Thursday, 31 December 2015

Twenty sixteen

Human Memories are such fragile things. 
Day to day senses lost in the fog of time.
Photographic snapshots that didn't get processed to paper.

Cast adrift to infinity. Vaguely remembered with no clarity.

Life is only now.

Past experience of little consequence unless it's a lesson learned. Future expectation out of sight.

There's no window on what you've seen. No way to review that moment. But it's there. A part of what makes you, the moment gone but the impression stamped on our existence.

Mark Dalton December 2015

Go West (Not the 80's pop band)
Moving west up the south coast following in the footsteps of Henry Cole's "worlds greatest motorcycle rides" I recognise some of the towns names that I saw on that episode.
An overnight stop near the coast turns into trial by ants and I move on... 

Problem being that every km west I travel is another km to travel back to Melbourne. The desire to push on somewhat diminished, I land at Meningie on the shores of Lake Albert. After 200km of heat, dried up rivers and salt water marshes, through places with names like saltwater creak and along a seemingly endless road, it is a little oasis of cool water, rushes, pelicans and shady trees to pitch the tent under.   

That's far enough...

Buggles (as in video killed...) 
A disaster has befallen my ability to edit the video I've been shooting all along. For a while the editing software I've been using failed to recognise the different video formats I'm shooting on different camera's. For no obvious reasons that I could find. after spending far too long figuring it out it suddenly started working again. Fab!... except the PC now inexplicably has no sound. A windows 10 upgrade occured and a bit of googling suggested it may be an incompatibility with that, so a happy (not) couple of hours reverting to the previous version failed to resolve it. I think the sound card may have overheated as the laptop is very hot at that point. ... for the less PC literate amongst us the simple fact is I can't edit the videos I have at present. so for now they have come to a grinding halt. 

Earth Wind and Fire (not the 70's disco band!)
New year arrives with 40° C heat and warm winds that fail to cool over the shallow lake waters. Absolute fire ban in place and no one is allowed to create a spark in the tinder dry South Australian land. The earth dry from an ongoing drought the lakes not connected to the sea reduced to drying salt plains under the heat of the summer sun.  

Some Aussie though find ways of keeping cool while they compete with the pelicans for their fish supper.

The Sunset (Moody Blues)
So as the sun sets on 2015, its time to look back a little at the journey that has been an adventure of a lifetime. With more still to come as 2016 opens its doors. New Zealand early in the new year and on to the USA for a brief stop along the way. Sadly those 2 parts of the trip will occur without my trusty motorbike, which will begin its journey back to Blighty soon. Assuming the country has not been blown away or submerged or indeed overrun! 

Don't look back (Boston) 
From a rainy start in France, over the Alps and into Italy. Through Greece, Turkey, Georgia, Azerbaijan and across the Caspian sea. Into Kazakhstan and across Russia's Siberian vastness. Down through Korea and a holiday in Thailand, with the delayed shipping to Darwin. Through the heat of Australia's centre and the cooler east coast and down to South Australia. Where the year plays out its final card. What  an utterly amazing journey to here it has been. 

My bike has withstood everything I've thrown at it - including a tram track in Irkutsk. It has suffered my neglect and managed to keep going through 40°+ heat. I've used three rear tyres, two fronts. one set of brake pads, front and rear. One chain and sprocket set. Two oil and filter changes and one set of rear wheel bearings. Its has now covered somewhere in the region of 50,000 km (approx 31,000 miles) of which 15,000 where on the clock before I started. So I've doubled its lifetime mileage in 8 months on the road. I broken more electrical gadgets and cables than I know about. My tent has seen years of use in this single trip and I've had more time to think about myself than could sometimes be considered healthy. I've discovered what makes me tick and what ticks me off. I've met adventurers who share the same thoughts of just doing it. And others who don't and never will understand. 

Don't stop thinking about tomorrow (Fleetwood Mac)
This is a life affirming adventure that just takes the courage to let your normal life go for a while. Forego your daily rituals and soap opera's. At least once in your life take the time to have a real adventure, however small that might be. Take a risk. jump in with both feet and see where it takes you. 

Travel as much as you can, as far as you can , as long as you can . Life isn't meant to be lived in one place. And in the end everything will be fine. If its not fine now, its not the end!.

