The posts on this site are displayed as most recent first. If you would like to read about my Around Australia Ride Blog journey from the start I suggest you use the Week 1, Week 2, Week 3, Week 4 and Week 5 links and scroll to the bottom of each page to begin.
Despite plenty of talk regarding the inevitable finality from the past couple of days I woke up this morning really looking forward to the ride ahead from Mount Gambier to Lorne. Why? Because today is going to be when I get to hit one of Australia motorcycle riders most coveted bit of tarmac – The Great Ocean Road. But before I was able to get to the Great Ocean Road I first had to get out of Mount Gambier and not without first visiting the Blue Lake.
The Blue Lake in Mount Gambier sits in the mount of an extinct volcano and has been the town’s primary water source since 1884. But that’s not what is so interesting about this 36,000 million litre body of water. As the name suggests you could be forgiven for expecting the water to be blue. Apparently the Blue Lake changes colour in early November and it will last through to around March before it fades and the grey winter appearance is resumed. Very lucky for us its transformation was well underway and the water did indeed look blue. The overcast sky in the morning prevented a decent photo capturing the colour of the lake, but take it from me it was quite striking. I’ll also mention the tap water in Mount Gambier is the best I have tasted on this entire trip.
Having spent enough time dallying around the Blue Lake it was time to get going into the green countryside. Small towns are sprinkled along the road every 20 or so kilometres now so there was plenty of choice for pulling over and having a break. I stopped for lunch in Port Fairy with David Cook and found it to be such a picturesque spot that I’ll have to remember to come back to if I come back to this area again. Who am I kidding, of course I’ll be back. Having had lunch I was now starting to wonder where exactly is the Great Ocean Road?
Turns out the Great Ocean Road starts just after Warrnambool and runs to Torquay. It begins inland for a short while until we finally rounded a bend and there the ocean was, with the first lookout was up for grabs moments later. If you’re going to do the Great Ocean Road and really appreciate the many, many, manylookouts dotted along the way I would highly recommend allowing a full day. While the road itself is only 250kms long there is a lot to see if you choose to do so. With Cookie following I kept pulling off the road at every opportunity, the rugged coastline (to use a cliche) was so interesting and the limestone cliffs had so many colours and shapes.
It wasn’t long after Peterborough that we finally found the 12 Apostles. There’s a tourist information centre on the left hand side (inland side) of the road and we walked the short path that went under the road and out to the 12 Apostles themselves. I should point out here that there’s actually just seven apostles left. In September of 2009 another of the Apostles crumbled and fell into the ocean. North from the lookout it is possible to see just a small pile of rubble where one of the Apostles once stood. The 12 Apostles were formed as the softer limestone in the cliffs was worn away leaving the Apostles out to sea, but over time it appears they are all destined to disappear. A group of Around Australia Ride motorcyclists had earlier been through with Stuart and Emily up in a helicopter taking footage. Speaking of helicopters I’ll mention that not only was the tourist area around the 12 Apostles just packed, but there were four or five sight seeing helicopters running in a racetrack formation overhead. The constant drone of these helicopters did take away from the experience somewhat but having had a ride myself above Katherine Gorge I’m sure it’s a fantastic view.
Now at this point I have to fess up to something. From a motorcyclist’s point of view the Great Ocean Road was so far quite, well, boring. Sure the scenery was great and the road was in reasonably good condition, and there were gentle sweepers here and there, but I have been on far more interesting and exciting roads than this to get the heart pumping – so what’s the big deal? Well unbeknown to me at the time, if you’re coming in from the north then it is around 20kms after the 12 Apostles that the road finally gets exciting, except it has gone inland. So now I was on some great amazing twisties surrounded by trees and forest, and running the Yamaha Road Star hell for leather. This is a motorcyclist’s road, this is what it’s about, this is what it means to have fun! That is until the rain started and the temperature dropped about 10 degrees – seems I can’t win a trick. It’s also due to the rain why my photos basically came to an end when the camera got buried in the bags again. Getting myself from the 12 Apostles to Apollo Bay was a mix of hard and fast running on grippy tarmac, and slow cold pussyfooting on slippery wet stuff. If not for the conditions I would have had a ball the entire way, although the best was yet to come.
