Australia I thought it was a dream.

 

If you have had a look at my father’s page you will see his influence made me want to travel, I think I was born with that thought.

 

From the time I could think for my self I wanted to travel and my first chance came was when I was in senior school there were visits aboard. I had quite a bit of help from my parents and I went on 3 out of the 4 while I was there, we went to Switzerland, Italy and Germany.

 

I always would have liked to see Australia, as my father and mother had friends out there, at Christmas there was always a new calendars with views of the country also animals.

 

Australia was like a dream it was so far away and SYDNEY seemed a magic name I never knew if I would get there.

 

I left school feeling I never knew anything or what life was all about and there was a lot of growing up to do. Over the next 6 years I went through an Apprenticeship as an Electrician, because my schooling was not that good I failed my exams and there was little help from my company I worked for.

I worked hard to try to become a good electrician, but when I completed it I was given a card to say I was a labourer this destroyed all I had done over those 6 years and I also lost confidence in myself.

I appealed against it took it to the Union and was granted the status of Electrician after 3 months, I had only one thought after that I no longer wanted to do this I lost interest in it.

 

I went on for another 2 years working in the trade but not really overjoyed with it, then I saw an advert electricians wanted in Zambia and applied. It was a waiting game now.

 

In the mean time I went to a mates Stag Party and met up with a few others, some I never really knew personally they were from my old school though.

I got talking to one of them Peter was his name and told him about going to Zambia, he thought it was a great idea and said he may apply also.

I gradually got to know Peter and we discussed moving abroad there was a change he said really I fancy Australia and I said to him that is really where I want to go.

We agreed to both apply to immigrate to Australia and sent for the forms, the forms came and we ended up filling them out in a pub one evening.

 

We both had interviews at the Nelson Hotel Prince of Wales Road in Norwich later that year and was accepted for assisted passage to Australia.

A voyage like this was a great adventure and requested to go by ship this was organised for us and the ship we went on was the Achille Lauro, it was the middle of October 1972 when we boarded the ship and the start of  quite a disappointing outcome.

 

The ship had left Italy after a refit after a fire earlier that year but was incomplete the ship was still a bit of a mess, the crew were on strike at the time we got on. I remember I went to sleep in my cabin and woke up going on the move and thought they had resolved thing but that was not at all right.

 

We arrived in Tenerife and it all started up again the strike started and we were there a week, when we got going again we had to make up time and the ship made its most direct way to go we went to Cape Town, Perth, Melbourne, and then to Sydney and arrived there on 15/11/1972.

 

I remember as the ship went from Perth to Melbourne we went over the Great Australia Bight I was leaning on the guardrail and could see the Australia coast, I had one thought in mind and that was to see that piece of Australia by road, but I  did not know how I could travel it.

 

The Achille Lauro had various problems over the next years, there was another fire in 1982 it was hijacked in the late 80s and eventually sank in the Indian Ocean in 1994 due to another fire. This ship had problems and never really had a good life.

 

 

Norton Australia Trip one 1976

 

I think the first thing that people wonder is WHY did he do it, but then people often say I wish I had done something like that.

 

Why did I do it? Firstly I was in Australia at the time and wanted to see more of the country. There had been people tour Australia in and on various means of transport, and I thought a motorcycle would be the cheapest way.

 

When I was in Sydney I lived with a family and got on well with them.

The lady’s name was Mrs Pertel she came from Estonia originally; the rest of her family lived in Melbourne.

 

Mrs Pertel’s granddaughter Linda Laos came to visit her several times while I was there, and we became friends. During various conversations I told her I would like to see more of Australia, I said I would like to see Queensland and she said she had not been far north, so we thought it was a good idea for us to both go..

 

It was October 1974 when we made the trip. I left Sydney in my VW Kombivan to pick up Linda in Melbourne and we went all the way up the coast to Cairns in North Queensland which was 2000 miles. Victoria was very green I noticed quite different to NSW.

 

The trip itself was quite good until we got to Queensland, and noticed the roads were broken up and there were potholes in the road which had to be avoided. The trip lasted almost a month and when we got back to Melbourne I found I was unable to do the last bit to Sydney as I was so tired and stayed at Linda’s parents for a couple of days to recover. Linda was OK she did not seem to have a problem with being tired.

 

It is hard to do a trip like that but if you are with somebody you get on well with it is half the battle.

 

I returned to work on the Monday and got called into the office, they were not at all happy that I had some extra time off. At this point I had become unsettled and saw a job in South Australia with BHP (Broken Hill Propriety) I went for the job - did not expect to get it but did. They wanted me straight away so I went.

