I’m an air traffic controller at Melbourne Centre in Victoria, Australia. In my spare time I ride my Moto Guzzi Breva 1100 or Moto Guzzi California Metal with my wife who rides a Ducati GT1000 or Moto Guzzi Breva 750.
In March we toured Gippsland (south-eastern Victoria) for a week. At Easter we sped around Australia Felix (western Victoria).
We toured eastern Tasmania in early 2008. The western part of the state is very rugged and wet, but the eastern side has a mild climate. The road runs right along the coast for some distance.
In 2007 we attende the Ulysses Club’s week-long AGM in Coffs harbour, NSW. Fantastic 2 weeks on the road.
That year we also we toured western Victoria for the first time, crossing the Grampians to the flat lands beyond. Mt Arapilies is well-know by rock climbers.
In 2006 we toured the Great Alpine Road in eastern Victoria……
…..and road to Adelaide, S.A., via the coast and back via Mildura.
The “Her Indoors” Run
Yep, time to do one’s familial duty and visit “her indoors”. Girlracer and I restored the panniers to the Breva and equipped the Stone with a Ventura rack and bag. The plan was to take five days to track anti-clockwise through Mildura to Adelaide, then down to Mount Gambier for the return. But, unexpectedly for March, a front appeared with forecast hot northerlies followed by a thundery change. So we reversed our ideas and tracked south-west to the coast.
From Macedon we motored through familiar country to Ballarat, then onto Lake Bolac for lunch. A white Guzzi sped past. From then on it was new country for us. Around a bend and there were the Grampians prominently marking the skyline. Dunkeld, unaffected by the Grampian bushfires, seemed an attractive town so we stopped to enjoy the views of Mt Sturgeon and Mt Abrupt.
Pausing at Hamilton for a break, we pulled into the parking space being vacated by the white Le Mans. A chat and drink then on to Portland. By now we were feeling the effects of unaccustomed long distance riding. The boring road between the two towns, and the numerous tail-gating 4-wheel drives, didn’t help so we followed the tourist drive signs and found the harbour-side parkland and the fascinating sign informing us that sinkholes could appear in the road at any time. How fortunate Portlanders are to have this cliff-top park which overlooks the small, busy harbour. Considerately, the Men’s had windows so placed that the relieving gentlemen could admire the view. As always, the women suffer.
The Portland-Nelson Road is a beauty. A wide, smooth surface, it snakes through pine plantations where the thoughtful foresters have left 100m clearways either side of the road. Not only were all these sweeping bends predictable, the spirited motorcyclist could be sure that there were no surprises lurking in the woods. Just past Nelson we turned left and rode along the coast to Port MacDonnell, allegedly the Rock Lobster Capital of Australia. We were bushed so booked into the local pub very friendly staff and clean facilities parked the bikes in the yard, had a shower and went for a walk around town before eating fish and chips in the warm evening on the windless beach.
Up with the chirps, we wiped the dew off the bikes and rode up to Mt Gambier, around the Blue Lake, to Millicent, passing through endless pine plantations. Near the Kimberly-Clarke paper mill, the horizon was studded with dozens of wind turbines. We entered the tourist region of the Southern Ports. Beachport reminded us of Port Fairy before the Yuppies, Dinkies and Sea Changers moved in. However, the afore mentioned did bring good coffee with them. We struggled through ours then followed the scenic drive up the hill, past the lighthouse. The sea was a vibrant blue and dead calm; a light swell was enough to mark with foam the numerous reefs of the marine park and we could see the distant cape across Rivoli Bay. Girlracer said that this was a place she could live (so I’ll take her back in July).
Fifty kilometres further on, Robe, which we had last visited in 1982, sure had changed. Full of shops, restaurants, people, dogs, cars and new and part-constructed houses, it reminded us of Bright during peak season. It’s not the first time that Robe has seen crowds. To beat Victorian government restrictions, 14,600 Chinese landed here in the 1850’s and walked to the gold fields. Their feats of endurance and misery can only be imagined. Along the way they discovered the rich Ararat fields. Like Chinese gold miners, we couldn’t get out fast enough.
The day was starting to heat up now. Adelaide was forecasting 37° with a late change the following day. We lunched on the beach at Kingston under the Norfolk Pines, filled up with juice, and struck out on the Coorong leg 142km of lizard country. This really is unattractive country; sand hills, mulga, limestone, featureless. Fortunately, the road was good. Half way, at Salt Creek, we stopped for a drink before pushing on, past the salt lakes, nary a pelican to be seen, to Meningie.
Girlracer flaked out on the shady lawn adjacent to Lake Albert while I read about the great cattle drive of 1838. These jokers (to my shame I’ve forgotten their names) drove 500 head of cattle from Genoa, near Mallacoota, up to Goulburn, down to Howlong, across to Portland, then up through the Coorong to Adelaide. It was year of severe drought and most of the country was ablaze. On the Coorong they nearly died of thirst so drank the blood of two beasts. They took only 6 months, and they lost only 4 head, including the two they killed. In Adelaide they made £20 a head at a time when a man’s wages were £40 per year.