Pulling into Apollo Bay I was cold, wet and getting quite tired. Getting here from the Apostles was only around 90kms but it would have taken me close to two hours due to the tightness of the road and the bad weather. I stopped for a hot chocolate and had a chat to a local who was admiring my bike, until he found out it wasn’t the Harley Davidson he thought it was. Not for the first time I had someone telling me if they had known about the Around Australia Ride they would have been on it for sure with their Harley. Apparently his was a 2002 model, he doesn’t get out on it much and it only has about 12,000kms on it. How long has the trip been, he asked. About 14,000kms to this point, I said. Oh, he said. Well how many k’s has your bike done, he asked. Well it turned 100,000kms in Perth a couple of weeks ago, I said. Oh, he said. Oh.
Heading out of Apollo Bay towards Lorne I saw it was only another 44 kilometres up the road, but that guy had also said it would take me about 45 minutes to get there. I soon found out why. Yet again I was in sharp tight twisties like I had been experiencing earlier through the forests, except this time I was right next to the water. And I don’t mean high on a bluff seeing the water, I mean it was right there, so close that if I misjudged a turn I would be swimming. As it happened I picked up Craig “Banno” Banning on this last leg and we burned through that road as though the hounds from hell were hot on our tails. A couple of times we were held up by traffic despite the “pull over for faster vehicles” signs dotted along the way. Overtaking opportunities were few and far between and most corners where signposted at no more than 50kph, but Banno was well impressed by the note of my Road Star when I would knock it back a couple to slam the throttle wide open to take over some less-than-courteous drivers. Nothing says get the f… out of my way quite like 110db of V-Twin fury can. On this last stage the weather held off and the road had dried enough for us to have some real fun. Banno lamented the fact that his helmet cam had run out of battery power earlier in the day as he stayed close to my rear. The forests and this magic by the sea is what the Great Ocean Road is about for motorcyclists. I was really glad we came in from the north so we could end the day on a high.
Dusk was approaching as we got into Lorne, a just gorgeous seaside town/village. After getting sent on a wild goose chase for accommodation we finally checked in to a wonderful three bedroom apartment that had views across the water. Turns out I was sharing with Banno and Adam, although Adam who had arrived a couple of hours earlier was out to it as his broken ribs were causing him an incredible amount of discomfort and he had taken some heavy pain killers. There’s only two more days to go to get to Thredbo, it would be so cruel for him to pull out now, I really hope he makes it.
Wow, two days to go. The end is almost here. This is getting quite difficult to handle.
After the previous night’s speeches and activities I certainly have the feeling of this big ride fast coming to its inevitable conclusion. Riding from Lyndoch to Mount Gambier there was a sense of familiarity to the roads and not because I have ridden them before. No it is that feeling of civilisation I have spoken of in other posts, the area could be just another bit of tarmac I have done before. No road trains, no sweeping red vistas, no massive eagles refusing to take flight from their road-kill as I ride past. I didn’t even have any great inclination to get the camera out either, but this was more due to what the road didn’t have to offer. After the past 13,000kms+ I guess I am just spoilt for scenery and seem to be running out of things to talk about.
I must admit I was impressed with the Big Lobster at Kingston in South Australia. If you look closely you can see my Road Star parked beneath its lobster legs – I think I may have gotten some disapproving looks from the restaurant for that. Stopping here for lunch I found some of the other riders along with Allan McGuirk. A local journo happened to be having lunch also and interviewed Allan for a piece in the local rag. Makes me wonder how many local news pieces we have generated on this ride. A quick Google search doesn’t garner a lot as far as “newspaper” articles are concerned, but I did find an article from the Barossa Herald. I’ll have to look for more at some stage and link to them from this site.
The only other thing of note for me on this day was Robe. I saw the turnoff to Robe (which apparently isn’t famous for Robes) and after a little bit of exploring I found the Robe Obelisk. Built in the 1850s it was used as a navigation marker for ships entering Guichen Bay and also storing rocket propelled lifesaving equipment. Yes, rocket propelled. Originally white, the Obelisk was later painted the colours you see in this picture as it could be seen some 20kms out to sea and became a reference point for passing ships.
Into Mount Gambier in the afternoon I was keen to go and check out the Blue Lake which formed in the crater of a long extinct volcano. Unfortunately the rain that had been a little on and off through the day was getting ready to settle in. Quite frankly I was still feeling the pain of the horror day from Ceduna to Port Augusta so took a raincheck (boom-boom) and promised myself to check it out as I leave town tomorrow. Another car park party ensued before the bar opened with everyone continuing to share contact information and plans for a reunion like it’s our last night together. This has become a bit of a theme in the last couple of days and while it can be a bit of a downer hinting at the finish, it does remind us all of the good friends we have made over the last five weeks.
