Day 4: Darwin NT to Fitzroy Crossing WA – 1476km
After completing the Centreline 24 less than 7 hours before I was in Darwin and awake at 6am wondering why I ever thought it might be a good idea to plan a 1476km ride to Fitzroy Crossing today. I got up and decided to count sore body parts but thankfully came up shorter on numbers than I expected. So I started putting the riding gear back on and emerged from my room for the night. Wendy was waiting to give me any help I needed and help came in the form of a strong double shot flat white and some hot water for the instant oats and sultanas I had in my gear ready to eat.
With the bike packed shortly thereafter and a witness form from Wendy I was on my way to the service station just up the road for a docket to start the next leg of my ride, an SS4000K/60 from Palmerston to Perth. There were other things planned on the way. With the receipt in the wallet I was away close to the planned time heading south towards Katherine happy I got to see the areas I rode through in darkness only last evening. After the long ride legs of yesterday the 313kms to Katherine was over before I knew it. I was at the point in the ride where one just “gets on and rides” without really thinking about it. It’s a mile munching mindset and you’ll know what I’m trying to say if you’ve done multi-day rides yourself.
I fuelled up and turned west on to the Victoria Highway, for the first time this ride on to roads I haven’t ridden before. This area was beautiful and while still enjoying the 130kph speed limit unlike the Stuart Hwy there were corners! There was also more traffic on this road consisting mostly of campervans, caravans and tourist buses. Thankfully most of the latter were heading in the opposite direction but the traffic wasn’t really sufficient to interfere with the modest OA I had set myself for the day’s ride. And I was in a pretty good mood.
I’d been told about the riding through the Judbarra/Gregory National Park but had no idea it would be so gobsmackingly beautiful. This photo does not do it justice.
The highway meanders around ancient mountains with one long bend after another. Just after the Victoria River Roadhouse there was a sign indicating 15km of winding road ahead. It wasn’t what we New South Welshmen expect after riding the Oxley, Waterfall Way and the Bruxner when we see a winding road sign. These bends were negotiated cranked over with the cruise set on 130kph and each one of the seemed to go on forever. The bends didn’t open up or close down mid turn, it was just awesome. Sort of like slow motion cornering while going fast.
I stopped for a quick picture at Timber Creek, I didn’t stop in town, it looked a bit busy with buses etc but made a note to come back one day.
Further west the roads straightened up a touch, the scenery levelled out a bit and of course, in the middle of nowhere I always manage to find one of these.
But what really stood out to me on this part of the trip were the mad Boab trees. I’m not sure why they fascinated me and why it infuriated me that bellends (urban dictionary definition not the villagers) might choose to carve their names in them. But leaving that aside they kept my mind occupied for quite a while just scanning for the next one.
I stopped to take a quick border pic just before the fruit inspection station when I reached Western Australia. A surprisingly busy little place with grey nomads executing search warrants on their own campers before being game to present themselves to “the man”.
While adjusting to the lower 110kph speed limit the next part of the ride became just a little…um.. tedious isn’t the right word, riding is never tedious but compared to what went before it didn’t quite match up. The next stop was Kununurra which turned out to be larger than I expected and also quite busy. When I was riding into town I saw a white ute thing parked in the grass on the other side of the road. A quick flash of the lights from it caused me to check if I was inadvertently speeding..nope. The vehicle did a U-turn behind me and followed me in to town. I spotted the roadhouse too late to turn right to access it so I went down to the next block and turned. The vehicle followed me, then another right, another right and frankly I was glad to pull into the busy roadhouse because I thought I was being followed by a banjo wielding psycho in a ute.
It was LindsayGT, another FarRider, who was in town and following my SPOT track. He’d decided to say G’day! I’m trying to think of the last time I saw him, I think it might have been when we passed each other between Norseman and Balladonia on a day we were both doing IBA rides. We nodded at each other. I was happy to see him and find out I might not end up in someone’s cooking pot! FarRiders are everywhere!
