July 15, 2006 GMT
Nothing but Dirt!

For some reason we miscalculated (read didn't calculate) the distance we had to travel and so we arrived at the fuel stop holding our breath - but it was useful to discover Bertha could do 521km on a tank and still have a couple of litres sloshing about somewhere!

From Lawn Hill the dirt roads were full of corrugations. For those of you who've not had the pleasure see the picture below:


On the way to the main road we passed Riversleigh, a world heritage site where hundreds of fossils have been found. Although we still had a long way to go we stopped for a quick look and saw several fossils which were 25 million years old, laid down when the area was covered with rainforest.

Being in Australia is like being on a crash course in Paleantology and Geology, we've learnt a lot while exploring the country - there is just so much here.

We filled up quickly in Camoweal with incredibly expensive fuel and were tempted to stay at a campground as they had Roast Pork on the menu... but decided to push on and head to a rest area. Rest areas are great, free stops near the road with toilets, water and a fire pit. We love them!

Not far out of town we passed the border of the Northern Territory. The landscape was FLAT, 360 degrees of flatness for a very long way!


The sunset and sunrise from the rest area were superb, the sky changing colours over the vastness.



We had the luxury of more bitumen as we turned North, along the most featureless landscape I've ever seen. For 360km we saw cows, scrub and grass. The iPod really came into its own here or we may have fallen asleep!


We headed to Cape Crawford where we'd hoped to find a shop as our camping food supplies were getting low. We'd eaten all the nice stuff and were left with rice and dehydrated peas and not a lot else. Cape Crawford however, turned out to be a road junction. There was a campground there by the Heartbreak Hotel. It served delicious food, had nice soft grass to camp on but lived up to its name as our hearts were broken by drunk backpackers partying right next to us (note, never camp near the bar!). They were up and off just as the party finished, made us feel very old...

From Cape Crawford it was dirt all the way. We thought we were getting used to it but discovered just how many types of road surface there are in the outback.


Corrugations we'd met several times, but not like these ones. Imagine riding a jackhammer! We were introduced to 'bulldust'; potholes filled with talc-like powder, impossible not to wobble on. Add this to the 20 or so creeks we crossed, wash outs from the last big rains, wildlife, road trains and heat - it was a pretty entertaining ride!

On the way we stopped at the Lost City, huge sandstone formations created by erosion over millions of years.


On the way to our campsite for the night Hame decided to take Bertha for a little swim. Some famous last words were uttered "Shall I get off and walk through?" shortly before Hame decided we'd had enough creek practice and could get through anything two-up, shortly before we hit a rock and slid sideways into the water! Fortunately nothing was hurt except his pride and the food which got a bit wet.

From now on we'll go back to the old method of me getting off to walk through and check it (the old pillion croc bait trick) with Hame following soon after.


Our camp for the night was another National Park freebie, we love them too. Butterfly Springs was a stunning little spot, a creek safe for swimming with drinkable water, the usual firepits and we timed it just right for the full moon.



Leaving there in the morning was harder than usual and we didn't get away until nine, knowing we had a really hard ride ahead. it turned out to be one of the hardest rides we'd had yet. Eight hours of hard dirt roads, every single type of road surface we'd seen one after the other. Our language got more colourful by the minute, our bums got sorer and sorer and we couldn't wait to get back on the tar.


Our stop for the night in Mataranka was the perfect antidote, a campsite a short walk away from thermal pools. The temperature was just right, the stars came out and we soaked our soreness and the layers of dust we've been collecting away in minutes.

I've said before how much friendliness we've experienced. As I was checking in a man (also called Neville) came to admire our dirty bike and within minutes had invited us to visit him and his wife in Sydney. It turned out he owned the same model of bike as us. I've never felt so welcome in a place before.

As well as the road conditons we've come across some of the things in Australia that can kill you:

The crocs...


...the stingers...


...and the car-eating cows...


Speaking of cows, they are very funny when we ride past. They're not quite quick enough to see the bike but they can hear it, and lots of pairs of soft cow eyes will follow the space where we just were, as we fly by. They know something has just happened, but they don't know quite what...

From Mataranka it was a fast but uneventful ride to Darwin for a few days stop to stock up on food, sort out tyres to collect in Broome and catch up on some e mailing. Both of us are looking forward to getting out of the city though, the outback has charmed us and we'll be back off to our favoured National Park camps tomorrow.

We finally caught up with Uli and Klaus, a German couple on an Africa Twin who'd met Ken and Carol and stayed with Neville in Daintree just before us. We'd e mailed them a few times and been chasing them across the country - it was good to catch up and compare notes. They are heading to Asia so we gave them lots of tips about off the beaten track destinations in Malaysia. At the same campsite were a Swiss couple on a R100GS who'd ridden from Europe and in the next campsite along were Americans David and Erika on a Transalp, we'd corresponded with them when they were also hanging out for a ferry back in Penang. They'd had a carnet however and had caught a different boat and ridden through Indonesia, it was good to hear about their adventures.


Our next major town will be Broome, a place I've wanted to visit for years. On the way there we will go through the Kimberley which Hamish is especially looking forward to, after celebrating my 21st birthday along the way.

(Oh OK, I mean 34th...)


Posted by Emma Myatt at July 15, 2006 04:35 AM GMT

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