After the abject misery of the previous day of riding in the rain we all woke a little nervous and timidly peaked through curtains to survey the new morning. Blue sky and much thanks to various deities ensued. The run from Port Augusta to Lyndoch was a close second for the shortest day of the trip weighing in at around 300km. We were also due for lunch at Peter Cherry’s place in Gawler, only a few minutes from Lyndoch, where the local Honda dealership and Goldwing Riders were going to meet us. I stupidly didn’t check the itinerary map for the day figuring it would be a straight run down the highway and missed out on some country road exploring. I was also not far from Adelaide itself when I realised the voice in my head (the GPS) hadn’t told me of any turn-offs. The Navigon App on my iPhone had crashed which resulted in my having to backtrack some 30kms north and was almost late for lunch. After lunch there was an auction for some goodies to raise more money for the Steven Walter Foundation and amongst things like a bike wash and paintball tickets there was a couple of choice items. An Around Australia Ride t-shirt that had been signed by all the riders went for around $1,000. We were all aware we could just sign more shirts for each other, but that’s not the point, is it. What did feel fairly priceless though was an etching of the Around Australia Ride logo that had been done by one of the locals (apologies I can’t remember his name, will update if I get it). There was fierce competition for the etching and it finally went for a whopping $3,000!
Lyndoch was only 15km away and because the next day was another designated rest day I wanted to see if I could find the cause of my fuel issues. In the car-park where we were staying at the lovely Lyndoch Hill I had parts stripped off the bike as I checked fuel lines, spark plugs and conducted open heart surgery on the carburettor. I couldn’t find anything wrong. So I took a leaf out of the audio-book I had been listening to on part of the trip, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance which for those not in the know is an exploration around philosophy intertwined with a cross country trip on a motorcycle between father and son. Anyway, at one point he talks about being stuck on a problem (an analogy about life) and when you have tried everything you can possibly think of to become unstuck then often the last resort is to just sit and stare. So stare I did and within a few minutes I realised there was a tube on the carb that I was pretty sure should have been plugged. A quick check online at the manual and my suspicion was confirmed. Rick and Bob (of Specialty Fasteners fame in Fyshwick) came to my assistance and jury rigged up a little number from Rick’s support vehicle and fashioned a plug for me. I’ll see if it helps tomorrow.
On the designated rest day there was another wine tour for those who wanted to partake. Unlike Margaret River which is barely 40 years old, wine in the Barossa region has been made since the 1840s and so has a bit more heritage behind it. There’s currently 150 wineries and over 750 grape growers in the region meaning there is no shortage of cellar doors to visit. For me I did a local loop on my Road Star through the townships of Williamstown, Mount Pleasant, Eden Valley and Tanunda. I enjoyed lunch at one of the Grant Burge Cellar doors with a cheese platter and glass of Shiraz while overlooking a vineyard, so tranquil. The day’s run was just over 110kms and my fuel use went from a terrible 12kms per liter up to 17kms per liter – this represents an increase of 80kms before hitting reserve so it was significant.
The second night in Lyndoch Hill was a memorable one with our hosts Mark and Mandy looking after us in fine style. So fine in fact they donated for auction three nights accommodation for two at Lyndoch Hill, wine tour, personal cellar door tasting, wine, food and other treats. As the bidding rapidly passed $1,000 Mark and Mandy upped the donation to be accommodation for four (two rooms) and this is when things got interesting. Matt and Joe put their heads together and started bidding as a syndicate. Syndicate what? How do you use accommodation like this if a syndicate wins? Well the final amount was $2,500 which Joe and Matt won, and then they promptly announced that they were giving the accommodation they had one to Allan and Phil to use with their wives for all the hard work and organisation that had occurred. Phil had some very moving words to say after that mentioning his son Steven (Walter) would have been looking down at all this in amazement at what the original Snowy Ride had become. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house.
This was the last of the two night stops and we now have the final run of Mount Gambier, Lorne and Lakes Entrance ahead of us before we reach Thredbo on Friday the 5th of November. The adventure side of things feels well and truly over now with civilisation ahead of us all the way. Doesn’t feel like such a challenge anymore with petrol stations no more than 50kms apart and the trucks are getting down to normal size now. What will I do when it’s all over?
