Auatralia, The Down Under Escape
November 22, 2010 GMT
Setting off in the Land of Oz

After an hour on the tarmac the plane left LA for Sidney Australia and the Great Escape to Australia has began. We (Robert Thode and Martha Thode) are off to ride as much of Australia as we can in seven weeks, from the 13th of November to 2nd of January. We only have a list of options as to what route to take, but will see how it will unfold as we go.

On arrival we took a taxi to motel we had booked and collapsed after 22 hours on and off of planes. Had dinner in a Chinese place, the food was very good but we are finding out what the effects of the USA economic policy is having on the value of the dollar. Most things are costing about twice what we would pay in the US.

Called up Maggie (of Get Routed who arranged transport of our motos) early on Tuesday and she was there at 10:00 to take us to pickup the bikes. Much of the rest of the day was spent sorting out the bikes, then went to Dave and Maggie’s for a wonderful dinner and much conversation about travels.
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Wednesday we are on the road. Quite late getting on the move as we waited for stores to open at 10 and bought a new GPS unit as my cradle has a problem. I bought one that I can put in my pickup (that’s a ute here). It is not made for motorcycle use so we will see how it does. For those thinking about traveling Oz I really think that finding good data like is in this one should be a requirement. Just in finding where the campground are will make it worth it. We spent the first night out in a motel at a crossroads somewhere along the “Great Ocean Road”.
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All packed up and ready to travel
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They even have a sign to tell me to stay on the left

The Great Ocean Road in someways reminds me of the Oregon coastal hwy. But with much less traffic and more bends in the road. We can take seeing Koala in the wild off the bucket list as we saw quit a few at stops and on the road down to Otway Lighthouse.

We turned north at Port Fairy traveling through dairy land then changed to cattle country, then changed again to sheep in the north. Have seen some crops but the majority has been grass land or forest. It is spring here and farms are cutting silage, most in haylage bales.
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Koala in the tree
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Our first camp

We saw one Wallaby this morning and Martha spotted two Kangaroos. Then later in the day we started seeing the dead Kangaroos that have been hit by cars. We have been warned many time that these creatures are kamikazes and that we should not ride early in the morning or at dusk as that is when they come out to commit suicide. Up and out the next morning having breakfast in Port Campbell then checked out the twelve apostles (big rock stacks formed from wave erosion).

On to Swan Hill where we stayed in a campground next to “Pioneer Settlement” which has been built up with many old buildings and old equipment. We waited till the next morning to go into the Pioneer Settlement and spent about 3 hours. Many old cars, old tractors and old equipment. Neat to see how they solved there problems in trying to farm this ground.

The next night was in Echuca at a “caravan, campground”, although the facilities were not as good as the other campgrounds we stayed in, we found friendly people with camp fire and beer.
Sunday we sought out the back roads and traveled through: Carabost, Glenroy, Kyeamba, Book Book, Wagga Wagga, Uranquinty, Tootool, Lockhart, Urana, Mairjimmy, and Warragoon. Neat names, some that must have come from the natives. We ended up in Tumbarumba, which is a “postcard” perfect town, neat clean and friendly, up in the Snowy Mountains (more like hills so far). Heading today to Mt. Kosciuszko (2229mt).

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Hay baled in field with new crop coming up
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The road was not always straight
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The Hills
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Murry River Cod at 141 lb.

I think we will head back to Melbourne and catch a ferry to Tasmanian if the weather clears there.

Posted by Robert Thode at 05:04 AM GMT
November 29, 2010 GMT
The Snowy Mountains & Beyond

We have spent the last three days in the Snowy Mountains. Monday we got to the park, paid $6.00 for each bike for a 24 hr pass, which we over stayed but did not find where to pay on the way out. We have found really nice camping spots in the park. The first one we scrounged up enough fire wood to build us a fire. Saw some wallabies and a quick glimpse of a wombat. We headed for the ski area at Mt. Kosciuszko with the idea of riding it up for a look about. Once there and we decided to hike to a lookout point from the ski lift dropoff, once there we continued on to the top of Mt. Kosciuszko (the highest mountain in Australia) for a 15 K hike. Had a few sore points the next morning. It was 3:30 by the time we got down from the mountain. Then we tried to get on the internet but the shop was closed by the time we found it. We only rode a short distance until we found camping by a river. While we were fixing dinner a fellow stopped to fill his water bottle and told us that we were by an abandoned airstrip and by evening the kangaroos would come out to feed. So about 7:30 I went to check it out and had lots of fun watching the little characters. I’m guessing there were nearly 40! I have been surprised at all the birds and how colorful ( red & green, red & black, blue, white & black, & green). I remember the kids song about the Cocaberra sitting in the old gum tree and I recognized the sound but with all the birds I couldn’t pick him out to see what he looked like. The mosquitoes ate me alive. I had bites as big as quarters, and I had bug repellent on. But the Claratine works great!
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The long stright road, we soon started into the Great Snowy Mountains and the roads became really great.
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Climbing up Mt. Kosciuszko

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On top of the Mountain

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Here are Australia's highest toilets, another geographic extreme to check of the list

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Camp site

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The roads through the park were great and had good character all the way to Bairndale.

