Doing insane distances on motorcycles is always attractive to us as riders. Measuring us against one single thing which is constant – time, has that devilish appeal which makes us feel alive. However, there is such a fine line between risking everything and doing it intelligently and when the ‘time’ is right.
xBhp and me have never been advocates of long distance time evaluated riding, but we have never said nay to it as well. The reality is that the Indian road conditions and etiquette are insanely dangerous for these kind of attempts. And I am not even talking about breaking any traffic rules yet. All of us who have been born and raised in India know that even simple leisure rides tests one’s skills, patience and luck to the utmost, especially if you get caught in a rush hour or even on our multi-lane wide highways. It doesnt take much to bring a motorcycle down, and with it a lot of other things including the confidence of the rider.
In attempts like the SaddleSore 1600 this danger is magnified manifolds. Now you are introducing another variable – fatigue. In India you will get tired much faster, your reflex energy pool will drain out exponentially beyond a point and you will be hard pressed to ride on your luck more than anything else.
I salute all the riders who have achieved this in India all the same, but I would like them to come forward and advice other budding SaddleSore riders to understand the dangers involved, a lot of attempts have not ended well due to my stated reasons above.
The Right Time
Coming back to my own SaddleSore attempt. I was looking for the right conditions and nothing better than to have 130KMPH legal speed limit (+10% prolly), wide open straight roads, scant traffic, zero traffic signals and a motorcycle like the MultiStrada 1200. To top it off I had been unknowingly practicing this attempt in my pan Australia ride, riding 400 kms on an average every day for the past 2 weeks or so. That surely helped. SaddleSore is one the things as a biker I had to do it, and this was it.
There were two options. The first route was in southern Australia, from Norseman to Port Augusta. What turned me against this route was the max speed limit at 110 kmph, and the fact that the days will get even shorter since I was in the Australian winters.
The second route option, which I didnt even realize was an option until just a couple of days ago, was from Alice Springs to Darwin via Kakadu National Park. In a straight line Alice Springs to Darwin is around 1500 kms, which was 200 kms short. Via the Kakadu National Park it was 1750kms, a tad above, but I will safely in the SaddleSore territory. You cannot repeat the part of the route without witnesses, so that was another reason I wasted to be in the clear.
Another HUGE advantage of doing this bottom – top and not across is to avoid losing time. Going from left to right across Australia for 1700 kms means losing 2 hours on the clock, which means you dont arrive late, you arrive dead late. And thats a little confusing on the receipts besides other things.
It is much easy in a country like Australia, but I wouldn’t call it a cakewalk either! Aside from the usual dangers you have the following: Animals (the BIGGEST danger in Australia, they can end it all!), crosswinds (dont take these too lightly, they can often throw you off the road, or much worse on the opposite lane straight into the path of a roadtrain), the roadtrains (50-100 meters long, they never end), sleep (no matter how you have slept last night, it will catch you on these roads).
1600 kms in less than 24 hours with receipts with timestamps and odo readings.
And now my Ride…
Alice Springs is bang in the middle of the Australian outback. Take someone 10kms blindfolded and he cannot guess in his wildest dreams that there can be a city nearby. I got up at 4 AM, everything was already packed. By 4.15 AM i was out of the motel and on the streets of Alice Springs. I had done a small recee yesterday to see where a 24 hours petrol pump would be. I headed straight there and tanked up. aid the cashier and got my receipt with timestamp. As an additional safeguard I also did a null transaction at the gas station ATM.
The starting stats:
With wind chill it might be around 10:
SPORT: Rip is the word.
This was how the highway turned out to be just after 10 kms from my hotel. You can probably spot the faintest of light on the right horizon. But it was still an hour before sunrise.
The land of straights: 1300 kms straight without any traffic lights!
I didn’t have anytime for photography, yet I used to stop for photos and videos. This would just mean I would have ride at night through the Kakadu National forest a little longer at night for the home run.
Stars in the sky, stars on the road. And the star in the middle.
By the time the clock hit 6AM, I had done 160 Km and took my first fuel break.
The dawn is coming.
And I halt again at sun break. It was one of the most beautiful experiences ever on a roadtrip. Alone, soaking in the first rays of sun. And to top it off I had done 375 kms by then (8.10 AM). I was glad to be alive and witnessing this.
It looks a like an almost invisible circle of light which is about to hit me and infuse me with energy right from the heart of the sun.
By 9.40 AM i had done 530 KMS.
