03 December 2014

Heading Down Under-November 2014

I was sitting in my apartment one night in mid November when I got a call from a friend at about 22:30.  He asked me if I wanted a free trip to Australia, leaving the next morning?  I actually had plans to leave town that weekend to visit a friend in Tula, a nearby city, so I told him that I had to pass.  As soon as I hung up, I realized I was making a huge mistake, so I called my friend in Tula, told him something had come up, and asked if it would be OK if I went to Australia instead.  He of course understood, so I called my friend back and soon things were set in motion--I'd be leaving for Australia in the morning.

The deal was that my friend's friend ran a major courier express company in Moscow, and they'd screwed up a delivery for an important client, so they needed someone to hand-carry the package to Australia.  So in the morning their guy picked me up and gave me the package--or really packages, because it was several boxes of books.  I gave them a thorough inspection so as to avoid spending time in Australian prison for drug-smuggling, and then we re-taped the boxes and headed out to the airport.  The books were intended as presents from an important person to other important people in Australia...  So I  arrived in Sydney, dropped off the packages at the designated hotel, and decided to get a room there.  I went out for some beers and dinner and the next morning found a bike rental place, but I could only pick up the bike on Monday (this being Saturday).  So I spent the weekend in Sydney, here are some picks:

While out in a bar, I saw a newspaper clipping from the St Louis Post-Dispatch naming it one of the best bars in the world...small world....

So on Monday morning I went to pick up my bike, a BMW GS800.  I'd never ridden one before, so was looking forward to checking it out.  I headed out to the Blue Mountains,  northwest of Sydney, I'd heard they were cool.  Here are some shots from the "Three Sisters", some kind of look-out point in the Blue Mountains:

I didn't really know how far I'd get that night, especially since I'd gotten a late start by the time I'd packed up the bike, etc.  So I spent the first night in Goulburn, some kind of farming town, after riding through Kaloomba, Oberaon, and Taralga.  It was a typical Australian smallish town, which I saw a lot of during my stay:
Saw my first kangaroo while riding today, very exciting!

Next morning I was going to ride through some other mountains, with a route from Tarago, Bungendore, Queanbeyan, Cooma, Jindabyne, Thredbo, Corryong, Granya, Tallangata, Wandoga, and Wangaratta (I'm trying my best with the funky Australian place names, but haven't gone back to proof all of their spellings...).  The first part of the ride was through some pretty countryside:

Then I got to the White Mountains, but they were kind of a disappointment, not really very big mountains:
Here's a place they called "Siberia" for some reason:
There were lots of dead trees and not many animals in these mountains, but they did smell really good, of eucalyptus.  Here are some more shots, with another rider's bike:

 When I ride through mountains I like to pack a lunch and have a picnic, but I couldn't find a good place to stop in the mountains, so finally I stopped for lunch in this kind of crappy spot by a stream:
I spent the night in Wangaratta, a pretty forgettable town.

WED, NOVEMBER 19,  2015
This day was kind of a blur--I rode from Wangaratta to Melbourne via Bright, Omeo, Bairnsdale, Sale, Traralgon.  The last part of the ride in particular was pretty dull.  I got into Melbourne about rush-hour, and then spent about two and a half hours riding through rush-hour traffic to find a hotel. It was absolutely miserable.  When I finally got a room, I was so pissed off and tired that I didn't even go exploring--had dinner next to my hotel, went to bed, got up first thing in the morning and got out of dodge.  Very bad impression of Melbourne...

Today I wanted to ride along part of the Great Ocean Road, west of Melbourne, so I set off through Colac and then cut down to the coast near Cape Otway, and then through Apollo Bay and Queenscliff before spending the night in Portsea.
Near Cape Otway I saw my first koala, in fact a bunch of koalas:

At Cape Otway there is an old lighthouse:
 View from the lighthouse:
I kept riding along the Great Ocean Road.  It is a nice road, but the weather was not great:
I had to take a ferry to get to Portsea:
 Kind of a boring view from the ferry:

FRI, NOV 21, 2015

I'd been hoping to see more wildlife and wildnerness, and heard that Wilson's Promontory was a good place for both--it is a peninsula east of Melbourne.  So I headed that way, via Korumburra and Leongatha, then to Fish Creek, where I got a hotel room before heading down to "Wilson's Prom" as the Aussies call it.  But before I left, I met with Martin, one of the Aussies I'd been communicating with on a biker forum.  He showed me some of the local sites, including the one below, and took me to his favorite meat pie places, which were awesome!

