Locusts, Leaks and Late

Words and Pics by Greg ‘Kipo’ Kipling

The Plan
A plan was hatched to pre run the 2010 SA Apex Charity Postie Ride due for September. You may think that the 1st of May is a little early to pre run, but the bloke who set the date had a new bike and couldn’t wait. Nine starters lined up to tackle 1,000 kilometers unsupported over  two days through the best country the Flinders Ranges and Outback SA has to offer. Port Augusta and return via Thompson’s Gap, Partacoona, Moralana, Wilpena Pound, Blinman, Leigh Creek, Farina, Mulgaria, Andamooka and Pimba.

The starters: Chris – CRF450, Flatty – WR450, Marty – XR400, Cookie – KTM450, Mitch – KTM450, Big Trev - XR600, Slatts – CRF450, Case – KTM525, Kipo – DRZ400

Most assembled Friday night for a sparrow fart start next day but a larger bird of prey known as the ‘Wild Turkey’ caused havoc with some until the wee hours and somewhat tarnished the 8am Saturday blast off from Port Augusta. But being seasoned turkeys we saddled up and hit the rail line access track north to Thompson’s Gap.

A few nasty wash-a-ways soon had everyone awake and on their game.  No dramas to the gate into Thompson’s Gap, a private station road with magnificent views to Spencer Gulf. Then the sweep, namely me, was shutting the gates on poor Flatty who had waited for the dust to clear and was still coming. That sorted and the sweep given some on the trail counting lessons we charged through Thompson’s Gap. I think the turkey must have kept Chris awake the latest on Friday night because he was the first to have a little rest heading up Helmet Hill.

We regrouped at the top of Helmet Hill, so named because on last years Postie Ride Case’s helmet rolled down the hill with Case taking chase. After a photo opportunity Chris noticed fuel leaking from his CRF. The plumber’s nightmare on the Acerbis long range tank was rubbing through the fuel line. Off came the seat and tank and some new line fitted. Crikey, let’s get cracking we’ve only done 50 kilometers of 500! We high tailed it out past Partacoona Station then picked up the rail access track again to Moralana Station.

Unemployed Mitch
If you ever have the opportunity to borrow your bosses brand new 2010 KTM 450 EXC with 5 kms on the clock that the boss hasn’t even ridden himself; it would be prudent to give it back unscathed.  But a front wheel washout coming off the rail line between the tracks saw Mitch and the virgin KTM go down. So, when you see Mitch at Centrelink say g’day.

“And Moses stretched forth his rod over the land of Egypt, and the LORD brought an east wind upon the land all that day, and all that night; and when it was morning, the east wind brought the locusts.”

Ye Old Mate Moses must have stretched forth his rod over the Flinders Ranges also because we got pelted by the little buggers all weekend. Like natures little paint ball skirmish pellets they hit hard and splatter you with their green ‘paint’. Scraping the green goo off your nose and teeth was not pleasant. 

After cutting across Moralana Station we refueled at Wilpena Pound, and then weaved our way through the Bunyeroo and Brachina Gorges to Blinman.

The Blinman Pub had cold beer calling “drink me, drink me” but being strong willed dirt bikers on a mission we would not be tempted by the evil drink when the best track in the Flinders, ‘Artimore’ was there to be ridden. It was 3.30pm and we still had to do a lap of the Artimore Track, get fuel at Angorichina and be at Leigh Creek before dark.

Ancient Spirits
We raced around the Artimore Track like men possessed. Then the ancient spirits of the million year old Flinders Ranges vented their anger at our presence with no fewer than four of us being given a close up look at the rock formations at ground level. Fortunately all minor offs with Case’s shoulder the only real injury. But a table spoon of HTFU and Case was soon roosting the big 525 again.

After a quick regroup at the Artimore ruins we got back on the gas to Blinman by 5pm then bolted to Angorichina for fuel. Chris’s CRF had sprung another leak and he had the tank off at Blinman but wasn’t too far behind the rest of us.

Riding west into the setting sun and dust towards Parachilna with those really big grasshoppers on the move wasn’t much fun and had everyone on the ball. From Para we rode in formation on the tar to Leigh Creek and made the pub by about 7pm.

Phew, what a day, 11 hours and 500 kms. With another 500 kms tomorrow the plan was for some dinner and a few quiet beers then off to bed. Yeah right, when did that ever happened on a ride? Only when the barman was kicking us out did we consider we’d had our few ‘quiet beers’.  The highlight of the evening was when Big Trev got leg cramp in the restaurant and was rolling around on the floor in agony with 8 eight of us in tears of laughter and rather bemused diners and bar staff looking on. Late that night nine blokes all fell into a comatose state until next morning.

