off into the bush to pass him shaking my head all the way, wrong wagon on the wrong track I'm thinking and I can only imagine the repair bills if he attempts some of the river crossings.
In no time I had finished the Reynolds River track.
Then it was about 50 kms on the slab back to civilisation
Typical Aussie farm land
I was heading to Pine Creek for fuel and lunch but about 50km away I ran out of gas and had to top up from my 12 litre plastic fuel bladder I carry on long trips. Since I changed the engine map to the Arakrapovic map I only get about 210kms to completly empty which sucks and will be changing back to the standard map with some custom tuning asap.
Pulled into Pine Creek with more people staring and went to the only shop/pub to pay for gas and a meal. After a good feed of Hamburger and chips washed down with a redbull it was time to get back on the bike and head for the historic bonnie hills mining area which is all dirt roads.
The roads where great, quite wide with hard packed bits and loose gravel in places and It followed beside the railway line known as "The Ghan" as years ago it was built by Afganastani immagrants and their camels (nobody else could work in the dangerous hot conditions). It wasnt long before the dirt had finished and I was back on the Kakadu highway heading to Gunlom falls and my campsite for the night.
|08-09-2012, 06:54 AM||#3|
the desert ninja
Joined: Sep 2011
Location: Darwin, Australia
Day 3 in the outback
After another fuel stop it wasnt long and I was back in the dirt again riding the 36 kms dirt road to Gunlom Falls
The loose dirt was quite deep on the road in places and you needed to stay in the wheel ruts to stop sliding around too much also it was pretty dusty from all the 4wd's on the road
The torn pannier was still holding together but looking a bit scruffy after all the river crossings.
The water was looking good.
It didnt take long to get to Gunlom Falls as the roads where wide and fast. The campground was pretty full and I rode round trying to find a good spot and ending up camping by some trees but had no fireplace as they were all taken and you could only have a fire in approved fire places at this gay campground. I set up the tent pretty quickly then went out to see Gunlom Falls before it got too dark and cold.
The falls were pretty impressive and a great place for a swim after a hot day of riding. I went back to the campground cooked dinner and went to bed after a few special cups of tea and yarning to a few campers who liked bikes and came over for chat. It wasnt the sort of place I like to stay with heaps of people camping there and yelling kids, park rangers etc etc.
I repaired the pannier again before leaving as all the river crossings had taken its toll on the gaffer tape.
I was on the road fairly early heading to old Jim Jim road
Old Jim Jim road is a 96km dirt road through the middle of Kakadu National park that is only open during the dry season but I was only going half was through then turning off to red lilly billabong on a track that was even rougher and had only been open for 2 weeks.
Jim Jim road was pretty cool but very fast as alot of the main dirt roads are pretty wide and you only need to slow down for the odd dry creek bed untill you get to the south Alligator river, once again there where 4wd spectators wondering about the best way to cross the river! I had been across plenty of times before so rode straight in, it was pretty deep as usual but after I made it through the worst bit I slowed down a bit and the bike stalled again (this new map is rubbish!!) the 4wdrivers looked concerned but without even putting my foot down I clucthed it and fired the bike up again and rode out to thumbs up and a smile from the guy watching I didnt even stop and took off round the corner down the turnoff to red lilly billabong. This track was pretty rough and I was looking forward to it but a little bit concerned about the river crossings I had heard about.
This is a previous photo of a mate crossing the south alligator river on a 990
The track to red lilly billabong was awesum! very narrow 4wd track and most the time I was racing along with the long grass constantly hitting my legs and dodging the odd tree that stuck out then it opened out onto dried up flood plains then skirting along billabongs that where full of bird life and god knows what else!
Back on the road to another billabong.....
Another drying up creek crossing, there was plenty along the track
I was thinking that last photo was the bad crossing I had heard about.........but I wasnt that lucky. When I got there suprise suprise another 4wd on the other side but this time they drove straight in which was quite handy as I could get a good look at the crossing, it didn't look good! They made it through ok but it still looked rough so I walked in to check it out, it was just below my waist in the wheel ruts with a soft muddy bottom. My plan was to stick in the wheel ruts for the worst piece then ride out to shallower ground in the middle and then drop back into the ruts where it narrowed by the exit. The 4wdrivers had come back for a look so once agian I had spectators.... this crossing was pretty bad so I decided to paddle it all the way just to be safe, I revved the bike and headed into the dirty water. It was pretty deep but the bike chugged along ok with a good rear tyre and I got through the deepest bit ok and up onto the shallow bit then the bike stalled again (crappy engine map!!!!) after a little rest I took on the exit and rode out ok with the 4wdrivers looking on.
This is the 4wd coming out of the same crossing
The track continued on the same way and it was an awesum ride and in no time I was at Red Lilly Billabong
I didnt stay too long but had a quick chat to the only people camped there and they had already got a 75cm barra this morning. I turned around and headed out along the rest of the awesum track towards the Arnhem Highway and in no time I was back to the black top. I stopped on the side of the road for a snack and to air up the tyres with my portable compressor as it was all road work from here and I didnt want to overheat my uhd tubes. I was pretty tired after 3 days of riding and camping and just wanted to get home but still had 250kms of road work to get home. It was still a pretty good ride home and I love the looks from cagers when you pull up to the lights all covered in dirt looking like youve been in the woods for weeks lol.
I stopped for a quick photo as the sun was setting and in no time I was back at home enjoying a beer on the deck
|08-09-2012, 02:03 PM||#6|
Joined: Aug 2009
Location: Northwest Back 40
That was fun. Thanks for the good RR.
2001 Honda XR650R (Plated)
1992 Yamaha WR500ZD
|08-09-2012, 08:00 PM||#10|
Joined: Dec 2009
Location: Northeastern California
I have always wondered what a "billabong" was, now I know.
Thanks for sharing your 3 dayer BIGCOD. Awesome indeed.
|08-10-2012, 01:35 AM||#12|
Joined: Feb 2008
Location: Brisbane Australia
Beautiful country up there!
KTM 990 ADV "Zer Stuka"
Guzzi V7 Racer
Honda CRF 250
|08-10-2012, 05:15 AM||#14|
Joined: Jul 2008
Location: Sunshine Coast, Qld, Aus.
Good stuff mate!! Thanks for sharing.
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