Friday, 12 March 2021

Unfinished Business

All dressed up and raring to go.
Take two. After returning home to hide from a week’s unseasonal rain, the skies cleared and we were ready to go camping again. The bikes knew their way to Busselton, the long way round. It wasn't long before we were cruising along Mornington Road and gliding through the sweet curves of the Ferguson Valley. There was evidence of lingering rain but it was gone for now.

Kids playground at Busselton Jetty.

If they can find room for us we always stay at the council owned Jetty Tourist Park in Busselton. The mid season rate is $45 per night; all sites have power. This caravan park is right in town in one of the South West's busiest tourist hubs. This is not a caravan park full of kids play things. Once you get used to the ride height of the shower caddy and the peculiar positioning of the hook inside the toilet cubicle you won't want to stay anywhere else.

Wind vane on Busselton Jetty.

For dinner we were served delicious Thai food under one of the town's grand old fig trees. While we mulled over a good bottle of Shiraz we laughed a lot and it seemed we could find nothing to worry about.

By 7am the following morning we were participating in the standard issue walk along the Busselton Jetty. This magnificent jetty stretches 1.8km out to sea and it's easy to daydream while you take in the interpretive signs along the way. Then we wore out the soles of our shoes, enjoying the town from the Geographe Bay Sailing Club to the Jenny Taylor art gallery.

Are selfies still in fashion?

We were up with the magpies the next day and we found ourselves at the end of the jetty once more, enjoying the most magical sunrise. Busselton used to be a favourite haunt of ours. Until 1988 we visited the town every year in our Kombi, and then until 2005 we sailed down from Fremantle each summer. Since then our visits to this neck of the woods have become fewer and farther between. While we stood watching the sun rise I could feel myself falling in love with Busselton again.

Busselton Jetty

Always wonderful views between
Cape Naturaliste and Cape Leeuwin.
The rest of the day was about riding. Devil (F650GS) and Dwarf (R1200GS) took us on a run along the lanes between Cape Naturaliste and Margaret River. We stopped to check out the development in Yallingup, and then on we went to admire the soul of the surfing community in Gracetown. We crisscrossed back to Cow Town (Cowaramup) for morning tea and then waddled the length and breadth of Margaret River's newly paved main street. By mid afternoon the humidity was up and we retired to our camp for a refreshing ale or two.

Henty Road
Steve found a nice set of back roads to take us home and Henty Road in the Ferguson Valley was simply wonderful. The temperature eased to a comfortable 27⁰C and for a moment I was gliding along in my own reverie.

It was a magic three nights away. Of course we had to live through the case of the missing thong, which turned up on Steve's left foot 15 seconds later, and then there was the case of the missing plate, which remains missing in action.

Today it's time for a reality check while we clean the ringtail possum pee off the tent fly; until next time.......

Tuesday, 2 March 2021

Rain Stopped Play

Wellington Dam Mural by Guido Van Helten

Wellington Dam Mural by Guido Van Helten

A gusty south easterly wind blew across the plains at the foothills of the Darling Escarpment as we trundled south towards Donnybrook. We devoured a French vanilla slice from the Waroona Bakery while we spun a yarn with a group of local bikers and then we were on our way to Wellington Dam.


The mural on the dam wall, pained by Guido Van Helten, is nothing short of breath taking. Pensive Aboriginal Elders look on while industrious children, both black and white, still with their life's song to play out before them, will remain in my heart for a long time.


We stopped at Gnomesville for a picnic lunch to find that our clan's gnomes, all eleven of them, were gone. The bank where they lived had been washed away and no doubt our gnomes had been swept downstream in the flooding waters. I'm sure they continue to make mischief in the wild wood which lies just outside the village boundary.


A small group of the Gnomes hanging out at Gnomesville

Donnybrook's Transit Park

Although it was a long weekend we scored a late booking and pitched our tent at Donnybrook's Transit Park. This is an excellent facility. We found grass sites, clean ablutions, a hot bbq and a sink to do the dishes; more than we ever dream of for $25 per night unpowered.

Saturday morning we were on the road to Nannup to soak up the atmosphere at the Nannup Music Festival. Beware of road works on back roads. We came across a long section on the Upper Capel Road, it seemed that Friday knock off time had arrived before the road workers had time to roll the freshly laid gravel. With no clearly defined car tracks to follow, the gravel lay thick and menacing in places; I got away without a tank slapper but I felt that the percentages were high. 