 Here's Martin:

For some reason, I'd pictured Wilson's Prom as being heavily forested with eucalyptus or some other kind of big tree, but in fact it was covered with scrubby little bushes.  I went to the guest-center but was kind of unimpressed--looked like a typical US-style national park campground.  So I decided to turn back, and stop at some of Wilson's Prom's beaches on the way back.

 As usual, not many people at the places I go:

Here is a wombat or something that I almost stepped on as I was heading down to a beach:
A few more shots of Wilson's Prom:

After this, I had to head back to Fish Creek, so I 'd get there before dark, when supposedly all sorts of animals start crossing the road, which is dangerous on a moto.  I got back about dusk I guess and headed into the hotel's pub to figure out where to go the next day.

SAT, NOVEMBER 22, 2015
There was one more stretch of mountains I hadn't ridden through yet, so I decided to do that, and then stop in Bombala to meet with another Aussie moto guy I'd who'd been giving me advice.  Bombala looked like a pretty boring town, and it would be a short day if I stopped there, but I figured it would be fun to have some beers with the guys.  So I set off via Yarram, Sale, Bairnsdale, Orbost, and Bonang, and pulled into Bombala about 2 or 3.

The streets of Bombala were completely deserted--not a single person walking around--but I figured it was early.  So I went to a hotel someone had recommended--the Imperial?--it looked a bit run-down but good enough.  So I go into the bar, where the bartender is chatting with some guy...when I ask about a room he tells me in not the most friendly manner that there aren't any rooms available.  Uh, OK.  So I ride back down the street to another hotel that I'd passed.  This one has several people sitting around drinking beer out front, but it turns out that they don't have any rooms either, and there aren't any more hotels in town.  At that point I decided to head to the coast and got the hell out of Bombala, and rode towards Merimbula.  In Merimbula I stayed in a typical motel, nothing special.

SUN, NOVEMBER 23, 2015
I decided to slow down at this point, because I had a few days and not far to go to Sydney, where I would fly out of.  So I rode along the coast from Merimbula to Tatara, Bermagui, Narooma, Batemans Bay, Durras, and stopped at the Murramarand Beachfront Nature Resort, where I got a little cabin right on the beach--pretty cool!  Here is a picture of the beach along the way, and then two pictures of the beach where I stayed:

Then I went to a nearby beach which I'd heard was nice:
The best thing about this place was that there were lots of kangaroos around, even with little roos in their pouches:

MON, NOVEMBER 24, 2015
Next day I decided to ride a bit up the coast to a town called Huskisson on Jervis Bay.  The town was nice enough, but as usual, everything was kinda dead.

Next morning I decided to go to nearby Hyams Beach, which Guinness has certified as the whitest beach in the world:

Dunno, didn't look particularly white to me...

Today, I rode up to Bondi Beach, just south of Sydney.  I'd always heard of it, and wanted to check it out, even though I'm not big on beaches.  I have to say, that it is a hell of a beach--beautiful, big, well-situated, nice waves, lots of people doing active stuff around it, and a lively area around it as well.  Here are some pix:

It's kind of a tourist magnet, including these sporty-looking Chinese:

WED, NOVEMBER 26, 2015
I would have actually liked to stay at Bondi one more night, but had already committed to staying with an ex-colleague's parents about an hour north of Sydney.  They were great people, and had a beautiful house:

And that was the trip--on the 27th I flew back to Moscow. Before I go, I'd like to give a fond farewell to a trusty piece of gear, my Vuarnet sunglasses:

I'd bought them in Cape Town in 1997 (after having my Ray Ban Aviators swept away by a wave!) and they'd held up great ever since.  A few days into this trip, however, one of the hinges broke and I had to glue it in place for the rest of the trip.  I knew it was time for a new pair of sunglasses.  On the last day of my trip I actually lost them--strange fate after all these years.

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