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Archive for March, 2010

March 13, 2010
Location: Perth (Wandi), WA

I really, really, really wanted to get moving by today, but H wanted to stay put for one more day. I’m a little frustrated, but I did drag H all the way to Perth with me, so I need to be accommodating to his schedule. He had originally planned on turning back at Adelaide with F, and that was 6,000 kms ago. Hahaha. Then he planned on having his bike transported from Perth and flying back home, but I convinced him that it made more sense to ride up to Darwin with me. HAHAHA! I do feel a little guilty though. There is a significant language/communication barrier between us so I can’t tell if I am being overly pushy, or if I am simply enabling him to do things that he wants to do but wouldn’t otherwise do on his own.

Either way, we need to start heading north soon, because at some point H is going to have to go back to work, and I have to go… do what? I don’t know. Working on my XT600 reminded me of my 2-strokes, and I felt a little homesick, but then I remembered that I have no home.

March 14, 2010
Location: Perth (Fremantle), WA

I had been feeling totally exhausted for the past week, and I think I’ve finally managed to shake it off. Today we went to a chilli (that’s how it’s spelled here) festival in Fremantle. There were lots of chilli tastings, and I gave myself really bad heartburn, which I’m sure will be even more fun tomorrow morning. After the festival, we went to the Little Creatures Brewery, and then spent the rest of the afternoon and evening walking around the city of Perth.

Here are some shots from Perth.



View from where I took a nap in Kings Park


More Perth

March 15, 2010
Location: Lancelin, WA

Perth is the last major city we’ll be in for awhile, so we spent the morning shopping and restocking on oils, fluids, and other supplies. We rode north on Hwy 60 along the coast to Lancelin. It’s just at the foot of a heap of sand dunes, so after setting up camp in Lancelin, I rode out to the dunes to see what damage I could do. I’m not so good at sand, and my bike kept trying to bury itself, so I ended up just hiking up some dunes on foot.




View from the top of a sand dune: my bike and the coast beyond


My shadow on the other side

March 16, 2010
Location: Geraldton, WA

After leaving Lancelin this morning, we rode through Nambung National Park and the Pinnacles Desert. The Pinnacles are limestone rock formations. We continued north up the North West Coastal Hwy, stopped to have a picnic on the beach in Jurien Bay, and then arrived in Geraldton. We are traveling quite slowly these days. I’m sort of hoping to stall for time so that hurricane season will mostly be over by the time we get to Darwin. Just kidding, I have absolutely no sense of time anymore.


You can barely see the ocean just beyond the desert



March 17, 2010
Location: Shark Bay, WA

I like the name of this town, Shark Bay. We’re on a peninsula on the west coast. We punched in over 600 kms today, and it was the first high-mileage day we’ve had since crossing the Nullarbor. This morning, we departed Geraldton via the North West Coastal Hwy. We took a detour on a loop that went through a few ports along the coast.
Stopped at a pink lake in Port Gregory, and then had lunch at Kalbarri. The afternoon was hot and we needed to cross 400 kms of desert to get to Shark Bay. I think the rest of the trip will involve many vast expanses of desert crossings, as the country is far more sparsely populated as we head up north.

In the evening, we stopped by a store and picked up some wilted produce that was about to be discarded. It had been awhile since we barbecued anything, so H grilled them up and made them delicious. Living like a homeless person never tasted so good! :)


Pink lake at Port Gregory. It looks a little purple in the picture because of the blue sky reflected in it. I don’t know why the lake is pink; maybe I’ll remember to look it up at some point when I have internet access. Oh, and there is a rock under my sidestand. I’m finally learning…



Beautiful Kalbarri!


We climbed down the side of one of the sandstone (?) cliffs and found our own little secluded beach.


We strongly considered setting up camp on the beach, but it was a little too early in the day to stop riding, and H reasoned that it would be difficult to get all our camping gear up and down the rock walls. Oh well, I guess I have a reason to come back to Kalbarri someday.


Unfortunately, Kalbarri is under development and it is turning into an expensive resort town for rich people. I just don’t belong here…

March 18, 2010
Location: Coral Bay, WA

I got up at 6 am this morning to see the dolphins, but I did not see any dolphins. They must have been sleeping.

