Wednesday 8 March 2023

Reflections of the South West

Hamelin Bay
Hamlin Bay

Margaret River reflections
Margaret River, Wooditjup National Park


The most difficult aspect of a motorcycle journey is leaving behind the comforts of home. As soon as I'm on the road, panniers mounted and Devil (BMW F650GS) looking more than two lanes wide, the dream of riding the open road comes alive again.



Kookaburra
Kookaburra

The first day's ride was a short 70km as we were staying at the Miami Caravan Park, in Falcon, so we could walk to a friend's 70th birthday bash. We took our time, enjoying morning tea overlooking beautiful Warnbro Sound, then we lunched at our favourite Thai restaurant in Mandurah before setting up camp around 3pm. Miami was all charm, if you can accept the ablutions cleaning schedule which begins, in the ladies main shower block, at 7am. I waddled over to 'B' block and all I can say is at least I know how it feels to shower in a MASH tent, my head sitting well above the stable door in the change area.


Margaret River Tourist Park
Margaret River Tourist Park


We were all packed up and on the road by 8am, trying to catch a few comfortable miles before the day warmed up too much. When you have recently lost a friend, in a motorcycle crash with a kangaroo, it makes you pay more attention on country roads. We took it easy along Estuary Road and by 9am we were drinking tea at Stirling Cottage, just outside Harvey. Then it was onwards and upwards to Wellington Dam. The Google Maps route took us across the dam wall but this road is still closed so we took a chance along River Road. When the road narrowed, I missed the "One Way" sign. I clawed my way along the narrowest piece of single lane, expecting to find someone coming the other way around the next bend; all the while Steve was wondering why I was going so slow.

Wadandi Track, Wooditjup National Park
Wanandi Track


We stopped for a while in the main street of Nannup, to hydrate, and then we rode the last stint to Margaret River. We made ourselves at home, amongst the grape pickers, on an unpowered tent site at the Tourist Park on Station Road.


The following day we enjoyed walking some of the trails through Wooditjup National Park. As we followed along what was once a railway track, you could nearly feel the old railway sleepers beneath the stones under our feet. The early morning reflections caught our attention, and it was easy to believe that The Margaret might be 100ft deep so vivid was the picture before us.


Hamelin Bay
Hamelin Bay


Back at camp a Swedish backpacker serenaded us with an original song. He had picked grapes in the morning and in the afternoon had spent three hours busking just off the main street of town. He said "I am working to buy myself some freedom."


A ride to Margs is not complete without spending some time riding the curves of beautiful Caves Road. The following morning we rode southwards to Hamlin Bay. When we arrived the Stingrays were visiting and many a beach goer ignored the warning signs and tried to get close-up and personal with the rays. Our friend's yacht, Edna May, was in the anchorage but we couldn't raise them as the mobile signal was patchy.


Cape Leeuwin

Cape Leeuwin lighthouse
Cape Leeuwin lighthouse
"Let's do something different," said Steve, so we trundled on to Cape Leeuwin and bought tickets to climb the lighthouse. The 176 step spiral staircase was strenuous on the way up, scary on the way down; great entertainment.


By the time we were ready to leave Margaret River we had walked the length and breadth of town a dozen times, checked out Cape Naturaliste, Meelup, Quindalup, Busselton, feasted on lamb ribs at Black Brewery, taken afternoon tea at The Chocolate Company, confirmed that the French Patisserie in Cowaramup is still the best and got caught out, on the road, in the tail end of a thunderstorm.

Cape Leeuwin lighthouse
Cape Leeuwin lighthouse - view to north

Maranup Ford Bike Rally 2023
Maranup Ford Bike Rally 2023


The best ride of them all was the day we left behind the hustle of Margaret River and Caves Road and found ourselves riding towards Pemberton. The road was clean and clear ahead and it seemed like we had found the open road once more. We joined in a motorcycle rally at Maranup Ford Caravan Park for the March long weekend. This is a BYO everything event. A thoroughly enjoyable gathering of classic and modern bikes, solos and sidecars. We were first timers for this rally but I noticed, as I rode towards home, I made a mental note to bring more beer next year and don't forget the bacon and eggs.

