-- The Great Ocean Road to the Snowy Mountains.
-- Story by Erin --
On Saturday morning, January 20th, we started off on the
Great Ocean Road on our way to Melbourne, only 350 kilometers away. The Great Ocean Road
is indeed one of the more spectacular roads in Australia. It follows the dramatic
coastline for nearly its entire length. Along the way there are great scenic lookouts,
like the 12 Apostles and London Bridge, and quaint little seaside towns. We stopped in
Apollo Bay, about the halfway point, for lunch and to hook up with our new friends Brian
Rix and Shirley Hardy-Rix.
Above: The 12 Apostles
Right: London Bridge
We met Brian and Shirley on the internet, of
course. They found our website and invited us to visit. They were toying with the idea to
ride from OZ to London -- Now I think it's jus a matter of setting the date. Brian
rides a K1100LT and is Inspector Detective (like a Lieutenant in the U.S.) of the Homicide
Unit of Melbournes Police force. Shirley is a happy pillion on Brians bike and
is a writer, journalist and publicist. After a delightful al fresco lunch in Apollo Bay,
they escorted us the rest of the way along the Great Ocean Road, stopping at a few
interesting sites along the way, and finally into Melbourne.
Our end destination that day was at the home of Frank and
Phil (short for Phyllis) Bangham. Frank and Phil are a wonderful and generous couple, with
a great big Malamute husky-type dog named Wolfgar, who opened their home to us while we
were there. They are good friends with Brian and Shirley, ride a ST1100, and belong to the
same motorcycle club, Front Line Tourers. Frank also found us on the web and corresponded
with us prior to our arrival.
L to R: Phil, Frank,
Shirley, and Brian
These two couples set up a wonderful time for
us over the couple of days we spent with them. The day after we arrived, we were invited
to join them on a club ride up into the Yarra Valley north of Melbourne and then to a
post-ride BBQ and pool party at Frank and Phils place. The Front Line Tourers is a
club whose members are mostly cops, firefighters, and ambulance drivers. They like a
spirited ride but also like to have fun along the way. After the ride we were honored to
accept a few little mementos such as a club t-shirt, a homicide unit drink (stubby) holder
(it says "Our day begins when you day ends."), and a book of cop stories called
"Cops, Crooks and Catastrophes" by Shirley Hardy-Rix (signed of course). We met
a lot of great people that day including Phil Marshall, a terrific BMW mechanic (and owner
of K & R Motorbikes) who worked on Chris bike a few days later, and Patricia and
Paul McCarthy, riders who had also contacted us on the internet.
While staying with Frank and Phil, we were treated to some
wonderful meals. One of those dinners was at Brian and Shirleys house. They had
heard us talk about our friend Liam, Irish RTW motor biker temporarily living in
Melbourne, and invited him to dinner as well. It was good to see Liam again and catch up.
He had been busy since the last we saw him working on a compilation video from the first
half of his trip. He brought the videotape with him that night and we enjoyed a
post-dinner screening of it. Brian and Shirley are also planning a RTW trip by motorbike
and we were more than happy to share our experiences and hard gained wisdom with them.
On Wednesday, January 24th we left Frank and Phils to
ride south to the Mornington Peninsula to visit our friends Brooke and Peter. When we
arrived that evening they had planned a wonderful outdoor BBQ at the Blairgowrie Yacht
Club. On Thursday, Brooke took us on a bit of a tour as she rode pillion on Chris
bike. Half the day was spent trying to find someone to repair our computer power cord and
then she took us to Arthurs Seat, a scenic lookout at the top of one of the highest
hills in the area. The views were spectacular as you could see up and down almost the
entire length of the peninsula. That evening a big dinner out was planned with several of
their friends, many of whom we had met the last time we visited, like Slip and Rachel.
Peter got the two female singers to play a song in our honor. Thanks Pete! (At least it
wasnt "Im just a teenage dirt bag!")
