We got caught up on the Pacific Hwy for a while with all the
roadworks going on. Coff’s Harbour looked a bit big and wanky so we
continued down to Bellingen, a beautiful rural small town at the bottom
of the mountain road that leads up to Dorrigo, where we managed to camp
for a few days. Bloody good patisserie just off the main drag and the
locals were friendly.
The ride up to Dorrigo was a hoot and we called in to Australia’s
smallest motorcycle museum, an old beemer, ex-military WLA, old pommy
bike and a 250 Virago rounded out the collection. It was actually a
cafe cashing in on riders doing the mountain road. We went to the park
then headed back down the fantastic road. I was having a great ride
when this bloke on a Suzuki RG not sure if it was a 250 or 500 blew
past me on the outside with his knee down. He looked like he knew the
road well and he was in his groove. The country at the bottom was all
green pastures and budding deciduous trees.
After Bellingen we headed for Wauchope to have a go at the Oxley
Hwy. At Wauchope our plans of camping were dashed, but some old boys
from a campervan club agreed to keep an eye on our trailer at the
showgrounds for us. At the fuel station we asked what the road was like
and were disappointed to hear that it was pretty straight for the first
50km but got windy after that. Luckily his idea of straight meant nice
top gear sweepers over small hills through magic scenery. The tight
stuff got real tight and the fun really started. We stopped in at a
little store at Ginger Creek, about half way along, for a drink then
headed back to Wauchope. A great ride.
Back at Wauchope the old fellas told us about one of their favourite free camping spots at a spot south called Coopernook, just north of Taree. It turned out to be a cracker of a spot in the bush on a grass clearing surrounded by tall trees and that night under a fingernail moon. Next morning we headed south and called in at the National Motorcycle Museum at Nabiac. Some nice old machinery there but my favourites were thin on the floor because ‘people were still enjoying riding them too much’.
From Nabiac we rode down to Hawk’s Nest, across the water from
Nelson Bay, to camp for a couple of nights. It was a bit too windy and
cool to really appreciate the place. While there I rang John and Mary,
the bike enthusiasts from Sydney we met up at Kalbarri, to see if they
were still keen on us calling in. They were mad keen and Mary had just
bought a new bike and would be picking it up that weekend. So that was
sorted. The famous ‘Pieman’ of the area didn’t live up to the boasts.
Not a patch on the Denmark bakery.
We then headed to the top of the Putty Road via Kurri Kurri,
breeding ground of world champion motorcyclists Chad Reed and Casey
Stoner, and ended up camped out the back of the Wollombi Pub under the
trees by a river. Brilliant. It was a free camp so we cut our fees out
over the bar. Brenda, the manager, got us to try the local hooch
affectionately known as ‘Dr Jurd’s Jungle Juice’. A mix of a good port
and brandy that slid down dangerously easily. We bought a bottle as a
present for John and Mary. A good night.
Next morning was a pea souper as we packed and headed north to the
Hunter Valley area through roads and hillsides that had a few
bushranger spirits hanging about. It was then a run down the Putty and
what another great bike road. We were going to camp at Colo but the
park had shut down so we jagged a spot on the Hawkesbury river at
Sackville in a deserted water ski park run by ‘Old Arthur’ for $7. We
had time left so we headed up over the Sackville Ferry, free, to
Wiseman’s Ferry. Had a great lunch at the Coffee House then crossed the
Hawkesbury again and followed the river towards Gosford for a while.
Bloody beautiful scenery but this road was a bit rough. We called in at
the Wiseman’ Pub on the way back for a cold ‘unleaded’. Then back to
We headed around the back of Sydney then came up to John and Mary’s
from the south. They were picking up Mary’s new bike, a BMW R1200S, and
had told us to make ourselves at home as they’d left the house open for
us. In the days we spent there they took us touring the best roads
around west and south Sydney; Macquarie Pass, Kangaroo Valley, The
Skyroad near Stanwell Park and the road through Royal National Park.
They also took us to their son Dave’s 30th birthday party and we had a
top night. I loved it when, over breakfast on one of the rides, Dave
(VTR 1000 rider) asked his mum for her bike keys so he could take her
new bike for a fang. How good’s that?
