Sunday, March 1, 2015

Getting to the Simpson

July 25. Blue Mountain to outside Lithgow. 106 km
We had a few things to sort in the morning but we finally got on the road. It didn't matter if we only got a 100 km in the afternoon, we were finally leaving the Sidney area. Heading toward the middle. Heading toward the Simpson. Just past Lithgow it started to rain some so we found a place to camp where a forest met an ex-forest. We had plenty of dry wood to burn and even some shelter. We had a good hot meal and some hot ginger tea with Wild Turkey Honey Whiskey. Quite a fine combination I must say. Later on in the night I got my first taste of Australian stars when the weather cleared. I finally figured out how to take pictures of the stars. Open the aperture as wide as possible and set your timer. If you touch the camera to take the picture, it will move enough to blur the picture. It was cold that night but I slept well.

Binary forest. Forest-on. Forest-off.

Open up that aperture!

July 26. Near Lithgow to Trangie 331 km
It had not occurred to me that my health insurance was about to expire in a few days. The outback was not a place I wanted to be without insurance. Luckily the Library in Bathurst had internet. 30 minutes and about $800 later, I had insurance for another year. We kept riding west. At this point we were still close to civilization. In Oz, this means the coasts. That evening we camped at a RV park/camp ground. It was almost full but we were the only travelers as much as I could tell. The rest were rail road workers.

Outside the library

Cooking a concoction

Ready to scarf down. 

July 27. Trangie to Wilcannia 518 km
After breakfast we had to take a few pictures of the owners huge puppy. I was listening to music because it was boring riding. Straight and flat for the most part. I would get excited when we would make a turn after 30 km of straight. You had to stay alert because of the danger of hitting an Emu or Kangaroo. The road was littered with carcasses. About 50 km from Cobar, we met an older guy on the side of the road tearing into a NX650 Dominator. We offered help but he said we wouldn't be able to fix it. I remember thinking "This is Craig and Noah you are talking to. We have traveled very far with much greater problems than you electrical issue." But he insisted that we go on because he had a trailer. Once in Cobar, we found the other 3 people in his group. We told them he had a trailer coming and they shouldn't wait. The other guys deiced to head out with us. Now we were a Triumph, 2x KTM 690s, Xt660 and a BMW Xchalange 650. Ian on the 690 had done quite a bit of custom work to his bike for adv travel. I was most impressed by the custom rally exhaust. In his words, "its a lot of wasted space if where they decided to put it". They were all heading to the "Off Center Rally" which I planned to ride to after Craig went back to work. For the next few days we would cross paths many times. We would ride together, take different paths and get separated, and we always seemed to camp in the same camp ground. That night we had a great camp fire under the stars. The bottle of honey wisky didn't make it through the night. I think as a group we killed 3 bottles. Or at least partial bottles. We talked about bikes, woman and life. They told us about growing up and we told them how we didn't want to. They agreed it was best not to.

Big puppy. 

Horsey. Unfortunately, a few months ago, I got an email that Horsey hit an Emu on this same bike and died shortly after. He was an amazing man and I feel lucky to have met him. He will be missed by many. 

I have to admire his ingenuity. 

July 28. Wilcannia to Cameron Corner
We finally hit gravel. Finally I didn't have to rely on music or day dreaming. Now I had to pay attention. Now we were getting into the sun burnt land. A harsh place where rocks were varnished dark and shiny from the sun. A place that sees temperatures of over 50 degrees C in summer. A crazy place to live. We explored a small mining town called White Cliffs where people dig their houses underground to try to escape the heat. As crazy as it would be for me to live in a place like this, I can understand the isolation they enjoy from the rest of the world.
In Tiboorurra we got groceries and fuel. We decided to make burritos that night so a can of 4 bean mix was the closed we could find to kidney or black beans. I asked about a can of an Australian brand chili but Craig said he would rather eat kangaroo poo. The other guys took forever to get their food so we took off early. The road to Cameron corner was relatively good for the first bit. It turned to washboard just as the sun was in the perfect spot to blind us. The last 20 minutes of riding were not very fun. We made it to Cameron corner before Sundown. We had a beer and waited for the others. We waited till it was dark then decided to go find a place to camp when they didn't show up. We bush camped because we are cheap. Near a dry creek bed with lots of dead fuel for a fire. The burritos were pretty epic. Sauteed onion, garlic and pepper with beans and cheddar in soft tortillas. All wrapped up in tin foil and set on the coals for a handful of minutes. We had one more wrap left after dinner so we spread peanut butter on it and put a snickers bar in side. This went into foil and on to the coals. The tortilla wrap was slightly crunchy, the chocolate and stuff in the snickers melted and slightly mixed with the peanut butter. It was an amazing desert. I often wonder if it would taste as good if you made it in your own house. But in the wild, you don't ask questions. You eat because you are hungry, and if it is tasty, that's a bonus.

