I am the original 'Uneasy Rider' .. not especially blessed with much natural motorcycling talent, nor am I a particularly courageous motorcycle rider.
Nevertheless I went 'Right Way Round' New Zealand (at least twice) followed by a wonderful ride around Australia.

Then it was up to southeast Asia, around Indo-China, across southern Central Asia to the Middle East, Asia Minor .. and finally into Europe.

Right Way Round - all the way home .. from New Zealand to England, 2-up on a Honda Transalp.


PROGRESS SO FAR - Distance covered across Western Europe: 6,411 km [3,984 miles] - as at Thursday, October-22nd, 2015

Saturday 27 March 2010

Eating Flies

09:00am Tuesday, March-23

After spending a full day 'off' in Esperance it was time to get going again. The weather hasn't really been up to much here in the 'Bay of Isles'. The wide sandy beaches, scenic coastlines and the panorama of offshore islands of the Recherche Archipelago were not able to show off their best features to us because of the overcast and windy condition during the last 36 hours.

Still, it could have been worse, as further west the Perth area had been experiencing the worst storms in recent memory .. so I guess we couldn't really complain at being on the very end of the storm's destructive tail.

I reckon this is ordinarily a good place to be, BUT we must get going again despite the improvement in the weather.

We head-off west and north into the bush 'proper' .. for the first time. We have the long and near deserted roads almost entirely to ourselves.

Drought conditions are obviously prevalent in this state (WA) too. My GPS unit tells me that we should be riding across a causeway, over a lake, at this point [above] ..

.. but it's dry land all the way ..

.. as the lake has completely evaporated.

Along the route we always take regular watering stops ..

.. and on this occasion we find a little unrecogniseable critter, who has been hitching a ride with us .. albeit wedged in the grill of our radiator guard! ..

.. and notice these [quite common] Galah parrots, aka 'Rose-breasted Cockatoo' or 'Galah Cockatoo' up in the surrounding trees.

This is what we're finding to be the most fascinating aspect of Australia; it's the small things you come across that are soooooo different from anything we've seen before ..

.. not forgetting these BIG-ass buggers too, which are most certainly unlike anything we've encountered on the roads 'till now!

385 km after leaving Esperance, we're securing our pre-booked digs near Wave Rock ..

.. which although very basic, will nevertheless do for us quite nicely.

We straightaway check-out the size of the surf.

Same as yesterday .. and the the day before .. and the day before .. et seq. A perfect 15 m (50 ft) high curl - around 110 m (350 ft) long. So I paddle out for my first wave of the day .. well, for several days actually ..

.. Ermmmm? well, for about 38 years .. if you want me to be precise!

BUT not to worry, I haven't forgotten my style. Just like riding the proverbial bike, I reckon .. and very soon I shout, "MY WAVE" and I'm up on my feet ..

.. quickly change from my 'natural' stance to my optional 'goofy' - right foot forward - backhand stance .. as I slide down the face of this muther ..

.. STILL wearing my shades [pretty cool, huh?!]

Back on my 'natural' - left foot forward - stance .. I put in a huge bottom turn ..

.. then tuck in and line-up ('goofy' style) for the perfect tube-ride that's forming-up nicely before me. I'm about to enter the surfer's sacred 'Green Room'.

Anyway, Margaret-Ellen thinks that my final manoeuvrings remind her of someone who's just about to take a crap! ..

.. so she decides to have a bidofa lie down.


For you info: I also play a mean air guitar too! .. ;o)


There's tons of flies around the base of Wave Rock; so-much-so that we just had to escape.

This is the view, looking north, from the top of the Wave, which provides a little relief from the pesky swarms below.


Wednesday, March-24

Away, bright and early, from Wave Rock. These are the sort of roads we typically encounter as we ride back south down to the coast.

