Our bags are packed, we’ve planned the route, watched the YouTube videos of how the camper works and we’re ready for 28 hours in the air. The adventure starts tomorrow!
Our bags are packed, we’ve planned the route, watched the YouTube videos of how the camper works and we’re ready for 28 hours in the air. The adventure starts tomorrow!
After arriving back in Sydney it was time for a nights sleep and to get back out there.
Morning flight up to Cairns to do the Great Barrier Reef and the Rain Forest.
Caught a shuttle bus into Cairns from the airport and got out on the Plannage.
Walked straight into a nice looking seafood restaurant and enjoyed a
delicious red claw lobster salad while I figured out where I wanted to
Decided on a cheap motel and wandered up the beach front in
search of it. Turns out it’s quite a walk in the sweltering heat and a
backpack. Finally arrive and book in for a night.
The woman running the place was very friendly and made some suggestions on the best way to see everything with her preferred (backhander friendly) tour providers.
Settled with her recommendations because they actually looked the best out of all of them anyway.
The plan was one day on the reef and then a 2 day tour with an overnight stop at Cape
Tribulation. Spent the rest of the day swimming in the salt water lagoon and sun
bathing before going out for Mexican food. Had a massive meal and drank lots of
margarita’s while calling the office to defuse a few issues.
The Great Barrier Reef
Early start for the Reef from the pier. Travelling on a smallish boat with
about 10 other people which seems like a good size party. Some of the
other tours had up to 200 people! Reef was a good 2 hour journey out
from Cairns. I’d naively thought that you could just swim out from the
beach…not that you can swim in the sea there since it’s Croc and stinger infested.
Had booked 1 introductory dive for the day and once we arrived at Michaelmas Cay I did some snorkeling
whilst I waited for my groups turn to dive. The Cay is reserved for
40,000 or so wild birds. The smell was pretty bad, not what I was quite
Amazing to be actually on the reef! I have been talking about this for so long.
The guides throw food into the ocean around the boat while we’re snorkelling so loads of fish come and greet us.
Spend a while remembering how to not breath water but still having problems with all the waves.
Saw some amazing fish and just to see the reef itself was spectacular. Got back to the boat and kitted up for the first dive. The dive master spent about 30 minutes on the way over explaining everything and then only about 5 minutes in the water before we start descending. Seemed slightly cowboy at the time, but the guy knew what he was doing and it’s far better to get down there and learn as you go along. Can’t imagine doing that back home. I’m sure health and safety would suck all the fun out of it.
This is amazing! The water isn’t as clear as I was expecting, but just to
get down and see the coral is out of this world. It’s so crazy this stuff.
Each coral is much larger than I expected. Such a variation in the shape and types of coral and fish. This is another situation where words, or at least my words, really can’t describe this experience.
The first dive was a little frustrating because we all linked arms and swam together, which quite difficult when there’s 5 of you in a line. Once you’ve been down for a few minutes it feels so natural that you don’t really notice that you’re not just
Delicious lunch on the boat whilst we sailed to the outer reef for the second stop. Quite a few people are starting to feel sea sick, thankfully I’m all right just feel
a bit weird. On the way the dive master wrung some more cash out of us for an additional dive…but after coming all this way you’ve just got to do it.
Arrive at the second stop which is out in the ocean and not protected by an
island so the waves are pretty choppy. It’s a strange place because the
water is so shallow that it doesn’t feel like you’re 30km out from the
Go snorkeling again whilst waiting for my groups turn and
can see that this dive is going to be special. Much bigger coral,
thousands of fish and deeper water. End up spending loads of time
messing with my snorkel to avoid breathing water in the larger waves.
Can’t wait to get the scuba gear back on.
Once kitted up and back in the water we descend about 5 metres or so and
start swimming around, this time we’re allowed to swim separate within
the group so it’s much more fun and you can concentrate on the scenery more.
So spectacular. We swam all the way to bottom and knelt in the sand around a giant clam, those things are giant!
Swam all around the area at varying depths and through a tunnel of coral at one point. Utterly brilliant, such an excellent way to be introduced to scuba diving and the reef.