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Hotels in Australia are more pubs and cafe than places to sleep, but most of the old hotels in the smaller towns have had accommodations like you would expect of a hotel in USA.

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After carrying my tire repair kit for over 30,000 miles I finally got to use it.

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More Kangaroo

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We did 27 K of gravel (aka dirt) but I thought it was a great road, other person does not agree.

Have not taken any pictures for a few days as it has been raining most of the time. We went into Melbourne to pickup papers then to motorcycle expo with all the new bikes and goodies.

We have now moved north along the coast. Would have been a nice ride if it was not for the rain. Should reach Sydney tomorrow.

Posted by Robert Thode at 09:31 AM GMT
December 06, 2010 GMT
Escape to the Outback

The first time we tried to leave Sydney the fog was so thick and the rain was so hard that it made our face masks fog up that we pulled in to have lunch and stalled in an aborigine culture center. The rain never let up so we found an upstairs 3 bedroom flat surrounded by tropical trees and flowers and birds. It was within walking distance of the ocean and people were surfing. The next morning it was still raining pretty hard. Two little green, red & yellow birds were huddling together against the sliding glass door. I know they wanted me to open the door and let them in. We went closer to Sydney to find internet and ended up using McDonalds. The next day we went north and crossed the Blue Mountains where it wasn’t so high, still getting rained on. By the time we had crossed the mountains and arrived at Orange ,we pitched our tent in a campground where the ground was pretty saturated. We were camping with cherry pickers. There was a group of french speaking young people. But by 6am it was raining hard on us again. We pulled into a little town called Sturt to use the post office and internet. The internet café was closed for a funeral in hall next to it, but the retired postmaster came to our rescue. He opened the shop, served us coffee, tea and fairy cakes and conversation while Bob used the internet. You know Americans in this small town was more exciting than the old fellow could stand.

We checked into a motel in Dubbo by about 3:30 because it was raining so hard and traffic was terribly backed up. There are 5 highways that come into town but water was closing roads and bridges. The next morning traffic was still backed up for blocks but we got out of town. A few miles out is where Bob took the picture of the flooding river and big round hay bales floating down stream. We had to cross water over the road 4 or 5 times that day but we were able to pick the center of the road and never over 6 inches deep. It wasn’t raining when we got to Copar, a town where they found copper in 1870, but it was predicted so we got a motel again. And the town was having a Marti Grau party that Saturday night. People and dogs were dressed up, goodies and things for sale on the sidewalk, old Fergusen tractors and one McCormick tractor on display. They had set a lowboy set up as a stage and people were singing Christmas carols.

We had a lovely day on our way to Broken Hill. It was our first day in two weeks without rain! But we found a nice room queen bed, pool and internet and it seems very quite and private. And it was raining by 6pm. The rain out here is not so bad as it seems to last a short while then dry out. When we were on the coast it was rain all the time, just changed from lite to heavy.

The rain almost stopped and we set out from a nice motel we had sogged into last night

The combination of rain, fog and lots of traffic made it unsafe to continue west. So we waited here for a couple of hours hoping it would lift then went back to coast and found a nice place to dry out.

Here we are within walking distance of the ocean with much tropical growth outside our window

These two bird wanted in real bad, they did not like the rain ether.

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Hotel in small town we stopped in to use internet, the small towns are neat and clean looking like they have not changed in decades.

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Macquarie River flooding, saw seven hay bales go by in the short time we were there. The river was not to reach peak flow for 8 more hours.

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Thunder storm in the distance that we had to ride through

The long straight road, The land is greener than normal due to the rain. This area has just gone through 13 years of drought, floods may be a problem but most are glad to see the rain.

Martha was looking at traffic and not at me and ran in to me denting can. I caught the bike, was all I could do to hold it up but with no way to tell Martha to back off I ended up dropping it right in the middle of traffic,

Repairs to Sportster, silage tape, better than duct tape

Posted by Robert Thode at 09:21 AM GMT
December 19, 2010 GMT
Running From the Rain

As we headed toward Mt Buller for the HOG rally the flooding was raising havoc. We came to a detour and were told to turn right at T then right and next T to get back to main road. We took a right on a narrow oil mat road then at next T turned on to gravel. Had to cross water several times but made it back to main road only to find out it was prior to main flooding area, so wandered around the back roads till be made it around.

Stopped for lunch on this back road

Was nice and dry when we set up camp but this is what we had in the morning, everything wet. 80mm rain overnight.

Road to Mt. Buller

Went on a ride to this micro-brew/bar/cafe. When I went to leave I was going to go into town and get fuel and catch up with the others later, a little way and I could tell something was not right so went back to brewery and found rear wheel bearing was destroyed. I have been broke down in a lot of places but this had to be the best, if I could not get it fixed I had food and drink. I got the wheel off but could not get the old bearing race out so they gave me a ride to town (3k) to a little shop where we made quick work of getting it fixed, Back to the pub, together and on the road in half an hour.

Switch Backs up to Mt Buller. Mt Buller is a ski resort and normally would have been at a comfortable tempature this time of year but it was quite cold (down to 1C) so we got a room in a ski lodge. They gave us the whole unit of two rooms, kitchen and we could have slept 7. Cost us $50 a person a day.

Staging area for "Thunder Ride". there were about 300 bikes, over 600 had pre-registered for the rally but floods and rain kept many at home.

From Powers lookout
From Powers Lookout, can still see some flooding and it has not rained in five days.
the story is that Harry Powers, a bush ranger, (aka highway man, thief) would watch the road below and could see if the authorities were coming for him. Giving him time to hide out.
At Batlow, apple growing region, all orchards were under shade cloth. We have passed many picturesque dairy and beef farms.

Apples under shade cloth

One Big Sheep, This area is noted for their sheep production.

Have found some really neat road up in the mountains, Martha does not always share enthusiasm for these back way roads but I think you get to see more of the 'real" Oz. I have managed to stay off of dirt/gravel roads most of the time. Many of these roads are one lane oil mat with many patches.

Bendermeer Hotel, was recommended to us and we found it to be a delightful place and they had good food too. The flood here was the highest since '76'. Seems each small town has an old Hotel.

We rode up to Bald Rock park and saw several of these termite mounds along the way. When we got to the camp ground no one else was there and if we had brought food I think we would have pitched the tent under one of the shelters as it was a very nice place, even had BBQ grills with propane. Save that for the next time around the world.

Very scenic ride today and I figured out how to set camera timer so I got in picture. This was on the way down to the Gold Coast.

We got to Southport and spent a day at "Sea World" was good for a break in the riding. Today we rode into Brisbane to see what was available for storage of our bikes for four months. It rained the whole way so we got a room and watch it just pour out side. The weather report is good for the next 3 days so there is hope.

Will ride some north in the next two weeks then back to Brisbane to store bikes till we can get back in May.

Posted by Grant at 05:59 AM GMT
January 09, 2011 GMT
Escaping the Floods

As I finally get to writing this we have been home for a week and have almost adjusted to the time difference.

When we left Blackall we tried to go north but at the next town roads north, east and west were closed so we went back south then east with the plan to get back near Brisbane and visit with friends and put bikes in storage before flying home. "the best laid plans of mice and men" we got into Roma but were again blocked in all directions.

My clutch was hanging up so I spent a day trying to get to the problem or find someone who could. There were two motorcycle shops in town but they had closed from the 24th to 4th. Ended up concluding that if I got it apart I most likely would not be able to get it back together without special tool. So decided to try to get to a shop riding without a clutch.

I found the best information on road closures was the truck drivers waiting by the side of the road. In talking with them they thought that roads would be open in the morning so we packed up and headed out. When I got to where the truck were parking they were still there, not a good sign. They said it now looked like it might be two or three days but one of the trucks had gone west trying to get around the closed roads. We wanted to got to St. George, 197k to the south, to get there we ended up going west,then south then east, 800k. Then we road to Moree where there was a Harley dealer that I hoped was not closed for the holidays.

It was a long day 1000k all together with no clutch. I would just slip it out of gear and coast into fuel up then start in first gear and away we go. Very few towns or trafic so it was not too bad but I did not want to try to get around in Brisbane that way.

We got to the HD shop early in the morning and they opened it up to find it was not the clutch disks as I thought but he carrier bearing was seized. Seems many businesses close from Christmas through New Years, This included Cat Logisitics that distributes HD parts, the HD parts wearhouse, bearing distubuters and anyone else that I had a chance of getting a bearing from.

This was on Friday our flight was out on Sunday (non-refundable ticket). The good people at the HD shop said they could store the bikes so we scrambled to get everything sorted out and catch a 18 seat plane to Brisbane.

Then Sunday it was the long flight home. It was made much nicer when we got bumped up to first class for the long flight.

Now the planning for the next Escape, will go back in May for three weeks I think with Ryan and ride north. It is suppose to be the dry season then.

Water over the road to Roma

Water over road on Roma side after we crossed

Lunch break in small town, school in background and WWI monument. Town looked like it had seen better days, not too many people left.

This is how I left the moto, have always said plans are just so you know what you are not doing that you thought you would do.

Looking at pictures and stories here you would think it rained every day but most were sunny. It was seven days from when the rain stopped till the flood got to Rockhampton where they had the worst flooding in a hundred years. We had a great time in Australia even if we had a little more liquid adventure than we had planned. Wish we could have stayed much longer and got to see the whole country.

Posted by Robert Thode at 12:53 AM GMT

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