I'm starting to lose confidence in Garmin's /Mapsource 'City Navigator Australia & New Zealand NT 2010' software. Whilst very good and almost completely accurate in and around Australia's cities and townships .. it tends to 'lose the plot' a bit out in the sticks.

On this particular occasion it leads us (literally) down a 'blind alley' .. well, obviously I mean an unsealed 'side-road-to-nowhere'. Not the sorta thing you need out in the bush, eh? .. especially when you're rapidly running out of gas!

By mid-morning the threat of another thunderstorm is looming on the horizon ..

.. so we pull-in alongside this drying-out lake [above] .. and once more climb into our foul-weather gear. Bugger those Damn Flies!

Then, after a few swigs of freshly bottled water, we quickly set-off ..

.. smiling all the way towards a little township called 'Borden' that will have, we hope, a fuel pump dispenser or two a-handy [?].

But it's a 'no-go' on the fuel front in Borden; nearest one - so the locals inform us - ".. is about 25 kayz down the road .. ya just caaan't miss-ut, mate"

So we set off - running on fumes. Neither one of us fancying a long walk in this heat [35°C] .. if the worst happens. (The rain never materialised BTW .. just glorious, but hot, wall-to-wall sunshine.)

However, 24½ km [15¼ mi] down the road, sure 'nuff, we come across the Amelup Service Station .. and promptly fill-up with AU$22 worth [GB£14.14] of unleaded .. Hallelujah!

At the same time we see our first [living] mob of Kangaroos.


Later that afternoon we arrive in the historic township of Albany - just a week too late for the Ulysses Club Biker's AGM Meeting. We are Ulysseans ourselves BTW .. only, eh-hem, just qualifying (by age - of 50) .. of course!

3,220 'senior' riders turned-up for the Albany Meet, which, considering the distance and location of Albany from the east coast masses, was is a quite an achievement.

Just before dusk falls we take a quick scoot around town to get our bearings ..

.. and find ourselves climbing up a very long flight of concrete steps to the top of Mount Melville Parklands, with its Great War Memorial at the summit ..

I guess the view is worth the effort.


Thursday and Friday, March-25 & 26

Our journey continues to Augusta, which is the nearest town to Cape Leeuwin, on the farthest south-west corner of the Australian continent ..

.. and get our first full-on cooked brekky of the trip so far. Home-made baked beans to die for. REAL decent grub can be had in the friendly and remarkably 'together' lttle township of Denmark. I re-call saying to Ellen that this is the very first aussie place we've visited in which I believe I could settle.

The scenery and countryside is great hereabouts too.

But again, throughout Fri-26th the weather, sadly, wasn't really up to much

We did take a ride out to the lighthouse though, which ..

.. is where the Southern and Indian Oceans officially meet.

Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse is the tallest lighthouse in Oz. But they all seem to look pretty similar to me!

And here's the Indian Ocean, which also seems remarkably similar to the Southern one .. just around the corner, from where we were 15 minutes before snapping this pic [above].


Saturday, March-27

The weather next day was expectantly overcast as we made our way along the twisty forest clad road towards Margaret River, the Karri trees reaching skywards being tall and slim. We decided to stop for breakfast at Margaret River - expensive $41.20 [£25] for a big breakfast and bacon and poached eggs on toast. The weather looked decidedly dodgy as we were about to continue our journey onwards towards Secret Harbour, so we donned our wet weather gear once more, the distance from Augusta to Secret Harbour being 310 km [193 mi].

We arrived in Secret Harbour by mid-afternoon, just in time to help make the Cornish Pasties with Suzanne, a friend of ours since forever.

Reg is pleased to have some male company who's on the same wavelength, and tucks into his pasty knowing that he will have some like-minded conversation later in the evening.

Next morning we take a walk and see that there's a surfing competition going on a little way along the beach. Not a huge surf, but big enough .. and what super weather; another perfect day down under.

More Galah parrots, as we take our morning stroll that includes a few exercises. NOTE: Reg was a physical training instructor in a previous life.

