AFTER WORKING for the same company for a long time, I finally pulled the pin. I thought between jobs I might go on a bit of an adventure. Maybe tour Australia on a postie bike.
Things happened quickly after I that. I went to an auction where they were getting rid of 40 of them. Picked one up with 22,000 km on the clock for $1200.
I got a roadworthy then rode out of the shop for my first ride. Gee, it felt funny, especially with me being 6’ 3”. I had a ball and the speed humps were great. Did a quick speed test and was shocked it only hit 80 km/h; later I found out that’s the norm.
Over the next few weeks I tweaked the bike for the trip. This included fitting an old XR250 tank to increase the range to 500 km, saddle bags, PVC storage pipes, digital bicycle computer, rear storage box, map holder, and even a 240V invertor to charge my camera and phone, etc. All up, the bike and tweaks cost me around $2300.
Well, the day had come to start the journey. The first three-day stage from Melbourne to Adelaide — I decided on the longer 1100 km route via the Great Ocean Road and Coorong rather than the quicker ride straight over — was a test ride to see if the bike went okay, and also to see whether I wanted to continue doing another 13,000 km.
My maximum cruising speed is 70 km/h so I had a bit of a laugh coming into towns that had signs to reduce speed to 80 km/h.
Whipped out my little old metho cooker on the first night and cooked up the staple diet of two-minute noddles and then an orange. Breakfast the next morning was powdered milk and Weetbix; lunch is a couple of peanut butter sandwiches and an apple.
The toiletries — cut down shaver, cut down tooth brush, shaving stick, soap, and shampoo — I managed to cram into a little soap holder. I even have a little camping towel that is no longer than my forearm. You see, I like to pack light.
I hit the Great Ocean Road which was great fun. The bike didn’t like going up the hills and I would often be in second gear doing a huge 30 km/h with a heap of cars in my mirrors. Going down the other side was a different story. The bike would flex pretty bad in the windy bits and it felt like the back half was going in a different direction than the front, but I still managed to catch a few cars to my amazement.
The weather changed for the last big day of riding from Mount Gambier into Adelaide. The wind had really picked up and even blew my helmet off my handlebars when I was at a rest stop. As it hit the ground, the peak and visor smashed off, so the old cable ties came out and worked a treat.
In some stages this wind knocked me down to a cruising speed of a whopping 50 km/h. At one point a kangaroo jumped out in front of me, laughed, then actually hopped off faster than I was going. True story!
To make matters worse, the rain came in around midday. The water-proofing qualities of my old bike gear aren’t the best so it was a wet ride.
Finally, got into the Adelaide Hills with B-Double trucks passing me in the dark and rain — exciting stuff!
As luck would have it, there was an accident on the freeway so traffic was diverted via the notorious Devil’s Elbow. I couldn’t see much so I just followed a truck down doing about 20 km/h.
I eventually made it into Adelaide and had a bit of a chuckle when I looked down thinking a few days ago this little bike was in Melbourne.
A few days later I set off on the big trip — up the middle of Australia to Darwin, across the West Coast down to Perth, then across the Nullarbor and back to Adelaide.
My first night was in a small town called Peterborough. The fella who owned the caravan park was right into postie bikes. I rocked up, and before I had got off the bike, he’d already taken a photo of me for his wall of assorted bike pics.
When I rode out the next morning, I had a swarm of grey nomads gathered around me checking out the machine. Earlier in the morning, one couple had invited me into their caravan and fed me porridge and toast. Ah, you can’t beat that.
Now that it is heading into winter the mornings are starting to get colder. I was feeling it because I packed light and only brought summer gloves. To overcome this, I had the cunning plan of wearing dishwashing gloves under my gloves. Problem was they were a size too small so they cut off my circulation and my hands became cold again.
I was averaging around 300 to 400 km per day, and after a couple of days I made it into Coober Pedy.
Coober Pedy is an interesting place. Met up and hung out with two young guys riding KLR650s from Sydney to Perth and back via the dirt. Had a few drinks at a pub in a cave and noticed the guys from Top Gear having dinner across the road so they must be filming something out here.
I eventually made it to Ayres Rock. After setting up my tent, I walked through the scrub to a small hill with a beautiful view of the Rock. Came back later that night with my little beach chair, which is my one luxury item for the trip, and read the local paper while watching the sun go down. Ah, what a life.
Left Yulara, and on the way to Alice, I headed off on a dirt track to check out the Henbury meteor site. I am not that flash on dirt so the corrugations and soft sections were interesting to the point where I decided to head back to the highway before I got there. However, my curiosity got the better of me and I turned back and made my way to the site where a few 4WDs were parked. To be honest, it wasn’t as spectacular as I was hoping. It just looked like a couple of small dams rather than massive distinct crater holes you see on the moon.
