No plan, no research....Australia, here I come.
I cannot see anything, my ears are ringing and I cannot move.
My eyes are streaming from a mixture of petrol,sweat and rancid mud that has forced its way past my shattered goggles.From what I can gather in my groggy state, I am lying facedown in very deep mud and immobilised with a heavy weight across my back and a rather potent mix of blood and fuel seems to be scenting the air.
Several minutes of gradually gaining my bearings seems to come up with the conclusion that my lower body is trapped under my bike, my right arm is not responding to any instructions to move from where it is beneath my chest and apart from being able to lift my head up and spit out a mouthful of blood/mud/petrol...all I can do is flail my left arm around.
The temperature is just below 40 celcius, I am on the Oodnadatta trail in Australia about 150km from the nearest habitation and have not see a single living soul on the track in the last 8 days apart from the trail ' Servo's ' fuel stations.
Instead of trying to get some use out my years of military training and coming up with a solution..... a single thought creeps into my head, maybe I should scrawl some last....deep meaningful message into the mud, for when somebody finally finds me....something like...
I would love to say that this trip that I did back in 2008 to 2009 was something that originated from some noble ideal to interact with people,travel and immerse myself in foreign culture or even some charity driven event to help others.....but I would be lying.
It was simply a ' great ' idea that sprung into my head when I was looking for a solution to ' where the heck can I go for 6 months ' , so I did not get hammered by the British tax system after returning sooner than expected from working in Iraq and Kuwait.It eventually turned into one of those cliched " life changing trips " but that was not the original aim....just a very welcome side effect.
This consisted of no more than the following checklist, done within a week.
1) Get Visa.
2) Pack rucksack with summer bike gear ( Australia never gets cold ! )
3) Wear the bulk of my motocross gear on the plane, to save luggage weight/cost and to also live out my robo-cop fantasy.
4) Book one way ticket to Melbourne.
5) Hire a Suzuki DR650 for 6 months, pickup at Melbourne.
6) Shave my head bald, so that I can ride faster and save weight.
I left the Uk at the end of October 2008, a bit of a tearful goodbye at Gatwick from my dear old Mum and Dad..( .having only seen me for a week since working overseas ).
The absolute shambles of the British airport security system was then my first hurdle of the trip, 3 hours before the flight is the time to report.About and hour and a half, the airport checkin decided to open and then it was an absolute delight trying to get all my gear on board.
" why is there body armour in the bag "........checkin girl. ( motocross armour )
" I am a nervous flyer "...... me.
" why have you got big boots and stuff on "........checkin ( wearing bike gear )
" I'm Batman " ....... me.
Finally got onto the flight and with out a doubt it was the best I have ever flown in terms of looking after the customer...Cathay Pacific..I salute you.
Even better, they had the entire series of Man vs Wild with Bear Grylls.....which I watched back to back the entire trip and constituted my entire research on Australia and found that they have very big and dangerous spiders which is awesome as I hate spiders and apparently you can drink your own urine 3 times before you die from toxic shock....who says you can never learn anything from TV.
Finally landed at Melbourne late at night after a pleasent stop over in Hong Kong where I stretched my legs and have a very nice egg and bacon sandwich for a few hours....and more hilarity setting off all the alarms with my robo-cop suit.
Claudia was waiting for me at melbourne, nice girl who works for the company who I hired the bike off. Picked me up at the airport and put me up for the night, to be ready for the morning for all the documents and bits and bobs that need signing before I dissapeared into the outback with one of their bikes for half a year.....I didnt get too much sleep due to my obsessive hunting around for camel spiders....a habit that I picked up in the middle east.
They may not have camel spiders in Australia, but they do have camels and that was good enough for me....if you have ever seen a camel spider up close, you will understand the horror that these abominations of nature inspire in most people.
The start of the mis-adventure
First thing in the morning I took a stroll into town and put my well researched travel plan into action.
One of the service stations had a Australia Atlas that would prove to be my navigation aid until I found something better.....in truth actually riding down roads at random proved better as it was a tourist map that consisted of nothing more than big arrows saying ' Here be dragons ' and ' big desert ' and other intricate detail.
Then it was time for collecting the bike.
I had been told so many stories and advice off people that it would be an absolute nightmare to fly my own bike out ( BMWR 100GSPD ) and clear customs with it/insurance etc, that I just gave up on that idea and took the easy route and hired the Suzuki DR650.
The little fella was sat waiting for me, a new and low mileage Special Edition DR650 fitted with Hepco and Becker panniers and a smattering of tools and items laid out on the floor around it.Suggested routes for touring and contacts and sundry other items were all ready and the paperwork proved painless. A lot of the items I decided to leave behind that proved too bulky or of no obvious use and pretty much said my farewells and heading south....the plan being to head for Melbourne and find a spot for the night in my tent.
Suzuki DR650 Seats
Suzuki DR650 seats are designed by a masochistic git who must have spent years of travel to find materials that in no way or form offer comfort to the backside of a rider...70kms is all it took for agony to set in and then a constant acrobatic display of riding on one bum cheek and then another and standing up to stop the pain....DR650 seats are hideous, a granite slab would be an improvement.
In the morning, the decision that dictated the entire course of the trip was settled by nothing more than a flip of the coin, Heads and I would head west along the Great Ocean Road or tails and I would head east towards Brisbane.
In hindsight this proved to be a rather nice play by the hand of fate as no more than 4 days later Brisbane was hit by the biggest storm in living memory, with vast swathes of the area under water and several fatalities.....and also an omen for the weather that I was going to face ahead.
Australia is never cold
Somewhere in my extensive peperation and planning I seemed to recall that Australia never gets cold and I would require nothing more than lightweight gear....the sort of gear that would be ideal to wear in Spain in summer for example, in fact the only riding gear that I had with me.
After a lazy week of milling about about places like Anglesea, Torquay and Barwon Heads, equipping the bike with a rather spiffing homemade GPS navigation system...that consisted of a $99 car navman hardwired onto the bike battery..a clear sandwhich box to mount it in...foam and several tie wraps I was faced with the rather uncertain challenge of high winds and snow falling horizonal across the road....Snow in Australia?....- 5 celcius ?....absolutley no warm riding gear ?
If these pictures work...
Homemade GPS....worked without fault and was 100% accurate, cost $99.
Great Ocean Road...bloody freezing.
more of the great ocean road.
I have worked in some of the more interesting places of the world and the one that springs to mind is several winters working as an engineer with the United Nations in Bosnia in the early nineties..This is what I would call ' proper nippy ' when you add the effect of the howling windchill.....with the right gear I never suffered any problems.
However, on the Great Ocean Road I was suffering a severe case of sense of humour failure and also possibly freezing to death partly because I was still used to working in + 40 celcius temperature from the middle east andpartly because of my ill thought out special Australia riding gear.....so bad that I had to pull over at the first chance at what fortune would have, was a backpackers hostel.
As any male knows, and I do not care how metrosexual or enlightened they are, this applies to us all.....if you pull into a backpackers hostel and see about 10 teenage to early twenty female backpackers watching the grizzled biker turn up, you suddenly forget your aches and pains and possible frostbite....and just calmly park your bike and saunter up to reception as if the biting winds and atrocious weather are nothing to bother us manly bikers at all. ( even though we are in real physical pain )
The weather cleared up after four days, but as the hostel was a cracking place and consisted of spending the days impressing/lying to the captive female audience about my daring days as a camel spider wrestler and drinking games at night.....this 'recuperation' turned into well over a week.
No photos to be posted here....as we are all too civilised on this site, and no-one wants to see loads of teenage girls having their photos ruined by a bald,bearded biker during their nightly parties.
Great Ocean Road
This road is simply stunning. This is one of those areas that can have an effect on you, even an old grizzled git like me, if you have a tight timetable to travel this route.....be advised that you will need to revaluate that timetable.
The road itself is very good condition and has none of the bike devouring potholes often associated on the travellers trails,There are regular places to pullover and just stop and drink in the view.
Long swooping corners, tight switchback corners, dozens of kilometres of utter bike heaven if you push your speed up above the tourist 5 mph. steep gradients and fast, then slow sections that can prove quite technical....I thought that I had outgrown my sportsbike days, but this road brought it all back........Ahead of me I could see a couple of Yamaha R6's grinding out on the corners, I started to draw in the distance to them until I was sat just behind them, and sat on their tails for the next 10 km.
They were quite possibly upset that a little DR650 with panniers and off-road tyres was keeping up with them, and it was without doubt silly of me to really push myself and the bike on a road like this....but what the hell.
I then turned round and did the best parts of the road another couple of times.
Word to the wise, watch out for other tourist's....they tend to slam on the brakes and pullover with no warning or tend to travel in convoys like snaking caravans trying to fend off the bandits with safety of numbers.
You need to have a play on this road.
You will have to indulge me a little during this road trip tale, as I will admit that I am pathetic when it comes to peoples names and place names....I have worked with people for 10 years and unless they have a pretty wife or daughter, still cannot recall their names....its me, I am rubbish.
I have a routine that I use of trips and that is the routine of random chance.
This amounts to nothing more than having a rough destination in mind and maybe a rough date if time is not important, but the route and method of getting there is open to whim,chance or flip of the coin.
Riding along the great ocean road, I glimpsed a track going to the right up into the hills...looking like nothing more than a logging track. Its real name escapes me now, but it humoured me at the time as it was something like Dead Donkey/Dog Road or something and that decided the route.
A few hours of light left and I decided to take this track and see what is what, not much more than a gravel,dirt track it meandered up into the hills hanging above the ocean and eventually went up into the cloud line. Heavy forest was the predominate terrain from now on until it suddenly opened up into rolling hills and farmland.
Long story short. I met a lady who was cleaning up outside her cottage and I thought would be ideal to ask directions from, we spent the next 30 minutes nattering.
Sarah had emigrated to Australia from England 20 years ago to live with her husband on this farm, the town she came from was only 6 miles from where I live back home and we actually knew a few people in common,.
She got an gossip update from home, and I got a mug of tea and some scones and cream...fair trade.
I traveled NZ in the same way, although in a small Ford (I think at its core it was an old Mazda 323). I had to do a lot of backtracking when the road ended at a gate to someone's house, but it's a great way to travel.
Attack of the Spiders.
I am an ugly man, I am also an ugly ex-squaddie and tend to pride myself on not being a indoors type of person.I can deal with most deprivations without moaning and do not need lifes luxuries to function, however some things still trigger me off.
Big freakin spiders the size of your hand that can actually kill you is one of those trigger points, call me silly but I hold no ill to any living thing except big freakin killer spiders.....and people from Sheffield, but thats another story.
Waking up in the morning and seeing a plate sized monstrosity sat on top of my tent ( outside it thankfully ) ellicits an immediate neaderthal like response from me......in fact for those that know me, the response is very similar to when someone tries to take food off my plate.
I whipped out Sasha and gave a robust swing and with a resounding ' BOING ' sent the offending spider into orbit......maybe the same spider that got into the international news after falling out of the sky in France...Australia to France, thats quite a hit.
# Best point out that Sasha is my army shovel, that was brought along on the main purpose of launching spiders into the low stratosphere #
I have a routine when setting up camp in any area, let alone the forest I was in.
1) Keep all equipment off the floor.
2) check entire area for nasties
3) prepare area, ( anything that can damage tent )
4) Build tent
5) move all equipment into tent.
Sounds simple, but you got to get in the habit of never putting anything on the floor.
Number 2 needs special mention as this envolved me making lots of noise and trampling around, to ensure anything around knows I am there......very much like someone doing the Irish river dance while wearing motocross boots.
Food...this is the rough amount I carried on a day to day basis.
Due to the weather turning wet and very cold, I stopped off and bought a piece of equipment that was possibly one of the best items of clothing that I have ever bought.
A Kakadu Ranchers coat, the kind of thing that the Aussie, American cowboys wear when horseriding. It is made from heavy grade wax cotton and although heavy, proved to be a perfect bit of waterproof,windproof clothing.Also doubled as a very effective blanket on cold nights.
Another major plus point is it made you look like a reject from a Mad Max film.
A nice slow pace was put in place to continue up the ocean road, because of the need to constantly divert and explore and stop to take photo's....if you sped along this siezable road you will miss a huge amount of hidden gems.
To be 100% honest, another main consideration for the slower pace was that I had discovered the delights of backpacker hostels and the welcome novelty of people being friendly and of like mind.I met many,many people even on this stretch of the trip and in the interests of international relations I humbly concentrated most of my diplomatic missions on the German and Dutch girls.
I have always had a soft spot for German girls, having been stationed in Germany as a Soldier....first in Hameln for 5 years then later in Fallingbostel for another 4 years.( In fact I was engaged to a German girl for 4 years ), Its not that German girls look much different, but its their attitude and the way they carry themselves that I like....anyway I digress.
You would have thought that being stationed in Germany would give me a good grasp of the language, however you would be wrong....every German girl I went out with spoke perfect English and always spoke English.
However I did pick up the Deutsch phrase for......" I am an underwater Tank driver with hot sause in my underpants " ...and how to order food and drink, so it was not a total loss.
Dutch and German Girls......I salute you.
Great story. I enjoyed reading it and I'm looking forward to the next part.
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