Archive for the Western Australia category

Geoff

Mighty Nullarbor has been tamed

Western Australia No Comment

The longest stretch of straight road in the world finishes at a roadhouse at a place called Caiguna where the locals seemed friendly and there was an extensive menu on offer 24 hours a day.
We decided to call it quits there and took a room at the adjoining hotel.
After Geoff finally managed to get the right key – and discovered he’d accidentally purloined the key to his room in Norseman, we settled into our room.
It is the second key Geoff has managed to nick so far, leading us to suspect he may be a closet – or front door – kleptomaniac.
There was not much to do but work, but the footy was on the telly, we had beer and hamburgers, so survival was assured.
It turned out the footy wasn’t on – curses, but the burgers were good, so we settled for watching From Russia With Love, or at least half of it before we all passed out.
Apparently then I took Geoff on in a snoring competition, driving Paul to distraction and forcing him to abandon his bed in the middle of the night for the quiet of Matilda, so we don’t know who came out on top as there was no independent judge.
Next morning we had a chat with a young biker on a Kawasaki Ninja who had stayed with his mate a couple of doors down.
They lived just down the road at Cocklebiddy, and came up for the night to drink beer and see their girlfriends who worked at the roadhouse.
They were having beer for breakfast, before they headed off down the road, the mate driving and his pal screaming off on the Ninja wearing just jeans, trainers and a singlet, making my skin creep at the thought of what would happen if he fell off.
We passed them a while later in a layby, having yet another beer, as it seems the drink-driving stigma hasn’t permeated this far into the desert as yet.
Then they roared past us, the bike doing around 200kms with the mate in the car just behind going a lttle slower. We passed them once more standing on the side of a dam, beers in hand, waving. Guess that’s what counts as a big weekend out in Cocklebiddy.
We stopped there to fuel up, and headed on once more.
Along the road I noticed a strange phenomenon – various articles of attire hanging from dead trees.
One was covered in hats, another in what were once t-shirts but were now rags, yet another in what appeared to be women’s underwear. Yet another mystery of the Nullarbor.
As we were once more on unfenced roads, we passed signs warning of camels, cattle, ‘roos and emus, but nary a one appeared, which was a bit disappointing as we would have quite liked to see some camels.
Australia now has more wild camels than anywhere else in the world, the descendants of those released or which escaped from explorers and camel drivers working on the railroad and telegraph. Some are now sold back to the Middle East for racing as the ones here are thought to be the best quality in the world, having been toughened by years in the bush and virtually disease free.
All of a sudden we came upon the Madura Pass, where the flat plain suddenly drops away towards the Great Australian Bight, offering an astounding view of the plain from above. It looks like the Serengeti, minus the herds of wildebeest.
At Madura roadhouse a Toyota people carrier stood abandoned, its front end destroyed after hitting a kangaroo, showing just how much damage the animals can do if you hit one.
We had our usual pie for lunch, $4.20 and quite tasty, followed by a totally surreal and slightly worrying argument over who sang a certain ‘80s power ballad playing over the PA, which we then dragged the locals into.
Leaving with our manly biker credentials in tatters, we roared off, trying to recoup some street cred.
Our stop for tonight was Eucla, where the east-west telegraph was joined back in 1877.
Eucla was once closer to the coast but the town was abandoned and built four kilometres further inland after the coastal sand dunes buried it. Only the old telegraph station emerges periodically from the sand, standing forlornly in the dunes with only the wild camels and passing tourists for company.
So far, I was a little disappointed in the Nullarbor, as it was nothing like it had been when I last passed through here. Back then it was nothing but arid desert, hardly a bush or tree, looking like the surface of Mars, with rocks the only thing to look at. After all the recent rain it was now green, and trees, though small, were plentiful.
While it certainly made for an easier trip with more to look at, I couldn’t help feeling a little cheated that the mighty Nullarbor we had been almost dreading was proving to be a bit of a doddle. There are also many more roadhouses and fuel stops than there used to be, lessening the sense of challenge and conquest. Still, all things must change and it seems even the desert can be tamed

Geoff

What a karri on

New South Wales, Western Australia No Comment

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Leaving Margaret River with sadness, we struck out for Pemberton and more amazing scenery among the giant karri trees, which rear hundreds of feet into the air.

