Longest distance without fuel:
|253 km (157 miles)
253 km - No fuel en route (Milparinka closed)
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The plan was to get underway by 6:00am at the latest - the only way we'd have some chance of covering over 900 km's and yet still arrive at our indented 1st day destination - White Cliffs - at a reasonable hour and with some sun light
Just as we were about to ride away our first problem struck. My Camelbak was leaking - my entire back was wet and the water was working its way down the bag of my legs. Not good when the cool morning air hits it! Very cold!
So, the Camelbak was emptied and I just hoped I'd be able to buy a replacement at Echuca - the biggest town we would pass through on Day 1.
It continued to be cold and miserable for the first 100 odd km's - the drizzle
was so heavy at times that it may as well have been raining. Near Heathcote the Sun finally broke
through. In remarkably short time the sky cleared and
gave way to an almost perfect clear blue sky - only a few tiny "streaks" of cloud remained. The temperature was also rising quickly - perfect weather
for the start to the journey, and it was sure going to make the remaining 800 km's a bit more pleasant.
Now, with the sun shining, things were starting to feel good, and I couldn't help myself from letting out a few screams. It was such a good feeling to be out on the road.
First Major stop was at Echuca, and we wasted quite a bit of time trying to find a replacement Camelbak bladder. In the end, I had to buy a whole new Camelbak, but it was only a 2 litre bladder, where as my broken bladder was a 3 litre bladder. It's got to be better than nothing, I thought. I was hoping that to be the end of my worries, but I got a little concerned when I looked at the knobbies on my rear Pirelli MT-21. The bitumen roads were grinding them away at a pretty fast rate.
Back on the road, and about an hour later we arrived in Deniliquin just in time for lunch. So far we had covered about 300 km's, which was less than we'd hoped for after more than 5 hours since departure.
As we were heading towards our next stop, Hay, the road started to become narrower, and signs of civilization started to disappear. Other road users were practically non-existent. We started to sense that welcome feeling of remoteness...
Next stop after Hay was Ivanhoe, where the guy at the general store told us that it was currently 38ºC
- he had to hose down the petrol bowser to cool it before we could use it. It was quite hot when standing around in the sun,
but tolerable when riding.
We hit dirt shortly after Ivanhoe. I had the usual nervous moments the first time I hit some loose stuff, which always seems to be the case after having ridden on nothing but bitumen for some time (it was over a year since my last off-road trip.) Overall though I way very happy with the way the DR was handling on the dirt - even with the load on the back.
It was 19:00 as we rolled into Wilcannia. The sun was well on its way down and we were still 100 km's short of our intended 1st night's stop. We decided to call ahead to White Cliffs and tell them to wait up for us! We found a public phone, but soon discovered it was not working because someone had sprayed concrete all over it! Before we knew it, we were surrounded by very inquisitive young kids. Wilcannia had a very rough and uneasy feel about it. We didn't want to stay the night there and so we pressed on, only too happy to leave Wilcannia behind.
As it was getting quite dark, we started to encounter a bit of wildlife - sheep, cattle, emus and kangaroos all seem to enjoy darting out in front of you, and you have to be so alert and focused - which is hard after almost 13 hours of riding. I knew then and there that for the days to come we'd want to get most of our riding done by about 18:00. After that, it starts getting hard to see. The fact that Bart and I only have really dark visors on our helmet doesn't help (and you can't ride with your visor up because of all the insects that hit your eyes).
Sighting the town of White Cliffs was a relief. It had been a hard, but good days ride.
We'd made the decision long before beginning the trip to stay at the Underground Motel (after seeing pictures from a relative who had stayed there). We didn't know where exactly it was, but there are plenty of signs to guide you to it. One warning though - if you find yourself on an extremely rough road, wondering how on earth anyone can make it to this place, then you've fallen victim to someone's "lets turn the sign around" prank. You'll realise you've gone wrong, because you end up doing a circle, and when you get back to the same junction, you'll know that you shouldn't have turned left but continued on straight ahead.
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We hit the road at about 06:40hrs. The excitement of actually start our trip was nearly driving me insane. At the same time it was the start of a daunting trip which I wasn’t sure we could complete just as we’d planned it.
It was an overcast morning and there was a chill in the air as we pulled out of Shaun’s driveway. For any of you that have done similar trip, you’ll know what was going through our minds. For those that haven’t yet done a major ride, trust me… it’s a great feeling leaving the rat race behind and having only your next destination to worry about...
The morning fog lifted at about 08:30 and the sun-shine that was to follow us through most of our trip made a welcome appearance.
Our first experience on dirt came
shortly after Ivanhoe. For me it wasn’t the most pleasant experience with the
big Yam not really giving me much confidence to push the pace. Shaun’s extra
off-road experience and the fact that his DR is much more suited to off-road work
made it nearly impossible to keep up with him.
We cruised into White Cliffs at about 19:00. Our first day would turn out to be our longest - 904km. Our arrival at White Cliffs was a relief to both of us as 900 odd km in one day is enough for me, thank you very much.
White Cliffs is certainly a very interesting place and it was the first destination on our site seeing list.
The proprietor first dug out a few rooms as his home but somewhere along the line he decided to turn it into a hotel. All I can say is that it was a stroke of genius as it was such a nice place.
We always new that the heat was going to be a hell a drain on us but we had no idea how much water we would be drinking until we sat down at the end of the day and worked it out. I was amazed that I drank about 11 litres of water!! Word of warning for any of you guys wanting to do a trip like ours is make sure you have a Camelbak type backpack with a 3 litre bladder. Also make sure you can carry extra water elsewhere as the 3 litres in the Camelbak runs out before you know it.