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 3)

14/5/04 Emma Gorge as we are leaving the Kimberley's, the other up market settlement, tent cabins. The two hour walk brought us to a large cold pool, water falling the 65 m, warm springs on one side and plenty of visitors on this popular walk. The end of dirt roads, onto Wyndham an almost ghost town, left behind by the growth of Kununurra. A highly recommended wild barramundi grilled and salad for lunch from the local fish and chip shop, split a 2 litre tub of ice-cream between us, and said goodbye to Peter who was heading to a relative's place. We ended up in Kununurra, a growth town, pumped by agriculture from the irrigation of the Ord Dam.

15/5/04 A clean up town. Shopping we haven't done for a week and washing. Processing photos and internet. Washing the bike. All those jobs people forget about when imagining life on the road.

16/5/04 Lincoln left to get his bike serviced in Katherine. We left later, just 300 km to Victoria River, a quiet place set alongside the river, agile wallabies feeding in the evening and corellas massing to feed in the morning.

17/5/04 The top end is drying out. After such a good season, plenty of grass, the graziers are starting to burn off.Burning the drying grass to promote fresh green feed This promotes new green feed at next rainfall, fertilizes the ground and helps prevent a wildfire from occurring. Back burning, using the road as a firebreak smoke often covers our way. We have been encountering more and more "grey nomads", freshies, heading out for the first time as winter approaches. With the clean bright clothes, blue rinse and manicured fingernails. Cars and caravans, not 4x4's and camper trailers. The crowd that takes ten minutes to choose a site and longer to reverse into it. We rode 500 km to Daly Waters, a famous and historical town and pub. The waterhole used in the first across Australia exploration, for the telegraph and during WW11. A popular memorabilia Australiana pub, almost the first on the way north. A character strums his guitar in the evenings, Australian folk with some popular mixed in. The geriatric crowd in awe, like a day's outing from the nursing home, some stay a few days for a repeat performance in their retirement relax.

18/5/04 A great previous experience in a place doesn't always equate to a repeat the next visit. The place may have changed, as we certainly have. More often the memory is better left. New places visited or old places previously skimmed, now visited more thoroughly are more appealing.Daly Waters historical pub This central point of Australia, being the first of our 17 yr ago travels had been investigated thoroughly, leaving little to now explore. We are moving quickly, 400 km to Tennant Creek. A settlement usually bypassed by caravaners, a large indigenous population and few tourist attractions. After years of subjugation aborigines are becoming more forthright and with alcohol are concerning city travellers visiting some of the northern areas. Unjustifiable in our opinion, as we have only had cordial contact.

19/5/04 An oil change and 500 km to Alice Springs. There is very little change in the scenery between Katherine and here. The vegetation slowly getting shorter and thinner but the red soil and straight roads always there. Part way however, just to break the monotony is Devil's Marbles. Granite boulders rounded by the weather, bobbing up out of nowhere and almost as quickly returning you to the same flat scenery.

20/5/04 Alice Springs, like most towns along this route was a telegraph station, built near a water source. Recently it has grown quickly on the back of tourism.Look closely for the rock wallaby and joey Close, 400 km, as distances go out here, to Ayres Rock (Uluru), the MacDonnell Ranges and other Australian Centre attractions it is the hub and almost only town in Central Australia. We walked the small centre, aboriginal art shops abound, artworks form many desert communities. The pioneer women's hall of fame, telegraph station and Anzac Hill all on the agenda.

21/5/04 Sometimes a backpacker hostel just gets it right and becomes a family, a home away from home, a place where people come and go always knowing there will be a friendly or recognizable face to return to. Toddy's, a large backpackers in Alice springs, serves that function. Cheap meals at the bar each evening and happy hour bring travellers, semi-permanents and itinerant workers together. A variety of rooms from camping to motels caters for everyone. A pool and outdoor areas provide relaxing spots. Campgrounds or motels cannot provide the atmosphere or chances of interacting. There are no staff and clients distinction. Everyone washes their own utensils from breakfast and dinner. A big family.

22/5/04 A trip to the West MacDonnell Ranges, Serpentine Gorge, the ochre pitsOcre Pits, colours for rock paintings and ceremonial paint where aborigines have collected the coloured pigment used in ceremonies for thousands of years. Agile rock wallabies protected from predators by the rocky environment in Simpsons Gap, and a ranger led walk on plants and their traditional uses. The unusual desert thunderstorm dumping 20 mm of rain during the evening whilst we enjoyed the hostel's dinner.

