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.

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

Monday, 16 May 2011

Fulfilling the Dream

During our brief one-night stopover in the historic and once prosperous gold-mining township of Tennant Creek, we couldn't help but notice that the place has deteriorated slightly since our last visit back in April of last year (2010); for instance, there are more shop fronts boarded-up, etc.

Noticeably more indigenous folk (Aborigines) are just hanging around street corners, getting 'vocal' with each other, if you know what I mean. Daryl explained on Saturday night that the situation 500 km [311 mi] further south down the Stuart Hwy in Alice Springs is even worse! which backed-up the news reports that we had recently been seeing on the TV.

It's not for me, as a visiting foreigner just passing through, to make any smart remarks about the indigenous /Aboriginal 'problem' (maybe the wrong choice of words) – I simply won't go there, as the whole contentious issue is obviously a very sensitive one and will not be resolved in a hurry, if ever. But it's there all the same; and just like the flies in these remoter outback regions of Aus, it's right in your face. Having said that, we are coming to terms with the flies.

Nuff said!

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Monday 9th

The bush looked especially green – even 'lush' – for the time of year. All because of a particularly late ending 'Wet' (wet season). So we pull over to take a picture of this unusual set of circumstances. See the surface water in the foreground – and the background in the above picture? This was quite typical of our roadside outlook as we sped up the Stuart, along familiar ground, towards Katherine.

Yet paradoxically we passed alongside plenty of bush fires too .. just smouldering away, not representing any particular danger.

Kicking-up a hellofa lot of smoke though, that can be seen from an awful long way away, often creating quite a sinister acrid haze that changed the colour of the sky and blocked-out quite a high percentage of the sun's glare.

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Anyway, back to the location where we stopped to take the first photo (above), just after where some major road repair work was ongoing [but not this day, as it was a Sunday] ..

.. and the next thing we see is a rider on a decommissioned 'postie bike' – which is a little step-through 110 cc Honda motorcycle that aussie postman/women use to deliver their loads of mail – with its spare fuel can getting dragged along behind on a safety lanyard. Obviously bounced off somewhere over the temporary rough gravel surface due to the road works. We gesture to the rider that his current situation is not exactly ideal! He stops, takes of his helmet, which reveals Asian features.

Taiwanese 'Tin', with his extraordinarily overloaded second-hand postie bike. We strike-up a conversation – as ya do in such circumstances, albeit Tin only speaks a little pigeon English – to learn that our newest friend is working his way around Oz for two years, mainly fruit picking as each state's regional crops grow to full ripeness. Tin was heading up to Darwin in the hope of initially finding work in one of the City's fish markets, before moving on to the Mango fields during August-September time.

About 50-60 km [30-37 mi] up the road and we stop for a bite to eat at the nearly-all-closed-down highway settlement of Larrimah. Good job we weren't in need of petrol, as the local servo ceased trading 3-4 years ago – that is, according to Fran (above), who is the owner/manager of the strangely familiar named café, “Fran's Devonshire Tea House” located in the old Larrimah Police Station and Museum. Fran might look like a bitofa'n old battleaxe, and no doubt she works long /hard hours in her run-down establishment; but despite the sour-face and her 'optional' approach to hygiene and health & safety issues, she still manages to serve-up a dose of sugar with everything she touches. A real sweetie.

Then Tin rocks-up on his little postie bike – and Fran gives us all a free lesson in how to make Cornish Pasties, which is one of the 'speciality' dishes listed on her not-so-extensive menu.

Despite my Cornish heritage and catering background I still couldn't convince Fran that: carrot, parsnip and sweetcorn nibs simply shouldn't be on a pasty's list of ingredients. Fran was having none of it .. because she is THE leading authority on all English Westcountry matters in The Territory .. so I graciously retired from the argument, not prepared to even mention the subtle art of pastry crimping. I was not brave enough. Discretion is always the better part of valour!

But hey Fran, you just might be onto something though with the ginger & garlic oggie seasoning. Worth a try when I get back home, I reckon.

Tin was lost for words throughout, so nothing unusual there!

