Travel Through Australia on a Harley-Davidson

By Peter & Kay Forwood

Australia on a Harley (12/11/03 - 20/7/04)
Distance 36919 km (357692 km to 394611 km)

This is part of the tenth section of our around the world trip.
Complete Trip Overview & Map

Coming from  Australia (part 2)
 

10-11/3/04 A short jaunt to Tumut where we are catching up on necessary jobs. Catch up days are becoming more frequent. The lap top allows easier web page updates, photo manipulation, much of which used to be done between trips. The digital camera produces instant and many more photos, all needing sorting, saving and backing up, only a few of which can enter the web page. The older motorcycle, like us, requires more TLC (tender loving care), days off.

12/3/04 Cootamundra this year is holding the Great Race. Traditionally its been Harley-Davidsons matched against Indians but with the two bikes now drawn even at 5 all from the last 10 years of events the organizers decided to call it a day. This year pegging North against South, that is NSW and further north against Victoria and the southern states. All the motorcycles must be pre swing arm, earlier than mid 50's built. 40 Harleys and 40 Indians compete, 200 km's. More than half had already travelled from Sydney and Melbourne, 400-600 km just to get here. Their owners either old enthusiasts or young enough to still kick start a motorcycle. We arrived early, watching the bikes slowly roll into town. An  impromptu party at the pub in the evening had everyone meeting.

13/3/04 The main street was closed, except to motorcycles, the bikes lined up on display, then let start at 1 minute intervals. The route only given out five minutes before departure. Back country roads with an observation sheet to complete. Points deducted for arriving too early or late at checkpoints.Lunch time stop on the Great Race We watched the departure and shortcut across to the lunch stop watching arriving bikes then back to town for the finish. An evening meal $80.00 (last minute tickets for us $30.00) in the town's aeroplane hanger, aeroplane and all. The locals put on a vaudeville show, black tie service and the presentations. North won, by a small majority.

14/3/04 The Around Australia Anniversary Ride, by Graham Felton and John Sinclair, a re-enactment of the 1929 event, is on it's promotional lead up and heading for Geelong. They were at the Great Race yesterday and we are travelling with them to the Ulysses meeting. On a 1940 H-D, similar age to those in the race it has recently been rebuilt, again, suffering overheating on another trip. We headed out with them to Echuca to the Murray River, 440 km, slow travelling, not arriving till 7 pm after many petrol stops for the old bike, but without incident.

15/3/04 The threesome, the old 1940 H-D, the backup vehicle with trailer carrying the wooden box sidecar and our motorcycle covered the 270 km to Geelong by early afternoon. Expecting 5500 participants, of which 4000 are to camp, the organizers had limited spaces to bikes, tents and trailers, no 4 wheeled vehicles allowed on site. We were probably the smallest rig for a couple, most with enormous tents and all the trimmings covering the 5x5 metre sites.Graham and John with their Australian Anniversary Ride outfit

16/3/04 With our campsites in a prominent location Graham and John set up their promotional display and with our sticker covered  motorcycle we attracted a steady flow of visitors. Mobile showers and toilets, whole trucks specially fitted out, dotted the grounds. A post office to collect equipment not carried, posted ahead, open on site, also available to post gear home after the rally. Food vendors, Lions Club, Rotary and the Country Women's Association feeding the masses. We settled in and our motorcycle generated discussions of either awe or condemnation depending on the onlookers brand preference and ability or willingness or time to take in the concept of world travel, bearing in mind the age and staid mindset of the group. (50+ to be a full member of Ulysses).

17/3/04 Baby boomers with disposable incomes they have attracted all the major manufacturers to provide demonstration rides, almost any motorcycle of any brand, about 150 to choose from. Camping trailers, dual and single wheeled, a popular display, about one third of campers here already towing trailers. A couple of pubs kept the people lively but to bed early for the long week.

18/3/04 Four rides of the area had been organized, in all directions, usually all day. We chose a quiet day, fixing the alarm, strengthening the top box and posing for photos with the motorcycle for the Heavy-Duty magazine photographer. The entertainment highlight, a "red faces" competition where un- or semi-talented people often embarrass themselves as they perform their party trick of acting in front of a large crowd to be applauded or booed off stage. Always popular if only for the embarrassment factor. The evening ended with a much more professional band.Andy of Andy Strapz, his straps donated for our motorcycle

19/3/04 Andy of "Andy Strapz", often called Jock, agreed to promote his product by giving us a couple of straps and making up some bags to replace worn ones we carry our camping equipment in. We will collect them in Perth in a few weeks time. The main promotional event of the week, Honda giving away a Goldwing motorcycle. No ticket to purchase, just be there at the draw after dinner. Needless to say we didn't win. 4500 people were fed an evening meal in an enormous steel and vinyl marquis, dance floor and band area.