Maranup Ford Bike Rally 2023
Maranup Ford Bike Rally 2023

Stay safe, cheers Jane

Blackwood River, Maranup Ford
Blackwood River, Maranup Ford



Wednesday 8 September 2021

Golden Outback

BMWMCCWA at Mundaring
BMWMCCWA morning tea,
Credit: Chris Fitzhardinge


I was only a mile from home when I found myself musing over whether our two litre cask of wine would last for two nights or three. I was soon snapped back to reality when we found ourselves in the thick of Wednesday morning peak hour traffic. We still had options, so we decided to go the back way to Mundaring where we were meeting a bunch of BMW bike club dudes for a cuppa before starting a two week ride through goldfield country.

 

Jibberding Nature Reserve
Red Devil and Red Dwarf

We spent the first night in Dalwallinu, and we had to wait well into the morning for the fog to clear before heading northwards to Cue. We stopped at the Jibberding Nature Reserve, to drink brewed coffee and admire the stunning display of wildflowers and it felt good to be alive. We fuelled up in Paynes Find and were delighted to find the museum open. It was a treat to listen to some stories, from a Paynes Find long time local, and I bought a packet of rocks to remember having been there.

Cue, Western Australia
Cue, Western Australia

 

Cue, Western Australia
Old Masonic Lodge, Cue


The birds could not be relied upon to waken us at dawn, as they could be heard tweeting anytime after 2am. But Steve heard a rooster on our first morning in Cue and we both knew that the rooster could be relied upon to tell the time. We were only two days down the road when we had to live through "the case of the missing cereal measuring cup," which, like gold dust, turned up at the bottom of the cereal packet.

 

In Cue we learnt about folklore legend, Russian Jack. The story goes that when Jack was making his way to Cue, during the gold rush, and pushing his wheel barrow 30 miles each day, he came across another miner who was on his last legs. Instead of leaving him by the wayside, he piled his mates belongings, and his new found mate, onto his wheelbarrow and carried on to Cue, still making 30 miles each day.

 

Aboriginal Art, Walga Rock
Aboriginal Art, Walga Rock

We trundled out along the well graded gravel roads to beautiful Walga Rock. We ambled all over the rock, watching the little creatures enjoying their last few days before the rock pools ran dry. We gazed upon the rock paintings without hoards of other folk around. "Who painted the ship?" was cause for much discussion back at our camp that night. I'm going with the theory that it was a mariner, from a faraway land, because of the writing underneath the ship.

 

Walga Rock, Western Australia
Walga Rock

Milly Soak, Western Australia
Milly Soak


We took the bikes for a run to Nallan Lake and found the lake full of water and bird life. On our circumnavigation we saw mallard duck, egret and an abundance of small water birds that we were unable to identify. Then we followed in the bicycle tracks of the 1930's girls and boys and went for a picnic to Milly Soak. Milly Soak is home to the most beautiful stand of ghost guns I have ever seen. It is as if a great artist hand painted each one a pale shade of grey. Back in the gold rush days water was so scarce it is said that you were lucky to wash your finger tips before making a loaf of damper. The Cue townsfolk managed to contaminate their own water supply and not far from the soak are three graves, whose inhabitants were struck down with typhoid fever.

 

I enjoy listening to the yarns around the bbq at the end of the day. One prospector said his great uncle use to run the bicycle shop out at Big Bell, and another said his great grandfather was a miner at Day Dawn. They burnt their sausages while they told us their stories and I listened, wide eyed, to everything they had to say.

 

Hospital ruins, Cue, Western Australia
Hospital ruins, Cue

While we were checking out the ruins of the old hospital in Cue, an old local prospector pulled up on his quad bike. He lamented that he had "spent most of his life in jail." He laughed a lot and I said, "you seem to have found some happiness here." He gave me the pick of the rocks in his tray. In my excitement to chose a treasured souvenir, I forgot to ask him his name. When we looked around he was nowhere to be seen. This beautiful piece of jasper will have a special place on my patio at home.

 

Prospectors in Sandstone
Prospectors in Sandstone 

We moved our camp to Sandstone and enjoyed sitting around the fire pit and listening to the prospectors yarn. There were some good stories going around, like the guy who found a gold sovereign, the size of a $2 coin, and the kids spent it in a slot machine. But the one I liked the most was the guy who stops to relieve himself on the side of the road and finds himself peeing on a few ounces of gold ~ one prospector added "this is the kind of story that keeps the dream alive."

