BMW R1200GSA vs Moto Guzzi Stelvio NTX

Sunday, 28 August 2016

The end of the line.

(Well, for this trip anyway).


Sadly today is the last day of our little trip around our own backyard. I have to admit that my backyard is a whole lot more spectacular than I had ever imagined. Now if they could build some nice, winding, motorcycle only roads between the highlights, it would be close to perfect.

Just after six am we were sitting in the roadhouse devoured a big breakfast. There's something about roadhouse breakfasts that just taste so good, especially the bacon.

By seven it was light enough for us to start our 600 kilometer ride home. It was a balmy six degrees so it was time to rug up to keep the cold out. Having good gear and heated grips meant we were toasty warm as we rode out of town.

We made good time and the ride was uneventful until we found this...

A huge load blocking entire road.

We could sneak past but driver would probably be a bit anxious if we did.

We made a lightening fast pit stop for fuel at Wubin and took off after the truck again. It didn't take long to catch it. We really wanted to get past this mobile road block and have a good run on a fun section of road that was coming up.

I smiled when we entered Dalwallinu and the trucks indicator came on and the driver pulled off the road. The throttles were twisted, and we were gone.

A little way down the road Andrew suggested a cuppa to which I replied "Nooooooooo!" We have to put a big gap between us and that truck before we stop for anything.

We made it to Pithara and I thought we had enough of a buffer to take a break, so cuppa time it was. My coffee took ages to make, and it was possibly the worst coffee I've ever had. It was afterwards that I though that the milk was probably off. I hope not, as the last thing I need is a dodgy stomach on a ride.

We were now back in the wheatbelt and the crops look amazing. Huge fields of wheat and Canola, with the Canola looking really lush.

The Cockeys (Aussie slang for seed farmers because they scratch around in the dirt like cockatoos) look like they will enjoy a very good season.

Lush Canola crops for miles.

We then enjoyed a pleasant surprise. The section of road around Bindi Bindi and Walebing had been redone. The road was nice and wide, with some sweeping bends, and a smooth surface. Playtime. That's a good thing about riding on weekdays, you see very little traffic, or Police on the roads.

Feeling peckish we wheeled into Bindoon and headed straight for the Bindoon Bakehaus. This place is always busy. They make great coffee and really good food, so a very tasty late lunch was the order of the day. Yum!

We were now on our final leg home. In and hour and a half I'll be putting the Guzzi back in her bedroom for a well deserved rest. She's done well and didn't miss a beat all trip.

After running through the Swan Valley vineyards Andrew and went our seperate ways and made for home.

It had bean a great trip. What makes rides like this so good isn't just the places you visit, it's the companionship of mates. I am fortunate enough to call Andrew my friend, and even though my "Tigerish" (as Andrew called it) enthusiasm may have gotten to him a few times, we had a bloody good time. Thanks mate, and thanks for suggesting this trip. I got to visit places I wouldn't have considered going. My thoughts were they were just to far away and too little there to make it worthwhile going. My preconceptions were well and truly proven wrong.

The highlights for me were Exmouth with all it's sea life and stunning coastline. It's a place I'll definitely go back to and spend some time more, and of course Karijini. My next visit to Karijini might have to be a big budget, fly in, hire a four wheel drive, and stay at the Eco Retread for a few days. I want to see every part of it.

The first thing we have to do when we arrive home is make peace with the wives.

Then of course, start planning the next trip...

Where to?

Thursday, 25 August 2016

Homeward bound - We're being drawn to Mount Magnet.


I wasn't looking forward to today's ride. Firstly it meant our trip was coming to an end, and secondly, there was lots of this...

Straight line fever.

Still, the weather was perfect. Beautiful sunshine, perfect temperature, and not a cloud to be seen. We fueled up at Capricorn Roadhouse and pointed the bikes south.

All sorts of things drift in and out of my mind when I'm riding roads like this. This morning I was thinking about the Dingo warning sign in Exmouth, and how I wished I'd gone down the path to see if I could find any dingoes. Guess what happened? On the side of the road, running toward me, was a bloody Dingo! I couldn't believe it. I've only ever seen one in the wild once before, and that was up near Uluru in central Australia. I pulled the bike up and whipped out my camera, but he'd disappeared into the bush before I could shoot him. Damn! I must replace my little camera I carry around my neck before the next trip.

230 kilometers down the road we stopped for Andrew to top up his fuel, and had a cuppa at Kumarina Roadhouse. Kumarina is under new ownership and Andrew explained that the place was a whole lot cleaner than it used to be, and they've installed new petrol pumps as well. Bonus!

