"How about we go to Tasmania on the motor bike?” That’s what Chester asked me over 6 months ago. My reply was “Okay, but not on the Virago”. I am sure he thought I would say no way. So then began the search for another bike. Something a little more comfortable for me, and Chester too of course.
In February, after several trips to Perth, hours reading magazines and checking out the “net” we decided on a Honda. Chester being a little short in the legs, limited the range we could choose from. So it was another trip to Perth to test drive the ST1300 Chester had in mind. But someone was out on the demo for at least an hour.
So with a bit of a push, the salesman and I convinced Chester to try the Goldwing that was standing in the sun (just waiting for me to have a ride on it). After that, the decision was made as far as I was concerned. There was no choice, it had to be the Goldwing! Chester kept complaining all the way home about my B . . expensive armchair on the back. So with a comfy bike we started to plan our trip.
The idea to go to Tassie had come from John and Forrest Woodbury, and when Lez and Marie Baines heard about it, they were keen to join us. We got together several times to organise the details. The plan was to tow trailers and camp along the way as much as we could, so long as the weather permitted. Sounded good to me.
So for many weeks we hunted for small everything. Small tent, small stove, small chairs, you name it we wanted it small or if not small . . . light weight. It was all coming together when Chester said “2 sets of clothes is all you need”. It was his “do it or else” voice. Well you can imagine my response to that. I really tried to obey my master but it is really hard deciding what not to take. I managed to smuggle an extra pair or two of jeans aboard and I was happy.
For those of you who don’t know, I have never done a big trip on a motorbike before. The longest was a few hours drive with the club one Sunday morning. So this trip was quite a big thing for me. I wasn’t really worried as I have always felt very safe sitting behind Chester on a bike. The long stretches on the Nullabor were a bit daunting, but Forrest (a veteran of the long road) said to just take one day at a time. Don’t think of the whole trip or I would probably not cope. Some good advice I think.
The days before D-Day were spent packing and repacking the bike and trailer loading up every CD we had on to the MP3 players and tidying the house for our friends who were house-sitting for us. I would be glad to get away for a rest.
April 14th arrived. The bikes lined up in the driveway. The Woodbury’s BMW K1200LT, The Baines’ Goldwing and our lovely beast all looked fantastic. We were off! Esperance was to be our first camp.
The plan was no plan really: We had to be in Melbourne for the ferry by the 23rd April returning the 8th May. Aim to limit the distance each day to 500km. Rest breaks every 100km or so and just have fun. A rough route was mapped out with distances so we could make sure we were going to get to Melbourne on time and the rest we would work out as we went. Everyone had made a list of the special things we wanted to see and do, and we planned to fit in as many of them as we could.
We had so many cups of tea the first day with cake and biscuits. I just knew then that I would be like the side of a house when we got home. The weather forecast had said rain was coming and all effort was made to keep ahead of it. Day 2 saw us leaving Esperance early. Everyone we met talked about the road works just east of Balladonia. So we planned to get past them by nightfall. With the rain imminent we pushed on and did just under 600km arriving at Caiguna motel after dark.The temperature reached 37°C during the day.
I am really glad I took the time to load up the MP3 with lots of music. One of the players was loaded with popular songs and the other with slower tunes but still goodies. We had lots of fun singing and dancing our way along. Yes that’s right, I foot-tapped on the pedals all the way across Australia. When we were in the lead, everyone was wondering what I was up to on the back of the bike. Only doing the actions to the Village People’s YMCA of course.
The rain and wind caught up with us around Eucla. I cannot say that I enjoyed the ride that day and am pleased I can say we never had it as bad again. Wind, yes and rain too, but not together. It was hard accommodation again that night. I think we would have done some parasailing if we had tried to set up the tent. The next morning was still with beautiful blue skies. What a day to be riding a bike!
We completed the journey across the Nullabor by day 4. The scenery was ever-changing and a lot greener than we had expected. We wondered if that was why we hadn’t seen any roos. All off-road having plenty of tucker. While camping at Ceduna for the night, Chester and I did a spot of fishing off the wharf. Caught some King George whiting and some herring, just enough for an entrée for all. Lucky we packed the collapsible rods.