61 was a very good year

Nannup was very welcoming, even to those folks that don't hold festival tickets. Buskers lined the street and the cafes were buzzing. Even the bowling club was in on the act with a free for all folk band playing on the terrace alongside a "try bowls" for anyone willing to take their shoes off.


Kings of Collie - Pit Exit

A historic motorcycle meet at the Collie Motorplex was a thoroughly enjoyable interlude on Sunday. Whenever I go to a local race meeting I'm acutely aware that the racing is just as enjoyable as the professional meets I've been to. You can wander around the pits and get up close and personal with the bikes; magic.


Kings of Collie - First corner action

Heading home from Donnybrook into the rain.
The long weekend was supposed to be the start of a longer motorcycle journey around The South West of Western Australia. As we were only 165km from home, and rain was forecast for the next four days, we decided to head for home on Monday. We checked the radar before we put our helmets on and we both said, “Lets go for the full wet weather kit.” We were on the road by 6:40am and were rewarded for our early departure as we didn't catch up with the rain until we were nearly home. The riding gear and the tent are drying out in our sunroom and we're hoping to be back on the road again soon.

Friday, 30 October 2020

2020 Ulysses Odyssey

Castle Bay
Red Dwarf & Red Devil at Castle Bay
As we found room for the last minute things in the loaded panniers I was reminded of our nights on the Nullarbor Plain, with the first signs of light appearing in the eastern sky and Red Devil (F650GS) and Red Dwarf (R1200GS) itching to be underway. As soon as we pulled out of the driveway I tuned into the commentary inside my head and it wasn't long before I heard a little voice say "beware of the extra weight when stopping."

Steve found a nice rest area on the edge of Waroona and we drank tea and ate fruit and felt happy to be on our way to the 2020 Ulysses Odyssey at Taunton Farm.

Wellington Dam
Wellington Dam

The bikes found their way to Wellington Dam, the temperature sitting hard on 15⁰C but it felt more like 10. Abseilers were spray cleaning the dam wall in preparation for mural artist,
Guido Van Helten, to paint one of the most stunning murals we are ever likely to see. Then The Big Apple Bakery lured us to Donnybrook for a good pie and a cup of tea. Unfortunately our departure from Donnybrook was slightly delayed while we tried to wash the copious amounts of chicken satay out of the sleeve of Steve's clean jumper.

From Donnybrook we rode on through Nannup and then Mowen Road took us to Margaret River. The cops were waiting for us on the outskirts of town but we were behaving ourselves and just cruised on through the endless detours and we were setting up the tent at Taunton Farm by 2:30pm. By the time we had lived through the case of the missing hammer, and then the case of the missing shoe, we were ready for a beer so we joined a group of Ulysseans in the campers farm shed where we talked of past Odysseys and great bike roads before turning in for an early night.

Taunton Farm
Taunton Farm

The group ride on Saturday morning took us south along beautiful Caves Road to Augusta. Our speed was regulated by a succession of tin tops but it gave us time to enjoy the trees and the curves. We heard a rumour that they are planning to close parts of Caves Road. While I rode along I gave thanks that I have had the privilege of riding one of Western Australia's great motorcycle roads before they take it away from us.

Taunton Farm
Is this George or Malcolm?

The group ride continued on to Nannup while some folks stayed in Augusta and enjoyed fresh bronzie (Bronze Whaler shark) and chips overlooking the Hardy Inlet. Then we rode Caves Road once more before heading back to the farm for dinner. We dined under the stars while a good Margaret River band played into the night. We'd crashed by 9pm and didn't hear the band play their final set.

Taunton Farm is a great location for a getaway. I particularly enjoyed the farm animals, George and Malcolm Crackling (resident pigs), Rex (retired stallion), Peanuts (the biggest steer ever) and the peculiar looking Irish miniature donkey, who came with papers to prove his worth although questions have been asked by inquisitive farm quests.

We took the scenic route

On Sunday Steve tested his navigation skills while he found his way along some back roads to Dunsborough. We waddled out to the whale watching lookout at Cape Naturalist and were rewarded with a sighting of a Southern Right blowing in the distance. Steve wasn't done with the back roads and after lunch he found another set to take us back to the comfort of Taunton Farm.

We dined under the stars once more with the fire pit blazing. Many volunteers give their all to make events like our Western Australian Odyssey happen, thanks a million guys and gals for a really great weekend.

