Monday, 8 December 2014

Bra wearing termite hills?

8 months in and I find myself sitting on the the plane destined for Australia. My third continent.

It’s funny how the emotions hit you all of a sudden as if you have just woken up and realised what is happening.

I have a big smile and a giggle as It dawns on me that I have covered 20,000 miles over 2 contents on my little CRF250L. It’s hard to believe that we have made it to the other side of the world together.

My first few days in Darwin were easy thanks to some fellow bikers. Tim and his family put me up for the first two nights and then I moved over to stay with Elizabeth and Sam in their rural home about 40k out of town. What a great place. A lovely 1930s wooden house surrounded my 6 acres of woodland and full of wildlife. 

One night on Mitchel St
Thanks to these guys I went to the quarantine inspection armed with a truck and trailer. After so many horror stories about Australian quarantine laws I was preparing for the worst but hoping for the best. Within just under two hours Rhonda was on the trailer and we were heading for home having had the all clear. The inspector was a nice guy. He did find a little dirt in a hard to reach spot but saw that I had worked hard and let me clean it there and then. Once again I found myself dealing with reasonable people who wanted to help. 

It was very lucky I had the trailer as I found the agents in Bali had stripped Rhonda down quite a bit since I had left her despite assuring me they wouldn't! That evening Sam and Elizabeth put on a barbi and helped me service her and put her back together. She was good as new again in no time.

With Rhonda ready it was time to relax and hit the town. I found out last week that an old off roading buddy of mine was now living in Darwin and so I put on my best t shirt and flip flops and set off to Mitchel St to meet him. 

Stevey was just like I remembered him. A typical geordie lad. Full of laughs and easy going. It was so good to see him! We spent the evening catching up over a few beers and a pizza on Mitchel St. This is where it all happens! Darwin has a surprising amount of young people considering its rural location.  In fact more so than anywhere else in Australia. It's smaller than I expected too and it really is absolutely MILES from anywhere! Those miles were what I was about to face.

Having sufficiently recovered from the night before I said my goodbyes and by lunchtime I was on the road and heading South with a couple of locations in mind. 

My new friend
I was looking forward to getting out in to the bush and setting up my first camp. I made it to Mataranka just before nightfall and found a good spot near the spring. It was perfect. I would go for a run in the morning and then have a dip in the spring before getting back on the road. 

As I was setting up, a little Wallaby came over to investigate. He was surprisingly friendly and didn't shy away from me at all. I guessed he was used to campers and had possibly been fed by many before me.

That night I made a mental note to myself to make my earplugs accessible for the next camp! Small noises can become very amplified in a tent on your own and Australia has many nocturnal creatures. In my wisdom, I had also set up on a bed of dry leaves. This would give me extra comfort. Unfortunately it also made anything that moved VERY audible. 

Feeling free on Stuart Highway
Within half an hour of lights out I could hear shuffling right outside. I reminded myself that it was probably a tiny thing that just sounded big. I tried to ignore it. It continued and got closer. I banged on the side of the tent to try and scare it away thinking it could be a mouse or similar. Nothing. A few seconds later the side of my tent moved. I banged again and made some shooing noises. The last thing I wanted to do was to get out and look! As I hit the side of the tent, my hand stopped against something very solid and very warm! I really wasn't expecting that! This creature of the night was definitely not a mouse and whatever it was had clearly decided to sleep up against my tent! 

Loving the solitude
Rather than go out and look, I decided there and then that it must be my new friend the Wallaby. I patted it again and it was certainly Wallaby size. It also didn't budge and I recognised that cockiness from earlier. It had to be him. In any case it wasn't going to move and it clearly had no intentions of eating me! Happy with my conclusion I closed my eyes and tried to sleep. Unfortunately Mr Wallaby was having trouble getting comfortable and every time I started drifting he would fidget and rustle the leaves! Trying to sleep with a fidgety Wallaby next to you is not easy I can tell you! Eventually I pushed him and told him to go away. After several attempts he did, only to return ten minutes later and take up the same spot! I gave in and let him stay but was regularly woken by him shifting around. At one point I woke up to find myself apologising to him for knocking him in my sleep! "Sorry mate" I said as I turned over and went back to sleep! By the morning he was gone. I guess I will never know for sure if it WAS Mr Wallaby! I didn't see him again to ask.

Outback entertainment
There is not much on the Stuart Highway or the Barkley Highway that runs off it to the east. The roads just go on for mile after mile through the bush with very little traffic. In fact there were times when I didn't see another sole for over an hour. The only places to stop are roadhouses that are sparsely dotted along them. They get further apart as you head further east with 250km between them on the main drag and over 500km if you take the side tracks, so you have to be vary aware of your fuel consumption. I have been using a lot more than usual as I have found I am going much faster than I normally would on these long straight, empty roads! 

Every road house I stopped at was being manned by a Brit! The Australian government have got it well sussed out. They insist that if you want to extend your stay in the country then you have to work rurally for at least 3 months. Clearly the Ozzies don't want to be here so they send the Brits out. 100's of miles from anywhere and out of trouble! Good move! You have to like their thinking! 

People get bored along this route and so you have to find ways of keeping yourself entertained. There is evidence of this all the way along the roads where you will find several of the termite hills dressed up to look like people! It's lovely. Some are really good as the shapes lend themselves perfectly! Some even wore bras!

Sleeping next to a Wallaby and seeing bra wearing termite hills is not really what I had expected of the Australian outback - but I like it! 

I have covered 1600km in 3 days with just 2 junctions and 3 very slight bends in between. The road trains are pretty much my only company and very little shade from the searing heat. It would not be much fun to break down out here. However, I have shade in the form of a tent and I  carry plenty of water should the worst happen and so I am just enjoying the ride. I really am! It's just so different to what I have been doing recently and I am finding ways to keep myself entertained. Dancing on the bike, singing, stopping for pictures and waving at the road trains. It's all good fun and I feel free in my solitude! I can even pee on the side of the road with no worries about being seen! Heaven! 
Keeping myself entertained

Today I leave Mount Isa and work my way further east. I'm not sure how far I will go today but I will stock up on supplies and see how it goes.


  1. Great tale...sure wish I was in your seat. Been checking in from time to words for the experience you're having. But here's a WOW! Good rides on the roads ahead! //Vicki

  2. Didn't I see a movie with a pair of crazed brothers that were pig farmers . And a group of college friends go there for an adventure ...

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  4. Nice to see you've made it to the land of Oz. Good or bad, it's got lots of space. and for the most part people are open and friendly (I should know as I'm one of 'em ... LOL). Would guess you'll have hit the coast by now, so should find a few decent chill-out spots. Not a lover of the commercialised bits, but some nice beaches dotted around ... Have been away for four years now, so missing the place (and space). Hopefully will get back again a couple of years or so from now, at which time have plans to head North and West to the Kimberly's, to see a region I've not had time to visit before ... BTW, after living on both the Sunshine Coast (Qld) and the suburbs south of Adelaide, know them fairly well. So if you're heading through either of those places and want to know something on what to expect, get in touch ... Meanwhile hope you enjoy my (adopted) sun-burnt country ...

  5. glad you and Rhonda made it ok. you realise how small the uk is when you look at Australia. a biking buddy I used to tour with moved to Perth a few years ago and is loving it. must get out there myself one day. enjoy your next leg of the journey . look forward to your next report. xx

  6. Looking forward to your experiences in Oz - a fabulous country.

  7. Another cracking write-up Steph. Loving living vicariously through your trip :)

  8. Wow - your trip across Australia to Queesnland was 1850 miles. That's like London - Istanbul !