We are back to out team of 3 for the long ride to Darwin.
Step one get to Hughenden … or Charter Towers.
We had a nice morning on the Gillies twisty road.
By 930 we were up on the table lands and though flatter and straighter riding it was not boring. The entire area is overrun with termites!
There is almost no other traffic except the occasional road train!
We had a “deep fried” Bogan lunch in Mount Garnet and then rode south to The Lynd. So far the scenery is not boring and dire as we have been warned. It seems to change type every 50 km or so from rolling hills, flat farm land, grassy dry marshes, scrub land, and forest. Sometimes the main road is a strip of seal on a dirt road.
In The Lynd there is a gas station and we asked how the road south was. The gas station attendant said it is 264 km (with absolutely no services on the road) and only half is surfaced, it has water on it in places, and they recommend we ride around. It is 506 km around and actually takes 1 hour less! We also checked with a road train driver who said there is a fair amount of deep sand and that we will have to ride in the ditch and try to avoid the washouts…around it is we can not risk any issues. Its after 2 and we don’t have enough food or water anyway to camp out. If we start out now we will not make it to Hughenden before dark.
Long day for the King of Sweden!
It was 430 when we arrived to Charters Towers after 250 km. We headed to the Woolworth for supplies and then to the caravan park. It had a nice shaded grass area for the tents. The camp kitchen was a bit sketchy as they only had BBq’s and a wood stove. Luckily we had bought a cooked chicken and salad for dinner. The wine/ beer helped. We are pretty tired and hit the sac not long after 9.
We were woken up not long after by 2 possums fighting, but that did not last too long. We had planned to get up early for the 830 ANZAC day parade, but despite actually getting up at 730 with the birds we did not leave the park until almost 930. This was after boiling eggs on the bbq (takes longer than you think). We rode into town and caught the last half of the ceremonies and the wreath laying at the ANZAC monument. There is one in almost every town. The poor school kids standing in the hot sun were dropping like flies.
We headed out of town west after 11 and made for Hughenden to the road house, which was THE ONLY thing open as it is a national holiday. The road here is flat and straight with mostly grassland. There is almost no other vehicles and you might see a few every 50-60 km. There are not even that many road trains either. Sara had a “toastie” , which is a grilled cheese of sorts and here it is made with laughing cow, which does not really melt. The guys had deluxe burgers, which had a bun, a burger patty, a thin steak, bacon, cheese, a fried egg, a slice of pineapple, lettuce, tomato, and a slice of pickled beet root. Dan ordered a large fires, which would feed 8!
We have just 120 km left today to Richmond. We planned a shorter day as we knew we would leave late and we plan to stay in a hotel in Mount Isa 406 km from Richmond tomorrow. The road continued to be straight, there are quite a few dead kangaroos on the road side, but still little traffic. The speed limit is 110 km/h mostly and time flies. We did note that the road closure sign said there is a caution between Julia creek and Cloncurry ??
We arrived to Richmond and it was 32 degrees. Our idea to free camp went out the window as it was 10$ at the caravan park with huge shade trees and hot showers! We set up under the trees on the grassy “un-powered” site 3. This is on what look like a nice lake, but is a marsh. This means the place is infested with flies that really drove us crazy until after sunset. We were so full from the lunch we skipped dinner and were all asleep by 9.
We were woken just after first light at 630 by the crazy squawking of hundreds of parrots. We had been told by numerous people that there was a plague of locust ahead. One couple in a car said they were 3 inches deep on the road and like a carpet. We had noted yesterday on the road warning sign board there was a caution for the section from Julia creek west. We did then get on the road early and had 408 km to go to get to Mount Isa.
We stopped for fuel in Julia creek after 150 km with little evidence of grasshoppers.
We met a man at the fuel stop who told us there was a good bakery in Cloncurry (oasis) in another 137 km, and we actually ran into him again there. Well the road had a few bugs on it, but nothing noteworthy. We had seen the cars with their grills plugged with them over the last few days, but all we got was a few splotches on our pant legs and boots. The route itself is again quite varied today with sections of grassland and scrub( AND termites).
