Hello
Jun
06

Yesterday's PS:
Turns out it's just as well we decided not to stay in Alice Springs yesterday. Being the long weekend they have a Finke Rally race (or something like that) a 400 kms race out through the desert in all manner of vehicle and then come back the next day so accommodation reportedly booked out.

Today:
Probably no surprise to anyone but we had another early start and headed west. Man was it COLD! Had the hand grip warmers on high until we got to The Rock / Ayers Rock / Uluru and the waterproof pants barely stayed on top of the chill factor. Thankfully we had the sun on our backs the whole way and gradually warmed up. Having said that I've worn my polar fleece neck warmer and waterproof pants all day and slowly warmed up and was comfortable by the time we got back then had the hottest shower I have EVER had and it was heavenly!!!

Our first stop this morning was at Mt Ebenezer where we had a toasted egg and bacon sandwich and juice. Yummy. A while after we headed off we became aware of a great huge something to the south which is just God teasing tourists. As you get closer the realisation is that the shape is all wrong to be THE rock. It is in fact Mt Connor. Needless to say since we have a grandson of that name we took a snap as we also did of Connor's Well yesterday.

Next stop Curtin Springs Station and we were greeted at the fuel pumps by the local resident emu. I would have liked to get a pic as he followed Norm to the pump but I wasn't quick enough to get the blackberry out and I have to confess I was a bit reluctant to have skin and especially eyes which were at his beak level exposed. He un-hurriedly checked out Norm and the bike then wandered off about his business without a backwards glance. Curtin Springs was where we stayed in 72 on our way back from the Rock and not a whole lot has changed let me tell you. The shop / bar building is basically the same and the outside dining area / beer garden under the grassy roof held up by poles is still there though probably renewed over time. The corrugated iron room we stayed in now looks to be staff quarters and has outer stone walls and the concrete block the corrugated iron outside loo and bathroom stood on is now partially covered by a laundry.

When we booked in back in 72 it was dark and well after 9.30pm. As they gave us the tour to our room they showed us where a candle and matches were and said that lights out was at 10pm. We brought our bags, the primus and food and the two boys in and were both tired and a bit grumpy thinking we'll turn our lights off when we we're good and ready but seconds later we realised there was a slight hesitation in a background noise we hadn't been previously aware of and realised that it coincided with a marginal dimming of the lights. Reality set in as we scrambled for the candle and matches before the generator turned right off and we had no lights. We thankfully got the candle lit before we were in complete darkness and then lit the primus and had our dinner by candlelight. Didn't really strike us as all that romantic at the time though we did have a good laugh as we later made our way to the outside loo in a strong wind with a candle which wanted to blow out!



Curtin Springs Station.

One of the pics today is of the shop side of Curtin Springs which just shows that while things may change they also stay the same. You can see the brush / grass roof to the left of the pic beyond the phone boxes which also weren't there. Another pic today is of the back of the staff polo tops there. Typical of a lot of the Territory humour which needless to say we enjoy and Norm especially hooks right into. Also took a pic of the front which refers to the staff being ugly but providing top hospitality and service. I asked if there was a choice about wearing it. He said no!.

We drove past the entrance to the Yulara Resort (no interest in that until we needed fuel in the afternoon) and just watched in awe as the Rock grew larger and larger. I really had forgotten just how awesomely magnificent the presence of it is. If you haven't seen it you MUST. We got the pick of the pics today from the car sunset viewing area compliments of a young couple.



The two oldies with bike in front of THE Rock!This is now the screensaver on my office PC as wellas part of the header for this blog.

Needless to say we returned the favour of taking a snap of them with their two littlies. We checked out the Cultural Centre which defiantly wasn't there in 72 (or the sealed roads so we were glad of that change) and headed to the Climb site which was open. Yes, Norm had decided to do the climb since he missed out last time. That time it was late in the afternoon and we didn't know how long it would take and I also wanted to check out the Olgas / Kata Tjuta so we had headed for them. As it turned out we didn't make it to them as it was getting dark so we turned round and headed back to Curtin Springs where we'd decided to stay.

I'd decided through the night last night that the climb might be a bit too arduous for my knee when its already working hard with all the riding so I took a pic of Normie at the climb site, kissed him goodbye and headed for the Olgas. The ride out was a lovely one and they were worth the ride. The extra riding took my daily total to 630 kms and I have no desire to beat it.

We arrived back tired but satisfied with the day’s exploits and ready for another great dinner and some planning for tomorrow. Had our dinner talking to a couple from Newborough. Small world.
Last time we took the Mulga Park Road just east of Curtin Springs which heads south for a good distance then heads back to the Stuart Highway. Staff at Curtain Springs had told us it was a similar distance and as long as we didn't mind opening and closing gates instead of crossing cattle grids it would be fine. We have a photo of the sign on one gate clearly expressing frustration of the property owner it said 'SHUT THE BLOODY GATE'. Didn't see any of them today.