Things were looking pretty dry by the time we reached Kimba and it continued right across the country. Severe water restrictions were in place in South Australia and Victoria. You were not even allowed to wash your vehicles- which was a disaster as far as the men were concerned.
Chester was really pleased with the running of the bike. The 25 litre tank gave us a good range of 350km. This allowed us to bypass Iron Knob where fuel was $2 a litre. Apparently it is owned and run by the local bikies. Everything is cash and if they don’t want to serve you they won’t. After Port Augusta we detoured from the main road and headed inland across the Flinders Ranges.
What a beautiful drive, the hills, the farms, the whole countryside and those lovely winding roads. Keeping up the pace we landed in Murray Bridge, staying for a couple of nights to sort out the radio communications between the bikes. This visit back to South Australia was great. It gave us the opportunity to catch up with friends we met while caravaning around Australia in the 70’s.
Then there was the Great Ocean Road. What a winding, windy road that it. The scenery was fantastic and the 12 Apostles minus 3 were beautiful. The Australian coastline is quite spectacular and this part makes a good ride too. It took all day to travel 280km. We were amazed to see hang gliders soaring off the cliffs and out over the ocean. The mist was so thick at times and it seemed crazy to be up in the clouds not knowing where the ground was. We got a wave or two from the gliders. With the weather upon us we sadly had to stay in chalets for the night. Ho hum, I really missed the tent.
We stayed at Torquay at the end of the GOR, just far enough from Melbourne to be away from the crowds but close enough to be an easy ride in for the ferry the next day. Heading to Melbourne we made another detour to visit Diver Dan’s kiosk from the TV series Sea Change at Barwon Heads. It is a very pretty spot and the cakes were yummy too. Then it was off to Geelong. Lez needed a new tyre so we had organised a change in Geelong.
Chester and I headed off on our own for the day to visit an old family friend. Harold had been a star player for the Essenden footy team and was due to hand the football over to the umpires at the start of the Anzac Day match. He’s an old hand at this as he is the last of the players from the winning grand final for Essendon from before the war.
It was then that we brought Sheila out of the topbox. Sheila is our GPS. What a wonder she is. She led us all the way through Melbourne, across the West Gate bridge. And that is where we got lost. Well I should be fair. We typed in Beach Rd (On advice from our friends) instead of Beach St. We could see the ferry off to our right, but Sheila was sending us off in the other direction. That’s when we knew we were in trouble. So at every traffic light we hailed the driver alongside to help us get to Station Pier. A right turn at the next set of lights and we were there. All the others had arrived and we decided to line up to board the ferry about 5.30pm.
Well that is when the dramas began. Everything was okay for the first half hour. Just shuffling along in the queue. Then we reached the check in booth. Lez and Marie went through with no problems, John and Forrest were next and there was a problem. We had done the booking via the internet. The application for the crossing did not give us the choice to say a trailer was being towed. It only gave the option “trailer/side car” no differentiation between the two. The overall length we marked as 5 metres.
So we were surprised when the lady at the counter said we had an incorrect booking. We were booked for side cars and not trailers and we needed to pay an extra $270 per bike to go on board. Lez and Marie were called back and then the argument began. The silly thing was that John’s trailer did not incur the fee because it was a camper trailer. He could sleep in it. Chester was real quick with the response that we could sleep in ours if we needed to. The line was held up for over an hour. The line behind us was stirring a bit by then. With a big cheer they finally let us on board at no extra cost.
When they tied down the bikes and trailers we had to disconnect the trailers and park them alongside just like a side car. We were the talk of the ship that night. “Oh you’re the ones with the Goldwing who held up the show.” It’s one way to become a celebrity I guess.
The Bass Strait crossing was pretty good, a bit of a roll every now and then but not enough to cause any problems. The ship berthed just before 7am. At last we were in Tasmania. Down on the vehicle deck, fresh air was nonexistent. We set the bikes free and prepared to disembark. The quarantine queue was a bit slow so we were starving when we finally had breakfast in Elizabeth Town on the way to Launceston.
A plan was starting to form. Avoid the rain and see as much as we can. The weather forecasts were still warning of bad weather in a few days. We decided to stay a few days in major centres and take day trips out from there. It is a lot more fun on the bikes without the trailers.