Sunday Too Far Away
We sprang, sorry, stumbled from bed Sunday morning to find Chris’s tank leaking again and a view to be on the road by 7.30am. Yes, another dirt biking fallacy is the nominated departure time. I think there are two world time systems, ‘Greenwich Mean Time’ and ‘Dirt Bikers Time’. The latter is made up of the theory that one can think about doing one’s air filter and filling one’s camel back at 7.29am and still make a 7.30 start.
Closer to 8am we rolled out of Leigh Creek.

To date, six of us had fallen off. But then Flatty blotted his clean slate by falling off getting onto his WR in the carpark of the cabin, much to the mirth of all present. Then the tally was seven. Yes it counts, that’s the rules.

We decided the night before to refuel at Lyndhurst, 35 kms north of Leigh Creek. It was here the brand new KTM had its first service. That done and egg and bacon sandwiches all round we set off to Farina and the Mulgaria Track.

Latin for Flour
Farina is an old township with only ruins today. But when the first settlers arrived there happened to be a string of good season and they assumed it was grain growing country and hence the name Farina which is Latin for flour. When the normal weather patterns returned and years of drought struck, the town died along with their crops, hopes and dreams. But who really gives a shit, its good riding country and we headed west to Mulgaria Station. Recent heavy rains saw a lot of bog holes, erosion ruts and wash-a-ways and everyone was having a ball.

Mulgaria Mix Up
Another regrouped at Mulgaria Station with the plan to ride the private ‘Mulgaria Track’ to the opal mining town of Andamooka. But ‘directionally challenged’ Chris tore off with the rest of the monkey see monkey do’s in hot pursuit. I knew it was the wrong track but there wasn’t much I could do about it. He might not know where he’s going but he’s bloody fast at getting there. I had no chance of catching him so I just did the sweep thing hoping someone up the front would realise. Thankfully, after about 6kms someone twigged nothing looked familiar to the last time we rode out that way.

Marty Michelin Man
Back on track we rode around the top of Lake Torrens and planned to regroup at the Stuart Creek Opal Field turn off. Just before we got there I hit two sharp edged rocks really hard one after the other and knew I’d get a flat. Sure enough, I pulled up to hear those dreaded words “Hey Kipo, that front tyre looks flat”. I pride myself on carrying all the gear and being able to change a tyre but stand aside when Marty is on the job. Before I could get my bum bag off Marty had the wheel out and the tyre levers were flying. That sorted we kitted up and headed for Andamooka through the dog fence. We had to be there before 1pm when the fuel outlet closes on Sundays.

Flat Slatts
12.30pm and about 12kms to go, yes, we’re going to make it. Then Mr. Murphy steps in and Slatts gets a rear flat. Marty is on the job so the rest of us head off to get that liquid gold needed to get us home and sweet talk the girl at the servo into waiting for the stragglers. Flat fixed so Slatts heads off, only to throw it away 100 meters up the road in a nasty erosion rut. Marty reckons he barrel rolled sideways into this big hole. The only injury was a sprained electric start thumb. Oh well, HTFU and use the kick starter, you know, that big lever thing on the right hand side. Then the score was eight.

Bitumen Bitches
From Andamooka we had no choice but to ride the 112kms of bitumen to Pimba for more fuel. Then the plan was to take the rail line access track home. Once we hit the track spirits lifted after the bum numbing tar. Two injured soldiers opted for the 170kms of tar back to Port Augusta, so seven of us got cracking for home on the dirt. Cookie did his best Robbie Maddison impersonation by clearing a massive erosion rut at full noise; lucky he nailed it otherwise it would not have been pretty.  We regrouped with an hour of day light left and realised we’d only done 50kms with 120 to go. So we opted for the pipe line track, which is a sandy track but a 100kpm + track. We reached Hesso 52kms north of Port Augusta where the rail line crosses the Stuart Highway and knew the Sun God had beaten us again. So with heavy hearts, poor headlights and numb bums we bailed onto the bitumen for home.

Late (again)
At 6pm and dark we rolled into my driveway. What a great ride. Two days, 1,000 kms, 2 flats, 8 offs 1 leaky fuel line and 1 brand new scratched KTM. A real pleasure to ride with all these blokes and I hope to do it again soon. We might have to Pre Run the Postie Ride again a bit closer to the event so this ride became known as the ‘Pre Run’ for the ‘Official Pre Run’.

Do you think our wives will fall for that?

No, I don’t think so either.

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