Day 82: 464km. Cobargo to Angler’s Rest via Bruthen (and Bertie!)

Today I was excited to get going. I had some home-made yoghurt (yum), and some farm eggs with avocado and asparagus, fresh from the garden. I have to say, those chooks do themselves proud. Amazing eggs. Amazing everything.

Pumped up, packed up, fuelled up and ready to go. I loaded up the bike and said my goodbyes and discovered to my dismay that my battery was flat again. Again. This is the second day in a row, and this time I am absolutely certain that the steering was locked and the bike fully off, and the GPS turned off too – mum watched me turn it on to put in Bruthen

Dismay.

Well, I know how to fix this, so it’ll only delay me five minutes, or so I thought, but mum and T don’t have jumper leads (!). It’s a bit surprising, but there it is. I had to call Roadside Assist again. This time they took less than an hour to arrive, but I’m meeting Bertie in Bruthen, I haven’t seen him for two months and now I’m going to have to wait a little more :/ :) :?

I fuelled up in Bega and the bike restarted reluctantly. Hmmm. This is not really ideal. The GPS has been a bit weird – turning itself off when I go over bumps, things like that. It all pointed to a short-circuit, so I turned it off completely and it kept turning itself back on! omg. well, at least I think I’ve identified the problem. I got to Bruthen, turned the bike off and on again, and it started very reluctantly, so I left it running, and kissed Bertie hello. So much for a relaxed lunch together. Bertie set to, opening up my bike, disconnecting the GPS from the battery (which is actually under the tank bag – where the petrol tank would typically be), I had a salad and a tea and we left my bike running while throughout, as well as while we refuelled. Someone at Anglers Rest would have jumper leads, we were going camping for my last night on the road, having dinner at The Blue Duck Inn, and getting there via some of the most glorious twisties in Australia (Bruthen to Omeo and Omeo to Anglers Rest)

so that is what we did. Here’s the Blue Duck Inn at twilight, seen from the road to the camping area, via the river where you can apparently catch fresh snowy mountain trout (there wasn’t much water in it, but there were lots of little jumping fish, which was very cool):IMG_4438.PNG

and here’s our campsite. two tents on our last night together all those kms ago in the Adelaide Hills, and two tents for our first night together 2 months and 25000kms later, in one of our favourite places in Victoria. Sleeping together would have been nice, but this was nice too (mine is the seemingly large and luxurious blue tent, strategically attached to Bertie’s bike. Bertie’s is the lime green pea pod) :IMG_4439-4.PNG

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Day 81: Rest Day, Cobargo

Scrabble. Mum in the garden. Picking, prepping and dehydrating strawberries (omg – yum!). we also went for a paddle and had some lunch in Bermagui, the nearest coastal town. I’d like to post a million pics from my time with mum and T, but wordpress is full, and I have two days to go til I’m home, so one will have to do:IMG_4382.PNG

Mum and her partner T are part of the Transition Town movement – committed to resilience in the face of climate change, and independence from fossil fuels. They grow just about everything, buy half a home killed animal of some description from time to time, are shareholders in the local food co-op and actively try to keep everything local and sustainable. What they can’t get local and sustainable, they buy (whenever possible) in ways that contribute to other communities or countries’ attempts in the same direction. In a way they live very simply. Once they built their home and set themselves up they don’t need much. They both enjoy working out how to make this way of life work, and supporting their friends and other members of the community to do the same. They’re not hippies, by any stretch of the imagination, and that’s what I find interesting. If you look at how they live from the outside, you don’t see anything really very different from other folks who are cultivated and comfortable, but there’s an energy about it that feels fantastic, and an integrity that shines through.

I’ve found country towns in Australia, for the most part, quite interesting. They increasingly have a combination of people who have been farming for generations, and tree- or sea-changers like Mum and T, who retire to the land. Even outback towns are transforming – except maybe mining towns, which are all pretty horrible.

Mum and T live amongst farmland, surrounded by state forest, 18km inland from one of the most beautiful coastal areas in the country. They have a way of life I greatly admire. In many ways they are more rich than us. I’m hoping Bertie and I can move in this direction more strongly too, once we’re in Denmark, where produce is expensive but rent is not (ie grow your own is possible and sensible). Let’s see how we go.

Bertie did a round Australia motorbike trip 2 years ago, and warned me that in the more remote regions, the closest I’ll come to a fruit or vegetable outside of a supermarket will be potato fries (and Potatoes don’t agree with me, so aside from getting fat I’d also feel dreadful). Well, it hasn’t been true. It suggests that Australia is transforming pretty quickly. Some roadhouses are still horrible with what they have on offer, but I found as many as 80% are providing healthier options. 80% is a big number. Salads. Sometimes not very exciting salads, but more exciting than if I had a traditional hamburger with the lot, without the chips or the bun (the bread might as well just be sugar, and too much of it makes me sick, so I avoid that too). Also grass-fed beef of extraordinary quality, farmed locally. Home made dips with cheese, crackers and carrot sticks – not processed (well, aside from the cheese), but put together in the kitchen by people who care. In Standley Chasm, near Alice Springs, we had fresh frozen mango cheeks, eaten straight from the zip-lock freezer bag – creamy and delicious, just like ice-cream but without the sugar (or wheat or other crap they put in commercially produced ice-creams). These options aren’t extensive, but they are there. It’s a reflection of changing attitudes, a growing commitment to food that tastes good and is good, made using animals and fruits and vegetables that are grown locally, healthily and sustainably. Even if this is only occurring because the taste is different, it supports what people on the transition town movement are doing. it helps us be healthier and in tune with the planet, and maybe have a planet we can thrive with as we move forward (despite what many governments and corporations have been doing).

I know I ride a motorbike, and it’s maybe hard to reconcile riding for joy with responsible, diminishing use of fossil fuels, including petrol. But it’s a hell of a lot better than driving a car. It brings me in touch with people with different lifestyles, outlooks and values. It allows me to connect, and I think this is important. I was speaking with Bertie and our good friend Theo about what my trip has been like, now that I’m near the end, and Theo remarked how motorbike adventure riding places the rider in a direct and beautiful collision with the reality of how generous people can be. So many people have said that I’m brave doing this trip. And we often live in fear of the unknown, imagining rape and murder, theft, robbery, pillage. and while these things do happen they are the exceptions, not the rule. Under it all, people really want the same things – food in their stomach, a roof over their heads in some form, a safe and loving environment, and the opportunity to be happy / feel gratitude / enjoy laughter, music, maybe dancing / to connect…

I’ve written before that the emergent theme for this trip has been generosity. Theo remarked that in all the motorbike adventure stories he reads on Horizons Unlimited and elsewhere, generosity is what shines through – in Africa, Asia, Russia, China, Europe, North, Central and South America, even here in Australia… This trip has been an adventure and a half, but it has enabled me to connect and experience that generosity. There isn’t a single experience I regret – not even not finding a way across the crocodile infested river to go to the arts festival and party that day in Arnhem Land, because even that experience led me to reflect and find greater understanding of how I can be in the world.

The Harley rider I ran into in Armidale, who is thinking of changing from his Harley to a Beemer, asked me if my trip was a life-changing experience. He asked from a place that expected me to say yes, but didn’t really connect with what that might mean, and when I spoke about it – things like understanding my place with the world, rather than in the world, and the nuances of how profound it has really been, we connected, he had a better understanding than if I’d simply, enthusiastically replied yes, but not tried to unpack it for him. My clumsy attempts at articulation allowed him to understand what perhaps can never have words. I think my cousin connected to this too – ticking off the boxes? she asked, when I listed off the family I was seeing. no, not at all, I’m trying to connect with the people who have been important in my life. and while, I still have a long way to go, and probably always will, this trip has allowed me a greater vulnerability with people, so I can be in touch with, and say things like that. It’s not always easy and I don’t always get it right, but having been vulnerable almost continually, while I’ve ridden around this extraordinary land alone (from the moment Bertie left me until now) I think has made me a better person.

and will it last?
well, I’ll keep riding :)
so yes. I do believe it will.

Day 80: 282km Mount Warrigal to Cobargo

Last night I slept in a bed that was previously occupied by a Dame. My aunt’s best friend has been instrumental in bringing down the pedophile priests in the Australian Catholic Church. I feel proud to be somehow connected to such a force of nature, who stood up to everyone around her and brought the bastards down. Her actions meant that the good guys are untainted and the bad guys have had to pay. Good one, K. Proud to sleep in the same bed. Some of my family are very religious. Somehow K doing this makes it trouble me less. (not that I think anyone in my family was culpable or suspect, but the association is hardly without problems).