Sunday, 27 December 2015

Cape Christmas.

Christmas day, like Christmas eve came and went with little sign of festivity. Surfers surfed, campers camped and little sign of huge turkey dinners, of bloated Christmas puddings or excessive beer consumption. A lovely cooked breakfast was served to the sound of Christmas tunes and cracker hats, but otherwise my day was unremarkable.

A walk along the Cape Bridgewater beach filling my lungs with fresh salty air, feeling the breeze of a balmy summers day... Christmas eve had seen me walk around the headland taking in the sights of the coast, with a fur seal colony and what is known locally as the "petrified forest" but is in fact a collection of limestone tubes created from water collection and erosion..

All a very sharp contrast to the commercial and hugely interpreted importance of a single day at the end of December in the depths of the European winter. Maybe the lights, the huge amounts of food and alcohol, the gathering of friends and family is a symbol of a deep need to fend off the harsh winters darkness and conversely it doesn't have the same driving force in the warmth of a southern hemisphere summer.

Whatever the actual truth, the relevance is somehow lost to me as I watch the surf rolling onto the long beach with a cold beer to hand and a lack of appetite after a hearty cooked breakfast.

Imagine celebrating Christmas with all is attendant trappings while you are on your summer holiday at the seaside and maybe you can get some understanding of my point of view.

News arrives late on Christmas day that the glorious ancient flora of the Otway park that I had travelled through along the great ocean road a few days ago was burning fiercely as an uncontrolled bush fire raged towards Lorne. It will be sad to see what the effect had been when I retrace my steps in the new year.

A cool and blustery boxing day dawns and a traditional walk. Albeit in a non traditional place, breaths new life into the non festive season. From Bridgewater lake a sandy path reaches out to towering sand dunes and a fierce windswept beach littered with the flotsam and jetsam of a little visited landing of crashing waves. 

Standing taking in the fury of nature's unconstrained strength on what is a relatively calm day it's easy to imagine the huge undertaking it must have been to land on these shores only a couple of hundred years ago. The numerous known shipwreck sites illustrating how fragile human life is against the whim of wind and wave.

Life has been easy over the last few days. My Christmas treat. With a comfortable room, a sunlit sitting room and wonderful cooked breakfasts served by the friendly host of the seaview lodge. The random meeting of fellow guests at a concurrence of journeys. Sometimes chatting, sharing their experiences, sometimes self engrossed, mobile phone in hand. Aussies, Germans, Japanese, Brits. Most on holiday escapes from winter climates.
But moving on will happen and moving up the coast the landscape becomes a little more remote.

I'm planning to head as far west as kangaroo island just short of Adelaide, before I turn around and get back to Melbourne, Not sure where I will see the new year arrive yet. As usual something will turn up.

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Great Ocean Road

Hopefully this post will publish in the right order!

From the bay ferry at Queenscliffe the temperature rose to the high 30°s as I travelled West for a change. Torquay and Anglesey passed without sight of any camping facilities. Although those two places are at least closer together than in the UK!

The Great Ocean road twisting and turning around the coastline. Rainforest on my right and rolling surf on my left as I travel west. 

At a point where riding became uncomfortable a few clouds rolled in and cooler weather made progress a little easier. And as the skies darkened a campsite in Lorne provided what I needed just when I needed it.

I'm still not sure how that happens, but it has been a regular feature of the whole journey. Maybe there is something to be said for cosmic ordering!

Lorne is a little seaside town with a couple of pleasant rivers meandering down to a long shallow beach with rolling waves and some sense of being there for a while.

One thing Australia lacks is any olde worlde charm. With the majority of buildings only a few years old you won't find cobbled streets leading to an historic harbour. But the rainforested coastline and easy pace of life is a pleasure to be enveloped in.

In other news.
I've made a few decisions about how the rest of the trip will unfold.
After a few investigations about shipping the bike to NewZealand, the cost simply isn't worth doing.  So I've decided to use some of the money saved to hire a camper van in NZ and fly myself home by continuing East to complete the circumnavigation of the planet.

