Sep 11 2009

Day Five

tim
Staving off redundancy
This is a weird feeling. We’re making camp at Curtin Springs on the Lesseter Hwy, about 100km from Uluru. There’s activity going on all around me, but there’s not a lot I can contribute. I’ll be sleeping in the car tonight, and Dad is sharing a tent with some of the others, so there’s no tent to even supervise setting up.
I managed to pull all the chairs out of the troopie and set them up, but apart from that, I’m done. I have the last Coopers Pale in my one good hand, and I’m sitting down.
The drive today was good. Bitumen kind of good. The long hours in the one spot, and the pressure of the sling on my collar bone has really helped, I think. The bones have barely shifted today, and the “bump” that I’m bound to end up with feels minimal enough. Pain wise, things have settled down. I can feel things clicking when I move, but it really doesn’t hurt too much. I’ve more than halved my drug intake today, which has to be a good thing.
This morning we took a quick tour of Coober Pedy. We checked out the underground Catacomb Church, which is open to the public all day. While we were there, Dad started to sing the old song “Jesus thou art everything to me”. No one else seemed to know it but me, so I sang along. When I turned around to see Dad later, he was in tears. Hugs really hurt when you have a broken collar bone, it turns out.
The landscape changed subtly throughout the day. It was mostly flat, but the vegetation varied a lot. Once we turned on to the Lesseter Hwy we saw more grass amongst the scrub, and more cattle as well. We watched the light of the setting sun on Mt Connor as we approached Curtin Springs.

Staving off redundancy
This is a weird feeling. We’re making camp at Curtin Springs on the Lesseter Hwy, about 100km from Uluru. There’s activity going on all around me, but there’s not a lot I can contribute. I’ll be sleeping in the car tonight, and Dad is sharing a tent with some of the others, so there’s no tent to even supervise setting up.

I managed to pull all the chairs out of the troopie and set them up, but apart from that, I’m done. I have the last Coopers Pale in my one good hand, and I’m sitting down.

The drive today was good. Bitumen kind of good. The long hours in the one spot, and the pressure of the sling on my collar bone has really helped, I think. The bones have barely shifted today, and the “bump” that I’m bound to end up with feels minimal enough. Pain wise, things have settled down. I can feel things clicking when I move, but it really doesn’t hurt too much. I’ve more than halved my drug intake today, which has to be a good thing.

This morning we took a quick tour of Coober Pedy. We checked out the underground Catacomb Church, which is open to the public all day. While we were there, Dad started to sing the old song “Jesus thou art everything to me”. No one else seemed to know it but me, so I sang along. When I turned around to see Dad later, he was in tears. Hugs really hurt when you have a broken collar bone, it turns out.

The landscape changed subtly throughout the day. It was mostly flat, but the vegetation varied a lot. Once we turned on to the Lesseter Hwy we saw more grass amongst the scrub, and more cattle as well. We watched the light of the setting sun on Mt Connor as we approached Curtin Springs.

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Sep 9 2009

Day Four

tim

Those readers who have been following me on Twitter or Facebook will be a little confused that the latest posts have mentioned nothing of a broken collar bone. I’ve been out of mobile range for a few days, so the posts came a little late…

Day Four was meant to be a rest day. Six of our company booked flights over Lake Eyre at lunch time. Andy, Katy and I decided to ride out to the lake on the motorbikes instead. The road was terrible. Many cars had made new side-tracks beside the main one to thy to avoid the corrugations. Andy and I took a number of these, and the going was slow but consistent at about 50km/h.

It was about 18km down the track that I came across what I’m now sure was a patch of bulldust. I saw it,  and recognised it as sand, and slowed right down. My front wheel dug in, and I was off, landing on my left hip and shoulder. I rolled a couple of times, and remember a cloud of dust – to thepoint where I could no longer see the other bike. I got up and checked myself over, told Andy I was OK, then felt a click and knew I wasn’t completely OK after all.