20/3/04 This group of people seem not to mind lining up. A long line to enter the marquis last night and bikes leaving early this morning to be at the head of the parade of bikes. Phil (an ex overland African truck driver) and us, not used to lining up, arrived right as the first bikes were leaving in the parade and simply meshed in at the front of the crowd. The city of Geelong had welcomed the Ulysses club and on their waterfront Yamaha gave away a $20,000 gift voucher for any combination of their products, again only rally registration required to participate. Heavy Duty magazine have employed a journalist to write a series of three articles on our trip and our first interview with Joy was this afternoon. Same marquis for dinner, same number of people to feed, and an Aprilia/Moto Guzzi trip to Italy first prize just for being there.A wild Koala in our campground tree, Otway National Park

21/3/04 Packed up started early, the post office line long for those sending gear home. The church service and last formalities missed by most, leaving early to get home today, Sunday. Last goodbye's to the re-enactment ride crowd and a couple of friends from Sydney and we headed down the Great Ocean Road. A stretch that hugs the southern coastline, crowded with motorcycles on any Sunday, worse today with rally departees. A few tourists had stopped to watch four koalas sleeping in trees roadside and by evening we had spotted a further nine, one even walked past our caravan accommodation, resting on the concrete before ambling up a nearby tree. Otway National Park, protected from dogs and cats, has many koalas, the tree often stripped of leaves before they move on to greener trees.

22/3/04 West then inland, more spectacular coastal formations, enormous arches and island pinnacles. This area is also known as the shipwreck coast. Vessels sailing from England, after three months away from land, arrived at the Australian coast. Often arriving in fog it was too late to see the sheer wall of cliffs. Few survived due to the rough seas. Inland the Grampians National Park, a mountain range rises abruptly from the surrounding flatlands. Full of wildlife our campground covered in kangaroos grazing in late evening.Kangaroos at another campground in the Grampian Mountains

24/3/04 The Brambuk Aboriginal Centre, built in the shape of a cockatoo, displays a film on Aboriginal culture and beliefs. The creation theory not that dissimilar to that of western religions. A superior man (their god) created the world and animals. Stories of how special land features, like the Grampians mountains, were formed are part of folk lore with superhuman animals changing the landscape. Other, "man spirits," have brought the rules that their societies follow. The "religion" is really just an explanation within the level of understanding of a peoples, for things that they can't otherwise understand. The rules just a means of governing and organizing the society. We walked to venus baths, a rock pool, now almost dry as little rain has fallen.

25/3/04 Short ride and walk to lookouts over the valley and town of Hall's Gap, another night in the Grampians. I recently turned 51 and am heading for that sway zone between not wanting more years and telling people proudly how old I have managed to get. While we are looking forward we want our age to look back but when we reach a reflective past our age becomes exaggerated forward. Keep an active present and always be younger than we really are.

26/3/04 Kangaroos are grazing grasslands all around the park. We saw perhaps 500 eastern greys, along the road, thousands more must be where the road doesn't go, forced onto open grasslands by lack of feed. A real concern on a motorcycle as they tend to like grazing the mown roadside for the short green pick. Middle of the day generally safe but early morning and late evening a definite hazard, night time travel really dangerous out here. Our route via Horsham to Kingston on the coast passed through small wool and wheat support towns. Towns where nothing is locked and oils are selfhelp at the unattended petrol pumps. Where the locals talk to strangers openly and the price of things is surprisingly cheap from shop owners more interested in service than profits. Where time is endless and they marvel at the hurried traffic through town. We changed the motorcycle's oils in one such town, buying two oils and being given the third free from bulk storage along with them happily disposing of the old oils. A walk along Kingston pier in the evening from which people were catching their evening meal of bream and trevally.Solitude on our own beach on Kangaroo Island at the end of the Ravine hike

27/3/04 The Murray River flows into the enormous Lake Alexandrina at it's mouth. The sand washed down forming the Coorong, a long sand dune peninsula fronted by the ocean and backed by lakes, some dry leaving salt pans and short salt tolerant vegetation, others are still lakes. Further along we crossed the river by barge heading for Cape Jervis and a ferry to Kangaroo Island. Australia's third largest island, 150 km x 50 km, it's isolation keeping introduced species to a minimum and thus is favoured for wildlife. Uninhabited when white man first arrived in Australia it also has some distinctly unique variations of mainland animals. A quick introduction to the wildlife when a pod of dolphins escorted the ferry, riding the bow wave for some minutes before tiring. Fairy (little) penguins nest on the foreshores and on our evening walk we saw dozens leaping out of the ocean to pair up with mates guarding nests as this is the mating season. They can be seen standing under street lights or waddling about town, their tell tale guano dolloped on the pavement.

28/3/04 The sun rose over the water 180 degrees opposite to where we had seen it set last night, however it soon disappeared and by the time we were finishing a tour of the island's only eucalyptus oil farm it was raining and looked set in for the rest of the day. We changed direction and headed for a cabin in Kingscote rather than camping in the rain. Rained all afternoon and showery overnight.Echidna walked through our campground Eucalyptus oil was a large industry till the second world war on the island but wool sheep were more profitable in the war years and the oil production ceased. Revitalized recently at the hobby level and now growing to commercial production, mechanization seems to be allowing for a competitive industry again.

