One Mans Account Of Flinders Ranges & Corner Country
Jim Bassett’s account of Maschine TransTerra Flinders Ranges & Corner Country ride August 2018
The narration below is one man’s account of Maschine’s recent Flinders Ranges & Corner Country ride through the Australian Outback. Jim Bassett originally wrote these words to share with friends on social media but we felt they were far too good to go unseen by the public. So, we asked Jim for his permission to reproduce them here.
As Jim said, a photograph can tell a thousand words, a thousand words can tell a photograph. Or something like that!
Jim has done a brilliant job of capturing some of the very small nuances that one sometimes experiences whilst adventure riding. Of capturing the sweet and sour that we strive to allow riders to experience themselves on a Maschine ride. Accompanying Jim’s words is some of his own photography along with event photography by Nick Fletcher. Together they really do an excellent job of capturing the feeling of the ride from a personal perspective.
To experience the feelings Jim portrays is exactly why Maschine exists. We wish everyone could experience the sublime sensation of being at one with your motorcycle while challenging yourself and exploring the world.
So we travel, leaving Melbourne taking the time to travel to the Broken Hill. What we seek are differences, what we find are similarities. Yet at some point we have traveled through time. To a time where there is time to be. To be friendly, courteous, interested in what we are setting out on, on our adventure.
A town, the same, as well as being unique. Again the tentacles of civilization reach out to bring the community closer to the fringe dwellers of the island nation, if not in distance then in time. First, by road, by air, by com cables, then by the amenities. We see a new water main under construction. Water, life, for an almost desert town. Pubs and clubs are no different to our local. Distance, distance remains the only unchangeable that separates here from there.
We are presented with a day of clear blue sky and cold that cuts like a knife. An ample hot breakfast is included on the start to the Outback. Broken Hill being the southern gateway to the outback does not disappoint.
Forty or so bike riders come together, around a close-knit family business called Maschine. Maschine, a strange name for a company that is so people orientated. This Maschine has a lot of personality. Maschine bring together a bunch of motorcycle individuals who like to share, in a fragmented style, an adventure. Each individual is in charge of their own adventure. Each has a responsibility to the group as well as personally. All are willing participants, all remain individual motorcyclists.
Outback asphalt highway is the opening start to our ride. It is a good beginning to a long day of changing road conditions. Riding through small towns whose history is steeped in travel adventure. Where Harry Ding got his start in business, then going on to give Tom Kruse with his Leyland Badger his opportunity at adventure. The Birdsville Track still considered an adventure right of passage today, even with all our modern gear.
Leaving the asphalt road with its parallel railway, we take the gravel road, the back road to the Flinders Ranges. This is an easing in, a precursor, a bit of a warm up for what lies ahead. For as we seek the outback the road tells the story of how few travel this way.
Puffs of bull dust rise from the plain way out in front of me. Lifted into the still cold air carried by a slight breeze. As cold as it is we appreciate the breeze when it takes the dust off across the plain, giving a clear view of the road ahead. Bull dust holes and stretches of wind blown sand start to test the riders alertness and skill. With enough of both to keep the ride interesting as well as raise the riders skill level, as long as they stay upright.
My reward for surviving the plains monotony interspersed with moments of terror are the rolling hills. Here the road surface becomes predictable. This is my sort of dirt. Yes the gravel can be skatey, but this is riding nirvana. Who ever built this road was in touch with his earth. Over rock ridges, across small depressions through the dry creek beds the ever-twisting curling road is formed. How do I know? I am that man. I would make this road as he has made this road. I ride the road never having been here before, knowing how it will be. This is my reward. This is one reason for being here, to experience this.
Leaving the rolling hills we climb into the valleys of the Ranges. Either side they tower above us. I travel through following the dust comets that preceded me. Two black pearls, two white pearls, the helmets of the riders that create the dust trails, evenly spaced, an imaginary string of pearls that twists and turns following the predetermined path.
Rocky ranges on either side of our road beckon to us, like Sirens of ancient times. Invitingly they stand above us, their gorgeous curves there to be ridden. Just as surely we know that, should we accept the challenge, the jagged rocks would take their toll. We return to the plains leaving the Ranges with their ever-changing hues unspoiled.
All too soon the day finishes as we arrive at the settlement nestled in the craggy rock gorge of the Wilpena Pound. A pleasant return to civilization, after a day out in the elements.
