Posted On 07 May 2024
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This entry is part 12 of 29 in the series AusMotorcyclist Issue#30


After a short break tucked up in Sydney whilst Mo, my trusty little postie bike has been languishing in Perth, I was anxious to get back on the road for the second half of my journey around Australia at 70km/h.

Having crossed the Nullarbor by plane heading east, I was now returning westward by train on the Indian Pacific. Four days to cover 4300 kilometres under the power of two locomotives pulling 26 carriages averaging 85 km/h – slightly faster than Mo. It was a magnificent trip with spectacular desert sunsets and gourmet meals but I was very disappointed to learn that they no longer take motorcycles on their vehicle carriages. No doubt some number-cruncher has disregarded the two wheeled tourist market concocting some lame excuse about insurance. I could probably have hidden Mo in a suitcase and smuggled him into my cabin.

My third crossing of the Nullarbor began a few weeks later with great anticipation. Was Mo up to it? How bored would I get on the endless ribbon of tarmac? How numb can one bum be? I had been crossing paths with Linda Bootherstone on her Sherpa and after seeing her photographs of the unsealed Nullarbor in 1971 when she had tackled it on a BMW, I dismissed any lingering concerns that Mo wasn’t up to the task on today’s tar seal.

Linda and I spent a few days in Kalgoorlie, admiring the big hole in the ground and enjoying some miner hospitality. There are some excellent “I COULD PROBABLY HAVE HIDDEN MO IN A SUITCASE AND SMUGGLED HIM INTO MY CABIN” museums at both Coolgardie and Kalgoorlie including a splendid WWI exhibition.

A few days before departure I learned of the death of a young Australian rider while living the dream in America.

Alistair McFarland was a dear friend of my daughter and a little blanket of sadness accompanied me across the desert. He was a bright, joyous lad with an infectious optimism and his loss was felt deeply by all who had met him.

Norseman in WA to Ceduna in SA – 1201 kilometres with a handful of roadhouses to break up the journey.

With Mo’s long range fuel tank providing a 450km range, I was never concerned about petrol but always aware of distances between toilet stops.

I had allocated a week to make the crossing at a comfortable 250 or so kilometres a day. I was not interested in the Iron Butt challenge which many riders utilise the Nullarbor for – I wanted to experience it, absorb it, feel its moods and find its magic. I did not want to just tick it off a list – it deserves more respect than that.

So, headphones on, listening to an audio book about early Australian explorers, with the wind behind me and a layer of clouds preventing the sun from burning out my eyeballs, Mo and I set forth to conquer the treeless plain.

The traffic was very light and just like the Stuart Highway up the centre, the road trains were perfectly well behaved and with vision for kilometres ahead, there was never any problem when they were overtaking us.

Although I was keeping the fluids up, at Balladonia I thought I was hallucinating. There at the fuel pumps were two gyrocopters filling up. Two Spanish guys were doing a lap of Australia in these tiny machines with one change of clothes and the back seat full of petrol canisters. Some people are mad!

I spent the second night at Cocklebiddy where, with an audience of Patriot bikers, Mo decided to have a little lie down due to the strong crosswind. The third night at Eucla was just over half way. I stopped in to see the Old Telegraph Station but the old building was defaced with graffiti and not terribly interesting.

The next morning I crossed into South Australia and longitude stole 2.5 hours of my day. The road followed the cliffs with regular glimpses of the Southern Ocean reaching the true Nullarbor, treeless plain, by lunchtime. Curiously, the iconic signs near the Nullarbor Roadhouse marking the western point and the eastern point of the Nullarbor Plain are just 20km apart, which must confuse the foreign tourists.

Averaging four hours in the saddle each day, with frequent photo stops, I was always off the road in ample time to enjoy the long afternoons, comparing stories with fellow travellers and delighting in the glorious sunsets. At no time in the past five days was I ever bored with the scenery – it actually does change subtly if you keep an eye on it.

Although I’d only done about 300km easy riding each day, I still feel like I had “rushed” it and had missed experiencing the real Nullarbor. I had a weird desire to turn Mo around and go and do it all again.

After Nundroo I took a detour off the main drag to a tiny little hamlet called Fowlers Bay. Perched on the edge of the water with only 19 permanent residents, Fowlers Bay was pure delight. I stayed two days to prolong the inevitable, my return to civilisation.

The final leg of the Nullarbor Crossing was just 160km into Ceduna. I felt ridiculously proud that we had made it. I mean, it’s been done thousands of times before on big bikes, on small bikes, even bicycles, even before it was sealed… but this was the first time I had done it… me and Mo together – what a team!

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