 

It was good to see South Australia but I do not think looking back it was the right decision, I think there may have been better places to and work, I think NSW was better.

 

I had to return to the UK in 1975 due to illness in the family, and just before I left for the UK, there was an article in the Aussie bike magazine (Two Wheels) that said bring a motorcycle into Australia TAX FRE - that got my thoughts going.

 

This was a decision to make when I arrived in the UK. I set out to find out if any local

motorcycle dealers in Norwich would organise Personal Export for me, and I soon found someone. I had a choice of 3bikes – a Triumph Trident or a Norton Commando Mk2a or Mk3.

 

I would have always liked a Norton as it suited my needs.

 

Norton was in financial problems and they had an offer on the Norton Commando Mk3 with £75 off  if bought in August 1975.

 

I decided on the Mk 3 as the list price was £1161 with the £75 plus the VAT off I was able to get the bike for a straight £1000 _ what an excellent deal!

 

 

 

I ran the Norton over the next 3 months in the UK and put about 2600 mile on it before shipping it to Australia.

 

I returned to Sydney in January 1976 and found some work as I had to wait around 3 months before the Norton arrived.

 

Still I had not made any plans as to what I was going to do with the Norton at this stage.

I had some mates help me to get the bike out of the crate and rebuild it.

 

 

I ordered some personal plates while I was waiting for the bike RR12 and the only changes to the bike were to fit a bikini fairing and panniers, which were later fitted.

 

I thought I would like to see some of the sites I had seen on and decided to go north first as I liked Queensland. I knew the when the wet season was so I waited till it was over before I started my trip. I set off in early June - the very beginning of the Australian winter, it was great as Sydney was getting quite cold by that time and I would be going towards the warmer weather.

 

When I set off the Norton was fairly new with around 4500 miles clocked, it was easy riding in New South Wales as the roads were good and the conditions were not bad.

 

Before I got to Queensland I had 2 encounters with the law. The first was speeding in a place called Maitland and after riding through the night I put my head down laid beside the bike and went to sleep. It was great when I woke up as the sun was warm so I got on the bike and 1about 100 yards up the road was pulled over by the law. The officer really tore me off a strip as it was not done in Australia – caravan parks are where you should rest.

 

I told him I was sorry but I know if I had not have stopped I would have fallen off as I was very sleepy!

 

That evening I pulled into a caravan park at a place called Maryborough  and found from leaving Sydney 12 noon the previous day to 5 pm the next day I had clocked just over 800 miles.  

 

I felt by now I was getting used to the bike again, and the warmer weather made riding more pleasant.

 

I pulled out of the caravan park the next morning thinking I had better get the fine paid.

 

The weather was quite warm and the sun was bright which made me feel good. The first Post Office I came upon was at Childers – a wooden construction but really nice.

 

 

I paid the fine and the next thing I noticed was the hotel with batwing doors which looked inviting, so I thought I would check out the local beer. That was quite good too!

 

My objective was to make my way up the Queensland coast. I had only been on the road for a short while when a Triumph Trident passed me and the rider waved. He had a passenger on the back and a large Pink Panther tied to the luggage rack. We seemed to stay together for some time and we stopped at Miriam Vale where we introduced ourselves. The rider was Steve and the pillion was Kim and they told me they were going north for the sugarcane season.

 

We travelled together for another 2 days and split up as I wanted to go to Shute Harbour. It was a place that impressed me on my previous trip.

 

I eventually met up with Steve and Kim again in Tully where I also got work on bananas and sugarcane for a short while.

 

 

The panniers were not as good as I thought they would be as they kept coming loose, so I decided to throw them away and get a kit bag and tie my gear onto the rack which worked out better.

The Norton was going OK, but the Queensland roads were the main problem at this time and I should have remembered this from the past trip that I had made. Due to the weather being rainy the bitumen cracked and there were a lot of potholes in the road. Not taking this into account I hit a few of them a bit hard and every time I did I got a puncture in the front tyre – this happened quite a lot – I just kept repairing and replacing tubes it did not worry me.

 

It was now about August – the bike had only about 6500 miles on the clock and looked about the same as it did when it left Sydney, but things were about to change.

 

I was in Cairns north Queensland and I wanted to tackle my first piece of dirt road so I asked some local people what the road was like to Cooktown and what they thought of the road and was told it was OK.

 

The thing I have found out is everybody sees things differently and what is OK with one it is

not so good for others. I had made up my mind and Cooktown was on the cards for me to go.

