Reflections

Not our exact route of 5,336kms

This is probably of most interest to anyone who reads our blog and is inspired to do the same trip. A few things that we’ve learnt:

The practice rides were really important in getting to understand the bike’s and our capability. In particular the small modifications we made to the bike made the world of difference. The larger windshield, deflectors on the faring and handle grips seemed like small things at the time but made a big difference on the two cold wet days we had. Most important was the rebuild of the seat after our trip to Noosa. Had we not done that it would have been a very different trip and Della would have been very uncomfortable. With the rebuild long days on the bike were bum testing but quite achievable.

We (I) probably overthought the things we brought with us. We had, but didn’t use: spare petrol, spare oil, puncture repair kit, tyre inflator, tools and the satellite phone. Would I leave them behind next time – no! We passed 4 or 5 cars which had obviously broken down on the Nullarbor and been deserted and trashed. While there’s plenty of traffic so you could get a lift to the next Roadhouse it wasn’t obvious that any of them had and mechanical capability or indeed equipment to pick up a stranded car or bike. When you’re buzzing along at 105kms an hour it’s a lot of fun but ‘if’ you broke down or had a puncture it would become a big lonely, remote place pretty quickly.

Having the satellite phone was a comfort except the day before we started to cross the Nullarbor we tried to phone the NRMA as a test. Turned out to be difficult to get a connection to the satellites and for some reason it wouldn’t connect a 1300 number which is all the NRMA have. I’ll be talking to them about that!

Don’t get fooled by the weather forecast for 20 degrees. That means it’s cold in the morning, particularly at 100kph. We took merino thermals, winter jacket linings and wet weather gear. Most days we used the thermals, T-shirt, jackets with liners and the wet weather jackets for additional wind protection. As a result we didn’t really get cold at any time but had we not taken all the gear it would have been unpleasant. What we thought was a contingency became an essential.

The daily riding distances were just about spot on. 500kms +/- does make for a big day but quite achievable even allowing for comfort and interest stops along the way. Having the odd 300km day breaks it up a bit.

The Roadhouses look a bit rough and ready but the accommodation is pretty good all things considered. The rooms and sheets were clean, beds comfortable, showers hot and the food surprisingly good. We had the best Lamb Korma and Beef Rogan Josh at Eucla of all places.

The scale of the landscapes and the country is incredible! Australia is a very big, flat country and the roads very straight and long which you might think would be boring. While there are significant parts of the country that do look similar, particularly the grain producing regions, in total we were completely absorbed by it all. Three stand outs for us were the cotton fields in NSW, the view from Accommodation Ridge in SA, the start of the Nullarbor in SA, the Bight in SA and Salmon Gums in WA.

As to the bike. The Honda CB500X is an awesome machine. It’s not a big bike and we were running heavy but it performed without missing a beat.

Awesome machine!

Finally would we recommend the trip? Absolutely! We have seen an incredible part of Australia, met some lovely people and had so much fun planning and competing the trip. So much so we’re thinking about where to go next!

Day 14

We left Augusta with some sadness at about 7:45am. Not to say that we were sorry to leave Augusta, which with all due respect to the 1,109 souls that live there, it doesn’t have much to recommend it but rather as it was our last day on the bike. Augusta has a history as a timber town and early settlement. More recently it’s become a retirement destination. It sits along Highway 10 as it skirts Hardy Lagoon on the way to the Cape. It has a ‘centre’ formed by a gas station, local hotel (which is a shambles!) and a couple of restaurants which are not very helpfully closed on a Monday evening.

We headed out of town in the wrong direction but for once on purpose as we wanted to see Cape Leeuwin before going. It’s the most south westerly point in Australia and has an historic lighthouse on the point.

I don’t think we’ll be back

We turned around and headed north to Margaret River and Busselton. A bit of a culture shock: manicured vineyards, quaint, tidy towns and worst of all – traffic!

We decide to keep going and headed to Busselton where we stopped for a cup of tea and obligatory photo of its 1.8km long pier.

Busselton Pier

Shortly after Busselton we hit the freeway to Perth. We had one more stop at a road side Services for a quick lunch and petrol and then got going again.

We detoured to see Marshall, Della’s son so he could see how clever we had been and then found, with some difficulty in rush hour traffic, our accommodation.

And that was Day 14 which was also ….

…. the end of our trip across the Nullarbor. Five years in the planning, two weeks in the traveling and a life time of fantastic memories. It’s been the most incredible experience!

Day 13

What a difference a day makes! We woke to rain at 6:30am which to be fair had been forecast if not unwelcome. We packed the bike and then drove the rental car from the day before to have breakfast at the local Dome – can’t go wrong and good coffee.

We then kicked our heels for about half an hour to see if it would stop raining which it didn’t so decided we’d drop the rental car and go.

Grotty day

As is our norm in small towns we headed out the wrong way, turned around, found the road to Denmark and headed into the wind and the rain. Pretty miserable but nice enough farmland which was very green. No surprises why!

