Part 2
September 22, 2014 GMT
Slow Rider

Monday 22 September 2014

I loaded up Ruby and left Adelaide yesterday. Although I have considerably less luggage than my last trip to Oz, it still takes my two panniers, a top box and another small bag to carry it all, so looking at a picture it doesn't look like I have much less than I had before.

Australia 2014 - (4) Adelaide to Port Augusta

Nevertheless, although needing a bit more power to get started, Ruby stepped up to the task admirably. Having said that, I struggled to get her over 90 km/h but after a top speed of 80 km/h on the Postie Bike, 90 feels like I'm racing along.

It wasn't just the bike that was slow though, I wasn't really ready to leave Adelaide. After all the rushing around, I could have done with a day to recover, but I didn't want to be trying to find my way out of the city first thing on a Monday morning so I reckoned a Sunday departure would be better. And it was, but I found I was reluctant to do any long distances and kept stopping for fuel or sight-seeing breaks.

I took the same route out of Adelaide as I did last time as I wanted to see the pink lake again (which wasn't as pink) but it was a busy road and it would have been better to have gone through the Flinders Ranges.

I've been missing my Postie Biker friends. It's strange waking up on my own again and not having a tired, smiling face staring back at me. Not to worry, should see one of them when I arrive in Alice Springs in a few days.

Posted by Jill Maden at 08:16 AM GMT
September 20, 2014 GMT
Ruby, Ruby, Ruby, Ahhhh

Saturday 20 September 2014

Well, it's been a busy few days. After our night in the swanky 5* Rydges Hotel it was time to move on for most people. I bit back the tears and said my final farewells then Walshy, one of the Postie Bike riders who lives in Adelaide, gave me a lift to the youth hostel.

No sooner had I checked in than I went straight back out to find the Honda showroom. It was going to be too complicated to buy my Postie Bike or to go back to Brisbane and collect one from One Ten Motorcycles so I'd decicded just to buy a new bike instead. You have to have a local address to register a vehicle in Australia so Pete, one of my friends here in Adelaide, met me at the showroom and within an hour I had test ridden, bought and registered a new Honda CB125e. She's bright red, so this time, I'm calling her Ruby.

IMG_0234.jpg

On Friday I went to collect Ruby and took her straight up to the Adelaide Hills where I was staying with Pete and Suzie for the night. Ruby is a lovely little bike to ride but I wonder how she'll fair under the weight of all my luggage.

Had a great visit with Pete and Suzie then made my way back to the city and spent the afternoon buying various bits and pieces for my onward journey.

From here I'm going to head north, probably to Port Augusta tomorrow, then on the Coopers Pedy then Alice Springs and Ayres Rock.

Posted by Jill Maden at 09:57 AM GMT
September 18, 2014 GMT
The Postie Bike Challenge 2014

Photo album
Australia 2014 - (3) Postie Bike Challenge

Day 1 (Sunday 7 September 2014) – Brisbane to Chinchilla

It was an early start – I was up at 4.30 am with the intention of having breakfast before leaving the hostel, but the kitchen was closed and I had to abandon my food and make for the train station instead. I got the 5.34 am train to Mooroka then a taxi at 6.00 am to the Pro Honda garage where the Postie Bike Challenge was starting from. We’d set up our bikes the day before at the registration day so it was a quick route briefing and we were off.

First section was on motorway. We had running sheets attached to our handlebars and thankfully I was following another guy (John) who was doing a better job of following them than I was as I’d have missed the turn off for Esk if he hadn’t turned off ahead of me.

Off the motorway it became very pastoral as we headed over the Great Dividing Range. I was loving it – the bike was so easy to ride and very stable.

