March 28, 2006 GMT

February 16th Ė 18th, 2006

Rode for two night with an over night stay in Geraldton, the last town of ANY size until Broom. I was reminded of just the vast size of the state of Western Australia. It covers a little over 1/3 of Australiaís total land mass (thatís big enough to put the state of Texas and both islands of New Zealand and have room to spare), yet only has a total population of fewer than 2 million people, with 90% of those living in the Perth area, only 25% of its roads are paved or sealed as they call it. You see another car on the average of one an hour. The landscaping is pretty much scrub trees, rocks and red clay. Made a detour up to Denham to check out Sharks Bay. Damn no sharks, just a pretty sleepy little town, went to Monkey Mia lots and lots of dolphins; they were fun to snorkel with. From what Iím told Sharks Bay is the number one spot to study dolphins, guess Dolphin Bay isnít as scary as Sharks Bay.
February 19th, 2006

Drove up to Coral Bay, pretty much the same vast amounts of nothingness, donít get me wrong in its own way it is very pretty, it just makes you realize just how small we are. On this one stretch near Greenough the wind blow so constant and hard from the south that no branches on the south side of the tree, theyíre growing on the north side, up and out, so the tree looks like a flag blowing in the wind, some trees grow up to 30 feet, but the tops of the trees are only 3 feet off the ground, really looks strange.

February 20th, 2006

Coral Bay has unbelievable diving; it is right on the edge of one of the best kept secrets Ningaloo Reef, Itís just as big as the Great Bearer Reef, yet unspoiled and not crowded. I saw a manta ray that had a wing span of at least 6 1/2 feet, so big yet so graceful. Also saw some pretty good size sea turtles, damn no sharks yet. Going diving again tomorrow, at the dive shop they had underwater cameras for rent, little expensive but I have to get some pictures, words just canít do justice.

February 21st, 2006

F*&(**%*%* me !!! have you ever heard the saying watch what you ask for you just might get it, went diving again today, I now know what feels like being PART of the food chain and not on TOP of the food chain. Yesterday while cleaning the dive gear some one (Iím not saying who) was cutting jokes about sharks and not seeing any and how if he did see one he would swim up to it and flick his nose. Well to make a long story short he didnít flick the nose. We went diving at a cleaning station, a cleaning station is a place sharks go to clean their teeth, I know you think Iím pulling your leg but thatís what I was told, I was also told that sharks have a ďno eatingĒ rule in a cleaning area. Any way as you can see by the picture we found sharks! Lots and Lots of sharks, it was unbelievable, I would be lying if I didnít say I had a pucker factor going but really wasnít scared, even though I did use up more air then normal. Going to ride up to Exmouth in the morning and do some diving up there. Stay up there for a few days then come back here and dive a little more.

February 22nd-25th

Like I said before unbelievable diving, Dove for 2 days, the beauty of the underwater world just canít be described by words, pisses me off that we would spend billions of dollars to send a rocket to Pluto to find out if itís a planet or not when we donít even know whatís here in our oceans, and we wouldnít have to wait 10 damn years to get pictures back either. So much for well laid plans (how many times have I said that) There is a cyclone heading this way, they say itís going to hit just north of Exmouth, all the locals say if it gets any bigger it could close the roads going north for a week or longer, if I leave in the morning I think I can beat it and get north of it, after lots of thought I decided maybe this was best, I still have lots of places I can dive at and other then diving there is nothing else to do here. WOW I witness the most incredible lightning storm tonight I have ever seen, Northern Australia is known for its fabulous lightning shows, I was hoping to see one, I just stood there with my mouth open watching Mother Nature at her best (or worst depending how you look at it). Once the lighting started it just didnít stop, one right after another, some times 4-5 different lightning bolts would light up the sky like daylight, the hair on my arms stood straight up because of the electricity in the air. Every other bolt was hitting the ground and the thunder was deafening. If the roads are open Iím off in the morning.