Back on the boat we took it easy for the ride home. Met an English couple Matt and Kaz who I end up drinking beer with on the sun deck exchanging travelling stories.
Seems to take a lot longer to get back to Cairns on the return but luckily the supply of VB doesn’t run dry so we struggle by 🙂
Get back to the motel for a shower and take it easy for a while before heading back into town to meet Matt and Kaz for more drinks. We’re all
feeling pretty exhausted after the long day but after a few beers we
catch a second wind and stay out drinking and watch a rock band play in
an Irish pub. They’re playing all covers mostly but all my kind of
music. Reminds me that I haven’t listened to anything for weeks, should
have bought my iPod with me, but the battery life is rubbish…might have to look into buying myself an Xmas present…
Rolled out of bed into the tour bus at 7am and we headed towards Cape Tribulation and the Rain Forest.
There’s only 3 girls on the trip with me so we get a good tour on the way up.
First stop is for Breakfast at a wildlife centre to look at Cassowaries, Kanga’s and croc’s. Take some breakfast here.
We stop and walk through the Rain Forest and the mangroves for an hour while the friendly tour guide explains plenty about the forest and mangroves.
You’ll have to wait a while for the pictures. I took a disposable camera down,
so need to get it developed. Hopefully have some interesting shots
Final score: 9 days, 3268 km’s, 2 x Speeding fines, 1 x Dropped bike, 1 x Deep sand incident, some really really really amazing riding and some pretty boring freeway
Wake up about 5ish on account of the heat and light in the tent and get up for a swim. Seaweed seems to have overtaken the beach overnight and so don’t really fancy it in the end and settle for a shower. Pack up the bike and walk into town to get a large hangover relieving breakfast. Take the back roads south heading for Brisbane. Take a tourist drive which sounds nice and turns out the be the one I went on before which was a waste of time. Doh! Get back on the freeway and head towards Byron Bay. Pretty boring freeway riding but just want to get back to Byron for the night.
Arrive at Byron and not surprisingly have trouble finding a room since it’s Saturday night and it’s a popular place to be. Try all the places out of the guide book and everything I pass but to no avail. Decide to ride out of town and see if I can find a place not too far away. Chance upon a motel about 15 mins walk out of town and luckily get the last room.
Take it easy for a few hours and then walk into town for some dinner.
Eat at a place called Mongers which sells gourmet fish and chips. Fantastic meal of Tuna steak and tempura veggies. Thinking London needs a few of these…Always fancied a restaurant…
Head over to The Rails again and drank with some locals. Met two backpackers from Switzerland, Renaldo and something begging with O…but after a few beers…can’t remember…, and continue drinking with them until the place goes quiet. Move down the road to a bar/club and continue the party. Meet two English backpackers Lauren and Emma, end up partying until early hours.
Loved Byron Bay. Will have to come back for longer in the future.
Get back to my hotel room at 8.30am just in time for shower and power nap before riding the 400k to Armidale.
Take a route recommended by a biker I met on the way North. Lots of waterfalls and good road for biking. Not as good as he’d made it out to be, but then he probably hasn’t done the Great Ocean Road! Still pretty good riding all the same and much better than the freeway.
Stop at a waterfall for some photo’s and take a power nap on a picnic bench.
About 20k’s out from Arimadale I’m cruising along about 120km/h down a hill when a police car comes into view. Shit! Slow down but have no idea what the speed limit is on this road. Keep riding and praying that he’s gonna keep going and not turn around. Not to be. He turns around and follows me for a while before pulling me over. I guess they follow you for a while in case you try to peg it so they can have some sport.
He takes my license and spends a long time in his patrol car. I’m starting to think he’s found out about my other misdemeanor and is getting the hand cuffs ready.
He finally comes back and hands me a $231 fine. No mention of previous convictions. He finds it all very funny. Strangely I’m not amused.
Seriously consider not bothering to pay either fine, but expect either: 1) Will be arrested at the airport if I ever return to Australia. 2) Rental company will probably just charge my credit card with the fines and an additional “Admin” fee.
Find a cheap place to stay in Armidale, which turns out to be half motel half student accommodation. I’m glad I didn’t go to uni there! What a place.