I was meant to head off early today, get to Cobargo by lunchtime, but last night I’d gone out and turned the GPS on to check how long it would take to get there and I forgot to turn it off = flat battery… damn…

I lifted the seat off and was perplexed by what I saw. I checked the manual and it warned me to disconnect the electronics, but had no diagrams or anything to let me identify which cables exactly to unplug, or what to connect the jumper leads to. The whole setup looked completely foreign (first job in Denmark: dismantle, and get to know my bike).. so I called BMW and they weren’t much help either. First they assumed I wouldn’t know what year my bike was. Second they assumed I wouldn’t have the necessary tools. The guy was new and surprised that I thought I could handle something as simple as charging a battery (which I clearly couldn’t without checking in – so stupid of me not to have gotten across something so simple).

Over two hours later and I was still sitting there waiting for roadside assist. when the guy finally did come, there was no need for tools, or anything fancy. He showed me where the positive was (it had a simple plastic cover over it) and used one of the seat hooks for earth. There was no need to disconnect the electronics or do anything at all really… a bit pissed with the misleading info, but glad the bike started first go.

Cobargo isn’t too far, but it took about 4hrs to get there because the roads were full of gorgeous sweeping curves, interspersed with road works (they are widening and improving the Princess Highway, which is great), breathtaking river crossings on old ironwork bridges, and small towns where the speed slowed to 50, and in school times 40km/hr.

At one point I saw a guy on a bike up ahead. I gradually overtook the traffic and approached him, riding behind him for a bit – his speed was good. Not too fast and not too slow. It was also good to kind of ride with someone. At a certain point I overtook him, on one of the glorious sweeping upward curves. Then he rode behind me. Not much later I got stopped at a road block and he came up behind me and passed – overtaking me, the truck in front of me and everyone else in between us and the stop sign. Woohoo – made total sense. I popped over the double yellow lines and followed him to the front. we got there just as the guy holding the sign turned it from STOP to SLOW, he indicated for us to go first, and off we went. For the next hundred km or so we rode in tandem, enjoying the astonishing views, and when we approached my turn-off, I sped in front and waved him goodbye. I have no idea who he is, where he’s from (he had NSW plates, but was looking around as much as I was, enjoying the scenery. He was also flexing his hands and wrists from time to time, so I figure had been riding for a while). He tooted me on his way past and that was that. Lovely.

I turned in to my mum’s and was home. Home again and almost at the end of my ride. Here’s my map so far – the pink will join up in a matter of days (only a tiny bit in the bottom right corner to go), and I’ll be back in Melbourne almost a year to the day since I got my Learner’s permit, having ridden all around Australia and done over 35,000km:
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Day 77: Sydney, rest day

the harbour bridge, on the train:IMG_4319.PNG
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Sydney’s new Frank Gehry building (what a coup): IMG_4320.PNG
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and my ride so far (I’m nearing the end!):IMG_4327-0.PNG

I am on familiar territory now. I’ve lived in Sydney many times over the years, have friends, family and colleagues here, but was planning on doing one administrative task, having lunch with one special friend who I hadn’t seen in a while, catching up with some immediate (though distant) step-family, and that’s it. Task one and two were done today. I am a very fortunate person. Many of the people I know are extremely talented, creative and smart. CH is no exception. She is extraordinary. and it’s a privilege to count her as a friend.

Day 76: 696km Bellingen to Wahroonga (North Sydney) via Port Macquarie to Walcha and Thunderbolts Way

yesterday’s ride and today’s: IMG_4324.PNG
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I was up nice and early. Port Macquarie to Walcha was glorious. I was throwing my body and my bike around, getting my knee out wide and my chest well to the left of my tank bag. getting it to the right was harder, but with persistence I did improve. Damn, I was riding well. I stopped at Gingers Creek for some sustenance, mostly because I was sitting behind a truck at this point and saw all the bikes parked there. I didn’t chat to anyone, but did enjoy being there…
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as I was leaving I noticed my pannier was wide open underneath – it had come undone somehow I guess when I dropped it in Lennox… strange I hadn’t noticed it before… not sure when else it may have happened, though. I dismantled it and put it back together again and was right to go in no time. From there I took on Thunderbolts Way, a very different, but no less enjoyable ride. Thunderbolt’s Way was wide open and sometimes very windy. It was full of wide open curves and spectacular views: IMG_4317.PNG

The last stretch into Sydney was done on the motorway, but I figure motorways make up part of the landscape too. I landed in lovely, lush green Sydney: IMG_4318.PNG
Wahroonga, to be precise: IMG_4321.PNG
where I was looked after by Bertie’s parents for two days while I did some chores and met up with some family and friends.

Day 75: 538km Lennox Head to Bellingen, via Tenterfield, Glenn Innes, Armidale, and Waterfall Way

So many different landscapes, but I only stopped for pics towards the end, when I came over and down the mountain towards Bellingen:IMG_4243.JPG
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Lennox to Bellingen had it’s ups and downs in more ways than one. It started with a great breakfast and conversation with R2 and C. such great people. Both doctors, both surfers, both totally chilled. Their house is fantastic – I wish I took photos of the super wide terrace, the cactus collection, the big dog called Peter, the leather waiting to be leathered and the chicken house, which wasn’t a house at all but rather was an emergent flexible dwelling in and around a tree, complete with random covering, ladders and perches and a compost bin that could be lifted as appropriate. Let me tell you, they seemed like happy birds.

The ride through the hills, past Allstonville and Lismore to Tenterfield was delicious. Broad sweeping curves along lovely country lanes. I enjoyed it immensely. Once I got to Tenterfield I fuelled up, found a cafe in the Art School and had an enjoyable lunch, then got back on the road. Strains of The Tenterfield Saddler were in my ears. Is it a song? is it this Tenterfield..? I thought probably yes, but it could also be American. I mean I’d ridden through a town called Bolivia already today, past a farmhouse called Prague, and there was more of this to come. I left my curiosity about Tenterfield in the town as I rode towards Glenn Innes. The landscape here was completely different. Cliffs and mountains far back from the road, fields and rocks filling the space between. It was a curious landscape. It was hot, very hot, and super windy and I had enough fuel to get me through to Armidale so, once through Glenn Innes that had all my attention. Get me out of this wind … only 10k to go.

My second speeding fine for the trip was delivered to me over the crest of the next hill. almost $500… omg… The policeman was very nice, but he said our conversation was recorded to eliminate any possibility of fudging of speeds or weird things going on. He asked if I was riding with a big group, then told me one of them had died this morning just near Tenterfield and speed was involved. He hoped stopping me might save my life. It’s true I rode far more cautiously after that, but it wasn’t because of the fine, it was because I was stopped and the fact that I don’t like my impeccable driving record now having blemishes… He recommended I ask for clemency due to my good record… my propensity for speed seems to be getting the better of me. I told him I was struggling with the wind, which was totally true. It’s interesting how he was nice, even though what he had to do was unpleasant, whereas the cop in QLD, he seemed like a real piece of work.

When I stopped for fuel at. Armidale a Harley Rider came up to have a chat. He’s thinking of buying himself a Beemer (!). Said his back can’t take it on the Harley anymore. He rented a Beemer in NZ recently while on holidays and had the ride of his life. I love my Beemer, what can I say? Once I get my full licence I may move up to a twin cylinder, smoother ride. Let’s see what I can afford in Denmark, where bikes cost double what they cost here, and I will be on a modest wage.

The ride from Armidale to Bellingen is called Waterfall Way, and surprise, surprise, it’s full of waterfalls :) it’s also full of bike riders who ride it back and forth for the sheer pleasure of it’s curves. As you may glimpse from the pics above, the last stretch down the mountain is quite stunning. In fact it’s stunning the whole way along – crossing the Great Dividing Range again, this time from West to East.

I had planned on getting further than Bellingen, but the heat, the little chat with the police officer and the simple reality of all those curves took me a bit than I thought. By the time I got to Bellingen I was totally drained. I parked opposite the pub – they had no rooms. I called the youth hostel and the diggers club, same story. The internet wasn’t working well so each enquiry took me aeons and I was at the end of my resources. To add to my challenges, my phone was fast running out of fuel.

So I went into the pizza shop and asked if they had anything I could eat straight away. 20 minutes the girl said. My face must have said it all, cause the chef called me back and said I’ve got 3/4 of a pepperoni pizza, if you’d like that omg. absolutely! I devoured it, slowly, relishing every bite. It was like heaven. Full of things I don’t normally eat, but my body and brain were momentarily sated. Now I needed to find somewhere to stay.

