Day 5: Live update – Odometer 48017km. No, it wasn’t ideal to ride across the Nullarbor in complete darkness… But it also wasn’t ideal to travel across Australia on the Panigale. Great to be alive.
Moto-camping is a baffling thing. We spend quite a sum of money to live on minimal possessions, whisking away to locations far away to make the most of a place without your usual homely comforts.
I’ve had many great camping experiences in the past, and combining that with the joy and freedom of a motorcycle is a pleasure like no other. One of my most memorable moto-camp trips was the one I had with some photography-loving riding mates, as shown in the blog post set in the former gold-mining, historic ghost town of Hill End. In the longer term, investing in good camping equipment will easily offset its initial cost, in comparison to sticking with indoor accommodation.
It’s a no-brainer, then, to integrate tents as part of anybody’s motorcycle journey in Australia, regardless of the season. The best part about it is that you don’t need an alarm clock to wake you up in the morning, irregardless of how tired you might have been the night before, with nature doing its usual thing; the sound waves of chirping galahs, moaning cows and buzzing flies, all infiltrating your ear tunnels to bring on a new day of touring on the bike.
Just a note for those who intend to camp along highways, that it is legal to do so only in specific camping locations that are signposted. I have made as much effort as I could throughout this big trip. But I will admit that I’ve camped in some random bush locations which is technically not allowed, and I have been approached by local rangers who are authorised to issue out fines.
However, I have been let off on all occurrences on the basis that I wasn’t an environmental and social detriment, as in keeping the area tidy, using as little footprint as possible, taking rubbish with me, and generally just reasoning that it’s impractical to try and reach the next town when I am heavily fatigued on a bike and needing rest. In short, treating other people and the places you visit with respect will also earn you respect in return. Generally, the people of the Outback are extremely friendly and approachable characters, including authorities.
Kimba is the home of the iconic Halfway Across Australia sign off the Eyre Highway. It is approximately the central point between the west and east coasts of southern Australia, although Ceduna, which is a coastal town 300kms west up the Eyre Highway, is a more accurate centre point between Perth and Sydney. However, Kimba sits in the central interior of the Eyre Peninsula, which better portrays the rugged image of Outback Australia.
The Big Galah is also in the town of Kimba, one of Australia’s Big Things that gives many road-trip loving Aussies a simple excuse to hit the open road, and also nearby shop keepers to exploit a tourist trap. There are over 100 of such novelty displays all around Australia, depicting various Australian fauna, produce and cultural symbols.
Ceduna is the coastal town that I had scheduled to have stayed the night before, so arriving in the afternoon showed how far behind I was with my trip. The most prominent attraction is the sunset beauty that is offered by the west-facing coastline featuring a pier, surrounded by a very neat and tidy town. For the full 30 minutes that I was there, the area had a pleasantly relaxing vibe, perfect for holidaymakers, slightly marred by the strong presence of highway patrol officers with handheld speed radars pointed at every passing vehicle in town.
Constantly in my conscience throughout all this time, I was thinking about how I was going to make it to Perth if I happen to run out of tyre tread and ultimately become stranded on the wrong side of this country.
In the previous blog for Day 4 of this trip, I mentioned that I had second thoughts about the life that’s left on the rear tyre, and that I had doubts in relation to its ability to last the ride to Perth. Now that I had left Ceduna, I saw that the tread was receding at a hugely accelerated rate. I could visually see at the time that the wear bars were reaching closer upon inspection at every fuel stop.
Something had to be done to alleviate the tyre wear. The 110km/h speed limit was being observed but, from an economic point of view, it is not the most efficient, at least from what is usually seen in fuel consumption in cars. It has been demonstrated that most passenger vehicles are at their most fuel-efficient travelling at a constant speed between 70-80km/h.
Although I had not done any research in relation to how this also directly relates to tyre wear, it is true that an increase in speed also increases the stress and the resources required to achieve a higher speed. This increases aerodynamic and rolling resistance which leads to both fuel and tyres being expended to maintain that at a constant rate. Therefore, I had voluntarily set myself to a speed limit of 70km/h, 80km/h if I was feeling a little cheeky, whilst keeping an eye on the side mirrors for any vehicles looking to pass me, hoping that this would assist in maximising the remaining tyre life.
I was still around 2000kms away from Perth, but I didn’t want to take any further risks with the rear tyre. Using my mobile phone, I searched the internet for alternative motorcycle mechanics that I could find that was the closest from the Nullarbor area. The best hope I had was the Suzuki dealership at Esperance on the southern coast of Western Australia, which was still 1200kms away. Immediately I phoned up the place at around 4pm, and ordered a new tyre to be express-shipped into the workshop within one business day, which meant that I had to wait until the day after the next day for it to arrive as overnight shipping needs to be done before the afternoon period, or so that I was told.
Speaking of mobile phone use, it should be made a top priority to have the best available mobile phone service. In my previous 25-day trip of Uluru and Tasmania in mid-2015, my mobile phone was on the Optus network. This turned out to be one of the big downfalls of the trip, because the network only allowed for calls and internet access in cities and regional towns. Outside these locations, I would have been lucky to have even been able to make a call or send a text message. After this experience, I left the Optus network once my plan expired as I figured that it wasn’t worth paying less for what is deemed as the 2nd-best mobile service in Australia. What is the use of paying for a service that doesn’t work when you really need it?
Telstra is the only choice for the best Australia-wide mobile phone service, and I wouldn’t go back. It’s performance is well worth the money, if you tend to go on long rides. For a region that, to a city dweller, may be thought of as being way beyond the black stump, it’s commendable that my Telstra 3G reception still worked across these remote plains on the Eyre Highway. All the live photo updates that I had posted on Facebook and Instagram were solely through the Telstra service. In the few locations that didn’t transmit at least that level of reception, there were always enough to at least make a call in the case of an emergency. It’s better to pay more money for a service that actually works, than to try and save on a crucial expense that you may regret later when you’re stranded on a remote road.
Now, where did the rest of the day go? The worries in relation to tyre wear and fuel range were a considerable drawback against the road trip experience since the previous day. I wasn’t fully in the right headspace to be able to enjoy the ride to its fullest, and I can only blame myself for it. I have a propensity to maximise everything that I use, just like how I add water to shampoo bottles to utilise every bit of residue left before replacing it with a new one. However, this cannot be applied to a road trip scenario where time is a luxury and resource availability is questionable. If I had replaced absolutely everything that needed to be done back in Sydney before embarking on this trip, I wouldn’t have had to deal with this issue; The chain, clutch fluid and now the rear tyre requiring attention.
Lack of hindsight is the blight that precedes before catastrophe takes place. A well-planned, fully-strategised road trip schedule is still something that I am developing over time, and I have proven to myself that I take more risks than I initially would acknowledge. Is it only out of pure luck that nothing has gone wrong, through all the thick and thin of weather conditions, across all those plains overrun by wildlife, on a bike with a lacklustre service history? Whatever it may have been, the only thing that mattered was that I had made it to the Nullarbor Plains, without thought about how it was done. Memories of events in between destinations are just a diminished thought, faded to black, like the lucid dreams dreamt in the past.
Basic Statistics for the day:
- Route: Kimba, Ceduna, Nullarbor Roadhouse
- Total distance: 719km
- Range of temperature: 9°C to 24°C
Expenses for the day:
General map route: