I looked at my blog site last night and realised Id written nothing for six months. So, I thought it worth the effort to put together a new article because so much has happened in that time.
So here it is….
My last blog detailed my upcoming trip to Ireland, and then across Europe, Central Asia, Mongolia and Russia, finishing in Vladivostok after 24000kms, on the east coast of Siberia. On my BMW GS Dakar 650 motorcycle – a beautiful bike!
Id bought the moto online in the UK, and spent the good part of two year planning the trip. So much to organise- the route, visas, the carnet, workshops to service the bike and fit new tyres along the way, border crossings, tool kit and spare parts- it was mind boggling and as someone very new to riding a moto, had me pretty stressed.
But I managed to pull it all together because organising is something, I am good at- comes with putting together 15 high alpine mountaineering expeditions over the last 15 years to weird and wonderful parts of the world, most of which were successful
I resigned from my job as a rural reporter for Fairfax and headed off to Ireland in May 2018. Had a few days on the bike on the Irish backroads, getting used to it and riding with an extra 30-40kg loaded on the back. The day I was due to catch the ferry to France I went out for a final ride- a couple of hundred kilometres up the Wild Atlantic Way, which follows the west coast of Ireland.
I was on my way back, following some little backroads when I came to an intersection. Couldn’t see because of the stone walls either side of the intersection, so went a little closer, then set off across. Bang! Ran smack into a car! The bike was flipped into the air and I was bowled over and over across the road.
As soon as I picked myself up and looked at the bike, I knew my trip was over. It was completely munted- everything along the right side was demolished and the panniers were lying in the ditch 50m away. Id hit the car on the passenger door, somehow flipped round and hit it on the rear door, breaking all the windows. Later discovered the car was a write off
Upshot was the bike was a write off too and I had a broken tibia. Nothing else to do but come home, recover and re-assess.
Next stage! Six weeks later I thought my leg was sufficiently recovered to try a trip around Australia. After all I had given up my job and put the time aside for a moto expedition. I bought a BMW GS 650 online (as I already have the spare parts and tools for the 650) , and booked a ticket for Port Macquarie where the bike was located. Flew in and pick it up. Another lovely bike in great condition!
My confidence wasn’t great so I spent a couple of days riding the backroads up and down the coast from Port Macquarie getting used to the bike. Lovely country, beaches, forests, kangaroos and birds.
But I had to get going so set off early one morning for Armadale on the New England Plateau. The first 150 km was gorgeous, a really windy road through the forest climbing up and over the Great Dividing Range. I started to get into the groove and arrived in Armadale later in the afternoon.
What surprised me was how cold the next few days were- wind, snow, rain and cloud. In Australia! But I pressed on and a few days later, as soon as I crossed into Queensland it warmed up. The ride up to Townsville and then Cairns was a joy- lovely, lovely scenery and wonderful warm temperatures. By the time I reached Cairns I’d done over 2000kms and I treated myself to a hotel and a couple of nights off. Prior to this Id been camping in the campgrounds attached to road houses.
In Cairns it started to rain, real tropical downpours, and after waiting a couple of days to see if it would ease off, I ditched my plans to ride up to Cape York and headed west in search of better weather. I found that 300km inland on the Atherton Tablelands. The sun came out and I stopped for a bit to dry out. Felt a lot happier to finally be in the sunshine.
By the time I’d ridden across the north to Kununara I’d done over 5000km and was really into the groove of getting up, packing up camp, riding all day, and making camp again that night. By now, everything, including me and the bike, was covered in red dirt.
My biggest days were 700km plus, but easy because the temps were warm and there was little wind. The bike was running really well. I was doing regular oil and air filter changes. I was all set to tackle the Gibb River Road (600kms of dirt) through the Kimberly although crossing the Pentecost river had me wary.
I turned up at the river at 6.30 am. One look (100m across, boulders and apparently full of crocodiles) decided me that I would wait for a 4WD to come along and ask if they would follow me across and help if I dropped the bike. After a couple of hours an elderly couple came along and kindly agreed to leap out of their Nissan and render assistant. Upshot was…I made it across ok and then spent the next 3 days riding through the Kimberlies to Derby. Fantastic apart from the corrugations which were terrible… and the dust.
A week later I’d made it down into Western Australia and was in the town of Laverton about to start the Great Central Road. 1100kms of dirt. After the Kimberlies I was hoping like hell that I wouldn’t have to deal with the same degree of corrugations…. but I was wrong! There was 1100kms of them- I honestly stood on my pegs the whole way. Plus, sand, which I had never ridden before, and some bull dust. And temps got down to around minus 5 at night, and made it hard to get out of the tent in the morning.
By the time I got to Ayres Rock, four days later, I was pretty tired. Another night in a hotel-yay! And by now I had nearly 10,000kms under my belt. Bloody hell Australia was huge.
At this point I had hoped to ride the Oonadatta Track in South Australia, but is suddenly dawned on me I had 3000km to cover and only a week before my flight back to New Zealand. So, I high-tailed it down to Port Augusta (by now back in the chilly temps and wind). Then the long haul across New South Wales (through the drought country) and back to Port Macquarie. Bike into storage and home. Where it finally sunk in what a fantastic seven weeks and 13,000kms it had been and I wouldn’t have missed it for anything!
What I didn’t mention is that while I was away Fairfax (bless them) made all 12 of their rural reporters redundant, and then re-advertised 3 positions. I applied for one of them, and got it…while I was on the road. So, I had a job to come back to. Yay!
So what plans now? I am going to do my big UK, Europe, Iran, Central Asia, Mongolia, Russia trip in 2019. I hope I have better luck this time! I’ve already booked my Aussie bike on a boat from Melbourne to Southampton, UK. So, the wheels are in motion!