Wednesday, 16 January 2019

Sydney to Tamworth

Bye bye Sydney, bye bye
It wasn't that we had run out of things to do in Sydney, we had just run out of things we wanted to do and when we rode away from Surry Hills on Friday 4th January we were smiling from ear to ear.

We weren't going far on our first day back with the bikes. We'd booked Devil (F650GS) and Dwarfie (R1200GS) in for a service at Gee Tee Motorcycles at Berowa only 45km away. The guys were waiting for us and well before lunch time the service was complete and we spent the afternoon cruising the crests and curves along the Pacific Highway.

Berowa Waters ferry
We were on our way early the following day, with 40 degrees forecast we were determined to get a couple of hours under the wheel before the conditions reached “uncomfortable.” We descended quickly down Berowa Waters Road to our first ferry crossing over Berowa Creek. On the other side we found The Old Northern Road and then the famous Wiseman Ferry took us across The Hawkesbury River. We trundled along, acknowledging the local bikers enjoying their Saturday run, and smiling all the while we were hanging out with the bikes again. Two hours into a 300km ride and we hadn't made 100km.

Wollombi Tavern

The temperature soared and we stopped for a coldie, and lots of water, at Wollombi Tavern. The air conditioned tea rooms of Icki Sticky turned up just in time for us to cool down once more. We were encouraged onwards by the number of local bikers on the road and we arrived at Wangi Wangi mid afternoon.

Wangi Wangi Point, Lake Macquarie
We pitched the tent in the shade of a towering eucalypt and patiently waited for the cool change to arrive. The southerly swooped in at about 5pm with the onset of thunderstorm activity but we remained on the fringes of the severe weather system and only a few drops fell on our humble tent. We looked out over the beautiful Lake Macquarie and felt happy to be back with our tin mugs and plastic plates; Airbnb provides great comfort but it does not come without responsibility.

Hawkes Nest Koala Reserve,
Don't stop there!

I knew the patchwork roads of NSW would turn up somewhere and sure enough, on the road between Wangi and Port Stephens, they arrived; roads full of patched up pot holes, and pot holes waiting to be patched up. We stopped for lunch at Hawkes Nest but not before the local ranger caught us trying to catch a glimpse of a koala in a no standing zone; Steve says it was the most expensive photo of a koala ever taken.

Forster - Tuncurry from Cape Hawke lookout

We camped at Forster for four nights, with the sand flies and the humidity and hundreds of kids. The visit to The National Motorcycle Museum was well worthwhile. I looked eagerly through the collection for an example of my Yamaha DT100 road trail, which I bought new in 1979, and for my Honda 250T (1981). I found the Honda, it was outback waiting for space inside the museum.

National  Motorcycle Museum at Nabiac

Great bike road

In Wangi another traveller asked me “Where are your favourite places?” to which I answered “We don’t have favourite places, only favourite roads.” The New England High Country is home to a great set of roads, from the Thunderbolts Way to the Oxley, Gwydir, Bucketts, and Bruxner Highways. We rode them all, some in both directions, and enjoyed the cooler nights in the high country at Walcha and Tenterfield.

Tenterfield Saddlery
Very inspirational

Tenterfield marked a turning point on our summer's ride as it was as far north as we were going; next stop Tamworth Country Music Festival.

New England High Country

Monday, 31 December 2018

2018 Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race

Crew party, CYCA
We began our Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race spectator experience at the home of the great race, the CYCA (Cruising Yacht Club of Australia), for the crew party on Saturday 22nd December. The club was welcoming, and with a little assistance we were soon registered as members for a day and free to cruise along the jetties.

We caught up with Enterprise, our Fremantle Sailing Club entrant, and soaked up the atmosphere; race flags a flying, it was magic. We were surprised that the headline acts, the five maxi yachts (Wild Oats XI, Comanche, Black Jack, InfoTrack and Scallywag) were not moored at CYCA and were not part of the festival village. There was no encouragement to check them out at their various berthing locations either.

Me and Wild Oats XI
After the 2017 Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race, which saw Wild Oats XI stripped of her record breaking line honours because of an infringement with Comanche just after race start, I wrote the song “The Ghost of Wild Oats XI.” To me it seemed important for folks to know how the yacht, Wild Oats XI, felt about the race result. I knew I had to track her down and on Christmas Eve we found her hiding at Woolwich Dock, with InfoTrack and Wild Oats X. I shared a moment with her; Steve and I were the only ones there.