I take a walk. Bit American. Oops. A short walk takes me away from the concrete asphalt and buildings into the National Park proper. Proper; got that from the English riders. Multi national this riding. Maschine; German for machine, no really, engine.
How delightful is the early morning sun. Warm on your back in the cool of the first throws of light. Should have brought the good camera. Best camera is the one you have. This is a great camera in the phone. Well, it does capture the essence of early morning.
Another hearty breakfast. Can’t live like this all the time. Can’t afford a new wardrobe after every ride. Ready to go. Suited up in a fabric cocoon, which I hope will protect me in the event that the worst happens. It feels clumsy and somewhat silly the big boots and all. That is until I am on the bike. Then it becomes purposeful, functional and warm.
Ready to go. Wait. What. A rumor, no a directive. No leaving for anther half hour. There are so many ‘roos and emus the lead rider has called in. Safety first. Hurry up and wait. Serious discussions evolve between strangers, regarding bikes. Other guests now have captive informants to explain why so many bikes, where are you going, where have you come from. It goes on, in a friendly flash crowd sort of a way. Bikes are reviewed by owners and peers. Recommendations are made, raising more than one or two eyebrows. My new bike, in my dreams, is a 701. My mate, from previous rides Jeff has one. Brought it along. Can’t speak highly enough of it. He’s made a few mods, he’s got me thinking.
Release the hounds. Nothing like that. Right to go? Good. Alpha males first. Wiry old riders assess the pecking order and slot in, each to their own.
Gliding out on the black road is a bit too nice. Smooth long corners, short tight turns. We are there at the turn off into the farm. For a fee we get to ride the farm trail. To see the farm, to see how big one property can be out here. Drought is having a serious effect on the property; our small contribution is gratefully received. This is truly off road. Whilst there has been an old grader making the track there are no other signs of development. A few farm gates, an original squatters hut and a windmill are the only structures. An incongruous metal picnic table, the sort you see in a council park, is perfectly located on top of a hill.
Miles, kilometers to those post-imperial metric, not the other one, miles from anywhere. Here we sat and ate our salad sandwich surveying “the wide brown land”. A very clever woman that Dorothea. More about her later. Riding through the dry creek beds, beneath the white trunked eucalyptus trees. Their gnarled limbs suggest their struggle for timeless life. Long tracks across the paddocks, littered with bull dust holes. This place is big, what a pleasure and privilege it has been for us to be able to share it.
Out onto the black stuff again. So Smooth. Not for long as we plunge back into the valleys as the ridges cast their shadows across the road. Now on gravel roads that follow the dry creek beds, between the craggy cliffs that threaten to crumble and tumble down, we ride free. A pace of pleasure, of wonder at such stunning formations. Astonishingly there is water in the creek. Everywhere else is so dry, yet here it is, water across the road. Tall green reeds. Just amazing.
Now we cut back, a couple of rolling hills. Up, twist , turn up, till suddenly out we ride onto the razor back of a ridge. Spectacular landscapes open out before us. On, following the serrated edge of the ridge. I’d like to call them mountains, unfortunately they are not. Europe, even New Zealand has mountains. These are properly, unashamedly Ranges. This is the Flinders Ranges and they are awesome.
It is time to return to our little resting place, back at the gorge, at the entrance to Wilpena Pound. A day of exploring behind us, a day of good riding, good mates and great times. A day to remember.
Again we emerge from our lodgings with new accommodation awaiting us at the end of the day. Another fresh morning with blue sky and a few wind swept clouds. This road is so good to ride, no early morning dew just rolling undulating fun.
There is always time to practice or remember lessons learnt. Those of the Superbike School come to mind. Steve Brouggy published an article explaining to a police officer that he was not there to teach riders to ride fast but to teach them to ride safely and with confidence. To do what I am doing now. I can now enjoy my time riding the black because of lessons learnt at Superbike School. How to corner. I have seen several riders at a Moto GP dismount their bikes, whilst it is still moving. Usually not so gracefully. Still the bike remains standing, heading in a straight line, at speed, through the kitty litter. Apparently intentionally running straight into the immovable object, being the crash barriers. Therefore, with no input from the rider the bike will travel straight and true. What has this got to do with anything? This road today is curvy. Superbike School has taught me how to get the bike around the corner as well as extra hints of what to do if things are not as they first seemed. Oops, that corner is a bit tight, no worries just remember the lessons.