If you look very carefully, just above the blue drum on the left, you'll see Sammy the Corella. We had a bit of a chat, and he enjoyed a good scratch.
Where the hell is Kumarina?

Back to the task at hand, covering some distance. A little way down the road we came across these idiots.

Two road trains tailgating.

Obviously the guy in the second truck was trying to save some fuel by slip streaming his mate in front. The problem here is that a road train can be 50 meters long. Put two together, with a small gap between, and you have over 100 meters of truck to overtake. It wasn't a problem for us on the bikes, but in a car it's a real issue. We wonder why there are accidents on country roads. This guy was a wanker!

We stopped for more fuel in Meekatharra, and scoffed down a pie as well. We were making good time so while we were there we discussed pushing on further and maybe spending the night at Payne's Find, another 350 kilometers away. That would give us about 770 kilometers for the day. We'll see how we go.

Another wake up stop was required further down the road so we pulled over and stretched our legs.

The Guzzi at rest.
She didn't miss a beat all trip.
Check out the rubbish.

I am constantly amazed by the huge amount of rubbish on the sides of the road in Australia. Our roads are like a rubbish tip. The words of some New Zealand travelers from our second day on the road were ringing in my ears. "Did you notice all the rubbish on the side of the road. It's disgusting".

Why people?

Early in the afternoon we rolled through Cue, which is quite a pretty little town full of historic old buildings, but not a planned stop for the home bound express. Hmm, where did those clouds come from?

A lot of these small, remote towns are struggling as people move to other areas to find work. There are quite a few ghost towns in these parts.

Just checking in with my parole officer. 

I reckon you could negotiate cheap rent if you wanted to start a business in Cue.

The Murchison Hotel. 
I wonder how many beers have been across the front bar in this pub? 

Yes, I know, another bloody bird shot, but when you're riding 600 plus km in a straight line, ANYTHING is interesting. 

More of the same road...
...but with a rainbow, and more cloud.

We just beat the rain into Mount Magnet, our planned stop for the night. Payne's Find was now not an option, it was getting late, wet, and that little bit too far to ride safely before dusk. We decided to book a room at the roadhouse. How much? See ya.

The Commercial Club Hotel was our next place to look for a room, but it doesn't open until 5 pm. What's going on? Then I looked across the road and saw this...

Our luxury accommodation for the night. 
The Grand Hotel Motel. 
Rooms from $105 per night. 
Nothing but the best upmarket hotels for us. 

Our room was pretty basic, but clean and dry, so it filled the bill nicely. Time to head to the bar. It was busy and we were looked after by Daisy (Yes, that is her real name) from Estonia. She's a fellow motorcyclist and rides a Kawasaki at home. Thanks Daisy.

We went across the road for dinner and checked out the rooms at the Commercial Club. They were a little better, but not enough to be concerned about. The food was good though.

We're on the home straight now. An early start tomorrow should have us home sipping coffee by mid afternoon.

Only another 600 k to go.

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Head East young man. Next stop Newman.


Our last look at Tom Price
as we rode out of town.

Today we start our three day 1,500 kilometer run home. Newman today, Mount Magnet tomorrow, and good old Perth on Tuesday. It's a huge transport section with very little to see along the way. If there were more daylight hours we could nail this run in two days, but it's just not worth the risk of meeting up with the local wildlife at dawn or dusk.

We made an early start today with a short 277 kilometers leg to cover to get us to Newman, another mining town and just a stop on the trip home.

The further east we went,
the less the scenery looked like this.

We rode past the turn off to Karijini, and I really wanted to go back in and have another look. Maybe I could convince Andrew to do the run down the dirt road.

After an easy ride we reached Newman and found our hotel. Now this was a huge surprise. The Season's Hotel in Newman is really, really nice. The reception area is so up market that I fell in love. I want to live here. Or maybe it's just so different to what we've "enjoyed" along the way that it has distorted my views.

We were really early so our room wasn't ready. No problem, we were a little peckish and decided that the dinning room looked like a pretty good place to have lunch. I must admit we did look a little out of place in the flash dining room wearing all our motorcycle gear. Delores from Argentina, who I mistakenly thought was Spanish, looked after us and lunch was outstanding. The decision about where to have dinner was well and truly taken care of. Here!

On our way out after lunch we asked at reception if our room was ready. Now poor old Richard, the manager, had just had a big weekend and was a bit tense. He thought we "expected" our room to be ready, but the truth is we just go there early and dropped in to see if it was. Once we got past that Richard was a lot of fun and very helpful. Thanks mate.

Right, off to the visitor's centre.