It is another 122 km to Mount Isa and this is quite scenic with some curves and rolling treed hills that are very green as they had so much rain recently. The ride into the town itself is less so with the huge mills and smoke towers billowing on the hill just past town. Grasshopper guts!
We checked out a few motel and several were quite expensive and sketchy. At one the disheveled desk attendant propositioned Daniel, while I was looking at the less than ideal room. In the end we found a “vending” machine hotel where you book and check in at the kiosk. It is new and very clean, with modern decor and fast wifi (rare in Oz).
We walked the 1.5 km into the centre to the mall and then the dollar store so Orvar could replace his stock of reading glasses. The last broke this morning. We then decided on a real Australian cultural “experience” with dinner at the RSL. Visitor must check in with ID and we of course had the roast pork special all round. One visit was enough for us all. The food is hospitalish at best and the drinks no cheeper. Oz in general is very expensive, not as bad as NZ, but close. We stopped at Woothworth on the way home for supplies and a few more beers. What a relaxing evening in our swank pad with time to catch up on the web.
Daniel fixed us an amazing smoked salmon eggs Benedict to start our big day of 663 km from Mount Isa to 3 ways.
We started as usual with a full tank and noted they sell OPAL here.
Just as we left town we saw the first road marker for Darwin!
The route today varied quite a bit. Some stretches were hilly, treed, and quite green. Others were flat grassland. We stopped in Camooweal the small town just before the Northern territory border for some gas. We met Daniel riding east. He warned us that we MUST buy bug hats here even at the inflated 10$ each. He said you can not stop anywhere in the next 400 km without going crazy from the flies.
We met Daniel riding back towards Brisbane. He warned us that we MUST buy bug hats here even at the inflated 10$ each. He said you can not stop anywhere in the next 400 km without going crazy from the flies.
Just out of town we crossed the border and stopped at the sign. The flies here are insane!
We rode 260 km to Barkley Homestead of expensive gas fame (195/l) since there is none from here to Camooweal or 3 ways. There are a few stations along the way but no services. We stopped for a break on the road side and could not get the bug nets on fast enough.
We stopped again in Barkley for something to eat as well. There were hundreds of pink headed parrots here.
Now it is just another 185 km to Warumungu or 3 ways and it is 34 degrees. It is more flat and desolate here and the number of dead Kangaroos does not help.
We are late in the day and riding west directly into the sun, which is never fun. It was sort of cool to arrive at the Stewart highway at 3 ways where the roads meet.
It is just another 300 m to the roadhouse. It is staffed like most of the places we have been in the last 4 days by non Australians. Here there are a bunch of rude German students, who laughed when we asked if there was a fridge for the use of the campers. The camp ground is the worst we have seen in OZ. The pool is green and not in a goon way, but cold so we could put our left over beers in there to cool. The camp kitchen is tragic and so the guys ate in the cafe. We were woken up by the yelling from the next tent. There was a family there with young kids and the mom had had 6-7 Jim beam and cokes last night. To top it off the camp was littered with spines from some tree and 2 of the expeds now have tiny impossible to see holes in them.
The birds are what usually wakes us at dawn, but they were quiet today. We made up some breakfast and tolerated the few flies not very well and so packed up quickly and fueled up and left going north!
We have about 990 km to go to Darwin and will try to get over half way today. The roads today are STRAIGHT! it is hot and mind numbing riding. We had a stop at Elliott for lunch of some not too bad steak sandwiches.
We had to rest again at Larrimah at the lazy lizard for a cold drink.
We arrived to the Mataranka Homestead/thermal spring at 4. This is a nicer camp ground with good showers. They have no kitchens, but have a fun restaurant and live music tonight as well. We set up camp with the occasional kangaroo running past. Then we walked 300 m to the thermal pools for a therapeutic dip. There are quite a few pea hens wandering about, which is a bit weird. In the night it was quiet except for the thundering whomp whomp whomp when the kangaroos stormed thru the tents.