By 11 AM it was 666, I dont know why I missed the last 400 meters to bring it to 666.6. Being the number freak that I am, that shouldnt have happened!
I hit 1000 kms by 1.45 PM.
Unending straights, the foliage started to appear as I headed towards the equator.
I bested my previous one day max distance at 4 PM : 1234.5. I had done this on my first Australia trip in 2007 from Norseman to Ceduna.
I entered Kakadu national park a little before 5. With still around 400 kms to go I had ride a lot in the forest at night which was not advisable at all by anyone.
The giant termite mounds inside the park. I have heard there are much bigger ones than these.
It starts getting dark and I get little worried of what kind of critters might hit me.
And the sunset. Compare this photo with the sunrise that I took on this very day above. And I am still riding.
Bye bye sun, but I must still ride on.
At sunset I still have almost 300 kms to go.
Inside the park the biggest danger were the birds sleeping ON the road.
Then I come across this forest fire at night in Kakadu National Park. I take off my helmet and my ear plugs. The sound of the burning dry grass and plants massaged by brain. It was so peaceful and quite and I sat down on the road alone for 5 minutes soaking in the fire and the stars. I s till had around 150 kms to go, but I was at ease.
The magic figure surpassed by 100 kms:
Post Ride Thoughts
The ride is now cleanly compressed into a thin stack of receipts and two witness forms. I haven’t bothered yet to send them off to USA to the IBA to vet them and send across a certificate. Perhaps I already know I have already done it, or I am just being plain lazy. Maybe when I see someone else’s certificate I might get the kick to finally send in the papers.
Another ride called the BunBurner in which you are required to do 2000 kms in 24 hours looked super easy to achieve that day, or even the Bun Burner 2500K in 36 hours. But I had just run out of road and I was in no mood to retrace my steps on a boring highway and further mar the opportunities for photos.
I am happy to have done the SaddleSore and say that I have covered 1750 kms in 16.5 hours. I dont think I will be addicted to this format of riding so much as to sway me from my primary interest of riding and documenting my rides. Having said that I again request and wish that all bikers who attempt a SS be cautious and ride safe. Choose the best roads and time to do it, do not unnecessary complicate things, life is precious. You need to be around and healthy to be able to ride for long.
See you on the road.
Other Stats from my Australian Roadtrip
- Longest Day: 1750 kms
- Second Longest: 1234.5 kms
- Longest ride without keeping the foot down: 343 KMS non stop till the tank went almost dry
- Overall Final Odo (speculated): 23456 Kms
- Alice Springs : 0.0 kms
- Ti Tree roadhouse : 193 kms
- Wycliffe Well : 375 kms
- Three Ways Roadhouse : 532 kms
- Renner Springs : 669 kms
- The Elliot store : 759 kms
- Daly Waters : 913 kms
- Mataranka : 1079 kms
- Pine Creek : 1276 kms
- Jabiru: : 1489 kms
- Darwin : 1740 kms
I found an expected friend in Alice Springs – Praveen. He hailed from Mumbai and was interested in motorcycles. I least expected to find someone I could match my frequencies to in the middle of the outback. Praveen introduced me to Patrick who was riding a Diavel. What next? A ride of course! Alice Springs in unexpectedly beautiful. Most people would think that a city like Alice Springs in the outback would have nothing. This was far from true. We rode out to a place called Standley Chasm, a sub-hour ride through some beautiful rustic landscapes brought us to this deep spectacular gorge formed by tricking water over thousands of years.
The two beasts with the same heart:
You just gotta love that 3/4 rear:
Patrick tries out the Multistrada for a while:
Beautiful rustic landscapes
Patrick follows me on the road to Standley Chasm
On the left is Praveen, a very warm individual who also became my good friend.
Yes, we found an old CHAIR besides the highway, this was not setup at all, except moving the chair in the middle of the road!
In the evening we fed some rock wallabies, seemed cute here but they can be dangerous for motorcyclists on the roads!
Pravin also took me to this old Saloon cafe which was decorated with great love and thoughtfulness, you would not expect these kind of places in a town like Alice Springs
The next day I was all set to retrace my steps to Alice Springs. One disadvantage of visiting Uluru is that it is pretty much in the middle and you have to go a long way off from anywhere to get to it. And once you do, you either retrace around 200 kms back to the main highway or be insane enough to take one of the never ending gravel outback roads which I am not sure where and when it ends and what fuel / supplies it will have.
