Friday 29th October 2010 Ė Well, thereís a lot more to this house-sitting business than meets the eye Ė just taking a friendís dog for a walk once a day is completely different from living with two of them. So far Iíve had them jumping all over local school kids, plunging into the lake for a swim and not coming back out again, running off uncontrolably, being followed all the way home by an overfriendly puppy and then having to take the puppy home again and then having to walk home again myself (an additional 5km walk!), having an old paw wound go septic and having to enlist the help of neighbours to help me get the dog to the vet and back (as I canít take her on the motorbike!), only to discover the dog in question also has infections in both ears and having to administer a variety of medications to clear it all up. Not to mention being swarmed by locusts, flies and droganflies, having to walk in temperatures of about 30C (give or take 2 degrees), the feeding, the picking of barbs out of their paws and the pretty much 24 hour following me around that they like to do. And thatís only the dogs. Thereís also the cat, the general housekeeping and all the gardening duties.
Having said that, its been a brilliant week. The animals are so loving and all the walking has improved my fitness and reduced my waistline considerably. Plus Iíve met some lovely people Ė like the neighbour who gave me a lift back from the Post Office the day I decided to walk into the village not realising this was a 7km walk each way!
Off to Melbourne on Monday to do it all again (this time for 4 weeks) for my friends and their 2 whippets. Canít wait!
Sunday 24 October 2010 - Riding across the Mallee Highway from Tailem Bend to Ouyen involved travelling through what is obviously flour country - miles and miles of wheat fields criss-crossed by railway tracks and flour silos at each station. But as soon as I reached Swan Hill this changed into fruit country Ė vineyards and fruit farms for as far as the eye could see. Australia has been suffering from drought for the last 10 years, but this winter, the drought finally broke and the country has been experiencing flooding in a number of places. Lake Boga, where Iím staying, is now full for the first time in 10 years.
As I rode into Lake Boga there was a sign saying ďPull over if locusts impair your visionĒ. At first I thought Iíd mis-read this, but my hosts assured me there are indeed plagues of locusts everywhere and even pointed out some hatchlings as we took the dogs for their first walk. Within the next month these should grow into huge swarms capable of stripping whole fields so the council is doing what they can to kill them off as soon as possible. Hopefully Iíll be long gone by then.
Tuesday 26 October 2010 - Iíve been left in charge of 2 dogs and a cat. The dogs need a lot of attention and I practically broke my toe as I fell down the stairs last night to let them out in the middle of the night. The cat, of course, only needs fed and patted and thatís enough for her.
While I was in Adelaide I got news that Iíve got a 3 month house-sit in Northern Queensland from 10 January. As the one before it ends on 1 January and is in Whyalla, South Australia, this means Iíll have almost 4000km to cover in 9 days to get there in time. As this is cyclone time, Iím seriously considering selling the bike and buying a car.
Saturday 23rd October 2010 Ė Adelaide was a wonderful city. If I had to find a word to describe it, I would say EASY. Everything about the city is easy - its easy to get into, its easy to get out of, its easy to get around, its easy to make friends, it easy to find what you need. Its all just so easy. I loved it.
The first week I spent mostly exploring the city centre and getting my bike sorted out. When I bought the top box there was only one key for it, so I thought it would be wise to get another one cut. So I found a locksmith who advised me ďif that doesnít work bring it back and Iíll make it workĒ. As it happened, it didnít work, so I took it back and, sure enough, he made it work! See, EASY! I also noticed, after my ride up into the Adelaide Hills, that my chain was loose so I took it to the bike shop to get it tightened. They promptly informed me it was already on the last setting so to get it tighter Iíd need a new chain. And, of course, when you get a new chain you also need new sprockets, so 4 days and $400 later the new parts had arrived, were fitted and it was once again ready to ride. Unfortunately, I wasnít.
There's a notice in the lift at the YHA which suggests various acts of kindness one can do to help one's fellow travellers. So to get myself out of my somewhat self-focussed nervous state, I decided I would go and volunteer my services at the RSPCA office around the corner from the YHA. I was only stuffing envelopes (hundreds of them!) but they have an area through the back where they keep animals that have been handed in and, as its kitten time just now, there have been lots of kittens coming in and out. So I spent about half an hour stroking one mother and her litter of 8 tiny black and grey & white kittens. They were soooo cute. Unfortunately, if they can't find homes for them they will have to put them down. On hearing this I immediately volunteered to take them all, but the lady in charge didn't seem to think that a motorcycle would really make a suitable home for them!
