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, 9 May 2011

Right Way Round ... Another Circle Squared

Sunday May 1st, 2011; and

Monday 2nd & Tuesday 3rd

Undara Volcanic National Park. Check out The Undara Experience for background info.

Voted Australia's most unique accommodation.

It is indeed kind of neat going to bed and sleeping in a converted railway carriage ..

.. and waking up with the aussie bush literally right outside your bedroom door. First Class ..

.. with a nice cuppa tea! I play the role of steward, of course!

Undara is a National Park, BUT without general public access. The Lodge - where we stayed - has a small team of specialist Savannah guides who run tours throughout the lave tube complex. This is the only way you can visit and see them - so we took a 2-hour tour.

The volcanic activity that formed the tubes occurred approximately 190,000 years ago. Volcanos around here expelled massive amounts of lava through these tubes [tunnels] onto the surrounding Tableland.

This lava would have followed a river bed and cooled and solidified around the edges and on top, while lava in the centre, insulated, could continue to flow.

Eventually as the flow ran out (over a 20-year period or so), the molten lava would have just flowed out and away leaving a tunnel, which is now called the 'lava tube' system.

Here and there, the tube roof has collapsed (above pic), allowing access to a number of separate tunnels.

This year some of the tubes are flooded, which means that, unusually, you can go for a supervised swim, if that takes your fancy ..

.. in absolutely crystal clear 24ºC water. This opportunity to swim in these caves and tubes only comes along about once in every twenty years. So we lucked-out, for sure.

The view looking back out (and up) from our natural underground heated swimming pool.

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During the evenings/night-times of Sunday-1st & Mon-2nd

We make friends and share our dinner table with pommie ex-pats Margaret and Brian; they've been in Australia for 42 years now.

Caz & Greg .. and Anne & Russell (Anne had retired to her bed early)

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Here are few more local acquaintances we met along the road over the course of the last few days .. in and around Undara NP

Goanna (Australian monitor lizard). Tip to tail, this monster must have been getting on for two metres (6 ft) in length

If you're a poultry farmer, or even raise a few chickens for fun, then ya wouldn't want to find one of these in yer chook shed - cuz he'd scoff all yer eggs mate!

I dunno who was more scared .. me or the Goanna Fact was, he 'scarpered' up a tree, if that's the right word.

An Eastern Grey Kangaroo, with a young Joey in her pouch

Giant Dragonfly

Just loitering around a street corner.

A little frog hanging on the toilet wall adjacent to our sleeping carriage .. with unblinking eyes wide open. Made my feel slightly uncomfortable when taking a p!ss

Katie Kookaburra

.. who visits us at night too

A 12 cm [5"] grasshopper

.. and loads more frogs everywhere. They're kinda cute though, eh?

Quasi feral cattle .. just about the only kind of stock that can get by out here. Sheep don't stand a chance due to the course nature of the grasses in this region of the country.

Potentially confrontational!

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Wednesday 4th

515 km [320 mi] after leaving fabulous Undara, we eventually rocked-up (after a night's stopover in Normanton) at the sleepy little coastal village of Karumba, which nestles in the southeast corner of the Arafura Sea (Gulf of Carpentaria) on the mouth of the Norman River .. and is the centre of the Gulf's prawning industry. Karumba is renowned for:
  • Fresh prawns
  • Fishing
  • Birdwatching
  • More prawns
  • Camping
  • Off Road Driving
  • Even more prawns
  • Sensational sunsets; and
  • Doing bugger'all!
Just past midday in Karumba ..

.. and the temperature is almost a very balmy 31.0ºC [87.5ºF]. AND it's a nice dry['ish] type of heat .. with a humidity factor of around 50% .. :-)

towards dusk and sunset - which occurred at 6.17pm - we took a walk across the shoreline, just for a spell of lazy beach-combing.

6.17pm precisely

THE best sunset we've ever seen, which lasted and lingered for simply ages; forty-five minutes, at least.

Panorama - click on the picture for full view

Gobsmacking! - really quite astonishingly beautiful, even after the sun had sunk well below the western horizon.

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Whilst at Kumbara I carried out a regular drive chain maintenance inspection and noticed that it has acquired a 'hard spot' or two .. meaning it tightens-up around the sprockets in at least one or two section(s) of the chain's links.

This particular chain + set of sprockets have done around 30,000 km, so I can't really complain, as I've had good value from them. I was, however, hoping I could make them last all the way to Darwin; then bring a new set down with me from England and fit it all to the Alp before we set off for Indonesia. There would be a substantial saving in this approach as I can buy a genuine Honda front and rear drive sprockets and 'O' ring drive chain for £109.00 (AU$170) from David Silver Spares.

BUT I didn't want to take the chance of the chain breaking down (snapping) before the journey's end, which I guess was a real possibility. So I arranged to call-in to see the owner /mechanic at 'Bike and Rider' a Mount Isa-based Honda motorcycle dealership in a couple of days' time, on Friday-6th.

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Thursday 5th

Down the Burke 'Development' Road from sleepy Karumba ~~> for 454 km [280 mi] - with the chain increasingly clunking and rumbling all the way - to the substantial inland farming community /township of Cloncurry. This stretch of road is otherwise known as The Matilda Highway and is custom-made for travellers who want a taste of the Outback.

The term 'Development' means just that. It's in a constant state of upgrade. The picture below is typical of huge stretches of this 'road'.

More often it's just a sealed lane .. only wide enough for one vehicle.