The Postie Bikes only hold enough fuel to cover about 120 km. To supplement this we have a 5 litre jerry can in our milk crates which gives us another 150 km, but as today’s total mileage was 361 km we had a refuel at Goombungee. From there we continued through various small towns then had a diversion off the main road to see the Dingo Fence near Jandowae. After this I missed the next turn to “Warra 26” and was 20 km off course when Andy, one of the support team, caught up with me and made me turn around and go back. That added an additional 40 km onto my journey causing me to run out of petrol 12 km from our destination of Chinchilla, just as the rain started pouring down. I had to pull onto the side of a very busy road and tip in the last of my fuel before finally making it to the showgrounds at Chinchilla where we were staying for the night.

As it was still pouring down, I set up my tent in a small cattle shed on top of a pile of hay and old manure – “a shit place to sleep”, according to Christian, one of the other riders. It made me laugh.

Day 2 (Monday 8 September 2014) – Chinchilla to Nindigully Pub

The day started well – I was up at 5am with my tent down and everything packed by breakfast (our meals are provided by local community groups). I made good time to the refuel at Condamine then mis-read my running sheets and missed the next turning to “Meandarra 52”. There was a column on the sheets that gives the mileage to the next point – what I didn’t realise was that the number given is a cumulative total, not the next distance to be covered. Consequently, I wasn’t even expecting there to be a turn off outside Condamine as the distance to the turn, as I read it, was 61.5 km. What it actually meant was at the 61.5km point there was a turn off (as we were already at 58.3 km this mean the turn would be in about 3 km, not 61.5). Sometime later when I got to a sign for “Meandarra 38” and no-one else was around, I figured something had gone wrong. As “38” seemed less distance than “52” I took this road and eventually got the Meandarra around the same time as everyone else. It was only when Andy pulled up in the support car and asked what had happened to me that I realised my mistake. Unbeknownst to me, some of the other riders had seen me miss the turn, alerted Dan (the organiser) and he’d gone 50 km after me before Andy was able to confirm that I’d shown up in Meandarra.

Given the chaos I’d caused, I decided I’d better ride with someone else from then on, so turned to the two guys next to me (Pete and Stew) and asked if I could ride with them. And thank goodness I did as the last stretch to the Nindigully Pub was on a gravel track. Stew took off at 80 km/h and as I was between him and Pete, I thought I’d better keep up and whizzed along the thing at 80 km/h too. It was a bit scary going into some of the turns and I quickly learnt using the brakes was not the way to approach them. Rolling off the power worked better as it avoided the back wheel locking up.

When we pulled into pub, it seemed news of my slight detour had reached the rest of the support crew asevery time I passed one them, I got some comment about “What way did you come, Jill?” Cheeky beggars!

Day 3 (Tuesday 9 September 2014) – Nindigully Pub to Charleville

The next morning, as if to make up for slagging me yesterday, Scott (the mechanic) greeted me by saying “So how’s the wonderful and lovely Jill today?” I had to give him a kiss for that and it left me grinning all morning.

Having learnt my lesson about riding alone, I asked a man I’d been chatting to at the Dingo Fence the day before, Dave (Cardiac Surgeon from Sydney) if I could ride with him. It was slow going as there was a strong headwind along the 250 km road to Mitchell. But what beautiful scenery – huge panoramas of empty bushlands.

I made the mistake of eating an apple at the fuel stop at Mitchell which left me very parched and thirsty and feeling quite odd. When we came into Morven I was completely overheating and had to strip out my jacket liner and dowse myself in water to cool down.

The road from Morven to Charleville I’d done on my last trip so felt I was coming into familiar territory here.

We camped at the showgrounds at Charleville and I almost cried with laughter when Pete’s chair collapsed beneath him during dinner.

Day 4 (Wednesday 10 September 2014) – Charleville to Windorah

As there were only six turns to make on our running sheets for the day, I started off alone, thinking even I couldn’t go wrong with that. I hadn’t gone far before I caught up with Ned so rode with him as far as the roadhouse at Cooladdi. Here, Diana, one of the six women on the trip, noticed there was oil all over my front mudguard. Fortunately, Andy was there and tightened my “tappit” which seemed to fix the problem.

