From dust till dawn
Old school friends Nigel Collin and Brad Foster recently played hooky for a 10-day motorcycle ride from Alice Springs to Darwin. It was a laugh-a-minute detox that reminded both of them to take time out to smell the roses.
Nigel was technically never a school friend. We did go to the same school but he was three years ahead of me and, if you still remember how school hierarchy goes, you’d understand that he didn’t utter one word in my direction during the time we were there together.
If he had, it would’ve probably been for me to get out of his way.
It wasn’t until years later our paths crossed in the business world. We saw each other at conferences over the years and small chats led to a growing friendship.
The last time I saw Nigel at a conference in May he was telling me that he was planning another motorcycle tour around Australia. He had done one five years previously for what he then penned as the Ingenious Oz Project in which he would seek out and interview business owners on the secrets to their success.
Being a motorcycle enthusiast and a journalist by occupation, I suggested to Nigel that I join him this time around. We made plans and pretty soon were given the green light by our respective spouses who said they would cope just fine without us for close to a fortnight, and a couple of sponsors to help us cover costs.
For me the trip was to help Nigel where I could with his interviews and cross something off my bucket list – riding a motorcycle for almost 2000km in one of the most beautiful – and savage – landscapes in Australia.
But more than that, it was to step outside my comfort zone, leave my work stresses and everything else behind, and just do something a little bit different to what I did every day.
There were deadlines of getting to places and interviews at certain times but it was different to what I normally did, which made it so refreshing.
Which is what travel in any form is all about. Travel to me is about seeing different places, meeting different people and experiencing different things, and we certainly did all that and more.
Alice Springs is just a darling of a place; so different to my hometown of Sydney where the traffic is manic and where, if someone does feel like talking to you, you’re instantly on alert.
In Alice and all the way up to Darwin the incredible scenery is matched only by the genuine people you meet. Like the owner of the Barrow Creek Hotel, Les Pilton, whose 30+ years at the pub makes for great conversation over a beer or two.
Les, like everyone we met, was impressed with our Indian motorcycles, kindly loaned to us by Indian Motorcycles Australia. We thought it was pretty cool that we were riding bikes made by the oldest motorcycle company in the world through the oldest landscape in the world.
Not used to such a large beast it took me three days to get comfortable hurtling up the Stuart Highway at 130kph. This period coincided with the amount of time it took Nigel and I to actually wind down from our generally hectic lives; no doubt no different to many others.
After that we soaked up the dust, the scenery, the smells of passing road trains, slapped on sunscreen and drank copious amounts of water at each break, and made small talk with locals and other visitors wherever we stopped each evening.
The cooler winds coming off the Timor Sea in Darwin were a welcome relief from the heat of the desert and yet also a reminder that our trip was now over.
The good news is that there are many more roads to travel and still the time to do it.
By Brad Foster