Ten years ago I was introduced to the crazy world of long distance riding. These mad people talked about 1,000 miles (1,600km) in a day. They seemed normal but spoke crazy talk. And that was just the distance to qualify to get an IBA number.!
Ten years on and I am now honoured to call these people my friends. We may only see each other occassionally at some far-flung place, but it’s like we only spoke yesterday. These are my people. No pretense. Just real people with a crazy obsession for covering huge distances and seeing this great land.
Sadly over the years we have lost a few friends. And over the years there has also been talk of an appropriate way of remembering them. And now thanks to the work from a few key people, the cooperation of the Natallie Station lease holder and supported by the traditional custodians of the land, the Barkandji people, we have an amazing site with an an amazing outlook over this vast land. Truely a fitting site for riders who travel it’s length and breadth.
And this weekend was the inauguration of the Iron Butt Association (IBA) Australia memorial and over 20 long distances riders decended from all over to unveil the memorial and to remember friends who are no longer with us.
I’ve not had a good lead up to this ride and I knew that I didn’t have a big ride in me so instead this was a good chance to just go for a ride, catchup with friends, enjoy the open road, and do some camping.
Rolling out of Canberra at noon on Friday I had a simple plan … ride about 500km and find a nice spot on the side of the road somewhere about 100km south of Cobar and pitch my tent. And then ride into Wilcannia on Saturday.
My planned route unravelled at West Wyalong when I realised that I hadn’t thought about fuel stops for this leg . So a new route was required. I love Google maps but you just can’t beat a paper map to get an overall view of where to go. Well it would have … if I brought it with me! (it turns out I would have been fine as there was fuel on the original route)
After a couple of wrong turns and a few dirt roads I was finally heading in the right direction.
By now it was dark and skippy was out to play – but luckily they were generally content to just sit and watch you ride passed. That was quite unnerving, given they are generally throwing themselves at you. I think it was a deliberate ploy to screw with my head. Damn roos!
Originally I planned to be off the road before dark but I was no where near where I wanted to be so I pushed on to within 30km of Cobar before I started scouting for a nice little secluded area to pull off, set up camp, put the billy on, read a book, and just sit and watch the night sky.
I love it out here. Tonight was an exceptionally dark night and with no light pollution the night sky was just amazing. You just don’t get this in the city.
My camp site as the sun comes up.
Saturday was going to pretty cruisy with only around 300km to do by lunch time so there was no real rush. So I had time to stop and check out the gold and copper mine on the outskirts of Cobar, and sit and enjoy breakfast in Cobar before I pushed on.
The stretch of road between Cobar and Wilcannia is about 270km without any towns and no real traffic to speak of so you dial in your speed and just hold it. Very tempting to dial in an inappropriate speed… this is where cruise control would be handy.
And then as I was approaching Wilcannia a bike appeared right on my tail. Olaf left Canberra at the same time I did, took a completely different route and turned onto the highway right behind me, 1,000km later.! And within 30 mins 2 bikes had become about 10 bikes. The gathering had begun.
On Sunday morning I was up and on the road by about 6:30 with just over 900km of riding in front of me. First stop – Cobar for fuel and breakfast 270km down the road and I get joined by a couple of other riders for breakfast. From here we fan out in different directions.
From Nyngan I head south and it’s such a stark contrast to 3 years ago when I rode this way as the road was in flood and now the ground is parched and crying out for rain.
Sunday was just a great day to be on the bike, enjoying a beautiful spring day, rolling through the countryside, and just enjoying being alive.
Some random photos taken on my trip back to Camberra.
I know a lot of riders cannot fathom why we’d ride these roads. Don’t get me wrong I love mountain roads but these open roads are my meditation, its where I retreat to think and work things through, its where I recharge.
Getting home I realised that I probably had a big ride in me. But that’ll have to wait now. In the end I covered a bit over 1900km in the three days. Below is my weekend’s route.