Sunday lunchtime and we were in Dolphin Pool, Mandurah; and a photo shoot opportunity before a super lunch on the outside decking of the Catch 22 Restaurant overlooking the gin palaces in the marina.


Monday, March-29

100 dollars-worth of Orange 'Roughy' fillets; Moreton Bay 'Bugs' (a species of slipper lobster); and juicy Tiger Prawns for our BBQ dinner .. expertly cooked by Reg - the main part of the meal having been organised by Suzanne and Ellen.


AND (slightly off topic)

And it's good to see that at least the southern hemisphere's version of Woolies is still alive and thriving!


Wednesday, March-31

With Suzanne on her way to the UK, Reg at work, me picking up the Tranny after a service and tyre change, there is just enough time for Miss-Ellen to go skinny dipping - she might have known that I'd be back early .. and with camera in hand.

A lasting reminder of the superb sunsets from the beach just a few yards from Suzanne and Regs' present home, I am sure that they will miss the fine weather, the location and the lifestyle when they return home to the UK .. probably later this year.


As mentioned above, the Alp had a new set of tyres put on her today .. Pirelli 'Scorpion Trails', which are an unknown and untested [to me] make and variety; it'll be interesting to see how these perform on the rougher road surfaces up north.

I thought a complete new set of brake pads would be useful too, as the existing/old ones had now provided over 30,000 km [c. 19,000 miles] of service .. so I had these installed whilst the wheels were off getting their new boots.

A crankcase of fresh engine oil, plus a new oil filter wouldn't go amiss neither .. so I arranged to have these jobs done at the same time.

All other essential fluids and settings are checked-out .. and it seems we're 'good to go' tomorrow.

We're now left wondering what we'll discover over the course of the next four weeks .. until we get back to the eastern civilization regions of Adelaide & Melbourne .. and we just can't wait to get going. We're off first thing in the morning, Thursday April 1st.

Fools' Day! [EEK!!] .. :o) :o)


The Plan for April [2010]

During the planning stages of this trip I had envisaged staying with Suzanne & Reg, here in Secret Harbour (just south of Perth), until the Easter break [2nd-5th April] had come and gone. This way we could have avoided: the extra holiday traffic; the scarcity and therefore the inevitable higher prices for our accommodation during the Easter weekend; AND the hoards of kids who would, of course, be off school during the holiday period.

BUT our intended route during April suggests to me that we really should be back on the road and on our way again by the very beginning of the month.

You see, from the map above, that the intended distance to be covered throughout the month is just under 8,000 km [5,000 mi] - 7,898 km [4,906 mi] to be precise.

No doubt this could easily increase to 8,500 - 9,000 km if we divert off-track for any reason whatsoever, i.e. leave some 'wiggle-room' for an unintended excursion .. for visiting purposes, repair shop needs, etceteras.

Assuming the basic 8,000 km for the April track .. this will involve a daily average of 267 km [166 mi] per day - or 1,867 km [1,160 mi] per week .. PROVIDING we leave on April-1st.

We know, from past experience, that these sorts of averages are easily within our compass of attainment .. and will allow us plenty of time to take-in most of what's on offer along our route.

Leaving after Easter - i.e. on Tues-6th April - would ratchet-up these required averages considerably .. to a point where we could feel under some unnecessary pressure to keep on riding, even though and when we might not feel like it.


The logistical aspects of leaving just before the start of the Easter long break?

Well, we couldn't risk playing the "chancer's" game regarding our accommodation over the forthcoming holiday weekend .. that would be just too much of a gamble IMHO.

So I 'hit the phone' for nearly half-a-day on Monday, 29th March. Although I didn't manage to secure the exact type of lodgings in exactly the desired locations .. and I did pretty well under the circumstances, if I may say so. Result: we're all fixed-up for roofs over our heads .. and beds to lie on, right through to Tuesday, 6th April. After that we should have no problems getting fixed-up with lodgings.

