Day 11 Tuesday 28th May Dunmurra to Darwin
It’s another big day so up early again, I thought a reasonable breakfast of bacon and eggs would be a good start. Out here Bacon and eggs means a minimum of three eggs and half a kilo of bacon! I should have known. Last night Huddo ordered a mixed grill and couldn’t eat it all. And that’s saying something, I watched him go close to finishing a four kilo steak in Hobart on another bike trip.
There’s a reason the NT boys and girls stay here. One of their own retired to take on this roadhouse. He had an eight year old son, Jessie who loved riding motorbikes in the scrub. He was told to ride out the back and if anything goes wrong, just walk towards the setting sun and you’ll get to the highway. In the October of 1993, young Clinton LIEBELT, the son of Steve Lielbelt an ex tactical response police officer went looking for a runaway horse West of the Stuart highway. He became lost and a huge man hunt involving around 1200 people looked for nine days for the little boy. According to ‘Boof’ Hamilton, Steve’s mates worked past the point of exhaustion. A temporary hospital was set up to treat the searchers who refused to give up. Boof tells me that the black trackers refused to give up and tracked him well outside the search area and eventually found his abandoned gear and his body some 18-20 kilometres not far from the Buchanan highway leading to Top Spring. It’s a sad story that consumed Steve and Adele Liebelt who sold up and moved out.
The outback is not boring, there’s stories like this in most remote places. It’s dangerous to venture too far if you don’t know how to look after yourself in 50 plus degree heat. It’s a big country with big hearted people who will drop everything to help out, but don’t be silly. Stray off the beaten track and it could cost you your life.
To this day, there’s a photo of Clinton at the end of the bar, sitting proudly next to a big plaque of the NT Boys and Girls Wall2Wall rides. They know the current owner Gary very well and get behind the jump to help him out when they ride through here.
Over breakfast the generator runs out of diesel, the lights go out, fridges stop running and no fuel can be pumped. Ten minutes later we’re back in business.
All geared up we’re ready to roll again. The higher speeds hot weather and abrasive road is chewing up the Karoo Metzler tyre on ‘Big Red’ my old BMW 1200 GSA.
I stop at the Buchanan highway with Lairdy to take a look down that long straight red dirt dusty ribbon of road and think about that little boy lost out there not too far from civilisation.
We turn off for a look at the Daly Waters pub. I don’t say anything but there was a first responder in the MFB who we used to ride with , Flem, who loved this pub. Last time I was here I left a full glass of beer on the beer for Flem. Remember Banjo Pattersons poem, the glass on the bar? Flem took his own life after going to too many scenes with bent, broken and twisted bodies.
I sit at the back of the pack with John Laird just cruising along at the 130 speed limit when a couple of our bikes are heading back towards us. The rest are pulled up on the side of the highway. NT Harley rider Reece (Babe) Studders sleeping bag has blown off. Spike reckons he nearly caught it! As we pull up, Georg Berk decides to drop his bike. Comedy capers. Sleeping bag back on, the judiciary sit in judgement, (Boof) and determines that he will be fined $2 for each rider Babe nearly took out with his sleeping bag.
A fuel stop at Mataranka is necessary but it’s getting warmer. Here is where a lot of soldiers, including my wife’s father were stationed here getting ready to fight the Japanese invasion after the bombing of Darwin. A fact no one seems to recall is that there were more bombs dropped on Darwin during WW2 than Pearl Harbour.
We’re getting along at a fair clip and make it to Katherine for lunch at the local golf club. A damn fine feed too. Getting back on the bike after lunch is a bit of a struggle, it’s getting really hot now so we break the ride with another fuel stop at Adelaide River where ‘Babe’ finds out he’s lost his key fob to the Harley somewhere down the highway with his house keys. Luckily, he knows the code and can at least re-start his bike. It looks like it’s Babe’s day to stuff up.
We have one more compulsory stop before getting into Darwin. The memorial to Sgt Glen Huitson who was shot through the side webbing of his bullet proof vest by a lunatic who was subject to a man hunt. Glen was manning a roadblock and gunned down in cold blood 20 years ago. There’s a beautiful memorial to him just of the main highway that means so much for current day NT Police officers. I notice big burly Boof fussing around cleaning the memorial and go and put an arm around his shoulder. I swear there was a tear in his eyes.
It’s bloody hot now so we press on. They all guide us to our cabin park and say our goodbyes to our escort. Thanks boys and girls, you epitomise what this rides all about.
Day 12 Wednesday 29th May Darwin Rest Day. And NT Baton hand over.
We’re all looking forward to our first day off the bike. Well not riding too far anyway. Despite that we are all awake early. Our bodies must be conditioned to it. We roll out of our cabin park at Free spirit resort at 7am and cruise into Darwin CBD, this is peak hour. On average 3 cars at each traffic light! You Darwinians have nothing to whinge about when it comes to traffic. A good breakfast and we roll down to the Northern Territory Police memorial in the parkland overlooking the bay. There’s already a contingent down there with Clinton “Superman” Richardson with two police bikes, one marked up in special Wall2Wall livery. All the boys and Lesley who escorted us are there, as are a few others. Stan Singles elder brother and his wife are there too. He has one of the batons Stan didn’t think was good enough and was very happy to see his brother’s craftmanship.
Deputy Commissioner Michael Murphy is there on behalf of the Chief, Paul Mc Cue is there with our good mate Owen Blackwell who has just had a knee operation and swears he’ll be right to ride the wall2wall this year.
After a small moving ceremony I hand the baton over to Michael Murphy, who tells me already legacy have 5 extra families they need to look after. We mill around for a while, say our goodbyes and look forward to a relaxing day not doing a great deal.
Spike has decided he is carrying too much and posts home about 3 kilograms of ‘stuff’. I find a bike shop that stocks tyres for my bike. Bugger it, I decide to get a new one. I just don’t trust the Karoo road tyre that’s on it now to make it to Perth and there’s not much over the next 5,000 odd kilometres where I’ll be able to get one. After 6,000, this ones probably got 2 or 3,000 left in it with any margin of safety.
They want to charge me an extra $45 to take the wheel out….. Er, I’ll do it myself thanks. Five bolts taken out in the car park out the front and I bring the wheel in. 30 minutes later I’ve got a new tyre that should get me back home no worries. Mind you I’m $350 lighter.
Back to the cabin park and a laze around the pool in 28 plus degree heat should re-charge my batteries.