Scallywag takes the sterns of Comanche and InfoTrack
We contemplated our options for race day, Boxing Day, and decided that the vantage point on South Head would do very nicely. Early Boxing Day morning we were at CYCA to wish everyone well and watch the yachts depart. Then we walked up to Edgecliff Station from where we were delivered to Watsons Bay by express bus. We trudged along Camp Cove’s very narrow beach before making our way slowly up to South Head along the well defined trail. By now it was 11:30am, 90minutes before race start, shade was at a premium but it didn't matter. The five super maxis were beginning to parade up and down the harbour. They were simply magnificent, larger than life even against the TP52's.

There is no doubt there is pride at stake to be the first yacht out of the heads, and it was as exciting as a Formula 1 race watching the five maxis tack their way out of the harbour. Some found holes in the wind and others found unfavourable shifts in the winds direction. Black Jack won the battle and was the first to poke her nose out into the Tasman Sea.

South  Head
We stayed a while on South Head until the last yacht, Gun Runner, a Jarkan 9.3m sloop, had made her way around the turning mark outside Sydney Heads and was on her way south.

We kept a close eye on the tracker and the race for line honours seemed like Comanche's to loose. Then under the cover of darkness, on Friday 28th December, Wild Oats XI found her way into the lead and at 8:07am she took line honours for the 9th time in her chequered career.

Black Jack in Sydney Harbour
No sooner had Mark Richards filled the line honours cup with champagne, Second over the line, Black Jack, cast an element of doubt over the win when he reported that Wild Oats XI’s AIS (automatic identification system) was not switched on all the time in the closing stages of the race. He said they felt disadvantaged as, at times, they didn't know where she was, the direction she was heading, and how fast she was going.

Black Jack did not lodge a protest. Several hours later the race committee decided to lodge a protest against Wild Oats XI based on information reported by Black Jack's owner, Peter Harburg. This protest was dismissed by the jury who said for the protest to be valid it must be lodged by a competitor with information about the potential rule breach. Wild Oats XI got to keep her line honours victory and the media focus turned to the important task of reporting on the other competitors still to finish the race.

Race winner, Alive
Tasmanian yacht, Alive, was declared the overall winner of the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race; the Reichel Pugh 66 is only the third Tasmanian yacht to win this most famous ocean race.

Watching the start of the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race was not the only reason we came to Sydney for Christmas and New Year, but it was one of the reasons, and was it worth it? Yes.

Saturday, 22 December 2018

Ceduna to Sydney

Plenty of grain trucks at the intersection of the
Birdseye & Tod Highways (in Lock, Eyre Peninsula)
Franklin  Harbour  Hotel

We took the scenic road from Ceduna to Whyalla, riding south to Elliston and then eastwards once more. We stopped for a refreshing ale at the pub in Cowell, then in the late afternoon we pitched our tent in Whyalla. We enjoyed a delicious Indian meal, soured slightly by the $12.90 corkage on our $5 cleanskin and then we were on our way to enjoy the Yorke Peninsula.

Moonta, Yorke Peninsula 

The cool days of our Nullarbor crossing were a distant memory when we rode away from Whyalla, and we watched the temperature rise to an uncomfortable 30 degrees by 8am. We holed up in Moonta for a couple of 40 degree days, hiding in the pub, and under the shade of a tree, until sunset allowed us to enjoy a walk along the town jetty.

Lunch stop, Yorke Peninsula 
Determined to ride some new roads, we criss-crossed our way down the Yorke Peninsula on our way to Stansbury. The 42 degrees felt like riding into the breath of a dragon so we retired to the pub at St Vincent for some instant relief. The forecast SW change arrived in time for us to set up our tent in a beach caravan park and then it rained and blew a gale for two days. Being early risers, and the campers kitchen not opening until 7:30am, we found ourselves bunkering down under the primitive shelter of an outside bbq area at breakfast time.

Innes National Park, great roads but 40 & 60 kph limits.