Some distance further on, Andy passed me in the support car and indicated for me to pull in. Now my brake light was jammed on. Scott sorted this by wiggling a wire at the refuel at Quilpie.

In Quilpie I had a Powerade with Pete and Stew who then offered for me to ride with them. Unfortunately the Powerade went straight through me and within 50 km I had to leave them and head for the bush for an emergency toilet stop.

Today was a good day. Saw my first live kangaroo (as opposed to all the road kill), some emus, lots of cows and sheep, some wild horses and two emergency airstrips painted on the road.

At dinner, Scott came up to me and informed me my footpeg had fallen off my bike. I couldn’t believe it, surely I would have noticed something like that? But right enough, when I went to have a look, it was gone. Once again, I had become the butt of the support crew’s mirth.

Day 5 (Thursday 11 September 2014) – Windorah to Birdsville

Today’s ride started out wonderfully. After leaving Windorah, we entered the vast plains of the Channel Country. Only a few escarpments in the very distance stood in the way of uninterrupted views for miles and miles.

The first 110 km were on bitumen. We all rallied together at the end of this, just before we entered the dirt road of the Birdville Development Track. From there on in, my riding fell apart. I’d asked Dan the night before for some pointers on riding the dirt and he’d said the main thing is to keep the centre of gravity as low as possible by putting pressure into the footpegs and if the bike starts to wobble just to let it and it will usually right itself.

I started off down the track at 60 km/h, doing just what he’d said. But it was terrifying. Everytime I hit a trench of gravel, the bike would start to wobble and it felt like it would surely go over. By the refuel point 100 km later I was down to 50 km/h. After that the road became a carved up mess of gouges with deep corrugations, sand pits and gravel grooves to get caught in. The remaining 200 km into Birdsville was the most gruelling riding I’ve ever done. I was down to 30 km/h. The corrugations were bone shaking and by the time I got into Birdsville my arms were aching with having gripped so tightly (a phenomena called arm pump). I was one of the last to reach the town and as I rolled into the campground, Scott told me I’d have to go back out and fuel up at the petrol station as Dan had had to take two people to hospital and wouldn’t be doing the refuel in the usual way.

John, an elderly English man, and I had done the last 30 km together and when I pulled into the petrol station behind him and took off my helmet I burst into tears. I was completely shattered and the emotional and physical pounding of the day had left me a mess.

I had really been looking forward to seeing Birdsville, in fact, it was the main reason I’d done the trip in the first place, but I’d arrived so late in the day, I barely had time to set up camp before running across to the bakery where dinner was being served. I really struggled to keep my emotions in check during dinner and went to bed immediately after, having seen nothing of the town I’d come to see.

Day 6 (Friday 12 September 2014) – Birdsville to Mungerannie Hotel

During breakfast, John, my English compatriot, told me he was pulling out of the Challenge. This really upset me and left me feeling very shaky about the whole trip. By the time I got back to camp, I was a mess. Anthony, a gorgeous Hugh Jackman look-alike, who’d I’d met on the first day and had a few laughs with, was camped next to me. As I was packing up he started chatting to me. I have no idea what he said as the next thing I knew I was bubbling uncontrollably. The thought of spending the next 3 days on dirt tracks like this was overwhelming me.

Before leaving Birdsville, Dan wanted to get a photo of us all lined up outside the Birdsville Hotel, an outback icon. As we lined up our bikes and started taking pictures, Anthony came up to me and said “I’m just going to take it easy today if you want to ride with me.” I could have kissed him. He was an experienced dirt biker and was always the first one into camp each day. “I’ll pick out some lines and you can follow me,” he promised but as we left town and joined the Birdsville Track south, we got separated in the mass of other riders and I ended up on my own again. I was all over the place. I had no idea how to handle the ruts and was even stopping and manually paddling my way over ridges and troughs to try and find smoother ground. After about half an hour I became aware of someone ahead of me. It was Anthony – true to his word, he’d waited for me.