Wander into town to get some food, only to find the town deserted, guess Sunday’s are pretty quite around here. Suspect that it’s pretty quiet no matter what day of the week. Only two places open are Fried Chicken or Chinese. Opt for Chinese which is not bad, good dim sum. Waitress gives me a strange look when I ask for Chop Sticks, guessing they don’t get too much call for them around here.
Take an early night. I needed it!
Take a look at the map and realise that there isn’t a lot between here and Sydney. Decide to try and make it all the way and take a day trip to the Blue Mountains tomorrow.
Really try very hard for the first hour to stick within the speed limit. Get so bored it’s dangerous because I’m not even concentrating on the road. End up reverting back to riding at a decent speed before I pass out with boredom.
Ride through lots of small towns and nice national parks. Roads are good although the road surface is atrocious at times, especially on bends! Get some great riding up and down the hills of the national parks and scrap the GS’s pegs on a few corners.
About 200k out of Sydney I head for Wollemi National Park because it looks like good riding country only to divert when I see signs for the Hunter Valley where they make lots of wine.
Hunter is nice and mean to stop and buy some wine but get the “I’ll just stop at the next one” syndrome until I run out of Vineyards, which are called Winery’s here…is that even a word? Can’t be bothered to turn around since I’ve got lots of k’s to do and it’s getting late.
Take a diversion because I want to postpone getting back onto the freeway as long as possible. My map’s too big a scale to mark things like ferries and so ride past the road I need and into the hills. Turn back about 15k later when the road disappears.
Surprised to find that the ferry across the river is free and even more surprised to find it’s still working at 7.30pm.
Meet a nice chap in a car who insists that I follow him until there are signs for Sydney. Which I’m more than happy to do just to get home at a reasonable hour.
Roads are getting pretty congested and the speed limit is also very low. Most of it 60km/h yawn!
Get back to Craig and Caitlin’s house in the dark doing a total of 690ish km’s! Originally thought that Ewan and Charlie had it pretty easy on their round the world trip, but these guys did the same 600 odd k’s a day for 3 months and on some roads a lot worse than this…gotta give them some respect for that.
Leave for the Blue Mountains around 11 without the panniers and cruise along the road the guide book recommended. Potentially pretty good riding and it is for a while, but most of the roads have the boring 60km/h speed limit and I don’t feel like getting another ticket.
Get some good views of the blue haze covering the mountains along the way and stop in Mt Victoria for Sushi lunch.
It’s getting late so decide to take the freeway home as have to return the bike by 5.
Arrive at the rental place at 4.45 and hand over the keys. Bikes looking pretty dirty and the chap doesn’t seem to notice the new scratches on engine block so don’t mention it and draw his attention to some other things which I didn’t do.
Signed the papers and walked out the door, so guess I got away with that one.
The end…of the biking…
Overall it’s been a fantastic part of the trip. Met some great people, road some amazing roads and saw some beautiful scenery. I have to say I am pretty relieved to drop the bike off though, will be nice to not have to worry about speeding tickets and bike theft for the rest of the trip.
Photo’s are here: http://picasaweb.google.com/awconstable/
Again not so many. Been riding hard.
Fraser Island is just north of Brisbane. Completely made from sand which has drifted along the mainland shores.
Picked up by a double decker bus, which seemed like a bad sign since I’d imagined a small 4WD mini-bus. Get the ferry and leave the bus behind and ride on the deck. Nice view and some breakfast for the 30 min journey over to the island.
Arrive at the island and board a massive 4WD truck/bus for about 30 people. Better than I was expecting. Tour guide is a real character and has some great stories to tell.
Apparently the island is made completely of sand which had forests grow on top and then get covered in sand again, six times over. so it’s a massive island with rain forests, hills, desert and temperate forests fresh water lakes. Hard to believe it’s all on a bed of sand, but it is.
Take a walk around a creek at Central Station with it’s crystal clear water and sandy bed and then headed over to the beach. And what a beach, it is in fact classified as highway you’ve got 4WD cars, 4WD buses, aeroplanes landing on it and people milling about. It’s called 75 mile beach…so plenty of space then!
Stop to walk up a Eli Creek which is brilliant in the clear water and feels tropical.