The locals ran on “Yorke time” and finding fuel on a Sunday was a challenge we didn't expect. The beautiful Innes National Park showed a more temperate mood, only for us to arrive back in Stansbury to find our little tent standing it's own against the howling wind.

Enjoying the great camp kitchen at
Hahndorf Resort (and caravan park)
We were both pleased to ride away from Stansbury and we were rewarded with a delightful ride through Port Wakefield, Balaklava, Nuriootpa in the Barossa, and then on to our destination, Hahndorf, in the Adelaide Hills. After a couple of days of sightseeing, and riding the Adelaide Hills, we were ready to be on our way again but cyclone Owen had other ideas, and we were hold up in drizzly conditions for three more days before good riding weather returned.

Drying out at Swan Hill
We were enjoying a relaxing outback ride along the Mallee Highway, on our way to Swan Hill, until we turned off onto a single lane road, with soft edges, and a thunder squall only a couple of kilometers away. There was nowhere to safely stop to put on our wet weather gear so we rode on in the rain, scalding our stupidity and at the same time I was praising the amazing ventilation on my new Shoei helmet.

High up on the Hume Dam
The next day we set off fully kitted out for wet weather riding. The frequent showers cleaned the bugs from our bikes and we smiled all the while we looked out for kangaroos, some still lingering at 10am. We rode onwards and eastwards through Deniliquin, Finley, and Berrigan. At the little town of Howlong we both had to put up with a number of corny puns, around the town's name, as we amused ourselves. Albury provided a navigation challenge after we refused to accept where the signposts to the B58 were taking us. Google maps was our best line of defence to find our way, and before long we were enjoying the curves as we followed the Murray River to the picturesque caravan park at Walwa.

Dawn on the Murray River, Walwa Caravan Park
We awoke to a fine day and took the opportunity to enjoy riding the high country. Timing is everything, and while trundling along Jingellic Rd, on our way to Tumbarumba, we arrived just after the local farmer had let a herd of cows and calves out onto the road. There was a guy on horse back, one on a motorbike and a cattle dog but they didn't try to help us find our way through. They stood on the side of the road; watching, waiting. We eased our way through the herd, pressing the freshly laid cow pats firmly into the tread of our tyres. I had to stop a couple of times when the beasts were awkward at getting out of the way. The farmer gave a subtle acknowledgement when I made it safely to the other side; I think he was hoping for more entertainment.

Lake Jindabyne 

Riding through the lanes of the Kosciuszko National Park is simply wonderful. We must have cruised around at least 1000 bends as the road winds it's way up and down the mountain passes. We only rode 300km that day but it was late in the afternoon when we arrived in Jindabyne.

A game of hide and seek in Batemans Bay

We were back on the road by 8am the following day, taking advantage of a fine day to make our way to Batemans Bay. It was easy to occupy ourselves in this town by the sea, catching up on a travellers administration and enjoying excellent fish and chips by the wharf.

We thought the riding boots, helmets
and wine added to the apartments decorations

On the 21st December it was time to ride the final 300km from Batemans Bay to our apartment in Sydney. We fell for it again and only half an hour into a five hour ride we found ourselves on the side of the road putting on our wet weather gear. Still the ride was uneventful, the traffic was courteous when we needed it to be, and our Airbnb rental is a treat; until next time............

Monday, 3 December 2018

Nullarbor Ride December 2018

With the hustle of the last minute things to check before leaving home on a long ride, both Steve and I were pleased when our earplugs were firmly seated and we could no longer communicate. Bakers Hill Bakery provided our 8am refreshments and then it was onwards and eastwards in the cool morning air on the 1st of December, the first day of summer. The cops were waiting for us in the 80km hour zone at the Great Eastern Highway, Great Southern Highway junction,  but we were waiting for them and we cruised through, the cops not even bothering to point the gun at us. I enjoyed some bike to car PR and warned a few punters. This favour was returned when I was alerted to a speed camera at the end of an overtaking lane; now that is unquestionably revenue raising.

The caravan park at Norseman was a welcome place to pitch our tent and rest our heads after 780km in the saddle. When I returned to the tent after a midnight toilet run I said to Steve “is that a giant moth sitting on my sleeping bag?” I found my glasses and it turned out to be only a manufacturers tag. All Steve could say was “Jesus Christ,” then it fell silent inside our tent until morning.

