Wednesday 25 April 2012

Due to the interruption of cyclone Yasi on the 3rd February 2011 and my involvement in clean up and recovery work with my Rotary Club leaving little time to prepare, I had to abandon my proposed Canning Stock Route ride planned for July/August 2011. Instead I thought it would be a good idea to do a reconnoitre of the CSR, which I undertook in July 2011. Accompanied by a good friend and around Australia bike ride Buddy, Roberta Gordon, I had driven over to Perth after the Yasi episode and Rob flew over to join me for the ride back to her home in Noosa. We travelled north from Perth to Halls Creek then south down the Tanami track to Billiluna where we turned off the Tanami and commenced the drive down the CSR, after topping up with diesel fuel.

The track for the first days driving was quite flat with few hazards and impressive scenery. There was one water crossing which was a bit dicey due to the muddy bottom, but we made it OK, and travelled on to a quiet campsite at Breaden Pool. I had been surprised at the amount of other travellers on the track, especially at Billiluna where there were a dozen vehicles waiting to fill up their fuel tanks.

The next morning we made our way back onto the track from the camp site which was a few kilometres off the CSR and proceeded south. We passed many vehicles travelling north during the day and was quite surprised at how many were towing off road trailers. The instructions in the permit pack strongly recommend not taking trailers on the CSR due to the damage caused on the sand hills. We saw plenty of evidence of this as we proceeded. The additional hazard of towing a trailer is the run-up they required to get over the sand hills, hurtling over the apex with no visibility of oncoming traffic until well over the top …. Look out if you’re coming up the other side! This we experienced a couple of times. The track is only one set of wheel tracks and sometimes a bit of a problem passing oncoming vehicles especially where the wheel tracks have become deeper in the sand making it difficult to get off the track, also in many places the scrub is to thick to drive into obliging one of the vehicles to reverse to a suitable passing place. Sometimes this was a problem when a tag along group of several vehicles came along.

We drove on for several days with no problems, crossing many sand hills on the way and getting engrossed in the history of the CSR until about half way, around 1,000 km down the CSR we reached the Aboriginal Community of Kunawarritij where there is the only source of supplies and fuel on the CSR (except fuel can be ordered in advance and delivered to well 23 from the Gt Northern Hwy 400 km to the west).

Just to the north of Kunawarritiji the track is extremely corrugated, which was too much for my near new, top of the range rear shock absorbers, which both gave up. But didn’t turn out to be much of a drama as I had the replacements (under warrantee no charge) which arrived in two days from Perth fitted and on our way again. Grahame the manager at Kunawarritiji was very accommodating and hospitable giving me the use of the workshop and free camping in exchange for a bit of help around the place for the couple of days we were there.

Due to the amount of traffic on the CSR I made the decision that it was no place for a bike rider with the many blind bends and sand hills, with little chance of getting out of their way so set about finding an alternative challenge.

After a discussion with the locals at Kunawarritiji I identified an equally gruelling challenge and this is where the “Sea to Centre Challenge” was born.

From Kunawarritiji we headed along the Len Beadell, Jenkins track and Gary Junction Highway to Alice Springs a much quieter track …. On the 1,000 km trip we only saw three vehicles!  Much safer!

From the Alice we travelled across country via the Oodnadatta track past Lake Eyre and on to the North Flinders Ranges, up the back track to the Strzelecki track and Innamincka, from there across the Cooper Creek which was still running then on into Queensland, through Thargomindah, St George, ending up in Noosa where I dropped Rob off and headed up to Mission Beach to start planning for the next years challenge.

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