Travel through Australia on a Harley-Davidson

By Peter Forwood

Australia on a  Harley (3/2/96 - 11/2/96)
Distance 2500 km (24500 km to 27000 km)

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

Details. 2400 km approx., 5 days, via Hughenden, Mount Isa, Camooweal, Barkley Homestead, Three Ways, Mataranka, Darwin.

The Bike. A stock standard black Harley-Davidson Electraglide Classic 1994 model having travelled 24500 km.

The date was set as Feb. 3rd 1996 to leave Townsville, the flight booked from Darwin on Feb. 11th and we're almost ready. All the gear has been sitting on the dining table for weeks, doing a shuffle and reshuffle to decide what to and what not to take. Time to pack and you guessed it, it doesn't all fit. Out go the lesser essentials. It won't rain so no need for foul weather gear, after all it is warm in the tropics particularly in summer. Out goes the extra pair of jeans, couple of shirts, better keep the first aid kit and of course the tool kit and spares. Not that I really expect the Harley to come across any trouble, but just in case. Squeezed in at last, thank goodness for the panniers and the tour pack of the big Electraglide. There was a short mental debate as to whether the cassettes would make it or not, but how could you leave them behind. Smokie, Cat Stevens, Janice Joplin, Bob Dylan, Carol King and Lobo. They have been with me so long, since I got into that time warp called the sixties.

Hey, all the mates (well, about ten) decided to ride with me to Hughenden, just to see me off, or were they making sure that I left, or were they gettingFairly typical Austalian male stance an early start on the roster?. That thing mates do when you are away, taking care of the missus to make sure she don't get lonely. Last minute second thoughts, na she'll be right, and we are off. Funny, the kids, all three of them, well they aren't really kids, 18, 16, 15, were also there to ensure the old man left them so they could control mum for the next six months.

Videos, photos, outside the shop (Orm Snell & Co, Harley dealer Townsville), (should be worth a discount next time I buy something there) and we are off. Not gone too far and one of the bike's battery starts to boil. Not a good sign, out with the tool kit and scratch a better earth for the regulator and we are off only to find another bike has a flat tyre. Good start, two problems and I am going half way round the world with no chance of a mechanic who has even seen a bike like mine let alone worked on one. Minor problems yes, but not a good sign.

Finally arrived at Hughenden to be met by a couple of club members from Mount Isa, (they were there to make sure I didn't turn back the next day.) A nice relaxing pissup at the local followed by a dip in the town pool at midnight. The water temperature here about body warmth and we spent another couple of hours whiling away a few more tinnies, kept on ice in the pool garbage bin, while we relaxed. Last night with the missus for a long while, sleeping on a half inch bedroll on the ground in the tent. You ask why a tent and not a flash hotel for the last night. Well the answer to this question also answers the previous question you asked. How can someone afford to travel round the world for 6 months? If you eat light and sleep on the ground you don't spend much.

Last goodbye's on leaving Hughenden Next morning final goodbye's and off to the Isa (Mt. Isa). So bloody hot out here you'd swear you pissed in your pants they were so wet with perspiration and your ass was so itchy with the salt. Only 400 km of flat road. It's all the same, miles and miles of not much, a pretty easy day really.

Goodbye to the Isa folk the next morning and plenty of time to get to Darwin some 1600 km further up the road. A 5 am start watching the moon set ahead of me and a bright sun rising in the mirrors reflecting red off the clouds. The day heading for 40 degrees plus, starting nice and cool but gaining heat with ferocity. It's the wet season and the clouds were building during the day with thunder clouds appearing ahead and sheets of rain falling, temptingly, tormentingly just out of range. Finally managing to pass through two storms getting drenched each time only to dry out within minutes and back to the sweltering heat. The most desolate stretch on the journey, from Camooweal to the Barkley Homestead, 255 km of nothing, no petrol, no house, farm, nothing.Leaving the home state The countryside changing from the lush green to barren desert depending where the thunderstorms have fallen earlier. Set the throttle at 110 km/hr with the road so flat for the entire section that the speed never varied more than 5 km/hr either way. I was also riding on the wrong side of the road to even up the wear on my tires (road camber) and only needed to cross to my side twice on this stretch to avoid oncoming traffic. Barkley to Three Ways again 180 km of nothing, not even thundery rain to break the monotony.

 Sleeping under the stars that night next to the bike (tent went home) I was awoken by gale force winds and threatening rain. Quickly packing up, with the sky rapidly blackening being lit up only by short flashes of lightning, and the wind whipping up sticks and leaves, I headed to sleep in the laundry till the storm passed. But after an hour of threatening it had passed without a drop. The ground was getting harder after three nights on a half inch bedroll and I awoke early to depart early, travelling in the dark for the first hour. Not a wise thing to do out here, being a nocturnal animals paradise, the skippies (kangaroos) and emus particularly like the green pickings by the roadside. Heading north now and the weather is getting cool, lost the desert heat and into the tropical wet with lush grass either side of the road where the storm of the previous night dampened down the whole area. Sailed passed the Daly Waters pub while being shaded by a large cloud that followed me all the way to Mataranka. A glorious body temp spring to soothe and relax. The water here flows enormous volumes from an underground spring. Dragging me out of the water was like trying to prise me off the Harley.

Onto KatherineCrossing into the Northern Territory, flat and uninteresting landscape the next day after being eaten alive by mosquitoes all night, thankfully no malaria here. Just 150 km. It had been my intention to fly the Australian flag all the way around the world. Attaching it to the rear of the bike it flew to show where I was from and how proud I was being an Australian. However it didn't last long. I was so concerned by the attention it was getting by the local aborigines that it was necessary for me to remove it. A sad situation as I don't think I will need to remove it again on the entire trip. I was going to visit Katherine Gorge but it pissed down raining. So out with the swimmers and the shammie and a good wash for the bike. Nothing like a fresh rainwater wash to bring her up shiny.

Darwin at last. Not a difficult trip, not even a really long one but if you have seen outback Australia before, as I have, it is all pretty much the same. Still pleased to see the bike made it. This stretch is the most isolated on this 6 month journey. While there are mechanics at each end there are few people and fewer vehicles to give a hand if anything goes wrong. A quick service of the bike at the local dealer and down to the airport to prepare the bike for the flight to Bali. I guess it is here that I should mention the parameters for the trip. To travel around the world minimizing all water crossings where possible. Well best bet, Darwin to Timor. No boats and the plane is too small. Next, Darwin to Bali. No boat but the plane is OK. Ah yes nothing but the best. In fact it would be travelling on the same aeroplane as me. Ride off at the other end? Unfortunately not, Sunday and no customs. Will have to wait till Monday. Stripped the old girl down (that's the bike), removed the windshield, drained the fuel and disconnected the battery, paid the dough and she was ready to go. Now to just hang around Darwin for a few days as the flight out isn't till the 11 Feb. Then we are off. She is sitting on the tarmac all bubble wrapped on a large pallet being hoisted into the plane just under the first class section and I am in the waiting lounge getting ready for tourist class (second class). It's getting a better ride than me who is relegated to the rear of the plane. Well that's it for this trip.

Move with me to Indonesia , or go to our next visit to  Australia.


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Story and photos copyright © Peter and Kay Forwood, 1996-
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