Friday, January 26th, was Australia Day.
Its very much like our Independence Day in the States. Everyone spends the day
outside, having BBQs, playing Cricket (instead of Baseball) and watching the
fireworks in the evening. Pete had arranged for us to have a sail that day on a yacht
(thats what Aussies call sailboats in general) with one of his customers from
the boat shop. As it happened there was a race on that day and we had the opportunity to
help Jeff, the captain, sail to a second to last place finish!
L to R: Skipper Pete, Erin, Brooke, and Captain
Although the day was a bit dreary with
intermittent rain there were certainly some bright spots. We had seen lots of dolphins out
in the bay all during the three hours we were out on the water. Near the end though, they
became a bit more curious of us and paid us a close visit. As we were returning to the
harbor the wind had really picked up and we were leaned over hard to the starboard side.
Just then one of the dolphins decided to come in for a better look at us and was jumping
out of the water following our course just a few feet from where I was perched in the
boat. What a magnificent sight that was! Too bad I was so enthralled with the experience
that I forgot to take a picture of it. At the end of the day we said goodbye to Brooke and
Peter. Brooke is just starting her new business teaching gymnastics and we wish her all
the luck in the world. It already looks to be a big success. You go Brooke!
The next day we set off from Melbourne with a small escort.
Brian, Shirley, Frank, Phil and Liam all went for the ride with us that day, up through
the Yarra Valley toward the Snowy Mountains. After morning tea in a quaint little town,
Chris bike started acting up again. This time we thought it was the starter going.
He quickly found an auto electrician to check it out. We got on the road again but not
with the problem solved (more about that later.)
||Liam decided to join us for an overnight camp, but the
others had to head back for home -- they had another party to attend. Before we said
goodbye we had a hysterically funny photo session to record our visit. Phil, we were
all laughing so hard, we forgot to ask if you were OK.....
The rest of that afternoon we had fun riding
the twisty roads through the mountains and riding a bit of dirt. Liam made a fabulous
pasta carbonara for dinner, followed by eggs and bacon for breakfast. We lazed around the
campsite Sunday morning chatting, not wanting to really part so soon. But as it always
happens with Liam, we will see him again soon in New Zealand at Tom and Kirstins
wedding in Christchurch (remember them from India??) on St. Patricks Day.
Getting a late start that day didnt
allow us to get very far. Our route took us farther and deeper into the Snowy Mountains.
The roads are fantastic, twisty, steep, winding through lush forest and high alpine
meadows. Yes, alpine meadows! I couldnt believe it until I saw it for myself how
much the high country in the southeast of Australia looks like the Alps in Europe. We
camped that night at about 1300 meters altitude, in a wonderful steep valley and found a
spot right near a small river. There must be fabulous fly-fishing up there because the
fish are just huge. That night was very chilly and we ended up climbing into our sleeping
bags, which is something we havent done since Europe! The temperature that morning
was only a few degrees Celsius and you could see your breath in the air. What a refreshing
change from all the heat weve been experiencing.
Sunset at a picnic spot near the Thredbo Village ski
It took us 3 days to drive from Melbourne to
Newcastle. On the third day we stopped in the Blue Mountains just west of Sydney to see
Bill Luhrs, the auto electrician who worked on Chris bike after the Olympics. Bill
looked at Chris starter problem and decided it was a faulty connection. He ran a
bypass wire and fixed the problem for us in just an hour or so. After that we were on way
to Newcastle and where we relaxed with our friends Sam and Kav, and did some final
maintenance on the bikes with the help on the folks at John Brison Motorcycles. On the way
to Sydney, we stopped by the Continental Tire shop and picked up a couple of rear tires.
Now we are back in Sydney, staying with friends Tony and Sally, and its less than two
weeks and counting until we are on our way to New Zealand. We've ridden 15,000 miles
in Australia, and have so far ridden over 46,500 miles on our journey. Not bad, eh?