After much deliberation, on the Monday morning we put my bike on the back of our saviors ute (always fun with the steering locked) and started our journey to their home town, Swan Hill. The plan was to head straight there with a couple of stops along the way and we would take turns riding Gimli’s ZX12.
Side note, the things people leave at Phillip Island camp site is hilarious. Full tents, gazebos, couches, eskies, booze, you name it and it was there. I suppose, it is pretty hard carrying a carton on a bike. Someone was even kind enough to give us one, beauty!
We stopped at Cowes, had a hearty breakfast and made our way through Melbourne to Swan Hill. It was so good to see another part of the country, especially one I never thought I would see (well certainly not on this trip!). The variety of landscapes through Australia is amazing. When we arrived at the track I was physically sore for 2 days and the thought of riding a bike made my ass hole pucker. But, when it was my turn to ride the ZX12, I felt fresh and it was great to be back on the road.
Stopping in at Swan Hill turned out to be fantastic. We ended up staying there for 2 nights while we waited for my infamous key to arrive. We were lucky enough to visit savior 1’s family farm near Manangatang for a night and see the sights and sounds there. It was brilliant and made all the better by the fact that they were rev heads too! The property was massive and it was great to see how a farm like that works up close. It also helped that they had a salt lake and rally track nearby, awesome! I can’t speak highly enough about how helpful everyone was at Swan Hill. And when you consider that we were just a couple of random blokes they met while living it up at the MotoGP, incredible. So many feels.
On the Wednesday we received the most amazing news, my mail had been delivered! We travelled back to Swan Hill from Managatang and the first thing I did was test the key.
The bike started. Never has a sweeter sound been heard. Thank you Mrs. OnTheBackWheel, I wasn’t sure you were going to send it, especially after how ‘impressed’ you sounded when I first told you I’d lost it.
By the time we packed all our gear it was after lunch. We were hoping to get home by Friday night (2 and a half days riding instead of the 4 we took on the way down). We weren’t going to be messing around that’s for sure.
We left Swan Hill and headed to Moulamein. This was an interesting day of riding to say the least and one I’ll never forget.
The ZX10 had already gone places that ZX10’s were not designed to go, so why stop now? On the Hay Plains the road quality started to deteriorate and the scenery changed drastically. Instead of farm lands, we were looking at vast plains filled with scrub and red earth. It was desolate, but beautiful at the same time.
We turned off and headed across to Booraban to avoid a majority of the dirt roads. We had had our fair share already on this trip so the less the better. We might as well not have bothered because the road to Booraban was pretty shit house. The road consisted of a thin, single lane of bitumen, covered in pot holes with cattle grids every kilometer. Not only was it a rough road, but there were plenty of sheep about. Who says you need an adventure bike? Jump on a ZX10 or ZX12, the do-it-all bikes from Kawasaki. Suitable for road, track and dirt!
After an hour or so the road improved. The ride from Booraban to Hay was highway, but we still needed to stay on our toes. One, we were trying make good pace and avoid the weather (one of the good things about being in the middle of nowhere is there’s nearly no police woohoo). Two, it had been raining and the roads were soaked. Three, getting blown around by road trains is fun but not ideal. Four, emu’s! That’s right… emu’s. Lucky the bastards run across the road fast or I might have cleaned some up!
At Hay we fueled up. Here we noticed that Gimli’s Ventura rack had taken a turn for the worse, one of the steel pieces had snapped. ‘I thought it felt a bit loose in the rear,’ said Gimli. Savior 1 had already performed repairs at the farm but we needed to step things up a notch. We searched around and found a steel works.
They fixed it up for a tenner and I’m pretty sure it’s stronger now than it was new. We had a beer at one of the pubs and grabbed some meat, salad and drinks seeing as we didn’t know where we would end up for the night.
We kept riding, through Goolgowi and towards Rankin Springs. As the sun dropped, the kangaroos started to show their little faces and we decided to turn in at a small caravan park at Rankin Springs. It was good to have a rum can, cook up our food and relax knowing that we were well on the way home. And the funny thing was, I didn’t feel anywhere near as sore after this day of riding as I had on the way down. I guess the body adjusts.
The next day, while it didn’t have the adventure bike roads, it was nonetheless memorable. We stayed mostly to the highways with the odd back road thrown in. We travelled through West Wyalong, Forbes, Parkes, Dubbo, Dunedoo, Tambar Springs and finally ended up at Gunnedah. Some of the highlights of the day included riding through a storm and getting absolutely saturated, sitting behind cars on the back roads that were going wellllll above the speed limit J and getting over 300km’s out of a tank. That’s right, on a ZX10. And I still had a litre left! It wasn’t by choice though, it was more that fact that every town we wanted to stop at didn’t have fuel. And technically when we did stop to get fuel, the speedo was at 299.4km’s. I just had to ride back up the road and back to clock over the magical 300. It’s the little things right?
We arrived at Gunnedah late after getting food from the local supermarket. We stopped in at another caravan park and since it was our last night, we cooked up a storm on the BBQ. Why? Why not I say.
On the last day we covered what felt like a lot of boring kilometres. Approximately 662 in fact. Maybe it was the fact we were nearing home. The day also had a touch of déjà vu as we travelled back through Tamworth, Uralla and Armidale. This time however, from Armidale we continued north towards Glen Innes. This part of the trip was actually quite beautiful and the highway had some sweeping corners and undulations. I’ve probably touched on this already (and I will again!), but 100km/h is painfully slow on a highway and its exacerbated on a bike. Raise that shit to 120km/h or more! On a sour note, I noticed that my clutch was starting to slip, never ideal but even more so considering I only replaced it 6000km’s ago.
We crossed into Queensland and I swear the air tasted sweeter and the people were better looking. It could just be me though. After stopping to stretch our legs at Stanthorpe we continued on towards Warwick. We were starting to get pretty over it at this stage but I was bought back to life by Cunninghams Gap. What a view and it’s not a bad road either. Definitely a shame it was so busy because there are some pearler corners there. Remind me to visit there one day without panniers and a swag on the back.
The sun started to drop but we weren’t going to stop especially with the roads getting familiar and home getting closer. As we got into Brisbane Gimli and I made one obligatory last stop at the Alderley Arms Hotel to have a celebration beer.
We went our separate ways and I headed home. Parking the bike in the garage bought mixed emotions. After travelling near enough 4700km’s, the mighty ZX10 pulled through for me (even though she penetrated my body and soul), all my gear held up, I met new friends and experienced both the highs and lows of travelling. But even more importantly, before I even got off the bike I was thinking of where to go next, albeit probably not on a ZX10. I can’t wait.