This will likely be the shortest post on my Around Australia Ride blog due to one thing. Rain. It’s also the post with the fewest photos due to the camera being buried in my bags to avoid any moisture. Day 27 of the Around Australia Ride from Ceduna to Port Augusta started in the rain, had rain in the middle and was still raining at the end. It just did not let up all day and to top things off, it was very, very cold. Stops at petrol stations where an exercise in frustration trying to get out of wet weather gear and fishing out wallets with fingers that were quite literally numb. Numb for those of us without heated grips, gloves or jackets that is (looking at you Donna). I was cold, freezing and soaking wet. My body felt like it had taken a beating from being tense all day and mentally I was trashed. As far as riding conditions go this has been the absolute worst day of the whole trip – but it still beats working.
Riding in the rain is physically very exhausting, especially in really adverse conditions as today with blustery winds and cold. Additionally the road trains were a huge challenge causing whiteouts every time they pass. As the trucks came towards us with headlights blazing we were unable to see what was behind them. When they go by, a wall of water would be thrown at the riders obliterating all vision for a second or two. I was following Chris all day, as you don’t ride solo in conditions like this, and even his taillights would disappear from view in the wash of each road train leaving me to hope he would still be upright when I pop through the other side as well. Sometimes there would be two road trains, one straight after the other. Sometimes three, or even four, constantly slamming each bike with turbulence and wet stuff. Mentally it wears a rider down as well with the continuous need to be hyper-alert and vigilant. No daydreaming, even for a moment, otherwise you might miss that huge pool of standing water and start to aquaplane, or find you’re going too fast into a corner and loosing traction, or you might drift off the coarse middle of the lane into the shiny slick part of the lane and suddenly the bike rides like it has flat tyres. The almost 900km day to Carnarvon was a breeze compared to this.
Road weary and tired, once we got to Port Augusta there was probably not a single rider who hadn’t sprung a leak somewhere with their wet weather gear. A person could be forgiven for thinking that “wet weather” clothing should be waterproof, but consider the following. Imagine a wild storm where the rain never stops, the air temperature around 6oc, the winds are blowing at a constant 120kph and every minute or so the storm gusts to well over 220kph. Now imagine you are in these conditions for a minimum of five hours. Welcome to riding a motorcycle in freezing rain getting continuously blasted by road trains. A lot of people’s rooms had the heaters on full-ball with gloves, jackets, shirts, pants and just about anything else you can imagine drying in front of them. I think it might have been the first time anyone turned on a heater for the entire trip. The subsequent car park party was one to remember (or forget depending on your point of view) as the bar at the hotel wasn’t going to open until the evening. So we were forced to content ourselves with a quiet sophisticated drink under the hotel eaves with friendly and cheerful banter to get over the day’s trials. Please let the weather clear up for tomorrow.
A run just shy of 500kms taking us from Border Village to Ceduna is what we were looking at for day 26 of the Around Australia Ride. This was a tough day for me emotionally. I woke in a very bleak mood and couldn’t really shake it for the rest of the day. I’ve been on the road for almost four weeks now and there is only one week left of the official ride, so maybe that was it. Or maybe it’s the sometimes monotonous countryside, or going from hot to cool to hot to cold, I’m not sure. At least I know it’s not the company because everyone truly is great. And it wasn’t just the mental bringing me down either, my Road Star had developed a few minor but nonetheless niggling issues that won’t go away. Fuel consumption was way up and varying wildly (only 11km per litre, I should get 16km+ per litre), my fuel gauge which has been a little spotty all trip has quit entirely, there’s an oil leak that I can’t find the source of and my saddlebag brackets are being held together with 21st century gaffa tape – aka zip ties. Out here there’s not a lot to do about it other than just get on the motorcycle and keep riding, so I did.
We’re still on the Nullarbor Plains which extends from Norseman in WA to Ceduna in SA. Nullarbor is actually derived from Latin – not aboriginal as most think – with “Nullus” for no, and “Arbor” for tree – meaning no trees (any mangling of the translation is mine). Local Mindiri people refer to the area as Oondiri – meaning waterless with only around 200mm of rain falling annually. I think we saw evidence of a little of those 200mm today. There are trees on the Nullarbor Plains as seen yesterday on the Roe Plains, but there are also long runs where there is nothing larger than a bush in the surrounding landscape.
