Spring out West

A long ride to clear away the winter blues

Posted: 9 September 2007
by eojmo

After weeks of wet and overcast weather, the last day of August ticked over into September. As if by magic the first day of spring was a classic. The sky was perfectly clear, the sun was warming gently, and it seemed like every bird in the neighborhood was chirping away, engaged in some kind of mating ritual amongst the spring blossoms.

With time on my hands, I decided an opportunity like this was too good to miss. Within two hours the Beemer GS was loaded and I was riding north through the rolling hills near the small orchard town of Bindoon. I turned left off the Grt Northern Hwy, then took the quite Midlands road through Wannanble and on towards the wheat belt country of Western Australia.

A lunch stop in the small town of Moora had me feasting on a tasty meat pie, apple roll and an iced coffee. It felt great to get away from the city pace, and roll back into the rhythm of the country .Out on the long stretches of road the Beemer was in its element, eating up the kilometers faster than a dog with a prime steak.

I passed through numerous small towns, some consisting of no more than huge grain silo with a few small houses nearby. Most stretches of road where lined with narrow hedgerows and small pockets of native bush with golden wattles in full bloom, interspersed with scatterings of pink Geralton waxes and small Banksias, covered with unique orange domed flowers.

Every now and again I'd pass a patch of ground carpeted with a kaleidoscope of wildflowers, while others where almost all white, yellow or pink. Beyond, as far as the eye could see the paddocks where patchwork quilts of healthy grain crops, the green's of young wheat and brilliant yellows of canola.

Riding in perfect a temperature on almost deserted roads I was in a world of my own, oblivious to the Beemer's speed. I came back to earth quickly when approaching a small town. I saw a service station ahead and under a shady tree was a police car with two officers pointing a radar gun in my direction. I cursed myself and hit the brakes expecting the inevitable ticket. But then, what must have been the only other vehicle in town, the driver decided to cross my path and get some fuel from the opposite side of the road. Maybe the vehicle interrupted the radar, I don't really know, but whatever happened, the cop never pulled me over. He gave me a filthy look and shook his head, then as I glanced in the mirror I could see he had the radar gun firmly fixed on my rear end as I continued slowly on my way. If nothing else, it was a wakeup call that things can pop up when you least expect them.

Some time later, another small incident occurred. I'd stopped to look around an old abandoned mud brick cottage, probably built by one of the first pioneers to the district. As usual I tested the ground for firmness before leaning the Beemer onto its jiffy stand.

The compressed red gravel surface felt fine, but as I got about ten meters away I heard a strange dull thud, and turning around, I saw my pride and joy laying on its side. It was resting on the left hand pannier, front flasher, and the cylinder head had partially disappeared into gravel. I suddenly realized how heavy a fully loaded GS can be. With panniers and a top box filled with camping gear, camera gear, tools and water, my eyeballs almost popped from their sockets as I summoned all my strength to get the bike upright. Feeling frustrated, I placed it on a firmer spot, took some deep breaths and surveyed the damage. To my amazement, apart from a few scratches to the pannier, flasher and rocker cover protector strip, there appeared to be nothing serious. I gave a sigh of relief, then quickly jotted down a note. Fit engine protection bars before next trip!

As the day closed quickly in and the shadows lengthened, I knew it was time to get off the roads before the kangaroos started bouncing about at dusk. The closest town was Mullawa ,not a bad place to get a feed, a cold beer and camping spot for the night.

Considering I'd just spent my first night under canvas for a while, plus there'd been a chill in the night temperature, I slept reasonably well. The sun came up to another perfect spring morning so I skipped breakfast, fueled the Beemer and headed west towards the small coastal city of Geraldton. The ride was fantastic, I saw no more than a couple of dozen vehicles, including two road trains which where luckily traveling in the opposite direction. After riding on quite country roads for hundreds of kilometers, Geraldton suddenly felt like I a big city. Everyone seemed to be in a hurry to get somewhere; the hustle and bustle was on, full swing. Even in the small city centre, I couldn't find any motorcycle parking, and the car bays where all packed. Not willing to leave the Beemer parked from view with my video gear in it, I parked illegally, grabbed some food from a bakery and rode to a fantastic little place overlooking the city and Indian Ocean. The park has a large memorial to commemorate the crew that perished when the battleship HMS Sydney sank off the coast during World War 2.