Taunton Farm
Pre-dawn at Taunton Farm

The ride following the Blackwood River along the Balingup Nannup Road was a treat on the way home. As we cruised through Waroona, I glanced across at the rest area where we had stopped for refreshments on the way down. Part of me wished I could turn the clock back to that moment when the weekend had only just begun; until next time.... 

Monday, 31 August 2020

Wildflower Country



It was 11⁰C when Devil (F650GS) and Dwarf (R1200GS) pulled out of our driveway on one of the last days of winter, on a four day getaway to ride Western Australia’s Wildflower Country. When you leave home at 7:30am on a weekday, the 90 kilometres of clogged freeway, through the city, is not an inviting proposition. We chose the scenic route, through Fremantle and along the coast road to Mullaloo. This alternative was busy too, and it was with some relief that we turned onto Burns Beach Road and escaped the roundabouts and coffee drinking pedestrians.

By 10:30am we were in Guilderton, at the mouth of the Moore River, digesting the empty car park and the $2 per hour parking fee. We chose the free space on the hill overlooking the Indian Ocean.

Lake Indoon

We were soon riding the Indian Ocean Drive again, cruising past the coastal townships in the cool, calm morning and admiring the shifting sands and the magnificent Indian Ocean along the way. We shared the highway with migrating bees, heading southwards. I bunkered down behind my wind shield but I couldn't avoid them all and by the time we arrived at Green Head I could hardly see through my visor.

We turned right onto the Coolimba Eneabba Road and I made a mental note of The Beekeepers Nature Reserve at the turnoff. The temperature rose quickly as we left the coast. I was relieved to stop at Lake Indoon as I had been keeping an eye on an insect that had found its way inside my helmet. In the early 1980's we had participated in sailing regattas on Lake Indoon. Now, in the late winter of 2020, the lake is just a shadow of her former self, the water level very low and health warnings and "no boating" signs everywhere.

Camping at Mingenew Springs

Three Springs was our fuel stop. Unmanned service stations are becoming more common and it took half an hour, and a visit to the council office, to find a fuel pump that was not out of order. Dwarf’s computer said 5km to empty.

By our riding curfew time of 4pm our tent was up and we were enjoying a beer at the welcoming Mingenew Spring Caravan Park. We impressed some of the other travellers with our homemade burger followed by chocolate cake and strawberries for dessert. We turned in for an early night, happy after a good day on the road.

Mingenew Hill

The following morning we scampered up Mingenew Hill and then undid all the hard work with a pie and a cake from the Mingenew Bakery. The bakery makes seriously good tucker and both the pie and the apple turnover were right up there with the best ever.

Coalseam Conservation Park

Ready for the run out to Coalseam Conservation Park, Steve placed the site map neatly in the map reader of his tank bag and then, in a senior moment, removed the tank bag, "for comforts sake," just before heading out on the road. The wildflowers were spectacular and at Miners Lookout we meandered through an enchanting meadow, with flowers as far as the eye could see. There are many places to stop in this park but by the end of the afternoon I found the locking and unlocking of the jackets and helmets rather tedious. One traveller said "why do you bother locking up?" I replied "we'd rather use our luck on rider safety than protecting our belongings."

We dined at the Commercial Hotel on the second night, a pre dinner drink beside a roaring fire and then a good measure of a well aged T Bone steak made for a very enjoyable evening.

Butterabby Graves

On day three we set off for a ride through wildflower country. We stopped at the Butterabby Graves, where five aboriginal men were hanged long ago. Fortunately we were left alone to lament what had taken place here at Butterabby; as we were leaving two caravans and two cars arrived.

Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church

In Mullewa we wandered up to Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church. At one time her designer and builder, John Hawes, described this church as "feeble" ~ in size, maybe, but certainly not in grandeur. Only the pub served a sit down lunch on a Saturday in Mullewa so we hit the Wildflower Way and made our own tea and opened the "nut box" at the ruin of Tardum Hall. We were too late for a cake from the Wildflower Bakery in Morawa so we happily rode on back to Mingenew. The warm 29⁰C from a couple of days before had been replaced with a cool 18⁰C, a reminder that it was still winter.