This whole visitor's centre thing is new to me, but it's a bloody good idea. You have an opportunity to chat with a local who knows the area and can suggest thing for you to go and see based on what you're interested in. Why didn't I know about this sooner?

This is where we met Julie. Julie was genuinely nice and chatted to us for ages. She made suggestions for us, phoned ahead to Mount Magnet to arrange accommodation, and did the big sales pitch to sell us a couple of Drumsticks (ice creams). We wanted vanilla, but think Julie may have eaten them all herself, so we had top settle on mint flavoured. The things we suffer for our love of motorcycling.

Now reading this blog you may have realised that I'm a bit of a dog lover. My friends in Wales, Ann Marie and Leigh call Suzanne and I "Dog Botherers" and I'm happy to be know by that title. I reckon that dogs are better people than most people. Dog lovers are also some of my favourite people. It turns out that Julie owns a Pomeraniun and a Daschund. I knew she was a nice person. Thanks for your help Julie.

It was time to do some sight seeing in Newman.

This is one of the smaller Haulpaks that is used to haul iron ore.
It's a little bigger than the Guzzi.

Radio Hill lookout was our spot to view Newman at it's best. Here it is:

The road to Radio Hill.
Who'd have thought you'd find a road like this in Tom Price?

The reason Tom Price exists.
One of the many iron ore mines.

One of our native birds in Australia is the Corella. It's a white cockatoo and known as a bit of a larrikin as it will get into anything an make a mess.

This is what a Corella is supposed to look like:

These are Pilbarra Corellas:

The fine red dust permeates everything up here, even the cockatoos.

That was about it for our tour of Newman and after a call form Richard to tell us our room was ready, it was back to the hotel. I headed for reception, a bit of banter with Richard, a few beers, and to work on the blog. Andrew had a little siesta.

Pretty soon were were back in the dining room and steaks were the order of the day for dinner, and they were deeeeeeliiiiiiiscious.

Tomorrow we have a fairly big day. We'll make an early start and knock off the six hundred plus kilometers to Mount Magnet before our final run home.

Sunday, 21 August 2016

Karijini. What a stunning place. 

We should have stayed here a week.


We got a little taste of the country around here on the way into Tom Price yesterday, and it's not at all what I had imagined. I was expecting wide, flat, boring, desert type country, but it was really interesting with many standout natural features on the sides of the road. The colours were what was most noticeable though. Because of the big rains they've had through here there is a lot of greenery, and this contrasts with the red of the earth to create absolutely stunning vistas.

As our booked tour was a no go, we fired the bikes up and rode off toward Karijini. It was about 100 k to the Visitor's Centre via the bitumen road. We'd been advised to avoid the gravel roads as they were not in good condition. Unfortunately this limits us to about a third of the places we wanted to see.

Our first stop was a little surreal. We saw one of those Photo Opportunity signs off to the left, so pulled in for a look. It was a short ride up some gravel to the top of a small hill, so off we went.

Andrew has no issue tackling dirt roads on his full dress Harley.

At the top there was a reasonable view, but we also found this...

There were numerous piles of rocks around the parking area, and they were memorials to people, from all over the world. It was a little strange to say the least.

Back on the road...

This whole area is basically a huge iron ore mine with Rio Tinto being one of the major players. Their vehicles are pretty much everywhere you go. As we trundled down the road there was a train running on a track parallel to us. We stopped at a rail crossing and waited for it to pass. It was big, with two locomotives, pulling, wait for it, two hundred iron ore cars. Yes, two hundred! I counted them.

My whip the camera out of the tank bag 
in a hurry and take a photo shot.

Here's a better shot compliments of Rio Tinto.

These trains can be more than two kilometres long and weight more than 35,000 tonnes.

The train got me thinking. How much does it cost to run a mining company? We always hear about how much profit they make, but I wonder what percentage of their turnover that profit is? This one train is only a minuscule portion of their investment in mining, and I'm guessing a train isn't cheap. I'm not a fan of ripping our planet apart so people can make big bucks, but I don't know how we would survive without these guys putting all this money into our economy.

We reached the entrance gate to Karijini, paid for our passes, and made our way to our first stop. Joffre Falls.

To visit some of the gorges here it's a three hour return hike. As you can see by the photos, Andrew and I aren't the fittest of specimens, and wearing motorcycle gear and boots meant a three hour hike was a very unlikely scenario. We took the economy option and looked around from the top of Joffre instead.

The old guys tackled the steps to the lookout,
but not to the bottom of the gorge. 

Next stop was the Visitor's centre to find out a bit about the park and what we could access on the bikes. From Joffre it was only about 30 ks via a dirt road we had been advised to avoid, so it was back on the bitumen for a 70 km ride.

