Insanity Revisited- Solo Biking Expedition On The World's Harshest Desert

It was October 2016 and Suhas was just back from a solo expedition covering Australia’s East to West Coast.  We had immediately taken a liking to him and of course we kept in touch because we knew that this craziness was just beginning. As suspected, our biker dude found his inspiration in the Ayers rock. Yep, that red massive sandstone rock which quintessentially represents Australia. Through one of the most punishing deserts on Earth, this expedition is as much about courage as it is about perseverance and unwavering self-belief.  There is also the whole hearted support of a loving family who believe in letting him loose! So here is Suhas at his candid best and we are so glad we got to catch up with him after all this time!

the bike that Suhas used

the bike that Suhas used

1.     Last time when we got together, you were just back from a bike ride covering East to West coast of Australia. Tell us what kept you busy between the last and the present expedition?

Gosh, it doesn’t feel like it’s already been over 3 years since I did the East Coast to West Coast (SYDNEY – PERTH) solo motorcycle ride. Life was back to normalcy just a few days after returning from Perth and unbeknownst to me got stuck in the more routine activities – work, family and rinse, repeat. Still, managed to travel with family and friends & take them on a few road-trips in car and a couple of trips outside Australia again with family.

But more often than not we tend to forget that we need to venture out into the open which then helps you give a different perspective to life.

 2.     We are sure the “normalcy” did not suit you for long. Tell us why did you choose this stretch for your latest bike adventure?

Mid-last year while I was flying out of Australia, I looked down from my window and saw this glorious red rock glowing in the late afternoon light. That kind of planted the seed in my head of exploring Ayers Rock on my Harley. Slowly, I started working towards it as this time it was going to be over 6000 kms of the unforgiving Australian Desert and each and every detail needed to be laid out and meticulously planned.

I wanted to do a round trip starting from Sydney and back again to Sydney covering the legendary Australian Outback thereby seeing the World heritage listed Uluru and the Kata Tjuta National Park. I wanted to push my boundaries this time around and thereby making sure this trip to be more challenging than my previous one.  And what better way to do it than being alone on the road with my bike in the middle of nowhere!

Life, according to me is a celebration – the more you celebrate the more there is in life to celebrate. I decided to “Celebrate Life” under the stars close to Australia’s most recognisable landmarks – ULURU.

Field of lights in Uluru

Field of lights in Uluru

3.     We agree and glad that you chose the magnificent Uluru for your next adventure. What prompted you to take the solo ride again?

 Hahaha, actually this is one of the most frequently asked questions by many people and honestly I feel I do not have one answer. It was purely based on my instinct and the fact that I was not entirely satisfied with my previous solo ride (to Perth) due to various factors as I thought I still could do so much more.

I have always enjoyed the mental focus and solitude while riding a motorcycle; you have no distractions and can really enjoy the moment and be in tune with nature with the pleasure of living in the Here and Now.

Riding a motorcycle enables the perfect relationship between rhythmic movement and internal stillness, drawing out the physical force like no other. Adding to the fact that exploring NT (Northern Territory) was on my cards too kind of triggered the notion of going on a more gruelling solo ride again.

4.     Alright, we are assuming that these solo rides are going well with the wife. How was this trip different from your last?

I had named this trip “The Mile Muncher” from the day I started working on this as it was clear I had to put a lot of kms under my belt on a daily basis, around 500 kms on an average.

The biggest difference was in my previous ride I only had to ride from east to west, but this trip was covering all the 4 directions with me starting west from Sydney, going north from Port Augusta (SA), travelling east from Tennent Creek (NT) and south from Rockhampton (QLD) back to Sydney and the total distance of this trip was 8,312 kms (approx 5,165 miles)spanning 17 days.

Suhas route map

Suhas route map

I was told before I even embarked on this expedition by few seasoned travellers that some stretches were really dangerous owing to the cross winds that is actually a normal occurrence in the Central Australian Desert and along with the ever present and the iconic Road-Trains without which the roads are pretty much empty. I also had to be geared up for the frequent sand storms, thanks to the mining that happens all through the desert. Along the track were the usual mix of Kangaroos, Emus, Camels, livestock and birds of prey mainly the famous Wedge tailed eagle which has an approximate wing span of 9 metres when in flight.

 5.     Did the past experience help you this time? Did it make you more relaxed or confident?

Oh yes, absolutely! Every single ride that I’ve completed till date has taught me some important life lessons with the most important one being that not everything goes according to plan and how much ever you plan, things happen which are outside our control and comfort zone. But the only way to get out of these types of sticky situations is to fall back on those lessons that were forcibly taught. Like they say “Good judgement comes from experience and experience comes from bad judgement”.

