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A day trip in the Top End

Last post 08-21-2009 09:04 AM by the scooter shop. 6 replies.
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  • 06-26-2009 11:20 PM

    A day trip in the Top End

    I am a member of the Two Wheels forum and have posted a few ride reports over there. Until now they have all been trips on my VFR800. Given this ride involved a scooter, I thought I would post it up here (I am not in the habit of posting these stories on multiple forums). Not sure if I have put it in the right section, so apologies if it is in the wrong spot. It is also quite long. Prior to this ride I had ridden a few scooters whilst overseas plus I had spent a short amount of time on a GTS250 that my brother used to own. After the trip I realised just how cool scooters were and added a BeeWee to the garage earlier this year.

    On to the story: -

    It isn’t often I find myself in Darwin and in a bid to find a break in convention small talk, I opted to stretch out on my own and cover some kilometres on two wheels. Prior to leaving Sydney, I made numerous phone calls and it seemed the hire options are rather slim. The Scooter Shop is the only Darwin bike hire business that I could find. They offer either 50cc or 150cc Bolwell Scooters. Given I was hoping to get down to Litchfield, the 150cc was the obvious choice. Pity that the rental shop had an old map of their location on their website but a 15 minute walk in the Darwin afternoon heat put paid to that.

    I picked the bike up on Friday afternoon and acquainted myself with the bike by having a look at nearby Fannie Bay, East  Point and the CBD. The bike itself was a Sym (nee Bolwell) Euro Max 150.  Initial impressions were quite positive. It had just under  3,000km’s on the clock and aside from a few small scratches imprinted on the side from an unfortunate previous hirer, it looked as good as new. Acceleration was always going to underwhelm compared to my normal 800cc bike, but I found that from a standing start it only took a few seconds for the speed to match where my mind was at. Twist and go, in a second or two.

    Instrumentation is fairly basic with speedo, fuel gauge and a few idiot lights. Blinkers, horn and lights all came to the fingers easily and the blinker emitted a handy chime that was audible up to 40km/h or so. Under the seat is an impressive ‘boot’ that was able to fit quite a bit of gear. More on that later. It wouldn’t fit my full face helmet, but with an XXL head I wasn’t disappointed.

    Fit and finish of the bike was good and the seat was reasonably comfortable. Brakes felt quite responsive as I tested a few emergency stops just in case a photo opportunity arose at short notice. I did find that the absence of a clutch found me riding one handed quite a lot with the left arm leaning on my left leg. Probably a habit that shouldn’t be encouraged. The mirrors vibrated a touch but not too bad.

    Saturday morning came and having kept the socializing the previous evening to a minimum, it was with a fresh mind that I hit the road. At 8am it was 30 degrees, so wearing jeans, jacket, helmet and gloves was always going to be uncomfortably warm. It doesn’t hurt any less coming off a bike in the tropics, so I resisted the touring tourist outfit of shorts, singlet and thongs.

    Out of The Esplanade, onto Mitchell Street and then straight onto the Stuart Highway couldn’t be any easier. Within 10 minutes I was into 80 and 90km/h zones so the going was brisk. First stop was Humpty Doo, 40km’s out of Darwin. Turning onto the Arnhem Highway I pulled over and topped the bike up. Fuel range was tipped to be 120km a tank and I had one leg that was approximately 130km’s later in the day. I opted for some insurance and bought a 5 litre jerry can which was a perfect fit under the seat, still leaving room for my swimmers, camera and map. Unleaded was $1.61 per litre.

    I continued east on the Arnhem Highway and enroute to Middle Point I encountered my first road train. Despite a posted speed limit of 130km/h, the scooter was not interested in sitting on much more than 100km/h. Weighing 100 plus kilo’s was always going to be a big ask and speeding tickets were a concern pleasantly absent from my mind. Being some 30km/h under the speed limit does leave you exposed to some of the larger road predators though. The road train appeared quite quickly in my mirrors and I moved left to allow it to pass. Tip to young players is that once the first trailer passes the shoulder, don’t pull back into the lane. There are still three more to go. 82 wheelers are impressive sights, even on the receiving end of an overtaking manouvre.