Nullarbor Roadhouse
We were back on the road by 6am and the cool weather window we had found for our Nullarbor crossing provided sheer riding pleasure. The sun rose quickly and by 8am we stopped worrying about stray kangaroos and we enjoyed the delights of this wonderful outback ride. The bush looked lush and green and even a few wildflowers reminded us of the season that had just come to an end. At Cocklebiddy Roadhouse we sat on the veranda, eating ice-creams and watching the road trains  westward bound. The Eyre Highway was having a quiet day and we only had to overtake one wobblebox (caravan) all day long.

Who would have expected grass like this at Ceduna?
On the third day we were up with the birds for the run from Eucla to Ceduna. Even on a cool day you can feel the potential in the desert sun. In places there is barely a tree in sight and this landscape will be unforgiving to anyone who breaks down or has an accident on a hot day. Just to remind us that all Nullarbor crossings must be earned, we copped a strong cross wind along the plains around Penong. Still we concluded, when we arrived in Ceduna, that our December 2018 Nullarbor crossing had been the easiest one of all.

The sun goes down on anther successful Nullarbor crossing.

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Sixtieth Birthday Ride

Birthday boy - Morawa campsite
What do you do the day you partner turns 60? You load the bikes with camping gear and go for a ride. Devil (F650GS) and Dwarf (R1200GS) were soon carving up the Brookton Highway and heading for the bakery at Toodyay. We stopped to check on the health of Perth's water supply at Mundaring Weir and then we were on the road again enjoying the cool morning air and the wildflowers. Full of smiles after devouring an award winning pastie, from Toodyay we rode northwards through the remote wheatbelt towns of Bolgart, Calingiri, Yerecoin, finding towns and names we had never even heard of. Although the wildflower season in this neck of the woods is officially over, pockets of wildflowers still lined the way and at times it seemed that all the colours of the rainbow were in bloom. Perenjori welcomed us later in the day, the pub offering T-Bone, chips and salad for $15 but with the sun still well up in the sky we road onwards and set up camp in the council caravan park in Morawa. We cooked our own steak for Steve's 60th birthday tea and shared it with a couple a dozen bush flies but that's the outback for you if you want to cook and clean up before dark. No outback town is complete without the outback barking dog, who will keep you awake long into the night, but Steve said his 60th was "memorable, and a bloody good ride."

Somewhere between Mullewa and Binnu
By 7:30am we were back on the road again. We were greeted with a "proceed with caution" warning when we turned onto the Mullewa-Wubin Rd. This mostly single lane, road train route, could present its challenges but we rode on alone and this road felt way more outback that riding east from Broken Hill. A very helpful attendant at the Mullewa Roadhouse explained the road to Kalbarri via the outback way and she said "follow the sign to Yuna, about 18km out of town, then Kalbarri should be signposted." Right on 18km we easily found the signpost to Yuna and then we were riding free again with not a care in the world. By midday we rode into Kalbarri township, and it felt good to be back in one of my favourite coastal towns.

A Western Dragon
We checked into the caravan park in the centre of town, and spent a couple of days tuned into Kalbarri time. One afternoon we had the pleasure of the company of a pair of Western Dragons while we sat peacefully on the banks of the Murchison River. They seemed oblivious to our presence, and were enjoying their late afternoon feed provided by a local ant colony. A couple of times we returned to the same place but they were nowhere to be seen.

Natures Window - Kalbarri National Park

This trip was all about the ride and after a couple of days in Kalbarri we were back on the road again, heading towards home. We took it easy in the early morning light and stopped for morning tea at Port Gregory. At the rest area we met lone adventure cyclist, Verena Trickst. Verena had been on the road for nineteen months, travelling overland through Asia. Cycling The Gibb River Road lured Verena to Australia and it was fascinating to listen to her stories. Verena said she "preferred to wild camp" at the end of each day. When we rode away from Port Gregory, I spent quite some time checking out the roadside verges and I didn't see anywhere suitable to pitch a tent; all I saw was long grass and fences.

