Saturday, 30 June 2007

Great Ocean Road in winter

It's the middle of winter and it is cold and wet. A couple of weeks ago I took a quick run down along the first section of the Great Ocean Road (GOR). Although it was the second week of June and was damp, it hadn't actually turned really cold like now, maybe about 15 C. My aim was to take some pics of a new memorial statue that has been set up to honour the "diggers" who eked this road out of the cliffs. These men were veterans from WW 1 and the road was a means of employment after the war and was also intended as a memorial to fallen comrades.

It's at the start of the GOR.

This is what it looks like.

This what they achieved - a cliff hugging road.

Some incredible curves!

Snapped this Duke as it went by.

Don't like this kid's footware!

I didn't venture very far along the GOR as it was a holiday weekend with lots of traffic and damp roads- not the ideal combination. (In the other side of Victoria in the Alps the ski season was opening, but lots of folks come to the beach, even in winter). I turned inland at Lorne and started climbing upwards through the bush towards Dean's Marsh. Although the road was a bit damp there was little traffic so I actually made good time. No tar snakes to contend with! I went to visit my mate Steve in Colac who owns a Norton Commando. His place is only about 75 k’s from Lorne and a magnificant ride for the most part. Unfortunately Steve wasn't home so I set off again, not really wanting to go home just yet.

Then in a moment of foolishness I traded asphalt for gravel. Not so far really - only about 20 kilometers. It was pretty slippery, but good fun actually - and after a few miles I got used to the back of the bike moving sliding about.

The road from Bambra took me back to the GOR at Airey's Inlet and then I headed home. By the time I got off the gravel the bike was filthy. Ah well a clean up job for next weekend! All in all it was a good way to spend a damp and drizzly day. I was warm and dry in my gear - I didn't aim too cover much distance, just to enjoy the ride and stop for a few pictures. I got home just as the sun was getting low in the sky and the coldness really setting in. As Wallace and Gromit would say "A grand day out".

"Four wheels move the body. Two wheels move the soul"(Anon).

Thursday, 14 June 2007

Victorian High Country

December through to March is summer in Australia. My work colleague Marty and I have had to work most of the summer this year – usually we take holidays and have some family time, then take a week extra after school returns to go motorcycle touring.

This year we only had three days free. We hatched a plan to fit as many twisty roads in as we could in that time.

Day 1

Thursday 15 Feb I got up early and met Marty at the petrol station, we were ready to roll at 6.15am so as to miss the bumper to bumper commuter traffic entering Melbourne via the Westgate bridge. We stayed on the freeway all the way to Bairnsdale which is pretty boring trip of 360 kilometres. Stopped there and had a bite to eat and a drink as the day was starting to get warm, approx 32 Celcius (Approx 90F). We headed off the freeway to Orbost, via Bruthen. The road was terrific with open sweepers through the bush and virtually no traffic. Saw an Emu though! We stopped briefly at Orbost, a logging town at the gateway to what is referred to in Oz as “the High Country” for fuel and another drink. The temp had climbed into the high 30’s C (100F) and we were feeling it in full leathers with Dainese back protector underneath and full face helmets. Marty asked a local about the road to Bonang and I heard her reply that she hoped we had taken travel sickness pills because of all the ‘terrible” bends in the road awaiting us – perfect, just what we had come for!

Bonang Rd

We headed out the Bonang Road which is legendry amongst motorcyclists for its 1038 bends in 90 kms.

This is an awesome piece of road, climbing upwards mainly through the bush. Towards the end there were to gravel sections about 11 kms apart. The asphalt section between them was just amazing piece of high quite technical motorcycling road with decreasing radius corners, however, many of the corners were slightly banked and it was just brilliant. This is without doubt the very best road I have ever ridden.

Once up near the NSW border the trees disappeared and the storm clouds rolled in, now it was also really hot.