Talk to you tomorrow.



Curtin Springs Station Staff shirt.

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Jun
05

Yesterdays PS:
When we called in to 3ways for lunch yesterday we spotted a couple of BMW bikes and big square panniers complete with tousle headed riders and helmet cams covered in red dust and straight away thought. 'Could this in fact be Ewan McGregor and Charlie Boorman of a long way round and a long way down fame?' Well as it turns out no it wasn't, just a couple of adventurers from Melbourne on a 12 week adventure up the east coast, across the gulf and now heading to Darwin and having a ball and uncertain if they should be taking home filmed evidence of their disasters and mishaps for their wives to see! We so regret we didn't take a pic and send it to everyone and say 'you'll never believe who we saw at 3ways today!' Anyway we all had an enjoyable chat comparing notes of our travels.

Today:
The day has been cloudy from start to finish with the main variation being the density of cloud from heavy and threatening to light and white with patches of blue....mainly in the distance. We have had an occasional welcome splash of sunshine which has made for greater comfort albeit briefly. Needless to say we were layered up well and even donned the waterproof pants to guard against the chill factor and left them on till a late lunch in Alice Springs.

Have enjoyed the view as we’ve ridden to the Alice through many red craggy bluffs and little mountains and canyons surrounded by grassy plains occasionally scrubby but increasingly well grassed. The mountain side of things has diminished somewhat south of Alice Springs being more distant but spectacularly blue with the humidity in the area. Particularly love the large white trunk gums which remind me of the area especially around any watercourses.

The road has been in good condition overall. The surface pretty smooth for the most part and good grade and camber. Quite an eye opener to see some of the old creek crossings in the distance considering they were in fact sealed when we travelled in 72, they really were pretty rudimentary. There has also been an almost total absence of road trains south of 3ways other than livestock and fuel. Their absence is made up by heaps of car and caravan combinations and a few cars and campers and a handful of 5th wheelers and assorted campers and Winnebago type arrangements. Clearly we are 2 of the very few people heading south!

As they say there is a fine line between pleasure and pain and I've found also between enjoyment and endurance. The cold today has made hard work of it for me. I was grateful of the heated hand grip warmers. Once we left Alice Springs we left the waterproof pants off as the temperature was comfortable (don't know what it was but 23 was forecast). As we headed south of Stuarts Well we could see a magnificent rain storm off to the east complete with some lightening as well as the continuing showers to the west as we had tracked for most of the afternoon. We (thankfully) were heading for blue sky but got some unwelcome rain on the way. We stopped and compared notes once re do we don the waterproofs or not and decided no. Thankfully we only got a couple of lightish showers with our gear drying pretty much straight away and thankfully rode into the sun. YES! God it felt good but I still haven't warmed up and have my long sleeve T on as well as my cotton jacket and have left my draggin jeans and bike boots on for warmth rather than getting into shorts and T shirt like all the holiday makers. Norm on the other hand is in a T shirt. I read somewhere years ago that women can withstand hunger better than men but men can withstand cold better. My personal research (between the two of us) supports the theory.



Alice Springs Council offices.

We called in to take a picture of the old Overland Telegraph Station at Barrow Creek this morning and then headed for the Road house / Hotel / Caravan Park which was an experience to say the least! The only reason we could tell which part of the derelict yard was the caravan park was because there was a camper parked there. The building looked like an abandoned old dump and the apron around the pumps was a combination of sand, pot holes and crumbling concrete and rocky lumps. There were a couple of locals wandering about and the accumulation of 'stuff' about was awesome to behold, but Norm really wanted to visit the little boys room if there was one so he went to investigate. I sat on my bike enjoying the heat of my exhaust pipe until he summoned me in. He'd found a hot coffee and once I moved I decided I should seek out the little girls room as well. It was quite a contract to get in.

After getting a key which finally worked I had a choice of 1 functioning loo of 4 but it did work. The coffee was hot and we warmed our fingers as we wandered around the pub which was full of notes of varying currency and countries of origin with greetings on all of them pasted to the wall as well as all manner of clothing autographed and left hanging. The publican complained that the fire brigade would 'likely be through again to say they're a fire hazard and they'll all have to come down again'. There were also inscriptions and names and verses on just about every visible surface including the pressed tin ceiling in the bar (must have been late night additions those ones). The classic (one of tonight's pics) was a T shirt with the quote 'Its tourist season why can't I shoot one?' Appealed to me! See below.



The Barrow Creek T shirt.