He watched me ride for a bit, then pulled me over and told me what to do. I was struggling with the trenches. “Whenever you come to a set of grooves, pick your line, keep your speed up and power through it,” he said. “If you develop a wobble, the momentum will carry you through.” Then he set off and I started to follow. We hit the grooves at 60 km/h and amazingly, he was right. It was actually much easier to ride the road at speed than it was to ride it slowly. But it took nerves of steel.

By the time we got to the refuel I was feeling much better. As I climbed off my bike, I went over to Anthony and gave him a big hug. “Thank you” I sighed. “No worries” he said, “you’ll be up at 70 or 80 by tomorrow”. “Hah, not likely,” I replied.

He stayed with me for the rest of the day – sometimes letting me ride ahead, sometimes letting me fall behind. It transformed my riding and we were amongst the first to arrive at the campsite at the Mungerannie Hotel. There were hot springs there so I jumped in, fully clothed. It was a great end to an amazing day and I went to bed that night thanking my lucky stars that Anthony had taken me under his wing and shown me how to ride the dirt properly.

Day 7 (Saturday 13 September 2014) – Mungerannie to Maree

After my lesson with Anthony yesterday, I blasted it down the rest of the Birdsville Track today, sometimes at 70 km/h. I felt much more in control and as we only had 208 km to cover there was plenty of time to stop and take some photos and take in the scenery.

At one point we came across an escarpment so detoured off the road to walk up – amazing views from the top of flat, endless plains below.

By 1.30 pm I’d made it to the end of the Birdsville Track at Maree. Gary, “Hand” Mike and some others were already at the sign, so I jumped off the bike and ran over to celebrate with them. I was in the pub half an hour later with Anthony congratulating me for having overtaken half of the field on my way out of Mungerannie. “See, I told you you’d be up at 70 today,” he said.

A great night in the pub with everyone in high spirits from having survived the Birdsville Track.

Day 8 (Sunday 14 September 2014) – Maree to Arkaroola

Despite the joys of completing the Birdsville Track yesterday, I was weepy again this morning. The hotel TV was full of reports about the forthcoming referendum of Scottish independence from the UK and, somehow, it made me sad. I was also worried about the next stretch of dirt we’d have to tackle.

So far we’d most been on flat, straight tracks, but today we were going to climb into the hills to a place called Arkaroola. Dan, during his morning briefing, advised us there would be lots of steep ascents and tight bends so to be careful. Linda, one of the Postie Princesses (Linda & Kylie) and I had been trying to work out how to avoid doing any more dirt the night before in the pub, but now accepted we’d have to do it. Before setting off I asked my riding instructor Anthony how to handle the bends. “Okay, as you approach a bend, pick your line, roll off your speed and then keep the speed steady through the bend,” he advised.

The first part from Maree to Copley was mostly on bitumen and was a joy to ride. At Copley the dirt started again. I’d stopped for a cup of tea there where I’d been talking to Canberra Mike and Alice Springs Dave, and when I left, Mike decided to ride with me. I was ahead and did exactly what Anthony had told me to – found my line, adjusted my speed and kept it steady through the bend. It worked a treat and we had a lovely trip up through the mountains to the outdoor centre at Arkaroola.

It had been another hot day and as there was a swimming pool, I dived in fully clothed. God, it was freezing.

Tonight Dan had arranged for us to stay in proper beds in the outdoor centre so I was sharing with Diana, a lovely lady from New South Wales whose husband had had to drop out of the Challenge the day it started due to a very bad cold.

Day 9 (Monday 15 September 2014) – Arkaroola to Orroroo

Today started with another warning from Dan about the treacherous condition of the roads ahead – “I’ve actually put ‘Beware dips, sand, gravel’ in your running sheets and I haven’t done that anywhere else, so be warned, this is not a good road surface so take it slowly.”