There was a little more to look at with this section of highway passing close to the Great Australian Bight (spelt correctly) where there are numerous lookouts anything from 100m to 12km from the road. The craggy outcrops run quite a ways and are high enough in sections that the edge can come at you sooner than you think due to nothing but sky in the horizon ending only metres from your feet. Later I stopped at the Head of the Bight which is a popular whale watching area, although we have made it right at the tail end of the season and there were no whales evident today which was a shame. At the visitor centre there was the bleached skull of a juvenile humpback whale which had washed up in the area back in 2009, would have been longer than I am tall.
There are still road trains about, although restricted at 35 metres long they aren’t as big as the ones up north that are up to 53 metres long. The bright spark in the photo thought he would overtake another road train up a small incline. I would honestly guess it took him up to two kilometres to complete the maneuver and there were double lines on one stretch.
The day ended with rain in Ceduna which was foreboding of an unpleasant day tomorrow. Not as unpleasant as the day Adam had today. Adam, Craig and Mark had taken a stretch of dirt road on their bikes and, unknown to me when I took the photo, Adam had come off not once but three times in quite spectacular fashion with his KTM cartwheeling down the track. I felt bad telling him to smile for the camera when I learnt later that he had at least fractured (if not broken) a number of ribs. It was decided that busted ribs were enough shame without adding the Tutu into the mix. Just don’t hug him too hard, ok? You can read Adam’s account of that day at Adam’s Ride Around Australia blog.
The dark clouds overhead summed up how I ended the day as well. I had hit a low point for some reason and chose to spend the evening in my room getting some updates done. I guess out of 26 days not all of them can be bright and cheery, and I will report now I woke the next morning in a much better frame of mind so it didn’t persist. The bike problems still exist of course and I plan to investigate things once we reach Lyndoch in a couple more days time where we have a two night stop.
Day 25 of the Around Australia Ride dawned clear of the previous night’s storm. Everything was coated in a layer of dust you couldn’t exactly see, but made everything feel gritty – Missy and Lewis said they were shovelling the sand out of their sleeping bags for the next week. Our itinerary today was from Balladonia to Border Village and with nothing keeping us around we hit the road early.
Only a few minutes out of Balladonia is the start of Australia’s longest section of dead straight road. 146.6 kilometres without a single bend and a mere 110kmh speed limit to get through it with. Surprising for a bunch of motorcycle riders how many of us got pictures of the sign (myself included) as you could be forgiven for thinking it was going to be the most boring road ever. Luckily the scenery made things interesting enough and a lot of us didn’t realise when the straight actually stopped and the bends began.
One thing I have really noticed in Western Australia is a lot of their tourist attraction type signs leave a lot to be desired and I blazed past the Caiguna Blowhole barely registering the turnoff. I might as well kept on going as the blowhole wasn’t, err, blowing. The blowholes on the Nullabor are not fed by the sea but instead are caves that “breath” as the air pressure rises and falls. The information sign at Caiguna said winds had been registered over 70kph at one of the blowholes but there was nary a breeze to be had out of the one we visited. What was interesting was watching Colin climb into it after Cheryl’s glasses after she slipped and almost took a header into the blowhole. While Colin was fossicking in there he could be heard calling, “Here, snaky snaky snaky snaky…”
Continuing on I was getting a bit bored when I saw a sign to a scenic lookout (again no earlier indication it was coming up). The outlook for the last hour had been uninspiring and I couldn’t see any large outcrops in the distance. Figuring I could use a break, and what would it matter if the scenic outlook was of a dirty puddle, I pulled in anyway – and was completely stunned at what I found. I was at the top of Madura Pass and off to the right the slight hills and rises that had been the scenery dropped away to the Roe Plains. The plains were dead flat and stretched to the horizon. They’re dotted with trees and a purpleish-blue scrub and for just a fraction of a moment I thought, I’m in Africa. It’s a shame the photo doesn’t come close to capturing the feeling of what seeing the Roe Plains was like for the first time.
Later into the afternoon I had been riding down at the edge of the plains when the road turned back up onto the escarpment towards Eucla. Keen for fuel I got off the highway and promptly saw a sign (that I wouldn’t have otherwise seen if I kept going) to the old telegraph station 4kms away. I hadn’t done much else for the day and this had been on my list of things to do. So I followed the road which went back down the escarpment and soon turned from tarmac to dirt. Previous exploring was making me an old hand at dirt and I pressed on, until the dirt surface took on a layer of mud and the Road Star started to get very skate-ish. While I hadn’t been rained on all day there was always dark clouds ahead of me and this was the result. My odometer told me I only had another kilometre to go and to be honest I didn’t want to attempt a u-turn on this stuff. I made it to the old telegraph station, which unlike the one near Tennant Creek, was not recognisable as anything other than an old stone ruin. The stonework in the main visible wall was very interesting with sand dunes slowly claiming the rest of the building, but that was about it.
