Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Ride Melbourne to Canberra

“Apartments can rot good bikes and good blokes.” I had grown so comfortable during our week in the little unit in South Yarra that, for a moment, I felt I could quite happily have spent the rest of my days there. Simple tasks, like making a cup of tea, were a dream in the tiny kitchen and I found the comfort difficult to leave behind.

Camping beside the King River, Whitfield.
We were checked out by 9am but the thick Melbourne traffic seemed reluctant to let us go as we crawled along Toorak Road, clocking only five kilometres in one hour. Devil and Dwarf hated idling in the heavy traffic and Dwarf’s temperature gauge and Devil’s engine fan kept telling us “this can’t go on much longer.”

We started to relax once we made it to Healesville. We took a pit stop at the town’s bakery and then we gave the bikes a burn up the Black Spur all the way to Marysville. We took all day wandering through the roads and lanes and by happy hour we had arrived in the little town of Whitfield. We pitched our tent at the beautiful Gentle Annie Camping Reserve. For only $20 you can camp down by the river. It’s a great spot as long as you don’t mind the smell of fresh dog poo, deposited by the resident pooch, before you have finished your breakfast.

The following morning we were on the road again as soon as the breakfast dishes were washed and put away. When we arrived at Beachworth we were pleased to find the town full of historic cars participating in a RACV rally. I am always delighted when I find a MKII Jaguar; these old cars bring back fond memories of the car my dad bought in 1968. I was in for a treat as there were several old Jags in the historic fleet.

It is easy to forget about the concept of remoteness when travelling in Victoria and no matter how hard we tried we couldn’t find fuel in Tangambalanga. When we finally fuelled up in Bonegilla, Steve poured 19 litres into Dwarf’s 20 litre tank. I gave Steve “the look,” nothing more was said.

Red Dwarf and Red Devil.
While we were drinking tea at the Hume Weir, a local dude, full of his own importance, wandered by for a chat. He had ridden thousands of miles on his 1980’s BMW motorcycle. When I said to Steve, “there you go, there are plenty of miles left in our bikes” he proceeded to put down the longevity of Devil and Dwarf (F650GS, R1200GS); you don’t make friends like that.

We trundled along the Murray Valley Highway and set up the big tent amongst the trees at a delightful caravan part in Colac Colac. We were exhausted from our week in Melbourne and when the weather settled in and rained all of the following day neither of us complained about taking it easy.

We were camped in The Man from Snowy River Country and the towns and villages in this neck of the woods embrace the wonderful story of Jack Riley. Jack Riley was the inspiration for Banjo Paterson’s famous poem. The spirit of Jack Riley seemed to be everywhere and on that rainy afternoon I wrote this little ditty.
I thought I saw The Man from Snowy River late one afternoon,
He appeared to me beneath the trees amidst the rain and gloom.
We were camped near Jack’s home of Tom Groggin, his grave site not too far away.
I guess he knew I was passing through and he came to say G’day.
As soon as the rain cleared we took Devil and Dwarf on a day ride through the hills in the upper Murray Valley region. We stopped for refreshments at the general store in Tintaldra. Our knowledgeable host made tea in a pot and kept us entertained with stories about stockmen and drovers from the distant past. We then rode on through the villages of Jingellic and Tumbarumba. These roads are so amazingly quiet, it’s a wonder they have been converted from gravel to bitumen.

Item number 16 on our “Things to do before I die” list reads “Climb Mt Kosciuszko.” When the weather became clear and calm we took our chance, moved our camp to Jindabyne, and climbed the mountain. Of course the navigator took us the long way around to Jindabyne and we passed by Cabramurra and Mt Selwyn; a signpost told us we were riding along at 1500 meters. In the cold mountain air, Adaminaby provided a great lunch stop and we were pleased to feast on hot chocolate and bacon and egg burgers in the warm and cosy cafe.

For our assault on Mt Kosciuszko we took the chair lift from Thredbo and then walked to the summit along the easy, well prepared 6.5km track. As we stood on top of Australia, and looked out across the Snowy Mountains, it seemed there was no way through, even though we had been riding in those mountains just the day before. If you get the chance, climb Mt Kosciuszko. I will carry the memory with me for the rest of my life.

The National Folk Festival, in Canberra, gave us somewhere to go and something to do for the Easter holiday. While I rode into the capital I felt so happy and inspired I wrote the chorus to a new song.
Before I make it home again I’ll ride the Snowy Mountain Highway,
And I’ll climb the highest mountain in this great and southern land.
And I’ll write about Jack Riley as I ride along the byway
Singing more about this country than I will ever understand.

Lake Jindabyne.

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