29/3/04 Skies grey but dry we headed to Cape Borda and the Ravine Hike, 8 km to a secluded bay, flanked by limestone cliffs and wave worn caves, the surf pounding in and windblown sand eddying up the ravine. A long walk, worth the effort but without any wildlife spotted. To the south and Rocky River campground, tame Kangaroo Island kangaroos, used to receiving handouts grazed between sites. An evening stroll to the platypus water holes to sight one scratching himself at the surface before diving leaving a trail of bubbles, not to reappear.

30/3/04 Noisy Cape Barren geese flying past, a couple of kangaroos bounding through our camp and other bush bird noises awoke us early. The thick short trees shrinking to coastal heath in the saltier, windier coastline where New Zealand fur seals were dotted around sunbaking on rocks and playing in the calmer, warmer pools.Seals, hauled out in Admiral's Arch We visited some of the headlands around the lighthouse, watched the seals for ages and returning for lunch to the camp watched a friendly echidna rummaging through the bush looking for grubs and insects. An evening walk from the camp revealed many koala, waking up to feed in the tree tops, more echidna and Tammar wallabies emerging from the scrub to graze on open grasslands.

31/3/04 Up before 6am, walking the 4.5 km loop track, hoping to get another sighting of platypus feeding in the ponds. Smarter than us they were probably tucked up in warm burrows as we didn't see any on this cold morning. The island has many attractions we chose not to visit mainly due to cost or having seen similar sites before. A limestone cave, two lighthouse tours, seal colony tour, all of which are visited by the tour group buses, pushing prices higher and our enjoyment lower if caught up with a tour group. Back to Penneshaw for the night.

1/4/04 Caught the ferry back to the mainland and headed for Adelaide. We had lived here for three months, in our late teens, together but at separate abodes. The place has grown beyond recognition, the satellite suburbs now part of the city sprawl and the traffic annoying after an island almost to ourselves. We reassessed our desire to stay, illegally parked the motorcycle on the footpath, sitting on a city bench, snacking, suits hurrying past, buses drowning out our conversation. The need to see another museum or lovely stone building not as great as the desire to be on the road. Clare for the night, 123 km north, rolling hills of grape vines and old wineries in small towns.Parked amongst salt bush with Iron Knob, iron ore for Whyalla behind

2/4/04 It's an interesting situation I have observed that many of the travellers we meet act and profess to be less financially fluid than they actually are. Only recently did I realize that appearing less wealthy divides the best and worst people you meet. It brings out the best in the best people and the worst in the worst people. An opportunity for the reason to feel good helping someone less fortunate as opposed to a superior attitude of being better than someone else. The traveller also takes on the humbling position of allowing themselves to be helped rather than the arrogance of their independent mode of life. Dressed as we are, in worn no brand clothes, a little dishevelled, riding a used looking motorcycle, needing an engine mount bolt, one of those best of people spent time measuring, finding and cutting a bolt to fit, allowing us the independence of experience to install it, charging a nominal, face saving price for the item and a wave of the hand for his assistance. Stopped in Port Augusta to stock up on food for the Nullarbor, crossing to Western Australia.

3/4/04 Pt Kenny to Ceduna, 200 km, deciding to catch up on chores. Three one nighters and prospects of another couple across the Nullarbor made the decision. Ceduna, population 3200, really just a staging post, the locals either working in fishing or tourism support, the town is hotels and caravan parks, however everything still closes lunchtime Saturday to Monday morning.Town of 100 windmills, Penong The big Saturday night event this week is dirt track racing, obviously extremely popular, fielding 30 cars from this small population. Novice cars through to super modifieds thumped the track, collisions and losses on corners. The only bright light in a quiet town.

4/4/04 Nothing happens here on Sundays. Lacking from our web site have been captions on all the photos. A mammoth task, chipped away at in our spare time, completed today.

5/4/04 The world's largest lump of limestone, 250,000 sq/km, is the Nullarbor, flat and generally without trees. The road along the coast touches only the southern most tip and parallels the sheer 90 metre high cliffs for 200 km's. There are no towns or villages for 1200 km from Ceduna to Norseman, just roadhouses, there only for the passing motorist, fuel, food and various accommodation, all outrageously overpriced, fuel 50% dearer than nearest cities. But the average tourist will need at least one petrol or overnight stop so prices can remain high. In the dream to travel around Australia everyone must pass here.90 metre high cliffs across the Nullarbor 4x4's towing caravans the preferred rig, some heading east but at this time of year the majority westbound, retirees, poor to wealthy, three months to the rest of their lives, some happy some wishing they were home. Others on motorcycles, with or without trailers, pass us, even a gypsy wagon, horse drawn with dog, all intermingled with the road trains, semi trailers with an extra trailer. The traffic not busy, just dotted every km or so, even the roadhouses quiet, with long range fuel tanks and camping wild people avoiding the high prices where possible. It's never glassed out here, the wind always blows from one direction or another, we had a hot tail wind, then a cross wind increasing before a front line of cloud dropped temperatures 12 degrees and a headwind. We camped out, off the road, an old gravel dump behind a mound of dirt out of the wind, 830 km, away from the roadhouses, the caravans in rest areas, the sunset and stars to ourselves, just off Australia's longest straight road, 150 km unbending.