My exploring over I returned to my motorcycle and then found the cause of the bad handling – mud was coating my tyres in a layer about half an inch thick. This was when I started getting really worried that my solo exploring was going to bring me unstuck. I made a futile effort at scrapping the mud off before guessing that within 10 metres it would be back just as thick. Do I make the call for help now, or tough it out? No, I won’t be wearing the Tutu of Shame without a fight! So with my heart absolutly hammering in my chest I started to head back, no higher than first gear, feet off the floorboards, going no more than a walking pace. At first everything seemed fine, but then the bike started to slide, first the back wheel, then the front, I barely kept it up. Coming to a shaky stop I got off to inspect the situation and it wasn’t good. On the tyres the mud was thicker than ever and bogging up underneath the fenders. Again I thought about calling for help, I did have reception (surprisingly), but after scraping what I could from the fenders I decided to push on.
Due to the slippery conditions I didn’t dare turn the bars unless I had to. Then it went from bad to worse, a very loud and sharp CLUNK, CLUNK, CLUNK started from the rear of the bike. Stopping again I found a clot of mud had fallen onto the belt and was now embedded into the rear pulley. The clunking was the belt riding up onto the edge of the pulley before it snapped back down again. I gouged the mud out of the pulley as best I could with a screwdriver, it was like rock after being compressed by the belt. I had to repeat this at least a few more times. After what felt like a lifetime I finally made it out and onto the tarmac again – WOOHOO!!! I ran the bike through every puddle I could find to get rid of some of the mud but even then as I completed the last 20kms to Border Village the occasional clot of red muck from the front fender would fly out ahead of me. Maybe my adventuring days are over? Probably not.
The 24th day of the Around Australia Ride was destined to be another dull day on the road. Unlike yesterday’s destination of Esperance, Balladonia had nothing more than a roadhouse and a bar, so who wanted to be in a hurry to get there?
As I neared Norseman, the first fuel stop of the day, I saw a sign pointing to the right down a dirt road to Dundas Rocks. It was only 2km so I thought I would go exploring and check things out. Dundas Rocks was at the long ago settlement of Dundas, a gold mining town that died almost as soon as it was born back in 1894. Gold had been discovered at Dundas and a small township had started to spring up, but then even more gold was discovered at what became Norseman little more than 20km up the road. Subsequently Dundas died a little death. I spent a good hour exploring the rocks and the area that had been the settlement all the while listening to the thunder of a nearby storm, imagining the sound to be the blast of dynamite back in the day. But then I got myself into a bit of a predicament.
I had pulled off the track into what looked like hard packed dirt which was actually loose sand. The front wheel dug in and as I tried to accelerate the rear of the bike started to lower sharply as it got bogged. To make matters worse I wasn’t able to put the Road Star on the side stand as it would have sunk in and fallen over. Don’t panic. If I did put the bike over it would be at least a 20 minute walk back to the highway and hope that I can flag down a support vehicle. This is the last thing I wanted to do as the only thing worse than having your Road Star take a nap and have to get one of the support guys to get you out, is the fact that the Tutu of Shame would have been mine. Not going to happen. I started rocking the bike back and forth. At first it wouldn’t move, being around 370kg fully laden, and when I was just about to give up and accept my fate I felt it break loose and shift the tiniest bit. It took me a couple of minutes rocking the bike back and forth, like some child on a rocking horse, until finally I got up enough momentum to push the bike backwards out of the rut with one last heave. Ha, I avoid the Tutu of Shame for another day! Another reminder about the folly of going off on my own. Surely I couldn’t do any worse than that? Not on this day at least.
Back on the highway I made it to Norseman. Talk about a depressed town. A lot of the signage in the street is faded and flaky, there seems to be a distinct lack of colour everywhere and a lot of closed businesses and vacant storefronts where evident. It was also the town when I had my most touching donation. As I stood in the street, wearing all my leather clobber, this dear old duck comes shuffling up to me with her walker. In a soft quavery voice she asked if we were raising money for something and I told her about the Steven Walter Foundation and the Answers for Kids Cancer program. She said it all sounded wonderful and lifted the seat on her walker and from under the tin of Black and Gold baked beans and No Frills loaf of white bread she pulled out her purse. With a slightly shaky but ever so delicate hand she pulled out a $10 note and handed it to me. She gave me a lovely smile, said it was a good thing we were doing, softly patted my hand with her own which felt light as a feather, and then started to slowly shuffle down the street once again pushing her walker out in front of her. That moment really touched me and will remain with me forever.
