Never mind Venus, she’s armless

New South Wales No Comment

dscf1224-300x225Frenchman’s Bay on the south west coast of Australia, like Esperance and the Archipelago of the Recherche east of there, is named after the Frenchmen and their ships whose presence in the area in the late 18thand early 19th Centuries forced the nervous British to hastily colonize the southwest in a bid to keep their hands on it.

One of those Frenchmen, funny enough, was the man who lost the arms of the Venus de Milo.

When Jules Dumont D’Urville bought the statue from a Greek peasant in 1810, she was in full possession of the limbs in question, only for them to be snapped off in the ensuing tussle over ownership between French and Turkish soldiers.

Where they ended up remains a mystery, but D’Urville ended up in these parts six years later and went on to explore much of the southern hemisphere, only to perish in a train crash in Versailles in 1842.

As for the Albany station, it has gone from being an Auschwitz for whales to a museum where you can follow the grim process of turning several hundred tons of live mammal with a heart the size of a car into several thousand dollars worth of blubber, oil, ivory, corsets, horsewhips, umbrella struts, animal feed and fertiliser.

Not to mention the aforementioned well-known perfume, Barf for Women. Because you’re worth it.

It was so gruesome that I had to ride like the clappers to the nearest new age shop, buy a CD of whales farting, and listen to it for an hour in a darkened room before I could face a beer. That’s how bad it was.

Anyway, I needed the beer, for we had been pampered too long by the soft life of the southwest, and were just about to make up for it by tackling the last and most horrendous stretch of Australia yet: the Nullarbor Desert.


What a karri on

New South Wales, Western Australia No Comment


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


War! This means war!

New South Wales No Comment

In the Fifties, Leonard George Casley was a mathematician and physicist working with NASA, in between farming wheat in the rolling hills of Hutt River in Western Australia. In 1969, he sent off his usual wheat production figures to the government saying that he had 10,000 acres ready to sell, and the government sent back the news that he was only allowed to sell 1,647. Naturally, Leonard then did what any reasonable man would do: founded the Hutt River Principality as an independent state, refused to pay tax and declared himself as HRH Prince Leonard, his wife as Her Serene Highness Princess Shirley, and their eldest son as the heir apparent, Crown Prince Ian. Amazingly, he got away with it: the government decided there was nothing they could do about him, and the principality stayed in place, with official languages of English, French and Esperanto, a population of 20 and a worldwide citizenship of 13,000 fans, a navy in spite of being entirely landlocked and an industry based on exporting wildflowers, coins and stamps. After Australia Post refused to recognise the stamps in 1976, forcing Hutt River mail to be redirected via Canada, Prince Leonard declared war. Thankfully, Australia then backed down, avoiding carnage on a scale which can hardly be imagined. Best of all, we were passing by on April 21, the 40th anniversary of the principality. After crossing the border in a cloud of red dust, we arrived to find Her Serene Highness Princess Shirley serving behind the post office counter. “Leonard’s gone into Northampton with Ian to sort out some things for the weekend celebrations, but they should be back soon,” she said, and sure enough, the other two thirds of the Royal Family arrived shortly after in a ute. Before long, we had been granted an exclusive interview with the 84-year-old monarch, in which he expounded the history of mathematics, physics, jurisprudence, the principality and wheat farming at such length and in such detail that by the end we were entirely convinced that his royal family was just as delightfully loopy as we have come to expect from our own. “You blokes staying for the weekend? We’ve got a brass band and a pipe band, a grand ceremony in the chapel involving several knightings, a nice family dinner, although everyone’s welcome, and a visit by the Royal Enfield Club, since I’m president of that,” he said. “Afraid not, unless there’s any chance of being made a knight,” said Colin. “Not at this stage, but log onto our website and you never know next time. Still, give us your passports and I’ll stamp them to make up for your disappointment,” said the prince, sending us on our way with a regal wave. Sadly, having been touched by royalty, we ended the day as commoners, in the grimmest hostel yet; a rambling seafront mansion in Geraldton with bulbs which gave out the light of a jaundiced glow worm. Still, the discoveries of a cheap Thai takeaway next door and that I had some red wine left from the bottle I bought last night, almost made up for our disappointment at not being knighted earlier in the day.


