Raised eyebrows followed by “Bloody Hell; you’ve seen more than us!” has become the de-rigueur answer when the Australian’s we meet discover that we’ve managed to ride 13,000km between Sydney and Melbourne – a distance of 892km! – Plus another 3500km on Tasmania.
For various reasons our tour of Australia has so far been restricted to the South East corner. Firstly we had to find a bike for Tim and then my sister came for her now annual Christmas/New year holiday. We also wanted to visit Tasmania but the biggest reason is that everyone we’ve spoken to has told us it’s just too hot to head out ‘Central’ until March/April.
Think of Australia…
…what pictures do you conjure up in your head? For me, I can see beaches’, the Outback, Uluru, Sydney Opera House etc and I think most people would be the same. Luckily for us, sandwiched between the populated coastal belt and the Outback is the Great Dividing Range. Stretching a few thousand kilometers from the outskirts of Melbourne up into southern Queensland, this mountainous (well… hilly!) divide is an often picturesque strip, full of National Parks (NP), rivers, lakes, reservoirs, and contains all of Australia’s mainland ski fields. The region is cris-crossed with logging tracks, dirt roads and 4×4 tracks that have given us a great opportunity to explore this under publicized part of the country; and well worth exploring it was to.
Coming from England it’s hard to comprehend the size of Australia. The following picture helps put it into perspective.
We found the following extract from an early visitor’s writings in Canberra’s Australia Museum and think it does a good job of summing up some of the peculiarities of this ancient continent.
“Trees retained their leaves and shed their bark instead, the swans were black, the eagles white, the bees were stingless, some mammals had pockets, others laid eggs, it was warmest on the hills and coolest in the valleys, even the blackberries were red”
J. Martin 1830’s
Christmas once again
“Bloody Hell…it stinks in here!” were my sisters first words after stepping into our Melbourne hotel room. She had a point. After a week in the bush stuff tends to get rather smelly and it wasn’t helped by lugging all my kit up to the 6th floor after a stop/start ride through the eastern suburbs in 30°C heat. I’d only had enough time for a shower before heading off to the airport to collect her and so my smelly kit laid in a heap on the floor. Two days later Michele emerged from the Botanical Gardens gift shop with a pair of natural odor eaters for my riding boots.
We spent four days in Melbourne before getting out of town for a look around. The big black bag on the back of my bike contains all my camping gear and so I posted it on to our Sydney hotel to make room for Michele’s rucksack. She’d done a good job of packing light and so fitting us both on the bike was relatively easy. We spent a few days riding along the Great Ocean road before turning inland for the old gold mining town of Ballarat where we rented a cabin within walking distance of town and the reconstructed/preserved site at Sovereign Hill. The town is full of well preserved 19th century buildings that make for an interesting walk but the rain we’d encountered in Melbourne and the Great Ocean road had caught us up and as we emerged from the supermarket so the heavens opened and we took shelter in the adjacent café. Within a few minutes the drains became overwhelmed, the road flooded and came within inches of flooding the supermarket. On the news that evening we learnt that a tornado had passed through the outskirts of town!
In Mansfield we took one look at the cheap hotel room I’d booked and realized there was no way we could spend Christmas in it. By now we’d stayed in many cabins and decided to see if we could get one over Christmas. It was Christmas Eve so we were pushing our luck but the campsite on the edge of town had a choice of two and after very little consideration we took the larger one. I returned the hotel key to the reception explaining our change of plans (fortunately I hadn’t parted with any cash!)
All we had to do now was inform Tim of our change of plans but this was soon resolved as he appeared around the corner.
We spent Christmas Eve, Day and Boxing Day in the cabin and cooked the biggest Christmas dinner I’ve seen in years. There was so much that we had a re-run on Boxing Day!
We left on the 27th and Tim rode with us as far as Goulburn before heading off to do his own thing whilst Michele and I carried on to Sydney. Not only were we planning to see the New Year fireworks but Michele had bought me a place on the Sydney Harbor Bridge climb.
Not being a great fan of heights I was a little apprehensive about the climb and constantly put up with Michele’s ribbing. She’d not only done it before but was coming with me “To make sure you do it!”
The day dawned with a cloudless blue sky which continued through to my late afternoon ‘departure’ time. It turned out to be a great experience with stunning views across Sydney. At the top our very comical guide gave us a few suggestions regarding potential vantage points for the fireworks and told us that wherever we went we’d need to get there early, ie mid-morning. He also said that this year was set to be the biggest display ever with fourteen sea container loads of fireworks!
We spent the next few days visiting the usual tourist sites around the city and trying to pick a good vantage point. We eventually settled on a spot quayside that afforded us sufficient shade for a full day in the sun and gave us a good view of the bridge.
Steven & Marlouse, the Dutch cyclists we’d spent some time with in Malaysia were spending six months working in a local restaurant to help fund a continuation of their trip. They joined us for a while in the afternoon before heading off to their private function. It was great to see them again and funny to hear that neither of them had so much as sat on their bikes since arriving four months earlier. Starting again will be hard, especially in the mountains of New Zealand!