I managed to get my jacket off (getting the left arm out was not fun) and sit down on the side of the track. Katy sat with me while Andy rode back for help. About 45 minutes later a 4WD came past with a lone grey nomad on board. He gave me a hat to keep the sun off my head. Andy, Nick and Jordy arrived shortly after (as did the returning nomad, who got his hat back). They were amazing. Jordy got me into a sling, and pep-talked me all the way back. Nick rode the bike back, and Andy navigated the bumps brilliantly.

Back at Camp, Mandy had been in touch with the flying doctor. I spoke to him when I got back, and he suugested I go to Coober Pedy for an x-ray. We at lunch and worked out a plan. Nick and Jane would drive me to Coober straight away, while the others packed up camp. The drive was about 2 hours, and while it was rough, it wasn’t too bad.

The x-ray machine at the hospital was broken, and it took four shots to get an image worth looking at. By the time we were done it was dark, and the others had reached town. We made camp at the caravan park, where I got a cabin for the night. After a late dinner of pizza, it was time for bed.

Now, what to do…

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Sep 8 2009

Day Two

tim
745pm
I’m lying on my camp mat in my tent, at a place called Brachina Gorge in the Flinders Ranges. The only really strange thing about that is that it is 7:45pm.
My day started at, I guess, about 1:45am, when I woke up. That’s the trouble with early nights: your body can very easily decide that time is up, and that you’ve had enough sleep. After checking the time, and convincing myself that it was indeed not yet time to get up, I went back to sleep. During the early morning the wind picked up, and by the time it really was time to get up, it was still blowing a gale, with a little rain thrown in for good measure.
Thankfully the rain didn’t last, and the tent was soon dry. By the time we’d showered, breakfasted, repacked the food trailer and loaded all the bikes and cars, it was around 10am.
I tried out my comms gear today, having only used the iPod yesterday. The AutoComm is very sensitive to electrical noise, so I decided to run it from a 9v battery, rather than from the bike. Unfortunately, when running on batteries, the unit is switched on and off by connecting the rider’s headset. Since I’m using my own earphones and mic through a home-made adapter, it never registers to the unit as a connected headset… so the unit never turns on. The work-around is to connect a real headset to the rider connection (sans microphone) and place that inside the tank bag, then connect my own rig to the pillion lead. Not ideal, but workable.
The throat mic worked OK, though it was much more susceptible to wind and contact noise than I thought it would be. Around town it would engage whenever I moved my head. On the highway, particularly in today’s strong winds, it engaged constantly. (In its defence, it appears that the helmet mics used by the others did exactly the same.) That meant that the wind noise that my moulded earphones are meant to keep out got pumped into my head via my earphones anyway.
The PTT (push to talk) switch worked for a while, but that also fell down. It seems that the headphone jack connector I made for it is not reliable. Sometimes it would work; other times it would work with a beep, which is meant to be an audio feedback to tell you you’ve started transmitting; other times it wouldn’t do anything.
Also, the radio itself went flat, since it didn’t have much charge anyway, and had jumped out of its cradle. That will need to be looked at. Looking back, that might have accounted for some of the unreliability of the comms system.
On the road, wind was terrible… mostly cross-winds that threatened to blow us off the bikes. Mandy started off as a pillion passenger, but got sufficiently (and rightly) freaked out to get back in the car at the first opportunity. Marco and I pressed on, leaning hard to the left just to maintain a straight line. It was exhausting!
I was low on fuel, and stopped in a small town not far out of Burra. I was last in the convoy, so it might have taken the others a few moments to notice I was gone. I met Marco and Mandy a few hundred meters out of town, and the rest of the convoy a kilometre or two further on. I went flying past at high speed, and at a pretty wild angle.
By the time we reached Carrieton at 12:30pm, Marco was just about out of fuel. The only problem was, the petrol station (and the town, it seemed) closed at 12:00pm. We filled him up from the jerry can, and decided to stop for lunch there. The food that Jane has bought and prepared for this trip has been fantastic. Lunch was sandwiches with good cheese, salami, ham, and left over salad from last night. Yum!
After lunch we rode on toward Hawker and stopped for fuel, where we all fuelled up this time. From there, we headed for the Flinders Ranges. We turned off the tarmac toward Bechina Gorge. The road in was wide and well graded. On the bikes it was a case of pick a tyre track and ride. We managed to hold 80 or 90 KM/h through that, even with the corrugations. Finally the cross-wind cam into its own, blowing the dust to one side.
We made camp in a beautiful spot, but unfortunately the wind just refused to die down. We literally circled the wagons and had dinner, but it was not a hugely pleasant time. And that’s why we were in bed at 7:45pm.
5:30am
I’m sitting in a camp chair in the growing light. The wind hasn’t let up, and the temperature (which was pretty mild last night) has dropped. There’s a blanket of cloud on us now, and it could be a cold, wet morning.

