Andrew Collins of Road Roving is a 23-year-old adventure traveler from Boston, Massachusetts. He likes motorcycles, Mexican food, P. Diddy, and long walks on the beach. Not having decided where or how to settle down yet, he’s “between residences” looking for cool vehicles and near-death experiences wherever he can afford to go. He’s currently employed as an outback motorcycle tour guide, allowing him access to an awesome lineup of machines and incredible locales. Please enjoy this week-in-the-life of Andrew and his Aussie Outback life!
This post was originally published in 2011. It has since been updated for accuracy of links and content.
Day One: Monday
My alarm vibrates at 0500 and I wake up in swag somewhere under the Australian sky. It’s dark and freezing outside – the next five minutes will be the worst of the entire day.
Emerging from my sleeping cell like a groundhog with a hangover I trip into my clothes already caked with dirt and oil.
Jay-zuz CHRIST it is cold.
I set to making sandwiches for lunch, re-lighting last night’s fire for a little breakfast ambiance. I exchange good-morning grunts with my boss Magnus, who’s firing up the grille for bacon and eggs.
Within ten minutes the rest of the team is awake, crowding around the tea kettle like expectant fathers waiting for their first child to be born.
After breakfast I wash dishes as Magnus checks the oil level of the motorcycles. The first bike fires up and a blows a hole in the morning serenity. The rest of the bikes chime in, making their presence known for miles. With everyone’s swag in the truck and helmets on their heads, Magnus leads the formation of bikes onto the track and I bring up the rear in support truck.
The sky is clear, track is open and I’m blasting over sand dunes in a quarter-million dollars worth of 4×4. Life is good. Knock-off Ray-Bans shield my eyes from the desert sun as I survey the horizon through the truck’s massive windshield. I spot a big, wide, sandy bend ahead that puts a big, wide smile right through my five o’clock shadow.
I drop a gear and power-on, kicking five-tons of cargo to the outside of the corner in a drift fit for a Fast & Furious movie.
With the engine wailing I counter-steer hard, holding the truck on the edge of control. I risk a glance in the mirror to catch the sand tsunami my rear tires are throwing-
Oh yeah, it looks awesome.
But as the track straightens bushes reveal a big, stinky bull camel taking a piss in the middle of my path. Long legs put the bulk of the animal almost two meters off the ground- squared up with my windshield.
Downshift, downshift, pump brake, pray.
The beast realizes his impending peril and books it. I’m bearing down on him hard, but just before I make a hood ornament out of his humps he veers off- bounding into the bushes and out of danger.
I ease off the throttle, reeling the truck back down to a canter.
Round twenty minutes later I roll to a stop at the lunchtime rendezvous point.
“Ok ride?” asks Magnus.
“Eh. Standard stuff.”
On the last night of a 17-day tour, the team whips up a bonfire fit to signal astronauts and I pass beers around.
Everyone recounts their favorite moments and takes the piss out of each other one last time before returning to wives, jobs and traffic lights the next day.
When the booze is finally drained the crew climbs into their swags and sets to snoring.
I make sure there’s no petrol near the fire coals and wash down a couple of painkillers with a dram of scotch. Mm, better make that two drams.
Day Two: Tuesday
Drive turns dull quickly as we re-enter the realm of pavement and pedestrians. But at least we get radio reception. As this tour concludes at Fremantle, Western Australia, we pop off three bottles of champagne for a group photo at the Indian Ocean.
The whole team gets together for a massive night at the bar where “tour superlatives” are given by Magnus. Beers and vigorous handshakes are exchanged until closing. Our clients retire to hotels; I stay with Magnus at the house of a relative.
Day Three: Wednesday
A glorious sleep-in to 0700 followed by a proper espresso coffee has me feeling like a king after two weeks in the dirt. Good thing, because the tour may be over but our work is anything but.
We have seven motorcycles that need repairs, filters, fluids, and detail jobs. I start spinning wrenches while Magnus runs around town picking up parts and a new trailer. Half the bikes will stay in Fremantle, the other half will be towed back to Queensland.
We don’t finish until the sun has long sunk, but everything is in order before I hit the pillow.
Day Four: Thursday
After another “late” wakeup, we load motorcycles onto the new trailer and Magnus makes ready to head home. We’ll be parting ways at this juncture; I have four weeks off before the next tour and I’ve been left with one of our Suzuki DR-Z 400’s. With a handshake and a nod, Magnus begins another 5,000 kilometer journey and I’m on my own for the first time in three months.
The relaxation brought on by solitude is immeasurable. No one to answer to, no one to make sandwiches for. All I’ve got is a motorcycle and a duffle bag; instant adventure, “Just Add Petrol”.
Unsure of how to begin my month of freedom, I book two nights into the first hostel I cruise by. It’s an ex-fire station converted to dorms with an Indian restaurant on the first floor and free parking. It smells invitingly of curry and marijuana and seems like the perfect place to re-adjust to society. I rumble in and slot my bike into a parking space while the rest of the guests shuffle in off busses and beat-ass camper vans. Loving having the coolest vehicle in the lot, I hid a smug smirk behind the visor of my helmet on my way to the door.
Day Five: Friday
Now that I’m on my own time, a “sleep-in” means a sleep-in. I wake up without an alarm and catch my first clock while I pour my coffee- half past noon.
I break out my MacBook and get a much needed internet fix. After emailing my grandmother I get down to business assessing my surroundings with a few standard Google searches: “best cafe fremantle”, “bars fremantle”, “red light district Perth,” etc. I could research my touring route later.
It’s midday already?