Geoff and I stopped in the forest where the light filtering through the trees was amazing. We stood and listened to the silence which was almost total apart from the occasional bird announcing its presence, and then we ruined it all by acting the maggot by taking pictures of us hugging the monsters.

We passed through a hamlet called Karridale, where for some reason it appeared to still be Christmas, with life-size Santas decorating people’s driveways and tinsel draped over roadsigns.

One wag had named their house ‘Karri On’ but it seems the forests are still under some threat as we passed a makeshift camp of environmental protesters, known locally as ‘Greenies’ who were trying to stop part of the area being logged.

Halting in a little picturesque town called Nannup, we met a group of bikers from Albany out for a run.

They told us about some good rides and we swapped yarns about being out on the road before we headed back into the forests planning to stop for the night in a logging town called Pemberton.

Yet another old biker sitting at a café warned us about the giant ‘roos that also inhabit the forests.

‘There was one on my front lawn this morning, he was about six feet tall and he just looked back at me as if to say ‘Yeah – you want something?’. He didn’t even move so I just picked up my paper and left him to it.

‘Me and a mate saw one once that was even bigger than that – it was about six and a half feet. They are forest kangaroos and also live in the swamps, but move around to where there is fresh growth. They have a domed head so they can crash through the bush and you don’t want to run into one of those on the road.’

Pemberton turned out to be a charming little place, quiet now the Anzac Day holiday was over and Aussies batten down the hatches for the winter, as it is the last break until a long weekend in June and signals the real end to summer and its frivolities.

It had an almost alpine feel, and we scored a great little house which is let out by the local youth hostel to travellers as the main backpackers is reserved for workers doing their three months agricultural employment as part of the government requirement to gain their resident visas.

We had the place to ourselves apart from Mike, a gardener from Perth who was on a three-week solo walking holiday through the forests.

Originally from London, he’d lived in WA since his late teens and had now been an Aussie for around 30 years.

“I went back once, as you are always curious about how it has changed and have fond memories, but when I got there it was dirty and overcrowded and a real rat race.

‘I’d never go back now, this is my home and I love it – there’s just so much space and I love walking in the bush – the peace and the quiet and when you are walking you just see so much as the animals aren’t that scared of you.’

Geoff and I cooked up a marvellous Spanish omelette for dinner which we shared with Mike, had a few beers, watched a bit of telly and climbed wearily into bed, luxuriating in this rare snatch of domesticity.

On the way out of town the next morning we decided to go and see the Bicentennial Tree right in the heart of the karri forests.

It is a fire-lookout tree with a platform perched 75 metres or 230 feet above the ground, where rangers would keep an eye out for smoke from bushfires and then direct firefighters to the outbreak.

The platform was built to celebrate Australia’s 200th anniversary of European settlement, and was also a practical step, as despite the use of aircraft to spot fires, the traditional use of the big trees has made a comeback as a less expensive and lower-tech way to do the same job just as accurately, if not more so.

The platform is reached by climbing a staircase made out of steel spikes driven into the trunk of the tree, with just some chicken wire acting as a balustrade and nothing beneath should you put a foot wrong.

Geoff and I eyed it warily.

‘I’m not climbing that’ he said bravely.

“I get vertigo when I stand up’.

I also demurred, pointing out that motorcycle boots were not designed for climbing trees, otherwise they would be called ‘climbing giant trees boots’, so it was left to Paul to rescue our reputation and off he went.

We lost sight of him about halfway up, but he made it to the top and climbed into the hut on top, which ways around two tonnes, showing the strength of these monsters, and which also moves around four feet from side to side in the wind.