Today was long and hot. It was well over 40 degrees, and we put down about another 600 kms of highway. I had forgotten that, because we are down under, it gets hotter and hotter the farther north we ride. Towards the end of the day, we took a turnoff towards the coast so the ride finally cooled down a bit. We set up camp in Coral Bay, which is a little tourist town, and went for an evening swim. I got a bit scuffed up from all the coral growing in the shallow waters. Tomorrow, we are going diving in the Ningaloo reef!


We stopped by Hamelin Bay early in the day. The water is so clear out here!


Coral Bay

March 19, 2010
Location: Coral Bay, WA

We went on a boat-diving trip in the Ningaloo reef today. Aside from visiting a wildlife park back in Tasmania, I think this is the first touristy thing I’ve done all trip, and by that I mean it’s the first thing that I had to pay money for. But, the Ningaloo is supposed to be one of the best dive spots in Australia, right up there with the Great Barrier Reef, so we had to do it.

It had been many years since my last dive, and I couldn’t remember how to set up my regulator or any of that crap. H set up my equipment for me on the first dive, and then closed my tank without telling me. There was just enough pressure left to inflate my BCD and take a few descending breaths before I realized that I had no air. I had to swim to the surface and kick frantically as the divemaster opened my tank back up. I should have checked my own equipment, but I gave H a good deal of grief for that one.

Anyway, we were on a boat all day. We did two hour-long dives in the morning and then snorkelled off the boat in the afternoon. I got massively seasick. I hate boats. My underwater pictures did not turn out very well because I had the wrong setting on my camera, I think. I was too busy trying not to hurl to get things figured out.


Our boat in Coral Bay


Heading out to the reef. They call this the turquoise coast :)


Some dolphins swimming next to the boat


Big turtle



Reef shark. There was another shark getting its teeth cleaned by a wrass, but that picture didn’t come out.

All in all, I didn’t think the Ningaloo reef was that great compared to diving in the Caribbean. There are supposed to be occasional manta rays and manatees in this area though, so maybe we were just unlucky today. H has done a bit of diving in the Great Barrier Reef and said that it wasn’t that much better than the Ningaloo, so I won’t feel too bad if I can’t make it to Cairns.

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March 6, 2010
Location: Albany, WA

It was another cold and wet day when we left Hopetoun. We took trails through Fitzgerald National Park and Stirling National Park after passing through Borden. Trail conditions were corrugated and not that great. I was a bit tired from staying up late last night stoking my campfire. We ended up in Albany, which is a (relatively) large beach town.


March 7, 2010
Location: Albany, WA

I was all packed up and ready to hit the road again at 8:30 this morning when H asked if we could stay in Albany another day. He wanted to visit this fresh fish market that is held on Sundays. I gave him a hard time, but eventually relented.

I went to Torndirrup National Park and visited some more of Western Australia’s wonderful coastline, which is all starting to look the same to me now. Also stopped by the Albany wind farm and rode around the wind turbines.

In the evening, H and I cooked up a pile of live yabbies that he bought at the fish market. Well, he cooked, and I tried not to get in the way. Yabbies look like little tiny lobsters. H cooked them up with white wine and cream and eggs and leeks and asparagus and I forgot what else.


Albany Wind Farm


Windmills are bigger in person


Yabbies!

March 8, 2010
Location: Pemberton, WA

I had left all my stuff out last night because the sky looked clear, but when I woke up it was raining and everything was soaked. Ended up leaving after noon because I needed to dry out my things before I could pack. Rode along Hwy 1 via Walpole. Stopped to look at some big trees.


Camp site next to a creek in Pemberton.

March 9, 2010
Location: Gracetown, WA

Rode from Pemberton today via Augusta. Stopped by Cape Leeuwin, the southernmost point of Western Australia. We are now near the Margaret River, home to a bunch of wineries. We set up camp and H and I went 2-up on his bike to do some wine tasting. I left my bike parked at the campsite because I don’t tolerate alcohol as well as he does.

Later on, I was in my tent poring over some maps when H quietly dropped off an open bottle of very nice chardonnay that he had picked up at a winery today. He came in to look at the maps and then knocked the open bottle over IN MY TENT. Who on earth DOES that??? It was a pain in the ass to clean up, and now the floor of my tent is sticky and it smells like chardonnay in here.