We go take another look at his luggage arrangements ..

.. which beggars belief – complete with a shopping basket plus a milk crate for stowage purposes and'all!

We say our goodbyes to Tin; the three of us posing for the usual exchange of photos .. and agree to meet-up in Darwin (maybe).

We then headed for Katherine, where we spent the night.

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Tuesday 10th

The Township of Katherine .. and the word 'Indigenous' again springs to mind [?!]

No worries, it's all good mate!

A riverboat ride up the Katherine (Nitmiluk) Gorge is a worthwhile excursion, so we were told. Better go take a look then, eh?

A perfect day for it too. There are supposed to be crocs living hereabouts, but we didn't see even a trace of these elusive critters.

We were on a two-hour mid-morning tour that involved a change of boats halfway through.

Nice enough, very pleasant in fact – but we weren't convinced it was worth the admission price of AU$60.

[tight-arsed poms – whinge!]

That afternoon we travelled further north to the settlement of Batchelor – widely recognised as the gateway into Litchfield National Park.

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Wednesday 11th

LITCHFIELD NATIONAL PARK

No entry fees apply, which is what attracted us to stopover in the area, as opposed to its eastern neighbouring Park, The Kakadu, which would have asked us to stump-up a AU$50 (for two) admission charge. Bugger that for a lark, as fifty bucks represents two tanks of petrol that could carry us along the road for more than 600 km [375+ miles].

Our first stop inside the Park was to see some of the magnetic termite mounds. The flat-faced mounds (or nests), standing up to two metres in height, are in a north-south orientation. This configuration acts as a built-in temperature control mechanism, allowing only the least possible surface area to be exposed to the heat of the sun.

If you're gonna have one .. then you may as well have a BIG ONE!

Florence Falls

A spectacular double waterfall ..

.. that we just had to get down to see close up.

The weather was sooooo perfect that ..

.. we felt the uncontrollable urge to get our kit off! Ellen is the first to take the plunge into the cool and refreshing crystal clear monsoon pool.

She makes a valiant attempt to reach the base of the waterfalls, but the backflow is too strong for her.

Now does this look like the face of a man who knows that he's in blissful paradise; or

A bloke that's simply relieved to be taking a p!ss?

You decide!

Tolmer Falls

Tolmer Falls cascades over two escarpments into ..

.. this deep, and again crystal clear, plunge pool. Although no bathing is allowed, as the base of the Falls is home to several colonies of the rare and endangered Ghost Bats and Orange Horseshoe Bats.

Wangi Falls

Ellen meets, The Stig .. on our last excursion of the day.

One of the greatest aspects of Aussie lifestyle is the plentiful gas BBQs that the general public are free to use, more-often-than-not at no charge whatsoever. An example of the 'great outdoors' in action.



Usually you can take a bathe in the swimming hole at the bottom of Wangi, but not when we were there. Those darn crocs are allegedly around again; not that we saw any.

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Towards the end of our 80 km [50 mi] ride back from Wangi Falls to our cabin in Batchelor, we almost ran down a kangaroo that shot out and across our path from right to left. How I missed him I'll never know. It was just an inch or two away from my front wheel as we sped past at around 90 km/h [56 mph]. AND apart from our lids, we were wearing no protective apparel whatsoever. And why should we? - doh! - After all, we were only out and about on a little afternoon's ride in the sun.

A salutary lesson in ATGATT (an acronym for: all the gear all the time). Our wonderful time down under nearly came to an untimely and abrupt end, right there and then!

Remember: ATGATT

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Thursday 12th

Our last day's ride to somewhere. Darwin, the capital city of the Northern Territory. Population c. 125,000

We knew where we were going to stay that night – right in the heart of the City, but had around four hours to complete the comparatively short 100 km [62 mi] ride up there from Batchelor.

With this spare time in mind, we turned off the Stuart to take a look around the Darwin Manton River Dam, just on the off chance of spotting a crocodile or two.


Another idyllic location and totally deserted .. apart from us being there, of course ...

Maybe it was good that we didn't come across any crocs after all!


