Thursday, 6 February 2014

Friends, family, scenery and home

Bittersweet end

Like the last epic trip, I'm finishing off the story sitting in a cafe looking back. A bit of hindsight is a good way to finish off I feel.

1st of February: Arrived in Melbourne early in the morning on board the Spirit of Tasmania. The time on the ship gave me a moment to think of the experience from Tasmania compared to previously. It felt different, it looked different, but I couldn't pick what it was until later. Last time it had the feeling of being almost magic, it was because it was also home, and I knew how much better it was to call it home than elsewhere. This time I was a visitor, a fleeting traveller. Beautiful and fascinating, but that extra certain something special was missing.

First off was a long and epic 11km trip to see a good and witty friend from the previous mountain bike trip from South America. It was good to see a familiar and friendly face from a trip I found hard, but remember as one of those great moments in my life so far. After much conversation, too many coffees later it was time to carry on to see family. 

Onwards to see Mum on the Mornington Peninsula. I fondly call her Mother Drear. Only a short stay, and the heat that had hounded me throughout the trip was back. Her partner in crime gave me some good advice in planning my next move in the real world based on broad and successful experience, and Mum thankfully appeared healthy and in good spirits. I see them too rarely, often 2 or 3 years between visits, so I always worry about what may have changed. Mum proudly showed me her LIST of blogs, many updated daily, and the amount of visits each gets. I knew she had an online presence, but going on the the volume of what she's in the middle of, she'd be a well known celebrity if she was on radio or TV.

3rd of February: This last leg of the trip has a theme, a social one. It wasn't finished yet! There quite a number of more people I could have visited in Victoria, but I had to keep that to being in line with the trip, otherwise I would have enjoyed weeks zig zagging Victoria. I did manage to fit in one more visit. A couple that I met in South America who live in Inverloch, a short hop from Mum's. The way also happens to pass by Phillip Island GP track which I visited.. A great pair, real dynamos. They've retired, but that only means from their careers. They're really taking advantage of the extra time by having more adventures and even more time for bike riding, surfing, swimming etc etc. Get the picture? They're fitter than most people I know in their 20's. Their next trip is riding bicycles along the Silk Road a little later in the year. I'm rather envious. Add that to the bucket list.

Cruising along minding my own business, when out jumps a pair of friends from the last epic trip.
What are the chances?

Inverloch is quite a surprise. A beautiful long beach, a small town, but to cater for tourist season, many restaurants and shops. So during the off season, the residents have excellent services without the crowds and traffic. A real gem of a place. There's also a noticeable community spirit, they're proud of the town. Shown by the cycleway/footpath along the beach with exercise equipment along the way, or information boards giving information about the area, and a replica boat as a display.

4th of February. The trip home.

From Inverloch, I took myself to the beginning of the Great Alpine Road. I'd met quite a few riders leading up to this, and they all spoke very highly of this road.

When I got on it however, to me it looked too much like the Tasmanian roads where I had to be very careful on because of the gravel dragged on to the road. So I had this unshakeable trust issue with the surface. Enjoyable, but not the relaxed, lean and throw it around the corner without slowing down type of riding I was hoping for. I foresee some track days in my future.

Not that it didn't have its good points!

The view looking north from Mt Hotham along the Great Alpine Road.
My nephew remarked it looked like something out of the Hobbit movie. I sure thought so when I got stuck behind a person who drove like a drunken one down the other side.
The rest of the trip was unveventful. The villages on the northern side of Mt Hotham are quite pretty.

Then highway all the way home from Albury. Yawn.

I had a surprise waiting for me at home. A letter from Victoria! Over speed limit by 4 km/h. I happen to be on my P plates, which NSW has a zero tolerance for P platers speeding. That means if that 1 point offence from Victoria successfully transfers to NSW (apparently it's hit or miss), then NSW bumps it up to a 4 point penalty and then my bike licence will be suspended for 3 months. For 4 km/h hour over. I fail to see how these 2 nanny states are improving road safety by forcing drivers and riders to spend more time staring at the speedo than the road. I was given an option to have it reviewed which I will be doing, as the penalty I feel is very excessive. Welcome home! Oh, guess where the fine is from? The Great Ocean Road, a road I had a memorable experience on for the wrong reasons.