Tardum Hall

It always feels good to be back on the open road and I was smiling all the while as we rode south from Mingenew along the Midlands Wildflower Route. We enjoyed the vintage cars in Carnamah and took some local advice and fuelled up in town instead of riding on to Coorow. The Drovers Inn welcomed us for lunch in Moora and then we rode on towards home. We enjoyed a quiet meander through the Chittering Valley before negotiating the Sunday city traffic. Suddenly we were home again and all we can think about is the next time we will ride the open road.

Canola fields

Thursday, 14 March 2019

Ride Melbourne to Perth

Last of the Summer Ride

Spirit of Tasmania, arriving Devonport,
to take us back to the big island.

We chose a Saturday night ferry from Tasmania, so we would have quiet Sunday morning traffic for our early departure from Melbourne. As it turned out it was the Sunday of the Avalon Air Show and so we were bumper to bumper for the first fifty kilometres along the M1, towards The Great Ocean Road.

Traffic wasn't too bad for a Sunday,
most we had enjoyed the Great Ocean Road for a while

The Great Ocean Road is a thoroughly enjoyable ride, with enough opportunities to move slow vehicles out of the way and keep you cruising along nicely. We stopped for a refreshing fruit juice in Lorne and set up camp in Apollo Bay.

Port Campbell
The ride up and over Lavers Hill was fun in the dry conditions. Six years ago we had picked our way up and over this pass in the pouring rain, with a bunch of locals hot on our heels, and had not enjoyed the ride at all. We called Portland home on the second night and were delighted to make the acquaintance of a resident Koala. He sat high in his gum tree and his poop only missed Steve's bike by inches.

A light drizzle set in as we rode into Port Nelson and stayed with us nearly all the way to Tailem Bend, so we kept riding, until the cheap Tuesday all-you-can-eat buffet at The Old Mill Hotel in Hahndorf tempted us to pause for the night.

Camped at Spear Creek Station
We took the opportunity to enjoy the ride through the Barossa and Clare Valleys on our way to Spear Creek Station in the Flinders Ranges. The station is three kilometres along a good gravel road and well worth your while for a comfortable outback experience and a stunning sunset across the desert plains.

Are we nearly there?
Kimba, South Australia.
Steve and I usually ride Port Augusta to Perth in four days stopping at Ceduna (470km), Eucla (500km) and Norseman (710km) then home (770km). We choose to stop in these places as they are our preferred places to pitch a tent; although there are many other opportunities to stop along the way. Many years ago an around the world rider shared a thought of wisdom and he said "if you want to keep it enjoyable do less miles." I often remind myself of this, especially when I'm nearing the end of a long day in the saddle. You could certainly relax more if you made the crossing in five days instead of four.

Love the truck stops, Caiguna
This Nullarbor crossing was comfortable enough, by late morning we were riding in 30+ degrees but the wind direction and strength were kind to us and the conditions were as good as you could expect for early March. The views are so vast and wide for so many a mile that The Eyre Highway really is one of Australia's great outback rides; it is a privilege to have had the opportunity to ride this highway once more.

We were making good time on the last day's ride from Norseman to Perth and were enjoying an early lunch in Southern Cross by ten thirty. Then we hit a succession of road works and the next 110km took nearly two hours to complete; stopped in the blazing sun is unpleasant and tiring and reminds you that it's not over until the fat lady sings.

Fortunately the Great Eastern Highway was pretty quiet until we were on the outskirts of Perth, then wham, we were full on mixing it with workers on their way home. Within moments our summer's ride disappeared in the rear view mirror as if it had never happened and our attention turned to commissioning the house when we arrived home after 15 weeks of travelling on our trusty Beemers.

Sunset at Spear Creek Station, Flinders Range

Friday, 1 March 2019

Ride Tasmania

What's not to love about riding in Tasmania?
Arriving in Tasmania was a chance to hit the reset button and enjoy the crests and curves of a new land. An hour after riding away from Spirit of Tasmania we were in Sheffield, the billy was on and we were toping up on cups of tea before taking a myriad of back roads on our way to Longford. Without a GPS we found ourselves making U turns in the most awkward of places, still the roads were quiet and we were able to do so. The amount of road kill was alarming. Apparently the dwindling numbers of Tasmanian Devils can be blamed for this as they used to keep the roads clean.

Back road after leaving Mole Creek,
Great Western Tiers in the distance.

Steve keeps a road atlas, and the new roads we ride on each road trip are marked in a different colour. This summer's ride colour is purple, and we often say we are in search of “purple” roads, roads we haven’t ridden before. Our first day in Tassie took us through the little towns of Mole Creek and Bracknell to our camp in Longford; all purple roads.