Shortly after midday – and we've travelled as far as the road can take us. We had reached the Arafura Sea; figuratively speaking, this is the end of our journey around Australia. Under a clear blue sky and a predictable temperature of 30ºC [86ºF]; at this point we are just 12.5 degrees of latitude below the Equator.

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I claim no fame as a butt-hardened motorcycle rider and will never break any world records for foolishness or tough stuff. I take care not to make appointments that my riding skills and capabilities cannot keep. In short, I usually have to work hard at my ride.

But you should know that when I turned my ignition key anticlockwise to stop the V-twin's engine at this very spot in order to snap the picture you see (above), it brought on a very satisfactory moment of delight. Because despite my motorcycling mediocrity, I can now claim to have circumnavigated all of this huge island continent, plus taken a not inconsiderable jaunt through its red centre. So I must be doing something right on two wheels.

26,000 Australian kilometres behind us ... and I can tell you, there is nothing like the feeling of a job well done .. and a dream fulfilled.

We celebrated the occasion throughout the remainder of the afternoon, and early evening .. Mitchell Street style. I'll not elaborate!

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Friday 13th

Ever since we reached the tropical north of Oz, Ellen has been gagging to see a crocodile or two. They seem a bit shy to us .. in their natural habitat. So this morning we will go to see them, one way or another. A visit to Crocosaurus Cove – 'Crocs in the City', had to be a good bet.

From baby crocs ..

.. up close and personal.

To the BIG buggers ..

.. and at feeding time.

Fugly muthers though ain't they?

We agreed that it probably wasn't all that bad .. not meeting one of these monsters out there in the wild after all. Had we done so then we would probably have soiled ourselves, and discovered just how fast we can run!

And Crocosaurus Cove is not just all about crocodiles, as it has the largest collection of Australian reptiles on display in the world. It's appropriate, therefore, to include this remarkable picture (below) of ..

.. a python gobbling down his one solitary meal for the week. We were present as he slowly and methodically swallowed back this rat through his unhinged jaw .. whole!

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Late in the afternoon, after getting a new pair of tyres fitted at Precision Motorcycles – we rode the short distance of around 20 km [12½ mi] south down to the outlying suburb of Palmerston, to hook-up once again with our bloody good mates, Brett and Tracey.

We met Brett & Tracey in one of those pure chance meetings out on the road, last year [2010] in April, up in the north-west region of Western Australia .. and hit it off almost straightaway. We've kept in touch ever since.

What good fortune for us that they should live at our journey's end.

What I do know, for sure, is that we shared three fantastic days /evenings and nights together down in Palmerston, which kicked-off with a bottle of champagne. Why didn't we (Ellen & I) think of that? Highly appropriate under the circumstances.


Tons of great food, always al fresco; great wine .. and almost too much laughter, which was non-stop throughout the weekend. I even think we also went out to get a hazy spot of shopping and general browsing done once or twice!

I just cannot imagine a better way to finish off what has been a simply fantastic adventure. Life really doesn't get any better than this.

Thanks Brett and Tracey, for every-darn-thing. You know what I mean, eh?

See ya soon mates.

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The story from Ellen's perspective - click here

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SUMMARY:

I don't want to finish this chapter of my blog on a soppy note, but I have to say that this Australian Experience has been the most perfect time of my life.

But now I'm looking forward to getting back home to Cornwall and rest my head on that old, familiar pillow. I guess you can travel the world in search of what you think you need, only to return home and find it.

And finally, a BIG thanks to all the exceptionally kind Aussie folk, friends and acquaintances alike all over this unique country - like in Melbourne, the regions of Adelaide, Canberra, Newcastle, around and about Brisbane, Darwin and the Perth area - who offered and provided so much valuable help and encouragement to me along the way of this once in a lifetime trip. I have seen more than I can remember - and your altruistic support has meant that I remember more than I have seen.

CONCLUSION:

It's official -  I  Australia!


AND .. I'LL BE BACK!


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The Whole Round Trip - 26,000 kilometres

To enlarge - click-on the picture 

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