Three weeks had flashed by and all too soon it was time for Michele to return home. A long queue at the under staffed check-in meant there was no time to have breakfast together so after a tearful farewell I waved her off through passport control.
Back in the Bush
“Page 22, F7, Newnes. 50km Nth of Lithgow. Dirt road. Small creek crossing. Camping in field opposite” were the instructions I’d received from Tim over a very poor telephone line. North of Lithgow the road resembled a cluster bombed Afghan runway but it carried me to the rim of a canyon in which I would find the campsite. I was afforded beautiful views as the road plunged into the canyon, turned to dirt and passed a beautifully located station. I eventually crossed the creek where I found a grassy area the size of several football pitches surrounded by 150m high cliffs and forest. What a place to camp!
On the way into Sydney Michele and I had stopped off to visit Ralph (Wayne’s mate). He’d told me he would be at home in Byron Bay until January 10th and that Tim and I were welcome to join him and he’d show us around the area. With this in mind we left our beautiful campsite after two nights and headed north. On the way to camp that night we discovered in Merriwa and again in Coolah that EVERYTHING bar the pub closes after lunch on Saturdays and so we made do with what supplies we had. Whilst we had phone reception I sent a text to Ralph to let him know we were on our way. His reply said not to bother as much of the region was flooded and that rain was forecast to continue for another week!
Wayne & Chris Todhunter were expecting another visit from us prior to them leaving for Canada. Rather than just turning up, I called to ask when would be convenient to visit. “Whenever you’re passing through” said Chris over the phone. “Luvvly jubbly” I said “See you in a few hours!”
Waynes World II
On arrival we were immediately handed cold beers and fresh towels for the shower. The caravan we’d slept in previously had been sold but with their daughter Lee now in the USA there were enough spare rooms for one each. We chatted all evening over dinner and drank far too much white wine. I virtually passed out as my head hit the pillow.
Wayne arranged with Oliver & Christina (present owners of Cundle Flat Farm) for us to spend some time there, get a feel for the farm and do a bit of work in return for accommodation. We couldn’t go until the end of the week though as they had other visitors. “You’ll have to stay here then” said Chris with a big grin. So we did, for another six days.
The hospitality afforded us during this time was overwhelming. Cooked breakfasts, lunches and dinners. Wine, beer etc. Unbelievable.
Wayne had a food de-hydrator and suggested we use it to prepare food to carry in the Outback. Tim bought 3kg of beef which he marinated prior to dehydrating. He also dried onions , peppers and courgettes before Wayne gave us his previously dried tomato and (mind blowing) chilli. All I managed to do in return was to help Chris set up an online Blog for their forthcoming year in Canada. Not that they expected anything in return but it made me feel better if I could do something.
There was no need for a big goodbye as Wayne & Chris would be visiting the farm whilst we were there but nevertheless we drank so much during our final meal together that we didn’t manage to leave until gone 1500 the following day.
Down on the farm
Day 1 – Our first job was to help Oliver replace guttering on his neighbors’ farm. The three of us rode the 8km on the tractor as it was the only way to get across the flooded river. After a mornings work we met Kelvin & Maree the owners and had lunch with them, Maree’s mother and 80yr old neice. It reminded me of visiting my gran’s house when I was a kid.
Kelvin was a real character. His first words to Tim were “Aren’t you the blokes we beat in the cricket!?” to which Tim replied “Aren’t you the blokes we beat in the Rugby!?” Fair dinkum.
On the way back we took it in turns to drive the tractor and I discovered the true meaning of the term ‘agricultural’. I drove it to the top of a very steep hill for a good view down the valley to the farm but let Oliver drive it back down given the ‘knack’ to getting the brakes to work! It was baking hot when we arrived back at Cundle Flat and so the three of us sat in the river with cold beers. Normally there would be a good chance of spotting Platypus’s in the river but with it being in flood there were none about.
Day 2 – We constructed a concrete drain before I had an evening with the local wildlife. Firstly I was joined in the bathroom by a Green Tree frog, then as I shut the door to my bedroom so a 6” Huntsman spider appeared and when I turned my light out something started flying around the room and crashing into my bed. After getting up to turn the light on three times I eventually spotted a bat staring down at me from the rafters!
Day 3 – On the third day we played ‘Cowboys’ and saddled up for a morning on horseback, something I hadn’t done since I was a kid. I got the stubborn horse who wasn’t too impressed with crossing rivers. He flatly refused to make the first crossing and had to be led across but the approach to the second crossing was so steep that he had no choice but to end up in the river and once in he went where I told him. The current was quite strong here and Jedda, the dog, got washed down stream twice before finally making it across.
Day 4 – Tagging, vaccinating, castrating and Tick inspecting sixteen young cattle was the order of the morning and we were all done by the time Chris & Wayne arrived to say there final goodbyes to all. It’s a shame they won’t be home when I pass through later in the year but they’ll be having a great time in Canada (even without a bike, eh Wayne!?)
