The Painted Desert

Thus inspired by Sarah I tried to take heed of her advice and managed to speed up a little, riding to the side of the continuous corrugations. It was a little scary but I managed to remain upright. Of course Aidan was much better at this than me as usual and soon disappeared a little black dot on the horizon.

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Soon we reached the turn off for the Painted Desert Track. It hadn’t been graded in over a year according to the lady from the road house so it was in pretty bad repair. But it wasn’t corrugated all the time. It was just trickier with loose gravel, sand, puddles and sudden ravines. This was much more fun!

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Looking up I noticed some pretty multi-coloured mountains in the distance that the track seemed to bypass. “Shouldn’t we be heading that way?!?” I pointed out to Aidan. He agreed and we hopped off the road and went cross country in a beeline for the mountains.

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This was much easier said than done. Bumpy grass bushles swapped for flat stones that were flung against our engines and shins by the tires. Then again there was loose sand and stones followed by harder stuff to speed across. Dry ravines and creeks varying from small enough to hop across to big enough to ride into and then back out criss crossed our path. It was super technical stuff and heaps of fun.

I’d begun to worry that I simply didn’t like anything more difficult that tarmac but this was awesome! I was loving it! We popped in and out of little gorges with giant grins on our faces catching flies in our teeth. If anyone still has any doubt whether the rather costly decision to go back to Germany and swap my BMW for the smaller Honda was the right one, here was proof that it totally was. There was no way in hell that I would ever have attempted this on Seven. Oh the fun we would have missed out on. Of course Aidan still had to wrestle his heavy beemer about.

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We reached the mountainside totally exhausted and exhilarated. This was the perfect spot to camp. We could even almost forget about the mozzies. Some incense sticks (still from India) and a bonfire to cook on definitely helped though.

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The morning greeted us with a blood red sky and we braved a couple of quick photos before the mozzies had us flee back into the tent for breakfast.

Awake now we were soon packed up. It was a tad cloudy, ruining the idea of a perfect picture in this morning’s golden hour. Eventually he sky cleared and we took a few anyways as we rode back out towards the official track, having a blast along the way.

It all ended far too soon and we were back on the road. Not to worry though, as it soon followed a riverbed, having us ankle deep in loose pebbles, paddling the swimming bikes along. Just as it got really exhausting we were through.

Soon after a “no camping for the next 15km” sign announced that we’d found the highlight of the painted desert. The views from the lookout on the hill were truly breathtaking in every direction. Of course the photos hardly do it justice.

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We spent a long time, lucky to have the place to ourselves. As we rode on to a second viewpoint dozens of 4x4s thundered past us.

We decided to give it a miss, not keen on the crowds and enjoyed the tricky but fun track. The scenery rewarded our efforts with colourful hills, twisty roads, dry creek crossings and packed dirt sections to speed up on. Some parts were an almost lush green criss crossed with creeks. In others the road opened out, the plains a deep red.

Following tradition the road turned to nasty corrugations with deep sand on the side so that we couldn’t really avoid them about 50km or so from the Stuart Highway. Aidan waited for me at the junction as I arrived rattled through and teeth clattering. The few metres of highway to the roadhouse where we would fill up did their best to remind us how boring the highway was and we were tempted to turn straight around.

After a refreshing beer in the rather uninspiring roadhouse we headed north, stopping for (much cheaper) petrol at the next stop. Then we gave up on the tarmac for the day and hit a side track to find camp. Tomorrow we would finally ride to Alice Springs.

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