A ride in the countryFebruary 7, 2011
The day I left Melbourne it rained.
Ofcourse I wouldn’t get a little inconvienence like that stand in my way, so I followed Don out of town on a brand new set of wheels…
Ok, here I have a confession to make.
I wasn’t on my beloved pushbike.
Instead, for three weeks, I’d swapped my trusted steed for one with an engine…
After cruising around India on a Royal Enfield nearly three years ago I developed a bit of a soft spot for these great (but greatly un-reliable) bikes. So I convinced my friend Don (Who I’ve met in Nepal nearly three years ago) to let me use his pride and joy to go to the Tamworth Country Music Festival. 1300km North of Melbourne.
So on that first rainy windy day Don guided me out of the crazy bustle of Melbourne onto some beautiful roads through the hills. He didn’t even flinch when I- still getting used to the transition from pushbike to motorbike- accidentally dropped the bike and broke the brake… It was a most embarrassing moment and I was happy there wasn’t any one near to see this clumsy display of motor-bike handling… Funny enough Don had counted on this to happen and brought a new brake-lever. I mustn’t do it again though.
About 50km out of town it stopped raining and started pissing down full force. So when, while sheltering in a coffee-shop, a nice lady took pity on me and invited me down to her house I gladly accepted. She continued by showing me around the area and telling me how exactly two years ago the catastrophic black saturday bushfires had come through her property and she and her family had no way out and lost all the sheds but managed to safe the house. It must’ve been terrifying. And hard to imagine looking at the weather now…
All dried up and securely wrapping my feet in plastic bags I set off only to be drenched again a few km down the track. Pathetic excuse for a summer I’m telling ye…
Apart from the bike being great and very pretty there is a few minor downfalls. She won’t go any faster than 80km/h. Which wasn’t a problem in India/Nepal. Nothing else there will go any faster. Slightly different in Australia… Going up the highway with the rain punching into my face like thousands of sharp little needles it was a little scary being overtaken by trucks, roadtrains and everything else on the road. The fact I couldn’t see a thing didn’t help. So I stopped to buy a pair of glasses. A slight improvement.
As I got further north the rain thinned out and by the time I cruised into the ‘Country Capital of Australia” it had all but dried out and the sun was shining. Temperatures soared and suddenly it was really rather hot.
But, as people kept telling me, it was nothing compared to the 40+ degrees they would usually have this time of year.
One difference with riding around on a motorbike compared to bicycle-travel is that people seem a little less keen to come up and have a chat.
Not so at Tamworth,
I hadn’t even gotten off the bike when Anders came up and told me he was the Royal Enfield dealer in Canberra. Luck would have it that I just spotted a shady spot by the river for my tent right next to his camp. Maybe not the most intelligent spot knowing how rivers tend to overflow randomly this side of the world, but great for a quick swim in the morning. Very refreshing.
We started talking and so it happened I found myself the next day surrounded by 349 other motorbikes joining the ‘Wolverine Poker Run’. There was only one Royal Enfield.
It was a great way to be shown around the country-side around Tamworth, green hills and pretty looking villages and farms. wonderful bike-riding roads. I did have to make sure to leave well before any one else and had just about every other bike overtake me as we moved on. Except for one, a man on a Triumph kept riding right behind me just to make sure I was alright, I thought this was very nice of him, but every time we stopped and I wanted to say thanks I wouldn’t know who it was, since I only seem to recognise him in my rearview-mirror…
The Tamworth Country Music Festival is known as the largest Country Music Festival in the Southern Hemisphere. Yay!
This year, mainly becausee the floods up in Queensland there was 40% less people than other years. But I thought it busy enough as it was. When I walked down to the main-drag, Peel street, a big wall of noise hit me. Slightly dazed I wandered up and down the road where buskers competing for attention sang their lungs out about every 10 meter or so. Every single shop/pub/restaurant had become a venue and any time of day you find music where ever you look.
I had a ball!
I made friends at the campground and went on bike rides to check out collectors collections, went to a proper bush-dance and attended numerous after-parties at Jake’s place (it’s where all the musicians hang out, so I’ve been told).
In the meantime I managed to eat, drink & be merry and even squeezed in some concerts that I wanted to see.
I gazed at sunsets, thunderstorms and starry skies.
Got invited for a healthy beacon & egg-breakfast at one neighbours place and went a little funny on champagne at another’s.