Oliver & Christina were keen to show us their neighbors’ unique house and so in the evening we joined Luke & Deborah Evringham for a BBQ. Their house took 10 months of construction over a two year period and after dinner Luke gave us a guided tour. What’s so unique about it? Well not only is it Octagonal but it rotates through 360° and can even be programmed to follow the sun! Take a look for yourselves here: www.everinghamrotatinghouse.com.au
Day 5 – Very little happened on day 5 thanks to us all having thick heads from the previous evening. Christina had arranged for us to be interviewed by the local rag and we just about managed to surface in time for James to pull out his notepad.
“Help, Adam, quick. I’m losing all my fuel” Tim shouted and I turned around to see his bike lying on its side in the petrol station with fuel pouring out of the open filler neck. We knew it was going to be one of those days. We’d set our alarms early for the 400km ride down to Shock Treatment at Greenville but had awoken to the sound of rain on the tin roof and so delayed our start. We said farewell to Oliver & Christina who had been our [excellent] hosts for the past five days and hit the road. The sky looked menacing and it wasn’t long after the fuelling incident that we stopped to put on our Goretex liners. Within minutes it was pissing down and continued to do so all the way to Hornsby where I collected a new starter motor oil seal I’d ordered last time I’d passed through, along with a pair of fork seals to take to Shock Treatment.
We’d come across the suspension specialists Shock Treatment whilst staying with Wayne & Chris. Knowing how much off-road riding we would be facing once ‘Outback’, I was keen to improve the performance of my forks and had decided the best option for me was to install some Racetec ‘Emulators’. It turned out the Australian importer for these US products is Shock Treatment – hence the visit.
Our appointment was for 0800 the following morning but the map showed no suitable camping spots close by and so I phoned to see if we could camp in the yard. Having seen on their website that they had their own motocross track in the yard I figured that space wouldn’t be a problem. We arrived late in the afternoon ready to pitch our tents but Jan wouldn’t have any of it and we were ushered into the spare room and before we could blink we were sitting in front of the TV, beer in hand, dinner on lap and putting the world to rights with Terry (the Owner) and his good lady Jan.
In the workshop the following morning I pulled my forks out whilst Tim removed his rear shock. Wayne had had a heavier spring fitted to the Suzuki but it was too heavy for the adjustment range of the rebound damping. As a result it was ripping rear tyres up at an alarming rate and re-valving it was in order.
Mid-morning everything stopped and we sat around drinking coffee and making our selections from a huge spread of fresh cakes any baker would have been proud of. Terry took up his favorite topic of taking the piss out of son Grant who in turn had that air of ‘heard it all before, not biting’ and carried on as though Terry wasn’t there.
Lunchtime came and so did the steak sandwiches “Steady on Tel, much more of this and we’ll be stripping the bikes down for some more suspension work!” Maybe it’s a ploy?
The rain continued and by mid-afternoon it became obvious it wasn’t going to clear and so Terry & Jan kindly said we could stay another night. We did and Jan’s roast chicken went down well.
English Summer Down Under
We awoke to yet more rain, had breakfast with Terry who had just arrived home from his other job as a Fireman, and hit the road. By the time we turned onto Route 4 near Penrith it was once again pissing down and it didn’t take long for us to get a good soaking. We turned off the main road and headed down a minor one towards Jenolan caves. The approach would have been quite something but we struggled to see through the mist and cloud. The road running straight through a cave came as a pleasant surprise and we took the opportunity of the shelter to get the stove out and warm up with a cup of tea, much to the amusement of the coach loads of ‘foreign’ tourists.
It didn’t stop raining until we reached Goulburn, a mere 90km from Canberra, which meant we’d ridden 300km in the rain that day.
I’ve not really said too much about the rain until now but I’ve seen more rain here in Australia than during the whole of the rest of my trip put together. It was raining when I arrived in Sydney, it was raining when Tim arrived in Sydney and it rained the day after Michele arrived. My decision to leave my waterproof oversuit with Jonno in Manly was looking like a poor one. Ironically, I’d done so to make space to carry more water!
We skirted around central Canberra and rode west to the campsite at Cotter Dam NP where once again it was ….. raining. AAARRRHHHH!!!
Fortunately for us there was a large undercover picnic area where we could make a brew and wait for the rain to ease up before pitching the tents. The following day the sun shone and we had our wet kit strewn all over the ground to dry and wet paperwork pegged to a washing line. Despite weighing everything down with stones and branches we spent the day running around chasing kit and paperwork blown away by the wind.
We visited the Indonesian Embassy to get some info for Tim who is planning on riding home that way, visited the Australia Museum and took the free 45min guided tour of the parliament building.
The highlight though was the magnificent War Memorial; a title which does not do it sufficient justice as it contains an immense war museum big enough to house eight aircraft including a Lancaster bomber. We took the 1.5hr tour which although excellent only scratched the surface.
The last part of the tour involved watching a film about the very Lancaster that is in the museum. Footage of squadrons of Lancaster’s taking to the skies has always had an effect on me. Perhaps it’s because it makes me think about my dad’s brother (Uncle Dougie). His Lancaster was recovered after the war having been shot down off the coast of Norway. He was nineteen.
I look at those guys and think of Churchill’s famous words:
“Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.”
So taken were we by the museum that we returned the following day. Even after another three hours I still didn’t get to see the lower floor. I guess I’ll have to call in again later in the year.
Despite being ravaged by a huge bushfire in 2003, Kosiuszko National Park is a great place to visit – especially by motorcycle. Indeed, this was our second visit after circumnavigating the park during our first ride to Melbourne when we also walked the 23km circuit that takes in Australia’s highest point – a mere 2229m. For those of you who think it’s always warm here, this is where in 1994, Australia’s coldest temperature was recorded: -23°C!
We camped in the NP and the following morning descended through the forest of Eucalyptus trees, that look so strange to us foreigners with their shedding bark, into a beautiful river valley and onto a dirt road that took us to the former customs town of Tintaldra. Now a sleepy backwater it was once a major crossing point between New South Wales and Victoria in the days when duty was payable on goods moving between states. Our purpose for being there was to drop off a pair of tyres for Tim to avoid him carrying them around Tasmania. We would be returning there at the end of February when the Tintaldra Hotel would host the Horizons Unlimited Travellers meeting.
The Barry Highway (dirt road!) led us south to Omeo where we picked up the Great Alpine Road to head north-west through some of Australia’s premier skiing country. The view from the summit of Hotham reminded me of Laos where range after range of varying shades of grey mist clad hills stretched to the horizon.
From Myrtleford we rode south past Lake Buffalo towards Lake Buffalo State Forest. We passed fields of felled trees that were stripped and piled up in long lines. I’d never seen anything like it before. The lines looked like some sort of medieval defence.
Nobody tells you about the flies in Australia and they’re a menace. We were slowly getting used to them and had become accustomed to them crawling over us in great numbers so long as they weren’t in our faces. Our campsite on this particular night was the worst we’d encountered and they drove us to distraction. They seem to know when you have both hands full and choose these moments to crawl up your nose and into your ears and eyes. I was doing a bit of urgent maintenance on my bike so not only were my hands full but they were greasy too. As if the regular flies weren’t enough, they were joined by a biting variety and between then had me on the verge of being carted off to the funny farm. The only saving grace of the evening was Tim’s superb lamb curry.
“If the weather is good, go west; if not go east” was the advice I’d been given and good advice it was to. After an eleven hour day crossing (cheapest option) on the ‘Spirit of Tasmania’ ferry we pitched our tents in Narawintapu NP and promptly met a semi-retired outdoor pursuits instructor heading back home to Canberra after spending two weeks kayaking solo around the east coast from Devonport to Hobart. In his early 50’s and sporting a bushmans beard that added to his rugged persona, he told us how one day he felt something smash into the side of his kayak. He looked down and caught a glimpse of a sharks open mouth before it disappeared, unimpressed with its composite lunch. Realising he was taking on water he headed for land where he removed two sharks teeth from the hull before making repairs!
In the NW corner of Tazzi we camped at Stony Point. On the map it looked remote and it seemed so on the approach but as we emerged from the trees so we discovered fifty or so caravans tucked away in the shrub. Many were unoccupied permanent sites complete with external log burning stoves and huge stockpiles of wood. We pitched up by the sea and soon found ourselves invited to join a group of retired locals around their campfire. Despite living just 100km away, the three couples annually set up camp and lived here five months of the year.
This was another variation on the ‘Grey Nomad’ theme (similar to the USA’s ‘Snowbirds’) we had encountered on the mainland. We had met lots of retired and semi-retired folk who spend some, if not all of the year on the road in their caravans, motorhomes or that other (unique to Australia?) phenomenon – the off-road camper trailer. (More next time)
One of the guys had built a wooden airplane thirty years ago and still flew it. Over the years he has flown to Perth on three occasions and crossed the Bass Straits sixteen times. When I asked him what the fuel range was he chuckled and said “Further than my bladder these days!” His quote reminded me of an interview I’d seen with the Dalai Lama on New Zealand TV. The interviewer had asked him about his reincarnation beliefs and whether he could remember any of his previous lives. He replied “When you get my age, difficult remember yesterday!” A witty as well as wise man indeed.
An amusing twist of normality interrupted our socializing when a younger camper shouted at us to keep the noise down. “I’ve got an early start” said the voice from the blackness. A group of retirees getting a bollocking for being too rowdy appealed to me.
Despite the offer to join them for a freshly caught fish supper the following evening, we decided to press on. A crystal clear blue sky on the west coast was there to be taken advantage of and so we rode south to the ‘Western Explorer’.
Originally two logging tracks, one of which penetrated the Arthur Pieman Conservation Area from the north, the other from the south, have been connected and now join Smithton in the north to Zeehan in the south via a sometimes loose, undulating 100km gravel road and a $10 ferry aptly named the ‘Fatman across the Pieman [river]’ – I dare you to say it without putting on a Geordie accent.
We only saw three other vehicles along the Explorer and relished the remoteness of the place. I was soon brought back to earth when we stopped at a lookout point approaching Strahan and the zip failed on my riding jacket. Tasmania was not the place to have the wind whistling through ones jacket I can assure you!
At Macquaire Heads south of Strahan we paid the ‘caretaker’ our $2.50ea camping fee and pitched our tents in the shelter of the shrubbery on the beach. After dinner we lit good size campfire on the beach and watched the Milky Way slowly appear in all its glory in the unpolluted sky – magic. Apparently some of the cleanest air in the world is to found along this coastline
The following morning the tide was out and we could blast along the Ocean Beach on our fully loaded bikes.
South of here is pure wilderness and access is by foot or helicopter only and so we rode east through the Franklin Gordon Wild River NP; a ride that took me back to New Zealand and a realization that you don’t always fully appreciate where you are. Only later on as you re-visit places in your mind do you truly appreciate previous experiences.
‘New Zealand’ gave way to ‘Turkey’ as we emerged from the NP onto the golden central plains. Along the way we stopped roadside to watch a helicopter fighting a bushfire dangerously close to the Tarraleah Power Stations pipelines before the road climbed again and wound its way through the series of concrete canals that interlink the hydro-electric reservoirs.
We spent the night camped at Dunrobin bridge where we swam,washed and did our laundry in Meadowbank Lake. The only other campers were three fisherman who drank so much beer they even had their own A-framed can crusher!
Rain in the west forced us to change our plans and so we rode further east to Hobart. After initially being told we could camp at the showground we arrived to find that due to licencing limitations this was the case for ‘Self contained motorhomes and caravans only’. We spoke to the groundsmen who did their best to accommodate us by suggesting they tuck us away in a corner but they couldn’t hide their concern that someone would grass on us and have us moved on. With no other obvious options on the map we headed into town and the Information centre. The only campsites they could suggest were the expensive commercial sites and so we walked up the street to the NP office. On the way we passed a line of parked motorcycles amongst which was an overlanders Suzuki DR 650. The stickers suggested travel through Asia and membership of WIMA (Womens International Motorcycling Association). I had a suspicion as to who the bike belonged to and so left a message on the tankbag.
The NP office produced no obvious camping spots and we realized we’d have to camp further away from town than we’d planned. Heading south alongside the Huon River we found a few campsites but none were free. Eventually we picked up the ‘Arve Forest Drive’ which we followed until we found a lovely picnic area next to a stream complete with undercover table and several fire pits. It also sported a 15 minute circular walk amongst some magnificent fallen trees and giant tree stumps.
There was nothing to say ‘No Camping’ but we decided to wait until dusk before pitching our tents and so set about cooking dinner. It wasn’t long before Rob & Kylie arrived in their VW camper and soon after Derek & Rachel in their 4×4. It transpired that we all had the same idea and so we made one big campfire for all to share. Rachel had more desert than they could eat and soon the rest of us were tucking into pancakes with maple syrup and blueberries. Lovely.
The following morning we said our goodbyes and arranged to meet Rob & Kylie for dinner in Hobart that evening before riding a little further into the forest to see a giant Eucalyptus tree that was 87m tall and weighed in at 405 tonnes!
Hobart is best viewed from the lookout point at Mt.Wellington. We parked next to a Toyota Landcruiser with Italian number plates and spent the next hour or so chatting with the owners Franco & Jenny. Since selling their engineering business in 2000 they have traveled extensively throughout the world in their 4×4. The interior was testament to Jenny’s proud Italian housewife roots and was IMMACULATE. It looked as though it had been driven from a showroom, not just spent 15 months in the Outback.
The viewpoint had excellent mobile phone reception and so I returned the missed call from the following afternoon that I hoped was from the owner of the bike we’d seen in town. A woman’s voice answered the phone and invited us to join her for tea at the house she was staying at, conveniently between the lookout and town.
On arrival we were welcomed by a short grey haired lady who was of course… Linda Bootherstone.
The Legend that is Linda Bootherstone
I’d first heard about Englishwoman Linda during the planning stages of this trip. Danny had noticed some postings on the HUBB (Horizons Unlimited Bulletin Board) regarding a ‘missing’ 59 year old Englishwoman. A short time later a message appeared from Linda to say that all was well and that after getting a puncture somewhere in Pakistan she’d been ‘rescued’ by some locals and had ended up staying with them in their village. Once on the road we met several other overlanders who’d met Linda. It turns out she’d left Spain on one motorcycle and ridden to Germany where she collected her current Suzuki 650 from some friends who’d prepared it for her. She left Germany the year before Danny and I and followed pretty much the same route as us but included Indonesia. She even managed to arrange her 60th birthday celebrations in India. It all sounds remarkable until you discover that she rode her Triumph to Moscow in 1967 (the year I was born!) and that she rode solo down the western side of Africa on her BMW R50 in 1973, the same year that Ted Simon rode down the east side reporting for The Times, eventually penning the book ‘Jupiters Travels’.