It’s quite amazing that in this day and age of the nanny state and ridiculous health and safety rules that anyone can just turn up and take their life in their hands.

A typical blunt Aussie notice at the bottom warned people that when it was wet, the steel rods got slippery, and it was more difficult if it was howling a gale, and that was pretty much it, so go for your life, as they say over here. No ranger, no supervision, and nobody to hold your hand.

I wouldn’t have minded the climb up, it is the coming back down that bothers me as you can’t see where you are going, and despite having done many bungy jumps, abseiling and been suspended from helicopters, there is something about climbing things without a rope tied around me that plays into my primitive respect for heights.

As Paul finally made it down, we gave him a round of applause and were further humbled by the sight of a 10-year-old French girl and her mother scampering up the tree like Gallic monkeys, chattering away the whole time without a care in the world.

After faking a picture of me around four metres above the ground, we took our wounded pride and slunk away.

The launch of Geoff and Colin’s book – Oz Around Australia on a Triumph, will take place tomorrow Wednesday November 24th at Adelaide Insurance HQ in Belfast complete with barbeque and much fanfare.

There is a link below to the Blackstaff Press website where you can secure your very own copy in time for Xmas. We will post a video blog from the book launch in the next few… Continue reading

And so Geoff and Colin arrive back home to the sirens of the motorcycle police flanked by a band of bikers from the Quay Vipers Club and to the strains of Waltzing Matilda playing under the shade of the Adelaide inflatable finish line. A fitting end to a scorching adventure marked in true style by our friends from Adelaide Insurance Services. You can check out the speechifying here and stayed…Continue reading

helmets-1-300x225It had, I thought that evening as we sat down in a pub in Clare to bangers and mash washed down with pints of foaming ale, been the strangest of adventures.The previous ones, from Delhi to Belfast on an Enfield, Chicago to Los Angeles on Route 66 riding a Harley, and…Continue reading

At a place called Kimba in South Australia, we halted to take a picture of a giant galah, but then we managed to get Geoff out of shot so we could get a photo of the big parrot.
Our next break was at Iron Knob, as we just couldn’t resist.
It is the birthplace of the Aussie steel industry, as the knob itself was almost pure iron ore.
As mature… Continue reading

Geoff

Surfing days have gone by the board

Western Australia No Comment

At Margaret River Surf School, I would finally get to show off my prowess on a board. As it was, I turned out to be crap – too unfit, fat and out of practice. My only consolation was the Geoff was even worse and drank half the Indian Ocean for breakfast, which made its way back during the entire day via his nose.

Our instructor Jarrad, a former Australian short board champion, did his best, but it was a hopeless cause and he advised me to buy a time machine to go back to the days of my youth.

Still, it was wonderful to be back out on a board in warm water again as the last time I was out was off Co Donegal and the water was so cold I had to bring a hammer to crack the surface before I could get in.

I felt my old skills were coming back with practice and got up for a few short rides, but after what seemed like about 20 minutes, Jarrad informed us it was last wave time as we had been in the water two hours.

Starving, we headed back to camp for breakfast/lunch, with cold pizza from the night before my chosen delicacy, as after being surfing you will eat anything and everything, and it all tastes like the best thing you have ever put in your gob.

Then we headed off to visit the Voyager vineyard, one of the most famous Margaret River wineries.

It’s an impressive place with manicured lawns and perfect gardens. When I say manicured, I mean it as they employ 11 gardeners and we reckoned they all must get out with nail scissors to do the lawns, as there As both of us were suffering from various muscle strains from our surfing exploits, we decided to taste everything, feeling that might work better than painkillers.

Mr Hill showed off his pretentious side coming up with all kinds of poncy wine terms, and telling Britta, who was us feeding plonk at a rate of knots that he was thinking of buying ‘a few bottles’.

