Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Monday ... post 'work in progress' deleted, commentary didn't match/line up with pics - grrrr! ... will try again later :-/

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Sunday … a day of rest, but of course ;-) The sun is finally out, we’re here in Denmark for another day, before heading off to Margaret River tomorrow, so it’s lunch of Smoked Salmon with light cream cheese on crackers, Ham off the bone with Gouda on a fresh bun, washed down with a Grolsch ... Blog catch-up finally completed for the previous few days, and now it's time for the Melbourne F1 telecast for Chris! ;-)

Our hosts Anja And Matteus decided to go visit and catch up with some friends and left us “home alone”, but were expecting the arrival of two other guests and could we make them welcome and show them their room – but of course we could, more than happy to

Sitting on the decking enjoying the late afternoon sun around 4pm, a silver Terrago rolls into the drive and onto the grass … ahhh, I say to the silver haired gent driving, you must be Bob! Not yet knowing about Bob’s ‘special needs’, I casually say just park the car back where our bikes are … it wasn’t until Maggie popped out and introduced herself and explained that for Bob, just getting out of the car was in itself a huge effort! I saw this in part as Bob grabbed a leg at a time with his left hand and heaved them into 'place' in order to be able to stand - both legs and right arm were barely useful …

Trying to be helpful I offered a “lady on each arm” to which Maggie thought was a lovely gesture and replied, in Bob’s better years he would have loved that, but now he needed his stick on the ‘other arm’ to help with traction … I felt awkwardly useless and couldn’t watch the slow shuffling of this still stately tall gent, and excused myself to go off and do ‘something’ …

Bob’s rare form of muscular dystrophy (he is one of only 20 known cases Australia wide!) had started to present itself at around 30 years old, affecting first the diaphragm and oesophagus bringing on the onset of sleep apnoea so bad that several times he stopped breathing, as noticed by his motorbike mates on one of their trips … over time this also caused brain damage, accelerating his condition, to a point that basic skills we all take for granted had to be relearned, and now sleeps with a respirator! Chris and I felt honoured to have met such a determined but gracious gent, and that he was comfortable to talk openly about his rare and debilitating condition. We also have a great respect for bubbly energetic Maggie, ten years Bob’s junior, and of the ‘task’ knowingly undertaken – Bob and Maggie met online only two years ago.

Dinner tonight was nothing glam (chicken take away, as this eatery and the Chinese take away were the only places open on a Sunday night!!) but it was full of chatter laughter and lots of great stories! Sometimes people come into your life already “old friends” – and so it felt like this with Maggie and Bob!
Saturday … we head for the Emu Point Café for breakfast, which has a good reputation for very good food, and conveniently it’s walking distance from where we’re staying … but not one to let a good photo opportunity go by, I convince Chris we should take the bikes ;-) Besides, sore seatbones or not, I already do plenty of walking at work!

Chris orders Blueberry and icecream topped pancakes, I go for the café’s Big Breakfast … without even having to move from the chair, the camera is busy while we wait ...

Below, an open ended tidal swimming pool ...

Even the pelicans find it a useful rest spot ... thank heavens for zoom!

… and still we wait … and wait … when our orders finally arrive just as I’m getting off my chair to check progress (20mins if not more, and the Café is not busy!!!) the portions are generous very tasty and Chris doesn’t finish it … um, I do! Oink! ;-)

Directly behind the Cafe, is more to look at ... Emu Point would be jumping in peak season!

Random couple ...

Today we have the almighty big journey of just 60ks to Denmark! If not for the sore seatbones, I’m almost disappointed the bike ride is so short! ;-)

Without even getting slightly lost this time, we arrive at “Windrose BnB” well before check in … for a change the sun is out (briefly, before it drizzles again!) and we settle at a rough-hewn wooden outdoor table with book and laptop to wait for the owners who are out until 2pm

Hidden behind the trees, our accom for two nights...

German born Anja and Mateus and three kids, with Fritz the big black dog are very welcoming, and once settled in our room opposite the dam, we need to decide on dinner … our huge breakfast more than took care of ‘lunch’!! ;-)

Meanwhile, an afternoon visitor puts a huge smile of Vonja's face ...

Anja recommends a local restaurant close by that does excellent pizza … our hosts kindly allow us to borrow their little Polo car and we return with pizza wine champagne beer and provisions for a light Sunday lunch.

The gourmet chicken and avocado pizza is absolutely excellent (and has re-inspired Chris to pull out the pizza stone at home again) the Grant Burge champagne delicious, and the chorus of frogs from the dam delightful unobtrusive ‘background music’ … Windrose BnB is definitely a great place to stay! :-)
Friday ...

We’re woken in the wee dark hours of early morning by rumbling thunder! Chris jumps up and checks out the window for rain – the bikes are parked on a driveway of dirt! Thankfully no rain, just the entertainment of distant thunder – phew!

Breakfasted (such as it was! NO COFFEE!), packed, we head off in the direction of Esperance, the sky ahead growing darker … about 100ks down the road we come to the little place called “Salmon Gums” – I need to stretch the left leg and we’re hopeful of a real coffee … HA!! Nescrapé or teabags! In ‘desperation’ Chris opts for ‘crapé and in ‘protest’ I dig my heels in and have a Tetleys … that’ll be $5, thank you – cough!???

Grumble grumble grumble … off to Ravensthorpe, and the sky ahead is looking threatening. We’re not more than 10ks down the road and it starts to rain, accompanied by a fabulous display of lightning and thunder from a spectacularly formed leaden cloud formation! If only there’d been an opportunity to stop somewhere for some pics but we pushed on, dropping the speed somewhat to concentrate on wet and unfamiliar roads … forgettable ‘scenery’ (what I saw of it) as we’re now in rural WA. Compared to the Nullarbor, the vast rolling paddocks were totally boring!
Then finally, the rain takes a rest and we have dry roads!! Even better, the final 40ks into Ravensthorpe are winding sweeping undulating “twisties”, with not a car or truck in sight! As it turned out, we had the road all to ourselves to have some respectful fun with!

Ravensthorpe and we pull over opposite a little Café called the “Stuffed Cocky” … Chris gets his helmet off and is wearing a huge ear to ear grin – priceless! The 40ks of sweeping twisties had more than made up for the shitty wet roads beforehand ;-) We wander across to the Café …

“A REAL COFFEE MACHINE!!!” is the first thing I say inside the door, to the great amusement of the two young girls in charge ;-) AND they have great food on offer! No bacon and egg sandwich with Red Bull lunch for us today! Chris opts for lasagna, and I have the frittata, both served with fresh Greek-style greens!! Yumm yummm! And after being deprived of any decent and REAL coffee the past few days, a mug of lovely strong coffee from the Stuffed Cocky was total heaven!

Now feeling very good in the tummies and skies clear, just another 110ks to cover past the Fitzgerald River National Park to the next fuel stop at Jerramungup … not long out of Ravensthorpe though it starts to drizzle AGAIN! And by the time we get to Esperance, the wind has really picked up and makes for fairly stressful riding – poor viz, wet strange roads, and where the F is a servo!?? In looking for a servo, we get moderately lost … in all the towns we’ve been through so far, there’s a servo just before or within the entry/exit of the town, but no, not shitty wet windy Esperance! Hehe, I’m sure it’s a lovely place to stay, we just didn’t get to see it’s “good side” today ;-)

Finally a BP presents itself, the attendant is very helpful with directions, and off we head (into more drizzle!!) for an overnight in Emu Point, Albany … of course we get mildy lost looking for the accom but hey, it’s all part of the adventure!