 

London Bridge, Sandstone
London Bridge

From Sandstone there is a well worn tourist trail that takes in the ruins of a state built well, dug to 100m deep. You can peer inside and appreciate the technique of shoring up the walls with timbers, in the same way the mine shafts were constructed years ago. The old brewery was amazing. Here they used a cave to keep the grog at a suitable temperature for drinking. They call this land around Sandstone, Breakaway Country. The Basalt rock is eroded by wind and rain leaving outcrops to ramble over and enjoy the view.

 

Wiluna, Western Australia
Intersection of the Canning Stock Route
and Gunbarrel Highway, Wiluna

When we heard we could dine at the BHP mine mess in Leinster for $20 a head, Leinster became our home for a couple of nights. From Leinster we took Devil (F650GS) and Dwarf (R1200GS) on a day ride to Wiluna ~ Weeloona - place of the winds. I will always remember the pack of outback dogs, waiting patiently at the general store door for their masters to appear. They weren't tied up, they didn't bark, they knew they couldn't go in.

 

Wiluna, Western Australia

The discovery centre in the old hospital is very engaging and we learnt about the Martu People and the tragedies when building The Canning Stock Route. Wiluna is quiet at the moment with the "covid" closure of The Canning Stock Route. If you get chance, take yourself to Wiluna, you could spend all day in The Discovery Centre, where there is free tea and coffee, and tables and chairs to enjoy a BYO picnic lunch. The Tjukurba Art Gallery is wonderful, too, and if you are looking for a reasonably priced Aboriginal art work to take home with you, you might find one there.

 

Wiluna, Western Australia
Ooops!

The place of the winds rustled up a savage cross wind to hound us the entire 170km ride home to Leinster. As we rode away from town, a copper took to our wheel, but we were on the speed limit so no worries there. Then all of a sudden the lights and siren were on and we thought we were in for a RBT. The cops hurried on by and we hunkered down and prepared for the next gust of wind. We didn't get to ride much further when we came across a nickel ore road train, who had "lost it" on a left hand bend. The third and fourth trailers were on their sides and a thick layer of nickel ore lay all over the road. We arrived not long after the accident had happened and were surprised to see people putting out spot fires in the bush. Steve had the camera out straight away but I was more concerned about picking my way through the carpet of sharp rocks that covered the road. The police said we could pass, at our own risk. Steve got Devil through "the thick stuff" and then we were on our way. That night we heard that traffic control were on the scene and we suspect caravaners were held up for hours. When we see the ore trucks thundering by we always thought they were taking it pretty easy, we are a little more cautious now.

 

Leonora, Western Australia
Early morning coffee and a good old yarn.

We moved our camp to Leonora and hung out around the fire pit with a bunch of full time prospectors. You could hear the miners stoking the fire from 4am. The billy was always on and everyone was made most welcome. We were even invited to join the communal dinner; it was a pleasure to enjoy the company of these outback dudes. Of course our 2lt cask of wine was long since empty. We had tried to replenish our supply in Cue but an indigenous funeral had capped the per person wine quota at one bottle. The same thing happened in Leonora; we are happy with these curfews as it helps vulnerable people cope with difficult life events.

 

With the gold price nearing $2500 AUD per ounce, gold fever is in the air, and the atmosphere is electric. One guy was seen going to work at the crack of dawn, brushing his teeth as he selected first gear. When we were in Kalgoorlie, a couple of days later, Mozzie walked into a Hannan St jewellery store to cash in his finds. It was like catching up with an old friend we hadn't seen for years even though we had only met a few days before.

 

Laverton, Western Australia
Next town Alice Springs


From Leonora we went on a day ride to Laverton and back. I will always remember this ride as "the ride of the wedge tailed eagle" as we saw five eagles, all taking their turn on one road kill. Sadly, on the return journey, one of the eagles had taken its last breath and lay dead on the side of the road, his mates were nowhere to be seen.



 

Laverton, Western Australia
Police cells, Laverton
Caretaker wanted me inside for the real experience,
I wasn't falling for that.