I have to say it's good to sleep in my own bed. To have a FULL set of clean clothes! I admit I got a little feral in some parts of the trip. Regularly showered, but only had 3 sets of clothes which can be hard to keep up with. I know I must have been feral, as I could smell the washing powder in my clothes, which means it smelt different to what I was used to. Bear hug anyone? These things have to be done so that you can appreciate the normal things in life no?

One thing I should add. If you ever do a trip like this, use Telstra as opposed to the other 2 for phone coverage unless you get satellite access. This isn't a sponsored comment. In almost all the places I stopped including roadhouses in the middle of nowhere, I had coverage. In the medium size towns I even had 4G coverage! I did a manual search and sometimes saw Optus, and usually Vodafone was missing. Telstra often costs more, but at least I could use my phone!

So now begins the next chapter, who knows where it will lead? What trip will be next finding it's way on here?

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Tasmania, you've been missed

Tasmania is a photographer's heaven, treacherous to a rider however.

In roughly 10 days I've been like a ball in a pin ball machine, bouncing off the walls and exploring everywhere in between. This part of the trip has been so adhoc that I have nothing more than a rough idea how much travelling has been done. Perhaps 2000km. Not bad for a little island.

Tasmania has a lot of rugged terrain. Places you can hike for days and still be isolated. That terrain because of what it is, is also beautiful. Have you ever thought that the more beautiful the place, quite often the more inhospitable and dangerous it is? I wonder what it is in human nature that finds beauty in such places, yet there it is.

Not much has changed since I left 9 years ago. Except for the loss of driveway service at petrol stations. Yes, even 9 years ago they often still had people to come out and fill the tank, check the oil, clean the windscreen. That's gone now. When I lived in Tassie last time, the place was swarming with logging trucks. Often moving surprisingly quickly, as they knew the roads well. Gunns was the company involved with the logging which has since folded, but apparently there's still some forestry work being done, yet I didn't see any of the trucks.

For a rider, this place is dangerous. There's little trust to be found in the road surface. The road is often narrow, off camber, and patches of gravel on the corners which has been dragged up by the locals who cut in on the left hand turns as there's no road shoulder. When oncoming traffic are on their right hand turns, expect people to cross on to the wrong side of the road. Same reason, off camber, and the outer part of the road is so rarely used there's gravel on it, so encouraging more bad driving. Same as the Great Ocean Road in Victoria, keep away from the white line, or be hit. Once making peace with this, life is less stressful. For anyone else who rides here, use a slower entry into the left hand bends, keep to the left side wheel track, less gravel there. I once cornered normally using the width of my lane, crossed some gravel and the back tyre broke loose, so I was drifting sideways around the corner. Fun, but scary when unplanned!

Here's what makes Tasmania memorable.

Lunch is done properly. Wrest Point casino in Hobart. Tasmania is a great foodie destination, punches well above its weight.

A place I used to live, I forgot how isolated Liena is! At that time there was a bikie gang one end of the valley, Wiccan coven down the other.

From Round Mountain lookout towards Mt Roland.

Last time I was here, I had a diesel Nissan 720 4WD ute. I wasn't wearing a flannelette shirt or ugg boots though.
I boiled the radiator dry climbing to this point, and had to borrow some water from a tourist with a caravan. I later snapped its crankshaft. Twice. Don't buy one. Very bad.

Between Mole Creek and Liena. This used to be part of my daily commute!

Sheffield doing its mural thing.

Sheffield has murals, why? I'd be happy with just having Mt Roland as a backdrop!

Moulting Lagoon eastern Tasmania.

My lowly campsite in Stanley. Stanley is one of those places that just feels right.

Part of the after dinner, want to do something so may as well climb up "The Nut" at Stanley. 140m above the town. STEEP! Great calf stretch.

Looking from The Nut at Stanley.

Looking from The Nut at Stanley.

Last of the daylight at White Beach. Great campsite.

Lake St Clair, Australia's deepest  lake, looking towards Mt Ida. . Very tranquil, beautiful place. Great to camp or cabin. Food however while good, is very, very expensive. Captive audience prices.

From Mt Wellington looking down at Hobart.
Looking along the rugged coast from the Edge of the World, Arthur River.
At this latitude, the westerly winds have been uninterrupted since Argentina, which further south hosts the End of the World in Ushuaia.

The plaque says...

I cast my pebble onto the shore of Eternity.
To be washed by the Ocean of Time.
It has shape, form and substance.
It is me.
One day I will be no more.
But my pebble will remain here.
On the shore of Eternity.
Mute witness for the aeons.
That today I came and stood,
At the edge of the world.

Brian Inder

I cast 3 pebbles, the first 2 didn't skim.

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

All very pretty, hard to live with though!

A while between posts, but it adds perspective! Uluru to Tasmania, 3650km.

I last left you with my awe of Uluru. Further into the trip, I still say it's the highlight.

14th of  January: Just for fun, here's some more oohs and aahs.

Uluru at sunrise.

Kata Tjuta (the Olgas) surprisingly close to Uluru

Kata Tjuta a little closer
Getting to Uluru before sunrise was my first real experience of terrorist tourists. To get into the park, there's a ticket office. The car in front took AGES to buy their ticket. I had my ticket ready in my tank bag, which I had bought the afternoon before. When the car in front moved on, I moved forward to the ticket office. As I began to open my tank bag, a terrorist tourist behind me thought I was about to take ages as well, so by the time I had shown my ticket and was about to move off, the fool behind me decided he'd try to squeeze past me waving his ticket out the window. Lucky I looked, or I'd have kicked his door in.

The terrorist tourist then proceeded to drive 30km/h over the limit, overtake on double white lines, realise too late when to brake so he was braking during the turn rather than before the turn, and to top it off when parked, he ignored the marked lines and took up 2 parking spaces. When he walked past me when I was taking my helmet off, I politely told him that what he did squeezing past a bike like that was dangerous. This is my first example.

Uluru however is quite pretty at sunrise. I also went had a closer look at Kata Tjuta (the Olgas), but was reluctant to walk in through them, as I'd have to leave my luggage on the bike unattended. Not so keen on that idea. I would have been worried about someone having a look through my stuff, I wouldn't have been able to appreciate the walk. Comes with the territory of riding a bike.

On the way to Coober Pedy, there was another hot day in excess of 40C. Just for the novelty factor, I stayed in an underground hotel. Coober Pedy has houses, churches, and hotels underground to escape the heat of the day. Even very early the next morning, it was still 32C. Coober Pedy is also known for its opal mines. There are warning signs not to leave the road, as the region is pock marked with mining holes. Bad for your health falling into one of those, but whoever finds you may get rich when they see that opal you clawed loose on the way down the hole!

Those walls are bare rock. Was perhaps 25C, so no air conditioning needed.
15th of January. The heat was a real cracker. 46C in Adelaide, which is near where I was headed. I left Coober Pedy before sunrise to try and make the most of what cooler temperatures I could find. Given it was still dark, I didn't make up that much extra ground, as I had to go slower thanks to the risk of a kangaroo coming up to be sociable.

Lake Hart. A salt lake! Last time I saw one was in Bolivia in 2012.

The heat was getting so bad, I could feel the bike's tank was hot against my legs. As I got closer to Adelaide, my bike began to struggle with vapour lock, resulting in it starving for fuel. The solution was to put some of the cooler fuel from the jerry cans that had been sitting in the wind away from the hot engine into the tank. That got me another 50km before I'd have to do it again. I also found the bike squirming over patches of tar that had melted on the road.

The heat also brought strong eddies of wind. Including dust devils, also known as willy willies.

I had a moment where I was going around a bend, and a truck was coming towards me. I noticed the grass to my left not far ahead, begin to lie flat, pointing from my left to right across the road. So I'm waiting for this gust from the left, only to be hit with a strong gust from the right which was unexpected. I was in a dust devil, but no dust. So I'm now leaning hard to the right, towards the oncoming truck until I reached the other side of the dust devil and had to quickly flick the bike to leaning to the left. If I'd been a learner fresh off the rider course, and not knowing how to counter steer, I would have been pushed into the truck. A scary thought.

4 nights rest in Gawler, seeing friends and family was a welcome break after all the heat. A couple of days into the rest, the weather brought a welcome cool change. A kick in the teeth for some areas near Adelaide, as it brought storms and lightning, which started bush fires.

19th of January. Onwards towards the Great Ocean Road. First, a stop in a little town called Port Fairy in Victoria. Nice little place. Very tourist oriented, and it was very obvious tourist season was in full swing, unlike further north in the tropics, which has their tourist season during the winter.