7:45pm
I’m lying on my camp mat in my tent, at a place called Brachina Gorge in the Flinders Ranges. The only really strange thing about that is that it is 7:45pm.

My day started at, I guess, about 1:45am, when I woke up. That’s the trouble with early nights: your body can very easily decide that time is up, and that you’ve had enough sleep. After checking the time, and convincing myself that it was indeed not yet time to get up, I went back to sleep. During the early morning the wind picked up, and by the time it really was time to get up, it was still blowing a gale, with a little rain thrown in for good measure.

Thankfully the rain didn’t last, and the tent was soon dry. By the time we’d showered, breakfasted, repacked the food trailer and loaded all the bikes and cars, it was around 10am.

I tried out my comms gear today, having only used the iPod yesterday. The AutoComm is very sensitive to electrical noise, so I decided to run it from a 9v battery, rather than from the bike. Unfortunately, when running on batteries, the unit is switched on and off by connecting the rider’s headset. Since I’m using my own earphones and mic through a home-made adapter, it never registers to the unit as a connected headset… so the unit never turns on. The work-around is to connect a real headset to the rider connection (sans microphone) and place that inside the tank bag, then connect my own rig to the pillion lead. Not ideal, but workable.

The throat mic worked OK, though it was much more susceptible to wind and contact noise than I thought it would be. Around town it would engage whenever I moved my head. On the highway, particularly in today’s strong winds, it engaged constantly. (In its defence, it appears that the helmet mics used by the others did exactly the same.) That meant that the wind noise that my moulded earphones are meant to keep out got pumped into my head via my earphones anyway.

The PTT (push to talk) switch worked for a while, but that also fell down. It seems that the headphone jack connector I made for it is not reliable. Sometimes it would work; other times it would work with a beep, which is meant to be an audio feedback to tell you you’ve started transmitting; other times it wouldn’t do anything.

Also, the radio itself went flat, since it didn’t have much charge anyway, and had jumped out of its cradle. That will need to be looked at. Looking back, that might have accounted for some of the unreliability of the comms system.

On the road, wind was terrible… mostly cross-winds that threatened to blow us off the bikes. Mandy started off as a pillion passenger, but got sufficiently (and rightly) freaked out to get back in the car at the first opportunity. Marco and I pressed on, leaning hard to the left just to maintain a straight line. It was exhausting!

I was low on fuel, and stopped in a small town not far out of Burra. I was last in the convoy, so it might have taken the others a few moments to notice I was gone. I met Marco and Mandy a few hundred meters out of town, and the rest of the convoy a kilometre or two further on. I went flying past at high speed, and at a pretty wild angle.

By the time we reached Carrieton at 12:30pm, Marco was just about out of fuel. The only problem was, the petrol station (and the town, it seemed) closed at 12:00pm. We filled him up from the jerry can, and decided to stop for lunch there. The food that Jane has bought and prepared for this trip has been fantastic. Lunch was sandwiches with good cheese, salami, ham, and left over salad from last night. Yum!

