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April 2011 Club News

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Weather Chasers

Story & pictures by Antoinet

This is Part 1 | Go on to Part 2

Andrew and Wendy
          on the Nullarboring Road
I can't even remember when we came up with the idea of traveling half around the country. In October 2008 Ronnie, Andrew, Wendy and I had made a big trip through WA and now was the day here of leaving Albany for 8 weeks. Ronnie and I were both going to ride a Moto Guzzi, both shipped over from Holland, but 4 days before we were going to leave we realized I wasn’t allowed to ride the SP 1000 out of WA.

I was still on my 250 cc licence but rode a bigger bike with L plates and Ronnie was usually with me. But it wasn’t going to happen so a couple of days before we were leaving we had to repack. I couldn’t take as much clothes as I wanted to, we had to fit everything on the one bike, like we had always done.

On Sunday the 4th of July we were leaving Albany, our friends had come to say goodbye and quite a lot of members were going to ride with us to Jerramungup. Andrew and Wendy were going to travel on the 1973 BMW and they towed a trailer with extra gear. The weather wasn’t too flash and every now and then we had a big shower. It was also very cold, we couldn’t wait to get going and go to the nice weather.

We had a stop in Wellstead and Andrew pumped up the tires of the BMW, the trailer had been bouncing around a bit and now with the tires a bit harder it was much better. In Jerramungup we said goodbye to our club mates and headed east. The rain belted down when we had our lunch stop in Ravensthorpe and we were very happy to arrive in Esperance. Wendy’s uncle John had very kindly offered to stay the night at his house. We had some yummy take-away that night and had a good sleep on a nice thick mattress, it would take a couple of weeks before we would be so comfy again.

Antoinet flying
          on the back of the Guzzi
The next morning was sunny but very cold. We said goodbye to John and filled the bikes up with petrol. It got very cold towards Salmon Gums and the top box was hitting me in my back, it wasn’t a very comfortable position at all. I complained to Ronnie and said I couldn’t travel for 8 weeks like this. We got some straps from Andrew and tied the tent behind my back, this made a big difference. We had a stop in Norseman and Ronnie had to check the engine breather because it was leaking some oil. We had lunch and were off onto the Nullarbor; our first time on a motorbike, it was very exciting.

The weather suddenly changed too, it was nice and warm all the way to Balladonia and after filling up with petrol we found a nice bush camp on the side of the road. There were more travelers in their big campervans and caravans. We put up our tents and had a nice cold beer. The temperature dropped when it got later and we made a fire to stay warm and to cook.

That night the temperature dropped to about minus 6 because the next morning we woke up and found the tent frozen, the seats of the bikes were white and Andrew’s jerry can with water was solid. The morning was very sunny though and packing up all the gear made us warm again. Riding early in the morning was pretty chilly, we had good gear so it wasn’t too bad.

On top of the
          Nullarbor cliffs
We rode the Longest Straight and stopped west of Mundrabilla for the night. The next day we stopped at some of the Bunda Cliffs and took heaps of photos. We also went to the Head of the Bight and saw lots of whales in the distance. That night was our last one on the Nullarbor, we found a small rest area west of Yalata.

Pretty cold again the next morning. We rode to Ceduna and booked a tentsite on a great little caravan park. We had a nice hot shower, did washing and shopping. There were some people from Albany in the campers’ kitchen and we had a good chat to them while we were all cooking our dinners.

We had bought a road map from HEMA maps, especially for motorbikes riders. It said the road to Streaky Bay and Poochera was very nice so we decided to do that. It was very windy, cloudy and cold, the ride wasn’t the best, lucky it hardly made any difference in the distance.

We had lunch in Kimba and stopped at Nuttbush retreat for the night. Andrew and Wendy booked a room, nice in the old style. We put our tent next to a tree and had a coffee in the room. We watched the news and apparently there was a storm coming from the west, Perth had copped some bad weather again and now it was heading towards Adelaide.

We thought we would be far enough north from Adelaide to miss it. Ronnie and Andrew played a game of pool in the recreation room and Wendy and I were busy sending text messages to our families. At 2 am that night I woke up because it was wild and crazy outside.