We passed through Denmark where we had spent the previous day off the bike finding it hard to reconcile the contrasting conditions.

Green Pools and ….

Elephant Rocks from the previous day

We then headed to Walpole passing through forests with ever larger trees – I presume mostly Karri and Jarrah. Most impressive as they lined the road with the occasional old warrior that had survived historic battles with drought, storms and strong winds. Despite losing limbs along the way, standing resolute for the next onslaught – channeling Monty Python’s Dark Knight.

Bigger than Salmon Gums

An old warrior

We got to Walpole after passing the entrance to Valley of the Giants with the rain convincing us there would be another occasion to see them.

We had coffee and filled the bike with petrol and then headed to Pemberton. The countryside changed from forest to open paddocks and occasional vineyards. The weather was about as varied: fine, pouring with rain and very windy.

We had an early lunch at Pemberton, filled the bike again and headed straight through town, as seemed appropriate to Nannup. Trouble was we got to SH 1 after 17kms which was not where we wanted to be. We decided to go to Manjimup and then head down to Nannup and across to Augusta.

By this stage a dark brooding silence was enveloping the bike from the region of the pillion passenger who was getting cold. The weather was ghastly. Cold, showery and with strong winds buffeting the bike.

The last 30kms was particularly testing. As we got closer to the coast the wind got stronger and passing through the smoke of a recent hazard reduction burn provided a particular treat.

Despite being on the main road the Reception for the apartments proved rather more difficult to find being at the local hotel – of course. Once we’d checked in, hot showers and warming cups of tea were had and life began to return!

Looking back at the mileage the 364km trip we had planned turned into a 454km trek! Bother!

And that was Day 13.

Day 11

In leaving Esperance this morning there are two things of note.

First you’d recall from Day 9 we reported a problem with the rear tyre on the bike. Tim and Sue of Power Plant Motorcycles and Scott Bezuidenhout did a fantastic job getting a new tyre trucked down from Perth in time to fit yesterday. In addition to the new Pirelli Scorpion 2 tyre the bike had a full check over oil change and service so is ready to go again. Many thanks to all the team at Power Plant! More on them later.

Scott, bike and new Pirelli

That’s what a tread should look like.

Secondly, having the additional day in Esperance allowed us to hire a car and drive out to the Cape Le Grand National Park. We’ve been lucky to see some lovely places in the world but with this one you start running out of adjectives. The beaches are amazing with the whitest sand (apparently in Australia) and very clear, turquoise water. It was a little grey at the start of the day but the sun came out after lunch and it was just stunning.

Lucky Bay, Cape Le Grand National Park

Getting back to the trip. We left Esperance at 7:45am after breakfast at Dome and having dropped off the rental car. A beautiful morning if not again cold requiring multiple layers to keep the wind out.

Spectacular sunrise

We rode out through open farming country with more traffic on the road than we have been used to. Huge acreages of grain, flat to slightly rolling country and straight roads. It was also very windy so we and the bike were buffeted about quite a bit.

Leaving Esperance

We got to Munglinup where we’d thought we stop for a cup of tea but decided to press on to Ravensthorpe. Just before the township the trees became larger with Salmon Gums lining the road.

More Salmon Gums

As we entered Ravensthorpe we passed a Shell petrol station, ummed and ahhed and decided to go to the next one, assuming there was one, which there was, a BP. Della went in to order tea, I filled the bike, parked it out of the way and went to pay. As I walked into the shop, someone said ‘Hello, Nick’. I turned around thinking it must be for someone else, but who should be there but Sue and Tim from Power Plant Motorcycles. What are the chances? They were headed to Perth where their son was to compete in a motor cross event on Sunday. Incredible coincidence.

We then headed to Jerramungup through woody scrub land with some interesting plants. Lovely flowering gums and a large silver leaved but squat eucalyptus lining the road.

Flowering gum

No, I have no idea which species

Jerramungup wouldn’t have worried a farrier for years! We decided to go to the local Cafe for an early lunch rather than the Roadhouse. Getting out of our gear takes some time but we eventually got inside and asked if we could get a couple of toasted sandwiches. ‘Sorry, no hot food on a Saturday’. We said ‘OK’ and headed for the door and the Roadhouse to many protestation about the ‘lovely cold quiche’. I mention this only because as we were finishing our rather good toasties at the Roadhouse, who should walk in but the woman from the Cafe to order ‘a tub of hot chips and two cheese sausages, please’!

From Jerramungup we headed straight to Albany only stopping to take a few photo’s. One of the Stirling Range which was on our right for much of the way. Most impressive after so much flat country for days.

Stirling Range – it’s topography, Della, but not as we know it

About 50km’s out from Albany at a small village called Many Peaks the countryside changed dramatically with the fields becoming very green.

Could almost be in NZ

We then hit the edge of the inevitable urban sprawl and headed into town which is quite substantial with a population of just over 30,000. We found our accommodation without trouble and checked in.

And that was Day 11

Day 9

No story is complete without the human element. Having arrived st Balladonia early we had more of an opportunity to talk to people than previous days.