If you meet another oncoming vehicle .. then one of you has to move out to the ditch. Most, very kindly and thoughtfully, give way to motorcycles .. except road trains, who don't give a bleedin' inch (fuggers). Needless to say, I wasn't prepared to argue the point!

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Friday 6th

We 'limped' into Mount Isa (across from Cloncurry) with the chain groaning and creaking in protest; it was done for. Quite obviously it was, after 30,000 km, very stretched and elongated - BUT the seal(s) retaining the lubrication for one or more rollers had also failed. We were lucky to have made it to Mt Isa at all!

And the even better news: Terry, the boss man at 'Bike and Rider', had managed to get a new set of sprockets flown-in from Brisbane .. which sounds drastic, I know, but this is the way all spare parts reach his workshop (because of the distances involved road carriage is impracticable).

We leave Terry to get on with it - and went to take a look around this isolated mining community. Starting with 'The Look Out' the highest vantage point in town.

The view across to the mines

'Suburbia' .. to the southeast

Rather him than me! .. did I ever mention my aversion to heights by the way?

15,724 km [9,770 mi] to London from here, along the Great Circle route (shortest direct distance) .. not that we'll be following the Great Circle when we leave for London from Darwin, just 10 days after taking this picture; as we'll be dog-legging the flight home via Singapore.

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Back down on street level, to see ..

.. MONSTER road trains, some towing at least four - maybe even five - trailers, I lost count ..

.. jostling their way through the main drag of 'The Isa'

Panorama - click on the picture for full view

Mount Isa skyline .. in perfect weather conditions.

With my sexy new drive gear fitted, we ride out of town .. simply purring along. No more rumbling, knocking and clanging.

Bike and Rider, Mt Isa. A top firm. Ask for Terry, a top bloke who will sort you out with any drama. Thanks Terry, and good onya mate. Fair Dinkum! .. ;-)

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Saturday 7th

And how do I know that I got around 30,000 km out of my old chain and sprockets? Well, the last lot were fitted down in Invercargill, South Island NZ - at around 19,500['ish] ..

.. and now here we are just before reaching the state border that separates Queensland and the Northern Territory, about 200 km [124 mi] after leaving Mt Isa, we click-over 50,000 km [31,069 mi]. Travelling at precisely 50 km/h [31 mph]. Pretty cool, huh?!

At the border and, because we are heading west (back in time), all our clocks and watches and computer gadgets and other stuff need to be put back by half an hour.

Northern Territory allows a max speed limit of 130 km/h [81 mph], which is very generous compared to the rest of Australia.

We scoot off westwards at our usual cruising speed of around 100 km/h [62 mph] .. across the desert that's looking unseasonably green - because of extended rainy season, which only properly finished a couple of weeks ago - along the flat, mainly featureless desert terrain of the Barkly Highway, which makes a pancake look positively mountainous!

And after a hot and fairly tedious ride of around 450 km [280 mi], we rock-up to the junction where the Barkly and Stuart Highways meet.

We last passed by here on Tuesday April-20th last year [2010] .. and so the circle is complete; we have come 'Right Way Round' Australia, with no real mishaps. What a great feeling .. :-)

We then made a 90º left turn and headed south for a further 24 km [15 mi] - in exactly the opposite direction from our intended finishing point at Darwin! - especially to hook-up and have a drink, plus some dinner, with our new friends Daryl & Jean Harwood who live down the road in the historic gold-mining town of Tennant Creek.

[Another hat tip: to David over in Newcastle NSW for the intro]

Jean is a Harley Davidson rider - and has spent some time in Dili, Timor-Leste .. whilst Daryl is a real 'hard core' Harley rider - and a genuine top bloke into the bargain. So we just had to meet-up.

We spent a great evening together - and as Jean has close family relatives who live in Plymouth, Devon (just an hour up the road from our house), then we hope to see them both again some time in the not-too-distant future .. maybe as soon as next year, which would be great!

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Sunday 8th

Since leaving Undara Volcanic National Park on Tuesday 3rd, we have covered a whopping distance - for us - of 2,203 km [1,369 mi] through the Savannah lands of the aussie north .. that has brought us to Daly Waters, which is probably our most favourite wayside stopover of them all .. The Highway Inn.

This famous pub, in the middle of nowhere, is decorated throughout with banknotes, baseball caps, ladies knickers & brassiers, students' personal ID cards, T-shirts, beer coolers, national and club flags and other memorabilia left by visitors from every corner of the globe.

And in our opinion, they serve-up THE very best 'Beef & Barra' (steak & meaty, flakey fish) anywhere in Australia.

It's the only place I know where, if you mis-behave, the door staff actually ban you from leaving!

Chuck-in some Country & Western and more-than-a-few bad jokes .. and you've got a winning formula!

We're glad we took the trouble to return to Daly Waters.

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Only just over a solitary week remaining - and one last final blog post - before we embark upon that big silver bird and fly back home to England next Monday, May-16th. My word .. how the time has also flown since we arrived in Oz on the first day of March.

Catcha later alligator .. [er?] .. I mean, crocodile .. ;-)

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POST SCRIPT

Actually, right now, as I tap-out these words and narrative, we're another 275 km [171 mi] further up the Stuart Highway, in the township of Katherine. We'll take a look around the Katherine Gorge tomorrow morning (Tue-10th), before travelling further up The Stuart towards our ultimate destination of Darwin, the capital city of NT .. colloquially called the 'Top End'.

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PPS

Here's a link to Ellen's journal for the period of travel from Hydeaway Bay -to- Undura, in Tropical Queensland: LINKY

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