Time and money are both at a premium and riding across the USA isn't feasible with what I've got. I'm not spent up, but it's not a bottomless pit and I don't want to arrive back in the UK on Friday and go back to work on Monday!

So that's for the future. . For now I have the great ocean road to ride towards Adelaide and that's just fine thanks.

Sunday. . It's cool. less than 20°C - A pleasant summer day, broken after lunch by persistent rain. The local cinema (est. 1937 and never modernised it seems!) is showing Star Wars episode VII. . Well nothing spoiling, but it's just a clich├ęd rehash of the original story. The sun is out by the time it's over. Time to move on tomorrow. Travel is the overriding necessity. Sitting still just a pause between stages of the journey.

The road twists and turns from the coast through rainforest with huge prehistoric style ferns and massive twisted trees. It is a sight to behold and one I try to fix in my mind, but like many others will be washed from memory as I progress.

The twelve apostles is an impressive coastline of eroding sandstone pillars, except there aren't twelve any more as nature takes its course. The advertising brands it as the worlds most dramatic coastline. Quite a statement! Half of the population of south east Asia seems to be drawn to the viewing hotspots that necessitates a jostling of position to get the photo in between the selfie sticks and posing for smartphone shots. Luckily I possess my own way of rising above the masses!

And a small hillside campsite overlooking a river provides a restful night not far from the pillars of sandstone and the sound of the ocean carries round the headland and up the river valley to lull me to sleep. 

The ride through picturesque Port Campbell and along the rest of the Ocean Road is uneventful apart from a brief stop at Port Fairy where a gentleman from Malaysia thrusts $10 into my hand and tells me to buy myself a good meal after taking photographs of my bike with his wife/daughter. . .not sure if he thinks I'm either poor or undernourished or both! 

The road eventually leads me past Portland and on to Cape Bridgewater that will be my destination for the Christmas weekend. 

Not a bad view to wake up to each morning! 

A stroll along the beach on Christmas day will be a pleasure! Although it will be a challenge in the chilled southern ocean to manage my ritual of swimming in every sea I have travelled along so far!. Australia's south coast is reminiscent of the UK's north east coast it seems with "bracing" winds and cold sea. 

Thursday, 17 December 2015

East coast Capricorn one

I saw eternity the other night.Like a great ring of pure and endless light , All calm as it was bright , And round beneath it time in hours, days, years , Driven by the spheres , Like a vast shadow moved in the world And all her train were hurled .
HENRY VAUGHAN , ‘ The World ’

After the tourist time in tropical north Queensland it was time to start my journey south. First back towards Cairns and on to Townsville which I bypassed on my way north.

An overnight stop, camping for free in a rest area gave me the opportunity to get a bit closer to the sounds of night time Australia. Before moving on to another camp site just north of the little town of Mackay. The night sky providing a vast natural umbrella of vivid stars to sleep beneath.

Having passed through Ayr travelling along the Bruce highway through to Mackay in this little reminiscence of Scotland, the road passes through a flatter section just inland from the Whitsunday islands at the southern tip of the great barrier reef.  Before reaching Rockhampton. Where it's time for a little motorcycle maintenance.

A kawasaki dealer in town sorts out the oil and filter change its desperately needed for a while. Changing them myself in Russia was relatively easy. . Disposing of used oil in the back carpark of a motel in Australia might be a bit more difficult.

not much to tell about Rockhampton. It is apparently the beef capital of Queensland. More interesting to me was that it sits on the tropic of capricorn. From here south the climate eases a little. 

Surprisingly it doesn't take long to feel the effects as the temperature 'plummets' to around 20°C 

By the time I reach the un-sunny sunshine coast I've worn my textile bike trousers for the first time since Russia.. A caravan camp site by the beach is ok, but not a particularly peaceful place to stop. But as a temporary stop it's acceptable. . . I'm within reach of Brisbane now which is where I meet up with Simon for the ride down to Melbourne. 

Civilisation, Jurassic coasts and GP heros

We are experiencing a few technical issues and apologise for any inconvenience"

Not only has reasonably fast Wifi been hard to come by, I'm struggling with the video editing software I've used all the way through, which for reasons known only to itself now won't recognise the video format I've been filming in. Finding a solution or replacement is not proving easy.

So for those watching the YouTube vids, they are quite a way behind now.