I left Kununurra for Halls Creek turning left off the Victoria Highway on to the Great Northern Highway. I passed a guy riding a naked Honda, a straight 4, not sure what it was. He was packed to the rafters, lying on the tank with his feet on the rear footpegs (like Skidoooo but on a proper sized bike). His bike was working hard and I gave him a wave as I cruised past. Then out of the blue my GPS told me to do a U-Turn. The k’s left to Fitzroy Crossing looked right and I didn’t see any signs suggesting I turn. I decided to wait for Honda guy, he stopped and confirmed that I was heading in the right direction and my Tomtom was stupid. We had a quick chat, he was heading to the Bungle Bungles and thought I was quite mad riding to Fitzroy Crossing from our location in a day. I didn’t tell him where I’d left from.
I rode through the Community of Warnum. An interesting place, the local boys play football on the highway happily waving and smiling as I rode past. The next stop for fuel was Halls Creek. Frankly the only thing I remember about that was the receipt. Along this stretch of road I came across a number of cows on the road nudging one that had clearly been recently killed by a road train. I slowed but they were spooked. One looked at me and I could see the alarm in it’s eyes as it took of and the others with it in all directions. I was lucky none of them ran towards me.
Closer to Fitzroy Crossing I was blessed with a beautiful sunset.
On the way in to Fitzroy Crossing here and there I saw ute’s parked on the side of the road. I wasn’t sure what they might be doing until I saw one driving my way with a spotlight and a rifle poking out the passenger side scanning the scrub. Some Saturday night Highway sport I reckon but I decided that I wasn’t going to stop until I was well in to town.
There is no 24 hour fuel in Fitzroy Crossing and I arrived shortly before 8pm. With a 2am departure scheduled I filled the tanks first then doubled back to my accommodation for the night. The Fitzroy River Lodge – $220 for a motel room for the night and $37 odd dollars for a risotto (albeit a very nice one).
I took everything off the bike that could be taken off and lined it all up near my door for a fast exit. The room was comfortable enough and I slept soundly until the alarm went off at 1.15am.
Day 5: Fitzroy Crossing to Carnarvon – 1789Kms
The timing for today’s leg was based around arriving in Carnarvon the next day at 8pm local time before the hotel reception/bistro closed so I could eat and have a long rest before starting Day 6. While a 2am local time departure sounds odd my body clock was still telling me it was 4am so it wasn’t an issue – business as usual. The distance, 1790kms, would make up for the shorter day yesterday and see me back on IBA pace at the end of the fifth day.
I left Fitzroy Crossing and rode into the night. Around the hotel there was a kangaroo swarm but once out of town they were few and far between. My first fuel stop was planned for the Roebuck Plains Roadhouse 362kms down the road. I’d pass through a couple of small places and not turn right into Derby, nothing much would be open there if anything at the time I was there.
Wildlife was scarce but not quite as scarce as traffic. In the first 340ks or so of that leg I didn’t see more than 5 other vehicles on the road. Occasionally I’d spot a flash of light from overnight camping areas but essentially there wasn’t much out there than my Baja Designs Squadron LED’s and the S2’s showing me the way.
Then about 20kms north of Roebuck Plains while riding quite carefully though a floodway a medium sized kamikaze kangaroo came flying out of the brush from my right determined to achieve martyrdom. I recall my disbelief at the speed of the roo with it’s head down and tail straight out reminiscent of the Road Runner in the cartoon at full tilt. I hit it head on, I felt a big bang through the handlebars and the loud crunching of plastic filled my ear plugs. Luckily the bike wasn’t overly upset and kept rolling. It took me a moment to gather my wits and stop. The roo was in the darkness behind me somewhere except for the parts of it that remained on the bike. I was completely untouched and very happy about that.