Next stop is the ship wreck. A boat bought by the Japanese which go into trouble in a storm on the way back to Japan and ended up here. Ozzie air force used it for target practice so not much left of it really.
Head on up the beach and stop to look at the coloured sands. Some people get back on the bus while myself and a few others take a plane ride over the island. Fantastic! What can I say? The photo’s will say it all…
Land back down the beach and pick up the bus for lunch with Charlie, guy from Sheffield I met on the bus, and a couple of backpacker girls from Ipswich.
After lunch it’s a 30 min ride up to Lake McKenzie and the highlight of the trip. The Aborigine name for the island roughly translates into paradise and this freshwater lake explains it.
It’s totally isolated at the top of a massive sand hill surrounded by rain forest. There’s no streams or water coming in or going out, apart from rainwater and evaporation, so no plant or animal life. Which means crystal clear waters and great swimming. Perfect sandy beaches with the best sand…paradise! Swim for half an hour then it’s back on the bus to catch the last ferry to the main land.
What a day!
Meet Charlie later on for some beers with his friend Star. End up falling asleep over my beer. That never happens! 😉
Photo’s : http://picasaweb.google.com/awconstable/
So. After 3.5 days, 1700 km’s, 1 x $350 speeding fine, 1 x dropped bike, stuck in sand, some really really amazing riding and some pretty boring freeway (hence the fine), I’m finally at the most northern point of my trip. Hervey Bay right next to Fraser Island.
Set out from Sydney pretty late in the day on Monday and headed over the harbour bridge and up the Pacific Highway. Take in a nice ride through a national park just north of the city on the old pacific highway. Decide to get some distance done and get back to the free way. Heading for Seal Rocks, recommended by Craig’s friend Suze.
Rode for most of the day nipping off the highway for “Tourist Drives” which are pretty good in NSW. Pass a nice view and head down the hill to turn around. Take the junction slow since I’m still getting used to all the weight and manage to stall the bike whilst pulling out. Tried to catch it but too heavy and positioned in the wrong way so it goes down. Oops! Had to flag down a friendly local to help pick the beast up again. Few dings and scratches on the engine block but nothing too serious. The view was rubbish when I finally got back to look.
Head on over towards seal rocks. Just as it’s starting to get dark the road disappears and turns into loose gravel. Not the best surface for motorbikes! Especially in the dark. Was also running rather low on fuel, just another minor problem… Stand around for a few minutes pondering the situation. Decide to screw it and ride on, can’t be that far and this is an adventure after all. Get to seal rocks after a few k’s of hills and dodgy bends to find that I had in fact confused it with the next nights stop and there was only camping. Which would have been fine, except I had decided to leave Craig’s tent with him because it was too big.
Ride back out feeling more confident now that I’ve taken my sun glasses off and can see the road 😉
Ride on through the forest in the dark towards what I’m hoping is a large enough town to have a late opening petrol station. All the time thinking about the rather frequent use of Kangaroo signs and lack of bull bars on motorbikes.
End up staying in a motel in a small town called Forster-Tuncurry with not alot going on, so early night.
Heading for Byron Bay today. Mostly freeway riding since I want to get there and it’s a long ride. Take a few tourist drives but mostly freeway. The 1200GS comes into it’s own. This thing can just EAT road like nothing. The only problem is the ridiculously low speed limit. I mean you can’t get far in a country this size at 100km/h can you? Keep roughly within the limit. Give or take 50km/h or so…
Stop for a stretch and bump into Joff, an English guy riding a PENNY FARTHING around the world! Crazy. Stop and chat to him and another chap and his family for a while. Seems like a nice guy and would have loved to have camped there with him for the night but still have lots of road to ride. I’m sure he’s got a few stories to tell. Check him out at http://www.pennyfarthingworldtour.com/
Stop in K-Mart to buy a tent. Typically the smallest they have is 3 man and the same size as the one I left in Sydney. Sigh.
Arrive into Byron bay just before dust and head to the lighthouse for the sun set. Bump into a Swiss couple also on a similar bike doing north to south. Spent some time chatting to a French backpacker on a bench overlooking the beach. Find out the best place to stay and a good place for night life. The place that Suze and the backpacker had recommend was full as was every other hostel in town. End up in a cheap hotel above a bar.