Another quirky visit was our lunch spot in Alice Springs. We parked the bikes in front of the Council Offices (another pic) and headed across the road to Bojangles Saloon. The decor was great. Lots of corrugated iron, cow hide seats with the hair still on and timber slab tables. They were playing great music from the 60's to the 90s and the staff were a crack up with great senses of humour and the more we looked around the more quirky bits we found. There were heaps of boots of varying sizes, styles and colours stuck to the ceiling by their soles but the loos topped the lot. The main entrance doors had a pull handle on the hinge side for a door which had to be pushed open. The toilet seats were the clear resin type and we're full of barbed wire in the ladies and razor blades in the men's. The taps turned on water in an adjoining basin rather than the one it should have and the hand dryer switch turned on the neighbouring dryer rather than the one with the switch. Should make for some funny sights late at night! Definitely worth a look if you are passing through.

We are staying at the Erldunda Roadhouse tonight south of Alice Springs which is a thriving concern and a relief after some of the places we have encountered today. Not sure if we are continuing south tomorrow or heading for the rock. Will depend a bit on the weather.

Talk to you tomorrow.



A fair dinkum NT road train. I had planned to take it more from front on so the perspective and size would be more impressive but as I headed out the driver finished his check, jumped in and started to drive off so this is it!

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Jun
05

A day or so before we left on our trip our brother in law was checking out our luggage lined up on the billiard table at home (our 2 x panniers each and the big bags for the pillion seats) and thinking he was making a joke said 'so where is your accommodation and catering supplies if you get into difficulties?' to which we pointed to my big bag and told him what was in it. I'm ashamed to say I did enjoy his shocked expression.

So, my Emergency (can the marriage survive opening it) bag, and the answer is 'probably not'.

Nola's Emergency bag contents:
1 x box matches.
1 x pack of fire lighters.
1 x 2 man tent.
2 x sleeping bags.
Assorted snacks - seeds, nuts and dried fruit.
4 x dehydrated meals (just add boiling water) and yes they do work because we did a trial before we left and then made the decision that mexican rice would not be accompanying us on our trip!
2 x LED miners lights with head bands.
1 x stainless steel cooking set comprising 1 x 1 litre saucepan 1 x 1.5 litre saucepan 1 x fry pan 2 x plastic mugs 2 x spoons.
2 x tubes coffee and condensed milk.
4 x serves muesli.
2 x large bottles of water.
1 x first aid kit.
1 x stove (burner and fuel canister).
Bike service manuals.
So as you can guess the use of just about any of this would pretty much say
things have turned to the smelly stuff!
I also carry my waterproof and padded jacket liners in the side pockets as well as my long sleeve T shirt when shedding the layers.
My bike glove box contents:
My waterproof pants.
The Yamaha tool kit.
1 x chamois.
(My spare key is on an inside pocket of my jacket).
Talk to you again tomorrow.



Nola at the Devils Marbles. Note the big Emergency bag in the middle at the back. (I had another pic but Normie reckoned this gave a more accurate perspective of size. ...I think he just like the picture!

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Jun
04

We headed off early again this morning as we had a fair trek in front of us and wanted to beat the heat of the day. The temperature when we started reminded us we're in the interior and it is basically a desert complete with very low overnight temperatures! We stopped soon after starting and added another layer to the clothing.

A fair bit of road kill evident early this morning. Many eagles large and small about. Norm came close to having an unwelcome encounter with one. There was a group off the side of the road beyond the fog line and as we approached several took to flight. Norm could see there was still a big one there standing his big fluffy leg ground and not planning on going anywhere soon so he had slowed and moved towards the middle white line. The eagle ultimately had second thoughts and started to take off in a very ungainly fashion gaining very little altitude (must have had a generous breakfast of road kill) and staggering out towards Norm who headed for the thankfully empty oncoming lane. The eagle finally got himself under control and started to wheel himself away from the road as Norm got there. What Norm saw with relief was the wings start to open up and move off to the side, his eyes were level with the eagles as he came alongside. Phew. The great view I got was the magnificent sight of the cream, tan and black plumage of the underbelly and underside of the wings and tail as it continued in an arc to climb away. The wings weren't even fully extended as it rose over Normie but had easily extended to 7 feet because it was more than twice the width of Norm sitting on his bike and the width of the handlebars. On reflection I'm also pretty relieved it didn't need to wheel back to gain height before I passed.



Nola south of Renner Springs heading south with a 'YES I'm enjoying this' salute.

Got some good pics south of Renner Springs today. On our way north we approached our first advisory speed sign after 3ways on a right hand corner with a tipping truck sign because the camber was a bit dodgy and as we rounded the corner were greeted by a WOW view of straight road disappearing into the distance and a rugged rocky out crop / butte on our right. Reminded us both of the old cowboy and indian movies we watched as kids which were filmed in the Sierra Nevada desert around the Sedona area which we saw on our 98 trip to the USA. Great memories everywhere!

We've had strong and punishing winds for long stretches throughout the day and as my neck has been screaming its of some consolation that I can also see the trees on the side of the road getting a beating so its not just me. One concern with this situation is the fact that the prospect of the helmet and occie strap to the handlebars innovation is starting to appear as if it may have some merit, even so I still won't be a test pilot.