20th of January. Great Ocean Road. I'll start with saying a great road. Great scenery. I was warned in the morning by a local in Port Fairy about the tourists driving along the Great Ocean Road. They fly in from overseas, hire a motorhome, and before they have a feel of how to drive here, off they go to see the Great Ocean Road and are so distracted by the scenery, they forget to drive and to keep to the left.

At first I saw motorhomes, caravans, pretend oversized 4WD complete with kids, push bikes and pillows swarming all along the road. First impressions was things were ok. Until one particular motorhome that I approached. At first he tried to indicate for me to pass him in places that were silly, dangerous, and illegal to pass. Then I watched him wobble his way down the road, frequently on the wrong side. So here's my next example of a terrorist tourist. He was the first of many. So many once per year nervous drivers. So slow in the corners, and still unable to keep to their side of the road. The experience was further lessened by a stop at the 12 Apostles. A famous stop. There's a cafe there. The person who served me coffee clearly doesn't drink what she makes. Scorching hot, and so weak I could see the bottom of the cup.

Now for the scenery which still made me glad I went and had a look. I'm also glad I survived. I should point out last time one of my friends rode a motorbike on the Great Ocean Road a few years ago, he was hit by a car when it crossed over to the wrong side of the road. He was a diesel mechanic, and even though he survived, with the permanent injuries, he had to give away his career.

The Great Ocean Road is also a fantastic driver's/rider's road. With a good surface and visibility, with well formed corners. In most of the corners, they can be taken at the speed limit without slowing down. Very rare though as most drivers will do 1/3 of that or less.

That night I boarded the Spirit of Tasmania, bound for Devonport.

21st of January. Now in Tasmania, eager to see some old stomping grounds. I used to live in Tasmania in a past era.

Tasmania offers a cooler climate, and beautiful scenery. For a motorbike rider however, it is a dangerous place. Locals cross over to the other side of the road to cut corners. Quite often there's gravel on the road, dragged on from side roads and driveways. I even encountered a section of sealed road, where the surface was sealed so badly it was only only loosely holding its gravel. So it was like riding on marbles. Not to mention the sand on the corners from when drivers use ALL of the road including the shoulder. A tough day.

I'm in Tasmania for 10 days. So it's a different approach compared to the trip so far which had a destination. Now I have a boundary, being the island's coast, and what I'll be doing is bouncing back and forth from those boundaries like a ball in a pin ball machine. A small place, much to see.

Monday, 13 January 2014

Karumba to Uluru. Preconceptions thrown out the window.

Karumba at the top end, to Uluru at Australia's heart. 2200km.

11th of January. Time to leave the humid tropical coast, and head in the heart of Australia.

The view from the pub at Karumba. Nice place, not crowded and food was good.
Those previously mentioned mosquitoes kept up their appetite through the night. The humidity was high, and so was the temperature. I had a terrible sleep that night at Karumba. The caravan/camping site in Karumba however was very good. Nice pool, very important.

Heading south, the abundance of wildlife was astounding. The whole area was jumping with life. Not so good for a wide eyed vulnerable motorbike rider. Fascinating though!

The roadkill isn't cleaned up, so there's carcasses in various states of decomposition littered on, and beside the road. The worst one I saw was a cow still alive sitting beside the road. A huge hideous, skinless, inflamed bubble off the top of its back, the skin beside its ribs split wide open. To see an animal in such a condition really bothered me. I had nothing with me to put it out of its misery, and no properties seen for more than 50km to try and let them know.

I reached a roadhouse in the middle of nowhere. The Burke and Wills Roadhouse. Captive audience as it's so remote. Good place though! It's at a crossroads between the Burke Developmental Road and Wills Developmental Road. I was told to take the longer road to Cloncurry as it's all bitumen, whereas the shorter route on the Wills Developmental Road is sometimes gravel and there's been some rain recently. The decision was easy for me. Longer way it is!

Arriving in Mt Isa, it's the beginning of the Outback. So there's a sign saying I'm now a real Aussie now that I've visited the place. Thanks mate! Mt Isa is a mining town. Lead, silver, copper and zinc. I've always had in the back of my mind for this region that it's flat with red dirt. I got the red dirt bit right! It actually had hills! My days studying geology kicked in, so I went looking around to see what made the place tick. Back in NSW where I live, it's all sedimentary rock. Sandstone, limestone, some coal, and maybe some more sandstone. This area around North East Australia however has a volcanic past. There's lava tubes and shales and hot springs. Australia rocks! Ok, I'll stop geeking out for now.

