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?
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.