We back tracked the first 30 km then took the road to Blinman. This took us onto a high ridge and we were battered with strong cross-winds. At one point the motocross boys were standing by the side of the road waving at us. At first I thought they were just being friendly, then as I got closer, I realised they were signalling for us to slow down as there was a huge sand pit which I later found out had broken two of Christian’s spokes when he landed in it. I managed to roll off just enough power not to hit it too hard and bounced through to the other side still upright. This marked the start of the “dips, sand and gravel” Dan had been warning us about. The next 200 km were a nightmare of sand pits, steep ascents and carved up surfaces but surprisingly I found I wasn’t thinking about it anymore. Maybe I was just too tired to worry anymore, but I was no longer talking myself through all the tricky bits, I was just doing them. Even a couple of wobbles didn’t frighten me anymore as I knew the momentum would carry me through. Having said all this, it didn’t stop me from prostrating myself on the road and kissing the tarmac when we rejoined it at Blinman.

Now you’d think rejoining the tarmac would be a joyous occasion, but now the wind had got up and the last 100 km through the spectacular Flinders Ranges mountains into Orroroo was a painful ride into a strong headwind.

Thankfully the local people had prepared hot soup and a fantastic dinner for us so we all had nice warm bellies to fend off the cold winds whistling through the campground.

Day 10 (Tuesday 16 September 2014) – Orrorroo to Adelaide

At breakfast this morning Scott asked how old I was. “Fifty-one” I replied. I have never seen anyone look so stunned in all my life, his face literally froze in shock. “I thought you were more like 35 or 40,” one of the Mikes said. I turned to thank him for the compliment and when I turned back around, Scott had vanished. Any thoughts he may have been having about staying in touch were obviously quashed in that moment.

Dan told us all that we were on a deadline to reach Adelaide by 2 pm because the Rotary Club would be waiting to meet us then and take the bikes away. Hence it was another intense day’s riding. Our final ride was accompanied by another strong headwind, although thankfully not quite as bad as yesterday’s one. We refuelled at Clare which was more like a Formula 1 pit stop with Andy waving us in, us filling our tanks, and then jumping straight back on the bikes and continuing.

As I came into Gawler, “Hand” Mike passed me which I was quite pleased about as the running sheet directions were quite complicated and I feared I would easily lose my way. However, between Mike and some others catching up with us we were able to find our way onto the right road through the Adelaide Hills into Adelaide. We all rallied together in a shopping centre car park then rode into the city into formation.

We made it to the rendez-vous with the Rotary Club in time and then that was it. It was over. We’d covered 3,500 km in 10 days through some of the most beautiful and remote country on earth.

We were booked into a 5 star hotel that night and a celebration dinner was laid on. We all got certificates to mark our achievement then, slowly, we all disappeared off to our rooms. The Postie Bike Challange was over and I had survived.

Posted by Jill Maden at 08:13 AM GMT
September 06, 2014 GMT
A Desert Rose

Just a quick update before the Postie Bike Challenge gets underway properly tomorrow. Today was registration day and we all got allocated our bikes. There are 40 of us on the trip and my bike is Number 24, a somewhat impersonal name I thought, so I've christened her, Rosie, as she'll be my Desert Rose.

Australia 2014 - (2) PCB Registration

The first thing we had to do was create a cover for the milk crate on the back so that our stuff doesn't bounce out. I'd bought some tablecloth material with me and set about the task with a pair of nail scissors and some velcro - not a bad result me-thinks!

We've to be at the start point at 6.30 am tomorrow morning so it's going to be an early start and as I'm still loaded with the cold (thankfully the kidney infection has abated), I think the first few days may be quite hard - but, hey, thems the breaks.

Posted by Jill Maden at 08:28 AM GMT
September 03, 2014 GMT
Coughs, Kidneys and Collapse

Wednesday 3 September 2104

On Sunday night a woman in my room started coughing and I was a bit worried I’d catch whatever lurgie she had. By Monday morning I was coughing too. Nevertheless it was just a minor cough so I thought I’d got away with it.

