Monday, 24 April 2017

Gunning

Woke at 4am this morning to watch the MotoGP of the Americas and another skillful win by Marc Marquez on the Honda. My boots were very worse for wear after the stream crossing and needed some duct tape support the complete the road trip. Should be less than 1,000km now till home, and I still have plenty of duct tape.



Today's route loosely followed one of the rides recommended in my Bike Atlas. Leaving Kandos, I had heavy fog for the first 20km before breaking out into bright sunshine at Hill End. A tiny remnant of the gold rush (the diggings are still visible), I'm guessing it's a dormitory town for Bathurst. 

Bathurst was in full swing, and I headed for the bike route through Oberon to Goulburn. The route has been fully sealed, and alternated between cropping, pine forestry and native bush. Different from yesterday but still surprisingly beautiful. I stopped in Taralga at a very hip cafe for a country town - must be the Grey Nomads lifting the culinary standards. So many restored or preserved buildings from the 1800's.


With a small distance target, I spent the day tooling along on country roads at 80 to 90 km/h, letting the local traffic pass me. The last run to Gunning took in a bit of the Hume Highway, where I was able to get off and parallel run. Some nice cloud porn of the towering afternoon cumulus.

Waiting for a reunion with Bruce, riding down from Gosford. Alex will join us from Canberra in the morning (says he's going to 'woose out' and bring his car if the forecast rain comes). Motel again for convenience and a dry start at least. Washed the bike - no sign now of last 9,000km. Trip meter seems to have called it a day, +330km today.

The Antipodean Mariner

Sunday, 23 April 2017

Bylong Valley

Quite a bit to post today. The target was Kandos in the Bylong Valley, a town I had stopped in in 2011 riding back from Maroochydore on the K1100LT. Staying on the New England Highway to Tamworth, the Powerhouse Motorcycle Collection was a must- stop and I had the run of the place for an hour with the Duty Curator. 100% bike heaven.



The next bit went west a bit due to poor navigation skills. I picked a road different to the recommended route, and which changed from seal to gravel half way up a mountain range. It was the classic 'investment' decision - turn back and waste 50km or press on. I pressed on at 25 km/h, passed by locals in 4WDs. A glimmer of hope as the road reverted to back to seal was dashed by gravel again. A warning sign of water over the road (it was blazing sunshine) turned out to be an actual creek washout over the road with about 10m of muddy water of indeterminate depth.

There is nothing less suitable for a stream crossing than a Triumph Trophy, and with my heart in my mouth I sized up the problem. Some 4WDs had made a single track to the side of the waterhole and remembering the saying 'Look where you want to go and the bike will follow', I headed for the single track paddling like a duck. I bucked and wove through to other side and thought I was going to throw up. Captain Obvious later observed that I should have stripped the bike and carried the luggage over first.

When I got to seal proper, I almost cried. There was the double indignity of finding out that I came out 30km  past where in needed to enter the Bylong Valley anyway.


Bylong to Kandos didn't disappoint and I stopped at the Anglican Church. The Church Is still consecrated and they had had a service that day. Two cousins were cleaning up the grave sites of long lost relatives and had a key and I got a tour inside the tiny chapel.


The stained glass windows commemorated both the Gospel and young men of the Parish who had died in WWI and WWII. 


The valley will soon be opened up to open cut coal mining - it will be interesting to come back again in fives years time. I made Kandos and splurged on motel. Washing is done, pub is next door and the MotoGP is on TV at 5am tomorrow. Riding to Gunning tomorrow to meet Alex and a night in Canberra.

The Antipodean Mariner

8,760km

Saturday, 22 April 2017

New South Wales

It's getting about 5C cooler every day heading get south (no surprises really) and this morning's fog in Crows Nest was actually cloud due the elevation on the Toowoomba Tablelands. Following the Country Way still in the former of the New England Highway, I've been through Toowoomba, Glen Innes and Armidale to set up camp in Uralla. The small towns are so bike and caravan friendly.

