I went for a trip with my friend Guy (aka Guvenor) from Melbourne to Coober Pedy and back. I was on my trusty Kawasaki GPX 250 and he was on a Kawasaki KLR 250. We had an absolutely amazing time, saw some great scenery, met some nice people. Everybody seemed to want to talk to us when they eyed off all our luggage with sleeping mats and bags and boxes! Before any of you ask after seeing Guys pics that I’m sure he’ll post ( he had a digital camera, I was back in the stone age with my film taking SLR), yes I am a better packer, and yes he does take a lot more than me! Also, the kitchen sink fell off close to home, we had to abandon taking it! DAY 1: Melbourne – Mt Gambier Went via the great ocean road, unfortunately traffic diminished my enjoyment of this twisty road. Later in the day approaching Warnambool it absolutely pissed down, visibility to nothing and soaking me to the bone, and Guy who was leading refusing to stop because he’s a masochist and loves the insane weather. In town I had to use newspaper to dry out my clothes and boots! Found a nice hotel with shared bathroom etc in Mt Gambier to spend the night. DAY 2: Mt Gambier – Some dirt road 30km south of Port Pirie Our trip through South Australia was started by the first of many days of fantastic weather, sunny and warm. Had a quick look around Mt Gambier at the lakes and the sinkhole and also checked in with the local cop shop about different laws – for the record you cant park your motorcycle on the footpath in SA . We headed out along the coast up to Wilmington where we crossed the Murray River via ferry – the ferries are subsidised by the SA government to encourage trade & transport. There are only about 2 bridges across the Murray in the whole state I believe! We went into Adelaide via the hills which were an amazing motorbike road, one of the best I’ve ever ridden! Saw a bloke on an R1 whizz past. The freeway into Adelaide is also fantastic, three lanes down a steep hill with arrestor beds coming off the side for vehicles without braking power. Unfortunately we hit Adelaide at rush hour outbound so we didn’t really have the chance to stop and look around. The traffic flowed well though. Although it was getting dark we decided to push on to cover some more distance, and we’d camp the night. After a pizza at the small town of Two Wells north of Adelaide we were on our way down the freeway. I led for a change, since Guy’s 35W headlight just doesn’t cut it! We hit Port Wakefield, and decided to stop at Snowtown since there was a campsite marked. It was too late to check out the bank murder sites . The supposed camping ground was a caravan park with about 2 bays and definitely not a spot to chuck down a mat and sleeping bag, so we pressed on to Crystal Brook. Again not an appropriate campsite to be seen – we were too used to Victoria where you just find yourself a nearby state forest, go down the track a bit and sleep! I was getting very tired by now, and it really was very nippy, so I said ‘lets find a dirt road and camp by the side’. We went down a road which was wholly unsuitable to camp on, but we said stuff it and called it a night. In the morning I discovered we’d camped about 30m from a house, but we were up before dawn and nobody was any the wiser DAY 3: Some dirt road 30km south of Port Pirie – Coober Pedy Traveled a short way to Port Pirie for the standard emergency breakfast – Maccas! Mmm… hotcakes! Unfortunately once in the town my gear shifter detached but thanks to guys hefty tool kit we had the thing reattached in 5 or 10 minutes, except in a slightly bad position – to upshift from then on instead of rotating my foot on the lever I had to lift the whole foot up onto the shifter! Yes – I was too lazy to change the shifter position again! On our way to Port Augusta we got stopped at some train tracks for a very long train of about 40 carriages on its way North. Also the day was seriously heating up and the removal of jacket and pants liners and excess clothes was necessary. Port Augusta to Pimba (roadhouse south of Woomera) gave us some incredibly heavy headwinds and very irritating crosswinds. Guy’s bike was only managing 80 or 90 km/h, and mine although still capable to 130 was a challenge to handle safely! Even so we saw some fantastic views just from rest stops, such as the ranges view across to the Flinders ranges and many desert plains. As was the norm on this trip, we had to stop every 100-150 km to refill Guy’s puny 10L tank from the 10L Jerry cans both of us carried. At 110km/h his fuel economy went out the window to 6-7 L / 100 km! Meanwhile my bike was happily going on at 4L/100 km, and very easy to make the next towns with its 17 or 18L tank. On our way up to Pimba we started seeing hundreds of Harley riders coming in the opposite direction, but we didn’t establish why until Day 4 when some retired travelers told us there’d been a HOG convention up in Alice Springs. I even managed to get some nods and waves from the riders! They looked distinctly squidish though, with their strange tasseled leathers and some in shorts and t-shirt… I know I wouldn’t want to come off if I was them! I guess if they come off and scratch the bike their life isn’t worth living anyway anymore… The trip from Pimba to Coober Pedy was broken up by rests at Lake Hart – one of the many salt lakes in the region, and by a geocache (see www.geocaching.com) in the Woomera Prohibited Area. An interesting part of the Stuart highway was when the highway also functioned as a Royal Flying Doctor Service emergency landing strip, with the piano keys and everything, including a parking area for a plane! In Coober Pedy we quickly found some underground accommodation at Radekas backpacker’s motel (twin share room, shared toilets & showers). Many of the buildings in Coober Pedy are underground due to the intense heat over summer, with temps in the 45-65 degrees Celsius range! Even now in winter it felt like a hot summer Melbourne day, 30C with intense sun. DAY 4: Coober Pedy (CP) Started with a trip to the breakaways, a group of mesas 30km north of CP. This was along a dirt track, which my GPX with slickish tyres still handled well… I was even hurdling along the track at 80km/h! Once more I am amazed just how far my bike will take me without a hitch – for almost 2 years the thing has lasted through all the stupid spots I want to take it without a complaint! After the breakaways we continued along the dirt track to meet the Oodnadatta track (which I’d love