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


Up the creek – and needing a paddle

South Australia No Comment

We have been to Halls Creek and we won’t be going back.
It’s a pinprick on the map, with just one pub cum hotel-motel, one motel and a caravan park and that’s pretty much it.
It was the only fuel stop until Fitzroy Crossing, another dot on the route, and after riding all day through the spectacular East Kimberleys, we pulled up with almost dry tanks and even dryer mouths planning to stay the night. Oh how we wish we hadn’t.
The motel turned out to be vastly overpriced, the hotel even more so and both appeared to have ideas above their station, and seemed to be running some sort of cartel in the town.
We decided on the caravan park, which also knew how to charge at $36 for three people on an unpowered site.
Basically $12 each to use their showers.
It got worse when we tried to find something to eat and drink. The liquor store closed at 5pm, leaving only the hotel which refused to sell Geoff anything but light beer as he wasn’t a resident – the logic of which still escapes us.
As for food, the only choice was the restaurant at the motel which we were told did ‘delicious’ take-away pizza.
We ordered two and were informed by the Asian woman running the place that they were $25 each, but were ‘very large’.
She then took my card and when I got the receipt, also foud that she had charged $1.50 for using a credit card, infuriating me, as that is one of my pet hates, and it is nothing more than a rip-off pure and simple. If I’d have known I’d have refused to pay and gone and got cash.
The pizzas duly arrived and were not ‘very large’, not even ‘large’ and when we bit into them, we couldn’t tell one from the other, despite the fact one was allegedly a Hawaiian and the other barbecue chicken. The base was like rubber and obviously frozen.
Our next problem was sleeping arrangements, as there was not enough room for three in Matilda, and being qall manly men, didn’t fancy spooning up together anyway.
Mightily pissed off with weak beer, crap pizza and now the rubbish band at the pub across the street starting up for the big Friday night dance, where shearers meet Sheilas and make Bruces, we decided to turn in as the excitement was all too much.
Geoff and I pulled two foam matresses out of the van, electing to sleep outside, despite the worrying sight of lightning on the horizon all around us and the fact that the ants were scurrying around madly, a sure sign of rain that we ignored.
Paul, as Matilda’s keeper, and newboy settling in, got the van.
Scared of creepy crawlies, Geoff made up his bed on a picnic table and proceeded to start sawing his way through it using only his nasal passages.
I settled down under a tree, which was OK for a while until I was crapped on by bats twice, causing me to shift out into the open.
Then it happened. First just a few drops to get your attention. Then nothing. We settled back down. Then it started again, totally without warning – no thunder, lightning or even a wisp of a breeze, but down it came.
Geoff asked me if I thought it was on for a while. I answered by picking up my bedding and making for the awning over reception. He also headed off – to the van I assumed.
The rain was relentless. Just when you thought it was slacking off, down it would come again even heavier.
I lay there, gradually getting wetter and wetter, as the awning proved about as waterproof as a colander, listening to my radio tell me of ‘widespread thunderstorms over the Kimberley region, with ‘heavy rain and flooding expected in some areas’.
‘Right bloody here’ I thought.
I continued to try to sleep, moving around as a new leak appeared in each part of the overhang. I was listening to a local Aboriginal station until I twigged they were surreptitiously slipping in Christian records about every third song, without letting on, so changed over to the ABC, where I learned all about what the current crop of Aussie actors were doing in Hollywood and how to make a will valid in every state in the Commonwealth.
I even sent my wife a text telling her of my predicament, but got no return message. I sensed she probably either didn’t trust herself to reply or couldn’t hit the right keys as she was laughing so much.
Just as I was slipping off, wet but warm, the heavens completely opened and water poured through every part of the roof. I felt like an extra on ‘Das Boot’.
I suddenly remembered there was a laundry section in the toilet block which was open and dashed there, only to find Mr Hill recumbent on the washing counter, looking like a blonde King Tut. As I entered, the sensor switched the neon lights on, blinding us both. It was now 4am.
Mumbling apologies, I threw my wet mattress on the ground with a splat, lay on it, wrapped my feet in the wet sleeping bag and lay there waiting for the timer to turns the lights off.
At around 5.15am, the lights snapped on again and I awoke to the glorious spectacle and olfactory treat of another camper emptying his chemical toilet into a drain three feet from my head.
That was the last straw. I got up and stomped off, closely followed by Geoff, both of us in need of eight hours sleep, and failing that, tea and coffee and sympathy.
Paul was also awake, having been lying in a pool of sweat as he gently steamed in Matilda, unable to open the windows because of the biblical flood outside.
When I went to pick up my motorcycle boots, which I had cunningly secreted under the eaves of the toilet block to keep them dry, I found a green tree frog had taken up residence in one. As I shook them to remove any nasties, he emerged and clung on using his sticky feet and looked at me accusingly. That’s how bad a night it was – even the amphibians were trying to get out of the rain. Losing patience, I told him to hop it and he did.
We breakfasted after having to borrow a lighter to light our stove, as ours, like everything else, was soaking.
Hungover with lack of sleep, we voted Halls Creek the ‘Shithole of the Adventure’ so far, vowed never to return and left while dawn was still breaking, leaving the mercenary burghers dreaming of new scams to rip-off tourists.
Oh, we happy few.
After we got far enough away from the benighted place and the sun finally made an appearance, we stopped at a roadside halt to dry all our clothes, beds and sleeping bags, hanging them on bushes making the scenic desert look like a hobos camp – which it was after a fashion.
Dry and still sleepy , we made for greener pastures towards Fitzroy Crossing, and either Derby or Broome after that, and a decent bed for at least one night.