6/4/04 We were underway half an hour after sunrise, the air crisp, the wildlife still active, kangaroos and emus crossed the road ahead of us a few times over the next hour, mostly at a distance, once close. Eagles and crows attacked fresh kangaroo road kill and bustards flew to their daytime roosts.Sunset camp on 90 mile straight, Nullarbor The vegetation grew to taller salmon gums, from short saltbush, their outer bark recently dropped revealing silky salmon coloured trunks and shiny leaves. One roadhouse for fuel, then Norseman for fresh bread lunch and Esperance on the coast to rest. A real town, supporting the wheat industry, also catering for the tourists. An evening walk along the beach but mainly resting, 1400 km in two days.

7/4/07 A 39 km loop road travels along the coast, islands dotted offshore, and past the pink lake, really mauve, inland. Esperance's other main interests are the local museum, main exhibit, bits of Skylab, the first space station, landed near here in 1979, and the fish leather factory, skins of fillets, made into buttons, pens, shoes etc, previously a waste product.

8/4/04 Forecast of rain, which eventuated at 2 pm till dark, and accommodation shortage nearing Easter kept us "at home" for another day.

9/4/04 Further west, dodged or caught the edge of a couple of thunderstorms, waiting out one at a petrol station coffee shop meeting a Japanese lady riding a Suzuki 250 around Australia, 28,000 km so far, only half way for her. A detour to the Stirling Ranges, Bluff Knoll lookout and a walk through autumn wildflowers, Porongurup National Park and another walk through the Karri forests, Easter busy campground nearby.

10/4/04 Looped out to Albany, shopping and a visit to the Sandalwood factory. A free tour, captive audience to sell products derived from sandalwood, mainly cosmetics but also used in alternative healing methods. A native tree to Western Australia. Mt Barker and it's Banksia nursery, having a complete collection of all 77 varieties, a uniquely Australian plant, with unusual flowers.Suspended walkway 40 metres up in the tree canopy Most people however come to this region for the wineries, not as famous as Margaret River, to the west, but the drier area produces rieslings and chardonnays, as well as reds. We joined many Easter wine tasters, visited two wineries and took a sample back for dinner, same campground.

11/4/04 Red Tingle is a species of tree that only lives in a 6000 hectare area in South West, Western Australia. Australia's biggest tree at the base and third tallest. A 600 metre boardwalk into the tree's canopy, 40 metres above the ground is an engineering feat. Not wanting to disturb the trees yet allowing visitors, this open steel walkway is supported on just seven poles, 100 metre spans, that rock and sway in the wind and with tourists, making some a bit seasick and many a bit more nervous. Up in the crowns of the trees looking down and up it's easier to appreciate their 60 metre height. Camped at Shannon, an evening ranger video outlined the advances this state has made against the fox and domestic cat, introduced species, decimating small mammals which previously had no predators. The poison 1080, derived from local pea bushes, (now synthetically made), is dropped from aircraft over the entire state, four times a year. The local animals having evolved with the bush are immune, introduced species are killed. The program is having enormous success with all populations of small mammals increasing, some were previously very endangered with extinction.Our cabin in the woods

12/4/04 Easter's over, everyone packed up leaving one cabin empty. Sitting on the hill in a pine forest, slab walls and a pot belly stove, four bunks but no mattresses and the same price as camping we took it and stayed another night. A loop ride through Karri forests to the Dave Evans Bicentennial Tree. This forest used to be logged and fire being a threat to that resource the forestry department pegged trees and built watch towers in their crowns to scan the hillsides for burgeoning fires. The Gloucester Tree was pegged in the 1930's, wooden pegs driven into the tree spiralling but climbing steeply to its 60 metre height. We climbed this tree 17 years ago with our children after the forestry had moved to using spotter aeroplanes for fires and turned this tree over to tourism. With increasing tourism demand the Dave Evans tree was pegged, using metal spikes, it rises 65 metres to the top tower, so today we climbed to it's top with magnificent views over the lesser trees in the forest. Back to our cabin to listen to rain on the tin roof warmed by the pot belly stove.

13/4/04 Into Perth but still not ready for a city,Kay climbing down the Bi-centennial Tree, 65 metres high just to pick up a couple of replacement bags made especially for us by Andy Strapz. Two bags for our mattresses and two bags for the sleeping gear (bag, sheet and pillow) which sits in the sun on the outside of the bike. Headed a further 100 km north, 500 km total including an oil change.

14/4/04 250 km north of Perth, along the coast, is an unusual formation of rock and sand called The Pinnacles. Old sand dunes, converted to limestone rock, weathered, recovered in sand and uncovered again formed these 2-4 metre high pinnacles surrounded by yellow sand. A 3.5 km track winds through them giving ample photo opportunities. The coast road north visits small lobster villages and isolated fishing huts before the more major town of Geraldton.

