I had a ride in mind but before attempting but I lacked some information and experience on one end of it. I didn’t get the opportunity to do the reconnaissance on my recent visit to the Flinders Ranges with the Tenere Tragics because of my inability to remain seated on the Super Tenere in mud and damaging the clutch getting it unbogged. The clutch was sorted, the crash bars straightened and the filters cleaned and I picked the bike up last Saturday and with some rubber still left on the tyres I decided to head off to check it out.
Day 1 – Newcastle to Cobar
I had some appointments in the morning so left Newcastle at 2.20pm with a short ride to Cobar on the plan. It was business as usual heading up the Hunter Expressway then on to the Golden Highway through Merriwa with a right turn at Dunedoo towards Mendooran where the Lord of Sunsets delivered.
At this stop I changed to the night glasses and pushed on to Gilgandra for the only fuel stop I’d need before Cobar. Fuel consumption was about 5.2 litres per 100km which is normal for the Super Tenere at a 100kph average with the panniers on and medium loading.
Just before leaving home I had my pair of Baja Designs Squadron Pros put on the Tenere replacing the pair of impressive little S2’s for some added light that I knew I’d need this trip. Combined with the ONX LED Light Bar the dark wasn’t a problem but as usual the run between Nevertire and Nyngan didn’t provide me with many opportunities to use them because of the long straights and constant oncoming traffic. Once past Nyngan they got a workout lighting up kangaroos by the hundreds. The roos increased in number the closer I got to Cobar as they do. Fortunately tonight they were well behaved but it’s never pleasant riding through groups of up to 20 spread out on both sides of the road facing in different directions. You just don’t know where to look and whether or not you are about to ride into chaos.
I was very glad to get to Cobar where I took a moment on the way in to town to do some final alignment of the Squadrons and take a pic for friend with a special relationship with this icon.
I checked in to the Town and Country Motel before heading up to the Caltex 24hr to top up the tank and wolf down a plain burger. The hosts at the Town and Country were bike friendly and even gave me a beer to take back to the room.
Day 2 – Cobar NSW to Maree SA
With only 1150ks or so to do today there wasn’t any hurry to leave and I didn’t see any point in taking on the early morning roos to the west of Cobar so I took my time and left about 7am. It was mild, sunny and with the sun behind my back a very pleasant first 150km leg to the Emmdale Roadhouse to top up the tank and enjoy one of their bacon and egg rolls for breakfast.
I was carrying a 4 litre Rotopax jerry for emergencies. It may or may not have been sufficient to get me through to Broken Hill without stopping at Emmdale but I like to stop here when I can to support the business.
The little french backpacker I met the last couple of times had gone on his way replaced today by a nice girl from Birmingham who was near the end of a three month stint there and heading for the sunshine coast for the winter. I don’t know how they spend that long in such a remote area but I’ve never really spoken to one who complained about it.
I stopped briefly to day g’day to the goats at McCullochs Rest Area and give them a drink. The sink outside the amenities empties on to the ground and the goats often wait under it and drink the water dripping from the pipe. Always happy to help them out as part of the hygiene routine.
From there it was Broken Hill for fuel and an Iced Coffee and then straight on to Cockburn SA for a border crossing picture. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve been here but was disappointed that the old border sign outside the old pub is now gone.
Next stop was Manna Hill, nice and clean for a leg stretch and pit stop.
Then fuel at Peterborough and simply following the road through Orroroo to Hawker, the gateway to the Flinders Ranges. This was the second time I’d been here in just over a month but this time I kept heading north where I really enjoyed the views of the outside of the Flinders Ranges.
Heading up to Lyndhurst there were some showers about which unsettled me a bit. If they were anywhere near the Oodnadatta Track my rekky ride tomorrow was in doubt and Murphy’s Law would always dictate that would happen. Fortunately I passed through the showers with only one of the floodways spilling water across the road (that I later found out was water being pumped out of the Leigh Creek mine area) before stopping for a chat and filling the tank at Lyndhurst Roadhouse (no premium unleaded).
Lyndhurst is on the Outback Hwy/Oodnadatta Track where it intersects with one end of the Strzelecki Track I had a quick look up the Strzelecki – one day I might come back and ride it.
