Of all bikes, you may ask, why on a Panigale. What got into me to embark on a trip that would take me over 1000kms on an Italian super bike, let alone even consider taking it upwards of 10000kms, across the endless stretches of barren plains. A place in the world, devoid of urban luxuries, surely is inapt for a piece of machinery that is more at home wringing its neck out around the carefully cambered and perfectly laid lengths of asphalt at Eastern Creek Raceway with the peace-of-mind of emergency crew nearby.
Previous to the Panigale, I had owned a 2010 model Ducati Multistrada 1200S Sport which, to the present day, I still consider as being the best all-round road bike, for riding on real roads, ever to have been produced. If money was no objection, it would have remained in my garage for many years and decades to come. Multistrada excelled in many key areas, including the daily commute, filtering through heavy traffic with a peculiar ease, sport-bike hunting in the weekends, revelling across dirt and gravel tracks with aplomb, all the while begging the rider for countless kilometres across regional towns. Apart from a slight electronic issue that was fixed via an ECU configuration, the Multistrada had not ever failed me. After 8 months and 30000kms, nonetheless, I decided to go cold-turkey on it under delusions that I might not be able to sell it due to the growing odometer figure, which by the end of ownership reached 43000kms. Foolish, I know, but after fighting it within myself, I relented upon the idea of being able to move on to another machine in pursuit of new experiences, whether it be for good or bad.
So back to the Panigale. The Multistrada was great, but it was lacking in outright aural pleasure. That in itself was enough justification to succumb to an impulse purchase. Knowing how much I love riding anywhere and everywhere, it was reassuring to know that the Panigale had the exact same rim sizes as the Multistrada, which allowed the option to shoehorn the same tyre combination, Pirelli Scorpion Trail for both front and rear. The imagery of dirt flinging out of the rear of a Panigale painted a pretty picture that beckoned me in to take the Panigale on a run, just to try out how it would fare. The concept exhibited by the now well-known 1199 Panigale TerraCorsa did come up in mind with its Continental TKC80 knobby tires, however the bike needed to be able to do many things as well as what the Multistrada did offer me, hence I made minimal modifications whilst still allowing for the ability to go further up on grade-B long-distance highways and unsealed gravel surfaces.
In spite of the positives offered by the Panigale, the first couple of weeks of ownership of the bike was no walk in the park. Of all the bikes that I had ridden for city use, the red Italian had the worst low speed engine tractability, the most tormenting riding position with its non-existent seat padding, the worst fuel efficiency, highest maintenance costs and an exhaust system that is so hot that its almost certain that your legs would be seared to a medium rare if you persist at urban speeds. It was not happy at all; so much horsepower, not enough oxygen. The Italian steed was begging me to take it out to a destination where all those horses can gallop with a crowning triumph.
At the same time, there was something within me that wanted an escape route out of the rut in which I was embroiled. Every fibre of my inner being wanted out from all that was affecting the way that I handled the more strenuous facets of life. My long-running struggle: coming to terms of an end to a turbulent five-year relationship in which I got screwed over by a disloyal partner, the decision to cull myself out of a life as a sycophantic office jockey, day-in and day-out, within a cramped cubicle, in a workplace where brown-nosing and revenue-raising took priority over social values and ethics, and the extreme lack of time to be able to have time for myself due to working over 65 hours on a weekly basis. I was a free-range slave, where there exists an illusion of autonomy as long as it was within the confines of societal and professional expectations. I was wasting my time, for weeks, months, years. I needed an escape route. Fast.
Ultimately, I proceeded to cut off all ties in relation to anything and everything that I had always wanted to let go from myself. Abandoning all emotional and financial taxes of love, and ultimately submitting my resignation letter, I decided to set off on a journey with an intention to get lost, so that I can find something out of the unknown. This is to be the death of the old. A new-found mindset inscribed in my heart, I decisively point my front rubber towards the west, casting an eye out to the strangely alluring desolation of the Outback.