Geoff & Colin star in Bondi Beach Rescue

South Australia No Comment

Check this video out. As we were filming on Bondi Beach we walked into what looked like a film shoot with lots of cameras and commotion.

Little did we know that it was actually a real rescue unfolding being filmed as part of the TV doc ‘Bondi Rescue’ for Channel 10.

As we mucked about on the beach and Matt made the boys walk around with their bike helmets on for a laugh, the Lifeguards of Bondi thought this a little curious to say the least and featured Geoff and Colin briefly in their programme. You can see the boys appear at 5.40 mins through the video on Youtube above.

Thanks to our mate Jennifer in Sydney who spotted the boys when this aired on Aussie TV, immediately alerted us and tracked down the footage.





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.


And God said, let there be motorbikes

South Australia No Comment

For two days at Angeline’s Bondi Bed and Breakfast, we had rested our weary heads on Egyptian cotton sheets, washed our dusty limbs under showers which were like the quality of mercy that falls from heaven upon the place beneath, snuggled into fluffy cotton towels and salved our dry throats in the morning with free-range organic Colombian coffee which had been picked then hand-knitted by blind widows on the slopes above Bogota who had then been killed to take their secrets with them to the grave.

Out the back you could see the ocean, and out the front was a park which was busy from dawn to dusk with children and adults alike playing sport, confirming my belief that Australia is the healthiest nation on earth.

Sadly, after two days swanning around at Angeline’s, some paying customers arrived and we had to return to the real world in the shape of the Sydney Harbour Youth Hostel, but even that proved to be a far cry from the youth hostels of my youth, with shiny staff, matching rooms and even en-suite bathrooms, for heaven’s sake.

“Can’t understand why they don’t have the rooms closer to the front door. And why you have to go up steps then down again to get to them,” said Colin as we carried the bags in.

“Oh do stop moaning, you bloody whingeing Aussie drongo,” I said cheerfully, then perked him up by taking him over to Deus Ex Machina.

All devotees of Greek and Latin drama, which I’m sure includes all of you, will know that this means God from the machine, and is a device used by crap playwrights when they realise they’ve only got one minute to go in the last act and no denouement in sight.