Cape Leeuwin

March 10, 2010
Location: Gracetown, WA

My tent smells really bad. There are ants in here. ACK.

H and I went wine tasting today around the Margaret River area. I insisted that we walk instead of ride, since I’m such a responsible person. But the wineries were a lot farther apart than they looked on the map, and we ended up walking over 20 kms today. The walking was okay when we were hopping between wineries, but by the end of the day we were pretty far away from our starting point. So we hitched a ride back from a nice couple visiting from Melbourne. I was quite surprised at how many cars *didn’t* stop while I was trying to thumb a ride. I thought people were supposed to be hospitable out here!


Kookaburra sits in the old gum tree…

March 11, 2010
Location: Perth (Wandi), WA

We made it to Perth today, hooray! We took Caves Rd up to Busselton this morning, and H insisted that we stop at a few more wineries on the way out. I thought that arriving in Perth would be a hugely momentous occasion, but it seems a little anticlimactic since it’s been drawn out for so long now. I am not feeling very well, probably because I have had too much to drink the past few days. I didn’t take any pictures today, sorry.

March 12, 2010
Location: Perth (Wandi), WA

A very nice Kiwi allowed me some space in his shed so that I could work on my bike today. It was 40 degrees C out today (that’s 104 F for you Americans), and about 5 degrees hotter in the shed, so I ended up working mostly outside. I replaced all the fluids, adjusted the valves, and took care of a few other things that needed attention.
I was surprised at how good everything looked, considering the age of the bike!


Ready for work


I didn’t actually have to remove the tank to get to the valves. Everything is so easily accessible on this bike! Way to go, Yamaha!


Intake side. The valve clearances were already within spec, but I readjusted them anyway because everything always runs better after I touch it. Right….


Exhaust side

The XT600 has had a long journey, and another one lies ahead. I’m getting a little tired, but the bike seems to still be going strong!

Next: Week 6 – North by Northwest

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February 27, 2010
Location: Elliston, SA

And so we begin our fourth week on (and off) the road.

I lost a bet with F yesterday regarding something stupid, and in accordance with the terms I had to cook bacon and eggs for everyone this morning. I’ve never eaten bacon before in my life so of course it came out all soggy and wrong. Fortunately, H was a chef in a former life and was able to salvage breakfast. Got in several squabbles with F. I think I have exceptionally little patience right now because I’ve become accustomed to traveling on my own, and the others are harshing my mellow.

Rode from Port Augusta to Cowell along the coast, then cut across to Elliston, which is on the other side of the Eyre Peninsula.

February 28, 2010
Location: Streaky Bay, SA

Took some beautiful routes through the Eyre Peninsula today. Went along the coast on B100 with a few detours. We did do a run through Lake Newland Conservation Park, where we did some mudflat racing across the dry lake and took turns getting our bikes stuck in the mud.

Went to go see what was supposedly Australia’s largest sea lion colony at Point Lambatt, but there were not that many sea lions. Also, it was windy and dusty as hell, and my eyeballs felt like they were on fire.




I can’t remember where these shots were taken. I am getting too old…


Now for some mudflat racing!


I need to stop doing things like this.


Venus Bay


Sea lions at Point Lambatt


Another lake that has not quite dried yet

March 01, 2010
Location: Streaky Bay, SA

Did not go anywhere today, as I stayed up late last night watching bad movies on my laptop while F and H drank four liters of goon. Went for a long ocean swim with H in the afternoon. Tomorrow, I hit the Nullarbor.


A couple of boats anchored in the bay. Good targets for a swim.


Almost there…


I climbed aboard and pretended to hijack the boat

March 02, 2010
Location: Border Village, SA/WA

I’m camped out behind a roadhouse at the border of South Australia and Western Australia. I finally left Streaky Bay this morning. F remained behind, but H is still with me and it will be just the two of us heading west. I was a little sad to leave F. We couldn’t freaking stand each other, and I’d only known him for 10 days, but I’m still going to miss him.

Today involved about 600 km of straight highway riding through the Nullarbor Plains. Nullarbor = “no trees”. But lots of crosswinds and direct sun. Portions of this road double as airstrips since there is so little traffic, so there are runway markings along some stretches. Unfortunately, I did not encounter any air traffic on my ride.