After Lilly left, I got a new room-mate - a Swiss girl called Corrine. She was really fun too. I'm not exactly sure what I did, but when she left she gave me a big hug and thanked me for really cheering her up. The room felt very empty after she'd gone. Its so easy to meet people when you're travelling. Everyone is really friendly and outward focussed, whereas, when you're in an office, people tend to be much more inward focussed. Now I understand why I never really feel like I fit in when I'm "settled" - I connect better with people with an outward focus.
Anyway, back at the hostel, I finally met some men. A dutch guy, an Ozzie biker called Al and another Ozzie guy called Bradley. Bradley missed the shops the other day so I made him some pasta while Al regailed us with stories of working in the mines and close encounters with sharks.
The second week I was there I decided to explore North Adelaide. What a beautiful part of the city - full of lovely houses and open parklands. There is a lookout there called Lightís Vision which overlooks the whole city and the Adelaide Hills. I kept finding myself being drawn back there for hours at a time. I even started meditating there! Funnily enough, I got my own vision while I was there, something that Iíd forgotten since setting off from Melbourne, about why Iíd come to Australia in the first place. Iím not going to say what that is just now, but you can be sure riding a motorcycle has got everything and nothing whatsoever to do with it!
Speaking of the motorbike, by the time I left Adelaide, despite several rides around the city to try and overcome my nerves, a new chain and new panniers, I was still a jittering wreck when it came to setting off. After an hour I stopped in a parking area for a rest and gave myself a right good talking to. When I got back on the bike, something had changed and the fear had gone. I was actually ďridingĒ the bike, rather than just being a nervous passenger with no sense of control. I wish I could say this lasted all day, but it was a particularly long and hot ride to Ouyen, so it was difficult to sustain my new found determination, but I arrived safely with no major incidents so I was very happy with that.
At this point, you may be wondering what on earth possessed me to ride motorbike round Australia when Iím obviously so scared of it? Well, overcoming my fears has got a lot to do with that vision I was talking about.
My first house-sit in Lake Boga starts tomorrow so Iím very much looking forward to this.
Friday 8 October 2010 Ė OMG! What a ride from Kangaroo Island to Adelaide. First an unexpectedly twisty road from Cape Jervis, then I had to navigate my way into Adelaide from memorised directions (as I have no GPS or any way of mounting a map onto my bike). Nevertheless, I managed to make it all but one street from the YHA before I had to pull over and check the map. I almost dropped to my knees and kissed the tarmac when I pulled up in front of the hostel I was so relieved to have made it. As soon as I got checked in I went off to the nearest bike shop and bought a set of panniers to re-distribute my luggage. Just as I was in a repacking frenzy my new room-mate, Lilly, arrived and obviously sensing I was on the verge of a melt down, took me off to the pub where, a glass of wine later, sanity was restored.
Sunday 10 October 2010 Ė I got an email from my brother yesterday saying that his good friends, Pete & Sue, lived in Adelaide and that I should give them a call. So I did and they invited me to come and visit them in their home in the Adelaide Hills today. They gave me directions which included the phrase ďI hope you donít mind bends?Ē OMG, that has got to be the twistiest road I have ever ridden. I missed the turn off to their house so Pete had to come and get me. And thank god he did as Iíd have undoubtedly chickened out and left the bike at the bottom of the road if Iíd been on my own. It was time to meet my nemesis Ė A DIRT ROAD! As he was leading I just had to follow and miraculously managed to get it up not only the dirt road but the hill that it became up to his house. We then had a lovely day exploring the Adelaide Hills in their nice comfy car. Getting the bike back down the dirt track was even more scary than getting it up there and left me pretty shaken as I got back onto the windy road home. I was going so slowly, even a cyclist overtook me! God, I really need to get a grip on my nerves Ė think Iíll go and find a nice empty car park somewhere and practice manoeuvres for a day until I get my confidence back again.
Thursday 7 October 2010 Ė So I waved good bye to my room-mate at the YHA on Tuesday and rode the 60-odd km to Cape Jervis where I caught the ferry to Kangaroo Island. It was a gorgeous sunny crossing and I even spotted a baby dolphin leaping through the waves.