After lunch we rode on toward Hawker and stopped for fuel, where we all fuelled up this time. From there, we headed for the Flinders Ranges. We turned off the tarmac toward Bechina Gorge. The road in was wide and well graded. On the bikes it was a case of pick a tyre track and ride. We managed to hold 80 or 90 KM/h through that, even with the corrugations. Finally the cross-wind cam into its own, blowing the dust to one side.

We made camp in a beautiful spot, but unfortunately the wind just refused to die down. We literally circled the wagons and had dinner, but it was not a hugely pleasant time. And that’s why we were in bed at 7:45pm.

5:30am
I’m sitting in a camp chair in the growing light. The wind hasn’t let up, and the temperature (which was pretty mild last night) has dropped. There’s a blanket of cloud on us now, and it could be a cold, wet morning.

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Sep 6 2009

Day One

tim
Day One
Mt Evelyn, Malvern and Ocean Grove… to Burra
Well, so much for the 5:00am start.
I got up at 4am, after waking up at what seemed like 15 minute intervals through the night. Pretty standard fare for me. My eyes see that I’ve set my alarm for some ungodly hour, and advise my body that it probably needs to have a back-up plan organised. Sometimes I just with I was consulted in the whole process.
Anyway, by the time we were ready and fuelled up, it was 5:45am. The “troupie” was travelling with us from Mt Evelyn, and since we had to fuel up the bikes (and left’s face it, we were always going to be quicker than a diesel 4WD), we suggested that the troupie not wait for us, but get going… and we would catch up.
We rode from Mt Evelyn to Warrandyte, to Research, and to the Ring Road, then headed out the Western Hwy. Shortly before Ballarat we hit a patch of what I gess was weather… that was not at all fun. It looked like fog, but it clung to the visor like rain. It was cold, too. All up we stopped in Ballan (for warmth) and Beufort (for fuel), and made our rendezvous with the others about an hour late. To our shame and confusion, the troupie beat us by 15 minutes.
While Marco and I had breakfast at Maccas, the others loaded our bikes onto the trailer. If felt a bit like a sell-out, trailering the bikes on the first day… but I know it’s for the best.
From Ararat we took the Western Hwy and, apart from toilet stops, made it all the way to Talem Bend before stopping for a late lunch. We bought veggies there as well, as we couldn’t bring them with us Victoria into South Australia.
From Talem Bend we drove to (and through, 4 times) Murray Bridge, and then on toward Burra. The drive was great, and th golden light and long shadows from the setting sun were just magical as we passed by fields of wheat and canola. Having senate the morning with Andy, Jordy and Katy, I travelled with Nick and Jane for the afternoon, and had a great chat with them as we drove along. We pulled in to the caravan park  in Burra at about 6:15pm. Amanda rang just as we were driving into town… it was perfect timing, and I was glad to hear her voice as the day’s travels came to an end.
Jane had prepared a fantastic stew at home, so while that heated on the stove, we made camp on the only patch of grass left in the park. Dinner was great, and it was really nice to have the 9 of us around the table for our first sit-down meal.
As I write this, just about everyone has filed off to bed, or is well on their way. My glass of shiraz is slowly freezing over, as am I. Nearly time for bed.
If you’re on twitter, follow @hdcoffeeboy. I’m trying to tweet our current location whenever we stop.

Mt Evelyn, Malvern and Ocean Grove… to Burra

Well, so much for the 5:00am start.

I got up at 4am, after waking up at what seemed like 15 minute intervals through the night. Pretty standard fare for me. My eyes see that I’ve set my alarm for some ungodly hour, and advise my body that it probably needs to have a back-up plan organised. Sometimes I just with I was consulted in the whole process.

Anyway, by the time we were ready and fuelled up, it was 5:45am. The “troupie” was travelling with us from Mt Evelyn, and since we had to fuel up the bikes (and left’s face it, we were always going to be quicker than a diesel 4WD), we suggested that the troupie not wait for us, but get going… and we would catch up.