I took out my torch and gave the bike a quick once over. A broken front guard, broken fairing, broken engine cover, dislodged mirror but no leaks and no coolant apparent. The radiator guard was in tact. There was nothing to do but see if the bike would ride and get to the roadhouse and hopefully some light so I could properly survey the damage. I had to break a bit of the fairing off so the steering would turn. I didn’t give that much thought at the time but I should have. Fortunately the bike seemed rideable but the steering felt odd and it pulled to the left.
At Roebuck Plains I looked at the bike and filled it with fuel out of habit. I went inside got a receipt and ordered a bacon and egg roll and a coffee. While I gathered my wits and thought about options. I called my wife and left her a message and then called 93TigerBill. Last time I needed some rescuing I called Bill first and my wife got cross! While on the phone to Bill I gave the bike a good look over and discussed options with him. Broome wasn’t far away but it was Sunday. If I went there the ride would be over and I’d have to suffer a bit of a logistical nightmare getting me home and the bike repaired. I told Bill I thought I should ride the bike to the next fuel stop and see how it was. He reminded me that the next fuel stop, Port Hedland, was 565kms away and there was three fifths of bugger all between my present location and there. Excellent advice but I decided not to take it. I wasn’t ready to give up yet and it was only a bit of plastic and some slightly dodgy steering. So after about 45 minutes there gathering myself together I was on my way south.
I stopped at the Sandfire Roadhouse briefly to check on the damage and look at the front tyre which was scrubbing slightly on the right side but not seriously. I took a quick pic and left.
It was a bit hard on the shoulders keeping the bike straight but I found a sweet spot speed that was within the limit that lightened up the steering and made it tolerable. I also avoided using the front brakes and slowed for all corners, I didn’t really want to take any risks with the damaged front end. Then when on the outskirts of Port Hedland I stood on the pegs to stretch my legs and noticed the front wheel wasn’t visible. It usually was. At the fuel station near the airport I looked into this more and realised that the front forks were bent backwards and the wheel was at least 5cm behind where it should be. I could see the bends in the forks and it explained why I had to break away a few chunks of the broken fairing so I could steer. The wheel was in the space previously occupied the lower part of the fairing where each side panel joins.
“Well,” I thought, “It’s held together for 565kms, there’s no point stopping now”. So I didn’t.
On the west coast the scenery changed
I rode past Karratha and my plan saw me getting fuel at the Fortescue River Roadhouse for the last time before my overnight stop in Carnarvon. Interesting place Fortescue River, I’m not really sure why it’s there but there’s some form of workman’s accommodation out the back and the toilets are through a locked gate in the empty looking caravan park. I didn’t bother.
531kms to go to Carnarvon, I didn’t see any need to change my routine so it was to be non-stop from here. I fuelled up on the way in to town and rode to the motel absolutely chuffed that I arrived bang on 8pm. In time to check in with a real person and partake of the well reviewed on Booking.com buffet dinner.
I was due to leave at 4am local time however I had decided to end the ride in Perth tomorrow thus and abandoning my fancier plans to visit Denham to start a Trans Australia ride and a 50CC Gold at Scarborough later that day. I set my alarm for 5am and made myself very comfy in a nice king size bed.
All up it was a happy moment. On arrival here I’d just knocked off a very strangely timed and ridden SS8000km (5 days) since leaving Newcastle and I had 10 hours up my sleeve.
Day 6: Carnarvon to Muchea (Perth) – 844kms
Today was to be a cruisy day down to Perth. FarRider Gus had suggested a servo at Muchea WA that would provide me with enough k’s to complete the SS4000K/60 from Darwin without having to head into the city. I wanted to stay away from Scarborough in case I got a rush of blood and decided to kick off that 50CC Gold.
It was dark when I left at 6.15am so I happily sat behind a nice black Golf that was travelling at just below the speed limit until it became light and then passed it. I was looking at the GPS and was startled that it said I’d arrive at Muchea at 5pm. I told Gus I’d be there by 4. I expected to reduce the GPS’s version of my travelling time because the previous day I’d calculated it was working on an OA of 90kph, at least 10kph less than I’d be making in this predominantly 110kph run down the coast. But not by an hour in less than half a day. I couldn’t work out what had gone wrong with my quick plan for the day.