Highway riding on my dirtbike involves curling up into a tight ball and hiding as much of myself as possible behind the headlight. It’s a really tiring ride on my XT600, and I had to stop every hour or so to rest. It will be even longer tomorrow, as we’ve gained 2 hours by crossing the border and will have an earlier start. My bike is fully loaded with spare fuel, 10L of water, and a lot of H’s crap. I sure am asking a lot of the poor thing.


Wild camels, wombats, and kangaroos are all problematic for drivers. There was freshly dead roadkill every few hundred meters,
and they made the entire ride smell horrible.


A very lonely petrol station

March 03, 2010
Location: Fraser Range, WA

Another 630 km of desert highway crossing today. We are camped out about 100 km from Norseman, which would mark the western end of the Nullarbor. Despite getting an early start, we fell short of Norseman because the XT600 was having electrical issues all day. ARRRRGH.

About 100 km into the day, the bike popped and died. I instinctively assumed the motor seized and began ripping the bike apart on the side of the road before H stopped me. It turned out to be a blown fuse, and thank goodness I had a spare. The fuse blew again a hundred km down the road, and I had to push it back to the nearest roadhouse. I got some car fuses and rigged one to my bike. The bike continued to periodically blow fuses throughout the day. The (somewhat) good thing about breaking down along the Nullarbor is that the few drivers who pass by almost always stop and offer help, because no one would leave a traveler stranded in the middle of the desert.

As the heat wore on, the ignition began to pull that crap where it periodically cuts out again. It got to the point where I could no longer save it with duct tape, and I was running out of daylight, so I stopped and set up camp. In the evening I pulled the ignition switch apart and set the bike up to start by hotwire. This will fix the ignition issues, but I’m still not sure about the blown fuses. I wonder if it’s the rectifier.


Broken down in the middle of the desert. The nearest town is over 600 km away.


Camped out in Fraser Range. My bike did not make it to the campsite.

March 04, 2010
Location: Esperance, WA

We are in the first decent-sized town on the other side of the Nullarbor plains, and it is cold and rainy here. Damn, we should turn around and go back!

I got up at 5:30 am and checked all the connections on the XT for shorts. All was well so it may have just been the ignition causing all the problems. The bike ran without a hitch today. I rigged up the hotwired ignition with a little flip switch. My body is still running in the SA time zone, so I’m going to go to bed at 8pm.


Debugging the electrical system. Here’s my electrical engineering degree hard at work.


My trick new ignition switch.

March 05, 2010
Location: Hopetoun, WA

Today could not have been more perfect. It was a cold, wet, windy morning, but we rode out to Cape Le Grand, which is supposed to have some of the best beaches in Australia. There, I got to rip my bike over the most beautiful white sand beaches I had ever seen.


The best thing was, these beaches were all deserted as well.




Kangaroo family hanging out at the beach. Yup, they do that.


About 30 seconds before my bike fell over.

After defiling Cape Le Grand’s pristine beaches, we headed west to Hopetoun and set up camp on the beach. I built a camp fire in an old wheel well, and H barbecued some vegetables using cheap produce we found at a ghetto grocery store (somehow he still managed to make them turn out amazing). And now I am going to sleep with the waves crashing 100 meters from my head.

Next: Week 5 in Western Australia

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February 20, 2010
Location: Lorne, VIC

I am feeling completely wiped out. Motivation is at an all-time low. I hope this is just some hump that I will get over with a little more sleep. My stomach felt awful all day. Yesterday, I ate half a can of salmon that had been sitting open in my tent overnight. Maybe that was it.

I arrived in Melbourne this morning in good spirits because the weather was grand. I changed my oil and filter in an auto shop parking lot in the city and made a huge mess, in typical eraine fashion.


Good morning Melbourne!


We were on this boat

I made friends with two German travelers (F and H) who are headed towards Adelaide. One has a similar bike to mine, an XTZ660. This is good because if my bike breaks, I can kill him and strip his bike for parts.

We took M1 to Geelong, then Torquay. Went to Bells Beach and then took trails through Anglesea, and then the Great Ocean Road to Lorne.