We rode from Mt Evelyn to Warrandyte, to Research, and to the Ring Road, then headed out the Western Hwy. Shortly before Ballarat we hit a patch of what I gess was weather… that was not at all fun. It looked like fog, but it clung to the visor like rain. It was cold, too. All up we stopped in Ballan (for warmth) and Beufort (for fuel), and made our rendezvous with the others about an hour late. To our shame and confusion, the troupie beat us by 15 minutes.

While Marco and I had breakfast at Maccas, the others loaded our bikes onto the trailer. If felt a bit like a sell-out, trailering the bikes on the first day… but I know it’s for the best.

From Ararat we took the Western Hwy and, apart from toilet stops, made it all the way to Talem Bend before stopping for a late lunch. We bought veggies there as well, as we couldn’t bring them with us Victoria into South Australia.

From Talem Bend we drove to (and through, 4 times) Murray Bridge, and then on toward Burra. The drive was great, and th golden light and long shadows from the setting sun were just magical as we passed by fields of wheat and canola. Having senate the morning with Andy, Jordy and Katy, I travelled with Nick and Jane for the afternoon, and had a great chat with them as we drove along. We pulled in to the caravan park  in Burra at about 6:15pm. Amanda rang just as we were driving into town… it was perfect timing, and I was glad to hear her voice as the day’s travels came to an end.

Jane had prepared a fantastic stew at home, so while that heated on the stove, we made camp on the only patch of grass left in the park. Dinner was great, and it was really nice to have the 9 of us around the table for our first sit-down meal.

As I write this, just about everyone has filed off to bed, or is well on their way. My glass of shiraz is slowly freezing over, as am I. Nearly time for bed. (this was written at 9:30 last night… but the blog was down)

If you’re on twitter, follow @hdcoffeeboy. I’m trying to tweet our current location whenever we stop.

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Sep 2 2009

Itinerary Update… for the last time!

tim

With only few days to go, I think it’s safe to say that this is the last update to the itinerary. Take a look at the “Crazy Idea” page…

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Jul 20 2009

Coming together, with a few tweaks

tim

Departure day is getting closer, to the point of being a little scary now. The bike is almost ready, though there’s a few mods still to be ticked off. Will need to get on to that fairly soon.

We had a meeting last week to work out logistics and the like, and it was great to see almost everyone there with us. Seeing everyone together in the same room, I got the feeling that this is going to be a great group of people to travel with, and a lot of fun. General consensus is that we’ll bush-camp as many night as we can, and that we’d rather be amongst nature than at the back of a hotel somewhere. We have the basic costs worked out, and Jane’s in the process of working out a rough menu.

We’ve secured an additional vehicle for the trip. Andy has arranged the loan/hire of a diesel Land Cruiser 100 series, which will be perfect for the trip, and will ensure that we have enough seats for everyone.

We’ve also had word of an alternative route down from Nhulunbuy, in the direction of Mt Isa. We haven’t worked out the exact details yet, but we at least can confirm that it’s possible… and we now have the maps. Looking at the distance we have to cover, and the quality of the roads in the area (and deadlines we need to meet for flights etc) we might still have to head back via Tennant Creek… but you never know.

We’ll also be reaching Mt Isa a day later than planned. Flights out of Mt Isa are limited (and one of our company is flying home from there), and it worked out better for us to get there a day early or a day later… and a day later was always going to be safer. This will mean we get back to Melbourne a day later, but that shouldn’t matter too much. I’ll update the itinerary shortly to reflect the changes.

More to come…

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May 19 2009

Lake Eyre: Just add water

tim

I’m hoping like crazy that we’ll see Lake Eyre in flood on the trip. At the very least we’ll see the abundance of life that has sprung up around the lake and the rivers that are feeding into it.

More info here.

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Apr 7 2009

Permits: we have a problem

tim

I’ve made enquiries with the Northern Land Council regarding permits for access to Arnhem Land in September. According to their site there should be no issue getting the 4WDs in – around 10 days’ notice is all they need to issue the permits. Though the site doesn’t mention bikes at all, I’d heard that there might be some issue getting permits for them, and an email back from NLC last week confirmed that:

Thank you for you email but unfortunately Northern Land Council has came to an agreement with the Traditional Land Owners of East Arnhem land stating that the Land Owners don’t allow motorcycles in any area within East Arnhem that would also include the Central Arnhem Road.