Heading south towards 3ways today I saw the sign to the Barkly Stock Route and was reminded that on our way north we saw a cattle truck turn off onto it which is an un sealed road and the progress could be seen over the tree tops. It looked awesome and it reminded us both of the huge numbers of trucks and coaches we met on our original trip out to Mt Isa from the coast but especially from Alice Springs south on our way home in our car after leaving the van in Darwin on consignment to be sold. In those days we were guaranteed a better price selling the van there rather than dragging it home. To quote the people we bought it from when we rang them before heading off to Darwin 'It'll be worth around $600 more to you to sell it up there because it costs them a heap to ship them up there and no one will ever get the red dust out of it down here so it. Will be worth that much less if you bring it back'. He was right as it turned out. We shipped home everything we didn't need from Mt Isa before we headed for Darwin. Anyway from Darwin down we carried our gas primus burner and canned food and that was what we ate on the way most of the way. So to the dust. Whenever we saw great clouds of red dust approaching we would either pack up quick and get on the road to beat the road trains or coaches, or if we didn't have time we'd sit and wave if it was a coach or if it was a road train jump into the car before we choked.

We regretted not getting a photo of the rolling plumes of dust on the way up. The things we take for granted!



The devil and his marbles (sorry freudian slip there) Norm on top of some of the Devils Marbles. Kids in front.

We enjoyed revisiting the Devils Marbles which are magnificent. The highway no longer winds through them which is probably just as well but they are only a short distance off it.

For those who don't know Wycliffe Wells is apparently the UFO capital of Australia and who am I to disagree?

That's it for today other than to note there is no phone service so this will be sent when I get some tomorrow.

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Jun
03

Whenever we travel around either here or overseas we make it a habit to never try to see everything there is to see. Firstly because that is impossible but also to try means you can risk being saturated with 'lots' of experiences rather than having a chance to' savour' them as you go. We always leave some for the next time should we ever get the opportunity to return. This trip is no different however one experience we planned but which we missed out on was a flight over the wetlands of Kakadu. Having planned to see the majority of the waterfalls at Litchfield National Park which we achieved we figured the wetland flight over Kakadu would give us a taste of the wetlands and their vastness. But, there's always a but. Unless we wanted to charter a plane for 9 which surprisingly hadn't figured in our thinking or budget, it wasn't going to be a happening thing from Darwin. All other flights leave from and return to Kakadu. So, that one is on the next time list for now.

We travelled well today. Left 7.15 to beat the majority of the heat (which we did) and arrived at 2.45 having travelled 600 kms. The butts held up surprisingly well considering it’s been a few days since we have done much riding at all. The bit of anatomy which was the most reluctant were our necks. Apparently they had enjoyed the break from having to hold our heads and helmets on so they don't flip off and bounce down the highway behind us, mind you we did have a pretty stiff head wind most of the day as our fuel usage reflected. Anyway, about 2/3 of the way here they were very owie but we both did some stretching and flexing and they got over it. Norm has many theories about some sort of device to attach to the helmets and handlebars connected by an occie strap or zip tie to alleviate the problem and if that little number makes it from the grey matter to the production stage you can be sure I will NOT be the test pilot.

It was good to be on the road again and viewing the scenery from the opposite direction and opposite lighting. Remarkable how different things can look. We had an interesting experience with a great brahman bull this morning. We saw him from a good distance as he wandered down from the grass verge onto the other side of the road and crossed to the middle and just stood and looked at us and a car behind us approach. We slowed and slowed and slowed and he stayed and stayed and stayed. The only perceptible difference in stature was his head seemingly being raised. Dilemma. Really don't want to assume he will remain statuesque as we ride slowly by, but also don't want to be travelling slow enough to be chased if he decides we've invaded his territory. Thankfully he helped out by deciding he'd just finish crossing the road and Norm drove by and once he heard Norm's bike he started behaving in a decidedly skittish manner with head and tail in the air and making good speed away from the road. Worked for me, he was off on the grass verge and heading for the scrub as I rode by.



The Larrimah servo. Definitely no fuel there!

We checked out the burnt out Larrimah servo I told you about on the way up.A sorry sight but provided some shade to stop for a drink of water and a bit of a break. We decided against revisiting the old Daly Waters Pub, figured the inn on the highway would likely be quieter but of course that remains to be seen or to be strictly correct to be heard or not.

That's it for today.



The kids tucked up in bed in front of our room at Daly Waters.

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Jun
02

As we were firing up the bikes to head off on our trip Glenn (our Operations Manager) came to farewell us and stood there shaking his head saying 'I can't believe it, 6 weeks'. I was thinking he was referring to the time we would be away then he continued 'that that's all the luggage you have for 6 weeks!'. I have to confess I was a bit naughty and enjoyed telling him that the actual luggage was held in the 2 pannier bags each side of the bikes but the large bags sitting on the pillion seat were other bits. This has been a familiar theme, a lot of people have been intrigued by the amount of luggage we do / don't carry so I thought while we are covering some of the same territory I'd let you know what we actually carry.