Solution: enter God left with magic wand, and all sorted.

He’d certainly been busy inside Deus, I thought as we wandered around looking at bog standard bikes which had been transformed into works of art.

The men behind this magic include Dare Jennings, who used to run the surf clothing giant Mambo before he and a couple of friends started Deus in 1996, and head of sales Shaun Zammit,

“Here, are your parents from the planet Krypton, or do you guys just pick your names out of a Superman comic?” I said to Shaun as we stood looking at a Triumph Thruxton, already my favourite bike in the world, which the mechanics at Deus had made even faster and more beautiful, a thing I had previously thought impossible.

“I could tell you, but then I’d have to kill you,” said Shaun, whose parents turned out in fact to have been from Malta and Yorkshire.

“Fair enough. And how much will you sell me this for?”

“To you, $40,000, although we might take your Tiger in part exchange.”

I sighed deeply, and bought a T-shirt from the sale rack instead.


Getting flashed on the harbour

South Australia No Comment

While in Sydney we met James Freeman, the organiser of the inaugural and brilliantly titled Shitbox Rally.
James came up with the idea to raise money for a cancer charity after he lost both his parents to the disease within a few months of each other just last year.
The idea is that competitors have to buy a ‘shitbox’ car, spending less than $1,000 in total, before driving it from Sydney to Alice Springs in the red centre.
They must also raise more than $3,000 to enter and when, or if, they get to Alice, the vehicles are auctioned off to raise more cash, if anyone is generous – or foolish – enough to buy them.
When we met him, James’s phone was running red hot but he took the time to explain how he’d come up with the idea.
“I just started calling it the shitbox, as that’s what the cars were – shitboxes. Then I sat down and tried to come up with a name that would describe what it was all about, and realised that the Shitbox Rally said it all, so that was it.”
He said it wasn’t really a rally.
“It’s not a race as such. We’ll all be traveling in convoy really and if anyone breaks down or gets bogged, we’ll all help each other out. We’ve got a few challenges on the way, but really it’s going to be more about the fun and meeting people and having a good time.”
Jamie said there were around 20 teams entered, a response which had amazed him.
“We’ve already had more than 200 people wanting to join in next year’s race, but we wanted to keep this one manageable for this year to see how it goes, but all being well’ next year the Shitbox will be full-on.”
Early next morning – 6.30am to be precise, Mr Hill took great sadistic pleasure in getting Matt and I up to go down to Centennial Park to meet the lunatics ready to drive across the desert in their clapped out old bangers.
It was worth the Herculean effort, as we met as bizarre and amusing a bunch of eccentrics as you’d find outside of the funny farm
There were a bunch of lads with their mum’s 25-year-old runabout, painted up to look like one of the3 interceptor cars in the Mad Max movies, with the guys also in costume and character.
One of them said: “It’s not about the car, it’s all about looking cool and getting the chicks.”
As he was saying this, two Penelope Pitstops from the old TV cartoon show, the Wacky Races, complete with pink dresses, white helmets, goggles and boots turned up, and the boys made a beeline to intercept them.
Another two girls had customised their banger to look like a ladybird, while a couple in ‘Shitty-Shitty-Bang-Bang’ had gone for the 80s disco bling look, complete with gold and black tracksuits, medallions and headbands.
After – what else – a barbie breakfast, the entrants posed for a group photo before climbing into their modified wrecks and headed for Alice Springs, promising to keep in touch and let us know how they got on – those poor deluded fools.
Meanwhile, us poor deluded fools headed back for breakfast and another hour in bed, as we had stayed up a bit too late taking in the nightlife of the Rocks which is Sydney’s answer to Temple Bar in Dublin – crammed full of pubs and people.
Our afternoon was taken up with a tour of Circular Quay, Sydney’s main ferry terminal, which has the Harbour Bridge on one side and the Opera House on the other, with a constant flotilla of ferries and jet boats and other tourists attractions constantly plying back and forward – sort of like a maritime Heathrow.
I suggested we get out on the water and take a return ticket trip around the harbour to get a sea-level view of the city. It’s a great way to understand just how the city works and how vital the harbour is to both commerce and pleasure and has the added bonus of fresh air and is always a couple of degrees cooler.
The guys agreed and we had a pleasant afternoon seing all the sights from the water. A crowd of schoolboys from a college in Melbourne on a school trip around the country, joined us for part of the voyage.
Their day was made when an attractive young woman sitting on the prow of a passing speedboat lifted her top and flashed them, causing much hilarity.
After all that All of us were banjaxed, and with Mr Hill nodding off in his chair after dinner, it wasn’t long before we headed for Matilda, where as the designated driver, I crunched her unfamiliar gears all the way home, before backing into a telegraph pole outside the hostel – well, it was dark. No damage done, at least none we can see.