    Left to Middle Point, past the Humpty Doo transmitting station and then into Fogg Dam Conservation Reserve. The difference in temperatures as I passed under the trees was a very welcome relief. Fogg Dam is a catchment of the Adelaide River and as a wetlands area, provides a haven for wildlife within easy reach of Darwin. On a Saturday morning, it was near deserted. I travelled to the end of the road and met a sole photographer who was beating a hasty retreat from the viewing platform. A word of warning came my way to keep an eye out for a salt water crocodile that was camped in a small pool of water no less than 20 metres from the platform. Why they build ramps onto these viewing platforms have me beat. Surely a set of stairs would be a better barrier between me and old salty. A complimentary insurance policy issued to me by the Territory Insurance Office providing $50,000 cover should I be on the fatal end of a croc attack did not put my mind at ease. I had to hope that the croc was a paid up member of the scooter fan club, though I did ponder what protection a pair of Draggin jeans provides against a rampaging crocodile?

    The wetlands truly were beautiful and whilst I had heard that a sunset in October is a sight to behold, time did not permit. It was back to the Arnhem Highway and a return to Humpty Doo for a well earned breakfast. Walking into the shops had me feeling like an alien as the locals all wondered what this overdressed moron was doing. Didn’t I know it was now 34 degrees? Oh, and remember, when ordering the bikers breakfast of choice, in the Northern Territory they call it an Egg and Bacon Sandwich. Think they look at you strangely dressed head to toe in protective gear? Try ordering a roll instead of a sandwich.

    Onto the Stuart Highway and it was a push for Batchelor. 50km’s south and it was a right onto Batchelor Road for the slightly bumpy 14km’s into town. I will remember those two corners fondly. Corners are at a premium in the Top End, so you have to be content with a lot of straight and the odd bend.

    The BP in Batchelor was my next fuel stop, fitting 5 litres into the tank. Unleaded was $1.72 per litre. The servo is open 7 days a week until 7pm but I would encourage anyone riding through to double check before venturing out on a scooter. Traffic is not a problem which can also lead to long walks or waits if you don’t manage your fuel requirements correctly.

    Not far out of Batchelor and you are into Litchfield National Park. Now it was really hot. Riding provided some relief, but any stop for a photo op was a true melting moment. Might invest in a white helmet and jacket next time as I am not sure black is a suitable colour in the Territory.

    The termite mounds found in Litchfield are very impressive. Positioned in a north south direction, several mounds were well over twice my six feet height. Made the scooter seem really small. They, along with a number of amazing watering holes, are a feature of the park.

    Lunch was had at the Monsoon Café, a little oasis just past Wangi Falls. Lush grass and lovely shade was the order of the day, along with a tasty hamburger and chips. The bikers lunch of choice. They also seemed to have a world record variety of chicken filo’s on offer, but the hamburger won out.

    As it was nearing the end of the dry season, Darwin and its surrounds seemed exceptionally dry and dusty, but some recent rain still had a number of the swimming spots open. A warning first though, not all bodies of waters are croc free, so if in doubt, ask a ranger before taking a dip. It seemed the perfect way to wrap up lunch, so back on the scoot and it was into the Wangi Falls carpark. Given the absence of traffic on the road, I was surprised at the sheer number of people having a swim at the falls. Clearly a popular spot with the locals and tourists alike, eskies reigned supreme as cold beer and picnic tucker was consumed in earnest.

    The swim was magnificent and I could picture hours being spent splashing about with a beer within arm’s reach. Living near Parramatta River in Sydney made me truly appreciate how wonderful the water holes are in the Top End. Ten minutes in though and the clouds started to let go of some of the largest rain drops you will ever see. This got most people moving as they rushed to move their gear to the dry safety of their car.

    By the time I had left the water and changed back into my sweat inducing riding gear, the rain had all but stopped. It was hard enough to wet a small area around the carpark but that was it. A very local shower indeed. A frill necked lizard bade me farewell me as I left the carpark and it was back on the road to Darwin.

    The run back was more enjoyable, knowing that you could pin the throttle to full and keep it there. Making full use of the down-hill assist feature saw 120km/h on the clock. I also dabbled with a cross legged cornering technique though felt more comfortable in the traditional scooter rider position. Hitting a bump at speed with your legs crossed just didn’t feel natural to me.

