Circumnavigating Australia on a Honda VFR1200F

By Trevor Hedge, Photography by Trevor Hedge

The next morning, Triple J Tours operator Jeff Hayley picked me up from the hotel for another river cruise. Heading out through Lake Kununurra and then following the Ord River right up to the dam wall at Lake Argyle was a memorable experience. For this part of the trip I was powered not by a Honda V-4, but by a trio of 350-horse Yamaha V-8s!

A huge variety of bird species were easily spotted from the boat while marveling at the awesome Kimberley rock formations that border the river. Quite a few freshwater crocodiles were out and about, and one of the biggest decided to take a plunge right next to where Jeff stopped the boat to let us out for a swim. He assured us that "freshies" generally don’t bother people, so we took him for his word and jumped in. Well, it was hot!

I rode out of Kununurra after a few great days exploring the scenic beauty to find life back on the bike hard work. The temperature never dipped below 100 all day, and the radiant heat coming up from the road was even more intense!

Amazingly enough, I managed to set the fuel-economy record for the trip in these stifling conditions: 181 miles from 3.6 gallons for 50.3 miles per gallon. At the rate the VFR was sipping unleaded along this stretch, it would have gone nearly 250 miles on its 4.9-gallon tank, though 185 miles is more realistically attainable.

After covering 700 miles for the day, I spent the night in Broome, where it only went down to 90 degrees overnight. And after getting underway at 7 a.m., it didn’t take too long for the 100-degree barrier to be cracked again. I continued my sojourn south as far as Port Hedland before turning inland past Karijini National Park and onto Newman.

I stopped at Kumarina Roadhouse for fuel, and thought I would treat myself to breakfast. After scarfing my food over the morning paper, I walked back outside to be greeted by traffic backed up on either side. In the short time I had been inside, the property had been cut off by flash floods!

Only around 2 feet in depth, the flood waters would have been no problem for the VFR had it not been for the incredible speed of the torrent flowing across the road. After half an hour passed things didn’t seem to be getting any better, and with more weather closing in a few large trucks decided to try their luck. I watched as the first two went through heading south, and then waited for one to inch across from the opposite direction so I could use the wheels of the truck to break some of the strength of the flow as I crossed in the other lane. Plenty of steering and body language were needed to keep the Honda upright, but I made it through unscathed.

The excitement wasn’t over yet, however, as the run south toward Perth means lots of animals to keep you on your toes. Joining the normal assortment of cattle, sheep and kangaroos were goats, camels and that pea-brained species of stupid bird: the emu.

And it was an emu that provided me with my biggest chest-thumping moment. Previous experience had taught me that emus change direction so quickly, they seem to defy the laws of physics. So when presented with a 6-foot-tall adult bird running alongside the highway, I performed a full emergency stop. The emu crossed the road about 100 feet in front of me, but bearing down on the unsuspecting bird from the opposite direction was a huge truck. I gripped the VFR tightly between my knees and went into a full-race crouch to brace for the impact. The emu escaped the truck’s ’roo-bar by fractions of an inch, I breathed a sigh of relief and the truck driver gave me the thumbs-up as a signal of my (and the bird’s) fortunate escape.

By Trevor Hedge
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