We left Sydney and headed for Canberra via the Liverpool MCA
superstore where we picked up some goodies. Heated grips among them for
Canberra and the Snowys. We then took a route mapped out by John of
some interesting backroads down to Canberra. We did the usual while
there; took in Floriade, War Memorial, Australia Museum, National
Galley and the Fyshwick bike shops. Kate had picked up a pair of
‘Blueant’ units to be used as intercom and at $360 for the pair as
opposed to $2000 it was going to cost for the full Autocom set-up,
these are great. They only have a range of about 400m but are fine for
us and they were easy to install and can be charged from the bike.
Makes a difference talking our way through busy traffic or dodgy
After Canberra we headed down to John and Mary’s Farmhouse in the Snowy Mountains just south of Dalgety via Cooma. I had Banjo Patterson coming unbidden to my wandering mind as we headed through the Snowy High Country. I was blown away when we crossed the actual Snowy River on our way to the farmhouse. The farmhouse was a ripper that they use during the ski season as Jindabyne is only 30km away. A top set-up. We stayed there about six days resting when the wind blew too hard and riding when the conditions were better. The heated grips got a good test when it snowed on us up at Thredbo and Dead Horse Gap. Another day we made it all the way up to Charlotte’s Pass, above Perisher Valley. The snow was in walls up to 8ft high either side of the road.
I was told by Wayne ‘the Guru’ at Mach 1 that the clutch plate
replacement was a simple job. I’d had the gasket and plates posted to a
town nearby. After removing the heat shields and front header pipe,
right footboard and rear brake pedal, lower frame rail, 18 bolts for
the right side engine cover, the gasket in one piece, a large circlip
and the pressure plate I was confronted with a large nut (24mm) instead
of the usual 5 or 6 bolts. I rang Wayne and asked what the story was as
he’d said it was a simple job. ‘It is’, he says, ‘If you’ve got a
rattle gun’. Not something I had in any sort of abundance in a lonely
farmhouse in the Snowy Mountains. So it was a case of put it all back
together and hope the old gasket didn’t leak. It didn’t.
We headed out of there in a gale force wind. Up the Alpine Way
through Jindabyne, Dead Horse Gap, Khancoban through the beautiful
Murray River Valley and across the border to Corryong. We ended up
camping in Tallangatta in a quiet spot. Next morning we were on the
road again through Kiewa down to Mt Beauty and over the windy Tawonga
Gap road, excellent, to the town of Bright, where Kate’s parents camped
on their motorcycle trip in 1952.
Bright is a beaut spot and from here we got out to Beechworth, where
Ned and his mum were convicted. We stood where he stood in the old
courthouse and had a good look around this historic town. Called in at
Glenrowan, the site of the siege, and were bewildered by the animated
Yesterday we came across the Great Alpine Road over Mt Hotham where
we were riding above snow covered peaks. Like the Snowys we stopped and
filled our esky with snow because we’re too tight to buy a bag of ice.
Funny thing is that the snow lasts longer. Again the road is motorcycle
heaven. Met Billy and Ben at the High Plains Lodge at the Dinner Plain
settlement just past Hotham. Into their bikes and run a good bar. Said
we’d keep an eye out for them at the MotoGP. Down the windy roads
through Omeo into Bairnsdale. We camped just south of there at a place
called Eagle Point and the mozzies are fierce. Left over from their
Managed to change my front tyre and Kate’s back and the boys at
Shield and Doyle’s bike shop, Dale and Wally, kindly let me use their
rattle gun so the clutch is now done. Next morning we packed and headed
to Wilson’s Promontory after a delay with a flat tyre on the trailer.
But with the help of a couple of friendly locals I managed to reseal
the bead and pump it up again. Checking it in the park swimming pool
showed no obvious leaks so I’ve put it down to a slow leak.
Wilson’s Promontory is a beautiful place and I can now see what all the fuss is about. They hold a lottery at Christmas for people wanting campsites, such is the demand at Tidal River. It reminded me a little of Cape Le Grande near Esperance. High granite peaks surrounded by bush and beaches. The wildlife is a little too tame and we were warned about wombats breaking into tents to get at food a bit like the bears in America but on a smaller scale.
I was sitting down with a beer in the in the arvo and had opened a
packet of chips when about four bright red and blue king parrots landed
on and around me. One landed on the table next to me and waltzed
straight up to the chip packet and stuck his head straight in bold as
Kate got very excited when a wombat wandered past the campsite and
made me follow it around for a while giggling and carrying on. Made her
day. The night was a different story as one made a hell of a racket
trying to get into our camper. I was worried the bastard was going to
tear the canvas. We shooed him off. Next morning, sure enough, nice big
muddy wombat footprints over the canvas wall.