Leaving Geraldton I slowly made my way down the coast towards Dongara, stopping to have a look around the small historical settlement of Greenough on the way. I've been to most of these places before but each time I visit it seems like there's always something new to see, especially with the increasing number of tourists traveling this way. When I arrival in Dongara I pitched my tent close to the beach at Port Denison then enjoyed a well-deserved shower before watched a magnificent sun set over the Indian Ocean. To finish the day off, I knocked back a couple of beers at the local pub, feasted on fish and chips and retired to my tent for a well-deserved rest.

I'd been looking forward to a hot breakfast after spending a cool restless night in the tent. The temperature had dropped a few degrees lower than the first night, and my sleeping bag wasn't up to he task. I had to get up at some ungodly hour to put jeans and a jumper on. Unfortunately, the lady behind the desk informed me that to get breakfast I should have ordered it the night before, even though there was no sign to tell customers that, plus she'd never mentioned it when I asked her about serving time's. Ah well, can't help bad luck. With my stomach growling, I loaded the Beemer and set off south to the first roadhouse I could find. With body and bike refueled, I traveled east, stopping for a brief look around the station museum in the tiny town of Walkaway. This is one of the many small towns in the wheat belt that once had its own railway station. In the early days, these would have been the lifeblood of the communities. Sadly, without any passenger trains, most of the attractive little buildings have been abandoned, or, the more fortunate ones, turned into museums.

From Walkaway I took the small quite road that gently winds its way from the coastal plains up to the top of the Range. I stopped and looked back over the thriving farmlands, the sand dunes along the coast, and over the turquoise waters of the Indian Ocean to the horizon. It was an amazing view, because from where I was standing there wasn't another person or vehicle in sight. Moving onward through Mingenew, Three Springs then Carnamah, I eventually took to the gravel back roads and worked my way across to Wubin. It was on one of these gravel tracks that I encountered what must have been the first snake to venture out of its winter hibernation. Like me, the warmth of the sun had drawn it out onto the road, after months of winter gloom. It was an adult brown snake, and it had placed itself in the centre of the dirt track, away from the cool shade of the trees. As I approached it refused to move, determined to soak up as much heat has it could. I stopped, picked up a long stick and gave it a prod to get it off the road before a less sympathetic vehicle happened bye. The reptile raised its head, recoiled slightly and flattened its neck ready to strike. After posturing for a few moments, it slowly slithered towards the edge of the track and into the safety of the trees. With a low body temperature it seemed slow and lethargic, but when the spring days get warmer a snake like this is lightning quick and deadly.

Leaving the small town of Dalwallinu after a rest and fuel stop I got on the Grt Eastern Highway and made my way towards the monastic settlement of New Norcia. With its imposing religious buildings of Spanish architecture, it looks surreal set in the Australian outback. Established by Benedictine monks in 1846 as a self-sufficient mission, the place it's steeped in history and a fascinating place to wander around.

With New Norcia fading in my mirrors, and just 130km to home, I took the scenic route through the picturesque Chittering Valley, avoiding the giant road trains heading north during the evening.

On this ride I covered over 1500 kilometers through some fantastic country, and I arrived back home feeling rejuvenated. I know, not everyone likes riding long distances though this type of country, they find it boring, preferring to ride the twisty hilly roads close to the city. I can almost agree with them in summer when the wheat belt temperatures can get above 42 deg Celsius and vegetation can look dry and brown. But in springtime, its fantastic, I love the place.

I mean where else in the world could I ride for hours on end through beautiful landscapes and not see a traffic light or more than a few dozen vehicles between towns?

On some continents I would have traveled through numerous countries, hundreds of stoplights, roundabouts and endless traffic congestion to cover a similar distance. Give me a trusty Beemer, quite roads and wide-open spaces any day.

©Joe Barker

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Posted: 10/09/2007 at 13:01

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