23/5/04 Conservation Volunteers Australia is an organization that encourages volunteers to help preserve the Australian environment. There are 22 centres throughout the country and the Alice Springs group is co-ordinating a project at Rainbow Valley. The five day, stay overnights in the National Park, assisting rangers with animal monitoring and weed control appealed to us. Nine volunteers leave tomorrow, so today we relaxed and packed for the trip.

24/5/04 A 4x4 troop carrier took seven volunteers (two no shows) and the group leader plus a trailer full of luggage the 100 km's to the park ranger camp at Rainbow Valley. Tents, tarps, tables and cooking was set up before lunch, just as light drizzle started falling.Our wet volunteer camp About eight rangers also set up camps, taking the opportunity to burn fire beaks, in preparation for larger area burns later in the season, it being wet at the moment. We had lots of rain over the last few days, enough to make the Todd River flow in Alice Springs, something that happens less than once a year on average. The rangers, using petrol and diesel mix torches and leaf blowers started burning the spinifex, normally highly combustible due to its resin or wax, but now wet. The volunteers set off to clear bushes and shrubbery away from the park boundary fence to avoid damaging it in the later burn.

25/5/04 Our group of 5 over 50's and 3 under 30's were out walking and clearing the fence line. The older ones Australians, the younger overseas backpackers. For everyone, a different experience, camping in the Simpson Desert in swags, learning about the bush and feeling good about helping the environment. It had rained all yesterday afternoon, clothes wet on the this morning. It rained again today but we dried out in the afternoon and with cloud cover we managed to clear 6 km of fence line before a sunset evening. A relaxed, organized group, sharing cooking and cleaning, helping each other on difficult trees or brush along the fence.An unusual lake in front of Rainbow Valley

26/5/05 Rain again, light at first as we finished the fence but heavier by afternoon when our role changed to laying brush across paths where people should not be walking or driving. By early afternoon the rain was too heavy for us to work and by evening there was concern we may be flooded in. One woman, not handling the work well, needed to be taken back to Alice Springs and it was decided we would all take the opportunity to leave. About half the normal desert annual rainfall had fallen over the last week.

27/5/04 We were back at Rainbow Valley early this morning. The rain having stopped, but more forecast, it was decided to pack up camp, closing the project for this week. Whilst the rain was disappointing so was not doing any of the work we had volunteered to do, trapping and classifying native animals. It seems that project had been postponed due to the higher priority of clearing land for back burning whilst an opportunity existed. Unfortunately we were not advised of the changed program. Quite exhausted, a couple of beers at the hostel and dinner and we crashed early.Camped underground at Coober Pedy

28/5/04 Our need to be in Brisbane by the 10th of June pushing us on. Winter winds had arrived with the rain and in cold light drizzle we headed south, 530 km to a Roadhouse and free camping. The sun shone its brightest in a week by the afternoon.

29/5/04 Just 180 km to Cooper Pedy, Australia's premier opal mining town, of small independent miners, not large companies. For less than $A100 anyone can get a license and stake a claim and start digging. The soft light rock is self supporting and needs no timbers to shore up, consequently people build their houses underground, often in last years mine. The summer temperature of over 50 degrees favours living underground, in an all year round temperature of 25 degrees. We camped underground, an old mine converted to a caravan park, dug out rooms where tents can be erected away from the 4 degree winter nights. They also run an evening mine tour giving a bit of history and past and present mining methods. When we were here 17 years ago it was a lot of pick and shovel, now more drilling and dynamite. The real money in opals seems to come from the tourists, however the occasional fortune is made, and often lost back into the ground looking for more.This outback town sums up many Australian population statistics

30/5/04 350 km to Woomera. The place famous for joint rocket and space research, first in conjunction with the UK then the USA. The place Australia launched a satellite in the 1960's. Known more recently because of the refugee/illegal immigrant detention centre on the edge of town, now recently closed. In the middle of nowhere and bordered by a restricted area larger than England mystery surrounding the place comes and goes. Today however the town is open to the public, is more a support town for mining in the region than a top security missile launch area although talk of it being a private satellite launch project town are around at the moment.

31/5/04 600 km to Broken Hill. With rain forecast tomorrow, we decided to push through Port Augusta and Peterborough.

