Thursday, 24 January 2013

Ceduna to Phillip Island

If you want to upset the locals, who live in the arid parts of this country, all you have to do is complain about riding in the rain. We were delivered the speech specially prepared for inconsiderate people like us. At Poochera we refused to believe that the rain would continue and we only donned the bottom half of our wet weather riding gear. Our leather jackets will keep us dry in a light drizzle but when it turns into steady rain, slowly but surely the leather gives up the struggle. By the time we arrived at Kimba we were feeling a little wet and weary. The lunch time temperature of only 15 degrees is basically unheard of in this neck of the woods in January. The roadhouse was full of travellers escaping the rain and we joined the queue for homemade pumpkin soup and a bowl of hot potato wedges. We stayed a while, enjoying the warm dining room and talking with other travellers. All of us were concerned about travelling in extreme heat – the fear of breaking down first and foremost on our minds. One guy had given the problem some thought and said “the first thing I would do is put the tent up.” Good thinking.

The big tent, known as the Cabin, in Melrose.
That day we rode in the rain for over 400km, and we were relieved to arrive in Melrose late in the afternoon. We managed to erect the “big tent,” for the first time, with hardly a cross word spoken. The bikes were filthy, covered in a white wash that lay foaming and frothing in the road. In 2008, water restrictions in South Australia were so severe that we were not even allowed a single bucket of water to wipe away salt spray that had collected on our bikes on a rough ferry crossing. Although the seasons have moved on, and there is water in the lower reaches of the Murray River, we didn’t dare ask if we could clean our bikes, we just grabbed the hose and washed away.

With clean bikes we were back on the road again, enjoying the lanes and towns as we rode south towards the Adelaide hills. If someone had told me that one day we would ride through the Barossa Valley, one of Australia’s premier wine regions, carrying a bottle of New Zealand wine and a six pack of Mexican beer,” I never would have believed them. One of the big conglomerates made us an offer we couldn’t refuse and we voted with our hip pocket. Drinking our BYO New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, on the pavement in Tanunda, felt like a criminal offence and we kept the bottle well hidden away.

With plenty of time up our sleeve we made the maritime town of Goolwa, on the Fleurieu Peninsula, home for nearly a week. Our camping character was well and truly tested when one of the days reached a maximum temperature of 45 degrees. I lost the battle with the caravan park kids and the door remained open to the air conditioned camp kitchen; in the end there was nowhere to hide. That night, when the cool change arrived, the tent was tested, too, with wind gusts exceeding 30 knots. The big tent moaned and groaned a little but she stood her ground and in the morning everything was intact.

Causeway to Granite Island, Victor Harbour.
On Tuesday 22nd January, we left the comfort of Goolwa and started a three day ride to Phillip Island in preparation for the Island Classic Motorcycle weekend. The little tent came in handy for a good night’s sleep in Naracoorte. Unfortunately, the following morning, I didn’t fasten the lid properly on our thermos flask and one litre of scalding water trickled out all over our maps and the laptop’s transformer. Steve went ape, although I did notice than an hour later he was reading one of the sodden maps with a half smile on his face.

We stayed on the back roads, some only one lane wide. The navigation was difficult but with hardly a car in sight it was wonderful riding. We touched down on the Great Ocean Road at Lorne; big mistake. Lorne was preparing for the Australia Day long weekend and there was barely standing room in the trendy seaside town. We tried to book in at the town’s caravan park but when the receptionist said “$60,” (twice the amount we were paying), Steve protested and mumbled about a bed and breakfast up the road for only $99. The receptionist retorted “off you go then” and turned her attention to the next paying customer. Although we were hot and thirsty we rode out of town. Unfortunately a copper, riding a motorcycle, hopped onto my back wheel and you could almost hear him laughing “gotcha, you West Aussie dude.” He rode with me for almost 10km, tracking my every move as I navigated one slow corner after another. Once I realised he was just along for the ride, I relaxed and did my own thing; you don’t want to run out of talent on a road like that. When I’d had enough, I moved over to the left to give him chance to go and find Steve; a couple of bends later he had disappeared from view. It was late when we set up the little tent in Torquay for $65 per night; after a long day on the road we had stopped counting the money.

Steve and I on the Queenscliff to Sorrento Ferry.
By 10am the following day we were on the car ferry which runs from Queenscliff to Sorrento on the Mornington Peninsula. We could have relaxed for hours on that ferry, enjoying the scenery of Port Phillip Bay, but 40 minutes later we back on the bikes and riding into the clutches of congested Melbourne traffic. “Stay as close as you dare,” said Steve, “or we’ll get separated at the traffic lights;” We only had to stop twice to regroup. Our pre booked camp site was waiting for us in Cowes on Phillip Island. The big tent was up in no time and by 5pm we were drinking beer and being eaten alive by sand flies. Welcome to Phillip Island.

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