Panigale Around Australia 2016: Day 19 – Katherine to Ranken

Day 19: Live update – Odometer 57378km. For the first time in weeks, I now travel away from the sunset and towards the eastern states. A little sad, because it means that I am coming home soon. However, I still have a lot more to discover… Cairns, I will see you next!

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On the Barkly Highway, Northern Territory.

The longest ever run that I had done on the Panigale was under 900km. For this day, I aimed to commit to the longest ride that my body could possibly endure. Ideally, this would lead to a four-digit result for the day’s total distance travelled. My destination, however, wasn’t as clear cut as that. With so much power on tap, and a world of insanity growing in my conscience, my throttle was begging for punishment. I really wanted to head towards the open speed zone of the Stuart Highway, which is located past Barrow Creek, but I also needed to reach the Queensland border by the end of the day. Hence, my direction was determined on the fly.

My sleep came to an end from the sound of heavy rolling trucks. Truckers have a habit of honking their horns as a wake up call at roadside campers in the morning. Whether it is to annoy the hell out of people or a genuinely caring gesture of a countryman is debatable, but it was the call that I needed to stand up and leave early for what would become a monolithic day on the road ahead.

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Roadside camps, where passing road trains honk their horns in the morning as a wake up call.

There are numerous remote towns along the Stuart Highway. Mataranka and Elliot were the few towns that I had stopped over for a break. Travelling further down south on the highway and towards the centre is an ordeal of monotony of straight roads. Despite this, the 130kmh speed limit helped to shorten my travel time and made the lengthy distance a little easier to eat up. The heat, however, prevented me from doing marathon runs between towns, instead having to stop every 50km to rehydrate and cool down, which reversed the time savings brought by the higher speed limit.

The roadhouse at Threeways is an important crossroad on this highly isolated part of the Northern Territory. Proceeding straight on the Stuart Highway leads down south towards South Australia, while turning right to travel east leads to the Barkly Highway that is used to travel to Queensland. Although it was 3pm at this point, I still insisted on that run to the open speed zone. I immediately realised that this was a pretty stupid decision by the time I get to Tennant Creek.

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Threeways Roadhouse, the major highway intersection of the Stuart and Barkly Highways.

That short detour towards Barrow Creek and back to Threeways was quickly looking impossible, with what would have been a quick 460km additional distance on top of my existing direct route towards Queensland. Weeks of hundreds of kilometres had made these impractical detours appear like a short ride around the neighbourhood block. In reality, I was losing my mind. Time to return to the Barkly Highway intersection.

The Barkly Highway is a very deserted interstate highway that begins from the Stuart Highway intersection on the western end, and proceeding across the NT/QLD border to its east. The relative isolation of the Stuart Highway is overshadowed by the Barkly which is even more so. Completely deserted apart from a few nondescript stops, there are no actual towns to be seen at all on the way. Barkly Homestead is the major stop for those travelling across the state border, which is the only fuelling point between Threeways Roadhouse and the tiny outback town of Camooweal which is just past the Queensland border.

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The sweet sunset of the outback horizon.

By the end of it, despite the potentially lethal effects of fatigue, stray wildlife and extreme heat on the road, I achieved my first 4-digit distance on the bike done for a one day trip without any overnight travels. A massive, perhaps very risky, personal record to tick off my list. 1008km: Mission accomplished!

 

Basic Statistics for the day:

  • Route: Katherine, Elliot, Three Ways Roadhouse, Barkley Homestead, Ranken
  • Total distance: 1008km
  • Range of temperature: 25°C to 38°C

Expenses for the day:

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General map route:

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