My bike handling skills have been getting progressively worse over the last few days and, having now ridden round the island unloaded, I realise that the way Iíve got the bike loaded really doesnít help matters. I have 2 large roll bags and a top box all on the back of the bike so anytime I stop by using the front brake everything lurches forward and throws the balance out Ė hence the reason I nearly dropped the bike in Warmnabool last week. So as soon as I get to Adelaide Iím going to see if I can get some panniers which will hopefully lower the centre of gravity and make the handling a bit easier. Otherwise, Iím going to become a nervous wreck and spend the entire trip avoiding any uneven surfaces, gravel or adverse cambers! Which given virtually everywhere outside the cities falls into this category, means I wonít be going anywhere much at all!
Anyway, back to KI (Kangaroo Island). So I set off from the YHA in Penneshaw yesterday morning to go and explore the island. I needed fuel so I stopped in American River. Another biker rode up as I was pulling away, so I stopped to speak to him. Heíd flown his bike over from America and was finishing off a tour of the western half of Oz which had taken just over 6 weeks. As we were talking, a storm appeared from nowhere and threw sand and rain everywhere. After that the wind didnít stop all day, so it was a hard ride. I got as far as Seal Bay (where I saw some lovely sea lions), then decided to head back. Itís quite a big island (150 km long and 50 km wide) with only 2 main roads. You have to travel about 50 km from Penneshaw before you get to the point where they split, so as I was freezing and knackered a trip a quarter of the way along the southern route was enough for me. Today the sun was shining in Penneshaw, but I decided to catch up on some domestic chores (like having a message) instead of doing the inland road as it was bitterly cold and I reckoned the weather wouldnít be too good in the middle of the island. My room-mate later confirmed it had been wild, so I think I made the right choice.
Have decided to go to Adelaide tomorrow for a week where there will be a bit more to do on foot Ė see, Iím looking for ways to avoid riding already!
Monday 4 October 2010 Ė Again, I was exhausted by my long ride on Saturday, so decided to spend a couple of days in Port Elliot. Yesterday I didnít make it much further than the village shops and the nearest beach, but today, I thought I spotted a whale from the hostel balcony so went charging over the headland to see if I could capture some shots of it. As I approached I realised the mass Iíd spotted from the hostel wasnít really moving or changing shape at all, and upon closer inspection, it turned out, it was actually a rock. Just as I was dejectedly putting my camera away a family with a huge number of children arrived on the scene and pointed out where a real whale was! Hoorah, I saw a whale, albeit it was a bit too far away to really make out any detail.
Then on the way back I decided to take advantage of the gorgeous South Australian sunshine and paddle along the beach. As I was putting my shoes back on at the end, I thought I saw some seals by the jetty, so again, I raced round only to discover it was 3 guys in wetsuits and snorkels. Oh well, so maybe my wildlife spotting skills need some improvement, but Iím definitely not short of enthusiasm.
Off to Kangaroo Island tomorrow.
Saturday 2 October 2010 Ė I rode from Robe to Port Elliot today Ė a 300-odd km journey. The roads were relatively clear apart from a plague of flying bugs everywhere, presumably brought out by the sunny skies and increase in temperature. By the time I stopped for lunch in Meninges I was covered in the little critters. When I went to the loo, one of them must have got caught in my clothing as when I took my trousers down I got bitten about 5 times on the bum! Having just read something about scorpion bites I waited for the onset of poison-induced paralysis but after about 10 minutes I figured it was probably just a bee so got some sting relieving ointment instead.
A few other bikes were on the road today, most of which seemed to pull into the servo at Salt Creek. One even had a trailer attached to it which the rider assured me made no difference to the handling, although a 1300cc engine was required to pull it.
On arriving at the Port Elliot YHA I was informed that Iíd be sharing a room with another girl, but that sheíd already claimed the bottom bunk so Iíd be on the top one. Now, for a 20 year old backpacker this is no inconvenience, but for a 47 year old stiffie like myself it was a major challenge. It doesnít take a structural engineer to figure out that if you put the equivalent of a flattened whale on top of 4 lollipop sticks it is not going to be the most stable assembly, so clambering up the tiny set of ladders attached to the side of the beds almost toppled the whole lot. However, Iím glad to report that after a few attempts I have now perfected the technique and can manage the assent and decent without incident - much to the relief of my roommate!
