The place to improve the world is first in one’s own heart and head and hands, and then work outward from there. Other people can talk about how to expand the destiny of mankind. I just want to talk about how to fix a motorcycle. I think that what I have to say has more lasting value – Robert M. Pirsig

 

I can see the sun light through the trees out the back of my parent’s in laws house, just beyond the five, 10,000 litre water tanks. It’s mottled by the giant gum trees that stand sentinel along the banks of the creek. The country scenery is in strong contrast to my normal city life. The working dogs locked overnight in their “dog boxes” are barking for attention. The Cockatoos (who by the way are much louder than Galah’s) are squawking incessantly in the Cockatoo Tree.

Country Scenes
Looking up the creek towards Carnarvon Gorge.
Cockatoo in a tree country scenery
This old Cockatoo sits in a tree out the back of the farm house, he is part of the family

While I lie there in a Queen sized bed, snug against the frosty morning, I’m momentarily taking in this country scenery and how different it is from my normal city living. There is a peacefulness that can’t possibly be gained from a noisy congested city landscape. No amount of “Backward Facing Dog” or “Warrior” poses in the Yoga Class can compensate for siting on the veranda of a rural property with a hot cup of coffee watching the cattle chomp merrily on the grass.

Country Scenery from the front veranda
Looking out over the bull paddock towards the Carnarvon National Park in the background.

Solo Riding

When you ride solo on a motorcycle you tend to see the world differently, like a movie where you are part of the action rather than just an observer. People treat you differently, and you join a secret society of brother (and sister) bikers.

Probably the only other people who understand what it means to be a biker and ride in solitude are other solo travellers. Similarly, when you engage with people outside of your cultural groups you have to extend yourself to see the world through their eyes and try not to be blinkered by your own reality. The difference between riding solo and riding with buddies is that, as a solo rider you have to engage completely with the different peoples.

Maintenance Day

I’m on day nine of my outback adventure and I’ve stayed the night at my parents in law’s cattle property near Carnarvon Gorge in Central Queensland. You can read about how I got here in the following post: Day Eight Springsure to Carnarvon Gorge

I have three goals today, first to rationalise my gear and store some here to be picked up at Christmas time, two to do some preventative maintenance and three to explore some single tracks and creek crossings.

Emu in the shed overnight with a mate CRF250, used to muster horses.

Early in the morning I washed Emu and cleaned off eight days of dust and grime. I had now travelled over 4000 kilometres with about 800 of that on the dirt roads and outback tracks. I had brought a spare air filter covered in oil and decided this was the opportune time to replace the existing one.

The chain needed adjustment and I took the opportunity to clean off all the crusted oil and dirt before soaking it in chain lube. I noticed that one of the main subframe bolts had disappeared and now that I was thinking of it, it explains some of the tapping noises I had heard on the gravel road from Rolleston. It takes a little while trawling through the spare bolt and nut bin before I find a suitable replacement, I have to cut it down to fit and I put a split washer on the nut to prevent it from undoing by itself.

Ready to ride

After about an hour and a half, Emu is ready to get dirty again. I’m going to take him for a ride up to Black Alley Peak, which requires a few creek crossings and some muddy areas.

It takes about two hours to ride the 20 kilometres to the Black Alley Peak cattle yards. This is the very top of the property and where it borders onto the Carnarvon Gorge National Park. The road goes from flat solid access roads to sandy single track to muddy down hill gullies. In a four wheel drive this can be challenging, but on a bike it’s just an interesting diversion.

Pushing a single track with a KLR650

Some people have commented that the KLR 650 is more suited to the road than the trail. In some way I agree, but as an adventure bike the KLR is one of the best. Not only can it take on extended highways, it can also navigate difficult terrain. Today I’m going to test it with all of this on my way up to the back of this magnificent country property.

As I ride out towards the back of the property I encounter a number of creek crossings, there are lots of bolder that have been washed down during the recent rains and I have to take it carefully. I prefer to stand on the pegs to see if I can navigate around some of the rocks. By feathering the clutch and throttle I can balance and pull the power on as I need to. The KLR is good at this and is really well balanced. I managed to get through the first hurdles.

First major creek crossing as I start my journey up to the Black Alley Peak stockyards
Another small creek crossing with logs and gullies. I have yet to get to the rougher parts of this track. Trying not to come into these crossings too hot or risk a big off.

Sand riding not for the faint of heart

Once through the flats the track becomes tighter and I find myself riding up a large section of deep sand. I fight the urge to slow down, but I do drop down a gear, stand on my pegs and accelerate. I’m conscious here that the track is quite narrow and there are trees and scrub on each side.