Poor Chris, he’d had a terrible day in the saddle in trying conditions – his main concern? Me. Not only did he have to contend with navigation, wet windy unfamiliar roads, but also keeping a constant watchful eye on me … he was exhausted by the time we got to Albany, so quietly I determine to treat him to a relaxing dinner: York Street is the ‘place to go’ for top-notch eateries and we cab it to the “Mean Fiddler” … it’s busy, but we’re in luck as a table for two had just been vacated! Chris orders Pork Belly, I have the Veal Saltimbocca, along with a recommended (I’ll tip it down the sink if you don’t like it, says the Italian owner) Castelli Cab Sav … generously loaded plates of scrummy food arrive in good time, and we assure the owner the wine doesn’t need to be tipped into the sink ;-)

Friday, March 26, 2010

Hi y'all! :-)
I know it's been several days since this Blog has been updated, but nil Internet access (or even mobile coverage!) has made making daily updates impossible! However, I have been busy (in the background) keeping a word.doc 'diary', so a massive Blog Blast, as follows! ;-)

Monday night – a sumptuous yummy dinner of marinated lean pork strip and tasty salad, scrummy wine, loads of chatter and laughing … Next day, a rest day at Carey Gully, to relax with our friends … sleep in, late brekky, Blog a bit, wander the garden of my guru mentor, take loads of pics, late lunch of gourmet baguettes with wine, which knocks Chris over (nana nap needed) … below, just a small selection of pics from MsD's garden ...

Tuesday … alarm set for 6, we aim to leave by 7am – ha!! Best laid plans ;-) By the time Atomic coffee was made, breakfast eaten, chat some more, pack the bikes, say our goodbyes, it was already nudging 8! ;-)

Bit of a “Heart-starter” negotiating the short gravel section of MsD’s drive onto the road proper, and we’re away … sort of … before too long, we’ve missed the necessary turn-off to take us on to the Freeway, and we’re stuck in the rat’s nest of windy roads through Stirling! Two unplanned U-turns later, and we’re finally on the correct road to join Adelaide style peak-hour traffic ;-)
Somewhere in North Adelaide 50ks up the road we finally get to stop for fuel, fully expecting to have been able to stop much sooner! Port Wakefield is a rest stop, and elderly Darby and Marlene (with two yapping dogs in their Winnebago, towing a trailer with what looked like a big “super scooter” under the tarp), warn us of the storms in Perth … erm, thank you, but maybe those storms will have pushed off by the time we get there, in a week’s time ;-)

The vagaries of maps! Next rest stop was supposed to have been a Mambray Creek Roadhouse, which turned out to be non-existant! So we pushed on to Port Augusta for lunch and fuel, where we meet “Ian”, who had lost his mate some 300ks ago … no mobile, no rider comms, mate is in his 70’s with a heart prob! As we’re about to set off again, we briefly chat to a couple of cyclists on their touring bikes, each towing a trailer – they’re headed for Albany!! ETA? Four weeks!

On the road again, and we miss the turnoff for Kimba … another U turn, and on the right track … along the way, the huge “Iron Knob” is a very impressive sight … unfortunately, pic opportunity unavailable due to the narrow road with soft gravelly edges … onwards to Kimba and the “Giant Gala” for a rest stop … according to the sign on the local shop above the door, we are supposedly half way across Australia! Well, wouldn't that rather depend on where you started from? ;-)

Some momentarily distracting 'amusement' from the shop window:

And here's where we're headed next:

Fuel at Kyancutta, before taking a left towards Streaky Bay Hotel Motel, to overnight …

Dinner - yummy deep fried Camembert with Cranberry jelly for entre, King George Whiting for mains, accompanied by a rather nice 2004 Port Lincoln Shiraz … tomorrow, we tackle the Eastern side of the Nullarbor
PS. No mobile phone coverage here, unless you’re with 3G (thanks Telstra!) and no internet access unless you want to pay for it with your credit card!!

Wednesday – gorgeous sunny morning to start the day with!

We casually pootle (at 100ks/hr) back along some of the road we took last night to get to Streaky Bay, before turning left onto Flinders Hwy – sea on our left, sunshine on our right – luverly! Have decided that the first morning leg on each day so far has been the most pleasurable!