February 26th- 27th, 2006

The ride to Port Hedlen was just a tad wet, but I got ahead of the cyclone, when I left Port Hedlen in the morning it was just a little 30-45mph wind and with-in 2 hours I was away from the cyclone. It hit hard south of Port Hedlen pretty hard, so it was a good call. I might have missed out on a day or two of diving but pretty much missed the cyclone. I talked before about the size of the Western Territory and how few and far between the towns are, its unique how they let you know how far it is to the next town, lets say youíre the next town is Rochelle and its 150 kilometers away, there would be a little blue sign that showed ďR 150Ē, now come on, how much more would it cost to write the whole damn name out? I guess they figure because there are so few towns that everyone should know the name of them.

February 28th- March 3rd 2006

Sitting in Broome with really nothing to do the Cyclone closed off those parts of the Kimberly that were open and I wanted to see, Iím told they will be closed for several weeks, damn. No diving here, to many ďstingersĒ (Jelly fish). Going to cross the Kimberly in the morning the next few days just lots of miles to cover, again the vastness of Western Australia. One thing Broom does have is the worlds oldest outdoor theater, itís been open for 90 years, and they had some neat memorabilia I saw that movie with George Clooney, not impressed but, would only give it 2 stars. Because of all the rains, the sun sets where not all that good, I cross the Kimberly in the morning.

March 4th, 2006

Itís 1100 kilometers between Broome and Kununurra, in that distance I got wet more times then I care to count. When it wasnít raining it was boiling hot, thatís not a good combination. When it wasnít raining it was way to hot to wear rain gear, and its to big of a PITA (Pain In The Ass) to put it on and take it off every time you saw it getting ready to rain. Speaking of seeing it getting ready to rain that was actually pretty cool, you could see these huge rain cells coming, and then it became a game to try to time riding in-between them. At one point the road I was riding on was as dry, not a drop of rain, but was raining so hard 15 feet off the road I could hear the rain over the bike! I couldnít stop thinking, this isnít going to be fun when the road turns into this rain, I was lucky this time, the cell ran out before the road turned. Noticed I said this time, about 40 minutes later I saw a wall of rain in front of me and I knew there was no missing it, when I hit the wall of rain it was like riding straight into Niagara Falls, I couldnít have gotten any wetter any faster if I dove into a pool! All you could do is slow down and start laughing, so thatís what I did. These rain cells were only 5-10 kilometers deep, once you got out you had to deal with the heat, humidity and mugginess. Twenty minutes after riding out you were dry and a bone wishing for a drink of water! When it wasnít raining I discovered something else besides all the critters to lookout for. Grasshoppers! They would come in mini swarms of a few thousand; even running into these I was told I was lucky; some swarms have over 100,000. They are about 1 Ĺ inch big and hurt like hell when they hit, I had to change glasses 3 times because I couldnít clean off the grasshoppers that didnít get stopped by my windshield. As if that wasnít enough you know how when youíre driving in heat and you see mirages up ahead and as you get closer they disappear? Well here they all donít disappear! You see them up ahead and think nothing of it, then something in your head tell you they are not disappearing, as you get closer you see the road is flooded over so you get off the bike, walk threw the water looking to see how deep it is, for any rocks and to see if there is any road damage, some of these floodways are 5-6 inches deep. I also had a major miscalculation on today, I asked in Broome if there was any time change between here and Kununurra, I was told there wasnít so didnít think any thing of it, leaving when I did I should get there about 7:30 P.M., and I did the only problem was the sun disappeared at 5:45 and was completely gone by 6, I was now doing something I was determined not to do, drive at night in Australia, all you can do is slow down and watch out for all the critters that come out. Even going slower with all the bugs out it looked like I was a starfighter hitting warp speed and having all the stars fly by in a blur. This turned out a lot better then I thought, first I didnít see any critters on the road plus I got treated to a double show. One was the light pollution free night and all the starts of Northern Australia, very close to that night in Peru, second there was a lightning storm way off in the distance, no threat to me but again a reminder of what Mother Nature can do. While writing this it sort of sounds like a whine session, not at all just a lot happened on this part of the ride but I loved every minute of it, it was Northern Australia at its best. LONGGGGGGGG day, nite.