Al the conditions were OK as the rainy season was just over.

 

I was happy to go ahead with it but was a little unsure how the Norton would handle it. As I got further north I could see the roads had been washed away by the amount of rain that had fallen.

There were large channels beside the road and in some instances across the road, it was a bit hard to find a way over them but by doing it slowly and carefully I did it. I could see the advantages of a 4x4 under these conditions.

 

About 10 miles from Cooktown there was a sign typical of the Aussie sense of humour it said {Historic Motor Inn 10 Bloody miles to go} that more or less said everything as it was a long hard haul.

 

 

I rolled into Cooktown pitched my tent and went over to the pub. They were really nice people there and they asked where I came from and what I was doing.

 

They told me there was some sort of sing song or something at the pub and I could come over but I told them that my gear was mucky and I did not have much else to change into. They said ‘No worries just knock the dust off you will be alright’.

 

I stayed in Cooktown for a couple of days and the winds were strong during the time I was there. I spent some time looking around the sites as it was a gold mining area and there were a lot of Chinese people there in the early days. There is still a tree marked where Captain Cook was said to have tied off his ship the Endeavour, also a museum with a logbook which was written in his handwriting.

 

It was now time to leave and travel back on the dirt road again.

 

The Norton was still in fairly good running order at this time but not taking all the changes that the wind had made into consideration I hit what the Aussies call Bulldust which is dust or dirt that fills up potholes and when you hit them the front wheel drops into it. Which is what happened to me and the result was that I got thrown off. I did some damage to my shoulder and also bent the handlebars although when you are in pain the bent bars were helpful as bent more towards me.

 

                                                                            This was taken a very short while after I damaged my shoulder I was in quite a bit of pain at that time.

 

I had to give myself a short break to get my shoulder back to normal again after I got back to Cairns I assessed the damage to the bike. Well the fairing screen had broken so the broken bit had to go and the next thing I found there were 2 broken spokes in the rear wheel. I tried to get some spare spokes but none were available so I carried on and thought I would eventually get some, there was anew rear tyre needed as 7500 miles was average for a rear tyre and the exhaust needed a bit of a weld as there were signs of cracking where it was bolted to the mountings.

 

I sat down and looked at the map – where was I going next? I thought ‘ah Darwin that is my next port of call’.

 

Well I took a look at the Norton and although it had these small problems I considered all the facts and felt if I kept checking them it would be OK.

 

I set off down the coast and got to Townsville, where I branched off west towards the Northern Territory. The roads were quite straight and hadn’t been on this road long before I noticed the vegetation had changed from green to yellow and looked quite dry.

 

I thought the roads were a bit better than the coast roads as they did not seem as broken up and over the next few days I rode across to the main north south road, and then went north up to Darwin. About 200 miles south of Darwin is Katherine and Katherine Gorge which is a real site to see. If anybody goes that way do stop and see it.

 

 

It was less than 2 years since Cyclone Tracy hit Darwin (Christmas 1974) I was working in South Australia at the time. I thought how well Darwin had recovered and looked quite good and I camped there for 3 nights.

 

The sunsets were really somethimg-it was nice to sit o the beach and see the sun go down over the sea.

 

 

It was early September by now and was very hot up there-the thing that I remember most was when the sun rose it was really hot in the tent so I had to get out of it.

 

I decided to go south Alice Springs and Ayres Rock was my next target.

The bike seemed OK at this time but I had to keep regular checks on it as I knew things had started to deteriorate-there were 2 spokes still broken in my rear wheel at this stage.

 

I headed south an a concrete road which I should think was the best type of road for the heat playing on it-bitumen would have melted I am sure about that.

 

I was not too far down the road when I had another puncture. I had so many on this trip it seemed part of my days work to repair one.

 

 

 

The road was straight and there was a lot of nothing between petrol pumps. I got back down to the Three Ways road where I first came on from leaving Townsville. I liked that part of the trip and would not have missed it, this is the Australia I like.

 

Moving further south I came to the Devils Marbles which are very large boulders laying around some on top if each other-the name is quite good as they looked like monstrous marbles, thrown around by nature.

 

Alice Springs…. A magic name, a place you imagine tobe quite special. The town itself was that different from others to look at but I felt different about it-maybe it was the time of the year, as when I saw the place the Todd River no longer existed as it had dried up. Aboriginals camped on the river bed which, I was told was a very dangerous thing for them to do as when the rain hits the high land it rushes down and fills the river bed again without much warning.