The heat was okay as long as we kept moving. At Wellington we caught the (free) ferry across the Murray. What a lark. We took our gear off for the crossing, little realising how quick the trip was. The ferry winched across at attack speed, forcing us into a mad scramble to gear-up before we beached and were swamped by the wake or run-over by the air-conditioned 4WD behind us. The Breva indicated an air temperature of 39° when we stopped for a lemon squash at Strathalbyn. Girlracer, back in familiar territory, led me through Mt Barker and down the freeway into Norwood to stay with her sister. Adelaide didn’t cool down much that night so a sleepless night followed.
We headed out to the Clare Valley to visit Mum-in-law. Girlracer diverted into Elizabeth and, after a couple of wrong turns, found the street and house where she’d lived back in the sixties. Other famous people grew up here including Glenn Shorrock, a famous rock singer, and Jimmy Barnes, a famous Honda salesman. We walked out of the pub after lunch; the sky was black with low, fast-moving clouds and the heat was stifling.
The skies were angry that day, my friend. When we turned east for Eudunda and Morgan, crossing rolling hills and valleys, the full blast of the southerly change hit us. It was difficult to stay on the narrow bitumen and we had to be very careful taking right-hand bends. The wind, still hot for some reason that we couldn’t fathom, battered us. We slowed down as we passed a petrol tanker and I received two hard punches from the disturbed air that nearly spun me off into the scrub. The road started showing patches of water and oncoming traffic had their headlights on. There were rain showers and dust storms visible all about us with a black overcast and lower scud. At one stage rain was falling on one side of the road and orange dust storms were swirling around on the other. Just as we thought we had avoided the rain, we were deluged only 10km from Morgan.
The direct route to Waikerie looked miserable so we took the northern loop and stayed dry. We started encountering riverside orchards. Finally, we rolled onto the ferry and crossed into the town. Swallowing our indignation, we stayed and ate at the pokie venue in the centre of Waikerie. The concierge suggested we park the bikes under the bottle-shop roof when it closed. But it didn’t look like rain any more. At 3am the first big drops hit the motel roof so I raced out and moved the bikes!
From Waikerie it’s grape vines, grape vines and more bloody grape vines. I don’t know who is drinking all the stuff. There are miles of vats and tanks and fruit juice factories. No wonder the Murray never reaches the sea and the Coorong is dieing. Renmark was a pleasant town. We ate bacon and eggs with coffee opposite the town’s attractive hotel. This was the first, and quipped the cynical Girlracer, probably the last, community pub in the British Empire. The town community, originally dry, established the hotel in 1887 to beat the sly grog shops, with profits going to the local community. With the motel and inevitable pokies, it seems to cover an entire block.
Also inevitable was the boring, straight road through the featureless Murray Outback, which saw us to Mildura. This town, infested with motels, seems to have turned its back on the river so we didn’t tarry. At least the temperature was milder. Crossing over into NSW the road immediately deteriorated. Anything north of the Murray is a foreign world to us – their beer tastes funny, their football is funny and their roads are hopeless. Gritting our teeth we rattled along through the desert to Robinvale, crossing the third-world style wooden, single lane bridge back into Victoria. Remember that wooden bridge at Nagambie? This one’s worse. A brand spanking new concrete bridge is rising to span the river here.
I was getting worried about Girlracer. The roads had been long and straight, the countryside featureless. She was moody and cantankerous. Sure enough, at the Tooleybuc turn-off she spat the dummy. Her Breva skidded to a halt in the dirt and she dismounted. I knew the signs. This was something not taught on motorcycle first-aid courses. For fully five minutes she stood there, helmet on, leathers on, gloves on, not moving, not speaking. There was no one home. This was someone in shock, someone who had suddenly realised her insignificance in the Australian landscape, that she was nothing compared with the GAFA! Her CPU was in meltdown! Just as I was about to insert her finger into the spark plug socket, I saw her eyes flicker. The re-boot commenced then the safe mode cut in. Deep from within the Helmet came an unfamiliar voice. “No effing point standing around here”, it said, flung a Rossi over the saddle, broggied up the road verge, valve bouncing in first, and disappeared at warp speed into the shimmering Dreamtime.
I caught her up by Swan Hill. A shower, al fresco dining in the warm evening, glass of wine, she was as good as new.
Or so I thought. We stopped at Catalina museum at Lake Boga the next morning. Because of the lack of surrounding hills and trees and its almost circular shape which allowed operations in any direction into the prevailing wind, the lake had been used during WW2 as a servicing centre for Catalina and Dornier maritime aircraft. There are some excellent photos of arriving cats beating up the main street of town.
But from there the road ran straight as a die to Kerang and Serpentine. Halfway between the two a bike suddenly drew up beside me and a visor clanged open. Oh dear. “I’m bored”, she yelled, possessed of the demon. I swear the Breva reared as it spun off furiously down the highway and vanished. When I finally caught her up, she was parked on the side of the road looking like the cat that had swallowed the cream, the headers glowing a dull red. “Cracked a hundred”, she smirked. Don’t ask.
Finally into the hills and bends, home turf of the mountain dwelling Guzzisti. Lunch at Maldon then home. The Breva averaged 23km/l over 2007km and the Stone 19km/l over 2074km. Digital verses analogue.
Please don’t mention Murray Outback to Girlracer.