Adventure Riders SIG Annual Gathering – Wirrealpa 2017 (Part 2)

From Part 1

“Wirrealpa”, a 1,500 square kms sheep and cattle station in the northern Flinders Ranges in South Australia, was the location for our annual Adventure Riders Gathering for 2017...

Wednesday was a free day that started with a cooked breakfast at the Shearers kitchen. Some people kicked back and had a rest or did some washing but most went for a ride. Some went to Arkaroola, many to Blinman and the nearby gorges or the old copper mines and others took a scenic flight over Wilpena Pound. The pilot was happy to land at the Wirrealpa airstrip to pick everyone up! How good is that?

I had offered to lead a ride out to Lizard Rock but not do the challenging “netting fence” loop that we had ridden on the previous day. I had also agreed to try to stay away from the sand dunes! So at 9:30am, with 15 riders in the group, we headed for Lizard Rock and beyond. Our first stop was the White Cliffs which was a good photo opportunity and a chance to see some of the local geographical rock formations along the Balcoracana Creek. The track out to Lizard Rock includes riding along two creek beds. The sandy section in one creek was a challenge for some of the bigger bikes but everyone got through OK although a few bikes and riders had a short lay down for a rest along the way.

After a rest and photo shoot at Lizard Rock we headed back to Balcoracana Creek where the track heads west and upstream crossing the creek multiple times. Typically, this creek is dry but during our visit it was flowing in a few places but then the water disappears underground. A week before our visit the creek had carried a huge volume of water, as could be seen by the debris along the banks and in the trees. This flow was a result of 100 mm of rain in the nearby hills around Blinman. The change in the river banks added to the fun and challenge of our ride because some crossings were badly eroded. Once again spectacular scenery with rock cliffs and huge old gum tress growing along the river and mountain ranges on the horizon. Simply fabulous.

Eventually the track leaves the creek up a short steep section and I think that many riders were generally relieved to be back in open country. We had a fun run north along the fence line. I was enjoying the ride and I could hear “young Daniel” on his XR650 barking on my wheel with Herb on a DR650 also in hot pursuit. Time to go a bit harder! Daniel, Herb and I had a quick run across the rough country until we came to the main road and the fun ride ended! Soon we were back at the Shearers Kitchen for a late lunch.

We relaxed during the afternoon and had the bikes refuelled ready for the rides home. For this event, we had to get 1,000 litres of fuel shipped to Wirrealpa because the nearest fuel is over 50 kms away! A fair quantity of beer, wine and soft drink was also required and Warren had arranged to cart the fuel and wine to Wirrealpa for us. Very much appreciated.

Gareth with his new BMW R1000GS from 1984

I was interested to see the array of bikes and riders. As usual, the ubiquitous Suzuki DR 650 was the most popular bike model and Suzuki and BMW, in equal numbers, were the most popular brands by far with 62% of all bikes. Other brands were KTM, Honda, Kawasaki, Triumph, Yamaha and Husqvarna and some of the older bikes were from the 1970’s and 80’s. The majority of the riders were from NSW but riders had come from as far north as Townsville in Queensland as well as from Victoria and South Australia and one from Kentucky in the USA.

On Wednesday evening, we held our Gala Dinner in the Shearing/Wool Shed which was well set up with long tables along the board and in the classing area. The three-course menu consisted of delicious home-made soup with a bread roll followed by roast Salt Bush Lamb, Roast Vegies and greens and finished off with Quandong Crumble and Ice cream plus beer, wine, soft drink or water. Fine Woolshed dining indeed. Barbara had even catered for the one vegetarian in our group.

After the meal, we had an auction to raise some funds for the Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS). This is one medical service that is dear to the hearts of outback adventure riders! I had contacted a number of companies seeking support for your group and we had a great array of products donated by BMW, Honda, Adventure Moto, Touratech and Adventure Rider Magazine as well as several Wirrealpa polo shirts donated by the Fargher family. Garth accepted the task of being the auctioneer and some spirited bidding resulted. When the dust settled and with a few subsequent donations we raised $3,000 for the RFDS.  A great result.

Gareth did a great job as auctioneer on the night

The auction was followed with a very interesting presentation by Warren. The Fargher family have owned Wirrealpa since 1950 and Warren told us about the history of the property, how farming has changed and the importance of conservation and the environment. A really fascinating talk followed by lots of questions from the group. The evening continued with talking around the camp fires under a clear outback starry sky before calling it a day.

Thursday started early for a lot of riders who were packed a ready to roll after breakfast and a round of good-byes.

For most riders, the stay at Wirrealpa had ended and it was time to head for home. I had been told about the Nantawarrina Indigenous Protected Area which was located north west of Wirrealpa so Peter, Dete and I had decided to stay another day and ride into Moro Gorge. Bruce, who was also staying in the area, decided to join us in his 4WD. This ride turned out to be one of the highlights of the trip. The area has a self-registration permit system and it is beautiful country with some outstanding gorges and we did not see another person all day. Well worth a visit if you are in the area in a 4WD or riding an adventure bike. Back at Wirrealpa Barbara had again organised dinner for us. This time Roxanne took over the kitchen and we had Quiche Lorraine cooked in the tradition French style. Another memorable day in the outback.

Friday, it was time to go! Under clear morning skies we packed up, cooked breakfast in the kitchen, cleaned up, said our goodbyes to the Fargher team and headed east past the airstrip. Following my visit to Curnamona Station earlier in the week I had also contacted the manager of Kalabity Station to so we travelled on station tracks most of the way to the old railway siding of Mingary which is on the Barrier highway about 25 kms from the SA/NSW border. A great ride without traffic although there were a lot of kangaroos and emus who seem to like sharing the same stretch of road! When we crossed into NSW we had another 47 kms of bitumen to Broken Hill where we camped amongst people and road noise in a caravan park!

Saturday morning we had a leisurely start to the day and we even went into town for breakfast at a café! Then it was 115 kms of bitumen to Menindee. The plan was to head across toward Hay but I had not done much serious planning of this part of our route and even though Dete refuelled in Menindee (Dete’s Suzuki only has a 20-litre tank) it became clear that he would not make it to Hay so we changed the plan an headed for Balranald, which was at least a little bit closer. The day was getting on so we decided to camp and we had another delightful busy camp about 140 kms north of Balranald.

Sunday morning was cool and overcast with a mild dew so we had breakfast and gave out tents time to dry. We then packed our slightly wet tents and dreamed about a hot coffee in Balranald. The fuel estimates were correct. Dete ran out of fuel about 5 kms out of town!! We soon syphoned some fuel out of Peter’s big tank and in no-time we were having coffee and a sandwich at Café Cassaro; the best steak sandwich in town, according to Peter.

Because we were only about 400 kms from home I decide to sleep in my own bed so I rode with Peter and Dete on some back roads toward Moulamein and then I set course for home. I was home at 4:30 pm after a fantastic 2,850 km adventure. Peter and Dete decided to stay in a motel in Kerang on Sunday night and they were both home on Monday afternoon.

Thinking back, Wirrealpa 2017 was another fantastic Adventure Bike ride and event.

Good mates, great fellowship, beautiful country, enjoyable bush camping, fun back roads and tracks as well Wirrealpa Station being fabulous venue for our get-together. And everyone rode safely and got there and back without any major incidents.

Thanks to all involved: it doesn’t get much better than this Adventure!

Peter Maguire


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