Trip from Gosford to Melbourne and back 16th - 23rd April 2010
Rider: Peter Adderley 59yrs)
Vehicle: Piaggio X7 250cc scooter
Total Distance: 2750km
As the sun rose through pallid shadows of the trees on that cold fateful April morning I had to put the scooter
into the microwave for a few minutes to get it started.....
Nohhh no no... They won't believe that... ;-)
So where do you start with an almost perfect "dream" run to Melbourne on a 250cc Piaggio X7?
The journey really began as I did a bit of research and preparation. The first myth to dispel was the one where
I thought 250cc was too small to attempt such a run. But I kept hearing of maniacs riding to Perth on tiny scooters
less than 200cc. So what the hey!
I began my trip with some of the wonderful people from Northern Beaches Scooter Club.
We met at Richmond late on the morning of 16th April 2010. I got caught up in a humungous traffic jam at Pennant Hills.
The trucks were so big that even zipping between them was not an option. I finally took off over the railway coming out
just after Pennant Hills and arrived at our meeting point at Richmond not long after the others who were also held up got there.
We finally escaped the city air and began to feel the coolness of Kurrajong Heights where we witnessed
the biggest apple pie any of us had ever seen at a cafe. 'twixt the mountains and the plain where faeries
dance and dragons sleep peacefully. ;-)
But a cuppa and scones served us well for the following trip along Bell's Line of Road.
This section of the trip was just gorgeous in seeing the mountains "al fresco". Each bend and valley seemed to have
its own microclimate and smells and it brought home the reality of how each farm in this region must have seen lots of history.
Sections of Bell's Line of Road are quite stark as they have no topsoil and are reminders of the 200 million yr old
weathering of the Sydney Basin geological structure. Views over the Burragorang and Megalong valleys
were quite sensational and I had to keep slowing down so as not to miss the views.
Another reminder of the Sydney Basin geology is Lithgow itself being on the western edge of the dish-shaped sandstone basin
with its Permian coal measures which can be seen at Newcastle and Wollongong. Hence coal mining at all three locations.
A little knowledge of geological history always embellishes the real-time viewing.
We were a little concerned with the afternoon rush hour in Lithgow, but Pete's 15 minute delay in finding just the right angle
to spit into his Vespa PX spark plug took care of that and we missed the rush by at least three car lengths. ;-)
A carefully chosen backroad from Lithgow took us through another gorgeous valley and within minutes we were zipping up
through Victoria Pass landing us on the road back to Katoomba. A surprise and very welcome detour.
The Hotel Gearin was ultra cheap but extremely accommodating. I opted for the dorm accommodation but they
quickly elevated us up to a top room floor with a view over the railway station.
Pete takes his dessert very seriously!
The postie bike was NOT one of us.
Saturday morning saw us off again towards Oberon. Again a lovely drive and my only regret was to miss Norway. (sorry Miss Norway ;-) )
I was going to take a pic of this major town but it simply wasn't there. Nor did I see any fjords or Norwegian Blue parrots..
So, morning tea in Oberon and then skittering along the ridge-tops to Taralgon we began to feel our scooter legs.
Half way along the ridge along a fairly level road we encountered signs warning "Slow Down - Trucks use low gear"..etc
The road dropped off into a huge steep valley, and half way down I was expecting to come across steps.
Anyway we crossed the Abercrombie River and within five minutes we seemed to have climbed up the other side of the valley and
were scooting along as before.
Lunch at the Taralga pub was a place where nearly everyone bought a pizza and nearly every skerrick was eaten.
I ordered a bacon and egg roll thinking it to be fairly minimal because I really don't eat a lot.
The bloody thing came with chips, salad, a band of singing dancers, three drummers and an Italian accordion player,
not all of whom, I have to say, were expecting to be eaten, so I left most of the meal on the table.
So off we peddled to Goulburn in time for extra and welcome teas, especially as I had a drum stick caught in my throat from lunch.
The group decision was to progress to Gunning, a little to the west of Canberra.
I agreed but approaching the Canberra turnoff I though it wiser to get to Canberra asap as I was expected by an elderly friend.
And so I bade farewell to the Northern Beaches group. Thanks people, I really enjoyed your company and hope to meet up again
on another ride.
Canberra at night.
After a very comfortable stay in Canberra I spent half an hour at the Thai embassy where they were hosting a Thai Food Festival.
(see pic) I bought my next dinner from there and ate it at Moruya.
I also spent a couple of hours at the War Memorial museum. And what a treat that it had in store for me.
What blew me out at first was the ever-present dioramas. These were consistent in their size depictions and this gave
a broad impression of just how many skirmishes and straight up battle scenarios that Australia has been involved in.
I took a cursory glance around Canberra and decided to make for the coast on the Sunday afternoon as even my GPS
was making loud snoring sounds.