Today I am reaping the rewards of those lessons. It is glorious to cruise this road today.
Beside the edge of the road delicate pink flowers shimmer in the breeze. The sun still low lighting up the petals; a strange contrast against the harsh dry gravel of the road shoulder and the brown dry land beyond.
Turning off onto gravel the lead riders raise the dust. With little or no breeze dust hangs in the air. Thick fine dust. Dust that is like a London fog. I hang back further and further. Riders, only their lustrous helmets visible now disappear over ridges that are rolled out before me. It’s a gentle roller coaster ride of ridges and floodways. Up onto the crest down, into the dip. Be aware; be very aware. These dips and floodways often contain an inverted speed trap. A channel of erosion that nature creates, that is perfectly suited to bending the front rim. I stop to take a picture of the serrated Ranges that the sun lights so beautifully.
Now I am anxious. I have fallen behind too far so again I head off. I find them at the next intersection patiently waiting or making fluid adjustments, or looking over their bikes. How lucky am I to share a ride with these guys? Very.
Not much further up the road we stop. Not just us, but others also. This is the break out point. This is decision time. Were you listening at the briefing? How hard will it be? It is called an enduro section. Struth! What does that mean? It’s not so much that I was only half listening. It’s just that as I was listening I was trying to put my interpretation of what I was hearing and what I was going to do today. That is a lot of thinking “for a biker of very little brain”.
OK, here it is, what are you going to do? Well ah, if, then, maybe. What the heck? OK, what would Deane and Grant do? They would do it of course. We are as good as them. Well we are older than them. Yer right. OK. He’s going that way. We are doing the Enduro. See you at the pub.
Limber up. Remember the lessons. Nick from Maschine has given us the benefit of his experience. Helped us obtain skills necessary to enjoy this. Let’s see how we go. Quick steer. Footpeg weighting. Rear brake. Bike traction-control off. Front brake. Now for some fun. Nothing, I think nothing. I sense everything. The purr of the motor, sweet. The suspension a continuous up and down, smooth. Along the track I go. I am entering the zone. Oblivious, hyper alert. Relaxed, with a tension ready for immediate response. There is nothing else. Just the ride. There is no fear. Just a knowing the exhilaration will come when I stop. I have seen a skier ski the half pipe. Today I know that feeling. From this side to that side picking my line, on and on. I know his feeling; unless he rides a bike he will not know this feeling. Of being as one with a machine. Maschine who made this possible for me. From fast flowing to erosion ruts, to riding through/along sandy pebbly creek beds. Up the bank on to the track the enjoyment goes on and on.
We crest the hill. Stop and take a breath. What a ride. The view, a picture or two. Then plunge down the hill again to test and be tested. Wow, what a ride.
Now, the open road. A road one chain wide. Here we go again. Twenty two yards. That’s not helping. OK, the length of a cricket pitch wide. Near enough to twenty meters. We hit the pub. Celebratory beer for some. More adventure for others as they order Goat or Camel burgers. Me I am happy with just the chicken burger. Thai chicken pies round out the order. All are impressed with the quality of their food in a country pub hundreds of kilometers north of Adelaide. Another 66 kms and we hit Leigh Creek. Along the way there is a good place to for Cal to put the drone up. We get the now obligatory aerial view of this section. It is fun with awesome resulting video. Little wonder so many drones are being flown.
Leigh Creek. A former coal-mining town with an identity crisis. The mine has been closed. What now for Leigh Creek? Tonight, for one night, for me, it is home.
From Leigh Creek to Arkaroola via the enduro route.
Baby heads and razorbacks, if you think they are bull dust then ride a mile on my wheels.
I am anxious, thinking about the road ahead. Still there is nothing more that I can do about it. More confident after yesterdays successful completion of the enduro route. Today’s route is less known and expected to be harder. How much for how long?
Yesterday’s observations turn into today’s realities as the wind buffets us. Like an invisible slow motion pillow fight. Wack, thump, thump. I absorb the soft blows of the wind momentarily veering off course and returning in a slow serpentine up the straight road. At least there is little dust in your face as the wind gratefully carries the dust away.
Onto the dirt gravel roads now and the rider in front of me runs wide on the corner. Not a little, a lot. Safely he returns to the left. I wonder what he is thinking. Has he forgotten the gravel cornering lessons? Are other issues bothering him? Hang back, stay tuned and call an early break. Maybe he is just taking a little longer to get into tune.
Again the hills are such a feature as we ride. Their bright orange slopes stark against the wind swept blue sky. Then, there is an anomaly. A quarter acre, 1000 m2 to those….it has a fence that surrounds what appears to be lush growth. Flashing past it is hard to see all the details, I long to turn around, go back and photograph it. However I feel the boys have a touch of the “Go to’s” so I press on not wanting to hold them up.
Now we turn onto the enduro route. A few bulldust holes of little consequence slow progress down an ever increasingly rocky road. Then, as if on queue. Here they are in all their glory. Baby heads and razorbacks. Baby heads are rocks of an obvious size that protrude from the gravel road about 4-6 inches high. They are hard and immovable. Razorbacks are lines of rock similarly around 4-6 inches high. They stretch perpendicular across the road, either three to four feet in length, or rarely right across the road. There are two types of top. One has a very slightly rounded top, whist the worst rare type has a top like sharpened flint. Easily capable of cutting a tyre. They are both randomly spaced, sometimes none, sometimes many. A bike can hit these at any speed and the rock does not move. It has no give whatsoever. A soft hit will result in a loud bang at the front-end and a jarring that travels up through the handlebars and into the riders shoulders. A hard hit can result in a cut tyre, a bent rim or unseating the rider. One tries to avoid hitting baby heads and razorbacks.
Stopping on the side of the road for ‘elevensies’, late morning tea, we consume our prepared salad wrap before it becomes a tossed salad, wrap. There an early settlers power line that runs up the hill. A single rusted wire hangs limply from an insulator that is now half consumed by the bark of the white trunked eucalypt. Twisted grey sapling poles stand leaning awkwardly in the semblance of an evenly spaced line, up and over the rise of the hill.
Refreshed, we return to the enduro route. Not so bad, quite manageable. Then, there it is, spoke too soon. The rocks get rockier. Choosing a good line turns into choosing the least offensive line. Over and over, the mantra. Assess, decide, commit. Baby head fields are ruled off by razorbacks. Loose rock sent from the tyres ricochet off the sump guards and exhaust pipes. Rocks get caught in the tyre tread and are ground between the tyre and mudguard. The mudguard is rising to the challenge and whilst it does not come through unharmed it does a mighty job of protecting the bike from the stone throwing Gatling gun of the front tyre. Rocks, rocks and more rocks. This is fun. Yer right.
Now we’ll up the ante with some steepish hills and some erosion washouts. Oh and the rocks. There are always rocks. Yes this is now enduro. Dry creek crossings, one after the other. It could be so worse. If these river pebbles were loose, more loose, looser, not as tightly packed, there could be trouble. Now it is getting just plain busy. Still the ride must go on, so on we go. What did we come for if not for this? To be challenged and succeed. To ride into town and be asked “How did you go?” Then with a nonchalance that barely disguises the multitude of other emotions reply ”Came through unscathed.”
With a BBQ dinner, a briefing and some astro-photography lessons from a real pro, this well organized, this Adventure Maschine will roll into another day.
From the briefing last night we pick up that today could be a harder ride. Not opting for the enduro break out route, we four guys decide on the easier option. The youngest rider has opted for the hard enduro route.
As I write tonight the weather breaks, there is rain. I go outside to smell the parched earth dampened by the life rejuvenating water. Last significant rain, according to the owner, was last Christmas and that was one inch overnight.
It is dry out here.
So we set off. GPS nav on the bikes have been set and routes checked. All should be OK. 106 kms of four-wheel drive tracks. Of rock and ruts and hills and, well we’ll see.
A wardrobe malfunction sees a short delay caused as a replacement jacket is found. There is no setting off without the correct gear. Today we become overtly Team Maschine. Strike. If one is down all are down until all are ready to go. We leave Arkaroola Village, first one, 100 metres then the next rider, 100 metres then the next rider. As the last rider, it is awesome to watch. Team Maschine goes into top gear. There is just common purpose creating order.
Crossing dry creek beds has become an every day activity. I look for the twin track of compacted river pebbles made by the slow moving leviathan four-wheel drives. Sometimes I am lucky, mostly I end up in the loose cut up track with my handlebars swinging like a frantic kayak paddler escaping a killer whale. Well the whole area used to be a seabed. Some of the pebbles in the dry creeks are of grand size.