As we chatted over tea on that first meeting so Linda explained that she’d mentioned us to the house owner and that we were welcome to camp in the garden. We were still chatting when Joan, the owner arrived and after more tea and chat the offer to camp in the garden was replaced by the offer to stay in the twin bedded spare room. Very comfortable but I’d forgotten that Tim snores like a bastard!
The following day I visited Hobart’s Salamanca Market (Saturdays only) and wandered around the historical area of Battery Point before returning to Joan’s. My diary entry for the day finishes with “Tim snored so loudly I had to put my earplugs in”.
We’d planned to leave on the Sunday but once again the weather changed our plans and so we stayed another night.
Linda is a BIG folk music fan and plays several instruments including the Penny Whistle, guitar and the Fiddle. The latter of which she’d managed to carry undamaged on her bike all the way from Germany only to have it stolen in Queensland. She also writes her own songs and entertained us with ‘The Overlanders Song’ and ‘Oops…I’ve fallen off again!’ – must have seen Danny and I on the ‘F*#@ing’ Babusa Pass in Pakistan!
Her bikes health though was troubling her and a bike shop had quoted her $1000 to replace the CDI Unit they determined was the root of the intermittent problem. Tim and I were unconvinced and gave her bike a good look over. She told us that whilst she understood a fair bit about motorcycles she was no top mechanic. When organizing a WIMA Rally some years ago one of the ‘workshops’ was for the girls to look over Linda’s bike and list the ten deliberate faults. Unfortunately for Linda the girls returned lists of 20+ faults!
After trimming back the HT leads, tightening the spark plugs and battery terminals we convinced her to come for a ride with us to test it. Her bike ran so well that she decided to join us on the road for a few days when we returned from our visit to Bruny Island.
We caught the ($11 return) ferry to the island and had a ride around North Bruny before crossing the ‘neck’ to South Bruny Island and the recommended free campsite at Jetty Beach. No sooner had we pitched our tents than the rain started. With no sheltered area to cook under we strung up my tarp between two trees and a few makeshift supports. The rain came down heavier and heavier and soon we were scraping drainage channels away from our tents. Enough water ran off the tarp for us to cook supper and brew tea but soon the flow of water overpowered us and just as we finished cooking so we had to abandon ship. We got a good soaking taking the tarp down but leaving it up would have created a puddle that would have flooded the tents. The rain eventually found the weak point in my ‘new’ tent and I resorted to propping my toiletry bag against the inner door to alter the angel sufficiently that the water ran off and not through the zip.
It was very windy during the night and we awoke to yet more rain. During the brief spells when it wasn’t raining we walked on the beach to stretch our legs and Tim collected enough Mussels to cook for lunch. It was the highlight of a day spent mostly in the tent.
The following day was dry and bright and we explored the rest of the island before catching the ferry back to the mainland. Onboard we could see a storm in the distance and were most disappointed when the ferry turned into the harbor straight into the storm. Turning right out of the port took us away from it and once dry again we stopped for supplies. Of course, when we emerged from the supermarket it was pissing down again.
“Of course you can come and stay” said Joan over the phone and before we knew it we were installed back in the spare room and drinking tea with the girls.
Over the course of the next week Tim, Linda and I squeezed in as much more of Tasmania as we could manage. We rode from Gordon Dam in the west to Freycinet NP in the east. We froze our arse’s off on the central plateau around GreatLlake and strolled along the 8km boardwalk at Cradle Mountain. Of the many campsites along the way the one that sticks in my mind the most was the one at Lake Gardiner. The unofficial campsite was accessed via an unmarked 4km track and had been suggested by a couple we’d met at a lookout point earlier in the day.
After sharing a cup of tea with the owners of the two motorhomes already parked up we collected firewood and set about preparing supper. Steve appeared on his quad bike and introduced himself as the owner of the [beautiful] house that overlooked the lake. After a short chat he shot off and returned with cold Guinness, crackers and dips for everyone before continuing chatting. The following day Linda and I took him up on his offer to visit his house and be shown around his nineteen acres. We sat on his veranda drinking proper coffee and learning about the local history and that of the central plateau we’d crossed to get here.
I hope Steve realizes his dream of ‘almost’ self-sufficient living and if I’m ever lucky enough to find myself back on Tasmania I would certainly pay him a visit.
Leaving the campsite meant saying goodbye to Linda. She’d been great company, singing, playing her penny whistle and steering the conversation into un-chartered territory. I will miss her and judging by the tears, she’ll miss us to. A truly inspirational lady – The Legend that is Linda Bootherstone.