We met our neighbours Con, the Earthmover, not the Fruiterer, and his wife Bridget. They were from Perth headed to Adelaide to visit their son and then up to Wollongong for an engagement party and maybe on to Brisbane with friends. ‘How long will you be away for?’ we asked. ‘Well we’ve got to be back by September’. Where are we going wrong?

Second person we talked to was Grace, a young American woman who had be working as a dive instructor in Thailand before coming to Australia. She was working at the Roadhouse in order to extend her visa to two years. Apparently if you are prepared to work in a remote location in the tourist or agricultural industries for 88 days you can extend from one to two years. The money at the Roadhouse is also good, accommodation is good and cheap and all you can do is work. At the end of her 88 days she planned to buy a car, drive to Exmouth and go back to dive instructing. Where are we going wrong?

Anyway back to the trip.

What a day! It started early again as the constant time changes are messing with our sleep. We were up at 5:30am, had breakfast and were on the road by 7:00am. It was cold and there was a very heavy foggy mist, to the extent the bike, it’s wind shield and our visors were soaked so we couldn’t see through them. We decided on traveling at a sedate 80kms an hour so we could see any Roos that might have missed the previous nights opportunity to become road kill, and who may have thoughts of taking us with them!

We travelled for almost an hour in the mist. Very ghostly with only the occasional truck looming out the grey towards us. The photo doesn’t do it justice as at times we could only see 100 meters ahead.

No gorillas to see here

We finally broke out of the mist and onto some higher country heading up to the Fraser Range. Once again long straight roads flanked by low woodland.

We did feel like we were ascending and finally got to the top of the Range which was a relative term but certainly different after days of traveling through very flat country.

Well it was topography

Getting closer to our first stop at Norseman the character of the forest changed with Salmon Gum becoming the predominant species. Spectacular trees with their shining leaves and coppery, metallic bark – individually impressive but as an avenue lining both sides of the road quite a sight.

Looks like you could make pipes out of it

Further along we went through the Dundas Nature Reserve and started to see the first of many pans. Some red and muddy others crusty, white with salt.

A red pan, and …..

a white pan

We then got to Norseman, filled the bike with petrol, had a cup of coffee, cruised the two streets, decided we didn’t like it, turned left, as turning right takes you to Kalgoorlie and got going again.

Once again Salmon Gums lining the road all the way to …. Salmon Gums. As we closed in on the town we began to see the first of many grain fields. Very large and actually felt a bit like being back on the Hay Plain.

Somewhere along this bit of road we left the Nullarbor Plain. While we knew we crossed the Plain it was a little disappointing that there wasn’t a sign denoting the south west edge.

As we entered the town we passed a Britz Toyota Ute parked on the side of the road with three young Asians waving more enthusiastically than we’d normally expect. We waved back and carried on. On the south side of the town we had pulled over for a final photo of the Gums when the Britz Toyota pulled up behind us. Delightful young threesome tumbled out of the Ute, noted from the bike’s plate that we were from NSW told us we were the famous couple from Sydney crossing the Nullarbor on a bike that they had heard about. Finally we’re getting it right!

They’d had a nasty incident with a Roo on the road between Eucla and Madura which had taken off their right side bumper. This was the exact stretch of road where we’d seen so many dead Roos. Anyway photo’s were taken and we headed off immediately regretting that we had’t asked them to send us a copy of the photo.

Left to right – Claire, Nick, Della, Eric and Hazuki-san

The last 100kms to Esperance passed without much more of note other than the sense of building development as we got closer. Houses, power-lines, plantation forests and more lush vegetation.

We arrived at our accommodation at 12:30pm checked in and walked up the street to find some lunch. At that very moment and on the Esplanade of a reasonable sized town what should come down the road but the Britz Ute! We waved it down but of course not being on the bike weren’t immediately recognized. Anyway a great reunion was had we formally met Eric and his girlfriend Claire from China and Hazuki-San from Nagasaki in Japan. All post graduate students at Sydney University. Amazing coincidence and fun to catch up again. Most importantly to be able to post a record of our first meeting.

A further twist in today’s post is about the bike. When we got to Ceduna it appeared the back tyre was wearing rather faster than I’d expected. We decided to keep an eye on it but by the time we left Eucla it was obvious we’d struggle to get to Perth legally or more importantly safely.

Houston, we have a problem

In my control freak way I had noted the contact details of every motorbike dealer on the route – just in case. So we’d phoned Esperance Power Plant Motorcycles while in Madura and arranged for them to ship a new tyre from Perth to fit on the Friday. Given we didn’t know when the tyre would arrive we decided to stay an extra night in Esperance and shuffle the rest of the planned accommodation along by one day.

Finally, as we’d arrived so early we had the opportunity of driving the Esperance Great Ocean Road. What an amazing drive. Stunning beach after beach.

Beach after ……

Beach after …..

Beach

Has to be one of the most spectacular bits is coastline we’ve seen anywhere.

While not strictly part of the route this took the days mileage to a respectable 456km.

And that was the end of day 9.