 

 

      

Alice Springs

 

It was around 200 miles from Alice to Ayres Rock and I set off one morning intending to get there by the end of that day, but I did not really know what was ahead of me.

 

The south bound road itself was OK and looked OK when I turned off in the direction of Ayres Rock but there was only about 50 metres on bitumen.

After that I could see that the road conditions looked quite horrendous. There were cars coming back from the rock, so I stopped a couple of them and asked what the conditions were like further on. I was told it was like it is here and in some cases worse.

 

The most positive thing that was said was do it and go there because it’s a site worth seeing. Well it took me about another 2 minutes to decide I was going to do it.

 

Looking back now I would not have changed my decision though it was one of the hardest tasks I could have put myself and the bike through but if I had not have done it I would have not have known what I am capable of doing.

 

From the main road there was 152 miles ahead of me. Riding was so dangerous due to the corrugations deep holes and deep sand and I had to keep my speed down to 15 to 20 miles per hour. That night I arrived at Curtain Springs, about 50 miles from the Rock. I pitched the tent and crashed out after quite a tiring ride.

 

 

WC at Curtain Springs

 

I got up the next day to continue the rest of the trip and as I got closer to the Rock it seemed the sand got deeper and riding got a bit harder.

I was at this time beginning to think I may not be able to ride much further as the conditions were very hard.

 

 

                                    In these pictures you will see how deep the sand is by my footprints and also how corrugated the road was.

 

However, I got to the Rangers post and signed myself in, and then pitched the tent. The next thing was to ride right around the Rock, and this made me realize how big it was.

 

I picked up a t-shirt and oddments at the shop, and a bit to eat and a couple of beers which were well deserved and that helped me to wash down a lot of the roads dust.

 

Suitably refreshed and with a little Dutch courage I decided to climb the Rock. As I was going up I met a couple of people coming down, who advised me not to continue, as it was very windy. However I continued, as I considered this as an opportunity not to be missed. The distance from the bottom to the cairn at the top is 1 mile and 7 feet. It was well marked and I signed the book before coming down. I now hit a problem-I was wearing motorcycle boots, which made it hard to go down such a slope forwards-so I descended backwards, holding on to the chain handrail.

 

 

Here is a view looking up at the climb and also looking down

 

 

The next morning when I got up was a bit damp and a lot of dew around, and I saw the rock looking silver in colour, I had heard about the rock changing colour but never expected to see it.

 

It was time to hit the road again and make my way back. When I was riding I found myself constantly using my senses and waiting for something to happen. I was on the road for about one and a half hours when I smelt oil burning. I stopped to look and found that the oil feed pipe at the top of the head had worn on the coil and was squirting oil onto the exhaust. 

 

I stopped and waited, and eventually somebody pulled up. He exclaimed ‘Ah! You’re the fellow who was coming down the Rock backwards!’ I said yes … he then asked what the problem was. I told him what had happened and he said ‘just your luck for travelling on your own’ and then drove off. I thought why stop if you were going to give a comment like that. The next person who stopped was rowing a caravan and has NSW plates on. He asked what had happened and when I told him he said ‘let us have a look under the bonnet. What about washer pipe? That looks about the right size’. He cut a piece off for me and would not take anything for it-what a great person he was.    

 

I carried on for quite a way and then the oil leak started again. I was a young fellow with a ute and saw he had some wire on board and asked him for a small piece. He kindly gave me some and I stripped the plastic sheath off and used it to tighten the oil pipe-that got me right through the rest of the trip and was still on the bike when it returned to the UK.

 

I continued the rest of the day and it was dark by the time I got off the dirt road. I stopped at the roadhouse at Kulgera right on the border of the Northern Territory and South Australia, where I pitched my tent.

 

I had to stay in Kulgera for three days as the rains had caused the roads to become impassable. I spent those few days in the roadhouse which was quite small talking to people who were also waiting for the rains to stop so they could also make tracks again.

 

Reports came through that the roads were drying up and should be OK to start making progress south. I set off the next day and there were large vehicles still on the side of the road, some looked to be stuck and waiting for help.

 

Although it was a 300 mile trip to Coober Pedy it was nowhere near as hard as the Ayres Rock road. At various places the graders were out levelling off the road which made quite a difference to the riding conditions. All in all I thought the trip that day was not bad and I found a place to the tent and crashed for the night.

