In Camooweal that morning, I treated myself to a milky coffee at the road house where I fueled up. It had been a nice camp spot down by the river, but I was feeling a bit crusty and my eyes still hurt. I couldn’t get my contact lenses to sit comfortably; no matter how many times I cleaned the lenses, it still felt like there was a piece of grit or hair or fibre scratching against my eye.


Still, if I was going to ride today, the contacts had to go in. I’m severely myopic and I can’t ride in my glasses: I get a kind of refractive error which means that things are not quite where they appear. The distortion is worse in the peripheries of my field of vision, when I’m not looking straight through the middle of the spectacle lens. Add a bit of dizziness into the equation, and the fact that my long distance vision is poorer with glasses than with my contacts, and that’s why my contacts needed to go in.

The discomfort was not such a big deal – suck it up, princess, I told myself – but I was a little bit worried that there might actually be something seriously amiss with my eyes. I peered at them carefully in Beastie’s mirror: they were red and inflamed, but there was no discharge or photosensitivity. Not infected.

Still, I was feeling pretty ordinary that morning so I treated myself to a hot milky coffee, and I was glad I did because there, out the front of the roadhouse, I ran into Deb. We’d met briefly the previous evening while camped by the river, but it had been dark and late and it seemed that we were both people who liked to retire early once the light had gone.

Deb is also a wanderer, slowly moving through Australia with her dog and her ute: a life without many things, but with the time to see and feel and be. We talked about the colours in the landscapes of the remote North, and the places we had been, or might go to.

The chat with Deb cheered me and reminded me again of the happiness and calmness that I get from being one small human, traveling alone and untethered through this big land.

I felt lighter and my eyes were bothering me less as I headed out of town. I was flying along, listening to music and overtaking trucks when the Northern Territory border suddenly happened. I’d forgotten I was so close.

I swooped off the bitumen and stopped in front of the sign. All the trucks that I’d overtaken screamed past again.

This was a big moment! I’d ridden in the Northern Territory before, but those times I’d started from the greenery and habitation of Darwin; I’d never ridden into the Territory from the South.


My friend Brad had been waiting for me to show up in Darwin ever since I left Sydney in February; back then, I’d told him that i thought it would take me a couple of weeks to get to there. Six months later, and here I was finally crossing the border.

I sent Brad a photo – proof! – and got back on my way.


It was going to be a hot, hot day and my next opportunity to get my hands on a cold drink would be at Barkly Homestead, 260km away. I opened up the throttle, put on an ABC Radio National podcast about criminology, and tried to get some airflow happening. The speed limit out there is 130km/h and the road is good and straight; even the kangaroos were all hiding out in shady patches, away from the road and away from the midday sun.

It was a good day to be riding a 690; I know there will be other days to come when I wish that I could trade my horsepower for a lighter, smaller bike, but today was not that day. The thump of the big single smooths out beautifully at that speed, and the bike felt solid on her new tyres as we overtook the roadtrains. Unlike the more distinctly offroad tyres that I’ve run in the past, the Enduro 3 Saharas don’t seem to give me any headshake at high speeds.

By the time I got into Barkly Homestead, the day was as hot as expected; I knew that dehydration and heatstroke had me in their sights. I crawled into the shade beside the main entrance and cracked open a can of tuna. The tourists in the shady beer garden gawped as me as they ate their plush lunches, but that’s okay. Hobolife all the way.

I filled up both my fuel tanks and paid top dollar for it, and fair enough too: I wasn’t going to see another fuel bowser for hundreds of kilometres, and someone had to pay to haul that fuel all that way into the outback. But what pissed me off is that it was 35 degrees in the shade, and there was no water tap where I could fill my water bottle.

That is something which I absolutely hate: roadhouses in the middle of nowhere, hundreds of kilometres from the next tap, with potable bore water being pumped all over their lovely green lawns…and they won’t let me have a couple of litres to drink. Instead, they’ll sell me bottled water for around $5 a litre, or otherwise in 15L containers that I can’t possibly carry or use. Now, I understand that they might not want caravanners filling onboard tanks with hundreds of litres for free, when the proprietors of the roadhouse are covering the costs of extracting the water from the ground. But seriously, guys: if you can factor the cost of flushing toilets into the price I just paid for fuel, then it wouldn’t kill you to let me have a couple of litres to drink.

My next stop for fuel and drinking water would be at the Heartbreak Hotel in Cape Crawford, 385km away. The map showed two bores along the side of the Tablelands Highway, but as far as I knew they were old stock watering points: there was no guarantee that I would be able to access water there, or if I could, that it would be drinkable.

I contemplated spending $20 on drinking water…. for about half a second. Fucking bite me. I went into the ladies’ bathroom and filled my waterbag at the tiny tap over the handbasin.

Seeya later, Barkly.

0 thoughts on “Into the Northern Territory

  1. John T says:

    Enjoying your posts. Please take care of your eyes they are precious to the life style.

  2. Richard Hall says:

    Happy New Year! …… Great writing – looking forward to a January update and hope all is ok 😉

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *