Welcome to Netrider ... Connecting Riders!

Interested in talking motorbikes with a terrific community of riders?
Signup (it's quick and free) to join the discussions and access the full suite of tools and information that Netrider has to offer.

Trip report: Melbourne to Coober Pedy and back

Discussion in 'Roads, Touring, Journeys, and Travel' started by faldron, Sep 25, 2005.

  1. 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 :p . 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… :p
    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 :p. 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, 138) 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! :p). 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!
  2. Nice story!
    Makes me wanna go on a tour now. Good luck with the uni assignments, im in the same boat!!!
  3. Yeah, thanks Owen! Noticed you're from Adelaide, do you get into the Adelaide hills much, even out towards Strathalbyn? I loved that road, one of the best I've done in the country!

    Also that freeway must have cost serious $$$ to build, carved away into the rock like that!
  4. I go up the freeway every tuesday to see my sister, i dont go to good in the hill yet (only ridden 2 weeks), ive ridden around crafers, sitrling and aldgate. Some great roads though.

    I cant believe you can park on the footpaths in melbourne!!
  5. thanks for taking the time to share your story, i appreciate it as im sure do many others. sounds like it was a really interesting trip, id love to see your bikes all kitted up for touring. so if you can please dig up some photos.
  6. Coober Pedy

    The total trip was I think just under 3500km with the longest just about 1000km (Coober Pedy to just over Vic border past Renmark). The closest I have done to that is a few 1/2 nighters into and around the great dividing range usualy no more than about 500km.

    Such a long trip was bound to be interesting for a fairly old 250cc dirt bike, but the bike did remarkably well especially considering the amount of time it spent with the throttle held at its max for hours at a time sitting at 8000+rpm (of 9500), espeicaly with headwinds all the way from Port Augusta to Coober Pedy (both there and back annoyingly). Although over the whole trip it lost about 1/2L of oil when it usualy doesn't do any (don't know if it was burning or leaking it somewhere).

    I must say that Sunraysia Motorcycle Wreckers in Mildura were really awesome. After taking in a wheel that was totaly buggered (was burning rubber on the tyre due to it rubbing the swingarm) on a Saturday and being able to leave not long after lunch with basicaly a new wheel for $100 I was very pleased. The other options were take a train back to Melbounre and leave the bike somewhere secure and then getting a trailer and driving it up and back with the bike, or paying for new spokes (and rim?) and having to wait a few days as they get ordered.

    Total list of issues with my bike during trip:
    -Can't maintain high speeds well (but still remains stable)
    -Broken spokes (probably should have checked more often)
    -Oil usage in stint to Coober Pedy (not much but still good that I carried the spare 1L). Had never consumed Oil prior and on the trip back didn't seem to use any.
    -Due to high speeds and small fuel tank (worse than Across tank :p), refils of fairly often
    -Blew tail light on 1000km day, but replaced easily
    -Low beam blown also but since high is 35W only and not aimed high used that instead (not as easy to change/obtain as taillight)
    -Numberplate now attached entirely by zipties (since Coober Pedy) due to being eaten by wheel during suspension compression on dirt, and also quite bent/deformed (this is 2nd plate, since 1st one it happened to also... probably get a new one soon)

    Surprising goodness on bike:
    -Despite being a single cylinder dirbike I found seat and vibes fairly comfortable
    -On the roads suspension was really nice and once at reasonable speed corregations on the few dirt roads were not at all noticed at all
    -The cheapo homemade windscreen made quite a difference to get a bit of wind off my chest, and at speed ducking behind got my head fully out of the wind (probably looks silly to people who saw me riding), but at some positions made buffeting a bit annoying... but I didn't have my wind tunnel with me to test it.

    My Rallycross jacket which was excelent for the trip. It withstood the 2 heavy rain bands on the first day in Victoria without me getting wet at all, and once past Port Augusta, with the liner out made a very nice summer jacket. Putting in a water bladder made drinking easy while riding. On the way back into Melbourne last night it was getting a bit nippy though. Also a tankbag meant that accessing things like visor cleaner and camera was easy since you didn't have to get off the bike and was a worthwhile addition. For the trip I finaly got some synthetic pants and they were good, but bloody hot in SA when not riding.

    I would like to spend more time in around the Adelaide Hills and the Flinders Ranges. Some really nice twisties in the Hills with really scienic views. I would do something similar again, but would like to take a KLR650 due to its better ability to cruise at speed and bigger tank (~23L vs my 11L or so). If it wasn't for the 250 rule in Vic I may have got that first but the 250 was cheaper and legal to ride.

    Looking forward to long rides again in the future... maybe still on the KLR250 :twisted:. What an awesome bike it is.
  7. awesome! here's looking forward to seeing the other pics
  8. Some more photos are in the netrider gallery...

    Me looking out over some of the breakaways:

    The dog fence:

    Having a pit stop along the Stuart Highway:

    'The Castle' or 'The two dogs', also near the breakaways:

    First camp night, yes I'm still sleeping in the corner of the photo:
  9. Fauldron

    Good on you for getting out and just doing it. You packing looks a bit rough, but then when I first started touring on the 250, my packing method was to just pile it on the back seat as high as it would go. You learn way more from actually getting out there than sitting around chatting with people about the best gear and the right way to pack.

    Having just said that, consider getting yourself some side panniers, soft ones. You'll need to also make up some brackets for the side of the bike to keep the panniers off the exhaust and from swinging in towards the rear wheel, but it makes packing so much easier if you can keep the weight low on the bike.

    Start planning your next trip, they're great fun.

  10. great trip report guys, sounds like it was really worth it :D - If you're thinking about a bigger more suitable bike for such a trip in the future, have a look at a V-Strom, you'd love it on one of those bad boys :twisted:
  11. Yeah, after going to the motorcycle expo and sitting on all the bikes the DL-1000 V-Strom was the most comfortable for me... it is the bike i'm looking at most now. Insurance isnt too bad on it either for a young rating 6 like myself.
  12. Absolutely. I stuck up my nose at the prices in peter stevens, walked over to Aussie disposals. They sell soft backpacks for about $15 -

    I bought two, unpicked the straps from the bottom and sewed together the tops - voila! Saddlebags!

    All thats required is some brackets as previously mentioned. I think I'll figure out a way to handle any water or grease that hits them but time will tell on that score.

    I'll take a picture of them and post here tonight.
  13. GREAT STUFF, guys !! :D
    Good fun reading the tale...now, THAT is motorcycling, yeeha :!: :!:
    Congrats for making it back on 2 wheels and not quittin', missing spokes and all.
    Reminds me a bit of BT Humble/ Canberra... Ben and his GPX made it around Australia, and the little sucker wasn't the freshest bike to start off with.

    A Strom?
    (THE BUS ??)
    Fugly mongrel it is :) Useless waste of space...and lots of space at that :D
    Seriously, have a look at the DL-650 (not for 2-up stuff neccessarily, but perrrrfect solo), despite the same looks/ size, the 650 is way lighter, nimbler, more agaile than the 1000 and would have to be the best-kept secret Suzuki has in the showrooms...certainly the biggest-bang-for-buck even in it's own class, at $10k new ride-away, it's a hell of a usefull bike, and great fun to boot.

    Can't wait for the next big-trip report. :D :D
  14. Haha, thats great moike! So true - not the first option you'd go for, but the little thing will keep going anywhere if you give it the chance!
  15. I originally scanned that for the benefit of the bloke who did this trip on his GPX250 :shock:
  16. TERRIFIC report, makes me want to go out and pack the bike and HEAD OUT!!!
  17. Nice report...can't wait till i do my trip across thredbo this weekend :D

    All fired up