Monday, 27 July 2009

The Plan

To ride Postie Bikes (small motorcycles used by Australia Post to deliver mail) from Sydney to Uluru across the Australian Outback traversing three desserts the Strezlecki, the Sturt Stony and the Simpson Dessert. The team will be riding in support of the charity Autism South Australia of which they will be seeking sponsorship for.

The Team

Tom Budin, Ben Budin from Adelaide and Mj Figg from Sydney

The Journey

The team left Sydney at 4.30am on Monday 15th June 2009. It was a clear crisp morning and the three blokes had to get used to the cold air pretty quickly.

Without too much trouble the three made it over the magnificent Blue Mountains and were well on their way towards the Australian outback. A number of stops were made through New South Wales, to meet people and promote the cause, Mudgee, Gilgandra, Warren and Bourke.As the three travelled west from Bourke, they encountered their first unsealed road. They proceeded with trepidation about what they had got themselves into. However they soon became relaxed about riding on very average roads when they considered the number of kilometres which they still had to travel.

By the time camp was made among the huge granite boulders around Tibooburra, the last town the team would pass through in NSW, the team had run into all sorts of different wildlife, snakes, emus, many kangaroos, wild horses, talking cockatoos and even wild goats.

The team then passed into South Australia, and headed towards Innamincka. The three blokes felt that they may have spent a little too much time eating too much damper in NSW and so decided to start early and make as many kilometres as possible in the day to not only get to Innamincka but pass it to the planned campsite at Walkers Crossing. This called for a freezing pre-dawn ride but very spectacular and rewarding tracks of which to follow.

Relief is the best way to describe the taste of the freshly rehydrated coffee served with bacon and egg rolls at Innamincka of which the three devoured.

Walkers Crossing was reached that afternoon and camp was made. However, a terrible and worrying discovery was made. No, it wasn’t that they had made camp in what could only be described as a Mecca for all the insects in South Australia, but that Ben’s never ending complaints regarding the poor performance of his motorcycle were not unfounded. Closer inspection had revealed that one of the bearings supporting the rear wheel had completely collapsed and disintegrated. This was a big problem as there aren’t too many motorcycle shops in the middle of the Strezlecki Desert.

As it would have it, luck was on their side. Out of nowhere a 4WD appeared and stopped by the fateful infested campsite. It turned out the driver worked for an oil and gas drilling company who was drilling not far from Walkers Crossing. It was told that the work shop at the rig might have reasonable tools and supplies to fix the motorcycle at least to get them to their next planned stop, Birdsville. So Mj set off on his motorcycle following the white 4WD to the oil rig.

Upon arrival at the drilling rig, Mj was directed to the workshop where the burly mechanic was already banging away at the ruined bearing within the wheel. He was told to keep his helmet on his head, his hands in his pockets and to watch out for the foreman.
The mechanic had found a replacement bearing that would fit the wheel perfectly and solve the problem entirely. Just as he was about to insert the new bearing into the wheel, the site foreman showed up. Mj was not quite politely told to take his things and leave the area as the drilling company’s OH & S policy stated that they could not risk helping a stranded traveller in the middle of the desert in case something happened to them later on as a result of the work the company had done to the bike.

Mj returned to camp with the news. Obviously the whole team was a little confused about the company’s OH & S policy.
Not all hope was lost though, while Mj was away another oil company’s 4WD had stopped at the camp and offered the service of the workshop at the pumping plant not far in the opposite direction as well as free sandwiches. The team accepted the sandwiches, and also the offered help.The next morning the trip was made to the pumping station. Instantly the team’s journey and purpose was welcomed by the company and the problem attended to by the engineer. Mj and Ben were told to help themselves to Coffee, Tea, biscuits and cakes while the bike was being fixed. They definitely took up that offer as their pockets were full of biscuits as they left the engineer’s workshop very grateful with their fixed back wheel.

With Ben’s bike fixed, the team headed north towards the Birdsville Track which would lead them across the Sturt Stony Desert to Birdsville, the gateway to the Simpson Desert.

After two days of very bumpy dusty roads, they arrived in Birdsville and were pleased with the very delicious curried camel pies from the famous Birdsville Bakery. That afternoon was spent resupplying and making preparations for the planned departure across the Simpson Desert the next day. Coincidentally, a television crew with the ABC were in Birdsville at the same time filming an episode of Landline. Intrigued with the three’s story they requested an interview to be included in an episode due to be screened in August 2009.