I was silently confident and relatively less nervous compared to my previous expeditions especially my previous ride partly because I got to know more about me during that 2 week period and even though that ride was not an easy one (6,927 kms in 16 days) my gut feeling kept reminding me that it was a ride that actually did not test my mettle in ways that I had expected it to.

Queensland state border

Queensland state border

And once I got this thought etched in my mind, the only way to prove it to myself or get over this was to get on my Harley and go on another ride but to increase the stakes and simultaneously making it more difficult. “The more difficult the goal, the greater the achievement” this statement pretty much summarises my thought process behind this expedition.

6.     We call it insane goal. Any problems that you faced with your bike in the course of your trip, and we are sure that even a great bike like yours would have issues considering the terrain and weather?

There was a major issue with my bike’s battery on the very 2nd day into my ride and unfortunately that day was one of the longest days of my ride covering over 600 kms and the starting point was Nyngan with the destination being Broken Hill.

Somewhere in central desert

Somewhere in central desert

It was around 6:20 AM on that fateful day and after saddling up, it came as a shock my bike wouldn’t start! Luckily I was carrying my trickle battery charger and thought putting my bike on charge for an hour or so would kick it back to life. After plugging the bike in, relaxed for a while, had a cuppa and at around 7:30 AM tried to start the bike and I was successful. Now happy, got saddled up again (mind you, saddling up takes around ~10-15 mins each time!) sat on the bike, turned on the music and tried starting the bike and Round 2; the battery died again!! I was devastated, all sorts of thoughts started clouding my mind – what’s going to happen now? Do I need to come back home? How am I going to complete over 8000 kms on a bike with a faulty battery?

I had to think straight now as this was a make or break situation that too on just the 2nd day. I called up the local mechanic, he came at around 8:20 AM, removed the battery, tried fixing it, finally put it back in and, the battery came back to life. Mechanic leaves, re-saddled and I tried to start the bike and guess what, Round 3 – the battery goes KAPUT! It was already 9 AM, I had lost 2.5 valuable hours on a 600 km day and frustrated to the core. I called the mechanic again, this time told to get a new battery and he came at around 9:45 AM, put the new battery on charge for 30 mins and finally the bike started!

I started from that place at around 10:30 AM, no drink breaks, no bathroom breaks, no photo breaks, just 1 lunch break after 400 kms when I refuelled the bike and reached the destination in a total time of 6.5 hours at around 4:30 PM (I was riding west, hence gained extra 30 mins due to the time difference).

So there is always something to cheer about in every situation as they teach us to reach new heights in whatever we are trying to accomplish!

7.     How did you prepare for this expedition?

I did not try to do too many things different this time around, just kept it simple and like I’ve said previously, laying out all the particulars and planning it to the finest detail was the foundation on which the broader aspects of my ride were built.

Once the route was finalized, I started planning around the accommodations and also making sure there were enough places to see nearby after each day’s ride. More than the physical effort that it takes on these kinds of expeditions, I would say it is more psychological as the mind tends to always look for negatives and negative outcomes in every situation and this particular phase during my preparation was more challenging; staying positive through the days of build-up and focussing only on one goal which is to come back home safe and sound and bring back a life-time worth of memories was among the things I did before embarking on my ride.

Tropic of Capricorn

Tropic of Capricorn

8.     What travel gear did you take along?

I have always been a light traveller and since I had made prior accommodations in hotels/roadhouses, I did not need to carry a tent and all its accompanying materials. I had installed custom panniers and it took most of the load including extra fuel, water, and battery trickle charger among others.

Coming to the riding gear, I pretty much followed what I used during my Perth ride which included a Kevlar trouser, a jumper and a leather jacket with elbow, shoulder and spine armour and lastly a back support belt ensuring I stay upright during the entire course of my trip. Also I was carrying 4 different pairs of gloves as the weather was fairly un-predictable ranging from a minimum of 3°c to a max 40°c across 4 states.

 9.     Which was the most memorable halt you made on the way

This is a very hard question for me to answer as every day’s ride and the following halt was memorable in its own way. But if I want to hand-pick just one, I would pick the 10th day of the ride where I had to do ~700 kms in a day starting from Tennant Creek (Northern Territory) and reach Mount Isa (Queensland). This was the longest day of this ride and I had to reach Mount Isa before 2 PM due to the fact that the sun’s rays would be most intense from 2 – 5 PM and post 5 PM it was almost impossible to ride a motorcycle owing to the sheer number of Kangaroos and cattle on the road.