Over the past couple of days, there’s been loads of motorbikes going in the opposite direction. There had been a big Ulysses “AGM” in Perth about three weeks ago, approximately 3,000 members had attended (number varied, depending on who you spoke to). Most folk had long arrived home, but some were still making the most of it as an good excuse for a holiday … so there were lots of opportunities to offer a friendly wave as they went by … not everyone waves back – there’s at least one “grumpy old fart” in ten who can’t be bothered ;-)

And the Cops won’t wave back either … except one, just before the WA border, who was waving at us before we saw him! ;-)
First rest stop Penong, and we chat to a fella parked there who owns a big shiny cpper coloured Honda Goldwing – 1.8 liters “under the hood”!!

Nundroo ... fuel stop, a blast from the past and we grab a sandwich to keep us going …

Nullarbor Road House … the last fuel stop before getting to the WA border and Eucla … even though it’s outrageously expensive at $1.79/liter, neglect to fuel up at your peril!

Finally, we reach the first pic opportunity at Great Australian Bight … it’s a dirt track, and the viewing point is a good 400m off the road- we opt to leave the bikes parked safely (we hope!) on terra firma (bitumen) on the side of the road and hoof it … within seconds, we’re mobbed by bloody little black flies! Despite the heat, I decide to leave the helmet on, visor down - the lesser of the two evils – while Chris is immediately doing the ‘great Aussie wave’!

The trudge in bike boots to the edge of the Great Australian Bight was oh so worth it! It is spectacular beyond belief, and the few pics I have here just don’t do it justice – it truly is one of Australia’s most beautiful places to visit! Long way to get there for the view but HIGHLY recommended!

Back in the saddle, it’s a relief to escape the flies, and soon we come upon two other viewing points – we keep going, but note to visit at least one of these on our return journey … then “The Doctor” of the Great Australian Bight kicks in and the temp drops a noticeable and welcome 10 degrees at least, and a Southerly change in wind direction considerably eases the wakes of the oncoming road trains.

Border Village quarantine stop … the fella in the pic did his utter best to not be included! Heheee!

He and his staff would have had a busy time of it when the Ulysses bikies were passing to and from their AGM three weeks ago ;-) We heard that the guards were insistant on checking everything, and too bad if your esky was buried beneath a ton of almost inacessable luggage! When we arrived at the checkpoint, there was just a ute with horse-float attatched … Of course the guard wanted everything opened, panniers, soft luggage bags, topboxes, and was especially interested to know if we had any honey aboard … mate says Chris, we’ve just come across the Nulla in the warmest part of the day, something like honey wouldn’t survive the trip! But you’re welcome to check and open anything you like … he just settled for both topboxes and that was it ;-)

Onwards to Eucla, a shower, an air-conditioned room and??? Beer!!

Below, just a few reference markers ;-)

We were as yet too early for the dining room, so we took a short walk to a viewing point behind the units … unknown to us, we were actually on private property (noticed the sign as we left – ooops! Oh well …) but the view was gorgeous in the setting sun – didn’t bring the camera though, bugger!

At last, it’s “beer o’clock!” and we get settled with the ubiquitous Nobby’s Nuts and two (very expensive, $6 EACH!!) Coronas and dissected the day’s happenings … soon after, we get chatting to a tall gent and his wife - Steve and Cath – whom we ended up having dinner with … two very knowledgeable and well-travelled people: Steve the rider, Cath the pillion, on a Honda ST1300, towing a small trailer.

Steve tells us about one of the road etiquette rules truckies operate by in the Nulla: move to the left of their oncoming approach and they will move over to their left as much as safely practical – if you don’t, they won’t bother either and you’ll get the full force of the ‘wake’! Advice is well noted, especially when the wind is blowing from the North! ;-)

Thursday –we wake to a windy morning, and up a bit too early for breakfast, so we go for another walk to the view behind the units, with camera this time! Knowing that yesterday we were on ‘private property’, we walk to another viewing point, which was nowhere as good as the private property view point, so we pretend to not know any better (if found) and got to see the sun hit the clouds and the dunes …