The first nights camp (in tents) was at Hadspen, a small town about 12 km north of Launceston. The caravan park in Launceston is on the main road and very hilly. The one at Hadspen was quieter with a deli, fuel and other shops right alongside. It sure made it easy getting supplies.
As soon as we set up camp we were off to see the sights. Some friends of the Woodbury’s joined us for tea that night. Chris and Jenny Smith had lived in Albany many years ago. They had built a yacht there (The Wings of Fantasy) and have raised their children aboard it. I don’t know how they did it with 4 kids. Chris being a bike enthusiast, suggested lots of rides in the north-east region and decided to join us for a day’s ride along the Tamar River on his one cylinder Yamaha 500.
What a great day we had. So much beautiful countryside and great roads to try out the bikes. We did notice a lot of road kills - possums, wombats and devils. Chris knew all the good bakeries to eat at too. It was Anzac Day and we managed to join in on a service at Beaconsfield where the mining accident occurred on this day 12 months ago. A strong community spirit showed in the turnout.
The next two days we explored the rest of the region. Some of the roads gave us a bit of an adrenaline rush. One in particular was at a nasty hairpin bend. A semi came around the corner taking up both sides of the road just as Lez was about to take the turn. I still don’t know how Lez managed to avoid a collision. Thank heaven for the CB’s. It could have been a real disaster.
After three nights at Hadspen we were off to Hobart, down the main highway through Ross and lots of old towns with their main streets refurbished to their former glory. With the autumn colours and the old buildings, I was snapping off photos left right and centre. Chester would never stop for a shot, so a lot of my pictures show a bit of movement. Actually they were pretty much a blur at times. Along the road south the locals have set up displays for the passers by such as topiary scenes and shadow figures. Helped to keep me entertained on the back of the bike.
We arrived in Hobart early in the afternoon. The rain was expected that night so the tents stayed in the trailers. Bowen Cosy Cabins were nice on the outskirts of the city. Martin Bryant was a near neighbour at Risdon Prison, just over the road from the park. We unloaded the bikes then Chester got the whip cracking and had us up Mt Wellington before we knew what was happening. Oh was it cold. 5°C. The view is spectacular, a full 360° view of the city and surrounds. The mountain is 1.2km high but the road is 12km long. I really felt sorry for the guys on pushbikes.
This was the beginning of a very busy five days in and around Hobart. A thing to remember is to leave early and allow plenty of time for travelling. It might only be 100km trip but the roads don’t let you go all that fast. We got caught out a few times like missing a ferry by 5 minutes or getting to Port Arthur just before closing. So if anyone is off to Tassie, be warned.
There is so much to see in Hobart and the surrounding area. The Huon Trail with the Tahune Airwalk, Bruny Island and the Capt’n Bligh story, the wharf and the boat rides, breweries and distilleries, the Cadbury Chocolate factory (One of my favourites. The chocolate was very cheap and we were still eating it 2 weeks later as we headed home.) and so many historical sites. You could spend 3 weeks in the city and still have things to see and do.
We had a bit of drama one night. I was woken by the phone ringing about 10.30pm. By the time I got out of bed the ringing had stopped. Reception being as good as it was, I walked half way up the hill to retrieve the message. It was the police in Hobart wanting to speak to me. They had found my wallet and wanted me to know it was safe. Well that is the first that I had heard about it being missing. A quick check of my handbag confirmed it. Then I remembered putting it in the side pocket of my jacket when we stopped at Port Arthur. A real no no! I have found out.
A very nice lady found it and handed it in to the police. Apparently it flew out of my pocket and almost hit her as we passed her walking along the road. She thought a pick pocket had just tossed it out of a car and was surprised to see the cards and money still intact. I was so lucky and I am really glad I did not know it was missing or I would have had a major panic attack, cancelled cards and definitely not slept. So now all I put in my side pockets is my hands.