The Visitor's Centre turned out to be worth a look and was full of information relating to the park as well as a little art work.

Here's a better photo of one of the
termite mounds (ant's nests). 

This is a close up. 

They really are just like a bloody big rock.

From there we hit Dale's Gorge.

Dale's is a long gorge with feature points dotted along it. Circular Pool was first on the list.

Followed by Fortescue Falls.

After a chat with the Park Manger I was convinced that we needed to visit the bottom of this gorge. It was time to put my buggered old knees to the test. Time to go down.

Once again Andrew decided that I was being silly, left me to my foolhardiness, and made his way back to the camp for an afternoon siesta.

Fortescue Falls was magnificent. The climb down wasn't too harsh on the old body and my rest stops gave me the opportunity to snap off a few photos.

At the bottom I met up with the Park Ranger again (Why does a voice inside my head say Mr Matt Hammond every time I type that. Lovers of the Aussies TV show Skippy will understand). He pointed out a small track off the side and told me that it lead to Fern Pool and I should go and take a look. Apparently the local owners had requested that this not be opened up to the public at all, until just recently. They have now okayed access, but don't want it put on any of the park maps.

Off I went. 

Fern Pool is simply beautiful. 

Apparently the water is warm, and the water from the waterfall is even warmer. Not a bad little spot at all.

Then I heard some noise above me. Looking up I saw some very odd looking fruit in the trees.

Funny looking fruit. What is it? 

Um, not fruit, but fruit bats. AWESOME! 

I am Batman!

How cute are these little guys? 

Animal hang gliding. 

This little guy was playing
Day time. Night time.
(A few of my friends will understand this). 

On my way back I bumped into a French girl we had been talking to at the Visitor's Centre. In a bit of a difficult conversation I told her about Fern Pool and the fruit bats. Eventually I think she got it and said "Ah, Batman". I laughed and said "No. Bat Bat!". I last saw her and her friends heading down the track to Fern Pool.

Now for the challenge, the climb back up to the top. I go there, but I must admit I had a few little rests along the way, and was puffing a bit. When I got to the top I drained my water bottle and devoured an apple I had in my tank bag. I think it was the best apple I'd ever eaten.

I made my way back to the Visitor's Centre and bought another bottle of water. While I was there I asked more people about the dirt road back toward Joffre Falls, and got the same answer. That's four seperate people who have told me to avoid the road, especially on a bike. The woman at the Centre said "Stay safe, take the bitumen. Even the Ranger won't use that road".

I stopped at the intersection on the way out. Bitumen to the left, dirt to the right. With the words "Even the Ranger won't use that road" ringing in my ears, I turned right. It was about 50 km shorter, so it made me.

Andrew, where were you when I needed your sensible head to guide me?

It doesn't look bad in the photos, but this was the worst dirt road I've ever ridden on, and I'm including roads in Albania, Morocco, Montenegro, and the like. It was bloody terrible. The corrugations were impossible to time right to get a smooth ride, and the smooth bits of the road were deep gravel. It was also littered with large pot holes and washaways. Not really much fun on a big adventure tourer.

The poor old bike was rattling and shaking like nothing else. I was sure things were going to break, crack, or fall off, including me. I was wondering how much a new screen would cost because it was flexing back and forth nearly ten centimetres. It had to give way soon.

At the end of my little short cut, the bike was one hundred percent fine. I however was spent.

(UPDATE 28/8/16. 

I've just come home from a weekend ride and found a few little problems with the bike. The Sat Nav mounting bracket has fallen to bits, and one of the screen mounting bolts has fallen out. Both of these failures would be a direct result of this dirt road ride. Other than that the bike is 100%.)  

We had just scratched the surface of Karijini, and are thinking about coming back to spend some time here. We'll probably fly in and hire a four wheel drive so was can access everything the park has to offer. I'd love to stay at the Eco Resort, but it's a bit out of my budget.

Back on that lovely, smooth bitumen I picked up the pace and had a (very) quick blast back into Tom Price. It was a lot of fun, and the Guzzi was much happier. That V Twin sings when it's happy.

I made a small detour to the liquor store and picked up a bottle of medicinal Jameson's Irish Whiskey. I reckon I deserved a drink after today's efforts.

While I was there I met a few of the locals. These statues were really detailed and I'd love a few in my backyard.

After a visit to the local pub for a feed we hit the hay, but tonight with extra blankets and sleeping bags for warmth. It gets cold in these parts at night.

Newman is our target tomorrow, and easy 300 km ride.

What will we find there?