Norm's

Essentials bag (the big one in the middle) the 2 x pannier bags each side are the luggage bags. The two together have a 42 litre / kg capacity.

Norm's Essential bits bag contents:
2 x bike covers (we call them our bike ports) which keeps the rain, condensation, dust, mine outfall, birds and their waste material off them.
Also acts as a deterrent to would be thieves / vandals even as far as a random keying.
1 x tow rope.
2 x occie straps.
1 x toilet paper (and have we been glad to have that with some of the loos we've visited!).
Assorted snacks, dried fruit and snack bars.
1 x 5litre jerry can (only filled for the Camooweal to Barkly Homestead leg and there is another section south of Alice Springs where we may need it).
1 x anti fog compound (for inside of face shield - more of an issue on the coast than the interior).
1 x biro (interesting this since he lost my biro!).
1 x syphon hose if we need to transfer fuel from one tank to another or from someone else's.
2 x sets of waterproof jackets for extra waterproofing / warmth. Also Norm's waterproof pants, mine are in the little glove box on my bike.
1 x waterproofed back rug we stretch out on for an occasional nap.
1 x can of tyre pressure puncture repair.
Assorted maps.
Spare bike key.
Camera and charge leads.
1 x large water bottle.
Tropical additions:
1 x Aerogard.
1 x fly spray.
He also carries our two small bottles of water in the side pockets for easy access and puts his padded and waterproof jacket liners in the top as he sheds them.
In his little bike glove compartment on his bike he carries:
1 x can Plexus (polish).
1 x roll electrical tape.
Assorted zip ties.
1 x pair side cutters.
1 x swiss army pocket knife.
The original Yamaha tool kit.
Assorted extra allen keys.
Assorted polishing rags.
And there you have it!

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May
30

Basically done very little and been spoilt by our hosts.

We found a very different Darwin to the one we saw in early 1972 pre Cyclone Tracey and pre the city it has become since. The Darwin we remember was a large rambling country town around the size of Traralgon and Morwell joined together. The population when Tracey struck in 74 was only 48,000. In 72 we stayed at the Council Caravan Park on the foreshore and the hospital was a smallish thing in the city somewhere now it's a huge building in sight of the house here in Lyons (Casaurina area). There were no dual traffic roads into the city and the outer edge of the city started after the Air force Base. Again one of the biggest changes in Darwin as is the same elsewhere we visited on our original trip is the nationalising of the retail world.

Green's garage or the Bennett family grocery store have been replaced by nationally recognised brands, stores ,and expected service levels. A huge shopping centre we visit in any city here could be a mirror image of anywhere else. Quite a tribute to the difference a well-functioning Transport and Logistics Supply Chain (largely road) can make. In that vein, my favourite TV add is the Woolworth's / Safeway adds telling us what fresh fruit and veggies are available nationally which is a testament to the responsiveness and efficiency of road transport in this country.

Saturday we attended our first ever Motocross Meet (Barry competing) which took Norm back to his experiences in his early days of motorbike ownership at 17 / 18 years of age tearing around the bush and abandoned quarries and the like. The road is much safer I've decided! No injuries so it was a good meet.



Barry in full flight over the smaller of the two large jumps on a practice round. He looked spectacular over the bigger one (100 foot long) and got as much height and distance as anyone but it was too distant to do it justice on the picture side of things.

Sunday saw us head to Mindl Market and then make our selections from the myriad of food vendors and head to the sand to sit and watch the sun drop into the ocean. The reverse to what we are used to if in fact we are used to any of it. Monday saw us head to the city and check out the Museum which was interesting particularly the Cyclone Tracey exhibit which we specifically went to see. We followed that up with a yummy lunch at the museum cafe overlooking the beach between pandanas palms (don't know how to spell that- neither does the spell check). Very picturesque. Then we headed for the Military Museum at East Point which covered well the bombing of Darwin which staggeringly went on from February 1942 to November 1943! Incredible ferocity on the part of the Japanese and considering Darwin was a town of 4 X 5 streets at the time the strategic nature of the attacks was big. As time progressed the bombing extended further south to Adelaide River where the fight to hang on really was based and many air strips were hastily constructed along the Stuart Highway as aircraft progressively became available to send north. The highway works from Darwin to Alice Springs started after a cyclone before the war, was ramped up and once finished meant men and supplies were much more accessible. Must have made for interesting road construction being bombed while you tried to build the road! Many of the airstrips are still visible beside the road and many more off the road are well sign posted. We ended the day with a family dinner at the wharves with about half of Darwin. This is the wharf used in the filming of the movie 'Australia' which all the cattle were herded down (supposedly) to the waiting ship. Very pretty spot near the new convention centre.



Mindl beach approaching sunset.