It is the final stretch today as we ride up the 412 km to Darwin on another very straight stretch of road.
It is also getting hotter and more humid by the km. We fueled up in Mataranka and then rode the 206 km to Pine creek where we stopped for lunch.
We had to get a drink and a snack in Adelaide River and both us and the bikes were on our last legs. We are getting terrible fuel economy with the wind and the 110-115 speed to try to kill the miles ASAP. This just left 71 km to get to Noonamah where we planned to meet our host David. He led us home to his amazing place in Palmerston, where Johan from Norway and German from Argentina were also staying. They have been here a week, but their bikes arrived from Dili 1 month ago. They are still waiting for an inspection from Quarantine!!! We had a great evening hearing about everyone’s past adventures. We really appreciated getting first had knowledge of the route and ferries in Indonesia from these guys. Johan has been several times to Indonesia and had great advice on where to go.
We appreciated staying with Dave, but we decided to head into the city center where we could get a 2 bedroom place for a reasonable price, we could cool off from the heat and get caught up on all sorts of “office” work.
Next update from the freight forwarder is that the boat is delayed!!! We were to drop the bikes in 2 days time for the departure next week. The boat will leave Darwin on time, but because of a mechanical issue it will go direct to Singapore and not stop in Timor.
The next estimated sailing to Timor is now May 18! AGHHH. We spent 2 days mulling over all the options. There is no way to get a small plane to Timor as none can fit even one of them at a time, we ride to Perth or Adelaide and ship the bikes to Bali and back track, we leave the bikes here and rent a car/van and tour, or what we settled on is take a repositioning free camper “rental” to Perth and then fly Perth to Timor. Making Lemonade!!!
We managed to get a 2 week van return from Darwin to Perth leaving May 4. We will fly to Dili May 20 and hope to get the bikes before the 25th. This has kiboshed our plans for this fall. We will now arrive to North America a month behind schedule and will miss the HU meeting in Nakusp and also Wolfgang who will be in Canada to make his ride to Alaska this summer!
We did hook up on HUBB with riders Chantelle and Todd = HU/ADV The slow ride home – Canada to Australia on a pair of CT110 Honda Postie Bikes. We met with them for drinks.
They are temporarily working and giving in Darwin, but after 5 months they are counting the days until their 1 year contract is up. It is hot and humid here and the Darwin culture is a serious challenge for those with even a slightly open mind.
The Racial tension is palpable. Here like most of the NT the police obviously target Aboriginal people. They are posted at the drive thru liquor store and clearly only are checking ID of non white patrons. Here you must register your ID to buy liquor and in many places there is a daily limit. At our rental apartment we were not asked to leave a damage deposit, but the Aboriginal couple after us were. We all had paid with credit cards. When I was waiting in the lobby for the guys the Chinese owner asked me if I would like some teas as she had put the kettle on, but the other lady waiting was not offered the same courtesy. It goes on and on. I will say there are a huge number of obviously drunk people laying about all over town, and I can see how one could become jaded.
What to do in Darwin… Very hot and humid so we decided to walk 2 km in the heat of the day to the museum. (morons). There is lots of evidence of the recent cyclone.
Today we will drop the bikes off at the SDV freight forwarders, which is 18 km from the city at the cargo port. They have agreed to store the bikes for the 2 weeks no charge. We rode out there and parked in the warehouse only to be told we had to go to customs first (in the city) and get the carnet cancelled. (They failed to add this in the email to us of course!)
This is a crazy system, because once we get the stamp we could technically sell the bike here is Oz and fly out and still collect on the carnet?!?
Whatever, we did just go to customs, get and stamp, and then rode away without them even asking for proof that we had booked export!
Then it was back to the SDV to pass away the riding gear, disconnect the batteries, and lock up the luggage.