There are a couple of quite big'ish days ahead .. that is, within the foreseeable future:

Firstly, there's an inland-bound easterly run of approx 570 km [354 mi] from coastal Exmouth ~~> to Tom Price township on the edge of the Karijini Nation Park. This would not be a huge day's ride on my powerful and comfy Honda ST1300 .. but on this little 650 dual-sport? I reckon I'll be ready to call it a day by the time we get to Tom Price.

Secondly, I now know, from a recent experience, that after around 260 km [162 mi] I shall start getting VERY nervous about running out of petrol. On a good day - mostly downhill with a tail wind - I might get up to > 275-300 km [186 mi] from a full tank .. maybe more .. BUT I definitely would count on very much more than 300 km, from a tank-full of 19.00 litres (4.20 imperial gallons).

There will be a run from Port Hedland up to Broome - a distance 610 km [380 mi] - along the Great Northern Highway, which includes only one or two refuelling opportunities. With this in mind, I reckon it would make good sense to buy a little portable 5L fuel container in Port Hedland .. and keep this filled, as far as possible, until we get to Broome, which, incidentally, should be by around Friday, 9th April. We'll spend that whole weekend in Broome. Nice sunsets occur up there, so I've been told.

BUT let's hope there's not too many kids still around up there at that time .. as I've just learned that the little darlings don't go back to school until Monday, 19th April! [EEK!! .. yet again!]


Monday 22 March 2010

Crossing the mighty Nullarbor Plain

Thursday, March-18

Crossing the Nullarbor Plain, along the Eyre Highway (A1), is one of Australia's great road journeys and widely recognized as a traveller’s ‘rite of passage’ .. cuz it’s something that you generally only do once.

I’m not certain where the Nullarbor officially starts .. or indeed ends, but I think it must begin where we are - on this sunny and cloudless Thursday morning (March-18) - at Port Augusta because of the town’s unique geographic position as a major service centre for travellers like us and the countless massive freight trucks – the ‘Road Trains’ – that cross this vast Plain.

Shortly after breakfast it was time to get going.

155 km [97 miles] – 1 hr 45 mins – later we pulled into the Kimba Road House for mid-morning snacks plus a fuel top-up .. and struck-up a conversation with Mick & Angie, a couple returning east from the Ulysses Bikers’ rally held in Albany, West Oz. They recommend Streaky Bay as a good stopover destination for the night. Streaky Bay it is then .. and after a further 235 km [147 mi] we reserve our accommodation at the impossible-to-miss Streaky Bay Hotel given its colonial style of architecture and sweeping views to the Streaky Bay Jetty.

The following morning, Friday-19th, brings with it a mixed bag of weather. Soon we’re well into the heart of the Nullarbor. A refuelling stop at Penong reminds us to keep an eye open for stray animals .. but the only ones we see are of the road kill variety ..

.. like this roo, which must've got a real bashing around the head a night or two ago!

The term Nullarbor is from the Latin "nulla" for ‘no’, and "arbor" for ‘tree’; hence the term Nullarbor, meaning “no trees”.

However, there are sections of this endless road that are rich in vegetation, which makes the ride a little more varied and interesting ..

.. and provides some shade when we stop to take-in another litre of water each.

DAMN those pesky flies though. As soon as you stop, almost the very second later, the persistent little buggers swoop in around your face .. and just won’t take, ‘NO, P#SS OFF! ..’ for an answer!

The tree lines will just disappear from time-to-time .. and the ‘Nullarbor’ then becomes true to its name.

Late afternoon – and 405 km [253 mi] later – we pull-in at the only lodgings in town .. except there’s no town .. just a remote Road House, ‘The Nullarbor’ where we are expecting to pay over-the-top prices for our bed, fuel and food; and we’re not disappointed!