Today we got the bikes serviced and yes Normie's fuel cap came in. This afternoon we were to head into the city to have a coffee with a former colleague of mine from TDT Vic who has been working her way around Australia but best laid plans and all that, just got a call to say her flight has been bumped and she now won't be leaving Cairns until 6.30 tonight so will miss her. That seems to be how it goes for remote Australia, any delays or flights taken out of the system or consolidated all impact on the area at the end of the chain, probably be hard as a resident not to be both resigned and annoyed about that.

Tonight I suspect will be a quiet night then off early in the morning to beat the heat.
Talk to you tomorrow with anything new and the completed news of Norm's Essentials bag and the following day another update and news of my Emergency bag. After that we will be in new territory for this trip.



A former Territorian (Sweetheart) you would want to give a wide berth. Now stuffed (thankfully) and in the museum. A good 18 to 20 feet long.

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May
29

Yesterdays PS:
Forgot to say I had a bit of a glitch with the communications gear yesterday as in tried to fry my wiring on my exhaust as we headed off from the Daly Waters air strip so threw it into the bag and Norm repaired it last night. At first this morning I could hear him but he couldn't hear me which he understandably thought was pretty good! Anyway plugged it in again and working both ways again as well as it does. Still need to find a motorbike cop to enquire what brand they use so we can communicate without the aggravation of excessive noise and interference. Also yesterday saw the last of the fresh road kill. A couple of little wallabies and some sort of little rat like looking thing.

Today:
Started off humid and cool (rather than hot and humid as it had been all night). We were amazed as we had been yesterday at the amount of burnt land we travelled through. Obviously from human interference. I know some areas in Queensland where farmers burn off last season’s grasses as it is too tough for the cattle to eat and the burning promotes new growth which is easier for cattle to eat. Don't know if that is what goes on here but some of the burnt land wouldn't be too agreeable for cattle I wouldn't think. The first things to recover seem to be the palms. Interesting. The first things to come back after the Gippsland fires were the ferns. Both ancient species. (Barry and Annette have told us since our arrival that the burning off is to reduce fuel to prevent massive out of control fires).

Anyway, the ride headed off into more windy road and rugged rocky out crops and ridges. We took the turn left off the highway and headed for Batchelor and ultimately the Litchfield National Park. Batchelor was what is left of the town which used to service the Rum Jungle Uranium mine which shut down around 1970 / 71. On our way home in 72 the town was fenced and no admission was allowed. The open cut mine has now filled with water from the monsoons and is used for canoeing for school camps and other water sports. The prospect of swimming in something which is 300metres deep sounds pretty scary to me. Anyway what is left of Batchelor looks quite pretty. The trees look beautiful and sporting grounds look good but I'd say the town has it challenges. The sign on a motel heading towards Litchfield which said 'Batchelor Resort' seemed a pretty big statement we thought after getting some lunch there.

The ride out to Litchfield was a lovely gentle winding ride. Very nice after all the long straight stretches though there are nowhere near as many as previously now that the roads follow routes above floods and have both cuttings and fills and high level water crossings. The waterfalls in Litchfield were beautiful. What a contrast to see such big bodies of water in such rugged dry country. We also checked the Magnetic Termite mounds which were intriguing. Looked like a lot of tombstones. Look up magnetic termites on google to see how greatly they and their mounds differ from the usual ones.



Wangii Falls. There is a beautiful area at the base of the falls where swimming is usually allowed complete with stainless steel stair rails into the water however it is currently closed due to strong currents and crocodile sightings. Bugger!



Some of the Litchfield Magnetic Termite mounds

By the time we got back on the Stuart Highway the temperature was climbing rapidly and all possible layers had been removed. The second set of traffic lights saw me half un zipping my jacket to get some more air movement. It was a relief to get to the Yamaha dealer with ice cold air-conditioning so we could check on the progress of Norms fuel cap. Supposedly on track for Monday. We'll see. Asked if any Yamaha's come with a 6th overdrive gear (to reduce engine revs). No, but the 1300 is much slower revving. I'd need to be lifting serious weights I think to lift one of them up to start riding! Sales staff then asked 'Did you know we have a Harley ride day tomorrow and they have an overdrive would you like to book?' NO!

It was nice to get to Barry and Annette's and have a glass of cold water. Passed the Darwin hospital where Jenny worked on their working holiday (not even there on our original trip). REALLY looking forward to getting the jackets washed and especially the draggin jeans. They would just about come if we whistled them up at the moment after the last couple of hot days.

I have serious admiration for the people who live and work here in this sort of heat and humidity especially bearing in mind that it's not all that humid at the moment! Like anything I guess if I HAD to do it I would but am very happy I don't have to. This is the country kid who spent hot summer Sunday's sitting on the church porch steps because sitting in church with people tightly around me I was forever passing out so to be somewhere where I feel like I'm having a permanent hot flush is not a gig I'm likely to be volunteering for. We will be having a few days break here now so will talk to you when we get on the road again.



