The 5.30 am alarms has me thinking about the day ahead. It’s a day of mixed emotions as I’ve really missed my partner and family over the past twelve days, but today also brings an end to such a great motorcycle experience. The Tenere has been tested over a variety of terrain and conditions but today will be nearly a thousand kays of bitumen, including the Hay Plains.
I’m greeted by another brisk morning and remain thankful for my heated grips, money well spent. Today will be all about munching miles as I’d prefer not to be riding the last few hours home in darkness. Within an hour I’m refuelling at West Wyalong. I’ve always enjoyed stopping here on my travels as it has a great feel and I enjoy the murals painted on some of the business’s walls (apologies I didn’t take any photos).
From here it’s a 250+ kilometre stretch to Hay. The Hay Plains actually runs from Narrandera to Balranald, a total of just over 300 kilometres. I’ll be taking a different route entering Hay from West Wyalong, which is still a remote stretch of road.
The ride from West Wyalong to Rankins Springs isn’t as lifeless and boring as I expected, and the road offers a few curves and changes in scenery. I decide this is a good place to stop and refuel. To my surprise I see a have slight phone reception and decide it’s a good time for a Facebook Live to answer some questions I’ve received.
Off towards Hay and this is where to roads begin to straighten and the wide plains open up. In a strange way I’m actually enjoying the open plains, probably as I can relax and not worry about wildlife jumping into my front wheel. Riding conditions are perfect with temperatures in the early twenties, blue skies with large white clouds providing a touch of character.
My drone has been neglected over the past few days and this is the perfect opportunity to capture the vastness of the Australian Outback. In an ironic twist, even though there are mile nothing I have to search for a safe place to park off the road to be able to launch and fly my drone.
About 30 kays from Hay I find a large and wide entrance to a property with plenty of room to park the bike and launch the drone. Having only owned the drone for a couple of weeks I’m a novice, so I’m nervous when I first launch and the wind instantly catches the drone and pushed it a couple of metres off path. The drone quickly recovers, re-calibrates, and amazes me with its stability. It really is incredible the perspective the drone offers and I spend the next thirty minutes grabbing some footage, all centred around the bike of course.
I’ve stopped in Hay many times over the years and enjoy the experience. I’d love to stop for a pub lunch or at the local bakery, but I’m conscious of time and decide to grab fuel and food at the same stop. I visit one of the truck stops at western end of Hay and indulge in a coffee and some deep fried delights.
As motorcycle riders I think we are all accustomed to, and enjoy the questions whenever we stop. People always seem to have such an interest in motorcycles, perhaps it is simply the sense of adventure they evoke. “Run out of fuel before?”, “How’s the wind effect you?”, “Get good mileage?”, “Bet you’ve got a sore arse.”, “What happens if it rains.”, “I use to have a…”
There isn’t much to report during the next 400 km to Renmark. Accessories I’m thankful for during the long bitumen stretches? Music steaming through my in-helmet speakers, gel seat topper, Camelback for regular sips and my Zumo XT GPS to keep me updated on speed and distances. I settle into a routine of stop, fuel, snack, drink and continue.
Not far from the South Australian border the landscape changes again and lowering light reveals orange-red sand on the roads edge. My mind wanders to what the next adventure could be and my love for watching the Dakar has me dreaming of a Simpson Crossing. I stop for a photos opportunity to cast the illusion that I’m actually riding across red sand and then continue for the SA border.
A few minutes down the road and I stop at the familiar Yamba fruit fly inspection. There had been some recent Covid cases in Sydney and I was concerned this may impact my return home. The inspection officer approached me with a welcoming smile and asks about my motorcycle travels. I think to myself, ‘This is her sneaky of interrogating me.’
Not at all, she simply asks how my ride had been. She looked at my mountain of luggage and then a looks in my backpack for any fruit. She wishes me a safe trip home and off I ride.
I had slipped behind my schedule as the sun was setting and I still had just over two hours to home. I was feeling fine and the adrenaline of being on the home stretch kicked in. This did mean I’d have to ride the Blanchetown Flats in darkness and dodge Kangaroos.