Again it is rock of all variations. Hard packed gravel roads, through to shalely and loose rock. All the while punctuated with baby heads, you don’t want to hit them, razorbacks and bull dust holes. Them either.
Stubbs Waterhole. How very Australian. Red hair; bluey. No hair; curly. Empty sandy hole in ground; water hole. Go Figure. To me the area I would call it semi-arid desert. I am probably seeing it at it’s worst, and it is dry. There are shrubs about 4 feet high. They look totally devoid of moisture. If they can be called green, then it is the driest green I have ever seen. If, with rain, they recover and become “proper” green then that is truly a miracle. Fifty kms of dirt and dust and twisty track/road, 4×4 only no vans, there is Grindell’s Hut. Half way up the foot hills with its back to the range it commands a one hundred and eighty degree view to the ends of the earth. The consensus is that who ever lived here did not enjoy company.
Rain is now thundering down on the tin roof, rivulets are forming on the ground, in the dark, they are gathering starting to run down the slopes. Tomorrow could be interesting.
Minerals and sheep are what started white settlement. In the 1850’s an area had 20,000 sheep. 4 years later that was reduced to 2,000 sheep. 160 years later that same area still struggles to support 2,000 sheep. Even then, only with outside support. The land has never recovered from that first intensive grazing.
Riding the lesser of two hard rides. Rarely do I get above third gear. Usually it is first and second. Riding is harsh. The bike thumps, twists, bucks, jumps, leaps about like a horse at the rodeo. There is no time for complacency and yet, well I have an “On”. Normally with a bike you would have an “Off”. As in fall off. Came off. But today I had, for the first time, an “On” If you fall and without letting go the handle bars, then recover and ride on, that is not an off. More of a lay down. My bike wouldn’t lay down, or go forward or go back. Just stood there on the side of the road with its front wheel in a bush and the stump guard neatly perched on a rather large rock. So if I don’t let go the handlebars then my pride is saved as I didn’t have an “Off” the worst outcome for a rider. But, try as I might, I could not get the bike to dismount the rock without getting off. So that is not an off, as I chose when to get off. Not necessarily where but definitely how.
Whilst setting about freeing the bike from the rock I can hear the sounds of one of the other riders in trouble. I won’t be getting help anytime soon. Carefully I set about moving the bike down the bank, whilst off the bike. Success. Just as my mate turns up to rescue me. Unbelievably he allows me to pillion him back to the bottom of the hill where the other rider had trouble. Ooh it’s gnarly this hill. Steep, with rocks of course. Up I go, I do not want to fail and hold them up again. Relief, made it in one go.
The rhythm of the ride begins to return again. However, the mojo of the rider takes a while to return. So we go a little slower. It is still tough going. For me it becomes “Just get back unscathed.” A fall with these rocks would have devastating affects on the bike. There would be no soft cartoon ground for the rider either.
Relief as we roll into Arkaroola Village. Strangely the lead rider bypasses the fuel pumps. We always refuel immediately after a ride. I don’t know where but somewhere that is chiseled in stone. He pulls up at the front door of the pub, signaling beer o’clock. No complaints from any of us. It was a tough day on the track. With beer in hand we listen to other riders, as they come in with the same thoughts as us, of their tales of carnage up on the harder track. One rider, coming in having ridden the last 20 kms with a flat rear tyre. One with broken muffler mounts. One with loose front end. There are others. For us a couple of loose bolts and a few strips of 100 mile an hour tape, duct tape.
Tomorrow I aspire to putting another tick on the bucket list. Cameron Corner. A survey point in the middle of nowhere that is somewhere. A point that marks the joining of three state boundaries. Apparently one is not really an Aussie adventure bike rider unless you have been to “THE CORNER”.
The road is long with many a winding turn, which leads us to Tibooburra. Two ticks on the bucket list. Two gold stars and a ‘roo stamp for Maschine, for their efforts.
With four friends I have ridden the outback. We are so far outback that now we are inland. Inland Australia. Define remote. What is a suitable definition of remote travel? Yes Apollo astronauts were remote, except for the massive communication system and hundreds, if not thousands, of people paid to ensure their safe return. For most of the day, about 560 kms, we had no communication and Team Maschine as support. And we all arrive safely. We saw a hand full of cars and trucks in 10 hours of travel. It would be possible to count the number of buildings between the towns of Arkaroola and Tibooburra on one hand.