15/4/04 This area of coast is famous for it's lobster fishing. We visited a co-operative of 159 boats, designed to help market live shipments. The Japanese, Chinese and American markets all require different sizes and colour for their customers. Sorted and graded the lobster are kept fresh in holding tanks awaiting a market order and can be flown anywhere in the world to arrive live within 36 hours.Riding through the Pinnacles, limestone and sand formations We bought a non-export quality (more than one leg missing) half kilogram lobster, $12 Aust, just for a taste. This area of coastline is also famous for shipwrecks. The Dutch trying to reach Indonesia (the spice islands) in the 1600's occasionally ploughed into Australian islands before they could head north. The first known white people to come ashore to Australia to live were from the wreck the Batavia in 1629. Originally stranded on offshore islands where they mutinied and murdered each other, two were put ashore on the mainland and left. Blood samples of local aborigines indicate a Dutch disease, prevalent in Holland at the time, also carried in the indigenous blood, indicating co-habitation with the natives.

16/4/04 The shipwreck museum we visited yesterday required another hour this morning along with grocery shopping as this is the last major centre for a week. Headed north late, just 150 km to Kalbarri, about the furthest north school holiday makers get, a sandy river mouth, rocky headlands and plenty of fishing. That great sport (not appreciated by me) that involves the whole family, eats up more money than any other sport and gives little if no reward for effort, but allows the participants to relax and enjoy a cold beer whilst actively participating. We strolled the beachfront weaving between rod and casting lines. Stromatolites, world's oldest living organisms, been around for 3.5 billion years

17/4/04 Further up the Murchison River, red gorges with permanent water attract tourists. Walks to "natures window", "the loop" and "Z bend" have the more energetic canoeing or swimming or abseiling. We arrived early trying to avoid the heat, still 35 degrees today, paddled our feet in the Z bend and were inundated by flies trying to drink our salty perspiration. Apparently an early storm hatched the black things early this year.

18/4/04 Shark Bay, another World Heritage listed area, the world's oldest living organisms, stromatolites believed to have evolved 3.5 billion years ago and responsible for creating the oxygen necessary for other life forms. Just blobs in the salty waters here and in the Bahamas, the only places they now survive. Further up the peninsula is shell beach, small bivalves discarded shells, make up 100 km of beachfront, here for thousands of years some have cemented together and are cut and used for building blocks, others are mined for their limestone, cement lime, fed to chickens for egg shell or used as road stabilization. Shark Bay peninsula is just over 3 km's wide at one point and expanding into 1000 sq/km's the other side making it perfect to fence off from non native predators. A 2.4 metre high electric fence running out into the ocean either side prevents unwanted animals re-entering the area cleared of over 32,000 feral sheep and goats and baited for cats and foxes. The area is now being used to reintroduce endangered species from captive breeding programs or taken from where stable populations exist. Camped at Monkey Mia Resort.Kay lined up with other tourists to see the dolphin feeding

19/4/04 About 40 years ago a couple of dolphins started following fishing boats in this area, receiving a few by-catch fish. When we were here 17 years ago it had developed into tourists feeding about seven dolphins under the supervision of National Parks, a couple of dozen people a day and a small caravan park primarily for the fishermen. Today the tourists number in their hundreds each day and the number of dolphins being fed had also increased, however it was recently reduced to females (less aggression), over 11 years old (already adapted to their own environment), and just 2 kg of food each (1/3 rd of their requirements to ensure they still hunt and interact). Four females were fed today, their three calves watching on, six males hanging close keeping their partners in range. A bit of a show, with the dolphins being "walked" past the crowd for everyone to see. The public, chosen randomly, are given small fish to hand feed a dolphin. It's about as close as people are ever likely to get to dolphins living in the wild, almost everyone within two metres, the dolphins sometimes brushing against their legs. A range of informative talks and videos accompany the experience interspersed during the day. Of course the small van park is now a resort, but still remembers its roots. We camped there, using the resort's facilities.Dolphins swimming close to shore waiting for a feed

20/4/04 Travelling around Australia (or around "the block" as some travellers call it) is said to be easier going clockwise, the wind is at your back, most of the time. It certainly has been for us. Today a strong southerly moving us along to the north, Carnarvon, an agricultural town, drawing water from underground aquifers in this desert environment. A short stop to restock food and fuel, 70 km further north to the coast and Quobba Point blowhole. A small temporary fishing village of caravans and shacks has grown up here over years. A rugged existence with no water, no trees and windswept land and big waves offshore. We camped with fine sand entering the tent in an unpleasant wind.

21/4/04 With good roads and people travelling further the school holidays crowd has packed out Coral Bay, not a tent site to be found. With the reef coming right into the bay, still warm, when down south is entering winter, it's the perfect family holiday destination. Unfortunately with nowhere to stay we looked around for an hour then moved on to Exmouth.

22/4/04 Hot and tired, an air-conditioned room for two nights, relaxed doing catch up jobs.