Got into Alice and went to the local bike store to see if they would lend me an oil tray and also asked if I gave them a couple of dollars could they discard my used oil. After I bought heap of stuff from them, they couldn’t help me out with the tray or oil, which was a bummer. The old plan B came into action — I bought a cheap 2 litre carton of orange juice for an oil tray and found a nice mechanic shop who would take my oil off me for free.
Next odd job was to fix some fatigued brackets holding my PVC storage pipes to my crash bars. The bike shakes a bit and I knew the brackets I made were a bit flimsy. I found an engineering shop that would make up some stronger ones for $40 which worked a treat.
As I rode out of Alice, I noticed a car broken down about an hour out. As I got closer, a fella came onto the road and flagged me down which was a bit of a laugh because how could I help him with a tow, fuel, oil, etc. Anyway, he asked if I had a cigarette. Ah, you’ve got to laugh. As I rode off, I heard him say to the other guys in the car, “Hey, it was a postie bike.”
Now my adventure really begins because I had never been up past Alice before and I was really looking forward to the top end.
On the way I stayed at Wycliffe Well which is one of the places UFOs are sighted. The whole caravan park is decked out in an alien theme. I ended up setting up my tent next to a life-size Incredible Hulk statue, which I later found out was also next to a faulty underground water pipe that made a very loud sucking sound every time the ladies toilets where used. It scared the crap out of me the first time I heard it while I was trying to sleep. Gees, I thought some sort of wild animal was about to attack my tent!
I had a rest stop under the shade of an entrance to a property called Banka Banka. This lady pulled into the property a few minutes later in a 4WD and asked me how long I was going to stay there, and added, “Don’t piss on the sign!” Ah, a friendly one that one.
I could now see the land changing from arid desert to more green and tropical. This led me to Mataranka Springs which is an oasis. Got off the bike, grabbed the bathers, and walked into a beautiful clear spring surrounded by palm trees. Jumped in and relaxed while I looked at the small fish swimming along.
Made it into Katherine where I stayed at one of those Big 4 caravan parks. It was late so I wandered over to the outdoor bistro for my first cooked meal for a while. Ordered a beer and the special of the day, rissoles and mash. I then sat down to listen to Geoff Evans serenade the crowd. Picture this, the mood lighting set with a candle on each table with Geoff playing his electronic keyboard while singing old songs which the oldies loved. I had chuckle then and I still have a smile on my face thinking of it now.
Started to see my first croc signs today. They say something like: Warning! Can cause injury or DEATH. Yep, I thought, that sounds correct.
After a short stop at Katherine Gorge, I headed for Edith Springs which has several pools fed by waterfalls. I found a pond which looked very tranquil. I heard it was okay to swim in this one even though a sign was up. I gently entered the water and swam over to the waterfall — but it freaked me out thinking about the crocs and I bolted back to shore. I probably broke some sort of swimming record.
On the way to Kakadu, I went through Pine Creek which, by chance, was having its annual horse race later on in the day. The road took me past the actual racetrack which had been freshly mowed and the beer tents were all ready to go. The strange thing was that there were huge termite mounds grown up over the guard rails in various sections around the track. I suppose the jockeys must know that track well and just dodge them.
I arrived in Kakadu just after lunch and it was amazing. Decided to go on a two-hour sunset cruise along the Yellow River which was money well spent. It was amazing drifting through the swamp seeing the crocs, bird life, and just the scenery itself. It’s the stuff you see in brochures. Saw some sea eagles and even some brolgas with their massive nest high up in a tree. Then when the sun started to go down the views were absolutely fantastic.
I then started my ride into Darwin. This fella passed me and I noticed a newspaper jammed on the back of his trailer near the tailights. I thought that was a bit strange, so I reached around to see if my newspaper was still wedged underneath my tie downs — hey, that was my newspaper! A quick look in my mirror shows I was about to lose my load. I quickly pulled over and re-secured everything. Don’t know what happened because it was tied down the same as every other time. I will need to keep an eye on it.
Got into Darwin and checked into a caravan park for $30 a night for an unpowered tent site. Gees, with those prices I think I might have to start up a caravan park in Darwin.
The following day I went into the local bike shop and bought a couple of tyres because, after only 6000 km, mine had worn out. Also got another front globe because they continue to blow, and the usual oil, etc. The young mechanic was a top guy. He invited me around to the workshop, offered me tools and an oil tray, and even cleaned and oiled my air filter. Had a good chat with him and afterwards he offered to take me fishing later in the week, which I regrettably knocked back.
The Ultimate Australian Adventure continues next month…
Story by Martin Grace