You can take a tour of the old Police Sergeant's house and jail. I was surprised to learn how "well to do" the house was appointed. Apparently, back in the day, the sergeant sat at the "top of the town" and was the one who entertained all of the town's important guests.

 

State Hotel, Gwalia, Western Australia
State Hotel, Gwalia

Reserve a day for a good look at the ghost town of Gwalia. Sitting on the colonial veranda at Hoover House, enjoying a Devonshire Tea, and overlooking St Barbara's active gold mine will live in my mind for a long time. As you make you way down the hill you will notice the derelict swimming pool, now on the edge of the pit and ready to fall in. Amongst the museum dwellings and restored sly grog houses, some folks still call Gwalia home; we didn't get chased by a mining town dog or a guy with a gun but there was potential.

 

Kookynie, Western Australia
Kookynie
two beemers & a Ford

From Leonora we planned to stay in Menzies, so we could take a run out to see the beautiful statues at Lake Ballard. On the way we enjoyed a good walk around the breakaways at Niagara Dam and then we rode on to Kookynie. Kookynie has been reduced to mostly rubble with a few building still standing and a few folks still living in town. The pub is open with a fuel bowser outside. We looked at the bowser and thought "dirty fuel? who would fill up with unleaded here." This turned out to be our undoing as when we arrived in Menzies the unleaded pump was out of order ~ woops. Even a last desperate effort to buy five litres of fuel from the local RAC guy (of which we are both members) was met with "sorry, I don't carry any fuel." This meant that we didn't have the fuel to ride out to the lake and then make it to Kalgoorlie. So we rode on to Kalgoorlie, 130km away, in the sure knowledge that there was going to be a "next time around."

 

York Hotel, Kalgoorlie
York Hotel, Kalgoorlie


I have always been in love with Kalgoorlie and it made me sad to think that I had not visited the town for twelve years. We settled in for four nights and took our time to enjoy the stunning Federation Free Style architecture, jewellery stores, hotels and bars. Pizza on the balcony at The York Hotel and a steak and a pint of Guinness at Hannan's bar were memorable moments.

 

Kalgoorlie Town Hall
Kalgoorlie Town Hall

The tour of the Kalgoorlie Town Hall, by historian, and born and bred Coolgardie local, was very engaging. It was enlightening to learn, contrary to what we had been led to believe, that engineer, C.Y. O'Connor, did not take his own life when the water in the Perth to Kalgoorlie pipeline did not arrive on time. The truth is that one year before the pipeline was complete O'Connor had had enough and committed suicide. He left behind all the drawings and details required to complete the project that he fully believed would be successful. I was very pleased to learn the truth about O'Connor because every time I have ridden east from Perth, I have thought of him with great sadness, taking his own life only hours before the water arrived in Kalgoorlie.

 

Super pit, Kalgoorlie
Super pit, Kalgoorlie

We had enjoyed so many experiences that our two weeks away seemed like two months. But when you are ready to go home, nothing can make you wait a day or two for more suitable weather for an enjoyable ride. On Friday 3rd September 2021 we packed up the tent and made Devil and Dwarf ready for the 600km ride home to Perth. The tent was covered in frost and the temperature was 2⁰C. It didn't get above 14⁰C all day, and when the clouds rolled in, not even the sun appeared to warm us through. Steve and I can never remember being so cold for so long on the bikes. We wore everything we had, and still the cold seeped into our bones. As Steve said when we pulled into our driveway "that was an achievement;" until next time...


Dawn, Kalgoorlie
Dawn of our last day


 

Friday 12 March 2021

Unfinished Business

BMW R1200GS, BMW F650GS
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.

Busselton, Western Australia
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.

Busselton, Western Australia
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.

Jane Laws, Busselton, Western Australia
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, Western Australia
Busselton Jetty


BMW R1200GS, BMW F650GS
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
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, Western Australia
Wellington Dam Mural by Guido Van Helten


Wellington Dam, Western Australia
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.

 

Gnomesville, Western Australia

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.

 

Gnomesville, Western Australia
A small group of the Gnomes hanging out at Gnomesville



BMW R1200GS, BMW F650GS, motorcycle camping
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. 

Collie Motoplex
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.

 

Collie Motoplex
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.

 


Collie Motoplex
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.