1/6/04 A visit to Kay's aunt and uncle's, long term Broken Hill residents. The outback town has seen fortunes come but slowly go as the large mine is being wound down, now replaced by tourists and movies, "Priscilla, Queen of the Desert" was made here. Also a town famous for art work, often based on the surrounding stark desert scenery.

2/6/04 Raining all day. This area has been in drought for years. The sheep and goats eating what little shrubbery and grasses that grow on the barren soils. To the north, farmers have to run cattle as the dingo (wild dogs) will attack and kill sheep. A fence runs right across Australia, the latitude of about the Qld/NSW border, patrolled and mended daily by dedicated stockmen. The dog fence, designed to keep dogs to the north.Paddle wheeler on the Darling River near Bourke

3/6/04 Rain cleared but cold and foggy, 450 km to Cobar, another mining and agriculture town. The Cobar shire the size of Tasmania but with a population of only 7000 people, farms are measured in sq/km's not hectares. This part of "the outback" like most is red soiled, flat with sparse vegetation. The towns here had their best years ago as mines boomed or when wool prices were high. Today lovely restored buildings show of better times while there are few new houses being built and empty shops dot the town. The outback towns often only kept alive by the pensions and services provided by the government by way of health, education, national parks etc.

4/6/04 160 km to Bourke, supposed to be the edge of nowhere, where anywhere "back of Bourke" is almost too far away, a region without any towns or named places, or that's how it used to be. 4x4's and tours, a few graziers and a couple of national parks have been pushed out that way. It's from here to the west that the soil turns red, and to the east its a grey greasy soil, a more fertile flood belt, formed from the many inland rivers. The land opened up to agriculture by the enormous artesian water reserves covering over 1.5 million square kilometres and holding 8 billion mega litres of water, good for stock to drink, too salty for irrigation. Bourke situated on the Darling River, just a series of muddy pools in the drought but up to 8 km wide in flood, was a major part in the paddle steamer days.One man automatic hoist to bucket dirt from the mine shafts

5/6/04 330 km to Lightning Ridge, named when a shepherd, his dog and 600 sheep were killed by a lightning strike. More known today for about the only supply of black opals in the world. A town of 5000 people has grown out of the gems, now almost depleted in the immediate vicinity, with more small rugged mining towns having recently cropped up nearby. The old time miners now retiring here and the outside retirees coming for a warm winter and something to do, a bit of prospecting, keeping the town's population reasonably solid.

6/6/04 We stayed another day, looked at some eccentric's houses, a castle, a bottle house, humpies from old caravans to modern houses. Many people living on their mine, no water, no electricity, no grass and mine tailings mounds in the front and back yard, with junked cars and rusting mining equipment replacing garden gnomes. The town and mines are supplied water from the artesian basin, coming from 1 km below ground under pressure and at 41 degrees, it also supplies the town's thermal pools where we had a swim this afternoon.

7/6/04 270 km to Moree, dodged and caught a couple of storms.Cotton ginning machine The roadside grass and ploughed paddocks greener the further north east we travel. This part of NSW being the 20% not in drought. Cotton production normally covers this black soil country, using irrigation, now short on water supplies. The North West Gin processes cotton, more than 300 tons a day, desticked and deseeded packed into 250 kg bales for export. We visited the plant almost fully automated.

8/6/04 Moree, another town with hot artesian spa's. Our van park has four pools, 39, 37, 35, and 34 degrees. Water slowly cooling as it flows from one to the next. Retirees fleeing the cold south pass through here on the way north. The pools full of bodies rarely seen in public so scantily dressed. Reputedly good for rheumatism some spend large portions of the day immersed, we did also.

9/6/04 400 km to the Queen Mary falls, in the hinterland mountains behind the southern Queensland coast. Patches of rainforest hold out in small gullies amongst drier hilltops. Waterfalls cascade off the ridges into valleys, Queen Mary falling 40 metres.

10/6/04 The last 200 km's to the Gold Coast, Southport and the National HOG (Harley Owners Group) rally.Retirees soaking in the thermal pools Expecting 1200 Harley riders over four days, some we have met before others hopefully we will meet afresh. They have brought Dave Barr from the USA to give talks on his adventures, the wheel of death ride, band entertainment each evening, and demonstration rides to try out the latest H-D's. Most camp, their own tent, or hire a luxury tent set up specifically for the event. Some bring a van or motorhome but only a few, nothing like the USA rallies. A few stay in local motels. The distances ridden and the age of the crowd, averaging over 40's had most to bed early.