First night in Tassie, camped beside the Maquarie River, Longford.

Convict built bridge (1836), Ross.
Smoke from the Western Tiers fires.
On day two we could have saved ourselves a lot of bother, left the tent in Longford and enjoyed a very nice circuit ride. We don't always see the wood through the trees and we upped camp on a warm Tasmanian day. We were headed for Bicheno and enjoyed a side trip along the B42 to Rossarden. I almost thought I could hear the sound of banjos but the tinkling was soon carried away by the wind. We enjoyed lunch in St Marys while the temperature climbed even higher and we were delighted when we arrived on the coast and the temperature dropped ten degrees. This sudden drop in temperature seemed to flip our brains into neutral and instead of setting up camp in Bicheno, as planned, we decided to ride on to Ross. We took the Lake Leake Road inland and within minutes we were riding in 35 degrees again.

Port Arthur convict settlement.

Steve found more purple roads for us to ride on our way to Port Arthur and a day around the convict ruins is always educational, even if you have been there before. In Hobart we took residence in an 1890's whalers cottage for the Australian Wooden Boat Festival and enjoyed the spoils of inner city living for a week.

Australian Wooden Boat Festival - sail pass.

The AWBF is a full on celebration of Tasmania’s rich wooden boat heritage and Steve says, “anywhere that declares Regatta Day a public holiday must be alright.”

Having a quick pint in the Shipwrights Arms at the
Australian Wooden Boat Festival 
Just some of the view from Mount Wellington.

If you are on a motorcycle, check the weather before heading up Mt Wellington. We found a light sprinkling of snow, 30 knot winds and 1.5 degrees when we arrived at the top. We were inappropriately dressed and the lookout shelter was the only thing that saved us from ourselves. Note to self, don't do that again.

Looking across Great Oyster Bay to
Freycinet National Park from Swansea.
Our week of comparative luxury in Old Hobart Town was soon behind us and we trundled over to Freycinet National Park for some walking and some good views. The number of folks at the Wineglass Bay lookout was beyond anything Steve and I could enjoy. Apparently some of Tasmania’s best kept secrets have turned up on a “must see” website and it seems to be working.

Bay of Fires, The Garden
We stopped for a while at The Gulch, in Bicheno, to take in this remarkable anchorage, and then we were on our way to St Marys, along St Marys Pass, to the Chinese restaurant we had found two weeks before. It felt like coming home as we tucked into a delicious plate of Satay Chicken and a pot of steaming Chinese tea. St Helens became home for a couple of days and I was pleased to find Binalong Bay again, busy with divers harvesting sea urchins, the roe sold overseas to China.

Purple roads.

A trip to Launceston became a necessity to replace my failed self inflating mattress. Then we rode south to the little town of Bothwell. Fifty kilometres into the ride, high up on The Great Western Tiers, we were stopped on the side of the road kitting up with wet weather gear and winter gloves; it was 7.5 degrees.

Queenstown is central to everywhere,
Which way next?
The musings of another traveller overinflated our expectations of Bothwell and despite the weather closing in we decided to ride on to Lake St Clair. The misty rain closed in as we rode through Tarraleah to Derwent Bridge. “It's going to be muddy down at the lake” said Steve. We deliberated for some time while we watched the rain spitting in the puddles and we made the decision to ride on to Queenstown, 86km away. On we went, navigating the twisty mountain passes with caution. The delightful views were hidden in the mist, I didn't dare to peep as the next bend was only meters away. It was still drizzling when we arrived in Queenstown and when the caravan park manager informed us that Queenstown’s annual rainfall is 3000mm we decided to take a cabin; that was a good decision.

Mt Murchison

While other campers soldiered on and took an umbrella on a trip to the toilet, we nested in our little cabin for a couple of days. We still had one week left to ride the Apple Isle when the weather cleared and we made the most of it, basing ourselves in Rosebery, and later, Stanley. We cruised circuit routes in glorious sunshine and clean crisp air. On one occasion we found ourselves back in Queenstown for Tassies national dish – the scallop pie. The Tarkine Drive was thoroughly enjoyable but be aware, the speed limit was down to 50km for a good chunk of it and this greatly affected ride times.

 Trowutta Arch, Tarkine Drive

And so we ended our Tasmania sojourn, riding for the love of riding, until it was time to go home.
Having fun in Stanley - #visitstanleytas