From Hobart we rode north-west to Strathgordon and Lake Pedder. It is such a lovely area and riding through the forests and the mountains was breathtaking. Russell Falls in the Mt Field National Park was pretty special. We stayed in the old staff quarters at Lake Pedder, a beautiful setting. The birds were feeding from our hands in the grounds overlooking the lake. We were surprised to hear that the area was in desperate need of rain. The Gordon Dam is so low you can see the trees coming out of the water in the bottom of the lake. There is some talk of emptying Lake Pedder with the dams not filling well and the power station is now being kept in standby mode.
We called into a wildlife park near Russell Falls on the road out from Strathgordon. I was really delighted to see such a lovely reserve. My highlight was getting to see platypus swimming in their natural environment. They are so much smaller than I expected.
More rain was forecast (that’s new) so we headed off early for Queenstown. We didn’t want to get there after dark. So much for that plan! We had a beautiful lunch at Tarraleah just before disaster struck. We came across a nasty accident where a car had hit a tree. Accidents are quite common in this area we found out. A Korean gentleman had fallen asleep at the wheel. He was trapped in the car. Bystanders had managed to get his wife out of the car. She was suffering from shock.
Lez and Marie were the first from our party to stop and Lez did a great job keeping the guy calm and reassuring him for about 2 hours. Marie with her nursing skills kept an eye on both patients. The rest of us were busy flagging down cars. There are crazy people out there. No sense to slow down when it is obvious that an accident has occurred.
The SES and police arrived and the rescue was underway. A helicopter was flown in to take the patients to hospital. With darkness fast approaching we headed off with the Woodburys for Queenstown. Lez and Marie were asked to stay on to keep the driver calm while awaiting evacuation from the car.
We had been warned that the road to Queenstown was pretty winding with lots of hills. Well they were right. And it is much worse in the dark and the rain. The motel at Queenstown with its welcoming lights was like an oasis in the desert. I think it was probably a good thing that we could not see the drop at the side of those tight turns as we came into town. It was just great to be safe, warm and dry.
Then it was on to Strahan and Macquarie Harbour. We went on a cruise of the harbour and the Gordon River, stopping at Sarah Island with its amazing history and a nature walk in some pristine forest. I would thoroughly recommend this cruise.
Just as we were about to head to Burnie, the men found a problem with John’s trailer hitch while they were doing their usual morning check. John had been having trouble with the trailer for a while and it looks like the problem might have been the hitch all the time. And of course it was Sunday and who works on Sunday in a small town? The only repairman was off fishing, so Chester was given the keys to the shed and did a pretty good repair given the state of things in the workshop. A bit like Steptoe and Son.
At last it was time to head north for Burnie on a good road. We checked into some chalets on the main coast road. Chester, John and I went for a ride to Wynyard, a suburb east of Burnie. (If we did it all again, we would stay in Wynyard, a bit fresher and cleaner than Burnie.) We stopped to do a spot of fishing from the wharf. Gee I’m a champion fisherperson. Another nice feed of fish.
Then it was back to Burnie. There is a lot to see along the north coast, craft displays and geological features and of course, the Nut at Stanley. All worth a visit. In hindsight we should have used Sheila a lot more while we were travelling around Tasmania. It was during one of those moments when we got lost that we were reminded of the old TV series F Troop. I could recall the time when the chief was talking to the young braves about how the tribe got its name. A few braves and squaws had set off on a hunting trip, going over mountains, across rivers and over the plains. (Sounds familiar doesn’t it.) Well one day they stopped and looked around and someone said “Where the heck are we?” So every time we got lost or slightly displaced we remembered the Heckarwe, our namesakes.
Our last day in Tassie had beautiful clear blue skies. Lez and Marie headed to Cradle Mountain while we joined John and Forrest on a tour of Burnie. We planned this before we knew the weather was going to be so nice. Lez and Marie were keen to let us know what we missed when we caught up with them in Devonport. Our turn about the city took us to Creative Paper, an amazing display of life size, papier-mache people and a chance to make some paper from recycled materials. They won an award for making paper out of “roo poo”. I think Chester would have been happier on the bike.
We had a real laugh on our way to the ferry stopping for lunch at Penguin. It was probably just the mood we were in, but it was funny reading the signs. Penguin playground, Penguin Senior Citizens club and so on. There were lots of Penguins everywhere. The rubbish bin penguin, the letter box penguin, street signs, you name it - it was probably a penguin. We did some dancing in the street- Happy Feet you know!