Breakfast, if you can call it that was scrambled eggs on a bit of white toast … two lattes had also been ordered and a few minutes later, one mug arrived … oh, the other will be along shortly, we thought … then a gent walks up and says “um, excuse me mate, but that’s my mug!” We all have a bit of a giggle and he asks if he can have it – but of course! And no we haven’t touched it because we’re actually waiting for our two! Off the gent walks with his mug … When ours finally turns up (after a little gentle prompting from me) they were scalding hot (this barista/coffee snob had to endure the sound of the milk being ‘murdered’!!) and tasteless – we gave it our best shot but they really were undrinkable and left it! On our way back to the room, we met Steve and Cath headed in for breakfast: we warned them off the coffee! Bikes packed, we were soon on our way to Madura

Not long down the road though, we both decided we were over dressed with too many layers – the day was heating up very quickly, thanks to the gusty Northerly, and at the next available opportunity, we stopped at Mundrabilla to shed over jackets and a T-shirt layer

Madura to Cocklebiddy … Cath had said the coffee was good there … I’m sure it was, but unfortunately didn’t have time to search for “the spot” and on we pressed for Caiguna, just a short 66k hop down the road.

With the next leg to Balladonia being the longest straightest stretch of road in Australia of 146ks (gulp!), we stop for lunch (was that what it was!!) in Caiguna … oh yum, yet another egg and bacon sandwich, washed down with Red Bull! Bikes fueled and bodies somewhat, we’re off to face some weirdo accountant’s sick sense of humour! Who else but a bean counter would make such a long straight stretch of road!!
My backside is really starting to ache now … when does it ‘wear in’ like I’ve heard about??? ;-)

The Nullarbor landscape … ever changing, not all flat but undulating, and utterly and truly amaaaaaazing!!! For long stretches at a time, it’s the same, then in a blink of an eye it changes and you think “Shit! Did I miss something? When did that change!” because it’s gone from desolate nothing in part, to salt bush scrubby shrubs and stunted trees in the blink of an eye! And there were signs beside the road warning of unfenced roads, beware ‘roos, camels emu and stray cattle … saw none of those, too hot apparently, but felt extremely priviledged to briefly see in passing a magnificent Wedge Tailed Eagle on the side of the road, atop a relatively fresh road kill of wallaby – it was a HUGE bird! At some point further up the road (I forget where now), a trio of WT Eagles up high on the thermal currents.

Riding/driving the Nullarbor is plainly not everyone’s cup of tea, but from an aeroplane you don’t get to see WT Eagles or have the landscape of the Nulla so in your face! Loved it, and looking fwd to the return journey to get some more!

Fuel stop at Balladonia, and off again to Norseman – 192kms! Oh my aching seatbones!
In the last 50ks or so before Norseman, the vegetation suddenly changed again … scrubby stunted growth now ‘replaced’ by true bush, and some really really beautiful ‘red’ trunked gum trees … finally arriving in Norseman, early, we take a walk into main street in search of a well earned beer (momentarily accompanied by someone’s ‘stray’ German Sheperd – only a young dog, says Chris). Along the way, we come across one of those ‘red’ trees and take a closer look – trunk is perfectly smooth and exquisitely coloured!

A one-pub town, we don’t have much choice in venue. The beautiful Art Deco period “Norseman Motel” further down the street is open but unfortunately not serving beer – stunning AD ceilings, sweeping staircase, club lounges, classic AD light fittings (wish I’d taken some pics!!) it’s under new management and as yet no liquor license. But at least the Pub has a varied beer selection, unlike Eucla!! Emu Export for Chris, Becks for me … ahhhhhhhhhhhh, that’s much better!

Chris phones his brother … Mick is happy to know we’re doing Ok (particularly me) and making good progress, and that we should visit Walpoll when we get to Denmark … off the phone and Chris says, well I think Mick is jealous – you’ve got one up on him: he’s never crossed the Nulla on a motorbike! In fact, I reckon you’ve got more ‘balls’ than most men I know! … I chuckle, it’s a huge compliment from Chris!

