It was pitch black and cold at 6am the next morning – cold enough to forego a morning shower and just add more layers of clothing on top of those I’d slept in.

I went out to the cattle yards with Chook and the boys where there was a roadtrain to be loaded: three trailers, six decks of cattle. Mostly stately hump-backed Brahmans, but a couple of decks of flatbacks too.


The full moon was still hanging in the sky when the loading started. I opened a few gates, closed a few gates on command, but the boys had it covered. Mostly I watched the cattle – enormous creatures, mountains of flesh and muscle galloping around on hooves like dinner plates.


They were so big that the road train driver had second thoughts about loading 12 to a deck, 24 to a trailer: he thought the roadtrain might end up overweight so cattle were offloaded, reloaded.


I watched Chook and the driver balancing nimbly on steel girders above the trailers of milling beasts.


By nine o’clock it was all sorted and we were sitting down to sausages, eggs and onion gravy for breakfast. Lorraine has a huge stainless steel kitchen and a walk-in coolroom that always has a beast or two hanging. The sausages were free range Mount Leonard beef, straight from paddock to kitchen. Nobody goes hungry there.

I took the opportunity to wash my hair while I had access to a hot shower, and then it was time to hit the road again. Lorraine took some gorgeous photos of Beastie, and then we headed for Birdsville. I was so glad that I’d had the chance to drop in.

The road was still a bit hairy in patches, but Diamantina Shire were grading it in the lead up to the Birdsville Races and I was feeling rested and fresh. My spirits rose higher and higher as Beastie and I disappeared into the enormous empty landscape.



It was still early when I got to Birdsville, so I stopped in at the rather famous bakery and treated myself to a coffee and a sit-down. Their pies looked good but my budget didn’t, so I just put some sugar in my coffee and found a power point to surreptitiously charge my phone.

On the edge of the Simpson Desert there, between the sand dunes and the Birdsville Track, it’s quite the spot for adventure bikers.

First, I saw a couple on DR650s roll into town; she was new to dirt riding and hadn’t enjoyed the road into Birdsville one little bit. It had been her husband’s idea – he was a more experienced rider – and it was only her second or third time off the bitumen on the DR. I thought that was a bit rough; it would be very easy to go down and hurt yourself in that loose, deep gravel. You can’t go slower than about about 50km/h because you really need the momentum for stability, but that’s fast enough for a stack to end badly.

I really don’t think that being all macho and pushing beginners out of their comfort zone is helpful or appropriate – it just destroys confidence and then that becomes an obstacle to building skills. It annoys the shit out of me when I see it.


The next bloke to roll up to the bakery – also on the mighty DR! – was a total legend. Shigeru Kuroi was over from Japan for a couple of weeks to ride through central Australia. He’d asked a friend in Cairns to buy him a second hand DR; he bolted a couple of plastic boxes onto the sides, and off he went. Off on an adventure, no fancy gear, no fuss. When I met him, he was a quietly spoken man in tennis shoes and an improbably white shirt on the edge of the desert; you might not guess that he’s also a Bajaj finisher and a bit of a ninja on a bike.

I was a big fan.


The guys and girls from the Great Australian Ride were due into Birdsville in a few days’ time, and the bloke behind the counter at the bakery was planning to ride his rigid chopper across the Simpson Desert for charity.


Darren’s rigid beastie, destined for the sand dunes of the Simpson. My Beastie, not destined for the sand dunes of the Simpson because sometimes – just sometimes – I decide not to make my own life harder than it needs to be.

It was moto city. But, I am a hobo, so I headed back out of town to camp down by the Diamantina River. I picked a camp spot within cooee of a friendly-looking retired couple and spent sometime scouting around for firewood.

I was soon adopted by my lovely neighbours, however: Joe and Lynn invited me over for a beer and then fed me up on delicious lamb chops. It turned out that they used to live quite near to where I grew up.


I was soon adopted by my lovely neighbours, however: Joe and Lynn invited me over for a beer and then fed me up on delicious lamb chops. It turned out that they used to live quite near to where I grew up.


The next morning, Darren shouted me a much-appreciated coffee and toastie before I left town. He wished me all the best for my journey, from one moto-obsessive to another.

I was headed North, for Bedourie.

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