I reflect on the past twelve days, why I did this, how it evolved, the highs and lows and what it means for me going forward. In short I’ve ridden over 500,000 km in 30 years, on over 40 different bikes. This was the most adventurous and challenging ride I’ve ever done. At a youthful fifty years of age I’ve stretched my comfort zone, improved my riding, and it felt bloody great.
I love that adventure riding covers such a broad spectrum. It can be exploring bitumen backroads, heading to outback locations or conquering the Valley of Doom. I love the interactions with people, the riders who share their experience and stories, and locals whom overwhelming welcome riders and show a genuine interest in our travels.
I arrive at Blanchetown for my last fuel stop of the trip. There’s more questions from friendly tourists passing through and a warning of kangaroos as I approach Accommodation Hill and Truro. The sun had now set and it would be up to my bug eyed Tenere’s high beam to spot any movement in the bushes.
The skies have been threatening with rain for the past couple of hours but luck had been on my side. Weather was still perfect for riding, although I’ve become soft and use my heated grips at every opportunity. I keep my speed to just below a hundred as the bushes closed in to the road edge. I’m not sure if the roos had been scared off by recent road trains or my eyes were tired, but I saw very few animals along this stretch.
Accommodation Hill is a long uphill stretch that leads you into Truro. Hot summer days regularly claims its collection of cars overheating with caravans and speed boats parked up on the side of the road. Tonight was a clear run into Truro, a town know for all the wrong reason to anyone my age.
Tanunda is an easy twenty-minute ride and I eagerly exit Sturt Highway at Nuriootpa as the Barossa Valley welcome me home. I’d phoned my partner to give her a rough ETA of 8 pm and as I pulled into the driveway the roller door was up and she was awaiting my arrival.
Rain had commenced falling just as I turned into the street and the arrival photo in the driveway looked far more dramatic that it really was. The only reason I was wet is because I posed for a photo.
Mission accomplished! Over six thousand kilometres, roughly four and half thousand solo in twelve days. It was encouraging to think at the age of 50 my riding adventures have just begun.
If you’ve ever considered buying an adventure bike and start exploring your own backyard or set off exploring Australia, then have a go. At the beginning of my article I mentioned two things I was missing; an adventure bike and the skills to do it.
It really doesn’t matter what adventure bike you own, $2,000 to $20,000, 250cc to 1200cc, they will all take you to amazing places.
Skills to ride them? You will be amazed how quickly your adventure and off-road riding skills will improve and the number of riders that will offer you tips, advice and coaching. As a side note upon my return I bought a six year old WR250 to practise some sand riding with the aim of Simpson Crossing in 2022.
A third point you’ll no doubt be asking is, “Where do I ride these things?” Online groups like Facebook are an incredible resource. Either join a local area group like South Australia Adventure Bike Riders (if you live in SA), or motorcycle specific groups (in my case Tenere 700). Riders will gladly offer up their favourite tracks and be keen to join you on the ride.
“So aren’t you going to tell us your thoughts about the Tenere Mark?” I hear you ask. I’ll spoil the ending now; it’s simply the best bike I’ve ever owned. The V-Strom 1000 is collecting dust, and my WR250R will be for specific sand rides.
It is just the perfect bike for me, and I’ll quickly share my reasons why.
I’m mechanically challenged, so bulletproof reliability is critical.
Less electronic rider aids mean less to go wrong – the Tenere 700 only has ABS.
At 6ft and 110 kg the ergonomics suit me.
It has the power to overtake road trains and comfort for the open highway but is also light and manageable for someone of my limited skills to defeat the Valley of Doom.
I love the Dakar Rally styling.
Of course, that doesn’t mean it’s the perfect bike for you, far from it. Consider your budget, abilities, size and most importantly which bike gets your blood pumping.
If you’ve got this far you’re either an Adventure rider or considering having a go. As Nike say, “Just do it.”
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