After a shower and shot of whiskey I hit the ATM and grab a wad of cash, tucking the big bills into my boot in case I get jumped. The ride into town is brutal cold, but the anticipation of debauchery keeps my adrenaline going and takes my mind off the temperature.
I roll into Northbridge, Perth’s red zone, at around half past midnight and am pleased to find it in a state absolute bedlam- lights, sounds, and people everywhere. Wedging the bike between the two most expensive cars I can find I power down and start foot patrol down the main drag, soon finding myself at the door of a strip club called Voodoo Lounge.
There’s no line but the bouncer isn’t keen on my tattered motocross gear.
“Mate, we’ve got a dress code ‘ere.”
“Yeah, you’ve got coat check haven’t you?”
“What? These things are like six hundred bucks…”
Alas, the guy was an astute observer of fashion – my boots had taken some damage in a crash and were indeed dependent on cloth tape for structural integrity.
“How much is it to get in?”
“Fifteen, but mate-“
“Thirty you say? Sounds steep, but alright,”
The bouncer thinks about it for a second, shrugs his shoulders and extends his hand.
I march up the steep stairs and walk into the set of Tron– Daft Punk is blasting a hole in my brain, everything is trimmed with neon and chicks in less than latex are flying all over the place.
“At least it’s not one of those gaudy strip clubs” I think, amusing myself with some inner-monologue sarcasm.
By the time I have my coat checked and whiskey in hand I’ve parted with another $20. Taking advantage of a freshly vacated booth I park myself and try to relax. Comfort level in a place like this has a direct correlation with the level of my beverage, and I’m in need of a refill before the next song ends.
It’s starting to get crowed when a couple Germans lean my way,
“Iz it alright, ve come zit ‘ere?”
Always accept an invitation to party with Germans at the nudie bar- I learned that in Hamburg two years prior. Nobody makes it rain like the Deutschemäckers, and on this night I’m not disappointed.
“Und now ve get ze table dance, ya?”
Day Six: Saturday
Missed that one.
I wake up feeling like hammered shit. Which of course, I deserve. I need 600 cc’s of latte STAT or I’m liable to collapse into a lifeless blob forever. I drag myself into a café and check out the barista while I’m in line, as one does. I’m deep in my imagination picturing her slow-motion running toward me by the time it’s my turn to order.
“Can I help you?”
It sounds like she’s asking a second time… I scramble for a line but all that comes out of my mouth is air and drool.
“Uh, yeah- coffee please,” Maybe next time.
Last night in Freo’: I meet a French chick named Adele imbibing a beer in the hostel courtyard. I ask her back to mine- to help me pack- an invitation she accepts literally, much to my disappointment.
I try to shed all unnecessary baggage to reduce payload for my touring trip, but have trouble getting rid of anything. After spending ten minutes explaining why I need all three pairs of sunglasses I’m carrying, Don’t French people understand fashion? I give up and accept that I’ll have some heavy lifting to do if and when I crash.
Day Seven: Sunday
Scrambling to get my shit together before I get fined for a late check-out, my gear is all over the place at half-past ten. Luckily I’ve made friends with the guy at reception and he couldn’t care less. By the crack of noon I’m loaded up and on the road, 40 kilograms worth of junk bungee-corded to the pillion of my DR-Z and another 40 in my backpacks.
Good luck, I mutter to myself as I power out of the driveway.
I’m heading for the Dwellingup National Forest and 4×4 Circuit about 150 kilometers south of Perth, and after braving a “long-cut” off the highway I’m happy to hit my first dirt road.
I follow tracks south as they get tighter and tighter, and less than an hour after pushing off from Fremantle I’m standing on my pegs plowing through deep sand. I’m grateful for the excitement but fatigue quickly- the motorcycle is extremely top heavy with all my cargo and is harder to keep down than a freshly castrated elephant.
The terrain finally gets the best of me and abruptly halts the front wheel, hurling my bike and body into the ground. Soft sand is a merciful surface to crash on, but digging out is a different story. It takes twenty minutes of excavation and heaving to get the over-laden machine upright. I’m sweating like a slave and the acromioclavicular joint I had damaged in a crash the previous week is ablaze with pain.
Alright, back to the main road for a bit.
A few more hours on paved and hard-packed dirt roads has me on the outskirts of Dwellingup. Staking a rocky clearing as the night’s campsite, I erect my $15 tent and try to get a fire going. And try. And try. Finally settling on a pathetic whimper of burning twigs I manage to boil enough water to cook instant noodles. I’m sure I’ll get better at this with practice.
In an increasingly accessible world, it’s becoming harder and harder to write an engaging travel story. Anybody with a week to kill and a credit card can be on the other side of the Earth 24 hours after deciding to leave; having “been to Thailand” doesn’t exactly make you a pioneering explorer anymore.
Now that we have cars and jets and satellite imaging of every square inch you could possibly piss on, the days of stumbling into a clearing and making first contact with a tribe of aboriginals are over.
That doesn’t mean there isn’t any more adventure to be had; only that people like myself have to work a little harder to dig up a new angle for creating a yarn about life on the road.
That’s why I bend the throttle, proverbially and literally, every chance I get to find truly unique adventure stories for RoadRoving.com. My obsession with motoring and lust for action puts a petrol-powered spin on the “adventure traveler” archetype, so check the site often to come along for the ride and satiate your need for speed from the safety of your computer.
Andrew just celebrated his 24th birthday (yesterday!), and he’s currently somewhere in the middle of the Aussie outback racing an Isuzu NPS as a service manager/support driver for the Australian Safari: the largest 7-day off-road rally of its kind. His tour of duty with this team ends in a month, and he’ll probably kick around Oz until the end of the year.