Florence Falls.

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May
28

Yesterday’s PS:
Yesterday I sacrificed a perfectly good handkerchief for the cause which considering the collection of grease and oil stains on all of Norm's for obvious reasons I should have used one of his. We had filled the 5 litre jerry can at Camooweal as there was no fuel till Barkly Homestead and we didn't want to get stuck in case of head winds and any other unforeseen eventuality. We got in to Barkly Homestead on reserve so hadn't needed the can. Since fuel is available between 100 and 200 km or so we wanted to empty it. Norm was having trouble getting the spout out of the tin and grabbed a handy stick to hoist it up and you guessed it, it broke off and dropped in the can. Couldn't drop on the outside of course. So the handkerchief was the filter to make sure the stick didn't transfer from the can to the fuel tank. It didn't. It stayed in the can! Anyway the sacrifices have evened up today as you will see. We got a lot of strong and gusty wind yesterday both head and cross winds. My forehead was really sore by the time we got in from the force of the wind pressing it on to my forehead.

Today:
The day started off comfortably cool and cloudy and pleasant for riding with a few layers on. That soon changed and we were rid of all the layers we could be by the time we made it in and we were uncomfortably hot. Probably the most uncomfortable was when we were stopped at some road works traffic lights north of Katherine. I was at the point of just pulling over onto the verge and stripping off the helmet gloves and jacket and lying down when they finally changed. Boy did the airflow over the sweaty skin feel good when we got going.

Our first diversion was to the Daly Waters airfield which was used heavily in WW II. It has the oldest hangar in the NT built in 1930 and heritage listed and was tidied up in1992 by a group of Duke of Edinburgh volunteers. Thankfully the display in the hangar traced the whole history, not just the WW II side of things. The airfield was the first international airfield in Australia being the staging point for the Qantas Empire Airlines flights to Singapore. The Daly Waters hotel was built on the original post office and store to cater for passengers if held over and I'd say nothing much has changed since then. We actually went on our first (probably only) ride along an airfield runway here which was pretty awesome having seen some of the pictures of the war planes on the tarmac.



Daly River airfield hangar with (you guessed it) a couple of good looking bikes.

We think the old highway went through Daly Waters because we saw the Stuart tree on our Working Holiday trip and that's off the current highway. A lot of the highway has changed both in route and surface. The surface has been a huge improvement but the route is not as interesting though there are better signs to tourist attractions now. The only signs there used to be were the various cairns and monuments to the explorers and the Overland Telegraph but there are lots of signs and commentary provided now for WW II sites and others which is good.

Soon after the airfield I was noting the grass gradually changing from the fine plain grass and the lack of undergrowth and the light to moderate tree cover (gippsland standard) probably moderate to heavy (NT standard). Anyway there we were heading north when I saw something bounce along the road behind Norm's bike towards me then onto the side of the road. I barely had time to think that Norm did well to miss it when his LH indicator and stop lights came on and we were both pulling over and stopping quickly as I thought 'bugger clearly something off his bike'.

Norm's recollection was feeling something touch his leg and looking down wondering what it was and as he looked up saw the gaping hole where his fuel cap should have been! A couple of times I'd put it on after fuelling up it locked on but felt 'wrong' and I told Norm who pushed it down harder and it locked further. I'm grateful it wasn't me who had put it on this time. Anyway despite an exhaustive search and the loss of about an hour we didn't find it. The sacrifice comes in here. Norm sacrificed one of his soft polish cloths to wrap around a small stone to plug the gap then put it in a plastic bag so it wouldn't act as a wick. It is working well with an occasional bag replacement to cater for the friction of rough roads and a new one is ordered at Yamaha in Darwin which is supposed to be in by Tuesday. The bike is still running well so clearly not an airtight fit. Anyone we've asked along the way for generic caps looks at us. Blankly!

Our next diversion was a bite to eat at Larrimah. The first choice was the hotel (not the historic one off the highway) and it was an experience. It was a ramshackle sort of house with a sign which said it was a pub. There was a sign out front about all sorts of food apart from the cold beer so I walked in and straight in front of me was a bar with a sign on the front proudly claiming it is the 'Highest bar in NT' and has the longitude and latitude displayed which apparently proves it and who am I to disagree. The barman was a scary looking individual, in fact he reminded me of the toad in the Beatrix Potter stories. We said it was a shame about the servo being burnt to which he replied 'a'course it was no accident but at least they didn't get away with it' to which we replied that was a good thing. 'Gold mine that was run the right way, a'course they didn't. The bank owns it now but they'll never get their $400,000 back'. No doubt about it the locals tell you how it is and by the way the homemade pie was delicious.