That morning I caught the train out to Calbooture, where One Ten Motorcycles is located. Before I left Glasgow the organisers of the Postie Bike Challenge said, despite previous indications to the contrary, that it would not, in fact, be possible for me to buy the bike at the end of the Challenge. Fortunately, I’d come across a website by a guy called Nathan who’d ridden a Postie Bike from Sydney to London a few years ago and he mentioned he’d bought it from this company in Brisbane. I wanted to find out if it would be possible to buy one from One Ten and have them ship it to Adelaide. Joe, the owner, was very helpful but advised it would be cost prohibitive to do it. He might, he advised, be able to get me one if I was prepared to come back to Brisbane at the end of the Challenge and collect it. I’d just have to wait a couple of days while he made some enquiries.

It’s been really hot here the last few days, and because his garage was located in an industrial estate out of town, I had to wait at the bus stop in the very hot sun for half an hour. The jet lag had been hitting me pretty hard over the last few days, but now I was starting to feel I was finally getting over the worst of it. But, as I sat down on the train, I was overwhelmed with tiredness and almost passed out. By the time I got back to the hostel I was coughing quite badly and starting to feel feverish. “Uh oh”, I thought, “think I’m getting a cold”.

The next day I was feeling pretty bad so decided to have an easy day at the hostel to try and shake off whatever bug I’d picked up before the Challenge gets underway on Sunday – don’t want to be feeling dizzy on a motorcycle now do I?

I’d also been needing the loo a lot and when I woke up this morning I could feel my back, in the area of my kidneys, was really sore. Fearing my cold may have gone into my kidneys, I got the number of a local doctor from the girl on Reception at the hostel and was able to get an appointment at 9 am. As I sat in their waiting area, I suddenly started feeling very hot and light headed. “I think I’m going to faint” I thought to myself. Next thing I knew I was being shaken awake by the practice nurse and having my blood pressure taken. Apparently I’d passed out.

The doctor then diagnosed me with a kidney infection and a cold and prescribed some heavy duty antibiotics and some rehydration fluids to clear it all up. So it will be another day of bed rest for me.

Posted by Jill Maden at 03:26 AM GMT
Beautiful Brisbane

Sunday 31 August 2014

Imagine waking up to this every morning! This is the view from the hostel’s rooftop kitchen.

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Isn’t Brisbane a beautiful city?

Photo album
Australia 2014 - (1) Brisbane

I spent my first couple of days in the city walking the streets and exploring. The Brisbane River cuts through the middle of the town and it’s hard to go far without being near it. I took the free City Hopper ferry which goes to just beyond Kangaroo Point, what appears to be a very affluent area with some beautiful old Queenslander style houses.

I got off here and walked all the way back to the city. If that didn’t tire me out for a good night’s sleep then nothing will.

Posted by Jill Maden at 03:18 AM GMT
August 30, 2014 GMT
Touchdown

According to my laptop's clock it's 5.40 am in the UK (I haven't changed the timezone yet) and it's 2.40 pm here in Brisbane so by my body clock's estimation that's the middle of the night. Nevertheless, I am forcing myself to stay awake and try to act as if I've adjusted when in reality my eyelids feel like they want to shut and never open again.

After 20 hours in flight, I touched down in Brisbane last night about 7.30 pm and was at the hostel by 8.30 pm. The best thing about arriving was walking through the airport doors and smelling the delicious, fragrant smell of the tropics. Even though it was only about 16 degrees celsius the smell of flowers was still in the air.

Today it's warm and sunny and I've had a fun day reacquainting myself with the city, although I did get a little disorientated and thought I was facing south when, in fact, I was facing north. The guy at reception set me right though and I made it into town to set up my mobile phone and my broadband dongle so now I'm back online and ready to head off to the supermarket for some food.

Posted by Jill Maden at 05:54 AM GMT
August 10, 2014 GMT
Australia - Part 2

Part 2 will begin on 28 August 2014!

Posted by Jill Maden at 12:34 PM GMT
 
 

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