11/6/04 We were asked to set up the motorcycle alongside Dave Barr and Graham Felton's (Around Australia Anniversary Ride) displays. Even though we had come as participants not as vendors, the profile allowed us to meet and talk to many interested riders and return the support shown by Morgan and Wacker, one of our sponsors. The lap top chugged through a slide show of the trip for most of the weekend.

12/6/04 Last night's official opening and band, The Wolverines, followed by a hilarious hypnotist show this evening, were the main entertainment. Held in the heated auditorium, both shows had the audience entertained all night. We also had the opportunity to listen to Dave Barr's presentation on his travels. (Around the world, across Russia in winter and the four corners of Australia). An interesting, moving presentation, of what can be achieved in the face of adversity by a man who lost both legs in a land mine explosion in Southern Africa. Heading out on the Rolling Thunder ride at the HOG Rally

13/6/04 Day rides had been organized to events in the local area. A ride to the Wintersun. A display of older motorcars with a 1950's entertainment theme. A street party about an hour's ride away. Today a rolling thunder to Brisbane, 1000 motorcycles, police escort along the freeway. We chose to not get too involved in the rides, preferring to ride with our son John to lunch at Coolangatta to see Wintersun while others were at the rolling thunder.

14-30/6/04 Most had packed up and gone by early morning, riding the long trip home, always less exciting than the trip to a rally. We rode to our son's place in Brisbane, parked the motorcycle in exchange for a car. Our two mothers fly into Brisbane in a couple of days for two weeks relaxation with us in Hervey Bay, three hours to the north, and away from the cold winter down south where they both live.

1-6/7/04 Back to Brisbane, collected the spare parts necessary for the next trip from Morgan and Wacker distributorship and headed over to Ken and Carol Duval's. Long distance travellers, they are back in Australia for a few years to save for the next section of their trip. Opening their house to fellow travellers, a garage and tools too heavy to carry, are available. Over a relaxed three days we replaced the rear shocks, new fork seals, brake pads, oils, as well as solving two electrical problems (blinkers and start button), preparing the motorcycle for the next six months trip. We even managed a restaurant visit to celebrate our 30 years of marriage.Anniversary Ride interview live for the Network Nine News in Brisbane

7/7/04 The Around Australia Ride, re-enactment of the 75 year ago first ever loop of Australia by motorcycle and sidecar, left Sydney last week on a restored 1940 J model H-D and arrived at a campground in Southport on the Gold Coast this evening. The local TV was out to record the event. We welcomed them and will be travelling together for the next ten days. A small group, just four bikes and a couple of back up vehicles, one or two caravans, a smaller group than they had expected.

8/7/04 Campground joys of listening to early morning bodily functions. Smokers coughing up spittle, drinkers and wind and that old persons disease of groaning with each movement await us each morning in the shower block. Luckily the day improves when the groomed bodies emerge to breakfast at the camp kitchen. A surprise charge of $A100.00 each to join the trip for a few days was levied, covers the small risk of an insurance claim plus tea making facilities on the support vehicle. An unfortunate last minute charge which caused some to change their minds about travelling with the re-enactment. Not welcomed, particularly by self contained travellers, some in a motor home who receive little benefit. We mingled, learnt people's backgrounds at this first rest stop. The hype of starting and getting this far passing for a relaxing rest.

9/7/04 Thinking years ahead and being near a boat sale marina we pondered the idea of buying a boat for the Pacific Island section of the journey in a few years time. A couple of ex-Tasmanian fishing boats gained our attention. Solid, refitted to live aboard, sail assist with plenty of deck space for the bike and to relax. Best part the price was not prohibitive so who knows in a few years time. The Anniversary Ride crowd resting again before the early start and appointments tomorrow.Kay and Ron looking at one of the older escort motorcycles to Toowoomba

10/7/04 Sausages, the cheap easy to cook fast food roadside, is becoming the joke of the trip. Starting out on the chuck wagon, a trailer pulled by the back up vehicle, and ending with each roadside host, sausages are at every meal. Today a sausage sizzle at the H-D dealership, Morgan and Wacker after being escorted by HOG club members from the Sunshine Coast. Escorted again by twenty Harley's, many from around the WW2 era, to Gatton and finally onto Toowoomba and a sausage sizzle at the local H-D dealer's house in the evening. The event bike and sidecar travelling slowly at 80 km/hr it was a full day between engagements, talking to people and riding. The national news highlighted the trip in a short segment on the evening TV.