 

Coober Pedy is a very interesting place-people live in dwellings under the ground to keep out of the heat. This was an opal mining town so I thought I would go into one of the shops and I got talking to one of the shop owners who took me into the back to show me how the opals were cut-how they used the lower grade opal called potch to back off the better grade opal to make the colours show better. Also they spit on the rock and rub it which will help to show the colours on rock that had not been cut-the people I met were very friendly and gave time to tourists who were interested in their work.

 

By the next day I noticed how the conditions were really taking their tool on the Norton-the front mudguard had sheared all its rivets and I had broken 2 more spokes in the rear wheel. Also the right side exhaust had broken its welds. The mudguard had to become part of my luggage and I had to tie the exhaust on with the end of the rope I used for my luggage. I had to live with all of these problems and hope that everything would hold out for 2 more days till I got to Adelaide, where I could get some spokes and some repairs done.

 

 

I arrived late that night in Kingoonya and booked into a Motel but I could not get anything to eat so I had to go without. I took off early the next day, got through the rest of the dirt road and picked up something to eat.

 

I never really worried about the bike and its condition because it made more of an adventure that way. All I was interested in was to keep those wheels turning and the condition of the bike was a secondary thing.

 

 

I thought I would add these photos in as this will give an idea of how the roads were after I left Coober Pedy very straight with very little there.

(Photo 1) you will see how corrugated the roads were, (photo 2) this was a well graded piece of road and (photo 3) you will see a train in the distance and it covers over three quarters of the photo red marks showing the length of the train.

 

When I got to Adelaide my first job was to get the work done on the bike-what a state it was in! The engine was covered in red sand so I got it steam cleaned and the next job was to get the exhaust welded up. It had to be brazed in the end.

 

I tried to get some spokes but there were none available.

 

I managed to get some work labouring on a pipeline in Crystal Brook for a short time, just to get a little money to continue. While I was there I removed the rear wheel and moved the spokes around the wheel so not to have all the broken ones in the same place.

 

It was getting towards the end of the year and I thought I would like to get over to Perth. My ride across the Ayres highway was quite unusual as I had to go through a plague of locusts-they swarmed everywhere.

 

I stopped at a fuel station at Penong and it was funny because after a woman got out of her car she lifted her bonnet and shook a grid she had fitted near her grill near the radiator. A big heap of dead locusts fell out onto the ground.

 

I was lucky at this time as the Nullabar Plain had just been bitumised making it a fairly easy ride. As I rode along I could see signs of where the old dirt road had ran, parallel to the new one. I did not think the Norton could have stood any more dirt roads for a time.

 

 

Views from the edge on the Nullabor Plain.

 

 

The border of South Australia  and Western Australia on the Nullabor Plain.

 

After I filled up I rode across the Nullabor Plain to Norseman. Then I went up to Kalgoolie before turning off to Perth. As I travelled I caught the site of bushfires and decided to stop and take a photograph, but by the time I got out my camera the fire had moved on, so missed it!

 

By this stage, the Norton was showing signs of very bad wear and tear and it was now that I had my third brush with the law. An officer pulled me over and asked a few questions regarding the bike, as he could see it was in a bit of a state. I explained what I have been doing over the past months and he was quite interested, but told me to get the bike fixed up as soon as I reached Perth.

 

 

Perth from Kings Park.

 

 

This was in Kings Park and gives an idea of the size of this tree.

 

I had been on the road several months and had done as much travelling as I could, as many of spares and parts for the Norton I needed were not available in Australia. There was only one way forward, which was to return to the UK and bring the bike back as well.

 

I continued on to Perth and made my way towards the container depot-within half a mile of the docks the poor old Norton gave up and came to a stop.

I got off and pushed it the remaining distance. Taking into consideration the little maintenance it had received and the conditions and terrain it had encountered I thought it had done really well…even then I did not realize what damage had been done to the internal parts of the engine and other moving parts.

 

I got the Norton put onto the container ship to be transported back to the UK, and I booked myself onto a plane.

 

I flew into Amsterdam and had to wait all day to get my connection flight to Norwich. It was quite funny-snow had caused problems at Norwich and although we reached and flew over the city, we could not land and had to return to Amsterdam. The hotel was paid for so I did not really mind. It was a nice Hotel.

 

This photo and write-up is courtesy of Eastern Evening News Norwich

 

 

It was early January 1977 when I arrived back in Norwich and I then waited for the bike to turn up, doing various jobs until I could get something permanent. The Norton was brought up by courier van in March-it was good to see the old thing again-but I had no idea then how much work would be involved to get it roadworthy and I never guessed we would travel round Australia together on another trip.