23/4/04 Ningaloo is the Great Barrier Reef's cousin, situated on the opposite, western, side of Australia, 250 km long, the reef fringing the shore. Exmouth is a real town, built originally to support the nearby naval base, some fishing and now tourism. Just 2500 locals and a lot more tourists. It's season spread out by whales, turtles and whale sharks visiting at different times of the year. Now it's whale sharks, seven boat operators with up to 20 passengers each, guided by spotter planes, dump snorkellers mid ocean, ten at a time, near the front of these gentle giants. Unable to keep pace with the shark, the next batch of snorkellers are dumped and the first retrieved. This process goes on till either the whale shark dives too deep or the snorkellers get too tired or bored having had full value of their $A320.00 cost. We chose to dive and snorkel the Muiron Islands, just offshore. Exmouth Dive Centre, professionally run, pleasant if nothing exceptional at the dive locations, limited visibility after rough seas and plankton. The reef here not as spectacular as where we used to dive on the Barrier Reef.

24/4/04 Grabbed some snorkel gear and headed into Cape Range National Park, along the west coast, and as far west as we can ride in Australia. There are beach entry points along the 70 km of road, some offer boat launching, others camping or snorkelling. We set up camp, a sand dune back from the beach, 50 metres from anyone else at Ned's Camp. The ranger interpretive centre showed a video, more information on whale sharks and we snorkelled at Lakeside. Small patches of lagoon reef, tucked in behind the main wave breaking outer reef, exist one to two hundred metres offshore. Here, snorkelling in 3-4 metres of water, we spotted a few turtles, two white tip reef sharks, anemone and their fish, an octopus, scorpion fish plus many other corals and edible fish. A truly amazing array of marine life all in the one small area.

25/4/04 Water being our limiting factor in camping here, overcome by drinking boiled bore water from an underground, capped source, allowed us an extra day to look around the park and coast.Yardie Creek rust coloured in the early morning Yardie Creek Gorge at 6.30 am, brilliant colours, mirrored in the clear waters. More snorkelling, three more locations, plate corals, staghorn, blue lagoon coloured water, warm in and hot out of the water. Watched another sunset, moon rise and bright stars.

26/4/04 Back to town, totally exhausted by sun and water, spent the day washing, internet and relaxing. Also the exhaust pipe had again started leaking behind the rear cylinder at the join. More putty and this time an extra hose clamp hopefully will hold it together better on the corrugated dirt roads.

27/4/04 Left at 6.30, the kangaroos still about but the temperature cool and expecting an easterly later in the day, as many k's covered before it becomes a strong headwind. 640 km's to Tom Price, a mining and mine support town of 3000 people, purpose built by the mining company. It's the end of a good wet season with grass as tall and green as it gets out here, contrasted against the red rock and sand. Floods have been through the creeks, water in the billabongs, some sections of road damaged by the last rain depression the result of a coastal cyclone six weeks earlier.Red Kangaroos Cape Range National Park Ore trains shunt through town regularly, iron ore to the coast 300 km away. We cooked another gel battery 50 km out of town, just two months old, not sure now if it's the bike's electrics or the batteries that are the problem. Bought a small quad bike battery and mounted it on the rear footboard, leads extended, obviously no H-D batteries available around here. The failure also seems to have blown something in the alarm system, it re-arming itself every 30 seconds even when we are riding, so we arrived in town well noticed, Kay holding the remote disarmed it each time it re-armed, siren blaring. Exhausted, just before dark, we could relax after setting up camp.

28/4/04 The headlight bulb had blown two days earlier so this morning we swapped it with the spare, totally disconnected the bike's alarm and departed for Karijini National Park. Karijini is a place of gorges, iron ore rust red, deep and narrow. The surrounding plateau, scrubby bush, drought gums and spinifex grasses. All it's interconnecting roads are dirt, chopped up or washed out by recent rains. We reduced tyre pressures and set up camp at Savannah camp, a new campground, run jointly by the indigenous people and national parks service. A walk down into Joffre Gorge, a waterfall to pools, cool in the afternoon heat.Kay cooling off in the gorge

29/4/04 The new showers are an adaptation of old ways and new technology. Solar heating and plastic header tank allows hot and cold water to a canvas bucket with shower nozzle, to be filled and raised on pulleys, the old bush shower way. Two gorges, Hancock first after visiting the confluence of four impressive gorges. A walk to the bottom, rock hopping, scrambling to sit in solitude. The sheer cliffs often only 2 metres apart rising 100 metres high. Next Weano Gorge, similar red hues, steep sides but it's necessary for us to swim through cold waterholes to progress to where it joins Hancock Gorge. Again narrow sections opening out to large pools. A strenuous but relaxing day, reading books in the cool gorges away from the flies, just spending time.

30/4/04 A four metre Pilbara Olive Rock Python had been sighted near the bottom of Joffre Gorge yesterday and the ranger escorted us to it's location this morning. Curled up under a rock ledge it waited, like us, for the sun to rise, not till 9.30, deep in the gorge. They feed on birds drinking or passing rock wallaby joeys. Dales Gorge, at the other end of the park, actually two gorges merging. Circular Pool, at the base of a cliff, fed by crystal clear seepage, then a walk along a more open gorge with paperbarks and milky pools before also ending in a waterfall pool.Pilbara Olive Rock Python waiting for the sun to warm him This area used to be sacred to the aborigines, a special place. It is also now a place where quiet enjoyment is better appreciated.