11/7/04 The dilemma between riding the old motorcycle the whole distance around Australia or keeping to the original time frame had a near miss with the bike refusing to start after refuelling. The points and tappets were adjusted but it stopped another twice before reaching the night's campground at Roma. The size of the entourage has increased, almost doubling, about 40 people. Entering and leaving the group each day, a few new members keep up the social interest. As always the campers the most social and the centre for interaction. Those in vans and cabins isolated from the rest.

12/7/04 A hard start for the old motorcycle but it ran well all day afterwards. Charleville, 260 km's, a welcome to town by local riders, two of whom started in Sydney and are riding the whole way. Another newcomer, 81 year old Gordon on his Virago, plans to travel the entire route. Bike types vary, almost all main brands covered. The evening had a bilby show, the saving of this endangered species, easily bred in captivity and being returned to a fenced enclosure in the near future. Its numbers decimated in the wild since the introduction of cats and foxes. The tensions that often arise from individuals in a group smoothed over dinner and a few drinks, each finding their own niche of expertise, responsibility or power to suit their ego, providing an ongoing outlook for success.

13/7/04 Breakfast put on by the historical society before leaving. Just 270 km's to Blackall. The group down to 20 people. The travel routine evolved. A quieter less enthusiastic bunch running the chores of setting up and breaking camp each day. The more enthusiastic swimming in the artesian baths, others relaxing with a beer. Each solving their own small problems. A broken frame on the luggage rack or six broken spokes on the near wheel of the Anniversary motorcycle.

14/7/04 The old bike running well, probably the biggest worry for the trip. In need of constant adjustment with everyone having an opinion but no-one having definitive knowledge. The reading of the original diary at the morning brief giving the link to 75 years ago. The then dirt road passing alongside the railway. Their sleeping out of towns, shooting birds for food and sighting great mobs of kangaroos different from our experience of a bumpy but sealed road, campgrounds with hot showers and standard evening meals. The wildlife is still there. Saw emu, kangaroo, bustards and even brolga the last couple of days.

15/7/04 Barcaldine last night, Longreach tonight, short hops, welcomed by the organizers, tiring from early starts, long days to evening. The countryside surprisingly fertile with mobs of cattle droving the roadside and sheep in the paddocks. The troops of "grey nomads" their vans and 4x4's filling each caravan park every night bring "sprukers" to entertain the crowds for the sale of a CD or a hat passed around. Last night had free billy tea, (a brew stewed over an open flame heavily dosed with sugar) and damper (heavy dough bread made on flower and water) entertained by a country guitarist singing his own and Slim Dusty songs. A poet and jokester filled the gaps whilst selling his outback tours. Tonight we told of our trip to the small group of Anniversary Riders before listening to a flamboyant poet in front of a crowd of 100 onlookers. Australian verse, some traditional favourites other newcomer prose with a joke or two. You could almost feel the outback of the past picturing a small group of stockmen sitting around the fire after a hard day, killing time between mates with tall stories.

16/7/04 A rest day, Kay with a cold, a cabin to relax. The remainder of riders sightseeing. QANTAS museum and Stockman's Hall of Fame.

17/7/04 Another short day, 170 km to Winton, where the Australian airline QANTAS was founded and it's believed the first performance of the song Waltzing Matilda occurred. The North Gregory Hotel had a dinner and welcomed us with a bit of history on the region followed by a pianola sing along of old songs including of course Waltzing Matilda.

18/7/04 We departed the Anniversary Ride farewelling the remaining riders and drivers whom we had become quite close to over the last ten days. They head towards Charleville, Mt Isa and Darwin as we rode 450 km's to Charters Towers. A cold day, not much conversation between us, reflecting on someone else's challenge, pondering it's possible success and the difficulties they have to face, dirt roads and isolated areas and 14,000 km's to go. Their trip can be followed at however the updates have been slow to occur.

19/7/04 Our minds moving ahead to Trip 11. Indonesian visas and Carnet applied for and phone calls to clarify bookings for the motorcycle to East Timor in September. Tomorrow we ride to Townsville to stay with our son Michael. At the end of the month the whole family goes to New Zealand for two weeks skiing. Back to Townsville for ten days then the start of the next trip, two weeks to Darwin via Kakadu and overseas again for us and the motorcycle.

You can either move onto planning the Eleventh Trip or return to Australia for the beginning of the next trip.


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