We found a headlight from an old truck.

Ready for battle. 

Only part of the house that is above ground. 

Door into a hill. Someone's house.

Cheburashka is loving the desert.

Tuna can carrier


July 29 Cameron Corner to Innaminka

We got fuel at Cameron Corner store before heading west. The old guys were there. They said they got in after dark. We thought for sure they would have stopped when it got dark. The call of the beer was strong I guess. Not soon after we left, I was able to say "I told you so" to Craig. Though I didn't say it, he know what I was thinking. Before we left home, he had his racks welded. For some reason the guys who welded it put the cross brace in a position that was in danger of contacting the rear tire if the suspension was being worked. Craig hit a deep soft bull-dust hole and the tire hit the cross brace hard. The brush that grows in the desert is a very hard wood, but when it dies, it gets very brittle. Almost from dry rot or something. We finally found a piece of wood and carved the ends to brace the pannier frames. The wood even had a correct bend to keep it away from the tire. Its hard to describe the flies in the outback. They don't bite. They go for liquid. They go for your eyes, your mouth, your nose. They are everywhere it seems. We decided to take the Old Strzelecki track north to Innaminka. It was a fast track. Pretty solid except a few places where sand blew into the road. We could have gotten off the small track about 45 km from Innaminka. The other guys took the bigger road parallel and said was 45 km of washboard. Its ironic how many times I've found the smaller track to be smoother. We all drank red wine from a box and Craig cooked pasta. I took the time in the evening to change out my tires. They were past due. In fact, a cop in Olive Downs pointed out how bald they were. I said "I'm trying to get my money's worth out of them". He replied "I think you got your money worth." Noted. I get the hint. I'll change out for the new ones ASAP. Its interesting though, bald tires track pretty well in soft sand if you let some pressure out. I guess it helps to have a nice light bike.

The point where New South Wales, Southern Australia and Queensland meet. If you celebrate new years here, you get 3 different time zones to kiss your girl. 

Dingo fence between NSW and South Australia.

Flies. There is a reason he is wearing his helmet. I was also. 


New Mitus E09 ready for the desert.

July 30. Innaminka to Birdsville.

Craig and I went west from Innaminka on the Walkers Crossing track. I had aired up my tires the night before when it was cool. Now in the hot of the day, they were way to hard. The bike felt so squirly and pretty much un-rideable in the soft stuff. So we stopped and I reduced the pressure to about 23 psi. This was a night and day difference. I could hit the soft stuff and the bike wouldn't even wiggle. Strait as an arrow. The front end didn't want to push in corners. The ass end only wanted to come out a little bit. It was perfect. Later I would drop the pressure to below 20 when I went into the Simpson for extra stability. For the moment, I didn't want to pinch a tube or bend a rim on the random rocks. At the end of the day we were riding through a rock field. The rocks were black and shiny from the sun. It seemed like the surface of another planet. We ate a good meal at a bar in Birdsville with another group of guys on bikes. They were planning on going across the Simpson in the morning. We also spoke with a guy who tried it and turned back the day before. He was on an unloaded BMW 1200. He had a support vehicle carrying his fuel. He said it was to soft for the big bike. I felt like saying "what did you expect". But to tell you the truth, I was a bit worried about just how soft it had gotten. I have friends in Sidney who crossed the Simpson in May on 690s and they had a ball. Since then, it has been hot and dry. The track had been beat to crap. It would be a challenge. We went to sleep with a nervous expectation of what was to come.

Very Very interesting motor. 

Someone got a flat. I did some napping when he was fixing it. 

The Magic Hour.