6, 7, 8. For me as a traveler, is a very common routine. Rise at 6.00. Baggage delivered to support vehicle and breakfast at 7.00. Leave, be on bike suited, helmets on, packed lunch and water, driving down the road. No, I forgot this or that. No excuses, just be ready. It is quite a fun challenge, as no one wants the award for being unprepared.
Leaving Arkaroola is delayed by a group photo. The interpretations of instructions shouted by the photographer across the valley place everyone in good humor. Leaving behind the Gammon Ranges we head up the Strzelecki Track to Cameron Corner. Rain overnight cleared the air and settled the dust.
With the plains to our right and the ranges to our left, the weather is clear and the road amazingly is dry, dryish. Just as we turn onto the Strzelecki we are passed by an on coming fuel tanker semi-trailer. I see this as great good fortune. Wheel tracks left by the tanker have compacted the damp earth of the road. This exposes the baby heads, which shine like shards of glass, in the early morning sun, having been washed by the rain. My riding has been made easier. I ride his wheel tracks for almost 100 kms. Today the ranges in the distance take on a bluey hue. This is quite different to the red that has been the experience of the last few days. The vast plain to my right is still red.
Arkaroola to Cameron’s Corner is about 450 kms. Maschine supplied a refueling point at the 200 km point to supply 90% of bikes to take on extra fuel so they could make the distance. When travelling through Siberia (two Australia’s fit into Siberia) it was remote. The difference I notice between the two is the collective and the individual. There are hundreds of kilometres between towns in Siberia, no habitation in between. Here, there are hundreds of kilometres between towns in Australia but interspersed there are single homes or homesteads. Australia allows us to be an individual. Not least geographically speaking.
Slowly the road surface changes. No more baby heads. Sand. My arch nemesis. As the wheels enter the thin layer of sand, the whole bike seems to settle and quieten down. Then I hear the Sirens; come and play, come and play, come and play in the sand. No, I will ride across the sand. To play in the sand is to crash. I will not crash. Fortunately the sand is patchy. 50 kms of it here, 100 kms of it there. All the lessons, all the learned skills are brought to bare to avoid playing in the sand.
Corner Country, I have made it. I have heard about it, researched it, talked about it. Finally I am here. The dust blows, a drought dust storm. Not a pleasant day. Not to worry, for I am here. This remote corner of Australia and I have ridden here on my motorcycle. Emotions surge through me, although all I can respond with is “Yer good.” With the wind, dust, sand and tyranny of distance I am excited and exhausted. On to Tibooburra. Second tick for all the same reasons as The Corner. A roller coaster ride follows as one after another sand dunes are crossed. Up and over along and up and over and along etc. The dunes are about 4 metres high with any where between 100 – 500 metres between. On a gravel road. Except when the road turns to sand. Come and play, no thanks.
Twice, it was touch and go. Fortunately I didn’t touch, just kept going. Arriving at Tibooburra we are tired and elated. A big day, worth all the effort. Dinner is at the local pub, as a country pub it does not disappoint. No can muck here. Great steaks and sausages. Potato bake; excellent. Many went back for seconds. Pub, home made, bread and butter pudding with apricot jam “Cause that’s all I had.” said the cook and apple crumble. Cooked just right. So we retire for the night to our respective accommodation, contented travelers.
Tomorrow’s ride to Broken Hill, I expect, will be just as adventurous and well organised.
To ride sand is the penultimate achievement of the adventure bike riders I know.
Today started with last night. In Tibooburra at the pub for dinner, we sat on the verandah not 5 metres from the Main Street. Never did we raise our voices over the passing traffic. There was none. From our hotel we walked to the pub down the Main Street, returning the same way. Giving way to the only oncoming was to give way to another group of pedestrians. Talking to the pub owner, a Tibooburra lifer, she said the town was booked out three weeks in advance with groups such as Variety Bash and car clubs. Personally I would call the town quaint.
Breakfast was again on the veranda. This is a street where you don’t look to cross the road. It is quiet enough for even for me to hear something coming. Early morning sun highlighted the white gums that stand as shady sentinels against the building. Cook was out back in the kitchen. I know cause I can see him over the saloon-type doors from the dinning room. He, feigning a gruff attitude, tells me to “go away” as it is not 7:30, breakfast isn’t ready. I, feigning indignation, at his apparent lack of punctuality manage to engage him in a lighthearted banter about the great quality of his meals. At which point the eggs, bacon, beans, sausages and pancakes with maple syrup are ready.
