Victoria

Melbourne

Ivan Smoljko told me he was many things, including a legendary burger maker, ace fellow Tiger rider, outstanding motorcycle importer and International Rock’n’Roll Superstar (OK, maybe not the last one).  It turned out he was all 3, and I was particularly pleased he had managed to ship my Tiger from LA to Melbourne with no hassles in 3 weeks, and now had it sitting in his backyard waiting for me.

In the time The Tiger had taken to ship and clear customs I had decided to complete a tour of New Zealand on a hired road version of the Tiger, which actually worked out cheaper than shipping mine across from Australia & back, and also avoided weeks sat idle wishing I was riding!

In addition to Ivan’s wealth of talents, it also turned out he was a top guy, and after collecting me from my temporary accommodation near the airport (where I was being well looked after by my ‘AirB&B’ hosts Colette and Kevin), drove me to his house and forced me to consume several bottles of beer and a legendary ‘Smolijo’ Burger before handing me over the keys to my much missed beautiful bike.  And she was still beautiful, even after all this time apart…  Absence certainly does make the heart grow fonder.  Or should that be absinthe?

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As beautiful as the day I left her…

Ivan has shipped bikes for loads of people over the years and his services were in so much demand that he gave up his day job and now does it for a living, and loves it!  Able to ship bikes all over the world for great rates, I fully recommend his services (bikesabroad dot com dot au).

In all seriousness didn’t really realise how much I had missed my XC until I had her back.  The road version I had hired for my New Zealand leg was OK (except for being yellow), but I much prefer the extra height of the XC, its off-road capabilities, looks and it just seems to fit me better.  Ivan, smashing bloke that he is, had already cleared all the customs paperwork & had my Carnet stamped ready for me, so all that remained was a quick 10 minute visit to ‘VIC Roads’ Vehicle Licensing Centre to get her legal and insured for Australian roads, and I was all set for my Great Australian Adventure!

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Loaded up and ready to go! (a snap into the future at a campsite in Albany, where I lost my camera and started experimenting with my previously unused GoPro)

But first, I had an appointment down the pub with someone I’d met while riding a KLR650 around Ecuador last year, during a spell I had in the rainforest getting whipped with spiked stinging nettles by a Shaman.  The nettles were supposed to rid me of all ‘bad demons’, and maybe they did, but they more noticeably rid me of most of the skin on my back, covering it in cuts and red welts for several days.  I still think he was just having a laugh at the expense of a stupid British tourist!

Before I met Denise at the weekend I had a couple of days to explore Melbourne and spend a bit of time servicing and re-loading my bike in the most ruthlessly economical way I could.  I still hate having as much luggage as I do, but half of it is camping gear (one pannier and my orange dry bag) that will come in handy in the ‘Outback’.  I’m planning to ditch all the camping gear when I get to SE Asia as accommodation is cheap enough not to have to camp.

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Sunset over Melbourne

I must say I love ‘the feel’ of Melbourne, with its clean city centre and numerous hidden back alleyways jammed packed with bars, cafes, restaurants and happy, sociable people.  It even has free wifi in the town square, along with lots of mad street artists running around dressed as giant flowers (or maybe that was just when I was there).  I thought about joining them for half a second, but they just lost out to a beer down on the waterfront.

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I love ‘the feel’ of Melbourne, with its clean city centre and numerous hidden back alleyways jammed packed with bars, cafes, restaurants and happy, sociable people

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Hosier Lane is famed for it’s colourful, artistic graffiti

The observant amongst you may notice the photos in this post are somewhat different to the usual photos I post.  This is because I recently discovered the amazing power of App ‘Snapseed’ which turns boring old photos into something a little less boring.

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The South Bank has a lovely tropical feel alongside the river, with plenty of bars to tickle your fancy

A couple of hours outside the city to the south is the beautifully relaxed seaside & wildlife retreat of Phillip Island, where I had the chance to see my first wild Kangaroos trying to ‘take me out’ on my Tiger as they darted across the road in front of me nearing sunset.  I can’t say I hadn’t been warned plenty of times, and so I decided it was best to heed the warnings and keep off the roads at night.

Laying by the roadside over most of Australia are hundreds of dead Kangaroos that were obviously not clever enough to keep out of the way of 50 ton road trains screaming along at 110kmph – natural selection?  Indeed, I stepped over one carcass on my way to the pub that night, which is more than I managed to do on the way back.

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Funny, but dangerous on a motorbike! (This photo is borrowed from the internet as the one I took was on my camera that I lost!)

Somewhat off-season, Philips Island was pretty quiet when I was there, which I liked, but I can imagine it gets pretty packed in the summer.  As well as being a surfer’s paradise, it also has the world’s largest population of Australian Fur Seals on the peninsula (and so plenty of circling Great White Sharks too!), a humourous ‘Penguin Parade’ every evening and a Grand Prix track.