March 5th, 2006

Welcome to the Northern Territory, I entered early in the morning, I didnít like the first 60 miles or so, the road was very narrow and where the road stopped 5 foot high grass started, god knows what was hiding in that grass. A new Territory means another new PITA, this time its toads. They are about the size of a fist and theyíre every where, they also hurt like hell when they jump into you. Theyíre getting so bad that the Territory of Western Australia as set up a quarantine cheek point coming into Western Australia from the Northern Territory, I guess they get up in the wheel wells and are being seen in Western Australia. One the road widen out and opened up the landscaping turned hilly; you could almost call them mountains. The ride around Katherine was awesome; I even took some side roads just to enjoy the scenery. I just made sure I made it to Darwin before dark.

March 6th,7th,8th 2006

Raining two days in a row in Darwin, again no diving, the ďstingersĒ are still there but thatís not the problem the visibility is only 4-6 feet, there are funny tides here and even with the shitty visibility they can only dive 3 days out of the week. To me it just wasnít worth it... I did get a lot done; I got my extension on my visa even though Iím not going to need it I have another 3 months here. Would be very easy to stay but I know I have to get going. I also found out that I can ship my bike from Brisbane to Bali and the cost is going to be around $1.35 a Kilo plus what ever taxes, not to bad this might be the last time I have to fly my bike until I come home, I still donít know when and what way I am coming home. I also got my windshield fixed; the 3 brass grommets that hold it in came loose, got them replaced and good to go!
The ride to Katherine was a little disappointing, still raining. I did the loop that took me to Jabiru in Kakadu National Park, every thing was closed due to the rain, I missed out on some cool sights but Mother Nature always has the last say, just like a woman (oh damn did I say that out loud?) Pulled into Tennant Creek very wet but all in all an easy day.

March 9th 10th 11th 2006

Made it to Alice Springs no problem, even stayed dry for the day, took it easy the first night, and unpacked every thing to let every thing dry out. Friday they had an Australian Rules football game, I had to go unlike Cricket that took me 2 Ĺ months to understand I got a pretty quick handle on the game, I think I wouldíve enjoyed playing this game, was fun to watch but I still like American football and Rugby better. Saturday night they had dirt track stock car racing. I forgot how fun that was to watch. All local boys, no good crashes but still had a blast. They also had sprint cars, mini sprints, and motorcycles, both solo and sidecar.

March 12th, 2006

Took a ride to the center of Australia today and went and Ayers Rock, I did the base walk (walked around it) itís about 6 miles, took just under 4 hours, I tried to time it with sunset but clouds rolled in and there was no sunset. I did some reading about the rock before I came, it has a great spiritual significance to the Aboriginal people, and they ask you not to take pictures of certain spots, of course these were the neatest looking spots but I honored their request and didnít take any pictures of those spots. You can also climb it but again they ask that you donít. I wanted to but again I honored their request and didnít climb it. Ok maybe it was because I remember how sore I was after climbing those trees, OR being on a bike I didnít want any bad MOJO, but I would like to think it was out of respect. I donít know why if they donít want you to climb it why they even allow it, Iím sure itís because of some agreement when the Australian government turned the rights to Ayers Rock back to the Aboriginal people.

