“If I’m gonna hit him, I’d rather hit him going fast than while slowing down and risk losing control”, Ben had told me a week ago of his motorcycle vs kangaroo experience, while sinking a stein of beer with a mouthful of chips. Neither party had a fun time: Ben’s bike had to be winched out of a ditch, and the roo nourished the local wildlife for some days.

I was 160 km from Borroloola along NH1 at 1630 hrs, when a stationary wallaby on the other side of the road decided he’d try his luck making it across before me -my right to left. I first saw him around 50m away, as I was coming up a crest at the prescribed 110kmph. Not enough time to slow down. I avoided target fixation, and looked out in front of me where I’d like to go, and stayed on the gas.

Thwack! The fucker hit me. My shin and engine crash bars took the impact.

My bike changed course. I was headed for the gravel on the side of the road. “Weight on the pegs, steady on the gas, look where you want to go… it’s just gravel”, I thought to myself. Pulled the clutch in, stomped a couple gears down and slowly released it, rear brake… and I came to a slow and graceful halt.

The wallaby didn’t.

I turned around and went back to look: fresh open wounds on his left leg and elbow showing sinew beneath, no breathing, no heartbeat. At least it was quick.

The kill was fresh, and I hate to waste, so I entertained harvesting for dinner. I wanted to go for the back straps, but saw a suspicious lump around his spine. I cut into him to check, and sure enough found his organs and their contents way up there. The legs were a bit mangled and I couldn’t be bothered with the effort for the small amount of meat I’d get. Guy took a big hit. He belongs to the land now.

I carried on riding, and saw a giant thunderstorm in the distance on my left, south of me, lightning shooting out its arse and everything. I continued riding for another 40 minutes because it seemed to be moving further south, but in no time at all I literally had my balls soaking in a puddle between my legs, the seat, and tank. I pulled over at the entrance to a cattle station. The wind was getting fierce, and I didn’t want my bike tipping over. I parked it between two trees with the side-stand down so it should stay up no matter where the wind comes from.

I set up my tent in a tussock patch nearby but managed to get water inside because it really came down before I put the waterproof layer on. I used my t-shirt to wipe the inside. My sleeping kit (sleeping bag, self inflating mattress, bivvy bag) is contained in one dry bag in the pannier, so I threw the bag in the tent and set up for the night once inside.

The storm has passed, I have a wet arse, but am cosy. The muscle around my shin is a little swollen. It’ll bruise tomorrow and heal over the next couple of days. Feels like a really well placed low kick.

Welcome to the Northern Territory, Lincoln!

Yesterday’s ride from Croydon to Hell’s Gate along the Savannah Way was lovely. My eyes taking in the car wrecks on dirt roads across endless floodplains, as the searing heat sapped the moisture from them. Along with the history at Hell’s Gate Roadhouse, I learned that truckies get self conscious when I order a beer without a shirt on because I had just washed it. Sorry about it guys, but I felt my lack of abs would be less confronting.

Today’s 320 km from Hell’s Gate to Borroloola were absolutely glorious. Some emus said howdy from the bushline when I pulled over for coffee; I didn’t realise they grunted similar to pigs. Because those two locations don’t have a fuel stop in between them, I topped up my 22L tank, 5L jerry, and 5L Desert Fox at the former. Just in case.

A friend asked me what I think about when riding long distances. Usually it’s like meditation with sensory input (which I plan on writing about separately). Fewer passing thoughts than normal, unless I’m getting tired or thirsty, in which cases I will pull over and do something about it.

But today I was doing all sorts of calculations in my head. Fuel, fatigue, and water management. Might be of help to someone, and I have little else to do than sleep, so I’ll share.

I decided on a few sips out of my 3L Camelbak bladder every 10 minutes. My watch is under my glove/ jacket, and I pack my phone away in my tank bag instead of in the handlebar phone mount so it doesn’t overheat – something I’ve discovered only since leaving Brisbane. So to work out the time, I look at the odometer.
At 60 kmph, this means drinking every 10 km. My water bladder was nearly empty after the 320 km today.

If I’m revving at 5.5-6 krpm in 5th gear, I’m travelling at 110 kmph, and I know it’ll cost me 8L of fuel to cover 160 km.

For today’s ride, I decided I’d be conservative with fuel. I’d only drop gears (thus rev higher and consume more fuel) if I needed to in bulldust or while crossing rivers. If I stayed in a high gear (4th or 5th) but at half the revs at 2.75-3 krpm, approximately halving my speed too, I should get similar fuel economy in twice the time for that distance.

I wasn’t far off. I covered 320 km using 15.5L of fuel, at an average speed of 60 kmph (varying between 40 and 80 kmph, terrain dependant) not including stops, and it took me 6.5 hours.

My best friend works in military transport back home and shared some extremely helpful information regarding this subject.

Eg: 6 hour truck journey to be spilt into 3x 120 minute blocks:
110 minute drive, 10 minute break
110 minute drive, 10 minute break
90 minute drive, 30 minute break/ finish.

This works great for riding on the road. But the physical nature of riding off road, and an exacerbation by the heat meant more frequent rest.

I split the 320 km into 3 lots of roughly 55 km (I used 330 km to make it easier to calculate):
55 min ride, 5 min break
55 min ride, 5 min break
55 min ride, 35 min break
55 min ride, 5 min break
55 min ride, 5 min break
55 min ride, finish.

Again, odometer to estimate.

Off to Darwin tomorrow. Today’s been a long and eventful day. That wallaby was the only live one I saw all day, and the first one I’ve seen out this early in the afternoon since I left Brisbane. I thought they don’t come out until much later, and that’s why I’ve felt safe riding until 30 minutes before dusk.

But maybe the storm confused him… and the poor guy didn’t have the luxury of a watch either.


One Response

  1. Ms Hillary Gardiner

    Great writing, once again a joy to read,looking forward to more of your travel tales. 🙂


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