And to top it off the blogging app is playing up as well.

So... A bit of a catchup since the last post.
(this post is a bit heavy on the pictures)

Brisbane is a relatively small city. And leaving it was fairly easy. A steady days travel brought up to Byron bay. A lovely little seaside town with a hippy vibe. Surf on the beach and flying foxes over the campsite. A few folks that "dropped in and dropped out" man! 

The bike had been feeling a little odd and a bit of investigation showed up a knackered rear wheel bearing.  Luckily I had the right spares with me and it was easily repaired.

An overnight stop at Urunga was a cool place to stop and with perfect timing the heavens opened not long after pitching the tent. A walk along the coastal boardwalk was a perfect lookout point to spot wild kangaroo and marvel at the multi directional waves as they broached the sandbar that had brought about the demise of several ships when the area was heavily used as a trading port. 

The next days journey was through some wonderful coastal roads. . Forested lands meeting crystal azure waters. Wide lakes and wooded shores providing a cool ride through the heat of the day. With a vague plan to camp lake side towards the end of the day the weather played a part in the decision as a tropical storm moved in, forcing an overnight stop at a little hotel in small town Australia. . Almost expected the Sheriff to ride into town to stir up a posse to ride down the cattle rustlers. - A bit wild west! 

Down through the town of Newcastle, complete with its own (prettier version) of Wallsend and down the coast towards the beautiful Australian lake district. With cool air temperatures and shaded roads alongside crystal clear lakes it is a fabulous part of the world to ride through. Staying off the main highway as much as possible added to the distance between towns and destinations, but the scenery and sudden explosion of amazing views as you travel along is more than worth it. Each sublime view surpassing the last in a never ending competition for the most astounding vista.

Heading into Sydney the inevitable build up of urban traffic is magnified after the glorious space of the country roads. But the harbour bridge and opera house are a required photo opportunity even if the security man was less than happy with me riding right up through a pedestrian area to get them ! - never mind - I'm moving on - thanks! 

South of Sydney we forgo the opportunity to pass Bondi beach, but having seen "Surfers paradise" I don't feel like I missed much. 

Another coastal road diversion takes us towards Wollongong - the industrial home town of Wayne Gardner (former world motorcycle champion) - the highlight being the road into town along a coastal bridge, before finding a peaceful camp site at Killalea state park. The swarms of flies in the morning driving me to distraction as I packed the tent away was like some game show trial!

Another bike issue was causing more concern than it had done so far and despite adjusting and lubricating the chain before leaving, the safety of the ride was badly compromised by the state of the drive chain and I decided that I had pushed it as far as I dare. Stopping at a motorcycle shop on Nowra was well worth it as a new chain and drive sprockets were purchased and fitted for about the same price as buying them in the UK. The bike massively improved afterwards and my fear of being launched down the road with a locked rear wheel cast aside. 

With yet more amazing countryside to travel through the crystal clear azure waters of  lakes entrance burst into view as the road twisted and turned through the wooded hillsides. A town named Eden promised a lot but delivered little and just the other side, the wide open space of a beach side camp site provided a place to pitch up and have a camp fire.

Ridinf still further south brought us onto what is locally known as Wilsons prom. A drive along the peninsular leading to a camp site at Tidal River. A place that could easily be from the Jurassic period with a long sweeping beach and not surprisingly a tidal river!
The local wildlife, obviously used to human occupation were not put off by tents and camping activity. 

With wallabies and wombats getting close enough to undermine the tent overnight.

Phillip Island - the venue of the Australian motoGP and world superbike rounds and a place I've wanted to get to for a while was an interesting visit despite it not being a race weekend. Sadly a race school event meant getting into the circuit was not possible, but the visitor centre and a view of the circuit was enough.  

Sadly camping overnight at nearby Cowes was not as peaceful as the surrounding coastal landscapes. 

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Cairns... More than a pile of stones.

Bit of a delay posting this one - not the best wifi available in places.

After pushing on through the heat of the Barkly Highway, the temperature got more temperate the closer I go to the coast. Until just north of Townsville the world turned green! The road winding it's way through banana and sugar cane plantations. Rivers with actual water and pleasant breezes carrying the scents of flora in full summer bloom. .