March 13, 2006

Woke up today to try to catch the sun rise on Ayers, over night it rained hard and looked like it was going to rain most of the day. I went any way and yup no noticeable sunrise, from Ayers Rock I rode to Kings Canyon, Was raining too hard to do the long walk so I walked where I could and headed back to Alice Springs. Iím bummed that I didnít get a chance to watch either the sunset or sunrise; from what Iím both are breathtaking.
I was surprised to see that my tire was bald in the back I had a new one put on in Melbourne, maybe it was the heat or how they make the roads here, but it sure ate up the tires. I got to Alice Springs in time to have new tires put on, I was going to have it done before I left for Bali, so I got it done a little early, tires is one thing Iím not going to take any chances with.

March 14th, 2006

Rode to Tennant Creek from Alice Springs, something is not right with the tire they put on in Alice Springs, the road is very good here and every once in a while when I hit a bump I can hear and feel the tire hitting the fender. There is a Harley dealer in Mount Isa, I will have them take a look at it.

March 15th-16th, 2006

Not a good day! The roads in Queensland suck for the most part they are one lane paved and ruff. I could really hear the rear tire hitting the fender I had to slow way down to try to keep it from jarring my teeth out. I went over one bridge and the tire hit very hard about broke my back, I looked in my rear view to see if I missed a hole or something and saw that my main touring box in the back was almost dragging on the ground behind me. I got the bike stopped and saw that the U brace that holds the tour box on broke in half at the bolts, the only thing that kept me the box from falling completely off was, I had my backpack that sits behind me strapped to it, that kept it off the ground. I walked back to the bridge to see what I hit or ran over and only found an inch and a half difference between the road and the bridge. I strapped the box up and carefully rode into Mount Isa. Of course the dealer called every where in Australia that part doesnít exist here. We figured a way to do a ďback yardĒ fix.
Got the bike to the dealer first thing in the morning and by 2pm the tour pack was fixed. I also had them put on a new tire; the tire had some bad rubs on it and a few gouges where it hit the fender. I called the dealer the dealer in Alice Springs to question them about the tire but they insist that they put on a tire smaller then the one they took off. I wrote down the number and will write Harley and find out what went wrong.

March 17th-18th, 2006

I finely found out why everyone was warning me about road trains. For those that donít know what a road train is, itís a Semi truck pulling 3 some times 4 full lengths trailers, they run up to 177 feet and can weigh up to 291200 lbs.! The tractor pushes you away the first trailer sucks you in and who knows what the next two or three are going to do. Then letís not forget all the road shit they pick up and throw around! The best thing to do when you see one coming is to again slow down and pull over to the left as far as you can get they think they own the road and they do! I tried once to stop and wait for the truck to go by, not a good idea, it was all I could do keeping the bike upright. Itís bad enough when you have one coming at you but they like to convoy up, I once had 5 in a row, by the time the last one went by I didnít know if I was coming or going and I had a nice new dent in my front fender, I didnít mind the dent, all I could think of what ever made it would have hurt if it hit me instead of the fender. Did I forget to mention that they are running about 75MPH? I pulled into Cairns just in time to help the hostel I was staying at to get ready for Cyclone Larry, I know I lucked out with the cyclone one the west coast and just got the corners of it but there was no missing this one, itís sitting right off the coast at a category 4 coming right for Cairns.

March 19th, 2006

Spent all day helping getting ready for Larry, the good news is over night it moved just a tad south and will not hit Cairns head on, heís projected to hit about 40 miles south of here, the bad new is they say its going to reach category 5 by the time it reaches land. You can tell how optimistic I am; I booked a 7 day 6 nights Live-on-Board dive trip going to the north tip of the Great Barrier Reef, with a low level (500 feet) flight back to Cairns flying over the reef. The way I figure is we are going several hundred miles north of Cairns and Larry is going to hit south of Cairns. I hope it works out.