Day 1 – Baulkham Hills to Nyngan
Ambient Temperature: 4°C to 8°C
First day out, leaving the Sydney metropolitan area at 7:00am. My rear is sore as hell by the time I reach Lithgow Shell for my first fill up. The sheepskin seat cover helps for trips longer than an hour, but the comfort only lasts to a certain extent. Sitting on the saddle for hours mean that any
By the time that I reach Dubbo, I come to realise that the peak on my Arai XD-4 had become an increasingly displeasing source of fatigue. Of all the items that I had managed to over-organise, such as my collection of the all-important toiletries, I had overlooked the importance of the adapters needed to remove the peak. I had no way of turning back home, just for a few pieces of plastic attachments.
Made it to Nyngan Tourist Park before my scheduled ETA, and way before sunset, at 4:30pm. In saying that, it had been a very cold start to the trip. To alleviate this, there really was nothing like a hot shower to end the day, whilst pumping out some tracks from Muse’s latest album “Drones” via the tinny-sounding speakers of my phone.
Day 2 – Nyngan to White Cliffs
Ambient Temperature: 6°C to 14°C
Another cold early start to the day, leaving the caravan park at 7:00am. One thing of concern were the wet roads and potential presence of wildlife, as they have a tendency to feed on the sides of the highway especially after the rain.
A brief stopover was had at Cobar, so that I can fill up on petrol for both the bike and my backup fuel container. I then continue on with my trip, happily thinking that the trip was going smoothly as planned, and was pondering if I’d need new tyres at any time within the whole 25-day trip. 90kms out west after Cobar, however, I am suddenly hurled into an undesired state of unrest.
Front guard falls off in the middle of the outback highway, between Cobar and Emmdale, which meant that, until I get to Italian Motorcycles in Adelaide, I had to deal with:
- No front brake
- No speedometer reading
- No ABS, DTC, EBC, DQS
The guard was dangling from a section of the brake line, whilst what was remaining of the dismantled speed sensor was hanging from the front fork next to the brakes. My mobile phone had also decided not to boot up, which meant that I was left without a functional phone. There really was no choice for me but to cut off whichever lines were protruding in the way of free movement of the front wheel. The remaining brake line had to be funnelled back up to my steering as I could not cut through with the blade knife that I had with me, and this was done so that any lingering brake fluid does not leak all over on to my wheels, forks and body panels.
Fast forwarding to the north-western corner of NSW, I’ve received some great information on opal mining in White Cliffs, by Russell at Great Southern Opals. I was surprised by the level of passion that was exuded by Russell and, although I had no interest in opals or any precious minerals for that matter, I was profoundly impressed at the lengths as to the process of opal mining and the final product that would be made from the material. White Cliffs has been a prominent place in the world of opal mining, where the variety of opals mined here are of the white-coloured variety. His father bought the property in White Cliffs a decade ago, and within the first 2 hours of moving in, a discovery was made of an opal nugget worth over $100 000. Ever since then, they had not moved back to their original place of residence at Bairnsdale down in Victoria. As I discover further, even his extended family are into the opal mining business. As I delve further, there is an element to this whole town that really comes down to the fact that opals are a fact of life out here.
One thing that I want to take of note is that I cannot, for the life of me, comprehend the existence of a swimming pool for a motel that is situated in the middle of a region where water is considered a precious commodity. I mean, I was bombarded by signs that would try to restrict the use of showers, be discouraged to leave taps dripping and even the toilets wouldn’t flush completely as a measure to save water. Strewth, a pool in the middle of the desert!
Day 3 – White Cliffs to Mildura
Ambient Temperature: 6°C to 12°C
Just before leaving White Cliffs, I took a little more time to do a last look around town. The “stubby house” was one that Russell had recommended to see. It was apparently built a decade ago by a defiant east European immigrant amid local backlash. The gentleman has since left Australia, and the house is now used as another opal store.
I proceeded to Broken Hill, a very industrial-looking mining city. I loaded up on supplies, then decided to get to Mildura, as the fuel availability for 98 octane premium unleaded was doubtful between Broken Hill to Port Augusta. Roads became progressively wetter on the way to Mildura. Riding without a front brake, and leaving Broken Hill a little late in the afternoon, I was having to travel through into darkness, passing signs that would indicate a length of 120kms roamed by kangaroos ahead; not really a great combination with the lack of a functional front brake!
To be continued…