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Old 25-05-2015, 12:32 PM   #1
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Location: The Patch, Vic
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Default Slow Road to the Dig Tree (aka Road of Broken Bones)

For all the more deserving journeys of early Australian explorers, Burke & Wills’ journey from the south to the north of the continent is fascinating for its courage & willpower, its arrogance & incompetence, its tragic & desolate ending.
Wikipedia does a reasonable summary if you’re not familiar with the story -

This trip is to the Dig Tree, on Cooper Creek in the far south-west corner of Queensland, central to the Burke & Wills saga –

I’d wanted to do this trip for a long time, but not on my own for this one given the isolation and my inexperience at outback travel. Good call as it turned out ........

The word went out to a couple of MTB mates & austourers, then mates of mates, soon 8 of us were signed up, me on the TR650, inmate DeLewis (Viktor) on a TR650, Mick on a third TR650, Brent on a KLR650, Geoff on an 1190 Adventure, John on a Super Tenere sounding awesome with a full Arrow system, Matt on an R1200GSA & Casey on an R1150GSA (“Barry”).

As a sidenote, Casey bought Barry new in London in 2002 and has done 185,000kms on him since, including London – Cape Town – London on his Pat Malone. Barry is treated in a gentle BMW-approved Starbucks manner (not), as demonstrated in this short clip taken of Casey & Barry recently

The plan was to take 9 days, unscientifically worked out by taking my usual road-touring daily mileage and halving it. Hindsight shows it was still too ambitious due to the road conditions up north, the truism that a group travels slower than any individual (but doubles the fun), and the events of the 2nd day.

We set ourselves up for bush camping throughout – so enough freeze-dried meals to last the entire time - and to cover the longest no-fuel stretch of 460km.

I setup the Husky with the soft panniers astride the pillion seat rather than the fuel pods. They were just too wide out there and I still had plenty of room to move -

DAY 1.

After a broken sleep due to excitement, we all met at the Calder Service Centre at 9am on Saturday, fuelled up then headed NW.

Short stop to pull on wets, freezing our arses off near Kyneton -

Straight furrows near Wycheproof –

Chatted with this cheery Sea Lake gentleman for a while. A life-long Harley rider until recently when Motor Neuron (or MS or some other rotten thing) struck him down –

Knowledge sharing of a different kind, at Ouyen to stock up on fuel & beer for the night –

Getting toward roo o’clock, so turned east to the Murray River near Colignan –

Not a bad spot for a campsite eh ? -

Found my missing camping hammer. As if I wasn’t carrying enough weight

Lots of firewood to encourage plenty of stories which were all true and unexaggerated -

More to come .......
.... Peter.

Last edited by twowheeler; 09-07-2015 at 08:11 PM.
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Old 25-05-2015, 01:04 PM   #2
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Default Re: Slow Road to the Dig Tree (aka Road of Broken Bones)

DAY 2 -

Packed up early and away –

Obligatory Big Lizzie stop, at Red Cliffs –

Mick demonstrating his priorities - 1 fuel pod, 1 water pod, 2 wine bottles -

North of Wentworth, turned off the sealed onto gravel, the High Darling Road –

15mins later, I learned that the High Darling Road also has stretches of deep sand, hidden just past small knolls –

Foolishly, as the least (read: zero) experienced sand rider of the group, I was leading, doing a gravel-modest 80kph. Came over a little knoll and into unsighted deep sand that stretched around 30 metres.
The bike immediately went into a full-blown tank-slapper lasting perhaps 3 terrifying seconds. I’d read about tank-slappers and consciously put the save-arse theory into practice – slide right back on the seat, loosy-goosy / don’t fight the bars, keep the throttle on. None of this had any effect, except maybe keeping the throttle on made me crash faster.

I remember that I was past the sand but the tank-slapping was still as violent and fast as ever, and hoping the bike didn’t land on me when we crashed. The bike dug in & I high-sided off to the right onto the verge.
DeLewis was right behind me and said the bike somersaulted twice then landed square on its back several metres past me, scattering luggage, tent bags, seat rolls, etc, in all directions.

I landed on my back & right-hand side. Dazed & winded, I don’t remember much initially. All my limbs moved. My shoulder hurt. My sternum hurt. Someone took off my helmet or maybe I did. Pulled off my left glove to reveal my thumb pointing 60deg to the left. Casey was standing over me so I asked him to pull it straight while I still couldn’t feel anything, which he did with a satisfying pop. Thank god, knowing that once the adrenaline and shock wore off, a dislocated thumb would end my ride right there.

Someone helped me strip off as the sweat started. Very light headed, I could hear the guys locating all my gear and strapping / cable-tying my bike together. When I eventually stood up & looked at it, the poor thing was clearly bent at the back, every panel was scratched or holed, mirror & barkbusters were gone.
My helmet’s visor had been ripped off too and later, Geoff gaffer taped it back on, cleverly crooked so it matched the bike ! No idea how long all this took – perhaps an hour ?