Head on down to The Rails for some beers and live music. This place is cool. It’s got the same vibe as Haight & Ashbury in San Francisco expanded into a town on the beach. Spend the evening drinking with a guy from Melbourne and sample some of the local pies.
Love this place, think I will try and come back on the way back down.
Get up late with a hangover and head on down to the beach for a swim and a little sun. Take a while to dry off in the sun and then grab some brekkie. Feeling much better.
Ride out towards Nightcap National Park, the guide book has a great picture in it so find out what it’s all about. Turns into the BEST ride so far. I actually got to ride into the rain forest on a dirt track, amazing. Rode into the national park and leave the bike to hike to nearby Protesters Falls (On account of the logging protests in the 70’s). Walking in the rain forest is something else. The scales everything works on is just mind blowing. There’s these massive tree’s at one end and tiny ants crawling up them at the other. It’s just a magical place that I really can’t understand why anyone would want chop it down.
Spent pretty much the whole day on that detour, but it was definitely worth it. Finally got back to the freeway to make some progress after the best day on the bike yet. Just out of this world.
Arrive around sunset at Surfers Paradise, without actually checking the guide book. OMG. Get me out of this place. Las Vegas on Sea. Rode down the strip and got the hell out. Fine if you’re with a few mates on a drinking binge, but the idea of the trip is to get away from this crap.
Head on up past Brisbane riding for Bribie Island determined to camp.
Turns out that it’s a national park with beautiful remote camping and you need a permit and a 4WD blah blah. It’s past dark so decide to give it a try anyway. Ewan MacGregor rode one of these around the world, I’m sure I can ride one down a couple of k’s of dirt track…in the dark.
Well it’s turns out old Ewan had a few advantages. Off road tyres being the first and most important and off road training being the second. Rode for about 1km along very deep sand in the tracks of previous 4WD’s. Get stuck a couple of times and then get really stuck. both wheels deep in sand, I got off and bike it just stayed standing. Wish I’d taken a picture, but have to say it was the last thing on my mind. The engines also getting very hot and so is the back tyre on account of all the wheel spinning. Decide maybe it’s best to turn around, it’s along walk back to town and it’s pitch black out here, no idea where my torch is. With a massive effort I manage to get the bike out of the hole it’s dug itself into and back onto just semi deep sand. Turning it around was another massive feet. Can’t get off, cos it’ll now fall over. Don’t have alot of traction with my feet or the wheels. Do it in the end, just pure determination rather than anything else. Now on the way back, I follow some advise from the guy in the Asses Ears, give it some speed! So now I’m flying, well moving alot faster than I was before down the sand track. Well it worked, because I didn’t get stuck and only nearly fell off a few thousand times. Reached the end of the track totally buzzing with a massive smile on my face.
Pretty lucky I turned back too, as I sipped some water from the camel back it ran dry.
Miss the one motel on the island…somehow, maybe I just imagined in on the way through or sometimes they turn their signs off when they go to bed. Getting increasingly concerned because I’m now off the freeway looking for a motel and there doesn’t seem to be one. Finally find one about 10.30pm and settled in with a beer.
Left the motel and took a nice Tourist drive, which aren’t as good now I’m in Queensland for some reason, just stupid routes. One took me off the road and around in a circle just to see a golf course! End’s up being a complete loop back to before the motel. Spent most of the morning on that and it wasn’t that good riding either!
Anyway, got on the freeway and opened it up to get to Fraser for an afternoon swim. Friendly policeman hiding under a bridge thought that my 145km/h wasn’t to his liking. Since it was a 110km/h limit. Don’t see a problem there myself. Ended up $350 lighter for the privilege, expect he’ll be getting a Christmas bonus.
Got to Fraser and found a nice camp site on the beach and booked a day tour of Fraser for tomorrow.
Bought some beers from the drive through bottle shop and sat on the beach in the dark and watched the stars.
Photo’s are now up (Although not that many since I’ve been riding): http://picasaweb.google.com/awconstable/
After a night out with everyone in Sydney overlooking the opera house and early start (5am) to fly to Melbourne.