    I reached the t-intersection to head towards Bachelor in time to chase a road train into town and was amazed at the movement between the last trailer and the cab. Over a metre by my estimates, with the last trailing wheels seemingly spending more time off the road then on.

    The trip from Batchelor to Wangi Falls is 66km’s each way. The fuel warning started flashing about 20km’s out of Batchelor on my return trip but I made it without needing the spare fuel under the seat. The bike had made a total of 146km’s on the one tank and it took 6 litres to fill. If you are planning on making a few detours, you will definitely need the extra fuel. You couldn’t get much more ham fisted than I was with the throttle, so greater distances at a slower speed is no doubt achievable.

    Returning on the Stuart Highway was uneventful. Headwinds had an impact, with the top speed dropping to 90km/h.  The clouds threatened one last time and then a wall of water fell. Heaviest rain I have encountered, yet, it was so localized that I rode out of it within 30 seconds.

    Pulled into Darwin late in the afternoon and again tackled the water and ice cream. Did I mention it was hot? 418km’s were under the belt and it was time to put the scoot to bed and get back into social mode. Returning the scooter the next morning was fuss free, topped up with the spare fuel in the jerry can. Aside from an out of date website, I can recommend The Scooter Shop and they might just have a spare jerry can to lend you now (there was no way I was getting a jerry can onto the plane so it was donated to the shop).

    Touring in the Top End can be uncomfortable due to the heat but as long as you keep hydrated, the scenery is well worth the effort. So next time you are in the Top End, get out there and explore. Oh, and keep an eye out for croc’s.

     

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  • 06-27-2009 12:15 AM In reply to

    Re: A day trip in the Top End

    Thank you a very good read it should be in Road Rider magazine Yes

  • 06-27-2009 07:45 AM In reply to

    Re: A day trip in the Top End

    I agree. This belongs in a magazine. Maybe Allen could put it as a special post on Scooter Sales?

    Thankyou so much for posting about your adventure, it makes me want to head back there to do some more touring of Darwin on something other than the nifty fifty, as good as it was, that I hired last trip.

    Wanda
    Today 50 (2,500km), Montego. Fly (2,500km), Le Grande (7,000km), Vespa PX (200km), Vespa GTS250ie (46,000km), now looking at the world through Ruby coloured glasses on a Vespa GTV300ie Vie Della Moda.
  • 06-27-2009 01:25 PM In reply to

    Re: A day trip in the Top End

    I loved the article........

    I spent a few weeks up in the top end last year and I loved it! The scenery, the chilled out lifestyle, it was all good....err not so much the heat though. I was missing the place while is was reading the article as it was bringing back all the memories of Darwin and the surrounds. If you haven't gone north you are missing out.

     

  • 06-27-2009 04:59 PM In reply to

    • t2bitha
    • Top 75 Contributor
    • Joined on 07-12-2008
    • Brisbane Suburbs
    • Posts 508

    Re: A day trip in the Top End

    Thanks for the great story, I hired a 150cc in Darwin.  The conversation on the phone and in the store was quiet different. with being told Litchfield was ok, then in store told scooters can only go to Palmerstone.  But Berry Springs I got to and what a great time I had. 

    35 000 scooting kms and beyond

    www.facebook.com/VespadventuresInOz
  • 08-21-2009 12:28 AM In reply to

    • ScootaBug
    • Top 150 Contributor
    • Joined on 01-31-2009
    • Clarkson, Western Australia
    • Posts 186

    Re: A day trip in the Top End

    What a lovely account of your trip. Its a perfect road map for anyonewho wants to cover this leg of a trip on a scooter. Thank you for sharing.

    ScootaBug

    Riding a Piaggio X7Evo 300ie and lovin' it! Thnx Steve@Ace for putting me on my dream machine.
  • 08-21-2009 09:04 AM In reply to

    Re: A day trip in the Top End

    What a great story Phatboy, thanks for bringing it ot us...

    Tassie's number one scooter dealer.

    www.scootershoplaunceston.com.au

    info@scootershoplaunceston.com.au
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