I let the ladies at the Roadhouse know I was heading to Marree, it was getting close to dark and travelling by myself it’s sensible to let people know what you are up to in such remote areas. I was a bit nervous about finally taking on the Oodnadatta track but the Adventure Courses and practice I have been putting in over the past months has thankfully paid off. It’s no secret I really like the scenery in remote areas so while I was keen on getting to Maree before dark I took a moment to stop, look, listen and click.
Then I rode the rest of the way to Maree where I topped up the tank and checked into the hotel for a great feed, chatted with a few locals and grey nomads and a surprisingly good night’s sleep.
Day 3 – Sunrise at Lake Eyre
Up at 4am I was tip toeing around the Maree Hotel which was silent except for the obligatory loudly squeaking floor boards and stairs. I made my way down to the Dining Room and had my included continental breakfast which was already laid out. I packed the bike as quietly as I could and headed out into the darkness towards Lake Eyre. This was the first time I’d ridden gravel roads in the dark and I had 90kms or so to go. There were plenty of roos, bunnies and other things about and most were not well behaved. I got a lesson in how much traction you can get under brakes with a Kenda Big Block on the front. It’s suprising.
Frankly though, I was a little unnerved by the experience. The lights were doing their job but when there’s nothing for them to reflect off it’s a bit eery. I noticed because of the light I couldn’t look as far forwards as I usually do so the lines were not as smooth and it was more difficult to pick them with less notice. The moon was up though, sensational.
First light came about 7kms from Lake Eyre South and I made it to the main lookout just on sunrise. I was certainly worth the ride in the dark to get here although I wish I was a better photographer with a better camera.
I stayed a while to milk the sunrise experience and allow the knots in my stomach and adrenaline levels subside.
It’s hard to describe how beautiful it was out there that morning, I’ll try again next time I see it. I took a quick pic at the sign on the way out too. In a way I was sorry to leave.
The ride back to Marree was much easier than the ride out, less wildlife, less bumpy, less twitching around in loose gravel… you know what I’m saying. I popped back in to the Maree Hotel to check out and said some goodbyes to new friends met at the pub the night before who were having breakfast.
Now it was time to head back towards home. While cruising along, standing on the pegs and enjoying the ride handlebars and fork clamps separated me from the front end of the bike. I don’t really know what I did to stay upright other than weight the pegs to keep the bike going straight and push the bars etc back down on top of the head stock and front forks to try to maintain some stability while I came to a halt. After I stopped I saw this. Methinks I was lucky and methoughts some shockingly profane words.
I was about 10kms from Lyndhurst, no phone reception and no idea how long it might be before someone happened along so I decided to keep pushing down on the bars and rode very slowly to the Roadhouse. I was very happy to arrive there in one piece! Fortunately there was phone reception there and the NRMA Road Service came to the party and organised a tow to the local RAA at Copley. Luckily it was only 30kms down the road. Keen to support the local businesses I had a bacon and egg roll and a couple of coffees while I waited for the trailer to arrive. I also asked lots of questions about the Birdsville track and the Strzelecki, info from locals is gold!
It was the start of the Anzac Day long weekend so arranging things was tricky. The tilt tray truck was in Adelaide and wouldn’t be back until the morning so it meant an overnight stay in Copley in a comfortable chalet.
Later that evening I had a smack up chicken parmi at the Leigh Creek Hotel for dinner. Do you think the pub looks familiar?
Then I settled in to watch Miss Congeniality on local TV. It ended the same way it always does, Sandra gets laid.
With the bike loaded up (with a Wee Strom friend owned by a local) Ken driving the tilt tray took the bike and me to Adelaide. We dropped the bike off at a trucking company who agreed to store it pending any arrangements that can be made when everything opens again after the long weekend. After a night in Adelaide I flew back to Newcastle via Brisbane.
I quite enjoyed the little unplanned stay in Copley. I had seen the news about the Leigh Creek Mine closure and hadn’t twigged that it was in this area. I took a walk down to the proper Leigh Creek bed, it was beautiful and strangely ironic?, serendipitous?, melancholic?, – I don’t really know the correct word – that standing in the creek bed within view of each other were the ruins of the old Ghan rail bridge that crossed the creek
and the Leigh Creek Mine rail bridge that by all current reports will see only one or two more coal trains.
That’s progress for you. Now to think about what to do about the Tenere. Here’s the map too, total distance ridden until the bars fell off at Lyndhurst was 2090kms by Google Maps in about 43 hours including stops.