February 21, 2010
Location: Portland, VIC


Three cool cats at Lorne

Left Lorne in the morning and followed the Great Ocean Road to Cape Otway. There was a bit of traffic on the road, but it wasn’t so bad to go slowly because the views were nice. Tried to take some trails through Otway National Park, but most of them were closed off.


Yamaha XTs checking out the Great Ocean


View from Otway

There were a lot of koalas hanging out in the trees on the side of the road through Otway. The koalas were really ugly for some reason.




Koala Yummies!

Stopped by the 12 Apostles rock formation. Continued along A1 to Portland, and am camped out here for the night.

I took a pretty good dump on the bike today. The bolts holding the ignition lock have been broken for some time, and today it was loose to the point where the ignition was cutting out while riding. It needed attention, but I didn’t want to hold up the group, so I tried to ride around it until it killed the ignition mid-corner and locked up the rear, tossing me to the ground. I’m fine, the bike isn’t any worse off, and I was able to bandage the ignition together with duct tape. I don’t know that there is any better solution beyond drilling out and replacing the bolts, which I don’t have the facilities for right now. I generally don’t like duct tape fixes, so if the ignition continues to have issues, I’m just gonna hotwire it.


Only 2 apostles?

February 22, 2010
Location: Salty Creek, SA

We are now in South Australia, about 200 km from Adelaide. We were supposed to make Adelaide today, but had a bit too much fun screwing off.

The Germans played a mean trick on me this morning. We needed to siphon petrol from one of the fuel tanks so that we could light our little cooking stove to make coffee. I was assigned the task of sucking fuel out of my tank with a hose, which I accepted because I am kind, but did not realize that F held the other end of the hose just above the fuel line, causing me to inhale petrol fumes until my stomach turned over. It’s a good thing I don’t need my brain cells anymore.

To make a queasy day worse, we filled our camelbacks from a bad tap this morning. As the day went on, both F and I suffered from intestinal issues and required frequent stops. H had no such problems because he does not drink water, only coffee and beer.

At some point, someone came up with the brilliant idea of riding some trails that crossed over sand dunes. My bike was perhaps the only one even remotely suitable for sand, and even then it was asking a lot of the bike and rider. There was a lot of falling over involved today, but it was a great time and now I’m bruised and sore as hell.


Woops.


Teamwork

February 23, 2010
Location: Adelaide, SA

And here we are in Adelaide! Took Princes Hwy almost directly here from Coorong. Took the Wellington Ferry. Didn’t take any pictures worth uploading today, as I was exhausted from a sleepless night of being attacked by insects.

We are camped out by the beach. This afternoon H dared me to swim out to a buoy about a kilometer from the shore, so I dragged him out to sea. He nearly drowned and I had to rescue him.

February 24, 2010
Location: Adelaide, SA

Got new tires and brake pads for the bike today. I changed the tires the day before I left, but those knobbies burned up quick in the last 5,500 km. I switched to a much harder hybrid compound this time, because there will be hundreds of kilometers of hot desert tarmac ahead.

I also finally bought a proper riding jacket today, something I wish I had done months ago. My lovely white rain jacket has just about reached the end of its useful life, unfortunately.

No pictures from today because I spent the day working on the bike, and it was not very interesting. Also reloaded on fluids and spares (for both me and the bike). All of a sudden my luggage is really heavy again. Damn.

February 25, 2010
Location: Rawnsley/Flinders Ranges, SA

Took about 400 km of highway from Adelaide to Orroroo to Hawker and am now camped out in the wilderness that is the Flinders Ranges. H & F were annoying the hell out of me so I ditched them and found my own campsite.




Flinders Ranges

There were lots of wild emus and kangaroos along the way, but they disappeared in the bush before I could take out my camera.

February 26, 2010
Location: Port Augusta, SA

H found my campsite this morning and woke me up. Departed early because it gets really hot out during the day. We rode a few hundred km around the Flinders Ranges, and did some pretty awesome tracks. F kept trying to race me, and it made me really angry. I miss doing my own thing. This evening, I told H that I did not want to ride with them anymore. He offered to ditch F and continue with me, but I declined that offer.




This was illegal

After riding around the Flinders Ranges, headed back down to Port Augusta. We’re nearing the desert now, and it is getting really hot!

Next: Week 4 Crossing the desert

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