After the last couple of night barely getting any sleep due to the heat and humidity, the 40C temperature convinced me to take the cosy option and stay in a hotel. Good move.

Mt Isa. A mining town that has a good range of shops, and I could have spent more time there doing the geology thing as they have various activities open to the public around mining.
12th of January. Feeling immensely refreshed after having a nice cool night sleeping, I was eager to be off. I left Mt Isa just before 6am, destination Tennant Creek.

At the last town that I'll see in Queensland, I stopped in Camooweal for breakfast. It's a spot on the map with a roadhouse. Not much more. Did get my first opportunity to take a photo of a road train though!

The scenery became flatter, more open, and the wildlife almost entirely disappeared. The highway speed limit in Northern Territory is 130km/h (used to be no limit in the remote areas).

A moment where I had to pull over. It was so hot my handlebar had expanded making the weights at the ends become loose. The clouds of little flies was so bad, I left my helmet on with the visor closed while looking for the right screwdriver.

All the way between Mt Isa and Tennant Creek, there were termite mounds with various shirts on them. Keeps drivers alert looking for what's next!
On arrival in Tennant Creek, I saw people walking aimlessly around town. Or sitting anywhere that had a spot to sit in front of buildings, or on the side of the street. I have to say I was feeling incredibly refreshed and eager to see how much more distance I can put in for a day.

So I ended up putting in 1200km for the day, with daylight to spare and arrived in Alice Springs. Alice Springs looked only marginally better, as there were more people wobbling around, or lying on a grassy spot somewhere. It just didn't feel right, but not as bad as Tennant Creek. It was time to wrap up the day however, so found a hotel where I could park my bike out of sight in a closed compound. Nice hotel. Just as I'd arrived, had a shower and jumped into the pool, a storm thumped its way through. Good timing. A useless bit of trivia...even though it's still hot during the day, the far lower humidity and 20C nights mean the pool is quite cool. Back in the humid tropics, it's like jumping in to a warm bath.

Alice Springs was also surrounded by hills. Just not what I expected. It adds character to the place.

13th of January. A short hop from Alice Springs to Uluru. Ayers Rock. Another hot day, but without the humidity I'd go as far as saying almost comfortable. I could feel my jacket and jeans were hot, but I wasn't getting flustered at all. I was drinking a lot of water though. 3L every 2 hours. Some of the roadhouses get quite precious about their water which is pulled up from a bore, so sometimes I was sneaky filling the Camelbak up. Plenty of minerals in that stuff!

On arrival at Uluru though. I could compare it to seeing Machu Picchu at that first glimpse. It was quite exciting. Since being a little kid, there's always been pictures, movies, whatever showing this famous rock. So to finally see it was quite a thrill. It's a fascinating place. The rock looks so different from different angles. It has streaks of colour through it, and in some places there's holes in its side in a pattern that gives away some routine process has been working away at it.

This is the angle of the rock that almost everyone sees

But who shows photos like this? Like a big pimple that has been scratched and is oozing hot pus down the side no?

Friday, 10 January 2014

Bundaberg to Karumba. 2793km and the heat continues

The roasting continues


With New Year celebrations out of the way in Bundaberg, I was getting stir crazy and keen to continue. My friend Nathan wanted to ride with me for at least the first part, before rejoining his family in Bundaberg for the journey home back in the Central Coast NSW.

2nd of January we left Bundaberg, straight for Childers further west where we found some fun twisty road previously on the way in. Once at the fun stuff, for some unknown reason in my enthusiasm, after dropping down a gear for a corner, I brought my foot back and rested it on the lever for the centre stand, instead of the foot peg. When I started leaning into the corner, there was this horrible metallic scraping sound. At first I was impressed I had gotten the bike that far over as it didn't seem we were going quick enough. But I have rubberised foot pegs. Instead my foot had pushed down the centre stand and was pressing that into the road. Unnerving!

Nathan was riding his Suzuki GSXR750. A super sports bike designed for going quickly around a track. A touring bike it is not. He never complained of sore wrists even though he was leaning far forward over the bike. While his bike is far far quicker than mine, it has a smaller petrol tank and consumes the petrol quicker, so we found ourselves stopping every 100-150km to refuel as there are times where towns are quite far apart.