There’s also conspicuously hidden dingo traps, so I’m even more conscious of not coming off. At one point I feel the front wheel pull dramatically sideways and instinctively I drop down a gear again and accelerate, driving the back wheel into the sand and pulling the front wheel up slightly, just enough to correct my course. There are tyres that trap the sand and those that release it easily, I think I have the first. I’m constantly fighting the front wheel to take the line.

Mountain Country

Once through the sand country the track starts to climb with many up jumps and steep down hill sections that drop into small creeks. Coming down one particularly steep and rutted area, I feel Emu start to pull into the rut, I’m powerless to correct it and I get thrown forward.

I drop Emu but manage to step off to safety. After struggling to lift against the lay of the hill, I finally manage and spend the next couple of minutes recovering and checking him out for damage. He has a couple of scratches on the engine protection bars and the rear pannier racks but all is good otherwise.

On top of the range just before Black Alley Cattle yards.
Emu taking a much needed break after nearly twisting up on the sand. I managed to step as the front wheel pulled into the gully on a steep section of track.

Black Alley Peak

The Black Alley Peak is the border between the property and the Carnarvon Gorge. It is spectacular country and some of the most pictures country scenery in the area. In earlier times mustering cattle up here was a week long job. My mother in law used to set up a catering tent to prepare meals for the men and while they were mustering she would teach the kids.

Today it’s a completely different operation. Mustering is usually done with the help of a helicopter and quad bikes. Cattle are held in temporary yards and driven down the track to the main stock yard.

Finally made it to the Black Alley Stockyards after two hours of intensive riding on all sorts of conditions.

Review of the KLR650

This is the first time I have been able to test out the KLR in single track conditions. This is the exact reason I bought this bike. I’m not an enduro rider, I like to take my time. Emu handled the track very well. If I was choosing a bike to race around the farm, I wouldn’t go for a KLR, like all adventure bikes they’re just to heavy.

Likewise there are much better touring bikes out there that make highway riding much more enjoyable. But to have a bike that can do both is absolute joy.

Black Alley Peak with the temporary cattle yards in the back ground.

It was starting to get late in the afternoon and I had about two hours to get back. By the time I rode back past the stock yards the sun was starting to go down behind the ridge and my father in law had a bottle of red chilling in the fridge, we sat on the veranda watching the sun go down, talking about cattle, and grazing in general. My brother in -law joined us and we talked about the family and how everybody was.

It was a great end to a great day of riding. I’m lucky to be able to come out here and enjoy this property. Like I have said many time it’s the people you meet that makes the journey spectacular. Rural people are the salt of the earth and even though I’m really just a city kid, its great to be accepted in this community.

The journey continues…………………….

Tomorrow I start day 10 and my journey towards the coast, just one more regional town to explore before I get to Toowoomba and the start of my urban journey.

I hope you enjoyed this story, stay safe on the road and I hope I catch up with you somewhere for a red wine and a yarn. Cheers…………Digital Swaggie:)

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Gary is a travel writer, educator, training specialist and part time adventurer. When not paddling rivers, diving on the Great Barrier Reef or riding down some dusty outback track on his trusted KLR650 "Emu" he likes to explore historical areas and look for the back story.

4 comments

  1. G’ Day Gary
    I have just discovered you blog and you have inspired me to do a few solo trips on my BMW R1200R. Ive done some throughout the Flinders Ranges and other parts of S.A. (I’m from Adelaide)
    I think I have the gear sorted although I am never sure wether a tent or a swag is the better option. I have both but only used a tent. Both pack up to about the same size. Tent is heavier.
    The question which I have and haven’t been able to satisfactorily answer is: How to prepare for a puncture when riding solo in remote locations?
    What have you done in relation to this?
    Looking forward to your next instalment and thanks.
    Peter Leolkes
    BMW 2013 R1200R

    1. Hi Peter
      So far I’m lucky enough not to have had one, but like you I’m not looking forward to the day it happens. I have a front and rear spare tube, tyre leavers and a small compressor that connects to either my 12v inlet or a lead I have that hangs down directly from the battery. I also carry a small 2*2 tarp which acts as a ground sheet and can be used to put under the bike so I don’t lose stuff like nuts in the dirt. I have a lot of experience changing push bike tyres so hopefully this will help. I think it’s easier to fix tubeless tyres, I’ve done that a few times with my 4*4, but I would still carry tubes incase the holes were to big to fix with plugs.

  2. You’re a great writer and your trip is inspiring. Normally I would not comment on spelling, typos or grammar on short messages. However your’s is a piece of literature and I hope you accept the feedback that it is galahs not gallah’s. Still friends I hope. 😎

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