A Waterford man living in Australia recently completed a lifelong aim of travelling extensively through a large part of his adopted country on his beloved Harley Davidson.
Michael Foley, originally from Faha, Kilmacthomas, celebrated his 70th birthday last December.Michael left his native Waterford many years ago bound for a new life Down Under where he raised a family with his wife Ann.Motorbikes have always been one of his interests and his retirement allowed him more time to indulge this passion. After celebrating his recent landmark birthday, Michael decided to bite the bullet and embark on an ambitious trip which he had been hoping to make for many years.He commenced his epic solo trip around New South Wales and Queensland on Saturday April 28th and clocked up over 5,000km in total. After departing Sydney, he travelled up the coast of New South Wales towards Queensland. His first stop was Coffs Harbour where a good night’s sleep was had before an early start the following morning.“A lot of rain was encountered from Ballina right up to Brisbane. After that it was blue skies all the way,” he explained. Michael arrived at Bribie Island and, after a good breakfast the following morning, made his way to Hervey Bay to visit a friend where he stayed overnight. Next up was Rockhampton for a rest and Mackay from where he deviated from his planned route in order to visit Airlie Beach on Queensland’s Whitsunday Coast. The next morning it was onto Townsville in North Eastern Queensland which was originally his intended destination.
After three days there, Michael travelled towards Cloncurry via Charters Towers.As it was a public holiday, souls were thin on the ground.“If you look at the map there’s not much in between Charters Towers and Cloncurry,” he explained. “There are places like Balfes Creek, Pentland and Torrens Creek, but they are a name on the map only.” East of Cloncurry he found Hughenden which mainly consisted of a pub, newsagents which appeared to sell everything, and a laundrette.“I could not believe my eyes when I went into the bar and was served by a young American girl. I asked what she was doing in a place like this and she explained to me that if she works in a remote area for three months, she can then get another year’s visa extension,” Michael explained.
Another town which he stayed in was Charleville where he ended up at a heritage listed hotel and pub where he enjoyed some chats with the locals.
“In this hotel, the barmaid was telling me how she was going back to Innamincka as she likes isolated places. I can tell you that you can’t get much more isolation than Innamincka,” he said.
“The place has a population of 12 people and every pallet of freight costs $300 just to get it there.” Michael was now starting to get into the harder part of the trip as he travelled down through Queensland and back towards New South Wales.The most difficult leg of the journey was encountered from Charleville to Cunnamulla (“not much here, only petrol and pies”).
Michael fuelled up and went further down the road where a road sign read ‘No Fuel for 260kms’.“I became worried at this point as I knew that my fuel supply wouldn’t carry me this far, so some fuel was conserved as I steadied my pace and limped into Bourke in New South Wales,” he explained.“Bourke is in the middle of nowhere and when people say ‘Backa’ they are referring to Back of Bourke and once you’re out there you are in the ‘Never Never’ so after going through the town I took another photo entitled ‘Fronta Bourke’ which was exactly the same as ‘Backa Bourke’.”
Michael had a quick look around Bourke before departing for Dubbo where he stayed overnight and then embarked on a “quick” 390 kilometre trip to Sydney.
He says one of the hardest parts of the trip was the roadkill which was regularly encountered along the way. “Hundreds of kangaroos littered the highways for hundreds of miles, sometimes as much as ten in one bunch and every four hundred metres or so. The smell of rotting carcases wasn’t very nice. The reason for this roadkill is the drought as the roos come to the roadside to graze because there’s no grass whatsoever in the paddocks. The emus seem to have a better brain than the roos as they will go the opposite way as the sound approaches. I had an encounter with a mob of roos when they came across my path and only for the ABS brakes on the bike I might not be here today.”
The road trains, which can be up to 53 metres long, were another interesting feature which Michael encountered. “This is the main freight method that’s used in the Outback as the roads are gun barrel straight and go on for hundreds of miles,” he explained. During many parts of his trip it was very difficult to take pictures on the roadside as there were no hard shoulders in which to stand in. Michael arrived home in Sydney on May 14th “a little bit sore, but otherwise okay”.Not one to sit on his laurels, Michael is already planning his next epic adventure which will be a trip to the Nullabor Plain in southern Australia, located on the Great Australian Bight coast. Not bad going for a 70 year old!