1/5/04 360 km to Port Hedland, the mining supply town, red with iron ore dust staining buildings, blown in from the enormous ship loading facility. Still growing in it's throughput the single train track to Hamersley mine to be upgraded to double track allowing greater tonnage to be exported. We bumped into a couple of friends from Townsville, now working over here. Ones we haven't seen for five years, stayed at Lucy and Graham's house catching up. It's a place to come and work for good money but few would call it home.

2/5/04 630 km to Broome. The winds along this coast are strong in the morning but easing in the afternoons. Straight into a headwind, along a generally uninteresting stretch of flat road. The wind knocking us and the fuel consumption about.

3/5/05 Different cultures have different requirements and with many different nationality groups in Australia, including the indigenous Aborigines, and with equal rights, some specific rules encompassing the whole of society must be made to control certain habits of one group. Alcohol consumption by Aborigines is a problem in this region and along with Australia's social welfare system, where unemployment benefits are paid by the government and for an entire lifetime if no work is found, we now have four generations of people who have never worked, getting paid what is locally known as "sit down money". This system commenced in the 1960's with equal rights but didn't allow for different cultural effects. Alcohol sale laws in this region have taken on interesting regulations. Like, no alcohol to be sold before 6 pm on Thursday's and Fridays, the day the government pays its social welfare. No 4 litre wine casks to be sold in some areas, a preferred, easy to get drunk, cheap drink.Float planes sunk by the Japanese in World War 2 After 5 pm only 1/2 cartons and small bottles of spirits to be sold. As we cannot discriminate in this country on race or creed everyone in the region must abide by the same rules. Broome is famous for its pearls, having the largest pearl oyster, it used to produce 80% of the world's mother of pearl shell for buttons. Long ago the industry died out replaced by plastics or cultured pearls but its history still draws tourists to the area. The warm climate and a large supply of pearl jewellery shops keeps them entertained. We checked out a few shops, buying nothing, marvelling at the array of artwork, and the price of this product of man and nature.

4/5/04 A few motorcyclists are congregating in the area. Three at our camp site and a couple of others about town. The Gibb River road through the northern Kimberley's has been closed for the wet season, now recently graded, people are gathering, however having been a wet, wet season, there are two rivers, fast flowing up to 70 cm deep and up to 600 metres wide. It might be a couple more weeks before motorcycles will be crossing. Dunlop had arranged for us to collect a tyre here, which we did this morning along with regreasing the swing arm bolt, known to have rusted tight previously, but now on our regular maintenance program.Stairway to the moon

5/5/04 The large tides and extensive mud flats cause an unusual sight when on a low tide, full moon night, the moon rising over the horizon forms reflected lines across the mud flat ripples, like a staircase to the moon. Two nights a month crowds gather on the beach to watch its appearance, as we did tonight. Occurring just once a month, on a negative tide, two km's across the mud flats, are the remains of 16 float planes, sunk here by the Japanese during the second world war in 1942. The engines and any aluminium structure, partially immersed in the mud, are visible and well preserved. We oozed tidal mud through our toes, as fascinated by exposed marine life as of that of the aeroplanes. Small nudibranch, octopus, tube worms, sea stars, usually graceful underwater now fumbling in the muddy expanse.

6/5/04 The end of the blue ocean at Broome, replaced by swirling muddy waters of Derby, wedged between a peninsula and the mainland the 11 metre tides rush in and out twice daily across the mud flats. Derby, a non-tourist town's claim to fame is an enormous Boab tree, (cousin of the African Baobab) 14 metres circumference and believed to have been used as an overnight prison, utilizing its hollowed out interior. Now considered an Aboriginal sacred site, fenced off from intruders. Travelling with Peter, another Australian, on his 5 month trip around Australia, a "personal time trip" for him, away from his family. Riding a 650 Honda Transalp we headed "off-road", along the Gibb River road for a while, then into Windjana Gorge.Freshwater crocodile digesting last nights dinner in Windjana Gorge

7/5/04 The gorge is one of the easiest places to see Australian freshwater crocodiles. At 2 metres they are much smaller than the saltwater crocodiles, eat fish and generally leave humans alone to utilize the same area and even swim with them safely. Tolerating each other, close photography is possible as they sun themselves, digesting their dinner on the sand bank early mornings. We walked through the 90 m high gorge, limestone, part of an old sea bed, goanna, corellas and even a snake crossed our early morning walk. Just 40 km's away a different creek has cut a 750 m tunnel through the limestone reef. Walking thigh deep in water, halfway, the collapsed ceiling allows light, but elsewhere a torch is necessary to find the sandy, rocky, wet path to the swimming pool where the creek emerges. A cool place on a hot humid day after last night's thunderstorms. The dirt road to Fitzroy Crossing still muddy with water in some crossings.