Thursday 30 September 2010 Ė so I left Port Fairy yesterday. It was a fun visit Ė nice people at the hostel and a disasterous attempt to French plait an English girlís hair (I warned her I couldnít do it!).
So it was a huge drive to my next port of call, Robe. It took me 2 hours to do the first 130 km but what a fabulous ride. One of the women at the hostel told me about a back road that I could take to Nelson and then on to Mount Gambier. It started where the Great Ocean Road seems to run out at Portland, and went up through acres of pine plantations. There was hardly another sole on the road so it was great to get a break from the constant traffic of the highway. I stopped in Mount Gambier to see the Blue Lake Ė a lake formed in the crater of an extinct volcano Ė which was very impressive but not particularly blue.
I then picked up another back road called the Southern Ports Highway and made my way up to Robe via a gorgeous seaside town called Beachport which had amazing turquoise blue seas and a huge jetty which stretched far into the ocean.
Today, as is becoming my way, I went off to explore the town. At the harbour a fishing boat was unloading is catch of shark. It turns out the shark are only about 2-3 feet long and quite small and skinny but the deckies do have to behead and gut them so I was right to refuse the job with the Port Fairy boys. This boat also seemed a lot cleaner and more organised I have to say.
I continued my tour of the town which included a visit to the Old Gaol House. This was now a ruin so I wasnít detained too long!
Need to do some bike maintenance tomorrow then Iíll be back on the road the next day.
Wednesday 29 September 2010 - After my first real run of any distance on the bike I found I was quite exhausted so decided to land at Apollo Bay for 3 days. Was amazed at how tired my legs were so contented myself with short walks around the town and along the beach, watching the waves swell and crash for hours on end. Even the weather picked up and I got beautiful sunshine for my last day. Unfortunately, the next morning it was chucking it down again, but I felt I really should press on so quickly loaded up the bike in the downpour only to discover I hadnít secured my load very well and had to do it all again in the soaking wet Ė you know what they say ďmore haste, less speedĒ!
Anyway, the rain dried up within a few miles so all I then had to contend with was the freezing wind.
The warden at the hostel told me to turn off the road at Cape Otway to see some koalas. Just as I was wondering how far Iíd have to go before I saw any I saw a large contingent of Japanese tourists pointing wilding to the trees and enthusiastically taking pictures. And sure enough, there they were. I fired off some shots too but alas, my camera didnít really have a long enough lens to get close enough. See, its true, size does matter!
Next stop was Port Campbell National Park. This is where the 12 Apostles are so I spent the next couple of hours getting on and off the bike to explore every nook and cranny of the place. Magnificent views but biting wind.
When I got to the Warrnambool I was obviously starting to tire as at a set of traffic lights I almost dropped the bike. A car ahead of me tried to run a red light, thought better of it and slammed on the breaks then reversed back behind the line. All of this I saw and gave him plenty of space to manoeuvre but must have lost my concentration for a moment as next thing I knew I was ripping my arm out of its socket trying to hold the machine up! Luckily I managed to get it back in balance but it was a bit of a scary moment.
Again, by the time I reached Port Fairy YHA I was exhausted so decided to stay there a couple of nights too.
So today I decided to go exploring again. I went round Gilbertís Island and in the space of an hour got soaked by rain, lashed by hail, blown dry by the wind and warmed by a sudden outbreak of sunshine. On the way back, I passed the wharf where a boatful of fishermen invited me to come on board. Having nothing else in particular to do, I decided I would. They were hilarious and quite drunk and, when they heard Iíd worked on a prawn trawler on my first visit to Oz, offered me a job as a ďdeckieĒ. Upon further enquiry it turned out they fished for shark and cray (lobster) and went out for 5 days at a time. As the boat was not in the finest condition, and I was also pretty sure being a deckie would involve having to kill the beasts when they arrived on deck, not the mention that the skipper, nice as he was, had 2 black eyes, I decided to decline their kind offer. To make up for the priceless experience Iíd no doubt be missing out on, one of the others then offered me the skipperís hand in marriage! Again, I politely declined.
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