Between Alice and Katherine

Back in relaxed backpacker heaven at the campsite in Alice Springs we still had to wait for the parts. The motorcycle shop had simply forgotten to order Lea’s front tire and the parcel from the UK hadn’t arrived yet. So we spent the time writing the blog, sipping ice cold beer in the pub.

When the parcels arrived, we got busy. Aidan changed Pippa’s brake pads and tried to stop the fuel leak under the seat. Then he set about changing the water pump seals once again as Pippa had taken up her smoking habit once more (coolant dripping out of the tell tale hole, evaporating on the hot exhaust).

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I changed Lea’s chain and sprockets. The chain was super stretched and the front sprocket pretty used up.

A hacksaw is cheaper than a chain breaker….

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A veritable age of sawing, some kicking and breaking and one snapped hacksaw blade later…. this is how the professionals do it, I tell you 🙂

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Of course Skunk was useful as ever, sleeping off the hangover till the next beer arrives.

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The tire never arrived so I ordered one to wait for me in the next big town. Then we set off north along the Stuart Highway. On Aussie highways several perils await. Road trains are famous for running you off the road though so far there has always been enough space for both of us.

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These areas are so big, cattle stations don’t fence their land in. You are simply supposed to watch out for “wandering stock” as the signs warn. This is what your car looks like if you hit two cows and a calf all at once.

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Of course there has to be one place in this vast emptiness that is frequented by aliens.

And little critters, ants and termites share your wild camp with you.

Of course we had to stop by the Devil’s Marbles, a famous bunch of wickid round boulders.

But of course it wasn’t the natural beauty one would hope. The reality looked very much like this:

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Pulling into one roadhouse we bumped into a fellow motorcycle traveler. Marco was riding the world on an NX650, Leas bigger sister and had been to amazing places like Mongolia. One shared beer soon turned into many and we decided to stay the night at the roadhouse campground. Being a mechanical engineer with heaps of travel experience Marco had lots of bodger fix tips for us and him and me almost bored Aidan into a deep slumber talking motorcycle mechanics. To be fair it was pretty late into the night…

Bored with the highway as usual we decided to take the road less traveled. And it took us into an amazing wide open landscape with nothing much to see except the odd herd of cows here and there.

A huge flock of pelicans shied away as we crossed the bridge over an almost dry river.

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And then Aidan spotted an eagle munching away on roadkill, refusing to leave it behind despite the paparazzi.

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Eventually some bushes and trees returned and we watched as a bunch of jackaroos on horses herded some cows towards a lorry that would take them away.

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That evening we reached the Savannah Way. Finally a bit of unsealed road! It was late though, so we pitched camp at the first opportunity. We’d picked a noisy spot. Cows were being herded into a pen nearby and they kept mooing real loudly till late into the night. At dawn the herding began again with little quads and motorcycles zooming this way and that and a helicopter overhead. Herding cows in these parts must be heaps of fun!

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We rode off into the dry landscape soon entering Limmen National Park. The road changed from loose gravel o hard packed dirt to corrugations to soft sand and water crossings. It was quite fun and each type changed into another before it could get annoying.

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In the bright light it was quite treacherous though. What looked like soft sand turned out to be hard dirt. So instead of plowing through as expected, the hard rills left by previous vehicles steer your wheel in a direction you weren’t prepared for.

One hard packed section turned out to be soft sand and had me doing a power slide like Aidan had performed that evening we visited Robert! I was so surprised to have survived it I totally forgot to take a photo of the spectacular tire marks.

Another thing I haven’t got a photo of is the black snake sunning itself on the road. I screeched to a halt as fast as the gravel would allow but the fucker didn’t hang around for the camera. A bunch of kangaroos hopped across our way and Aidan got a quick, fuzzy photo of them as they looked around somewhat surprised at the disturbance.

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We stopped for lunch in a pretty spot with a few trees for shade and Aidan cheffed up some spaghetti. Ironically a sign pointed down the road towards a lost city. But we didn’t follow it, to lazy to walk about in the 40 degree heat.

After lunch the road became a lot more sandy or corrugated or both. What had been fun soon became an exhausting nightmare. It seems we were going to get our 200km of corrugations after all.

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Exhausted we camped up in a dried flood plain that evening and flopped into the tent long before sunset.

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In the morning we had a relaxed breakfast, steeling ourselves for another 150k of corrugations. Luckily the sand let up somewhat so we could speed up here and there, flying over the nasty bumps.

Now all the river crossings were solidified by concrete so no one would get stuck mid-crossing and signs warned of crocodiles. We kept a keen eye out but didn’t spot any.

We made the mistake of letting ourselves look forward to a roadhouse lunch and a cold beer at the next roadhouse. But it turned out to be on aboriginal lands so no grog was available. Disappointed we decided to postpone the feast till the next roadhouse 180km away. 40 of these were unsealed road and a hard-packed corrugation nightmare. Motivated by the thought of a cold beer we threw all caution to the wind and rattled over them at 70kmh or so, hoping that what hadn’t fallen off by now would remain attached to the bikes till we reached our destination.

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And miraculously it did! The last bit of tarmac just flew by and we pulled into the Mataranka hotel (pub) early afternoon, covered in red dust.

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The place was shabby and wickid. Lots of aboriginals milled about sharing the outside space with caravanists who popped in for a quick refreshing drink or playing the pokies round the corner. We ordered our well deserved burgers and beers and settled in. The busy bar lady grabbed the phone, passing on our order which arrived a while later, wrapped in cling film. I wonder where the old guy had brought it over from. It was a yummie feast super yum and we stuffed ourselves to the brim.

We eventually hit the road again in a veritable food coma and found a little camping spot by the King River. The burned out car gave it a spooky feel but we decided it would be safe enough. Aidan popped into Katherine to fetch a bottle of wine and I set up camp. We are definitely in crocodile country now but we couldn’t see any in the river so I decided to jump in for a refreshing swim. Famous last words, eh?

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