Katherine to Ceduna, a set on Flickr.
Saturday, 18 August 2012
North to south, loving every minute!
Day 12, Wandered into Katherine today just to see what's around. Quite a big town, with a lot of Indigenous people seemingly eager to take advantage of any situation. Managed to get a decent coffee for the first time since leaving Perth, and they had Wifi, hence the last blog post. Cadel Evans was born here apparently, so a great big sign says upon entering the town from the other direction. Rode out to Katherine Gorge where there's a visitors centre offering tours and information, so I booked a boat cruise which went through two of the many gorges. Absolutely stunning scenery, everyone on the boat just sat and starred in ore at the size of the gorges and their chiselled, ancient appearance. The detailed explanation of their history and associated Aboriginal beliefs was fascinating. The young Aboriginal guide is from the Jamal tribe and identified all the trees and bushes and the many uses for a variety of applications. There was one tree which had burgundy leaves on it, the Aboriginies that roamed the land would collect handfuls of leaves and throw them into a billabong (pool of water), the leaves would starve the water of oxygen and the fish would float to the surface motionless. Once the Aborigines had collected the fish they required to eat, they would allow their picininnis (children) to play in the billabong thus re-oxygenating the water and the fish would again swim and keep the billabong stocked. This is just one incredible use that they had for their huge variety of plant life. They are quite different to the Aborigines that I saw outside the bottleshop this morning. After a fabulous day at the gorges I returned to Riverview and cooked dinner. Never really do much in the evenings as folk just seem to disappear into their tents and caravans.
Day 13, A long round trip to Darwin today to get a front tyre fitted as the one that came across the Gibb River Road is knackered. I'd put aside a couple of tyres at Cyclone Motorcycles in Darwin prior to leaving Perth with plans of my original trip. When I arrived in Winnellie at the shop I was amazed. Tim, who I had previously only spoken to on the phone, and his partner had recently bought the business and have worked hard on giving it a face lift. What a fantastic job they've done. It is one of the best presented and stocked motorcycle shops I have seen in Australia, and also one of the biggest. They sell BMW, Honda, Husqvarna and Polaris mainly, but also have a range of second hand bikes, farm bikes, clothes and accessories. They have a modern workshop capable of anything, and they are so damned friendly and helpful. If anyone passing through Darwin needs any help with their motorcycle or gear, Cyclone Motorcycles has to be your first choice. The scenery and landscape in the Northern Territory is beautiful, although it did seem that most of it was on fire. The early morning sky was blocked out by smoke nearly all of the 300km journey there, but on my return most of it had cleared. By all accounts there are always spot fires breaking out in the Northern Territory and they are just left to burn themselves out unless they threaten homes or lives, as this clears a lot of the dry land naturally. Someone did say that one of the bird species will pick up a burning stick and drop it in an unburnt area in an effort to flush out its prey, I found this hard to believe, but you be the judge. Upon my return I visited the hot springs at the back of the campsite and once again they were very busy with either simple bathers or those looking to be cured. I was hoping that one of the mystical qualities of the water may just cure diabetes, but alas not.
Day 14, I said my goodbyes to Tammy and Will, and to Katherine the town. Not a bad little place to be based really, just a shame about the rather dodgy looking Indigenous folk, but they're probably harmless, and I certainly didn't hear of any reported trouble. I set off towards Alice Springs, not really knowing where I'd pitch my tent tonight. There was plenty of evidence of bush fires early in the trip, and as the morning sun shone through the smoke it was almost like a scene from a Hammer House of Horror movie, with the blackened skeleton trees and the strange shapes formed out of termite mounds. It was especially eerie as the road was so quiet. I went through service stop and town in search of somewhere that looked remotely hospitable but all the promise that the signage offered didn't seem to be delivered by the location, just one basic run down town or stop after another. I ended up riding much farther than I wanted and did the 620kms to Tennant Creek. I asked a local bobbie which was the best caravan park and he pointed me in the direction of the Outback Caravan Park. And what a belting little place, $16 per night, great facilities, great shop, a bar, pool and nicely situated down a quiet side street away from the probably harmless young Indigenous that were roaming the town centre. The town itself looks like it's big enough to be fairly self sustaining with it's little workshops and maintenance businesses, plenty of shops, hotels and restaurants. Basic but warm and welcoming. I noticed a menu on a letter head from the Tennant Creek Memorial Hall pinned to the notice board in the bar area and enquired as to it's whereabouts. I was passed a business card and told to "give them a ring and a courtesy bus will come and pick you up and drop you off at no charge". True enough they did, so off I went to the Memorial Hall for dinner, Barramudi, Mash, Salad and Hollandaise, very cheap and tasty too. It turns out that Charles & Di have also been there, that's if the photo on the wall isn't photoshopped. And after I'd had my fill they dropped me off back at the campsite and tucked me in!