I got going again and headed out for Balladonia. I figured if I got there early enough I could do a blog update or two as I am running quite a few days behind at the moment. Another sign pointing off the side of the road to Newmans Rocks diverted me once again. This wasn’t as interesting (or as exciting) as Dundas Rocks but it was good to see something different again. There was also a small pool of water which upon investigation was full of 100s if not 1,000s of what looked like tadpoles the size of my thumb! I tried to get a photo but the wind on the water made it impossible. They were something to see, all clustered together in bunches that would scatter as I approached the water’s edge. I also noticed around the water’s edge what appeared to be dog tracks. Dingo tracks maybe? And here I am on my own again without a baby in sight. Time to go.
I reached Balladonia mid afternoon and after checking out my rough and ready accommodation (we had been warned in advance) I settled down at the computer for some writing. Later in the afternoon the most amazing dust storm came whipping through, strong enough to push one of the motorcycle camper-trailers about a bit. We had the entire place booked, quickly drank the spply of beer dry and a utewas sent to Norseman for more supplies, STAT! It was a fun night with everyone in very high spirits and looking forward to getting the run across the Nullarbor over and done with. I had started the day thinking it was going to be very boring but due to a desire to not just run straight up the road and instead do a little exploring I now have more precious memories of this adventure.
The 23rd day of the Around Australia Ride. After the previous day’s road having so much interest and fantastic scenery the road to Esperance was quite a contrast in its dullness. This suited me fine as I was keen to get to Esperance and spend some time exploring there. The Noongar people were the first known inhabitants of the area from around 20,000 years ago. The coastline for Esperance was first sighted around the late 1620s by Dutch explorers, and was first settled by Europeans in the 1860s. The history I was interested was much more recent as I was born in Western Australia and as a very young child we used to spend holidays at Esperance. So the 485kms were done and dusted in no time flat and it would have been around 12:30pm when I rolled into town – the first time in about 30 years.
What struck me first was how white the beaches were, and how blue the ocean was. I had timed my arrival perfectly with the sun high in a cloudless sky. This made for crystal clear water the likes I haven’t seen since we left Broome. Riding through town I wasn’t picking up any childhood memories, but that was OK as there were only a couple of places that I knew would come back to me. After dropping my gear at the motel I was off exploring.
There’s not a lot to the town of Esperance itself and it didn’t take too long until I found a scenic road that wound along the craggy coastline. Talk about picturesque! Everywhere I pointed the camera there were beautiful beaches, interesting outcrops, light and dark patches of blue in the water and a slow winding road to take me past it all. It was just gorgeous and the sea air was so fresh and reinvigorating. Finally I rounded yet another breathtaking corner and there it was.
Twilight Cove, the location of possibly my most earliest and vivid childhood memories. This rock is something that I always remember from our trips to Esperance. Playing in the water with the rock just offshore I had always wanted to swim out to it, but at that age it just seemed so far away. And there I was, standing on that same beach now as an adult. Like most childhood memories size and scale change dramatically. The rock is less than 100 metres from shore and there is even a small sandbar I could probably wade out to it on.
But I didn’t. Sure I could have been out to that rock within a few minutes, but that is the other thing with childhood memories, the challenges don’t seem that great once accomplished. Sometimes even an anti-climax, especially after all those years. No, I was content to sit for half an hour and just watch the rock and the ocean and take it all in. That particular mountain didn’t need conquering, that particular memory doesn’t need diluting.
After Twilight Cove I continued round, stopping at various lookouts, taking lots of photos. Soon a wind farm’s windmills poked over the hills and I made my way to them. The windmills were turning at a decent clip as there was a stiff breeze on this day. I’d had a good time with my slow ride along the coast and now I was keen to get back to town and take a walk out on the old jetty.