Unfortunately I cannot post any of the wonderful photos I took on Phillip Island because I lost my camera and hundreds of photos one week after I was there, and (Sod’s Law) it was the ONLY time on my whole trip I had not bothered to download photos regularly to my laptop.

I met Denise and her mate Friday evening in the lovely Melbourne seaside suburb of St Kilda where I was staying with more ‘Air B&B hosts’ Uta and Lachlan, and it went downhill from there.  Only joking, but we did sink a few during our bar crawl down St Kilda’s (usually quiet) main street which ends, rather conveniently, at a 24hr McDonalds.

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Goodbye Melbourne! It’s been fun, but I must keep rollin’ on!

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Melbourne to Port Fairy – The Great Ocean Road

Quite an interesting day today.  Firstly, I managed to get up reasonably early (for me) at 07:30 (probably because I went to bed at 22:30) and walk around Griffiths Island in Port Fairy, famous for thousands of nesting Shearwaters or ‘Mutton Birds’, once hunted by early settlers for their fleshy meat and fat for oil.  During my early morning walk I came across my first wild and alive (not squashed by a road train) Wallaby stopped ahead of me on the path.  He was obviously pretty used to people as he let me get quite close before hopping away on some errand.  Wallabies and Kangaroos still make me laugh when they bounce away like Tigger into the undergrowth.

Only about 3km in circumference, Griffiths Island is a quick and easy walk but is very picturesque and even has a lighthouse you can try and take artistic photos of.   Of course the artistic photo I took is on my lost camera that no-one handed into the police station…

Last year (2012) Port Fairy won the ‘World’s most Liveable Community’ award, and although it was a nice town, when I was there the pubs & city centre were dead at night – obviously these factors weren’t deemed important by the judges, or perhaps I was just there at the wrong time of year being winter.

Port Fairy is a day’s ride from Melbourne along The Great Ocean Road, a 150 mile stretch of famed coastline.  Billed as ‘the journey of a lifetime’ on a website I saw, the road is indeed stunning in places but because it doesn’t hug the coast as much as the Pacific Highway in the US, I thought the latter had the edge.

At the time of writing I had hundreds of wonderful photos itching to be downloaded onto my laptop, but when I lost my camera 1 week later I also lost all the photos.  I was so upset and angry with myself when I lost it (in Albany, SW Australia) because I had stupidly left it on top of my bike pannier while I reattached the tank bag after a hike.  The moment I placed it on the pannier I thought to myself ‘I’d better not put it there as I know I’ll probably forget about it and ride off without it’.  And the second after I thought that, I got distracted clipping the tank bag in place and DID forgot about it!  Moments later I was riding off at full speed with my camera still on the pannier.  It wasn’t until I stopped 20mins later to take another photo that I realised what I’d done.  I felt sick, as I knew I hadn’t downloaded any photos to my laptop for over a week, and sped back to my starting location with eyes peeled like a hawk.  Needless to say my camera was no-where to be seen.   I spent the whole of that day looking for it riding and walking miles up and down the road, searching the undergrowth in case it had fallen off into it.  I think it most likely fell off in the car park where I left it on the pannier, but if someone did pick it up they certainly didn’t hand it into Albany police station because I called them to check regularly over the next 2 months.  If this is the case, then I hope suitable Karma is repaid in dividends.

So, forgetful idiot that I am, I hated myself for that full day until I rolled exhausted into a campsite in Albany and met happy Dutch couple Norman and Kirsten who were camping next to me in a broken down VW camper.  After noticing my p*ssed off complexion, Norman proceeded to invite me round for a beer, which, as the night rolled on, somehow turned into 3 bottles of vodka.

As is so often the case with travellers around WA, Norman & Kirsten had completed almost exactly the same route as I, and after hearing my tale of woe, very kindly presented me with a flash drive of all the photos they had taken in exactly the same places I had taken mine.  Suddenly I felt much better, and much drunker, and after professing my undying love for them both, somehow crashed back into my own tent and passed out.

In the morning I felt suitably hung-over, but much better than poor old Norman and Kristen who were incredibly ill to the point of vomiting.  To be fair, they did drink much more than me, and that may have had something to do with the ‘Russian Vodka Drinking Technique’ I showed them, which they enjoyed to excess.

So, thanks to my new Dutch friends, I am at least able to show you some of the sights I saw along Great Ocean Road, as taken by them (and I must say the detail is amazing, which has made me realise I need an SLR):

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The Great Ocean Road

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The Great Ocean Road

 

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The 12 Apostles

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Lord Ard Gorge – named after the clipper ship Loch Ard, which ran aground on nearby Muttonbird Island on 1 June 1878 approaching the end of a three-month journey from England to Melbourne – DOH!

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London Arch – previously called London Bridge until the larger arch collapsed in 1990 leaving two tourists stranded on the outer part until they were rescued by a helicopter

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