We spent our last night on Tazzi camped by the surf club at Sulphur Creek. From here we rode the 30km to Devonport where we met Dave and Graeme on their BMW GS’s in the queue for the ferry.
Back on the Mainland
Dave had kindly offered to let us camp at his place in Warragul, 100km east of Melbourne but we wanted to be as close to the city as possible as we both had parts to collect that we’d ordered prior to catching the ferry to Tazzi.
I found a place in the camping guide on the northern outskirts of the city that would have been perfect had the place not been deserted and the gates locked when we arrived at 2030. We looked around for somewhere to rough camp but we were still in a fairly urban area and there was nowhere. Tim knocked on the door of the huge house opposite the campsite and after a brief conversation with Abraham, the owner, we pitched our tents on his lawn!
Dave and the gang
“I’m gonna call you two The Twins” Dave proclaimed very early on. It was an introduction to a sense of humor that was just one of his many special qualities.
His wife Leonie and 11yr old daughter Chelsea were equally as welcoming with Chelsea baking cakes for when we arrived.
Dave had a huge well equipped workshop in his garden that we were free to use to carryout all the maintenance we had planned before heading Outback. Now was not the time to use it though as we were only staying for one night en-route back to Tintaldra for the Horizons meeting.
Horizons Unlimited Travelers Meeting – Tintaldra
After pitching our tents by the river we wandered around the few bikes that had arrived before us amongst which were two German registered BMW’s. I got chatting with Werner and told him about the two young German lads we’d met in Pakistan (ZE Germans, Nils & Paul) and mentioned Paul’s accident and the subsequent repair. All of a sudden there was a look of realization on his face and he said “You’re the BMW motherfucker!” – Which is how Nils begins his emails to me. It turns out they’d met in Freemantle (Western Australia) when they arrived from Africa and Nil’s was shipping home to Germany.
Over the weekend we mingled with our fellow travelers, shared information, stories and ideas over a few beers and attended a few presentations made by other travelers.
Two of these in particular stuck in my mind. Adrian Scott, a project manager from Melbourne, had planned his ride from Magadan (Russia) to Istanbul in infinite detail. He even planned where he would be everyday. Once he’d finished planning, he bought a bike and set about getting his motorcycle license as he’d never ridden before. 400km later he put his bike in a crate and set off! This was merely the beginning and his story became funnier and funnier. I would very much like to read his newly published book ‘The Road Gets Better from Here’.
‘Fast’ Guido had everyone staring at his slides in disbelief and looking around the room to see if we were all on Candid Camera. On arriving riverside in Mali, Africa he and the English guy he was traveling with decided to turn their bikes into boats. They arranged some workspace at the wharf and set about building rafts on which they would mount their motorcycles but as neither of them had ever welded before this process took seven weeks, during which time the Englishman got Malaria. One of their tasks was to measure the speed of the river which Guido did by jumping in and floating downstream with his GPS! Eventually they were finished and Guido launched his boat complete with hand a fabricated paddle steamer type wheel that was powered by his KTM motorcycle via two drive chains strung together.
The tears were rolling down my cheeks. It was one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen. They spent an incredible seven weeks on the river during which time they traveled 1500km upstream!
Whilst there I also collected some post I’d had sent to the hotel. This included a new book entitled ‘Adventure Motorcycling’ by Robert Wicks. It was a personalized copy to thank me for my input. The book contains much of what I’ve learnt on this trip, an overview of the trip and 23 of mine and Danny’s photographs. If anyone wants to take a look the ISBN no is: 978 1 84425 435 4 and Amazon are knocking them out for 14 quid.
Phillip Island World Superbike Championship
A night in the bush at Craig’s Hut with our fellow travelers we’d met at the HUBB meeting followed by a night back at Dave’s saw us to Phillip Island.
Arguably one of the best racetracks in the world we had a great weekend with some great racing. What really made it special though were those camped next to us. Gavin, a POME from Adelaide was on his own for the first night but was then joined by Graham and Monica. Gavin’s log burner kept us warm in the chill evening wind and by day they insisted on pouring ridiculous quantities of beer down our necks from 11am onwards. They were great company and really made our weekend.
The campsite itself was very quiet by UK standards. Nothing got burned down or blown up; not what we expected from the Ozzies.
This time we had a lot to do and figured it would take us about a week. We’ve been here three!
Part of my service plan was to strip and grease my rear suspension but when I disassembled it I found both the link arms stretched out of round and in need of replacement. A few phone calls later I’d learnt that there were none in the country and that if there were they would cost double what they would in the UK. I called England but even the English dealers would have to order them and so decided the quickest option may be to try and find some used ones. I eventually tracked some down in North Carolina, USA and arranged for them to be sent via UPS (International courier). With no sign of them after five days I emailed the supplier only to be told they’d sent them USPS (US Postal Service). Ten days later they arrived.