We camped at a town called Biloela. Go on, try saying it. I'm betting you're not saying it right. Even when I asked people to say it again, there was something about how it was said I kept missing. To me, it sounded like "Blue Heeler", so that's what I called it. Others just call it "Bilo". The town was surprisingly large, and the camp site had ensuite bathrooms for each caravan/tent spot. Luxurious. That night, the temperature was STILL about 30C and humid, and there was no wind. Lying in the tent was very uncomfortable. So we both ended up sitting in the pool talking until after 10pm. Even after then and returning to our tents, it was difficult to sleep.

3rd of January we continue on towards Yeppoon via Rockhampton. Along the way we stopped in Mount Morgan. It used to be a mining town, and seems to be reinventing itself as a tourist destination. A fascinating place. Where there was once a mountain, is now an open cut pit. I still found it hot wearing all the gear, but bearable. Here's evidence, yes my shirt is saturated.

We rode up to a lookout, and straight after turning off our bikes, there was a local on his bike stopping behind us. He told us it had been so long since motorbikes had come through, he heard us and came up to have a chat. Unexpected but kind of cool!

After passing through Rockhampton, we found Yeppoon on the coast quite pretty. It has a promising stretch right on the coast that ALMOST looks like Pacific Drive down near Wollongong NSW. Start travelling down that way however, and it stops within a few hundred metres.

I had a cousin to meet in Gladstone, and Nathan was returning to his family. Heading back south from Rockhampton was HOT at 42C. We stopped a couple of times to rest and get cold drinks. My bike jacket was dripping from the sleeves and a steady rate when I took it off and hung it over the bike. It's not from rain! Nice.

4th of January, after a very restful sleep in very appreciated air conditioning thanks to my most accommodating cousins, I left at sunrise and went straight for Townsville. Along the way is many, many, many acres of sugar cane. The ride was otherwise uneventful except for 1 spot where I saw a lookout up a narrow steep bitumen road. The lookout was quite nice. On the way down though, the heat had gotten to me and I wasn't thinking as quick as I should be, and reacted too late to a patch of sand over a corner. The tyres slid and I went straight for a grassy ditch. I managed to stop the bike in time before the drop, but was one hell of a wakeup call about how heat brings on fatigue faster.

Townsville was a pleasant surprise. It had this very sudden landscape of hills which are almost mountains. Quite dramatic. It also had a street alongside the beach called The Strand, and a lookout called Castle Hill.

5th of January, the trip to Port Douglas was just a blur. I was eager to get to the far end as I had much to look forward to. For starters I'd scored a good deal at a 5 star resort for 4 nights. The closer to Cairns I got, the more dramatic the mountains became. It almost reminded me of Tasmania. Just a lot warmer. The crops of sugar cane gave up some ground to bananas, mangoes and lychees.

Whilst resting from my hard holiday, I have to say Port Douglas is quite a gem. Hot air ballooning, visiting the Great Barrier Reef, the choice of places to eat, the scenery, worth a visit.

9th of January. Sadly it was time to leave Port Douglas. I was a little concerned about the distance between fuel stops on the way through Central Australia, so I strapped on 2 5L jerry cans to the bike. They'd look like panniers, except for the fact they're bright green! Hey, it was either that or bright red!

Only a short hop this time to Georgetown. The landscape changed to savannah. Long straights, slow changes. LOTS of wildlife to hit. Cattle, wallabies and roos everywhere. Just to make things interesting, there was the occasional stretch of road where there's only room for 1 car or truck. Not that there was much traffic, but when there was, I got out of the way. Having to swerve onto off camber dirt with road tyres on a bike would be a bad idea.

Georgetown itself had 2 camping/caravan spots from what I saw. I took the more appealing of the 2. Not that it was that appealing, but for $11 I wasn't complaining. The ground was soggy, the pool was murky, the ground unkempt. Still, it had a thunderbox (toilet) and showers. The diner was out the front. Still hot, at least I find the riding is a lot more bearable now that I've worked out how to slip the camelbak water tube through under the helmet while riding.