The tent was shaking and flapping and when I rubbed my eyes there was a thick layer of red dust/dirt on my face. I even had it on my teeth, in my ears and eyes. I tried to wake up Ronnie and when I finally had him awake I told him I didn’t want to stay in the tent, there were 100 km/hour winds outside and I was pretty worried. We packed up every thing in those strong winds, mattresses and sleeping bags flying through the air. We even packed up the tent and took it all to the recreation room. That is were we spend the rest of the night, winds howling around the building.

Andrew and Wendy really wanted to go to Woomera and Ronnie and I decided to try and get to Coober Pedy. We said goodbye and headed off in the rain, wind and wild weather. It stayed cold and windy for most of the day but when we arrived in Coober Pedy it was nice and sunny and warm. We booked 2 nights into the underground motel and had dinner at the local club.

Being 6 metres
          underground but not dead
The room we stayed in was 6 meters underground, a great experience. Lots of travelers, back packers and other motorbike riders. Most 4 wheel drive travelers told us amazing stories about all the rain they had in the desert. Lots of them got so bogged, they had to be rescued. Andrew and Wendy arrived the next day and stayed in the motel as well.

We got chatting to a family from Dubbo, NSW; mum and dad traveled with 4 kids. One of the sons was watching Ronnie and Andrew who were working on the bikes, he stood there for ages and dad took him over to have a look. Ronnie offered him to hop on the back of the bike and to go for a ride through town. Off they went, the boy was only 7 but he had the best time, the look on his face said it all.

We cruised around town and went to some of the opal shops, amazing country here. It must be so stinking hot here in summer, most people live underground, in summer the temperature rises up to 50+ degrees. 

Camped on the
          red soil
The next night we spend on the South Australian and Northern Territory border on a rest area. It was humid and hot (in the middle of winter) and the rest area had only space for motor homes and cars + caravans. We had to get off the car park into the dirt and we put up the tents.

It looked like it was going to rain soon so Ronnie dug a trench for the water. We had just finished our dinner when the rain started. We hopped in the tent and stayed there in the hot humid weather until it stopped for a bit. It was way too hot and way too early to lay there in this stupid little tent of ours, we had taken Ronnie’s 20 year old tent because we thought the nights would be still cool here in the middle of winter in the desert.

Normally that would be the case but not this winter, every where we came on this trip people told us that it was very unusual for the time of year; too warm, too hot, too humid, too many mozzies and too much rain, we had it all.

Ronnie and I ran to a shelter on the car park and stayed there for a while. It was bucketing down and the thunder storms started, lucky it didn’t last too long but the tent had leaked; the mattresses and our clothes were wet.

The next morning we woke up and saw red dirt every where. Everything was covered in it, we packed up and rode to the turn off to Uluru and Kings Canyon. Andrew and Wendy were going that way and we kept on going to Alice Springs.

It was so busy at the roadhouse and a couple of minutes later we knew why. The Palmer river was so full of water and that’s why the Stuart Highway was totally flooded! Great, we decided to go anyway and see there and then what to do. Another motorbike rider from Perth on a BMW rode with us towards Alice and Andrew and Wendy had gone to Ayers Rock.

Damper than
          normal on Stuart Highway
After 40 km we saw chaos on the Stuart Highway. All these cars stranded and people waiting on the side of the road to see if the water would go down. Road trains, trucks and 4 wheel drive cars could go through but normal cars and motorbikes would be a bit of a problem.

The water was about 50 cm deep and about 150 meters of road was under water. Ronnie and the bloke from Perth wanted to go so they sprayed the coil, alternator, the wiring and everything electrical with CRC, the whole can was used.

A couple from South Australia offered to take me across in their car and the boys were going to ride straight behind their caravan. I filmed everything from the car, it was pretty exciting and pretty scary. Lots of cars had sucked up water and if that happened with the Guzzi it probably would be the end of the trip already.

Antoinet, meet
But no, both bikes made it. So we kept on going to Alice Springs. We were going to stay there for a couple of days to go and explore more of the West and East MacDonnell ranges.

This is Part 1 | Go on to Part 2

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