Crossing in to NSW, the change of climate and the deciduous European trees make for a yellow, red and green Autumn landscape - different again from central Queensland. 

The 'Top Pub' is within walking distance, the little fireplace is set up for later and I have an episode if 'Fargo' to watch on Netflix. Tamworth tomorrow and the Powerhouse Motorcycle Collection. 

The Antipodean Mariner
8,543 km

Friday, 21 April 2017

Going solo

After 20 days on the road together and almost 8,000 km, Bruce and I went our separate ways at Goomeri, Queensland. Bruce is taking a coastline loop to catch up with friends and to be back in Melbourne on Thursday, and I'm staying in the countryside to Canberra. Big man-hugs on the roadside and I don't think either of us wanted to make eye contact at that moment. A very emotional parting after such a fantastic and unique shared experience.



The Country Way has turned in to the New England Highway and I've set up camp in Crows Nest, just north of Toowoomba. Planning the next legs, I can stay away from the major population centres in Central NSW and get within striking distance of Canberra on Monday night before the ANZAC Day holiday on Tuesday. Roads are windy, traffic is light and the scenery beautiful. Just under 1,200 km to Canberra. After Canberra, planning to ride through the Snowy Mountains and return to Melbourne via Beechworth and Mansfield. The journey is drawing to its inevitable end.

The Antipodean Mariner (singular)
8,084 km

Thursday, 20 April 2017

Central Queensland Tablelands

We have followed Australia's Country Way, a road network linking Rockhampton and Sydney and which has again blown away my preconceptions of Queensland as a dry flat land. We stopped outside of Springsure to admire the towering lava cliffs of the Minerva Hills. There us a National Park and Canyon network behind but we didn't find out about these until we were about 100 km past Springsure.

Riding into Rolleston, we were surprised to find a big posse of bikes parked in the main street. The posse turned out to be a collective of mental health professionals who do an annual ten day ride running mental and physical 'wellness' clinics for men in rural Australia. Bruce got the full suite while I had a coffee and had a chat with a mental health nurse about my new employment status.

Last night in Monto was our last meal together. Bruce, my road mate, is heading east to Brisbane, Coff's Harbour and Grafton while I follow the Country Way toward Canberra and a night with son Alex on ANZAC Day.

One of the things about a road trip is that it can only be experienced and relived by those who did it, and we have had some cool experiences together - thanks, mate!

The Antipodean Mariners
7,644 km together 

Park life

The Grey Nomad season ticks along all year, but really picks up in May after the end of the 'wet season' and cooler temperatures in the Outback and Queensland. To give you an idea of the relative numbers of Nomads, here's the powered van site area in Emerald...

...and here's how we are living in the camping area adjacent. Luxurious! 

The Antipodean Mariners 

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Kilometres in the bank

Over the last two days, we have been working our way south from Atherton, through Innisfail, Townsville, Charters Towers and tonight in Emerald. The Bruce Highway was narrow, congested and slow, and we took the first opportunity to head back inland to the Central Queensland Tablelands. We are living well again now that we are back in the reach of supermarkets, and have a well oiled routine of one setting up camp while the other buys in the night's meal and wine. Last night was Greek chicken, potato salad and beetroot with a Sauvignon Blanc - we finished the last of the Johnny Walker with coffee.

Charters Towers was last night's stop - maybe where my father-in-law was evacuated to as a child during WWII? Again had the whole grassed campsite to ourselves while the caravan park heaved with 4WD's and caravans.


In Clermont, the local mining museum had a huge dragline bucket from the coalfields courtesy of Rio Tinto Coal.

Our destination over the next three days is Coff's Harbour, NSW and then separate routes back to Melbourne next week. The country continues to change, the weather gets cooler and the land gets greener. We are still loving the small country towns and seek them out in our route planning. We over 7,000 km across Australia now.

The Antipodean Mariners