to do on a different bike… maybe a Suzuki DL1000?). Across the Oodnadatta there is a fence. A dog fence. A 5500km long dog fence. It was constructed in the early half of the 20th century to protect the sheep industry from dingo attacks, and is a truly amazing construction. It runs through SA, NSW and QLD to end up at the gold coast. Back in CP we checked out much of the tourist places such as underground churches, old mines, opal shops, museums. Had dinner at a great Greek restaurant for the second night running. In CP there are many Greeks that came to the area early on for mining. It is a fairly multicultural city, with not that many stereotypical Aussies. Lots of Asians, Mediterranean’s and Aboriginals. Unfortunately I never saw an Aboriginal working, only by the side of the streets yelling at each other. DAY 5: Coober Pedy – some track between Renmark and Mildura We were up an hour before sunrise to get a good start on what turned out to be a 1000km day. Most of this day was uneventful, covering the same stuff we’d come up on until Port Augusta. However, when we stopped in Woomera to get a quick look at the town and missile display, it was discovered that 5 of Guy’s spokes were broken from his back wheel. This put a 1 hour halt on our progress due to tightening the remaining spokes and much pondering on what to do. It was established we would press on, try to get as far back to Melbourne as possible while monitoring the situation, and stop before too many spokes were lost. Of course, once you lose 1 spoke you’re bound to lose more since extra stress is placed on the remaining spokes. We came back through Horrocks pass in the South Flinders Ranges, which is another spectacular motorcycle road. The Flinders Ranges are amazing, since the land to the side of them is flat, and suddenly these massive hills spring up from nowhere! Guy in the lead had no desire for stops however, and I passed the ranges without the opportunity for a photo! Nighttime saw us at Morgan and after another ferry crossing and an hour or two riding we were at Renmark. A fellow motorcyclist served us Subway at a roadhouse while telling us all about his (TTR250?) and giving me a free drink for being a good bloke . We decided to go into the arid national park just after the border with Victoria to camp for the night. It was nighttime and the track was basically a flat sand dune, needless to say my bike didn’t like it much and it wasn’t long before the rear flipped out from under me and my bike was sitting on its side in the sand! Guy soon helped me up (as always, if I have any motorcycle trouble he’s there to pull me out of it!) and we found ourselves a nice spot to chuck down some groundsheets, mats and sleeping bags. Unfortunately overnight we got condensation on the bags and clothes we’d carelessly dumped by the side of the ground sheets we were sleeping on! DAY 6: Some track between Renmark and Mildura – Melbourne This day was guaranteed to go wrong considering how good our trip had been so far! To start off with, the fantastic weather we had in SA was replaced by crappy Victorian weather, cloudy, cold, misty, damp. Then we discovered that Guy’s bike was up to 9 broken spokes, and the rear wheel was wobbling sickeningly. We were up early and it was impossible to see for long because water kept forming on our visors, or if we rode with visors up on our glasses! However, we managed to push the bikes and ourselves onto Mildura and investigate the option of sending Guy back on the train. Remarkably after talking to some locals Sunraysia Motorcycle Wreckers in Mildura was found, and just happened to have a 17 inch rear KLR wheel !!! It was our lucky day! The champ at the wreckers had us fixed up in a couple of hours with a new back wheel for Guy’s bike, with all spokes attached. In the meantime we had a couple of games of bowling (Me 100, 148, Guy 100, 13 and something to eat at the local takeaway. It wasn’t until 2 o’clockish we were back on the road though (about the time I should have been close to Melbourne if I had of ditched Guy! ). While we were waiting for the wheel I noticed my chain was very loose, and said to Guy I wanted to tighten it. He replied that if it was loose it shouldn’t be a problem, only too tight is dangerous… We reached Charlton without problems, but upon pulling of a servo suddenly my back wheel locked and the bike flipped over to its side and I was off! Looking at the bike what did I see? One chain off its sprocket and jammed into the wheel . We (by we I mean Guy because he’s mister fix-it) got the chain back on the sprocket – no difficulties, so definitely too loose! And went about trying to tighten the chain… without a torque wrench. I did ask around the town for anybody with a torque wrench and a 24mm socket, but for some reason I was out of luck! While we were fixing our bike a local chatted to us about his time living in Port Augusta… he said there were 2 parts to the town, a black and a white part… he then said “I’m not racist, my wife is Pilipino, I just don’t like abos!”… needless to say the country honesty was a bit amazing to a city slicker like me! Back to the bike, we had the chain on and tightened using the power of shifter spanners, but taking it for a test ride there were some scary sounds when decelerating, and a frightening vibration at 60km/h. Upon closer inspection, we determined the chain had been twisted, and was tight in spots. Although worrying, I still decided to push on to Melbourne. Also my home made steel frame I made to carry a box on the back had cracked above one of my welds, but we zip-tied it together to last me back to Melbourne. (I haven’t mentioned the stuff I fixed using gaffa tape on the journey, but needless to say it was more than 1!). The rest of the trip although freezing despite my many layers of clothes, we pretty much uneventful except that I lost Guy on the Calder freeway when he decided to hang back to save fuel, thought I turned off at Woodend and followed some other car to Woodend! I waited patiently by the side of the road for 5-10mins but when he didn’t turn up figured there was nothing more I could do and headed for home. The trip was fun, exciting and eventful, and although the ride can get monotonous at times, and although some things went wrong, I’d do it again in a heartbeat. Maybe a bigger bike would be nice, something like a Suzuki DL1000 maybe? Now I just have to get back to all those uni assignments I was supposed to do in my week off! Nooooo!