I had only one stop planned, at the Gull 440 Roadhouse north of Geraldton but I couldn’t resist stopping for a pic and taking a moment to reminisce here.
A special place visited as part of a Trans Australia Insanity ride with Skidoooo and Lionel but also the point at which I was now back on roads I’ve travelled before. Still behind schedule I got out of there quickly and rode into rain, some of it almost Goretex penetratingly heavy.
At the Billabong Roadhouse I spotted the black Golf that must have passed by while I was taking the photo at the Shark Bay turnoff.
I rode in rain most of the way to the Gull 440. I’d managed to peg back some time as I quickly filled the bike with fuel and then as I wrote the odo reading on the receipt and checked the time I had a WTF moment. It dawned on me that I’d been running the GPS and the whole ride on AEST. The change of plan and disruption yesterday set my mind on Western Time. I wasn’t half an hour behind I was an hour and a half ahead. Doofus!
I called Gus, he’d noticed I was ahead of schedule, I admitted my stupidity. Then I decided to take some time to call Mrs Wombattle, contact the Insurance Company about the bike, have some lunch and a coffee. I was approached by the driver of a white X5 BMW I’d been playing leap frog with most of the day who wanted to know if there was anything he could do as a driver in wet weather to make it safer for motorcyclists. He considered this remark – “Don’t overtake me, slow down and spray shit all over me.” He hadn’t so he was happy. It’s nice to know there are drivers who do care out there.
Further south at another of the roadhouses a female P plater drove out of the roadhouse driveway from my right and straight in front of me, got a fright and stopped dead. This was the first time I’d piled on the front anchors since the collision with the roo and frankly it wasn’t a nice feeling. I just avoided t-boning the car and when she saw she was safe she smiled in an embarrassed way and to the opposite side of the road and stopped. Calm down Wom, you aren’t allowed to kick cars. It was one of those, I’m close to the end now, what might happen to stop me moments. Then….
A little later I rode up behind a large road train that was driving down the centre of the road. I positioned myself where the driver could see me and the truck moved left. I started to pass it and while I was beside the trailer closest to the cab the truck started to head in my direction. It was apparent that the driver hadn’t seen me he probably just woke up long enough to position himself properly and then dozed off again. I gave the ST a huge fistful. Luckily I avoided having to ride in the dirt on the wrong side of the road. The driver nearly hit himself in the head when he became aware of my horn blaring past his open window. That moment was much more scary than the roo strike and I was very glad I wasn’t in a car. Not far to go now!
Just outside Muchea I saw Gus heading in the opposite direction. He knows the drill, I just kept going confident he’d catch me and soon enough he did. He took the lead and not long after we were at the Roadhouse at Muchea having a drink and the SS4000K was signed off.
I inspected the bike and noticed that there had been some backwards movement in the wheel so I was very happy to end it a few kilometres away at Gus’ place. I’d ridden the damaged bike some 2200kms since the accident and the ride totalled just under 9000kms in 5.5 days.
Gus accommodated, fed and drove me around for the next two days while I got things organised to have the bike shipped back home. I bought some luggage and Mrs Wom organised flights for me. Thanks again Gus, very much appreciated.
The ride was now over. Not the result I planned but no complaints It was great fun, an adventure really. I’ve not done an SS4000K/60 hours before, in fact I didn’t know it existed until recently. I have to say it’s a great ride as a starter for multi day stuff. There’s no non-metric equivalent for it so it’s a bit unique. Anecdotally the third day in an IBA ride can be a tough one so only having to ride for half of it is a good thing. It’s also a similar distance to a 50CC Gold with an extra 10 hours to ride so it would be a great practice run for that.
Doing these rides in the NT and WA is also a blast. High speed limits and long stretches of nothing to do but ride. Awesome!