A  rest day in Cairns after a long ride, before I make the hour long trip through the countryside up to Port Douglas.

Bats in the belfry
Well flying foxes in the fig trees. .  roosting during the day in the trees around cairns centre. 

Constant summer. 
With "winter" temperature at around 26 and summer at 34 I've found the perfect location for anyone suffering from the winter blues. Move to north Queensland it's a perfect environment.

The pelican brief.
There are some. (I can't be much briefer!)

The ride north from Cairns is along a lovely coast road. . With sweeping corners that reward you with stunning views of palm lined beaches and clear waters. Up to the picturesque town of Port Douglas..  Where the towns development hasn't impacted the natural beach front. Sea, sand and palm trees show that a town doesn't need to build concrete sea promenades and lose what nature created to provide a wonderful connection with the ocean. 

A day trip out to Kuranda national park saw a cable car ride over the incredible scenery of the north rainforest. With stunning views as the car travelled at tree canopy height through the trees with stop off points along the way. A truly incredible day out. 

There are not enough words to describe the cable car trip over the tropical rain forest. Eye poppingly, spectacularly stunning! Travelling just above the tree canopy past waterfalls, rivers and surrounded by the sights and sounds of a wonderfully breathtaking scenery

While I thought that excursion would be difficult to top and whilst I was in the mood for some tourist style trips I also booked a day out on the Great Barrier reef. A swift boat whisked the paying passengers out to three destinations where groups of first time and experienced scuba divers set off for the deeper parts of the reef, leaving us lesser mortals to explore with relative freedom wherever our swimming ability took us. Equipping myself with an underwater camera I managed to capture at least a slight impression of what was on view in this amazing underwater ecosystem. 

Sunday, 22 November 2015

Keep on rolling baby. . .

Finally. . .After all the delays and bureaucracy. . . 

Thursday I departed Darwin and headed south on the Stuart highway. Passing Litchfield, Adelaide River and getting as far as Katherine. 300km was far enough under blazing 40° skies to ease me back into the rhythm of travelling after the enforced break.

If you read this looking up at freezing dark winter skies in the UK you might have little sympathy, but trust me riding on open stretches of road with super heated air blowing in your face at nearly 50 degrees C is pretty tough. Several rest stops to take on water and I got through three litres during the day. The bike over heated slightly with the water temperature warning light illuminating until I stopped the engine whilst still rolling. Then going out when I restarted.But the air flowing through the radiator was doing little to cool the water flowing around its internals

Day Two on the road. Leaving Katherine at 8am was probably an hour too late. . Temperature already at 30° that's comfortable to ride in. Not thinking straight I fuelled up and refilled my water carriers, but completely forgot to investigate the mesh tent in the camping shop until I was on my way - not turning around! 

Through Mataranka station where groups of aboriginal people sit out the heat under the shade of a tree. . One asks me the time, whilst waving his iPhone at me. . . Hang on, I thought you were supposed to know all this by the bark of the old gum tree or the quality of the wichetee grubs or something? - Guess that was in the dreamtime before "bottle shops"

During a stop for fuel and a cooling rest at Daly Waters I meet Josh riding his KTM 690 supermoto to Alice Springs. Our paths crossed a couple more times during the day. Everyone takes their rest stops where they can on this route.

 After reaching the "town" of Elliott on the Stuart highway I decide it seemed prudent to move on. Not a place you'd choose to stop. moving on through Renner Springs and Banka Banka to the Threeways Roadhouse at the junction with the Barkly Highway. A mix of truck stop, camp ground. motel and a place to rest once the sun goes down. 

An early start at 06:30 under cloudless skies at about 24° nice! 180 easy km laters and a breakfast stop at Barkly homestead roadhouse. . Probably the nicest place I've seen on this part of the journey.  

The temperature goes over 30 at 9am. . Horrible hot side winds blight the journey across a flat land of stunted vegetation. Two twisters follow me for a while, a black dust cloud being dragged into the sky on a tube of rotating hot air. The tarmac blisters in the sun as the temperature rises to a  steady 48° after a lunch stop at Camooweal roadhouse just over the Queensland border where a sign proclaims "welcome to Queensland. Set your watch 5 years and 30 minutes ahead" : it wasn't exactly the height of 21st century technology in Camooweal either!