After Braidwood I could see that I would be crossing the main range and saw ominous clouds hanging about near the ridge.
Looking at Google Maps I can see that the Kings Highway crosses Clyde mountain through the easiest passes but you wind
through the Budawang and Monga National Parks with your head in the clouds, amongst truly magnificent forests representing
a past relic of what has been mostly turned into woodchips for the sake of entertaining bored train commuters.
Descending on the eastern side brings you into Nelligen, a tidal estuary and camping fisherman's delight, thence Batemans Bay.
I arrived at Moruya after dark. Batemans Bay looked expensive so I went the extra distance. Found a spot at a caravan/camping spot
where I was offered a wet section of grass for $30. I was in no mood to argue, but things seemed to get better as I had
the kitchen room all to myself. (or so I thought)
I nuked the meal from the Thai festival and dragged out my tiny computer hoping to catch up on email through a loose connex.
This was all fine till 9pm when I got chucked out, lock stock and barrel, cos "ruls are ruls" and can't be broke, mate!.
The lawns were wet and I didn't feel like dragging out the tent, and so I spent the first couple of hours propped up against
the wall trying to avoid the inevitable.
Eventually I spread out the ground foam sheet and crawled into something resembling a bed, replete with granite boulders
and fish heads for padding. ;-) (But I wasn't cold.)
Amazing what you can look back at, confidently saying that you had a wonderful time.
I got back on the scoot early next morning wondering what I was really up to on such a silly jaunt - and then I discovered Narooma.
The great thing about bikes or scooters is that you can so easily take off down a tourist road, take a wrong turn and find yourself
in paradise itself. First of all I found myself riding past Narooma Golf Club. Guaranteed 270 deg ocean views from every stroke.
I then discovered Michael's Cafe on the beach. Such a warm and vivacious place to be, and right on the beach.
It set my day off with, yep, another bacon and egg roll and a cappa(cino).
Wonderful also to be able to see Montague Island - such a mysterious place.
I have a pic of this Island taken by myself nearly 40 years ago from a Cessna. It seemed so small and I even saw seals leaping about.
You can see Montague Island in the distance - about 10km
Breakfast in Paradise
The Bega Valley was quite beautiful with its hills and soaked lowlands. Every kind of environment for growing dairy cattle and
cool temperatures for cheese-making. I would have like to call in to some of the small farms but I didn't consider
this before I left... bugger! Next time. Gunbarrel tourism is for idiots and I felt very much in this league.
But hey! All this is good research. You have to find out for yourself, and this is what this trip was all about.
Eden was a different kettle of fish (sorry) as it is a full on international fishing port.
The port itself is situated on a small peninsula. From the cafe you could look across the bay and imagine your were on an island,
but you could also see some of the huge mountains of woodchips ready and waiting to go - overseas.
Note the cemetery on the right - very stange!
At Eden I reckoned I drunk more coffee than the bike had used petrol.
The next trip, I know now, will be a lot better organized. Maruya to Orbost was just too damn far to enjoy in one day.
Anyone wishing to spend at least a week cruising down the south coast would do well to take it slowly from Wollongong to, say,
Lakes Entrance in Victoria. Every tiny tourist road is worth discovering.
Are we there yet?
My last stop for the day was at a place called Marlo at where the Snowy River used to meet the ocean, before it was stolen
for hydro power and water for Murrumbidgee Irrigation.
Just before Marlo I visited a tiny camping area next to the beach. It was quite eerie as it was late in the afternoon,
there was not a soul about and the smoke from the huge control burns, which I'd passed hours ago was spreading out
and moving slowly southward to Tasmania. The sun was casting long dim orange pools of light through the trees out into the water
which was dark and ominous. Because of the rocks, the heavy currents and total lack of any surf Sailors Grave Beach was not what
you'd call a joyful place to be. I could have set up camp but I just knew the spingies would get me. Besides there was no pub.
Just the place for a murder.
This is what I photographed
But this is what I saw
So back to town, a small marinara pizza that I couldn't actually finish, a chat with the locals and back to the daggy caravan I'd taken
for the night. Still oodles better than 2 sq m of concrete.
Now the most weird thing happened the next morning as I awoke. I did so with an almighty jolt out of a deep sleep.
It frightened the life out of me as it seemed like I'd been hit by something very large. A natural thought on a journey like this
but was it a premonition? That scared me sh...less.
But a little later as I was getting ready to leave I was listening to the radio and heard a bulletin that a young guy had been killed
when his car hit a truck, not 20km from where I had passed through the previous afternoon.
How could I have possibly known or "forseen" this accident as the time I awoke from my nightmare and the reported time
were almost identical? But you can't let those things sway you.
So off again to meet the day and attempt to get to Melbourne.