We pulled in the tiny town of Delegate (pop 450) and checked into the pub. It wasn’t very good. However, by the time we showered and then had a few drinks and a good meal, things actually seemed pretty good. There was quite a bit of thunder and lightning during the night.

Day 2

We woke up to a beautiful morning, all blue sky and not a cloud in sight. The morning ride to Bombala, down the Monaro Hwy into Vic to Cann River was near perfect.

We fuelled the bikes at Cann river and then headed along the Princes Hwy back to Bruthen. Saw a heap of motorcycles heading the other way at warp speed on the big open sweepers. (“Frontline Tourers” a guy told me, which is the Police, Fireman and Paramedics MC club. We turned off onto the Great Alpine Road which runs along the Tambo River for a while then climbs up to the winter snow resorts of Dinner Plain and Mt Hotham and then descends rapidly down to the towards Harrietville and Bright. We have had a major drought in southern Australia and the Tambo was dried up to being a series of stagnant water holes in places. Last year we saw guys trout fishing in rapidly flowing water in this spot! Now it was just stagnant pools, no flow at all.

Mt Hotham before the rain came

We stopped at Mt Hotham for some pics, and once again the storm clouds began to move in rapidly. Man it was hot! We stepped up the pace quite a bit to try to get down the really steep, downhill twisties in the dry. Unfortunately we were too late and rode down in quite challenging wet conditions. It was too steep to stop and put wet weather gear on. As we approached Bright we could see lightning flashing ever where ahead of us as we stopped to review our plan to ride some more twisties late in the day. We decided to head straight to Beechworth and I suited up with wet gear over the damp leathers. As fate would have it, the rain stopped and I slowly basted in my gear, the sweat not able to evaporate at all. I later learned that it was 39C (102 F) in Beechworth. I’m OK in dry heat – but this humidity I don’t handle well. We had pre-booked at a beautiful old pub that had been recently refurbished. There was a group of bikes, including some Blackbirds, a Fireblade and a K1200S BMW already out the back. They were on their way to Melbourne to catch the ferry to tour Tasmania the next day.

Commercial Hotel Beechworth

We had a great meal, some nice red wine then spent the evening on the upstairs balcony talking to some other travellers and watching the spectacular fork lightning.

Day 3

The next day was Saturday and again we awoke to quite a hot morning and a clear blue sky. We planned to head back to Geelong by keeping off the freeways and via another set of twisties, via the King Valley. Unfortunately this area had really felt the full force of mother nature in the form of massive bushfires. What had been a beautiful mountain ride to Mansfield was a really forlorn sight now. We saw some homes burnt to the ground, and some burned tractors and farm machinery along the way. Amazingly some home had been saved and some places had "Thankyou fire-fighters” signs up.

We cruised through Mansfield then down to Yea and stopped for fuel of the bikes and us. There were lots of motorcycles out and about on such a glorious day, if you like hot weather that is. We got home about 4.30pm as once again storm clouds and high humidity prevailed, had a leisurely debrief chat, then home to our respective families. We only did a little over 1,600 klms (1,000 miles approx) in the 3 three days, but rode great roads, had no mishaps and had a bloody great “defrag” from work!

"The only Zen you can find on the tops of mountains is the Zen you bring up there".
Robert M. Pirsig

Maps & Big pics

Wednesday, 13 June 2007

Motorcycling in Oz

This is a space for describing various motorcycling trips that I've done in recent times. It's about a passion for motorcycles that I've had since I was a kid - when a mate of my Dad's gave me a worn out Vespa scooter to fix. (And I still have a soft spot for Vespas).

My current bike is a Honda VFR 800, 2001 model. It is described as a "Sports tourer", ie. agile and sporty enough for day trips but also capable of comfortable long distance touring. The VFR 800 has a lovely DOHC V4 engine. I've added a Sargent touring seat from the USA, a Ventura luggage system and a custom stainless steel exhaust from Staintune Aust.

Remember to watch out for tar snakes!

"We keep passing unseen through little moments of other people's lives".
Robert M. Pirsig .