Saturday, March-20

Waking up in the middle of no-where .. wondering what the day will bring. There’s 100% cloud cover - already evident even before we open our lodge door.

Still quite dark inside our room, we notice that we’ve shared our accommodation with a bunch of free-loading little critters .. that are scurrying about our bedroom floor looking for some breakfast. We both trample on two or three without realizing just what’s what.

Stepping out, looking west towards our direction of travel .. and the weather conditions don’t look good!

Now you would think wouldn’t you – looking at this picture (above) – that we might have had the common sense to put on our wet-weather gear before setting off ..

.. but we didn’t. And less than five minutes later, when the heavens open, we’re scrambling into our weatherproof overalls on the side of the road. What a pair of plonkers!

Still raining and we stop to take a peek at the spectacular Bunda Cliffs that stretch for 200 kilometres [125 miles] west of the Head of Bight.

These cliffs are 70 metres (230 ft) or so in height and are the remains of an ancient ocean bed that was subject to geological uplifting millions of years ago.

Something remarkable to ponder is the fact that as you drive across the Nullarbor you are in fact driving across the floor of an ancient sea bed. The sight of these cliffs is truly hypnotic and awe inspiring. I do, however, wish I had a head for heights! Did I ever mention that I can’t stand heights?!

185 km [116 mi] later we’re at the South Australia / West Australia border. Premium unleaded petrol has soared in price to AU$1.79 / litre. What a RIP-OFF!

We are forced to stop and declare if we’re carrying any foodstuffs, fruit in particular. WA doesn’t want to accidentally import any of its neighbouring state’s pests.

Then something very peculiar happens to the time zones hereabouts .. and we suddenly gain 2 - 2½ hours of time .. going this far west. What’s the significance? Well, it means we can ride a LOT further than we had originally planned for – like 200+ kilometers more.

Mid-afternoon .. and the weather is starting to clear – blue skies on the horizon ..

.. which provides us – and other travellers – with some unexpected photo-shoot opportunities.


Because of the time gain, we press on .. right through and passed Madura & Cocklebiddy Road Houses – our original ‘option’ stopovers – and cover a whopping (for us) 537 km [336 mi] .. eventually reaching Caijuna, where we secure our lodgings for the night. Strange thing is that it gets dark by 6:00pm; just like being back home in the English winter - EXCEPT that the temperature never drops below 25°C, even in the middle of the night!

As there’s not a lot to do around here we get an early night. Fast asleep by 9:00pm .. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz


Sunday, March-21

Early to bed .. early to rise. First job: top-up the gas tank .. RIPPED OFF .. AGAIN! AND it’s even worse here, in Caijuna .. a staggering AU$1.90 / litre for a drop of the good stuff!

We’re on-the-road by 7:00am .. but first: let’s talk about Road Trains. Just look at the size of these muthers.

As the Transalp provides little protection from wind-blast (unlike my Honda ST1300 Pan-European, which offers loads of comfort behind its fairing and power screen) I’m most comfortable riding the Alp at between 90- 95 km/h [just under 60 mph]. This means that any following vehicles travelling up to, or even slightly above the speed limit of typically 100-110 km/h, will eventually look for an opportunity to overtake me.

When it comes to up-and-coming (from behind) Road Trains, here’s some tips that I picked-up before arriving in Oz:

DO let them overtake you. You’ll be surprised how fast most of these vehicles travel - most of them are fitted with speed limiters, and these let the truck reach 102 or 104km/h. from time to time, one will come up behind you, so let it pass. This seems self-evident, but it's clear from up there in the driver's seat that lots of people get freaked out just at the wrong moment.

DO wait until the truck is out in the opposite (passing) lane, and then just ease off the throttle (brake lightly if you want) and let the train slip past. This will happen quickly, and then you can go back to your cruising speed and the truckie can keep-on earning a living.

DO NOT move towards the edge of the road, as the bow wave of the truck will blow you that way anyhow, and you want some spare space. Do not accelerate away either, just let the truck pass and you will probably never see it again.