8/5/04 Geike Gorge, a different tourist spot, boats ferry caravan or fly in travellers up the Fitzroy River with interpretative commentary. We chose to walk its banks, more freshwater crocodiles. Later in the day travelling 300 km to Halls Creek. A predominantly aboriginal community of just over 1000 people plus a support town for tourists.Snorkel fitted for river crossings I walked to its more dark end in the evening where, as happens every night, a couple of hundred aborigines gather inside or outside the local hotel to drink. An old man was sitting in the gutter singing, playing his guitar, three or four women singing along melodiously. Small groups of half a dozen were sitting on the road, at its edge or in the long grass, with their mates, ones who had the money or alcohol. There were no other white people there other than security who politely vetted who was or was not allowed entry to the pub. Dress and alcoholic state the main criteria but previous disturbance offenders also banned. It was described as a quiet evening, everyone happy, friendly, shaking my hand or telling me stories of themselves. All ages from 18 to death, their children fending for themselves to follow their parents when they reach drinking age. Most live in the long grass, emerging on their government hand out day to collect from the bank and return it through the bar.One of the deeper crossings

9/5/04 We were now three motorcycles. Lincoln, riding a KTM 640, Motard, joined us for the attempt to get into the Bungle Bungles. A four wheel drive access only road. Reports of 40+ cm deep water crossings had prepared us to make a snorkel for the air intake. By removing the air filter and attaching another gasket to a doubled up plastic bag and placing it between the carburettor and the air filter, then placing the filter inside the plastic bag. An old plastic drink container inside the bag extended the intake higher. The 53 km's of dirt was generally good, twisty, hard packed, with some rocky ridges. There were many shallow creek crossings but three were at 45 cm's and one at 55 cm's. With the snorkel the three shallower ones were negotiated, the pipes spluttering underwater and a few coughs from the motor. The deeper crossing had the bike stall mid water. The oil dipstick popped out and water filled the sump. Pushed to the bank, the water was drained from the bottom of the sump and the oil topped up. Lincoln and Peter had an easier time, their motorcycles designed for deeper water, however they unloaded and reloaded them, carrying gear across some crossings just in case a bike was dropped. Set up at our camp we spent the afternoon in Echidna Chasm. A gorge of conglomerate sides, 100 metres high, narrowing to one metre wide, ending abruptly in a vertical wall. A great place to rest in the cool after a tiring, physically and mentally, ride.The Bungle Bungle rock formations

10/5/04 A relaxed start, planning to spend most of the day in the southern section, a 24 km ride, mostly good dirt. A large frilly necked lizard crossed our path and waited long enough for us to take his photo. This area of the park are the real Bungle Bungles, sandstone domes of orange and black stripes, the colour from different layers of clay, giving different porosity and allowing the black algae to either grow or not grow. Erosion making the beehive effect. Cathedral Gorge is in the middle of thousands of these domes, a chasm, water plunging in flood times to a deep pool. We also walked along Piccaninny Creek, swimming in one of the fast drying waterholes, nibbled by the small hungry fish, cleaning off our dead skin.

11/5/04 The deep water snorkel was slightly modified for the outward journey, plastic water bottles cut to allow better airflow to stop the plastic bags being sucked onto the filter and the carburettor bowl overflow hose lifted above expected water level. The creek crossing had receded slightly, the motorcycle handling each one this time without coughing or problems,Resting under a large Boab 250 km towards Wyndham and onto the Gibb River road (Eastern end), where the Pentecost River keeps the road closed during the wet. The crossing has been open only for two weeks, roadwork's still repairing last wets flood damage. Graders levelling dumped gravel on the river crossing. We watched a couple of 4x4's cross, only shallow, before returning to visit El Questro, a privately operated cattle property opened to tourism, showing some of the best country the Kimberley has, with five rivers flowing through it.

12/5/04 A 10 km walk, Champagn Pools, alongside the Pentecost River, paperbarks and pandanus trees slowing its course, large Boabs and fig trees shading the banks. The trail headed across rocky savannah, hot and dry, to a series of cool pools. We sat beneath the waterfall, pounding our muscles, a natural massage before the walk back. Each evening in season, the bar opens, log fire and often entertainment. Tonight the workers along with the legendary Buddy Tyson, an aboriginal rodeo stockman, turned celebrity, entertained us with some bush music.

13/5/04 El Questro caters for campers to over $1000.00 a night all inclusive homestead guests. Most roads are 4 wheel drive.Getting boots off for a swim after the long walk We explored by motorcycle other riverside camping areas, the boat ramp and the homestead (from a distance), the airport and helicopters flying the well healed to fishing spots or sightseeing. A long dip in Zebedee hot springs, set amongst Livistonia palms, relaxing yesterdays muscles before a sandy motorcycle track to the three hour walk up El Questro Gorge. A popular walk, rock hopping over and through the creek, fern covered cliffs, cool in late afternoon. Another relaxing beer during happy hour at the bar.
 

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