One thing most people won't experience in the pollen filtered, air conditioned atmosphere of a car is the pungent waft of the numerous large animal road kills that litter the Barkly highway as they slowly desiccate on the hot tarmac. . Buzzards and harriers it seems prefer their meat well done. . About 2 days in the sun tenderised by a few road trains thanks. 

Is there any "wet" at all involved in the wet season? After the last two days I would hate to see the dry!

Sunday. I slept late. . Too late to move today. . Late decision to make Sunday a day of rest. I know what you're thinking right now. . But two fairly tough days after six weeks off the bike drained my energies, fried my senses and dehydration dulled my sensibility. No point taking unnecessary risks or pushing too hard to make up lost time. There's still enough days in the month. 

The east coast is almost within reach, but I also need to speak to the local Transport and Motoring service centre about the Overseas Visiting Vehicle [Aus acronym time] (OVV) and they aren't open until Monday so it feels like the right thing to do. 

Monday morning I'll call in obtain the permit and move on... After a chat with a couple of blokes in the bar (its hard not to fall into a really bad Aussie accent with some of these phrases!) it seems my original route via Normanton is probably not the best idea. Certainly a place to pass right on by. So I think I'll now travel on towards Townsville to get me to the coast quicker then make my way towards Port Douglas for a couple of days. 

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Blog Supplemental. . .

Quick update on the fly. .

I managed to prize the bike from the vice like grip of the quarantine man and escaped to freedom! 

Well partial freedom. The final piece of the jigsaw being the MVR compliance check and the compulsory third party insurance scheduled for Wednesday. .

After all the compliance check was little more than a formality. A brief check of the lights and the engine and frame numbers provided a signed certificate and ctp insurance was purchased giving me the freedom of Australia's northern territory.

Don't know what all the fuss was about !!!!
More updates to follow as I'm moving on. . . .

Monday, 16 November 2015

Wet season cometh. . .

Well the whole point of getting here when I did was to avoid the wet season but seeing as I've been here a month and "the wet" is late, it seems I've ridden my luck too far and a passing thunder storm this afternoon was a warm up act to the main event this evening. 

With biblical rain illuminated by brilliant flashes of lighting backed up by the staccato beat of thunder claps. The tropical heatwave has been brought to a sudden end.

No biggie. . As they say here, but might make travel and possibly camping an interesting experience once I get moving.

After a weekend of no progress, as expected an early call to the warehouse and yet more delays.  .The bike was allegedly cleaned on Friday but failed a further check by another inspector and rather than sort it out there and then it was left over the weekend and will be booked in for another clean and inspection  "maybe today maybe tomorrow" . . .  . . . . .  (Deleted swear words)

This comedy act continues . .

With the news reports calming Australian's after the events in Paris by saying the border controls are "the best in the world" I have to say in my experience they couldn't organise the proverbial. 

Brief diversion. . Order lunch in a cafe .  Food delivered to the table, .waitress asks. .

"Do I want any crack with that"

Oh! the pepper mill. .

English really is a strange language

The rain storms continue on the north east coast. . But Darwin has returned to its hot and sunny state after the weekend storm. I think something is aligning to make me avoid the worst of the weather in Queensland.

At least I know I'm not the only one going through this experience as Scottish couple Norman and Elaine travelling the world on their Triumph Scramblers are going through their own drama's.

Future advice for anyone wanting to ride in Aus? . . . . Rent a bike when you get here! Not cheap but far easier. . .
but then. . . Where's the challenge in that?

A day of non returned phone calls, follow up chaser calls. . 
Being told the guy I'm dealing with is not in the office. . etc. etc.

Enough is enough. . A personal visit proves he is. . I don't wait for an update. . Another call and another half an hour later until I get a call back. . I've to be at the shipping agent at 07:30 tomorrow to sort it out . . Whatever it takes . .its getting sprung from their clutches. 

With the rest of the stuff - A combination of Compulsory Third Party insurance, Overseas Visiting Vehicles permits, Compliance checks and interstate legality to be dealt with after I re-enact the great escape leaping the wire scene !