March 20th -21st, 2006

Larry hit about 4AM, lots of wind and rain, it did reach category 5 before it hit land. Cairns got lucky it hit about 60 miles south of here; the wind only got up to 140-160 mph here. A small town called Innisfall wasnít so lucky; they got hit head on and got tore up pretty bad. They say itís the worst cyclone to hit Australia in a very long time. One of the good things about Larry was it was a fast moving storm, by 7AM it was over, even stopped raining, then the clean up started. I got a pretty good scare, I had pulled in my bike inside the fence of he hostel, as I walked down the stairs looking for it I couldnít see it, I walked down two more stairs still couldnít see it, down two more stairs and I could see the corner of the fence but no bike, then I noticed a very large bush or small tree where there wasnít one before, I walked around the bush and under it was my bike, you couldnít see the bike from the stairs, as I started to uncover the bike I was happy to see no big branches landed on the bike and it was just covered, I didnít find any major damage to the bike, I lucked out. I volunteered to help clean up and spent the day behind a chain saw, we worked pretty much into the night but got the roads open and major trees off of the houses. I hadnít heard if the dive trip was still on, so I got up early and back behind the chain saw. About 2 PM the people that run the hostel found me and told me the dive was on and the boat was going to leave at 6PM and they would send a bus to pick me up at 530. I stayed working until 5 but by then pretty much all the major clean up was done, like I said before Cairns got lucky. On the boat and steaming North, the ocean is pretty calm and should be a good night. I guess what surprises me the most is how fast it came, how hard it hit, then how fast it left, it hasnít even rained since it left, the skies are still dark but no rain.

March 22nd Ė 25th, 2006

I have been staring at the key board looking for words that would and could describe the last 4 days of diving. I know itís hard to believe, but I am at a lost for words. It far surpassed any expectations I had. We did five dives Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday that includes a night dive each night and two dives on Saturday. Needless to say by the end of each day all you did was eat and go to bed. On the first night dive the first thing I saw was a pretty good size shark, I got the attention of my dive buddy and when I went to shine the light where the shark was it was about 10 feet away heading right for us, now I knew it was only a white tip (safe) but Iím sure my eyes got bigger. The only thing that would have made the dive perfect was some sun. It rained every day out but the water wasnít choppy, so the diving was good. I canít even begin to name everything we saw. The big fish were cool but what I really enjoyed were the small and camouflaged fish. You really had to look for them, if they didnít move there was no way you could see them. I wonít tell you how many times I stared at a rock thinking it was a fish and swam by a rock only to find out it was a fish. I think one of my favorite were the giant clams, one had the nick name VW because it was as big as a Volkswagen bug. The size alone was amazing but what really stood out where the different bright colors. Any one out there that like to dive you have to experience a week long live-a-board, they are the best! Part of the package deal was a low level flight back to Cairns; the reason for low level after diving as much as we did it wasnít safe for a high level flight (has to do with the amount of Nitrogen left in your blood). We could go up too 1000 feet however we spent most of the time flying over the reefs at 500 feet. You could spot sharks, dolphins, sea turtles and huge schools of fish; I was sitting in the co pilotís seat and so wanted to touch to yoke and pedals but I behaved.

March 26th -27th, 2006

I took the 26th as a rest day, I did ask if any help was needed because of Larry but everything was in good shape so I just sat around and took it easy. On the 27th I rode down to Townsville riding threw the heart of where Larry hit. The damage was pretty bad but not as bad as I expected. I would say about 30% of the homes had visual damage, and some of the stores in Innisfall had the roofs missing. They were still without power a week later. What got hit the worst were the banana crops, they were ready for harvest that week and not one banana tree was left standing, the whole crop was a total lose, it was sad to see these huge banana fields leveled to nothing higher then 3 feet. The rain forest also took the brunt of the winds; those trees that were still standing were striped of all the leaves. Itís going to take some time to recover.

The plan is to hang around Townsville to see if they open up the diving to the wreck of the S.S Yongala, Iím told itís a must see dive. After Townsville I am going to work my way down to Brisbane where I will wait for some supplies being sent there, then I am off to Bali.

Posted by Craig Hutson at March 28, 2006 07:55 AM GMT

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