Day 15, It's 7.00am, filling up the tank and it seems strange that every cash point in town including the one in the petrol station has a young Aboriginal lad doing things with it. Maybe it's just me but why do they need cash so desperately at this time of the morning? Anyway, onwards and upwards, off I headed to Alice Springs. The long black ribbon of tarmac going through the red centre is wonderfully smooth but it would seem that somebody pulled it too tight, as it's very straight. I stopped for coffee at Wycliffe Well and by all accounts it's the 'UFO centre of Australia'. Along with petrol and the usual refreshments, they sell an extraordinary amount of different UFO/Alien paraphernalia, which appeared to flying out the door! The reason for this is that many years ago a UFO was allegedly spotted flying nearby, It was probably more likely to be Charley Boorman! The scenery as I approached Alice became more dramatic with large ranges of Limestone taking up the horizon, I also came across the Devil's Marbles. As I rolled into town I couldn't help but be impressed with the surrounding countryside forming a backdrop in every direction. I made camp at Stuart Caravan Park, which has everything a guy could want, but little more. Basic facilities, clean and tidy for $17. I must add that a lot of the campsites will let you pitch your tent just about anywhere if you ask them nicely, so don't feel that you need to pitch it on the only dusty little patch left available, find yourself some shade. I wandered into town to pick up some provisions and it would seem that Alice suffers the same problems as other Northern Territory towns, Aboriginals & alcohol. It's a pleasant little town but I feel the countryside with its many national parks has a lot more to offer, and of course just down the road is Uluru. Alice has a lot to do and see, weeks would be needed to do it justice, but I must move on.
Day 16, The surrounding countryside of Alice is absolutely stunning, it really is a beautiful town. I head off south not really knowing where to, but I know it's going to be a long run. For about 150kms the mountains and rocks of Alice extend until it becomes rolling hills and treescape. Across the border into South Australia I'm heading for Coober Pedy with the hope of finding a site for camping, the road is long and straight following the Central Australian Railway for a while, the spectacular colours remain for the time being. I'm stalked and chased by a dingo, either that or he's impersonating a dog just chasing tyres. On the run into Coober Pedy the horizon is littered with different sized sand piles, dozens at first but then thousands. Coober is an opal mining town and it would seem that they dig a hole, find an opal and leave the hole, there are signs everywhere warning of deep shafts and not to run across the surface. 10kms out of town I join a queue of motorists waiting to go through a drug and alcohol test station set up by the local police, the senior officer advises me that there is little on offer in town. I call in for petrol and have a look around, it may be unfair of me to make such a quick appraisal but I tend to agree with the officer. I continue, after Coober Pedy the countryside becomes vast treeless plains offering neither the emus or myself little protection from the wind that is howling from the west. If I were a yachtsman today I'd be one of those acrobatic guys standing off the side of the boat while it leans at a ridiculous angle, that's how I feel on the Beemer right now. from memory there should be more camping available about 160kms out of Coober, I travel for 244kms before it finally appears, Glendambo. A dusty truck stop with two petrol stations, a neat wooden building pretending to be a hotel, caravan site and a bunk house. After surveying the dusty undernourished campsite I plump for the bunk house as my accommodation for the night. The bunk house, for $20, is a wooden shack with five rooms, 3 have two sets of bunks in each, 1 has a 1950's TV and an old couch and the last is a bathroom, all very run down. Still it's blowing like hell out there tonight and I don't wish to get my tent full of sand. I dined in the hotel for just $16 but the beers were horrendously priced. While walking back from the hotel to the bunk house I watch as the huge road trains pull in out of the dark to refuel in preparation for their run through the night. They look absolutely fantastic, immaculately presented with their coloured lights making them look more like a Blackpool tram than a long haul rig. They sit motionless with their engines rumbling continuously in the waiting yard while their stablemates refuel anxious to join the convoy.
Day 17, Yesterday was the first day since day 1 that I noticed clouds in the distance, overnight the clouds moved in and dampened the roads. Leaving just before sunrise the roads were still wet and the wildlife requiring better road sense included kangaroos, sheep and emus. The landscape maintained it's baron appearance until closer to Port Augusta, where the beautiful winter colours of trees and plants became more prominent as did the hillsides. Last night I decided it's time to stop fighting the cold, the temperature has been dropping since leaving Katherine and the morning starts have found me in need of better protection. So I've put the dry liners and the thermal liners in my Rev'it gear. I have also dug out my new winter gloves. What a difference, I can now ride without noticing the temperature or worrying about weather conditions. All the way to Port Augusta the road heads either East or Southeast, but once there I turn sharp right and head West on the Eyre Highway. Once out of town the countryside turns emerald green with rolling hillside of pastoral and multi farming land, it looks absolutely wonderful especially after the light rain. The storm clouds threaten but only once did I ride through a brief shower all the way to Ceduna. I'm like a race horse, once I'm in sight of the finish line I can't wait to get home. I'm now riding through country that I have been through and seen before although it still remains a fantastic ride. Tonight I stayed at the Ceduna Airport Caravan Park. I stayed in a small overnight villa, very basic, not too expensive, but convenient.
Posted by David Brookes at 05:11