Conversation is ceased immediately and now I must wait to be served. The only thing about the second cook that I can understand when I am questioned as to what I would like is that he is Irish. Very new to Australia Irish. He is ably assisted by a young Asian girl who can neither understand me. I speak a version of Australian English, or the cook who speaks a version of Irish English. So the whole thing turns into a pointing gibbering pantomime of self serve, don’t touch, that’s my job, and I am exhausted when I finally leave just two sausages and beans and one piece of bacon.
On my way to breakfast I spy the ‘Drive In’. It is on an unfenced block about the size of two house blocks, half an acre. Having the usual set up of mounds for the cars, a screen, projector shed, toilet made out of a converted concrete rain water tank and chairs. Not quite sure how the chairs work but would like to see it in action. The guys are convinced that this is a good photo opportunity for after breakfast. Line up, pose, take photos, done. Just a minute, we are about to leave mobile reception area. Run the checks; messages, email, weather, Instagram, messenger as opposed to msg, Facebook, missed calls, surely that is it?
Whilst doing this two young local boys (brothers?) come along and look at the bikes. We ask them if they would “like to sit on the bikes?” A look of consternation preceded the respectful reply of “We are not allowed to touch the bikes.” He stood patiently; still concerned as we explained that as we owned the bikes and that if we give permission then it would be OK. He considered this new information. Slowly a smile crept to his face. They would respect his decision. We noticed that he had a phone and offered, if he would like, that we could take a photo of the two of them as they sat and imagined they were really riding around. Two young boys leave with their trophy photos, two old guys leave thinking what a great place this is.
A hundred kilometers up the road it is decision time. To ride ‘the sand’ or to go straight through to Broken Hill. This is the last day and the last ride section of the total ride. After this, it is all over. Decisions revolve around; can I do it? Is this the straw that breaks the camels back? Managing expectations with reality. Several riders choose Broken Hill, in hindsight clearly a good decision.
There is 260 kms to go. 80 km will be the last leg into Broken Hill. This leaves 180 kms of farm tracks. Sandy farm tracks. Tracks that will vary in quality but there will be soft sandy sections. How much I ask, eager to find an excuse to bug out. Some. OK, I am in. This is my chance to conquer my sand fears. OMG what have I done, as I hit the first patch the bike lurches left, right, left, right. Can I do it? All I know is that I survived that section. Remember the lessons. I assume the position. Almost immediately, more sand, again I survive. A slight improvement in control. Again and again and again. There you have it. I can do it I am doing it. Just as surely as there are more sandy tracks, I achieve control.
When preparation meets opportunity there is luck. Today I was very lucky.
The group converges at the miners memorial in Broken Hill. To celebrate the completion of an adventure ride. Mine was an extra special celebration, for I have taken control in the sand as well. Sand? No worries. I’ll give it a crack.
Dinner this night had the usual speeches, back slapping, banter and good humour. There was a special award for an adventure rider. I look forward to sharing this story anther time. For it deserves its own time and space. The ride is over and the adventure continues.
James “Jim” Bassett is a customer that has joined us on many Maschine rides since 2014. Wife Lorraine, although at home, enjoys the adventure vicariously, also sharing pillion adventures with Jim from time to time with a recent jaunt on a charity ride north up the guts of Australia from Victoria to Darwin NT. In fact, we have sometimes had two Bassett’s listed on our rider entry lists with son Byron joining Jim on more than one adventure ride across this fine country of ours. Some quality bonding time.
Jim has spent a lifetime operating and earning a crust from heavy machinery such as bulldozers, graders, excavators etc. Hence his fascination on rocks and the earth. His claim to fame would no doubt be the dead-levelling of some popular sporting fields around Melbourne with his industry leading laser levelling equipment.
Frequently seen on a BMW R 1200 GS but more lately seen riding and ogling lighter-weight enduro machines, valued by Jim for their nimbleness. Often seen sharing more than a few laughs with close mates and more than a few glasses of red!
Say g’day to Jim and introduce yourself next time you see him out on the trails. You’ll be glad you did.
Photography by Nick Fletcher