‘Here, drongo, which ones did you like, as I’m going to get a couple for dinner?’

‘I think they might be a bit pricey, me old corkscrew, as she was talking about ‘lying them down’ and all that, so if you do get some, you might want to take them home for a special occasion.

‘Bugger that, life’s too short’ and off he went.

I then heard the following exchange: ‘Britta, me old grapevine, how much is it for the savignon blanc, the shiraz and the merlot?’

‘The sauvignon is $35, the shiraz $45 and the merlot $65.’

‘Err, I’ll just go and confer with my colleague to see what he prefers,’ he said, visibly blanching, before going and hiding behind a very tall wine rack, looking like he needed ‘lying down’ himself.

Chuckling, I went back to my glossy magazine ‘Wine for drongos who have no money and can’t taste the difference anyway’ – much more in my league.

We then snuck out while Britta’s back was turned, the cowards that we are.

And so Geoff and Colin arrive back home to the sirens of the motorcycle police flanked by a band of bikers from the Quay Vipers Club and to the strains of Waltzing Matilda playing under the shade of the Adelaide inflatable finish line. A fitting end to a scorching adventure marked in true style by our friends from Adelaide Insurance Services. You can check out the speechifying here and stayed…Continue reading

helmets-1-300x225It had, I thought that evening as we sat down in a pub in Clare to bangers and mash washed down with pints of foaming ale, been the strangest of adventures.The previous ones, from Delhi to Belfast on an Enfield, Chicago to Los Angeles on Route 66 riding a Harley, and…Continue reading

At a place called Kimba in South Australia, we halted to take a picture of a giant galah, but then we managed to get Geoff out of shot so we could get a photo of the big parrot.
Our next break was at Iron Knob, as we just couldn’t resist.
It is the birthplace of the Aussie steel industry, as the knob itself was almost pure iron ore.
As mature… Continue reading

Geoff

Kick The Mongrel and other tales

Western Australia No Comment

Finally, we were getting out of Sydney. It’s a great place, but hectic to get around, especially with three vehicles and not a clue where you are going. Glad to be out on the open road agauin, we headed north and climbed slowly up past the giant Hawkesbury river towards the fertile Hunter Valley region which produces some of the country’s finest wines. The river itself was like black glass with just a single speedboat skimming along to break the mirror-like surface.