Sunrise in Uluru

Sunrise in Uluru

So effectively I had early morning till 2 PM to finish 700 kms and that too had to ride east which meant I had to leave before sun-rise as in the desert you nearly get blind-folded while riding during sun-rise and this inadvertently impacts the day’s journey. I had to take the speed of earth’s rotation into account as I had to clock as many kilometres I could before sun-rise thereby ensuring I ride slowly and carefully with sun in my eyes.

I had planned on taking only two breaks on this day – first one after 220 kms and the second one 260 kms further from the first stop. The final stretch of 215 kms proved to be the most difficult of my ride (life). This was because I started losing focus & attention on the road during the last few kms and also my lower body slowly started becoming numb.

So when I reached the destination at 1:55 PM, I was euphoric and that inexplicable feeling will remain with me forever. I would rate it as my most memorable halt till date!

10. Any insane happening? We have seen those scary movies about highways..so indulge us.

Hahahaa, no such thing happened to me fortunately in this trip but I would like to share a couple of narrow misses that I had with animals on road which was more or less scary in some way.

First was whilst I was behind a road-train (>55-meter-long truck) cruising over 130 kmph trying to gauge its length for over-taking and all of a sudden the truck driver did a fishtail and I had to make a split second decision to swerve to my right as there was a massive dead kangaroo in the middle of the road. This episode was a good lesson for me to not only scan the horizon for animals which are on the side of the road but also the ones lying dead on the road.

Sunrise on NT highway

Sunrise on NT highway

Every morning I used to see birds feast on animals that got hit by vehicles travelling the previous night and one such instance happened that a few birds were on a feeding frenzy on a dead camel just on the side of the road and within that group was a Wedge-tailed eagle. These are the biggest birds of prey in the Australian desert. I normally slow down when there are birds around as I do not want to startle them, but this time I did not and the sound of the bike might have surprised the birds and the wedge-tail was within inches of banging on to my helmet. I had to veer to my left completely blinded with that 9 foot wing in my face to avoid hitting that bird.

There were a few more with Dingoes, bustards and emus but I reckon these two events were the most scary ones.

 11.Now that you are a veteran travel adventurer, any tips for the budding enthusiast based on your past two expeditions?

Always keep an open mind for whatever situation you might get into and never lose focus of the goal no matter the adversity. Even if you lose a couple of battles in between, make sure the war is won at the end, because when you are on the road not everything goes according to plan and one needs to be very flexible and do whatever it takes to reach the next milestone.

Set yourself a target or an assignment each day and this keeps every single day interesting and after the completion of that task the sense of accomplishment will most certainly make you more connected and fulfilled. Through this process you will be more motivated for the subsequent days’ travel. I would say this is a very important mental exercise especially while travelling solo as one will definitely feel that lack of motivation due to the missing human connection.

Lastly, solo travel gives one the space to think and deal with stuff like self-doubt or any emotional baggage that we inadvertently tend to push to the back seat while trying to get on with our normal lives. I think it is a great catch-up time with your own self which would invariably result in getting clarity in your life.

12. Sounds a lot like Meditation. We come back to our classic- what’s next?

I am planning to travel with the family this time around and maybe take them outside Australia to anyone of the nearby countries like New-Zealand or Fiji Islands and maybe do some adventure sports there.

Nonetheless, travelling to me is like a drug and sometimes you find yourself in the middle of nowhere and sometimes, in the middle of nowhere you find yourself!  “.

Valley of winds ULuru

Valley of winds ULuru

Suhas is the case of “Once Bitten, completely smitten”. We at Bohotraveller will wait for his next solo bike adventure and we are sure he will not disappoint yourself

Suhas

About Suhas

Suhas is originally from Bengaluru, India. IHe moved to Australia in May 2015 and is currently working as a Technical Architect in Sydney.
 
Suhas is a quintessential biker dude and loves going on expeditions on his beloved Harley. His wild vagabond streak is only tempered by his meticulous planning and that has enabled him to go on adventures others can only dream of.

Hope you go inspired by Suhas’s extraordinary journey because we definitely are! Iif you are somebody who got as crazy on bike as Suhas, tell us DEFINITELY! Yours could be the next story we feature on Bohotraveller. After all it is about inspiring the best of travel!

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