Back at the bike, the internet was now completely useless, so I called Bertie. can you help? I asked, then just burst into tears while I was telling him my silly story no rooms here, no internet, phone dying, exhausted, can’t think, please… can you find me somewhere to stay :) my lovely man, of course, was up for the challenge, but the minute I hung up the phone to let him find a solution, a woman walked up to me and said I couldn’t help overhearing… we are heading up to the valley… our house here is empty for the night… you can stay there if you like – it’s just over the bridge

omg. Bertie is convinced it’s because I’m a woman. I think people are just generous. You can decide for yourselves. (I’m thinking the boys would go for the former and the girls the latter)

the light in the darkness, provided by Gaz and Ev – a Batchelor flat with a heart painted on the door, a providore up the road, a hot shower with fabulous water pressure and a roof over my head just before it started to rain:IMG_4275.PNG
so grateful.

Day 73: 816km Zilzie to Kingscliff via Biloela and the Banana Shire

It was a looooong ride, but I am so glad I did it. I took the mountain road, the one the locals take. It added on 100k, but let me briefly visit my favourite (& only) nephew, M. (his mum and dad and eldest sister’s names also start with M, to make things tricky)

It meant going via Mount Morgan again, but my expectations were tempered by yesterday’s experience and the 4km of twisties were glorious, and the rest just taken in my stride. It was also early morning, at the start of my ride, and this made a difference too – the weather was far cooler and I was far fresher, had more tolerance / resistance.

Seeing my nephew was fantastic. Really, really great. I can’t actually remember the last time I saw him, and he’s so understanding, I almost didn’t go. Don’t worry, Aunty D, we’ll see each other another time. There are too many kangaroos and it’s too long a ride… but he was as glad as I was that I went. How could I not? Curiously, because it made the day’s ride excruciatingly long, it was only when I decided not to go that it became possible – once it was no longer a (self-imposed) obligation.. When it became something I didn’t have to do, but couldn’t allow myself to miss.

The day was long. Oh so long, 11 hours on the road (my god). But it was good riding through wildly varying countryside, across and along the back of a mountain range (along the Burnett Highway), in the searing daytime sun. The road was through bush, basically, with a few small towns dotted here and there. Nice sweeping curves and changing landscape, but dry, oh so dry. Once I got closer to Brisbane, the Burnett met The Bruce, which meant a Bris-vegas traffic jam that lasted for 55km (mostly due to the fact that the G20 is on tomorrow and Abbott, our rather weird, problematic Prime-Minister-of-the-moment has created an exclusion zone and given everyone that works or lives in it the day off). It was also the tail-end of peak hour, but I lane filtered like a goddess, to temper my discomfort.

Speaking of discomfort, I’ve been having trouble with my hands since putting the handlebar weight back on (!). I had been expecting problems when it came off, but was fine. Bertie thinks I’m making too strong a connection, and he may be right, but the coincidence is pretty dramatic – no pain for ~19,000 km, then pain… it didn’t really come on gradually, the start of it was clear as day: hmm…. my hands hurt today…. The middle finger on my left hand in particular is quite bad. While I’m riding it’s fine, but all the time otherwise when I bend it it’s really painful. Both hands in general are sore and it’s hard to do things like open screw-top bottles, but only because they feel weak – like I just can’t coax the required strength from them.. the middle finger on my left hand though…. it really hurts. (I’m going to have to research solutions, because I still have several thousand kilometres to go and (a) this is not very pleasant, and (b) I don’t want to do permanent damage / make this harder or more serious than it needs to be)

Biloela, where my nephew is, is in The Banana Shire. Not a banana in sight though. It’s outback territory. Funny name, considering (funny name anyway). My origin, waypoint and destination were all family-oriented – the beginning of an emerging theme.

My uncle and his partner, J&P, live in an amazing apartment on the estuary in Kingscliff, on the NSW side of the Gold Coast (I’m getting my bike serviced on the QLD side in the morning, to explain the insanely long ride. It was also my only chance to see all three – J, P and M – so I did what I had to do).

Family are not chosen, and relationships can and do change. I’m very grateful for my family. I’ve spent most if my adult life living in other countries, completely out of touch with everyone except my mum, immediate siblings and my nephew and nieces. But they’ve always been there for me whenever I’ve been around, whether it’s been easy for them or not. It’s so great to see them. As we get older and our ages converge, I increasingly feel a deep sense of connection.

Here are some pics taken from the boys’ balcony in the morning, with a panorama to show how it all goes together.. they always live in the best places. they go swimming from the pontoon here when the tide is up and dolphins come in and swim with them. awesome:
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