1974 First Motorcyclists to Complete the CSR

The Canning Stock Route is a treasure trove of little known achievements, one of these being the Canning Stock Route motorcycle ride of 1974.

Newspaper and date of article unknown. Photograph: Ted Smith THEY’LL TACKLE THE STOCK ROUTE ON BIKE These three men hope to conquer the Canning Stock Route, one of the last frontiers of Australia – on motor-cycles. “The only way to beat the stock route is with a motorcycle,” said Paul Allardyce (25), a service station proprietor of Dagliesh, this week. Paul and the other two members of the team, Colin Fitzgerald (21), a farmer of Merredin, and Andy Bowman (21), a mechanic pilot of Sorrento, intend to [be] the first men to cycle the length of the stock route. They will leave on August 25, equipped with special Yamaha agricultural motorcycles supplied by Ken George. The trio will be taking no chances during the trip. Provided DCA approval is given, the team will have petrol and supplies flown to them each day by aircraft.

THEY’LL TACKLE THE STOCK ROUTE ON BIKE

These three men hope to conquer the Canning Stock Route, one of the last frontiers of Australia – on motor-cycles.

“The only way to beat the stock route is with a motorcycle,” said Paul Allardyce (25), a service station proprietor of Dagliesh, this week.

Paul and the other two members of the team, Colin Fitzgerald (21), a farmer of Merredin, and Andy Bowman (21), a mechanic pilot of Sorrento, intend to [be] the first men to cycle the length of the stock route.

They will leave on August 25, equipped with special Yamaha agricultural motorcycles supplied by Ken George. The trio will be taking no chances during the trip. Provided DCA approval is given, the team will have petrol and supplies flown to them each day by aircraft.

Newspaper and date of article unknown. Photograph: Ted Smith

It was 7am on the morning of 26 August 1974 when three motorbikes, supported by a Piper Cherokee airplane and two airmen, departed Wiluna.

Seventeen days later, at 5pm on the 11 September, two bikes and three men arrived at Billiluna Station. The next day, on the 12 September, one bike rode into Halls Creek at 7pm, carrying two men.

The first complete motorcycle ride of the Canning Stock Route had been completed. Total duration from Wiluna to Halls Creek – 18 days. This is their story.

 

What was the purpose of this expedition?

First, a very brief history on the purpose of the Canning Stock Route and a map to set the scene.

The cattle in northern Australia, the area known as the Kimberleys, had ticks that caused red water fever and death. As a result, these cattle were quarantined to the north to stop the spread of ticks to tick-free herds in the rest of Australia. This meant that cattle owners in the rest of Western Australia monopolized the market, and could force hungry people in the goldfields to pay exorbitant prices for beef.

The desperate East Kimberley cattlemen urged the government of the day to do something. Without a market, the cattle stations would fail. It was suggested that a stock route be established from the north to the south, through the deserts of Western Australia. It was argued that three to four months of droving through the dry deserts would kill the ticks, as the journey was longer than the life cycle of a tick, and the cattle would arrive in the south tick free to be fattened and sold to the goldfields.

The Wiluna-Halls Creek stock route was surveyed and more than 51 wells were built between 1906 and 1910. Each Well or water was within a days’ cattle walking distance of one another, approximately 25km.

Between 1908 and 1959, the Wiluna-Halls Creek stock route, or as it later became known, The Canning Stock Route after its chief surveyor and well builder Alfred Werner Canning, was rarely used for its original purpose. Only 39 drives of horses and cattle (and goats during well building) are said to have taken place over a period of 49 years. The hardship of this route was daunting – drovers having to deal with drought, fast deteriorating wells, lack of feed, skirmishes with Aborigines and the length of time it took to traverse – 3 to 4 months. With the advent of road transport and poisons for killing ticks, the cattleman’s life changed forever. There were now easier and quicker ways to transport cattle and the Canning Stock Route Wells fell into serious disrepair – fire, termites and acts of sabotage taking its toll.

Australian Geographic map of the CSRThe Canning Stock Route (CSR) was entering a new era, one that would see a new beast on the Canning. Motorized vehicles began testing their ability to follow in the tracks of camels, horses and cattle, often using short sections of the CSR to access and link multiple points of interest - survey and mining exploration the primary reason.

The deserts of Western Australia and the Canning Stock Route soon became a crisscross of dirt track networks. As an unbroken route however, it was extremely rare for an expedition to complete the entire length in one journey, and as a result, the camel and cattle pad faded back into the desert sands and foliage.

In the 1960’s, the north, south and centre of the track was clearly defined through frequent use, but there were sections in between where the Canning Stock Route, even as a wheel pad, was overgrown and almost indistinguishable from the surrounding desert.

In the 1970’s the track from Wiluna to Well 17 and Durba Spring was easy to travel, as it was between Well 33 and Halls Creek. Whilst the track in these places was well defined, it did not link every well, and some wells were bypassed by 10km.

Whilst cattle pads might still be seen 30km wide in places, it was only really visible from the air. The gentler passage of horses, cattle and camels had given way to hard edged vehicles and other machinery, brutally cutting a more long term network of tracks and seismic lines into the desert landscape, making it easier for others to follow. And follow they did. In the 1960’s and early 1970’s, desert exploration and surveying was at its peak in the area of the Canning Stock Route north of Well 33.

It was during this period that there were two attempts to walk the entire length of the +-1850km Canning Stock Route. In 1972 three men attempted from the south and in 1973, two attempted from the north. Both attempts failed.

These attempts sparked sensational national news coverage, propelling the Canning Stock Route into the imagination of a public thirsting for daring outback adventure. If people thought they could walk it, surely it was possible to travel by vehicle?

And so a group of young dirt bike enthusiasts, along with their sponsor "Yamaha", set about becoming the first to ride motorbikes the entire length of the Canning Stock Route to prove that modern bikes, now increasingly used for stock mustering, were up to the endurance task of the horse, camel and cattle droves of yesteryear.

1974 The first motorcylists to cross the length of the Canning Stock Route

 

THE FIRST ATTEMPT TO TRAVERSE THE NOTORIOUS CANNING STOCK ROUTE

.....on motor-cycles will be made by three Perth men. Planning to conquer the 1,800 kilometres of harsh desert are speedway rider Andy Bowman, 21, left, of Sorrento; service station manager Paul Allardyce, 25, of Daglish; and farmer’s son Colin Fitzgerald, 21, right, of South Perth.

Riding 175cc farm bikes, they will leave Wiluna on August 26.

“We are arranging to keep in radio contact with our base and to have supplies dropped to us by light plane,” Mr Fitzgerald said yesterday.

“Even if the airdrops prove impracticable, we shall still go ahead. The toughest stretch is likely to be the 500 kilometres of sand dunes beyond Lake Disappointment. We are hoping to reach Halls Creek in five days. We realise that it might well take 10.”

Newspaper and date of article unknown.

 

 

Last Updated on Thursday, 08 March 2018 19:50

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