Along with Twilight Cove, in my vault of other earliest memories is of fishing from this jetty. It’s long been out of service and has fallen into quite the state of disrepair. A sign at the start of the jetty says the town is trying to restore it and make sure they don’t have to demolish any more of the jetty that is beyond saving. As I walked out along its half a kilometre length I remembered how we fished a lot, never caught much, and what we did catch we didn’t really eat – the fish went to our cat at the time. Those three things really stood out for me and I was twitching for a handline just to re-live the experience. Unlike swimming miles out to a rock, fishing is something that can always be done over and over.
After the jetty I walked back to the motel feeling content with my exploring. It would have been really nice to stay in Esperance for a day, go for a swim, wet a line, linger over lunch in a local cafe. As always though time was against us and we were out of town the next morning on the next day of our adventure.
Day 22 of the Around Australia Ride with the Steven Walter Foundation took us a short 400kms from Margaret River to Albany. Today was always going to be a good day as there are many scenic roads, things to go look at, people to visit (for me), and stuff to explore. My day started around 8:00am by conquering the second half of Caves Road down to Cape Leeuwin. I think the second half of that road is better than the first and it certainly got me awake quick smart. The Karri trees along this road are also very impressive towering high above everything.
At Cape Leeuwin I went to the lighthouse – built in 1895 – which is also the most south/western tip of Australia. This is also the location where the Indian Ocean meets the Southern Ocean. It was $5 to have a wander around the area and I find myself not minding having to pay as these historic locations need to be upkeep-ed somehow and everything was very well maintained. We were there too early for the lighthouse itself to be open but that suited me fine as I had a few things yet on my itinerary.
From Cape Leeuwin I rode with Fridge and Buttsy for a while until I noticed a turnoff for Beedelup Falls. I had been recommended to go and see them after a call to my friend Adrian who I would be meeting later in the day near Manjimup. Unfortunately it has been a drier than normal season so the falls weren’t exactly exploding with splendor, but it was a nice enough diversion all the same with a 400m loop track taking me down to visit and some photos.
After Beedelup Falls I found a sign to the second of Adrian’s recommendations – the Dave Evans Bicentennial Tree. This was to be the highlight of my day. I had been told that the Bicentennial Tree is one of three enormous Karri Trees in the area that people can climb. Adrian mentioned the Gloucestor Tree was one of the more better known ones, but in his opinion was a bit crowded and wasn’t as tall as the Bicentennial Tree (BT). I wasn’t disappointed. The BT is 75m tall and at first, from a distance, looks like an easy enough challenge. It’s not until closer inspection that I saw the way up is via steel rods that have been driven into the side of the tree, going up and around in spiral staircase fashion. With the exception of some mesh on the outside of this staircase there are no other safety features.
Still, I wasn’t going to be deterred and made my way up to the first and only rest platform at 25m. From there it was a long climb to the top platform of 75m. I don’t know if it was my imagination at work, but some of those rods flexed a little too much for my liking. But it was worth it with the view from the top just fantastic as the BT is above the forest canopy and there is nothing but the tops of trees as far as you can see in every direction. By the time I got back to the bottom of the tree my leg were very rubbery with fatigue, I’ll pay for that in the coming days I am sure.
Once the BT was climbed and conquered I went and visited Adrian and Julia and their two kids. It was great to catch up with them and we joked how I had ridden over 10,000kms just for a quick visit and a bite to eat for lunch. Their house is beautiful and is a converted old country school building. Adrian and Julia have put a lot of work into the place with a lot of homegrown vegetables and fruits in evidence.
I had to press on sooner than I would have liked as my next stop was the Valley of the Giants. The giants are Red and Yellow Tingle Trees which while they don’t grow as tall as Karri trees are still very tall and impressive in their own right. Part of the the experience is a suspension bridge walk that takes you 45m up into the canopy. A long way to drop a camera if you’re not careful. At ground level you get to see the huge circumference of these trees, really impressive and a little bit humbling too.
The day was getting on so I hit the last leg for Albany. I had wanted to get there early enough to visit the Great Southern Distilling Company (makers of Limeburners Single Malt Whisky) to sample some Australian made whisky, but it wasn’t to be as I arrived around 5:30pm. I wasn’t disappointed however as their whisky I can buy any time I choose whereas a run down the second half of Caves Road, visting Cape Leeuwin, seeing Beedelup Falls, climbing a huge tree, catching up with Adrian and Julia and walking through the Valley of Giants is not something I will be able to do again any time soon. At dinner that night everyone was very happy and content with the day they had, and I was also pleased to see I was not the only one on quickly unsteady legs from tree climbing. Has to have been right up there with my favorite days.