Mick amused himself by taking this pic of me in la-la land wearing my broken glasses -

I felt pretty stupid for making such a mistake & jeopardizing the trip. My shoulder & thumb hurt like hell but staying there wasn’t an option, so I pulled my head together & got back on. Matt rode conservatively in front of me & I just followed his wheel in a daze for the next 100km or so into Pooncarie, the rest of the group forming a loose cordon.

Pulled into Pooncarie -

As I half fell off my bike outside the pub, a girl came out with an open Bundy & coke in hand and asked if I was OK. It turned out Katie is the town’s (population 300) part-time ambulance officer. She took me down to the ambo station while the guys hoed into pub-food, and gave me a good checkout. All my vital signs were OK although she was concerned about a crackle in my RHS chest -

After some Panadol & a chicken burger, we decided we’d ride onto Menindee for the night. This would at least salvage something from the original day’s plan, and give me more options as it had sealed-road access to Broken Hill.

Bent -

Don’t remember much about the rest of the day’s ride, except there was quite a lot of sand, my confidence in it was low and I was spaced out & quiet that evening as it hurt to talk .

Camped on the outskirts of Menindee by the Darling River. Burke and Wills camped near here too –

More to come .......
.... Peter.

Last edited by twowheeler; 29-05-2015 at 06:57 PM.
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Old 25-05-2015, 01:10 PM   #3
Paul n Dixie
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Default Re: Slow Road to the Dig Tree (aka Road of Broken Bones)

Wonderful story and pics..then i see the accident. ! crikey!
Sorry for your pain and suffering..this ride is deserving of equal "lore" to the original "Dig Tree" story

Last edited by Paul n Dixie; 25-05-2015 at 01:28 PM.
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Old 25-05-2015, 01:58 PM   #4
The 2 Headed Tassie Pyro
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Location: Hobart Tasmania
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Default Re: Slow Road to the Dig Tree (aka Road of Broken Bones)

Mate, you didn't have to try and emulate the Burke and Wills journey!

Next you'll be telling us you had to start eating your motorcycles to stay alive.....!
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Old 25-05-2015, 03:02 PM   #5
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Default Re: Slow Road to the Dig Tree (aka Road of Broken Bones)

DAY 3 -

A rotten sleep in what now seemed to be a very-cramped 1 man cocoon tent. Every movement hurt and every breath caused a crackling in my shoulder, which didn’t hurt but sounded horrible. Anyway, morning soon came & we broke camp and refueled –

Last night, the guys had decided to head north via Broken Hill instead of the original Wilcannia route. This meant an initial sealed road run of 120km. A great road with some unexpected twisties thrown in later too –

I was thankful for this decision, as I’d resolved to myself that if we got to Broken Hill and found I couldn’t ride properly or without significant pain, I’d call it quits there so the rest of the group could continue. All the guys were being bloody supportive & patient & I didn’t want to spoil their experience by being an anchor.

But I found that while riding was a bit uncomfortable, it paled into the insignificance compared to my tent, and I could ride quite safely & at normal pace (at least on firmer stuff), albeit with bent bars making for an odd riding position. And riding out here is wonderful.

So while the guys had a bit of a look around, I visited the chemist and stocked up with Voltarin , Panadol & Deep Heat.

Just one of Broken Hill’s majestic pubs with a huge mountain of tailings as backdrop to everything -

We headed north up the Silver City Highway and stopped at this sheering shed in the middle of BFN –

The road then turned to gravel , and switched back & forth from sealed to gravel for the next 200-odd kilometers.

Emptiness –

Matt –

Casey –

DeLewis –

Mick –

A confident Wedge Tail Eagle. He let us get very close –

Lunch in some shade at Packsaddle. Joining us in the carpark was a bunch of 4WD trucks driven by NASA scientists, on their way to recover a crashed satellite somewhere NE of Tibooburra -

Then Mick had a 120kph brush with an emu –

Thankfully he just clipped it and his instinctive shove to the right and skills probably kept his bike upright. The poor emu though had 2 broken legs so Casey broke its neck to put it out of its misery –

My previous experiences with emus were confirmed on this trip. They‘re very stupid. We saw lots and they go out of their way to run, very fast, into your path -

Mick escaped with a broken front mudguard and a sore left wrist.

More riding (but someone's got to do it ) -

John -

Near the end of the day, on a whim, we turned off the main road to check out Milparinka, a gold-mining ghost town 40km south of Tibooburra –

One look around this surreal place, then seeing a working pub of all things (the only ‘alive’ building around), we decided to stay –

The owner lives in Adelaide but comes up for long stints to run the place with his mate. His mate reckons he’s never worked harder in his life. 7:30am starts and 11:30pm finishes with enough grey-nomads calling in during the day to keep them occupied -

We roamed around the ruins, all abandoned when the gold ran out (except the pub) -

If you look close you'll see early air-cond. There are galvanised inlet pipes below floor level (timber floors long gone) which cycle cool air up to the outlets positioned high on the interior walls. They would have been needed - summer temperatures out here would be insane -

The courthouse (now museum) has been restored -

Some of us camped. Others, like me, paid for a shower & a bed (bliss) –

Evening set in -

The night sky put on a show –

Bloody awesome steak & cold beer then an early night.

More to come .....
.... Peter.

Last edited by twowheeler; 27-05-2015 at 08:05 AM.
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