The time was not wasted though and I set about many other jobs. My bike has gone through three sets of steering head bearings thus far – a ridiculous amount. BMW have a unique way of adjusting these, unlike any other bike I’ve ever seen and so I set about making my own BMW special tool that now allows me to follow the ‘official’ procedure of torquing the bearing to 25Nm then backing it off through 60° using the two ‘peg-spanner’ type holes in the adjustment nut(?)
With all the maintenance complete I had a few extras to make. These included adding an extra fuel tap to allow me to fill my camp stove without continually disturbing the O-rings in the Quick Release couplings, a GPS isolation switch, a notice board inside my screen where I will write Spanish phrases in the hope it will help drum them into me prior to going to South America in October and two racks that will each carry a 5ltr water bottle.
All of this was aided by Dave’s constant ideas and enthusiasm but hampered by the fact I’d never welded before in my life. If Guido can build a boat though, I was damn sure I could build a water bottle holder!
Graeme was keen to take us on a 3-day ride over our first weekend at Dave’s but with my bike awaiting spares it wasn’t looking good for me. Until Trevor, who would also be attending the weekend’s ride, stepped in with the loan of his XR400. We had a great weekend camping and riding in the High Country and I had a blast hooning around on a lightweight dirtbike even if my arse was numb!
Ever the host, Graham regularly offered to swap bikes with me and I took him up on the offer a few times. I’d never ridden a BMW GS1150 before and was keen to try one. Once I had I saw at once why they have become so popular and over the weekend was mightily impressed with where Graham and Trevor managed to ride them.
Back at Dave’s work continued on the bikes and I repaired the fuel light sender wires that had been chafed off by the seat and made a new seat locator bracket to replace my broken one. I’ve also replaced the paper air filter with a washable foam one for the Outback.
Tim too has been flat out preparing his bike for the Outback. As well as the usual maintenance he to has added an extra fuel tap, made brackets to stop his screen flapping about, increased his water carrying capacity etc
We took it in turns to cook in the evenings and attended BBQ’s at Graeme’s, Wayne’s (not Todhunter) and Gary’s – the local MP. Altogether a very social experience and as a result the three weeks have flashed by.
We owe a HUGE ‘Thank You’ to Dave, Leonie & Chelsea. They, like the Todhunters, have played a very special part in our Australian experience and will be friends for life.
It’s finally time to leave though and commence our ‘real’ Australian experience – the Outback. For me it’s not a final goodbye to our new friends as I’ll be back here at the end of September to airfreight my bike to Chile.
For those of you who like to follow our progress on a map our planned route is as follows:
Mildura, Broken Hill, Hawker, Leigh Creek (Flinders Ranges), Strezlecki track to Innaminca, Walkers crossing to Birdsville track, Marree, Cooper Pedy, Oodnadatta, Alice Springs, Uluru, Great Central track to Leonora, Kalgoorlie and into the SW corner. After looking around the ancient forests we’ll head up the west coast in the hope of meeting up with Billy (Billy & Trish) in Broome in June.
2nd Anniversary on the road
As St.Patricks day rolled around again so did my second anniversary on the road. My original plan to spend 2.5yrs riding to Canada has well and truly gone out of the window as I’m running about 2yrs behind schedule!
My 2nd year has been a great contrast to the first, having spent all barring a month of it in the western world. The lazy days of Asia are but a memory as I’ve swapped guest houses for a tent. Pitching and breaking camp, shopping for food, cooking, washing-up, collecting firewood etc eat a big hole in the day, especially when traveling on consecutive days. The benefit of this of course is getting to stay in a ‘million star hotel’ every night in some stunning locations, share it with the local wildlife (Wallabies, Possums and birds abound) and of course watch the sunrise and sunset. Internet access is minimal once you step off the backpacker/hostel trail and the time difference means phoning the UK between 0600-0900ish Aus time but of course there are no phones where we camp (usually NP’s but also rough camps).
I miss the magic of Asia, the sights, sounds and smells and know that my time there is not complete.
Bike and Kit
I haven’t mentioned too much about this in the past as not everyone is interested but after 2yrs of use I though I’d mention a few things.
I’ve ridden 65,619km (40,775miles) which means my bikes odometer reading is 73,476km (45,657miles). I’ve used 7 rear tyres (inc 2 2nd hand), 5 fronts (inc 2 2nd hand), three sets of chain & sprockets plus another 2 fronts, 2 waterpumps, 5 batteries and 3 sets of steering head bearings.
My tent gave up in NSW and I bought a 2nd hand one from Wayne (Todhunter –cheers Wayne, its excellent!), my sleeping mattress delaminated internally and was replaced under warranty in Sydney, I’ve worn through 3 pairs of flip-flops and my walking shoes are on their last legs. 3 pairs of riding gloves, 2 MP3 players (1x iRiver & 1x Creative) have both failed, as did the zip on my riding suit.
All-in-all not too bad I don’t think but unfortunately as it was all purchased at around the same time, everything has started to fail at the same time!