Slightly staggering back to our overnight quarters after two beers that barely touched the sides, a noisy screeching in a tree got our attention – above our heads, a large superbly coloured parrot was literally doing his best impression of “shake a tail feather”! Gorgeous!

Dinner! LOL!! Barely are we seated in our chairs with menus in hand, a young voice comes from behind the bar 20 feet away “Are yous ready to order?” … oh dear! The wine list was sparse, and even though the reds were all crossed off as not in stock, there’s still two behind the bar – we pick a dubious Shiraz, but just a glass of … Rump steak for Chris, chicken stirfry for me – at least that was safe.
‘Ordering’ breakfast for tomorrow – no room service (as you’d get from any other Great Western Hotel) but instead you ‘order’ what you want and then wait for it to be put on a tray for you, to take back to the room yourself! Upside at least is, Chris had pre-paid the room prior to leaving Melbourne, so we can eat and buzz off when we feel like it tomorrow … hmmm, another long day in the saddle – best get some sleep!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Sunday "Post Script"

Well, here it is, "THE DAY" has finally arrived, after months of saving up annual leave, months of planning (accompanied by several bottles of red), sober re-planning, and spending a small fortune on gear! New helmets, new textile jackets, knee/shin guards, rider-to-rider comms, and all sorts of other minor 'things' ...

Awake well before the alarm – 4am!! What the??? Oh well, may as well get up … yawn … computer on … yawn … download some more music into the iRiver … yawn … check FB … yawn … 5.30am I hear the alarm go off, the boy is up and it’s time to put the Atomic on … scrammed eggs, mushies and toms, yummm! Planned departure time of 7am is approaching way too fast, and we’ve not even got the bikes out yet ;-)

Eventually the bikes are packed & fueled up, riders caffeined up, now all we have to do is get on and head for the hills - Adelaide Hills that is ;-) 7.30 and we’re finally out the drive and unbelieveably we are actually doing this ride!!! Wooop!

It’s cool, it’s windy, but at least it’s not raining! Yet … until Ballarat gets closer, with it’s seemingly permanent low-hanging cloud!

First rest stop, Beaufort servo, and immediately amazed by the friendliness of complete strangers – it seems that if you ride a motorbike, people want to talk to you … As I’m walking up to the door of the servo, older gent, wife in the car, filling up with gas, says to me “nice bikes mate, what are they?” Beemer RT’s … “oh, they look like police bikes” … I just smile and politely say they are, ex-Cop … “Oh!!! Really? Wow!!!” … by all means go and have a look if you want to, and the gent finishes gassing up and promptly walks over ;-) Inspection done, he hangs around for us to start the bikes – know this because he states it … so I start the Beast, give it a few revs and ask “happy now?” and he grins and says yep!! And off he goes … True story!

Horsham fuel stop, lunch and a “Red Bull” … fuel done, and this particular servo starts to look familiar … and then I remember! Do you recognize this spot, I ask Chris and he doesn’t immediately, until I point out the turn off to the Grampians … coincidently, we’re at the very same servo that the charity ride “Murray to Moyne” support buses and other vehicles use, before turning off and heading through the Grampians!! Ahhhh, those were the FIT fun days of pedal power!! ;-)

Note to self: when in country Vic and ordering a side of “large bowl of chips”, pre-check the bowl size! What arrived was enough to feed the whole of Aus! Ok, slight exaggeration, but we couldn’t finish it!

Next rest stop at Bordertown and another Red Bull, couldn’t come quick enough – getting very tired, weary of being buffeted by the gusty side-wind, the left hamstring is starting to ache, and no amount of shifting around on the seat would relieve it!! Stopping and finding something knee-high to prop the foot on and stretch was instant relief, and thankfully then not as bothersome for the rest of the trip.

Last fuel stop, Coonalpyn, and we’re finally on the last leg into the late afternoon sun of Adelaide, to stop overnight with friends … but we miss a turn off and end up in Stirling ;-) We ask a friendly local, and we finally find our way out of Stirling and back onto the highway to Carey Gully … and a thoroughly well earned beer!

Pics to come ...