Meanwhile, another weird and burnt out plant.
I also visited Uluru Camel Tour facility where I saw some camels which were actually from Indian origin but still called Afghan Camels
Its surprising that how small a thing like the right kind of hat can make you feel like a ‘cowboy’!
Outside Uluru Camel Tours facility.
My advance apologies to anyone if they get offended but my aim to shoot an Aboriginal and show the natives of Australia to my audience who is not aware of them. Below are obviously the scale models against the perfect backdrop of Uluru.
The burnt ground near Uluru
I also met up with an Indian from Mumbai working at a Shell pump at Uluru! He was riding a Triumph Bonneville.
On the way back to Alice Springs, another rock formation jutting out of the plains, but not ‘important enough’ as Uluru.
And this one was one pretty sunset.
NOTE: This blog is from the day : May 8th 2013.
Starting from Anzac Hill at Alice Springs in the morning.
En route I meet this crazy Belgian couple cycling where else!, in the middle of nowhere!
And then met this fine young bloke, all of 19, who came down from UK and bought this bike to a major chunk of Australia by himself.
And some posing time!
You could ride sonnets here all day long, the landscape is like an empty canvas just waiting to be filled.
Checked into this fine resorts in the middle of the desert, aptly names Sails in the Desert.
Met up with a couple of young Indians working here. They were from west Delhi.
Uluru and Olgas are one of the icons of Australia and no pan Australia trip can be complete without seeing these two natural ‘rocks’.
Seen in the mirror is The Olgas (Kata Kjuta) which is a collection of 36 domes. The Olgas is around 50 kms from Uluru and both are a sight to behold at sunset!
Below is Uluru, it is of great spiritual significance to the Aboriginal people of Australia.
One of the most interesting things about Australia are its trees. One could spend a lifetime shooting and documenting the various tree shapes while deriving philosophical meanings inferred from their infinite shapes. Here is one I found near Olgas.
The Indian flag at Centralia
Yes, thats the Alienware laptop which is responsible for everything you see here.
The start in the morning for Tennant Creek started with a visit to the Devil’s Marbles (Karlu Karlu) which is a very interesting place to be roadtripping in, especially on a motorcycle.
These are a collection of rounded giant granite boulders in a desert landscape of the Australian outback. It apparently took 1.7 billion years for them to form and a less than 1.7 second for me to capture. Puts things to unfathomable perspective on the time scale. What I was looking at are one of the most wisest ‘lifeforms’ on planet earth, if only they could communicate.
Riding in the Devil’s Marbles reserve.
Not many places to choose!
Belt up and cruise at 130 kmph for as long as you can!
One of the highlights of the day were the collection of rusted cars at Wauchope Roadhouse Hotel on the Stuart Highway. Reminded me a lot of the MadMax movie!
After doing research on the internet I found that the cars from L-R were:
Car #1 = ??? (No idea what the hell this thing is)
Car #2 = Buick Series 40 Special 38-41 Trunkback Touring
Car #3 = Plymouth PT-81 Cab Chassis
Car #4 = International Havester AL-110 Ute
At Wycliffe Well. This is a very small settlement in the outback with a very few permanent residents. This also proclaims itself as the UFO Center of Australia and is also ranked by some publications as fifth in the world for reported UFO activity.
With my alien friend below:
The aliens are contemplating if they the MultiStrada is really made on earth!
The incredible hulk?
This can be quite dangerous if you are caught in an invisible vortex at high speeds. A few times it almost threw me off the road, could have very well ended my trip!
This day’s blog has to be dedicated to this man – Andre, from France who was push biking solo with all that stuff in a place like this where roads lead to an endless pursuit of the distant horizons even at 130 kmph. He was doing what he christened as The Long Red Ride from Melbourne to Darwin. A total of 5000 kms on a cycle. I stopped him and spoke to him quite a bit on the middle of the road. You can listen to a few of his experiences in the video documentary that will be made post the trip. It is insane what humans can do if you have the resolve.
Aileron. A small rest stop before Alice Springs. It had a couple of giant statues of what seemed like Aborginals.
The road and landscape is unbelievable flat at lot of places in the NT:
The Tropic of Capricorn marker just before Alice Springs
And this is the GPS reading of the elevation that the marker above is referring to:
NOTE: This blog was for May 5th. I will be updating the website as usual from my phone and DSLR. So keep coming back for more new stuff here!