The trip to Phillip Island was a bit exciting as I’d been dreaming
of making this pilgrimage for nearly 20 years. Past Wonthaggi and the
bike traffic started picking up. We pulled into our campsite about
lunchtime on Thursday, set up, introduced ourselves to our neighbours
and went for a ride into Cowes. This was only Thursday and there were
bikes by the hundreds. A celebration of the motorcycle. Thursday night
was cold and wet and we all got to know each other around a fire over a
Friday was practise day and to see and hear those GP bikes in the flesh was something I’ll not soon forget. Stoner was setting a blistering pace early in practise and definitely looked the man to beat. Walking back from Siberia we were treated to the riders pulling up, not more than 20m in front of us and practising their starts. How good is that. I was barracking for Ant West as he was on the Kwaka and was finally being recognised as the talent he is. Other highlights were seeing Mick Doohan being interviewed and doing his Legend Laps with Magee and Beattie. The Superbikes were also a hoot to watch.
Friday night was a burster with the campground crowd swelling and
the fireworks and burnouts. More ales around the fire. Couldn’t believe
when a mate from Denmark wandered past. Aman had trained his S2 Ducati
to Adelaide and ridden over that day and was camped only 50 yards away.
Next morning Kate needed to get away from the campground for her
sanity so I took her back into Cowes for a coffee and a wander. Another
highlight was walking back to the bike and bumping into ‘The Goose’
after handshakes and a brief chat we were very impressed at having met
Steve Bisley. At the track that arvo it was qualifying. Big crowd.
Stoner put his stamp on early then Rossi pulled out a blinder. It was
Pedrosa who pulled out a smoking hot lap to take pole. I was in awe.
Saturday night rowdier and pissier than the night before. I can see
why people keep coming back. Sunday morning and the atmosphere kept
building and the crowds kept pouring in. We took a wander around the
track during practise to see all the angles. The view at turn eleven
was great watching the riders gas it up getting sideways out of the
Come race time and the circuit was packed. We watched from the hill
in front of the visitor’s centre and had a view of nearly all the
track. Stoner got a great start and dominated from turn one. At one
stage I clocked his lead at seven seconds. Kate was getting right into
it as well which was great to see. Westy finished 12th with a tyre that
had gone ‘off’. Vermulen achieved a credible 8th considering the set-up
problems the Suzukis had been having over the weekend. In the end it
was all Stoner. The crowd invaded the track and Kate and I walked into
the middle in front of the big screen to see the presentations. After
that we walked up the track to Southern Loop and back to camp.
The mass exodus hadn’t occurred and many seemed happy to camp Sunday
night and party again. Wicked. Kate retired early and in a lot of pain
with a suspected dislocated shoulder. I got on the phone to my mate
Dave in Albany to see if he had tracked down ‘The Pudding’. He had and
it had been to the GP but was now at his mate Chris’ place in
Nunawading. I rang Chris and asked if he’d mind if we called in to see
it. He said, “No worries”, and kindly offered for us to stay at his
place in ‘Room 42’.
We headed out of a mass of traffic on the Monday and headed up to
Nunawading, eastern Melbourne. Chris pulled in to his joint minutes
after us and we introduced ourselves. Chris is a mad BMW man and from
the numerous ‘Longest Distance’ rally trophies doesn’t mind doing the
big miles. While we were talking he nonchalantly gestured to a tea cosy
looking thing and says, “Aw yeah, there’s ‘The Pudding’”. I gingerly
picked it up and took it out of its cloth drawstring bag. Inside the
clear resin block was the battered, dented and worn tin that started
out as a Big Sister Self Saucing Pudding. I could make out the names
Mick and Vince scratched into the tin at the top and could feel the old
pudding rattling around inside. I think Chris thought my reaction was a
hell of a joke.
I was fortunate enough to take it for a spin around Melbourne to Kate’s chiro appointment then the next day up into the Dandenongs where we had some great tucker at Pie in the Sky in Olinda and Ripe in Sassafras. Kate got to take it for a lap around the block as well. I was able to service the bike at Chris’, 3000km since Sydney. We headed out through Melbourne after thanking Chris for his hospitality and his indulgence. It was a cool, fine day and the run down the Great Ocean Road was one of the best I’ve had. So here we are in Apollo Bay where we camped the night. Out of all the people I rang to tell them about ‘The Pudding’ only Fergie knew what I was babbling about. Cheers mate. That was a big one.