It appears that permits are not required when travelling on public, gazetted roads. From what I can tell, the public road ends where the Central Arnhem Road starts – about 150km from Lake Evella. The road forks at that point, and a permit is not required for the other track, leading north to Ramingining.

So, assuming that we can’t obtain some sort of special exemption for the bikes, we still have some options. We can trailer the bikes in; we can find a place to leave the bikes, as close as possible to our destination, or we can find another route for the bikes and/or the 4WDs.

But I’m not there yet. I’ve asked our friends in Arnhem land to look into what we might be able to do; and one of the my travelling companions is making further investigations with the NLC to see what avenues we might be able to take there.

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Mar 15 2009

(Belated) Meeting Report

tim

Wow… the last two weeks have just flown by. I meant to write this up straight after the event – I don’t quite know what happened.

A bunch of prospective inmates got together the Monday before last to talk through the route and logistics of the top-end trip. It was great to meet some of the new faces – friends of friends, and one follower of the blog – and to hear input from interested parties.

There were some great ideas thown around, as well

Food, etc
One of the things I’d imagined was that, for the most part, we’d fend for ourselves on the trip. I was aware that different people would have different budgets for food and accommodation, so I figured that this would free people up to spend as they saw fit. Instead, we’ve decided that we’ll pool our resources and for the most part cook and eat together. We’ll all still contribute to making camp and cooking tea each night, but we’ll save money by buying in bulk. Fridge space will be shared and limited, so if we’re together in what we’re carrying and using, that will save space as well.

I’m not sure how all of that will work out just yet. I’m sure it will be flexible, and there will still be lunches and snacks on the road for which people will do their own thing.

Distance
We also talked a bit about the distance of the trip, and the length of some of the individual days. The suggestion was made that on some of the longer “bitumen” days – particularly on the Stuart Hwy – we might be able to trailer the bikes and share the driving, and cover much more distance in a day than we might have otherwise.

As much as the purist in me wants to ride every last kilometre, I also know the purist in me will have a sore butt by the end of day three, and will probably cave in to the idea.

The plan has a lot of merit. Even if we can’t trailer all the bikes, we can still rotate who is riding and driving, and share the load that way. We’ll still be limited by daylight hours, though; the risk of hitting wildlife is simply too great at dawn and dusk.

It was also suggested that we use this plan to shorten to overall duration of the trip, to buy us more time at the Top End, but because we’re meeting and farewelling people at key places along the way, that probably won’t be possible. What it will mean is more rest time – in the times that we’re not riding, and in the days we win back with the extra distance covered.

Capping the Numbers
Though this didn’t really come up at the meeting, it’s become apparent that we might need to cap the number of people who come on the trip. Between bikes and 4WDs we could have as many as 20 people coming already. Considering that the middle of the trip is a visit to one or more Aboriginal communities, we need to be sensitive to the impact such a large group could have.

Costs
A smaller number of us met last weekend to start estimating the costs for the participants. We have to take into account fuel for the bikes and 4WDs, food, accommodation, parks passes and permits etc. We came up with some rough numbers, but we want to refine them more, and confirm some details, before we publish anything here. Stay tuned!

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Feb 20 2009

Trip Meeting

tim

We’re having a meeting for all interested parties, to discuss the route, logistics, dates and other aspects of the Arnhem Land trip.

The meeting will be for anyone who is interested in coming along by motorbike or 4WD, for all or part of the trip, or for anyone who would like to contribute to to fund-raising for the work of our friends in the top end. If you’d like to be involved in any way at all, we’d love to see you at that night.

The meeting will be at 8:30pm, Monday 2 March. If you’d like to come, add a comment to this post, and I’ll email you the address.

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