Arriving in Devonport mid afternoon we caught up with the Baines. We decided to line up early for the ferry in case we had more trouble. One suggestion was to block both lanes so they had to let us through. But it was so easy it was a joke what happened in Melbourne. The crossing was good and we slept pretty well rising about 6.30am to disembark.
It was John’s turn to catch up with family and we joined him on a trip to Warburton, while the Baines headed for Ballarat. Sheila came out of the top box again and did a good job leading us through Melbourne and back to Geelong. We went on a couple of toll roads and through tunnels (a bit hairy as it was peak hour traffic). In Geelong it was time to change the back tyre and do another repair to John’s tow bar. Chester blames the wet welding rods.
The Welcome Stranger was the really nice caravan park we stayed at in Ballarat. Marie had cooked us a delicious roast pork dinner as a treat. Yum! We had another delay here with repairs to Lez’s bike. The rear wheel bearing had collapsed and when we arrived the bike was on its stand with the back end all over the pavement ready for reassembly when the parts arrived.
Time was spent having a look around town, playing mini golf and visiting Sovereign Hill for the Light and Sound show at night. There was more drama here when John lost his wallet. He had just cancelled the cards when the guide from Sovereign Hill turned up having found the wallet in the dark. (Unfortunately you can’t reverse the cancellation of cards once done.)
Now we were on the home stretch travelling through Border Town and on into Adelaide. From here we went to Port Wakefield and veered left to Wallaroo to take the ferry across the Spencer Gulf to Lucky Bay on the Eyre Peninsula.
The wind on the way to the ferry terminal was pretty extreme. It nearly took our helmets off and the bikes were on such a lean, you might have thought we were turning a really big corner. But we were only going straight. The winds were in the right direction for the crossing and it was fairly smooth, taking about 2 hours. We were treated to a spectacular sky show from a fierce electrical storm that would eventually catch up with us.
We were keen to get off the ferry before the rain started as we were told there was 10km on unsealed road between Lucky Bay and Cowell. The power was out when we arrived at the Pub and it was dark. It was funny seeing us walking around the pub with our headlamps on. We just got inside with all our gear when the heavens opened up. We sat on the verandah enjoying a drink and watching the flash flood pass us by.
In the morning, the wind was still blowing. Reports were coming through that the road had been closed due to flooding. The local Elders man said it was all clear so off we headed to Streaky Bay and Ceduna. We had planned to stay at the same park, but we were beaten to the last cabins by the WA Ulysses Club members heading to the AGM at Byron Bay. On the fourth attempt we managed to find a motel for the night.
The Nullabor was a bit more inviting this time. The weather was behind us and we took the opportunity to check out the Head of the Bight. We saw one whale swimming off in the distance and were impressed by the views. On the way out we stopped to see some wombat holes while being watched by the resident dingo. Then it was on to Eucla for the night.
As we got closer to home we just wanted to be there. So we pushed hard and made it through to Fraser Range Station. (100km east of Norseman) A really nice spot to stop, camping in the old shearer’s quarters. The next morning we headed to Norseman where we had a coffee before parting company. The Woodbury’s and the Baines headed south and home while we headed north and on to Perth to a surprise our son for his birthday party. We made it in time and it was good to catch up with the family and friends.
While in Perth, we had the bike serviced and another tyre change before the final leg home. My experience on the back of the bike and being with good friends on our adventure has left me looking forward to the next trip. I am pretty sure a lot of people thought I would not make it. When people ask about the ride they look at me and say- “How did you go?” I am really pleased to be able to say I had a fabulous time and if there were any problems they were minor and not worth mentioning.
For those interested in some facts and figures, we travelled 11482 Goldwing kms (we discovered the odometer is out by approx 5%). We used 776 litres ($1063) of fuel alternating unleaded and premium. The consumption was 6.75 litres per 100km. Average price for fuel was $1.37 per litre. The dearest that we never bought was at Iron Knob. $1.99/L.
Our next trip is up north with the club in September if all goes well. And my last word is that the B... expensive seat was B... good!