The rest of the trip has been blessedly uneventful! The trees have gotten less dense and the grasses longer and tougher with an increasing number of palms as well as we travelled north of Katherine. A nice big bridge heading over the river out of Katherine now instead of road traffic sharing the railway bridge as it did in 72. We took a bit of a detour before coming into Adelaide River over some of the old highway and other roads. It was a slightly more interesting ride but we were hot and a bit over it by then.



A view of the War Cemetery at Adelaide River.

We booked into the Inn here then went to the war cemetery. We visited this on our way home from Darwin in 72 and the memorials were white wooden crosses then but have now been replaced with brass plaques. Beautifully maintained as then but I prefer the upstanding crosses itg somehow speaks of the fact that those buried there ‘stood’ for their country and countrymen In 72 we got a photo of Danny with a tiny wallaby feeding on the lawn. This time it was pheasants who were fascinated with our bikes, we assume especially the reflections of themselves in the chrome. We then went over the low level crossing which was the only crossing in 72. Norm spotted a sign which said crocodiles have been seen recently in these waters. No walking near the river in the dark!
Talk tomorrow.



Adelaide River crossing. The road bridge with Rail Bridge in background and the original low level crossing as well. It was on this crossing where the crocodile warning sign was displayed.

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May
27

Yesterdays PS:
Saw some helicopter mustering from a distance as we left Mt Isa and considering the trees around those people are crazy given the speed and height they fly. We are thoroughly sedate riding motorbikes We got hit by our 1st fair dinkum willy willy yesterday. Hit with at least as much force as meeting a road train which is substantial on a bikes let me tell you. The road wasn't fenced for the majority of the day (none of it today) Stayed at Barkly Homestead which we've dubbed rip off central, a view held by every incredulous customer. Our cabin only cost $80 which was the only reasonable charge. Eg small bottle of soft drink $4.20, packet of 2 panadol capsules $3.50 and that was the cheap end of town. Cafe meals were up market restaurant prices and barely cafe quality. But, we left today so they can eat our dust.

Today we started off about 8.00am to beat a bit of the heat so were all layered up in the clothes department which we have progressively shed on our journey.

The terrain has remained much the same as the last third of yesterday with just the combinations and density changing. As the afternoon wore on heading north we have travelled through more gently undulating country with greater density of trees and fewer acacia though plenty of scrub. While the grass looks dense once we walked into it or saw where it had been burnt out it was easier to see that the grass is dense where there is a reasonable amount of soil on the surface whereas a lot of areas are very rocky and while it still gives the appearance of being well grass covered are pretty sparse between the rocks and termite mounds. Nowhere near the road-kill today or eagles as a result. No doubt a reflection of the above as well as a combination of a large number of areas which have been burnt out over the last few years and in varying states of regeneration. One example of road kill we both saw and had the same reaction to was what looked like a large brahman bull on the side of the road. As we went past we realised it was a kangaroo! Easily the BIGEST we have ever seen! Man what drumsticks he had poor old fella.

An experience I had I hope not to repeat today was to have to sneeze as I met a road train. No way could I keep the eyes open but thankfully held the bike where it needed to be and was on track when I opened them. Bit unsettling.

We are staying the night at Daly Waters Pub which is a quirky corner of the NT for a whole host of reasons. The entertainment in the beer garden (immediately outside our room window) is 'Sax and the Single Girl' and can she ever play the saxophone to a very appreciative and somewhat lubricated crowd and its only 5.10pm. Might be difficult to get our customary 11 hours sleep in tonight. Dinner tonight is a Barra'N'Beef on the BBQ meal. When we booked we were told if we can still hear our name it will be called around 6.30 and if we are still sober enough to hear it we can collect our plate then load it up with salads. Interesting.

A quirky sign (one of many) which appealed to my sick sense of humour was 'Pets welcome dogs and husbands must be kept on a leash at all times'. For some reason Normie failed to see the funny side.

Talking of Normie, you will all be pleased his repair of my mudguard has held up well. No sign of any further cracking. So, not just a pretty face!
Talk to you tomorrow.



Not only do I have the tender butt to prove I've been here on my little bike but I have the picture to prove it as well. This was just around the corner from our first real coffee in about 4 days. Its a wonder I could stop the camera shaking.



3 ways Road house where we checked out this 1923 Rolls Royce Silver Ghost which we had passed earlier. Has literally travelled around dozens of countries. Great to see it out and about.



Daly Waters Pub. $60 for the night. VERY quirky. Norm had left me to the writing in the beer garden until a second ago. I didn't want to go for a refill of a cool beverage or I would lose my table under the fan and true to his nature he has just done the gallant thing and arrived to take care of things so as you can see all is right with the world. Norm just arrived with the beers. He ordered them and the barmaid said 'what do you want heads or tails?' He said 'tails' she tossed the coin and said 'you win' when he asked what that meant she told him he got the beers for free. When he said it would be his luck he'd have to pay for two lots next time she assured him he was safe as it finished in 5 minutes. Told you it was a quirky place!

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