10th of January. Only another short hop. Managed to shake off any morning grogginess from a bad sleep, and enjoyed MORE savannah. From those who were with me last year on the South American mountain bike ride a year ago, it's like going through the Argentinian pampas. Well, not that bad, there's a bit more entertainment. Like when a wallaby darted from the bushes and ran into the side of my bike. I heard the thump as he hit the fairing, then he hit my boot, and we carried on our merry way. I found a slice through the surface of my boot (but not all the way through) with no other damage, just as well I was wearing those which are solid rather than just regular shoes. Maybe it was its teeth that did the slicing. There was cattle everywhere, lots of carrion birds eating the road kill. So if anything the whole trip kept me quite alert!

Staying in Karumba is clearly more tourist oriented around fishing and crocodile tours. It's right on the water in the Gulf of Carpentaria. Pretty place, the bugs here are ferocious. The mosquitos were having a great time until I got some tropical strength aerogard. I once tried to slap one mozzie, and hit 3 with one swipe. This is during the day! Lets see what the night brings...

Thursday, 2 January 2014

Hop to it

The road offers some unexpected fun

26th of December 2013 - 28th of December

The trip starts not as a big epic solo, but rather as a series of social hops. First thing to note that on the first stop which was Orange, the road from Crookwell was not always sealed. Not so fun on a loaded up bike with road tyres. Uneventuful, but not preferable!

Near Orange I caught up with some friends of friends who happen to be keen mountain bikers, and also gave me free lunch. I like these people. Overnight at a friend's sister's place (I camped outside because I could), then as a group we set off. 2 motorbikes, and 1 car complete with a family.

27th of December riding to Boggabilla near the Queensland border was hot. Close to 40C. Not so fun in motorbike safety gear. What was fun though was a series of well spaced bumps in the road that had both motorbikes leaping off the road. Think of speed boats when they race over the ocean waves. Each time they leap off the top of the wave, the engine revs until they land again. That's what we were doing with the road. Sweet! They were smooth bumps at least. All this shaking however rattled my new toy on the bike to pieces, which was a USB power outlet to keep my phone charged. The innards couldn't handle it. Bugger. Something for me to sort while in Bundaberg. This is so much like my trip in South America, where in the first couple of weeks I was hunting parts for the mountain bike.

Boggabilla itself is like most of the towns in this region. A scattering of houses, big silos and a train track. I like big engineering, so I found the scenery fascinating.

The next day was no cooler. My friend Nathan and I both on the motorbikes took the more direct route towards Bundaberg. His family in the car got directed by their GPS to go via Toowoomba and Brisbane. Their trip took more than 2 hours longer. Ouch.

 The roads were not remarkable beyond the moments of long long flat straights. Except just before we reached a town called Childers. Nice twisty stuff. Nice! We were going to come back this way later, and it will become memorable for me, but more on that in the next post.

All arrived safely at my friend's cousin's place in Bundaberg, where we stay to see in the New Year. That night we were introduced to doing our bit for the environment. Cane toads are a terrible introduced pest. We were also shown a cricket bat. Thunk!

Not so many photos for now, but after a week or so I'll patch together some of the videos from the go pro that I had on a chest harness. So a small wait for a greater reward.

Sunday, 22 December 2013


Preamble before the tour

The initial proposed 11,376km route. subject to change on a whim.

For those of you who know me, you'd remember my last grand tour by mountain bike, which was the Andes Trail mountain bike ride in 2012. The 11,000km, 5 month ride along the Andes mountains from the equator, to the southern tip of South America.

Now I'm presented with another opportunity to see more of where I live, which is Australia. This time on my trusty 2013 Suzuki GS500F motorbike. Not known for its high performance, but it is known for its high reliability. Since buying it 8 months before now, I've already travelled 41,000km on it, and it's living up to its great reputation.

This time I meet with friends in Orange NSW, then we all proceed to Bundaberg Queensland to see in the New Year.

A few days after New Year, my friends turn back for home, and I'll continue solo to Cairns, Port Douglas, across to the Gulf of Carpentaria, down to Uluru, Adelaide, Great Ocean Road, a loop around Tasmania, then back home via the Snowy Mountains.

I'm expecting this trip to take roughly 6 weeks. Stopping for a few days where I like, otherwise camping a single night and continuing. The route may change on a whim based on advice along the way.

The only concern I have at this stage is whether my lower back will come back to haunt me like it did towards the end of the Andes Trail. Otherwise, watch this space.