A few miles on we crested Mt Alum at the northern end of the Great Dividing Range to be met with a stunning view for tens of miles. We were so high that the sky looked like the sea below us in an optical illusion as it disappeared below the curvature of the earth.After that is was all downhill towards Nabiac, a small town which despite its size, houses the National Motorcycle Museum where we had arranged to film the next day.
It was Sunday evening and everything was shut but the pub and the 24-hour garage on the highway.
We had booked a small house behind the museum for the night and when we arrived another group of bikers from the Easy Riders Club based in Ipswich outside Brisbane were there, also trying to find accommodation.
Their spokesman Cheffie, sporting a Bismarck beard met us with a roar, shouting, ‘Are you the Irish dudes?
‘We tried putting on Irish accents but they wouldn’t let us in.’
We soon realised that despite their fearsome appearance they weren’t hostile and had a yarn about what we were all up to
They were out on a four-day ride from home and had also been down to Sydney.
Cheffie gave us his club’s card – their motto ‘Adventure before Dementia’ and invited us to come stay with them when we got up.
“We’ve got three spare bedrooms now the kids have gone and we can sleep about 30.”
We laughed, but I wasn’t sure he was joking.
In return for his details, we gave him one of our newly-printed Adelaide Adventure cards and they all roared off to the pub for a couple of ‘medicinal’ beers and to plan their next move.
We retired to our house for the night, which was so much like a cabin out of the Beverley Hillbillies that we all started calling each other Jed and Zeke, while Matt cooked out on the verandah, the neighbourhood gone to hell in a matter of minutes.
It was a big hike to the museum next day – all of 100 feet, where we met Margaret Kelleher who runs it, along with her husband, former dirt racer Brian. Their son also races and the whole family are mad collectors of everything from motorcycles and vintage cars to Snoopy figurines, which the grandchildren give to Brian.
After informing Geoff that his Deus Ex Machina shirt was very popular among the gay fraternity in Sydney, she introduced us to Acme, the miniature pinscher, who has had very expensive eye cataract surgery, but who now suffers from arthritis and Margaret cheerfully reckoned she won’t last the winter.
She also admitted she ‘hung one on last night’ and was suffering a bit, but would take us on a tour of the 800-plus bikes in her collection, including some very rare models like a 1920s Indian and a Vincent Black Knight just to name two. They have been collecting for 38 years and moved the museum to the town from Canberra simply because the locals were nice to them when they traveled through on their bikes.
Margaret is fiercely patriotic and only buys Australian products unless she can’t avoid it, from ice cream to her Mighty-mite, as Vegemite has now been bought out by Kraft.
“Every bike here was in the country and we never sell a bike. People make us offers but we just say no.”
The collection is vast, with many examples of variations on the same models and includes at least four bikes I have owned and ridden.
There is even a small selection of home-made bikes just like the one that started me off when I was just 11.
There is even the remains of a Harley on display that was destroyed in the devastating bushfires of the previous summer that killed almost 200 people.
Another interesting exhibit is an Australian-built 47cc Yamaha-powered bike that broke land speed records for 50cc, 75cc and 100cc engines.
Margaret had us laughing with her tales of what certain motorcycle acronyms really stood for. KTM was ‘Kick The Mongrel’ as they first came with a left-hand kickstart, which made them difficult to get going. BSA was ‘Bloody Stopped Again’ while AJS was ‘Ah Jesus Start’.
Margaret finally let us go after around three hours of stories, just as Brian rolled up to crack more jokes with us. We’d loved to have stayed all day, but the road was calling and we were set for Coffs Harbour in the far north of NSW by nightfall.
As we left, they warned us to beware of mosquitoes and use plenty of repellent, as there was Ross River fever – a nasty little disease, and dengue fever further up the coast after all the recent rains, which of course cheered us up no end as we set off for what promised to be another spectacular ride.

Geoff

See? I told you the wombats were dangerous!

Western Australia No Comment
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Looks like Colin got the protective plastic cover off his visor just in time, since at the weekend we had to ride two Tigers up a steep ramp onto a stage at the Adelaide Motorcycle Festival press conference to launch the trip.
I led the way, then flinched as there was a loud bang. Bloody hell, I thought, I’ve hit something, only for the air to be filled with silver ticker-tape.
Naturally, I then parked the bike so close to the podium that I couldn’t get off. And left the lights on.
Still, it all went well, and afterwards we were mobbed by groupies. Well, one. And she was a pensioner.
Still, never mind, you have to start somewhere, I thought as I rode off the stage and nearly ran into the stand run by Nick Sanders, the legendary biker who’s set several records for the fastest time around the world by riding his Yamaha R1 1,000 miles a day and only stopping for occasional catnaps on the bike, sometimes even when it was stationary. Not surprisingly, his hair always looks like he’s just taken his helmet off after wearing it all day.
“Sorry about that, Nick,” I said, going over to him after I got off the bike.
“No worries, mate,” he said, shaking my hand.
“Listen, anything we should look out for in Oz?”
“Wombats. Like hitting a brick wall,” he said.
See? I told you I wasn’t being paranoid.
I e-mailed Triumph immediately to see if they could fit wombat protection devices to the front of the bikes in the manner of the cowcatchers on the front of old American locomotives.
Watch this space.
Geoff
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Here you’ll find all the latest news from Geoff and Gary as they recreate the first around the world ride 100 years on, accompanied by Carl Stearns Clancy’s original boots on their second journey around the world 100 years after they did it the first time.
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