FINDING SANCTUARY UNDER THE STARS

A BRIEF MOMENT IN TIME FROM THE 2019 BMW SAFARI ENDURO

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WORDS AND PICS BY DAMIEN ASHENHURST

From Peterborough we headed north and the dominant fixture of the route morphed from sand to rocks. The run took us through the town of Hawker which was our food and fuel stop and a welcome respite. 
The difference in terrain from the previous day was startling. The riding was a mix of fast open runs and slower technical sections akin to something you might trail ride on a WR450F (with heavy duty tubes). It was brilliant to get this kind of variety and while the rocks did bring about a fair few flat tyres, it was also a lot fun bringing the pace down in sections and riding through landscapes that offered hills and undulations rather than flat outlooks and as a bonus we encountered almost no sand or bulldust.
At times the views brought me to a halt so I could take it all in. I’d ride to the crest of a hill and have my vision filled by a scene that couldn’t simply be ridden through with little regard for memory imprint. Thus begins my attempt to explain how beautiful this country is with no real idea on how to do so. It’s hard to describe why it’s so captivating when there’s essentially nothing there, but the humbling nature of its sheer size in all directions, coupled with the confronting silence gives you a sense of isolation that is no longer even vaguely imaginable unless you’re right there. It’s a gift but you have to go a long way to unwrap it.     
We skirted the edge of the Flinders Ranges and while it would seem a no brainer to stop and spend the night in this famous locale, it was noted by Miles Davis that, “Everyone goes to the Flinders…almost nobody goes to Arkaroola.” And so it was the Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary that was our final destination for day two. Arkaroola is on the northern edge of the Flinders Ranges National Park and the ride in is one of the most spectacular runs of the entire six days – little did we all know it was only going to get better without us traveling far.

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Chris Urqhart under the Arkaroola sky


That night the stars showed themselves with a clarity and in numbers immeasurable and the Milky Way shone with a magnificence I’m almost always blind to. There I was with my feet planted on our pale blue planet located in the outer arm of a spiral galaxy, looking up at shapes and colours that seem impossible to be real. All the while our galaxy is moving through space at 2.1 million kilometres per hour. One would have to get stoned at home to think about things like this – nature is the greatest drug. Actually if I was at home I’d be looking at my phone…this is why we ride. 

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The loop on ancient rocks

THROWN FOR A LOOP

Our stay at Arkaroola was the only to span two nights with a loop route on offer for the third day of the GS Safari Enduro. It was good to be in a bed and out of my Katter’s hat sized tent.
We had a loop of about 130 kilometres to run with a short harder section option. The tracks took us through the Vulkathunha-Gammon Ranges and it was the most constantly technical riding we’d ridden yet. The majority of tracks were slower in speed, full of rocks and gone were the endlessly flat landscapes, replaced by some of the most stunning hills and rock formations we’d see on the entire ride.
The area we rode is a part of what’s called the Adelaide Rift Complex, a single geological feature that was created some 700 million years ago that stretches all the way down to Kangaroo Island, 112 kilometres southwest of Adelaide. It’s a much studied area with fossils found dating back 630 million years. The blokes that got a flat tyre that day got it from riding over some of the oldest rocks on the planet, which sadly does nothing to diminish the pain the arse that is getting a flat. This place is like nowhere else I’ve ever been and that day of riding was one of the best I’ve ever had.
The tracks changed constantly from open to single trail, sand to rocks smooth to super rough with a heap of dry river crossings and a couple of fun hills thrown in, one with a bulldust patch halfway up and another blanketed with fist-sized loose rocks. This rocky hill was entertainment for those at the top and hell for some of those yet to climb. Many fell into the trap of thinking too much – stare at a hill long enough and it becomes twice as steep and all the rocks start to look like the boulder Indiana Jones ran away from. Your imagination is not your friend.
On display was another great example of how well BMW run these rides with staff riders on-hand throughout the pack to offer advice when needed, or simply ride a punter’s the bike up hills like this should it be necessary. Never a complaint and always a smile and forever appreciated.
One rider went down hard in a crash that ended his Safari.  
The loop day was probably the single harshest on the bikes in many ways. Miles Davis said it was the driest he’d seen it in 10 years. We saw everything from soft to hard, slow to fast, long sections of bulldust and rocks to slippery river beds and a lot of undulation. It was physically difficult at times and most everyone was buggered that night, but it was so very worth every minute. On prepping to leave Arkaroola I made a promise to myself to return some day. Of all the places we visited throughout the ride, this is the one I recommend seeing for yourself.

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Getting there is always better with good company
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Wouldn’t be an adventure ride in Oz whithout a good white-out
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A rare moment of cloud cover…it wouldn’t last
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Bulldust versus riders and airfilter
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Sending signals to the moto Gods late in the afternoon
Damien Ashenhurst
About Damien Ashenhurst 1713 Articles
Managing Editor of DIRT ACTION magazine. Damo doesn't like cheese or ISIS. Can often be found riding in mud because it's closest to the natural environment of a squid.