Lakes Entrance was a cheery kind of place but still that eerie smoke was still hanging around. Across the road from the endless
port there was any number of places for breakfast and so I chose a little antique shop. Two enormous pieces of toast were served
with a portly pot of tea, replete with milk and sugar in separate jug and a bowl, four squares of butter and a mountain of jam.
I guess it was very much the most pleasant and different eating experience that punctuated the trip. I'm always amazed how
universally friendly most Australians are. The moment I walked in people could see I was traveling and were only too willing
to help with directions. But with still a long way to go I did a Hoppalong Cassidy leapfrog onto my steed and we wuz gorn.
I was on the approached to Melbourne and the only stops were those ghastly dual stations like the one just north of Wyong.
Still, they have their function so we shouldn't sneer.
The one I stopped at was at Bairnesdale for a cuppa and a map, since my NRMA map was next to useless
(Shame on NRMA because they used to pride themselves on their maps).
The girl at the counter apologized and said I'd have to ask across the road. I guess it because I'd been riding all day that
some things can be disconcerting. At first when I pulled in next to the front door there was a rather large cloud being formed
by that very same smoke cloud that had followed me almost from NSW.
I hopped back on the bike and winkled my way over to the identical truck stop on the other side of the dual highway.
The two places were so similar that I had to ask the girl at the counter if she'd seen me not five minutes ago.
She laughed and said "Y'get that".
Whoosh, talk about ground hog day. But maps of the Dandenongs didn't exist and the coffee wasn't much better either.
But these truck stops have their purpose even for a lone scooterist so I won't complain.
It's just that when I went outside I realized my mental navigation system had been tested to the limit as everything was 180 degrees
out of whack with respect to the sky and sun.I had to battle with it to cross the highway again to get back onto the to Melbourne road.
I finally got to my friend's place at about 5pm using the GPS. Not sure if I was just lucky I had it or whether I could have done a better job
navigating than the machine, but it did actually get me there, at the foot of the Dandenongs.
Next morning I was told to explore the Dandenongs and I'm glad I did. At the top of Mt Dandenong (?) there is a 180 deg lookout
and a huge wedding function centre. This was impressive but nothing compared to the beautiful mountain atmosphere of Sassafras,
home of some of the most majestic trees I'd ever seen, some very rare Australian species. I even saw fresh chestnuts being collected
by the locals.
Melbourne from the top of Mt Dandenong
This is obviously the cool hills area where the well hooved, during C19, would have escaped the oppressive Melbourne heat.
One curious thing was that I found that my GPS was trying to kill me. I set it to guide me back to Melbourne but after about three
intersections it told me to go down a very steep gravel road, dropping off on one side nearly vertically. I mumbled "like hell"
and lapsed back to my mental nav system but taking notice of the GPS.
Within minutes it had me back at the same intersection. I turned the bloody thing off and didn't turn it back on till I got to Brighton
in order to find my way up to Watsonia.
Despite trying to trick me a couple of times I began to get used to its faults and foibles. Earlier in the day it got the better of me
and showed that it, at least, had a sense of humour by getting me "lost in Orbost". Oh, I was in bloody stitches. :-(
Ah yes, Melbourne. Having a great delight in just getting lost in a city, Melbourne is a perfect place for doing just that.
Sydney has its harbour but Melbourne has a non-descript kind of brown river that tries so hard to delineate one side of town
from the other. And fails dismally.
But far from the "cringe" factor we had for this city decades ago, they have turned the tables and made it into a rather interesting
place to be.
Due to the help of a Canadian local on a BMW he showed me around the city and dropped me at the South Bank, where I wanted
to look around. I guess this is somewhat similar to what Sydney CC want to do in building a massive casino, linked to medium-rise
apartments and spreading out to high to medium class restaurants. They did it well.
There is only one Melbourne
These shapes are known as "zomes" - geodesic domes squashed to produced more interesting shapes.
I'll come to the point which pulled my strings.
Everywhere you go in Melbourne there is free cycle parking, no tolls, and they use it, so therefore there are a lot more bikes there.
Right in front of the Melbourne Exhibition Centre, showpiece of Melbourne, you will see bikes, parked responsibly.
Anywhere in the very centre you will see cycles and scooters parked on the footpaths - no signs saying where you can and can't park.
It seems that given the freedom, people will do the right thing, and park responsibly, out of people's way.
The interesting aspect is that footpath parking is still, "strictly speaking" illegal. They just don't police it.
Meaning, I guess that if you park in a damn fool place, then expect consequences.
Where scooter parking becomes more of a fashion statement
Practical and innofensive
And just downright sensible
So although I was hugely impressed by Melbourne and didn't give myself half a chance to even visit the Queen Victoria markets
(although suspect they were not what they used to be) I suddenly realised that the ANZAC long weekend was approaching rapidly.