HMAS Sydney II Memorial
We stopped for lunch in Geraldton and took some timeout to appreciate the peace and serenity of The HMAS Sydney II memorial. This memorial site is magical, you could imagine sitting there for hours in peaceful meditation.

Dongara provided us with the last campsite before home. We dined in the camp kitchen and drank good red wine. 

Steve's 60th birthday ride had been a great success ~ until next time......

Red Devil (BMW F650GS) & Red Dwarf (BMW R1200GS) at Port Gregory

Monday, 30 October 2017

Roman Tracker 3VD Tent – Review

First night in the Tracker 3VD - at Morawa
This is what Steve had to say:

You may ask what expertise we have to review a tent. No technical knowledge, but a huge amount of camping over the last ten years or so. We have completed a long trip of at least nine weeks (the longest being seven months) every second year, as well as many weekends and short trips (up to three weeks).

We have actually used seven different lightweight dome tents during this period. Four of these were three man tents and three were four man tents. We used the three man tents for single nights and when travelling on the bikes without the trailer. When I tow the trailer we take the four man tent for the additional comfort.

Outdoor Equipped 3EV - at Kiama
All the tents have been good in the wet, but with excessive use, have gradually deteriorated under the intense UV of the bright Australian sunlight. The biggest issue has been the tents collapsing in the wind.

During our ten week 2016 trip the Outdoor Equipped 3EV tent sprung a leak in the floor; the floor perforated along one of the fold lines. As it was during the New South Wales floods we had to purchase a new tent very quickly. The guy ropes on this tent were attached quite high up, and in wind the tent caved in below the guy attachments.

Outdoor Connection Escape 3 Plus - at Nagambie 
We were in Wangaratta, where there are a couple of camping stores, so we had a little bit of choice. We decided on the Outdoor Connection Escape 3 Plus since we have a four man Bedarra model from the same manufacturer. The Bedarra has been an excellent tent and has seen a lot of use, is great in all conditions and we have never had any issues with it.

The Escape 3 Plus was an issue immediately, when we arrived at the campsite on the afternoon of purchasing the tent we found no poles in the package (we thought it seemed light). Luckily we hadn’t gone far and the retailer had another tent in stock with poles. Our main issue with the tent was that the fly just never seemed to fit correctly. The guy ropes were attached lower than with the previous tent, but it then collapsed above the guys when windy.

In September 2017, while on a trip to Albany in South Western Australia we visited Trailblazers camping store (just to get out of the rain). They had the Roman Tracker 3VD Tent on display. It is a geodesic design and on careful inspection looked perfect for us. So back home, I did some internet research, and we decided that we should swap tents. We sold the Escape 3 Plus via the internet and then phoned our preferred local store, Compleat Angler and Camping World Rockingham, for a price. They didn’t stock this model tent but got back to us with a great price (matching internet retailers) so once again they got our custom.

Tracker 3VD - showing the guy ropes - at Kalbarri
After the first trip of five nights we are extremely happy with the Tracker 3VD. We put it up three times over the five nights, getting a little quicker each time. Since there are five poles (reinforced durawrap) it takes longer to put up and take down. We also thought the poles were stiffer than on the other three man tents. There are also eight guy ropes, one on each corner, two for the vestibule and one at the centre of each side. We didn’t deploy the side guys every night.

Although we had no severe weather to fully test the tent, we had showers one night and moderate wind (approximately 15 knots on the tent). The tent was very rigid and of course water tight (with 3000mm waterproofing, which is better than most dome tents).

There is only a vestibule at one end, but this is large for a three man tent. In fact it is quite a stretch to close the vestibule zips from within the inner tent. The shoulders of the inner tent are generous which creates good internal volume and thus feels larger than the other three man domes we have owned. The advertising for the tracker 3VD talks about “Roman's unique CROSSFLOW ventilation” but this probably just means it has fly windows on both sides, just like most dome tents. The side and rear windows on the inner tent don’t have material covers, so there is a lot of ventilation. Maybe too much if it gets very cold.

We also liked the colour and thought it was a good looking tent. Travelling on motorcycles we thought that, at 6.5kg, it may be a little heavy, but we found the weight was not an issue.