DO consider a courtesy flash as soon as the train’s tail has passed you, as this will let the truckie know that he’s cleared your front wheel. He might very well toggle his rear indicator lights in friendly acknowledgment .. and so everyone, therefore, stays the best of friends.

DO NOT travel behind a road train or other large truck; it seems a lot of people feel safe back there, but it is not, for a couple of reasons:
  • When the truck hits a kangaroo, cow, sheep or whatever, the animal will likely exit from underneath the rear of the truck in a variety of chunks, plenty of them big enough to end your day's ride.
  • A small movement at the front of a road train can translate into a much larger weave at the rear, and all those wheels pick up a lot of gravel if they leave the asphalt or cross a broken surface. You would probably prefer not to eat dirt.
Oh, and if you think you can drive a road train without kicking up dirt here and there, give it a go!


It’s all good advice too ..

.. take it from me!


As I said, we’re away from Caijuna by seven o’clock. The very first sign we see shortly after pulling away from the Road House is this [above]. We’re about to encounter the longest straight stretch in Australia.

It's a hellofa'n experience. Come along for some of the ride ..

I mean really!

Half way along .. and it’s looking dark up yonder. We won’t be caught out for a second time! Foul weather gear donned in anticipation of yet more [warm] rain.

More Ulysseans travelling back east from the Albany Meet. If we saw one, then we saw a thousand of ‘em ..

.. the majority are towing mini trailers.

We pass-by more drying-out lakes. This part of Australia, in addition to South Aus, is also clearly suffering from the lack of rain too.

Another saluting wave between bikers is exchanged. It’s an unwritten ritual .. always has been.

After 375 km [234 mi], we would normally call it a day. BUT we’re here, in Norseman by lunchtime. It’s another ‘one horse town’. BUT for good reason this time, as it is said that hereabouts back in 1894 a horse named "Hardy Norseman" was tethered to a tree for the night by its owner, Laurie Sinclair. Upon returning to his horse Sinclair had the good fortune to discover that "Norseman" had unearthed a gold nugget. Since then a statue has been erected in honour of Norseman .. and here it is!

Just 2½ more southbound hours and we can be in the seaside township of Esperance. Better get going then.


By shortly after four o’clock in the afternoon, we pull-up in the CBD (Central Business District) of Esperance, 583 km [365 mi] after leaving Caijuna at first dawn. We’re completely knackered.

It took us just 4 days, instead of the 4½-5 anticipated; thanks in no small part to the unexpected ‘windfall’ of time we gained at the South/West Australia border. Those 2 - 2½ extra daylight hours made all the difference.

Recommendation: IMHO it’s best to travel east ~~> to west across the Nullarbor, the time zones gain(s) will mean that you can cross the entire Plain in just four days, rather than five. Although chances are, you will be riding into the prevailing westerly winds.

1,915 km [almost 1,200 miles] since leaving Port Augusta .. and we have now crossed the Mighty Nullarbor .. so I guess we’ve 'graduated'; we’ll probably never do it again. From now on, if either of us want to cross Australia, then we shall do the civilized thing .. and spend three or four hours in an aeroplane!

Conclusion: Was the Nullarbor the same as crossing the Great Plains of America? Well, in Oklahoma, Kansas and Wyoming you see names like Tulsa, Wichita and Laramie .. and sometimes encounter wildlife like Desert Cottontail, Black-Footed Ferret and American Bison (Buffalo). Whereas along the Nullarbor Plain you’ll pass through tiniest of little townships with names like Ceduna, Noodroo and Cocklebiddy; and come across indigenous animals such as Kangaroo, Wombat, Dingo and even Camel. The weather conditions? Well these seem to me to be remarkably similar.

AND I’m pleased to report that Limeys and Poms receive an equally warm welcome in both regions .. :o)


These Roads - Go on Forever ......