Mt Isa lookout:
Mt Isa is a city which came into existence because of the vast amount of mineral deposits found in this region. The urbanscape is dominated by a couple of towers / chimneys spewing smoke more often than not. It is practically located in the middle of the outback as a few other such Australian cities.
On the way to Tennant creek you can spots thousands of such termite mounds.
And carcasses of animals, many of which are roadkills:
At the Queensland and Northern Territory border. The NT had no speed limits before 1st Jan 2007. Now it has 130 kmph, which is frankly not enough to allow the brain to maintain a full attentive state because after a while it feels you are almost standing still even at those speeds on these insane straights.
A permanent signboard besides an outback two house settlement, probably erected as many unprepared travelers used to run out of fuel in the middle of this outback highway. However, a lot of boards have been erected at the end of each roadhouse or settlement to inform travelers when they will get the next service.
The soil is almost red as mars here!
Interesting diffractive / refractive effects caused by the sun and the clouds high up in the sky.
Reaching Tennant Creek towards the sunset I found this off road leading to a collection of rocks called Kunjarra (The Pebbles).
These are a couple of frame extracts from a self video taken at sunset (the video will make it into the final documentary which will be developed post the ride):
With the sun gone, the landscape loses its fiery charm.
NOTE: This blog was for May 3nd. I will be updating the website as usual from my phone and DSLR. So keep coming back for more new stuff here!
The route which I did today : http://goo.gl/maps/rVQrT
This was lying outside the room in the morning, an inverted ashtray in morning light.
And this in the parking. Yes I was in a holiday park!
An old mine (?) leaving Charters Towers:
Spotted this roadtrain and guess what, it had a BATMAN logo on the back! Couldn’t get better than this!
along the way I came across this ‘highland’ road where there were lots of carvings done on the stones.
Take a left after 251 kms!
Australia also has some world class dinosaur fossils and trails. And they have let people know about it by having these kind of statues along the way in ‘major’ towns. This one was in Hughenden
Holden is an Australian car manufacturer who has recently gotten into trouble. The car standing in front of this heritage cafe might give you a clue as to why.
The ‘nothingness’ starts:
It was some train catching time.
Everything looks out of ordinary in the outback since there is not much to see. Even a signboard stands out. This cargo train was looking amazing, like a slow moving caterpillar.
The dinosaur fad continues.
You dont wanna be here in summers!
It was dusk and I had to keep my eyes peeled for critters.
Just before entering Mt.Isa:
Mt.Isa in the distance. Suddenly out of nowhere shimmering lights of the city hit you in the middle of the outback!
Gnomesville. This fictitious town was materialized by a couple of gnomes being placed inside a forest near Bunbury in Western Australia. Since then thousands of people have added onto this collection making it an unbelievable sight. Something very surreal. A fantasy come true. I was lost in this enchanted place for many minutes and felt one of them. I wish I was a kid again to I could leave my inhibitions and play with them! Some photos!
NOTE: This blog was for May2nd. I will be updating the website as usual from my phone and DSLR. So keep coming back for more new stuff here!
Leaving Airlie Beach
On the way along the highway some great farmways like these
The hint that the red center was coming, but still far though:
Introspecting and modeling at the same time!
The above two photos were shot like this:
The road trains were starting to get lengthier!
A big mango en route
I met up with a Ducatista with a red MTS 1200, Ken in Townsville.
By the time I left Townsville it was already dark and I had still a little over 100 kays to go. This was going to be my first ride in the night, and everyone had been advising me against it.
Anything can come out of those bushes, and only luck can save a motorcyclist when it hits them!
Finally arrived in Charters Towers and set up my mobile working station for the day!
NOTE: This is blog from April 29th on the trip. To stay updated with the latest developments on my ride you can check back here or subscribe to this Facebook page.
Leaving Rockhampton, the cattle city.
Lots of statues of horses and other bovine creatures.
Hats off to this gentleman, spotted him on this old beemer.
The scenery was nothing special, stuck somewhere in between the green lust of the highlands and the rustic outback.
“G’Day, do you have traffic control in India?”. I said the traffic controls itself in India!
“Go, go go!”
The sun starts to set
And makes common things look magical
Ah, that gentleman again Slow and steady wins the race
Thats what’s riding into the sunset means
Me taking the shot..
And the camera producing the shot…
The Best Western Mango House Resort was one of the best equipped accommodations I had stayed in.
Too bad I always have no time to relax with all that work on the rides :