A Divergent Italian: Day 1 – Outback NSW

Desolation: The feeling of loneliness; the state of being trapped within a vast landscape of nothingness. A place, where items of creature comforts are given up for survival goods, and what is broken becomes fixed, not replaced. Food is rationed to ensure that waste is minimised, and available resources are utilised in an improvised fashion to maximise their potential. All efforts are combined so that a synergy is formed in ensuring that, somehow, we can make it out of this hellhole.

Teleporting myself to contemporary city life in Sydney, where possessions are so easily taken for granted. Whatever that is broken, more often than not, becomes replaced, not fixed. The sandwich can’t be eaten because it’s not gluten-free. The phone can’t be left turned off because we have to be kept updated on Facebook and Twitter. I can’t ride my motorcycle today because it’s raining. Modern innovations have made us into entitled lazy beings who require things to be presented in a certain manner for activities to be feasible.

Adventure-touring on a motorcycle is quite an irony. Spend quite a considerable amount of money on a motorcycle and suitable camping equipment, in order to live like a homeless person in the middle of nowhere. However, this highlights our need, as humans, to be able to have a touch of nature in their lives, along with a decent degree of hard-yakka. There’s likely nothing worse than spending the majority of your life, zombie-eyed within an office cubicle, day in and day out, typing away on a keyboard in front of a screen; I know, I’ve tried it, and I called it quits.

This is probably why I love being alone at times. Travelling alone is also probably the best form of travelling. “Why do I enjoy travelling on my own; isn’t it boring?” you’d ask. Take a look at the introduction of one of my past posts for an insight of my preference to ride alone. I was able to free up some time recently over the festive season, and this gave me the best road trip idea for the moment, albeit a little hastily planned.

For a road trip that effectively presented a lonesome experience, I decided on a route that would take me from Sydney and the Blue Mountains through to Mudgee in the north-west, then to Gilgandra and, finally, Lightning Ridge via Walgett, on Christmas Day, a particular day when absolutely no supermarket would be open for normal trading across the regional districts of NSW.

Due to packing relatively light for a multi-day long distance trip, I had done away with preparing any food at all. Admittedly, this was not a conscious choice that I had made, but more a consequence of last-minute planning. Consequently, I had to rely on the few available servos that were open for my food fix.

Although the luggage bags on the Panigale appear bulky in the images, I had, in fact, packed as little as I could. In previous multi-day romps, I would strap my camera tripod on top of existing bags, but decided this time that I wanted everything in bags, and the extra space allowed me to pack for a camping experience.

The main top bag held the tent, tripod and various little camping items such as insect spray and citronella burners. My side pannier bags contained my usual road trip items, including a 5L spare fuel container, tools and repair kits, and usual personal items. All these luggage bags were then secured with several occy straps. Hopefully, my set up encourages you to try out a moto-camp trip, no matter what type of bike you may have. With the correct equipment, anything is possible.

The route between Gilgandra and Walgett via Coonamble felt like one of the most desolate rides I’ve undertaken, during the Christmas period. The Stuart Highway in the Northern Territory seemed more civil. No other motorcyclists, very few cars, eerily-silent town centres and no noticeable bird life; just the sibilant sound of the searing-hot winds through the parched shrubs, only disrupted by road trains that would frequent this route.

So what did I consume for the whole day, if I had no food on me? I decided to refrain from buying any food earlier in the day so that I can buy later on, which obviously is a foolish thing to do. I purchased my food near the end of the day from the BP servo at Walgett. Looking at the above image mosaic, on the top right corner, the sausage roll, egg sandwich and two bottles of Powerade were all I had. Only looks like a little entree for something much larger for later, until I stood aghast when the store closed for the day within a minute of stepping out. I was that close to missing out on food altogether for the day. Don’t skimp on food, folks; purchase your food as soon as you can!

For the record, I was also very close to missing out on petrol at Walgett. Mind you, the town landscape did not look very inviting, with endless walls of roller shutters and military-grade window bars on shopfronts. Walgett is probably not the best place to stay for a moto-tourer, as the town is in the process of alleviating their violence-related issues, as seen in this news article.

 

Moving on to the route between Walgett and Lightning Ridge, there is no remarkable scenery for which to make any notes. Nothing. Just the same dried-up golden landscape that adorns the majority of the NSW Outback, which looks amazing at first when you’re a city dweller, but gets old when there’s not an ounce of change of scenery after a few hundred kilometres of spine-hammering B-grade roads.

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However, as you approach the area near the entrance of the town of Lightning Ridge, the atmosphere changes. Littering the sides of the highway include various sculptures with a very industrial influence to them. One that really caught my eye, but unfortunately did not stop by to take a photo, was a rusty steel structure that was very much akin to the Tripod alien machines in the 2005 film War of the Worlds.

The people in Lightning Ridge proudly proclaim their town as the Black Opal Capital of the World, and this is very apparent as you ride into town. Literally everything in the town exudes an opal-related theme; Caravan parks, tour guides, shops, restaurants, all of them!

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Setting up my camp… in the middle of a vast (relatively) empty field of small shrubs and trees on dry, seemingly hard-packed dirt.

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One of the main attractions in Lightning Ridge, apart from the opal mining industry and its associated hype, include a place called Amigo’s Castle, an incomplete, handbuilt Medieval-esque stone structure, of which first foundations were laid over 20 years ago. There is, of course, an opal gallery and store that runs inside the completed main quarters. Scroll through the above slideshow for various angles of Amigo’s Castle in Lightning Ridge.

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Poignant sunset moments…

 

The best part of Lightning Ridge is that, even though it is a remote outback town with limited amenities, the dark of night does not automatically direct you to hit the hay. Not far away from the town centre, a hot Artesian bath exists for those seeking a relaxing therapeutic session. The pool is around 1.6 metres deep, is freely available for the public to use and basically runs every day around the clock, apart from cleaning and maintenance periods during morning tea. It is a place that is popularly used by locals as a meeting point to catch up with their neighbours.

I ended up spending close to two hours in the pool, and felt immediately refreshed after the session. It’s an experience that’s not to be missed, although a more suitable expression would be that it is most definitely a highly essential item for your itinerary when you’ve just completed a massive day of over 700kms, hunched over on a superbike!

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Basic stats for the day:

  • Kilometres travelled: 759kms
  • Range of ambient temperature: 14°C to 33°C

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To be continued…

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