I got to walk around with hat & boots and no one thought it to be weird. It was great!
In a blur a week had passed…
The day I managed to escape the claws of Tamworth I rode to a dam, about 50km out-of-town. It was getting warmer now, the temperature had passed the 40degree mark which makes wearing leathers and gloves feel a bit ridiculous. So I dumped them in the car with Paul & Lance. Going up this dirt track I noticed a snake slithering his way across the road. I jumped off the bike to take a photo while the guys pulled up behind me; “Look! A snake!” I exclaimed while they walked towards me. “Looks like a Taipan…” Said Lance, “An Eastern Taipan” Agreed Paul while they both took a step back…. Apparently we’d just come across the deadliest snake, not just in Australia… But in the world! They both hadn’t seen them in the wild before so it was a pretty exciting experience all together.
I’d given myself more time to cruise back south. The weather had turned good after a 43degree Australia-day.
I took the road accross Nullo Mountain that beautifully meandered through valleys and forest. Such great scenery and such a great ride I enjoyed myself enormously. Different then cycling I had to keep an eye on my fuel. So when I found out there was no petrol to be found in Trunky Creek I sat down to think what to do next. I didn’t need to think long before a friendly local drained his Harley to help me get to the next pump. Thanks Mate!
With a kangaroo-warning I set off through the most scenic part of the trip. A small dirt road wound its way up and down valley’s giving me great views of surrounding bush- and farmland. A drawback on a motorbike is by the time you see a great picture you’ve passed it. So I’ve got very little evidence of this brilliant road.
I arrived in Goulburn where I’d agreed to meet Don who, on another Enfield, had come up from Melbourne to join me on the way back.
With a big smile on my face I rode behind Don, hearing the beautiful sound of his Enfield and thinking how much fun it is to ride around with more than one person…
The big smile rapidly disappeared when a big “BANG! CLANG! RATTLE, RATTLE, RATTLE, made an end to this adventure. As another friend put it; “All hell broke loose between my legs….“
As I was forced to pull up I checked what happened and saw that the engine had split in two. Even a fairly technically impaired person as myself could tell the bike wasn’t going to go anywhere in a hurry.
Don seemed not too fussed. He knows his bike. He was prepared for something to break, but he was a bit surprised that I broke a conrod. He told me I couldn’t possibly have broken the bike any more than I just had… But with 130.000km on an Indian-made conrod. What you expect…. right?
Later that night, in the pub, we decided that what happened was;
My engine exploded and as I slipped through burning oil avoiding the pieces of engine flying everywhere I only just manage to avoid an oncoming roadtrain and kangaroo hopping across the road while skillfully sliding to a stop without coming off the bike… Sounds better hey
Anders and Helen, my Tamworth friends, came to the rescue.
We managed to move the bike to his shop near Canberra and climbed together on the one left-over bike. Minor drawback was the fact we couldn’t fit the luggage on.
We continued South.
Taking turns riding now we rode up into the snowy mountains who are, at this time of year not snowy at all. Pretty hot actually. So we didn’t need to think twice to jump in a big lake at ….
Following the winding roads with spectacular views we got down to the snowy river and followed the dirt tracks jumping in the river to cool down every now and then.
At a roadhouse-sign we pulled up.
Old cars and motorbikes were scattered around, and an array of bicycles was strung up in the trees.
A scruffy-looking man staggered out of the house and started hurling abuse at Don… In a friendly-kind-of-way. He then offered him a beer.
And, as his friend came to join the party, told us the local police has ordered them not to drink together. Last time they did his friend attacked him with the shovel, so he pulled out his shotgun. Now, when they drink, they make sure to take sips in turn….
He proved to us what a funny sound the turkeys made by throwing a beer-bottle at them. And let me feed his baby-kangaroo who pood all over me.
Time to move back to Melbourne, so we did.
Where I caught up with some Tamworth-friends and ended up staying with one of their (Wayne) mum.
Wayne showed me around Melbourne and I even managed to see Genevieve on her birthday… She stayed in the hostel where I worked many moons ago.
We had a look at the storm coming in, we got the far outer-edges of cyclone Yasi who still managed to flood numerous streets around town.
As we speak bike and I are on the ‘Spirit of Tasmania’, the ferry accross the Bass Strait towards Tasmania…
Yay! New Adventures!