I would have loved to stay until next week but I had arranged nothing. I really didn't want to be on the road during the long weekend.
Several people told me that the Hume Hwy was shoulder to jowl with semi's and B-doubles. That was true between Melbourne
and Seymour and the road surface is truly worn out now. It felt very uncomfortable with all the trucks thundering past and
I wondered whether I'd made the right decision.
But at Seymour the trucks just seemed to evaporate and the road was almost empty and more importantly - consistent.
As I gained confidence my speed gently rose to around 120kph (GPS measured) and I found myself comfortably punching
though the bow-waves of all the trucks that had passed me during the morning. So my comfort became based on my choice
rather than timing myself to keep out of the way. Subtle difference but a big one when you don't have to battle all the way.
I had breakfast late in the morning but along the way the deadly fatigue set in. You simply can't ignore this one no matter what
your age and health. So all those disgusting truck and MACCA stops have a brilliant function. They have free shower facilities
(mainly for truckies) and more than once I simply curled up in a corner and got half an hour's kip. This certainly saved my life.
The Hume is a brilliant piece of engineering but it does have its hazards, which are, at least, manageable.
This type of vehicle can be tricky to overtake (Holbrook - Oberon Class sub)
On' yer bike! I spent my last night at Gundegai. Still smarting from the night on concrete I wanted a good night's sleep so I checked
in to the Criterion, an art deco styled old pub, built during the 30's. I feel sorry for the people who run these gorgeous old establishments.
They have their drive through bottlo', their tragic restaurant that no one visits and the tariff from the occasional sod like me.
There is a temporary reprive as they take in workers from the expressway, but when that goes, all their custom goes to the
multiple caravan parks which cater for trailer boats, and there are lots of them.
As I only required a small meal and a Macca's free internet connection I headed for the other side of town. I hate Maccas but can,
on occasion, tolerate Hungry Jacks.
I set up outside Maccas with my netbook, managed to receive some mail which really wasn't important, did a bit of browsing on
Google maps to see the road ahead.
As I left next morning I had to take a couple of pics of how the Art Deco 30's design has been interpreted by the modern day..
Hard to take at 8am
With still a long way to go I had a quick cuppa after my tummy settled and joined the M3 again.
Now for the first hour I was just loving it - my tongue was hanging out and felt the urge to bark on many occasions, and bloody did so.
But the road was clear and I was alone, and the fatigue monster was creeping up my back.
So at one point I decided that I must sing! And sing loudly at the top of my voice!
What the hell would I sing??
Sing an anthem - any anthem. You have time to consider such inane questions and I decided - motorways - what would be the anthem
of motorways - The Stars and Stripes of course. Yep that'll do! And so I began...
OH SAY CAN YOU SEE BY THE DAW...
I suddenly realized that could hear utterly nothing despite shouting at the top of my voice. Not even the head/ear feedback that
we are all familiar with.
This stunned me for a moment but I realized the silly irony of the moment and began to think "In space - no one can hear you scream."
I began to laugh and I laughed till the tears rolled down my cheeks.
That bought me half an hour but the droopy eyelids returned. I dropped in to a Macca's for a cup of plastic tea and propped myself up
in a corner. I was eventually woken by the rising level of cafeteria noise and realised I had hit the beginning of the ANZAC w'end
exodus from Sydney.
The kilometers seemed to dissolve and I found myself on the approaches to Sydney.
I realised that I was setting myself up for the F3 crawl but I reckon I nipped it in the bud just in time,
arriving home in Gosford at about 4pm on the Friday before the long weekend.
Felt very satisfied and after a night's sleep and could easily have turned around and done it all again.
2750km round trip over eight days.
A few tips for such a trip;
- GPS is good but can show erroneous/confusing
distances but great for showing "real' speed, overspeed warnings.
Note that this was 2010 and GPS' have come a long way since then.(excuse pun)
- You can get lost in a tiny town using the GPS so just follow signs instead.
- Prepare your tyres - know their wear and their ride
Note that most bike tyres have a life of between 10 and 15,000km
- On my own estimation a 250cc is fine for touring at my weight of 105kg plus all my gear (tent, sleeping bag etc)
- NEVER NEVER be in a hurry to get to the next destination. The value of the trip is in the really low speed stuff.
- choose/plan/book your weather. I was truly blessed by mild to warm weather all the way. Mid-autumn seems the go but remember
that we have some of the most grotesque weather in early May.
- there's a new kind of hold-down strap available under various names. These are made from a soft plastic compound and
are very versatile.
SuperCheap Auto has a selection.
- If you're on the road for more than a week, keep looking for fresh veggies. The one thing I yearned for when I got home
was a bowl of fresh garden salad.
(02) 4328 1810