Roman Tracker 3VD Tent - Features
•             Flysheet: 210T Waterproofed 3000mm, PU coated
•             Flysheet with tape sealed seams
•             Inner: Breathable Polyester
•             Floor: Heavy Duty 12x12 PE with welded seams
•             Reinforced Durawrap tent frame poles
•             No-See-Um mesh to provide a Bug Proof Zone
•             Geodesic frame system for maximum stability
•             Extra large “D” door with door-in-door zips
•             Side covered / mesh windows
•             Roman's unique CROSSFLOW ventilation
•             Reinforced guy rope points with fitted ropes
•             Roof vents to expel hot air
•             UV protection on fly
•             Features durable carry bag
•             Pegs and rope included
•             Weight: 6.5kg
•             Dimensions: 215 x 195 x 125cm

Roman Diamantina 4VD - at Jindabyne, Another Geodesic tent
Geodesic Tents
The term geodesic is a mathematical one. A ‘geodesic’ line is the shortest route between two points on earth. It’s used to describe a tent where the poles criss-cross over the surface, intersecting to form triangles. This distributes the stress across the structure, making it the most stable type of tent for extreme weather conditions. If you climb Everest, chances are that you will want to take a geodesic tent with you.

Outdoor Connection Bedarra - at Katoomba
Our Tents
2006 - Oz Trail 3P
2007 - Kathmandu Basecamp Retreat 100
2008 - Roman Diamantina 4VD
2012 - Outdoor Connection Bedarra (family tent)
2012 - Outdoor Equipped 3EV
2016 - Outdoor Connection Escape 3 Plus Dome Tent
2017 - Roman Tracker 3VD Tent by Companion Brands

Kathmandu Basecamp Retreat 100 - at Lake St Clair
Oz Trail 3P - at Wagin

Friday, 8 September 2017

Margaret River Ride

The first sign of a three day break in the weather and Devil (F650GS) and Dwarf (R1200GS) were loaded with our camping gear and we were off on a ride to Margaret River in the south-west of Western Australia; the long way round. By 8am we were making our way up the hill to Dwellingup, our heated grips protecting us from a chilly 9 C. We stopped in the rest area in town to drink tea and chew on an apple, and then we were on the road again, enjoying the Lower Hotham Road on our way to Collie. A cup-a-soup and a ham sandwich, was all we needed for lunch as an apple pie from the Big Apple Bakery in Donnybrook was part of our itinerary.

First time in the tent for 2017.
From Donnybrook we cruised a few kilometers along the South Western Highway and then we took Dwarfies favourite road, the one that twists and turns with the Blackwood River all the way from Balingup to Nannup. Nannup looked simply beautiful when we rode into town, everywhere so green, the trees in flower and the air so still. By now it was 3pm and it was time to ride the final 70km to Margaret River before the kangaroos start waking up at 4pm.

$54 later we had taken an unpowered site, for two nights, at the Margaret River Tourist Park, the tent was up and we were as happy as can be, sitting in our camp chairs and drinking a cold beer. The guys at Kappadokia Kebab fed us late in the evening and then we settled into our little tent, our head lights guiding the way, and for a moment life seemed so simple and easy; we were enjoying life on the road again.

Water Wheel @ Cape Leeuwin
Caves Road is a delight on a day ride from Margaret River. The following morning we road south to Augusta, free as a bird gliding amongst the tall timbers that line the road side and forever wary of the tin-tops, pulling out of side roads and hard braking when nearly missing their destination. Locally caught "bronzy" (bronze whaler shark) and chips is a must in Augusta and we ate ours amongst the seagulls on the banks of the Hardy Inlet. For the love of riding Caves Road we retraced our steps to the legendary chocolate factory for a generous sample of chocolate buttons and a cappuccino and a truffle. On our second night in Margaret River we dined in the popular Chang Thai Kitchen on Station Road; the food was good, the wine was good; life was good.

Back in my studio writing this blog.
On the third day we packed up our little tent and rode the long way home via Nannup, Bridgetown and Collie. The Brockman Highway, which runs between Nannup and Bridgetown, is simply magic. We rode along all day, enjoying the spiritual freedom of our own thoughts and dreams, until we were spat out on the South Western Highway for the last hour towards home.

After a thousand kilometres, we arrived home just as we had left, living by our wits amongst the tin-tops busily going about their day; until next time....