The next morning after some final motorcycle maintenance, with the assistance of the baker’s full mechanical workshop (kindly offered by Dusty the baker, probably because of the large amounts of camel pies consumed by the team) the three blokes headed off to the Simpson Desert full of confidence and anticipation.

From the first big red sand dune of the Simpson Desert the three blokes were confronted by a challenge of epic proportions. A postie bike has only 110cc of engine power, and was expected by the team to guide each of them with all their fuel, food, water and supplies up 30metre tall dunes of extremely dry soft sand.

Understandably, the poor little bikes could not achieve these great expectations, only ever making it at most a quarter of the way up each dune. The three blokes were forced to push one another’s bikes up each and every single sand dune.On the first day in the Simpson, the team struggled for six hours. By nightfall they had made less than 30kilometres of progress across the desert. In consideration of the 630km still to go before the next settlement of any kind, the decision was made by the team that it was completely impractical and probably impossible to continue on their planned journey. With bitter reflection and great disappointed the decision was made to turn back towards Birdsville.

The journey back to Birdsville was a completely different experience. Whereas the team was pushing the bikes up every single sand dune the day before, the team was riding up every dune on the way back. What had taken them 6 hours the day before was completed in 45 minutes. The team discovered that because of prevailing winds across the desert every sand dune is short and steep side on one side and a long and gradual on the other side. Obviously the long and gradual side was much easier for the poor little bikes and certainly more practical. The three blokes were going the wrong way.

All spirit wasn’t lost however, the team was still determined as ever to make it to Uluru like they had originally planned. So they headed off back down the Birdsville track with the intent of going around the Simpson Desert, up the Oodnadatta track and still ending up at the big rock.

The Birdsville track offered new challenges for the team, more mentally than the brutal physical challenges of the Simpson Desert. The straight, extremely rocky and bumpy roads were difficult to persevere, but the team was rewarded with the opportunity of seeing Lake Eyre soon after reaching Marree in South Australia.

On the journey up the Oodnadatta track, towards Dalhousie Springs, the team saw some amazingly spectacular scenery. Huge rock formations and vast open plains made riding exciting and distance was easily past.

The team made it to Dalhousie Springs eventually, which are on the far western side of the Simpson Desert and were rewarded with huge naturally heated hot springs at perfect bath temperature. It is not known if the springs will ever be the same after the three blokes had their first swim, primarily due to the complete lack of bathing by the team until that point.

After watching the sunrise the next morning from the beautiful warm water, the team headed off in the direction of the Northern Territory and ultimately Ayer’s Rock.

After two days and quick stop at Kulgera to purchase a few celebratory drink supplies the team were on the final stretch of road heading towards Ayers Rock.

Within 50 kms of the Ayer’s Rock, the team caught their first glimpse of the goal they had been working up to since leaving Sydney. Soon afterwards a campsite was found within view of the rock and drinks were had whilst reflecting on where they had come and what they had achieved.

The next day, feeling a little less than 100%, the three began than long and boring ride down to Adelaide where their journey would conclude. By that stage however the bikes had been through a lot and where not running at a hundred percent. Another day of maintenance was decided upon when three flat tyres in succession and a completely worn sprocket hampered progress. Tubes where changed chains were tensioned and the three headed for home.

The long straight sealed road of the Stuart Highway took the three all the way to Adelaide without any major hindrance, except of course for the only rain of the trip which poured on the three on their last day of riding. They rode into Adelaide on Saturday 4th July, just short of three weeks after they left. They covered approximately 5000kms in total. They camped out around a fire every night, cooking breakfast lunch and dinner out of two pots they had brought with them. They met many interesting people and heard a lot of interesting stories and were very happy to have a shower and put on a clean pair of clothes.

The Cause

Autism South Australia is a registered charity which actively promotes the acceptance of people with Autism Spectrum Disorder and provides services to enable them and their families to be an integral part of society.

The team are trying to raise as much money for the charity as possible and would really appreciate your support.
To make a donation please go to and follow the links on the front page to support the 3 blokes, 3 Bikes, 3 Deserts appeal.