Hired a BMW 650GS Dakar from a place near the centre. It feels like a toy compared to my 1200GS, but fun to throw about.
Headed out of the city on some pretty unspectacular freeway in the direction of the Great Ocean Road. After riding for an hour or so turned off onto the start of the coast road and the fun began.
This has to be one of the best coast roads on the planet!! Absolutely amazing riding coupled with beautiful scenery. There was plenty of long sweeping bends and tight hairpins in the forest. Scrapped my pegs on the road round a couple of tight bends. I only wish I had a camera strapped to my helmet.
Lots to stop and see along the way, the 12 apostles and London bridge to name but a few.
Stopped in Lorne and picked up a sandwich for lunch. Headed further down the road to a deserted beach and relaxed in the sun.
Rode until 5.30pm when the roads started to get straight and boring. Surrealy like the mid west of America. Decide to turn back and stay in a nice place I’d passed through on the way with the intention of riding the coast road back again the next day and leave a day for Melbourne. Spent the night in Port Campbell at a hostel and ate fish and chips while watching the sun set over the harbour. Brilliant Day.
The next morning I look at the map and see a massive national park with some great winding roads and so decide to head up that way and happened to meet another biker from London called Mary who’s going in the same direction. We decide to ride together for a while and so set off for the Grampians National Park.
After riding for most of the morning we reach the national park, which to begin with is alarmingly bereft of trees or vegetation. It was getting to 37 deg C and it’s gets pretty warm in the old riding suit. Head on further in to find some forests which turned out to be brilliant again. It had been swept by forest fire last January and so the trees were all burnt with leaves growing from the trunk like creepers. It looked like a what I’d imagine a prehistoric forest looked like. Another great day of riding through winding roads up and down the mountains. Saw my first Kangaroo and Emu, still not seen any massive spiders which is disappointing expected to find them everywhere. I’m sure I’ll find some before I go!
Stayed at the Asses Ears Wilderness Lodge which was out in the middle of nowhere. Very hot dorm rooms and thankfully a swimming pool. Ate Kangaroo and VB pie which was delicious and not at all like Chicken. Spent the evening drinking VB and chatting with Mary and Steve, the hostel owner, who was a bit of a character. Found the dorm room to be overrun with bugs as soon as the lights go on. Superb view of the stars though. Attempt to sleep in the heat, expecting to be eaten alive by the bugs.
After not sleeping too well in the heat, but with no bites! got up earlyish and headed off after breakfast. Head off back through the national park and towards Ballarat. Nice open roads with plenty of overtaking through countryside you’d imagine in Australia. Brown, bone dry grass land with trees dotted about and sheep/kanga’s roaming.
Ride to Ballarat stopping every 40-50km’s for water and stretch. Leave Mary in Ballarat to look at the Gold Fields and head on back to Melbourne.
Drop off the bike and spend a couple of hours walking around the city before flying back to Sydney.
Arrive back in Sydney to be ripped of by the cab driver who had no idea where I wanted to go, despite me handing him a map of the city with a big cross on it. BBQ dinner party back at Craig’s. Delicious.
Photo’s here: http://picasaweb.google.com/awconstable/
So the plan.
A month in Australia on a motorbike.
The dates were originally based around a wedding…which got cancelled and the participants left the country. How rude.
Craig, the second rider in the trip, unfortunately didn’t get around to taking his motorbike license. Even though we’ve been talking about it for around 18 MONTHS. So lone rider it is. Unless of course he miraculously passes a test in the next week. Odds not in his favour.
1. Fly to Singapore for a few days drinking and sight seeing with Hayesy.
2. Arrive in Sydney. Meet up with a few friends, since it seems the place to be this year.
3. Take the first flight to Melbourne and hire a bike. Ride the coast road!
4. Get back to Sydney and pick up the big bike. Head up the east coast and see how far I get. Ideally Fraser island…but that’s quite a way there and back in a week. We’ll see.
5. Once back in Sydney fly up to Cairns. See the rainforest’s and great barrier reef.
6. Back in Sydney for Xmas/NY.
7. Home to the grey sky of London…maybe.
I’ll keep you all posted with the progress and hopefully piccies. Now I really must pack…