Moo, bang, sizzle: a day in the life of an Australian cow

South Australia No Comment

We rose at dawn and set our sights north, riding on a tree-lined highway through rolling parkland which had climbed to high sierras as we stopped for a break at noon, sitting in the shade outside a roadhouse as three Harley riders rolled in and walked inside with a nod.
“So sad the way middle-aged men feel the need to go riding around on motorbikes so they can feel like heroes,” I said.
“Aye, what’s that all about?” said Matt.
“Beats me,” said Colin, and we rode on, passing some wonderful old cars out for a Sunday drive, since Australia, like California, is a land where the climate is kind to ancient metal; an acid yellow Ford V8, a purple Valiant, an endless black Cadillac with fins and whitewall tyres, and a silver E-Type convertible.
The afternoon stretched on, languid and hot, and to stop myself from nodding off, I kept myself amused by spotting road signs such as Gordon Exit Here, and wondering how many Gordons had exited then wondered why, or Howlong This Exit, and muttering happily to the inside of my helmet: “Not so long, thanks for asking”.
It was when I found myself humming The Holly and the Ivy that I realised it was time to stop for the day, in a town called Albury, a pleasantly shady Victorian town so laid back that when it looked for another town to twin with, it looked no further than Wodonga half a mile across the Murray River.
We found a room at the venerable Seaton Arms Motor Inn, whose very name conjured up images of excited honeymoon couples motoring north from Melbourne in their secondhand Model T looking forward to a fine steak dinner in front of a roaring fire followed by a night of freshly wedded bliss and waking together to the kookaburras chattering in the trees outside.
At a little Italian restaurant, we dined a lot better than early explorer Gerard Krefft, who passed through these parts in 1857, captured alive several specimens of the rare pig-footed bandicoot, then got so hungry he ate them, shortly after which the species became extinct.
“They are very good eating, and I am sorry to confess that my appetite…over-ruled my love for science,” he wrote shamefacedly in his journal.
As I sat tucking into spaghettia alla carbonara, it was obvious that we had left the urban coastline for farming country: lean and bronzed had become stocky and sunburnt, raw silk dresses and straw hats had become jeans, tattoos and baseball caps trumpeting the merits of assorted sheep dips, and vintage classics for the evening cruise had become supercharged hot rods straight out of American Graffiti.
But then, for us its main merit was that it was exactly halfway between Melbourne and Canberra; or so I thought until I went for a constitutional the next morning and found the glass window of a hotel lobby lined with mint classic cars: an E-Type, a Stingray, a Rolls-Royce, a Riley, an MG and a stately Jaguar Mark VII.
“Oh, the bloke who bought the building thought he may as well stick his car collection in the window while he got around to renovating the hotel,” said a passing housewife in answer to the question I hadn’t asked her.
I wandered back to the Seaton Arms to find Matt packing up and Colin, obviously inspired by the example of Krefft, finishing off his breakfast then the last of his left-over pizza from the night before.
Before long we were speeding north through wooded hills and surprisingly lush meadows in which grazed plump Aberdeen Angus cattle, blissfully unaware that their future could be summed up in three words: moo, bang, sizzle.

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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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Recreating Clancy’s entire round-the-world journey 100 years on. Click on the globe to view full size, or...
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